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]

If you aim for the sky then you may hit the ceiling

If you are a fan of Watford, Aston Villa or Lincoln City or just football in general you will be shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Graham Taylor at the age of 72.

He was a remarkable manager. He took Lincoln City from the Fourth to the Third Division. He took Aston Villa from the Second Division to runners-up in the First. He took England to the 1992 European Championships and successfully kept them out of the 1994 World Cup.

But it was with Watford he had his greatest success. Teaming up with Elton John in 1977 he quickly won promotion to the Third Division. Shortly afterwards he gave a talk at my old school. In the Q&A one of the cheekier boys asked him when we would be in the First Division. How we laughed. It was unthinkable. Not going to happen. Taylor replied that if you aim for the ceiling your feet won’t get off the ground but if you aim for the sky then you may hit the ceiling. Four years later having smashed through the ceiling, roof and lower troposphere we were indeed in the First Division making monkeys out of the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. [What’s changed? I hear you ask.] In 1983 Watford were the second-best team in the entire country. In 1984 they got to the final of the FA Cup.

For the benefit of North American readers unused to the joys of promotion and relegation the equivalent of all this might be the Montreal Expos winning the World Series or a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup. Or, if you’re not interested in sport, somebody without political experience, a coherent philosophy, tact, media savvy or plausible hair becoming President of the United States. As I said: not going to happen.

Taylor even returned to Watford in the 1990s once again taking them from the Third to the First Division (or Premier League as it was by then known).

There were a number of secrets to his success. One was fitness: it was essential that his teams could keep going for the full 90 minutes. Another was the employment of the sublimely-talented John Barnes and the sublimely-passionate Luther Blissett at a time when many of the big teams were reluctant to field black players. Another was going back to the stats and working out that the traditional English long-ball game was by far the most effective. This was indeed fortunate as to attempt to pass the ball on the notoriously glutinous Vicarage Road pitch of the 1980s was to engage in cruelty to spherical objects.

On Saturday, Watford are playing at home. The club and fans will attempt to honour Taylor’s memory – many already have via the #thankyougt hashtag. But it will be difficult. Graham Taylor was a remarkable manager – and by all accounts – a true gentleman. Watford owes him a huge debt.

It’s a ruddy hate crime, that’s what it is!

The Times reports,

The home secretary’s party conference speech proposing that companies compile lists of foreign workers has been declared a “hate incident” by police under crime recording policies that she has supported.

Amber Rudd’s remarks about tougher rules for immigrant workers and foreign students attracted fierce criticism at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham last October.

She said that the government would be “examining whether we should tighten the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad” and ensuring that foreign workers were “not taking jobs British people could do”.

Joshua Silver, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, was so concerned that he reported the speech to police.

“I felt politicians have been using hate speech to turn Britons against foreigners, and I thought that is probably not lawful,” Professor Silver said.

Once he reported the speech, police were required to investigate.

West Midlands police have now written to the professor stating that the inquiry is concluded and the matter “has been recorded in line with the National Police Chiefs’ Council manual as a non-crime hate incident”.

The policy of blanket recording of all hate incidents was set out in 2014 by the College of Policing and backed by Ms Rudd last year.

I do not know whether Professor Silver’s motivation for reporting Rudd to the police was serious or satirical. Either way, it gave me a laugh.

Update: Apparently he was being serious. There is humour to be derived from his bout with Andrew Neil on BBC2’s Daily Politics, though I prefer my comedy to be less cruel. Kinder souls will hope that Professor Silver is remembered as the inventor of a type of low-cost user-adjustable eyeglasses – devices which might help millions of people – than for today’s embarrassing performance.

By the way, next time you read of the post-Brexit surge of reported hate incidents, remember the surge includes this.

