Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Boris Tape

Tomorrow evening, Channel 4's Dispatches profile of Boris Johnson will include parts of a taped conversation between him and his old school friend Darius Guppy. Channel 4 is able to broadcast these extracts because I supplied them with a copy of the tape, which I was able to do because I recorded it in 1990. This post explains why, after initially refusing, I decided to let them have it.

The tape includes discussion of a plot to have a News of the World reporter, Stuart Collier, beaten up. Guppy was hiring two South London heavies to do the beating up and he wanted Johnson to supply Collier's home address. Johnson expressed concern that the man wouldn't be too badly beaten, discussed the plan at some length, and was very anxious that his role never be made public.

Although Johnson, on the tape, sounds as though he is cooperating with Guppy, he never did supply the address. The journalist was not beaten up. My own feeling is that Johnson was just going along with Guppy, humouring him, and had no intention of helping. I knew Guppy at that time and he was forever coming up with plans that he would insist on explaining to people, often soliciting their involvement in some way. Humouring him was the quickest way to get it over with.

I refused, initially, to give Channel 4 a copy because I felt that broadcasting it would just be salacious and not justified by any public interest argument. I debated this at some length, face to face, on the telephone and in emails, with the Channel 4 journalist making the programme and in the end he accepted my decision with good grace. And there the matter rested.

Until, a week or two later, I saw this question and answer from 1999, in the Independent. It includes the following exchange:

Do you ever regret meeting Darius Guppy?

K Bower, London SW15

No I don't regret meeting Darius, in many respects a great guy. I do regret his criminal ventures, but then so, I am sure, does he.
Far from regretting his "criminal ventures", Guppy was and remains openly boastful of them. He had released a book by then that was openly boastful of his criminal activities. In other words, Johnson knew this to be untrue.

That might seem like a small thing, a white lie to support his continuing relationship with an old school friend, but this particular pal was a criminal whose technique had included the manipulation of his social connections. The taped conversation actually illustrates this; Guppy was trying to use a member of his old boy network to get the address of a man he wanted to have beaten up - something that would have been a criminal act. As I have said, conversations like that were, with Guppy, commonplace.

Guppy had got his hands on £1.2 million of shareholders' funds to steal because he used the father of one of his friends as Chairman when his company was floated and this Chairman had an illustrious business record that tempted people to invest, another example of the way Guppy used his connections in ways that furthered his crimes.

In 1999, this didn't matter much. Johnson was editor of The Spectator, not Mayor of London. Today, it matters much more. Does Johnson still have connections with Guppy?

To my knowledge, Johnson has never addressed these issues directly. According to The Observer today:
A spokeswoman for the mayor's office did not return calls yesterday. However in a statement to Dispatches the mayor's office described the Guppy tape as a "colourful" tale from the past that bore no relevance to Johnson's current position. The mayor has always dismissed the tape as a joke.
One blogger commented:
The Mayor of London has opened up a new line of defence for criminals. If the crime was committed a few years back, Boris thinks criminals should be able to plead innocence on the grounds that it's just a colourful tale from the past.
But of course, that's not what Johnson is doing. I'm quite certain he doesn't feel the relaxed attitude he has shown to his old school friend should also be shown to other criminals. There's a sense in all this that Johnson does not feel that petty bourgeois morality applies to him and his social circle.

This is where my own feelings entered into my calculations. I'm sick of the political class applying one set of rules to the population of the country and quite another to themselves, their friends and families. Expenses claims and scandals in which Parliamentary allowances were skimmed off in salaries for family members have become so frequent, so commonplace, that we now hardly notice them; dole claimants who behaved in the same way would be fined or imprisoned. Smoking has been banned in pubs but not in the bars of Parliament; their drink remains subsidised by the taxpayers even while they debate raising taxes on alcohol for the rest of us.

And Boris Johnson is a senior politician with some responsibility for policing in London, yet he is a man who has consistently refused to condemn or distance himself from his criminal friend. If the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police had maintained such a connection and it were discovered, he'd have to resign.

I don't want Johnson to resign as things stand. I am delighted he managed to displace Ken Livingstone. In fact, a part of my calculation about whether or not to release the tape was that we are in a good part of the electoral cycle for this to come out, from Johnson's point of view. Before the election would have compromised his chance of winning, too near the next election might have a similar effect. Now he has an opportunity to put this to bed so it can be forgotten about.

I gave Channel 4 the tape with an explanation of why. I told them I wanted to make it possible for them to put the utmost pressure on Johnson to make a proper statement about this. Not so much about the incident from 1990, though he should unequivocally condemn anyone who seeks to have people beaten up, but more about the present: does he still have contact with Guppy?

In response to a freedom of information request from Channel 4, the mayor's office said he had not had any official contact with him. How about privately? It might not seem to be the most significant thing in the world; Guppy is a nonentity, just another dodgy expat living in South Africa. While he seems to have no visible means of support, there's no direct evidence he's still a criminal. But the principle is of great importance. Elected politicians should not be able to evade questions about their connections with criminal conspiracies or criminals.

In the end, the Dispatches programme adopted the line of examining a number of incidents from Johnson's past, including the 1990 Guppy conversation, as well as Johnson's relationship with a property developer and with the owners of the Telegraph, for which he writes at a higher salary than he is paid as Mayor. They suggest there could be potential conflicts of interest and pose the question: does all this reflect well on Boris's judgement?

