Number of the Month

December  2006


Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.
Psalm 11

There are Bad Times Just Around The Corner
Noel Coward

It is in the nature of prophets of religion that they foresee only doom and destruction, particularly but not exclusively on those who do not follow their prescripts. So it is with the new eco-theocrats. From a modest apparent 0.6 C change in the global temperature they extrapolate to a vision of hell on earth that shocks even some of the most ardent warmers.

Why should the far out Greenies have the monopoly on catastrophism? It does not take much imagination to extrapolate the policies they have forced on us to a future of death and destruction. Here is how it might happen:

In either the depths of a hard winter or the heights of a hot summer a stationary high settles over a major centre of population, such as coastal America or Western Europe . Let us assume it is the latter. There is no wind, so all the serried ranks of windmills grind to a halt and stop producing energy. Except in France, there is little or no nuclear power to serve the base load. Most of the energy comes by pipeline from Russia and suddenly every country wants it. The coal mines and coal generators were closed long ago. There is not enough to go round. All the reserve generators are called into use to serve the increasing demand for heating or cooling. For various historical reasons they have not been maintained at the level that once was thought appropriate. In Britain one reason is that all the utilities are owned by foreign companies, who no longer face the once statutory requirement (in nationalised days) to provide power and exist solely to maximise returns. There is a major failure of equipment at some point in the network. The demand is redistributed around the network and more failures occur through overload. Eventually there is total black out.

At first the crisis is met with stoical humour by the populace. Shops close because the cash registers are not working and the assistants can neither do arithmetic nor keep records (don’t laugh, this happened in Wiltshire only last year when a construction vehicle ran into power lines). Then communication systems begin to break down and emergency services fall apart. Those hospitals that are equipped with emergency generators try to carry on, but they cannot cope with the demand. People begin to die; at first only the old and sick, but civil order begins to break down as people run out of food and are stressed by the extremes of temperature. Violence becomes common.

Eventually the high pressure zone begins to drift away and order is slowly restored. The Greens announce that the damage was all caused by people failing to follow their prescriptions and lead a frugal life. Some normality is restored – until the next time. Another stage in the collapse of human society has occurred.

Sunday Telegraph falls to the Greens

Booker nobbled

David Cameron on his bikeBefore anyone asks what this has to do with numbers; it is all based on the opinions of 17 people. It is not even a statistical survey, but one of those so-called focus groups.

Opening the Sunday Telegraph and turning first to the Christopher Booker column (as you do) proved disconcerting, as most of the usual half page was taken up by a bland photograph of a plane. It was only later, on the regular visit to EU referendum, that the truth was revealed. Booker had been censored for daring to be critical of Stuntman Dave.

The Boy David (he of the chauffeur-driven clothes) occupied not only a significant corner of the front page, but three full inside pages plus editorial space. There are plenty of photos, including the prat-on-a-bike one – you would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh – and various stunts. It all comes from words of wisdom from someone whose name sounds like one of those strange American insults. He apparently has a reputation for always being right on political forecasts. This is an example of a statistical illusion well-known in the world of financial tipsters; there are always going to be some who are right, just by statistical accident, until they are wrong (see for example, Fooled by Randomness). In this case, however, there is not much risk, as the Blair tower of promises is crumbling by the day. Cameron is winning over Labour and Lib Dem voters, says top pollster is the front page headline: hardly astonishing, as he has been continually propounding Labour and Lib Dem policies. It is a variation on the old fallacy of one side of the balance sheet – how many Tory voters has he lost? The leader of UKIP is looking rather self-satisfied these days.

Anyway, here is Booker’s censored piece:

As David Cameron ends his first year as leader of the Opposition, there are clear signs that the greatest gamble in modern British politics has not come off. The little group of ex-public schoolboys who last year hi-jacked the Conservative Party have seemed to gamble on just one strategy. List everything the Party used to stand for – low taxes, the family, rolling back the power of the state, encouraging business, upholding our defences, curbing criminals, common sense – then go for the opposite.

The essence of the gamble has been the belief that, in wooing the support of Lib Dems, would-be greenies, Guardian readers and the supposed "soft centre", they could take their supposed "core" supporters for granted. But as support for Cameron falters, all the evidence seems to suggest that those wished-for new recruits to his "Not The Conservative Party" are not forthcoming, while the Party's former natural supporters are left baffled, dismayed and increasingly angry.

All this was neatly symbolised by the recent photo-opportunities staged by the three men now competing for the role of Britain 's prime minister. Mr Blair and Mr Brown, aware that defence and national security (not long ago rating 34 percent on a Mori poll) still rank very much higher as voter priorities than "environmental" issues (only 8 percent), flew out to the Iraq and Afghan battle-zones to pose in front of the largest guns they could find. Mr Cameron, at the same time, flew out to the Sudan, in Lord Ashcroft's CO2 emitting private jet, to be pictured cuddling a little refugee child. It was the "Men from Mars" against "the Boy from Venus". "Darfur Dave" did not come well out of the contrast.

