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]

Putting the ‘con’ in consultation

You may not know that a Home Office minister is touring the UK holding ‘consultation’ meetings about the National Identity Scheme, and that it is more nonsensical than even the average government consultation exercise. She is, however, and nothing will be allowed to stand in her way. 3 members of NO2ID were arrested this morning for “suspected breach of the peace” while protesting outside the venue of the Edinburgh consultation exercise. Making ministers look bad will these days get you hustled away by police, apparently.

The reason the ‘consultation’ is even more fatuous than usual is this. There is no question the intention is to go ahead: the legislation was passed two years ago. And any questioning of the plan is ruled out of order – if not, indeed, arrestable. The object of this tour is to gather together “stakeholders” – businesses and voluntary organisations, and to persuade them that helping the government strong-arm their customers, staff and volunteers into enrolling will ultimately be for the good of all. In fact it seeks suggestions from them how best to get universal compliance.

Rounding up any dissidents is the last resort, of course.

Update: Apparently 9 people are still in custody at time of writing (18:20 BST). Hat-tip: Glasgow Herald, who called me for a statement.

Update 2: (06:23 BST) You can read the account of Geraint Bevan, of NO2ID Scotland, here. (The hard scientists among our readers will be pleased to know that the ‘Dr’ signifies Geraint just got his PhD in engineering.)

More nonsense from the medical mafia

Just to avoid any possible confusion, I should probably point out here that the Samizdata Illuminatus is a collective pseudonym used when any of the regular writers of this site wants to publish something anonymously. The author of this post is actually in London, not Massachusetts

Dale posted below about the idiotic rules he encountered when attempting to buy asprin in (I presume) Northern Ireland. I cannot answer the question as to whether the situation with asprin is really as absurd as his pharmacy said it was, but in answer to the question of whether it could be that absurd, I can assure him that the answer is very definitely yes. In this regard I have a little story of my own.

I have a hiatus hernia, which causes acid reflex in my oesophagus, which is intensely painful and uncomfortable, makes it difficult to eat certain kinds of food (anything at all acidic), and if untreated could lead to longer term problems that are even more serious (In the worst case cancer of the oesophagus). There is a class of drugs called proton-pump inhibitors that are used to treat this condition, and they are simply wonderful. You take one pill a day, and all your symptoms go away. They are really this good. The best known of these drugs is omeprazole, sold under the brand name “Losec” in Europe and “Prilosec” in the US. To get this drung, I could get a prescription from a doctor, but I would rather not have to deal with the NHS, as I find doing so to be too soul destroying.

However, the drug is available in the UK without a prescription, so no problem.

Well, not exactly. Omeprazole is a “behind the counter” drug in the UK, meaning that it is only available in pharmacies and you cannot simply pick it up off a shelf and then take it to the cashier and pay for it, but you have to actually walk up to the pharmacy counter and ask for it, supposedly so that you can receive proper advice. However, the nasty sting is that pharmacies tend not to display the price of such drugs in clear view, so you don’t usually find out the price until after you ask for the drug. They are relying on people being too embarassed to say that the drug is too expensive after having asked a pharmacist for it, so “behind the counter” drugs tend to be priced much higher then they would be if they were on the regular shelves.

To make things worse, the law states that the over the counter version of omeprazole must be sold in 10mg pills (the standard for the prescription version is 20mg) and in packets containing no more than 14 pills. There is nothing stopping you from buying a larger number of pills to obtain a larger dose, other than the fact that the way the drug is regulated and sold makes it expensive to do this. I am charged about £8 for such a pack of 14 pills, but as they are half dose pills, this is only a week’s supply. (This is almost entirely profit for the pharmacy, as the patent on the drug has expired).

So, although the drug is very effective for people with certain ailments, not prone to any kind of abuse, pretty much completely harmless, out of patent and very cheap to manufacture without any intellectual property issues, I cannot buy it without vast numbers of rent seekers in the medical and related professions profiteering from doing so (either by charging me directly or charging the government via the NHS) and the price being pushed up to a level I find annoying.

The US lacks this “behind the counter” racket, and omeprazole is also available over the counter in the US in large packets of proper 20mg pills, so there is nothing preventing me from buying it in large quantities at Wal-Mart when I am in the US, for about a quarter of what I pay for it in the UK. However, the Americans have lots of other rackets and the situation with this drug is sadly not typical, as American regulators (under pressure from doctors groups) are extremely reluctant to reclassify other prescription drugs as over the counter.

