Number of the Month

November 2012

Give us this day our daily junk

Here are some of the headlines on the now institutional junk page of the Daily Telegraph of November seventh, with suggested alternatives:

Dementia time bomb warning as deaths rise

            As new drugs and therapies extend lives, proportion of dementia increases.

Live longer by walking 150 minutes a week

            Healthy people walk more.

Cancer now kills more than heart disease

            As new drugs and therapies extend lives, proportion of cancer increases.

Why a child who enjoys milk will live to a healthy old age

            Anecdotal evidence plus precision speed measurement say childhood milk makes oldies 5% faster.

Two of these examples result from the independence fallacy, which is now firmly established as a prime source of headlines in the establishment media. For those who are unfamiliar with this fallacy, here is a section from Sorry wrong number! (2000)

The independence fallacy

In our discussion of fallacies the point was made that the probabilities of cause of death are not independent. Because we all die of something, they are constrained to add up to 100%. This is a point so important that it is worth re-emphasising.

Let us make an imaginary experiment. Someone invents a pill that is a miracle cure for Alzheimer's disease, call it Placebene.

Now, take some round figures for probabilities of causes of death

Alzheimer's                                          10%

Heart Disease                                      30%

Cancer                                                 20%

All Others                                           40%

After the invention of Placebene the table for its adherents will change to

Alzheimer's                                          0%

Heart Disease                                      33.3%

Cancer                                                22.2%

All Others                                           44.4%

It does not take much imagination to come up with the ensuing headlines:

Harvard  study shows that Placebene causes 11% rise in heart disease and cancer.

 EPA   calls for a world-wide ban on Placebene.

President declares Placebene to be the number one health problem


This is not a trivial point. Much of the bureaucratic interference in our lives has been justified by the putative increase in cancer rates. The main reason that they are increasing is that we are not dying of the other diseases that have afflicted man throughout his existence. Let's face it, the human body was not designed to work for more than about 75 years. Evolution does not require it. Modern scientific medicine has created a situation in which we are not prey to all the infectious diseases of the past. Our life expectancy is such that we are now likely to die of one of the diseases of old age (cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s) which were once comparatively rare.

The prevalence of the independence fallacy means that every major improvement in public health can be presented as a disaster. The more lives we save from various diseases, the more we increase deaths from cancer and heart failure. Almost all people actually die of heart failure anyway, whatever the primary cause. When we have cured all diseases, including cancer, heart failure will be the only thing left to put on the death certificates. Even if the primary cause of death is a disease such as Alzheimer’s, the chances are that it will be recorded as heart failure.

In fact, heart failure appears on death certificates far more often than is justified. In Britain it helps doctors to avoid the trauma of having to deal with the Coroner. The same constraints do no apply in some other countries; so we have a whole industry set up to explain why heart disease is more prevalent in Britain than in France, when the most likely explanation is the whim of the doctor signing the death certificate.


BBC – the stench of decay

Perhaps the most constant theme in these pages for more than a decade has been the decline and fall of one of the noblest of human enterprises, the BBC. There are 321 occurrences of the term BBC within Number Watch. Those of us who had travelled extensively round the world, particularly within the Soviet empire, could not but be impressed by the universal trust in which it was held. It had nurtured, educated and entertained us through our youth, but now, coinciding with its ninetieth anniversary, it is plunged into a many-headed hydra of crisis and its reputation is irreparably damaged.

The trigger for the current set of crises has been extraordinarily sordid revelations about one of its many overpaid “super-stars”, Jimmy Savile, which do not come within our purview. They do, however, illustrate one of the laws of modern society: any organisation with a large and unconditional income suffers from a growth of middle management, which, like an aggressive fungus in a tree, causes its host to cease to function viably.

