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]

Insulin in the USA

Insulin is expensive in the USA. “The average list price of one unit of insulin in the US is $98.70, compared to $12 in Canada and $7.52 in the UK.”

Then why do not people simply buy it from wherever it is cheaper? Because it is illegal to import it. Why is it not made more cheaply by competitors? Because the FDA have not approved this. President Biden claims to want to lower insulin costs but continues to support state violence that restricts access to medication.

Would you let him out of the box?

Yesterday’s Sunday Times carried a story to break your heart: “‘Life in a box’: young autistic man confined in hospital’s former file room”.

The first thing to say is that the headline is clickbait. It gives the impression that he’s locked in a cubbyhole. In fact quite a lot of money has been spent by the state to construct a purpose-built apartment with bedroom, bathroom, “snug room”, lounge, an unlabelled room, and a garden. It is not a dungeon. But it is a jail – this young man, referred to as “Patient A”, is has been confined there alone for years. In terms of lack of privacy his “secure apartment” at Cheadle Royal Hospital is worse than a conventional jail: he is monitored by closed circuit TV at all times.

Behind a serving hatch with a small Perspex window, a figure of a young man shuffles into view and reaches out to receive a pizza box being pushed through the hole by his mother.

“Mum, please, put me in the car and take me home,” the 24-year-old says. “I don’t want to be here any more.”

His mother, Nicola, 50, does her best not to cry. “I would if I could,” she replies. “I’m trying my best.”

Patient A, a young autistic man, has been confined to his small secure apartment in a hospital since September 2017.

A Saturday night takeaway pizza, pushed through the hatch by his mother and eaten alone in his room, is the highlight of his week.

Why is he imprisoned? Because he is violent. After a relatively happy and normal childhood his behaviour began to deteriorate in adolescence, until…

Eventually he was admitted to a unit for patients with severe mental illness at the Countess of Chester Hospital, where his behaviour was put down to “neurodevelopmental difficulties”.

There, he was restrained for the first time by clinical staff. The experience left him terrified. He stayed on the ward for three weeks, losing half a stone. He was prescribed risperidone and sent home — but the attacks continued.

“He would just constantly want to hit you,” Nicola said. “He would want to run at my mum. Run at my dad. All of us. You couldn’t stop it. I’ve never seen anything like it. He would open his eyes, and the moment he woke up he was on us.”

The Sunday Times report is much better than its irresponsible headline would suggest. It goes on to describe in depressing detail the failure of various treatments. The young man continues to attack the hospital staff, with the result that they are no longer willing to play football or computer games with him. Ever more isolated, he gets worse.

It’s horrible. But what would you have them do? His mother wants him to be released into supported housing in the community. This was due to happen, but at the last moment the care provider lined up for him pulled out. “They said his behaviour had become too challenging,” Nicola [his mother] said. “But his behaviour is challenging because of where he is.” I hate to say it but her second sentence, while undoubtedly true, does not solve the problem described in the first. Can an organisation be forced to take on the care of someone who constantly attacks their staff? To an extent, that is what is happening now at Patient A’s secure apartment at Cheadle Royal Hospital. The state does what it is obliged to by law. But care in the community for a potentially violent patient requires more intelligent and responsive supervision than keeping someone in prison. No company providing paid care is willing to provide that level of supervision for Patient A. It has been established that his family cannot do it; part of his mother’s torment is that she herself was the person who started his imprisonment by calling the police while her son attacked his grandmother.

In any case, though supported care in the community has transformed many lives for the better, it can go horribly wrong. One of the comments mentions the case of Jonty Bravery. He was the man who threw a six year old boy from the roof of the Tate Modern gallery because he wanted to be on the TV news. He caused the child life-changing injuries. Before the attack Bravery had been living in just such a placement, with two-to-one care, no less.

Back and forth the arguments go…
“Mum, please, put me in the car and take me home.”
“He would open his eyes, and the moment he woke up he was on us.”

I was going to ask, “What is the Libertarian solution to this?”, but forget Libertarianism – what is any solution to this?

Distrust is the inevitable result of censorship. Oh, and announcing Peak 2021.

Doctors Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi, editors of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), have written an open letter from from the BMJ to Mark Zuckerberg:

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

We are Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi, editors of The BMJ, one of the world’s oldest and most influential general medical journals. We are writing to raise serious concerns about the “fact checking” being undertaken by third party providers on behalf of Facebook/Meta.