They couldn't force Johnson to give them a formal interview in which these questions could be put directly, and in the end no such interview took place. I think it should. Unlike Livingstone, who came to show open contempt for anyone who questioned him, Johnson should accept that where there are matters of genuine public interest, he has a duty, an obligation, to explain himself fully.

What is the nature of the relationship between the Mayor of London, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and the unrepentant criminal Darius Guppy? I think we should be told.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Just deserts

Norman Geras ruminates here on the difference between entitlement and desert: the runner who trained hardest and sacrificed the most might deserve to win the race, but the person who crosses the line first is entitled to the medal. He goes on to say:

I find it startling that anyone could believe - even before the latest crisis - that capitalism distributes material rewards according to desert. This claim is not one that even a 100-per-cent defender of free market capitalism (with minimal restraints) could make with a clear head. That the idea is entertained at all must be the result of confusing desert with entitlement.
I think there are a couple of mistakes there. The first is a confusion about what winning the race means. If it means crossing the line first, then whoever does so deserves to win. If it's about effort, the the person who tried hardest deserves to win. If a runner trips and loses only because of that, it's immaterial to either of these considerations.

Unless, that is, you consider "deserve" to mean "meets whatever arbitrary qualification I personally choose to set". If that's not what you mean then the person who fulfils the criteria for winning - crossing the line first - deserves to win. They are also entitled to the medal.

But while I'll admit the above is debatable, this isn't: Norm has conflated capitalism with the free market. These are not the same thing. Capitalism has existed in very unfree markets and it's entirely conceivable that a free market could exist without capitalism. If Marx was right in his dating of the origins of capitalism to, roughly, the time of European colonialism*, then a free market did exist, prior to that, without capitalism.

In fact, it's not at all uncommon today for the success of a company to depend not on whether it is entitled to it by dint of success in the market, but rather as a result of some or other spender of public money deciding the company deserves to be employed. That might be because of its equalities program, for example, rather than the merits of its products. Anyone bidding for public projects has become used to the tedious wibble they are expected to produce in order to be deemed deserving of a contract.

Such companies are, in the main, capitalist - this is merely a type of ownership - and yet they win though deserts rather than entitlements.

And that is a very Bad Thing.

* He wasn't, but let's keep this brief.

In praise of strikes

I was just reading about how the 1911 railways strike boosted the use of motor cars, people used them to go holiday for the first time. Railway use continued to rise but its monopoly was broken and the motor car had begun its climb to prominence.

And it struck me how strikes have sometimes acted as a boost to progress, accelerating a change in technology, normally to the detriment of the strikers themselves but to the benefit of society more broadly.

I can remember the year I bought my first fax machine, 1987. Before then, you couldn't depend on another business having one, so getting one myself wasn't a priority. But then came the great postal strike and everyone just bought a fax machine. The Royal Mail has never recovered, of course.

The Miners' Strike in the mid 1980s helped to change forever the way energy is generated in this country. I expect that if you analyse the effects of most major industrial disputes you'll find a similar piece of foot-shooting.

There is something deeply strange about the Trades Union movement; not even the Luddites smashed the machines they themselves depended on for work.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happiness and marginal utility

Interesting post here from the Irish Liberty Forum.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Here's a use, at last, for this idiotic word: as a euphemism. The Primal diet consists of eating raw meat and vegetables, preferably when they are seriously past their best.

“It took me a long time to try high meat because I was scared,” John says. “It does stink like hell and it tastes like an aged raw cheese. The first time I tried it I had to chase it down with a glass of mineral water and I did have a couple of days detoxing, with a bit of diarrhoea. But now my only regret is being squeamish for so long. I used to have all sorts of health problems but now I feel great. I've heard of a couple of people with parasites from it, but I've been doing it for seven years and I haven't died yet.”
Maybe imodium* should change their marketing strategy. It's not for upset stomachs, it's for detoxing.

* There also seems to be a Czech rock band called Imodium.

Market failure

I've been arguing with inaccurate definitions of the free market recently, here and here. Misprepresentations of the market abound, though; here's another example, spotted by Jonny Newton, and unsurprisingly enough taken from the Today programme on BBC Radio 4:

[the real Robin Hood was] an extremely unpleasant kind of madman really who believes he is greater than God and beyond sin, a kind of metaphor for free market capitalism really.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sean comes round

Bishop Hill recently posted a video of a speech by Sean Gabb, of the Libertarian Alliance. Gabb quotes from the same document I quote from on the masthead here. He feels we need a new constitutional settlement. And he has stepped back from his monarchism:

I was, until recently, a committed monarchist. I now have to admit that the Queen has spent the past half century breaking her Coronation Oath at every opportunity. The only documents she has ever seemed reluctant to sign are personal cheques. Conservatives need to remember that our tradition extends not only through Edmund Burke to the Cavaliers, but also through Tom Paine to Oliver Cromwell. We live in an age where it is necessary to be radical to be conservative.
I've felt for some time now that there's little point trying to debate with anyone who declares they are the sole ultimate owner of their person, their own body, their own thoughts, then in the next breath demands to be the property of a monarch. It's good to see Gabb stepping away from this ludicrous position.

The Global Darwinist Dictatorship

Here's a revealing little incident from Turkey:

The main Turkish government agency responsible for funding science has provoked outrage by apparently censoring a magazine article on the life and work of Charles Darwin.