Corbyn messes up, again

Labour leftists have never understood this basic fact: ordinary people don’t hate rich people. In fact they admire many of them. They don’t wince when they see a footballer and his WAG posing by the pool in Hello! — they think, ‘That looks like a nice life. Good on them.’ Corbyn bemoaned footballers’ pay as part of his proposal to enact a law preventing people from earning above a certain amount of money. Yes, a maximum wage. ‘I would like there to be some kind of high earnings cap,’ he said. It’s the worst idea a British political leader has had in years, and it reveals pretty much everything that is wrong with the left today.

First there’s the sheer authoritarianism of it. It will never come to pass, of course, because Corbyn’s footballer-bashing and bodged populism and general inability to connect with anyone outside of Momentum and the left Twittersphere means Labour won’t be darkening the door of Downing St for yonks. But that Corbyn is even flirting with the notion of putting a legal lid on what people can earn is pretty extraordinary. It would basically be a stricture against getting rich, a restriction on ambition, a state-enforced standard of living: you could be comfortable and middle-class, but not loaded. There’s a stinging moralism, too. Labourites complain about those on the right who look down on the ‘undeserving poor’, but what we have here is not all that different: a sneering at the undeserving rich, a prissy concern with the bank balances and lifestyles of those who’ve made a bomb.

Brendan O’Neill.

In the UK, the expression “made a bomb” means “make a lot of money”. Of course, Corbyn, who is thick, might think that it means making an explosive device. Given his associations, the idea of people “making a bomb” might appeal to this man, if not for the same reasons.

 

Some things I will miss about the now defunct Bella Caledonia web magazine

Bella Caledonia is, or was, a magazine style website devoted to a far left vision of Scottish Independence. I lurked there often and commented seldom. When I clicked on the link http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/ this morning I saw a message abruptly announcing its closure, and when I visited it again just now I saw the “404 Not Found” message. (Update: the site is now back up, though its future is still in doubt.)

I hope that was just a glitch and they haven’t really taken the whole site down. However far from them I am politically, I can have nothing but sympathy with someone who has been writing for or commenting at a website for a decade and then finds it has all been wiped. I would cry if that happened here.

As someone interested in languages, I shall miss the writing in and about Scots. I shall miss the commenters. Some of them were refreshingly, some worryingly, far from the mainstream of politics. A feeling of kinship… I shall say no more. Above all I shall miss their clarity about what they wanted for Scotland.

Three years ago I was so struck by an essay by regular Bella contributor Robin McAlpine, director of the Common Weal thinktank, about his desires for press regulation in a future independent Scotland that I copied it to my clippings file. The title alone was an Orwellian masterpiece. It originally appeared at this url: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/03/19/real-freedom-sounds-like-many-voices/. Since that piece now seems to have vanished along with the rest of the Bella Caledonia archive, and since it is a mirror to the latest efforts by a Conservative UK government to end press freedom, I shall preserve it by posting it below.

I have put the phrase “Above all, this would require that titles other than the franchised ones would be banned” in bold, but other than that have made no changes. Here it is:

Real Freedom Sounds Like Many Voices

by Robin McAlpine 19TH MARCH 2013

“What we are actually having a debate about is the right of very, very rich people to control our society outside of any oversight or regulation …”

I have unburdened myself of the frustration I feel at the way I feel about how the media regulation debate has been covered in the Scottish press (here). Since then I’ve been contacted by a number of people who share my frustration but who want to know if there are other options for media regulation or other possibilities or arguments that are being censored in this debate. Yes there are – all of them.

→ Continue reading: Some things I will miss about the now defunct Bella Caledonia web magazine

Sign here to protect both the freedom of the press and the integrity of the courts

I meant to write in more detail about the grotesque perversion of natural justice embodied in the proposed Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act earlier, but I was ill so I didn’t. Never mind. Guido Fawkes has covered the essentials here. That link takes you to a post on Guido’s site which contains a petition to the government. If you are from the UK, please consider signing it.

For an explanation of why I say that, see this from Michael Gove in the Times:

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is considering whether or not to implement section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and the period of consultation ends next week. If implemented, section 40 would require newspapers either to register with an approved regulator or face active discrimination in the courts.

