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]

Climategate ten years on.

Remember “Climategate”? There has been a TV show made about it. Lucy Mangan of the Guardian gives it four stars:

Climategate: Science of a Scandal review – the hack that cursed our planet

In 2009, a vicious attack was launched against groups fighting global warming. Scientists still can’t get over the death threats. And the world is on fire.

I dunno. As I always say whenever I post about these matters, I am willing to believe in global warming caused in significant part by man. But ten years after Climategate cursed the world and set it on fire you would have expected more of a… temperature rise.

Galileo in darkness

Kieren McCarthy has written an article for the Register that brings together two themes of interest to many Samizdata readers:

“One man’s mistake, missing backups and complete reboot: The tale of Europe’s Galileo satellites going dark”

In mid-July, the agency in charge of the network of 26 satellites, the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (EGSA), warned of a “service degradation” but assured everyone that it would quickly be resolved.

It wasn’t resolved however, and six days later the system was not only still down but getting increasingly inaccurate, with satellites reporting that they were in completely different positions in orbit than they were supposed to be – a big problem for a system whose entire purpose is to provide state-of-the-art positional accuracy to within 20 centimeters.

Billions of organizations, individuals, phones, apps and so on from across the globe simply stopped listening to Galileo. It’s hard to imagine a bigger mess, aside from the satellites crashing down to Earth.

The article concludes,

In the meantime, a dangerous amount of political maneuvering means all the engineers are keeping their heads down. Which is a shame because by all accounts, there is a lot of good work going on, not helped by organizational silos.

In short, Galileo is a classic European venture: a great idea with talented people that has turned into a bureaucratic mess in which no one wants to take the blame for problems caused by unnecessary organizational complexity.

The tour guide

This BBC story by by Steve Rosenberg starts in quite an arresting manner…

Berlin Wall anniversary: The ‘worst night of my life’

It’s one of the most bizarre guided tours I’ve ever been on. I’m driving around Berlin with Egon Krenz – the last communist leader of East Germany.

Thirty years ago today the Berlin Wall came down.

It must be sad for him, no longer being able to rule over Germans as a dictator. Still, at least he still gets to be der Reiseführer.

Universal healthcare vs the rights of doctors and nurses

So it wasn’t George Bernard Shaw after all.

It wasn’t him in the funny story about the dinner party, I mean, the one where a man teasingly asks the woman seated next to him, “Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?” Laughing, she answers, “You bet!” “All right,” he says, “How about for five pounds?” Now she is outraged and says sharply, “What do you take me for?” He replies, “We have already established that. All we are doing now is haggling over the price.”

*

“Bristol Southmead Hospital: Racist patients could have treatment withdrawn”, reports the BBC.

North Bristol Trust (NBT) launched its Red Card to Racism campaign after staff reported an increase of abuse from patients and visitors at the city’s Southmead Hospital.

The abusive behaviour covers racist or sexist language, gestures or behaviour.

Trust chief executive Andrea Young said they wanted staff to “challenge and report it”.

Under the scheme, any patient abusing staff would be challenged and warned, leading to a “sports-style disciplinary yellow card” followed by a final red card in which treatment would be “withdrawn as soon as is safe”.

and

Ms Young said: “We’re sending a strong signal that any racism or discrimination is completely unacceptable – we want staff to challenge and report it and we want everyone to know that it will have consequences.”

Although I am not an adherent of the worship of the National Health Service that has replaced Anglicanism as the British English state religion, I can understand what people like about the NHS. Its founding principles were that its services should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. I think the experience of other countries shows that there are many other healthcare systems that would work better overall, but it is a genuine advantage to the UK system that when a British person falls ill they do not have to even think about where and how they will get treatment, or how they will pay for it. It’s universal.

Or it used to be. Bristol Southmead Hospital has changed all that.

I could go on about how easily this policy by North Bristol NHS Trust could be abused, could lead to tragedy. A story by Jack Montgomery at Breitbart UK did just that. But in a sense all that is just haggling over details: once it is established that the NHS is no longer universal, what is the point of it?

The National Health Service was meant to be like the justice system: no one can ever lose the protection of the laws, not proven criminals, not actual racists, and certainly not some shabby old man who has been waiting in Casualty for five hours and can’t stop himself blurting out some non-PC word because he is in pain.