In September, a former employee of Ventavia, a contract research company helping carry out the main Pfizer covid-19 vaccine trial, began providing The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails. These materials revealed a host of poor clinical trial research practices occurring at Ventavia that could impact data integrity and patient safety. We also discovered that, despite receiving a direct complaint about these problems over a year ago, the FDA did not inspect Ventavia’s trial sites.

The BMJ commissioned an investigative reporter to write up the story for our journal. The article was published on 2 November, following legal review, external peer review and subject to The BMJ’s usual high level editorial oversight and review.[1]

But from November 10, readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share our article. Some reported being unable to share it. Many others reported having their posts flagged with a warning about “Missing context … Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Those trying to post the article were informed by Facebook that people who repeatedly share “false information” might have their posts moved lower in Facebook’s News Feed. Group administrators where the article was shared received messages from Facebook informing them that such posts were “partly false.”

Readers were directed to a “fact check” performed by a Facebook contractor named Lead Stories.[2]

We find the “fact check” performed by Lead Stories to be inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.

— It fails to provide any assertions of fact that The BMJ article got wrong

— It has a nonsensical title: “Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying And Ignored Reports Of Flaws In Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials”

— The first paragraph inaccurately labels The BMJ a “news blog”

Do read the whole thing, which is quite an important step in both fighting censorship by social media and in fighting Covid-19. These aims are not in opposition. I stopped my excerpt there for what some may call a trivial reason: to leap to the defence of blogging. While I sympathise with the irritation felt by the editors of the BMJ at hearing their venerable journal, founded in 1840, described as a “news blog” I have to say that there are some blogs I would trust more than some newspapers, even some older than the BMJ. For instance I found out about this matter via Not the Bee.

Yes, that’s 2021, folks, when a link from the “truth is stranger than fiction” non-satirical spinoff of an American Christian satirical website (even as a Christian myself, those are weird words to put next to each other) takes me to an open letter from the editors of the august British Medical Journal in which they angrily respond to a so-called “fact checker” working for a social media site who thinks the best way to combat the conspiracy theory that “they” might be suppressing news about inadequacies in the testing of vaccines is to suppress news about inadequacies in the testing of vaccines.

The infantorium

I never knew this:

“At the turn of the 20th century, incubators for premature babies were widely available at fairs and amusement parks across America, rather than hospitals.

Infant shows were the main source of healthcare for premature babies for over 40 years.”

That was a tweet from HumanProgress.org which linked to a fascinating article at “99% Invisible”. Apparently it’s a podcast about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about”. I am usually too impatient to listen to podcasts, but if the accompanying articles are as revelatory as this one, I will bookmark the site. The article title is “The Infantorium”. It opens by describing a long-gone amusement park in Minneapolis called “Wonderland”:

The park’s biggest attraction wasn’t the roller coaster, or the dance hall, or the log flume. It was a sideshow called “the Infantorium.” Visitors would pay ten cents to enter a spacious room full of glass boxes that were incubators with tiny premature babies on display. But despite how weird this whole concept might seem today, this wasn’t the only place this was happening.

According to Lauren Rabinovitz, an amusement park historian, at the turn of the century, incubators for premature babies were widely available at fairs and amusement parks across America, rather than hospitals.

At that, many readers will wonder what sort of parents can they have been, to allow their own children to be shown at a fair when they were in peril of death? The answer is desperate parents who had no alternative:

Many parents of premature, at-risk babies pretty much had to bring their infants to an amusement park. And these infant shows were the main source of healthcare for premature babies for over forty years.

Very well then, but what sort of man makes a profit from this deplorable business? That, too, has a surprising answer. The leading exhibitor of premature babies was a man calling himself Dr Martin Couney. He got his start in London:

Unlike the other showmen, Couney’s show had more of a refined air. He hired nurses to hold the babies and feed them breastmilk. The show was a hit so Dr. Couney decided to give it a try in the United States at the Omaha World’s Fair.

[…]

Thousands of people paid ten cents each to see Dr. Couney’s incubator show. And parents from across the city brought their premature babies to Couney, hoping for a miracle. A local medical journal reported that 48 of the 52 babies delivered to Couney that summer had survived.