The one regulator the government has so far approved, Impress, is funded largely by the former Formula One boss Max Mosley, a determined campaigner for restrictions on the press ever since a Sunday tabloid published disobliging details about his private life. Mr Mosley has assembled a team to run Impress who could never be mistaken for carefree libertarians.

Three of his board members support a campaign to starve The Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail of advertising revenue. One board member has expressed his sadness that the Mail cannot just be banned, and the CEO of the organisation has shared social media posts comparing the Mail to Nazi newspapers and has decried its work as fascist. One does not have to admire every aspect of the Mail to recognise that its crusading journalism played a huge part in bringing the racist killers of Stephen Lawrence to justice. Nazi newspapers tend not to be big on opposing racist violence.

Gove too right wing for you? Try this article from the left-liberal David Aaronovitch in the same paper, which I quoted in this Samizdata post and unapologetically quote again:

Which brings me to the most important thing being considered by Ms Bradley. It goes by the tedious name of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and is something that can be invoked, or not, by the government. It is, in essence, the stick that could be used to get newspapers and publications to sign up to the new state-approved press regulator, Impress.

What it says is that any publication not agreeing to be regulated by Impress will be subject to the costs of a legal action — even where it wins. Really. That’s what it says. Call the next Lance Armstrong a drugs cheat and even if he loses the case it will cost you hundreds of thousands. Well, no one in those circumstances would take the risk of running the story. These are not days in which newspapers make much if any money and the fastest way to bankruptcy would be to fall foul of Section 40.

Perhaps you are inclined to oppose the views of anyone writing for one of the Murdoch papers? Then read this piece and this follow-up from Roy Greenslade in the Guardian. There is no paywall at the G, so I will just link rather than quote any more than this:

In so doing, its [the lobby group Hacked Off] ideologues have placed their faith in the political establishment. They believe the charter is safe in the hands of MPs and peers and that the conditions that might lead to it being altered are highly unlikely.

But my lack of respect for what they call the media establishment (which, incidentally, is itself a mythical construct) is nothing like as great as my lack of respect for the so-called political establishment.

Added later: The Daily Mirror is another left wing paper opposing this measure: Do you want to gag the truth? Why new law will silence the free press.

In too much of a hurry to read all that? Guido’s earlier posts on this topic provide a quickie crash course. Here are enough to be going on with: (1), (2), (3), (4).

One last point. Quite apart from the danger to the freedom of the press, Section 40 would also set a precedent for using the attribution of court costs as a political instrument to apply pressure on bodies and individuals to do the government’s will. That corrupts the justice system itself.

Denial in the face of shame

I recommend this essay by Jack Staples-Butler for his “HistoryJack” blog, Starvation and Silence: The British Left and Moral Accountability for Venezuela.

DENIAL in the face of catastrophic failure of one’s ideas is a predictable reaction from a believer, as per Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance reduction in response to the failure of one’s beliefs. Denial in the face of shame for one’s actions is an experience well-studied by psychologists and criminologists. One 2014 study summarises the role of ‘shame’ in creating both denial of responsibility and recidivism among offenders:

“Feelings of shame… involve a painful feeling directed toward the self. For some people, feelings of shame lead to a defensive response, a denial of responsibility, and a need to blame others — a process that can lead to aggression.”[1]

Combining both faces of the phenomenon of denial is the behaviour of the supporters, apologists and promoters of the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, the late Hugo Chávez and the PSUV regime in Venezuela, and their response to the present state of the country. Humanitarian catastrophe of an apocalyptic scale is now unfolding in the most oil-rich state in the world. The magnitude of human suffering is indescribable. The scenes of bread queues and shortages familiar to Eurozone-crisis Greece are long since surpassed. Venezuela has become a ‘Starvation State’[2] which “today drowns in a humanitarian crisis”, with lawless cities and hunger for the majority.

And

The Chávez apologists are confronted with two cognitively distressing facts; that a favoured political project has failed, dragging millions into an abyss of hunger and despair in the process; and that they played an instrumental or even essential role in bringing this state of affairs about, whilst enabling the regime responsible to suppress and destroy its opposition by legitimising and even providing its conspiratorial narrative, pro bono. What is most striking in the Western socialist left’s response to Venezuela’s agony is the absence of response.

