Number of the Month

October 2012


October, the season for political doldrums. The US has withdrawn into its traditional international purdah, while trying to choose between a (not very) covert Marxist and a confused conservative suffering from chronic foot in mouth disease. In the UK it is the time for party political conferences: now highly choreographed theatrical events with very little contact with reality, aimed at the media pack and lobbyists rather than the rapidly diminishing ordinary countrywide membership. Astonishingly, the speech by Labour leader Ed Milliband, was widely praised. It was a turgid, repetitive, platitudinous, sloganising, self-justifying harangue, with little relevance to the serious economic situation that ought to be the primary concern of the political class.

The one unusual aspect of the UK political scene has been a minor outbreak of apologising. Nick Clegg was vilified for expressing regret for a pledge on student financing, which he subsequently found himself obliged to break. In the circumstances it was a relatively minor indiscretion. At the time he was practising usual third party politics in the absence of hope of government. How was he to know that Stuntman Dave would contrive to lose an election that had been handed to him on a plate, thereby plunging the Lib-Dems into an unexpected position of responsibility? Furthermore, though we all knew that the Brown gang had spent all the money and borrowed more, nobody knew the sheer extent of this excess, which has paralysed any possible initiatives of good intent. Now that gang, without its erstwhile leader, is in control of the Opposition and free to propagate its fatuous fantasies.

The other, more dramatic, apology was by a Government Minister, for the fiasco over the awarding of the West Coast Main Line franchise. The Government is now trying to hide behind the excuse that it was a highly technical matter. It was nothing of the sort. As we remarked in the pages in August:

The FirstGroup submission for the franchise is a clear example of that modern disease “spread sheet fantasy” that is the reliable route to bankruptcy.

This was glaringly obvious from the numbers released about future projections, let alone the past record of the winning bidders. Incidentally, the Virgin bid is not immune from this censure. It was not even the first time that this mistake had been made. The Opposition is in no position to criticise, given its record on running the railways. The forecasting of absolute numbers will always be a form of necromancy. A far less risky mechanism would be for the Government to confiscate a fixed proportion of the gross profits; but its bureaucrats are addicted to absolute forecasts, however misleading.

It used to be the rule of political life that you never admitted mistakes or issued apologies (very old number watchers might remember The rime of the ancient minister). Whether contrition adds to the attractions of the political class is moot, but it makes a change.

The future is almost here

At last Ofgem has woken up to the inevitability of serious disruption of power supplies due to the insouciance of successive governments and the idiocy of the EU. Three years ago Number Watch prophesied this tragedy (Time: the future, followed by Rage). However did we allow our vital interests fall into the hand of such a bunch of ignorant, prejudiced buffoons?


Cover up

 The UK Government is in turmoil over consumer energy costs. The situation is not quite as bad as in Germany, where the unique constant threat of tsunamis, in the light of experience of Japan, has caused it to abandon its nuclear energy programme. As in most of the western world, however, the priority is to conceal the magnitude of the stealth taxes on energy bills used to pay for green energy scams. Consumers have to pay not only for the import of worse-than-useless wind turbines, but also for the costs of wrecking the national grid to accommodate those repugnant objects.

Both sides in Parliament like to play the same game of charades. They are equally guilty of the gross dereliction of duty that got us into this mess, but the party in government is left holding the jointly conceived baby and the opposition has mocking rights. It is the same in education, where much of the activity is directed to concealing the disaster to equal opportunity caused by the demolition of grammar schools. The ludicrous nature of the situation is personified in one individual, Les Ebdon, a grotesque in the comedy of errors that is modern politics. This twerp is now empowered to dictate to some of the world's acknowledged top universities with centuries of history just whom they are allowed to recruit.

Stuntman Dave has only himself to blame for the mess he is in. Instead of creating a sensible array of ministries on taking office, he adopted the incongruous ad hoc arrangements left by the New Labour administration. Thus Energy is handcuffed to climate change, while universities are subsumed in Industry (this created purely as a sop to Mandelson) instead Education, where they belong.


Link to the above piece

Reverse causality?

People with brain shrinkage may take less exercise.


New essay

Regular readers might remember that about a year ago Number Watch suffered a catastrophic computer failure, which also involved the local back-up memory. Much material was lost; including correspondence, contacts and work in progress. Fortuitously, a half completed essay from that time has now been retrieved.  It has been completed and added to the contents list under the title The unbalance sheet.

It is disappointing that the trail of links has proved to be perishable. With regard to links, it might be observed that your bending author is in the habit of including self-referencing links. This is not out of some sort of self-aggrandisement, but rather to demonstrate consistency, something notably absent in the establishment media. Perhaps this is why they erase past entries with such alacrity.



  The original draft of the above essay included an account of an experience of the author with a conspicuous error in certain text books. It was cut on the grounds of being a bit too esoteric for the general reader. On second thoughts, it might be of sufficient interest to enough readers to be worth mentioning, so it is included here in the form of a copy of a published letter. Warning: it does require a modicum of understanding of basic mathematical physics. It was once the cause of some concern to the author and colleagues for an hour or two, after receiving correspondence pointing out that one of our publications contained a formula that was at variance with some standard text books. It soon dawned, however, that it was those books that contained an error, which is in fact quite a fine illustrative example of a missing term in an energy balance producing a grossly misleading result.  

Number of the month – 7

 “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass — a idiot”.

 This is the number of Italian scientists sentenced to six years imprisonment for not being alarmists. It has been subject to extensive discussion in our forum, to which there is nothing to add.

The pronouncements of judges, when it comes to matters of science, are as worthless as those of politicians; but the Italian judiciary take the biscuit.

At the best of times courts of law are casinos in which the roulette wheels are tipped in favour of the establishment.

We all look forward to a riot of entertainment when (and if) that jolly old farceur, Michael Mann, has his day in court, but don’t bet on the outcome.



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