We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

What were you doing a year ago this day, this hour, this minute?

While we are on the subject of reminiscences… The moment they knew.

And here is the St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

“The Setting of Their Leftist Suns”

I loved the title of this autobiographical article by Tim Blair, describing how he came to turn away from the left wing views of his youth.*

Tell your personal stories of political evolution, in any direction.

*Basically he can’t keep his mouth shut.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

Why Labour lies about crime in 2017 succeeded where similar Tory lies failed in 2010

BBC Radio 4 puts out a well-regarded programme on statistics called “More or Less”, in which presenter Tim Harford looks at uses and abuses of statistics. The most recent episode was a topical one covering the general election just past.

Here’s a link to the “Post-Election Special” on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08wr7ss

That link won’t last long and may not be playable outside the UK. Downloads of this and other episodes will be available indefinitely here.

If you cannot or prefer not to listen to the programme, I have transcribed the section I wanted to post about below. Typing it all out was slow work. I bothered doing the work for two reasons.

One, the BBC came much closer than it usually does to saying out loud that that the Labour Party knowingly lied on an important matter during the election campaign. We can tell with unusual clarity that Labour knew they were lying because they were lying in exactly the same way that the Tories had lied in 2010, only then the Tories were called out on it.

Two, that there has been an interesting change in the chances of such a lie being challenged before it is too late. When the Tories were telling this particular lie in 2010, they were doing so in the pages of the press and on TV, seen by millions all at once – and talked about all at once. But when Labour told their equivalent lies in 2017, they did it on Facebook posts that are passed between individuals. Though a great number may eventually see the original video, they do so as individuals. If they find it convincing, they pass it on to other individuals, and there is no reason why the recipient should be any better informed than the sender. Compared to a broadcast or news article, or even a blog post, it is less likely to come to the attention of those who know enough to rebut it. Even if it does and they do, the rebuttal is less likely to ever come to the attention of those who saw the original.

Often this sort of campaign by social media ends up as “a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. People who already agree with each other are stimulated to agree ever more vehemently only to discover the morning after the election that the people who didn’t already agree weren’t listening. However when, as in this case, the video appears to be heavy with facts and to come from a non-partisan source, it can work very well.

Time I got round to talking about the specific claims at issue. The section of the election episode of “More or Less” that I’m interested in starts at 17:35 and lasts until 23:06.

Tim Harford, the presenter, says,

“It is widely believed that the youth vote boosted the Labour party and one of the things that may well have been influencing young people were viral videos on social media. In the last few days before the election, we were contacted by a loyal listener who had seen one of these videos. It was on Facebook and it was being promoted by the Labour party. And it had received 1.4 million views.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to get to it before the election, but these elections seem to be a bit like buses; there may well be another one along in a minute. And in any case, there’s never a bad time to talk about the truth.

“The video in question featured an event where an official from the trade union Unison, Ben Priestley, was giving a speech. Mr Priestley represents union members who work for the police or as prison officers, and he was sitting next to Shadow Cabinet minister Keir Starmer.

“Here’s a clip from the speech.”

We then hear the voice of Ben Priestley saying,

“Since 2012/13 there’s been a 29% increase in possession of weapons. This is police recorded crime. These are the crimes that the police themselves, through a rigorous process, have deemed to be crimes. A 29% increase in possession of weapons. A 65% increase in violence against the person. A 38% increase in assault with injury. Sexual offences are up 97%. Public order offences are up 54%.

“Now, if those figures weren’t shocking enough, this government which has claimed repeatedly, and also claimed in the Conservative party manifesto, that crime is falling. But nothing could actually be further from the truth. The government relies on the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which is an opinion poll which disregards homicide, it disregards sexual offences, it disregards crimes against business. It is a very, very small proportion of overall crime.

“So the government relies on those figures to tell the electorate that crime is falling, whereas recorded crime figures tell exactly the opposite story.”

Then it cuts back to Tim Harford, who says,

“Strong stuff. And Jeremy Corbyn’s twitter account tweeted a link to the speech with the text ‘Watch: national police officer Ben Priestley destroys Tory lies on crime rates.’

(Here is that video: https://www.facebook.com/JeremyCorbyn4PM/videos/1707133912914014/. Note that Ben Priestley is not a “national police officer” in the sense of being a policeman himself. He isn’t even a trade union representative for police officers, who are forbidden to join ordinary trade unions. Mr Priestley is Unison’s National Officer for Police and Justice, dealing with the workplace rights of civilian employees of the police. Whether intentionally or not, the description of him as a “national police officer” in Jeremy Corbyn’s video stream was misleading.)

