Friday, June 18, 2010

A charming reminiscence of Margaret Thatcher

From the formidable Viscount Monckton of Brenchley -- A classics man who can code in machine language!

Anthony Watts’ splendid wattsupwiththat blog has an interesting posting about Margaret Thatcher’s sceptical approach to the climate question. This prompted some comments asking whether I could add anything to the story, since I gave her advice on science as well as other policy from 1982-1986, two years before the IPCC was founded. So here goes.

First, what on Earth was a layman with a degree in classical languages and architecture doing giving advice on science to the British Prime Minister, who was herself a scientist and a Fellow of the Royal Society?

Truth is, British government is small (though still a lot bigger and more expensive than it need be). The Prime Minister’s policy unit had just six members, and, as a mathematician who was about to make a goodish fortune turning an obscure and hitherto-unnoticed wrinkle in the principles of probabilistic combinatorics into a pair of world best-selling puzzles, I was the only one who knew any science.

So, faute de mieux [for want of better], it was I who – on the Prime Minister’s behalf – kept a weather eye on the official science advisors to the Government, from the Chief Scientific Advisor downward. On my first day in the job, I tottered into Downing Street dragging with me one of the world’s first portable computers, the 18-lb Osborne 1, with a 5” screen, floppy disks that were still truly floppy, and a Z80 8-bit chip which I had learned to program in machine language as well as BASIC.

This was the first computer they had ever seen in Downing Street. The head of security, a bluff military veteran, was deeply suspicious. “--What do you want a computer for?” he asked. “--Computing,” I replied.

I worked that weighty little box hard. It did everything: converting opinion-poll percentages to predictions of Parliamentary seats won and lost (we predicted the result of the 1983 General Election to within 1 seat); demonstrating a new type of index-linked home loan that removed the inflationary front-loading of interest payments and made it easier for working people to buy the State-owned houses they lived in (we sold a million, and turned cringing clients of the State into proud homeowners with a valuable stake in Britain); and calculating the optimum hull configuration for warships to prove that a government department had defrauded a lone inventor (he got $1 million in compensation).

The tiny computer back-engineered the Social Security Department’s model that showed the impact of changes in tax and benefit rates on different types of family; discounted Cabinet Ministers’ policies to present value to appraise their viability as investments; and worked out how much extra revenue the Government would get if it cut the top rate of income tax from 60 cents on the dollar to 40 cents.

On that one, I was right and the Treasury were wrong: as I had calculated, the rich ended up paying not only more tax but a higher percentage of total tax, even though the top tax rate they had previously paid was 50% higher than the new rate.

The only expenses I ever claimed for in four years at 10 Downing Street were £172 for soldering dry joints on that overworked computer, on which I also did the first elementary radiative-transfer calculations that indicated climate scientists were right to say some “global warming” would arise as CO2 concentration continued to climb.

I briefed my colleagues in the Policy Unit, and also the Prime Minister herself. My advice was straightforward: CO2 concentrations were rising, we were causing it, and it would cause some warming, but at that time no one knew how much (plus ca change), so we needed to find out.

The Prime Minister’s response was equally hard-headed: we were to keep an eye on the problem and come back to her again when action was necessary.

Did she even mention that “global warming” presented an opportunity to give nuclear power a push and, at the same time, to do down the coal-miners who had destroyed a previous Conservative government and had also tried to destroy hers?
Certainly not, for four compelling reasons.

First, nuclear power was politically dead at that time, following the monumentally stupid attempt by the Soviet operators of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor to shut it down without external power just because they were curious to see what would happen.

Secondly, by then the mineworkers, under their Communist leadership, had long been defeated, and we were making arrangements for the deep, dangerous, loss-making coal-mines that had killed so many brave pitmen to be shut down and replaced with safer, profitable, opencast mines.

Two mineworkers came to my farewell party at 10 Downing Street: the first miners ever to enter Downing Street during a Conservative administration.

