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Saturday, 20 October 2007

The 'Hammer of the English' is scared

Brown's increasingly authoritarian crushing of English dissent is, I am convinced, rooted in his atavistic Scots fear of the dominant nation to the south. Like all fundamentally weak and morally uncertain men, he over-reacts with oppressive and exacting force. Using the twin weapons of taxing the English to the point of pain, and crushing dissent with draconian curtailments of English freedom, this 'Hammer of the English' betrays the fact that deep down he's scared.
They still haven't learnt the lessons of the Iraq dossier

There is something particularly repugnant about New Labour puritanism; the US constitution may include 'the pursuit of happiness' as a most laudable aim, but this concept is an alien one indeed to this cabal of joyless sociopaths. They surely regard happiness as a frivolity that has no place in a dour and serious New Labour Britain. Thus we have a zealous crusade to treat smokers like lepers, make singing and playing a guitar in pubs without a government licence a crime, and recently they have declared war on alcohol. Like cultists everywhere, they are so overcome with pious righteousness that they have become convinced that any means justify their ends - even distorting, omitting, misrepresenting and inventing the 'evidence' to back their crusade. It's the dodgy dossier all over again.

So the evidence in the Times today that government safe drinking limits are a pure invention comes as no surprise. The evidence, says the Times, is "that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller."

So two fingers to the New Labour puritans, gentlemen, and look to your corkscrews for a long and happy life.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Beyond acceptable debate?

When Richard J Herrnstein and Charles Murray published 'The Bell Curve' in 1994 it caused a storm of controversy across the world. Their key findings, that individual economic and social success was more highly correlated to intelligence than any other factor, by itself would have surprised few people. What ignited the controversy was that they found that the average intelligence of the black test population was about one standard deviation lower than the average intelligence of the white test population. Shown graphically below. They then proposed that intelligence was genetic - i.e. that black people were inherently less intelligent than white people. Now bear with me here.

The American Psychological Association Task Force went over the research findings with a fine-toothed comb. They supported the results but not the conclusions, finding:
There is certainly no such support for a genetic interpretation... . It is sometimes suggested that the Black/ White differential in psychometric intelligence is partly due to genetic differences (Jensen, 1972). There is not much direct evidence on this point, but what little there is fails to support the genetic hypothesis. The differential between the mean intelligence test scores of Blacks and Whites (about one standard deviation, although it may be diminishing) does not result from any obvious biases in test construction and administration, nor does it simply reflect differences in socio-economic status. Explanations based on factors of caste and culture may be appropriate, but so far have little direct empirical support. At present, no one knows what causes this differential.
If Dr James Watson had spoken publicly in the debate on the factors that caused this differential, within the constraints of scientific empiricism, the Science Museum would have little reason to cancel his lecture. What he said in an interview with the Sunday Times on 14th October was:
He says that he is "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really," and I know that this "hot potato" is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true." He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because "there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level."
Now, the Science Museum says that the above is 'beyond the limits of acceptable debate'. I disagree. It's beyond the limits of acceptable scientific debate, without doubt. Dr Watson has leapt to conclusions unsupported by the evidence - a real scientific no-no. And his final quote suggests that he believes that all black people are less intelligent than all white people - which is such palpable nonsense that any 'A' level stats student could demolish it in an instant.

As the Science Museum is a forum for scientific debate, and not a forum for uninformed personal opinions, they were in my view right to cancel the lecture. That doesn't mean that Dr Watson's personal opinions should be censored; by all means let him engage in non-scientific debate to defend his views.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The boat - for Captain Fatty

Ah yes, I keep forgetting to mention the dear boat. Well, she's earning her keep; she's had an engine rebuild, new pumps and hoses, new sea toilet and seacocks, I've rewired her completely and installed new switch panels, and even scoured and repainted her bilges. Off Beachy Head recently she bucked and rolled in the rough stuff as happily as a Labrador in a cow pat. Now a decent winter assaulting the Channel's fish stocks to come with a bit of luck ...

Middle classes drink wine and live longer shock

The trite and inane little dig from the health numpties yesterday, that England's middle classes were at greater risk from binge drinking than herds of inner-city chavs has been well and truly fisked by An Englishman's Castle. If these middle class areas drink more, they also live a lot longer. Red wine, olive oil, fresh vegetables, seafood and unpasteurised cheese sell well in the longest lived areas, and biscuits containing 70% of sugar and trans-fats, sweetly flavoured grain alcohol, frozen pizzas, industrial yellow-fat spreads, and processed meats sell well in the lowest lived areas. Some clue, there, surely? Oh, and here's another thing - look at how these areas vote (using Tim's table):-

Runnymede 26.4 - 78.7 - CON
Harrogate 26.4 - 78.6 - NOC
Surrey Heath 26.0 - 79.1 - CON
Guildford 25.5 - 79.4 - CON
Mid Sussex 25.5 - 78.6 - CON
Mole Valley 25.5 - 79.5 - CON
Leeds 25.3 - 76.2 - NOC
Elmbridge 25.3 - 79.7 - NOC
Waverley 25.2 - 78.9 - CON
Woking 25.0 - 79.2 - CON

