Posts Tagged 'Failure'



It’s Groundhog Day at the Daily Mail… again

From the Daily Mail yesterday came this story, one that will undoubtedly have had patriotic Britons opposed to EU membership and governance up in arms.

However, if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘this sounds rather familiar’ don’t worry, you’re not imagining things.  It must have been a quiet day on Planet Dacre yesterday, because the Daily Mail ran a version of this ‘story’ back in November last year.  It was even written by one of the journalists who produced yesterday’s copy.  Here’s the headline from back then…

To find out just how much of a rehash the story is, we ran it through the Churnalism engine.  Lo and behold, we discover Friday’s article gets over half its content, lifted word for word, from the story in November.  The Churnalism output can be seen below – click to enlarge.

Actually, if you subject yourself to the additional pain of reading the Daily Telegraph, the story will be even less of a surprise to you, given that paper ran its own version of this ‘EU contentious plans’ story back in July last year…

But even then, as now, the story wasn’t news.  The origins of these proposals date back to 1984 (how apt) as part of a wider plan to build the public’s sense of European identity that had been developed by a working party led by a former Italian MEP, Pietro Adonnino.

This was explained on the EU Referendum blog by Richard North in July last year in response to the Telegaph’s sudden realisation of something that was set in train a great many years earlier.  Of course, North could have shared the details of this plan to use sport to further the European identity earlier…  Oh, silly me, he did!

On EU Referendum back in September 2006, he explained in detail how this European plan had already been partly realised by way of golf’s Ryder Cup competition, which had become a Europe v US event, having formerly been a Great Britain v US one.  Adonnino, North informed us, had reported back at the Milan Council in 1985, suggesting a Euro lottery, an EU driving license (agreed in 2005 and again covered by North), the adoption of the blue flag with gold stars… and the creation of European sports teams.  This is just a step change en route to that destination.  It may not happen for decades, but the patient salami slice approach is still in use.

Despite all this information being presented and evidenced for everyone to see and understand, the Daily Mail demonstrates it is still incapable to putting their story into proper context – even when they run it twice in the space of three months.  Perhaps they feel that because the information has been presented on a mere blog it does not possess the required prestige for these grand, highly paid cut and paste merchants to learn from it and refer to it.

When it comes to our media, nothing seems to change.  It truly was Groundhog Day, in more ways than one.

The Guardian’s decline continues

The fall of the Rusbridger Empire draws closer, as evidenced by the news that the insipid Guardian is to scrap its film and music supplement and reduce its sport supplement to just two days per week, while also reducing the number of pages in the paper itself.

The Barclay Brother Beano also reports that with the Guardian making losses of over £40 million per annum, an attempt to coax a number of its hacks into voluntary redundancy has failed and compulsory job losses are now on the way. Small wonder the Guardian Media Group (GMG) uses hedge funds to make money while railing against them in print, and employs tax avoidance measures in its own interest while lambasting others for doing the same.

Last week the Audit Bureau of Circulations figures for national newspapers for November was reported in the Press Gazette. It shows that newspapers continue their decline as readers turn away from them in increasing numbers.

The average drop in year on year average circulation figures across the dailies was 10.7% although the Independent’s huge drop is largely offset by transferring bulk circulation to its ‘i’ paper.  When that is taken into consideration one can see the biggest loser in the circulation war is the Guardian.  It comes as little surprise that GMG has even considered scrapping the print version of the paper and going exclusively online.

If public sector job advertising was taken away from the Guardian and moved to a dedicated online facility the taxpayer would not only save money, Rusbridger’s beast would cease to be fed.  Then even its online future would be in doubt.  We can but hope, but we will not hold our breath.

While we are on the subject, again it is worth reminding ourselves of the disproportionate influence the Guardian wields at the BBC.  Day in, day out, when a BBC programme wants media analysis or opinion on any given topic it turns to the hacks from Rusbridger Towers to hold forth from their left leaning, internationalist standpoint more than from any other outlet.  This despite the Guardian having a circulation smaller that the Daily Star and even the Daily Record.

The greater the number of readers turning away from the Guardian, the greater the number of BBC appearances as talking heads.  The incestuous links spawned from shared ideology are there for all to see.

Our lazy press and its appeals to authority

Scenario.  You’re a highly paid journalist working for what is considered by many as a heavyweight broadsheet with an international reputation.

The world economy is convulsing and an entire currency is sliding towards collapse, barely being held together by political interventions and actions that increasingly bind nations using that currency into fiscal and political union.

You secure an interview with one of the chief architects of that currency to talk about how this currency crisis came to be and whether he got it the design wrong.  It is time to prepare.

