Number of the Month

February 2013

Poles apart

This is what your bending author sees on waking every morning. It comprises just a few of the souvenirs of a visit to Gdansk in 1969, presented to us by some of those brave and generous citizens on our departure. They have had pride of place in our various dwellings for 43 years.

The visit was the result of an award to me of a generous Goldsmiths travelling fellowship. The original plan was to spend a term in the research group in Grenoble in 1968, working on electrohydrodynamic instability, and then proceed to the Technical University of Dansk, which housed one of the leading research groups in my then speciality, liquid dielectrics, visiting various other notable research centres on the way.

Just as we were about to start, two dramatic events forced us to postpone our venture for a year. There was the student revolution in France and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. I could write a whole book on the subsequent adventures on that 6,000 mile expedition around a continent scarred by violent socialism.

There is no way that you can convey in words the horrors of life in the Soviet Empire to those who have not experienced it, particularly in the newly re-conquered Czechoslovakia, where the atmosphere of fear and oppression was  almost tangible. The outstanding uniform characteristic of that empire, however, was its smell, which you cannot experience by watching the old films. The nearest you can come to reproducing it is to leave a cloth damp for a few weeks. It is the odour of mildew and decay, which symbolised the state of those subject nations, along with the peeling remnants of pre-war coats of paint. Our first experience after crossing the iron curtain from Western Germany was to have to overtake a long, slow moving, Russian army column. The soldiers were jolly enough, giving encouraging waves and shouts as I endeavoured to pass tanks and troop carriers, driving our old right-hand drive Ford Anglia on the wrong side of the road. Somehow my young wife managed to navigate us across that benighted country. The routes, meticulously laid out for us by the AA were useless, as there were road closures and missing signposts.

Our intended host was pale and trembling with fear at our arrival in Prague and his relief when we suggested cutting short our visit on the excuse of having been delayed was palpable. Fortunately, we did not know just how much danger we had been in; and we only discovered when it was all over that the puppet government had been warning about “spies posing under a scholastic reputation”.

The other big hold-up was at the border, where the guard demanded one hundred dollars for an exit visa. We did not have a hundred dollars, so we just sat there for six hours, until he finally agreed to our request to phone Prague, where they confirmed that our visas were valid. Our host in Poland was waiting for us in Krakow, as agreed, at the home of relatives. He was haggard with anxiety at our tardiness.

To cut a long story short we made our way to Gdansk via Warsaw. We stayed in student accommodation, where we had some jolly evenings with the inmates, telling jokes in English and Polish, translated via French. In private they relaxed and mocked the strutting quislings who ruled them. The Poles were wonderful hosts, seemingly genuinely pleased at our presence. They continually apologised for the poverty of the food, but we could honestly say it was delicious, though we knew they were obliged to undergo privations, such as meatless days. They gently twisted our arms to make us return through East Germany, whose very name we feared. We did not then know about those warnings. When the time came to leave they pressed gifts upon us, of which those copper and marquetry plaques are just a sample. We were very near to tears at the overwhelming kindness. Yet they were a brave and determined people.

We were not really surprised that Gdansk was the centre of the first uprising against the oppressors a year later. We did not try to ascertain the wellbeing of our dear friends, as communication from the west would have put them in serious jeopardy. It took another decade, but they eventually rid themselves of that pernicious regime.

Anyway, what prompted this rambling outburst of senescent reminiscence? It is this:

Now the Poles have come under attack from Germany. How evocative!

Come on, Poles! You stood up to the red bullies, now it is time to stand up to the water melons. You cannot rely on the likes of the pusillanimous Germans and British, whose politicians have already abjectly surrendered. Your priority must be to restore your proud and beautiful country, after so many decades of neglect and destruction. Even if the dubious proposition that coal burning significantly affects the climate were true, in comparison with that of China (or even the USA) your usage is as a pimple on an elephant; but bullies only pick on those they imagine as weaker than themselves. Energy is the key to prosperity in a modern nation, which is why it comes under such unrelenting attack from the enemy within. You have the qualities that are the ingredients of success; respect for education, a tradition for hard work and inborn genius; but you have been obliged to restart from scratch. Don’t get drawn in to the EU programme for economic suicide, or you will be defeated before you start.

04/02/13

The purge of conservatives

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

 So at last a journalist has noticed: David Cameron is trashing his own party, and it’s not a pretty sight. The purge of conservatives from the major institutions of society is visible across most of the West, though the precise mechanisms vary with national characteristics. This is a discussion of the British experience. That it should now be happening in a party that still calls itself Conservative is surely a profound and unprecedented development. The constantly repeated political slogan of Change (however mindless) and the irresistible advance of managerialism have prompted the flight of conservatives, who feel they have no voice, from established institutions. In the Anglican Church, for example, some are finding a home in the Ordinariate. Political conservatives have nowhere to go but UKIP.

Across the establishment media, particularly the politicised and managerial BBC, conservatives are guyed as old buffers behind the times. As with most successful lies this is based on a part truth. In the main, conservatives are people who in their lives have observed that Change almost never delivers on its promises. Therefore, by definition, they tend to be older on average than the Change enthusiasts.

A phenomenon of our time has been the re-establishment of a political class quite distinct from the general populace. They have their own educational system; mainly at public schools, but sometimes at elite comprehensives favoured by wealthy socialist families, around which they congregate geographically.  They go on to university (preferably Oxford) where they pursue studies of a pseudoscientific nature (PPE, anthropology etc.) then enter politics with little or no contamination by the world of work. Politics has become an extension of the student variety, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. This class reversion might have been expected to give rise to a more conservative ambience, but the opposite has been the case. It has become the custom to elect political leaders who are youthful and inexperienced, in preference to the “village elder” tradition. They despise history and its lessons, having absolute faith in their own groupthink, which extends across party boundaries.

Their spiritual leader is Tony Blair, as exemplified by Stuntman Dave’s claim to the title “Heir to Blair”. The original big change, however, was during the Thatcher era. At constituency meetings in those days there would be cries of “Nobody is listening”. The Conservative government had taken on a spurious arrogance on the grounds of electoral supremacy, which had in fact been gifted to it by a Labour Party that had made itself unelectable. Ironically, the position was exactly reversed a decade later. The modern tendency for losing parties to fly into a panic and throw their toys out of the pram is now exemplified in the USA, but Britain led the way. There are two consequences of this tendency: governments last longer and oppositions ape them.

The detachment of party leaderships from their roots is dramatically underlined by the precipitous decline of party membership. Lacking the support of a significant party membership in the country, they are impelled to rely more and more on donors with control of wealth, to whom they inevitably become increasingly obligated (at least, until they can get their hands on the taxpayers’ money). By divesting themselves of the involvement of the constituency parties, politicians deprived themselves of their most valuable organ – the ear to the ground. Their replacements, focus groups, an invention of theoretical sociologists involved in marketing, ceased to function honestly from the moment they were formed. Their topics for debate were prescribed and with increasing frequency they gave predictable responses to the loaded questions that were put to them.

Across the West there is economic and social disaster. It is wholly the creation of the political class. Their response is to put for debate straw men, about which they can all agree, such as homosexual matrimony. It is analogous to the stage magician’s misdirection, deflecting interest from the manoeuvres that really matter.  Ordinary people in consequence face misery, suffering and death. If you think this last word is rhetorical exaggeration, consider the following.

The prime example of the malevolent effect of the combination of incessant change and burgeoning managerialism is the National Health Service. They are not just killing people; they are torturing them to death by dehydration and starvation. It is an inevitable result of replacing a culture of care by a system of targets (which forms a fundamental tenet of modern political belief). King John is vilified in history for doing this at Corfe Castle, but the bureaucrats who are now doing it on a larger scale retain their anonymity, while the ministers responsible, like Macavity, are not there.

10/02/13

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This week we are mostly ganging up on …

Diclofenac

You name them they’ve got it: BBC, Daily Mail, Telegraph etc.

American compensation lawyers are sharpening their quills and ordering new luxury vehicles.

This scare has all the usual ingredients, including relative risks of less that 2.0.

According to Science Daily:

This risk is almost identical to that of Vioxx (rofecoxib), which was withdrawn from worldwide sales in 2004 because of cardiovascular risk.

The only thing you can deduce from the Vioxx study is that a placebo prevents heart disease. Number Watch has closely examined the alleged results of the Vioxx study and deduced that they were entirely due to a bizarre statistical event in the placebo group; as a result nominated it the most remarkable statistical blunder in over a decade.

Declaration of interest: I was on diclofenac for severe arthritic pain for a few months. I experienced occasional allergy responses, but after some research I identified these with the dye Sunset Yellow, used by some manufacturers, to which I am allergic. I am also allergic to aspirin, so I now avoid NSAIDs altogether. In fact, I try to avoid all pain killers, as I find that they interfere with my flagging mental acuity.

13/02/13

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A doleful anniversary

Ten years ago this month Number Watch carried an addendum entitled (in red) Power mad!

It was a warning of the disaster that the then Government was making inevitable with its Energy White Paper, including the estimate of ten to twenty years for it to take effect. It also laid out the simple, immutable principles of reliable energy supply. Unbelievably, we still have a government that is prevaricating on the matter, under domination by an EU that is  fundamentally of the water melon tendency.

Now, it starts!

This month’s pusillanimous announcement by the bureaucrat in charge of energy, reported with characteristic wittering by the BBC, heralds a new age of energy poverty, with dire consequences, including deaths.

We are standing on the doorstep of the future.

20/02/13

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New Essay

Thinking about the diclofenac case, together with a few notes previously made about other matters, led your bending author to start writing a general comment. Owing to authorial indiscipline, like Topsy this just “growed”, so it has been published in the form of an essay entitled The Statistical Bludgeon, which might be of interest to some readers.

