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

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

What is it with Chicoms and killing people’s pets?

“Heartbreak as Hong Kong pet owners give up hamsters for Covid cull”, reports France-24:

Time was running out for Pudding.

The hamster, a new addition to the Hau family, was to be given up to Hong Kong authorities for culling after rodents in a pet shop tested positive for coronavirus — leaving Pudding’s 10-year-old owner wailing in grief.

“I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” the boy cried, his head buried in his hands as he crouched next to Pudding’s pink cage, according to a video shown to AFP by his father.

But the older Hau, who would only provide his last name, said he was worried about his elderly family members who live in the same household.

“I have no choice — the government made it sound so serious,” he told AFP, shortly before entering a government-run animal management centre to submit Pudding.

I am not certain, but I think the video of the little boy crying next to his hamster’s pink cage might be this one, which is being widely shared online.

Given that I am not a vegetarian, I suppose I cannot make too much of a fuss about animals being killed, but I had a hamster once of which I was fond. That little boy will remember his pet being taken away for the rest of his life. I could understand if there were any serious evidence that the cull would achieve anything for humans. None has been provided. Evidence is not really the point here: The People’s Republic of China has a Zero Covid policy. Nothing is to be allowed to stand in the way of progress towards this perfect state. In fact, now that the PRC has dropped the pretence of “One country, two systems” with regard to Hong Kong, it might even be desirable from China’s point of view that the people of Hong Kong should be made aware of what their new masters think of such Western-influenced bourgeois sentimentality. Let the children weep and know themselves powerless.

Of course Communist China has form on this. During the Cultural Revolution,

Even China’s feline population suffered as Red Guards tried to eliminate what they claimed was a symbol of “bourgeois decadence”. “Walking through the streets of the capital at the end of August [1966], people saw dead cats lying by the roadside with their front paws tied together,” writes Dikötter.

Nor was that the first of Mao’s grand animal-killing schemes. In the disastrous Four Pests campaign of 1958-62 he sought to kill all the sparrows in China.

Sparrows were suspected of consuming approximately four pounds of grain per sparrow per year. Sparrow nests were destroyed, eggs were broken, and chicks were killed. Millions of people organized into groups, and hit noisy pots and pans to prevent sparrows from resting in their nests, with the goal of causing them to drop dead from exhaustion.In addition to these tactics, citizens also simply shot the birds down from the sky. The campaign depleted the sparrow population, pushing it to near extinction.

The result was predictable: with the sparrows who ate the insects gone, the numbers of insects exploded. It was a contributing factor to the Great Chinese Famine. Warnings from ornithologists (or anyone else) that this might happen counted for little against a government that had mobilised the people to march towards a public health goal that could be defined in one sentence.

The worst of both worlds in surveillance

Andy Wells reporting for Yahoo News writes, “‘Poisonous’ woman created 30 fake profiles to get innocent ex-boyfriend arrested”.

Not just arrested, but arrested six times.

A “poisonous” woman who sent herself threats from fake Instagram accounts she created to get her ex-boyfriend arrested has been jailed.

Courtney Ireland-Ainsworth, 20, created up to 30 false profiles, then told police her ex Louis Jolly was behind “vile” messages.

“Cunning” Ireland-Ainsworth reported him for supposedly threatening to stab her and warning: “She is getting a f***ing blade in her chest.”

She made 10 police statements claiming Mr Jolly was harassing and stalking her, leading to him being arrested six times and spending 81 hours in custody, including being remanded overnight.

He was charged with assault and stalking, hit with a stalking protection order, bailed on a home curfew with an electronic tag, and lost his job.

At Liverpool Crown Court, recorder Ian Harris told Ireland-Ainsworth: “You created an entirely fictional but superficially credible web of poisonous deceit for over five months.”

The report of the case in the Times says,

Her web of lies was uncovered after detectives requested user data from Facebook, which owns Instagram. When the information eventually came back, it showed that at least 17 accounts had been created using two of Ireland-Ainsworth’s email addresses, as well as IP addresses connected to her home and mobile telephone.

I know almost nothing about Instagram. Is there some factor I am failing to understand about the legal or practical ability of law enforcers to uncover who wrote a given Instagram post? Because the big selling point of the subservience of social media companies to the authorities is meant to be that the police can use their power to snoop to catch criminals, yet it took the police five whole months to uncover that Ireland-Ainsworth sent these messages herself. If Instagram does allow the authorities to check who wrote a message, why did the police not do so as soon as Louis Jolly denied having written them, rather than after arresting him six times? If Instagram does not allow the authorities to check who wrote a message, good for them, but in that case the existence of an Instagram message purporting to come from a person cannot incriminate them.