Do you:

a) Revise by looking back in detail as far as the interviewee’s report in the 1990s which formed the plan for the currency

b) Go back to the origins of the bigger project of which the single currency was merely a milestone, and the method of implementing change without stirring the people into revolt

c) Rock up to the interview with pad and tape recorder, ask if he got it wrong and accept whatever answer he gives as truthful fact and report it accordingly

If you answered ‘c’ then the Barclay Brothers might be interested in hiring you to work on their comic. It would explain the uncritical acceptance of the comments made by Jacques Delors in this piece by very grand Charles Moore (whose bio states he covers politics with wisdom and insight!), which is notable for the lack of any challenge of the points Delors makes.

There is a reason this blog describes the Telegraph as the Barclay Brother Beano, and Richard North’s tour de force on EU Referendum brings it into sharp relief.

While Moore faithfully relays the answers Delors provided to his lightweight questions – demonstrating a classic appeal to authority and lack of journalistic rigour – North does the job Moore should have done and gets into the history, the detail and the methodology to put into proper context what is happening now and why.

It puts a very different hue on Delors’ deceptive attempt to rewrite history and keep the masses in ignorance of the nature of the beast he loves and cherishes.

Update:  The BBC News is leading with the Delors interview furthering the ‘faulty execution’ line.  This is the derivative, unthinking media at its worst.

But what really stands out is how UKIP’s Nigel Farage has jumped into the story – spectacularly missing the point of the strategy behind the plan – to use Delors’ interview comments as evidence that the Euro was always destined to fail.  When Farage blows it this badly it vindicates my decision not to support his party.

Daily Mail hack’s shock as psychic career lays in tatters

The psychic career of Daily Mail journalist, Nick Pisa, lays in tatters this morning. It ended in stunning fashion after it was revealed he doesn’t really get messages from the other side.

Max Farquar has the full story and screenshots explaining how Pisa wrote the story that would have been published if Amanda Knox’s appeal had been rejected.  That would have been fine.  Only how could Pisa have possibly got the quotes he uses in the story from Italian prosecutors, given that Knox was successful and her conviction quashed?

Anyone looking for the article on the Daily Mail website finds this page in its place… or if you read it carefully, at least this is the page the Daily Mail should have on display in the interests of honesty and transparency…


Compare and contrast

It is often said the BBC’s favourite news subject is itself.  The same is true of Conservative politicians and their bag men. The love being the centre of attention because it takes the focus away from their multitude of broken promises and their rank incompetence.

This weekend we have no less than two articles online that put the 2010 intake of new Tory MPs front and centre.  While the articles hail from different viewpoints, both underline the self referential Westminster bubble’s desire to talk about issues of fascination to itself rather than subjects that matter to the long suffering British public.

First up we have Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome, taking time out from ‘running interference’ for David Cameron in the Sunday Fail, to try and convince readers that he and the Conservative Party are still right of centre, by arguing that the new intake of (supposedly centre right) Tory MPs are pushing David Cameron towards a more robust, more appealing Conservatism.

Any independently minded observer reading Montgomerie’s piece would either be reduced to tears of laughter at the notion of the autocratic Cameron being forced into any position he doesn’t want to adopt, or moved to hurling invective at their screen in response to the sheer vacuous idiocy of his claim.

Which brings us smoothly on to the second piece about the aggressively self serving Tory newbies…  for in the Mail on Sunday we have an anonymous piece, written by a person who indicates they are a longer serving Conservative MP, which explains that while he/she thought the new intake of Tories would clean up politics, the cruel hounding of Mark Pritchard shows they were wrong.

As this anonymous person reminds those who had forgotten the origin of these Parliamentary candidates before they were elected, top of the list were the friends or former schoolmates of Cameron and George Osborne, or those who moved in the same social circle. The candidates lists in many constituencies were cynically manipulated to ensure those who Cameron and Osborne could rely upon to be ‘on message’ were the ones who were selected. Alongside these, the anonymous writer reminds us:

were the ambitious sycophants and plain old careerists who would sell their own grandmother for a pat on the back or a wink from a whip

So how does this insight square with Montgomerie’s article, which one could argue is nothing more than another Cameron-protecting puff piece designed to keep the angered Tory grass roots from turning their back on the left sliding party for good?  How does Montgomerie’s piece square with his own support of the ‘Better Off Out’ campaign to see Britain leave the EU, when he witters on about this new intake, amounting to two thirds of Tory backbenchers, supposedly pulling Cameron towards more Thatcherite positions, and the old Right towards greater pragmatism?

Perhaps Montgomerie’s stomach for principle has now completely evaporated, easily pleased at seeing nothing more a Conservative in name only in Downing Street due to his tribal party loyalty, to be replaced by the coward’s approach – consensus politics and so called pragmatism which maintains the anti democratic nature of politics in this country – which prevents the change we so desperately need.

