Number of the Month

December 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly  

The good

What a world treasure Sandy Szwarc has become! Her blog, Junkfood Science is now a beacon in the fog of fraud and propaganda that obfuscates the landscape of food and drugs. One example of her brave work was taking on the drug pushers who have hatched a plot to make healthy people ill in order to make billions in profit. The premature termination of trials was once unheard of, until the Tamoxifen fiasco, but it has now become routine. In fact, as Sandy implies, it has become one of the major means of distorting statistical results for commercial purposes. Let us be clear: a trial is designed to last for a specific time with specific criteria of success. A prematurely terminated trial is, to say the least, invalid. Furthermore the effect is exacerbated by naïf journalists, who inevitably report that the results were so significant that the trial was ended. As in this case, the results are not at all significant and the exercise was stopped before the trend went the wrong way. The result here is that people are encouraged to put their health at risk taking drugs with dubious benefits. Why are bodies such as the American Statistical Association silent on the gross abuse of the branch of mathematics for which they are responsible?

Our modern credulous world is full of ironies.  A prominent one is the fact that the likes of junk dieticians and celebrity chefs become multimillionaires, while those who toil in the fields of public activity, searching for truth, are obliged to seek donations from well-wishers.

What a fine gesture it has been for the editors of Junk Science to reproduce Sandy ’s donate button! There are now no grants, subsidies or contracts for those who adhere to the traditional scientific approach of scepticism and we all depend on the generosity of a tiny minority of people of conscience.

So give thanks for people like Sandy , who willingly take up the burden for little reward.

The bad

In a Freudian slip of monumental hubris, Gordon Brown claimed before the House of Commons to have “saved the world”. This, remember, is from the least competent Finance Minister in living memory. He started out by selling his country’s gold at the bottom of the market and wrecking the best private pensions system in the world, but from then it was all downhill. He is the master of the “It wasn’t me, Guv” genre of politics. All his present woes are the fault of those beastly Americans. Some Americans beg to differ. Every Labour government has left the UK virtually bankrupt and undefended. Today’s pensioners have spent their whole lives paying back the debts of the post-war Labour government. This time it will be the children and grandchildren who are paying. The words of Cromwell to the Rump Parliament seem apposite “In the name of God, go”. If only we had an opposition.

The ugly

The Englishman, on his Wiltshire farm, turned up a stone and found this abominable creature. Terms like “fascist” are thrown about, mainly by lefties, but this one is a real fascist of the most dangerous type. Every authoritarian regime has relied on groups of acquiescent academics to provide justification for the imposition of censorship. Characteristically, they use the language of democracy to undermine it. As Thomas Jefferson (or possibly others) so potently remarked "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance".

11/12/08

The persistence of thuggery

Four decades ago your bending author was in the process of planning a long trip around Europe, made possible by a generous travelling fellowship sponsored by the Goldsmiths’ Company. It involved a period of research at the University of Grenoble, followed by visits to various university departments in Eastern and Western Europe . It had to be postponed at short notice for two reasons. One was the student riots in France and the other was the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia . When the trip finally took place in 1969, the consequences of these events was only too evident. France was still scarred by vandalism and graffiti and patrolled by riot police wagons. The drive through Czechoslovakia was a nightmare. The first two hours were spent trying to pass a Russian army column. There was a tank on every village green. The feeling of fear and depression was almost tangible.

After that experience, it seems strange that people now discuss the Russian occupation of Eastern Europe in such a light-hearted manner. You can see from the old films that the colour of communism was grey. What you cannot see, but was even more characteristic, was the smell that was everywhere. You can recreate something like it if you leave a cloth damp for a few days until it becomes mildewed.

It was all brought back by an article by Christopher Booker. The stars of the piece are a brave leader of the anti-communist resistance and a violent leader of the student revolutionaries, Danny the Red. Well, one is now the President of his country and the other is now Danny the Green, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament. One is still a defender of democratic rights and the other is an activist for the more authoritarian aspects of the anti-democratic EU. The violence is now verbal (so far) and communism is disguised in the form of a proxy (global warming). Otherwise little has changed. It is a battle between civilisation and thuggery, and civilisation is losing. In the confrontation at Hradcany Castle, overlooking one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the mask slipped and the cliché that “a leopard does not change its spots” was underlined.

That anyone could go out of his way grossly to insult the Head of State of any country within his own palace is appalling. That it should be done by someone masquerading as a member of a democratic parliament is unthinkable. Yet it happened, just as similar things are happening to ordinary opponents of the new establishment on a daily basis.

It’s a sad, sad sad, sad world.

14/12/08

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The eighth annual Numby Awards

 For the first time since its inception, the ceremony did not take place at its normal glamorous venue of the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab in London’s Balls Pond Road . It appears that one of the main sponsors (The Islington International Bicycle Repair Corporation, Prop: Isaac Goldnostril) was obliged to withdraw as a result of the credit crunch. Instead the event took place on Highbury Fields in a tent, kindly loaned by the Clerkenwell Ladies’ Floral Group. Still, it’s an ill wind; as your reporter, now lacking mobility, would have found the narrow rickety staircase to the Assembly Rooms difficult to negotiate. Despite all this, the London glitterati turned out in the usual force and good humour.

The Chair on this occasion was Lady Effluvia Coldbottom, Deputy Chair of the National Spoon and Fork Regulatory Authority. In her opening address she gave some interesting insights into the work of a hard pressed public administrator. Here is a short quotation:

“Frankly, what gets up my nose is old people. They live off the state and then complain about everything that is done for them. When my department issued a green paper on greatly increased taxation on knives to combat the violence among the young, they complained about the impending cost of cutlery. Would it be such a trial for them to eat with their fingers, as their ancestors did? They took the same negative attitude over our banning of cheap offers on alcohol and the banning of “happy hours”. It would not do the old drunks any harm to miss out on a drink or two.

Then, when we go out of the way to do something for them, all they do is complain. We awarded an extra 75p a week on the pension for people in homes and, instead of showing their gratitude, they called it an insult. Some of them even had the audacity to compare it with the 7.5 million pounds that is the pension pot for present Government ministers. Those ministers have worked hard and made great sacrifices to create the prosperous nation we have today. Their pensions are a drop in the ocean compared with the total value of public sector pensions. What have old people ever done for their country?”

It is inevitable with prestigious awards like the Numbies that some names are going to appear over and over again. Each age has its giants and one of ours is James Hansen. It is now twenty years since he prophesied rapidly increasing temperatures, so now we can all look out of the window to see the seared landscapes that he predicted. It is only appropriate that the awards committee decided on a new honour “Prophet of the Age” and there is only one candidate qualified.

But can one award be enough to honour such a contributor to the modern scientific scene? A famous postmodernist once declared with great impact that “Einstein’s constant is not a constant.” Now Hansen has established that past data are no longer constants. Even after they are established and recorded they can change with future time. This is a real breakthrough, as past data have had an inhibiting effect of creative science. Therefore a special award for Creative Science also goes to James Hansen.

Another giant of the age is one who, like Gandalf, disappeared in one colour and achieve resurrection in another, though unchanged in character. He is Danny the Green (né Red). He has now risen again to establish that communism is not dead, but alive and well and living in Green-land. To him goes the award for Persistency.

The award for Creative Selectivity goes to the RSPB, who blamed every one else for the decline of songbirds. Incidentally the answer to the question in the link is that a family of sparrow hawks requires three small birds a day.

Another new award, for Creative Meteorology, goes to the Curator of Kew Gardens, to whom we raise our hats, for his rewriting of millennia of traditions with regard to the seasons.

Criminal of the year is the dastard who overfilled his recycling bin so that the lid was open by a whole four inches. Hanging is too good for these people. What is the point of the Government creating a new criminal offence every four days if Neanderthals like this are just going to ignore them? Thank God our local councils are on the ball!

The trophy for Wisdom after the Event goes to the Leibnitz Institute, who predicted that global warming would be delayed, after it became clear that it was not happening as predicted.

Once again the title of Cad of the Year goes to that bastard Christopher Booker. How can you maintain proper government if irresponsible journalists persist in telling the truth to hoi polloi? Not only hanging, but drawing and quartering, are too good for him.

The cup for Socialist of the Year goes to an unusual candidate, a Conservative, Tim Yeo. He has the unusual characteristic of being as daft as he looks.

Slogan of the year goes to the collectors of the BBC tax for “We know where you live!” That should put a scare into the ungrateful rotters, who do not appreciate what they are getting for the trivial amount of money.

The award for imaginative job creation goes to Southwark Council. Just think – we played street football all those year ago without the benefit of a coordinator. Such deprivation! It is great to know that our greatly increased council taxes are going to such good causes.

Unfortunately, at this point your reporter must have fallen asleep, waking to find himself in an empty tent, but clearly there were more exciting awards, which will no doubt be widely reported.

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Number of the month – -13

This was the temperature in Celsius when a driver observed that all the wind turbines were stationary. As we have stated in this pages many times (e.g. most recently here) it is in the very nature of wind energy that it is not available during extremes of weather, because they occur during stationary highs. People are going to die.

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Number of the year – 4

This number is one that sums up the state of Britain and the world. It is the number of inches by which an evil master criminal left his refuse bin lid open. Ever increasing numbers of young people are being knifed on the street, burglars are free to operate their trade without undue harassment from the police and the economy is a state of collapse. The government is now so incompetent that it cannot even pass on an EU subsidy to farmers without incurring a fine for lateness (and, incidentally, driving many farmers into bankruptcy and suicide). The list of examples of gross Government incompetence is a long one. We now have large numbers of Government snoopers, paid out of excessively growing council taxes. This is what led to the downfall of the post-war Labour government, but then the opposition campaign was led by one Winston Churchill. Now the Conservative opposition is controlled by Greens and is as effective as a chocolate truncheon.

If any American readers are inclined to scoff, they are about to be taken over by a Green government, so they might well find that the laugh is on them.

Perhaps that villain’s real crime was to leave his lid open in inches. If it had been ten centimetres he might have got away with it.

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31/01/08

 

 

 

 

 

 

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