Number of the Month

January  2007

The first dawn of a new year and the wintry sun picks out the lines of the ancient strip lynchets on the downs edging the Blackmore Vale.

A time of hope for many, but not for Soviet Britain, where the future is BBC (Blair, Brown, Cameron).

01/01/07

In Blair’s Britain

It takes some believing, even for those of us who live here, no wonder those Aussies are agape. Now you may bugger a sixteen year old boy, but you must not supply him with a cigarette.

Your bending author was recently discovered by that other grumpy old sod, the subject matter being the slow death of Britain’s small towns. Like Charles II, they have been an unconscionable time dying, but dying they are. The moves in the Blairisation of Britain are many and various, and you are hardly aware of it until one hits you in the face. By dint of Sod’s law, such an experience happens only at a time of stress; and so it was chez bending author. Oddly enough it occurred two days before this story broke.

It came about with a recrudescence of the lung infection that played such havoc with Number Watch at the end of last year. It came to a head on the Saturday before New Year’s Eve and it became clear that medical advice would be needed, so the obvious thing was to phone your local surgery (as you do). That is what we did when Mrs bending author had a scare last October and one of the local Wiltshire GPs came and ordered an ambulance for her to be rushed (well, actually, it took the ambulance five and a half hours to arrive, but that is another story) into the “local” hospital, which is now thirty miles away. Well, this time the call was diverted to an emergency service in Ringwood, Hampshire (home of the best ale on the planet). The young lady on duty said she would get a doctor to phone “but we are very busy”. At least she did not say “your call is valuable to us”. Five hours later a rather pleasant Asian gentleman phoned and after some discussion he decided that the case merited a personal visit from a doctor, who would be brought by a car based in Shaftesbury, Dorset. Some seven hours after the original call the doctor arrived and suggested immediate admission to the hospital, an invitation that was politely declined on the grounds of risk. As evinced by this piece, the patient has survived so far.

In the bad old days, the town had its own ambulance station, run by the Red Cross. They worked then on the principle that the health service was there for the well-being of patients and not for the convenience of bureaucrats. The idea then was to minimise the time to reach the patient. In fact, after standing for many years as a silent, derelict  monument to health service past, it has just been acquired for private development. Only someone with the chutzpah of Tony Blair could argue that increasing the travel time for emergency cases by closing hospitals will save lives. The justifications come from Blair allies, such as IPPR, armed with figures of theoretical lives saved, which are obtained by careful data selection. 

It is another sign of the times that the dedicated GP is a thing of the past. They now only work office hours. It is a story with all the usual modern ingredients – a diktat from the EU, hopeless negotiating by bureaucrats, determined negotiation by a powerful union and complete disregard of the cost to the taxpayer and the consequences for the victims. It is the same across the whole public service, particularly in education.

When bureaucracy comes through the door, dedication flies out of the window!

Here, for purely sentimental reasons and not artistic merit, is a picture of the old ambulance station.

Footnote: Why is it happening? See here.

Footnote 2: and there's more.

Footnote 3: and for those who insist on having it from the horse's mouth, here

03/01/06

Funny he too should ask that

Letter in the Telegraph

Sir – Please could somebody explain, in terms that an economically challenged mind such as mine can understand, how it is possible to make savings by postponing operations until the new financial year (Letters, January 4)?

The surgeons have all received a very expensive training, as have all the other staff who work with them. The theatres are equipped at great cost. Are all these resources, human and material, to be unused for the next few months? The staff are still going to receive their salaries.

Take it to its logical conclusion, and do no operations at all. Let us imagine what would happen if this principle were to be transferred to the railways. Stop running trains until April 6: it would solve all the financial problems in that industry.

This whole plan seems to me to be the logic of the madhouse.

E. Peter Mosley, Croachy, Inverness

More from the Great British closing down sale

Just as a change from the health service, this on the front page of the Telegraph.

But the Government are making the usual sound use of the savings.

Sounds familiar

Those of us who still have good enough memories to recall the first days of the Blair regime recognise a familiar posturing in Nancy Pelosi's claim that the new Congress will be "the most honest and open in history". We wait with breath bated, but not a lot.