Denial has helped Northern Irish terrorism flourish

The full extent of Republican terrorist violence in Northern Ireland has been spelt out in the Independent of Sunday (IoS) today.  But before we go into the details, it is important to apply some necessary context and explain where blame resides.

Anyone who has read Heather Brooke’s excellent book ‘The Silent State’ will remember her examples of how authority tries to hide the reality of crime and makes it all but impossible to get meaningful information about what crime is being perpetrated and where.

The approach makes it easier for the authorities to proclaim their approach to reducing crime is working – even though crime figures are nothing more than the extrapolated findings of the regular British Crime Survey of around 40,000 people .  Crime hotspots are missed, certain offences are excluded (such as murder) and until recently crimes against minors were not counted.  The reality on the ground for people living in our neighbourhoods does not tally with the impression of sunlit uplands presented by the government.

This has long been the case in Northern Ireland.

The difference with Northern Ireland is that there has been a collusion between the authorities and the media to play down the simmering violence that has continued in the years since the Good Friday Agreement. The authorities wanted to portray Northern Ireland as having thrown off terrorism and having moved into a era of peace and prosperity.

The reality on the ground was very different, but outside of Northern Ireland people looking on the BBC NI web pages would have long thought the official line was the truth.  Incidents that were taking place around the province were being reported in the local media – after all the reality could not be hidden from locals – but there was a blackout elsewhere in the UK.

Now that has all changed.  The extent of the violence and significance of the terrorist incidents could not be hidden any longer once the Police Service of Northern Ireland starting asking for more money and resources to combat the ‘dissident’ threat after pressure from the Northern Ireland public. With the cat out of the bag the BBC finally started filing news stories that reflected the reality of the low intensity conflict.  But the damage had already been done. Many people in the UK are left with the impression that the Republican terrorists have spontaneously re-emerged to shatter the peace, when all along peace was an illusion.

The only thing that has changed is the Republican terrorists have enhanced their capability and, rather than just injuring PSNI and military personnel, have been successful in killing soldiers and police officers.  There has been an increase in incidents, but there was always a substantial number of incidents taking place.

What has prompted this post today?  It is nearly six months since this blog explained the reality of the situation and added that:

The breakneck effort to drawdown security forces in Northern Ireland and decommission assets necessary to combat terrorist activity has given the republican groups the space to recruit, train and carry out attacks.  The pandering to IRA/Sinn Fein by the Labour government, which is carrying on under the faux Conservatives, has increased the threat in Northern Ireland and restored a threat to mainland Britain.

Does anyone think this security force drawdown would have been allowed to happen if the UK public were more aware of what was really going on in Northern Ireland?  Does anyone think the increased tempo of Real IRA and Continuity IRA attacks would have happened if the drawdown had not taken place?

The BBC should shoulder a substantial proportion of the blame because anyone in the UK reading its Northern Ireland news page would be shocked to learn what the IoS has reported today.  For we learn that between 2008-2010 there were no less than 272 paramilitary attacks – around two per week – and of those only 12 cases have been solved by the PSNI.  In 2010-11 alone there were 100 incidents involving bombs.

The BBC only started reporting stories in detail when they could no longer be hidden away with one paragraph snippets buried with obscure one line headlines.  Despite its best efforts to hold the line for the establishment, the BBC has finally been forced to lay bare the truth. A comment by Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, validates everything this author has been asserting here and elsewhere for some years:

“We are extremely concerned at the growing level of violence, over 200 bomb and gun attacks on police, Army and civilian targets over the past 18 months… We are back to looking under our cars again.” He accused the Government of having an “over-eager desire to portray Northern Ireland as a normal trouble-free society, when there is evidence of a growing terrorist threat which points to the contrary.”

Sadly, although he has spoken about this before in 2009 and 2010, Mr Spence was at least two years late in going public with comments on this subject.  Denial by the government, PSNI and media has allowed terrorism in Northern Ireland to flourish, and we have the latest lethal example of how the establishment has failed the people it is supposed to serve.  Instead too much focus was devoted to self serving agendas.  How can people have any trust in the politicians, police and media when their spin has been so comprehensively shattered?

The media is past its Use By date

One of the biggest (of many) problems with the UK news media is the laziness and lack of curiosity of most journalists.  Today provides us with a case in point with a story that was splashed last night by Patrick Hennessy in the Barclay Brother Beano.

The sub editors worked their supposed magic by putting the following title on Hennessy’s piece: ‘Best before labels reach their sell-by date in food waste crackdown‘.  The subs then add some apparent context for readers with the by-line that: ‘The “best before” dates on food packaging are set to be scrapped in a drive by ministers to stop millions of tonnes of perfectly edible produce being thrown away each year.