The article was stripped from the March issue of the widely read popular-science magazine Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology) just before it went to press.
Snoopy, who picked up on this, quoted from behind the subscription-only wall (I assume) as follows:
The magazine, which is published by Turkey's research funding and science management organization, TÜBİTAK, also switched a planned cover picture of Darwin for an illustration relating to global warming.
The title of this post comes from the comments at Nature, where a load of Turkish creationists apparently piled in with remarks like this:
There is - NO - evidence for any gradual development in nature. Where do you find step by step evolution in nature? Half developed noses? Half developed smelling ability? Half developed ribosomes? Half developed pancreas? Half developed lungs? Just do not breath for more than a few minutes, you die! Reason and logic work hand in hand and science decides on reason. Darwin was wrong! There is no evolution in the entirety of living organisms. Otherwise, the earth would be filled with mutants and all fossils unearthed would come up to be freaks. Please think without prejudice for a few seconds. Darwin fooled the entire world.
And this:
Harun Yahya has long told about a global Darwinist dictatorship, which has control over almost every institution, publication etc all over the world. But this dictatorship will eventually collapse. What has happened now here in Turkey is just an example of standing up against this dictatorship. Bravo!
But Islamic creationist frolics aside, it does seem fitting that Darwin was replaced, for religious reasons, by content about global warming.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some day...

You've heard this. It doesn't stale. You haven't? You should.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Passive masturbation

A guest post by Sir Liam Donaldson. Read it. Genius.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Measuring ice depth

It's a good job The Science is settled, otherwise Pen Hadow might be feeling a bit of a prat right now:

Arctic explorers Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley have three days' food left on half rations as they wait for a supply plane.

They are uncomfortable but safe after poor weather halted resupply plans.
They are in the Arctic to... well, there are slightly different versions of why they're there.

The severe weather is jeopardizing a journey aimed at projecting when global warming may melt the entire Arctic Ocean cap, a phenomenon that scientists say might trigger further gains in temperature.

Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley are 18 days into their 100-day, 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) journey to the pole, during which they planned to use a custom radar to take as many as 13 million ice-thickness measurements. They aim to help scientists gauge how quickly the Arctic sea ice is thinning.

Previous estimates of melting have been based on less reliable depth soundings made by satellites and submarines, which can’t distinguish ice from snow. Scientists have made few surface measurements that are highly accurate because of difficulties in traveling on the ice cap.
The new radar sounds impressive, but far more so is the fact they have a new technique, apparently, that allows them to determine rate of change from a single measurement.

Hadow's own website does little to disabuse us of this idea:
In February 2009, Pen will embark on what will probably become the most high profile expedition of recent times – the Catlin Arctic Survey. Using ground-breaking* technology, Pen plans to make the first accurate measurements of the true thickness of the Arctic Ice Cap, something that satellites and submarines are unable to do.

Working with some of the foremost scientific bodies in the world, including NASA, the WWF, the European Space Agency (ESA), the UK Met Office, and the University of Cambridge, the Catlin Arctic Survey’s data will help define the likely meltdown date of the ice cap, vital in helping plan for the inevitable geo-political consequences.
The BBC makes a little more sense:
Mr Hadow, 46, Mrs Daniels, 44, and Mr Hartley, 40, will attempt to get base figures from which to measure changes in the thickness of the ice.
Base figures. So before they can be any use there'd have to be a further expedition.

Let's wish Hadow luck in this important work, and hope the supply aircraft gets through the unexpected Arctic blizzards in time to help measure the expected warming.

* Brave folk, to use such equipment on an ice cap.

Very conservative

I am, apparently, with a score of 142 out of 400 at this online Progressive Quiz. The average score for Americans is 209.5, but they presumably include California in that average. And Boston.

The thing is, I'm not a conservative. I'm a liberal in the sense that I place great weight on liberty, rather than in the sense of being a socialist but liking the sound of the word "liberal".

These online political tests are about as much use as online horoscopes.

Stupid is...

... as stupid does.

The website from the new eco-millenniarist movie Age of Stupid:

See also this review from Brendan O'Neill.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free speech and Islamo-fascism

Taking issue with my post here, Trooper Thompson says:

Freedom of speech is for everyone. It is the right to express unpopular views that needs defending. Let people say what they want, let there be free debate, let all arguments be held up to the light of reason. This way we may learn something, our own staid views may be challenged and we, as a society, can progress.
Sure, of course. He's missed the point. In my original post, I said the police were right to protect the Islamoloons' sorry asses and therefore their right to free expression.

That's not the point.

This is: sometimes political movements are so dangerous they have to be fought. Not just debated, mulled over, disputed, but fought. This can also be true when there's competition for the public space, which these scumbags have hitherto felt they owned, demonstrating with impunity while counter demonstrators were moved away or arrested by police.

The Battle of Cable Street was a righteous fight, even though it restricted the ability of the BUF to demonstrate.

But it's for the people, not the government, to do this.

UPDATE: I'm bumping this to the main post. Steve commented:
Peter, for the second time in a week, I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at here.

Are you saying people should physically attack Islamists?

Wasn't the whole point of the March for Free Expression that Muslim groups were using the threat of violence to stop people speaking out? Weren't we demonstrating against people using violence to silence views they didn't like?