On the other hand, in other contexts I have argued that state systems should drop their obsession with universality. When I was a teacher I saw how one feral child in a class in a state school could ruin the education of thirty other children. For a mess of perverse reasons the policy of putting them in “sin bins” was never applied wholeheartedly, and there are some children so monstrous that even the other denizens of the reformatory should be spared their company. Not to mention the teachers, many of whom quit the profession rather than having to face one more day trying to control these thugs. Whenever it was suggested that the state should simply cease the attempt to educate such children someone would wail, “We can’t just abandon them”. “We can and we should,” I would say. “If they make themselves so unpleasant that no one wants to teach them, no one should have to.”

So don’t those arguments also apply to NHS staff members and patients who find themselves cheek by jowl with some aggressive bigot spewing out obscenities? In this case I am not talking about people who are unjustly deemed to be racists or sexists (real though I think the threat of this happening is), I am talking about truly nasty people. I said one of the best aspects of state healthcare was that it is available to all. But my own words regarding state education, also meant to be available to all, come back to haunt me: if some people make themselves so unpleasant that no one wants to cure them, surely no one should have to.

What do you think?

Readers of the Times try to help Greta out

The problem:

Greta Thunberg stranded as climate summit moves from Chile to Spain

In the centuries before powered flight, getting from California to Madrid was an arduous business, necessitating a long yomp over the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, and then a turbulent sea voyage across the Atlantic.

Greta Thunberg has 28 days.

The teenage climate activist and pioneer of “flight shame” has appealed for help to travel from Los Angeles to a UN climate summit in Spain without releasing so much as a wisp of unnecessary carbon dioxide.

In perhaps the sternest test of her convictions yet, she must complete the journey of at least 6,000 miles by rail, sail or electric car before December 2.

The solutions:

Richard77:

Perhaps she should consider using Skype.

Ian Howlett:

Just find a normal scheduled flight with an empty seat and get on. The plane will be leaving anyway, whether you’re on it or not.

Anthony Morris:

If it wasn’t so far she could just walk on the water .

The Anti-Saloon League is back

“Prohibition showed bans can be good for us”, writes David Aaronovitch in the Times. Unironically. He means it. He thinks Prohibition was good and wants it back. I suppose it was ever thus; it is like the way that when the people who remember the last banking crash die the banks start crazy lending again.

Mr Aaronovitch writes,

Your mental charge sheet against prohibition may well include the accusation that it didn’t get rid of drinking but sent it underground; that the resulting appetite for “bootlegged” liquor led to the rise of organised criminal syndicates, Al Capone, the mob and the St Valentine’s Day massacre; that it helped to make corrupt hypocrites out of public servants; that the rich were able to indulge while the poor were criminalised.

Why yes, it does.

And after just a few years the Americans saw what a disaster it was and repealed it. It may not improve your view of it to know that the Ku Klux Klan were very much in favour of prohibition.

That does not surprise me.

Strangely though, the one question that almost no one seems to ask of this epic public health measure is whether or not it actually improved public health. Yet it doesn’t take much digging into the available statistics to discover that it did — quite a lot, in fact.

Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to all kinds of adverse health conditions. The most obvious is alcoholic cirrhosis (or scarring) of the liver. In 1911 the death rate for cirrhosis among American men was nearly 30 per 100,000. By 1929 that had been reduced by more than 30 per cent. Registered admissions to mental hospitals for psychosis linked to alcohol more than halved. Even by 1933, when Volstead was revoked, alcohol consumption had gone down by a third since pre-prohibition. Whatever Mark Twain may have written, prohibition saved many, many lives.

The commenters made several good points to contradict that assertion. Some pointed out that in the same period alcohol consumption also went down other countries, including the UK, where alcohol continued to be legal. Bryan Dale said, “If prohibition reduced alcohol consumption by a third that can hardly be called a success. It was supposed to eliminate it entirely after all. With 2/3 as much alcohol being illegally consumed as had been done legally before prohibition, the impact on respect for the law must have been dreadful.” Others described well-stocked drinks cabinets in modern Saudi Arabia, or the way that the type of alcohol consumed shifts from beer to spirits when it must be sold and transported illegally.

I expect readers of this site can supply many other historical and factual arguments. All I will say is that there is a void at the heart of the passage I quoted above. Mr Aaronovitch never even questions the assumption that it is for him and people like him to decide what other human beings may or may not put in their own bodies.

