Number of the Month

June  2003

Junk is busting out all over

 Next month marks the third birthday of Number Watch. Being a confirmed pessimist, your bending author did not entertain any hopes that it would make a difference. In fact, the outpourings of bad, pseudo and junk science are getting more proliferous. Even worse, they are becoming central tenets of government, as the number of the  month for May illustrates only too well.

 Many thanks for the e-mails from number watchers around the world and apologies for those that don't get a reply, though they are all read with care and appreciation. The examples they quote are legion and it is possible only to deal with a few of them. Number Watch does not pretend to be encyclopaedic, but fortunately we have the invaluable Junkscience.com archive. Examples are selected to illustrate the various themes relating to wrong numbers. These include of course, the political consequences, such as:

Nanny in jackboots

The rate of advance of the Nanny State and the increasingly dictatorial attitude of its Myrmidons is now becoming truly disturbing. Just look at a small selection of the stories that escaped into the media:

PC or die

Headline in The Times:

Fat people will have to diet if they want to see the doctor

OVERWEIGHT people and heavy smokers would have to sign contracts promising to diet or give up cigarettes in return for treatment, under radical new plans being drawn up by Labour. Written contracts would set out the patient’s responsibilities while offering them help to cut down or quit smoking, lose weight, take more exercise or eat a more nutritious diet, The Times has learnt. Those who failed to keep their side of the bargain or kept missing appointments could be denied free care...........

And who is behind it all? None other than an old friend of ours as revealed by The Guardian:

Under Clive Bates, formerly director of anti-smoking organisation Ash, Downing Street's strategy unit has been examining consumer responsibility across every aspect of public services.

Search Number Watch for “clive” to find some of the extremes of the exploitation of junk science. Three years ago we nominated him for the post of Zealot Laureate and he seems to be living up to it.  And here’s another in the same mould, who gets his kicks out of pushing other people around:

 Force farmers to go green, says adviser

A NEW landscape agency should be set up to police farmers and ensure that they are adopting greener farming practices, Lord Haskins, the Government’s rural adviser, said yesterday……..

 Then there’s the tyranny of targets:

Hospital targets under fire as extra cash goes to waste was the front page headline in The Times to an article by Nigel (thousands to die) Hawkes et al. the Telegraph had:

Hospitals 'stacking up problems'
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor
(Filed: 05/06/2003)

Hospitals in England will struggle to meet targets set by the Government in the long term despite the extra billions being poured into the National Health Service, the Audit Commission says today.

It says "short term fixes" will create serious financial problems in the future and that more than half off trusts had diverted money to meet waiting list targets. It also points out that the real picture may be clouded "because of recently revealed inaccuracies" in the waiting list data from some trusts.

The progress report, Achieving the NHS Plan, says four hospital trusts which are being considered for the controversial foundation hospital status have weak management.

It also found that hospitals are using money intended for other projects such as medical equipment and information technology to boost services to meet the Government's wait list and waiting time targets………

Why did they need an investigation to establish this? They could have bought a copy of Sorry, wrong number!, where it was all forecast. Fear not, however, for the Government has a solution to the regular appearance of these scandals. From The Telegraph again:

Doctors warn over 'gagging clause'
(Filed: 06/06/2003)

Doctors could be prevented from exposing waiting list fiddles under the terms of a draft contract drawn up by the Government, it has been claimed……….

 Or how about this for the final demise, by diktat, of a once proud academic tradition

Dozens of colleges invited to become universities

SCORES of new universities are to be created in the biggest expansion of higher education in a decade, and colleges will no longer have to conduct research to win university status.

The change will enable small specialist bodies, such as art and further education colleges, to upgrade, and is likely to herald a period of mergers as they gang together to muster the necessary 4,000 students.

The changes announced by Margaret Hodge, the Higher Education Minister, will also open the door to private companies to gain degree-awarding powers, leading to American-style profit-making universities. But the Conservatives interpreted it as a cynical device designed to ensure that the Government hits its target of getting half of all young people into higher education.........

