Another week, another round of stories of failure in the public services.
On Wednesday, OFSTED reported that half of all secondary schools fail to give children a good education. Today come stories of patients flying to eastern Europe for dental treatment, something that at least appears to be rather more comfortable than the alternative approach of extracting ones own teeth with a pair of pliers.
To someone from the developed world - you know, somewhere like America or Singapore- the medieval barbarities of modern Britain must be truly shocking. Here they seem to be viewed as "just the way things are". Take the Liberal Democrat response to school failure. Their spokesman, David Laws, who is alleged to be on the right of the party, seems to think that the problem will be solved by
a new educational standards authority and a genuine devolution of the power to innovate to all schools.
When you think about it, this is utterly bizarre. The education system is in crisis, and is failing children absolutely, and all the party can come up with is a new layer of bureaucracy and a bit of local decision-making.
And while the political parties micturate into the wind and dream of shiny new bureaucracies, the public shrugs its collective shoulders.
Can nobody out there beyond a few bloggers ask the fundamental questions of why a state monopoly is the only acceptable answer to the question of who should deliver health and education in the UK? Why does nobody in the MSM write about Singapore-style healthcare accounts or Swedish-style education vouchers? Why are the public not clamouring for them? It's as though the whole country is operating under a mass delusion - a mirage of a wonderful world in which the man in Whitehall does actually give a fig about what consumers want, and that a state-run monopoly does actually deliver a half-decent service.
In the book from which this posting borrows its title, the delusion is always shattered, the bubble burst by the sudden realisation that it is just that - a delusion. Tulips are not worth a fortune, investors loose their shirts, the scams are seen through. Eventually people will see through the "public services" scam too. A straw will blow in on the wind and the camel's back will be broken.
When that will happen is anyone's guess. Only a few lonely voices are calling for fundamental change. But until they are heard, a lot more childen will remain illiterate and a lot more people will suffer or die for lack of treatment.
You have to admire the brass neck of a man who can bemoan the loonies that inhabit the (D)HYS forums on the BBC website in the same article in which he claims that the corporation has a right-wing bias.
Guido notices the launch of the Chris Huhne for leader website, and wonders how they managed to put it together so quickly after the departure of the Minger.
It's not entirely clear what he means by the the two sentences in his byline, but I can probably guess. By "A fairer society" he means "take money from people who have earned it and give it to people who vote for me". I think it's reasonable to assume that he doesn't adhere to the Walter Williams school of social justice:
I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you – and why?"
In other words, Huhne is making a direct appeal to the socialist side of his party. Let's have more government intervention, chaps. Viva la revolucion!
Sentence two is an appeal to the liberals. "People in charge" tickles the tummies of all the small government types without actually promising anything. It's presumably meant to conjure up visions of devolved power, with perhaps a frisson of individualism, but at the end of the day it's vague enough to mean just about anything between anarcho-capitalism and a Lib-Dem junta.
Assuming though that this second bit is meant to convey a small government message, do you think the contradiction with the first, statist sentence has occurred to anyone in the party or do you think it was planned?
I note, with a certain degree of pride, that my PC refuses to submit comments to LabourHome. If I switch from Firefox to IE, then the site will not display at all and hangs the program.
This may turn out to be a feature, rather than a bug.
Welcome to the latest review of developments in the Alice in Wonderland world of climate science.
Hot off the press is the news that Steve McIntyre has been doing some fieldwork. Reconstructions of past temperatures are done using tree ring measurements, and sceptical voices have regularly pointed out that the databases of tree ring measurements haven't been brought up to date since the 1980s - something which would allow verification of the validity of the reconstructions. Arch-warmer Michael Mann has gone on record as saying that it's too expensive, something which seems just a little unlikely in view of the money poured into climate research in recent years. Now McIntyre has revealed that he has done the work to update one set of measurements from Colorado. The first set of rings show no increase in growth and while this is a very early result, it's not looking good for the warmers.
In the face of a freedom of information request, the secretive Hadley Centre have been forced to reveal the list of weather stations they use in their climate reconstruction. Among the interesting features noted are that they have eliminated every rural station in France from the record, that the number of stations in the list doesn't tally with the number reported in their published work, duplicate station numbers and so on. A shambles in other words.
Al Gore's scary movie, An Incontinent Truth, was found to be political and inaccurate by a UK judge. This didn't seem to be a problem for the Nobel Peace Prize committee who gave the award to the Goracle anyway.
One of Gore's most blatant exagerrations was his claim that sea levels are going to rise by 20ft. People are asking why, if that's so, he's currently buying real estate at the seaside.
Also ignoring their own claims of coming sea level rises in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who are in the process of destroying sea defences near Southend.
The BBC was strangely silent on a number of news items. The melting of the Arctic sea ice, which they were so excited about the other day, turns out to be due to wind conditions. And according to the satellites, this September was one of the coolest on record.
Martin Juckes, whose paper attacking McIntyre I discussed in the last edition of Climate Cuttings, entered the fray in the comments of a follow up CA posting which was discussing the amusing way in which Juckes had managed to eliminate a set of records with a falling temperature trend from his analysis. He managed to avoid answering any questions at all. Someone noted that one of Juckes' co-authors had removed his name from the paper between the discussion and final drafts, presumably not wanting to be associated with this kind of work.
And there it is. Climate science. Still crazy, after all these years.
Incidentally to my research on the previous posting, I came upon the surprising fact that Roger Harrabin is a graduate in English.