Slough 16.2 - 77.3 - NOC
Wolverhampton 16.2 - 75.1 - LAB
Barking and Dagenham 16.1 - 75.3 - LAB
Boston 16.0 - 75.7 - IND
Lewisham 16.0 - 75.1 - NOC
Tower Hamlets 15.9 - 74.9 - LAB
Hackney 15.7 - 75.1 - LAB
Redbridge 15.3 - 77.5 - CON
Waltham Forest 15.3 - 75.4 - NOC
Newham 14.1 - 74.9 - LAB

So there you go. Vote Labour and you not only die younger but you don't even have the solace of getting squiffy from time to time.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Murdoch getting ready to dump Brown?

Interesting interview in today's Media Guardian with Irwin Stelzer HERE. I posted some time ago that although Murdoch had let the 'Sun' have its head over the EU Constitution, it had yet refrained from plunging the knife into Brown.

I suspect Murdoch will wait until next year before making any move.
Swissies may upset Euro juggernaut

On 21st October Switzerland goes to the polls, with an expectation of significant gains for the anti-statist and nationalist SVP, which polled nearly 27% of the vote in 2003. The party has become well-known throughout Europe for a poster entitled 'bringing safety' that the party insists is not racist.

The Swiss have long enjoyed both powerful localism through the cantons and direct democracy through popular referenda; both have been eroded in recent years under central Statist governments. The SVP's policies seek a return to greater local control; on citizenship, rather than the State making the decision, they propose that only those who have lived legally in the country for 12 years and have a clean criminal record may apply. And that the decision is taken not by the State but by the applicant's local community, by vote. Immigrants who don't integrate, and don't cultivate the goodwill of their neighbours, would never gain citizenship. Such common sense proposals will strike chords across Europe.

The SVP would also ban minarets rising above the shingle rooflines of their communities - UnSwiss, an alien and divisive symbol, they say. Again, this will find echoes across Europe.

And the sheep poster, illustrating a policy of deporting foreigners who commit criminal offences, has already found fertile ground in Europe's heartlands.

If the SVP do well in the election, and put these policies into effect, the waves will ripple from Warsaw to Galway.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Labour's micromanagement kills

There is now overwhelming evidence that the culture of NHS performance targets driven by Patricia Hewitt is a major factor in the avoidable deaths of many thousands of elderly people from MRSA and C.Diff. The failure of Labour's perverse culture of performance targets across every aspect of government is palpable; crime and justice, health, education and local government.

Frankly, I'm astonished that our front-line troops have so far managed to escape this Labour micro-management, or perhaps there is a Labour target for the number of small arms rounds expended per enemy casualty, or the number of mortar rounds that fall within 20m of their target. Maybe platoon commanders do crouch in their foxholes filling in performance returns. Anyway, I digress.

Two years ago I needed a minor operation of a kind normally performed under general anaesthetic with a 48 hour stay in hospital. Even then the risk of dying of MRSA contracted from a filthy NHS hospital was the greatest risk I foresaw. I negotiated with my consultant and surgeon for the procedure to be done under local anaesthetic as day surgery, convincing them I was well-informed enough to be aware of any post-operative complications and sensible enough to care for a newly stitched wound for 24 hours.

I was in at 9 a.m. and out by 11.30 a.m., walking the one mile home whilst enjoying a couple of relaxing ciggies - but not allowing my fingers to touch my lips in case I'd picked up hospital bacteria on them. Once home I carefully swabbed the entire area around the wound with isopropyl alcohol, then carefully and scrupulously showered to minimise the risk of stray infectious guests picked up in the hospital. I'm glad to tell you that I healed as healthily and quickly as an old dog, without a trace of infection.

And this anecdote leads me to imagine the kind of choice I'd like to see in the NHS. Suppose I ever need a planned medical procedure that requires a stay in hospital. I'd want to be able to discuss with my GP the best hospital for this to be done; I'd want to see their success rates at this procedure, know the reputations of the surgical / medical / nursing team, and of course the MRSA and C.Diff infection rates of the various hospitals. I'd want to choose where I went. I'd want to be able to choose a private hospital as well as a general hospital or teaching hospital; if operative risk was high, I'd want to be able to choose a hospital back home in East Anglia to allow my family to be near. In other words, I'd want to apply the efficiencies of the market to my healthcare.

And surely if we re-focused the responsibility for the health outcomes back onto GPs and PCTs, they would soon 'blacklist' the worst hospitals, funding for filthy or incompetent hospitals would dry up, and they would fall by the wayside. Or change their management, their doctors and nurses and their cleaners.

But let's not forget Hewitt. If she was the boss of a construction firm that killed 4,000 of its workers in the past few years she'd rightly be serving a long prison term. Her obsession with micromanagement and performance targets in the face of explicit advice that this course of action was killing people makes her personally liable for these deaths. Hewitt belongs behind bars.