Number of the Month

May  2009

About turn!

The Sunday Times has long been the UK ’s main promoter of extreme environmentalism, particularly in extolling evidence of global warming while practising ruthless censorship of any contrary indications. It promotes anything favourable to the religion with complete disregard for contradictions, but this time it has come up with a whopper.

One of the areas of dispute has been the influence of the Urban Heat Island effect. Critics point out that most of the measurements purporting to support the hypothesis of man made global warming are thereby contaminated (see, for example, Watts up with that) while defenders say the effect is small and anyway it has been allowed for.

Wipe the slate clean! The scaremongers at the Met Office (you know, those people who cannot tell us what the weather is going to be in a couple of days time) now say that, because of the threat of the UHI effect coupled with global warming, city dwellers are going to roast.

To summarise, we now know two things about the UHI effect:

(a)    It is too small to affect measurements that prove the existence of global warming

(b)   It is so large that city dwellers are going to die because of the proven effects of global warming

That’s what we call HYCAEI.


Words, words, words

“That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase”

The scaremongering industry and its media hangers-on are very imitative of each other. New scary phrases catch on and rapidly become clichés. One of the most recent examples is “worse than previously thought”. What gives the game away is that the objective is almost always one of the favoured targets of PC scaremongers (alcohol, tobacco, coffee, adiposity, carbon etc.) Googling the phrase produces 36,600 hits. Often it means that that new guesses of disposable parameters in infinitely tunable models give scarier results. Global warming is, of course, always to the fore.

Latest to climb on this particular bandwagon are the alcohol zealots, who have worked themselves up into a frenzy over recent months. Now alcohol related dementia is WTPT. The article in the Telegraph is an interesting example of the genre. The word “worrying” appears four times, just in case you fail to experience the correct reaction. On the other hand you might come to the conclusion that it is just another piece of junk epidemiology and pour yourself a soothing drink. If so many things are WTPT, how comes there was so much incompetence shortly before, compared with the new wisdom?

Only those of us who have memories that go back to BC (Before Censorship) recall that it was once widely accepted that tobacco halves the risk of dementia. The knowledge went through the normal progression of the politically incorrect, first a stage of being a “paradox” and then disappearing off the face of the earth. That’s the way stuff happens these days.


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Talking of paradox

One of the areas in which our definition of paradox is most pointedly apt is in the subject of obesity. A whole new band of zealots and an enormous associated industry have accumulated around the kernel of human adiposity. It has been observed over and over again that moderately obese people are more robust and live longer than thin people. It is one of those things that is rediscovered and then ignored with monotonous regularity. Here is a recent example.

The irreplaceable Sandy has reviewed the evidence frequently since 2006, but there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. As the man once said, we have a tendency to medicalise behaviour of which we do not approve. Fat is unaesthetic and therefore it must be deadly. As with the observation that the earth is obstinately cooling, inconvenient data are simply ignored.

Followers of the popular media are not allowed to know that the obesity paradox even exists. They must be drilled into PC conformity. That’s the way stuff happens nowadays.


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Banners aloft

It is reported that police are abandoning imposition of the hunting ban. We sought an interview with Lord Delpus, the Junior Minister for Bans. Here are his views.

This is a very serious development. Bans are the very essence of a socialist society, which is what we in The West are trying to build. Now that the USA and Australia are at one with our quest, a setback like this is the last thing we need.

It is important, however, not to be discouraged by one adverse development. Remember that only a few years ago inappropriate behaviour was regarded as the norm. People were overfilling rubbish bins with unsorted material, smoking in public, producing carbon dioxide with no evidence of guilt and engaging in many other antisocial activities. It must be said that the police on the whole have been very supportive in many of these aspects and particularly in reining in the excesses of motorists in driving and parking their cars. Some people seem to think that life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure when, as we know, its main aim is the construction of an ordered society. I am also gratified to note that the police are now helping to enforce appropriate dress codes, with the help of those invaluable allies, the informers.

Consider the outstanding success of the smoking ban. People now accept that lighting up in public is a far more serious crime than, say, burglary and the legal punishments reflect that belief. It has also led to an acceleration of the demise of the British pub. Six of these evil institutions are now closing every day. In rural areas the rate of decline is even more marked. Pubs have long been centres of dissent and inappropriate discussion. It is a healthy change that more of their former customers are now in their own homes watching BBC TV, where they are kept safe from thoughtcrime.

There is much more work to do before the imposition of a complete alcohol ban, but as an intermediate measure we are upping taxation, so that it is only affordable by responsible persons, such as politicians and doctors, who can be trusted not to abuse it.

Furthermore, we are not entirely dependent on police support. There is now an army of agents employed by local authorities. Ignorant opponents call them snoopers and a burden on the taxpayer, but they are the key to an orderly society. The consequent increase in local taxes limits the capacity of citizens to indulge in frivolous expenditure, which all adds to the healthy control of society.

We have much to be proud of in Britain . We have more CCTV cameras per head of the population than any other country in the world. The whole political class is now at one on the establishment of a conforming, multicultural society where equality is mandatory (except of course for politicians, who have extra expenses to cope with). So, despite this little set back, my message is a positive one for all those who value order on our streets and in our homes.


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Meanwhile, back at the trough

A reader has remarked on the silence from Number Watch about the UK story of the moment – the sordid goings on about MPs and their expenses. Well we have been going on about the moral state of our rulers for many years (see, for example, Snouts in the trough three years ago). There does not seem much point in replicating the feeding frenzy in the establishment media. During the Blair reign, the media were complicit by their relative silence about a regime that was rotten from the top. Blair has moved on, now a remarkably rich man of property, leaving us with his legacy.

The hapless Major Government limped on, its reputation sullied by a few bad eggs and an economic disaster caused by a profoundly misjudged pro-EU policy on exchange rates, but it did leave behind the healthiest budgetary inheritance in recent times. That Gordon Brown could convert that into the biggest deficit ever (by a long, long way) in one short decade is one of the most remarkable turnarounds in history. Compared with this lot the House was then well-run and apparently honest. A key difference is the current Speaker, a Blair placement, who has been worse than anyone could possibly imagine, a quite despicable creature, whose role in all this has been gross.

It is also perhaps worth remembering that the present corruptible system came into being   in 1971, when the Heath Government sneaked it through as a covert substitute for a pay rise during an inflation crisis. Most blame, however, must fall on the media, who turned a blind eye to the manipulation and rejoiced in the phoney economic expansion based on inexorably rising debt. As for the opposition, what can you say about a bunch of chancers whose policy blows with the wind? Poor old Britain ! It used to be a justifiably proud nation.

Footnote: apologies for originally ascribing the system to the Thatcher Government. The latter did, however, implement a covert pay rise by expanding the system in a non-rigorous manner.


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Another collector’s item

Here is a fine example of  environmentalcorrespondentship.

Consider this sentence in the introductory paragraph:

Intensive farming techniques, pollution and climate change had threatened to wipe out both species across much of England .

And then this in the meat of the piece:

Meanwhile The Environment Agency have invested £1 million in exterminating mink and other invasive species and improving wetland habitat for water voles. As a result numbers are back up to 500,000. The voles have also been re-introduced to areas where they were formally extinct, with 100 recently released into the River Axe.

The rare discerning reader might ask “if the three items first named are the causes, why bother with the extermination of mink?”

Here is a paragraph from Sorry, wrong number! 2000:

Animal rights  campaigners were responsible for more deaths than all the hunters put together. They released captive mink , which have infested large stretches of our riverbanks, killing millions of creatures and causing the extinction of species in many areas, including the one in which I live. I used to spend hours watching water voles  at work and play. Why is it these people direct their affections towards ruthless and indiscriminate killers, such as foxes, mink and swans? Alas, my beloved voles are no more. The vandalisers of GM  crops are causing farmers to carry on using excessive amounts of pesticides and nitrogen, which they claim to oppose.

It is, of course, mandatory to cover up that the near extinction of native species was caused by self-styled animal lovers. The inclusion of the target list of environmentalists in the introductory paragraph is now obligatory, much like “Once upon a time” in more traditional fairy stories. Do people no longer think about what they read (rhetorical question, no answers please)?


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There are certain words and phrases that are flags, indicating that you are about to be regaled by nonsense. They include The Planet, model, according to scientists and the perennial might, may and could.

Perhaps it is unkind to rain on a chap’s obituary, but this introduction to one for the winner of a Nobel-type prize in economics is rather unfortunately timed:

Professor Sir Clive Granger, who died on May 27 aged 74, was a Nobel prize-winning economist whose work on analysing economic data was credited with improving the forecasting performance of the Treasury and the Bank of England.

Economics, the so-called dismal science, is beset by the delusion that human traits can be formulated mathematically. The recent financial fiasco had its origins in human greed, political incompetence and mass hysteria, none of which is amenable to mathematical modelling. It was therefore not foreseen.

Sport is another area dominated by human characteristics that ambitious statisticians love to get involved with. An example is the Fink Tank, a regular feature in The Times. On May 30th (print edition) it included the estimate that the probability of a Chelsea victory over Everton in the Cup Final was 53.2%, with a draw at 26.2%. Most followers of the game would probably accept such a bet, at slightly better than evens, while the neutrals would be plugging for the underdogs. As it happens, Chelsea won, but what does it tell us about the value of the forecast? Precisely nothing! What is fatuous, however, is the precision with which the probability is quoted. Anyone who claims a precision of three significant figures from relatively sparse numbers from a non-stationary process put into a computer model is either pulling the wool over your eyes or simply deluded. These numbers are virtually untestable. You might set up another elaborate computer model to evaluate a number of outcomes, but perhaps a more realistic test would be to challenge the authors to make themselves rich in the betting shops.

Then there are the forecasts of non-human origin. The Burghers of Bournemouth are upset with the Met Office after losing an estimated one million pounds, following a forecast of thundery showers for a day that was actually the clearest and warmest of the year so far. There is no shame in being unable to forecast British weather; the shame is in pretending to be able to. The Met Office, who are yet again boasting of bigger and better computers to make their forecasts even more accurate, are a bit of a joke in these parts, especially when they essay into long term forecasting. As we noted last month, they have forecast hot summers for two years in succession with the result of complete failure. They have done the same this year. They have no scientific basis of doing so and are simply falling back on their religion. When, by chance, they eventually get it right, we will be invited to forget the lapses and become believers.

Global warming brings out the best in hyperbolic zealots, which brings us to the number of the month.

Number of the month – 300,000

One of the techniques favoured by the zealots in their campaigns to enslave humanity is the self inflating number. The prime example was the putative number of deaths from passive smoking, which gradually increased by an order of magnitude in the build up to the draconian smoking ban in the UK .  They still have not named one victim. Now, by methods that are so tawdry that they are not worth wasting brain cells over, the global warmers have come up with this ludicrous estimate for deaths caused by climate change. The media, of course, went along with it: bad news sells newspapers and television advertising.


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