Sadly, though, I visit the US only once a year, if that, and my supplies seldom last until the next trip. Recently, I have found another solution, however, which is to buy the drug on eBay from people in Delhi. The price in this case is much less than I would pay even in the US, and less than a tenth what I would pay in the UK. It is possible to argue about the ethics of importing patented medicines from abroad, but in a situation in which the patent has expired, parallel imports are definitely something to be encouraged. It is probably not technically legal for me to conduct my own parallel imports from abroad, but I really do not care.

And there is something supremely ironic about using India to get arount the permit-Raj of the developed world medical bureaucracy.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I don’t want to remake America. I’m an immigrant, and one reason I came here is because most of the rest of the Western world remade itself along the lines Sen. Obama has in mind. This is pretty much the end of the line for me. If he remakes America, there’s nowhere for me to go – although presumably once he’s lowered sea levels around the planet there should be a few new atolls popping up here and there.”

- Mark Steyn, who despite his recent legal hassles, has not lost his sense of humour.

A fine tournament

The odd dull, negative game apart, I thought the European Championship football tournament, held this year in Austria and Switzerland, has been excellent with plenty of attacking flair to savour. For me, the highlights have been the Holland-Italy match (the Dutch won it decisively); the Russia-Holland game (the Russians turned over the Dutch in superb style) and the final, won by the wonderful Spanish side, which has waited a long time for this moment. It is good to see a flair team win a tournament like this rather than some dour, heart-breaking finish involving a penalty shoot-out. Here is a good Reuters summary of the whole tournament.

And I will not be the first, or probably the last, person to write that I did not miss England’s involvement this year (the English did not qualify for the tournament). We missed the worries about English football fans misbehaving, or endless media agonising up to the games and the inevitable penalty shoot-out losses to the Germans or the Portuguese. Bliss.

32

No, it is not a streamlined version of the answer to life, the universe and everything. It is the maximum number of aspirin in a bottle available at the local Clear Pharmacy. According to the Pharmacist on duty, that is the largest number sellable without a prescription.

I am sure I looked perplexed with my jaw hanging open during the few speechless moments before I came out with the only answer I could think of: “You must be joking.”

Before you get too uppity about freedom in America… the last time I bought 24 Hour Cold Capsules in Manhattan I had to sign a register so the government could make sure I was not going to use them to make ‘speed’.

“We’re from the Government. We’re here to help you.”

Not.

PS: Can anyone confirm this is really, genuinely true? I am still having trouble believing it myself. It is just, too absurd.

Collectivism triumphing in Europe and the United States?

I notice that the this week’s Economist is taking the same basic line as its sister publication the Financial Times did the Saturday after the Irish ‘no’ vote, that the EU can carry on without the text that was voted down. And, from their own stand point, both publications may well be correct.

It would be nice for them if the European Union had total power (which the ‘Treaty of Lisbon’ would have given it – especially with its amending clause), but the E.U. already has vast power (about 80% of new regulations are a response to its orders) so there is great scope for more collectivism of the involuntary, statist, sort.

And as the European Union contains almost all the major nations of Europe (with the exception of Russia) it can bully the remaining nations – at least with these nations being dominated by a political class who go along with basic philosophy of the EU anyway, due to their education and to the influence of the mainstream media, and so are looking for excuses to give in.

Meanwhile, in the United States the totalitarians look set to take over soon. I have presented evidence that they (both key members of Congress and others) are totalitarians in a previous posting and I will not type it all out again – so I will content myself with wondering whether, when the spiritual son of Saul Alinsky becomes President of the United States, he will invite Bill Ayers (and the other comrades he left Harvard to join in Chicago) to his inauguration.

So the United States and the European Union will sit grinning at each other as vital parts of the “world community”.

It will be rather like Tolkien’s Orthanc and Barad Dur. Or a fallen Minas Tirith grinning at Minas Morgul – over a land “filled with rotteness”.

Try to prevent this, or do not, as you choose. But do not lie and say you did not know what was coming.

Bob Barr vs the Surveillence State

I am watching a number of videos in which our candidate Bob Barr has been interviewed and he sounds pretty good. You may enjoy this one in which he talks extensively about Statist spying and the way in which the government is destroying the privacy of the individual.

David Davis says that the CCTV cameras are not working well enough

Much has been said about David Davis’s motives for doing what he’s doing. He is vain. He is mad. He is bored. My opinion? He is a politician. Politicians are vain, often mad. Politics is mostly very boring. I say: Who cares what Davis’s reasons are for saying what he is saying, and doing what he is doing? What matters is what messages he is sending out and what impact, if any, they will have.

I applaud Davis for communicating a general unease concerning civil liberties. What Davis said in his campaign blog yesterday about the DNA database will surely please our own Guy Herbert, if it has not done so already :

…why should a million innocent people and 100,000 children be kept on the DNA database? This is the state exceeding its powers.

Indeed. However, Herbertians may also be somewhat surprised and not a little distressed by what Davis said in that same posting, immediately above that bit about the DNA database, on the subject of CCTV cameras:

… I have been explaining that I am not against CCTV – but if it is going to be used the cameras should be able to provide clear images and all of the evidence should be usable in court. Currently only 20% is usable. At the moment we just have a placebo effect for Citizen UK.

His objection to the cameras is: that they do not work well enough! We are not, in this matter as in so many others, getting as much government as we are paying for. Of the possible damage to British society that might result from it being constantly spied on by officialdom, with very good cameras, for which David Davis will surely not have to wait long, he says, at any rate in this posting, nothing.

As I say, David Davis is a politician. Be thankful for small mercies, but do not assume any large ones from this man.

Heller and no-knock raids

So the Supreme Court’s opinion in Heller really has me wondering. Will this have any effect on the practice of so many police departments, especially big city ones with bright shiny SWAT teams, to use middle of the night no-knock raids when a less dramatic approach might have been a better choice? Will it encourage better investigations of exactly who’s home they are breaking into before they begin battering down doors?

I suspect but haven’t checked that most of these raids occur in jurisdictions that do, quite likely to soon be ‘did’, not permit armed self defense in one’s home. I further suspect the unspoken reasoning was too often, ‘Don’t worry about it. If they’re not bad guys, they won’t be armed’.

This might be worth a view

A new movie about the doings of special agents and local French Resistance folk in the days leading up to, and beyond, D-Day is out. I might go and see it – the reviews look quite good and the cast looks impressive. Lots of delicious French actresses – hardly difficult to turn down, really.

At the Imperial War Museum - always worth a visit if you have not been there – there is a section about the special forces that have operated before, during, and after WW2, such as the Long Range Desert Group, M16, the SAS, The Chindits (Burma), other forces in Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Aden, France, former Yugoslavia, Greece, etc. The displays are well done and there is loads of fascinating information about the ordeals of those involved, their lives, methods, equipment and roles in various campaigns. For all that I quite enjoyed the Ian Fleming exhibition in the same place, the real-life displays of derring-do by people who are often totally unknown to the broader public was in some ways far more impressive and actually rather moving. It was also, just to make a “point”, clear that many of these operatives did not need the full benefits of a surveillance state to do their jobs. What was clear that the prime qualities of getting good intelligence are commonsense and a lot of guts.

Reasons for optimism in the fight against Islamists

A forceful article in the Times today stating that the pessimists are wrong. In Iraq, in Afghanistan and at home, the death-cultists of Islamism are on the run.

What is also clear that if this progress is lost, it will not be because of the lack of bravery or skill of the US, British and other allied forces. They have been magnificent. No, the weak link in the chain remains, in my view, the craven attitude of the domestic western populations to the constant demands from home-grown radical Islamists. The farcical treatment of Mark Steyn in Canada is a case in point.

What remains an issue for advocates of isolationist foreign policy – which is actually not a policy at all – is how any of the gains that the Times’ article talks about could have been achieved by adopting the equivalent of hiding under the bed with a bottle of whisky.

Reasons for getting rid of this government, ctd

Up to a quarter of all adults are to be vetted to ensure they are not kiddie-abusing maniacs, as part of an effort to protect youngsters under the age of 16 in cases such as voluntary organisations and so on.

And people wonder why there is sometimes a shortage of volunteers for things like youth clubs and the like. The destruction of civil society, of the bonds of trust that are vital to such an organic, grass-roots cluster of non-state institutions, is remorseless and deliberate. This government, in its totalitarian way – I use that word quite deliberately – wants to make all human interactions subject to its tests. The consequences for the long term health of civil society, and of the ability of people to grow up normally, are ignored.

None of this is to say that the issue of child abuse is not serious, nor deserving of legal action to protect children from child abusers, who deserve the strongest punishment. I really do wonder, however, whose interests are served by the sort of vetting processes that the state is embarking upon. One hears examples of how adults are sometimes reluctant to help a kid because they are frightened they will get some sort of complaint later on. That cannot be good.

It is sometimes lazily assumed that this present Labour government is not “radical” like its predecessors. But that is only a superficial issue. In substance, this is arguably the most dangerously radical government in modern times in terms of its view of how individuals interact not just with the state, but with each other.