Romantic sporting essentialism

So South Africa won the rugby. I didn’t watch it myself. Like many (though certainly not all) of those who congregate here I am more into reading a pleasantly dotty analysis of Rugby As A Class Phenomenon in the pages of the Guardian than watching however-many-it-is blokes run about a muddy field with a ball that isn’t even. No offence to those whose preferences run the other way, or to those who enjoy both – the denunciation of daft Guardian articles just happens to my way of directing my aggressive instincts into harmless channels. Here is said article:

“Rugby league is a rebel sport – its northern strongholds will never turn Conservative” writes Tony Collins, who is emeritus professor of history at De Montfort University.

In fact his account of the origin of the class divide between Rugby Union and Rugby League is fascinating. People like me who make jokingly derogatory remarks about sports because they were crap at them at school need to learn more about sports history.

But Professor Collins knowing a lot about the history of Rugby League in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries doesn’t necessarily mean he knows all about its fans in the twenty-first. And his apparent belief that Rugby League casts a permanent Protection Against Toryism spell is ludicrous:

The attitudes that gave birth to rugby league remain strong. Hostility to the establishment and suspicion of the ruling elite, whether in Westminster or in business, has not diminished. Indeed, the strong Brexit vote in rugby league-playing regions can be seen as a protest vote against a two-party parliamentary system that has continually let down the “post-industrial” north.

Or, allow me a little blue sky thinking for a moment, it could be seen as wanting Brexit.

Unlike Essex Man or Worcester Woman, Workington Man (Johnson’s consultants appear to be ignorant of the fact that women are also rugby league fans and players)

Cheap shot, Professor. As you as a historian of the sport know perfectly well, the overwhelming majority of Rugby League players and fans have been male.

has none of the advantages of living in the economic bubble of the south of England. While dissatisfaction with Labour also runs deep, it is unlikely that traditional rugby league areas in the north of England will fall to the Tories.

Although the Brexit party has picked up votes in these areas, Nigel Farage’s Dulwich College accent and golf club-bore demeanour is too great a barrier for him to make any significant breakthrough in areas where stubborn resistance to self-appointed authority is deeply ingrained.

While no one knows what the future may bring, the best means we have for estimating the likelihood of a region “falling” to the Tories is an opinion poll. By a happy non-coincidence an opinion poll to canvass the views of “Workington Man” (and Workington Woman too before anyone gets uptight) has just been carried out. Not a poll of Workington Man the archetype, a poll of actual human beings living in Workington. Here is my post about it over at The Great Realignment site: Workington Agonistes. If you want a TL;DR, the result was that by 45% to 34% Workington would fall to the Tories. Yet worse, 13% of Workingtonites would fall to the golfing side of the force and vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. That is not a high percentage but it is almost triple what the Lib Dems get. So much for Brexit being a protest vote against a two-party parliamentary system.

As one contemporary writer remarked about the 1895 split, northern rugby and its communities had rejected the “thraldom of the southern gentry”. There’s no reason to suspect that things will change in 2019. As Onward’s misunderstanding of rugby league traditions demonstrates, Britain remains two nations separated by huge class and cultural divisions. And few things illustrate that chasm better than rugby.

The “Onward” think tank may be misunderstanding rugby league traditions, but what evidence we have suggests that Professor Collins may be misunderstanding who plays the role of bubble-dwelling gentry here.

The birds fall silent

“Twitter to ban all political advertising, raising pressure on Facebook”, reports the Guardian.

Having sent one tweet in my life, I am ill placed to say whether this is much of a loss to the world. Twitter is under no obligation to allow political advertising but Jack Dorsey’s stated reasons for forbidding it sound like a newly-ennobled Victorian peer attempting to efface the memory that he made his money in trade. Mr Dorsey, an advertising billionaire, thinks that the spread of political messages online “should not be compromised by money”.

People power!

“Commuters now physically dragging [Extinction Rebellion] protestors from the roof of the train”, reports ITV’s Holly Collins. If it will not cause a problem where you are for you to cheer out loud, watch that video.

A few points:

– There is some violence on both sides. Trumpian, I know, but there is. The Extinction Rebellion protester appears to be the first to kick someone, but then the crowd all pile on him at once. Don’t cheer that. But if Extinction Rebellion think “physical action” is allowed for them, why the hell shouldn’t physical action also be permitted to ordinary people? People trying to get to work from Canning Town Underground station at 7 a.m. do not generally have the sort of jobs where one can ring in and say, “I’ll work from home today”. They cannot afford to be late.