The tragedy is that, confronted by the most corrupt, hypocritical, inefficient, illiberal, discredited government in history, what millions of voters are looking for is an alternative which might put an end to the sleazy, self-regarding sham of the Blair era by displaying some "masculine" firmness: in cutting back on the bloated public sector and the out-of-control bureaucracy which is destroying our health service, education and police; which might encourage enterprise; which might restore democracy to local government; bring back some balance into our public finances; sort out the shambles into which our Armed Forces are sliding; uphold Britain's national interest, as we suffocate under the malfunctioning system of government represented by the European Union.

In other words, what much of the country is crying out for is a party which represents precisely those values which Mr Cameron's Not-The-Conservative Party seems so hellbent on abandoning. As for what he stands for instead, almost the only clear message Darfur Dave seems to have put over to the voters is his sentimental "save the planet" greenery, on which his dotty little gimmicks and practical ignorance have simply made him a laughing stock.

What many voters sadly begin to conclude is that Dave and his cronies seem so hopelessly ill-equipped to take on the serious business of government that, if we have to choose between one gang of PR merchants and another, better stick with the devil we know. Hence the evidence of the latest polls appearing to show that the gamble has failed. Ever larger become the number of would-be Conservatives sorely tempted to join that 40 percent who already feel so alienated from politics that they just stay sullenly at home. But the Guardian readers are scarcely flocking to replace them. So where does all this leave our country?

In a mess!


Them and us

Two contrasting front page headlines on December 4th tell you a lot about the state of Britain today as measured in numbers. In the Telegraph we have Revealed: the real rate of inflation, while in the Daily Mail it is MPs Demand 66% pay rise. Few Britons would challenge the relatively mild rebuke to our elected representatives administered by Helen Szamuely.

The next day the Telegraph had Outrage over 9pc inflation rate for pensioners.  At least one part of the media have at last taken notice of this scandal. You can judge a civilisation on how it takes care of its very old and its very young. The elderly in Britain face a future of penury and neglect. When they finally need special care the state will strip them of their savings and then put them in a home in which, if they are not actually abused, they will be neglected. Those that have the perversity to want to die in their own homes are forced into increasing debt as local taxes and energy costs soar and their hard earned pensions do not. Oh that the Everlasting had not set His canon ’gainst self-slaughter!

Meanwhile, the front page of The Times celebrates the endemic and complacent corruption of the New Labour Government with Lottery row over Labour's 'cronies', while the Mail covers another aspect of rip-off Britain with  Flaming cheek! As wholesale prices tumble YOUR gas bills soar.

Dear Richard Black

I will take your piece at face value and assume that you are not being disingenuous.

What on earth makes you believe that we sceptics think that science is against us? We know that science is for us. Science and its methods are essentially sceptical.

From the Bacons, through the likes of Locke, Hume and Russell, to the magnificent climax of Popper’s statement of the principle of falsifiability, the scientific method was painfully established, only to be abandoned in a few short decades. The method was essentially sceptical, as Thomas Huxley put it:

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin. 

Scientists of the old school are not just sceptical about global warming, they are sceptical about everything. That is the way we were trained. Fortunately, even in this new era of blind faith, there are an admirable few among the new generation who also adhere to the principles of pure science.

It is not science that is against us, it is the Green establishment – politics, media and, alas, the major scientific institutions and journals. Consensus had never had a legitimate place in science. As Einstein is reputed to have remarked, when the Nazis published a book in which one hundred German scientists pronounced him wrong, “It only needed one of them to be right.” There was indeed a consensus in physics at the start of the twentieth century that “the science is settled”, but that was blown apart by Einstein and his contemporaries.

As for the implication that there is no evidence of bias in publication and the award of research grants, that arises from one of the fallacies of the historical method. No one is going to write down the fact that they made a decision through pure bias. People do not leave behind an audit trial of their misdeeds for posterity. To see an example of how it works, you only have to look at the history of the editor of Nature jumping through hoops to prevent publication of valid criticism of the so-called hockey stick; or the authoritative Wegman Report. That theory was a ludicrous contradiction of the findings of history, art, archaeology, entomology and many other disciplines, yet it was strenuously maintained by voluntary censorship.

Take it from one who found it more honourable to take early retirement (and write independently about these and other matters) than conform to the diktats of the Green establishment; for the last decade there has been only one game in town as far as research is concerned. When your university is locked in a struggle for financial survival and is dependent on large chunks of taxpayers’ money for politically approved programmes, you do not earn friends by rocking the boat. Thus, with a few notable exceptions, the sceptics (the true scientists) have been weeded out. Would-be researchers are told the fields in which funding is available. They are no longer physics, chemistry, engineering etc. They are new subjects, such as sustainability and pollution.

You create a Catch 22 situation by specifically excluding web sites as sources; for that is where the sceptics are now mainly obliged to operate, some of them very distinguished professors emeriti.

Your final paragraphs:

But if research is being skewed and distorted, we ought to know, because good climate science is the key to good climate policy. 

If it is not, then the most damaging accusation raised by the sceptical community will have been laid to rest.

contain two misunderstandings. The first is one of hubris, that there can be a “climate policy”. Human effects are orders of magnitude below natural ones and lost in the noise.

The second is in the way that science works (or, more accurately, used to work). If in any field there were a disagreement, a conference or colloquium would be called. The opponents would carry on a vigorous altercation to resolve the issue. Then they would retire amicably to the bar.

