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]

Arise, Sir Joris

Joris Luyendijk is actually Dutch but honorary knighthoods can be conferred on foreigners who “have made an important contribution to relations between their country and Britain”. I think he qualifies. He writes,

Yes, we would strangle or crush the English in the post-Brexit negotiations, the way any group of nations comprising 450 million people would to an opponent eight times smaller who has just tried to blackmail them

This is why the best way forward for Europe is to threaten to hit the English as hard as we can. We must stop treating membership of the EU as a favour granted by England, and instead make the English feel their vulnerability and dependence.

A little less lobbying, a little more curing, please

Join thousands of Dryathletes dropping the drink this January and raising money to help beat cancer sooner”, says Cancer Research UK. What bilge. Abstaining from alcohol for a month does nothing and is nothing. Absent real problems, anyone can just drink exactly what they want whenever they want. That anyone takes seriously the pretence that deciding not to drink for a while is an act of effort comparable to training for an athletics event only indicates how low standards of achievement have sunk. People should be expected to grow a spine and take responsibility for their decisions as a matter of course, not pandered, patronised and praised for minor acts of agency like a toddler managing to eat his vegetables before his ice cream.

The supposed benefits of a month of abstention, apart from a “sense of achievement with your newfound hero status” — good grief — include losing weight, saving money and sleeping better. But one month out of twelve will not get you anywhere. If you are spending half of your life doing X and the other half worrying that you are doing too much of X, you are doing it all wrong. Either do less of X, or decide that the benefits of X are worth the costs. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

But maybe it will help to “beat cancer sooner”, and I should stop being a big meany. Well, it would be nice if Cancer Research UK would stop taking money away from its worthwhile research to squander on activism and lobbying.

The Dryathlon is, of course, just another bit of neo-puritan nagging. It probably makes a certain amount of sense for a cancer research charity to give out information that helps people balance fun versus risk. If I was told that my lifetime chance of getting cancer was 48% with total abstinence and 50% if I get completely drunk 3 times a week, and left it at that, I would say, “thank-you very much. Mine’s a pint of Pride.” But they will not do that. They’ll just tell me that alcohol causes 4% of cancer cases and really I should just stop thinking and drink less, and are happy to have taken a little bit of the joy out of the beer. Ok, it does not work on me but the BBC can find and interview people in a pub who have been made to feel bad about doing something they enjoy.

It does not stop there. Cancer research UK wants to prohibit product placement of alcohol. And in the latest panmedia offensive, we are told that there will be 700,000 cases of obese people getting cancer over the next 20 years, with no clue as to how significant this is. Then they are they are calling for a ban on advertising sugar before 9pm, a tax on sugary drinks, a general reorganisation of society to suit the NHS and, chillingly, the government to “take children’s health more seriously”. Supposedly children are bombarded with advertisments for sugary food and drink. I am a parent and I am not seeing it. I even have trouble buying sugary drinks without artificial sweeteners without resorting to Google and specialist suppliers.

I do not want to donate money to an organisation that is happy to goad the local mafia into “taking care” of me. Just cure cancer already so I can eat and drink what I want with impunity.

Never has a reshuffle been so aptly named

The daft old beardy has been at it a day and a half now and the only person he’s managed to actually eject is the shadow Culture Secretary. No, wait, I’m wrong – news just coming in – Pat McFadden is also out!

Who?

Never mind. Some poor schmuck dim enough to once think a career in politics would be a good idea, sacked by a man who looks as if he would be happier if their roles were reversed. OK, Jeremy Corbyn will eventually finish reshuffling. It may happen while I am writing this post. I do hope it is soon. Much longer and he will be in danger of shuffling off this mortal coil himself. The results of the reshuffle will not rejuvenate either Mr Corbyn or the Labour party.

In one of the science fiction author Larry Niven‘s short stories it is mentioned that when teleportation booths were still very new, some naive people put the booths inside their houses. It didn’t take that many house clearances by teleporting burglars before people realised that might not be wise. I thought of that story when I first heard that Jeremy Corbyn was likely to be elected leader of the Labour party. Some have attributed his success to an imprudent decision by Ed Miliband to lower the cost of becoming a supporter of the Labour party to a paltry £3, which encouraged far-left entryists and not a few malicious Tories to vote for Corbyn. However that was only part of it – Corbyn also won among longstanding party members. The main factor in his victory was, as in Niven’s story, a technology whose consequences were not yet properly understood. That technology was social media. Facebook and Twitter were where the idea of joining the party as a supporter and voting for Corbyn, the outsider, the joke candidate, the perennial loser given a chance out of pity, went from snowball to avalanche. When the existing members saw the avalanche building they, too, were caught up in the excitement. Suddenly the quasi-revolutionary hopes of their younger days seemed possible once more.