05/01/07

A beautiful result

In attempting to give a simple explanation of the Poisson Distribution, Number Watch drew attention to the mathematical beauty of the result that it has only one parameter. Now this has been turned into a beautiful practical result by Paul Linsay in the examination of hurricane data. His first graph establishes that the phenomenon is effectively independent of time. The error bars represent the square root of the number plotted, in accordance with that beautiful result. The important thing to note about the second graph is that there is no curve fitting. It is simply a plot of the histogram of hurricane frequency compared with the Poisson density for the same mean.

Note that one feature of the Poisson process is that there will be an occasional large value. This is because the density function is bounded to the left (by zero) but not to the right.

Applying the statistics of extremes to these numbers we find that the characteristic (most likely) largest number is 12, which is not incompatible with the observed largest number of 15.

What’s in a name?

A nose by any other name would smell as well.

In our discussion of Big Al’s contribution to the number of the year, we commented on how much a title can tell you about an entity or institution. If, for example, you have two web sites, one called Real Climate and one called Climate Audit, you do not even have to visit them to know which one is the propaganda tool. It is the Pravda effect. Just as you do not go round saying the sky is blue, so you do not label your contribution the truth or real – unless there is some doubt about it. As with the importunate salesman, the title is like the foot in the door.

Which all brings us to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The implication is that there exist whole legions of scientists who are unconcerned, so that these intrepid heroes have to form a union and man the barricades to defend the truth. When you look at their actions, however, you find that they exist solely to promote the latest campaign of the Green establishment. Thus we read in Slashdot:

"According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, oil company ExxonMobil 'has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.' The report compares the tactics employed by the oil giant to those used by the tobacco industry in previous decades, and identifies key individuals who have worked on both campaigns. Would a 'global warming controversy' exist without the millions of dollars spent by fossil fuel companies to discredit scientific conclusions?"

The answer to the last question is, of course “Yes, it damn well would!” The self-appointed spokesmen for the scientific method may be few, but their opinions are not up for sale to anybody. Your bending author, for example, has never received a penny from a fossil fuel company (or, for that matter a tobacco company or a drug company) and has achieved nothing but relative pauperism for commitment to the cause.

One thing you have to say about the Consensus is that they certainly act in concert. This latest campaign is a dual pronged assault. It is a strike against Exxon Mobil, for failing to cave in to greenmail as did Shell and BP, but it is also a multiple ad hominem attack on opponents of the creed (they are all venal puppets). The prime objective, however, is to cut off any form of funding to scientific work that threatens the faith. Thanks to the nationalisation of science, green bureaucrats have complete control of government funding in the Western World. If they can also cut off the flow of private funds to infidels they believe the debate really will be over; though they still have to find a way to censor the internet.

However, even if your bending author were in receipt of a substantial stipend from Mega-Oil Inc, it would have no bearing on the validity of his arguments, which should be judged on their own merits. The ad hominem method has become so entrenched in modern society that people are not even conscious that they are doing it (see, for example, the recent post mortem attacks on Richard Doll). If it were established that Albert Einstein was secretly in the pay of Adolph Hitler, would we rescind the theory of relativity, abandon quantum mechanics (and hence uninvent the transistor and much of modern technology) or would we continue to treat his published work on its own merits?

The fact is that the Union of Concerned Scientists are not behaving as scientists at all. Like many others in the propaganda business, they are using the name of science to promote their faith. So – what’s in a name?

Triviatopia

Our eulogist mentioned the contribution that Tony Blair has made to the new celebrity culture. The Sunday Telegraph seems accidentally to have produced an edition that is largely a tribute to that culture. After all, it was Tone himself who said that what science needs is more celebrity scientists. When Tone speaks, his apostles follow.

Most disturbing of all is this headline:

Doctor Who can help save science, says minister

What sort of society is it when a half-wit such as this can be appointed Minister for Science?

And how about this as an inspiring headline:

Floristry as good as maths in school tables

What an insightful headline to Jenny McCartney’s article:

Most of us understand dignity… it's why we're not 'celebrities'

In the printed version also carried as a strap line is:

Our current government seems increasingly eager to regard us in the same light as the inmates of the Big Brother house and the new breed of confessional celebrity.

