Number of the Month

June  2007

Happy tax freedom day

Yes, even on the benighted isle tax freedom day comes eventually. When your bending author first earned a salary it occurred on April 23rd. America celebrated theirs a month ago.

01/06/07

Dear Aunt Agony

I have not written to you before, though I have long been an avid reader of your column in the Nether Wallop World News and Free Advertiser.

I know that you are always telling us chaps that size does not matter, but I have come to the conclusion that only having a small one has been holding me back in life.

Look at that Al Gore. They say his is enormous, and he is worshipped all over the planet he is so busy saving.

Of course, he offsets his. Apparently he does it by selling himself carbon credits. How does he do this? He must be a very clever man.

Then I thought I might do a world farewell tour, like that Tony Blair. The trouble is that nobody knows I was here in the first place. He must have increased his footprint no end. Apparently, he got the taxpayers to cover the cost of his trip. How does he do that? He must be a very clever man.

I thought I would try increasing mine in small ways at first. I bought a standby light and left it on all day. I thought I would kill two birds with one stone and I put it in my bed. However, I still needed my hot water bottle and it does not seem to have made much difference to my electricity bill.

Of course, I am not ecologically irresponsible and I offset this excess by planting out a bed of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue). I thought your readers might be interested in this way of combining visual pleasure with saving the planet: though I was lucky in getting the plants cheap from the plant stall at the church fete, by waiting until it was nearly closing time.

By the way, while on the subject of power, I had an offer from the company to sell me green electricity for a small premium. Now I am not by nature a suspicious person, but how would I know that the electricity coming through my sockets was green and not some less acceptable colour? I am sure that I am being a silly old fuddy-duddy and that you will be able to explain it to me with your usual clarity.

My next scheme was to pierce holes in an old oil drum to make my own personal incinerator for garbage. Before you throw up your hands in horror, remember that St Al himself says that anything goes as long as you offset it; so I bought a large packet of mixed flower seeds in a closing-down sale. I have only got a small back garden, but I have scrounged some crates from the greengrocer that will make ideal window boxes. Anyway, I started incinerating my garbage in the back garden. Isn’t it upsetting that neighbours can be so unpleasant?

There is another thing that worries me. I am sure you will put me right. How will those recording angels sitting on that volcano know which is my carbon? I would hate to think that I am putting in all this effort, including the offsetting, only to be contributing to someone else's footprint and greatness.

Well, dear aunt, I still have not solved my problem. I am sure that I could be almost as great as the likes of Blair and Gore, if only I could have a bigger carbon footprint. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being a nobody. Please can you give me some of your valuable advice?

 

Yours sincerely

 

A Bending Author

Link to the above piece

03/06/07

Apology ...

Readers who make use of our Number of the Month archive will find that the words <material removed> or <name removed> now appear occasionally. We received a communication on the letterhead of a major newspaper, in which a certain environmental editor mentions defamation and demands that all references to him be removed. Unfortunately, it was opened by your bending author’s helpmeet, who was somewhat disturbed. A court case involving world’s largest media organisation versus impoverished pensioner is only going to have one outcome, so we have reluctantly complied.

04/06/07

… and an antidote

Typical of what happens with a large empire – one part of it knees you in the groin, while another pats you on the back!

05/06/07

March of the killjoys

Right! We’ve done the smokers.
Now for the drinkers.
Next the foodies.
Then we’ll see whether any of the bastards still think life’s for enjoying.

Meanwhile Boris on wine.

Looking for trouble

One of the most reliable ways to get into trouble in this business is to write about religion, which is what your bending author has been up to, but it is also about Global Warming.

07/06/07

Trivial pursuit

Do you sometimes get the feeling you have been living in a parallel universe? Suddenly something you have been familiar with and teaching about for decades is a new discovery. In this case, if you will pardon the jargon, it is mutual inductance resonant coupling. Suddenly all the papers are full of this wonderful invention that is going to eliminate plugs and cables.

The Mail calls it the end of the plug. The Telegraph says Power can be sent through thin air. We have been using it in non-contact instrumentation for years, but the main object has been to reduce the power, so that installed sensors could operate on long life batteries. The reason we did not light lamps with it is that no one thought of doing anything so trivial and pointless.