The vacuum of recognition or even acknowledgement in the face of disaster is followed by an absence of moral accountability. Knowing full-well that Venezuela is still there, suffering beyond measure, those who involved themselves intimately in the politics of a South American republic now conduct their lives “as if” nothing had happened. In a devastating article, the writer Paul Canning named this as ‘The left’s giant forgetting’[16]. Venezuela has become a collective unperson to those who formerly proclaimed it an example for humanity’s emulation; although tacit recognition of their previous behaviour is found in some of the apologists, as in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s deletion of any reference to ‘Venezuela’ from his website in March 2016, after two decades of promoting the Chavismo ideology in articles, demonstrations and media appearances.

Bookmark the essay. It would take some time to follow all the many references and links provided by the author, but they are a resource in themselves. This one, about the ambiguous and contradictory testimonies given by two British Communist veterans of the Spanish Civil War decades later, caught my interest.

Puzzle time!

Oh dear! Sir James Munby has had ever such a clever idea. His friend Frances Gibb has written a story about it for the newspaper. But they have both forgotten something very important. Can you help them find it?

Family courts chief calls for ban on abusers cross-examining victims

Abusers should be banned from cross-examining victims of domestic violence as a “priority”, says England’s most senior family judge.

Sir James Munby is pressing ministers to legislate to stop such cross-examinations, which still happen despite efforts by senior judges to prevent them.

The president of the family division, who raised the issue in 2014 amid concerns over the stress that such questioning puts on victims, is dismayed at the lack of action. He argues that the family justice system “lags woefully behind the criminal justice system” where cross-examination of an alleged victim by the defendant is not allowed by law.

In a statement today Sir James said that he would welcome a ban, adding: “Reform is required as a matter of priority.”

He added: “But the judiciary cannot provide this because it requires primary legislation and would involve public expenditure. It is therefore a matter for ministers.”

Senior judges are in talks with Women’s Aid, a charity that helps victims of domestic violence, to try to have the practice banned.

A spokesman for the judiciary added that Sir James, who is president of the family division of the High Court, was “disappointed by how slow the response to these issues has been and welcomes the continuing efforts by Women’s Aid to bring these important matters to wider public attention.”

Judges and women’s groups are discussing the workings of the existing rules, contained in a practice direction which has been reviewed by a senior family judge, Mr Justice Cobb. Cross-examination by violent partners has continued, despite the practice direction.

A survey by Women’s Aid found that a quarter of victims of domestic violence had been cross-examined by abusive partners.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told The Guardian: “When we talk to judges about this they say that this never happens. But it is happening, that is clear, and it seems fairly difficult to get this across.”

Concerns about cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses were raised by Sir James more than two years ago, prompting the setting up of a working party to deal with what was described as a “pressing need”.

The working party reported in 2014, condemning procedures for taking evidence from alleged victims as inadequate and pointing out that one High Court judge, Mr Justice Wood, had drawn attention to the issue as long ago as 2006.

Research by an all-party parliamentary group on domestic violence found that 55 per cent of women had no access to special measures in family courts, where 70 per cent of separation and child contact cases involve some form of domestic violence.

The group’s report, in April, called for an end to abusers cross-examining victims and was backed by two MPs, Jess Phillips and Maria Miller, who launched a joint call for action. The all-party group said it had launched its inquiry after becoming increasingly concerned concerned about the safety of women and child survivors of domestic abuse within the family courts.

“Your economy will become a third world wasteland that global investors will avoid.”

Said the Donald to the Salmon(d), erstwhile First Minister of Scotland, in a letter about the plans for windfarms off the Aberdeenshire coast, we know now from the Trump letters, obtained under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act.

A series of colourfully-written letters sent by Donald Trump to then-Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has been published in full for the first time.

The letters formed part of an intense lobbying campaign against plans for an offshore wind project near Mr Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort.