These excitable headlines have spawned from what Hennessy writes in his piece:

New guidelines are expected to be unveiled which will provide better information for shoppers and make them far more reluctant to chuck out food before it is even opened, potentially saving households hundreds of pounds a year.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the coalition wants an end to the confusing proliferation of instructions on food labelling which have greatly expanded over the past decade.

Instead of marking food “best before” a certain date, retailers will in future have to produce labels which give details of the health risks associated with individual foods that remain on shelves or in the fridge for a lengthy period before being consumed.

So something is now ‘expected’ on the basis of someone in the coalition saying they ‘want’ to change food labelling.  And this has then been turned into the current labelling being ‘set to be scrapped’.  You see how the piece gets increasingly sexed up?  But not only is it a load of rubbish, it provides clear evidence of the laziness of hacks who wait to been spoonfed tit bits like this (presumably prior to their own ‘best before’ date, or elections as they are more commonly known).

Where does the lavishly remunerated Hennessy show any curiosity?  Where is his research into the origin of the food labelling standard and the laws or regulations that govern it?  We know he hasn’t been curious or looked into the origin of the rules because if he had he would have learned that the standard is imposed upon us by the EU – and the UK government (if you can call it that) has no control over the rules and therefore cannot simply dispense with them.

For that background information, which demonstrates the story to be a pile of horseshit, you need to turn to so called citizen journalists toiling away on their blogs – in this case Dr Richard North at the always excellent EU Referendum.  As Richard points out:

“The ‘best before’ dates on food packaging are set to be scrapped in a drive by ministers to stop millions of tons of perfectly edible produce being thrown away each year”. So says the Sunday Failygraph today, in a pathetically inadequate report which misses out two absolutely crucial words: “European Union”.

The point is, of course, that the “best before” dates are not going to be scrapped. This is because food labelling is an exclusive EU competence and the provisions are set out in Directive 2000/13/EC of 20 March 2000 on “the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs” (pictured on his blog).

The Directive is transposed into British law by the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 as amended (several times), and there are absolutely no plans to amend the Directive, or change the Regulations.

So what is the point of paying to buy the Telegraph or Sunday Telegraph, or trying to inform yourself of what is happening on its website, when the news it publishes is unresearched propagandist nonsense?  But this story then goes on to highlight another miserable failing in the UK news media, the problem of derivative reporting of inaccurate cant.  For Hennessy’s piece has been picked up and published by the Mail on Sunday and by the Sunday Mirror. In their desperation to appear in the know and up to speed with events, they are happy to report the same fallacious rubbish that Hennessy was allowed to print by his incompetent editors.

The reality is comments left on those stories are far more informed than the journalist hacks who wrote them, partly because they have the good sense to check this kind of stuff on EU Referendum.  We must also mention politics.co.uk which also tilts at the story, and almost gets it right when it reports that:

Ministers have shied away from changing the law when it comes to a review of food waste.

The government is set to change guidelines affecting the ‘best before’ date on food and could require retailers to outline the health impacts of eating food which have not been consumed quickly, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said there would not be any change in existing legislation, however.

A spokesperson said: “By law pre-packed food must show a best-before date, even though many foods are still safe to eat after that date.

However even though that site broadly gets it right, it also failes to explain where that law is made or examine why Parliament doesn’t simply change it.  Although readers are given slightly more accurate information, they are left without any substantive explanation or any meaningful context.

If you want the full story forget the mainstream media. Its owners have their own an agenda and its hacks prize maintaining their shoulder rubbing access to talking heads in the political class above their remit to report the full, factual story to their readers. The UK’s news media is past its ‘Use By’ date.

Met Office undermined by evidence to Transport Committee

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry into the impact on transport of recent adverse weather conditions has published the ‘uncorrected’ written evidence that has been submitted. It includes a submission from the Met Office.

As one would expect from the unreconstructed propaganda the Met Office likes to spread about itself, the submission they have made can be summarised as claiming to have got all their forecasts right, that the public and Met Office customers agree and everything is just peachy, with only some minor lessons learned with respect to further developing the National Severe Weather Warning Service. Some highlights from the Met Office’s written evidence include:

This prolonged period of finely balanced weather conditions provided a real challenge for the Met Office’s forecasting capability. Overall, we performed well not only in forecasting the key hazards but in providing consistent, timely and useful advice to Government, customers, the emergency response community and the public.

What this actually refers to is the Met Office’s self congratulatory boast that it managed to forecast the bad weather 1-2 days before it hit as shown in their evidence’s Annex A below:

But what of the seasonal forecast and advice to government? Like the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) the Met Office is engaged in some outrageous revisionism. The two departments clearly have spent time getting their ducks in a row.