In the state of medical science as it then was, for such a high proportion of premature babies to live was little short of a miracle. So I see nothing wrong in Couney making a profit, as he did at first. Some may say, OK, maybe that was acceptable in the early days of incubator technology, but surely these baby-shows died off as soon as proper hospitals and doctors acquired incubators?

Nope. For decades most of the proper hospitals and doctors turned down the incubators which Couney repeatedly tried to donate to them for free.

Follow the link to see why. And this Christmas remember the name of Martin Couney, the charlatan and fake doctor who bankrupted himself saving thousands of childrens’ lives:

The babies in his care were more than four times as likely to survive into childhood. He took in babies of all races and classes, and he never once charged the families. Everything was funded by admissions. Money couldn’t buy better care — because there really wasn’t better care available.

Samizdata quote of the day

A brand new medRxiv pre-print study entitled: “The BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 reprograms both adaptive and innate immune responses” has graced our world. This paper is so important and it provides evidence to support what many prominent immunologists and vaccinologists have been saying for a long time, including myself. These COVID-19 mRNA injectable products are causing, yes, causing, immune system dysregulation – and not just in the context of the adaptive system, but in the context of the innate system. Not only that, but these findings provide very good reasons as to why we are seeing resurgences of latent viral infections and other adverse events reported in VAERS (and other adverse event reporting systems) and perhaps more importantly, why we should under no circumstances inject this crap into our children.

Jessica Rose

An academic hoax at Cornell University

On December 17th the Times reported,

Hoaxes sometimes have their uses in reducing certain states of mind to an absurdity. By playing on some common credulity they show how blind it is. One has just happened in America.

The report goes on to say that “the audience were not aware that the lecture was a parody. Indeed, it was such a success that the hoaxers were frightened and would have kept the joke to themselves, if it had not been revealed” and that now “[the hoaxers] are not popular in Ithaca, especially as a large part of the faculty and undergraduates of Cornell University were hoaxed.”

A lecture given to “a packed and brilliant audience” at an elite American educational institution turned out to be a fake? Surely you jest?

Well, I do, but not in the sense that this hoax lecture did not happen, but in the sense that the December 17th of the report was December 17th 1921. The lecture was on the topic of dreams in Freudian psychology and was given by a person who claimed to be a friend and pupil of of Freud. One can see why lines such as “A dreamer does know what he dreams, but he does not know what he knows and therefore believes what he does not know” went down well with the audience.

Alan Sokal and the trio of Peter Boghossian, James A. Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose are heirs of a well established tradition, but it is a sad sign of the times that the absurd statements they produced to mimic the prevalent academic style of their time were merely ugly, whereas the equivalent in 1921 had something of the beauty of the later paintings of Claude Monet.

98 or 101, this was a big rebellion

“MPs back Covid passes in England amid large Tory rebellion”, the Guardian reports.

The requirement for people to show a Covid pass – proving their vaccination status or a recent negative test result – will come into force from Wednesday. It was passed by 369 votes to 126.

Labour said that 101 Conservatives voted against the government, by far the largest rebellion of Johnson’s premiership since the 2019 election.

Earlier, MPs endorsed the need for masks to be worn in shops and on public transport by 441 votes to 41.

However the Times gives a different number,

Boris Johnson has suffered the biggest rebellion of his premiership as 98 of his own MPs voted against plans for Covid passes.

The prime minister mounted a last-ditch charm offensive as he told Tory MPs that he had “absolutely no choice” but to introduce the measures.

He told the 1922 committee of backbenchers that only a small proportion of those infected with the Omicron variant would need to go to hospital before it becomes a “real problem”.

As ever, politics makes strange bedfellows:

Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader who now sits as an independent, said he was opposed to the “totally wrong attempt to force vaccinations and passports on people”.

Whatever the exact number, Steve Baker’s tireless work made it by far the biggest rebellion of Boris’s premiership. But not, of course, big enough.

New Zealand as Neverland: where children never grow up

“New Zealand smoking ban: young to be barred from ever buying cigarettes”, the Times reports.

New Zealand will ban young people from ever being able to purchase tobacco under world-leading plans to make the country virtually smoke-free within four years.

No one who is under the age of 14 today will ever be legally permitted to buy cigarettes in a drive to eradicate smoking from the country under new legislation to be introduced early next year.

