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]

California voting – an anecdote

Yesterday, I was chatting to a Californian friend. He described his experience of voting in the recall election.

He was sent a postal ballot – a ballot and an envelope to return it in. He had not asked for it and did not want it but got it anyway. His wife was also sent one and what I say below applies to her as well.

Both envelope and ballot had serial numbers printed on them – and they were sequential: the return envelope’s serial number differed by one from its ballot’s serial number. (His wife’s likewise, so it seemed to be a pattern.) This gave him some concerns.

  • As the state had posted the serial-numbered ballot specifically to him, it sure looked like, after the election, the authorities would be able to tell how he’d voted. In a state where expressing a heterodox thought can be career-ending, this was a little worrying. Of course, he could have chosen to trust the Governor’s assurance that the state would never dream of recording the serial-to-address data, let alone exploiting it afterwards (if the Governor had given that specific assurance, but he did not recall whether Newsom had clearly promised that as such).
  • As the envelope and ballot serials had this simple sequential relationship, it sure looked like anyone who saw the returned envelope (which had to have his name and address on it), would be able to deduce the serial of his ballot. In a state where the operation of the law can make defying antifa more dangerous to you than to them, this was a little worrying. Of course, he could have chosen to trust the Governor’s assurance that no such person would later be able to get access to the ballots or their scanned data to relate his name and address to his vote (if the Governor had given that specific assurance, but he did not recall whether Newsom had clearly promised that as such).
  • As there was no secrecy sleeve, it sure looked like whoever ripped the envelope open to get the ballot during the count would have a hard time not seeing his name, address and vote all at once anyway. In a state where supporting the wrong party can lead to unequal application of the law, this was a little worrying. Of course, he could have chosen to trust the Governor’s assurance that the electoral staff would be unable to record or memorise such information (if the Governor had given that specific assurance, but he did not recall whether Newsom had clearly promised that as such).

After thinking about this, he went to the local polling station on election day to try and get a ballot from them and put it in the ballot box the old-fashioned way. Wisely, he took the postal ballot with him, knowing they should – and in this case probably would – want to see it destroyed. Unwisely, he filled it in beforehand in case they refused to let him vote the old fashioned way (so that, in that case, he could at least put the postal ballot straight into the box, thus cutting some intermediaries out of the insecure loop, without making a second visit). He gave me a vivid word-picture of the crossed-arms, blocking-the-way lady in change of the polling place when he made his request. They did not absolutely refuse, but it was made clear to him that the first thing to happen would be his postal vote being torn open and carefully examined before its destruction. Cursing himself for the ‘forethought’ of filling it in “in case”, he decided that that would destroy the point of the exercise, which was to cast a secret ballot – though he did wonder by then whether, despite his studiously-meek demeanour, the lady felt any more doubt of whom he was voting for than he felt of whom she was voting for. So in the end he used it as the state intended he should.

I report this wholly anecdotal case (just two ballots and one polling station) because I know my friend is describing his own experience accurately and the details surprised me. When the Nazis tried to find out which Germans voted ‘no’ in Hitler’s plebiscites, they put serial numbers on the ballots – but they did so secretly, by using a typewriter without a ribbon to make an invisible impression that could be recovered later, and then had a very hard time arranging for the appropriate invisibly-serial-numbered ballot to be given to the appropriate suspected voter when he or she showed up at the polling place. How they would have loved the simplicity of being able to send openly-serial-numbered ballots by post.

I do not know whether my friend’s experience represents much of California’s voting, but, like him and his wife, I am just a little worried to learn that it represents any of it.

Ctrl-F “frack” 0/0

The government has published this UK gas supply explainer.

There has recently been widespread media coverage of wholesale gas prices, and the effect this could have on household energy bills. The impact on certain areas of industry, and its ability to continue production, has also attracted attention.

This explainer sets out the background to the issue and the action the government is taking to protect the UK’s energy supply, industry, and consumers.

Natural gas prices have been steadily rising across the globe this year for a number of reasons. This has affected Europe, including the UK, as well as other countries around the world.