I don’t think this conjunction of factors will ever happen again. Political parties the world over are quietly upping their membership fees, instituting probationary periods before a new member gets to vote on the leader, and deciding against open primaries. The example of the UK Labour Party has shown them the need for a wall between your house and the teleportation booth.

Triply good news about free speech in Northern Ireland

Why “triply”?

– This:

Pastor who said Islam was ‘doctrine spawned in hell’ is cleared by court

A born-again Christian pastor who denounced Islam as “heathen”, “satanic” and a “doctrine spawned in hell” has been cleared after a three-day trial in a verdict that upheld the right to offend under the principle of freedom of expression.

– this:

The National Secular Society said the verdict was a “welcome reassertion of the fundamental right to freedom of expression”.
Campaigns manager Stephen Evans said the society strongly disagreed with the tone and content of McConnell’s comments, but added: “At a time when freedom of speech is being curtailed and put at risk in any number of ways, this is a much needed statement from the judge that free speech will be defended and that Islam is not off-limits.”

– and this:

An Islamic academic spoke in support of McConnell outside the court on the grounds of freedom of expression. Muhammad al-Hussaini, a senior research fellow in Islamic studies at the Westminster Institute, said: “Against the flaming backdrop of torched Christian churches, bloody executions and massacres of faith minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is … a matter of utmost concern that, in this country, we discharge our common duty steadfastly to defend the freedom of citizens to discuss, debate and critique religious ideas and beliefs – restricting only speech which incites to physical violence against others.

“Moreover, in a free and democratic society we enter into severe peril when we start to confuse what we perhaps ought or ought not to say, with what in law we are allowed to, or not allowed to say.”

You can take my plastic bag from my cold, dead hands

Today I visited the Click & Collect counter at Debenhams, a department store. This is an arrangement whereby one orders goods using a web site then visits the premises to collect them. “Sorry about the wait,” said the clerk when I reached the front of the queue. Later she asked if I wanted a bag in which to carry my purchase. “You have to pay 5p.” I did not have any change, and withdrew from my wallet a pristine £20 note. The Click & Collect counter must not be set up for cash payments, as the clerk looked slightly panicked but decided her job was to make me wait some more: “Could you join the queue over there to pay?”

At the front of that queue I declared, “I am to pay for this bag.” The look of confusion that was the reply made me wonder if, perhaps, the intention all along had been for me to shrug and walk away without paying. “You want to pay for that bag?” Yes, I did. The cashier slid the £20 back towards me and muttered something that I took to mean, “get out of here.” I thanked her and left.

The UK’s 5p “bag charge” is not a Pigou tax to cover the externality of disposing of the bag. Neither is it to raise money for charity. It is explicitly designed to change people’s behaviour. “We expect to see a significant reduction in the use of single-use plastic carrier bags as a direct result of the charge”, says the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, while looking sternly over the top of its spectacles, one imagines.

More than that, people who insist on continuing to use plastic bags are to be made to feel awkward and deviant. Like smokers, we are to be de-normalised.

The mechanics of buying groceries are tedious. I would prefer the transaction to go gracefully with the minimum of conscious thought. I do not want to be made to consider such philosophical questions as, “do you want a bag for life? We have to charge 5p for the other ones. You don’t? Oh well, I will try to use the minimum number of bags to save you money. What’s that? You don’t care? You want me to use the number of bags appropriate for secure and efficient carrying of the volume, mass and tessellation properties of the items you have purchased? What a strange customer you are.” I feel that social disapprobation every time.