Thirdly, Margaret Thatcher was never vindictive: it simply was not in her nature. If any of us ever suggested taking any action that would unfairly disadvantage any of her political opponents, she would give us the Gazillion-Gigawatt Glare and say, very firmly and quietly, “Prime Ministers don’t, dear!”

Fourthly, she had an unusual mind that effortlessly spanned CP Snow’s Two Cultures.

As a former food chemist, she possessed the ruthlessly honest logic of the true scientist. As a former barrister, she had the vigor and articulacy of the true practitioner of the forensic arts. Too many scientists today are in effect politicians: too many politicians pretend to be scientific.

Margaret Thatcher was genuinely both scientist and politician, and was able to take the best from both roles without confusing them. She would not have dreamed of doing anything that in any way undermined the integrity of science.

A little vignette will illustrate her scientific integrity. In the late 1970s, a year before she won the first of her three General Elections and became Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, I had sent her a tiny piece of propaganda that I had designed, The Labour Pound.

The little slip of paper bore this simple message:

“This is a Labour Pound. This is how small your banknote would be today if it had been shrunk to match the fall in its value under Labour. Vote Conservative!”

Margaret Thatcher noticed at once that the piece of paper was a little too small. Inflation had been bad under the Labour Government (at the time it was running at 27% a year), but not that bad. “Do it again and get it right and be fair,” she said. Humbled, I did as I was told – and tens of millions of Labour Pounds were distributed throughout Britain at the subsequent General Election, to satisfyingly devastating effect.

In 1988 it was my successor at No. 10, George Guise, who traveled one bitterly cold October weekend down to Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country house, and sat in front of a roaring fire writing the speech that would announce a government subsidy to the Royal Society to establish what would become the Hadley Centre for Forecasting.

George remembers how he and the Prime Minister chuckled at the irony of writing a speech about “global warming” on an evening so cold that he could hardly hold his pen.

But that’s October for you: a couple of years ago the scientific illiterates who now inhabit the House of Commons voted for the Climate Change and National Economic Hara-Kiri Bill by one of the largest majorities in Parliament’s history, with only three gallant MPs having the courage to defy the Whips and vote against – and this on the very night that the first October snow in 74 years fell in Parliament Square.

In due course, the scientific results began to arrive. It became as clear to Margaret Thatcher as it has to me that our original concern was no longer necessary. The warming effect of CO2 is simply too small to make much difference and, in any event, it is orders of magnitude cheaper and more cost-effective to adapt to any consequences of “global warming” than to wreck the economies of the West by trying to demonize CO2 and cut our emissions.

Margaret Thatcher was very conscious that the Left tries to taint every aspect of life by attempting to politicize it.

In her thinking, therefore, there is genuine outrage that the coalescence of financial and political vested-interest factions in the scientific and academic community that are driving the climate scare should be striving to bring the age of enlightenment and reason to an end by treating scientific debate as though every question were a political football to be kicked ever Leftward.

In the elegant words of my good friend Bob Ferguson of the Science and Public Policy Institute, she is interested not in “policy-based evidence-making” but in “evidence-based policy-making”. The present crop of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic could learn much from her honest, forthright, no-nonsense approach.



Surprise! America's Leftists have no respect for democracy

They know what's best for you. The will of the people be damned!

Mike Allen broke this astounding bit of news yesterday:
Phil Schiliro, the White House congressional liaison, has told the Senate to aim to take up an energy bill the week of July 12, after the July 4 break (and after the scheduled final passage of Wall Street reform). Kagan confirmation will follow, ahead of the summer break, scheduled to begin Aug. 9. The plan is to conference the new Senate bill with the already-passed House bill IN A LAME-DUCK SESSION AFTER THE ELECTION, so House members don't have to take another tough vote ahead of midterms.

A White House aide has the official word: "President Obama reiterated his call for comprehensive energy and climate legislation to break our dependence on oil and fossil fuels. In the coming weeks he will be reaching out to Senators on both sides of the aisle to chart a path forward. A number of proposals have been put forward from Members on both sides of the aisle. We're open to good ideas from all sources, and will be working with Senators on a comprehensive proposal. The tragedy in the Gulf underscores the need to move quickly, and the President is committed to finding the votes for comprehensive energy legislation this year."