The sad thing about this froth is that it comes from MIT. Another idol crumbles to dust! They must have been getting too close to the Harvard School of Public Health.

09/06/07

Theatre of the absurd and theatre of cruelty

The Daily Telegraph has got a bit soggy lately with endless broadsheet pages on going green, being organic and panicking about climate change. Fortunately, some of its columnists remain on the ball and still manage to keep the spotlight on the sheer ghastly absurdity of life in Blair’s Britain. Our Boris rightly takes apart Blair’s appalling “It wasn’t me , Guv!” speech about the media.

Alice Thomson highlights the ever-growing disparity between England and the ruling country, to which it is obliged to pay Danegeld. You would think that even Blair would have the sensitivity to avoid the Orwellism of NICE for the organisation that has the job of withholding drugs from the English that are freely available north of the border (and, indeed, in the rest of Europe). A close friend of your bending author is one of those facing future blindness. It is a prospect that is indescribably horrific.

Meanwhile, our Scottish Prime Minister in waiting has come up with a palliative. He is going to promote Britishness (at this point Mr Gates wanted to substitute “Brutishness”, rather apt, don’t you think?) At least it indicates that he still retains sufficient humanity to be embarrassed, which is a marginal improvement on his predecessor.

The wife of number watcher Robin Davies found in a craft magazine a nice letter to our featured blogger, which seems to sum up the reality of life in Britain and Europe today.

Footnote: And there's more!

Quite brilliant!

Give or take a few infelicities of phrasing from a scientific point of view, this piece by Paul Johnson in The Spectator says so much that is relevant to the modern disaster.

15/06/07

Closed shop

One of the social ills stifling the British economy that was largely corrected in the Thatcher era was the closed shop, by which employment in particular industries was restricted to membership of particular unions. It finally ended, for example, the reputation of Fleet Street as the centre of the press, which it had enjoyed since the arrival of Wynkyn de Worde in 1500. The closed shop is virtually unknown in Britain today, though the EU is trying to re-impose trade union power through its revived non-constitution.

The closed shop is now one of the aspects of the “climate change” debate that should be a cause for concern. Many of us who presume to comment are told “You are not a climate scientist and therefore are not qualified to contribute.” Apart from the fact that the idea of X Science is a debased modern invention, science has never worked this way and has always benefited from an encouragement of interdisciplinarity and mutual respect for expertise. Your bending author, for example, worked as a measurement scientist in a wide variety of fields – EEG (brain waves), vehicle monitoring, money counting, electronic olfaction and perhaps a hundred other applications. No one ever said, for example, “You are not a medic and therefore not entitled to comment in this field.” A fundamental knowledge of physics and mathematics, coupled with accumulated personal knowledge and skills, was accepted as the basic entry requirement. Even some perfectly sound criticisms of Global Warming Alarmism seem to carry the implication that debate should be restricted to a chosen few.

This is just another aspect of religion replacing science, for clerics operated the longest running closed shop in history.

Then, just to confuse the issue, there is the equal and opposite trend. People, such as politicians and journalists, who lack the mental equipment to understand even the most basic ideas of absorption and radiation of energy, tell us that it is “obvious” that carbon dioxide is the doomsday gas, rather than the basis of all life on earth.

It’s a funny old world!

Greek is the word

Now that the Englishman has joined sufferers in our Out-of-hours club, it is a suitable time to launch our very own neologism. Number Watcher Graham Dawson, having taken the precaution of marrying a classicist, is able to provide the word that Number Watch recently requested. It will not mean much to those who live outside Blair’s Britain, but it means an awful lot to those who live under the tender care of the National Health Service (except those who did not survive, of course). Anyway, thanks to the negotiating skills of the Blair Team, this is the system that we now enjoy. So rally round you lexicographers and insert this in your entries:

Acairasthenephobia, Ah-kai-ras-then-eh-phobia, n, a fear of falling ill out of hours (Gr negative prefix A; cairo (or  kairós) - right time; asthenes - ill; and phobia, qv).

Now the Greeks have a word for it. We hope that makes you all feel better.

