April Folly

April First and all the British newspapers were full of jolly japes. The biggest folly, however, was reserved for the major headlines, which were published in all seriousness. It had all begun with George W’s repudiation of the Kyoto Treaty. This sudden outbreak of common sense at the White House triggered off a concomitant outbreak of hysteria throughout European media and government circles. Some of the headlines were really quite extraordinary. The Independent kicked off on March 30th with President George W Bush, polluter of the free world and the rest were in similar vein. ‘Toxic’ Bush seeks new climate deal yelled the Sunday Times. The Mail on Sunday weighed in with Prescott slams Bush ‘mistake’ on climate.

This last quotation was really rich. It came from Old Two-Jags, whose ministry, among other things, has forced through the concreting over of Britain’s green and pleasant land with large rural housing estates, vigorously resisted by local authorities. The Deputy Prime Minister accused Bush of ‘flying in the face of science’. This great scientific authority went on to pronounce that ‘If climate change continues American kids are just as likely to be affected as kids on the islands in Samoa when entire communities disappear. There are no national barriers for the movement of gases and climate change. You can’t just say stop the world I want to get off.’

It is necessary to keep reminding oneself what is happening in the real world:

The toxic pollutant they are all talking about is Carbon Dioxide, a substance vital to life on earth. It is considerably less important than water vapour in contributing to the greenhouse effect that makes life on earth possible.

The evidence for the occurrence of Global Warming is, to say the least, underwhelming; see, for example Still waiting for Greenhouse from Australia and many other credible sources in our links. The theory, an afterthought  invention of the Green lobby to justify its neo-primitive aspirations, is based on a few complicated, unstable and chaotic computer models, which serve only to demonstrate the power of the human unconscious to get the results it wants.

If the Kyoto treaty were implemented now, the economic slow-down would quickly  become a full-blown depression.

A straightforward Texan cannot be expected to understand the conventions of diplomacy, in which is is accepted that you sign treaties with no intention of applying them. The British are continually being caught out by this, when their civil servants apply gold-plated versions of EU diktats, while other European countries cherry pick what suits them. It is no coincidence that the historical language of diplomacy is French.

PCPC

A more apposite headline in the Sunday Times was Every day 2,363 people across the country are burgled and 250 mugged. So why are police staking out curry houses looking for racists? No, this was not an April fool hoax: London police on duty are actually going out for meals in ethnic restaurants in the hope of overhearing racial abuse. This story had an authentic ring for your bending author, as  his sole offspring was one of the victims of burglars in London, still waiting the next day (April 1st) for the police to turn up. Political Police are of course one of the manifestations of authoritarian societies, but who would have thought we would see the day of the Politically Correct Police Constable? Those who have not had the dreadful experience of having their home pillaged by strangers cannot imagine how traumatic the experience can be. Somehow it is little consolation that people will be punished for saying naughty things in restaurants.

It is an odd thing that the Human Rights Act, which manages to dominate everything in modern society, seems to have omitted the right not to be burgled, mugged or raped.

Fat in the fire

Another unusual outbreak of common sense appeared in the National Post (April 2nd) where journalist Brad Evenson explodes the myth of the evils of dietary fat. His source is an article by Gary Taubes in Science. How unlike the home life of our own dear Times (March 29th), in which Dr Thomas Stutterford, a distinguished medical journalist whose standards appear to be slipping, presents what is little more than a commercial for yet another “life-saving” product from Flora. Readers of Sorry, wrong number! will recognise the dietary fat scam as yet another example of exploiting the fundamental food fallacy, which ignores the facts that components of food are efficiently broken down by the gastric juices and that the body will manufacture fat and cholesterol if it decides to. The fat that food faddists so carefully cut of their juicy steaks was once pure grass.