And pursuant to our coverage of mad Margot and her fellow autocrats, here is a blast from Littlejohn in The Sun:

How dare Tony Blair call us unpatriotic

HOW dare he? How bloody dare he? It was the most despicable speech ever made by a serving British Prime Minister. Blair got on his hind legs in Poland and trashed everyone who has the audacity to believe that Britain should be an independent, sovereign nation. Opposition to surrendering what is left of our right to self-government, he declared, is not patriotic.……..

More than half of us, according to the latest polls, want to get out of Europe altogether rather than cede any more power to Brussels. Are we all "unpatriotic"? Quite the reverse. The British people are just waking up to the nightmare of the disastrous entanglement in Europe begun by the disgraceful Grocer Heath. What is it with Blair?  He hates this country and most of us who live here. He is hell-bent on destroying 1,000 years of history.

Blair is ashamed of his own people ... which might explain why he thinks it's such a good idea to dismantle our borders and import a whole new people....................

 Meanwhile, from the land of the free

Regular correspondent Miceal O’Ronain asks “why do the English people put up with it?” The facetious answer is “Why do the people of California or New York put up with it?” The New York Daily News is running a camping against Silly Summons, such as the one given to the Israeli tourist who fell asleep on the train and was escorted off by two policemen and fined $50 for occupying two seats, or a nineteen year old who was fined for unauthorised use of a milk crate – he was sitting on it.

The non-facetious answer is that the English have little choice. They live in an elective dictatorship, which has been made more draconian by the way the Scottish New Labour Government has emasculated the British Parliament and particularly the protective upper chamber. When governments are beginning to die they go through a period of madness, as the Thatcher government did at the time of the poll tax. That government was an unconscionable time a dying, because the opposition had made itself unelectable. Unfortunately the same situation applies now, so it could go on for a long time. The watershed is not often noticed at the time, but it occurs at the peak of hubris, when the arrogance and complacency of the incumbents blinds them to the coming reality. After the poll tax, members were leaving the Conservative Party in the proverbial droves, leaving behind a rump of extremists.

Governments, like other living organisms, build up a collection of ailments that eventually become terminal – scandals, a trail of broken promises, personal rivalries, resentful ex-ministers, thwarted ambitious backbenchers and a dispirited party membership.
7/6/3

Right to reply

I must protest your unfounded allegation that California and New York are part of the "land of the free". Both areas are deep inside the occupied Blue Zone . An examination of the California Blue Zone shows that it is localized to the extreme left portion of the State, an area which modern plate tectonics suggests is really not a true part of North America, but a wayward island with navigational problems.

In the case of New York, you are only referring to New York City, or to be even more precise, the Island of Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg has taken quite a bit of heat about his draconian measures and has backed off on many of then. He is still hell-bent on outlawing tobacco but then the politicians, lawyers and police know that they all stand to gain substantial tax-free bonuses once tobacco is forced into the criminal underground.

Not to be out done by your facetious answer, I would like to make a facetious suggestion of my own. In a few months time, if the Great Leader is successful in his current plans, England will pass into history as a nation.

Those Englishman who are not willing to allow a thousand years of English Common Law be consigned to the dustbin are going to need to organize to protest this outrage and restore English sovereignty. To do this, you will need catchy songs to inspire the English people. Fortunately, a 19th Century philosopher, poet and political activist, wrote the perfect poem which has already been set to music. All you will have to do is change the first three letters of one word and the verse will fit your needs perfectly. The poet was Thomas Osborne Davis  and the poem was " A Nation Once Again" . The situation would almost be humorous were it not for the fact that the Irish are determined to destroy themselves before the English do. A millennium of English Common Law and a half-millennium struggle for independence, wiped-out by an army of faceless bureaucrats marching under the flag of Code Napoleon. In the end, Bonaparte won.

The big question is, once England is run from Brussels-Berlin-Paris, will Chucky reassume his ancestral family name? Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is so much more European then Windsor.

Miceal O'Rronain

The noble art of obfuscation

Let it be clear; Number Watch is not against European Union, it is against this EU. One of the prime reasons is the everlasting flow of meaningless jargon from the likes of mad Margot. Well, this month it all spilled out over the British political scene when the Chancer of the Exchequer announced the outcome of his five tests for the decision on whether to join the Euro. Eighteen massive documents landed on the desks of cabinet ministers and other interested parties, and it is clear that their sole purpose is to act as a smoke screen to cover up the wise avoidance of a decision that would be ruinous.