I would normally say that there is nothing worse than a surveillance state. Maybe I was wrong. A state that is #weseeyou for people displaying wrongthink but #believeallwomen for cases like that of Courtney Ireland-Ainsworth might be worse.

“Only 27%”

– Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Such a proposal is opposed by 61% of all likely voters, including 79% of Republicans and 71% of unaffiliated voters.

– Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications. Only 27% of all voters – including just 14% of Republicans and 18% of unaffiliated voters – favor criminal punishment of vaccine critics.

Rasmussen Reports citing a poll of 1,016 U.S. Likely Voters taken on 5th January 2022. Poll data here.

I would enjoy mocking the turn to naked authoritarianism taken by the Democrats if that 27% were 2.7%.

How long before we see “Deinsulate Britain” protestors?

“Insulation was supposed to save us money… but it ruined our homes: Millions crippling repair costs after botched green upgrades”,writes Chris Brooke in the Daily Mail:

Getting Britain’s homes insulated is the cornerstone of the Government’s green energy policy and an obsession for road-blocking eco-protesters.

But the scale of damp-related problems linked to cavity wall insulation is so serious that an MP is calling for an independent inquiry to improve protection for householders.

One expert has estimated that up to two million homes may have problems as a result of insulation being pumped into the cavity between outside and inside walls.

In some extreme cases, the resulting problems of damp and mould inside the house have rendered properties worthless and unsellable.

If the Lockdown Frolics of Downing Street had never been revealed to the public (I must admit to a twinge of admiration for the fact that they kept the secret for well over a year), I believe this issue would have brought Boris down eventually. The insulation issue is just one bomblet within the incoming political clusterbomb that also contains the energy price crisis, and the fact that forcing millions of people to pay thousands of pounds to replace gas boilers with heat pumps is about as welcome as Dominic Cummings popping up between Carrie’s designer sheets.

Net Zero will become so unpopular that the next election will be won by whichever political party promises to stop it. (Edit: Or gives the impression of being most likely to break their promise to keep it.) There is scope here for the Tory post-Johnson redemption arc, if they change course in time. I can see it. You can see it. Why can’t they?

The work is ongoing

“Daily we work to remove that content online which is both harmful and – particularly when it comes to Covid-19 and vaccinations – which is harmful and provides misinformation and disinformation – Daily, we have those contacts with the online providers, and the work is ongoing.”

Big Brother Watch provided this video clip of Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (no, I did not miss out a word after “Digital” and, yes, she often is that incoherent) defending the Conservative government against Labour concerns that the government might not be doing enough censorship.

That is what depresses me most. Not that this semi-secret “Disinformation and Misinformation Unit” that was mentioned in no manifesto and which nobody voted for exists, nor that it it was not euthanised soon after birth as it should have been. Both of those facts are depressing in the way that January weather is depressing, or governments. That part that is extraordinarily depressing is that one cannot look to the Opposition for even the weak disincentive for this behaviour that a hypocritical denunciation would provide. The incentive is in the other direction. Labour and the Conservatives are competing over which of them can be most repressive.

“Any chance I could get you guys to leave the Senate wing?”

As we all know, Twitter is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I go there so you won’t have to, and so I can see the funny videos. This tweet by Ashley St Clair has reminded me that the category “funny video” includes more than just cats. It is a 32-second clip from the Capitol riot of exactly a year ago. I disapprove of riots, but it is impossible not to admire the comic timing of every single person in this clip.

Followed by an embarrassed-looking police officer, Shaman Guy walks confidently into the chamber in his fur headdress and very little else: “Heeeeey. Fucking hey, man” (addressed to Capitol police) “Glad to see you guys! You guys are fucking patriots.” (Sees man sitting on carpet nursing his face) “Look at this guy, he’s got covered in blood. God bless you.”
Staff member: “You good sir? Do you need medical attention?”
Man on floor: “I’m good, thank you.”
Staff member: “All right.”
Man on floor, sounding slightly aggrieved at his implied “don’t mention it” being taken literally: “I got shot in the face. I got shot in the face with some kind of plastic bullet”.
Camera pans to the throne or whatever you people call that fancy desk with the flags. Shaman Guy scratches the small of his back and makes to sit down and take the weight off his feet.
Plaintive voice from off screen: “Any chance I could get you guys to leave the Senate wing?”
Man on floor: “We will, I been making sure they ain’t disrespectin’ the place.”
A police officer, presumably the person who spoke earlier, comes into view: “OK, just wanna let you guys know this is like the sacredest place”
Man on floor: “I know, I know”.

Would you let him out of the box?

Yesterday’s Sunday Times carried a story to break your heart: “‘Life in a box’: young autistic man confined in hospital’s former file room”.

The first thing to say is that the headline is clickbait. It gives the impression that he’s locked in a cubbyhole. In fact quite a lot of money has been spent by the state to construct a purpose-built apartment with bedroom, bathroom, “snug room”, lounge, an unlabelled room, and a garden. It is not a dungeon. But it is a jail – this young man, referred to as “Patient A”, is has been confined there alone for years. In terms of lack of privacy his “secure apartment” at Cheadle Royal Hospital is worse than a conventional jail: he is monitored by closed circuit TV at all times.

Behind a serving hatch with a small Perspex window, a figure of a young man shuffles into view and reaches out to receive a pizza box being pushed through the hole by his mother.

“Mum, please, put me in the car and take me home,” the 24-year-old says. “I don’t want to be here any more.”

His mother, Nicola, 50, does her best not to cry. “I would if I could,” she replies. “I’m trying my best.”

Patient A, a young autistic man, has been confined to his small secure apartment in a hospital since September 2017.

A Saturday night takeaway pizza, pushed through the hatch by his mother and eaten alone in his room, is the highlight of his week.

Why is he imprisoned? Because he is violent. After a relatively happy and normal childhood his behaviour began to deteriorate in adolescence, until…

Eventually he was admitted to a unit for patients with severe mental illness at the Countess of Chester Hospital, where his behaviour was put down to “neurodevelopmental difficulties”.

There, he was restrained for the first time by clinical staff. The experience left him terrified. He stayed on the ward for three weeks, losing half a stone. He was prescribed risperidone and sent home — but the attacks continued.

“He would just constantly want to hit you,” Nicola said. “He would want to run at my mum. Run at my dad. All of us. You couldn’t stop it. I’ve never seen anything like it. He would open his eyes, and the moment he woke up he was on us.”

The Sunday Times report is much better than its irresponsible headline would suggest. It goes on to describe in depressing detail the failure of various treatments. The young man continues to attack the hospital staff, with the result that they are no longer willing to play football or computer games with him. Ever more isolated, he gets worse.

It’s horrible. But what would you have them do? His mother wants him to be released into supported housing in the community. This was due to happen, but at the last moment the care provider lined up for him pulled out. “They said his behaviour had become too challenging,” Nicola [his mother] said. “But his behaviour is challenging because of where he is.” I hate to say it but her second sentence, while undoubtedly true, does not solve the problem described in the first. Can an organisation be forced to take on the care of someone who constantly attacks their staff? To an extent, that is what is happening now at Patient A’s secure apartment at Cheadle Royal Hospital. The state does what it is obliged to by law. But care in the community for a potentially violent patient requires more intelligent and responsive supervision than keeping someone in prison. No company providing paid care is willing to provide that level of supervision for Patient A. It has been established that his family cannot do it; part of his mother’s torment is that she herself was the person who started his imprisonment by calling the police while her son attacked his grandmother.

In any case, though supported care in the community has transformed many lives for the better, it can go horribly wrong. One of the comments mentions the case of Jonty Bravery. He was the man who threw a six year old boy from the roof of the Tate Modern gallery because he wanted to be on the TV news. He caused the child life-changing injuries. Before the attack Bravery had been living in just such a placement, with two-to-one care, no less.

Back and forth the arguments go…
“Mum, please, put me in the car and take me home.”
“He would open his eyes, and the moment he woke up he was on us.”

I was going to ask, “What is the Libertarian solution to this?”, but forget Libertarianism – what is any solution to this?

That has such people in’t

How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

– William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I

Hillel Neuer welcomes the New Year in with a look at the newly elected members of the U.N.’s highest human rights body.

A shockingly misinformed tweet by Tim Worstall

Someone called sarahknapton tweeted, “I know lateral flow is important etc but all these millions of bits of plastic ending up in landfill every day makes me feel a bit ill.”

Mr Worstall replied, “Umm, why? Lots of bits of plastic in landfill is where those lots of bits of plastic are safe. Dig up the oil, use the products made from it, stick the used plastic back in the ground – the cycle of non-life perhaps. Maybe we should get a warthog to sing about it for the kiddies?”

IT ISN’T THE WARTHOG WHO SINGS “CIRCLE OF LIFE”, YOU HEATHEN.

I love that song, despite the fridge horror of all those sentient animals submitting to being eaten. A happy new year to all our readers. May we find that place on the path unwinding that does not involve eating others or being eaten ourselves.

Out: “Follow the science”. In: “Let the hate flow through you”

Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you.

“Telling people to ‘follow the science’ won’t save the planet. But they will fight for justice”, writes Amy Westervelt in the Guardian:

The climate emergency has clear themes with heroes and villains. Describing it this way is how to build a movement

The biggest success of the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long campaign to push doubt about climate science is that it forced the conversation about the climate crisis to centre on science.

It’s not that we didn’t need scientific research into climate change, or that we don’t need plenty more of it. Or even that we don’t need to do a better job of explaining basic science to people, across the board (hello, Covid). But at this moment, “believe science” is too high a bar for something that demands urgent action. Believing science requires understanding it in the first place. In the US, the world’s second biggest carbon polluter, fewer than 40% of the population are college educated and in many states, schools in the public system don’t have climate science on the curriculum. So where should this belief – strong enough to push for large-scale social and behavioural change – be rooted exactly?

People don’t need to know anything at all about climate science to know that a profound injustice has occurred here that needs to be righted.

The most recommended comment was by someone called “Pilotchute”. It started by quoting Ms Westervelt’s claim that the the US entering the Second World War was an example of “social change driven by moral outrage at the power being wielded by the few over the many”.

Pilotchute responded:

?
OK, nothing to do with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines then.
Ironic misinterpretation really, given the underlying “ordinary folk are too stupid to understand . . .” thrust to the article.

The Islamic Republic of Iran leads the way in getting more women into STEM

Campus magazine, a Singaporean publication aimed at students, published this article on 15th December 2021: The Paradox of Gender Inequality in STEM Education. It was one of many pieces that pointed out the odd fact that

In a nutshell, multiple studies have found that the lower the gender-equality in a given country, the higher the percentage of women studying STEM.

Simply put in numbers, before the pandemic, women made up 70% of engineering students in Iran, 42% in Morocco, 41% in Algeria, and 40% in Jordan, but only 29% in Norway, 19% in the U.S., and just 18% in Australia. Those are just some countries, but the pattern repeats itself almost everywhere.

The Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) by the World Economic Forum (WEF) calculates global gender inequality based on a matrix, including health and survival, educational attainment, labour force participation, percentage of seats in parliament, and more. According to the 2021 GGGR, Norway was third globally. Iran was 150th. Yet Iran has double the percentage of women studying STEM.

Like almost every other article on the subject I have seen, the one in Campus spends several paragraphs explaining – and lamenting – how cultural factors push female eighteen year-olds away from science subjects. Note the scare quotes around “choosing”.

The unconscious bias may have different sources. For instance, it’s often cultural – the idea that “girls should play with dolls, while boys should build things” is still inherent in many households today. It may be observational – since women in STEM are already underrepresented, we assume that STEM is more a “guy thing.”

Sometimes, it can even be well-intentioned. For instance, parents may assume that STEM is difficult and they fear their daughters won’t be as successful being in a male-dominated course – especially compared to sons who they ascribe different characteristics, like being more competitive.

Facing this litany of discouraging cultural and social messaging, it’s no surprise that young girls in more developed countries – where there are viable, non-STEM study options – are often pushed away from STEM. This is then wrongly interpreted as them actively “choosing” non-STEM subjects.

…but devotes far less attention to the reasons behind superior academic performance of younger girls compared to boys in STEM subjects. There is half a line of acknowledgement that, hey, eggheads argue about why girls do better, but not a word of what those arguments are. Female superiority at thirteen is not seen as a thing needing to be changed or explained:

Multiple studies in dozens of countries show that pre-teen girls outperform their male peers in standardised math and science tests. Psychologists and neuro-scientists may argue the specific reasons, but the result is undisputable. Preteen girls and boys also enjoy/prefer STEM subjects at roughly the same ratio.

If we want Iranian levels of female STEM university students, perhaps we should do what Iran does and embed the superior level of responsibility shown by females into law?

According to Iran’s Islamic law, in cases of murder and certain other capital crimes boys over 15 and girls over nine may be held as culpable as adults and, therefore, punished with the death penalty.

– from “Iran executes 100 young people a year, human rights group says”, the Times, 26th Dec 2021.

The work of construction

As the author says, this is a long thread, but in these days of uncertainty when so many yearn for examples of selfless effort for the common cause, well worth your time.

I found #15… disturbing.

Edit: Hat-tip to Duncan S in the comments – the original creators of this inspiring drama were Phil Shearrer and his son Kyle Shearrer back in 2015.