Here lies the UN

Junkscience.com can be relied upon to nail the big lie, but they have come up with a real whopper via Reuters: "NAIROBI - The top U.N. climate scientist said on Thursday almost all experts believed human activity was warming the planet and U.S. failure to support a global warming pact would slow the fight to curb emissions of harmful gases."  The sheer bare-faced gall of these global warming freaks takes your breath away.

For the record, during the past 2 years, more than 17,100 basic and applied American scientists, two-thirds with advanced degrees, have signed the Global Warming Petition. This is organised by the distinguished scientist Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. and President Emeritus, Rockefeller University.

Modesty forbids

Our regular correspondent from Puerto Rico takes Number Watch to task with the following observations about the foot and mouth crisis taken from the press:

Number of confirmed outbreaks: 693
Number killed by F & M: ZERO
Number killed by government trying to control a disease that has killed ZERO: 423,000
Number authorized to be slaughtered: 697,000
And this:
"A month ago, shortly after the outbreak of the disease was confirmed, Mr Brown said vaccination was not being considered because it would "compromise permanently" Britain's disease-free status."
I don't know who Mr. Brown is (another one of your bureaucrats?) but how can you compromise "Britain's disease free status" if you already have the disease?

And you call California the State of Insanity?

Well, apart from our British “modest stillness and humility” that makes us reluctant to boast about our natural superiority, in this case we have to waive our claim. We have no equivalent (yet) of California’s ludicrous proposition 65 and, as for the power game, if you want an account free of British understatement see Alan Caruba’s Warning Signs. Incidentally, the new Chicken Little awards have now been announced and it is good to see credit going where it is deserved.

Like a circle in a spiral, like…….

Further to the piece above, about the hysterical reaction of the European establishment to the outbreak sanity in the White House, there is a small addendum by this author in the weekly environmental news from SEPP. This is somewhat dwarfed by a reprinted article from Mark Steyn available at the same source.

I highlighted the contribution of Michael Meacher, but Steyn drew attention to that of his predecessor:

British Environment Secretary Michael Meacher said it could lead to the planet becoming "uninhabitable." His predecessor John Gummer called it an assault on European sovereignty (whatever that is). Globally warming to his theme, he decided he wasn't going to have Yankee imperialism shoved down his throat. "We are not going to allow our climate to be changed by somebody else," he roared, threatening an international trade war against the United States. You go, girl! Why not refuse to sell the Yanks your delightful British beef?

Oddly enough, after my last piece in TWTW, I came under attack for saying rude things about windmills. The source of this attack turned out to be an employee of The Sancroft Group. Who are the Sancroft Group? Well, I tracked down their web site and surprise, surprise, it tells me that:

The SANCROFT Group was set up by the Rt Hon John Gummer MP. It provides top level advice and a complete range of services covering environmental strategy, sustainable development, ethics, and health and safety. The Group includes: SANCROFT, AMBIO, and EARTHCARE.

I have complained frequently about the use of ad hominem attacks by the environmentalists (all their opponents are in the pay of the tobacco/chemical/fuel or alcohol industries) so I have to tread carefully, but is it unreasonable to express some discomfort at the cycle of connections here? Let us be clear, anyone, including an MP, has the right to set up any business he likes and draw profit from it. There would seem, however, to be a fundamental problem when a business is based on dubious propaganda about an insubstantial theory that elicits huge handouts from taxpayer funds. The windmill business, which is economic nonsense and incapable of independent existence without substantial help from the taxpayer, is such a case. If Mr Gummer has found a nice little earner in the environmental game, good luck to him, but if he also stokes up the rather wild propaganda on which it depends while wearing his MP hat, that is a different matter. Or am I being too fastidious?

It was meant to be a joke!

Your bending author is beginning to understand how King Midas felt. It gets to be a bit disturbing when your prophecies, however absurd and far-fetched, turn into the truth. Some of the prophecies in Sorry, wrong number! were fairly obvious, such as the collapse of the internet bubble, but when you are deliberately trying to be ridiculous and it still comes true, life begins to take on a nightmarish quality that shakes your scepticism to the roots. The excitement about the cluster of four vCJD deaths (later five) associated with one village in July 2000, led to a satirical little piece about microclusters. Now, after a gestation of nine months it has all come true – and it’s official.