The only reason to pass such a major piece of legislation during a lame duck session is because the proposal is unpopular. If Democrats could sell the bill to their constituents, they would pass it before the November elections then campaign on it. Party leaders must also expect that the political will for this bill will not exist in the 112th Congress after the voters have spoken in November. In other words, the new representatives coming in are not going to vote for it - so Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama had better get the representatives who were just fired to support it before they're forced into early retirement.



Engulfing the Internet

Despite opposition by a House of Representatives majority and a bipartisan group of Senators, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday is expected to proceed with plans to impose federal government regulation of the Internet, which would essentially treat broadband networks -- and the companies that invested more than $200 billion in private capital to deploy them -- as utilities.

The commission's chairman, Julius Genachowski, and his staff have insisted that imposing federal regulations originally written in the 1930s for the telephone is the only way the Obama Administration can gain the "kind of oversight and control that we need," says an FCC staffer with ties to another Democrat commissioner. "Look at the Gulf oil spill, that's what happens when we let corporations just do their own thing without any accountability. We can't allow that to happen with the Internet. We won't allow it."

The vote to continue the review and comment process at the FCC is expected to be a party-line vote, with the two Republican commissioners voting against the proposed regulatory scheme.

Under the Obama Administration's plan, the FCC would be able to enforce so-called "net neutrality" rules, allowing the federal government to set how broadband and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) manage the networks. By bringing broadband and the Internet under FCC regulatory oversight, the FCC would also be able to impose policies related to speech or online business models.

"The American public really has no idea how devastating these policies are going to have on free speech and the Internet," says a Republican Senate staffer. "If they are able to impose these regulations, they would be able to impose a host of different regulations that would limit free speech online and essentially give the left the upper hand. First the auto industry, then health care and the financial services industry, now this."




U.S. private sector not recovering: "Wall Street seems to have no concept at all that every bit of growth we've observed over the past year can be traced to government deficit spending, with zero private sector expansion when those deficits are factored out. As I noted last week, if one removes the impact of deficit spending, "the economy has recovered to the point where the year-over-year growth rate since early 2009 now matches the worst performance of any of the 50 years preceding the recent downturn." In effect, Wall Street's is seeing "legs" where the economy is in fact walking on nothing but crutches.

Jobless Claims in U.S. Unexpectedly Rose Last Week: "The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits last week unexpectedly rose to a one-month high, indicating firings are staying elevated even as the U.S. economy grows. Initial jobless claims increased by 12,000 to 472,000 in the week ended June 12, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected 450,000 claims, according to the median forecast. The number of people receiving unemployment insurance rose, while those getting extended benefits dropped."

Record 57% Of Americans Disapprove Of Obama’s Performance: "That’s a new low for President Obama in the latest Rasmussen poll. Just 42% approve of his performance, matching a record low. Likely voters are increasingly frustrated with Obama over the BP (BP) oil spill, Rasmussen noted Tuesday: "Meanwhile, 45% now say the president is doing a poor job handling the incident. That’s up 11 points from two weeks ago and 19 points at the beginning of last month. Thirty percent (30%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of the situation, down from 38% two weeks ago." Rasmussen is the only one on the RCP list that queries likely voters"

Voters in big states prefer skinflint candidates: "Government in New York is too big, ineffective, and expensive,’ the candidate’s website proclaims. ‘We must get our state’s fiscal house in order by immediately imposing a cap on state spending and freezing salaries of state public employees as part of a one-year emergency financial plan, committing to no increase in personal or corporate income taxes of sales taxes and imposing a local property tax cap.’ A tea-party candidate? Some right-wing Republican? No, it’s Andrew Cuomo, son of three-term Democratic governor Mario Cuomo. Interestingly, he’s the only Democrat with a significant polling lead in the gubernatorial races in our eight largest states, which together have 48 percent of the nation’s population.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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