A while ago, at a supermarket, I paid by credit card for my items before realising the cashier had not bagged them. “Can I have a bag?” Then I fumbled around for change until the customer behind me in the queue insisted on paying for me. I left haunted by the idea that he thought I had arranged this situation on purpose. When it happened again at a newsagent the other day, I insisted on paying even though the cashier offered to waive the fee. Partly to assure everyone in the vicinity that I was not a skinflint and partly because, like a feeble imitation of an Ayn Rand hero, I want to force Them to confront what They have wrought. Next time, to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt, and to make more miserable the lives of future shoppers, I might point out that they should be careful about waiving the charge as there are DEFRA agents in our midst, carrying out secret shopping operations. Yes, I will fight back!

I will continue to use single-use plastic bags for as long as I am able. Not just because I am too disorganised to plan my shopping jaunts in advance and ensure that I set out with the correct number of re-usable bags, but also as a service to you, dear readers, that you may from the safety of your laptops observe the abuse and ostracisation of a misfit; that you may know the nature of the state.

In which I fill out an online “consultation”

I had some incoming from Uber yesterday. The TFL consultation on their proposals to bugger-up-all-competition-to-the-cossetted-black-cab-mafia is underway. I am usually rather sceptical about these things but Uber is such an obviously Good Thing that I participated anyway. You never know, it might make a difference.

Police advice on how to react to a terrorist attack -run, hide and tell…

In the UK, there is now some police advice in a video on what to do in the unlikely event of getting caught up in a terrorist attack. The first tip is to run, the next is to hide, phone the police if you can and say where you are, and wait for the armed police to turn up, and when they do, try not to get shot by them by waving your hands around too quickly.

For those unfamiliar with hiding from armed killers, the video suggests.

“The best hiding place with protection from gunfire will have a substantial physical barrier between you and the attacker.”

Another handy tip is:

“Insist others come with you, but don’t let their indecision slow you down,” the video says.

A fuller version of the video is here.

Well that’s made it all fairly clear then. The video is pretty much what you might have expected. As Bob Geldof put it in ‘I don’t like Mondays‘ ‘…And the lesson for today is how to die…’.

Truth be told, the advice is realistic given the legal situation in the UK. Do our friends in Texas have a different take on what to do?

When was the NHS created?

Here is a chart of average life spans for women from the Office of National Statistics with the dates replaced with letters. At some point on the X axis the National Health Service was created. Can you guess where? Answer below the fold.

UKLifeExpectancyF4

→ Continue reading: When was the NHS created?

There might be some truth in this …

“the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign”

… given that the International Brigades fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War were Communists who followed Stalin’s line, which was to ruthlessly suppress rival militias such as the Trotskyist POUM in which George Orwell found himself by accident. Once I would have believed that the Spanish Civil War was simply a trial run for WWII with the Republicans as the Allies and the Fascists as the Axis. Nothing will make me view Franco’s overthrow of a democratically elected government with approval, but I can no longer see either side as the good guys. That, too, is a parallel with the current situation in Syria and Iraq.

That quote, by the way, is from a piece called “Groundhog Day in Syria as Mr Benn goes bombing”originally published by the Stop the War Coalition (National Chair: Jeremy Corbyn MP) but since removed from its website. The whole piece can be still found on the website of Matt Carr, its author, here. A fuller version of the controversial quote is:

Benn does not even seem to realise that the jihadist movement that ultimately spawned Daesh is far closer to the spirit of internationalism and solidarity that drove the International Brigades than Cameron’s bombing campaign – except that the international jihad takes the form of solidarity with oppressed Muslims, rather than the working class or the socialist revolution.

Many left wingers have reacted with anger. The sole Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, has resigned from the committee of the StW Coalition partly as a result. The Guardian commenters laud her wisdom in stepping down without questioning her wisdom in ever having anything to do with the Stop Some Wars* Coalition in the first place. It is, and has been for years, the Emu to the Rod Hull’s hand of the Socialist Workers Party. As I said in 2011,

Three quarters of the posters [at the left wing demos I attended in the 70s and 80s], and almost all of the printed ones, were produced by the Socialist Workers Party. Busy little bees, they were. They still are: it is an astonishing fact that this tiny and fissiparous Trotskyist sect has twice dominated massive popular protest movements in my lifetime; the Anti-Nazi League / Rock against Racism movement of the 80s and the Stop The War Coalition of 2001-2008. Sorry, 2001-present, only they stop wars much more quietly now that Mr Obama is president.

*Wars against Israel are OK.

