So Gordon has pulled the plug on a plan to allow councils to run pay-as-you-go rubbish collecting schemes.
I've got mixed feelings about it really. Yes, the councils would have gone price-rise crazy. It would have been unpopular with voters.
But why on earth does a local council have to ask central government how it should deal with rubbish collection anyway?
Here's a delightful story (via Rob Fisher, a blog I haven't visited for ages for reasons which entirely escape me).
German greens have persuaded the government there to institute a state-funded deposit scheme for plastic bottles. Trade in your plastic bottle and you get 25 eurocents from the state. Because the bureaucrats have ignored the economics the consequences have been, frankly, completely predictable.
Three hardworking thieves [...] bought 150,000 ersatz grape soda bottles, made for a few cents each in Lithuania, to the eastern German state of Schleswig-Holstein and started trying to cash in.
So here we have, ladies and gentlemen, greenery in action. Bottles are made to order in Lithuania, shipped across the border to Germany and are then melted down to make new bottles.
Lunatics, I tell you, lunatics.
William Connelly observes, correctly, that in effectively destroying the coal industry, Margaret Thatcher
is responsible for any faint hopes that the UK has of meeting its Kyoto targets.
This is yet another example of how good economics can drive good environmentalism. I wonder if any of my greener readers would care to call for the environmental beatification of the Blessed Margaret. Joe? Repeat after me: "Maggie is a saint".
There seems to be a lot going on at the moment doesn't there? So much to read and so little time to actually say ones hap'eth (sp?) worth .
Croydonian informs us that the liberals have won the Polish elections hands down. That's real liberalism you know, not the socialist-lite LibDem kind.
The Englishman links to an incredibly disturbing report that the Italy is going to require bloggers to get a licence.
Everybody is laughing at the Independent reprinting a government press release as original journalism. Pity the poor deluded fools who read it.
Here we go again. Taking inspiration from the
crooked Uzbek politician "Fingers" Usmanov, the Society of Snake Oil Salesmen Homeopaths has tried to put the kaibosh on a blogger's expose of some of their members getting up to no good. Apparently some of the revered members of the society have been claiming that their magic potions can prevent, among other things, malaria.
Andy Lewis of Quackometer did some research into the issue and traced the work of a UK homeopath in a Nigerian clinic, which claims that its medecines can manage HIV, TB and malaria.
Faced with this expose of one of its members, the Society's response was to have their lawyers threaten Lewis's ISP, who immediately asked him to take the post down. He has been unable to find out exactly what the society's concerns are.
Here's what they tried to stop you reading:
The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing
The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) are a shambles and a bad joke. It is now over a year since Sense about Science, Simon Singh and the BBC Newsnight programme exposed how it is common practice for high street homeopaths to tell customers that their magic pills can prevent malaria. The Society of Homeopaths have done diddly-squat to stamp out this dangerous practice apart from issue a few ambiguously weasel-worded press statements.
The SoH has a code of practice, but my feeling is that this is just a smokescreen and is widely flouted and that the Society do not care about this. If this is true, then the code of practice is nothing more than a thin veneer used to give authority and credibility to its deluded members. It does nothing more than fool the public into thinking they are dealing with a regulated professional.
As a quick test, I picked a random homeopath with a web site from the SoH register to see if they flouted a couple of important rules:
The homeopath I picked on is called Julia Wilson and runs a practice from the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough. What I found rather shocked and angered me.
48 • Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority.
• No advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases.
72 To avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or in writing) implying cure of any named disease.
Straight away, we find that Julia M Wilson LCHE, RSHom specialises in asthma and works at a clinic that says,Many illnesses and disease can be successfully treated using homeopathy, including arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders, emotional and behavioural difficulties, headaches, infertility, skin and sleep problems.Well, there are a number of named diseases there to start off. She also gives a leaflet that advertises her asthma clinic. The advertising leaflet says,Conventional medicine is at a loss when it comes to understanding the origin of allergies. ... The best that medical research can do is try to keep the symptoms under control. Homeopathy is different, it seeks to address the triggers for asthma and eczema. It is a safe, drug free approach that helps alleviate the flaring of skin and tightening of lungs...Now, despite the usual homeopathic contradiction of claiming to treat causes not symptoms and then in the next breath saying it can alleviate symptoms, the advert is clearly in breach of the above rule 47 on advertising as it implicitly claims superiority over real medicine and names a disease.
Asthma is estimated to be responsible for 1,500 deaths and 74,000 emergency hospital admissions in the UK each year. It is not a trivial illness that sugar pills ought to be anywhere near. The Cochrane Review says the following about the evidence for asthma and homeopathy,The review of trials found that the type of homeopathy varied between the studies, that the study designs used in the trials were varied and that no strong evidence existed that usual forms of homeopathy for asthma are effective.This is not a surprise given that homeopathy is just a ritualised placebo. Hopefully, most parents attending this clinic will have the good sense to go to a real accident and emergency unit in the event of a severe attack and consult their GP about real management of the illness. I would hope that Julia does little harm here.
However, a little more research on her site reveals much more serious concerns. She says on her site that 'she worked in Kenya teaching homeopathy at a college in Nairobi and supporting graduates to set up their own clinics'. Now, we have seen what homeopaths do in Kenya before. It is not treating a little stress and the odd headache. Free from strong UK legislation, these missionary homeopaths make the boldest claims about the deadliest diseases.
A bit of web research shows where Julia was working (picture above). The Abha Light Foundation is a registered NGO in Kenya. It takes mobile homeopathy clinics through the slums of Nairobi and surrounding villages. Its stated aim is to,introduce Homeopathy and natural medicines as a method of managing HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Kenya.I must admit, I had to pause for breath after reading that. The clinic sells its own homeopathic remedies for 'treating' various lethal diseases. Its MalariaX potion,is a homeopathic preparation for prevention of malaria and treatment of malaria. Suitable for children. For prevention. Only 1 pill each week before entering, during and after leaving malaria risk areas. For treatment. Take 1 pill every 1-3 hours during a malaria attack.This is nothing short of being totally outrageous. It is a murderous delusion. David Colquhoun has been writing about this wicked scam recently and it is well worth following his blog on the issue.
Let's remind ourselves what one of the most senior and respected homeopaths in the UK, Dr Peter Fisher of the London Homeopathic Hospital, has to say on this matter.there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won't find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.Malaria is a huge killer in Kenya. It is the biggest killer of children under five. The problem is so huge that the reintroduction of DDT is considered as a proven way of reducing deaths. Magic sugar pills and water drops will do nothing. Many of the poorest in Kenya cannot afford real anti-malaria medicine, but offering them insane nonsense as a substitute will not help anyone.
Ironically, the WHO has issued a press release today on cheap ways of reducing child and adult mortality due to malaria. Their trials, conducted in Kenya, of using cheap mosquito nets soaked in insecticide have reduced child deaths by 44% over two years. It says that issuing these nets be the 'immediate priority' to governments with a malaria problem. No mention of homeopathy. These results were arrived at by careful trials and observation. Science. We now know that nets work. A lifesaving net costs $5. A bottle of useless homeopathic crap costs $4.50. Both are large amounts for a poor Kenyan, but is their life really worth the 50c saving?
I am sure we are going to hear the usual homeopath bleat that this is just a campaign by Big Pharma to discredit unpatentable homeopathic remedies. Are we to add to the conspiracy Big Net manufacturers too?
It amazes me that to add to all the list of ills and injustices that our rich nations impose on the poor of the world, we have to add the widespread export of our bourgeois and lethal healing fantasies. To make a strong point: if we can introduce laws that allow the arrest of sex tourists on their return to the UK, can we not charge people who travel to Africa to indulge their dangerous healing delusions?
At the very least, we could expect the Society of Homeopaths to try to stamp out this wicked practice? Could we?
Probably not, it seems.
If anyone has any concerns with the content of this post, they are very welcome to contact me.
This blog is hosted in the USA.
H/T Freeborn John
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.