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]

Who cares about what these old white men think in modern, progressive Scotland?

“Writing in Scottish Legal News today, Quis? – a group of senior retired lawyers who have held high office in Scotland – express concerns over the Crown Office’s behaviour during the Salmond inquiry and call for reform to prevent prosecutors from overstepping their role.”

I would imagine Scottish Legal News is usually rather a staid journal, of interest only to legal professionals and legal journalists. Give ’em the clicks, this is important.

For instance, this is a sinister development:

Contempt of court orders protecting the identity of witnesses and victims of crime were once a relatively unusual feature of our legal landscape. No more. At last count there were more than 400 such orders currently in force in Scotland alone.

and so is this:

When did Crown Office, our state prosecutors, become our state censors?

When did Crown Office get the power to tell anybody to keep their correspondence secret?

Some might reasonably ask if what has been going on has remarkable similarities to English ‘super injunctions’, where you can’t even publicise the fact that the injunction exists, and some might also reasonably ask if this is quite simply ‘bullying’ tactics in order to achieve the Crown Office objective of removal of material which Crown Office asserts is necessary for protecting identities.

That would be a perfectly legitimate objective – if it was right. It will be borne in mind, however, that in a recent high-profile prosecution for such a breach, 50 per cent of the material alleged by the Crown to amount to contempt was found by the court not to be a breach of the court order.

Kenyans challenge their allotted role

“Don’t give us $2bn loan, Kenyans tell IMF”, reports the Times.

A $2.34 billion bailout for Kenya from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provoked anger among its citizens rather than relief.

Since the three-year package was disclosed, the IMF’s social media sites have been peppered with complaints under the hashtag #StopGivingKenyaLoans. A petition demanding that the loan be cancelled has gathered a quarter of a million signatures in a few days.

The east African state is already struggling to pay off debts that are expected to peak next year at 73 per cent of GDP. President Kenyatta has admitted that every day $18 million is lost from state coffers to corruption.

In a post on the IMF Facebook page, Mwihaki Mwangi said that the loan would do more harm than good. “Stop lending money to the Kenyan government,” he wrote. “It ends up in a few corrupt pockets. No change in living standards to the common citizens. We are becoming poorer and poorer. Heavy taxes levied on our meagre salaries. Reverse the loans.”

A fine speech by Joe Biden

Joe Biden, addressing the Senate of the United States:

“In the summer of ’37 Roosevelt had just come off a landslide victory over Alf Landon. He had a congress made up of solid New Dealers. But the nine old men of the court were thwarting his agenda. In this environment, Roosevelt – and remember this whole adage about “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – corrupted by power in my view – unveiled his court-packing plan. He wanted to increase the number of justices to fifteen, allowing himself to nominate those additional judges. It took an act of courage on behalf of his own party institutionally to stand up against this power grab.”

Video: Biden: “Court packing is a power grab.” (2005)

The title of the YouTube video might have given the game away: that eloquent speech by Joe Biden took place in 2005. The Joe Biden of 2021 does not speak as well in any sense: “Biden Appoints Court-Packing Commission – Puts Conservative Supreme Court Justices In His Sights”. The link goes to an article by Mary Chastain of Legal Insurrection, via Sarah Hoyt of Instapundit.

We need to listen to Black Lives Matter

We need to listen to BLM so we know what sort of people they are.

Janet Powe of BLM UK writes:

SEWELL COMMISSION WAS WRITTEN BY HOUSE SLAVES

Note for readers from outside the UK: a report recently issued by the government Commission for Race and Ethnic Disparities said that, although racism still remains in the United Kingdom, the UK’s relative success in removing race-based disparity in education and the economy “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”. The black man being called a “house slave” by Janet Powe is the Chair of the Commission, Dr Tony Sewell, an educational consultant and author.

A Cambridge professor of postcolonial studies, Dr Priyamvada Gopal, was also displeased by the report. Dr Gopal first questioned whether Dr Sewell really had a doctorate, and, when informed that he did, set a new standard for gracious acknowledgement of error by saying that “Even Dr Goebbels had a research PhD.”