‘No offence’ – in Northern Ireland…

Thirteen members of a Loyalist marching band, the Young Conway Volunteers, have had their criminal convictions for ‘doing a provocative act likely to cause public disorder or a breach of the peacequashed after the Public Prosecutor agreed not to oppose their appeals.

The non-offence occurred after the marching band found themselves marching in a circle outside St Patrick’s Church (Catholic) in north Belfast, whilst playing (allegedly aggravated by hostility) a tune alleged to have been ‘the Famine Song’ with the presumably catchy refrain ‘The famine’s over, why don’t you go home?‘, but what they said was the Beach Boys ‘Sloop John B‘ (reportedly an easy mistake to make, the basic tune is widely used). How this was proved at the original trial when they presumably were playing a tune on instruments and not singing was not made clear.

Although now acquitted, the band members agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for 2 years (not a conviction but a promise of good behaviour, breach of which could lead to a 7 day jail term).

Whilst this acquittal in the face of ‘hate legislation’ is certainly a good thing for liberty, I note the apologetic tone of the response of the Orange Lodge, which presumably has some connection to the band:

In a statement, The County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast welcomed the successful appeal.

“We are glad that justice has finally been achieved for these band members who had been wrongly vilified by the media and nationalism,” it said.
“There never was an intent to cause offence.”

One might ask what on Earth were they marching for if not to ‘cause offence‘ (in the subjective sense) on 12th July by their celebration of the lifting of the siege of Londonderry? To say that there was ‘no intent to cause offence‘ appears to concede that offence was caused, rather than taken or even perhaps rejoiced in as an opportunity to throw the legal machinery of the State at the band.

Why not say that this legislation is oppressive, tyrannical and makes the law itself a politicised weapon, a sword, not a shield?

To me as an Englishman, the whole shebang seems utterly alien, the intolerance and fanaticism on both poles of the Ulster divide mark them as having more in common with each other than with insipid, fundamentally apolitical England. Whether or not that is a good thing for Northern Ireland, or for England, may in the long run be another matter.

Snapshots of Labour collapse

If you are an anti-Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty grim just now:

By his disastrous widening of the franchise for electing the party leader, Ed Miliband has handed control of it to what a previous leader, Hugh Gaitskell, memorably denounced as “pacifists, unilateralists and fellow travellers” – people not only antipathetic to ordinary voters but anathema even to most ordinary Labour MPs. It will be hard, it may even be impossible, to get the institution back. …

Quite so, except that the people to whom the Labour Party has just been handed are not pacifists. They favour violence provided that it is inflicted upon Britain and upon civilisation by Britain’s and by civilisation’s enemies.

This is Robert Harris, in today’s Sunday Times, and dragged out from behind its paywall here.

Such chaos cannot go on much longer.. Those MPs who either defy a three-line whip to vote for military action against Isis, or who are permitted to follow their consciences in a free vote, may well prove to be the nucleus of a new party.

If that sounds apocalyptic then so is the mood of many Labour MPs: obliged to watch at close quarters day in, day out, the incompetent antics of a leadership that has no hope of ever winning a general election but which is nonetheless impossible to dislodge.

But if you are a Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty good:

Formed as a successor to the Corbyn campaign, Momentum is in the process of setting up governance arrangements to represent its supporters amongst the Labour Party membership as well as the wider social movement which is springing up. As it grows, Momentum will develop democratic governance structures at every level of the network.

That being from the Momentum website. However, I prefer this piece of Momentum propaganda, which I spotted recently in the tube:

Momentum

Who knew that political feuding could be so glamorous?

Here is another Labour Party related picture which I took, when walking beside a disconnected and unnavigable canal (a certain creek springs to mind) in north London earlier this year. Did the person who threw this sign into the water know something that the rest of us did not, about the future of the Labour Party?

VoteLabour

To be more serious, I am content to see the Labour Party reduced to a state of ruin.

→ Continue reading: Snapshots of Labour collapse

Samizdata quote of the day

Far leftists do not laugh to mock communism. They laugh to forget communism. They dismiss the mass murders, and the suppression of every right that makes life worth living with a giggle and a snort, and imply that you are a bit of a prude if you cannot do the same.

Then they throw a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book across the chamber of the House of Commons and look round with utter bemusement when no one gets the gag.

Nick Cohen

With thanks to Mick Hartley.