The cat i' the adage

"The growth of knowledge depends entirely on disagreement" Karl Popper (1902 - 1994)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pope not bothered about the bathhouse vote

Some laugh-out-loud moments from this Mark Steyn interview on the press reaction to the enthronement of Benedict XVI.

Well, I think they [the media] were rooting for Ellen Degeneres or Rupert Everett. And the fact that the new Pope is, in fact, a Catholic, seems to have come as a great surprise to them.

I think he understands, for example, that Islam is the fastest growing religion in Canada, America, Britain and Europe because it's not like the Frank Griswold Episcopal Church. It doesn't say hey, man, whatever your bag is, we're cool with that. If you want a gay church, you want a lesbian church, you want an abortionist church, we'll go along with that. It's precisely because Islam is a demanding religion that it has an appeal. And no one needs a religion that merely licenses your appetites.

And what this Pope seems to realize is that it's better, if necessary, to lose members in Massachusetts, and hold on to the large body of Catholic believers worldwide, who want a Pope who gives voice to their belief, rather than the moral relativism that may win them a couple more theoretical votes in the San Francisco bathhouse.

I do not share the Pope's moral outlook, but, unlike him, I am not a Catholic. What I do share is his total horror of the moral relativism at the root of modern saecular western society, and I am strongly of the view that the Church will have no useful future if people turn to it merely to seek divine endorsement of their own lifestyle preferences.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Does England really have the best restaurants in the world?

Restaurant magazine seems to think so, but I'm very sceptical.

It has become commonplace to hype the gastronomic revolution in Britain, and to disparage, in particular, the state of the French kitchen. British food is an exciting fusion of ideas from all round the world while the French, we are told, stick rigidly to their traditions and rest on their laurels.

Well if sardine-on-toast sorbet is your idea of innovative cuisine make for the Fat Duck at Bray. If, like me, you are repelled by this sort of showy, modish dish you will continue to travel to France where originality is not less common but technique and knowledge are far more assured.

Being overweight makes you live longer

Timely research on the subject of weight and life expectancy from the US Government watchdog:

The scientists analysed death rates and BMI for their research. They found the lowest death rate was among those with a BMI of between 25 and 29 - who would currently be classed as 'overweight'.

The ideal bodyweight, associated with the lowest risk of premature death, was 25, which lies between 'normal' and 'overweight'.

As a result, U.S. government experts have dramatically cut the annual number of deaths they blame on people being overweight - from 365,000 to just 25,814.

Based on the calculations, excess weight drops from the second leading cause of preventable death - after smoking - to seventh.

Severe obesity is clearly not conducive to long life, but a little fat around the hips appears to be all to the good. Of course this does not chime with the spirit of the age, so expect to continue being encouraged to eat less of what you enjoy in order to lose the weight that is actually beneficial for extending your life.

What have the following in common?

What have the following in common: Liza Minnelli, Liz Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross?

Answer: None of them has seen how Michael Jackson behaves when he is alone with a young boy in his bedroom.

Which is why Macaulay Culkin's testimony is the key to the outcome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A little learning and a lot of interference

The EU intends to increase its interference in how food products may be marketed, reports MEP Martin Callanan.

The Commission's proposal for the regulation of nutrition and health claims made on foods would create a huge new bureaucracy to verify and authenticate all the "health claims" based on an emerging science called "nutritional profiling."

Among many serious shortcomings, a main problem of this legislation lies in food itself. Many foods do not necessarily fit easily into "good" or "bad" categories. For example, milk and cheese are both high in fat but also very high in calcium which is extremely important to children and women. Under this directive, foods' bad qualities would prohibit manufacturers from marketing their good ones.

But hold on. I think I'm warming to some of this:

Healthy eating options, such as Tesco's 'healthy eating' products and Sainsbury's 'Be good to yourself' range would also have to go. It is even speculated that using labels that tie into national government campaigns such as the British "5 a day fruit and vegetable" campaign .... would be prohibited.

I get so irritated by those "Be good to yourself" stickers encouraging consumers, amongst other things, to give up natural products for unhealthy hydrogenated spreads crammed with trans fats. As for the ghastly "5 pieces of fruit campaign", I shouldn't want to deny that many fruits are good sources of important nutrients, but, I suspect that the healthgiving properties of fruit are much overstated - certainly no research has been able to confirm that eating "5 pieces of fruit" a day has any beneficial effect on life expectancy.

But before I get too tempted to wave the EU flag, I think it reasonable to assume that the EU will only replace these poorly researched and intrusive campaigns with others which it will bully us into following. And now it's time for lunch.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Dumping scandal

The Independent has a catalogue of British environmental failings, including this:

434,000,000 tons of waste is produced in Britain each year - enough to fill
the Albert Hall every two hours

This is outrageous. They should dump the waste in tips and leave the Albert Hall alone. No other nation would treat its premier concert venue in this way.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Hockey Stick, 1998-2005, R.I.P.

Just come across this brilliant summary of all the problems with the "hockey stick".

The “hockey stick” was remarkable. And as such, it will be remembered as a remarkable lesson in how fanaticism can temporarily blind a large part of the scientific community and allow unproven results to become mainstream thought overnight. The embarrassment that it caused to many scientists working in the field of climatology will not be soon forgotten. Hopefully, new findings to come, as remarkable and enticing as they may first appear, will be greeted with a bit more caution and thorough investigation before they are widely accepted as representing the scientific consensus.

I wouldn't hold out too much hope.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Progress in the war on terror

In a shoot out north of Riyadh, Saudi police have killed 14 Al Qaeda terrorists including Abdulkarim al Mejjati who it was believed had been involved with recent terrorist outrages in Morocco and Madrid.

James Dunnigan reports on developments in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia has one of the largest concentrations of Islamic radicals on the planet, and for decades it was a place where al Qaeda members could hide, if they kept quiet. But al Qaeda began a series of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia after the United States invaded Iraq two years ago, and brought themselves into direct conflict with the Saudi Arabian government. This war has not gone well for al Qaeda. The attacks killed mostly Moslems, and many Saudi Arabians as well. This turned most Saudis against the terrorists, despite the Islamic conservatism of most of the population. In the last two years, about a hundred terrorists, and 39 policemen, have been killed. Early on, Saudi Arabia drew up a list of the 26 most wanted terrorists. Only three of these are still at large.

It is very difficult to measure progress in the war on terror, but this must mark a significant reverse for Al Qaeda even though the majority of Saudis continue, apparently, to support their aims.

People get paid for this

Astonishing research discovery:

Adolescents who get daily vigorous physical activity tend to be leaner and fitter than their less active peers, researchers have shown.

This flies in the face of established understanding.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Labour: the favoured party of those who can't be bothered

An interesting opinion poll in today's Financial Times suggests that the Conservatives lead Labour by 39% to 34% among those certain to vote in the General Election, whereas Labour lead by 38% to 33% overall.

Given that 55% of the electorate say that they are certain to vote on election day, a little elementary arithmetic reveals that among those that are not certain to vote the Labour lead over the Conservatives is 43% to 26%.

In the light of these figures, a Labour strategy of frightening its supporters to the polls is readily intelligible.

"Two cartoons worth" of abuse?

The Michael Jackson trial continues to defy parody. Yesterday Jason Francia, the son of a former maid, was giving evidence:

Jason said the second incident also happened at The Hideout when he was between eight and nine as his mum cleaned another room. Again it occurred while they watched cartoons.

Asked how long it took, Jason replied: “Two cartoons worth. Say a Woody Woodpecker, four to five minutes."