What really happened

Your bending author typed out the above piece, uploaded it and trundled off to bed. As eyes drooped and it was time to put the ancient paperback thriller under the pillow, a sudden thought intruded. My God! The BMA really do think they put one over on the Government! After all these years they really think they are negotiating with the Government! They are so naïve that they still do not realise that negotiations are not just two-way; they are a sandwich, one that it arranged like this:

The Government – Sir Humphrey – The Rest

Like a farmed trout, they leapt at the luxurious barbed fly, rather than the scanty but nutritive live midge, just as they were meant to. A wily native fish would have been more circumspect. Why would they be offered a mere £6,000 to provide an out of hours service? It was so derisory that it was never meant to be accepted. The BMA, being a trade union, were only thinking about money, but Sir Humphrey was thinking about power. What does it matter that the alternative is to provide a ludicrously expensive chauffeur driven, if ineffective, service. It is only money, and not even real money, just taxpayers’ money. The alternative is to have medical professionals, rather than bureaucrats, in control of a vital part of the health service. Unthinkable!

The Government, in their turn, think they are negotiating with the medical profession, when they too are actually also negotiating with Sir Humphrey. Why are these bastards so intractable? We’ll show ’em! We will set up our own system, however much it costs. What is a bit of misery and a few deaths when principle is involved?

The way the modern political system works is that ministers, who have never run anything in their lives, suddenly find themselves plunged into a jungle inhabited by, to catch the mood of the moment, feral beasts. It is particularly true of those women, the so-called Blair babes, whose token presence is an affront to the just cause of the liberation of women. They are lost, they fail, they are inadequate.

People experience pain, they suffer, they die. So what? The system rolls on.

16/06/07

Illustration

Thanks are due to BBC sayer of sooth, Alex Kirby, for providing a fine illustration of how the priesthood deals with infidels. This appeared in CCNet today:

(10) RELIGION OR SCIENCE

Alex Kirby [alexkirby_uk@yahoo.co.uk]

Dear Benny

Poor John Brignell really does need to go and lie down in a darkened room, I think. In his highly entertaining piece "GLOBAL WARMING AS RELIGION AND NOT SCIENCE" he rehearses the hoary old myth that climate change is something cooked up years ago by Sir Crispin Tickell and Margaret Thatcher. Then, again without offering a shred of evidence, he accuses the media of peddling untruths and faking the coverage. Why does he have to spoil such a rattling good laugh-a-minute read with elementary errors of this sort? Possibly, of course, he thinks they're not errors, in which case I'd be glad to see his evidence for either assertion. 

Yours ever

Alex

At least his first word was correct. Of course, this poor old thing wrote nothing of the sort. What he wrote was “The father of the new religion was Sir Crispin Tickell”. The global warming thing has been around since the time of Arrhenius. What Thatcher did was to bring it into the world political arena. Tickell’s book on the subject was published in 1977, when the new ice age scare had hardly been decently interred (the funerall bak't meates did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables). You need look no further than Tickell’s protégé, George Monbiot, that the Thatcher speech of 1989 was inspired by Tickell himself. Kirby, of course, has been Tickell’s representative on Earth for some time.

For further information, this poor old thing:

  1. was Chairman of a branch of the Conservative Party and member of a constituency committee during the 1980s, but is now ex.
  2. sat in the front row at a speech in which Margaret Thatcher made a point of mentioning the importance of Global Warming.
  3. raised his concern with his MP David Mitchell, who was Industry Minister at the time, but did not think this an important issue. Unfortunately, this was only orally, since we did not know that a quarter of a century later accusations of lying would be flying.
  4. has been offering shreds of evidence for the past seven years, as have others, such as the late, great John Daly.  What does he want – the whole of Number Watch and its two associated books in brackets?

It is, of course not new that the lefties feel the need to rewrite history. Their near monopoly of the media makes it easy for them and their Winston Smiths. It is a bit inconvenient, however, that not only is there so much documentation in existence, but also that some of us whose were there at the time are persistently still around. We tend to get a bit stroppy when they shout that there is no evidence that something happened, when we were eye witnesses.

It is not the fact that Tickell is their founding father that they need to so desperately suppress, but that it was one of their all-time monsters of the right who was associated with him in launching the faith into the political world. This is not the only case in which Thatcher manufactured the tools for the left to do their work. The whole process of central control, for example, particularly of education under the ghastly Kenneth Baker, was put into place during the Thatcher years for the later convenience of New Labour. 

