Friday, 18 June 2010

R4isms: NHS and Homo Fabian Neanderthalensis

Listening to Radio 4, as I do on my wind-up Baygen radio, there was an interesting programme on Neanderthals last night. No, not Westminster Hour, but the ancient hairy kind. No, not The World Cup, actual Neanderthals, Homo Neanderthalensis.

Some interesting factoids came up to tuck away in my Trivial Pursuit cheek-pouches, such as the evidence suggesting that they were top tier predators, eating a diet similar to that of lions and tigers and likely had to use their organisational skills as much for defending the kill from other predators as much as making the kill in the first place.

What jumped out was a statement, and forgive me if this is not verbatim, discussing the life-span and robustness of these early people in that there is evidence that injured people were rested and laid up, supported by others, so that their injuries could heal rapidly. It was:

"Well, there was no NHS back then"

This is spoken by what we might describe as intelligent, learned people.

I could understand it if they said there was no penicillin or antibiotics, though I would question that even. No wheels for sure, but "No NHS"? There was no NHS in WWII, for goodness sake!

The mindset that pre-NHS was some barbaric dark age where we hunted mammoth, where we existed with flint knives and bearskins, so far away as to be forgotten, as if the NHS was some absolute fixture.

Of course, to many it is. To many, not having the NHS in all its forms is like being thrown back to an antediluvian nightmare, with, I suppose, those cruel Libertarians cast as the Cro Magnons threatening their existence with a steely eye and modern weaponry, as in William Golding's The Inheritors*, or the ruthless Fins in Pathfinder.

The NHS in its entirety is a sacred cow, or should I say some kind of cave-painting, fixed on stone, to be observed and worshipped. Extended, but never altered or replaced. To criticise is to blaspheme.

It has always been.

It must always be.


The NHS is more than it was originally supposed to be. It was only meant to be a universal State run health insurance programme**. It is now a de-facto monopoly and one that is being portrayed as eternal - "from everlasting to everlasting"! So it is written, so it has become.

To consider something that is systemically dysfunctional by nature of its monopoly and the third party payer problem, as eternal and unassailable is reckless folly.

The NHS needs to evolve. It needs to end the monopoly. It needs to look at what it was aimed to do, not what it as become. Healthcare provision does not demand a state monopoly. Healthcare provision does not demand NICE. It does not demand micromanagement, Soviet style, of our healthcare needs, with individuals manacled to some geographic fiefdom in the shape of your PCT and SHA that you can only escape by moving house. The PCTs and SHAs are not held to account in the true sense. They do not face extinction.

For the likes of Frank Field to think the unthinkable, he needs to encompass our attitudes to Healthcare, Housing and Schools, as well as what is known as Welfare, for all these things are part of what is currently provided as entitlement and makes up for a massive redistribution of wealth through coercion with all the unintended consequences, the negative incentives and distortions.

To ring fence or worship any of these is to condemn the UK to be Homo Neanderthalensis, cowering in a cave while modern man outside, coming from India and China, flexibly adopt, adapt and thrive. We will be sitting there, huddled around the embers of a fire we have forgotten how to make, looking out on a landscape full of animals we know not how to hunt.

* a course book in my school days.

**Even that has unintended consequences of forcing out independent Friendly Societies, because a State insurance provider has subsidies and by nature of the State being a monopoly, would steadily be given monopoly power and advantage. This was seen in the need to extend the monopoly power to provision even before the scheme was launched.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Telegraph Fights Global IQ with Reason-Negative Whale Faeces

I mean, is someone actually PAID to write this? The article might actually refer to some sensible research, but the author of this article is so clueless or hurried that they cannot see that they have left out important facts that make the selected assertions illogical.

Bear with me as I grind through the article and at the end see how the article comes across like horse (or Whale) manure, yet the research may, in fact, not be.

Sperm whales fight global warming with carbon-neutral faeces

Southern Ocean sperm whales have emerged as an unexpected ally in the fight against global warming, removing the equivalent carbon emissions from 40,000 cars each year thanks to their faeces, a study has found.

Oh, has it. Well, lets see, shall we, children?...

The cetaceans have been previously fingered as climate culprits because they breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas.
But this is only a part of the picture, according to the paper, published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"climate culprits"? Whales? Has it occurred to anyone that all animals breathe out CO2? Even AGW/CACC supporters? (Well, they are worse because of the vast quantities of CH4, but I digress...). The fact that people are so twisted to assert that any life form is a "climate culprit" just because they breathe really should tell you the mentality of some people.
Australian biologists estimated that the estimated 12,000 sperm whales in the Southern Ocean each defecate around 50 tonnes of iron into the sea every year after digesting the fish and squid they hunt.
That is iron from the fish and squid that swim around them, no? Yes? Ok.
The iron is then eaten by phytoplankton - marine plants that live near the ocean surface and suck up CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
Yum. Ok, keep going...
As a result of the fertilisation, the whales remove 400,000 tonnes of carbon each year, twice as much as the 200,000 tonnes of CO2 that they contribute through respiration.
That is like saying the paper industry "removes" x tonnes of CO2. Still, I am sure this is going to make sense later.
The whales' faeces are so effective because they are emitted in liquid form and close to the surface, before the mammals dive, said the paper.
Sperm Whales take a dump before going to work. I like them already.
Industrialised whaling not only gravely threatened Southern Ocean sperm whales, it also damaged a major carbon "sink," the scientific term for something that removes more greenhouse gases than it produces, it added.
Before industrial whaling, the population of this species was about 10 times larger, which meant around two million tonnes of CO2 were removed annually, said the paper.
DING! Presumption. Just because there were 10x as many Sperm Whales does not mean that 10x as many phytoplankton shall bloom [1]. Still, let us carry on, even if the idea of a "sink" has not yet been properly explored.
The scientists suspect that because sperm whales cluster in specific areas of the Southern Ocean there is a clear link between food availability and cetacean faeces.
How can you "suspect a clear link"? Well, that "CO2 of 40,000 cars" is now only suspected. Onward.
This could explain the "krill paradox," they believe. Researchers have previously found that when balleen whales are killed, the amount of krill in that sea area declines, which thus affects the entire food chain.
Which is all very well but Sperm Whales are not baleen whales, they are toothed, like dolphins and orca. Have they measured the iron in baleen whale poo? This is not mentioned, but it should be.
The study is lead-authored by Trish Lavery of the School of Biological Sciences at Flinders University in Adelaide.
If I were Trish, I'd be crying into my salad after seeing how all her work has been butchered by this woeful rendition.

The article is disjointed, non-sequitur and flimsy in the extreme. It tells us very little and what it does doesn't make much sense unless you are happy just to absorb baseless soundbites for later regurgitation. Near the surface. With plenty of iron.

What is being said here is that Sperm Whales eat fish and squid in the southern ocean, and out comes iron. What it seems to hint is that Sperm Whales are natural born alchemists or have a supernova in their guts, able to create an element, iron - Fe, the most stable element in the universe - from base things like fish and squid. It speaks as if the iron was not there before. Of course the iron was in the fish and squid. What it also does not mention is why Sperm Whales eating them is any different from other animals eating them or of the fish dying from natural causes and, most importantly, where did the iron in those fish and squid come from?

What is also overlooked is the fate of all that phytoplankton. What does it do, live forever? No, it gets either eaten by krill fish and squid or...drum roll...sinks to the bottom, also like some dead fish and squid.

The article here really should be mentioning the whole lifecycle. Phytoplankton take in CO2. Many are eaten. Animals that eat them then give off the CO2. No "sink". Some phytoplankton and some of the animals further up the food chain fall to the bottom of the ocean and this is the CO2 "sink". Phytoplankton in themselves are NOT a CO2 "sink" in themselves, for if they are eaten then the majority of CO2 they originally took in is almost certainly exhaled by those animals.

To say that phytoplankton take in 400,000 tonnes of CO2 and thus it is a 400,000 tonne CO2 "sink" is complete and utter codswallop, I am afraid.

What COULD be happening is due to the fact that Sperm Whales contribute to keeping iron in the upper waters, phytoplankton can breed in greater numbers than would otherwise occur and by some sinking to the bottom and the sinking of some of the animals that feed on them, some CO2 is "sunk".

Small flaw in this too. The iron is in the phytoplankton and resultant food chain, so as quickly as it is CO2 sinking, so Fe is sinking too. The only way this works is if Sperm Whales or the food it feeds on is IMPORTING iron to the Southern Oceans from elsewhere to keep the levels up.

Maybe this is in the paper by Trish Lavery. I hope it is.

What we do not need is articles like the one I have linked to. It not only provides incomplete "science" by garbling a research paper into a string of meaningless non-sequitur statements, it also risks conditioning people to accepting such incompleteness and non-sequiturs as a norm and a quite acceptable way of "communication". The Fabians must love it. A "result" for them.

To me it just grates. I want to know WHY, to UNDERSTAND, to not just accept blindly. To LEARN, rather than just be TAUGHT.

Is that too much to ask?

[1] I would also bet that if that nasty Mankind discharged iron into the Southern Oceans at 10x the rate of Sperm Whales, the environmentalists would be up in arms talking about a phytoplankton bloom that would destabilise the delicate ecosphere.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

CiF Watch - Spending Cuts


10 Jun 2010, 1:14AM

Once again the public sector is forced to pick up the failings of the private sector...

Recommended 115 times.


10 Jun 2010, 2:14AM


"The price of Labour government."

Don't make me laugh ... we didn't even have a real deficit until the greedy fuckers in the finance "industry" crashed the global economy in 2007.

Don't let the ConDems and the Tory press invent the myth that New Labour caused all our current pain. It's patently not true.

Presse Ne Pas Avaler

This post was recommended 66 times.

Fact is, though, in some ways you cannot blame them, for the article itself is not far off the irrational non-sequitur, self-serving cant of these denizens.