Each year the legal smoking age, now 18, will be increased, with new age groups added to the ban list until the country is almost smoke-free.

Samizdata quote of the day

Yarvin hilariously beleives that “mandatory covid tracking apps” are the way out of this, because “the state needs a precise, high-frequency idea of everyone’s location … to know who is infecting whom.” You shouldn’t worry about this, unless “your government is … a nest of perverts, clowns, thieves and rascals,” which our governments very clearly are. Yarvin writes that “A regime which is unnecessarily intrusive for perverse or nefarious reasons will do other bad things for perverse or nefarious reasons,” and we know this is true, because our governments are already doing perverse and nefarious things under the pretence of containment. In Germany, Corona hysteria has been a means of driving stodgy conservative boomers into the arms of lunatic socialist parties, of enforcing ever greater reliance on culturally destructive technology and making the smart phone a mandatory daily accessory, of pouring billions of Euros into the coffers of scamming manipulative pharmaceutical enterprises, of stifling not only political but cultural expression, and of turning our cities into drab humourless work camps. We aren’t in charge, our enemies are. I don’t care if it means dying of the bubonic plague—these people and their dumb hygiene house arrests are to be opposed now and forever.

Eugyppius

Samizdata quote of the day

Despite ‘a pretty much unlimited budget to run trials’ they didn’t run one for masks ‘because they knew that they don’t work’. In effect, ‘the trial was Scotland versus England. And we found they don’t work.’

For this government insider the implications are now too serious to remain silent because ‘we are lying when we say masks work. They are a signal, a psyop. And we’ve criminalised not wearing them. Masks also transfer the blame onto individuals for the epidemic spreading. We have people counting the unmasked on public transport, policing each other. It is deeply unethical that we have set people against each other in this way. It allows the creation of an “out group” to blame.’ He points out that it is the government we should be blame for not increasing healthcare capacity.

Laura Dodsworth

Meanwhile back in the EU

Old rules die, new ones are born.

Belarus border crisis: EU suspends asylum rules to speed up deportations

Omicron variant: EU should encourage compulsory vaccines, says Ursula von der Leyen

Both Times reports are behind a paywall, but the headlines make the point well enough.

As the late Brian Micklethwait – I still cannot quite believe that I am writing that – said in a post called “On the future of photography in public (and on what I think of the EU)”:

The way the EU works is that at any one time EU-ers propose a million laws, and the winning laws are the ones that nobody objects to. If anyone at all persuasive does object to any particular law, then the plan is dropped, with a charming smile, and put to one side for another go in a few years time. No no no, you misunderstood entirely what we were talking about. We never had any intention of doing what we previously did intend to do if nobody had complained! Fuss about nothing! Europhobic scaremongering! Why do you hate foreigners?

ξ Who Must Not Be Named

As explained by the Wikipedia article on the official nomenclature for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the use of letters of the Greek alphabet to refer to the different variants of Covid-19 was chosen by the World Health Organization specifically to avoid referring to variants by their country of origin, as practised by certain naughty former US presidents. We have had the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu and Nu variants.

I guess the WHO didn’t anticipate the list would go past thirteen.

“Omicron variant reaches Britain”, reports today’s Sunday Times.

Only the fourteenth letter of the Greek alphabet is not Omicron. It’s Xi.

Edit: In the comments TomJ says that actually two letters have been skipped. The variant all the papers were calling “Nu” the day before yesterday was hastily renamed “Omicron”. Allegedly they jumped over “Nu” because it sounds like “new” and they jumped over have “Xi” because it is a common surname, a story to which I might give an iota of credence if it came from someone other than the World Health Organisation. The excellent investigation by the Sunday Times Insight Team, China, the WHO and the power grab that fuelled a pandemic, is unfortunately behind a paywall, but here is an excerpt:

Our investigation reveals today how a concerted campaign over many years by Beijing to grab power inside the WHO appears to have fatally compromised its ability to respond to the crisis. It raises serious concerns about the extent of Beijing’s influence over the WHO and its director-general, and how this undermined the organisation’s capacity — and willingness — to take the steps necessary to avert a global pandemic. Its leadership put China’s economic interests before public health concerns. The results have been nothing short of catastrophic.

The Xi variant, indeed. Pity there isn’t a Greek letter called Pu.