Footnote: The pertinent question was asked by Michael Ronayne, when pointing out one of the more egregious cases of fakeryIf the evidence for global warming is that compelling, why is it necessary for those who believe in global warming to misrepresent data in this manner to support their cause?

18/06/07

Metamorphosis

That Essay seems to have stirred up some interest: apart from the knee jerk personal attacks from the likes of Alex Kirby, there has been a considerable response of a more sympathetic nature. One result is that your bending author has been transmogrified into your bumbling broadcaster. Here is an interview with Michael Coren of Toronto Radio. It is in two parts:

Part 1

Part 2

19/06/07

Absurder and absurder

Via the Englishman, we have this extraordinary story of pompous, self-satisfied, bureaucratic interference. If Tony Blair wants to know what his legacy is, there could not be a better example.

As Tony Hancock said in Twelve angry men “And what about Magna Carta? Did she die in vain?”

Quite!

When does it stop becoming a paradox?

 

Peer Review

It is perhaps rather curmudgeonly to add a few “yes buts” when someone has paid you a bit of a compliment, but more needs to be said on the subject of peer review and editors, as raised by Charles Warren Hunt in Greenie Watch. There is certainly no question that the system is corruptible and has been corrupted, as ancient memories related in these pages have testified. Those were the days when science was free from the pressures of the new religious elite, and the situation is far, far worse now.

It is, however, difficult to see how modern scientific publication can exist without some form of specialist review system. Time was when one person could have a working knowledge of the whole of a subject area and would therefore make a competent journal editor. Scientific activity has expanded so much in the last half century that such a function is beyond one person. The danger before about 1980 was that journals could be effectively cornered by coteries who were promoting one particular theory. Now, of course, that small danger has become a universal threat, and even common practice.

It all comes down to the integrity of the editor. Under Sir John Maddox, for example, Nature maintained its reputation as the world’s leading science journal. It was an honour to have results published therein. The present day Nature is just a bad joke among those who still value the integrity of science. You only have to look at the extraordinary shenanigans its editors indulged in to avoid publishing valid criticism of the bogus “hockey stick” to see an example of corruption at the top.

When you have refereed thousands of papers for various journals and conferences, sat on editorial boards and adjudicated in refereeing disputes, you develop a pretty good overview of the problems of the system. There are too many papers offered for a start. Many of them are trivial, unoriginal or provably wrong. Some of the would-be authors are even clearly insane. A journal will quickly lose its reputation and readership if it fills its pages with self-evident trash. Just coping with the significant new results in most fields is a demanding onus on those working in them and they do not welcome the wasting of their precious time. There will always be referees who abuse that position, but most of them do an honest job for no pay. The bonus is that they have a more up-to-date knowledge of their field than others. If you become known for doing a good, conscientious job, the demands on your time grow and grow until eventually you have to call a halt. Finding suitable referees is a nightmare for editors and their boards.

But, of course, all of that has changed. People driven by quasi-religious belief go to great lengths to gain positions of power, such as editorships, and to recruit their kind. There are very few journals left that you could trust to take a balanced view on a subject such as climate without resorting to dogma-based censorship. Though the refereeing system had major intrinsic problems, like democracy it was the least bad system we have.

The big change we are now faced with is that “Peer Review” has now become one of the religious mantras used to impose censorship. Although the internet has removed the exclusivity of control that existed in scientific and other publication, the opposite has happened in the so-called main-stream media. Peer Review now often means that a paper has been subjected to censorship by a close-knit community of like-minded believers. As Wegman so powerfully demonstrated, we have a situation in which a relatively small circle of intimates are reviewing and quoting each other’s work and, worse, excluding others who do not conform to their dogma. There is nothing new in this, except perhaps the sheer scale of it and the potent social and economic consequences.

“Peer Review” is now a phrase bandied about by people who quite clearly have no idea how science in general and refereeing in particular are supposed to work. It is used to condemn ideas purely on the basis of whether they conform to the prescribed dogma. Although the content of the internet is almost all rubbish, it is also where you can find the best of scientific thinking. Let us hope that that small element can be preserved should humanity eventually return to sanity.

