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]

Everyone’s a winner

The Times reports,

A civil servant who was branded a racist for claiming that it always rained in Wales has been awarded more than £240,000 at an employment tribunal.

Anne Giwa-Amu won her race and age discrimination case after being mocked for complaining about the cold, wet weather, which a colleague referred to as her regular “weather reports”, and accused of stealing ice cream.

Reading the Times account, it does seem that Ms Giwa-Amu was bullied by her colleagues:

The tribunal was told that Ms Giwa-Amu felt Ms [Daisy] Cartwright was trivialising discrimination by calling her racist for moaning about the weather.

In front of colleagues, Ms Cartwright also repeatedly accused Ms Giwa-Amu of stealing ice cream. The tribunal found that while this may have started as a joke, Ms Cartwright carried on bullying Ms Giwa-Amu after others asked her to stop.

Ms Cartwright also sprayed deodorant near Ms Giwa-Amu, knowing that she hated it, and span around on a chair while sitting next to her to try to make her feel sick.

Another co-worker, Robert Lewis, “humiliated” Ms Giwa-Amu, the tribunal was told, when he accidentally touched her bottom. He said, in front of a large group: “I touched [Anne]’s bum. I touched her bum.” Ms Giwa-Amu said that the experience was horrible and that she felt Mr Lewis was laughing about how unpleasant he found it to have touched her.

The full Times story is behind a paywall, but this report in Personnel Today tells the same story.

But fear not, it all worked out OK for everyone in the end.

Mr Lewis is still an administrative officer at the Caerphilly office. Ms Cartwright was promoted to a job in another part of the civil service.

As for Ms Giwa-Amu, Personnel Today says she joined the Department of Work and Pensions in February 2017. The Times says she went on sick leave in March 2017 and never returned to work. At an Administrative Officer’s salary it would have taken around ten years to earn the quarter of a million pounds she was awarded.

So, everyone wins. Except for one group of people who are financially involved but whose interests can safely be ignored.

The State’s lament: ‘A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened;’

Thus went the UK government’s discussion paper on increasing social distancing on 22nd March 2020.

The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat.

There were other considerations:

Hong Kong’s experience:

Having a good understanding of the risk has been found to be positively associated with adoption of COVID-19 social distancing measures in Hong Kong

And carrots:

Incentivisation
6. Social approval: Social approval can be a powerful source of reward. Not only can this be provided directly by highlighting examples of good practice and providing strong social encouragement and approval in communications; members of the community can be encouraged to provide it to each other. This can have a beneficial spill-over effect of promoting social cohesion. Communication strategies should provide social approval for desired behaviours and promote social approval within the community.

And of course, coercion, along with ‘social disapproval’:

Coercion
7. Compulsion: Experience with UK enforcement legislation such as compulsory seat belt use suggests that, with adequate preparation, rapid change can be achieved (16). Some other countries have introduced mandatory self-isolation on a wide scale without evidence of major public unrest and a large majority of the UK’s population appear to be supportive of more coercive measures. For example, 64% adults in Great Britain said they would support putting London under a ‘lock down’ (17). However, data from Italy and South Korea suggest that for aggressive protective measures to be effective, special attention should be devoted to those population groups that are more at risk (18). In addition, communities need to be engaged to minimise risk of negative effects. Consideration should be given to enacting legislation, with community involvement, to compel key social distancing measures.

8. Social disapproval: Social disapproval from one’s community can play an important role in preventing anti-social behaviour or discouraging failure to enact pro-social behaviour (15). However, this needs to be carefully managed to avoid victimisation, scapegoating and misdirected criticism. It needs to be accompanied by clear messaging and promotion of strong collective identity. Consideration should be given to use of social disapproval but with a strong caveat around unwanted negative consequences.

So, for us rats in the lab, we can see the experimental parameters. I can’t find the words ‘rights‘, ‘freedom‘, ‘free‘ or ‘liberty‘ anywhere in this document. I can see this, my emphasis in bold, with the lie about people being ‘asked’:

9. Community resourcing: People are being asked to give up valued activities and access to resources for an extended period. These need to be compensated for by ensuring that people have access to opportunities for social contact and rewarding activities that can be undertaken in the home, and to resources such as food. Adequately resourced community infrastructure and mobilisation needs to be developed rapidly and with coverage across all communities (6, 15).

10. Reducing inequity: Adherence to these measures is likely to be undermined by perceived inequity in their impact on different sections of the population, especially those who are already disadvantaged, e.g. those in rented accommodation and those working in precarious employment. Reducing costs of phone calls, data downloads etc. by ‘responsibility deals’ or government subsidies should be considered.