Now there have to be two conferences, one for the traditional scientists, which is largely ignored, the other a lavish media and political jamboree, which receives wide coverage. Furthermore, any sceptic who raises his head above the barricade can be assured of a campaign of calumny and ad hominem attacks from self-appointed guardians of political correctness.

Whether so designed or not, your campaign will produce the result of clearing the establishment of bias, which will be, of course,  a great surprise to all of us.

Yours sincerely

A Bending Author

PS Then there is Galileo.

Boris on the ball

Despite a token genuflection towards his leader’s religious icons, our Boris manages to get to the kernel of the problem – the slow death of real science.


Richard Doll

Number Watch has had much to say about the work of Sir Richard Doll, virtually none of it complimentary but, as the Castellan notes, the latest posthumous attack on him smacks more than a little of the sort of ad hominem attack to which sceptical scientists have been subjected with increasing frequency over recent years.  A lawyer or cab driver can take on a serial murdering rapist as a client without damage to their reputation but interested parties have created such an atmosphere of suspicion that scientists can be condemned just for doing paid work for a client who has subsequently earned the ire of the lefty-greeny establishment.

The riposte from the now-revealed author of the attack is at first sight plausible and the usual suspects wheeled out to defend Doll do indeed include several of the highly placed abusers of science frequently mentioned in these pages. Nevertheless, it was always a convention that industrial consultancy was carried out in complete confidence. This was rarely to the advantage of the consultant. More than once, your bending author has had publication of some of his finest instrumentational development work suppressed on this basis, only to see it claimed by others years later.

It is suggested that the carcinogenic nature of one of the two main types of asbestos was sensationally revealed in a TV documentary in 1981, but it was known long before this. A dear colleague of your bending author died before that as a result of asbestos exposure during his apprenticeship and tragically he knew his fate as soon as he received the diagnosis.

What damns the source, however, is the sensational marketing website, from which it derives. You have to delve a long way into the small print to find that it earns its income from commission paid by its panel of solicitors. It is apparently all right for a shysters’ agent to take a cut for his skills, but not a working scientist.

Doll has a great deal to answer for, not least betraying his mentor and taking epidemiology irreversibly down the road of junk science,  but this sort of attack by people who are also in it for the money does no service to the search for scientific truth.

Domestic notice

As one or two regulars have deduced, all has still not been entirely well chez bending author. That virus brought back from the September trip, and/or the subsequent medical treatment, seem to have wrecked the immune systems of the inhabitants of Numeric Towers, who at the moment can scarcely raise the energy to get through the day. Naturally, through the workings of Sod’s Law, the drastic computer failure occurred at the worst possible moment. So apologies are due to a large number of correspondents for the lack of a reply. In particular, anyone who has not received a book order is urged to communicate.

A further cause of distress is the tsunami of spam that is currently arriving. Not only are there all the inane messages, but there are also dozens of  non-delivery notices that suggest that the Number Watch address is being spoofed on a large scale. It is depressing that  there must still be a sufficient reservoir of gullible idiots to make this sort of abuse worthwhile.

More of the Brown stuff

Another notable who has featured frequently in the pages is the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.  It is startling to think that it is already three years since our resident poet was inspired to compose an ode in his honour. Last week he gave his pre-budget report. Before his time there were just budgets. Now we have a report that turns out to be an opportunity to raise taxes (known by the euphemism of showing his Green credentials).

Now that he has been doing it for a decade his speeches are beginning to turn into self parody. If ever there was an overlord of number abuse, he is it. Almost every self-glorifying statement he makes is demonstrably the reverse of the truth. Just some of them were picked up by Edward Heathcoat Amory in the Daily Mail. You have to admire the chutzpah! He had the most benevolent inheritance of any chancellor of modern times, yet he will bequeath to his successors for many years to come a disaster of debt and decay, including his innovative off-the-balance-sheet higher purchase commitments known as the Private Finance Initiative.

Naturally he took advantage of the current Green hysteria campaign to increase oil taxes. Here is how they stood before his new heist:

It is a remarkable achievement by a Government that has endured for a decade that it is difficult to think of anything it has done right, any promise it has actually fulfilled. Instead we have the culture of what Simon Heffer calls passing the buck. They suddenly renounce policies that they have relentlessly pursued as though they were the idea of someone else. Tony Blair, having foisted on the electorate a policy of multiculturalism, that they were never given an opportunity to vote on, now seeks to disown it. Blair’s speech translates as “Oops! Through sheer failure to think things through I have done further serious damage to the culture of the country I was appointed to lead. But never mind, eh!”

And if you want a current grotesque example of Government incompetence in the face of the evil intransigence of the European Commission, look no further than the Booker Column. It could only happen in Soviet Britain. Can you imagine it happening in France?



Your bending author has been shaken out of a torpor of self-pity by an inundation of e-mails from regulars and even a blog nudge.  It has not been a good time to be silent, with Blair’s closing down sale of Britain reaching a peak and the EU’s economic suicide pact peaking with REACH. The painful subject of the messages was an emission from the University of Southampton. It is now over a quarter of a century since the proud moment of entering that fine institution as a new professor. How things have changed under the tender mercies of New Labour! It was perhaps pusillanimous to keep a discreet silence over the story of the private jet and the climate conference (It’s a bit like having to admit that your mother has taken to working on the streets) but it is more difficult to ignore comment from a substantial proportion of the more determined number watchers, who can now spot a statistical scam at first sight.

The BBC headline High IQ link to being vegetarian whiffs of classical junk epidemiology and so it transpires. First we have the Trojan Number of 8,179, which (as they do) rapidly dwindles to 366 who said they were vegetarian, though over one hundred of these did not seem to know whether they were vegetarian or not; so perhaps we have 260. These were then divided by sex into groups of say 130. The claim then rests on the ability to measure IQ (whatever that is!) to closer than five points and then ascribe a meaning to a random correlation with such small numbers of people. All based on anecdotal evidence, to boot.

We have done IQ before (e.g. here). This sort of research has become a genre. There is always a target, favoured by some propaganda group or other: last time it was lead, while this time it is that other pet hate, red meat. The numbers, of course, are rubbish. The variations are of the same magnitude as the day-to-day variations of scores in reasoning tests for one individual, as readers of Eysenck confirmed for themselves. The time is out of joint. It is now acceptable for activists to pose as university research scientists and use taxpayers’ money to generate spurious numbers, which they pass onto their more publicity orientated contacts. They can always rely on the BMJ and the BBC to keep the pot boiling.

What you have to ask yourself is “Why did they ask this particular question?” Why not ask whether the participants wore red bed socks or bit their finger nails? Perhaps they did, and it is all part of a data dredge, so the number 8,179 could well eventually turn up as frequently as those Harvard nurses.

Note that the word link appears five times in the BBC page. Those who have read Sorry, wrong number! might remember this section:

Weasel words

According to Chambers Dictionary a weasel word is one that makes a statement vague or misleading. In the media reporting of epidemiological scares they are the words that try to make something out of nothing but in doing so give the game away. One group to look for is those that reveal the MMC disease (may, might, could). These short words, which have occasionally been emphasised in what comes later, are redolent with meaning. They say to us “These results are pretty tacky. In fact they are downright insignificant. But we are publishing them anyway for a bit of a cheap thrill.” There are longer phrases that serve the same purpose – is linked to, is tied to etc. Then there is the absent provenance – researches reveal, recommended maximum intake, experts agree, can be attributed to etc. One sentence that we shall see repeated over and over again is More research is needed. Basically it means “these results are pretty inconclusive”. From the researcher it means “Please keep giving us more of the taxpayers’ money” while from the monitors it means “We haven’t the courage to call a spade a spade.”

There are many other forms in the various manifestations of junk science, but these are the main ones in epidemiology.

The vegetarians are a particularly nasty subsection of the authoritarian tendency. If you will permit the indulgence of a further quote from that book:

When it comes to lying with numbers the pasty-faced brigade are among the extremists. In 1997 The Vegetarian Society was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority for a series of advertisements showing people with horrifying scars and the slogan “It’s much easier to cut out meat“. They went on to suggest that meat eaters were 40% more likely to develop cancer; a claim, of course, totally without scientific foundation.

So it was appropriate that the coda of the BBC piece was provided by this very society.

Footnote: It is ironic that your bending author created the public relations department that probably issued the press release on which this is all based.


When constabulary duty’s to be done

We're public guardians bold yet wary
And of ourselves we take good care
To risk our precious lives we're chary
When danger threatens we're not there
But when we see a helpless woman
Or little boys who do no harm…
We run them in, we run them in
We run them in, we run them in
To show them we're the beaux gendarmes.

The Beaux Gendarmes
By Jacques Offenbach

Young people do not believe it when you tell them that American visitors used to say “I think your policemen are wonderful.” Well they did. Meanwhile in Blair’s Britain :

'Model pupil' ends up with criminal record for a push in the playground

This letter from the Telegraph seems to sum up the situation succinctly:

Sir – Putting a 14-year-old boy on the Criminal Records Bureau database, for pushing over another (report, December 18) might seem just mind-blowingly stupid, but in reality is a manifestation of something far more sinister.

Such intrusions of the state into the minutiae of our lives is really about making us compliant and subservient, unable to think for ourselves or mount an effective protest against state control.

Bombarded with a barrage of politically correct rules and regulations, without our noticing it we become more and more compliant. Traffic control is ideal in this regard, as it affects us all, every day, from speed bumps to speed cameras. It is also amazing how CCTV has become ubiquitous without protest.

Inculcating acceptance of small controls makes it far easier to introduce the really big and oppressive controls such as biometric ID cards, which ultimately will be used to control every aspect of our lives.

Rodney Howlett, Amersham, Bucks


Correspondence received (re Richard Doll) above

What damns the source, however, is the sensational marketing website, from which it derives. You have to delve a long way into the small print to find that it earns its income from commission paid by its panel of solicitors. It is apparently all right for a shysters’ agent to take a cut for his skills, but not a working scientist.

We were indeed among the first to report Richard Doll's secret financial links to the chemical industry in an article commissioned by us from the editor of Hazards Magazine ( ).

Rory O'Neill of Hazards has been interested in Sir Richard Doll since the magazine was founded and with some input from me our team put together the story. We did not launch an ad hominem attack on Doll but disclosed the financial links and reiterated why we believe the Doll/Peto study in 1981 and by Doll alone into vinyl chloride in 1988 was badly -- even perversely -- drawn. The story was valid in terms of news and picked up by many UK newspapers. It is now starting to find its legs in the US. Our view specifically is that the way Doll Peto (1981) was drawn undeplayed the risk of workplace cancer. The reasons for this are discussed in the piece (had you bothered to look). With regard to the 1988 report, again we believe the parameters drawn for the study downplayed the risk, and there were major failings in the way the study was administered: specifically the studies Doll reviewed were entirely nominated by the Chemical Manufacturers' Association and the peer review of the paper was paid for by ICI. Further the peer-review scientists were not independent academics working in the field, but employed by vinyl chloride manufacturers (Dow and ICI respectively).

Your allegation that you have to delve a long way into the small print.. etc regarding injurywatch is not supported by the facts in that the way we work is clearly detailed on our "about us" pages. We obtained the appropriate paperwork from the appropriate archives and published it, along with a lengthy article setting Sir Richard's work in context. Furthermore reporting this story was not driven by our injury-victim support team but by Watch Media which earned its living by producing television long before injurywatch was thought of. That our contact details are published on every page and that you failed to call or email us to discuss your proposed blog item says more about your standards of journalism and accuracy than it does of ours.

Doll Peto has shaped the way we have dealt with the cancer for the last 35 years. It effectively transferred responsibility from environmental pollution to the individual as a lifestyle choice -- who smoked or ate a fatty diet and thus was pounced on as a method for governments or employers to abrogate any responsibility around the world. Doll used his mighty reputation to rubbish others who sought to contradict his views. The floodgates now seem to be opening for revisiting his work, particularly on the 1981 study in  the USA.

Have a happy Christmas John.
Conrad Murray


Kami-kaze - the god of wind

Oh I see said the Earl but my own idear is that these things are as piffle before the wind.
The Young Visiters
Daisy Ashford

Nature seems to like her little ironies, like the cold weather that pursues Big Al round the world as he promotes his global warming scare. So she provided a stationary high, of the sort mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this page, at the very moment that the new gigantic monstrosity on the Thames Estuary was announced. If all those white elephants were in position now they would be providing no power at all, just when the country is immersed in freezing fog and needing it. This letter in the Telegraph almost says it all:

Sir – Once again the public are being misled by the wind industry. These windfarms, which are going to cover over 100 square miles of the approaches to the Thames Estuary, will never power one third of London homes.

If as suggested the installed capacity of the 400-plus turbines is 1.3 Gw (1300Mw) then even with a generous load factor of 30 per cent the average output will only be 390Mw. This would in fact be enough to provide 5Kw to 78,000 homes, about enough to power an electric kettle and a toaster. If, as there frequently is, a high pressure system is sitting over south-east England , then there will be zero output from these windfarms. The claims about carbon dioxide savings are equally dishonest. Using widely accepted data the annual, theoretical savings of CO2 for these turbines would be approximately 1.46 Mt and would reduce global levels by a farcical 0.005 per cent

What your readers really need to know is that these windfarms will receive approximately £160 million per year in subsidies, paid for by them. This windfarm scandal has gone on long enough and needs to be exposed for what is. We are destroying our landscapes and now our seascapes for nothing more than green tokenism, and are being expected to pay for it as well.

Bob Graham, Chairman, Highlands Against Windfarms, Orton, Moray

Unfortunately it rather understates the case. Time averages are of no significance in this application. The point is that for about 80% of the time these machines would produce no power at all. Fossil fuel generators would have to provide the missing power and then be switched to warm standby while the wind is blowing. Even if CO2 were a significant factor in global warming, the fraction saved would be derisory.

It was a particularly irksome time to read this nonsense, as the announcement of the latest hike in electricity bills came through the letter box on the same day. Ordinary punters have no idea how much they are paying for these religious observances and they cannot see the connection with the front page headline on the same day.

Pity the poor grid controller when the wind drops suddenly: by the time his call for extra fossil power has been answered, the cascade of failures across the network will already have begun to propagate.

At such a time we desperately need an effective opposition. What have we got? Stuntman Dave! The time is out of joint!


Visit beautiful Britain

It will soon be gone!

The principle of sacrifice is one of the traditional ways in which religion binds people to the faith. The godless religion is as demanding as it is ugly. It demands that the beauty of the landscape, a precious inheritance that each generation holds in trust for the next, be destroyed in the name of its myths. The more those myths are exposed as falsehoods the more exigent its demands become. The priesthood simply brush off the failures of their prophecies, like those zealots who gather for their predicted end of the world and then slope off muttering “back to the drawing board” when it fails to materialise. The heads of religious broadcasting at the BBC are particularly adept at this. After the humiliation of Springwatch was brushed aside, they have now had another with their wind-powered television broadcast that wasn’t. Any rational group of human beings would have foreseen that odds of six to one against were not a very good basis for a demonstration; but, as always with the faithful, rationality comes a poor second to belief.