Hartford continues,

“But are they lies? The accusation here is that the government is ignoring police recorded crime statistics and relying on the Crime Survey for England and Wales and that this is a lie because police recorded crime is a better measure. But that’s wrong. Neither method is perfect, but most crime stats nerds will tell you that the survey is better.

“The UK Statistics Authority looked at police recorded crime statistics in 2014 and decided that they were so unreliable that they should no longer be counted as an official national statistic. On the other hand, the Crime Survey for England and Wales is an official national statistic. It is not a small ad hoc opinion poll, it’s a nationally representative survey that measures the extent of crime by asking households whether they’ve experienced any crime in the last twelve months. In 2016/2017 approximately 50,000 households will be selected to take part in this research.

“And it’s just bizarre to suggest that it covers a very, very small proportion of overall crime because it captures more than twice as many crimes as the police data.

“But what about the shocking figures that the video quotes from the police recorded crime stats? Is that a true rise in crime or just a rise in the recording of crime? Since the Statistics Authority criticised the police recording of crime stats there’s been a big rise in the reporting of crimes that the police were not recording properly, such as low level violence and public order offences. The Office for National Statistics is very clear. They say, ‘Due to the renewed focus on the quality of crime recording by the police, this crime series is not currently believed to provide a reliable measure of trends, owing to the ensuing efforts of police forces to tighten recording practice and improve recording processes.’

“So the video suggests crime is rising by using cherry-picked, unreliable statistics, while dissing the more reliable statistics that serious policy wonks pay attention to. The true picture? Well, I think we got that from the crime policy writer Tom Gash, earlier on in our series. ”

Tom Gash then speaks, saying,

” I think what we’ve seen over the last twenty five years is this very, very steady fall in crime. Over the last two or three years we’ve certainly seen a plateauing of that fall in crime in a number of areas, but particularly in terms of serious violence.”

Back to Tim Harford, who concludes,

“These videos are important. You often see them after your friends share them, so they come with a recommendation.

“What’s interesting about this claim of Tories lying about crime figures is that Labour politicians weren’t making it in debates or in political interviews. It was made in a Facebook video of a press conference, where it was far less likely to be challenged.

“In 2010, the then Conservative shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, made a similar criticism about crime under the Labour government, using police recorded crime stats rather than the Crime Survey. But because his claims were made in a more public forum they were rebutted by the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson, and in a letter from Sir Michael Scholar, then Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, who said, ‘I must take issue with what you said yesterday about violent crime statistics, which seems to me likely to damage public trust in official statistics.’

“But in the era of social media, all political parties can make claims that are far less likely to get properly examined – unless, of course, our loyal listeners put us on the case. ”

One might wish they had got round to following up on what their loyal listener had alerted them to before the election.

Remember it was mentioned that the man who was sitting next to Ben Priestley when he made that speech was Keir Starmer, or to give him his proper title, Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC MP? You can see him sitting on Mr Priestley’s right on the Labour video, looking at his hands and taking the odd note. Well, Keir Starmer isn’t just any old member of the Cabinet. He has specialist knowledge. Back in 2010 when the Tories made their false claims about crime statistics, he was Director of Public Prosecutions. Analyses of how the final figures for convictions were related to numbers of prosecutions and the underlying crime rates must have came across his desk almost daily. Here he is in 2013 writing for the Guardian about just these issues in relation to rape and violence against women. I find it hard to believe that as Sir Keir Starmer listened from two feet away to Ben Priestley’s claims about the National Crime Survey being merely an “opinion poll”, he did not know better, and that he did not also know that Mr Priestley’s claims about a 97% rise in sexual offences and so on were rubbish. I find it hard to believe that he did not remember from 2010 the cutting response made by the then Labour Home Secretary to similar hyped-up allegations when they came from the Tories:

Alan Johnson, the home secretary, said the British Crime Survey indicated that violent crime had fallen by 41% since 1997. “It’s one thing to make a slip-up on your figures – it’s quite another to deliberately mislead.”

Yet he remained silent. Is he happy to be associated with this video?

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

So is Barclays Bank effectively being prosecuted for refusing a tax funded state bailout?

So is Barclays Bank effectively being prosecuted for having refused a tax funded state bailout in 2008? Perhaps I misunderstand something but that sure as hell looks like what is happening here, at least when I read between the lines. Am I getting this completely wrong?

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

Fun with Daniel

I am posting this clip from Daniel Hannan for no better reason than it has a rather high yum to yawn ratio.