Just in case you don’t think that this is an experiment, there is a reference to methodology including this, but read the whole thing:

The criteria go under the acronym, APEASE (Acceptability, Practicability, Effectiveness, Affordability, Spill-over effects, Equity)

Edit: Just after Paul’s comment, a bit more has just come out, from 25th February 2020, about the risk of disorder, foreseeing a risk of PPE shortage on 25th February 2020, so they knew that they could be short long before they did anything about it:
The last paragraph says it all:

Promote a sense of collectivism: All messaging should reinforce a sense of community, that “we are all in this together.” This will avoid increasing tensions between different groups (including between responding agencies and the public); promote social norms around behaviours; and lead to self-policing within communities around important behaviours.

Discussion point: Don’t lock me down, baby

It seems that the Mekon might be about to be knocked off his levitating chair. Dominic Cummings is in trouble for breaking the lockdown. He joins the epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, for whom the lockdown was no obstacle to pantsdown, in the list of those caught violating the quarantine they urged others to obey. Oh and let us not forget Scotland’s (former) Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, though I must admit I had.

Should Calderwood and Ferguson have resigned? Should Cummings resign now? Are there any principled reasons for differentiating between the three cases, by which I mean principles better than which political parties each of them are associated with?

Security against what?

“China proposes controversial Hong Kong security law”, reports the BBC:

China is proposing to introduce a new security law in Hong Kong that could ban sedition, secession and subversion.

And:

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which provides the territory certain freedoms not available on the mainland, does require its government to bring in a security law. It had tried to enact the so-called “sedition law” in 2003 but more than 500,000 people took to the streets and it was dropped.

I would have welcomed more information on this mysterious clause in the Basic Law that requires Hong Kong’s government “to bring in a security law”. On what timescale? Who is the judge as to whether a security law does or does not meet this mysterious requirement? Oh yes, and SECURITY FROM WHAT?

But that paragraph was a model of robust independent reporting compared to this one:

A mainland source told the South China Morning Post that Beijing had decided Hong Kong would not be able to pass its own security law and the NPC would have to take the responsibility.

That makes it sound as if Hong Kong’s parliamentarians were not clever enough to pass this law, or that they were dodging the “responsibility” of passing it the way a negligent father might dodge his maintenance payments. To be charitable, these are the words of a “mainland source”, that is, a man whose tongue is operated from a distance by a controller with a joystick, but why does the British Broadcasting Corporation let pass without challenge the Orwellian language of the Chinese Communist Party? We do not have to do that. We are not in the EU any more.

Samizdata quote of the day

To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.

– Frederick Douglass

Mick Hartley on the politics of the Lockdown

I at first thought that I’d just wait and see, and avoid opining about Cornonavirus until the whole ghastly episode was over and we were all back to the new normal, whatever that turned out to be. But, having waited, I am already now seeing. It is becoming ever clearer, as a few were loudly asserting from the get-go, that this bug is far more widespread, but far less likely to kill you even if you get it, than had at first been proclaimed. I do not care who Professor Ferguson is bonking, but I care very much about how wrong he has been, about so much, for so long, and yet how the governing classes around the world, including the British government, still chose to listen to him. (Is it known (comments anyone?) what Ferguson thinks about climate change? I bet he’s been a fanatical catastrophist about that also.)

Someone who has done a lot to persuade me to get off the fence like this is Mick Hartley. As I mentioned in passing at the end of this earlier posting here, Mick Hartley has been very good on the subject of the Lockdown. His typical posting on the subject has tended to consist of a big quote from someone else, often dragged out from behind a paywall, with a few comments from him topping and tailing his posting. But, in his piece on Saturday, entitled Lockdown politics, although there are links in it to the thoughts of others, Hartley writes for himself.

On the whole I’d say that the left is more supportive of the lockdown than the right. Yes I know, left vs right doesn’t mean so much any more, but it still means something. The left more supportive of the state, perhaps, vs the right more concerned about individual freedom. I haven’t looked, but I imagine somewhere in the Guardian comments someone has said that the right only want to get back to work because they want to make money and don’t care about people’s lives. And, seen this morning prominently displayed in a window: “Capitalism isn’t worth dying for”. …

Which is odd in a way, because the lockdown might be seen as a left-wing cause. Against the lockdown, that is.

It’s clear that the poor are having a much harder time than the middle classes at the moment: stuck in worse accommodation, with worse facilities, desperate for an end to this, and, for many, worried sick about their jobs and their future. We hear almost exclusively now from the middle classes – what books they should read, what films they should watch, and how to keep their kids active and up-to-the-minute with their education. These are the people, generally, who don’t have big financial worries, can work from home, and feel perhaps rather smug about how well they’re coping. But it’s obvious that there’s a whole mass of people that we never hear from … destitute, miserable people stuck in lousy over-crowded housing wondering how on earth they’re going to cope.

The longer the lockdown continues, the worse it’s going to be. …

And for what? Who are we protecting? Well, Covid-19 is deadly serious notably for the very old – not at all for the young – and especially for men. So, we’re protecting old men, at the expense of just about everybody else. …

Whatever happened to the attitude embodied in the slogan “women and children first”?

You might think this would resonate with the left, but it doesn’t seem to. …

Will Keir Starmer start pressing Boris on ending lockdown? I hope so. He should do, in the name of the people that Labour claims to represent. He did, to be fair, make some noises to that effect some weeks back, asking for the government to set out guidelines for the return of schools and getting businesses back to work. I haven’t seen much since. …

And then this:

… I hope he pushes it more, because I’m beginning to lose faith in Boris ever getting together the necessary determination.

Me too. Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Labour, it seems to me and to many others I’m sure, has mutated from once upon a time being the party speaking for the poor, often against the government, to being the party of government, even when they aren’t the politicians in titular charge of that government. These people are now “supportive of the state”, to quote Hartley, even when they’re not personally in charge of it. It’s the process of government, whoever is doing it, whatever it is doing, that they now seem to worship. It is, as similar people in earlier times used to say, the principle of the thing, the principle being that they’re in charge. Many decades ago, Labour spoke for, well, Labour. The workers, the toiling masses. Now they represent most determinedly only those who labour away only in Civil Service offices or their allies in the media, in academia, and in the bureaucratised top end of big business.

Anyone official and highly educated sounding who challenges whatever happens to be the prevailing supposed wisdom of this governing class, on Coronavirus or on anything else, must be scolded into irrelevance and preferably silenced. The governors must be obeyed, even if they’re wrong. In fact especially if they’re wrong, just as the soldiers of the past were expected to obey their orders, no matter what they thought of the orders or of the aristocratic asses who often gave them. Whether they were good orders was an argument that those giving orders could have amongst themselves, but that orders must be obeyed was a given. “Capitalism” isn’t worth dying for, but this new dispensation is, right or wrong.

Our new class of entitled asses, together with all those who have placed their bets for life on carrying out their orders or trying to profit from them, seems now to be the limit of the Labour Party’s electoral ambition. And who knows? The awful thing is that this class and its hangers-on could be enough, in the not too distant future, to get them back into direct command of the governmental process that they so adore.

Meanwhile I note, with a twinge of satisfaction amidst all the gloom, that the British politician speaking up most loudly for the right of workers, especially poorer workers, to get back to work is this excellent man. The sooner the campaign gets under way to replace Boris with him, the better.

The ‘elite’ should learn to code (better)

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” (Richard Feynman)

Over a decade ago, climategate confirmed that Jones, Mann and Briffa knew exactly what they were doing when they scaled the hockystick to hide the decline while having not a clue about what the decline meant. However it incidentally revealed the, uh, ‘quality’ of their code.

Neil Ferguson’s extra-lockdown/marital escapade says much about his elite opinion of us common people (and of the lockdown), but meanwhile someone has taken a look at the, uh, ‘quality’ of his code.

Conclusions. All papers based on this code should be retracted immediately. Imperial’s modelling efforts should be reset with a new team that isn’t under Professor Ferguson, and which has a commitment to replicable results with published code from day one.

On a personal level, I’d go further and suggest that all academic epidemiology be defunded. This sort of work is best done by the insurance sector.

Read the review to see what leads to these conclusions. You have to laugh (in order not to cry 🙂 ).

The Scottish National Party is at it again

I can think of little to add to what Andrew Tettenborn of Spiked has written about The SNP’s war on free speech:

In 2017, the SNP government decided this had to change. It appointed Lord Bracadale, a far from libertarian Scottish appeal judge, to review the matter. His spectacularly hardline report was published a year later. Based on this report, Holyrood now proposes leaving racial-hatred law largely alone while introducing, in effect, three new offences.

First: a general crime of doing anything, or communicating any material, which is threatening or abusive and is intended or likely to engender hatred based on age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender or intersex identity. Second: a crime of merely possessing any such material, if you hold it with a view to communicating it – that is, in any way to anyone either in public or in private (such as showing a computer file to a friend over a dram). Third: criminal sanctions on anyone involved in the management of any organisation who fails to take steps to prevent any of the above. The penalty in all the above cases is up to seven years inside. And in addition to all this, the government proposes stiffer sentencing for hate crimes based on age.

There is so much wrong with these proposals. For one thing, the whole idea that hostility should aggravate an offence in relation to certain characteristics but not others needs reining in, not extending. To say that assaulting someone because he is old (and within the charmed circle of victim categories) deserves a heavier sentence than assaulting a teenager because he is the teacher’s pet (and therefore outside it) is discriminatory, grotesque and insulting. It is the hostility that matters, not whether the target falls within a group which has managed to persuade a government that it deserves victimhood status.

Read the whole thing.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Turning ourselves into China for any reason is the definition of a cure being worse than the disease. The scolders who are being seduced by such thinking have to wake up, before we end up adding another disaster on top of the terrible one we’re already facing.”

Matt Taibbi

The whole essay will, I bet, resonate with all you freedom lovers in the comments.

Samizdata quote of the day

[Judge-only trials] also misses the actual point of a jury. We might think they’re there to evaluate evidence, decide what is right or wrong, to decide upon guilt of the accused. But they’re not. They’re there to decide whether a crime has been committed. Which includes telling the law, the judge, the politicians and the entire system to bugger off as and when 12 good men and true decide that this isn’t a crime.

Sure, the British legal system absolutely hates any mention of jury nullification. But that is what they’re actually there for. Which is why we shouldn’t do away with them.

Tim Worstall

The return of the Test Acts

The (Glasgow) Herald reports,

Mandatory climate change classes plan for Scottish leaders

MSPs, business leaders and newly enrolled university students may be asked to take mandatory climate change studies if plans currently under consideration are adopted.

The studies would help arm them with facts and knowledge to make urgent changes to society as it emerges from COVID-19 lockdown. The Scottish Government has already committed to enrolling at least 100 senior officials to the Climate Solutions course.

The news comes just days before Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declaring a climate emergency.

The course was devised by experts at the Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society in partnership with the Institute of Directors, Stirling University’s Business School and the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Carbon Innovation.

Among the main areas the course looks at are issues around transport, energy use, supply chains, social behaviours, mitigation and planning for the future.

Former UN executive secretary on climate change Christiana Figueres who brokered the Paris Agreement, former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney who is now UN special envoy on climate action and finance and ex Irish President Mary Robinson who set up a climate justice foundation, are among heavyweight names lending their support.

The Test Acts, in case you had forgotten,”were a series of English penal laws that served as a religious test for public office and imposed various civil disabilities on Roman Catholics and nonconformists.”

Mr Robinson, said: “What we’re really hoping is we can make it universal.

“The conversations I’ve had are with six universities is about making it mandatory for students as a matriculation course. Stirling and Edinburgh universities are already further down the line on that than others.

“I’m also talking to others about making it as mandatory as we can in all other sectors – including business – because we need everybody to wake up a bit to their responsibilities.

“The Scottish Government are already committed through their programme of government to put through 100 senior staff on it.”

As I mention every time this subject comes up, I am more of a believer in anthropogenic climate change than many here. But the Scottish Government is working on that. If profession of a certain belief becomes a test of office, then soon enough every office holder will profess that belief. But why should anyone believe them? Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

A tarantula moulting

It shakes. It convulses. It casts off its old body. It emerges softer and more flexible.

Don’t kid yourself. It’s still a tarantula.

Clare Foges writes in the Times, “We need Big Brother to beat this virus”.

Hands in the air! Step away from the Easter eggs!” The Keystone Coppery of recent weeks has had some people muttering darkly that we are heading the way of a police state. Those who style themselves as defenders of ancient British liberties will soon have bigger fish to fry: the digital surveillance tools that government hopes to use to trace the infected. Prepare for dire warnings of state intrusion and an avalanche of Nineteen Eighty-Four quotes on social media warning that Big Brother is upon us.

Yet if we are to beat a path out of this pandemic without destroying our economy, overblown concerns about threats to our liberties must be countered by pragmatism. To recover some semblance of normality before a vaccine is found, we must accept the need for the state to access more information about ourselves, our health and our whereabouts — and not waste precious weeks arguing about it.

Look east to see how digital surveillance is an integral part of returning to “normal” life. Hong Kong has mandatory tracking wristbands for those in quarantine. In Taiwan the phone-tracking system is known as an “electronic fence”; those who are meant to be in isolation will be visited by the authorities if their phone is turned off. In South Korea the pooling of data from credit card use, mobile phones and CCTV cameras means that they can detail the movements of an infected citizen down to where they sat in the cinema and which bar they went for a beer in afterwards — and in less than ten minutes can trace and contact the woman who was sitting two stools down. Public support for these measures is high, for the simple reason that they are working.