According to the Daily Mail (April 9th) the search is now on for clusters of (would you believe?) TWO. Of course they have to invent a new jargon for the phenomenon, so these duoclusters are now known as linked pairs. If vCJD deaths occur to two victims who once lived near to each other they now officially constitute a cluster. As an exercise for the reader, see how many linked pairs you can find in the random array of the original diagram. What can one say, apart from descending into clichés such as "truth is stranger than fiction"? It was all, of course, presented in the most dramatic way:

Revealed: the evidence that points to mad cow clusters all over Britain

Scientist probe eight new CJD 'hotspots'

 

The fallacy on which this is all based is related to the Birthday Problem . For an evens chance of having two people in the same room with the same birthday, you only need 23 people present, even though the chance of a person's  birthday being on a particular day is 1/365. Ninety people have died of vCJD. The probability of  two of them having the same birthday is 0.999993848, i.e. a certainty. Likewise, though the probability of a CJD victim coming from a given area is very small, the probability of two of them coming from the same area is substantial. If you divide Britain into 1000 areas this probability is about 0.98.

Another startling fact revealed by the experts is that CJD victims are twice as likely to come from the north than from the south. In our random diagram the crosses are 59 % more likely to occur in the lower half than in the upper half, a nice illustration of the ratio scam, as it is another way of saying that there are 39% are in one half and 61% in the other, which does not sound nearly as impressive. This also illustrates why risk ratios of  2 or less are never accepted in real science.

Which all goes to show how easy it is to manufacture a media scare out of nothing and how epidemiologists get their names in the papers.

Forbidden fruit

The denouement of our piece “Bananas” in January occurred on April 9th. Steven Thorburn was convicted of the grievous crime of selling bananas by pounds and ounces. This case is more than just the harassment of an innocent individual by the authoritarian socialist state. It confirms that the diktats of the Supreme Soviet in Brussels now override British law as it has developed since the Magna Carta. This honest man not only now has a criminal record, but he is faced with bankruptcy if he pursues his just case to appeal, as the commissars of Sunderland Council have threatened to hound him for full costs.

The whole story is one of unmitigated evil. The trader was entrapped by an undercover snooper from the Sunderland City Council. He offered goods for sale in metric or imperial weights, as the customer desired, and sold the snooper a bunch of bananas for 40p at 25p a pound. He was arrested by two policeman (in a city where real crime is out of control) and was then prosecuted at the behest of typical British bureaucrats, who gold plate all European legislation and then pursue it regardless of the interests of their own country. You can still buy fruit by the Livre in French open markets.

The original legislation was nodded through in a twenty-minute session of the House of Commons. The responsible minister (a Conservative) did not even mention the draconian punishment that would fall on people who did not comply.

Readers of the Daily Telegraph have supported this innocent man with financial contributions, but he is now faced with a horrendous choice, since the costs could drive him into personal bankruptcy and strain on him and his family reaches intolerable levels.

This author has nothing against the metric system. As a chartered Electrical Engineer he has been using it for forty years, but enforcing it in this way is a step back into the dark ages.

Number Watch has sent a cheque to help the defence fund and hopes that other readers will do the same. The address is:

Appeal fund: Steven Thorburn (Metric Martyr), PO Box 526, Sunderland SR1 3YS, UK.