Telegraph editor Charles Moore picks out this sentence:

OCA theory is typically formulated under strong assumptions of exogeneity of behavioural parameters which, in reality, can be expected to change as a reaction to policies and the institutional environment, including the EMU decision.

Roughly translated this appears to mean outside factors might play a part.

The Times selects:

 To understand their explanation of the City’s success, a physics A level would help: “For the financial centre to grow, centripetal forces need to outweigh centrifugal forces.” When in doubt about one question, the economists like to ask another: “It is difficult to pin down the concept of an equilibrium exchange rate more precisely without first asking why it is an interesting concept.”

A physics A-level might help one to understand that centrifugal force does not exist and that, when growth is by diffusion, no forces are involved.

The Times also selects an equation from the 1,700 pages of misdirection

Even without knowing the definitions of the terms, anyone with mathematical training should recognise this as completely worthless. Apart from an oddity of notation that seems to make the leading terms on both sides of the equation cancel, the idea that such a complex arrangement of summation and exponentiation could have any possible meaning is absurd. Such an equation might be valid in a precise area of mathematics, such as algebraic geometry, but in an application such as economics, none of the coefficients could be known with any precision and any attempt to apply the equation would be chaotic.

Let’s face it, the Euro has been a disaster, particularly for the continent’s largest economy, Germany. Bereft of the means to take control over a situation that they largely created for themselves, by printing money to compensate holders of the Ostmark, they now have to stand helpless while the central bank drives them into deflation. The clichés about a “one size fits all” interest rate have come home to roost.

Supporters might point to the soaring value of the Euro. Well, all markets are mad and money markets are madder than most. In fact it only serves to compound the German disaster.

Let us be thankful that the British Government made the right non-decision, but for how long? It is torn between its recognition of this disaster and the political imperative (perhaps related to the ambitions of the Great Leader) to appear as good Europeans.
10/6/3

Brane ded

One of the few areas of research of which your bending author can claim some direct knowledge is EEG (brainwaves), having been one of the first to apply real-time digital signal processing techniques to the phenomenon. Mind you, that was some thirty years ago, but the final outcome was a portable device that could detect the waveform linked to epilepsy. For the technically minded it was interesting as one of the first applications of a close coupled dual microprocessor system, with one processor monitoring the non-stationary background to update the matched filter run by the detecting processor. So, the requisite blinding with science bit having been inserted, YBA feels empowered to opine that a  breakthrough, spotted by number watcher David A Vavra, is a load of old cobblers. As David observes:

They are claiming a 100% accuracy after only 6 tests. To quote: "The 100-percent accuracy and high confidence level of the results".

The bad part is that they've apparently already used this in a court case.

Lovely example of the genre, however. The parable of the blind men and the elephant is a gem. If only Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin had displayed such literary creativity they would be much more popular fellows, but then they did not have the nous to file a patent or establish an Inc.

More grey goo

Oh dear! We tried to keep it quiet, but Reuters got hold of it. Not only is our President of the Royal Society peddling junk science, but our Astronomer Royal has joined the ranks of seedy old men who walk up and down the Strand with sandwich boards proclaiming that The end of the world is nigh or Prepare to meet thy doom. We are all going to die, but dwelling on the fact is a sign of a morbid brain disease. There might well be a supervolcano or a giant meteorite tomorrow, but the myth of human induced global warming is nothing more than a Green political scare. As for the science fiction scenario of nano-engineered robots taking over the earth, that is for the fairies and the heir to the throne. Micro-engineering also happens to be a field in which your bending author has dabbled. Its achievements are negligible, a few trivial demonstrations. Nano-technology, a thousand time smaller and a billion times more difficult, has produced little more than the letters IBM written in atoms and a few tasty research grant applications. Even traditional macro-engineering is far from creating a self reproducing machine, even if it wanted to.

Reuters goes on Rees does not discount the possibility of disaster caused by scientific experiments involving particle accelerators. "Perhaps a black hole could form, and then suck in everything around it," he cautions. It is presumably naïve to remark, in the face of the overwhelming expertise of the Astronomer Royal, that the formation of a black hole, like a nuclear explosion, requires the accumulation of a critical mass, and one of a somewhat overawing magnitude.

Let us give thanks for our ignorance.
12/6/3

Footnote: Our man in Puerto Rico draws attention to a collector's item of Green ignorant, purblind Luddism in the Guardian. It is news that the laws of physics don't apply at a molecular level.

Let us give thanks for our ignorance.
13/6/3

 The end of history

The past is another country. They do things differently there.
L P Hartley, The Go-Between

1400 is the number of years for which the office of Lord Chancellor has existed in England. Now it has been swept away in a constitutional revolution aptly described by one peer as “worked out on the back of an envelope.” The last occupant of the post was a Tony Crony who qualified by being the Prime Minister’s former mentor. He was an egregious buffoon who tarnished his ancient office with ignominy. His replacement, until the post is formally abolished, is LORD Falconer, who qualifies by being the Prime Minister’s former flatmate. His other claim to fame is his association with that archetype of New Labour dogma and incompetence, the Millennium Dome.

The promotion of effete personal favourites has always been characteristic of weak rulers trying to look strong; Edward II and Piers Gaveston, Richard II with Michael de la Pole, Robert de Vere and others  come to mind. It always led to their downfall and replacement by a stronger figure waiting in the wings.

Meanwhile, the Chancer of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, seems further to secure his power base with every botched reshuffle of the pack. In another extraordinary extension of the post-devolutionary mishmash, a Scottish ex-communist bruiser, with a Scottish constituency, is put in charge of the English health service, which has been progressively wrecked by the Brown-sponsored bureaucratic explosion, funded by burgeoning stealth taxes.

Number watchers will also mourn the passing of Michael (nine-homes) Meacher, the anti-capitalist, doom-laden former environment minister, who has provided some of our tastier morsels of nonsense and a neologism in our vocabulary.
14/6/3

Footnote:

Are they talking about this Michael Meacher? A Guardian Eulogy illustrates how establishment journalists float round in a Cloud Cuckoo Land of their own:

Mr Meacher had clung on for six years as the junior minister with the highest profile because he had a remarkable technical grasp of complex environmental issues, including global warming, nuclear power, waste, GM crops and pollution.

Our flabber had never been so ghasted.

 Mad in Britain

Oh dear! The insanity is spreading. The Sunday Telegraph, probably the sanest of British newspapers, devotes a whole page to the climate change myth. Worse than that, it is combining with the Carbon Trust (Making sense of climate change) to offer the Innovation Awards 2003 for companies with new ideas to exploit the carbon racket. Thousands of businesses struggling to survive in the real economy are suffering from escalating taxes to fund these essays into the imaginary economy.

When you read this stuff, you have to keep reminding yourself of the facts of the matter, which are:

1.      Global warming is a pseudo-scientific myth.

2.      Even if you believe it, the Kyoto agreement is a scam.

3.      Even if you swallow the whole shebang, Kyoto will make a negligible difference (apart, of course,  from an economic disaster).

4.      Renewable energy schemes are based on a numerical fraud.

The page is full of quotable quotes:

Climate change evokes images of catastrophic floods and storms, major population shifts and economic upheaval decades into the future. For the inappropriately named Tom Delay, the chief executive of the Carbon Trust, it is not so much a problem for tomorrow as a critical issue for British companies today.

“Only the real pessimist would argue that renewables, at scale, will not be cost competitive with gas and other fossil fuels.”

For its part, the Carbon Trust has steered clear of areas such as nuclear and so-called carbon sequestration, where carbon waste is effectively stored underground in old oil and gas fields. Instead, the trust is concentrating its efforts on energy efficiency and research and development focused on renewable energy. This is simply, Delay says, because they are more potentially productive areas for its £50m a year budget.

The adjacent article has some even more characteristic garbage:

A more familiar British complaint is lack of funding. According to the Carbon Trust, a massive £10bn of investment is required if the UK is to meet its renewable energy targets for 2010.

Professor Dennis Anderson of the Imperial College Centre for Energy Policy and Technology in London says UK academic research is particularly strong in areas such as solar cells, fuel cells, tidal stream energy, wind power and waste incineration. However, he believes that they are seriously under-funded.

Anderson was one of the authors of an extensive report on the technology options for tackling climate change, prepared for the prime minister's strategy unit before the White Paper was published. According to Anderson, America is "putting in 50 times the effort" compared with Britain.