– Why are XR targeting Tube stations anyway? I thought public transport was supposed to be environmentally friendly. Update: It’s because there is an Emergency. Seriously, from their own website: “This morning (Thursday 17 October) a number of Extinction Rebellion UK affinity groups are peacefully disrupting the London Underground because there is an Emergency.” Not just any old emergency, one with a capital E.

Edit: There’s more! A longer video courtesy of “sid@1968Sid69” of the same incident from a different angle, showing the second Extinction Rebellion protester suffering what TV Tropes calls an “Oh, Crap!” moment and duly being pulled off the roof of the train in his turn.

Truly the other side of the world

“More than 60% of voters approve of major parties’ performance” reports today’s Guardian.

Well, actually tomorrow’s Guardian, because it’s the Australian edition. I saw that headline and thought I had slipped into a parallel universe. A happier one:

While national politics frets about its trust crisis, the bulk of Australian voters appear reasonably sanguine with both of the major parties five months on from the federal election, with more than 60% of the Guardian Essential sample rating the performance of the Coalition and Labor as excellent, good or fair.

Such contentment is strange to see when one considers how alienating and painful the Guardian commentariat found Scott Morrison’s surprise election victory in May:

The woman checking my name off the list around 8pm is angry and crying and saying, “I don’t get it, we went in with policies, they went in with nothing.”

Inside it is awful. This is meant to be Bill Shorten’s victory party, but the energy is heavy – as if some trauma had taken place and a great shock was being absorbed. Inside no one is talking, and if they are, it is quietly and involves references to franking credits.

I do not post Brigid Delaney’s article merely to mock. I could relate to her sense of shock at discovering that half your country does not, after all, broadly share your values that she describes in the following passage:

In 2016 Britain voted for Brexit and America for Trump. In those countries, part of the national trauma was the realisation that one part of the country was so ill-acquainted with the other part. Citizens stopped knowing each other. The polls got it wrong, the media got it wrong, people were so siloed in their own tribes and social media bubbles that the other side winning felt like a profound shock. Like it wasn’t meant to happen. The falcon couldn’t hear the falconer and all that. And in those countries, it’s only gotten worse. Part of the damage in the years since has been the hardening of the lines and divisions between these tribes, between red and blue.

(Though in my case the sense of shock came from realising just how many people support a limited democracy like that of Iran, in which one may only vote for options within a permitted range.)

And yet five months after that day when the chasm opened, here we are: “more than 60% of the Guardian Essential sample rating the performance of the Coalition and Labor as excellent, good or fair”. The falcon hears the falconer just fine, thank you and the shape with the lion body and the head of a man and a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun is snuggled up next to the rough beast and snoring gently.

What is Scott Morrison doing right?

Expelled from his profession, financially ruined, officially deemed to be a a sexual abuser

So what did the perp actually do?

Dental Hygienist Loses License, Labeled Sex Offender For Sleeping With Client – His Wife

Note that Alexandru Tanase’s story involves that modern equivalent of the Roman delator, the Facebook nark:

After one of the treatments, his wife, Sandi Mullins, posted a picture with Tanase. The former dental hygienist wrote on Facebook that in the “summer of 2016, a complaint was filed with the CDHO by a former friend and Facebook acquaintance of my wife’s, who saw a photo my wife posted, saying how happy she was with her dentist and what an amazing dental hygienist she had.”

Ars longa, vita brevis

The Guardian reports, “Sculptor Antony Gormley plans Brexit giants off the French coast”:

Now, on the eve of Britain’s potential departure from Europe, Gormley is planning a new and dramatic intervention on the beaches of northern France. He wants to erect a group of seven huge sculptures, made from iron slabs, on the coast of Brittany. They will look towards Britain, the lost island of Europe.

There is something in that image that can appeal to both sides. I think Mr Gormley might make better art than his predictable opinions might lead one to suppose:

Gormley describes Brexit as “a stupid moment of collective fibrillation” and argues that such an imposed separation from the rest of Europe will be damaging and false. “We belong to Europe, geologically as much as anything else. We were only separated five thousand years ago. The whole idea that somehow we can go it alone by making greater relationships with the former Commonwealth and with our friends and cousins in America is just ridiculous,” he tells Wilson.

Mind you, it will take about thirty seconds flat for some wag to call these figures standing on the coast of France as they wistfully look towards Albion “the illegal immigrants”.