Yet on the front page there is a modest cause for optimism (the first one this month!):

Revealed: Our teenagers are not revolting

“Yet another survey” tells us that young people do not share the obsession of politicians and the media with celebrities.

Incidentally, it is also revealed that two thirds of teenagers are bored. Well, at least that is something that has not changed in half a century.

But do not get carried away with optimism. Just in case you thought the end was in sight for the Kafkaesque nightmare, Booker adds this horror story:

It's official: the watchdog is barking

And scroll down so as not to miss another tale of our heroine:

Polly saves the planet

There's no answer to that!

07/01/07

Pièce de Résistance

One of the more irritating aspects of our increasingly supine media is the way they turn a blind eye to growing practice of DAISNAID among the Great Green Gurus who demand control of our lives. From Big Al down, incessantly they fly round the world telling people they must not fly round the world. No doubt, like politicians, religious leaders and other exploiters of self-imposed privilege since time immemorial, they justify their behaviour to themselves by the ancient formula of WIDIMITWEED.

All hail then to Janet Daley, who has dared to commit lese majesty in her article:

If the eco-snobs had their way, none of us would go anywhere

 What the world now needs is more satirists of the mediaeval sort, who punctured the venal vanities of the unchaste and self-satisfied priesthood.

08/01/07

Ruth Kelly’s blues

DAISNAID is certainly in the air at the moment. Ruth Kelly, stalwart of Blairism, compounded her offence of hypocrisy by forgetting the Watergate Principle – the attempt to cover up does more harm than the original transgression.

According to the Telegraph Stuntman Dave said he would not support a "witch hunt" against Miss Kelly.

The witch is being hunted not because she did what any other parent would do if they had her wealth; it is because she helped enforced policies that prevented hundreds of thousands of poorer people from doing the same by closing down over a hundred state special needs schools.

NHS Blog Doctor takes a rather different view from the Bland stuntman. If only he were leader of the opposition! If only we had an opposition!

Energy chickens coming home to roost

For those who are unwise enough not to subscribe to CCNet, here are some recent links:

KYOTO SINKS EUROPE

RUSSIANS TURN OFF EUROPE'S OIL SUPPLY

MUGGED BY REALITY, GERMANY RECONSIDERS NUCLEAR ENERGY

Since its birth, Number Watch has been banging on about the disastrous energy policy  (see, for example, Power Mad). Power cuts are becoming inevitable and closer. People are going to die. 

09/01/07

Our rush out and buy section

The Hydro-Gravitizer plus spelling reform.

Our Man in Puerto Rico recommends this

10/10/07

And there’s more

OMIPR certainly has an eye for a bargain. No doubt number watchers will be rushing out to buy Brilliant Pebbles (in three different sizes, of course). Follow the links for a truly astounding scientific explanation. They come from the designer of the intelligent chip; even more Astounding Science here.

What the headlines should have said

Tories push for return of economic depression

Pelosi employs scientific fraud to impose political correctness

The Telegraph bids for the award for the most ludicrous graphic

Numby Laureate Collinge launches annual scare bid

The wages of filth is death

Rare outbreak of corporate cojones suppressed

The law of league tables (and its corollaries) demonstrated yet again

11/10/07

A random diatribe apropos of everything

Most of the media reported the shock with which the new rise in interest rates was received, but by the evening the shock was not sufficiently shocking to keep it on the web sites, the Independent being an exception. Why the ordinary punters should be shocked is a mystery – it is all an inevitable result of greenflation. Who else did they think was going to carry the can for all those green taxes on industry and the disastrous energy policy? Did they really think that someone else was going to put their hands in their pockets, the kindly Chancellor or the generous boards of directors? Put up the cost of energy and you put up the cost of everything. If, for example, you force generators to buy energy from disastrously non-productive and outrageously expensive windmills, they have to make up the losses from someone else, the customer. That is the road to inflation.

When it is impossible to think of one area of British Government policy that is not an unmitigated disaster, it is a bit unreasonable to expect financial control to be an exception. Only the Greens have reason to be pleased with themselves. Of late, the Monbiots of this world have unceasingly preached austerity, a word not heard since the post-war Labour Government. Only the aged among us now remember those dreadful days of deprivation, when we were school children, or how quickly prosperity seemed to return when that incompetent government went.