21/02/13

 

If only…

This via JoNova:

An outbreak of Common sense from, of all places, Australia.

23/02/13

The redaction races

It is no coincidence that the two institutions most often criticised in these pages find themselves in competition with each other in a race to see who can get away with the pulling the most wool over the eyes of the public and the law. The sudden outbreak of redaction at the BBC and at the USA EPA  is an inevitable climax of the increasing arrogance and contumely exhibited by bodies granted colossal incomes without having to account to the people who provide them.

24/02/13

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Februaries

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Thanks to mention of the current page in WUWT the addendum to our diatribe of February 2003 has been widely read and commented on. Nobody noticed that the short paragraph also adumbrated the debt crisis to come. The AAA downgrade is decade too late: it was predictable then and might have stopped Brown in his mad tracks.  Any reader with the persistence to read the whole page will find a cornucopia of indications of disasters to come.

The next one, February 2004, over the years has probably been the most consistently linked file among almost 300 in the Number Watch archive. The page is unique in being named after a man, whose obituary heads it. He was so often a lone hero battling against overwhelming, richly equipped forces, like Horatius defending the bridge. It is gratifying to note that he is not forgotten after nine years. But there were other stories that were to have subsequent implications:

bulletBlair’s first really big whitewash and the model for more to come.
bulletBlair’s introduction of university fees, the blame for which by sleight of hand has become the burden of his successors, who would never have got away with it.
bulletThe statutory reference to the global warming, which was then not happening and subsequently did not happen.
bulletA typical bit of nonsense from California.
bulletAn early case of the premature termination of a clinical trial for no good reason and with intent to mislead: this now being standard practice (c.f, vioxx).
bulletA typical bit of jumbled science from The Times Weather Eye.
bulletAn example of the Law of League Tables in action.
bulletAn appreciation of the change of priorities in higher education.
bulletThe notorious (well, it ought to be) “evidence” produced by the salt zealots.
bulletAn unprincipled attack by the BMA on one of the few great names in epidemiology.
bulletResponse to an attack by one of the Marxist group of Australian academics who rushed to the defence of the new establishment at every opportunity.
bulletA return to the MMR scandal of February two years earlier.
bulletA Number of the Month that attempted to correct the BMA’s astonishing misrepresentation.

The first ever February (in 2001) began with a duff weather forecast, followed by

bulletBabies need mothers, confidently predicted to be completely ignored.
bulletA bizarre example of the fallacy of the missing link.
bulletIllegal, authoritarian action based on zealotry and contrary to EU regulation.
bulletA bizarre appointment to a Government panel.
bulletAn appearance of the long play salmon saga.
bulletA rise slows.
bulletClimate change – all things to all men.
bulletSocial engineering of the universities.
bulletThe obesity scare under way.
bulletDoctors in Chartmanship
bulletA six degree temperature rise in the next decade.
bulletPure energy for sale.
bulletNanny’s very own web site.
bulletBritain versus asteroids.
bulletThe deadly danger of mobile phones.
bulletMad, mad, mad! yet there was much more to come.
bulletNumber Watch lost for words, so here are some pictures.

27/02/13

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Number of the month: 21

21 is the official “recommended” weekly limit for alcohol consumption by men (14 for women). It has no provenance, scientific or otherwise, and is at variance with the results of many studies

In fact it was simply plucked out of the air by a committee of the Royal College of Physicians in 1987.

It is an immutable law that, once zealots have established a limit, it is never increased, whatever the evidence. A corollary to that law is that all prosecutions and persecutions occur at the margins of that limit and have no impact on potentially dangerous excesses (c.f. speed limits).

This month it has been the alcohol zealots turn for a political push. It is based on the undoubtedly true calculation that a significant proportion of the population are exceeding those dubious recommendations. Meanwhile, however, their enfeebled political cats’-paws are pressing on with the proposed minimum price of alcohol. It is now known as the PM’s Plan, i.e. the magician’s misdirection. Even the officials involved condemn it as hitting the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Let’s face it; Stuntman Dave is not exactly one of your deep thinkers.

I asked several drinking friends and acquaintances whether they lied about their intake and if so why. They readily admitted to the crime and gave the reason that it is one of the nagging-avoidance techniques necessary to negotiate the irritations of modern life. Said one “It keeps the buggers off your back”. Perhaps I should have followed their lead instead of prudishly insisting on telling the truth. It went on to my hospital record and subsequently caused me no end of trouble.

Such is modern life.

28/02/13

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Footnote from Bernd Felsche (on our forum)

Number of the Month - 21
Twenty-one is also the number of years of widely-publicised lies about catastrophic, anthroprogenically-induced global warming.

I suspect it's all thanks to a drunken party in Rio. More than their "healthy" number of alcoholic drinks.

 

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