Link to this piece

20/06/07

Read this!

Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts

Great value for the quotations alone!

21/06/06

Salman Rushdie

Number Watch does not normally associate itself with popular protests, but makes an exception in the case of the award of a knighthood to Salman Rusdhdie. This is not on the basis of any insult to religion, but rather on the basis of an insult to the English language by the publication of pretentious, unreadable tosh. Still, when you look at the average knight of the Blair era, it is not really so much of an honour.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Number watcher Tony Edwards commends this illustration of the dire effect on temperature of increasing CO2, from Web Commentary.

22/06/07

which leads us to

A parable

Some readers have, from time to time, written that they have difficulty in understanding why the effect of CO2 saturates in the form of what is known as a logarithmic curve, so limiting the effect of further increments. Here is a parable. Like all parables it is inexact, but it illustrates the principles involved.

Imagine you are taking photographs in very bright light. In order to reduce the intensity, you place in front of your lens a neutral (grey) filter that cuts out half the light. You now have half the light transmitted to the film and half absorbed. This is not enough so you add another identical filter. You now have a quarter of the light transmitted and therefore three quarters absorbed. You keep adding filters and you get a total of energy amount absorbed according to the following graph:

Clearly, you get a law of diminishing returns as you add filters. So it is as you add CO2 to the atmosphere. As the radiation descends through the atmosphere, the quanta of radiation absorbed are not available for lower layers. Of course, the real situation is rather more complicated than this, because the CO2 is not a simple neutral filter and it reradiates (both up and down) at exactly the same frequencies at which it absorbs, but it does so from a much lower temperature than that of the original source (the sun). The figure does not represent the logarithmic relationship, it is a form of exponential, but merely illustrates the fact that you must have a law of diminishing returns in these circumstances. The dominant effect is that as the radiant energy proceeds to the surface of the earth it effectively goes through more and more filters, so the atmosphere is ultimately relatively opaque at the frequencies characteristic of CO2. The life-giving greenhouse effect arises from the fact that the temperature of the earth has to rise until the net energy going out into cold space is in equilibrium with the net energy coming in from the sun. Of course, CO2 is really only a minor side show to the much more important water vapour.

Footnote: There is some dispute about this interpretation. See our Forum.

Another footnote: Sod's law - the Forum server seemed to go off the air as soon as the link was added. 

Leopards and spots

The French will never give up their attachment to protectionism. They will continue to drag Europe into a trade backwater. That, in combination with the ritual economic suicide that is Kyoto and its successors, does not augur well for the future of the continent.

As we noted with reference to the Blair legacy last month:

The Blair ritual of negotiation has become the national one. It requires a great show of initial bravado with declarations of how you are not going to give way, followed by  a coda demonstrating why giving way was only rational and what you really wanted to do all the time. The classical example was over Britain ’s increased contribution to the EU spending spree.

Now read on...and on.

23/06/07

Epistle to the Theologians

Well, it was not exactly unexpected. As stated above, one of the most reliable ways to get into trouble in this business is to write about religion. If you beaver away long enough at consigning thoughts to electrons, you run the risk of hitting upon saying what a lot of people have been thinking (and, it follows, what a lot of people are avoiding thinking). The result is a cascade of e-mails.

The thing that seems to concern the more antique variety of theologian most is the allegation that “original sin” is of a sexual nature. The source for this was Genesis, chapter III. No, your offending author has not read all those classical theological works and has no intention of doing so. Furthermore, words like “karma” have him simultaneously reaching for his metaphorical revolver and the delete button. Neither was there, in that essay, any attack on anyone’s faith. Faith is a personal thing, of great value to many people. There is nothing wrong with it, until it pretends to be science.