Some examples of Mr Trump’s forthright style:

On 12 March 2012 he asked Mr Salmond: “Do you want to be known for centuries to come as ‘Mad Alex – the man who destroyed Scotland’?”
He added: “If you pursue this craziness Scotland will go broke and forever lose whatever chance you currently have of making Scotland independent.”

he sent a one-sentence missive to the then first minister asking why Swedish energy firm Vattenfall was being allowed to “ruin” the Scottish coastline, adding: “Let them ruin the coastline of Sweden first.”

On 9 February 2012, Mr Trump told Mr Salmond: “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.

I note that the letters indicate an appreciation of pragmatism by Mr Trump.

In one letter Mr Trump said: “History has proven conclusively that the world’s greatest leaders have always been those who have been able to change their minds for the good.”
He also said he would be “your greatest cheerleader if you can change or modify your stance on at least the inappropriately placed turbines.”

In the other letter he told Mr Salmond: “Your idea of independence is ‘Gone With the Wind’.”

Well, I am slightly puzzled by Mr Trump’s writings, if only by the use of the future tense in the reference to a third-world wasteland. And he surely meant to say ‘sh*thole’, which in Scots English I’m told is spelt ‘Cumbernauld‘.

I have to say that I am looking forward even more to 12 noon on 20th January 2017.

Daring to think big

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,

When we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.”

“Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms

Will show your mastery, where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.”

Excerpts from Drake’s prayer, 1577, written in Portsmouth as he began his circumnavigation of the globe. The quotation is given by John C. Hulsman, in “Brexit: Directions for Britain Outside the EU,” Institute of Economic Affairs, page 146. (The monograph was published shortly before the 23 June Referendum.) Here, by the way, is an item about Sir Francis Drake.

Samizdata quote of the day

This is about Mike Raynor doing the Lord’s work by producing another yet computer model that makes happy predictions about the sugar tax. You can read it here. As always, the words ‘garbage in, garbage out’ spring to mind.

If you wish to take such models seriously, that is your look out. Regardless of whether obesity rates rise, fall or stay the same, campaigners will produce another model in a few years claiming that the rate of obesity in 2018 was lower than it would have been had there not been a tax. That, too, will be treated as fact by their supplicants in the media. It is impossible to prove that nanny state policies fail. The goal posts are always moved. Scientific claims in ‘public health’ are unfalsifiable, which is to that they are not scientific.

Christopher Snowdon

A contract signed under duress is invalid

All I have added to this excerpt from an article in the Times by David Aaronovitch is emphasis on what I consider to be the key words:

A free press must not be bullied by the state

Readers don’t know, but this happens all the time. Rich men and women threaten, companies threaten, gangsters and dope cheats threaten, aggrieved and time-rich individuals threaten; day in, day out letters before action flow like little streams of menace into our legal department. Almost every single time you expose someone or something, it happens in the context of legal threats. People don’t like it if you tell lies about them and they like it even less if you tell the truth.

Which brings me to the most important thing being considered by Ms Bradley. It goes by the tedious name of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and is something that can be invoked, or not, by the government. It is, in essence, the stick that could be used to get newspapers and publications to sign up to the new state-approved press regulator, Impress.

What it says is that any publication not agreeing to be regulated by Impress will be subject to the costs of a legal action — even where it wins. Really. That’s what it says. Call the next Lance Armstrong a drugs cheat and even if he loses the case it will cost you hundreds of thousands. Well, no one in those circumstances would take the risk of running the story. These are not days in which newspapers make much if any money and the fastest way to bankruptcy would be to fall foul of Section 40.

And that of course is why, as sticks go, it’s a knout, a knobkerrie, a bludgeon. It would have to be because otherwise the British press, from the pinkest metro-sheet to the shoutiest judge-hating tabloid, will not sign up with the government-approved regulator.

Two articles about sexual violence in left wing papers that surprised me

The first article was by Eve Livingston writing in the Guardian: “The state is an enabler of sexual violence. So what hope for the victims?”

The headline caught my interest, which lasted well into the third paragraph. She wrote,

Violence does not exist solely in the instant that blow meets body, but in the circumstances that facilitate it and the systems which excuse it.

My heart soared. Could it be that Ayn Rand’s argument that all state laws are ultimately enforced at gunpoint had penetrated the pages of the Guardian? For it is certainly true that the state facilitates and excuses its own violence, and I have long thought that this produces a climate of opinion that tends to facilitate and excuse violent acts by anyone.

‘Fraid not. It was just another rehash of the tired old trick of redefining “violence” to mean “anything I don’t like”. Ms Livingston thinks that the government spending less money than she thinks it should on women’s refuges is “violence”. As is the government spending less on anything, or talking in metaphors that might induce unpleasant thoughts.

If economic policy too accurately embodies its violent language of slashing and cutting,

Whatevs, thought I. And nearly missed a rather good point:

…legislation around crime and justice delivers an almost laughable irony. In some cases, the very laws purportedly designed to protect women from violence can, in practice, enable it: the criminalisation of various activities relating to the sale of sex, for example, is universally opposed by sex worker-organising collectives, on the grounds that it limits their ability to work safely – for instance, in groups or designated zones – and without fear of violence from both clients and state agencies.

I was surprised and glad to read this. Until now almost the only voice in the Guardian opposing the fashionable “Nordic model” put forward by an unholy alliance between old style authoritarian conservatives such as Caroline Spelman MP and Gavin Shuker MP (one of whom does and one does not have the abbreviation for “Conservative” written after their name, not that it matters) and new style authoritarian feminists such as Guardian regulars Joan Smith and Catherine Bennett, came from Melissa Gira Grant. Ably though the latter writes, she tends to be discounted because she would actually know. Dear me, we can’t have that.

I really was glad to see that Eve Livingston sees that laws that claim to protect women from violence can have the opposite effect. It is sad that she almost hid her message from me (and not only me judging from the comments) by that silly attempt to stick the label “violence” on something that, even if one believes it to be bad, is not violence. Ironically that same trick is played by the crusading politicians she rightly opposes. Click on the link relating to Gavin Shuker MP above to read the following (emphasis added):

The year-long parliamentary enquiry argues that prostitution should be seen as violence against women and an affront to sexual equality, but sex workers have reacted furiously to the proposals arguing that the criminalisation of clients will push sex work underground, further stigmatise women and put lives at risk.

The second article that surprised me is from the New Statesman. Sarah Ditum writes, “What’s missing from the transgender debate? Any discussion of male violence.”

One of those things that supposedly never happens, happened. Luke Mallaband was convicted of six voyeurism offences after a female student at the University of East Anglia found his phone hidden in the university library’s gender-neutral toilets. The probation report described him as “high risk of posing serious harm to females”.

Here I was simply and honestly surprised that a piece in the New Statesman admitted there was a potential problem at all. I had thought that the whole “transgender bathroom rights” issue was still so new and shiny, like a newly socialist country whose economy has not yet visibly gone to pot, that no one on the Left dared break ranks. But Sarah Ditum did dare, and despite the many poor arguments elsewhere in her article, she saw where Eve Livingston did not the danger in the attempt to use the emotions stirred up by a word as a substitute for argument:

“Inclusion” and “equality” are words with strong positive connotations, and those positive connotations can sometimes smother the problem of competing rights in a warm feel-good fuzz. On 1 December, Parliament debates the report of the Women and Equalities Committee into transgender equality: from reading it, you would have very little idea that the rights of women and the rights claimed by trans people have any points of conflict.

It is not that I have any particular opinion on whether gender neutral public toilets are a Good Thing or a Bad Thing in general. Of course they should be allowed, and of course gender segregated public toilets should be allowed. Libertarianism offers a way out of the contradictions about the “competing rights” of this or that group: respect the right of whoever provides the toilets in a premises to enforce what rules they think best and the right of potential users of the toilets to use those ones or go elsewhere as they think best.