Later, the author of the “explainer” reassures us consumers that energy prices may not go up as much as one might expect:

The high wholesale gas prices that are currently visible may not be the actual prices being paid by all consumers.

This is because major energy suppliers purchase much of their wholesale supplies many months in advance, giving protection to them and their customers from short-term price spikes.

The Energy Price Cap is also in place to protect millions of customers from the sudden increases in global gas prices this winter. Despite the rising costs of wholesale energy, the cap still saves 15 million households up to £100 a year.

Isn’t it nice that the government protects consumers by stopping energy firms passing on price rises?

Completely unrelated: Four more small energy firms could go bust next week, the BBC reports.

Some of you may remember that the Bishop Hill blog used to cover climate and energy issues in a moderate and well-informed way. Unless I missed the announcement of a move, that blog does not seem to have been active since 2019. However I recently found that the Bishop is on Twitter, one of the few reasons left to visit that horrible place.

The healing power of media lies

I’ve been in hospital over the last few days for a long-planned operation. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the Los Angeles Times for its part in my recovery. After my op, for a while my blood pressure was worryingly low. The doctors and nurses, bless ’em, think that it was a blood transfusion that got my blood pressure back up again. Nope. It was all down to fact that America’s fifth largest newspaper, founded in 1881, is but the skin of its former self inhabited by creatures reminiscent of the ichneumon wasp, a parasite that devours its host from the inside.

As Megan Fox writes at P J Media:

Under the headline “LAPD is investigating altercation involving Larry Elder at Venice Homeless Encampment,” the Times ran a photo (seen below) that makes it look like Elder is slapping a woman. This is a complete fabrication and not at all what really happened. Instead, it was a white woman in a gorilla mask hurling an egg at Elder. This photo that the Times used is of Elder greeting a woman in the crowd. The woman actually commented on the Times tweet to hold the paper accountable for this hideous lie. “Are you kidding me?” wrote Soledad Ursua. “You use this picture to make it look like [Larry Elder] is slapping me? He was attacked by a white female wearing a Gorilla Mask. Are you covering for racists? Disgusting.”

Samizdata quote of the day

The term white feminism, as it is commonly used today, is a classic example of the Kafka Trap. If you show too much interest in the lives of people of colour, you risk being accused of white saviourism — which is another way of saying you have a suspiciously condescending attitude to people of colour. But if you don’t show enough interest, you are insufficiently intersectional. You only care about the white, middle-class cisgendered women in your social circle.

White feminism is a classic example of the Kafka Trap because whatever you do is either too much or not enough. You are never right.

Tomiwa Owolade

Samizdata quote of the day

The quest to eliminate sex in civil society is not just well-funded and wrong-headed, it taps into a dark truth about male power and sexuality. So entrenched are positions on either side of the debate that each word becomes a tribal signifier. As a hard-line feminist, I found the use of preferred pronouns throughout Trans jarring. But as a writer I appreciate some small battles must be conceded so as not to alienate the majority. Nonetheless, a nod to the feminist scholars who’ve been battling this behemoth for decades would have been welcome.

Trans gives a compelling, comprehensive overview of how and why this science-denying ideology has conquered the world. Ultimately, it is a story of inequality; both economic and sexed. Trans is a book that ought to be read by every legislator, policy maker and activist. But the bleak truth is that those whose minds are already closed will never open its cover.

Josephine Bartosch

I wrote to my MP, and she wrote back

A few days ago I did something I am not used to doing, which is I wrote to my MP, who is Nickie Aiken (she is MP for Cities of London and Westminster). I have met her several times; personally, I like her and she has been helpful on several local issues. I wrote about the rise in National Insurance Contributions, taking the UK total tax burden to levels not seen in 70 years.

My letter suggested that there was no point putting new money into the NHS, a state monopoly, without reforms, and that NI ought to be blended with income tax, given that “insurance” is a misnomer and that this would give people a clearer idea of how much the State takes. I commended efforts by former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley to her on how to use private insurance and other methods to increase availability of residential care and doing so in a way that was fair. My letter avoided the usual libertarian fire-eating exercises we can get into. I was polite and constructive. I think others who want to contact MPs should adopt the same approach, if only to make them aware of how we think. These things do add up. MPs can count, particularly those in marginal seats.