Naturally, the most concerted attack comes from the theologians of the new religion. That is to be expected, even welcomed if you are accustomed to the cut and thrust of scientific debate at international scientific conferences. What is depressing is not that it is done, but that it is so ill done. For they seem to have the common trait of never dealing with the main arguments.  Alex Kirby, for example, offers a typical approach. Having patronisingly dismissed the main argument as an entertainment, he attacks an unmade claim (the logical fallacy of the straw man) that climate change was a Thatcherite plot. In no fewer than four separate e-mails, Numby Laureate Roger Coppock states that “It is very well documented that environmental activists didn't change the phraseology from "global warming" to "climate change”. Fair enough, but nobody said they did. He blames it on The Republicans and quotes one Mr Luntz to prove it. He then adds “You'll have to demonstrate that Environmentalists have adopted the phrase. Environmentalists I know are well aware of the Luntz memo. To use the phrase "climate change" instead of "global warming" among them is a major faux pas, a missed intellectual marker.” Apart from the fact that this is beside the point, the rest of the world seems to have missed this subtle nuance of American philosophical dispute. As a woman said in our local pub this week “If I turn on the BBC and hear those bloody words Climate Change again, I swear I will scream.”

So we have one saying “It was the righties what done it” and the other saying “The righties never done it.” In each case we may accept what they say, whether correct or not, because it is irrelevant to the case. They seize upon a subordinate clause, a verbal curlicue, and terrier-like worry it to death, when omitting it makes no change to the argument. That is the traditional theological way (famously parodied by D’Israeli the elder, in the question of how many angels can occupy the point of a needle), dealing with everything other than their real business, the cure of souls. So it is in modern times. Any sceptic who pokes his head above the parapet finds himself faced with ranked trebuchets loaded with irrelevancies.

The sad part of it all is that the western world, having deliberately debased its own education system, is now largely populated by people who are not trained to see these diversions for what they are, tawdry misdirection by mediocre conjurors. They hear and read the trenchant phraseology and think “That’s telling ’em!” without noticing that it does not even attempt to address the question in hand; which is why we have the sort of political leader we have today, but that is another story.

Footnote (by Dennis Ambler)

As usual, Tyndall is a good source

 

Working Paper 58

The Social Simulation of the Public Perception of Weather Events and their Effect upon the Development of Belief in Anthropogenic Climate Change Dennis Bray and Simon Shackley, (September 2004. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research).

 

Some pertinent extracts, my italics:

bullet
To endorse policy change people must ‘believe’ that global warming will become a reality some time in the future: (their quote marks)
bulletOnly the experience of positive temperature anomalies will be registered as indication of change if the issue is framed as global warming.
bulletBoth positive and negative temperature anomalies will be registered in experience as indication of change if the issue is framed as climate change.
bulletWe propose that in those countries where climate change has become the predominant popular term for the phenomenon, unseasonably cold temperatures, for example, are also interpreted to reflect climate change/global warming.

Where the panzers failed

So the unrelenting machine rolls over the remnants of democracy in Europe . The not-a-constitution, largely dreamt up by anonymous authoritarian bureaucrats and rejected whenever exposed to democratic choice, has been forced through by the well-known technique of persuasion that is sleep-deprivation. Blair did as Blair does; switching seamlessly from bravado to surrender to claim of victory. Once more only Booker is on the ball; in pointing out that it is an attempted coup by a German leader, brushing aside the existing rules of procedure. Only Blair would have the Chutzpah blandly to sign away the rights of his people as his very last act in office, an act that was once only the prerogative of an absolute monarch. The not-the-Conservative party is among those calling for a referendum, which is uncharacteristically non-bland for them.

Your bending author was one of those suckered in to campaigning for the yes vote in the 1975 referendum. We were told nothing about the surrender of sovereignty, just about the sensible option of remaining in a common market. The stealthy conquest of Europe by an internal bureaucratic cabal has gone from success to success from that moment. It is difficult to see how Europe can avoid ultimate economic collapse, given its various suicidal tendencies. Does Britain have to go down with it?

Thought for the day

The great tragedy of modern life is that the ability to win an election is totally unrelated to the ability to run a country or, for that matter, a whelk stall.

24/06/07

Yes, but

Everything Quentin Davies says about his erstwhile leader is valid criticism, but does it justify jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire?

Question time

Sandy asks “Is common sense dead?”

Yes.

Next question.

FLOOD!