EU can't half tell 'em

When it comes to sheer bare-faced mendacity even the UN (see Here lies...above) comes a poor second to the EU. Philip Stott in Spiked (The EU's sleight of hand) looks at the reality behind the EU’s accusations about carbon emissions from the USA. He demonstrates that, if you look at the numbers on a per unit area basis, the EU produces far more emissions than the USA. The most vociferous moralisers, France and Sweden, are actually the furthest away from meeting their emission targets. The details of the analysis, and those quoted from an earlier study by the Indian economist Neela Mukherjee, show that the USA does not even come in the top ten of so-called polluters. Taking into account also that the evidence for a relationship between Carbon Dioxide emissions and temperature is substantially less than convincing, the EU’s campaign appears to be  nothing less than a politically motivated libel on the USA. It is simply an economic war of words with the most despicable of motivations. Why cannot the EU get on with grinding down its own subjects (as in Forbidden fruit  immediately above) rather than interfere with the prosperity of others?

Woe! Whoa!

0.01% per annum is the devastating number that “proves” the occurrence of man-made global warming (BBC news April 13th). This is not only the number that scientists have measured as the rate of rise of temperature in the oceans, but it is also produced by not just one but two computer models. As an instrumentation engineer your bending author cannot but be impressed by a precision of one part in 10,000, especially as very few natural phenomena vary by so little over the course of a year. It is not as though they had the advantages of working in a measurements laboratory; no, these remarkable precisions were obtained via data from floating buoys.

Furthermore, the two computer models came up with the same figure. Ignore the inconvenient fact that dozens of other computer models for global warming come up with wildly differing figures.

Without even looking at them, this author (who has been computer modelling for over 40 years) can tell you that these models are not worth the magnetic oxide they are written on. No self respecting scientist would even begin to work on modelling such a complex system with so many unknowns. Did they try running them backwards half a century to see if they could predict the little ice age, when there was ice-skating on the Thames? If they did, what was the cause without C02 to blame?

It is getting rather boring having to deal with these tatty bits of global warming “science” but, as the only significant number is the two billion dollars that the ever-generous American taxpayer contributes willingly to the cause, we cannot just ignore them.

Double, double, toil and trouble....

One of the characteristics of the tiny minority of the British population who have read Sorry, wrong number! is that they are adept at spotting the devious tricks of politicians and media gurus at adjusting the numbers to suit the policy. This may well result from a predisposition, but forgive the author for comforting himself with the thought that he might have made a small difference. Reader Andrew went so far as to write to his MP about the Government claim that 30% of accidents are speed related. He pointed out that this figure was achieved by:

1) counting the proportion of accidents where excess speed was recorded as a factor, (Each accident could have up to 4 causal factors) and adding it to the proportion of accidents where 'speed related factors' such as slippery roads, driver being in a hurry, tailgating etc were recorded as factors to make 30% or so.

2) Then announcing that '30% of causal factors are speed related'.

3) Then sliding to '30% of accidents are caused by speed' in the hope that no one would notice the change of ground.

Andrew pointed out that accidents involving tailgating, drivers being in a hurry and so on may not involve excess speed at all, and that those that did would already be included in the count of accidents with excess speed as a factor and so were effectively being double counted.

His MP received a reply from Lord Whitty of the DETR which contained the following:

"With regard to Mr Bent's claim about "double counting", the relatively low incidence of excessive speed as a stand alone factor in the report suggests that, where other factors such as slippery roads and drivers being in a hurry (sic), the police may consider it unnecessary to record excessive speed as well. We are addressing this in the revised guidance being developed with the police for officers who complete accident forms."

In other words, says Andrew, if the research doesn't back up their preconceptions, change the research until it does. He might also note that, as always, the solution is to increase the bureaucratic load.

Hail the Heroine (part 2)

Melanie Phillips of the Sunday Times is fast becoming the leader of the tiny common sense faction in the British media. Her articles are beacons of reason in the fog of hysteria that envelops the newspapers and broadcasting. Regular readers of Number Watch will have noted our commendation of her piece in February on farcical goings on in higher education. Now she has produced a devastating demolition of the myth of global warming (April 15th). It neatly summarises what many real scientists have been saying for years (see the Good Guys section of our Links). Long may she continue.