Another common facet of religious practice is keeping the common herd in a state of ignorance. Just as the Christian establishment once opposed publication of the Bible in the vernacular so the modern trahison des clercs conspires to keep from ordinary people the atrocities that are being committed by their representatives. Not one in a thousand Britons has any idea of the scale of devastation that is planned for their country in the name of religion. They have not seen the map of Scotland as it is planned to be or pictures of the senseless ruination of just one site in Wales. They are not allowed to know that these repulsive structures do not even deliver the piddling amount of energy claimed for them, nor that they actually threaten the security of supply just when it is most needed, at times of danger to human life. They have no idea how much it is all costing them in extra taxes and price hikes. Instead they are fed guff that induces them to believe the absurd proposition that they are involved in "saving the planet", the participation mystique.

The time is out of joint!


The sixth annual Numby Awards



As the usual merry hordes converged on the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab in London’s  Premier Cultural Mecca of the Balls Pond Road they were somewhat taken aback by the absence of the customary colourful ostentation. This was, after all, the sixth annual Numby awards, one of the society events of the year.

The organisers of this year’s ceremony, however, had decided that it should conform to the spirit of the times, by taking into account the imminent threat of catastrophic global warming. Half the electric light bulbs (15 watt of course) had been removed from their sockets. Elderly pensioners had been recruited to train the younger generation in war-time frugality for the creation of seasonal decorations. They were shown how to make paper chains from dyed strips of the Guardian. The result was quite astounding. As you entered the hall you seemed to be surrounded by thousands of little photographs of Polly Toynbee and George Monbiot in red, white and blue. Inspiration in the gloom!

Once again the Chairman of the Judges was that paragon of urbanity, Sir Hugh Jerrors, Professor of Modelling Those Little Fluffy Bits Round The Edges Of Clouds at the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop. There was a murmur of disapproval as he took out an electric torch in order to read his notes, but this turned to rapturous applause when he announced that it had been charged from his own personal wind generator. After all, he might just have saved the planet.

He was outdone, however, by the evening’s special guest, Sir Hamish McTwaddle, who had arranged for the light on his lectern to be powered by two small boys on an adapted tandem. Before anyone could question the procedure, he was able to announce that not only had they been previously fed on five portions of organic vegetables, but they were breathing into tubes that conducted their exhalations to a specially constructed absorption vessel. This would be taken immediately after the ceremony by a special motor cycle courier to Middle Wallop Airfield, whence it would be transported by helicopter to the North Atlantic Deep, where it would be buried for time immemorial.

Naturally the audience were ecstatic. You do not often save the planet twice in one evening.

After that coup the awards themselves could have descended into bathos, but as in previous years sheer quality came through. This year’s main theme was Creativity in a time of Austerity.

The award for Coefficient of Restitution went to the BBC, but it had to be admitted that the rest of the media were not far behind in this respect. Their much heralded Springwatch turned out to be a bit of a damp squib by June. After they had been obliged to admit that the first third of the year had been 1.5 C below average and the results were not as anticipated, they were back on song by the end of the year, announcing a year for the record books: based, of course, on the urban heat island of Central England . Then came the switch to another version of the exploitation of the extreme value fallacy in the form of Autumnwatch, yet another romance of phenology.

The award for Creativity (sub-section self-expanding numbers) goes to a former Numby laureate, Professor Graham MacGregor. In under two years since the Fourth Numby Awards, his claim for theoretical corpses due to salt consumption had increased from 5,800 to 15,000 by March. This is believed to be an even greater rate of numerical auto-acceleration than that achieved by the anti-tobacco industry. Experts forecast that before the end of the present parliament consumption of salt in public areas (i.e. private business premises) will be banned.

The award for Creativity (subsection units) goes to the inventor of the eponymous Coppock, which was based on a wholly original method of analysing noisy waveforms. Perhaps the Numby will be a partial recompense for being ignored by the Nobel committee.

The award for Creativity (subsection free energy) goes to Steorn. Unfortunately our enthusiastic embracing of this breakthrough has so far surprisingly ended in disappointment, as results of the exhaustive tests are still awaited. However, we all look forward to finding out how the payoff actually works.

On a less creative basis, a new award for Criminal of the Year has been instituted. It goes to an individual who, masquerading under the name of Tyler, has been terrorising innocent policemen in London with the aid of a metal pole. The man is clearly a recidivist. There is a need for urgent legislation against pole-abuse. If this sort of thing is allowed to go on, where will it stop? Open trafficking in salt?

The award for Campaign of the Year goes to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, with its banning of the wearing of neckties by medical staff. Being responsible for one of the worst regions for hospital borne infections, they have cast aside the usual glib explanations based on unwashed hands, dirt in corners, body fluids on floors and filthy lavatories, to home in on this unwholesome article of attire. It is, naturally, only an accidental benefit that this article is also a symbol of maleness and class. Just imagine how often patients come into contact with the ties of their doctors. Such progress could never have been made in the bad old days, when physicians and surgeons gave orders to clerks, instead of the other way round as it is in these progressive times.

The award for Services to Academic Standards goes to Mr Justice Eady. His decision in favour of DOCTOR Paul McKenna throws a spanner in the works of any media campaign to undermine the standing of certain well-known universities. Everybody knows that the free market brings improvement to anything, including degrees. Thanks to eagle-eyed Eady these noble institutions can carry on their work of bringing educational achievement to the wealthy deprived.

The award for Consistency in the face of overwhelming odds goes to Mr Joe Borg, an EU Commissioner, although it might seem a case of lese-majesty to award such a mighty figure. Foolish objectors have been pretending to be upset at the method of preventing the extinction of cod in former British fishing areas. This is based on forcing fishermen to throw overboard, dead, any cod they catch in error, tons of them. There is nothing wrong with this policy – it is just as rational as EU policy in other areas – but perverse critics pretend not to understand it. Noble leaders such as Mr Borg, however, allow the EU to plough on regardless.

The award for Party Pooper of the year goes to An Inconvenient Ruth, who has made several salient interventions, even undermining the sacred consensus.

The final award was a special one – Tony Blair, man of a decade, with a special eulogy from Sir Hamish, but more of that later.

 As the audience groped their way towards the exits, there was the usual excited chatter, much of it about the pre-eminence of Britain in so many fields of endeavour. 


Here is a condensed version of the eulogy that completed this year's Numby Awards

Man of a decade

It does not fall to many leaders to revolutionise both the constitution and the culture of their country. After William the Conqueror and Oliver Cromwell comes Tony Blair. Like those other great leaders, he has distinguished himself by his contributions to military theory, extending Hitler’s vision of blitzkrieg to lightly armed and fast moving troops and finally to the point where men and vehicles have no armour at all. Yet every soldier is secure in the knowledge that behind him is a small army of civil servants ensuring that he does not waste any money on expensive bullets and such. Thus Tony is able to attack more and more enemies with fewer and fewer soldiers.

So clear has been his political vision that he has developed new ways of governing that have not been seen before. Previous leaders have given priority to ensuring that their nation is self sufficient in energy and food. Only Tony has seen that we can rely for energy on our staunch friends, the Arabs, and that kindly Mr Putin, so we do not have to think about controversial things such as nuclear power stations and can go on covering the countryside with windmills that only work 20% of the time, yet are such a wonderful and ever present monument to our new age of enlightenment. For food we can rely on an even wider circle of friends, such as our historic allies the good old French farmers.

He has eliminated much of the annoyance of parliamentary democracy by delegating the most important decisions to unelected European Commissioners and dealing with the rest from his famous sofa. The MPs are kept quiet with ever more generous payments from the public purse. By sheer hypnotic power, he has lulled the electorate into such a state of trance that it accepts, and regards as normal, levels of taxation that would have induced riots in times past.

He has swept aside the fuddy-duddy old culture, with its boring old writers, composers etc, and replaced it with the completely new celebrity culture that every one can join in. While all those windmills will be his lasting concrete monument (Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!) his cultural monument will be the reality TV show.

He was ever the man of action. While others fretted about the West Lothian Question, he simply ignored it and drew up a new constitution that involved just one country of the four being denied its own parliament and being forced to subsidise the others, while they were given votes on its affairs. Only Tony realised that the English had become too effete to raise a protest. Likewise, while others wavered about the future of the House of Lords, at a stroke he eliminated the hereditary peers, and hence the main opposition to his glorious vision, replacing them with the right sort and simultaneously overcoming the funding problems of his party. Without the hereditaries’ pathetic concerns about the rights of individuals, he was able to implement vital policies such as the smoking ban and the forthcoming bans on salt consumption and fat people in public places.

Of course, his great political war cry was “Education, education, education” and this is where he has wrought the greatest changes. He has, for example,  managed to close down most university departments of Physics, which were always nests of opposition to Good Green Science, while achieving world domination in Media Studies. In schools he has pressed on with the everybody passes principle, so that no one knows who is academically able, which is as it should be. At the same time he has achieved a rebalance of the sexes by feminising the education system. The alienation of many boys and the creation of gangs of feral youths is a small price to pay for the advance of women.

His greatest achievement, however, is to oblige the Conservative Party to abandon every principle it ever stood for and put up a pale imitation of himself as an alternative. That is true greatness!


A feeble challenge

Sceptics are offered a challenge in this piece (via Junk Science), but the only evidence offered by the challenger is computer models.

The law of computer models might appear to be a frivolous invention, but it was in fact based on forty years experience of examining models produced by undergraduate, masters and doctoral students, academics plus a few industrialists, in formal examinations in various universities, during the refereeing of papers submitted for publication and in consultancy work. In none of the hundreds of cases did a computer model ever produce an unexpected scientific breakthrough. In some cases of well founded models, carefully verified, they did allow various estimated to be refined, but they contributed little to scientific understanding.

Climate models rank very low in the scale of credibility. They are based on a whole range of phenomena, the interactions of which are poorly understood, and have so many adjustable parameters, particularly feedback factors, that they are, in effect, infinitely tunable to produce the results desired by the modellers.

Early on in the history of scientific computing, an instruction was issued by the Engineering Faculty of the University of London that no PhDs were to be awarded for theses based on modelling unsupported by experiment.

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
T S Eliot, Choruses from The Rock



Thoughts of including here a review of the state of the nation were expelled by the preamble to Jeff Randall’s piece entitled Tony Blair is going. . . and nine other reasons to be cheerful. 

For example, on a really dark day, peeping through time's keyhole into 2007, I might have spied yet another bout of hospital closures, the unravelling of our post office network, a deterioration in already poor literacy rates among many school-leavers, renewed attacks on entry standards at our best universities in the cause of "widening access", continued under-funding of the United Kingdom's heroic Armed Forces, a Middle East in flames, worsening domestic unemployment, soaring household debts, rising personal insolvencies, a sharp increase in home repossessions, lots of talk but no action to restore border controls, a growth in the number of aliens who live here but despise us, a deepening pensions crisis, billions frittered away on state-funded non-jobs, an acceleration in the corrosion of the union of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, higher and higher taxes, lower and lower productivity in public services, utility bills the size of telephone numbers, a spread in the virus of political correctness, a reluctance to chuck out foreign criminals (it might infringe their human rights), pusillanimity in dealing with yob culture, and an emasculation of our police force.

In other words, a country that's being systematically ruined by an ethically bankrupt Government, staffed largely by those whose appeal ranks a bad second to colonic irrigation.


The missing story

The Telegraph also had a number of stories relating to the release of documents under the thirty year rule. One of them covers the famous drought in that searing summer. Your bending author had a crack in the patch of clay that used to be the back lawn, the bottom of which could not be reached with an eight foot beanpole. Yet our incompetent governments have since done nothing about security of water supply, while the present one has made it much worse by building over south east England. A relatively mild drought this year was almost a disaster.

The absent story is a negative one. This was the year the British scaremongers stopped telling us about the forthcoming horrors of global cooling and the new ice age. Within a few years they were back with an equal and opposite scare.

All in all, the rest of the stories will be familiar, and not only to us oldies who remember those times – Britain bankrupt and indebted after several years of Labour government, losing control of its own destiny, yet with a government boasting emptily of its economic successes. The reality was that we were only two years away from the “winter of discontent” that saw off Labour Government for a couple of decades. The difference was that then we had an alternative government on offer. This time all we have to look forward to is more of the same from Stuntman Dave.



Philip Eden’s Weather Watch (30/12/06)
A year for the record books

IT WAS a year when unusual weather events frequently occupied the headlines, several records were broken, and people were convinced that climate really was changing.

January '06 was the wettest for almost 30 years in southern England , then on Feb 8 a severe thunderstorm accompanied by hail and violent squalls caused much damage across the Midlands and the South-east. Spring was wet in the north and west of Britain , but very dry in the south and east; June was mostly fine, apart from a 12-hour-long, steady downpour on the 29th which deposited between 2 and 3in of rain in a broad zone across southern, central and eastern England . That apart, it was a memorably long and sunny summer which culminated in record-breaking temperatures in early September with 35°C widely approached or exceeded.

October and November were both remarkably mild though often cloudy and damp, but the year ended with a dramatic burst of wintry weather with widespread snowfalls of 6in or more, and level depths approached 2ft in eastern Scotland .

You might not remember all those events. In fact you should not remember any of them as the year was 1906, not 2006.

The purpose of this exercise has been to illustrate that, weather-wise, there is nothing new under the sun. Any year will deliver a handful of records and a host of unusual events, and we should not be surprised when they turn up.

Footnote: Your bending author, having resolved to link to this article, could not find it anywhere on the Telegraph web site. Curious! It was reconstructed from a scan of the back page article, with some difficulty , as the printing was defective.

Number of the month – 2

The number is presented without comment (as it would be unseemly for your bending author to break out into a rage, even if it's only on the web) but this story tells you all you need to know about Blair’s Britain, its taxes and its place in Europe.

Number of the year – 1

There is only one Al Gore!

The title tells you a lot. Back in May 2001, we introduced the number of the month with a discussion of weasel science, thus:

In Toad of Toad Hall, A A Milne’s dramatic adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful Wind in the Willows, Badger ventures the opinion that one of the jurors is not a rabbit. “I’m a different kind of rabbit” pipes up the juror, who is in fact a weasel. The joke, not lost on the children, is that he has identified and damned himself by leaping to his own defence.

When people start off with Truth in the title, we have reason to be suspicious (as in the case of Pravda), but when it is preceded by an adjective it is a different kind of truth. If it really is the truth, the rational mind argues, why does he need to tell me before he even starts trying to persuade me? When people make statements such as “The science is settled.” We know it isn’t, otherwise there would be no need to say it. You don’t go round telling people “The sky is blue.”

What can you say; when a farrago of half-truths, non-sequiturs and sheer lies called An inconvenient truth gets a review in the normally sane Telegraph like this?

How appropriate that the star of the show should be pictured in front of a photograph of hurricane Katrina! How inconvenient is the truth that in the following year there has been little hurricane activity worth speaking of! It is typically callous that this tragic random event, which even the most committed of self-styled climate scientists would shrink from claiming as linked to 0.6 C of global warming, is exploited to the full.

This is demagoguery at its worst – blinkered, ruthless, cunning, opportunistic and scornful of science and its methods: but, and this is the tragedy of humankind, it works. Very few people are mentally equipped to see through the trickery, past the patter of the prestidigitator; even fewer than before, now that teaching of the subject of physics has been effectively abandoned in the Anglo-Saxon world. There is a strange quirk in the human psyche that makes it respond to prophets of doom, the augurs of austerity (for you but not for me), who urge you to taste the Puritan virtues of a miserable life.

On the other hand, you could read the Real Inconvenient Truth and then go out and play.



Note: The policy of Number Watch has now been amended and financial contributions are solicited to enable it to continue an independent existence.

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