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
George Santayana

One of the most irritating aspects of modern journalists is their wisdom after the event. So we now get a front page headline in the Daily Mail about flooding in Sheffield:

Before we get comments about pots and kettles here are some sentences, for example,  from Number Watch for November 2000:

If you build your house on a flood plain, it follows as the night the day that it will eventually be flooded. That is how the flood plains were created in the first place. That is what they are for. Concreting over vast areas of the naturally absorbing soil guarantees that this will happen more often. Time was when communities carried on traditions that had been developed over hundreds of generations, such as hedging and ditching at the appropriate time of year. Water meadows were flooded for a purpose and houses were never built on them. Now people think they know better.

And another irritating thing about the press is that they have to elevate everything into being unique or the worst ever. The contemporary stories are rather fearful, but they are not unique. If you look at a copy of The History and Topography of the Parish of Sheffield (1869) you will find a very long description of the great flood of 1864. That tome is rather large, but here is a page from a little book called The Ancient Suburbs of Sheffield:

                                                                 
   Malin Bridge and all the area around suffered very badly in the Sheffield Flood, which occurred between the hours of 12 midnight, Friday, and one o'clock in the morning of Saturday, 12th March, 1864. During this short period, the large dam at Bradfield burst its banks and 700,000,000 gallons of water poured down the valley.
   A local poet described the scene after this terrible event as follows:
                            "From Bradfield hills to Bradfield Dale.
                              Damflask and Malin Bridge,
                              And all along the green-bank side,
                              The gorge and o'er the Ridge;
                              From Loxley on to Owlerton,
                              Across and o'er Neepsend,
                              And down the valley of the Don,
                              In every turn and bend;
                              From Hillsbro' on to Harvest Lane,
                              And all the lowlands round,
                              Along the Wicker and its ways,
                              Where'er a path was found,
                              The huge, uproarious sea had worked
                              Its devastating track,
                              Engulfing all within its reach
                              In universal wreck.
                              Uprooted trees, logs, bales and beams.
                              Great heaps of brick and stone,
                             And mighty engines, ripped and cracked,
                              Like toys about were thrown;
                             A thousand beings homeless made,
                              Upon the damp ground stood,
                             Pale, shivering in the cold March wind,
                             Knee deep 'in slime and mud."
  The result of this terrible calamity were 798 houses destroyed, 4,357 flooded and over 270 people drowned.

As always there are the usual, and valid, accusations of inaction and penny-pinching by politicians. According to the Mail’s Geoffrey Lean, Margaret Beckett, the then Environment Secretary refused to provide the necessary funds for planned defensive work, while that notorious waste of space, the (gloriously, as of today, ex) Deputy Prime Minister had said that the floods of seven years ago were “a wake up call”.

What is the betting that someone will put it down to global warming? There was not a lot of that about in 1864, but think that will deter them?

27/06/07

Predicting backwards

Well, that bet did not last long. After the floods the experts are predicting floods. The usual suspects. You could not make it up.

28/06/07

Telling it how it is

Sandy does the NHS

29/06/07

Number of the month – 7

Seven is the number of new laws made by the Blair Government every day of his reign. That is a new law every three and a quarter hours. They are almost all badly drafted and hardly any of them have been properly debated in the House of Commons.

Your bending author had occasion to look at the Blair version of the Licensing act on behalf of a local organisation. It is so ill-drafted that tracts of it are open to almost any interpretation. Yet some of these laws are of great length and complexity and the scope for the workings of the Law of Unintended Consequences are virtually limitless.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sit Mr Blair down and say “You are a lawyer. Ignorance of the law is no defence. Here is a pad and a pencil. Now write down from memory a list of the laws that you have imposed upon your fellow citizens.”

Thanks to Blair, there are about three thousand new crimes on the books, including ones with Orwellian names, such as “envirocrime.” According to Paul Johnson:

It is said that in a decade New Labour has created over 100 new crimes and over 1,000 new misdemeanours. Many of these deal with physical issues, such as smoking and rubbish, never before tackled radically by law, as well as metaphysical ones, such as opinion, now in many cases identified as ‘hate crime’. It is notable that throwing down a cigarette butt may now be punished more severely than theft, and expressing hate, as defined by law, can be a more serious crime than physical assault (or may aggravate the assault exponentially).

So we bid farewell to the man who led his nation into madness. What next?

30/06/07

Index

 

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