Number of the Month

September 2015

A brush with The Law

(Sod’s, of course)

My wife was becoming increasingly ill towards the end of last year and, in the early hours of the first Saturday in January, she was taken into hospital as an emergency with respiratory failure. The ambulance crew were magnificent and, since I am no longer self-sufficient, due to the long term effects of my deficient immune system, they summoned Social Services to provide care for me. Now I know that The Law dictates that medical emergencies occur at weekends in the UK (since the Gordon Brown regime put General Practice on a five-day week and hospital emergency departments became grossly overloaded) but, when I logged on to announce a temporary recess in the operation of Number Watch, it came up with a real doozy. I received an announcement that the hosting service were withdrawing without notice support for FrontPage, the web-creating system that I had been using for the fifteen years of Number Watch and recommended using instead FileZilla.

Now FileZilla is very clever and powerful, but perspicuous it ain’t. Here is the opening paragraph of the set-up instructions, apparently authored by Eeyore: 

Setting up network components for FTP is not trivial for use outside your LAN (Local Area Network). Since so many firewalls and routers exist, it is impractical to give detailed step-by-step instructions suitable for every user. It is important to understand the basics of the FTP protocol in order to configure FileZilla and the routers and/or firewalls involved. This documentation describes the history of the FTP and how some aspects of the protocol work. Reading it carefully will save you a lot of trouble setting up FTP.

In the most adverse of circumstances, I set out to learn this technology. I was too quick to blame myself for the resulting fiasco. To cut a very long and tortuous story short, The Law had dictated that an issue (as the denizens of web term it) had occurred. This actually prevented full access to my account. I had the misfortune to get a reply to my initial query to the service providers from one of those individuals who provide vague admonitions rather than actions. I battled away for months, trying various strategies. I even paid some experts in the USA to try to log on to my account with the information provided, but they could not make it work either.

Anyway, nine fraught months after the initial disaster I managed to contact someone who eventually took some action and reset the account.

If you are able to read this, it worked.

I would like to express my gratitude to those members of our forum who kept the spirit of Number Watch alive and provided me with stimulating comment on this mad world. Incidentally, the reason I was initially unable to make an announcement there was that during the emergency I had transferred my operations from my large screened desktop in my study to a lap-top in the conservatory, while at the same time (it’s The Law, you know) the operators of the forum facility had introduced new anti-spam software and I could not see the box into which I had to type what I saw. I later realised that the cause was a combination of the high background light and effects on my vision by some of my medications.

My experience of Social Services is a whole ‘nother story, which I may tell when the pain has eased. Suffice it to use that cliché so beloved of the establishment media – worse than was thought.

A great man

I turned on the radio one morning in August  to listen to Desert Island Discs, which featured one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. He was Dr Bill Frankland, now still working at the age of 103, who in the early eighties diagnosed my major allergies at his surgery in Harley Street. His procedure was one of the most vivid illustrations of the scientific method I have ever come across.

He chatted to me for about 15 minutes about my life and work and every now and the reached to the shelves on his desk and picked out a small vial. He was forming hypotheses and setting up tests for them. He then applied small samples from the bottles to my arm, drew a ring round each writing a recognition code; then sent me to sit in the waiting room with strict instructions not to scratch (which were hard to obey).

I was highly allergic to the pollen not only of grass, but also of Alder, which I would then not have recognised. I was told never to take aspirin or yellow anti-histamines. Thereby hangs a tale: I later was able to deduce after long self-experimentation that I was allergic to the azo dye sunset yellow, perversely used to colour many medications, when the less bio-active yellow iron oxide could be a cheap substitute.

Frankland worked early on with the great Alexander Fleming and himself made many significant innovations, such as the issuing of the pollen count. In these days of zealot-driven medical intervention, he is worthy of celebration.


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And the winner is – the Puppeteer

Britain’s Labour Party has announced the results of two elections within days of each other. The winner of both is the de facto Controller of Appointments in the Party, Len McCluskey, Leader of Unite, the Mega-union. He had appointed the disastrous ex-leader of the party, over the heads of the delegated representatives of the Party in Parliament, and now he has done it again. The notoriously incompetent Party machine has also done it again – talk about “could not organise a piss-up in a brewery”.

Sadiq Khan, Labour’s former shadow justice secretary, has won the party’s nomination to run for London Mayor in next year's election, while Jeremy Corbyn has won the leadership of the Labour Party. Both are identified with far left views and gratefully acknowledge “support” of the trade unions. Corbyn was publicly embraced by his sponsor, McCluskey, at the moment of his victory.

The new barons of trade unionism imitate the methods of the worst capitalist moguls.  By a continuous process of mergers and take-overs, they have created giant strongholds, centres of power and wealth, which enable them to impose their will on the rest of society. Grossly overpaid and privileged, they have devoted themselves to developing methods of vote-rigging, arm-twisting and blackmail to gain their ends at the expense of the general populace. Unions are no longer named after the trades they represent; instead they brandish abstract names, such as Unite and Unison; no wonder that they have de-emphasised the word trade. One of their aims is to recreate authoritarian socialism of the old school. They are the polar opposite of the bland Oxford PPE graduates, who had seized control of the party machines, but they have the same destructive effect on locally based democracy.

This has been one of the most bizarre sequences of events in the peculiar story of politics. The mechanics of the actual election process beggar belief. They were actually selling rights to vote to all-comers for the price of a pint, right up to the end. The resulting surge was claimed as a dramatic rise in party membership, but wishful thinking has always been a potent force in politics. Then, at the customary panic stage, they appointed an anonymous group of people to make arbitrary deletions from the voting list, for largely unnamed reasons.

While there is an argument for finding leaders of some experience of life in the real world, rather than the feckless youths of recent times, Corbyn, at the traditional age of retirement, has had a life distinctly lacking in achievement. He comes from that notorious nest of Maoists in Haringey (itself an arbitrary  political structure imposed on the independent villages of North London) which notoriously put the demolition ball through beautiful and superbly equipped school buildings that gave so much opportunity to working-class kids [note: authorial bias admitted here]. Corbyn actually walked out on his first wife in an argument over letting his son receive this start in life from which he had benefitted himself. Nowadays people are outraged at Islamic extremists taking out their hatred on beautiful buildings, but the Maoists of Haringey were doing it years ago. It is part of the creed that to build socialism you first need to destroy. Speaking in sound bites, however, he makes historically-demonstrated nonsense sound reasonable to naïve listeners. He inhabits a fantasy world, in which debts do not have to be repaid, taxing and borrowing are infinite resources that can be devoted to spend and waste (in the style of Gordon Brown) and the views of erstwhile allies may be ignored. He is against sound finance, defence of the realm and reduction of the power of the state to interfere in people’s lives. He has committed himself to consulting his puppet master before forming a cabinet. He is now set to anticipated loyalty, when he has consistently failed to bestow it. He holds the record for voting against his own party in parliamentary votes.

The tried and tested way of creating a stable Government in the UK was for local people to vote in a familiar local representative to Parliament, to whom they delegate their votes in the interests of steadiness at the helm. The emergence of the party machines has largely squashed that local influence and voters find that they are lumbered with a choice of callow strangers who have been parachuted in from the undergrowth of the Westminster glasshouse.

It is a mad world, my masters, but some parts of it are madder than others.

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More big stuff

Could there be a better illustration of our contention that Bureaucrats like big than this headline in the Sunday TelegraphBBC pulls the plug on £2bn IT system fiasco? As in the great passport control disaster (cited as an illustration in that essay) Siemens are involved. The enforced need to make savings, however, seems to have brought some sense into the Corporation, which, as we recommended, has now broken the project up into smaller component parts.

Here is another possible law for our list: Any organisation with a large secure income will be progressively colonised by bureaucrats.


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Tell me the old, old story

Our out-of-date cancer list was suddenly inundated by hundreds of hits, because of an article in MSN -  Are There Any Foods That DON’T Cause Cancer? There is a piece of fashionable garbage by a physician who does not understand statistical significance, relative risk or publication bias. It is all just epidemiology.

 …and there’s more

Banner headline across the front of the Daily Telegraph: Poor diet more lethal than smoking. The habitually more circumspect online editor managed to hide it among the lesser items, but then contrives to get no fewer than three favourite zealot targets into the headline.

The source is yet another harangue on behalf of the control freaks by that travesty that was once a great scientific journal, The Lancet. There is barely a sensible statement in the whole farrago. As you might anticipate, fantastic precision is claimed. Smoking causes 10.7% of illness, while diet causes 10.8%, so the whole story line is based on a difference of 0.1%. Naturally, we are invited to accept the assumptions that the data dredges have been well conducted and that correlation is causation. The “good” news that, in the period of observation, life expectancy has increased by 6.4% is transmogrified into “bad” news by observation that time spent in ill-health is unchanged. We simpletons might conclude from this that the proportion of life spent in ill-health has diminished, but that would be regarded as naively optimistic and would offer no product in terms of potential for harassment, enforcement and taxation. The requirement is that we all live much longer, doing as we are ordered, then suddenly peg out without any signs of illness at all.

The March of the Zealots goes on, the only change being the addition of the evil of the moment, sugar, to the list of targets.

Alternatively, you might wish to think that a diet that is moderate and varied with a life free from the weight of authoritarianism is a better prospect.

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Drive on the left

There are further signs of activity in the left-wing undergrowth that are indicators of a real putsch attempt being underway. One such is the resurgence of IPPR, a propaganda organisation posing as a research charity. Its latest punt is alleged research that shows that it was not left wing policies that lost the recent election but economic incompetence. It is a very big assumption that those two things represent independent variables, but such quibbles do not concern the BBC, who laud its intervention. The data-dredge style research methods would not appeal to those with a more scientific leaning. Some might think the lacklustre persona of the party leader, foisted on a reluctant parliamentary party, might have something to do with it.

Older number watchers might remember IPPR when it was in its pomp nine years ago. Boastful and arrogant, it then paraded its power in imposing the disastrous global warming theory on an unwary public. It was then effectively the propaganda arm of the Blair Government, which claimed to be centrist, though most of the domestic policies had not been concocted by the Salesman in Chief, but by his wilful side-kick, Gordon Brown, and were in the left-wing tradition of tax, borrow, spend and waste. We are now living with the financial consequences, but the chaos and deaths from undermining the power supply system, which is being continued under the Conservatives, will come later.

By the way, note the trenchant footnote to our coverage provided by Dave Gardner, who has long been a leading tenacious investigator in our Forum.


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Number of the month – 0.001

It has been another mad month. Zealot-inspired energy taxation has closed down another significant section of the British steel industry and transferred it to the Far East. Volkswagen have been caught out trying to evade “emissions” taxes, nonsensical because they conflate wholly benign carbon dioxide with potentially noxious oxides of nitrogen. The establishment media love nothing more than a scare story, however tenuous. Now, in what is little more than a rehearsal of the zealot target list, they not only publish insignificant relative risks, but they create banner headlines from the difference between two such numbers, calculated to four significant figures: i.e.  1.108-1.107 = 0.001. This is numerical nonsense on a grand scale, a new achievement for mankind. Even if statistics could tell us anything about causality, which they don’t, such piffling numbers tell us nothing about anything. They certainly do not give authoritarian politicians carte blanche to force people into conformity with zealot prescriptions.

Now medical researchers are even soliciting headlines for research before they have any results at all.

A mad world, my masters.


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