As Freedom of Information requests have shown, the Met Office advice somewhat different to what they now claim.  Where is the mention of there being ‘no clear signals for the winter’? Where is the admission that while the chance of an average or colder winter was 70%, they believed the chance of an average or warmer winter was 60%?  What about their agreement with the Cabinet Office that there was only ‘a slightly increased risk for a cold and wintry start to the winter season’? Clearly they have forgotten their own advice below:

Small wonder the Met Office submitted its evidence in writing.  Whom would have had the gall to give oral evidence and risk cross examination by any member of the Transport Committee in possession of this information?  But perhaps the questions will be asked anyway in light of other written evidence that has been supplied to the committee.

Firstly we have the evidence from the Automobile Association (AA).  Uniquely among organisations submitting written evidence, they refer to this having been the third successive bad winter and the fact early seasonal forecasts appeared to be in conflict.  They also mention the great Roger Harrabin fiction of the Met Office privately forecasting ‘an exceptionally cold start to winter’ that ‘had not been made public because of potential embarrassment caused by the unreliability of long range forecasting’. A claim destroyed by the document above.

More pertinent, and certainly more damaging for the Met Office, was the written evidence from the Royal Automobile Association (RAC). Their reference to the inability of the Met Office for forecast major weather incidents two or more weeks ahead makes clear how the public and a great number of organisations were let badly by the Met Office, regardless of the spin emanating from propaganda central in Exeter.

It is this submission, more than any other, that gets to the heart of the matter. It is that that undermines the Met Office’s spin and attempts to rewrite history.  Bloggers can be ignored, but evidence from one of the nation’s biggest motoring organisations is a great deal harder to dismiss.  It is this evidence that should that offers valuable insight to the Transport Committee and that should shape the nature of the committee’s further investigation into adequate preparation for major weather incidents such as that in December 2010.

The only written evidence that brings home the human impact of the failure to forecast weather more than a couple of days in advance, was that provided by Dr Philip Bratby – an occasional commenter on this blog.  It is best read in its entirety.

The dead hand of government

After 13 years of Labour government, the United Kingdom received its report card in the form of a 2010-11 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

13 years of legislative hyperactivity, billions upon billions of pounds taxed, borrowed and spent and an era of divisive social engineering later, and the WEF ranks the UK 72nd (worse than Ethiopia and Tajikistan) on government wastefulness, and 89th (behind those paragons of good governance, Nigeria and Zimbabwe!) on the ‘burden of government regulation’ on business (Hat tip: Terry Smith).

As to the biggest stumbling blocks to our economic competitiveness in the global market, click on the image below to see how badly the UK has been served:

There are few clearer snapshots that reveal the dead hand of government more effectively than this. And with David Cameron and his faux conservatives ‘nudgers‘ occupying Downing Street and desperately trying to maintain a political consensus, things are not going to improve much.

Government was concerned about mixed forecasts from Met Office

It seems that it isn’t only bloggers and newspaper journalists who understand the infamous temperature probability map that has done the rounds since this blog made a screenshot of it and published it.

This blog submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Cabinet Office to enquire if it issued any instructions or restrictions concerning the use of the ‘private’ Met Office forecast to the Government.  The Cabinet Office states that it gave no such instructions to the Met Office.  It also included the Met Office forecast that readers will now be familiar with.

But tacked onto the end of the FOI response, on page 8, were redacted copies of a couple of emails between the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Sectretariat (CCS) and the Met Office.  One of those relates to the forecast information the National Grid was using – screenshot below.

It is clear that the government’s understanding is that the temperature probability map is exactly what we showed John Hirst acknowledging it to be yesterday, a forecast.  The differential between the probability map and the forecast received by the Cabinet Office is clearly identified as being the age of the forecast.  The difference can be accounted for by the Met Office’s two-week update cycle.

The clear inference here is that by the time National Grid and the media had used the temperature probability map to state the Met Office was forecasting a warmer than average winter, the Met had already updated its forecast to the one supplied to the Cabinet Office.  This and the information in the screenshot below (helpfully highlighted by the Cabinet Office), refutes Met Office claims that the map was not a forecast and that it had not suggested a warmer than average winter:

The Met Office has twisted itself into so many contortions to provide it with deniability of any forecast that is inaccurate, it has put itself in a position where they are telling the media, the public, bloggers, National Grid and the Cabinet Office that black is actually white.

The Met Office did not consistently forecast the 60% probability of an average or colder than average winter.  Indeed, the Cabinet Office actually refers to figures that bear out what was shown on the probability map – around a 60%-80% (below tightened up to say 75%) probability of a warmer than average winter:

What does all this mean?  Simply that the Met Office is not capable of producing forecasts of weather more than a week or so ahead of time, unlike other forecasters who do not have a fraction of the computing power available to them.

The issue is the Met Office model assumes that as atmospheric CO2 rises, so temperatures must rise – and this means longer range forecasts have an in-built warm bias that can result in inaccurate forecasts as we have seen over the last three years.  As such while their short term and ‘nowcasting’ performance is broadly acceptable, anything forecast beyond a few days seems fundamentally flawed due to a blind faith in the hypothesis of CO2 driven global warming and so we can have no confidence in it.

Met Office claim that public did not want seasonal forecasts is a sham

This follows on from the previous post – where it was shown that the Met Office seasonal forecast that isn’t a forecast, really is a forecast.

Readers will be familiar with the Met Office’s explanation for supposedly not issuing public seasonal forecasts.  Whenever the Met Office are asked why they do not provide a public seasonal forecast (in name, anyway) their response is typically that:

“We withdrew from making public our forecasts for the season because the public said they didn’t want them.”

Somehow that did not seem to ring quite right.  It seemed appropriate to find out more about how the Met Office arrived at this conclusion, so Autonomous Mind submitted a Freedom of Information request (using an alias as shown on the attached FOI response) asking:

  1. When the consultation exercise was conducted – or as appropriate – How many communications were received from the public requesting an end to seasonal forecasts
  2. The questions that were asked of the public during the consultation
  3. The total number of responses from the public collected during the consultation
  4. The number of responses FOR withdrawing the seasonal forecasts and the number AGAINST withdrawing them
  5. The name(s) of the Met Office executive(s) who made the decision to withdraw seasonal forecasts following the consultation exercise
  6. The minutes of the meeting at which the decision was taken (dealt with in the previous post)

Not all of the information has been supplied in the way requested.  However the information that has been released is quite revealing and exposes shenanigans behind the scenes that are worthy of public note.  What is clear is that the Met Office’s claim that the public did not want seasonal forecasts relied almost exclusively upon:

  • unsolicited comments made online rather than responses to pointed questions dealing with the point in a relevant manner
  • customer comment – which cannot in any way be considered to be public feedback; and
  • trend research into public trust in the Met Office, which has no place being included in assessing whether seasonal forecasts are wanted by the public.

It is important to note the Met Office was unable able to furnish me with details of the number of communications received from the public requesting an end to seasonal forecasts. For all we know, no one has written to the Met Office asking the department to cease the issue of seasonal forecasts to the public.

So what is the Met Office’s solid basis for the decision to give the impression that the public does not want seasonal forecasts?

16 people.

That’s all.  The Met Office conducted two focus group exercises in February 2009 consisting of eight persons each, male and female, between the ages 25-60.  These were apparently in free form discussion format.  But it does not seem this exercise was taken seriously.  The Met Office was unable able to furnish me with the number of response FOR withdrawing seasonal forecasts and the number AGAINST withdrawing them as the information was not gathered during the focus groups.

This means the Met Office has made a decision yet possesses no quantatative or qualitative information on which to assess how that decision was determined.  Ludicrously in the response the Met Office describe these two discussions involving a total of just 16 people as a:

representative sample, [that] reflect the feelings of this segment of the population

If, as a corporate communications professional, I was tasked by a client to conduct a roundtable exercise to glean information from the public that would be used as the basis for a Board level decision about the way the organisation conducts an activity, and I submitted what the Met Office cites as evidence of public sentiment to be used as the basis for a decision, I would expect to be summarily fired.

But then, it looks almost certain this whole thing has been contrived.  The Met Office Board was not at any time acting in response to public sentiment, it was purusing its own agenda in reputation management.  It wanted something to cite as justification for supposedly scrapping public seasonal forecasts and this ‘go-through-the-motions’ exercise provided it.  When John Hirst presented his proposal to the Met Office Board there was no mention at all of this being done at the behest of the public, or any evidence in support of it, as we can see from the Minutes below:

The long and short of all this – both this post and the previous one – is that the Met Office seems to have manufactured questionable cover for its decision to supposedly withdraw public seasonal forecasts that does not stand up to scrutiny.  The seasonal forecasts remain, they have simply been renamed and relocated as per Hirst’s initiative.  And, if and when a seasonal forecast turns out to be inaccurate the Met Office has constructed this narrative to provide itself with deniability before and after the event, as we saw this winter.

This is a farcical and unacceptable state of affairs which badly fails the taxpaying public.  Process at the Met Office lack integrity and its lack of honesty has already been exposed in previous posts. Root and branch reform of the Met Office executive is required now as the public can have no confidence in the ethical management of the department.

There’s spin and there’s Met Office spin

Wigan Council are not happy with the Met Office.  Council Officers are complaining that they were left in the dark by their weather forecast contractor about impending icy conditions and therefore did not grit roads in the borough.  As a result public transport services were affected and a number of road accidents occurred.

‘This year we awarded the contract to the Met Office. The council officer correctly acted in not treating the roads network from the information he had been provided with.

“When the weather starts to change from the forecast, we would expect a Met Office forecaster to ring us up and inform us of the pending changes, but this did not happen.”

It seems knowing what weather can be expected but not telling people is getting to be a bit of a habit for the Met Office.  As a result senior managers from the Met Office have been asked to attend the next Greater Manchester winter maintenance group meeting to discuss their level of service.

Despite this adverse publicity the department is happily spinning that no complaints have been received, all is well and they will be attending the meeting as they ‘are keen to work with our customers and make sure they receive accurate and good advice from us’.  Somehow I doubt this story will appear on this Met Office webpage.

NationalGrid – Not one of Met Office’s ‘intelligent’ customers?

According to a piece by the BBC’s Martin Rosenbaum in December last year, the UK Met Office puts probabilistic seasonal data on the scientific pages of its website where, in the words of a Met Office board paper, such figures can be ‘more targeted towards users who appreciate their value and limitations’, (i.e. not members of the public).

Rosenbaum goes on to add that:

As another document put it, ‘Intelligent’ customers (such as the Cabinet Office) find probabilistic forecasts helpful in planning their resource deployment.

Based on this and the information published in a document on NationalGrid’s website – as shared by Joe Public guest posting on Subrosa – we can only conclude that the NationalGrid is not one of the Met Office’s so called ‘intelligent’ customers…

It seems NationalGrid find probabilistic forecasts helpful in planning their supply of gas to the nation.  So it seems more than curious that the operator of this country’s gas network was not let in on the secret forecast that was withheld from the public.  Again it is pertinent to ask just why the Met Office issues these forecasts (that they claim are not actually forecasts) at all.

If NationalGrid – with its national strategic interest in seasonal forecasts – is not one, just who are these ‘users who appreciate their value and limitations’?  Perhaps that is yet another question the Met Office can answer.  In the meantime we await their formal response to the FOI we have submitted to them and the Cabinet Office.

No one saw this one coming, did they?

Talks between Iran and six world powers in Istanbul have ended in failure after Iran refused to discuss its nuclear programme, according to European Voice.  Imagine my shock.  The piece goes on to explain that:

Diplomats suspect that Iran is primarily interested in the talks as a way of gaining time for its nuclear programme, which most governments believe serves military purposes.

They know it. We know it. The Iranians know we all know it. Yet still the charade continues with no effective consequence.  The region risks becoming increasingly destabilised as Iran’s theocrats press ahead with their lust to acquire the bomb.  The threat to Israel grows, Iran’s neighbours becoming more nervous and those powers with the capability of putting an end to Iran’s ambitions trapse back and forth between ‘talks’ as Tehran run rings around them.

In years to come it is a fair bet people will be examining the whys and wherefores of a major conflict in the Middle East and asking why the powers that could have dealt with things back in 2010 or earlier failed to act and allowed things to develop into something far more destructive than it would have been.

How does a convicted embezzler become head of a water company?

One would think that a vital quality for any person running a company – particularly one in the public sector – is honesty. Which is why it defies belief that the former head of Northern Ireland Water, Laurence MacKenzie, was ever appointed to his job at NIW and his previous role as head of Northern Ireland Electricity, having stolen £2,000 while working as a teller at the Bank of Scotland nearly 30 years ago.

It seems that once you have become part of the executive in-crowd the normal standards of competence and probity are dispensed with. The rules of the game are different for members of the club once your friends in high places start to clear grease from the pole to let you climb ever higher.

Small wonder that so many public bodies exhibit falling standards and are tainted by executive incompetence.

Update: Subrosa has more local background from Scotland where the theft took place.

Wind power lhuhnacy writ large

Energy generation and security is a serious subject. Clearly it is too serious to be trusted to politicians like Chris ‘lhuhnatic’ Huhne as this short segment from a post on EU Referendum shows.

When the coal fired power stations are closed because they are ‘dirty’ and emit CO2 that feeds the plants and vegetation needed to sustain life, where is the power going to come from when the wind doesn’t blow? Perhaps we could line up the politicians and the warmists and let them talk nonsense to force the wind turbines to move:

On the other front, Huhne’s wet dream about wind power is looking more and more absurd. At the time of writing, electricity generation reports had coal-fired power stations taking a thrashing, delivering 43 percent of available power, with wind contributing a farcical 0.1 percent, a trivial 44MW out of an installed, metered capacity of 2,430MW. The man’s ideas about wind taking up the slack are totally unrealistic. Actually, they are barking mad.

Or perhaps the gas fired power stations will pick up the slack? But how likely is that when just yesterday National Grid was issuing a Gas Balancing Alert due to record demand? The spin defies belief. If, as National Grid say, high gas storage levels and a healthy and diverse supply pool meant the system was operating as it should, leaving supply and demand balanced, why was the balancing alert issued? Even when the gas is there, will we be able to afford it as demand increases?

As UK wholesale spot gas prices jumped to a two-year high on near record demand, up one-third on a normal December, consumers will have to cope with a big increase in their heating bills over the next few months, as the utility companies seek to pass on the rise in domestic bills.

Meanwhile several hundred years’ worth of coal stays in the ground within our nation’s borders. Available, secure, reliable and effective. But thanks to the EU and our quisling bastards in Westminster we are being bled dry to pay over the odds for wind powered generating capability that delivers only a fraction of its potential and delivers nothing when the wind is calm; and paying even more for back up generating capability powered by a fuel that is rising dramatically in price due to demand competition.

We seem to be entering a new politician driven post-intelligence era.

Germany locks up its money box

Germany’s point blank refusal to increase the size of the European Union’s safety net for bailing out less prudent Eurozone members will be causing a flap around Europe today.

It is clear Angela Merkel is coming under increasing domestic pressure not to give away Germany’s hard earned reserves and act as a piggy bank for Eurozone members that refuse to live within their means. What is really interesting is that Germany has also again rejected the idea of the creation of a joint sovereign bond, or “E-bond” for the Eurozone. As Merkel put it:

“The treaty does not in our firm view allow any euro bonds, so no uniform interest rate,”

You can be sure work is already underway in Brussels to devise a solution that sidesteps Germany’s objection and allows for the creation of an E-bond. It would be positioned the next logical step in the development of a Europe-wide currency. This is how the ‘colleagues’ work. The rules they put in place are discovered to hamper the project of ever closer union and centralising power, so they are ignored or circumvented to overcome objections from any members whose interest isn’t served by a new export of power.

Most concerned of all today will be Portugal and Spain, who will be relying on German money to shore up their faltering economies in the event of a bail out. They will have already been smarting at the interest rate Ireland is being forced to pay for its bail out, but now there will be question marks about the availability of sufficent cash to execute a rescue as the total sum borrowed always exceeds the worst case estimate of the amount required. We will soon find the prospect of those countries defaulting on their debts has just increased, with knock on impacts for international borrowing. The trade in credit default swaps will really take off now.

The next question of relevance to us in the UK is how much more money we will need to borrow to give to Eurozone members. After all, the Cameron coalition has already shown our national interests always come second to those in other countries. Hang on to your wallets!

It’s getting warmer in… Mongolia

Following on from my last posting… Is it any surprise that the prediction of Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, who said in 2000 that within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event” has been replaced with claims that global warming actually leads to more snow rather than less?

Perhaps nature’s stubborn refusal to align with computer models has led to this change in tune. Perhaps also it is inconvenient stories like this one from China that caused such severe embarrassment a new narrative had to be constructed in a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to save face:

A continuing snowstorm has disrupted the lives of more than 52,800 people in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region over the past week. Snow storms has hit four towns in Xing’an Prefecture, a pasture region about 1,500 km northeast of the regional capital, Hohhot, since last Saturday. Snow has accumulated up to 30 cm deep in most parts of the region and a meter in some areas. The snow was 40 days earlier than its usual arrival time and was the heaviest in 30 years. About 2 million heads of livestock have been affected by the storm. (Xinhua/Ren Junchuan)

After spending hundreds of millions of our tax pounds on research grants and funding the scientific wizards have done nothing except reverse their own predictions while doggedly maintaining makind is warming the planet. An enquiring mind may consider this to be rather suspect.

The falling standards at the Telegraph

Readers of the Telegraph will already be well aware of the organ’s dumbing down in content. But anyone looking at this story today will be wondering if editing standards can get any worse… The story title is fine, as you can see in the screenshot below, but how many errors can you spot in the sub headline?

Harman again exposes Labour’s spiteful underbelly

One can excuse people who make disparaging remarks about others for whom they have real antipathy – provided the comments relate to the essence of the person’s character, integrity, honesty, ability or similar quality. After all I did just that about David Cameron yesterday.

But one cannot excuse those who engage in namecalling and abusive comments relating to someone’s personal identity or physical attributes. Such actions are the preserve of the mean spirited and the vicious.

Perhaps it is no surprise that Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, has engaged in such spiteful abuse by describing Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, a ‘ginger rodent’. What has Alexander’s physical attributes got to do with his politics or ability? Attack the man for being deceitful if he is, attack him for being incompetent if he is, but leave his ethnicity, skin colour, hair colour and the things he has no control over out of it.

There is a particularly nasty streak among many of Harman’s fellow travellers in the Labour movement. They have a habit of using a person’s identity or physical characteristics as a key element in the attacks they construct. It tells us a great deal about how their minds work and the depth of the contempt they have for people who deign to disagree with them. Is that really the kind of person we want as part of this country’s supposed leadership?


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