She replied. I don’t know if her reply – which was quite lengthy – was one that she has sent to other constituents and some sort of pro forma thing. If she wrote it to me personally then that speaks most well of her to take the time to do so. I think it is okay for me to republish it here because this letter was sent by a supporter of a government and defending what is now official, public policy. Remember, this is a “moderate”, fairly middle-of-the-road MP, and I think pretty typical of most of her party.

Here goes:

During the summer recess, I spent a week looking after my father who is living with advanced Alzheimer’s while my mother had a respite holiday. I experienced what millions of people up and down the country live with day in day out, month after month caring for their loved ones in similar circumstances and I pay tribute to every single one of them. Equally I am in awe of our care professionals working in care homes and those who provide care services in people’s homes. I believe the covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the outstanding service they all provide for which I am grateful.

It is this recent experience as well as having been a Council Leader where 40% of the local authority’s budget was spent on adult social services, has led me to accept that if we are to reform social care and ensure that all those in need receive the dignified care they all deserve then extra funding is required. I believe that such a levy as proposed would have been necessary even before the pandemic. However, now with the nation’s finances in the position they currently are, with the Government having spent over £400bn keeping the economy and businesses afloat, raising further revenue is now a must.

I therefore accepted the arguments both the Prime Minister and the Health & Social Care Secretary have made in their reasons why they are proposing the new levy. During the Prime Minister’s statement in the Commons this week I sought assurances that, through the health and social care levy, money raised will go to fund local authorities who are on the front line of providing social care. I am firmly of the view that not all the money raised should go to the NHS but to councils too. As I understand the situation, in total £36 billion will be invested in the health and care system over the next three years to ensure it has the long term resource it needs.

Having looked at the proposals I note that the 1.25% proposed levy means someone working full time on National Living Wage earning £16,216 would pay around £1.50 per week. With such investments patients will benefit from the biggest catch-up programme in the NHS’s history, so people no longer face excessive waits for treatment. This will provide an extra 9 million checks, scans, and operations; and increase NHS capacity to 110 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels by 2023-24.

I appreciate that some people highlighted that the young will be burdened more than the older generations when it comes to the levy and that this is a tax on low paid workers. I note that the highest-earning 14 per cent in the country will pay over half the levy, and the Government has also announced an equivalent increase in dividend tax rates and the suspension of the pension triple lock which would have seen an 8.8% increase in the state pension next year which I agree would be unfair at this time. Instead it will rise by 2.5% or inflation

As a Conservative I believe in a low tax economy. I also believe in financial responsibility and following the pandemic I do feel that we are not in the same position as a country that we were pre-pandemic thus it is right to raise funds in order to support the NHS deal with the immense backlog of waiting lists and also take the necessary and fair steps necessary to give our health and care services the backing and funding they need in order to recover from the effects of the pandemic and ensure the health and wellbeing of residents here in the Two Cities.

Draw your own conclusions on where politics is headed in this country.

Samizdata quote of the day

“When Boris Yeltsin visited a Houston supermarket in 1989, the sheer choice of goods and services on offer compared to stores in Soviet Russia shocked him. `Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,’ he said. Faced with this new, striking reality of American living standards, he began to recognise the massive costs of the communist economic system on the Russian people. Before seeing it with his own eyes, though, Yeltsin was none the wiser. To echo the movie The Matrix again, his supermarket visit was a ‘red pill’ moment – it allowed him to escape the constructed reality of Soviet communism and experience a real, alternative world.”

Ryan Bourne.

“They’re not coming. You’re on your own.”

Even people who habitually decry the uselessness of the State often have a soft spot for the emergency services. When catastrophe strikes, they say, enlightened self interest will not make men run forward into danger. For that you need an ethos of service. For that you need a flag, a uniform, a loyalty, a government.

“Manchester Arena bombing: New rules delay paramedics at terror attacks”, the Times reports.

The only paramedic to reach the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing in the first 40 minutes after the attack would not have been allowed to attend under new rules.