I don't know about you, but I find it pretty gobsmacking that someone who is paid to interpret complex scientific papers and reports on our behalf doesn't actually have a flaming clue what any of it means. In fact take that back, he presumably doesn't read any of the papers at all because he is incapable of understanding them. He regurgitates press releases for a living.
It does rather explain the quality of some of his reporting though.
And what about the rest of the BBC's environment team?
- Margaret Gilmore was an environment correspondent until 2005. She studied English.
- Tom Fielden, science and environment correspondent - not sure what subject he studied, but it wasn't scientific.
- Richard Bilton, previously environment reporter - studied Communication.
- Matt McGrath and Julian Pettifer - I can find no record of them ever having been to university, although presumably they must have been.
So here's the challenge: can anyone find a BBC environment reporter with a scientific background?
The Nameless One, writing at the Devil's Kitchen, notes with his customary gusto, a leaked BBC email which shows BBC environment reporter Roger Harrabin's attempts to develop a party line on the "Al Gore made it up" court ruling. (Well, it was words to that effect anyway). Harrabin's tactics for saving Gore's face are these:
In any future reporting of Gore we should be careful not to suggest that the High Court says Gore was wrong on climate.......
We might say something like: "Al Gore whose film was judged by the High Court to have used some debatable science" or "Al Gore whose film was judged in the High Court to be controversial in parts".
The key is to avoid suggesting that the judge disagreed with the main climate change thesis.
Attentive readers will remember that, according to Head of BBC TV news Peter Horrocks, that the BBC has no line on climate change. What the leaking of the memo shows is that either Horrocks is a liar or Harrabin is attemping to create an official line in contravention of BBC policy. I wonder which one of them will be disciplined?
As happens, I was looking into Harrabin myself when I read DK's story. According to his BBC website profile he is co-director or something called the Cambridge Environment and Media Programme, which is part-funded by the BBC (the rest of the funding being from private sources - I wonder who?). Apparently this organisation, which doesn't seem to have a website, tries to find ways to engage the media in debates on sustainable development.
Now is it just me, or does it seem a bit odd that the BBC is using public money to persuade itself to engage in debate on environmental issues? Couldn't it just, you know, engage?
Doesn't it seem stranger still that the loot is being sent to an organisation run by one of its own employees? This seems to reverse the normal employer/employee relationship. Shouldn't the higher-ups at the BBC be telling Harrabin what to do?
And isn't it yet more bizarre that it is trying to promote inclusion of particular issues in the news agenda - an overtly political act if ever there was one? The BBC, remember, has no line on climate change (and presumably the whole question of environmentalism too). Is the BBC actually funding a campaign to promote environmentalism on the airwaves?
I don't know about you, but I smell fish.
There is a rather remarkable comment thread over at Real Climate right now. Invited to post rebuttals to a scientific paper which is sceptical of global warming, the commenters have unleashed a vertiable orgy of logical fallacy. They may well have broken the record for the highest number of uses of the genetic fallacy on a single thread.
Don't real scientists do logic any longer?
Just last week, news consumers were engulfed in a tsunami of reports about the record minimum in the Artic Sea Ice extent. At around the same time, it was noted firstly that a record maximum extent in Antartic sea ice had also been acheived, but also shortly afterwards, and following a "surprise" adjustment to the figures, that actually the Antarctic maximum hadn't actually been beaten.
So far, so climate science.
Now, and with the lack of explanation familiar to those following the Alice in Wonderland world of climate scientce, all record of the adjustment has been removed from the Cryosphere Today website and, as of Monday, the record appears to have been reinstated.
The MSM have managed not to notice though, so it probably didn't happen.
The Government has offered to rewrite the guidance sent to schools with Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth DVD, in order to head off an expected court ruling that the film is politically biased and/or scientifically suspect. It's interesting that they think that this will do the trick for them. They may even be correct. But if the film is genuinely biased or is based on incorrect science, it's surely going to take a bit of explaining as to why it is so vital that every secondary school child in the country sees it.
"This is a pack of lies and propaganda. But it's imperative that you study it carefully".
State education. Gotta love it.
There's an interesting article at Marginal Revolution looking at some of the unintended consequences of Pigou taxes as applied to the perceived need to keep fossil fuels underground. There seems to be a serious risk that the imposition of a Pigou tax will either simply redistribute oil to non-Pigou-taxing countries, or simply accelerate production as producers seek to avoid ever-rising tax levels.
The bottom line is this: paying countries to blow up their oil fields may be more effective than taxing the resource.
As Tyler Cowen notes, we know of several freelance groups who will do this kind of thing for free.
...which kind of makes you wonder how long will it be until the Greens call for al-Qaeda to receive state subsidies, in view of the selfless work they are doing in the fight to save us from global warming.
This looks like it could be interesting - Bent Society? is a blog by a professional criminologist called Mike Sutton. There is a good piece here about government lead property marking schemes. Choice quote from one particular scrote interviewed by Dr Sutton:
Another interviewee said that he was never affected by property marking, saying that he stole it anyway:
“…the criminals is always one step ahead of them [police]. It doesn’t take long for someone to sit there with a bit of brain on ‘em and fuckin figure out how to fuckin decode it, get rid of markings or whatever. And you always know somebody like that. There is always going to be somebody like that [who could remove property marking or security features for the thief or fence]. When you’ve got a proper buyer [Commercial Fence] who spends money getting it sorted out he will.”