Now we have a Conservative Leader who recommends that we honour Aneurin Bevan (the man who described Conservatives as lower than vermin) as the founder of the National Health Service and ignore such political dwarfs as Winston Churchill. In fact, A National Health Service was the title of a white paper accepted by the Coalition Government in 1944. Churchill said of it “Disease must be attacked in the same way that a fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humble cottage as readily as it will to the most important mansion.” What Bevan did was to take a proposal from a Liberal, developed by a Conservative, and turn it into pure socialism. The key words for him were “Public Administration”. Thus began the bureaucratic nightmare that is now killing people with MRSA and C. difficile. It was, however, a Conservative guru, Sir Keith Joseph, who later imposed top-down managerialism on the service and firmed the foundations of a nationalised fiasco that burdens the nation today. The present Government's answer to the problem is the one that has long been known to be an inevitable failure – throw money at it. The seeds of failure of that earlier Labour government lay in its determination to push through its programme regardless of cost. It was a time of rationing and licences, when activities we would now regard as normal trading were described as “a black market run by spivs and drones”. We see these same tendencies developing today, as the rising tide of red tape strangles initiative and saps morale. The difference today is that we no longer have a genuine opposition with the will to step in and put things right.

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel. It is an express train bearing down on us.

12/01/07

Music in Triviatopia

We are the music-makers,                     
And we are the dreamers of dreams,    
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,          
And sitting by desolate streams;          
World-losers and world-forsakers,       
On whom the pale moon gleams:         
Yet we are the movers and shakers     
Of the world for ever, it seems.            

                                                            
With wonderful deathless ditties           
We build up the world's great cities,      
And out of a fabulous story                 
We fashion an empire's glory:              
One man with a dream, at pleasure,     
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;  
And three with a new song's measure     
Can trample an empire down.              

                                                             
We, in the ages lying                        
 In the buried past of the earth,          
Built Nineveh with our sighing,           
And Babel itself with our mirth;         
And o'erthrew them with prophesying  
To the old of the new world's worth;  
For each age is a dream that is dying,    
Or one that is coming to birth.
            

Arthur O'Shaughnessy

 

Here’s a number that will surprise no one who knows anything about the state of state education in the UK Teachers taking early retirement up 50%. The very next day we had an example of the sort of mindless top-down management that is driving good teachers out; we are going to have a Singing Ambassador. At least this time it is not a Tsar. Of course, such an initiative cannot be allowed to pass without a political leader celebrating his own abysmal cultural tastes by declaring affiliation to some mindless pop group or other.

Half a century ago schools were full of music. It was fostered by dedicated teachers and enlivened by enthusiastic pupils. There were local music festivals that attracted full houses in theatres and halls (your bending author once sang a treble solo at the Hornsey Music Festival). Now nothing can happen unless it is decreed from on high, and then only following a “successful” TV series. In tune with the times, everyone will be singing from the same hymn sheet. Deviancy from the political norms will, naturally, be discouraged.

Footnote: and there's more.

17/01/07

Ashamed to be British!

 Since the accession of President Blair, Britons have suffered humiliation, deprivation, threats to their health and education and the experience of being the laughing stock of the world. Now they have reason to be ashamed of their own Britishness. The treatment meted out to Martin Coleman, a man of impeccable British descent from a family that has served their country courageously and conscientiously, is cause for great shame. Contrast it with the favours granted to bandits and trouble-makers, who have no connection with the country.

Answer please

Here are two nicely contrasting headlines:

Britons spend more on gambling than fresh fruit or vegetables

Showdown for councils hoping to land 'supercasino' jackpot

New Labour has not even bothered to attempt to explain the benefit the country is supposed to derive from this move.

Gambling is an infestation that destroys families and lives, while encouraging organised crime and official corruption.

The question we all would like the answer to is “Who is getting the rake-off?

DAISNAID1

Correspondence received from Nick Barron

The BBC breakfast news this morning had a self-congratulationary piece on their "Climate Change Experiment". This is a computer model (or "wild assed guess" to use the technical terminology) calculated using a screensaver package that runs on viewers' PCs.

Apparently 50,000 people downloaded this and ran it for the BBC, uploading the results over the Internet. Needless to say the model confirmed the doom and gloom predictions as expected.

