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]

Naming no names for the present

The Telegraph reports that the inexorable progress of the Scottish National Party’s “Named Person” scheme has proved exorable after all. That’s two pieces of good news. One, with any luck its opponents will now be able to wear away at this horrible scheme until it falls apart. Two, there is such a word as “exorable”.

SNP ‘state guardian’ plan delayed for months after Holyrood committee withholds approval

The SNP’s controversial plans to assign every child a ‘state guardian’ have descended into chaos again after a cross-party Holyrood inquiry concluded that it could not recommend that MSPs give their approval.

The Scottish Parliament’s education committee said it was impossible to scrutinise how the Named Person scheme would work in practice until John Swinney, the SNP Education Minister, provides an “authoritative” code of practice for those filling the role.

In a move that threatens to delay its implementation by at least six months, its members said the code should reflect changes in data protection law being made by the UK Government in April or May next year.

Samizdata quote of the day

One claim by campaigners is that this will ‘help the poor’, who are disproportionately more likely to suffer from alcohol-induced ill-health. How making poor people poorer will improve health is a real head-scratcher. This is typical of the missionary attitude of public-health zealots – imposing policies that poor people don’t want ‘for their own good’. Neither will minimum pricing do anything to solve the problem of weekend revellers ending up in A&E – bars already charge way above the minimum price. Instead, this new policy will target those trying to relax with a cheap drink at home.

Rob Lyons

“Due to officer safety it was not safe or legal for them to enter the site”

What are Cambridgeshire police for?

“Police find stolen caravan hunt too risky”, reports the Times:

An owner was forced to retrieve her stolen caravan from a traveller site after police refused to enter, claiming that it was unsafe.

Officers from Cambridgeshire police were called by Helen Cox, 44, after her family caravan was taken from a farm near her home in Ely.

The force told her that they had spent five hours trying to gain access to the site, in which the caravan had been spotted by a local farmer, but that the travellers “wouldn’t let them in”.

Instead, Mrs Cox’s mother arranged for a microlight to fly overhead and capture images of the caravan hidden by some trees. She gave the photographs to police but officers still refused to enter, claiming that they had too little information to obtain a warrant.

In the end, Mrs Cox launched a social media campaign to try to retrieve her property. Several people said that they had seen the £9,000 Hobby Excellent caravan, and shortly afterwards it was found dumped in a nearby field. Mrs Cox said that a dozen travellers had surrounded her when she went to collect it.

The same story was reported in the Mirror:

“Woman tracks down her stolen £9,000 caravan to travellers’ site using microlight after police ‘too scared’ to enter camp”

…She [Ms Cox] added: “I had posted the stolen caravan all over Facebook and that is why I have it back.

“In the words of the PCSO who accompanied us to the caravan, ‘I’ve never seen a caravan returned to its owner in x number of years’.”

A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said: ‘Officers attended the location of where it was believed the stolen caravan was and also used a drone to look over the site, however these attempts were unsuccessful.

“Due to officer safety it was not safe or legal for them to enter the site.

“There was insufficient information for officers to be able to obtain a warrant to access the site, however the caravan has since been recovered and returned to its owners.”

A masterful use of the passive voice there. “Has since been recovered and returned to its owners.” A reader who did not know the whole story might even think Cambridgeshire Constabulary had something to do with it.

I won’t add an extract from the Daily Mail story (“Caravan owner is forced to track down her stolen £9,000 vehicle to a travellers’ site with a MICROLIGHT after police refuse to send officers fearing for their safety”), as it is almost identical to that of the Mirror and very similar to that of the Times. (Despite the demonization of the Mail as “fake news”, this similarity is not uncommon.) Both the tabloid newspapers quote a comment on social media from Larry Locke, who said, “I would like to know what we are paying the police for […] if that had been in my house they would soon be in, even if I said you could not come in. Is there a law for one and not for another?”

That bewildered question has been heard in this context for a while now. Back in 2011 in a post called Guardian readers hate gypsies and travellers”, I wrote, “If you want to poison a human soul with racial hatred, just do that. Tell him that the laws that burden him do not apply to them.”

Fox News vs. BBC impartiality

Fox News breached impartiality rules, says state censor Ofcom.

Ofcom’s ruling concluded there was “no reflection of the views of the UK government or any of the authorities or people criticised” and the presenter “did not challenge the views of his contributors; instead, he reinforced their views.”

Leaving aside the question of whether the state has a role in telling broadcasters what news they can broadcast (it does not), let me take a quick look at the front page of the BBC News website right now.

Here is my translation of the pertinent headlines (stories that are probably neutral I have marked in italics, and non-political stories I have omitted):

  • Big companies like Apple should pay more tax.
  • Tax avoidance is wrong.
  • Lewis Hamilton should pay more tax.
  • Bono should pay more tax.
  • Rich people should pay more tax.
  • The state should control who has guns.
  • Mugabe wants his wife to take over from him.
  • Plastic is bad and greedy people are destroying the planet with it because they are greedy.
  • Global warming is still really real and only states working with the UN can save us.
  • Trump is being mean to Turkish people.
  • Trump wants Japan to help defend against North Korea.
  • People were kidnapped in Nigeria.
  • A writer used politically incorrect language.
  • A woman who was rude to Trump got fired.
  • People who voted for Trump probably regret it.

No sign of anything other than a completely neutral world-view there. None at all.

Samizdata quote of the day

There is an argument, I think, for having people who want “a strong leader” shot immediately on the basis that it will save the dictator time later.

– David Aaronovitch, discussing these findings by the Pew Organisation in The Times (£). Unlike Pew, neither Mr Aaronovitch nor I find it very comforting that only – only! – 26% of the UK population thinks “a system in which a strong leader can govern the country without interference from parliament or the courts would be a good way of governing this country”.

“Bringing that choice into the equation”

“Ban smoking at home, say Scots campaigners”, reports the Sunday Times. This headline is followed by the breezy standfirst,

Move to save kids from second-hand exposure

That’s “kids” like wot the Times is down wiv.

Anti-smoking campaigners in Scotland are seeking to stop people lighting up at home as part of a drive to reduce the harmful health effects of inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke.

Last week, Dr Sean Semple, an academic from Aberdeen University, said restrictions on smoking at home may have to be imposed to protect children.

Odd how campaigners against passive smoking so often seem fond of the passive voice. Dangerous things, these restrictions imposed by nobody in particular, you can breathe them in without realising it and then you get cancer.

Meanwhile, Ash Scotland, the charity that helped to bring about a ban on smoking in public places in 2006, believes more could be done to protect residents in social housing.

There is concern that despite existing laws, hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland are still at risk from exposure to secondhand smoke in their homes.

Each week, dozens of children across Britain are taken to hospital through inhaling secondhand smoke, which is known to increase the risk of asthma, as well as ear and chest infections.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Failing that, as the Times does, any evidence at all for the claim that “dozens of children a week” are taken to hospital through inhaling second hand smoke would be nice.

Sheila Duffy, the chief executive of Ash Scotland, said the charity was seeking a meeting with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations to discuss the possibility of a smoking ban.

A smoking ban in social housing has proved immensely popular in the US, in California and cities such as New York and Philadelphia.

So a ban on Group X getting the limited supply of rent-controlled social housing proves immensely popular with social housing tenants not in Group X, not to mention potential social housing tenants for whom the chances of getting it have just increased. Colour, or as they say in the US, “color”, me surprised.

“Tobacco companies often talk about choice in smoking. However, for many people the choice to live free from breathing in tobacco smoke is just not there,” said Duffy.

“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.” One day soon we will have a Ministry of Choice so Sheila Duffy can concern herself with giving everyone the choice to live in a world free from choice.

“We are keen to explore ways of bringing that choice into the equation for new social-housing tenants and increasing protection for those living in buildings with shared common spaces.”

Samizdata quote of the day

The social justice warrior’s gain is the civil libertarian’s loss. The ACLU still engages in the fight for civil liberty, especially in opposition to the post-9/11 security state and as part of the anti-Trump ‘resistance’. But the 21st-century ACLU has chosen its battles with a progressive sensibility that devalues free speech and due process for all. Most notably, it has shied away from confronting campus-censorship crusades and the threat of an ideology that equates allegedly hateful speech with discriminatory action, subordinating the right to speak to the imagined rights of particular listeners to suppress what offends them.

Wendy Kaminer

The mask slips

The Guardian‘s Owen Jones asked the following question on Twitter:

How quickly should anti-LGBTQ rail tycoon and SNP donor Brian Souter’s assets be nationalised by a Labour Government?

Uber petition breaks 600,000

The #SaveYourUber petition has, as of 10:45 pm in London, attracted 600,000+ names, and one of them is mine.

Of course the best way to save Uber is to get rid of Sadiq Khan and make the issue politically radioactive.

Samizdata quote of the day

Commenting on the case, Sue Hemming, head of the CPS’s special crime and counterterrorism division, said: ‘People should not assume they can hide on social media when stirring up hatred and violence.’ Evidently, they cannot. But to what end? What is the benefit to society of banning the expression of bad and hateful ideas? Surely we want these ideas out in the open so that we can combat them with better ideas and better arguments. Censorship won’t change anyone’s mind.

Naomi Firsht

Samizdata quote of the day

University is not a training centre to teach young people ‘correct’ ideas – that would be an indoctrination camp, not a university. Richardson understands that academics have a duty to challenge conventional wisdom. You might say that academics have a duty to offend, and to make their students intellectually uncomfortable. It’s only through challenging what we believe that ideas change and knowledge progresses.

Dennis Hayes

Not exactly a meeting of minds

Observed in a certain invitation-only chat room a few weeks ago:

Person 1: “So who’s going to Pride march tomorrow?”

Person 2: “Yeah probably. Good place to pick up chicks LOL”

Samizdatista: “Nah.”

Person 1: “I though you were some kinda libertarian or something.”

Samizdatista: “Or something.”

Person 1: “LOL. You don’t like gays?”

Samizdatista: “I could not care less who people fuck. None of my business.”

Person 1: “Then why not support people’s rights?”

Samizdatista: “Being homosexual not illegal in western world, so what rights you talking about?”

Person 1: “Right not to be discriminated against by people.”

Samizdatista: “I am great supporter right to free association, that’s something worth marching for as various laws deny that right.”

Person 1: “So you’re ok with discrimination?”

Samizdatista: “By state? Hell no. By private people and companies that don’t take state money? That is what free association means.”

Person 1: “How can anyone support discrimination?”

Samizdatista: “I fully support your right to /block me, what with me being all in for free association. Please.”

Person 1: “Why not go just to show your support?”

Samizdatista: “I do not condemn homosexuals for doing what they legally do, because I could not care less who people fuck. I also do not express support for homosexuals for doing what they legally do, because I could not care less who people fuck.”

Person 1: “Everyone I know’s going.”

Person 2: “Grammar crime detected! Report for re-education!”

Person 1: “What?”

Person 2: “Hardly anyone I know is going. Target rich environment for babes.”

Person 1: “It says a lot about someone if they stay away.”

Samizdatista: “In my case it says I could not care less about who other people fuck. With that in mind, if you decide to go fuck yourself, I am totally ok with that too.”

Person 2: “This thread will not end well.”