A heretic speaks, the mob… cheers?

“Boris Johnson will be branded a Covid serial killer but no one will lay a glove on our bloated NHS”, writes Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times.

Jeremy Clarkson that Jeremy Clarkson – is rich and famous and has a well-established persona as an opinionated loudmouth. He can get away with saying things that the ordinary man or woman could not get away with. Nonetheless, I wonder if he did not take a swig of liquid courage before typing this heresy:

All those things contributed to our high death toll, but none to quite the extent of the biggest problem. And this certainly won’t be raised in the inquiry. That the NHS is useless.

Oh I know you’re all flying those rainbow flags and that every night last year you went out and banged your saucepans together. So you don’t want to hear it. But you were clapping a big, stupid, expensive monster.

I’m not talking about the doctors and the nurses, of course. Many of them are far from useless. But the organisation they work for? Dear God in heaven, it’s so far past its sell-by date, you’d die from taking a single whiff of it.

The problem is simple. Unlike every successful entity, it does not exist to make money. It exists to spend it.

If he did, he didn’t have to. The Times commenters loved it. Here are the first sentences of the most recommended comments:

“Bullseye Mr Clarkson, and whilst the vast majority of care staff are acceptable, good or excellent, there is a significant minority who shouldn’t be in the job. Laziness being the main problem.”

“You are omitting the elephant in the room – hospital hygiene.”

“Clarkson is spot on. Abolish the NHS, it’s useless.”

“Nailed it. My heart sank the other day when I saw a survey which suggested that the NHS was the thing which made most Britons most proud.”

“JC is spot on. The NHS is a sacred cow and no politician would dare to challenge its behemoth incompetence as they’d be unelectable.”

“As a doctor of over 25 years I can sadly recognise this theme. The are a whole raft of people I work with that I can’t help but think “if their job didn’t exist it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference”.”

As ever, remember that Times commenters are not representative of the nation. They are not even representative of Times readers. But I do not think you would have seen that response from Times commenters to the opinion that the National Health Service is a “big, stupid, expensive monster” before the pandemic.

By the way, many of the comments go out of their way to express gratitude to NHS staff, and several of them say that the vaccine rollout has shown the NHS at its best. But in all the praise there is something reminiscent of the way Britons spoke of the British Empire in 1945. The Empire’s extent was never greater than in the year of victory. But they knew in their hearts it had to go.

Safely under supervision every minute of the day

“School almost ‘eliminates bullying’ with break-time ban on games”, the BBC reports.

A school claims to have almost eliminated bullying by banning games like football at break times.

Instead, students at Hackney New School participate in supervised quizzes, poetry recitals and other activities, including chess and choir clubs.

The school says there have been only five reports of bullying, including cyber bullying, in the last year.

Head teacher Charlotte Whelan said: “A school without bullying sounds like a utopia but it is achievable.”

I do not doubt that it is achievable. Greater safety from ever having a bad experience is always achievable – at the cost of being cut off from experiencing anything much at all.

The students, aged 11 to 16, are still taking exercise during breaks and PE lessons, but sports are “more structured” and supervised.

“The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving,” Ms Whelan said.

Rather than kicking a football around or jumping skipping ropes in the playground unsupervised, students practise sonnets by classic poets like Shelley and Tennyson or quiz each other on capital cities, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

At certain times when I was a schoolgirl I would have been glad to escape the cruelty and cold of the playground. It was nice when I got to the Lower Sixth and we were allowed to spend the lunch hour in a common room. Unprompted, we literally did have a phase when our favourite activity was to quiz each other on capital cities (Mongolia – Ulaan Bator, Botswana – Gaborone), and I would have welcomed a little more Shelley and Tennyson and a little less depressing modern poetry in my English lessons.

To give children the choice to engage in indoor and/or structured activities in their free time, whether because such activities are a safe harbour from bullies or just because these are the things they enjoy, is good. To deny them the chance to ever kick a ball and skip and play tag and scream and quarrel and make up without being under the eye of authority is inhuman.