The tone of this post seems to imply that you've changed your mind about that.
I haven't changed my mind to any degree.

The question here is whether someone can say (write, draw, etc) something at all. The right to free expression is not a right for me to go into someone else's living room and deliver a lecture, nor to write on their blog, nor to be published by someone who doesn't want to publish me.

Muslim opposition to those cartoons sought to prevent them being exhibited or shown at all. I clarified that in conversations with Ismaeel of the Muslim Action Committee. He was not willing to accept the display of them in private, to invited guests, during a debate about them. In other words, not at all, ever.

I support the right of these Islamofascists to state their views. Their organisation is banned, I don't think it should be. They should be able to publish and to hold public demonstrations.

But this is where reality rears its head. Firstly, sometimes we need to compromise. There's just been a Convention on Modern Liberty and Sunny Hundall was involved. He presumably sees himself as an advocate of freedom of expression, but he didn't support us until I asked people not to bring the cartoons, something that was widely criticised as being contrary to the whole idea. I made that request after talking with a reporter from BLINK who was simply unable to understand that we might not be anti-Muslim racists.

It turned out this was because she was and presumably is as straightforward an anti-white racist as you could find. But Sunny isn't. He suffers from identity politics, in my opinion, but he ain't no racist. He's the sort of person who needed to be involved. So compromise can be necessary, so long as the specific form of expression can be made somewhere and can be public enough that those who choose to do so can encounter it.

Secondly, while you have every right to shout in your own living room, you really don't have a right to come into mine and do it. That's what these scum did in Luton. Just as it would be provocative to go down Brick Lane wearing a Mohammed bomb-turban T shirt, it's provocative to go to a troop parade with an anti-troop message. It was provocative for fascists to try to march into a Jewish area of the East End.

That's where a value judgement comes into it. Fred Phelps and his unholy brood picket funerals in the USA. Other people organise to stand in front of them to obscure their hate. That's a good way to do it.

But Phelps is never going to get anywhere. In Britain today, Islamofascism has got some traction. Here's a tale from Britain today:
The book is called The Imam’s Daughter because “Hannah Shah” is just that: the daughter of an imam in one of the tight-knit Deobandi Muslim Pakistani communities in the north of England. Her father emigrated to this country from rural Pakistan some time in the 1960s and is, apparently, a highly respected local figure.

He is also an incestuous child abuser, repeatedly raping his daughter from the age of five until she was 15, ostensibly as part of her punishment for being “disobedient”. At the age of 16 she fled her family to avoid the forced marriage they had planned for her in Pakistan. A much, much greater affront to “honour” in her family’s eyes, however, was the fact that she then became a Christian – an apostate. The Koran is explicit that apostasy is punishable by death; thus it was that her father the imam led a 40-strong gang – in the middle of a British city – to find and kill her.

Hannah Shah says her story is not unique – that there are many other girls in British Muslim families who are oppressed and married off against their will, or who have secretly become Christians but are too afraid to speak out. She wants their voices to be heard and for Britain, the land of her birth, to realise the hidden misery of these women.
Tell me that woman didn't deserve the protection of others, even if violence ensued. The instigators of the violence would in that case be the Islamofascists, not the defenders of a raped child.

So while I defend totally the right of those scumbags to publish and demonstrate, if they try to come into my house to do so I'm going to remove them, by force if necessary.

UPDATE: Here's the man in black, making the same point a different way. He cherishes the freedoms of America, even the right to burn the flag... he'll tell you the rest:

Sunday, March 15, 2009


That's what I am, that someone could write this today:

Jews of my generation grew up not only with a sense of the disaster that had so recently overtaken the Jewish people, but also in a climate of opinion in which anti-Semitism had been more or less marginalized, driven into the sewers of the political far-right and into coded and 'genteel' forms elsewhere. It was possible to believe that its National-Socialist manifestation had discredited anti-Semitism beyond recovery. No more. That turns out to have been an illusion. Anti-Semitism is back - not that it ever went away completely, but I mean back out of the sewers and from the shamefacedness and the self-restraining codes - in all its ugly colours. It still bears the stink of what it essentially is.
Not disgusted with Norm. Disgusted with the circumstances that led to him having to say that.

The wrong Pete

UPDATE: The originator of this list was in fact the Popular Technology blog. The most recent version can be found here. I apologise for the confusion, but the posting at Pete's Place - which I thought was the original - did not link to or credit the original. I've contacted Heartland again asking them to correct their attribution.


I've noticed that I've been given credit I don't merit by the Heartland Institute so for the sake of clarity, I want to make it plain that the original compiler of this list of links to peer reviewed papers that do not accord with the IPCC's stance on climate change was the author of the Pete's Place blog the Popular Technology blog.

I have notified Heartland of this mistake.

Kafka at Albany

Last June I reported on the allegations of academic fraud levelled by a British mathematician, Doug Keenan, against Professor Wei-Chyung Wang of New York State University at Albany.

Dr Keenan alleged that in work that has come to be widely cited in climate studies, work that included the collation of data from temperature measuring stations in China, Professor Wang made statements that "cannot be true and could not be in error by accident. The statements are fabricated."

In August 2007, Dr Keenan submitted a report (pdf) of his allegations to the Vice President for Research at Wang's university and an inquiry was initiated. In February 2008 this was escalated into a full investigation by the Inquiry Committee.

All this was summarised in my earlier post, together with quotations from Dr Keenan's allegation.

So far, things had run as might be expected. A fraud had been alleged, the University at Albany looked into it and decided to hold a formal investigation. Dr Keenan waited to be contacted by the investigation and asked to put his case, in line with the university's Policy and Procedures on Misconduct in Research and Scholarship (.doc). The relevant section of this document runs as follows (emphasis added):

III. A. Rights and Responsibilities of the Complainant
Rights: The Vice President for Research will make every effort to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of complainants. The University will protect, to the maximum extent possible, the position and the reputation of those who in good faith report alleged misconduct in research.

The Vice President for Research will work to ensure that complainants will not be retaliated against in the terms and conditions of their employment or other status at the University and will review instances of alleged retaliation for appropriate action. Any alleged or apparent retaliation should be reported immediately to the Vice President for Research.

The complainant will be provided a copy of the formal allegations when and if an inquiry is opened. The complainant will have the opportunity to review portions of the inquiry and investigation reports pertinent to the complainant’s report or testimony, and will be informed in writing of the results of the inquiry and investigation, and of the final determination. After the final determination and upon request to the Vice President for Research, the complainant shall be given access to the full documentation.

Responsibilities: The complainant is responsible for making allegations in good faith, maintaining confidentiality, and cooperating fully with an inquiry and/or investigation.
Dr Keenan lived up to the responsibility as stated in the final paragraph above so far as he could. He had made the allegation in good faith and given Professor Wang an opportunity to explain how he had reached his results, an opportunity the Professor had not taken. Keenan maintained confidentiality. In order to cooperate with the investigation, though he would first have to be contacted by it. Dr Keenan waited.

Late in May 2008 a communication arrived from Albany. It said:
After careful review of the evidence and thoughtful deliberation, the Investigation Committee finds no evidence of the alleged fabrication of results and nothing that rises to the level of research misconduct having been committed by DR. Wang.

As the institutional official responsible for this case, I have accepted the Committee's findings and the Report. You have fourteen (14) calendar days from the date of this letter to provide any comments to add to the report for the record.
Contrary to its own rules, the Committee had not given Keenan the opportunity to "review portions of the inquiry and investigation reports".

That's astonishing, but here's where it becomes Kafkaesque. Keenan was being asked, in this most recent communication, to comment on the report of the Committee. But he was not sent a copy of the report. When he challenged this, he received an email from Adrienne Bonilla explaining that:
[Keenan] did not receive a copy of the Investigation report because the report did not include portions addressing your role and opinions in the investigation phase.

Per the UAlbany Misconduct policy:

VI. E. Investigation Report and Recommendations of the Vice President for Research

"...The Vice President for Research will provide the respondent with a copy of the draft investigation report for comment and rebuttal and will provide the complainant with those portions of the draft report that address the complainant's role and opinions in the investigation. The respondent and complainant will be given 14 calendar days from the transmission of the report to provide their written comments. Any written responses to the report by either party will be made part of the report and record.
Keenan then wrote to the Vice President for Research at Albany, Lynn Videka, pointing out the various ways in which the University had breached its own policy, stating that its behaviour was consistent with a cover up, and pointing out that Professor Wang has received more than $7 million in grants from a couple of US federal agencies.

In August 2008, Lynn Videka wrote to Keenan enclosing a final copy of a "determination" of the investigation. In her covering note, she stated:
I am notifying you of the case outcome because you were the complainant in this case. The University’s misconduct policies and the Office of Research Integrity regulations preclude discussion of any information pertaining to this case with others who were not directly involved in the investigation.
To summarise, the university initiated an investigation, then broke its own rules by not involving Dr Keenan. It then produced a report that carefully avoided mentioning Dr Keenan, so it could claim he was not entitled to see a copy of this report. It then asked Keenan to comment on the report. It has completely disregarded its own policy that "After the final determination and upon request to the Vice President for Research, the complainant shall be given access to the full documentation."

But Doug Keenan is a tenacious man. In July 2008, after being refused sight of the report, he submitted a formal complaint (pdf) to the Public Integrity Bureau at the Office of the Attorney General of New York State, alleging criminal fraud. In this complaint, he said:
Wei-Chyung Wang is a professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He has been doing research for over 30 years. For this research, Wang has received at least $7 million. The funds have come primarily from the Department of Energy, with additional funding from other federal agencies (DOD, FAA, NSF). I have formally alleged that Wang committed fraud in important parts of his research. My allegation was submitted to the University at Albany; a copy is enclosed.

The university conducted a preliminary inquiry; a copy of the report from the inquiry is enclosed (redacted, by the university). Briefly, Wang claimed that there were some documents that could exonerate him. The inquiry concluded that there should be a full investigation, which should be “charged with obtaining and reviewing any such additional evidence ... so that a final resolution may be made regarding the allegation against Dr. Wang”.

Wang had been claiming the existence of such exonerating documents for nearly a year, but he has not been able to produce them. Additionally, there was a report published in 1991 (with a second version in 1997) explicitly stating that no such documents exist. Moreover, the report was published as part of the Department of Energy Carbon Dioxide Research Program, and Wang was the Chief Scientist of that program.

The university conducted an investigation. The investigation concluded that Wang is innocent. I believe that the case against Wang is strong and clear, and that the university is trying to cover up the fraud so as to protect its reputation. Wang is one of the university’s star professors. The conduct of the investigation violated several of the university’s own stated policies: details are given in an attached e-mail (dated 06 June 2008). The e-mail was sent to Lynn Videka, Vice President for Research at the university: Videka was in charge of overseeing the investigation. Note, in particular, that the documents that Wang was relying on were never produced.

I have only examined a little of Wang’s research; so I do not know the full extent of the fraud. It is difficult to examine more in part because Wang has not willingly made his data available: when asked for the data from the research that I later reported as fraudulent, Wang refused. For that research, though, Wang had a co-worker in Britain. In Britain, the Freedom of Information Act requires that data from publicly-funded research be made available. I was able to get the data by requiring Wang’s co-worker to release it, under British law. It was only then that I was able to confirm that Wang had committed fraud. Details are given in my report to the university (page 4, last paragraph). I would be willing to help examine other research that Wang has done, if more data were made available.

There was another case of research fraud with a professor at the University of Vermont, in 2005. There, Prof. Eric Poehlman was convicted of making false statements on federal grant applications; he was sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Wang has done the same as Poehlman. The fraudulent work described in my report dates from 1990; Wang has been relyingon that work in some of his grant applications since then. As I understand things, each of those applications is a violation of statute. (Additionally, Wang has been using the grants to go on frequent trips to China.)
In October 2008 Dr Keenan was told there could be a wait of several months while his complaint is investigated.

I'll let you know when there are any further developments.

UPDATE: I didn't mention this in the main piece above, but I did mail the relevant person at Albany myself, some time ago, asking for news of the investigation against Professor Wang. I received no reply.

However, within a couple of hours of this being posted, someone at Albany came to look at it, from the host (, having apparently been sent an email about it.

So even if they are not communicative about this case, it seems someone at Albany is keeping their eyes open for reports of it.

UPDATE: On reflection, the hit from Albany is also consistent with someone using Google Alerts to monitor coverage of this issue.

UPDATE: Doug Keenan has been told on the telephone that this case is now under review by an attorney at the OAG Public Integrity Bureau.

UPDATE: Also see new findings on the effect of urban warming.

Closed Zone

Here's a beautifully executed short film by Israeli animator Yoni Goodman. It is part of a campaign for freedom of movement for the population of Gaza, run by an Israeli pressure group called Gisha.

There's no mention of the way the security wall has reduced almost to zero terrorist attacks in Israel, nor of the thousands of rockets fired at Israel by unrepentant psychopaths within Gaza. But then it is a short film. Perhaps they couldn't find space.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Economics 101

Via Obnoxio, the Bailout, in pictures (pdf).

Bad Mark

Earth Hour pledges.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jesus & Mo - evolution


Luton Hospitality

After all the photographs of Jihadis demonstrating in the streets of Britain with impunity, it's refreshing to see then enjoying the hospitality of the people of Luton yesterday.

It was right that the police protected their sorry asses, just as they used to protect the National Front's demonstrations back in the 1970s.

But the crowd also had every right to treat them like the fascist scum they are.

UPDATE: More here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Irish air meets the Ghost Riders

Hybrid vigour - the new strength that comes from mixing of blood, race, culture and music. It's the reason American music has been so important. Here's a lovely example.

I play the guitar very badly, and rarely, but among other things I like playing Appalachian flat pick tunes. Irish meets the rest of the world in the first mountains the settlers had to cross and where some of them stayed. The first hillbillys.

This isn't Appalachian, but the opening section reminds me of it, because of the strong Irish feel. Then it moves through Ghost Riders country to jazz, rock soloing (it's OK, it's still good) and back again.

Have a listen:


Read this

Here. From here originally, but it's cut out to keep here.

Really. Read it. Now.


It's a week or more old, but not for the first time Shuggy puts his case very well:

the demand for limited government has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a belief in the essential goodness of human nature. No - all human beings can be, and often are, selfish, destructive, venal, vicious, stupid and desperately wicked. Rather, it is based on an insistence that the political class are made from the same human material.

This version of liberty expresses equality at its very foundation - and grasping this is a matter of no small importance. The failure to understand it leads to one of two extremes: the 'libertarian' imagines a political class occupied by people whose essential nature is more disfigured than the rest of us, whereas those who advocate deference of an uncritical nature to those in authority impute angelic virtues to our rulers. But the insistence on limited government has nothing to do with either of these

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sex crimes

This post might be disturbing, and it is explicit in parts. I don't think the subject can be properly addressed euphemistically.

Something over ten years ago, I spent an afternoon with a police Child Protection Unit in East London. I was researching a situation they had investigated, of a school caretaker who had committed a series of low level sexual assaults against the under 11 year old girls in the school and who, when the level of complaint grew high enough, was transferred to the next door church to work there as a caretaker instead. It was a church school.

The man had plainly committed the assaults he was accused of. Even the priest, who I met later, tacitly admitted that. But there was no possibility that charges could be brought against him because he had done nothing that would have left physical evidence, and it's very hard to bring a court case that consists purely of the testimony of a child against that of an adult. This was explained to me by the senior police officer in the unit.

