Number of the Month

February 2016

Cameron comes clean

One of the constant themes in these pages has been the successful putsch by the Western political classes to wrest control of the parties from their members, and we have not been unique in this. Those classes, however, have maintained an aloof silence on the controversy, thereby implying that it does not exist. This has been the status quo for many years now, but Stuntman Dave has blown the gaff. He has advised MPs not to listen to their local supporters, but to vote according to their consciences. In a sense this is correct, as in democratic societies we elect representatives (trustees in the Burke model) not mandated robotic delegates. That, however, is a far cry from being entitled to ignore the interests and opinions of those who have put you where you are.

Here I am obliged to declare an interest. I was an active member of the Conservative Party for several decades, latterly Chairman of a notably successful branch and thereby a member of the constituency policy committee. I knew, liked and admired the local MP, who was always busy on behalf of constituents with problems, despite being a Government minister. I stopped being a Party supporter on the day that the pictures of Dave’s “hug-a-husky” stunt filled the media. This involved a highly orchestrated expedition to a retreating glacier (in a country in which he could just as easily have visited an advancing one).  Not only was this a calculated misrepresentation of reality, it was done to elicit the support of a wealthy and influential lobby group whose interests were detached from (and largely alien to) those of his party.

All the major party managers have sold their souls to such interests (from trade union bosses to the complacent EU bureaucracy; i.e. anyone who has access to a lot of other people’s money). It is so much easier than having to deal with those awkward little people who used to raise piddling amounts of money with their jumble sales and the like. That working together, however, was what kept the Party’s heart beating through good times and bad. The trouble is that the big gamblers of the new political class are trained for only one purpose, to win the next election. If they succeed, they find themselves in power, but not quite sure what to do with it. If they fail, they simply collapse (until, after a lot of mayhem a new lot of similar types arise). Thus Britain’s Labour party is now in the same chaos as the Conservatives were during the oppressive reign of the Blair-Brown oligarchy. In the old days, the people’s army of ordinary constituency members kept the banners aloft and the battle went on. The Conservative Party, with a membership falling to a little over 100,000, has no legitimacy as a popular movement. Stuntman Dave’s now open contempt for that rump will have consequences. Blair and Brown were eventually destroyed by their own arrogance and, while democracy survives, that will be the fate of all would-be dictators.


Revolting people

The Western revolt against the unpopular but entrenched political classes has now moved from Britain to the USA, with the start of the drearily prolonged beauty parade that is the presidential race. Dangerous times! The history of revolutions shows that they rarely produce the results that the revolutionaries desire. As in Britain, there is seriously left wing opportunist in the offing, but there is also a somewhat weird right winger, offering vaguely defined nostrums rather than actual policies. As the alleged old Chinese curse has it “May you live in interesting times”.


They never give up 

The prime characteristic of the marching zealots is that they never stop. Each victory only opens the path to the next one. The anti-alcohol zealots are among the most ferocious in the pursuit of their hate-object to bitter end. They find amenable allies among governing politicians, who are always grateful for an excuse to impose draconian regulation and thus create the illusion that they are doing something about something.

The latest move is to further tighten the screw on drivers who drink moderately. The only excuse they offer is that this as already been done by the authoritarian socialist government in Scotland. This will effectively destroy the rural pub industry; yet another blow to social cohesion in the countryside.

This campaign was one we cited as an example of the exploitation of the fallacy of the unbalance sheet, in particular simply ignoring available contrary evidence. In this case there were two studies (from Grand Rapids and the University of Wuerzberg) which were properly conducted and showed that further reductions in the limits would yield negligible gains. Furthermore, both sets of results indicated that the moderate drinkers were less likely to have an accident than non-drinkers. Such studies can no longer be made, because of the existence of the legislation; the ultimate circular argument.


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Whimsy Galore

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

 The Briggs Boys have uncovered a rich seam of theory mining, which William identifies as computerised astrology, complete with astral charts. As one of them points out, this is simply a multiple manifestation of the extreme value fallacy, subset birth month fallacy.


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Thanks for the entertainment

 There is an icon on my desktop labelled Steorn’s Orbo. It is where I go for a little light relief from the purgatory of depressing news that I voluntarily inhabit. It has inspired several references in these pages (17 occurrences in 8 pages) starting with Free energy at last.

And the show goes on.

The combination of naivety and chutzpah is irresistible, but it is no mean feat to keep all the balls in the air for a whole decade of juggling. In that time the source of free energy has been transmogrified from a revolution in electrodynamics to a triumph of electrochemistry. Faraday, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

It would be gilding the lily to attempt a critical analysis of the latest video, but the sudden appearance of two large dry batteries (only to provide a biasing potential) and a control chip (which fails) seem to be significant innovations. Just enjoy the original approach to electronic design and development.

The author of the review site is to be thanked for providing such a complete history of the project in all its glory. We seem to be building up to a “with one bound he was free” moment – or something.


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 Europe versus the EU 

So Boris has jumped off the fence and made his decision. He is one of us – those who love Europe and loathe the EU. One of the glories of our small continent was that it could house so many rich and contrasting cultures in such a confined area. How ironic that the name Brussels now stands for the very antithesis of that enchanting variety! It is now the capital of a bureaucratic empire, dedicated to stamping out such irregularities and imposing a grey monoculture; ruled by anonymous, unsackable tyrants under a tenuous façade of democracy.

I first visited Brussels for the great Expo of 1958. It was exciting for a budding technologist, especially as the company to which I was apprenticed was in the British Pavilion, demonstrating its first-generation computer (the long-forgotten Stantec Zebra) by a team led by the man who had been my first mentor in industrial electronic development. What stays in my mind, however, is getting immersed in the fascinating foreignness of the culture and getting by with my schoolboy French.

I last visited Brussels to sit on a technical advisory committee of the EU. All very nice, but I blotted my copy book by expressing my opinion on the worth of the exercise, as did my late colleague, David Barron (see Inside Story footnotes). Neither of us was ever invited again.

It was jolly at the time to enjoy the money-no-object aspect of EU life, but disturbing in retrospect. How can one have honest dealings with an organisation that has never passed audit of its accounts? It is clearly corrupt and driven by pressure groups, but no one knows how much bribery, fraud and corruption goes on, just that there is an awful lot of it.

It is difficult to find anything good to say about the EU. Even its supporters have a problem, which is why they are obliged to adopt scare tactics, such as “leap into the unknown”; or ascribing  to it the credit due to NATO. It is, in fact, largely the EU imperialist activities in the former Soviet empire that excites the dangerous Russian paranoia. Why the British, of all peoples, are expected to respond to fear of the unknown is a mystery; unless it is the fact that they have been fed a constant diet of scare stories by the politico-media establishment. As for elections to its pretend parliament, they are conducted by the mock-democracy of party lists and the members are forced into trans-national political groups; national pride being the unforgivable sin. The smaller and weaker nations are routinely bullied into submission. Above all, however, the EU is damned by its institutional procrastination. In a real crisis it is constitutionally incapable of coming to a decision.

Anyway, go for it Boris: and the best of luck.


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That paper

There has been wide response among the usual suspects to the proposed adoption of stochastic time series analysis of climate, with reactions ranging from hope to hatred. When I was asked to comment on this it brought back many memories. Long ago, in my PhD research days, I used to carry around a copy of An introduction to time series analysis around in my brief case. I only wish I could report greater practical success in this endeavour, but I like to think that raised my general understanding of the meaning of numerical results.  In essence this is just another form of modelling, with many of the hazards that the term implies, and an additional one of being divorced from the physics of the process under study. For time series analysis is simply an investigation of the properties of a sequence of numbers, regardless of its source.

Statistical methods. from simple line fitting to elaborate analyses, tell you nothing about mechanisms and causality, though they can sometimes provide hints that prompt further investigation. Line-fitting illustrates the problem. You can fit a straight line to any sequence of numbers with random content, and the slope is never exactly zero. You can often improve the fit by allowing for deviations, such as steps or elbows, but this is merely to increase the number of adjustable parameters, creating more and more complex models of a non-physical nature. The human eye is quite good at identifying such patterns, but it is also subject to optical illusions. Most experimental scientists have experienced being temporarily misled by an equivalent process, which is why they put such emphasis on reproducibility. The plethora of adjustable parameters has been hitherto the dangerous weak point of climate modelling.

Any form of statistical analysis is inherently sensitive to the quality of data and its generation. There are many reasons for avoiding “traditional” surface temperature data as a source. The sensors are badly distributed and often poorly sited. There is massive evidence that the data have been corrupted by human intervention throughout the gathering process and then subjected to questionable post hoc “adjustments”.

The question of forecasting remains highly problematic. The stochastic models proposed range from simple Markov processes (i.e. zero memory) to higher autoregressive processes with discontinuities. As with the physical models, apart from the usual dubieties, there is always the haunting presence of the dominant driver; The Sun. Virtually ignoring this has been a rather outrageous feature of physical models. The cross-correlation between solar radiation and alleged global temperature would suggest itself as a proper starting point for any statistical approach.

The paper represents an interesting view of an alternative approach to an alleged problem. It deserves neither the glorification nor the oafish barracking that it has received in various quarters. In normal science it would be treated as a useful part of the discussion, but there is nothing normal about “climate science”.


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Number of the month - One (and falling)

This is the percentage of the electorate who are members of the three traditional mainstream political parties in the UK.

According to Parliamentary documentation

The UK now has one of the lowest rates of party membership in Europe, though most Western European countries have seen large falls in party membership in recent decades. This decline in UK membership has not been uniform either between parties or over time, however. Labour experienced a rise in membership ahead of the 1997 General Election, for example, and more recently the SNP, UKIP and Green Party have all recorded notable rises.

It is a phenomenon evident across the West. The political classes have hijacked control of the people’s parties and therefore seek funding (and, in consequence, distribute their favours) elsewhere.  The shenanigans in the early stages of the US presidential elections illustrate the hostility of ordinary people to the bureaucratic power of the cloistered villages of such as Washington, Westminster and Brussels.

Leaders such as Dave barely conceal their contempt for ordinary party members (see the top of this page). The UK Labour party fiddled the books by putting membership up for sale at a ludicrous discount, thereby saddling itself with a gang of extremists and jokers.

Democracy has become a charade. Party conferences are carefully stage-managed productions, designed to exclude popular debate.

Which is all background to the forthcoming plebiscite in the UK.  Stuntman Dave has elected to turn the stay campaign into a protection racket – keep paying the extortion or you will be subjected to unnamed horrors. The leave campaign has proved dangerously fractious and faces losing by own goals.

Interesting times!


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