 A small schlep for mankind

And, if you think that is the total of the weekly insanity, think again. At least the blurb for the article on Nanotechnology mentions those beastly sceptics, who were again proved right after gigabucks were poured down the internet drain:

Investors are piling into a revolutionary new sector, but sceptics say it's just another bubble in the making. Richard Fletcher and Lauren Mills report.

And guess what! It is all Government (i.e. taxpayer) backed. Also, purely by coincidence, it involves Imperial College; though, to give him his due, the man in charge makes a token attempt to  dampen the hype. Let's be honest; if your bending author were still actively involved in university research, this is where he would be. It is great fun and there is virtually unlimited funding available: but an investment? Forget it.
15/6/3

Citings and soundings

The whole structure of science depends on those playing the game obeying the rules. One of the rules is that citation of a reference implies that the author has read it and affirms that it contains the claims attributed to it. It is certainly not a new phenomenon that people do not obey this rule. Your bending author met this at a relatively early age, when his PhD supervisor suffered a great deal of angst because one researcher had attributed a statement to him that he had not made and every subsequent reference to his paper repeated the assertion. The literature accumulates lists of references by duplication and it is a rarity for workers to go back to the original source. This has all become exacerbated by the politicisation of much of science, particularly among the environmental lobby. Once it was just laziness, but now there is an element of ruthlessness.

More than once in these columns we have paid tribute to John Daly. The World Wide Web had proved a mixed blessing, but one of its achievements is the rebirth of the terrier-like scholar who actually checks the sources. Daly is such a one: so, anyone interested in the preservation of the integrity of science will savour his latest essay on the Tasmanian sea level scam. Long may he rain on the environmentalists’ parade.

Accidental circumstances

One of the stories of this month that should not go without comment is the passing of The Accident Group. It achieved fame for the most irritating advertisement on TV, with its banal slogan "Where there's blame there's a claim." This was a wholly evil enterprise that was largely responsible for bringing the compensation culture to Britain. The evil lives on in the form of a threat to the very existence of thousands of small businesses from soaring employee liability insurance premiums. In addition to the thousands of dupes who received next to nothing for their artificially inflated claims, there were 2,500 victims among the staff, who were characteristically sacked by e-mail. The founder, meanwhile, continues to enjoy the life of one in the top 100 rich list. The Government, of course, looks on with its usual complacency.

A vile act of defilement

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

The front page of the Blackmore Vale Magazine for June 20th carries the following headline:

Giant wind turbines would be a tragic error

It goes on:

AN action group set up to fight plans for wind turbines on the downs in North Dorset between the Winterborne and Stour valleys is urging councillors to reject "this major industrial development."

They say there are plans for 36 renewable energy turbines and that some may be up to 125 metres high- "higher than Salisbury Cathedral spire," says a spokesman for DART (Dorset Against Rural Turbines.)…….

Most human societies honour their religion by building giant structures. The inhabitants of Easter Island destroyed their culture by doing so. The comparison of this appalling proposed act of desecration with Salisbury cathedral could not be more apt. Even the crustiest old atheist must feel an uplift of  the soul when confronted with the exterior or interior of this magnificent achievement of a mediaeval society. As one traverses the peak of the downs on an autumn morning, the sight of the magnificent spire rising like Excalibur out of the sea of mist that often envelopes the valley of the River Avon is one of the most stirring in all of England. It has inspired many great artists, most notably John Constable:

 You can still walk the Town Path across the meadows and enjoy the same view that so stirred Constable, a view that was nominated the best in England. It is the jewel of Wiltshire, whence Number Watch comes to you.

The Dorset countryside also provides one of the most beautiful experiences on Earth, inspiring many great writers, most notably Thomas Hardy. Try a short walking holiday there for the experience of a lifetime.

At any other time in history it would have been unthinkable to violate such a treasure, but the Green religion thinks nothing of destroying the environment in the name of the environment. The existence of the God that inspired the inhabitants of Wessex to create the ultimate masterpiece of the wonderful perpendicular style of architecture that is unique to England might be moot, but the gods of the Greens have been shown to be based on myth and fraud.

It is a great irony that, almost simultaneously with the Blackmoor Vale article, SEPP published a comment entitled Danes are getting wise to the problems with wind power: "More Wind Turbines Cause Chaos". It is not just that wind power is an irrelevance; it is an economic disaster, and that is not even taking account of the depredations that the environmental taxes used to subsidise it impose on suffering industry.

The fact is that the British Government, and it is sadly not unique in this, operates as a culture-free zone. Words such as tradition, history and beauty mean nothing. Its Maoist zeal to destroy the legacy of the past in the name of the cult of modernisation brooks no opposition.

Then there's this

Change and decay in all around I see
Henry Francis Lyte, Abide with me.

 Talking of suffering industry, there is an interesting opinion column by James Dyson, a famous inventor and entrepreneur, in the June issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts:

....If we want to maintain our quality of life and influence among other leading nations, we have no choice but to make things. Manufacturing represents less than a fifth of the UK economy and provides less than 14% of total employment, yet it provides 62% of exports and creates the wealth and spending power that feed the service industry. The prospects for British manufacturing are worse now than they have been for a decades. We suffered more than 820 insolvencies every week last year, the highest number for ten years. In the same period. output suffered its largest drop since 199I. We might console ourselves with the belief that we are an ideas culture, but all the evidence shows otherwise. The US filed 30,450 patents in 2001. Japan filed 19,845 and Germany 21,308, but Britain filed just 4,853. And when we do have ideas; we are comparatively poor at turning them into commercially significant products.

Why? Because we penalise those who are innovative and entrepreneurial. The taxman hounds the self-employed, introducing legislation such as IR35, which makes it difficult for engineers and designers to work as freelance consultants. The increase in employers' national insurance payments, the 10% climate change tax on energy bills and rapidly rising insurance costs damage our ability to invest in our future through research and development (R&D). For thousands of businesses.,these rising costs will be devastating. Our planning regulations make it difficult to start businesses at home. Furthermore, we persistently fail to distinguish between knowledge-based science and engineering, and the technology of their applications, giving money to universities that would often be better spent on focused industrial research......

 Or how about this from The Times of June 21st:

Small firms may cut and run
Elizabeth Judge on the impact of the increase in tax regulations

THOUSANDS of Britain’s smallest companies are threatening to quit the country over the growing number of tax regulations heaped on them. Evidence from accountants and lobby groups shows that the combined threat of two controversial tax avoidance measures is proving too much for many small enterprises.

Both IR35 and Section 660 — the so-called married couple’s tax — have thrown entrepreneurs into uncertainty about their tax situation and left many with unexpected tax bills running back years.

Now accountants are predicting a brain drain as small companies of all types — from doctors to computer consultants and nannies — leave Britain to set up in a country free from the threat of these onerous regulations............

Why is all this destruction happening now? The problem is that we now have professional politicians who, when they are not busy feathering their own nests, live in isolation from the real world of culture and business. They legislate for a theoretical world that exists only in their own minds. In particular, the Chancer of the Exchequer is like a small bird trying hopelessly to keep up with the appetite of the cuckoo in its nest, the burgeoning state bureaucracy.
22/6/3

Footnote (By Jaime Arbona, our man in Puerto Rico)

The raw figures don't tell all. Here is a little graph:

 Patently absurd

The patents issue stirred up a minor hornets’ nest among number watchers around the world. Micael O’Ronain queries the numbers in the original article and produces this chart. These data are from the UN, so they MUST be right:

Grant Perk remarks:

Good observations, but the USA will allows patents on just about anything and devising such patents has been a main business activity for some years. Especially finding things in everyday use that have not been patented and applying to patent them! Even more especially in the field of software where rules and precedents are few and far between.

A cogent comment! Your bending author has had a little experience in giving technical advice on patent disputes in the UK and finds that the system is quite rigorous. It seems clear that absurdity is no bar to receiving a patent in the USA. Look at this one for example from one of our favourite web sites.

The moral is that numbers alone never tell the whole story. If only our target-crazed political masters could understand this!
24/6/3

Furthermore 

The American patent system seems to raise ire in many number watchers. Our man in Puerto Rico suggests looking  here; or here, or here. Nick Barron offers this.