It is not just unplanned social activities between groups of children that Ms Whelan wants to put a stop to; she also says she wants to be “doing more for pupils” in terms of preventing them from “aimlessly wandering the playground”. Heaven forbid that they have time to walk and think.

Edit: Several commenters have rightly said that to suffer bullying in childhood is a terrible thing that can have lifelong effects on the victims. But surely that is best answered by giving children as far as possible the chance to follow their own judgement as to where they are safest and happiest. The lunchtime club ceases to be a haven from bullies if the bullies are forced to be there too.

Back in 2003 Brian Micklethwait wrote about how well the children behaved in a voluntary karate class he observed.

What struck me, so to speak, about these “martial arts” classes was that although the children present may have supposed that all there were learning was how to be more violent, what they were really learning was no less than civilisation itself.

The children were all told to get changed into their Karate kit in an orderly fashion, and to put their regular clothes in sensible little heaps. They all lined up the way he said. They all turned up on time. They left the place impeccably clean when they’d finished, all helping to make sure that all was ship-shape and properly closed-up when they left.

Were these children being “coerced”? Certainly not. They didn’t have to be there, any more than The Man had to teach them Karate if he didn’t want to. If they wanted out, then out they could go, with no blots on their copybooks or markings-down on their CVs.

Discussion point: restrictions on elderly drivers

“Over-70s facing driving curfew in licence shake-up”, reports the Times.

Before you pile in, the headline is misleading. What is being proposed is actually a relaxation of existing regulations:

Over-70s in poor health may be allowed to continue driving if they agree to fit a tracking device restricting them to daylight hours near their home.

That could be liberating. Or it could be a Trojan horse. First elderly people with health problems, then elderly people in general and sick people in general… what other groups might the government decide need to be tracked?

Licences expire when drivers turn 70, and those wanting to keep driving must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of medical conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, diabetes — if it is treated with insulin — and any condition that affects both eyes or the total loss of sight in one eye. Reviews follow every three years.

Under the proposals discussed at a meeting this month between the DVLA and Driving Mobility, the official network of driving assessment centres, the over-70s could be eligible for “graduated driving licences”. These would potentially restrict them to a radius of 20 or 30 miles from home and bar them from night driving. They would apply only to those who would otherwise face losing their licence because of ill health.

Edward Trewhella, chief executive of Driving Mobility, said: “A lot of older drivers stick within their own locality — they go to the shop, the doctor’s surgery, go and see a granddaughter down the road, probably on minor roads with which they are familiar. This process would regularise that, and make it legal for them to do so as long as they didn’t take a trip outside of an area or outside of a time restriction. That would mean that they were driving safely within their familiar environment.”

For many elderly people, especially those who live where public transport is poor, the ability to drive is the difference between an active, sociable, productive life and imprisonment until death.

And yet –

Patricia Colquhoun, 69, lost her son, Neil, 28, when Turner Waddell, 90, a one-eyed retired GP with dementia, drove a mile the wrong way down a dual carriageway. Colquhoun, who lives in Hampshire, said the current system, which relies on self-referral, is flawed. “Nobody likes to say they’re old. They all say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’

The Streisand-Challenor effect

On the evening of the 22nd March, visitors to the main UK politics subreddit, /r/ukpolitics found a mysterious message saying that the subreddit, which has nearly 400,000 members, had been set to “private” by its own volunteer moderators.

It was the beginning of a cascade. The lights are going off all over Reddit! Subreddit after subreddit was set to private in sympathy with /r/ukpolitics. Most of them dealt with topics unrelated to politics. At its peak the wave of protest closures affected subreddits collectively having tens of millions of members all over the world.

To understand why this protest against Reddit by its own users gained such traction, we need to go back to the 8th of March when the Spectator published an article by its unlikeliest new writer, the radical left wing “gender critical” feminist Julie Bindel, called “The Green party’s woman problem”. It contained the lines,

The formidable feminist author and journalist Bea Campbell, a former Green party candidate, resigned from the party last year after being disciplined, in part for refusing to keep quiet about the shocking and disturbing Aimee Challenor case.

That brief reference to “the Aimee Challenor case” was to have dramatic consequences. A hyperlink on the word “case” linked in turn to this Independent article dated 13 January 2019:

Aimee Challenor: Green star failed to properly alert party of father’s child rape charges Independent investigation found transgender activist only alerted two colleagues in ‘informal’ Facebook message

Having parted ways with the Greens, Aimee Challenor joined the Liberal Democrats. Once again her association with the party ended as a result of child safeguarding issues related to someone with whom she lived. This time it was her fiancé Nathaniel Knight. He claims his twitter account was hacked.

A point to note: these events were widely reported. Given a prompt about a person who had left both the Greens and the Lib Dems under a cloud, anyone who follows UK political news would probably be able to dig up her name in half a dozen keystrokes.

Getting back to the main story, at about quarter to eleven on the morning of the 23rd, the ukpolitics subreddit reappeared. It now carried the following announcement:

→ Continue reading: The Streisand-Challenor effect

Why do so many Americans get their news from British newspapers? This is why.

Today’s Daily Mail:

“Nothing to see here: How most of the left-leaning US media totally ignored Biden’s Air Force One stumble – while the foreign press did their job for them”

The Mail’s Keith Griffith writes,

Major left-leaning U.S. press outlets are largely avoiding mention of President Joe Biden’s repeated stumbles as he boarded Air Force One, while many foreign publications are devoting prominent coverage to the incident.

As of Friday afternoon, the homepages of MSNBC, CBS News, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times had no mention of Biden’s stumbling incident earlier in the day at Joint Base Andrews.

and

In contrast to the lack of interest in Biden’s stumbles, mainstream U.S. outlets heavily covered an incident last year, in which Trump took mincing baby-steps down a ramp at West Point, which he later explained was ‘very slippery.’

Although Trump did not stumble during the incident, it sparked rampant speculation about his health and criticism over his capacities, including from Biden himself.

‘Look at how he steps and look at how I step,’ Biden said in September 2020, in a clip featured on CNN. ‘Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. OK? Come on.’

If you want to follow Mr Biden’s own advice and compare Trump to Biden on Trip Advisor, the indefatigable New York Post is one of the few US papers with clips of both.

Last year’s official guidance is this year’s misinformation

“Coronavirus: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns” reported the Independent on March 12 2020:

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.

Sales of the masks have sky-rocketed since the Covid-19 outbreak began, with retailers including Boots and Amazon selling out of the products before the virus had even taken hold in the UK.

Asked about their effectiveness, Dr Harries told BBC News: “What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won’t wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven’t cleaned.

“Or they will be out and they haven’t washed their hands, they will have a cup of coffee somewhere, they half hook it off, they wipe something over it.

“In fact, you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.”

Asked if people are putting themselves more at risk by wearing masks, Dr Harries added: “Because of these behavioural issues, people can adversely put themselves at more risk than less.”

I do not post this in order to mock Dr Harries. She made several reasonable points in the video. If she was nonetheless wrong about the overall effect of the population wearing masks, she was wrong in good company – that was medical orthodoxy at the time. I do not post this in order to advocate for or against wearing face masks. (I wear one when circumstances require, while seeking to avoid the behaviours that Dr Harries warned against.) I post it to show how dangerous it is to censor unorthodox views on medical issues. If would-be censors like the Guardian‘s George Monbiot had had his way, we would have banned all talk of mask-wearing in March 2020.

Spread the word

“Second translator of Amanda Gorman’s Joe Biden inauguration poem dumped”, reports the Times.

A fresh controversy over translations of the poem read out at President Biden’s inauguration has erupted after a Catalan man said that his version had been rejected because he had the wrong “profile”.

Amanda Gorman’s five-minute poem, The Hill We Climb, was initially commissioned to be translated by Victor Obiols, a 60-year-old Catalan poet and musician. Five thousand copies of the version by Obiol, who has translated works by Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare, were set to be brought out by the Catalan publishing house Univers by April 8.