The case officer would, he told me, have "hung drawn and quartered the man", but instead she just had keep an eye on the assailant who spent school breaktimes watching the girls through the railings as he swept the yard next door. She also had to keep an eye on the victims, one in particular. There is, I was told, something like a victim syndrome. Somehow, predators can tell when someone has been the victim of an assault; there's a stronger than average chance that a victim of an assault will be assaulted again, by someone unrelated to the first offence. This had happened to one of the girls, she had subsequently been assaulted by a local shopkeeper.

I'm using the word assault a lot. I'm afraid I don't have the stomach to search my thesaurus for synonyms of this word, in this context.

No physical evidence. Think about that for a moment. That means it's terribly hard to prosecute even fairly invasive assaults, which these weren't. As I understood it, there had to be physical damage or semen. That makes it hard to prosecute men for this sort of crime, but it makes it almost impossible to prosecute women.

How many women sexually abuse children? We have no real idea, because they can rarely be prosecuted.

Some years after my visit to East London, I knew someone who worked in a home for disturbed adolescents in care. These were very troubled kids; it was an experimental unit set up as an attempt to provide an alternative to secure accommodation. And it was a traumatic job. The person I knew was held hostage by one kid, for several hours. There was a great deal of violence.

Highly inappropriate, strange sexualised behaviour was almost normal, as well as habits like using a chest of drawers in a bedroom as a toilet. One girl in her early teens would play games of sexual torture with a doll, quite unselfconsciously. A 14 year old would start saying how much she "needed cock", by which she meant giving blowjobs, and she'd run away from the home to give them behind bus shelters. On one occasion she was found naked, passed out on the floor of a man's hotel room. No criminal charges were brought against the man, a commercial traveller in his late twenties.

This behaviour hadn't just materialised out of thin air. Many children in care have been abused, often sexually. There's almost always a man involved, or men. But for children to be in care, as opposed to the man being in custody, there has to be something else going on too. Either the mother is unable to prevent the abuse, or she is unwilling to do so, or she facilitates it. Or she is the abuser.

One of the mothers, who had visiting rights, had been in the habit of making her daughter sit next to her while she was watching TV, so she could masturbate the child with her fingers. This mother does not form part of the statistics on sexual assaults; no charges were brought against her.

There are women who have sex in front of their children, sometimes with multiple partners, sometimes demanding the presence of the child, sometimes soliciting their involvement. Sometimes money changes hands. Sometimes it changes hands in order to secure the involvement of the child. I've read of a woman, who did face charges, actually holding down her daughter while she was raped. But as a rule they do not face charges. The kind of highly sexualised behaviour exhibited by some of the girls in the home I mentioned above derived from this sort of experience. At best, for every child in care, the person they should have been able to look to for help, their mother, failed them. At worst, this was the person who was abusing them.

I am not aware of any statistics, or even many serious attempts to gather statistics, on how prevalent this form of female on child rape is. But there are a lot of children in care and in every case, they cannot be left with their mothers.

Adult female on male sexual assault is often considered to be a laugh. I've been groped by strange women - and to want to grope me they'd have to be very strange - on occasion very intimately, but if I did the same back it would be a crime. There's some justice in this, based on physical strength. There was never any question that anything might happen to me against my will, as opposed to unexpectedly, but were the roles reversed that would be in the air.

More serious sexual assaults are almost always male against female, but not always. There are female against female rapes, and female against male. Doesn't seem to happen much, but while male against female rape is under-reported, these are almost never reported. And that's also the case with male against male rape.

It's odd that we find male rape funny if it happens in prison. The jokes about Big Vern and bars of soap in the shower are based on an appalling reality. Imagine not just being raped, not just being raped by a man, as a man, but being locked in a cage with the rapist... who can do it over and over again, for years on end sometimes. There have been cases of male against female gang rape where the attackers have 'phoned friends and offered them the victim. One young Japanese woman who was being gang raped in Brixton was held up to a window to show passers by, who were called to with the words "Want some of this?". Some of them did. (The rapists' mothers turned up in court to defend their sons). But imagine being offered like that, day after day, month after month... being sold as a rape victim for tobacco or chocolate.

And these victims aren't the armed robbers. They're not the psychopaths. These are the younger, more vulnerable prisoners. The ones who aren't in a gang. I knew one man, slightly, who had been shown a picture of his children going to school by a gang of Moroccan drug smugglers, and who was told that if he wanted them to continue to do so in safety he had to drive a car with cannabis in the boot from Holland to France. He did so; at the border he was asked if he had anything to declare, and he said "Yes, a hundred kilos of cannabis". He could see no other way out. He went to jail, and was one of the vulnerable ones. I'm not sure he deserved a prolapsed rectum, AIDS and a lifelong, unshakeable sense of self disgust, shame and humiliation, as well as a prison sentence. I'm not sure he deserved a prison sentence, but that's another argument.

It's not just that male rape is under reported. In some countries, including South Africa, which might be the rape capital of the world, it isn't even a crime. It's entirely unrecorded. And if you think the men who rape in jails refrain from doing so outside jail, you're being charmingly naive.

I really hate to take issue with Alison's heartfelt comments on this post, but I think it's wrong to say that rape is "a singularly male against female form of violence". I'm happier taking issue with Will Self, and he's wrong, in a piece Alison linked to, to say that rape is "a crime inflicted by men on women, either because we are mad, bad, deranged by alcohol - or all three". I'm going to take that as a Royal "We", Will. Rape is not a crime I inflict on women and I refuse to allow myself to be damned by association, because I'm a man.