Even without knowledge of the depths of depravity then being reached, the question many of us were asking at the time was “How could the BBC consider promoting such a repugnant persona?” Pig-ignorant and proud of it, inarticulate yet voluble, brazen, manipulative and egotistical, he was in the vanguard of the new counter-culture. It is, perhaps, understandable that commercial interests would seek to profit from exploiting the natural phenomenon of teenage rebellion, but the nature of the BBC and its funding mechanism were intended to obviate such pressures.

This was not the BBC that we then young parents knew and loved from our own childhood, though large parts of that still existed. This was an excrescence that threatened everything for which the corporation had stood. The theme song was “We don’t need no ejukashun”. Though the Savile scandal has become the cause célèbre du jour, it is just one manifestation of the canker at the heart of a once great organisation.

Also current (not that you would know it from the establishment media) is the disgraceful cover-up of the composition of a committee of alleged experts that was appointed to legitimise the deliberate flouting of the BBC charter by abandoning balance in its reporting of the global warming controversy. The lone enquirer who challenged this secrecy found himself faced with a posse of expensive lawyers. Remember that they were paid for by us, the British public, from a universal, substantial and compulsory levy, backed by the full power of the law. The way the tribunal operated, however, was more redolent of Stalin’s Soviet Union than traditional British justice. The tribunal judge was openly hostile to the complainant, while the two lay judges were both notoriously aggressive environmental extremists. Rigging or what?  How can such overtly corrupt proceedings occur in a nation that once prided itself on its inherent honesty? It is because there is now a corrupt establishment that is able to pack such enquiries with its own agents. The new Establishment looks after its own.

The profligacy with which the BBC dispenses funds wrested from the suffering populace to support its quasi-religious faith beggars belief. Consider for example the cost of sending a camera and sound crew round the world to gather material that could be distilled down to create an elaborate character assassination of one whom it recognised as one of its most lucid opponents.

One of the ills from which our society suffers is a surfeit of geneticists. They are a subset of scientists who have little knowledge of physical science and its mathematical framework, yet assume the right to comment on matters based on those factors. One is the President of the Royal Society, who connived with the BBC to entrap James Delingpole. Another is Steve Jones, who does not even understand Newton’s first law of motion, yet regularly lectures us on the whole of science in a newspaper column. It was the latter whom the BBC elected to give it carte blanche to carry on its merry way and propagate junk science exclusively. His report is recommended to students of misdirection. A three word message “carry on deceiving” is wrapped up in so much verbiage that is virtually invisible, save for those who wish to make use of it. No wonder that James Delingpole, speaking for many of us disenfranchised folk, expresses his distress at the perpetuation of “the BBC's ingrained corruption, dishonesty and bias”.  


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Our secret list isn’t secret any more.


 Which brings us to:

Solid self-censorship

It was one of the biggest media scandals ever, yet virtually none of the British people heard of it. The whole of the establishment media kept schtum. It was the revelation that the BBC’s vaunted secret committee of "experts" that granted it freedom unilaterally to rescind its charter was nothing more than a gathering of crazed global warming zealots. Even the newly green Daily Telegraph remained silent. As ever, we had to wait until Sunday and Christopher Booker’s column before the truth was out. Booker’s most telling sentence was his last – “Isn’t it odd how often, through all this, one word recurs: “trust”?”  That the BBC Truss should be so firm in its support of the deception, and the use of expensive lawyers at the public expense to maintain it, is a condemnation of the whole structure of this once great institution.

Thanks to the internet, mainly but not entirely from the US, a few of us knew what was going on, which made the ominous silence of the British media all the more oppressive.


and furthermore

In response to a comment received; yes, I would rather conduct the debate in the restrained language of scientific conferences, of which I had four decades of stimulating experience. This, however, does not work when only one side adheres to it. Consider this illustration of how the BBC operatives conduct the debate. In just half a dozen lines it includes an implication of mental derangement of an individual, a deliberate misreading of what he has written, a rewriting of history despite documentary and personal evidence and an outrageous claim that no evidence of faking has been offered. Just look, for example, at the last link at the piece linked here.


The unbalance sheet

Readers might like to note that SPPI have produced a nicely designed reprint of this recent essay at images/ stories/ papers/ reprint/ the_unbalance_sheet.pdf .

A degree of control

Interesting to note that, after the ritual rolling of heads at the BBC, the new boss is an Oxford graduate in PPE. If you wonder why your bending author has a preoccupation with this phenomenon, it all arose from a casual conversation over forty years ago with the occupant of a senior position in the City of London. Apropos of nothing I asked him what he studied at Oxford. He said “PPE. You know, the bluffers’ degree”. This stuck in my mind and I have always made a note of when that degree recurred in public life. Otherwise I might never have noticed that it defines a group who have taken command of the upper levels of our political parties, as well as many other parts of the establishment.


Support your local zealot

A couple have had their foster children removed by the local council purely on the grounds that they are members of UKIP. They remain anonymous for the sake of the children.

A correspondent, who also wishes to be anonymous in name and location, queried the basis of his local authority’s “alcohol strategy”. Among other things, he was informed that 19.5% of the “drinking population” of his county were classified as “increasing risk drinkers”, i.e. men who regularly drink 3-4 units a day or women who regularly drink 2-3 units a day. Remember that these limits were plucked out of the air by a committee dominated by zealots and have no evidential support. It is clear from the correspondence that the County Council have simply taken figures from a national zealot-driven survey and applied them to the population of the county.

Big Brother is watching you!


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 Brains rotting, but whose?

When “researchers” trot out new results that accord with zealot-driven propaganda, it is worth reflecting on whether they are consistent with informal observation. So, when the BBC produces a headline Smoking rots the brain the antennae of those who were around before the new authoritarian age tend to twitch. It was not just in detective fiction that tobacco was celebrated as an aid to cerebration (as in Holmes’ “three pipe problem” or the Simenon novel La pipe de Maigret): it was manifest in press photographs of notable thinkers.

Non pipe smokers were the exceptions among the great physicists and philosophers of the twentieth century. Modern society has decided that it can do without great physicists and philosophers. I have been told by senior consultants of two quite different medical specialties that, in their visits to old people’s homes, it was glaringly obvious that the smokers possessed greater mental acuity.

This is not to deny one of the few decisive results of epidemiology; that there is a strong association between inhaling cigarette smoke and lung cancer. Remember, however, that the discoverer of that relationship was written out of history because he would not lower his statistical standards at the behest of the propagandists.

We are not given any statistical details of this new study, apart from the Trojan number of 8,000, but it is clearly a data dredge aimed at the usual suspects, no doubt with the usual tacky standards of significance.


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Footnote: the full paper is available here. Best of luck!

Number of the month – 30

They started out the month as the BBC’s 28, a secret “expert” committee, which granted that institution the right to ignore its charter and promote an exclusively alarmist campaign in the matter of climate. Their identity was protected by a small army of expensive lawyers, paid for from a compulsory levy on all television viewers.

They finished the month as 30 known names of obscure but influential warmist fanatics, including powerful BBC managers. Most Britons have no idea of their identity, or even the fact that a major scandal has taken place; such is the solidity of the self-censorship of the establishment media.

Some commentators on foreign web sites were amused by the fact that the BBC’s Controller of Comedy was a member of this group. They are unaware that comedy is one of the most potent agencies for BBC propaganda. The long-lived News Quiz on Radio 4 began life as a shop window for some of the greatest wits of their age. It was sustained for years by the wonderful Alan Coren. Since his lamentably early death it has limped on as the repository of causes that used to be known as left wing. The current BBC radio satire slot is The Now Show, parading a lot of considerable talent, but frequently punctuated by monologues from Marcus Brigstoke, in which evil doers such as “climate deniers” are pilloried mirthlessly, but to the evident delight of an audience of believers.

Despite the requirements for balance in its royal charter, the BBC publicly  embraces left-of-centre thinking in its entertainment and news programmes. Its achievements in shifting the centre of mass of popular opinion have been notable.


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