Hannan offers us a spoonful of political wisdom:

“There is one charge against which I’d always defend members of this house, and that’s the widespread belief in many of our members states that MEPs are lazy, that we come here and sit around and do nothing. Frankly the world would be a much better place if that charge were true – if instead of constantly legislating, people would come here and clock in for their very generous attendance allowance and then go and work on their golf handicap, or read a novel, or do something other than meddling in the lives of everybody else.”

And a smidgin of political insult:

“I am being heckled by a sort of lefty yahoo over there who is gibbering and ranting like a stricken animal”

Finally a Monsieur Marias does well in the role of straight man:

I would like to ask the chair to censor this so-called colleague who is insulting the whole house.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

Samizdata definition of the day

austerity
ɒˈstɛrɪti,ɔːˈstɛrɪti/
noun: increasing the rate a state appropriates people’s money less quickly than some want

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

Samizdata quote of the day

The actions of radical Islamophobes should not be used to condemn the peaceful Islamophobe majority

Allum Bokhari, tweeting the situation with great panache 😀

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

Exception, meet the new normal

It has finally happened.  Here in Britain, a man has driven a van into a group of people he sees as evil.

Clarification: it has finally happened in Britain that a man has driven a van into a group of muslims.

If we followed PC precedent, we should be as cautious in assuming this man was not a muslim as we were told to be of assuming earlier perpetrators were muslim. How could it be safer to treat a reported shout of “I want to kill muslims” as more decisive than a reported shout of “Allahu Akbar”? Murder of a gang rival with collateral damage; killing  a group of not-muslim-enough muslims with ingenious collateral propaganda advantage; anything is possible. But I suspect he wasn’t a muslim.

In the well-armed US, it has not yet happened – that I have heard, and I think it would have been blazoned forth by the media (no doubt will be if and when it does). But the US is exceptional. In third world countries (whose cultures it is racist to regard as more flawed than our own), tit-for-tat retaliation has long been part of the culture.

In its quieter, understated way, British exceptionalism has always been as proud as US exceptionalism – and as hated by the politically correct. They decided to “rub the British people’s noses in diversity” in order to get rid of it.

We are less exceptional today than we were yesterday.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

“But she knows me !”

Late one night near the start of the 1930s in Germany, Leni Riefenstahl dropped in on friends whose house she chanced to pass as she returned from the very first Nazi rally she attended. For ten minutes, she raved about the the glorious future awaiting National Socialism, the insight of Hitler  – until the expressions on the faces of her stunned-into-silence hosts finally penetrated the haze she was in and she recalled that this married couple (that she’d been friends with for years) were two of her several Jewish friends. She murmured something about how she was sure that aspect of National Socialism would not amount to anything that need concern them. Then she finished her coffee and left. She never came back. Her circle of friends changed to contain fewer Jews, then fewer still.

(Leni’s next chance to meet Jews in numbers came in the early 1940s, when she borrowed concentration camp inmates to be extras in crowd scenes in her films, returning them to the camps after their scenes were shot. The couple who gave her coffee were not among them. Before that night, they were typical intellectuals, sure that National Socialists were all very stupid self-defeating people. That a girl like Leni – clever, strong-willed, career-minded, inventive, unorthodox – could become one was incomprehensible to them, so incomprehensible that it shattered their intellectuals’ conviction that they were the ones who understood things. Therefore they fled Germany early and so they lived – long enough to tell the story of that night on a television programme I watched long ago.)

I was reminded of this by the woman named by Sarah Hoyt in a recent post. Like the rest of Sad Puppies, Sarah has been accused of every sin in the politically-correct calendar by SJWs who’ve never met her, but also, to her astonishment, by Rose Beteem, a woman who knows her, who knows her views, who knows she’s from Portugal and can look like she comes from somewhere south of it, who knows Sarah is no more plausibly accused of all these -isms and -phobias than Leni’s friends were of starting WWI. Sarah was astonished that Rose could do that since “she knows me.”

I wasn’t. Beteem’s knowledge of Sarah Hoyt is part of her experience. Beteem’s knowledge that all Sad Puppiers are vile people, guilty of every -ism and -phobia, is part of her political theory. To be politically correct is to value theory above experience. Khrushchev noted the strength of Stalin’s tendency to believe a thing if he’d read it in a book or report, whatever the counter-evidence. In C.S.Lewis “That Hideous Strength”, Mark treats a sociology report on agricultural labourers as the reality and the actual agricultural labourers he meets as irrelevant because his modernist views meant “He believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of that which is not seen.”

Treating the theory you’ve been taught as a surer guide than your own experience is the essence of political correctness. SJWs don’t just refuse to learn from the past; they resist learning from their own present. If this ever changes, they become that well-known type who is a socialist at 20 but wiser at 40. Otherwise, don’t rely on their knowing you to make a difference.

[All quotations are from memory. Khrushchev’s remark is in Robert Coquest’s, “Stalin, Breaker of Nations.”]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

The Trooping the Colour flypast from up on my roof

Earlier today I chanced upon Trooping the Colour on the telly, which is the big old military parade they have in London on the Queen’s “Official” Birthday. Mention was made of a flypast that was about to happen, and I immediately grabbed my camera and ran up to my roof, to photo what whatever of it that I could from there.

I had to wait a while, until 1pm. There was much helicopter activity, which seemed promising. Our Armed Forces keeping their eyes out for surface-to-air missiles, and suchlike devilry? Perhaps. Maybe just pretending to be doing that, in order to deter it. Whatever, eventually, I spied, way out beyond the multi-pointed Parliament Tower, two real airplanes, flying together. Which could only mean a flypast. No planes approaching Heathrow would ever bunch up together, like that, by which I mean like this:

That photo was taken with maximum zoom, but eventually these two airplanes trundled towards me, and I got a rather better shot of them, although still with quite a lot of zoom:

When I watched the television highlights of the show in the evening, they said that the biggest of the planes in this next photo was the biggest plane the RAF possesses:

To me, it just looks like a Boeing Dreamliner in plain clothes. Don’t they have any properly big planes? It occurs to me that the Dreamliner may be bigger than I had thought.

But at least I got to take semi-adequate photos of this dreary plane and its little sidekicks, and of its predecessor and its sidekick, above.

I had less luck with these guys:

That’s a heavily cropped close-up of them, as the Red Arrows (for it was they) vanished behind the big tower block in the middle of the square I live on the edge of, leaving only their jets of patriotic-coloured smoke.

Here is the original photo that the above is cropped from:

Which gives you an idea of how far away all this was happening, and how the direction of travel of whatever it was determined whether I would ever see it properly or not.

Unlike the earlier boring jets, the Red Arrows didn’t disappear from London in a westerly direction, i.e. past me. They went north. And this was as close to an actual photo I got of them:

I never saw anything like this:

Whch is how the Red Arrows looked on my telly.

According to that same telly, a couple of Hurricanes and a Spitfire, or maybe it was the other way around, flying in a formation, were also part of the show. But I never laid eyes or lens on them.

Nevertheless, I account the trip upstairs a success. My purpose was to see how one of these London Queen’s Birthday flypasts looked like from up on my roof, and I did. It wasn’t nearly as good as the Farnborough Air Show, but I didn’t expect it to be. It wasn’t even as good as the New Year’s Eve fireworks that I photoed from the same spot last New Year’s Eve. But then, a firework occupies a lot more sky at any particular moment than an airplane does, and its entire purpose is to be extremely visible.

I actually find it quite reassuring that the British state’s version of a ceremonial flypast over its capital city is so very modest, and that by far its most impressive moment features guys who are basically aerial ballet dancers.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

“Why did I bother !”

The left are about intentions. They treat their own good intentions as evidence they will do good – and that we, who oppose them, have evil intentions. We notice incentives. If the planned road to utopia rewards freeloading while punishing those who pay for it, it will not get there.

“Why did I bother!” is what Natalie’s exasperated neighbour said when the Tory manifesto came out. That neighbour is one of the goodies: never rich but she paid her way (plus taxes), raised her kids, worked at many a humble low-paying job (as her neighbours’ cleaned kitchens could testify) and ends up with a house, a life she can respect, and no other major assets. May’s intention was presumably to balance the budget. But taking that neighbour’s house to pay alike for her care and freeloaders’ care incentivised her to demand, “Why did I bother!”

Theresa May was stuffing envelopes for the Tory party when she was twelve years old. But maybe that’s the problem. Given my family background, it is mere lucky chance I was not stuffing envelopes for Labour at that age. Almost 5 years separated my reaching voting age from the next general election – which is why I can tell you I have never voted Labour. I had to work out, as the years and days to that first election ticked down, why I should not do what I would have done on my 18th birthday. That is why, today, I could not look at a policy proposal without the thought occurring, “What incentives will this create?”  Evidently, Theresa May can.

[ADDED LATER:  should Natalie’s neighbour have been so exasperated?  My thoughts are here.]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

The uncertainty principle in violence blame mechanics

Sometimes one is privileged to witness the discovery of a law of science.

Δl Δm > M

Six years ago I wrote a post called “Two contrasting articles by Michael Tomasky on spree killers”. In that post I compared an article Mr Tomasky wrote in January 2011 after the attempted murder of (Democratic) Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the course of a spree killing carried out by Jared Loughner (“In the US, where hate rules at the ballot box, this tragedy has been coming for a long time”), to another article written by him in November 2009, just after the mass killing at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan (“American, for better or worse”).

Regarding Hasan, Mr Tomasky was of the opinion that “We have much more to learn about Hasan before we can jump to any conclusions” and “We should assume until it’s proven otherwise that Hasan was an American and a loyal one, who just snapped”.

Regarding Loughner, Tomasky felt much more able to draw immediate conclusions. He wrote, “You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday” and “So what particular type of nut is Loughner? We don’t have a full picture yet. But we have enough of one. His coherent ravings included the conviction that the constitution assured him that “you don’t have to accept the federalist laws”. He called a female classmate who had an abortion a ‘terrorist'”.

Forgive the lengthy prologue. I was prompted to write this post by the fact that Mr Tomasky has now added a third article to the series, concerning the attempted murder of Congressman Steve Scalise and other Republicans by James Hodgkinson: “One Left-Wing Gunman Doesn’t Make a Movement”. He is back to a state of unknowing.

We may never know about James Hodgkinson’s mental state in the days and hours leading up to his horrifying attack Wednesday morning, since he’s dead. We know that he was left wing, a comparative rarity for a political assassin in the United States these days.

And

But it’s my hunch that Hodgkinson was not part of any broader movement.

In quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle says that “the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa.”

A similar principle may be discerned in the field of “violence blame mechanics”, an emerging field of political science. The complementary variables in this case are Δl, the uncertainty of left-protectnedness, and Δm, the uncertainty of motivation for violence. “Left-protectedness” can be manifested as actually holding left wing beliefs or as belonging to a group regarded as oppressed by the left, such as Muslims or dark skinned people.

In layman’s language, the more certainty there is that a perpetrator of violence held a left wing position or belonged to a left wing protected class, the less certain it is possible to be about his motives. Thus the very act of seeing that the Facebook page of James T. Hodgkinson included a Bernie Sanders banner and the words “Democratic Socialism explained in 3 words” makes it impossible to know his motives.

“Uncertainty of motive” can also be reformulated as “time before it is proper to speculate on motive” by a simple mathematical transformation, with tm tending to zero in the case of Loughner and infinity in the cases of Hasan and Hodgkinson. This explains the apparent contradiction of how it was improper to guess at Nidal Hasan’s motives before trial despite the widely reported fact that survivors heard him shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he fired, but that when it came to Jared Loughner Mr Tomasky felt that we had enough of a picture the day after the attack.

In tribute to the clarity with which his writings have demonstrated the concept, I had thought of calling this law “Tomasky’s uncertainty principle” but, as so often in the history of science, the same discovery has been made by several different researchers. It is a crowded field. To establish priority, readers are invited to submit examples where a particular author has demonstrated his or her understanding of the principle by citing multiple articles showing it in operation for different values of Δl and Δm.

Meanwhile, may I suggest that we should name the equivalent of Planck’s constant in a way that does justice to the collective nature of the development of this principle. Let us call it M, the Media constant. Thus the law can be stated in mathematical form as Δl Δm > M. I have added this equation to the top of the post.

Edit: I must draw your attention to the very cogent objections raised by Moore, L. (2017):

If “the complementary variables in this case are Δl, the uncertainty of left-protectnedness, and Δm, the uncertainty of motivation for violence” then the first variable isn’t really the degree of certainty that a perpetrator of violence held a left wing position or belonged to a left wing protected class, but the degree of certainty as to whether a perpetrator of violence held a left wing position or belonged to a left wing protected class.

And then of course the whole Tomasky uncertainty principle collapses in a heap, because if we know for sure that a perpetrator of violence is a right winger we have zero uncertainty about whether the perpetrator of violence held a left wing position or belonged to a left wing protected class. This should mean the uncertainty of motive is infinitely large. But it isn’t. It’s zero. If we know for sure that if the perp was a rightie, we know for sure the motive was rightiness.

I suspect what we have here is Tomasky’s exclusion principle, derived not from Heisenberg, but from Pauli. Left wing motives and violence turn out to be identical Graunions, which cannot occupy the same quantum state at the same time. They simply cannot co-exist in one event. The one excludes the other.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone