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]

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”.

“People do not walk there if they can avoid it”

Emma Duncan has written a piece for the Times with which I ought to agree. It has the title “The city of billionaires is a vision of hell” and has the strapline “San Francisco shows what happens when rent controls are used to tackle a housing shortage”.

Her article starts with a vivid description of San Francisco’s woes:

… San Francisco and its environs have the highest density of billionaires on the planet. It is also the most visibly poor place of any I have been to outside India or South Africa, and the horrors on show hold lessons for London.

As Tom Knowles reported in The Times yesterday, there are more than 8,000 homeless men and women on the streets of what is, with a population of less than 900,000, a small city. Every time we stepped out of our city-centre hotel, we saw homeless people slumped on the pavements or wandering aimlessly. In the Tenderloin district, a formerly respectable area a quarter of a mile away, there are homeless encampments on most blocks and shit on the pavements. People do not walk there if they can avoid it.

In the four days we were there, I went into maybe ten shops. In three of them, homeless people walked in, took stuff and walked out. In Starbucks, for instance, a homeless man swept a lot of biscuits and chocolates from beside the till into a bag. I started to say something to try to stop him, then looked at the woman behind the till who shrugged her shoulders. I asked the manager how often this happened; he said seven or eight times a day. I asked him what he did about it; he said he filed “an incident report”.

My son said that the police have given up on property crime because they are short of resources, because this sort of crime is so common and because there is a certain sympathy for the perpetrators. We took two buses when I was there; on one of them, the man in the seat in front of us peed on the floor. My son said it was a regular occurrence.

It then offers two possible explanations:

When you talk to San Franciscans, many take the view that homeless people are sent there from cities whose welfare provision is less generous than California’s. That seems implausible, since there is little welfare on offer in San Francisco, and surveys of the homeless population show that the vast majority are local.

Those who have studied the problem say that the main explanation is the price of property. The tech industry is so big and well paid that demand for property has pushed prices to insane levels. Average rents are about twice what they are in London. To pay the rent on a one-bedroom flat in London you would need to work about 170 hours on the minimum wage; in San Francisco, you would need to work 300 hours. As rents rise, people get turfed out of their homes and end up on the streets; combine that with negligible health provision for the poor and you end up with a lot of mentally ill people on the streets.

The response to rising rents in San Francisco has been rent controls. Nearly half the homes in the city are now covered by them. But they have made the situation worse, not better, because they discourage people from letting out property and thus reduce supply, pushing house prices up further.

The Instapundit co-bloggers talk about San Francisco often. Though I would guess that none of them would be reluctant on ideological grounds to mention rent control as the main cause of San Francisco’s problems, as far as I recall they have usually cited the explanation that Emma Duncan rejects, namely over-generous welfare payments that act as a magnet to homeless people from other states. Beyond that they speak of general bad governance, often mentioning that the last Republican mayor of SF left office in 1964.

Of course both causes could be operating. If a single shop has homeless people walking in and openly stealing from it without fear of punishment seven or eight times a day, then bad governance most certainly is operating. But is that the cause or the symptom? My reasons for wanting a more precise diagnosis than “socialism sucks”* are not entirely disinterested. Rent controls are one of the most popular policies offered by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. Apart from a few old fogeys who remember the deleterious effects of the Rent Acts, Brits love the idea of them. As Ms Duncan suggests, London may soon follow the example of San Francisco in re-introducing rent control. Lord knows the world is not short of examples that show this is a bad idea, but San Francisco might make that argument real to a British audience better than most places, as it is a city quite a lot of British people have visited recently and come away from with shit on their shoes. Do any American readers, particularly San Franciscans, have any observations to share?

*Two economists called Robert Lawson and Benjamin Powell, who seem to be more convivial than economists usually are, have written a book with this title that is currently nestling in my Kindle. My husband recommends it. He says it is about beer.

“Does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born?”

“Does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born?” asks Astra Taylor in the Guardian.

She seems to think the answer is “yes”, but fails to make much of a case. The article is full of non-sequiturs like grumbling that the fact that “high-frequency trading means stocks are bought and sold within nanoseconds” somehow means that capitalism “lacks the attention span required for survival.”

However the purpose of this post was not to complain about Astra Taylor complaining that computers work fast. My far more urgent task in making this post was to make the obvious snarky point before someone at the Guardian notices and changes that headline. I think I’m just in time:

If capitalistic inattention to the climate crisis violates the rights of the unborn, does being aborted not violate their rights even more?

*

I had some rather more considered thoughts about what obligation, if any, people have to sacrifice their own interests in deference to those of others in this post from a few years ago, “Thinking aloud on a mountainside”. The second half discusses abortion.

Let us pray for our bishop, Mug

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels: Send down upon our Bishops, and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the Book of Common Prayer is rarely heard in Anglican churches these days. The Book of Common Sense likewise. I have spoken to one or two bishops, and know people who regularly meet with those crozier-wielding smiters of the infidel over Earl Grey and custard creams. They are usually nice people. Learned. Well-meaning. Really, really nice. But, oh dear, their poor brains are sorely in need of those great marvels that the Lord alone workest:

Church leaders urge government to ban pointed kitchen knives

Church leaders in the Diocese of Rochester have called for the government to enforce stricter rules on the sale of domestic knives.

They’ve written an open letter asking for a ban on the sale of pointed kitchen knives. The letter was also signed by leading crime experts, as well as MPs, and community leaders.

“Historically we needed a point on the end of our knife to pick up food because forks weren’t invented. Now we only need the point to open packets when we can’t be bothered to find the scissors,” the letter reads.

It continues: “A five-year study in Edinburgh found that of the sharp instruments used in homicides, 94 per cent were kitchen knives. Research demonstrates kitchen knives are used in a large percentage of homicides due to their availability and lethal nature.

