Number of the Month

May 2008

Debating points

As we were saying only last month, the motto du jour is get your rationalisation in first. The latest wheeze among the doomsayers is that hell fire is being postponed. Of course, it would have been more impressive if it had been published before the recent decade of measurements showing no warming at all. As it stands, it is nothing more than a testament to the infinite tunability of computer models. The warmers are getting more and more like those traditional predictors of the end of the world who, when the event fails to happen on the due date, announce an error in their calculations and a new date.

There is a new tendency that seems to afflict both believers and deniers alike, waiting for the next monthly data point and trying to make deductions and forecasts from it. A single new data point on a noisy graph tells you nothing about the development of trends (See the example of What happens next? in this presentation, slides  28-30). Fundamentals, such as the Uncertainty Principle and the estimation of trends ensure that a single point in time tells you nothing about the evolution of processes. Like the official definition of recession, you don’t know it has happened until after the event.

PhD training used to be about eliminating tendencies such as getting excited about a new data point and loading upon it all sorts of fantastical premonitions that it is unable to bear, but that was another age and besides the culture is dead. Furthermore, there is nothing more depressing for a referee than to find the introduction of a filter of mine own invention, as happened with the revival of the hockey stick by a pseudonymous author analysing data from a prominent Urban Heat Island. It is in the nature of the beast that at a certain stage in our development, scientists fall in love with the sheer romance of signal processing and rush to adopt the latest technique of linear algebra, including filtering, but it is a sign of maturity to stick to well known and fully understood procedures. In particular, a new procedure requires an enormous amount of analysis just to see what it actually does. More often that not (as for example in the introduction of the coppock) the only effect is to enhance the outcome desired by the author at the expense of perspicuity. 

One of the most absurd examples of chartmanship you are ever likely to see is the one supposed to indicate an uprising of the dreaded methane. Not only are the units of the ordinates parts per billion, but the suppression of the zero is as dramatic as you can find. What is to all intents and purposes a horizontal line is transformed into a portentous curve, but even then it is indicative of a saturating phenomenon rather than an evolutionary one. It transpires, however, that the whole “threat” depends on a wriggle of noise at the very end of the plot. It might well transpire eventually that the curve is rising, but this nonsense does not establish it  by a long chalk.

Alas poor science!

Footnote: an outbreak of realism in the Daily Mail

01/05/08

Criminals!

It’s the tyranny, stupid!

The UK Labour Party is reeling under the four hundred blows inflicted by the local elections. They cannot understand why they are so unpopular.

The Englishman has saved us the trouble of finding the links to stories in just one edition of the Telegraph. In each case petty officials, members of Gordon’s army of wage parasites who are dragging down the economy, have burdened ordinary citizens, guilty of no more than inadvertence, with a criminal record. As we remarked about a similar bunch of cases last month, all this has to be taken in the context of an increasingly violent and out-of-control society. Like the smoking ban it is the irrelevance that is so striking.

A number of regular correspondents have taken note of the appointment of “Our Boris” as Mayor of London. While it is no doubt a relief to be rid of Red Ken, it seems a waste of talent to put such a man in such a job. Nevertheless, since he has made his priority the elimination of the casual acceptance of the petty crime that fosters the more serious manifestations, the overall outcome might be beneficial.

In our village there is now a section of yellow line on the main road. It seems to have no purpose other than to provide a form of taxation income for the district council thirty miles away, but it has other effects. Against their will, locals are forced to go to out of town supermarkets that have free parking. The shops are gradually disappearing (the hardware shop went last month) and the bank has just gone part time. Businesses that were sources of employment are also vanishing, yet there is a stealth development plan to double the amount of housing, but not of facilities. Almost anyone you speak to has experienced some form of extortion or coercion by officialdom, but try to get a policeman in the event of a genuine crime.

We find ourselves obliged to live under a system of surveillance more rigorous than at any time or place since the fall of the Stasi, with more CCTV cameras per head of the population than anywhere else in the world. The local elections are largely an irrelevance, as elected representatives have little say (or even knowledge) of what is going on. EU officials talk to Whitehall officials who talk to local officials.

Meanwhile, more and more inoffensive citizens find themselves listed as registered criminals, while the real criminals go about their nefarious business with comparative impunity.  It is no joke finding yourself with a criminal record, as the headmaster who forgot to renew his fishing licence discovered. A feature of recent ubiquitous advertising has been the “we know where you live” threats about the BBC tax. The authorities boast of a database with 28 million addresses. Your bending author was once wont resolutely to defend the licence fee, but no more. In the old days it gave relatively cheap access to eminently trustworthy news, quality drama uninterrupted by advertisements, first class comedy and much edifying content. Now it is a continuum of banal prole circuses (unrelieved even by the occasional football match) punctuated by bouts of lefty-greeny propaganda posing as news, i.e. it is the central pillar of the new establishment. It is naked extortion, like Mafia insurance, pay up or you’re on the list – we know where you live. They cannot even bully with subtlety, but in an authoritarian society why bother? Three billion pounds of income per annum, greater than the GDP of, say, Nicaragua, yet they claim they cannot manage. Why? Officials! Like its host country, of which it is a microcosm, the BBC is sinking under the weight of overweening administration.

If the wealth creating part of any enterprise shrinks continuously, while the wealth dissipating part grows relentlessly, there can be only one eventual outcome. It is not, as the ghastly cliché says, rocket science. Meanwhile, the powers that be withdraw into a fantasy world of imagined crimes attracting draconian fines to fund their excesses, while the rank undergrowth of society flourishes. The habitually law abiding portion of the population finds itself increasingly criminalised, while the habitual criminals go about their business untrammelled.

It’s a mad world, my masters.

Link to this piece.

Booker pries

He’s a cad, a rotter, a bounder, a snitch, a grass, a fink; in short not a very nice person.

Christopher Booker has broken the solemn and unspoken covenant between activists and journalists that the temperature proxy racket should be protected by ratchet reporting. Where will it all end if journalists start doing research of their own, instead of faithfully reproducing the press releases of the faithful? What business has a mere journalist prying into corners of the internet that are not supposed to exist? The whole point of proxies is that they are relevant only for short periods. Eventually, the curse of the phenologists always catches up with them. The snows of Snowden are a case in point. They were news while they were shrinking, but when that goes into reverse, the rules of modern polite society require the quiet turning of a blind eye. What is the point of opportunistic peer-reviewed papers, like those about the Nenana Ice Classic, if obnoxious people are going to draw attention to unfortunate subsequent developments?

Just as the Victorians brushed under the carpet certain aspects of their society that were deemed publicly unacceptable, so we have nowadays a proper embargo on public acknowledgement of opinions and data that are offensive to the religion. Would you want your wife or your servant to read the likes of Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre?

The very basis of modern society depends on the observation of strict rules about what may be openly debated and the media have an excellent record of adherence to that principle. Do we really want the multibillion dollar climate change industry to perish like the South Sea Bubble, leaving thousands unemployed and Al Gore without a private jet? Think of all those environmental editors with wives, families and mortgages to support. How can we expect them to go out to find real work at their time of life, when they are highly trained at passing on pre-digested reports from kosher organisations? How are modern politicians and their parties supposed to operate if irresponsible authors are blowing gigantic holes through the middle of their policies? What will happen to the economy if there is no plausible excuse for continual tax increases? How can we keep the lower classes under control it they get access to energy, convenience and, worst of all, information?

This time Booker has gone too far and will no doubt be receiving an early morning knock at the door from the thought police.

Link to this piece

04/04/08

It was meant to be a joke, again

First that now this!

Link

Links to previous jokes

10/05/08

Conspiracy or what?

Traditionally there are two theories of history – conspiracy or cock-up. Conspiracy theories have rightly had a bad press. Whenever a celebrity (O brave new word!) experiences an untimely death the books come out in droves, but this does not rule out the possibility of a genuine problem.

Two years ago Number Watch drew attention to the phenomenon of Greenflation and its inevitable consequences. It is a remarkable tribute to the power of political and journalistic blinkering that the Governor of the Bank of England can now make a speech about the present, very real and very serious, problem of inflation, and the BBC can report it, without a single reference to the fact that this time it is the result of deliberate policy.

It is not, of course, these days a unique occurrence that the establishment media politely sweep under the carpet anything that is an inconvenient truth (to coin a phrase): you only have to look at the coverage of the destruction of British postal services or the garbage collection farce, without any mention of authorship by the EU, for glaring examples among the many.

Since that first mention of Greenflation there has been added a third string to the bow of the activists. Not only have they fostered draconian rises in taxation and systematically blocked the development of abundant energy resources, but they have now promoted an equally disastrous international programme of biofuels, heavily subsidised (of course) by taxpayers. High food and fuel prices are now officially described as “external factors”, when they are in fact foreseeable and unavoidable outcomes of policies embraced by governments themselves. Fuel, in particular, affects the price of everything. Clearly, as with the DDT ban, it matters little that millions of people in the poorer parts of the world will suffer deprivation and death, but now ordinary people in the developed world are feeling the pain. The new factor is that they no longer have the power to vote out those responsible. Europeans are governed by an unelected and unsackable bureaucracy in Brussels, while Americans are offered a choice between three green presidential candidates. That is the consequence of the rise of a new complacent political class, divorced from the laws of physics and economics.

There are times in human history when the only way is down. This is one of them. Up to now the human spirit has risen from the ashes, eventually and triumphantly to overcome such disasters, but it has never before had to face a universal political machine of such single-minded potency.

O for a cause for optimism!

Link to this piece

14/05/08

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