The inquiry into the attack at an Ariane Grande concert was told that paramedics are unlikely to be at the scene of a terrorist attack for at least half an hour as a result of rules that require detailed risk assessments to be made first.

Patrick Ennis “self-deployed” to the arena within ten minutes when he heard there had been an explosion.

You can judge how that turned out by the fact that the original Times headline was “Manchester bomb paramedics ‘banned from helping’ for 40 minutes”.

However, neither he nor two colleagues who eventually joined him in the City Room foyer treated patients immediately. Ennis has previously said to do so “would have been to the detriment of the overall management of the greater number of casualties”.

Sir John Saunders, the chairman of the inquiry, which began in September last year at Manchester magistrates’ court, said: “I have been told for the first half an hour after an incident, you can’t expect the staff to be there, paramedics are unlikely to be there.”

Here’s a vote winner for Boris: we start a specialised public service staffed by people specially trained and ready to be there – even without a risk assessment. You know, like the Ambulance service used to be.

Although most of the responses to the Times story were hostile to the North West Ambulance Service, some did point out that terrorists have been known to set a second bomb timed to kill early responders to the first. The IRA were particularly fond of that trick. It is a fair point. But that risk must be balanced against the certainty that at the Manchester Arena people were dying for lack of help. And, I have to ask, if the Ambulance Service only goes in when it is safe, why have a service at all? Privatise it.

The following particularly riled the Times commenters:

Gerard Blezard, director of operations at NWAS, became the most senior officer to give evidence to the inquiry.

Sophie Cartwright QC, for the inquiry, asked Blezard why there should not be any “self-deployment”.

“Several reasons, you need to have business continuity. Who does the day-to-day business the next day, how do we know who is at the scene?” he said.

A new system called Cascade means that paramedics can contact a central number and their details are then passed to the tactical commander. It has been tested several times, but “not in a live environment”, Blezard said.

Guy Gozem QC, for the victims’ families, asked: “A lot of those who self-deployed actually performed a valuable service, didn’t they? Had it not been for their self-deployment, there would have been an even greater wait for assistance?” Blezard agreed but said the new system meant paramedics were deployed in a “controlled way”.

Emphasis added. Business continuity? Private sector organisations sometimes are saved from the osteomalacia that is characteristic of our time by the prospect of bankruptcy. Government bodies are not so fortunate. But never let it be said that the North West Ambulance Service learned nothing from the private sector. They were bang up to date with their buzzwords.

On the Times website, one of the most highly recommended comments was by William Croom-Johnson who said,

Death certificate: “Cause of death: business continuity”

But the most recommended comment of all came from “Mr N D”. It said,

Prior to London Bridge and Manchester Arena some people in this country may have lived under the entirely false impression that the emergency services would come to help them if they were ever caught up in any kind of serious incident.

Now we know with absolute certainty: they won’t. Forget it. They’re not coming. You’re on your own. Whether you live or die is far down their list of priorities.

Related old posts: Loss of nerve: “just standing there watching”

Loss of nerve: the Strathclyde Fire Brigade preferred not to rescue Alison Hume and Loss of nerve: the Sheriff’s judgement on the death of Alison Hume

“We have to wait for the fire brigade because of health and safety”

And the post back in 2007 that started the series, called simply Loss of nerve.

Widening college enrollment gap between men and women

From the Wall Street Journal:

At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5 per cent, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71 per cent of the decline. This education gap, which holds at both two- and four-year colleges, has been slowly widening for 40 years. The divergence increases at graduation: After six years of college, 65 per cent of women in the U.S. who started a four-year university in 2012 received diplomas by 2018 compared with 59 per cent of men during the same period, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Assuming that there is some connection between having a higher education qualification and pay (that connection is not by any means set in stone) then if this trend continues, not only will it eliminate any alleged “pay gap” to the detriment of women, but push it another way. Of course, it might be that some US men have worked out that college in many ways is a waste of their time, a cesspit of wokery and pointless diversions, and they’d be better off learning code, or industrial welding, or something that doesn’t saddle them with big debts.