However they appear to have missed the irony that by doing so, the viewers who are so concerned about global warming have in fact been running their PCs flat out when they would have been sitting idle (or gone into standby, drawing ~8W). At a rough guess the delta between "machine doing nothing" and "CPU flat out on mathematical modelling) would be 20-30W for a typical PC, and 50-60W between "sleeping on standby" and modelling. In fact if I get time over the weekend I'll measure it on my PC.

So the BBC have single handedly undone all the energy savings they've been bullying everyone else about :-)

DAISNAID 2

Meanwhile, in the Scottish Soviet, THIS.

19/01/07

History in the making

Read the true story of how New Labour cocked up the British GP service and then scuttled around looking for a scapegoat on NHS Blog Doctor. Even by their standards it is disaster of truly historic proportions.

Battle of the berks

In a secret move, revealed only to the media (even somehow leaking across the pond), the heir to the throne has saved the planet by cancelling his regular ski holiday in Klosters. In this way he has offset the effect of 20 people crossing the ocean by one person (and servants) not crossing the channel. It was all precipitated by the blogging minister, who does not like competition from other celebrities in respect of religious zeal.

20/01/07

Which brings us to

DAISNAID 3

In another age it would have been considered as shocking, but this is Blair's Britain. As it did not seem to have made the Daily Mail web site, here is a scan of  a piece about the blogging minister: 

A word in your shell-like, Dave

They never would hear,
 But turn the deaf ear,
 As a matter they had no concern in.
 Jonathan Swift, Dingley and Brent

Talking of the Daily Mail, its top man has something to say to Stuntman Dave, which seems to echo the buzz on the streets outside the urban fastnesses of modern politicians.

In among the vacuous scares and the stultifying celebrity culture, there are the makings of a fine newspaper hiding in the overstuffed tabloid pages of the Daily Mail.

Through the looking glass

We have become used to naked political propaganda posing as science, but this one, found by junkscience.com, takes the biscuit. By completely ignoring the scientific method, the “researchers” find that it is not the likes of Al Gore who exhibit “a clear tendency  to score higher on measures of dogmatism, intolerance of ambiguity, needs for order, structure, and closure and to be lower in openness to experience and integrative complexity.”  It is those beastly conservatives with their addiction to pre-post-modern science.

24/01/07

DAISNAID 4

Pensions!

A collectors’ item

It had a brief mention in the columns of Junk Science, but it must not be allowed to pass without due celebration of its status as one of the most remarkable demonstrations of uninformed propaganda in the history of the new environmentalism. It is the piece in The Independent by one Johann Hari entitled The last gasp of the global warming deniers. It is the usual mishmash of non sequiturs, straw men, comprehensively debunked sources and, of course, the blanket ad hominem that all of us sceptics are in the pay of Exxon-Mobil; but done with such a bravura display of scientific incomprehension that it deserves special recognition.

The pretext for the intervention is the fact that that band of great physicists, Tony Blair, John Prescott and Al Gore has been joined at last by George W Bush. Sole evidence for the existence of the “consensus” is the notorious Oreskes paper in the “universally-respected” journal Science. Apparently, we scientists who learned about Newton’s laws of cooling, gravitation and motion neglected to gain knowledge of his Law of Dynamics, which produced the last great consensus (don’t mention Einstein).

Our “great blast” of greenhouse gases has a stronger effect than the natural ones, but to understand it we lesser mortals have to grasp some basic 19th century physics, but it’s not rocket science.

It appears that sunspot activity is declining, so even those notorious deniers at the BBC have got it wrong.

One of the best bits is the claim that only two scientists warned about global cooling in the seventies. Forgetting the fact that some of us are old enough actually to remember the whole campaign, how does he know? If he knows of two such people he is entitled to say “at least two”, but to claim “only two” he would need to have examined every relevant publication in that decade. Somehow, one nurses the suspicion that he might not be quite that meticulous.

Global warming is based on “very close empirical observation” and “reason”; and there were all us silly-billies thinking it was based on computer models.

The coda is an impressive rehearsal of the ultimate ad hominem attack, involving the sanctification of George Monbiot and the demonisation of Melanie Phillips and several of the finest minds in modern science.

Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.

25/01/07

Dodgy Dossiers

A neat headline in The Telegraph says it all.

What's black and white and green all over? Another dodgy dossier

It was too much even for the BBC who, as usual, proudly proclaimed that no beastly infidels took apart in their investigation. They caught politicians out in blatant and demonstrable lies; Blair, of course, but the Liberal Democrat spokesman, Chris Huhne,  so grotesquely exaggerated the statistics on use of the Thames Barrier that you wonder how he thought he would get away with it, even given the scale of media censorship currently operating. Regular number watcher Dennis Ambler comments:

It is interesting that now the brickbats are flying; Mike Hume from Tyndall is distancing himself from it.

Stern was a construct started in 2004 by the Tyndall Centre, who have applied enormous pressure to politicians and had their own people seconded to Stern in preparing the report. 

It was released specifically to coincide with the US mid-term elections and to support Gore in his (not yet announced) bid to enter the White House in a couple of years time.

The joke is that the Director of Tyndall now complains of the way the Press have dealt with global warming. Who serves the Press with their scary info? Why the Tyndall Centre and its seminal body the Hadley Centre, (part of the Met Office, in turn an agency of the MOD).

It was from Tyndall ranks that the Environment Agency commissioned a report predicting the climate 3000 years into the future. It is Tyndall who produce reports for WWF and Greenpeace to their agenda. (Greenpeace have a member on the Advisory board). 

It is they who came up with the idea of carbon credit cards, it is they who are responsible for the hysteria on air travel and greater taxes. It is they who enlisted the clergy to bring in the moral guilt trip.

They are aided and abetted by the British Antarctic Survey who also have an extremely prolific Press department which puts out scary claims about the melting Antarctic and then in the editors' notes gently tell them that they can't really be sure of what is happening because of lack of long term data. Of course the editors don't read the editors' notes, they don't get past the scary bit. Journalists are basically lazy and will print what is fed to them and if it has a govt. research department tagline, that's good enough for them.

A clever move, this distancing from the Press, "it wasn't me guv, we're just honest scientists doing our job. I am not an alarmist, you must listen to me".

27/01/07

Down the drain

So, what's 15 billion between friends?

28/01/07

Indefatigable!

You have to hand it to double Numby Laureate Professor Graham MacGregor. No sooner has he been granted his second award, in the class of self expanding numbers, than he is at it again. Despite his woeful evidence, the substantial scientific literature demonstrating that the only dangerous salt diet is a low one and the fact that salt homeostasis is a well understood biological process, he has now hoisted his number to 35,000 by applying it to heart attacks.

Once again industry reveals its utter pusillanimity by conforming to this pointless blackmail without a murmur. Also, it is remarkable that this small eccentric pressure group of single issue fanatics has been elevated to the status of a “watchdog”.

A modest suggestion: Perhaps it would be preferable to write such a number as 35000i (or for engineers 35000j) as they are purely imaginary.

29/01/07

Number of the month – 55

The source of our number is an unusual one, the Liberal Democrat Party. “The who?” non-British readers may well ask. They claim the position of number three in the present party hierarchy, but after the last European elections that claim is somewhat dubious. We expect politicians to be liars, but the LibDems seem to go for it with an alacrity that surpasses even the Blairites. Among a whole number of dubious claims about (wait for it, wait for it) Global Warming is the one featured by the BBC in its Dodgy Dossiers investigation mentioned above. We all thought that Chris Huhne was indulging in a personal flight of fancy with his wrong numbers about the Thames Barrier, but research by assiduous number watcher Dave Gardner has found the same invention on the Party’s official web site. Not only is 55 a grotesque exaggeration, but by doing the opposite with the previous five year figures they have turned an 11% reduction into a quadrupling. The rest of their account of the Stern review is equally mendacious, but not nearly so easy to pin down.

What outrageous temerity to think they can just think up numbers to suit their purpose and impose them on a gullible public! On second thoughts, however, it is just par for the course in this new age of belief.

Some lies are easy to pin down. Others are difficult, or impossible, to explain to the scientifically untrained majority. It is the drip, drip, drip of untruth that wears away the stone foundation of science.

30/01/07

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