“Criminologists have demonstrated that reducing availability in turn reduces crime.

“The UK has worked for the public good by restricting handguns, paracetamol, smoking in public and plastic bags – now it is time to say ‘no bloody point’.”

The letter and conference are part of a month of awareness-raising activities about the dangers of knife crime in September, supported by the Diocese of Rochester, the Church of England in Medway, and the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.

Another unfortunate speaks

A few months back I posted about the conflict between feminists and strippers at the Spearmint Rhino strip club in Sheffield.

Writing in the Guardian, Kate Lister both provides an update on that dispute and brings up a fascinating parallel from a hundred and sixty years ago:

Today’s sex workers, like their Victorian sisters, don’t want ‘saving’

In a series of letters written to the Times in 1858, an anonymous sex worker, referring to herself as “Another Unfortunate”, challenges the widespread assumption that all sex workers are an “abandoned sisterhood”. The tone of Another Unfortunate is defiant, proud and attacks the paternalistic moralising of the groups who wish to save her.

I had no idea that such things were allowed to be said in the Times in 1858. I suspect it would not have been allowed in 1958.

Justin Trudeau’s sorry face

“Justin Trudeau – not so much racist as slight and ineffectual”, writes Leah McLaren in an enjoyably caustic article. But good as it is, it misses the point.

When I was a kid there were a lot of cowboy movies on TV. I always rooted for the Red Indians, as the term then was. My brother had some books on the Old West and I was fascinated by such things as the Plains Sign Language and the custom of counting coup. Of course when the chance presented itself to dress up I grabbed it enthusiastically. I already had a kind of hippy top that looked vaguely appropriate. My mother and I sewed wool fringing down the sides of a pair of trousers. A headband, a feather, a tin of medium tan shoe polish, and I was all set up to enjoy the fancy dress party and be blackmailed forty-five years later had I been so foolish as to seek public office.

That is why I said Leah McLaren’s article missed the point. Justin Trudeau’s “mystifying youthful makeup choices” do not make him a racist. His only crime then was to be a year or two late to perceive that the party line had changed. His conduct as Prime Minister of Canada is less innocent. In all his many apologies has he ever apologised for using his bully pulpit to condemn others for equally trivial or unintended breaches of the ever-changing code?

That Which Shall Not Be Named

It waits. It hungers. In its tenebrous embrace all memories, all identities, all names are lost. What was once known becomes unknown.

And a jolly good thing too, that’s what I say.

The Scottish government’s creepy Named Person Scheme has been fed to Azathoth, the BBC reports.

An earlier post of mine called “Sixty pages” described one father’s experience of the pilot scheme:

The surviving extracts appeared to indicate that the minutiae of his family life had been recorded in painstaking detail for almost two years, under a Named Person scheme which has been introduced in his part of the country ahead of its final roll-out across all of Scotland in August. A separate note made by the Named Person charged with keeping an eye on the academic’s two little boys was concerned with nappy rash.

Rob Fisher also wrote about it here: What the GIRFEC?

Ann and the Giant Credit Card

“The beauty of a Green New Deal is that it would pay for itself”, writes Ann Pettifor.

To raise the money for a green deal, governments would have to draw on their equivalent of a giant credit card, but would also be able to take advantage of investment by savers. Thankfully, the creation of millions of jobs will generate the income and tax revenues needed to repay any borrowing.

I loved the line about the giant credit card. It reads like a weird mutant “Guardian X CBeebies Story Timecrossover fic.

The trouble is that these days, so do both the Guardian and CBeebies Story Time.

We have always been at war with Vapasia

India bans e-cigarettes as global vaping backlash grows

India has announced a ban on electronic cigarettes, as a backlash gathers pace worldwide about a technology promoted as less harmful than smoking tobacco.

[…]

“The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today,” India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters in the capital, New Delhi.

[…]

The government said it would advance tobacco control efforts and contribute to a reduction in tobacco usage. Punishments include up to a year in prison.

[…]

According to the World Health Organization, India is the world’s second-largest consumer of traditional tobacco products, which are not covered by the new ban, killing nearly 900,000 people every year.

[…]

India is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco, the WHO says, and tobacco farmers are an important vote bank for political parties.

Keeping the poor from wealth and the sick from health

“Bulgarian authorities bust gang suspected of illegal organ trading”, reports the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Bulgarian law enforcement authorities have dismantled a four-member organized criminal group suspected of illegal human organs trading, an official said here on Friday.

Two of the gang members were arrested on Tuesday evening when they were trying to leave the country at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the border with Turkey, and the other two were detained later, Siyka Mileva, a spokesperson for the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office, said at a press conference.

The evidence gathered so far indicates that the gang has been active since Feb. 2019, recruiting donors and recipients of kidneys, and transporting them to a clinic in Turkey where transplantations were performed, Mileva said.

All the criminals, donors and recipients are Bulgarian citizens, she said.

The recipients paid the gang between 50,000 euros and 100,000 euros (55,500 to 111,000 U.S. dollars) for a kidney, of which from 5,000 euros to 7,000 euros were paid to the donors, and the surgery cost between 20,000 euros and 25,000 euros, Mileva said.

The donors were of low social status, she added.

Thanks to the splendid work of the Bulgarian authorities their low social status will now be lower still, as in “criminal”. The people who needed the kidneys will have their status changed from “sick” to “sick and in jail”.

I first heard this story on the radio. Unfortunately I cannot remember which station I was listening to, but I do remember that the report specifically said that all the participants, including the would-be donors, were willing participants in the exchange of kidneys for money. Both sides were better off in their own judgement; the poor wealthier, the sick healthier. This evil had to be stopped.