Number of the Month

February 2011

The BBC Limbo

How low can they go?

So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As in their birth, wherein they are not guilty,
(Since nature cannot choose his origin
),
By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o'erleavens
The form of plausive manners — that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
His virtues else be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo,

Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault: the dram of evil
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal.

Hamlet

The third BBC global warming documentary in as many weeks plumbed new depths by mounting a lavish, elaborate and thinly disguised character assassination exercise aimed at one individual, despite the plurality suggested by the title Meet the sceptics. Lord Monckton is not a scientist, which is not the least part of his attraction as a target, since one of the myths that the BBC likes to promote is that the whole scientific community is on the side of the angels and the opposition are all irrational, demon-possessed loners.  He does, however, possess a considerable intellect, being a classicist who has mastered the essential elements of physics and higher mathematics in a way that many of his opponents have not. He also is gifted with a considerable power of oratory, fortified by a prodigious memory.

Like all of us, however, he also has his defects. As with many intellectuals he exhibits a degree of political naïveté and more than a modicum of self-regard. His aspect is also somewhat blighted by an exophthalmic visage, which is a heaven-sent gift to the cunning video editor with a malignant brief to make the victim look like a rabble-rousing loony. Any sceptic experienced in the ways of the modern world would feel his hackles rise at the very mention of the BBC, even if it is masked in the guise of an allegedly independent programme maker. Independent programme makers do not have the resources to stalk their victims around the world, but to the BBC, funded by a compulsory and onerous levy on most British citizens, sending a crew to exotic places just to record a couple of sentences is as nothing.

How Monckton can have been sucked into acting like a performing seal, singing the well-known Gilbert and Sullivan parody and pouring a liquid onto rocks from a bottle, crudely labelled ACID with a marker pen, is something of a mystery. In the previous programme, somewhat more inculpably, James Delingpole was caught by the now traditional BBC trick of recording a long and exhausting interview to provide an apparently damning sound-bite, which gave us our Number of the Month for January.

Nevertheless, the fact is that Monckton has done more than most of us in the battle for reason in the face of an army that is backed by forces of immense wealth and power and, while it is legitimate to offer criticism where it is due, the BBC will have achieved one of its objectives if it manages to sow dissension among the reasonable.

The younger generation do not understand the distress felt by us oldies at the moral decline of the BBC. When we were children and only the rich had TV, programmes such as Children’s Hour entertained, educated and soothed us. Later, when some of us began to travel the world, we discovered that the BBC was the most trusted source of news and fact almost everywhere. This was heightened during a tour behind the iron curtain shortly after the invasion of Czechoslovakia , when in private people were anxious that we should understand just how important the BBC was to them. Now it is little more than a propaganda outfit for a particular brand of leftie-greenie dogma, run by grossly overpaid and under-talented executives, and entirely without conscience.

Then there's this!

08/02/11

Two modern Great Plagues of Great Britain

One is openly discussed and the other is quietly ignored.

Managers, and particularly the grossly overpaid executive kind, are an infestation that is sucking the life out of the British economy. The bonus-hungry bank executives get all the headlines but their equivalents in the NHS, local councils, quangos etc are all at it.

The excuse for all the high remuneration is the alleged competition for the alleged skills of these people. The only overt demonstration of any skill is the keen ability with which they cover their own backs and protect their empires of lesser mortals, who feed the sense of self-importance that motivates them. Empire-building is what bureaucrats do.

The inexperience of the youngish Lib-Dem led coalition Government has led them into the inevitable trap as they try to reverse the tide of borrowing and waste that came with the decade of New Labour, who were deluded by the idea that you could solve any problem by throwing money at it. Only oldies who were mature observers in the early eighties have seen it all before. The first reaction of the bureaucracy to the requirement to implement cuts is to make them in such a way that they cause maximum pain to the greatest number of people. This way they foster a growing resentment among the electorate, which translates into pressure upon the Government to reverse its policy. Thus public libraries, swimming pools, garbage collection and so on are sacrificed, while the empires and the grotesque over-payment of the emperors remain largely intact.

The other great plague remains mostly unremarked by politicians and the media. It is gambling, usually known by its euphemism – the gaming industry. For reasons unstated New Labour was in love with this activity; even to the point of trying to foist giant gaming palaces on unsuspecting populations (cui bono?). It is, however, the online form of gambling that shows exponential growth. The evidence for this can be seen in the growing numbers of companies operating in this area and the wealth that they are able to throw around. You only need to look at the sponsorship of football clubs, shirts or even whole leagues to see how much money they control. Sports broadcasts are not only sponsored by them, but programmes are bracketed by a stream of adverts. Sports commentators routinely insert remarks about the odds you could have got on a particular event happening.

In the classical way of pushers of addiction they offer free bets to entice new customers. The tip of the iceberg emerges when an absurdly highly paid footballer bankrupts himself, but the great and growing bulk of human misery arising from this addiction is kept under cover. It must be there, because the riches displayed by the industrial pushers can only come from ordinary households, most of which are already under financial strain. There are voluntary groups that try to help mitigate the wretchedness of online gamers (e.g. OLG-Anon) but our rulers remain benignly oblivious of a rapidly developing situation that can only end in disaster. There are not even any zealot groups as there are with other alleged addictions. Some of the stories from the families of addicts are heart-rending, but there are also a few stories of recovery that are equally heart-warming. Playing games is addictive enough, but add the element of betting and it becomes financially ruinous. There are many examples of theft and fraud cases being motivated by the addiction, while it is also a strong element in loss of credit rating. It has even led to suicide. Worldwide it is already a serious problem. Google online gambling addiction and you will get a million results.

By the time the whole situation is totally out of control the politicians could have lost the opportunity to do anything about it. We have already seen the posher pushers, in the form of spread-betting millionaires, sponsoring politicians and parties. In the modern world money is power.

Where will it all end?

09/02/11

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Joined up Government?

Yes, it was one of those glib, vacuous sales slogans invented by Tony Blair, particularly notable in that it preceded his formation of the most factious government in living memory. It does, however, underline one of the fault lines in international government by the established political class. One of the areas of ignorance of this class is the distinction between correlated and uncorrelated phenomena. Take one example: the incidence of unemployment in different sections of the population.

Youth and undergraduate unemployment is a powder keg throughout the world. Though the establishment might like to promote other causes for the present serious instability in the Middle East (including, of course, the ever popular global warming) a principal driver is unemployment, particularly among the young and educated. The psychological effect of feeling idle and unwanted is particularly damaging in this age group.

Tony Blair never gave a reason for his curious target of getting fifty percent of young people into universities, but could it be simply that it keeps them off the unemployment register for three years (and now at their own considerable expense and indebtedness)? It is not a solution, of course, and is even an exacerbation. Thousands of graduates in, say, Media Studies from mediocre universities, are pouring into the jobs market only to find that there are no niches that match their skills.

Remember also that the Major government destroyed the British polytechnics by turning them into fourth rate universities. This was in order to eliminate the so-called “Binary Divide”, a concept created by college principals who wanted to be vice-chancellors and lecturers who wanted to be professors. Contrast this with the tiny country of Singapore, whose only resource is its people, which was building new polytechnics, so that it now has four, and fine institutions they are, along with the two first class universities. While at it you might like to compare the economic growth rates of the two countries. If you want to see the best of the British educational tradition, go to Singapore . The British political class, with the Oxford degrees in PPE, actually have little idea of what is going on in the world. The British Council, which once did a fine job of presenting the best of British culture to the world, is now engaged in world-wide recruiting of climate activists.

At the other end of the age scale are the sixty-five year olds. They are part of a demographic problem that has been known about for decades, yet has been ignored by the political class. The problem is that they are living too long, so now the political myth has been created that the standard retirement age was created with reference to longevity. It was nothing of the sort. This is the age which was and is the threshold of a sharp increase in health problems. Take it from one who has seen his contemporaries pass through this age barrier. The drugs and therapies that keep people alive longer do not solve the health problem; they only contain it and in a sense worsen it with the side effects of drugs that are taken to ease the side effects of the main drugs that are keeping people alive. There are, of course, a few who are blessed with good health, but they are a decreasing minority as age rises. Not only are European governments raising official retirement ages, but they are making it more difficult for employers to impose retirement on the grounds of age. This leads to yet more intractable and time-consuming legal problems, to say nothing of situations of extreme pain and embarrassment.

This, then, is the un-joined-up bit. The old are forced to hang on to jobs that they might or might not want, thus keeping out the young, who then form a festering sore of social instability.

What is the solution? As the Irishman is supposed to have said to the traveller asking directions, “If I wanted to go there, I would not start out from here”. A known developing problem has been studiously ignored for decades. Meanwhile, many political actions have only made matters worse; most notoriously Gordon Brown’s raid that all but destroyed the best private pension system in the world and has left people, who responsibly planned for their retirement, desperate for income. The same politician’s gross spending, borrowing and waste have left the kitty empty of money to deal with such deeply ingrained social problems, but his equivalent can be observed all over the world.

15/02/11

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Green fatigue

Of all the great institutions that have succumbed to Greenie entryism, one of the saddest is the London Telegraph newspapers. They are now just the same morass of celebrity culture, cod psychology and eco-drivel as the rest of the press. Today, for example the one inch high main headline on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph is Official: eat less red meat. The subsequent article is based on the usual statistical nonsense that is spewed out by that Nanny State, which some of had hoped would die with the passing of the New Labour Government. The claimed 30% risk increase is not statistically significant, coming as it does from a metastudy gleaned from a number of small and ill-founded observational studies. These are subject to the usual contamination by such factors as self-reporting, publication bias, selection bias etc. Extra caution is required for studies that are driven by zealot groups, such as extremist vegetarian movements. Why do so many study red meat and not red cabbage? Having said that, we must note that there are also many studies that claim that various vegetables prevent cancer: see for example the caveat in our recent review of an excellent new book on the benefits of CO2 enhancement. There is an established list of targets by PC and zealot groups and meat is right up there with tobacco, alcohol, coffee, salt, fat etc.

The scale of the greenie take-over of the Telegraph is indicated by the maudlin wittering of Geoffrey Lean, which is allocated a huge ration of column inches, and the hysterical reporting of Louise Gray, who faithfully publishes every press-release from climate zealots.

Fortunately, there is still a light in that dark tunnel from Christopher Booker, who was recently noted during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sunday Telegraph as its longest serving columnist. He is now one of a near-extinct species: an independent, honest, campaigning journalist with a conscience. One should not, of course, forget James Delingpole, who, though relegated to the blogs, is a throwback to the days of the sceptical investigative journalist, much quoted on the internet but unknown to ordinary readers of the newspaper.

Your bending author has read almost every edition of the Telegraph for well over half a century, but is beginning to lose the will to go on. As for the “experts” of the Nanny State , why don’t they just get out of our lives?

20/02/11

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The absence of reason

Any reasonable informed citizen will accept the fact that Britain (an many other western countries) needs an urgent programme of public expenditure cuts, but it is difficult to discern any traces of rational thought in the way they are being implemented by the coalition Government. Leaving the island virtually defenceless is hardly an option that those of even a remotely conservative disposition would have embraced. The destruction of Ark Royal and its Harriers, for example, is an action so insane that it is hard to accept that anyone would seriously consider it, yet that is what is happening. Perhaps Stuntman Dave is looking forward to returning from negotiations with a well-armed hostile nation waving a piece of paper with a cry of "Peace in our time".

The frigate that took part in the rescue of Britons and others from Libya had to stop off on the way to the knackers’ yard. The Hercules transport craft involved in the blood SAS operation will go in a couple of years’ time. They are part of a massive destruction programme. It is better to have dated weaponry than none at all. Meanwhile the gross overspend in the public sector, notably in inflated executive salaries, continues unabated.

Admittedly, the lunatic irresponsibility of Gordon Brown and his friends has left the Government with an intractable problem. In particular, they had used the MOD as a milch cow to feed subsidies into Labour strongholds, which involves long and costly contracts over many years that cannot be broken. The fact that the MOD is a monumental disaster area, however, does not predicate an abandonment of a realistic defence policy.

So, what are the Government going to do with the savings? For a start they have ring fenced foreign aid, so that taxpayers’ money will be sent, for example, to India , which can afford its own space programme and whose millionaires are taking over British industries (and now even football clubs). The programme to cover the country with worse-than-useless wind turbines, paid for by a stealth tax hidden in domestic energy bills, remains in  place, despite clear confirmation of the prediction by sceptics that they make a futile and unreliable contribution to energy requirements. They have been discussed often enough in these pages, but let us turn to Christopher Booker  for a trenchant analysis in today’s Daily Mail headed Why the £250bn wind power industry could be the greatest scam of our age - and here are the three 'lies' that prove it.

Which gives us:

Number of the Month – £250 Billion

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28/02/11

 

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