Even so, the male/female college attendance gap in the US, and quite possibly in a few other nations, appears to be one of those stories that very clearly pushes against a standard narrative of how the cards are stacked in favour of we toxic males and that therefore this needs to be fixed in some way. In my day job, I routinely get lots of emails from banks, wealth managers and other firms going on about the wonders of diversity, etc, and rarely, if ever, is this college attendance point brought up. I have raised it once or twice with people, and it gets a sort of muffled response, if at all.

A few more paragraphs from the WSJ article, which is behind a paywall:

Over the course of their working lives, American college graduates earn more than a million dollars beyond those with only a high-school diploma, and a university diploma is required for many jobs as well as most professions, technical work and positions of influence.

Yet skyrocketing education costs have made college more risky today than for past generations, potentially saddling graduates in lower-paying careers—as well as those who drop out—with student loans they can’t repay.

Social science researchers cite distractions and obstacles to education that weigh more on boys and young men, including videogames, pornography, increased fatherlessness and cases of overdiagnosis of boyhood restlessness and related medications.

Men in interviews around the U.S. said they quit school or didn’t enroll because they didn’t see enough value in a college degree for all the effort and expense required to earn one. Many said they wanted to make money after high school.

Beware the prepared PC put-down

“But despite that [her years of experience]”, the lady said, “I still had to get re-certified. It started with an equality and diversity test, and I got the first question wrong.”

“Everyone does”, said the other lady. “They ask you what equality means and the first answer in the list is ‘Equal treatment’ but the right answer is ‘Equal outcomes’. If you question it, they tell you that if you give two women the same leaflet in English but one of them speaks English and the other speaks Farsi then that’s equal treatment but not equal outcomes.”

Many retired doctors or nurses offered to help during the pandemic, only to discover there were bureaucratic hoops to jump through before they would be allowed to do so. Arguably, this was a pity from the point of view of health in the UK, but as a man once said, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste – whereas time in a crisis apparently isn’t.

The lesson I took from this conversation is that the politically correct are trained to see you coming, so have their put-downs ready. Diversity training for us commoners may include being on the receiving end of those put-downs. Diversity training for the trainers includes being ready with them.

“I prefer questions that cannot be answered to answers that cannot be questioned.” (Richard Feynman)

On the road from the culture of free speech to that of

“Shut Up”, he explained

there is a country of answers we’re being trained not to question through the use of put-downs they’re trained to use if we dare to.

Commenters are invited to report any such put-downs they’ve met, any pithy rejoinders to such would-be-conversation-ending put-downs that they know of, and of course their thoughts.

Charged with ‘aggravated misconduct’. For a tweet he made when he was 14.

Here is an extract from the report in today’s Times:

The Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola has been charged by the FA [Football Association] with aggravated misconduct for comments he made on social media when he was 14, nine years ago.

The FA has alleged that Bola, now 23, who signed for Middlesbrough from Blackpool in 2019, posted a ‘reference to sexual orientation.’ He is facing a written warning, an education course or a potential three-game ban for the post from 2012.

An FA statement read: “Middlesbrough FC’s Marc Bola has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to a social media post on April 14, 2012.

If, rather than mouthing off on Twitter, the fourteen year old Bola had had the forethought to instead commit a violent crime meriting up four years imprisonment, the sentence would have been considered “spent” by now under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

“The app will contact people at random asking them to provide proof of their location within 15 minutes”

How will South Australia’s home quarantine trial work?

Premier Steven Marshall said he hoped the trial would be expanded to international travellers in “subsequent weeks”, making it a national first.

Those in home-based quarantine will need to download an app, developed by the South Australian Government, to prove they are staying home while required to.

People wanting to return to South Australia and home quarantine will have to apply to SA Health.

They will have to prove they have a place to isolate during their quarantine period and must also be fully vaccinated.

Those who are approved will have to download the South Australian Government home quarantine app, which uses geo-location and facial recognition software to track those in quarantine.

The app will contact people at random asking them to provide proof of their location within 15 minutes.

The report is by Sara Garcia and Rory McClaren of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, via “Australia Traded Away Too Much Liberty” by Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic and (for the second time in two days) Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.

Far from being ashamed of this Orwellian project, Premier Steven Marshall says “I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app.”