Prescott adopts missionary position towards USA

The British Deputy Prime Minister left for the USA on Easter Monday with the purpose of converting the unbelievers there to the true religion of Global Warming. For Americans who notice his presence and are a bit bewildered as to who he actually is, think of him as a British Dan Quayle, without the intellectual grasp but with a similar creative approach to the grammar, syntax and logic of the English language.

Unfortunately for Prescott his mission is clouded by the first signs of a schism in the membership of the true church. According to the BBC, Peter Ewins, chief executive of the Met Office, said there was no doubt that global warming was a reality. But he said ill-informed comments by European politicians were making it easier for President Bush to duck America's responsibilities to help tackle the problem. He went on "UK Government ministers are remarkably well-informed and measured in what they say. My criticism is reserved for some people in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe who seem to suggest that one-off severe weather events are in themselves proof of global warming. These statements do damage the case, which we think is so strong. It is easy for the Bush administration to rubbish the idea that a one-off severe event, like a flood or a drought, is caused by global warming, and therefore it makes it easier for them to refute the whole European stance."

This is all a bit hard to swallow as Prescott, along with fellow ministers, has been in the forefront of blaming global warming for every little deviation of the weather from the norm.

Oh, to be in England now that April’s there

April 23rd and secret cells of Englishmen covertly celebrated their saint’s day (St George if you have forgotten, and it is also the birthday and deathday of William Shakespeare). The Foreign Secretary of our Scottish Government announced that there is no such thing as the British race, a neat little contrivance as nobody had suggested that there was. The dealings of the race relations industry took on a more sinister and McCarthyite aspect when Members of Parliament were coerced into signing an insulting declaration that they would not bring race into the election. This was organised by the industry’s board of management, which has managed to oust all supporters of the opposition from its membership, as is happening in all the other quangos, such as National Health Trusts. This is another neat contrivance, as it designed to preclude discussion of one of the more embarrassing numbers for the Government, the influx of bogus asylum seekers. The first no-go area for whites was violently set up by Asian youths in Oldham. Meanwhile, the media were replete with the findings of junk science.

Let it not be thought that the outpourings of junk science are wholly mournful. In one week we learned that red wine cures practically everything (according to the University of Bordeaux), the oral contraceptive prevents bowl cancer and oily fish cures dyslexia. It really comes into its own, however, when it is being ominous. Amid the chaos of the foot and mouth crisis, with its meaningless slaughter, piles of reeking corpses, polluted water courses and rural economic disaster, the British media were full of dire warnings about “deadly” dioxins from the funeral pyres. For the record dioxins have been shown to cause nothing other than a skin complaint chloracne, and then only after massive exposure. The number watchers’ favourite sage, Clive Bates, weighed into the global warming debate and managed to link it to (wait for it) cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

A significant number to note is 64, which is the number of junk science items identified by junkscience.com in one day (April 24th). Half of them were about global warming, which is, of course, the classic nice little earner. Britain cannot afford the $2 billion that America devotes to this cause, but the universities and other institutions manage to milk a few tens of millions from the down trodden taxpayer.

Some of the biggest numbers in UK politics are in the spending plans of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which are becoming more dubious as each piece of economic news breaks. He continues to make optimistic noises (whistling in the dark?) and is backed up by Richard Iley, UK economist at ABN Amro (The Times, April 24th), who suggests that the economy would still expand by 2.4 per cent, thanks to buoyant consumer spending and a firm housing market. For those who are economically illiterate, like Number Watch, this translates as “We’ll be alright as long as we keep taking in each others’ washing.” The Chancellor is also organising the Labour Party's election campaign, but only a nasty old cynic would see a link and anticipate a complete change of tune once the election is over.

Plus ça change!

915 years ago the British were undergoing the first census, Domesday, ordered by the conquering Norman king. On April 29th they were doing it again, but this time they were not even allowed by their Scottish Government to describe themselves as English (or Welsh). It was different, of course, in the governing country of Scotland. What joy all these numbers from 26 million households will give to the army of bureaucrats and what nonsense they will be able to deduce from them! Here is just a sample of the sort of question that is being asked:

11 Over the last twelve months would you say your health has been:

Good?