Rape is overwhelmingly a male against female problem in this sense, whatever the balance of crime might be, however the actual numbers of men and women who rape and abuse children and adults might stack up: it is women who are afraid of it. It's women whose freedoms are limited by it. It's women whose hearts skip when they hear footsteps in the dark. It directly affects the daily lives of a great many women, and of very few men. For anyone who believes in the primacy of personal freedom, that's an intolerable state of affairs.

Since I started anecdotally, I'll the same way. Two of the women I've lived with had been raped by strangers, in one case it was a gang rape. In neither case was it a recent relationship, so by saying this I'm not risking anyone's privacy. I don't suggest this is statistically significant, but if you want to suggest that male rape of women is rare, I'm not going to believe you.

Rape is much more of a problem for women than for men. But it is not exclusively so. Most importantly, it is not characteristically so and it does not reflect on the intrinsic character of either women or of men. Where the opportunity arises, where physical strength permits this gross abuse, in the case of the rape and assault of children by adults, I think rapes and assaults in which the assailant is a woman are much more common than we realise.

Domestic violence

I think John Band is showing considerable intellectual integrity in these two posts.

Addressing the community

Interviewed on the Today Programme, Gerry Adams said, of the Sinn Fein response to the shootings of British soldiers in Northern Ireland a couple of days ago:

"We have been fairly successful in having brought the broad republican community to where we are at this moment and we have to be the best judge of how we address that community"
I think he has a point. There isn't peace in Ulster yet, but things are much better than they were. Adams has a very fine line to tread, when it comes to keeping the ultras as far onboard as possible. Sinn Fein's response and their position can't be judged yet, we need to see how it ends. But he did add that the "logic of our position" was that people should cooperate with the police in the investigation, and that is historically a significant stance for him to adopt.

I know there's a temptation to react by condemning Sinn Fein. Some conflicts can't be resolved, someone has to prevail. There's some reason to think this isn't the case in Ireland. Adam's position is consistent with this.

Galloway not relaxed

When I first saw this headline, I thought maybe he'd just taken some time out to chill. But no, it's the other meaning:

George Galloway stoned in Egypt

IT security by design

This is just stunning. Not only was the Telegraph's website open to SQL injection - which is one of the main things you try to prevent if you're designing online systems - but they also stored the users' passwords in plaintext rather than encrypted hashes. And the readers' email addresses were all there. Given the tendency people have to reuse passwords, this is a terrible breach of privacy, as well as giving a new mailing list to spammers.

Like so many of these cases, the failings here aren't a deep and complicated, they're absolute first principles.

Via Guido.

Disaster Socialism

Steve is still arguing for Red Toryism:

Mutually advantageous exchange between buyer and seller? Is that what was happening when the casino-bankers trashed people's savings by creating and trading in unintelligible financial instruments? Ask most people and I don't think they'd tell you they got a bargain.

The word 'market' originally described a place in a town where people would meet to buy and sell produce. When free-market economists use the term, that is the image they are inviting us to recall in our minds. But markets for manyof the products and services we use today are nothing like that. In many markets, rather than compete with each other, suppliers operate cartels or, at least, industry standards which work against the consumer.

I posted this comment:

I don't get it - you might not agree with free market ideas but you completely misrepresent them.

The word market isn't supposed to refer to some olde town square, but to a situation in which one or more entities offer to sell a commodity or service to one or more other entities. That's it.

A free market is one in which there is more than one seller and more than one buyer for any given commodity or service, they have reasonable though not perfect knowledge of what is being sold and who is offering it, there is no coercion and there is no collusion, either between sellers or between buyers.

In real life markets are free to greater or lesser degrees.

Markets are not impervious to failure or mania, but nor is any other type of system. Markets, it is argued, are more likely to correct mistakes than are command systems.

To the extent that banks are regulated they are unfree. Regulation imposes barriers to entry that restrict the supply of banking services. I couldn't set up a bank designed to reject the bonus culture and the conspiracy against shareholders and depositors that we've seen, because regulators wouldn't let me do it.

But they do need to be regulated. In fact, a market can't be at the freer end of the spectrum without the involvement of government - free markets depend on governments to maintain them. Everyone, from Adam Smith to Friedman has explicitly and volubly argues this.

Freer markets depend on the maintenance of property rights, of the law of contract and on the prevention of monopoly and monopsony.

But it's not enough just to regulate them; bad or ineffective - or corrupt - regulation would not be enough. The banks were badly regulated. Whether regualtion was light or heavy is beside the point. Light or heavy, no form of regulation should have allowed them to become insolvent.

Red Toryism is a form of Disaster Socialism - trying to exploit a problem by misrepresenting what caused it, blaming your ideological opposites by misrepresenting what they argue, then insisting this means that old, failed ideas need to be reimposed on an exhausted economy.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


I’ve never seen anything quite like this in my now 40 years in Washington. I’ve never seen anything like the enlistment of the mainstream media in a political crusade — and this is a political crusade, because it’s about how we should be governed and how we should live; those are the great questions of politics. It is clearly for some people a surrogate religion. It’s a spiritual quest. It offers redemption. But what it also always offers, whether it is global cooling or global warming, is a rationale for the government to radically increase its supervision of our life and our choices. Whether the globe is cooling, whether it’s warming, the government’s going to be the winner and the governing class will be the winner.