Repeat prescriptions

Use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think they will be heard for much speaking.
Matthew vi 7

Constant repetition is the method by which propagandists instill their biggest lies into the consciousness of the population. Britain ‘is heading for flood devastation’ yells the headline above a whole-page article in The Times. Yes, it is our old friend the global warming myth again. Doomed, doomed we're all doomed. And, just in case you haven't yet got the message there is a graphic. Another whole page is devoted to a bit of PC gloating with the headline Whiff of doom over US tobacco fields. Just in case readers missed the big lie here, it was reproduced in a large box headline in the middle of the page: “They are killing almost 500,000 Americans and costing us $140billion a year.” This is a fine example of the phenomenon of Mendacity Drift. The original lie produced a figure of 400,000, which was easily exposed by a bit of real scholarship. Each time they revisit it they add a bit. The British zealots adjust it pro rata for population and add a bit more.

The other amazing thing about the Green propagandists is the way they get their distortions into so many media outlets, some of them quite unexpected. Innocently opening the July 2003 issue of  the magazine Water Gardener we find an article by Dr Stefan Bucszacki, Southampton University educated media guru on gardening matters. It begins:

I don't think anyone can be in any doubt now that climate change is upon us. Its effects aren't necessarily evident every day or even every year in our gardens, but simply looking through some photographs that I took of my garden around 20 years ago made me realise how much has altered in a short time. There were countless pictures of snow and heavy-frost, the like of which I haven't seen for ages. But something has happened this year that really is new and also served to draw attention to a type of vegetation that we take far too much for granted. I have been pulling blanket weed from my wildlife pond on a weekly basis since January. I can't remember ever previously having had to do this before March - ample evidence, should it be needed, that the winter water temperature is much higher than ever before........

How could he? For those who have not been reading Number of the Month since the beginning of the year, we have just gone through one of the most savage winters in living memory, extending well into April, with hundreds of people dying in the USA, Scandinavia, Russia, India and China. Even Malta had record cold weather.  Southern England had an almost unprecedented ten degree Celsius frost that wiped out nearly all the "hardy" winter vegetables. An unannounced late May frost saw off the early potatoes. What planet are these people living on?

Number of the Month 57,808

Just to show that target mania is not purely a British phenomenon here is a piece from Dagblad van het Noorden 22 June 2003. It was pointed out by number watcher Rienk Steenhuis, who has kindly provided a translation:

Police promise to catch more suspects

Groningen - The regional police force Groningen must bring 1280 more suspects to the justice department for trial through to 2006. The force has agreed to this in a new performance contract, soon to be signed with the state. As a result, the number of prosecuted people will rise to 9788 in the next 3 years.

The contract also stipulates an increase in the number of fines, 57808 In the year 2006. This is over 5700 more than last year. The departments of Internal Affairs and Justice (co-signers to the contract) originally had much higher ambitions. Police force manager Jacques Wallage, however, let 'The Hague' know that those were unattainable. The problem is, that the prosecutor in Groningen won't be able to deal with the number of cases due to lack of personnel.

The police promise to prioritize dealing with (juvenile) delinquents and hardened repeat offenders. Their paperwork has to be on the procecutor's desk within the month. Wallage says more cells for locking up suspects are essential to guarantee the success of this policy.

The performance contract is coupled to a regional policy plan for the year 2004. In this, the police state, they want to specifically reduce the number of break-ins, theft from cars and stolen bikes. Traffic safety must be improved by means of stringent speed and alcohol checks.

So there you have it! The number of actual offences committed doesn't come into it. Presumably if they are under target innocent parties will be rounded up and if they are over the guilty will go free. This is the sort of madness that delays second appointments to patients with growing tumours at  British National Health hospitals, because the target is based on the waiting time for first appointments.

So on June 30 we have a Times headline Doctors' chief attacks target culture in NHS. The official response is one to savour:

A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is very disappointing that, just one day after the Health Secretary John Reid said he would meet the BMA consultants, Dr Bogle has responded in such a childish way.

“We have always been clear that we won’t stand for any manipulation of statistics and those found responsible should be disciplined.

“Year on year the NHS is getting better, not because people are fiddling the figures, but because the health service is now getting the investment and the reform it needs.”

Oh yeah?

See also Targets are damaging patients , Hospitals fiddled waiting list figures  and here.

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