Fairly good?

Not good?

What phenomenon do they think they are accurately going to measure with that, hypochondria? This census, as compared with others that have occurred under previous governments every ten years, sums up the unique combination of authoritarianism and incompetence that is unique to our age. Citizens are threatened with draconian fines if they fail to complete the form, yet thousands had not received one by the completion date. Those who had received one found it woolly, intrusive and over-long.

Against Nature

One of the proudest moments of my life as a young scientist was to get a letter published in Nature, which I regarded as the world’s premier scientific journal. Now, as the weekly news from SEPP reports, Nature has abandoned its famous and invaluable disinterest. In an editorial diatribe it joins in the media attack on President Bush and his sensible attitude to Kyoto. This is not science; it is politics, and politics of the meanest and most despicable kind. What hope is there for the future of science in this age of unreason when the editors of its leading journal espouse unmitigated nonsense in the most partisan terms? What hope is there for unbiased refereeing of future submissions when people with such cranky prejudice select the referees? O tempora, O mores!

Number of the Month

2 million and rising has to be the number of the month. Apologies for being repetitive, but it is now more than two orders of magnitude larger than it was when it was our number for February. It is, of course, the number of animals, almost all perfectly healthy, that have been pointlessly and ruthlessly slaughtered, amid scenes of unwonted mayhem. Number Watch has been far from alone in condemning these appalling acts. At last a journalist has got round to asking the question (The Times, April 26th)

Why didn't ministers turn to the real expert?

MAGNUS LINKLATER 

From the start, the Government has consistently got foot-and-mouth wrong

When the full, shoddy story is told about this Government’s handling of the foot-and-mouth (FMD) epidemic, the curious incident of Professor Fred Brown will stand out. His name will not be mentioned. And that, as Sherlock Holmes might have said, is what is curious.

Fred Brown is unquestionably the world’s leading expert on this disease. An Englishman who works at the top American establishment in the field on Plum Island, he made his advice available from the outset (see his early letter published at Sheepgrove) but he was completely ignored by the arrogant, ignorant, incompetent, bloodthirsty officials of MAFF. These were aided and abetted by the subsidy-junkies of the National Farmers Union.

Even before the Ministry had announced its slaughter policy, he offered a system that could test for FMD infection on site and cheaply produce reliable and accurate results within two hours, particularly for sheep, in which the symptoms are hard to detect. 

Linklater reports:

The scientists at MAFF, however, were not interested. They were “too busy”, they said. “That saddened me a lot,” said the professor mildly. “Why destroy innocent animals?” His view, cogently and clearly set out, was that the number of healthy animals slaughtered was a national disgrace.

Can anyone now doubt the claim in Sorry, wrong number! that MAFF have been out of control for years?

The Prime Minister took over leadership of the murderous project, and clearly began to realise that vaccination was the answer, but submitted to the blackmail of the NFU and carried on with the holocaust. What sort of leadership is that? However, as always this cynical politician judged his electorate well. Newspapers and polls were already reporting that the issue is declining in importance for the British public. The classical epidemic curve of cases will have subsided to nearly zero by the time of the postponed election. As a real leader said of another case of unprovoked slaughter this is a “date that will live in infamy”.

The turning point was an event that underlined the cynicism of politicians and media, while highlighting the gullibility of the general public. One small calf with Bambi-like eyes survived the lethal injection that had disposed of her companions and relatives. She clawed her way out from under a pile of animal corpses. Pictures of “Phoenix” saturated the media, and the powers that be suddenly decided that perhaps it was not quite so necessary to enforce the bloody policy with such thoroughness. Phoenix survived to achieve her fifteen minutes of fame, and somehow it was easy to forget all the other victims. A presto ballet of spins and U-turns rapidly ensued. Number Watch does not often pay tribute to The Sun, but this time its front page says it all:

 

Index