However, Ester Pujol, of Univers, told the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia that the author’s US agency had subsequently expressed a preference that the translation be done instead by “a woman who is young, an activist and a poet, with experience as a translator and, preferably, African American.” Gorman is 23 and black.

How many African-Americans speak Catalan – at all, let alone to the level required of a professional translator? How many Americans speak Catalan? Most translation agencies insist that their translators work into their native tongue because it is very rare for anyone to gain a command of a second language equal to that of their first. Why do Ms Gorman’s US agents value the nationality of their translator above their having Catalan as their mother tongue? Even if we assume that the only reason Gorman’s agents specified “African-American” was that they have set their autocorrect with that as the replacement for “black”, there still cannot be many people who fulfil all those criteria. There are not many black Catalans. Experienced translators of any race are not likely to be young.

The Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, 29, resigned as translator of Gorman’s work in the Netherlands after criticism that she was not black.

Despite the precedent, the Catalan poet was taken aback by the publisher’s decision. “If I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, black, and a American of the 21st century, then I cannot translate Homer either because I am not an eighth-century BC Greek,” he said. “Nor could I have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman.”

The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight

In the (Glasgow) Herald, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf writes,

New Hate Crime Bill extends protection of people

Odd headline. Make that some people.

This week Parliament will consider further amendments to the Hate Crime Bill before a final vote on our proposed reforms

By “Parliament” Mr Yousaf means the one with him in it, i.e. the Scottish Parliament. The SNP love this rhetorical trick of pretending the Scottish Parliament is the only one of any relevance to Scotland. Wishing this to be so is a perfectly legitimate goal, but pretending it is already so is premature. Of course all the Scottish people have to do to ensure that the Parliament with Mr Yousaf in it becomes the sole decider of what laws they live under is carry on voting for Mr Yousaf’s party in the numbers they now do.

The new Bill will modernise and consolidate hate crime law and provide clarity. It brings together various piecemeal additions and changes to the law made over time, while also recognising the need to clamp down further on this all too pervasive, damaging behaviour.

As a person of colour the law has protected me, for the last 35 years, from anyone stirring up hatred against me due to my race.

The law cannot have done a very good job of protection, given that he said in the previous paragraph that hate crime was “pervasive”, and that he complains a few paras down about all the hate he receives.

This Bill now extends that protection to people in relation to their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variation of sex characteristics (previously known as intersex).

The legislation has come a long way. As Parliament has been considering the detail of the Bill the Government has listened – making changes and reflecting on concerns to improve a piece of powerful legislation that I believe is fitting of the Scotland we live in.

That being the Scotland where race hate crime is pervasive.

Robust Parliamentary scrutiny has been essential to the process.

Concerns over the impact that stirring up hatred offences could have on freedom of expression were raised. And these have been listened to and are being acting upon. We have made a number of significant changes already, including ensuring that any successful prosecution for the new offences must prove that the person intended to stir up hatred. We have also inserted a “reasonable person test” to clarify that when determining if behaviour is “threatening or abusive” an objective test is applied.

By “we” Mr Yousaf means that the SNP reluctantly accepted one amendment from the Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins. That link takes you to a Guardian article that also notes that “Tomkins and fellow Conservative Liam Kerr failed to secure an amendment that they argued would protect disagreements, for example, at the family dinner table.”

Mr Yousaf continues,

The Justice Committee has offered critical scrutiny and recently held constructive discussions on a freedom of expression clause that would further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech.

You don’t say whether these discussions led to any action, Mr Yousaf. Hint: they didn’t. His only reason for cooing about how constructive the discussions were is to conceal the fact that the this clause that would theoretically further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech was not actually constructed, just talked about.

I am confident that our proposed amendment on this now strikes the right balance between protecting groups targeted by hate crime and respecting people’s rights to free speech.

A number of national Women’s Organisations, such as Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender and Rape Crisis Scotland have raised concerns over the inclusion of a Sex Aggravator.

I’m not surprised. They should never have let a Sex Aggravator sit on a parliamentary committee. → Continue reading: The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight