Thursday, July 29, 2010

The most dangerous man in the country

Chris Huhne: The Most Dangerous Man In Britain

(and, of course, a lying, adulterous bastard)

Chris Huhne is a total moron. Well, either that or he really does wish to bring the British economy to its knees—perhaps he is a Russian spy?

In any case, I have dealt with this man's particular brand of insanity before, and he is no less insane now.

Chris Huhne really seems to think that we can somehow power the entirety of this island on wind power. We cannot.

Chris Huhne really seems to think that his precious windmills are 'intensely competitive' in terms of cash. They are not. And this one really grates because he must know that they are not.

Chris Huhne must know that, without new and reliable generating capacity, this country is heading for a series of rolling blackouts by 2014. Huhne must know that, if this happens, the government is finished.

Even more worryingly, Cameron must know this too—and yet Huhne is still Energy Minister.

I have rehearsed the arguments many times before, and luckily Christopher Booker is on hand to remind us all of the insane energy "strategy" that this country is currently pursuing.

Here are just a few of the highlights...
As was only too predictable, the overall theme of Mr Huhne's message was that 'climate change is the greatest global challenge we face'.

We must do everything we can and more to cut down very drastically on our 'carbon emissions', as we are now legally committed to do by the Climate Change Act - at a cost of £18 billion a year.

But in the real world, the £100 billion-plus energy question that confronts us all in Britain today is how we are going to fill that massive, fast-looming gap in our electricity supplies when the antiquated power stations which currently supply us with two-fifths of the power needed to keep our economy running are forced to close.

The headline answer given by Mr Huhne is that we must build thousands more giant wind turbines.

The target set by the last government would require us, at a cost of £100 billion, to erect nearly two of these monster turbines, each the size of Blackpool Tower, every day of every week for the next ten years - when each takes weeks to manufacture and sink into the seabed.

But even if Mr Huhne could make his dream come true, that would still supply on average only five more gigawatts of electricity, less than a tenth of our needs.

Meanwhile, to keep the lights on, a whole lot more gas-fired power stations would have to be built - and kept running, pumping out CO2 - simply to be ready to be ramped up to fill the gap when the wind stops blowing.

The Huhne solution to producing Britain's energy is naivete verging on madness.

It is barking fucking insanity.

But surely the actual energy that we do get from the wind is free, is it not? Well, the actual energy is, but the means to convert and transmit that energy more certainly is not.
Allowing for the cost of those vital back-up plants, [wind power] is twice as expensive as gas, coal or nuclear—while the power from those colossally expensive offshore turbines, costing anything up to £10 million each, is up to three times as costly as that produced by conventional power stations.

If it wasn't for the 100 per cent subsidy we all unwittingly pay to the developers of wind turbines - through a compulsory levy in our electricity bills - no one would dream of building these ludicrously inefficient machines at all.
Yet Mr Huhne tries to kid us into thinking that they are 'intensely competitive'.

So, if there isn't the faintest chance that our electricity needs can be met with windmills, how does our energy minister hope to keep his promise that 'the lights will not go out on my watch'?

If wind turbines—or renewable energy sources of any other sort, actually—are Huhne's response to this crisis, then the answer is very simple: Huhne cannot keep that promise about the lights not going out.

And, as I have pointed out before, if the lights do go out, we're in real fucking trouble.

It isn't just the babies and the pensioners killed by the cold, although many would deplore that; it isn't even the fact that electricity for recreational pursuits is going to have to be severely rationed.

No. It's the fact that our entire economy relies on computers and computers rely on electricity.

If the lights go out, the economy will crash—and a crashed economy means poverty and a lot of dead people. It's that simple.

With Huhne at the helm, the future's not bright—although the future might be orange. What with those rioters setting fire to things.

And that is why Chris Huhne is, currently, the most dangerous man in the country.

Plus, of course, he is a total cunt.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Piss-up, Brewery

Amongst those of us who think that MPs deserve everything that they get, IPSA continues to cause uproarious amusement.

I mean, yes, it is a massively expensive £6.5 million fucking shambles, but it was set up by MPs to serve MPs—that these loathsome idiots are starting to get a taste of what the increasing bureaucratisation of Britain is like for the rest of us is, frankly, a joy.

And has come not a moment too soon.

And, of course, given the ridiculously tiny number of these bastards who are being done for fraud, it is oh-so-delicious to see these grasping slappers getting kicked right where it hurts: after all, IPSA was set up because these cunts were picking our pockets—it is poetic justice to see our Lords and Masters getting hit in theirs.

Of course, the loyal bag-carriers are getting screwed over too (me? Couldn't give a shit) and, according to Tory Bear, things are getting pretty desperate.
TB's bag-carrying amigo is raging. The £6.5m omnishambles that is the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been forced to extend the deadline for MP’s [sic] first claims. Initially the organisation had insisted all claims had to be submitted within 90 days, but MP’s [sic] are so bemused by the system that most of them are yet to make a claim.

So far just 279 out of 650 MPs have claimed expenses, whereas the rest have funded office equipment, travel and hotels out of their own pockets. The deadline for their claims would be 7th August onwards but IPSA has rushed out a note to say that MP’s [sic] will have until 1st October for these first claims.

While TB has little sympathy with many Members, the fact that they can't even run an office is a joke. There is a difference between lining their pockets and actually doing their job. The staffer told him earlier; “We all agree with the new expenses rules, but IPSA itself is an expensive shambles. Anyone wanting to go into parliament today would need at least £10,000 in cash to cover IPSA’s inadequacies. The fact is that the system is confusing and bureaucratic. They need to abolish IPSA asap.”

Oh dear, poor darlings—what's that sound? Oh yes, it's my bleeding fucking heart.

Of course, the real kicker line in the above paragraph is, of course, this one. [Emphasis mine.]
While TB has little sympathy with many Members, the fact that they can't even run an office is a joke.

No, TB: the joke is that—even though these stupid, ignorant, blinkered, thieving, lying cunts cannot even set up and run an office to manage their expenses—they are perfectly happy to try to run the lives of 65 million people in this country.

On top of their inability to set up such an office, they then either cannot be arsed or do not have the intelligence to work out how to submit their claims on time.

Perhaps these morons could try the old "oh, I couldn't work out how to do it" on HMRC and see what the reaction is? It would be something along the lines of "you owe us a £100 surcharge plus 10% interest for every day that you fail to submit. Oh, and stop fucking whining about it, twatface." Which, coincidentally, is pretty much what my response to this IPSA debacle is.

I say, more power to IPSA's elbow: make these MPs suffer and maybe—just maybe—these people will stop trying to tie the rest of us up in bureaucratic knots. And even if they don't, at least they'll be having a miserable time.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

iPhone developer needed

Your humble Devil has, for over a year now, had a super idea for an iPhone app.

I was working with someone to realise this, but they have found themselves too busy to be able to devote any time to it.

It's a pretty simple app (I think), but it has a potentially large audience and there is no competitor as yet.

If anyone out there has experience and a bit of free time, then I'd be happy to fire over the design document under an NDA (of course).

I'd really like to see this developed, so if anyone fancies trying to marry a good idea with their programming skills and (maybe) make some money, please drop me a line...

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Green Agenda

Dick Puddlecote has a series of quotes from (low-energy) luminaries of the Green movement around the world.
"The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature's proper steward and society's only hope."David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth

It's a bit scary, that.

But then, so are these.
"Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsiblity to bring that about?"Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Programme

"We've got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy."Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation

“The models are convenient fictions that provide something very useful.”Dr David Frame, climate modeller, Oxford University

Quotes like these will be familiar to long-time readers of The Kitchen, and there are many more over at The Green Agenda—including this one (which I have definitely quoted before) from a scientist named Stephen Schneider...
"We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public's imagination... So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts... Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."Prof. Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology, lead author of many IPCC reports

Professor Stephen Schneider died last week, on the 19th July—and the Telegraph led with a rather snide subhead.
Professor Stephen Schneider, who died on Monday aged 65, made his name in the 1970s by predicting a "new ice age", but went on to become one of the best-known proponents of the idea of global warming caused by human activities.

The rest of the obituary is, however, rather more fawning in its tone—unlike Phelim McAleer's piece on Not Evil Just Wrong.
Professor Schneider's death is a shock and a tragedy for his family and we at Not Evil Just Wrong offer our condolences to his relatives for their personal loss. His death was sudden and must have come as a shock to his family and colleagues. However, it has to be said that Professor Schneider died as he had lived—a completely unrepentant hypocrite.

Global Warming alarmists, of which Professor Schneider was one of the most prominent, all agree that aviation and flying is one the biggest causes of Global Warming—which they believe is going to wipe out hundreds of millions of lives and make large parts of the planet uninhabitable.

But just like Professor Schneider they fly and they fly and they fly. Often they will fly to conferences that come to the conclusion that others must not be allowed to fly.

Of course important people such as Professor Schneider must fly because they are doing an "important" job. But people from middle America, who work hard and want to go on vacation or to visit family they must be kept at home.

And the people of the developing world, they must forget about living in a modern economy burning fossils fuels or having a modern business infrastructure which involves airports and business flights. No—according to the late Professor Schneider and his colleagues they must continue to have a pre-industrial existence because industry will destroy the planet by causing Global Warming.

Of course the recent Global Warming scare is not the first time that Professor Schneider wanted to call a halt to the modern industrial world. In the 1970's Prof Schneider was one of the main Global cooling alarmists—he warned we were about to enter a new Ice Age and the only solution was to end industrial output.

Professor Schneider posed as an academic but hated tough questions and debate. He used Stanford's lawyers to try and censor our documentary when we interviewed him about his scientific flip-flopping. As a small film production company we had to remove his interview from our film. When I tried to push him further at the Copenhagen Climate Conference—he called an armed security guard to have our cameras switched off.

But that is not why I am breaking the long standing tradition of not speaking ill of the dead. I am a journalist and used to the powerful not wanting to answer awkward questions.

I am speaking strongly and truthfully about Professor Schneider because he was a hypocrite who wanted to deny the benefits of modernity to hundreds of millions across the globe whilst enjoying those benefits himself.

I don't think that I have anything else to add to that, frankly.

UPDATE: a reader writes...
I noticed an interesting quote on your recent "Green Agenda" post:
“The models are convenient fictions that provide something very
Dr David Frame, climate modeller, Oxford University

In response to that:
"I stand by that quote - in fact I think it's a blindingly obvious point. The models are fictitious worlds - just look at their representations of topography, clouds and other everyday phenomena.

But they are convenient tools that let us learn useful things, like how the fluid bits of the earth system respond to radiative forcing."

The way the article is phrased appears to suggest that this fellow is a lefty and interested in pushing the green agenda, but as someone who has discussed the matter with him personally I know that this is far from the case. That quote could have been read as the useful thing being the chance to perpetrate a bit of Marxism disguised as science, but that isn't the case either as the above comment shows.

Of course Dr Frame (and my reader) is entirely correct—the climate models are fictitious worlds. The trouble is that, whilst most scientists ( and those au fait with that world) would take this fact for granted, it is all too often that I hear people (especially those in the media) talking about "the evidence from climate models shows...".

Climate models are just that—models. They cannot show any evidence, only suggestions. The only evidence possible is that collected from the real world using proper, scientific methods.

The last word on Voices of Freedom

Click the piccie for a bigger view of a rather super article.

Further to my article on the Voices of Freedom debate, a kind reader sent me a scan of James Delingpole's article from The Speccie—plus, organiser Simon Clark has written a piece on it too.
Anyway, one of the speakers was writer and broadcaster James Delingpole who writes a weekly column for The Spectator. Here's a taste of what James had to say.
The debate was titled ‘Who holds the liberal torch in 2010: libertarians, liberal democrats or the liberal elite?’ and was staged as part of the Free Society’s Voices of Freedom series. I went mainly because Paul Staines — aka Guido Fawkes — was on the panel and also another blogger I admire, Chris Mounsey of the spectacularly potty-mouthed Devil’s Kitchen blog, who now leads the Libertarian party. There was also my old mucker Brendan O’Neill from Spiked who very nearly persuaded me a few years ago that I was, like him, a revolutionary Marxist; a fellow called Julian Harris — from a libertarian wing of the Lib Dems called Liberal Vision; and another Liberal called Mark Pack who co-edits Liberal Democrat Voice.

I still couldn’t quite see the point of it. The answer was obvious before the debate even started: only libertarians believe in liberty. None of the main parties does any more — not even the Conservatives, but the Lib Dems even less so. If ever there was a concept more antithetical to the liberal weltanschauung it’s the idea that people should be left free to live their own lives unencumbered by government meddling. As, indeed, the Lib Dem Mark Pack went on most amusingly to demonstrate ...

Most left-liberals, in my experience, are quite terrified of libertarians. They can cope with the more traditional, authoritarian kind of Conservative because they can glibly dismiss them as Daily Mail-reading racists who don’t give a damn about the poor. But with libertarians they find themselves on a much stickier wicket: how exactly do you outflank someone who believes that tyranny is akin to death and that we should be free pretty much to do whatever the hell we like so long as it harms no one else.

Full article HERE.

It's worth reading in full, since James Delingpole spends a large part of the rather stirring article being incredibly contemptuous about sneering demagogue Michael White—an activity so worthy that even I, who despise such government interventions, almost believe should be subsidised. Anyway, I am flattered to be described in print as an object of James' admiration—I only wish that I had had the chance to chat to him afterwards.

Still, on we go...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blog stuff

Your humble Devil is very busy at the moment, and likely to become even more so, I'm afraid*.

However, I thought it worth plugging the fact that Mark Wallace—now ex-of the TPA, generally excellent chap and occasional writer at The Kitchen—has his own Crash Bang Wallace blog, which is shaping up nicely. For those of you who prefer an RSS feed link (which seems to be strangely absent at his place) you can subscribe using this link.

Meanwhile, over at Iain Dale's, we receive the news that Mad Nad Dorries is to resume "blogging"—lord save us all.
UPDATE: And I can exlusively reveal that Nadine Dorries has resurrected her dormant blog. She tells me she will be posting "spasmodically".

Hmmm. I can think of another word—similar but not quite the same as "spasmodically"—to describe Mad Nad and her blogging, but apparently the word's not politically correct these days.

I do have a post about Cameron's so-called Big Waste of Our Money Society launch, which I shall try to post in the next few days.

In the meantime, however, toodle-pip!

Click here to vote in the Total Politics Best Blogs Poll 2010
UPDATE: I almost forgot that it's the time of year when Total Politics asks you which blogs you most like.

Iain Dale has the details, but essentially you need to send your top ten blogs—ranked in order of preference—to

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Climate bias

Hilariously, as my peripatetic Greek chum has noticed, some fantasist over at Liberal Conspiracy believes that the BBC has adopted a pro-sceptic bias in the climate change debate.

Since my comments over at LC quite often tend somehow to get a little mangled by the... er... software, I thought that I would post my—very reasonable—reply here. Especially since it is, perhaps, time that I turned my attention back to the subject.
andrew adams (and others),

The notion that recent changes in climate are caused predominantly by human activity is not some idea which scientists have conjured up in isolation either for political purposes, to try to get funding or just as a convenient way to justify recent warming.

Um. So, how did scientists come up with this explanation?

Let’s ask Phil Jones of the CRU, shall we?
Roger Harrabin: If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?

Dr Phil Jones: The fact that we can’t explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing…

So, since Phil and his friends are unable to account for the warming in terms of volcanos or solar warming, then obviously it must be solely human induced?

What about this mysterious decadal Pacific oscillation that is now, apparently, “masking the warming”? What about cloud formation, or albedo or… or… so many other things, many of which we may not be aware of?

The climate is a pretty Chaotic system and we have, really, very little idea of all of the factors involved. Yes, it may be man-made forcings but, ultimately, it could be something else entirely. Or a mixture of both natural and human, of course.

What does Dr Phil think? [Emphasis mine.]
It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.


A science that measures temperatures by proxies—especially given the problems with said proxies which have been widely detailed (including the tree ring divergence problem)—and then tries to predict future temperatures is not going to be a black and white issue: quite apart from anything else, the temperature has consistently failed to match the predictions of the climate models.

Now, people will say that this is because the climate is a very complicated system, and the models are still improving—but that is the point about a chaotic system like the climate, isn’t it?

The simple fact is that the evidence (that is, the actual, observed temperatures) has not matched the predictions.

Even if we accept that CRU and IPCC are right, then how should we deal with it? Well, luckily, the IPCC has been kind enough to run some models for us, to help us to decide this—they are known as the SRES models (Special Report on Emissions Scenarios).

There are a number of scenarios there but, for my money, the best outcome is produced by the A1 family.
The A1 storyline is a case of rapid and successful economic development, in which regional average income per capita converge—current distinctions between “poor” and “rich” countries eventually dissolve. The primary dynamics are:
  • Strong commitment to market-based solutions.

  • High savings and commitment to education at the household level.

  • High rates of investment and innovation in education, technology, and institutions at the national and international levels.

  • International mobility of people, ideas, and technology.

  • The transition to economic convergence results from advances in transport and communication technology, shifts in national policies on immigration and education, and international cooperation in the development of national and international institutions that enhance productivity growth and technology diffusion.

This may be the type of scenario best represented in recent literature (e.g., Shinn, 1985; UN, 1990; Schwartz, 1991; Peterson, 1994; Gallopin et al., 1997; Glenn and Gordon, 1997, 1999; Lawrence et al., 1997; Hammond, 1998; Raskin et al., 1998). Such scenarios are dominated by an American or European entrepreneurial, progress-oriented perspective in which technology, especially communication technology, plays a central role.

Now, others—those with ideological problems with markets or economic growth, for instance—may disagree; personally, however, I think that a course of action that eliminates poverty and keeps the planet going seems to me to be a pretty good option to go for.

And note, please, that these scenarios are collated and produced not by a bunch of oil-funded right-wing loons, but by the IPCC—the same organisation whose scientific evidence you accept.


Time to get back on this horse, methinks...

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Ambush Predator links to a article on mystery diseases—number one on their list is prions. As I have posted before, prions are not a mystery cause of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)—they are the symptoms of a virus-borne illness.

However, like catastrophic anthorpogenic climate change (CACC), those who believe that a consensus is the same as science (and whose salaries depend on persuading the politicos that, in the face of all the evidence, the consensus is correct) have been shutting down funding to, and ostracising, those who disagree. For those that are interested, I have reposted my article of April 12 2007 below.

Prion for your thoughts

Whilst Fabian Tassano rails—quite correctly—against the Marxist bias in many (if not all) universities, and politicians use the climate change orthodoxy to justify yet more tax rises, it is perhaps a salutory time to emphasise the danger in dogma.

One of very first essays that your humble Devil wrote for his—prematurely aborted—microbiology degree was on the subject of BSE and, of course, CJD. Both of these are in a group of diseases, that also includes scrapie, known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).

It was research into these TSEs that threw up the concept of the prion, a protein that effectively acted as an infectious agent, for these conditions, in a way that no one had previously thought possible. For various reasons, these prions acted utterly unlike any other protein described: they were, for instance, able to infect cross-species (e.g. from cow to human) as well as survive unprecedented rigours of heat and intestinal digestion whilst retaining both their form and virulence.

At the time that I wrote the essay, I considered prions to be a deeply dubious idea and I remained convinced that they were only a symptom of the disease. My chemical and biological learning—including my Biology A Level experimental project, which involved the investigation (and poisoning with heavy metals, etc.) of various proteins—led me to conclude that the prion concept was absolute bollocks and that there must, therefore, be another transmissive agent. Unfortunately, my microbiology tutor disagreed and refused to mark the piece (although she did acknowledge that it was written well, if in a somewhat flippant style).

Flicking through an old edition of New Scientist—the February 17 2007 issue—I see that, finally, some people in the scientific community are coming around to my way of thinking.
VIRUSES, not prions, may be at the root of diseases such as scrapie, BSE and vCJD.

The widely accepted theory of what causes these so-called "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" (TSEs), such as mad cow disease, is that deformed proteins called prions corrupt other brain proteins, eventually clogging and destroying brain cells. But this theory has never been proved completely.

Or, if we are being truthful, at all; however, that hasn't stopped a great many scientists making Doomsday proclamations with an ever-increasing desperation in order to secure vast amounts of public money.
Laura Manuelidis of Yale University has insisted for years that virus-like particles observed in TSE-infected brains may be the culprits, but since such brains are degenerating, the particles have been dismissed as general debris.

However, when Manuelidis studied the particles in cultures of neural cells infected with two particular strains of scrapie and CJD, she found they contained particles that had clustered in regular arrays, as viruses do in cells - and no apparent prions (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 104, p 1965). Cells with more particles were better at infecting other cell cultures, while boosting prions did not appear to increase their infectiousness or particle numbers. Agents that disrupt viruses stopped the cells infecting other cultures.

Generally speaking, if it looks like a virus, acts like a virus and quacks infects like a virus, it's a virus.

Needless to say, those with a vested interest really are not happy with this idea at all. [Emphasis mine.]
However, leading prion researcher Adriano Aguzzi of the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland says Manuelidis won't prove her case without isolating the proposed virus and showing it causes TSE. She should also test other strains for these particles and see if her infected cultures cause TSE in animals, he says.

Despite Aguzzi's challenge, what Manuelidis has found tallies nicely, not only with my own opinion but also with observed practice: I have no doubt that she will obtain the proof that is needed. For, whilst we should beware of basing ideas merely on what we already know, in science—as in almost every other field of endeavour—we should hold true to the principle of Occam's Razor.

So, what is the least complex interpretation—that the transmissive agent is of a type that we already know, or that we should attempt to explain a hitherto unthought-of (and, indeed, observation-defying) group of complex structures? If we combine Occam's Razor with what we know of all other proteins, the prion-as-pathogen theory has never been credible to anyone with a wider knowledge of proteins or of infective agents.

Scandalously—and despite the consistent non-fulfillment of the dire death toll predictions, and the lack of success in replicating the infection path—this has not stopped the prion theory becoming the "consensus" amongst politicians and scientists either too ignorant to know or too greedy to care.

Now that we have found evidence for a tenable, and logical, hypothesis for transmission, it is my hope that we may see some sensible theories brought to light in the TSE debate.

One can only hope that something similar happens to the climate change "concensus"—a dogma which has far more potential for damage to both our prosperity and our personal liberty—before this stupidity causes the sort of death toll that has utterly failed to materialise under the prion orthodoxy.

(Cross-posted [...] at Nourishing Obcurity.)

UPDATE: the day after writing this post, I contacted Laura Manuelidis and she promptly sent me large amounts of her research—including a paper that had been published in The Journal of Cellular Biochemistry 9999:1–19 (2006). It took me some time (and all of the microbiology that I could remember from my degree years) to plough through the technical papers, but I remain convinced that what Dr Manuelidis has found is, indeed, a viral transmission vector for TSEs.

A biography of Laura Manuelidis also led me to a website with some papers hosted as downloadable PDFs, along with the summaries and availability of others.
Sklaviadis TK, Manuelidis L, Manuelidis EE.: Physical properties of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease agent. J Virol. 1989, 63:1212-22.
PMID: 2492609 [PubMed - Free in PMC]
The first evidence for an infectious particle with a well-defined viral size and density.

Sklaviadis T, Dreyer R, Manuelidis L.: Analysis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease infectious fractions by gel permeation chromatography and sedimentation field flow fractionation. Virus Res. 1992, 26:241-54.
PMID: 1492497 [PubMed - Reprint available on request]
This paper shows with the then newly developed technique of field flow fractionation that more purified infectious particles in CJD band with 30nm diameter spheres. It also reports dense EM particles of the same diameter in infectious fractions.

Manuelidis L, Sklaviadis T, Akowitz A, Fritch W.: Viral particles are required for infection in neurodegenerative Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995; 92:5124-8.
PMID: 7761460 [PubMed - Free in PMC]
This paper shows that when the 25-30nm viruslike particles are disrupted so that their nucleic acids are dissociated from protective proteins, their infectivity is lost.

Evolution of a strain of CJD that induces BSE-like plaques. Science. 1997;277:94-8.
PMID: 9204907 [PubMed – Free at Science]
This paper shows that a sporadic CJD strain can evolve into one that produces plaques, as in vCJD. This evolution implies there is a mutable nucleic acid genome that defines each TSE strain.

This is incredibly important work but, other than the New Scientist article mentioned above, I have never seen another word of this discovery mentioned (although I only follow this stuff as a hobby these days).

Voices of Freedom, the IEA and other stories

As some will know, a couple of weeks ago, your humble Devil took part in a Voices of Freedom debate at the IEA.

Chaired by IEA Director Mark Littlewood, the debate—titled Who Holds The Liberal Torch In 2010: Libertarians, Lib Dems or the “liberal elite”?—featured (in speaking order) myself, Brendan O’Neill (editor, Spiked!), Paul Staines (aka blogger Guido Fawkes), Julian Harris (chairman, Liberal Vision), James Delingpole (writer, journalist and broadcaster), Michael White (assistant editor, Grauniad) and Mark Pack (co-editor, Liberal Democrat Voice).

Before commenting on the debate itself (or, rather, some of the more extraordinary views exposed by it), I thought that I would post the introduction that I had written. On the day, this introduction ended up being slightly rushed, since I had anticipated having six minutes to speak whilst, in fact, being kept to five (and a minute does make all the difference): however, for the edification of my faithful readers and of those who were there, I am going to post my expanded speech—the one that I would have given had time not been short—below (although the themes will be familiar to those of you who have read posts such as this and this).
So, who does hold the liberal torch in this day and age?

In order to consider this, one needs to consider what "liberal" is. I, of course, would hold that "liberal"—in these days of the corruption of that word—really means "libertarian", and it is these terms that I frame my argument.

I have written before that there are two types of libertarian—what I call "positive" and "negative". The negative are of the ultra-individual, "don't tread on me" variety: they are often the gun nuts, and the shrillest advocates of the "all tax is theft" mantra. Of course, I agree with them: all tax is theft—in fact, it is extortion with menaces.

However, I am more of the positive libertarian persuasion. I want the greatest amount of freedom that we can possibly get—indeed, in an ideal world, I would be an anarchist—but, ultimately, I am interested in the best possible outcome. What makes me a libertarian is that, broadly speaking, I believe that the best possible outcomes are achieved through giving people the greatest possible liberty, and encouraging the free market to work its magic (in almost all things).

In other words, I am a libertarian not simply through moral or philosophical dogma, but because I believe that a libertarian state—or, if you like, liberal state—will make everyone's lives better.

Of course, given the tenets of the philosophy, the real problem is how one goes about "practical libertarianism": indeed, as the leader of the Libertarian Party, I can tell you that this is—quite naturally—the conundrum that is the basis for the majority of our internal (and external) debates.

In any case, personally I am anti-state: yes, there is the aspect of ideology (and I deplore its monopoly on force), but my real objection is that it performs its tasks so badly. Not only is it wasteful, and swayed by successive governments' ideologies, but it is so easily corrupted too.

As an illustration, I would like to use an example—that being one of the most damaging, stupid, destructive laws ever passed. It is a law whose effects have been devastating and incredibly long-lasting—the 1911 National Insurance Act.

In the 1800s and early 1900s, welfare was generally handled by the Friendly Societies: perfect examples of voluntary collectivism, of people banding together in local, organised structures to improve their lives.

By the early 1900s, Friendly Societies had branches in almost every town, almost every district of every city—and, at their peak, provided community-rooted insurance and primary medical care to some three quarters of Britain's manual workers. Parents could even buy memberships for their children so that they were insured from the moment that they left schooling.

Friendly Societies competed against one another for members, keeping costs down, and yet had reciprocal arrangements (like private gentlemen's clubs today) with other friendly societies—so ensuring the mobility of labour. You paid into your insurance fund—not some nebulous government coffer—and when you moved, it moved with you.

Friendly Societies were small, and local. They held events and regular meetings. In this way, you got to know people in your community, people in other professions. People are less likely to steal from those whom they know personally—and that went for the managers of the Societies as much as it went for the possible malingerers. Further, members could chip in extra money, or vote for extra monies, to be distributed to those who were genuinely in need and whose premiums would not cover their care.

So, when I have excoriated the state—or pointed out that the state spend only 8% of GDP in 1880 (despite fighting several wars)—and people say to me "I suppose you want to see the return of the poorhouses?", I have an answer. "No," say I. "I want to see the return of the Friendly Societies."

The Friendly Societies show what human beings can do when the state does not interfere. Indeed, the original aim of the 1911 National Insurance Act was to provide Friendly Society membership to those who could not otherwise afford it.

But the Friendly Societies' success was, ultimately, their downfall. No, they were not brought down by internal strife, or by any factor within their control. They were brought down by the power and the malice of their enemies and the corruptibility of politicians—of the state.

The Friendly Societies had two powerful enemies. The first, and obvious, was the private insurance companies which had—with little self-knowledge, it seems—organised themselves into an association with the somewhat sinister monicker of "The Combine".

The second enemy was the British Medical Association, the BMA: an organisation that, even now, is lobbying vigorously to persuade the state to remove yet more of our freedoms. The BMA disliked the idea that the lower orders should be able to give orders to "gentlemen doctors". Not only this, but these common little men often had the impertinence to vote bad doctors out of their jobs with Friendly Societies—organisations that did not, the BMA felt, pay doctors the wages that they deserved.

These two enemies of the people combined to form a temporary but unholy alliance to lobby the state—and particularly Lloyd George, who was piloting the Bill—to pervert the National Insurance Act into an instrument that would destroy the Friendly Societies.

What the insurers gained was the removal of competition. The doctors gained all that they wanted, not least a doubling of the minimum wage that a doctor could be paid. And all of this was paid for by a deeply regressive poll tax—National Insurance Contributions.

As in other things where the state starts to provide a service, they crowded out the Friendly Societies. After all, if you were a relatively poor manual worker, you could not spare your three shillings per annum to the Friendly Society and the three shillings that the government was taking directly from your pay.

And so the Friendly Societies all but vanished, along with the communities they nurtured. And with them went the libertarian model of welfare—of people getting together as a voluntary collective in order to look after themselves. And so the model of state as mater and pater—the state in loco parentis, with all the intrusive hideousness that concept has spawned—was started.

Lloyd George and the others started with good intentions, but they were perverted by powerful vested interests. As such, the liberal torch is borne by all those who fight and campaign for the removal of such vested interests—and the state is the biggest of those.

But more than that: the liberal torch is not carried by the LibDems, or any other politicos; nor is it carried by the elite who form part of the state-perpetuating establishment—all of whom are like big children playing house, putting on airs of supreme importance and throwing their weight around as if the actions of government are the most significant and serious actions of all.

It's the actions of regular people that are the most significant, serious, and worthy of respect, and they don't deserve to be treated like dolls when, in reality, the only truly and moral libertarian proposition is that they should be masters of themselves.

They did so in the past, and their aspirations were crushed by corporate whores and political shills: and in removing the ability of people to organise themselves, these evil people also removed the desire for them to try. It is this that has led to our "broken society"—the cynical ambitions of the vested interests, backed up by the monopoly of violence that a corrupt and venal state willingly brought to bear upon its people.

And so I say that those who really carry the liberal torch these days are ordinary individuals, providing for themselves and each other voluntarily, trying to live fulfilling lives according to their choice, without interference or interfering.

And that, for what it's worth, is probably the clearest mission statement that I can give, frankly. I wish that I had had the time to deliver it in full, but that is the way with these things.

Many of the others made a strong case for liberal—or libertarian—policies, with Guido concentrating on drugs (and recounting memories of a long and eventful night that we had a couple of years ago), Julian recounting a personal story, and James Delingpole concentrating on the Climate Change scandal (according to Pater Devil, James has mentioned me favourably in this week's Spectator, but I have been unable to obtain a copy of it thus far). Michael White was—whilst being moderately and unexpectedly amusing—as smug, stupid, irritating and patronising as I had imagined that he would be; still, with the Grauniad group making another colossal loss of £171 million this year, perhaps we won't have to read his witterings too much longer.

Two people are worth further commet. The first is Mark Pack, who was generally sensible until he started raising the spectre of what our old friends at The Spirit Level would call "psychosocial pathways". Mark denies it but, as far as I am concerned, his clear implication was that we should legislate against things that, to put it bluntly, hurt people's feelings.

Mark commented on Dick Puddlecote's review of the debate, leaving the following snide little comment.
Yup, mentioning some scientific research and saying we should think about its implications is a truly an attitude that strikes terror in some :-)

Unfortunately, Mark is no scientist. But, with a PhD in political history, he ought to know what happens when you start to legislate according to a few groups of people's personal morals. Let's say some "science" said that people were offended by gays and wanted them to be stoned to death; would Mark endorse that?

I presume not. So why would anyone who calls themselves a liberal be in favour of legislating against advertising or anything else that happens to hurt people's feelings—or in any other way influence their behaviour.

But it is more fundamental than that: it is not that I particularly hold a candle for advertising: it is that I strongly object to smug, superior politicos deciding that they can better judge what other people's behaviour should be. I am immediately repulsed by people who believe that they have a monopoly on sensible choices and should be able to force their opinions—by force—on everyone else.

That is not the philosophy of a liberal, but of an authoritarian scumbag: it is the attitude of the kind of idiot who believes that The Spirit Level is science and that Nudge—and all of these other books advocating "libertarianism paternalism"—are about anything other than totalitarianism.

And that is why I said that I found Mark Pack the "most terrifying person in the room": because he is a dictator clothed in the raiments of a liberal.

The second person who is worth drawing to your attention is Brendan O'Neill, the editor of Spiked!. Spiked! comes, roughly speaking, from the very left wing, and describes itself thus:
spiked is an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms. spiked is endorsed by free-thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, and hated by the narrow-minded such as Torquemada and Stalin. Or it would be, if they were lucky enough to be around to read it.

Brendan pointed out, quite correctly, that many so-called libertarians—on the right and the left—will shout about getting the state away from their particular likes, but call for it to come down hard on their bug-bears. The right, for instance, might shout about paying less tax, but holler for the state to crack down on people taking drugs; the Left might go on about civil liberties but insist the government crack down on free speech for terrorists.

All well and good. Brendan is right: people are very bad at being consistent in their cries for liberty.

But, bizarrely, he then went on to prove his point—by insisting that governments should get out of our lives, except where it concerned striking workers. Brendan essentially seemed to hold up the right to strike as one of the very cornerstones of liberty. And by "right to strike", as he clarified, Brendan meant the state laws that prevent companies from firing striking workers.

In other words, Brendan advocated drug legalisation, and free speech and civil liberties and all of these other good things, whilst bizarrely insisting that the law should be brought to bear on employers in order that Brendan's own bug-bear could be backed up by state violence.

In conversations afterwards, in the pub, I pointed this out to Brendan. I was consistent, I maintained, because—like him—I did not want the government propping up (and being lobbied by) business. But trades unions are just as much of a vested interest as the corporates. If one truly believes in libertarianism, then one should not support the laws against sacking strikers. In fact, there should be no government interference on either side.

The whole point of a trade union was to be able to motivate large numbers of workers so that, if an employer behaved unjustly, then they would have to negotiate because otherwise they couldn't carry out their business. This is far more true now—when most workers are skilled and require considerable training—than it was when the trades unions were first formed (when much of the work was repetitive manual labour).

In the end, Brendan appeared, at least, to agree with me that the state should be involved on neither side, although he still maintained the right to strike was one of the most fundamental. I countered that everyone has the right to strike, law or no law—they just don't have the right to remain employed if doing so.

Anyway, generally the whole event was interesting and enjoyable: let us hope that these debates continue...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Indulge me in a little fantasy...

I have just been reading The Nameless Libertarian's critique of the often-bandied about phrase that Our New Coalition Overlords™ are "the best government in a generation"...
So yes, this coalition - which is a fledgling government that will not be possible to assess effectively until after it has left power - is, thus far, the best government in a generation. But for over 20 years, this country has had pretty dreadful government from its political class. And this is what bothers me - it isn't really an achievement to be the best government in a generation when you've only just started and when your immediate predecessors have been shit. The bar has been set so low for Cameron et al that they will be able to claim success even if they succeed at nothing other than avoiding direct, clear-cut failure.

... and a thought suddenly occurred to me (these things do happen, from time to time)...

Let us assume that this Coalition is, in fact, absolutely super; let us assume that, at the end of their term, they have gone a long way to balancing the books, have sorted out the state failures and are generally (pretty much) everything that we could reasonably hope for; let us also assume that we, the people, believe that it is the combination of Conservatives and LibDems that have made it so; and let us further assume that Our New Coalition Overlords™ are so super, that we wish them to continue in government for another term.

Tell me: how, exactly, do we vote for that?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Selling off Network Rail

It seems that the government are considering selling off Network Rail—which would be... er... courageous.
In its bid to cut our £155bn deficit, George Osborne's Treasury crew are polishing up the same list of asset sales that the previous lot failed to get shot of – Royal Mail, NATS, Dartford Crossing, the High Speed 1 rail line and the ever-galloping Tote. But there's one business that could fetch as much as them combined: Network Rail.

Selling the owner of Britain's tracks, signals and stations would take political balls. But this is a time for bold decisions. And the numbers are compelling. Network Rail's equity could be worth as much as £14bn, while its debts would be removed from the public books.

The trouble is, of course, that we saw what happened last time—and it was recently enough that most people remember it. Anda although the article points out that Network Rail is in a far better position than Railtrack was, there is still one crucial element missing.
You could argue that it would be better still to have a vertically integrated railway, with the same owner for both the trains and the track. That could then be carved up as, say, four big regional companies and privatised—similar to the model in Japan.

And, of course, similar to the model that our own railways had in the hey-day of British rail travel. In WWI, the railways came under direct government control, and the exigencies of war meant that the railways were increasingly difficult to run. In 1923, the government formed the companies into "The Big Four"—the Great Western Railway, the London and North Eastern Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Southern Railway companies. In 1947—after the government had screwed the private railway companies throughout WWII—the Labour government nationalised the struggling private companies to form British Rail.

As with every other utility the state has ever run, successive governments withheld investment, and destroyed the service. I have, for instance, written before about the utter, colossal failure that was the Beeching Axe.

But, if the government wants to privatise the railways and do it properly, then they could do worse than hire Longrider—a man who has worked at the sharp end and has a superb understanding of the problems—to lead the effort.
If Osbourne is going down the route of proper privatisation, then a vertical split is the way to go. A company that operates the signalling and track on which its trains operate has a unique incentive to make it operate properly. During the previous privatisation, relationships between signallers, traincrew and trackworkers soured overnight as they became competitors with different company loyalties rather than colleagues. It has taken a decade and a half to restore them. And, importantly, we could lose all the silly delay attribution and buying of paths necessary before a signaller can move an out of place on-track machine to its depot. And, you never know, maybe signallers can go back to regulating using common sense rather than abide by arbitrary regulation polices that are out of touch with the situation on the ground.


The poor and choices

Shuggy is up in arms about Our New Coalition Overlords' proposal to pay benefits in the form of food vouchers.
The obvious solution to poverty, which is simply to give the poor more money, is unacceptable to our new 'progressive' coalition overlords. They understand that money gives people choices and in the case of the poor, this would never do because they would just make the 'wrong' choices.

Yeah, sure. And yet no.

The government has no money of its own: it only has what it takes from its people through tax.

As such, the government cannot simply "give the poor more money" without first taking it from other people; the people that they take it from then become poorer.

(Many, in fact, are pushed below the poverty line (as estimated by, say, the Rowntree Foundation) after this money is taken from them.)

But the money given to the poor is supposed to serve a certain purpose—that is, to allow them to stay alive. Even Beveridge maintained that benefits should only be at a "subsistance level".

If there is a social contract, it is that those of us who work agree to be taxed to ensure that those who have no work are not lying about, starving in the streets. This is a cost of living in a society, and it also answers the demands of basic humanity.

But the money does not belong to the poor to do what they want with it, it is not provided to give them "choices": it is there for a specific purpose—to ensure that they can stay alive. If they want "choices" then they must go out and earn their own cash.

In other words, the government aren't proposing taking "choices" away from people because they are poor; they are proposing to do so because the money does not belong to those in receipt of it—it is not theirs to do as they will with.

Imagine if a friend of yours asked to borrow £50 off you because he was starving; it's £50 that you cannot really afford (and you're pretty sure that you won't get it back any time soon), but you give it to help him in extremis.

You'd be pretty annoyed if, a few hours later, you found him buying rounds for his mates in the pub, would you not?

Of course, none of this means that I subscribe to the idea of vouchers. No.

If, for instance, a family on benefits chooses to go without food so that they can afford the bus fare to send their child to the best school that they can, then that is a choice that I applaud. And, unless the bus driver takes food vouchers, then such instruments will, indeed, take away choice. It will even take away the choice of a dole claimant to travel to a job interview—and that is hardly desirable, is it?

Given that, I must also allow people the freedom to make choices that I would not condone too.

But, as a general rule, if the poor have enough money to have "choices" then we are giving them too much of other people's money; where is the morality in removing "choices" from a group of people who have earned them, so that you can give "choices" to another (who have not)?

If the poor want choices, then they must either earn their own money to make it with, or apply to a charitable organisation to help them. The money that is extorted from other people should be used to ensure that people stay alive—not live.

Quite simply, if you want to live, then you must earn your own living, not steal it from others.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Oh dear, that's not at all peachy

Both Iain Dale and Tory Bear have been punting an advert—mainly because it (very) briefly features TV's Shane Greer—for Peachy Pink, a supportive underwear company.

Your humble Devil does not like to be bombarded with adverts, silly films and general animated hideousness, so he has Click To Flash—a Flash blocker for Safari—installed on his browser. Many people have a similar plugin for Firefox.

As a result, this is what Peachy Pink's website looks like.

Whilst I can click on the Flash areas to reveal the website, the same luxury is not afforded iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users—who will not be able to see anything at all.

Now, some would argue that this is Apple's fault for putting such a restriction in place; I. however, would argue that Flash is an abomination and the sooner it dies, the better.

Whatever the merits of one argument or the other (and I don't intend to get into it here), that isn't the real issue: the real issue is that it is bad business—both for Peachy Pink and for the web designers who built the site.

Now, until Smokescreen—a clever little open source application that will render Flash into HTML5 and Javascript—is ready, any site should have fallbacks. And even then, any site should still have fallbacks.

Everything that the Flash does in that site can be achieved through HTML5 and CSS3 (and some minimal Javascript)—yes, including all of the animations! This will, of course, not take account of less advanced browsers, but Flash could be used to deal with those—especially since those using Internet Exploder (and that's the browser that we're really talking about here) are highly unlikely to have Flash blockers installed.

At the very least, there should be an @media stylesheet included for mobile devices: this would allow Peachy Pink to target any mobiles that do not run Flash (and that's most of them) with special rules that will ensure that your message comes across.

As it is, Peachy Pink's website is unavailable to most mobile devices, and undesirable to web curmudgeons like myself....

IPSA crying shame

It seems that Tom Harris is having another moan about IPSA; once again, your humble Devil is having a really hard time giving a shit.

I am on a train to Coventry at the moment, so I am afraid that I am going to have to quote The Scary Clown rather than write something myself (my kingdom for an iPad!)...
That's exactly what 13 years of Labour government have made every occasion of dealing with the civil service like for the rest of us. It is exactly how life is for the rest of us, and it's like that for exactly the same reason: Labour, with an unassailable majority, introduced an endless sea of badly-drafted, badly-thought-through, knee-jerk law to cope with things because that's all they knew.

At the time, I said that I didn't think IPSA was going to be a good idea, because, like every other fucking thing you cunts did in power, it was a knee-jerk solution cobbled up by a couple of fuckwits who lived their lives in the political bubble. I was quite happy for you guys to claim legitimate expenses through the old system. You guys took the fucking piss and in a frantic fit of being seen to be doing something, this half-baked, fatuous cock-up was created.

This is exactly how every fucking law you cunts drafted turned out for us: driven by the need to have a soundbite, you rammed legislation through without debate and without thought while remaining entirely immune from the consequences.

Every time an MP whines about IPSA, my soul blooms a little. Because the exact same thing you did to us for the last 13 years has finally come to bite you useless fuckers on the arse. Perhaps now you can have the slightest taste of what every dealing with the government we have is like. And thanks to your insatiable lust for creating law, we now also have more frequent dealings with the fuckers.

I heartily recommend that you read the whole thing—it's a work of beauty...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sir Hugh Orde: disingenuous swine

The Adam Smith Institute comments on the latest load of waffle from an unnecessary policeman.
Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Police Officers, has responded to proposed budget cuts by warning that it will mean reduction in the number of front line police officers. He says, "It would be misleading in the extreme to suggest the size of this service is sustainable."

This is not true, of course. It is a text-book response to proposed budget restrictions in public services. Always the claim is that it will be the most popular aspect of the service which will have to be cut. In this case it is the number of police on the streets.

One famous case was when US customs faced a cut and immediately took out the staff who looked for drugs coming in at airports.

The purpose is to pressure the political leaders by exposing them to hostile public opinion, with a view to weakening their resolve on the proposed savings. Never is it backroom or bureaucratic jobs that are proposed for cuts, because that would not achieve the purpose.

It is called rent-seeking, and is designed to maximize the amount of public funds directed to their department or service. It is without merit, and government should respond accordingly.

There is also another aspect to this, of course. As the ASI points out, Sir Hugh Orde is, indeed, the President of the Association of Police Officers (ACPO) which—despite being a private company that mainly exists to lobby the government on behalf of authoritarian police scum—is funded with our money.

To the tune of £10 million per annum.

Now, given that Sir Hugh Orde is so very worried about the levels of policing in this time of austerity, I can only assume that he would be thrilled were the government to withdraw all of its funding for ACPO—money which will, in any case, only be spent on champagne for Hugh and his buddies—and, instead, directed that cash to frontline policing.

Admittedly, darling Hugh would lose his £183,000 salary but, nonetheless, I am sure that he will be delighted to know that it is going to pay for about five front-line police officers.

So, well done for speaking out, Hugh! And thank you for finding a nice new source of funding in these difficult times!

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...