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]

Well in that case…

When I read this zinger:

“It is absolutely clear that climate change is a threat to our collective security and the security of our nations,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who presided over the meeting.

I thought it was perhaps the most succinct summation of why (1) the ‘Conservative’ Party should be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act (2) I will never vote for them again.

It is bizarre to think we can thank Russia (an enemy state run by gangsters) and India for providing the voice of sanity.

Samizdata quote of the day

No government would want to accept that lockdowns were a terrible idea and that wider spread of the pandemic could result in the build-up of herd immunity and fewer number of deaths. However, it must be kept in mind that governments can neither be blamed nor credited for the spread of the coronavirus, because it was nature at work.

Sanjiv Agarwal

History repeats itself: alcohol prohibition in Bihar

The Indian news channel News 18 reports:

On April 1, 2016, Bihar was declared a dry state. The JD(U)-led government enforced a five-year jail term for first-time offenders. In 2018, the law was amended to introduce a fine for first-time offenders. The sweeping victory in 2015 was attributed to the support of women who felt addressed by Nitish’s push for prohibition in Bihar.

In America a century ago women hoped that prohibition would stop so many wives being beaten by their drunken husbands. But National Geographic tells the story of how

Women campaigned for Prohibition—then many changed their minds

As then in the US, so now in Bihar:

However, the factor may have worked against him this time.

A female voter in Muzaffarpur said, “Liquor is still being sold illegally in the state. Those selling it are getting prosperous by the day and those consuming it are getting ruined. Alcohol is being sold under wraps and consumed in every other house. Families are being devastated. The police are party to this as well. They allow alcohol to infiltrate borders. My son earns and wastes all the money in drinking. There has been no alcohol ban.”

And

In a letter to the state government last year, the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies quoted data from Bihar police, National Crime Records Bureau and ministry of transport and highway to press home the point that the liquor ban in Bihar has not reduced crime. The letter states that the ban has also boosted the sale of bootlegged alcohol, fetching profit margins of 400 per cent, while the lucrative opportunity has led to the rise of a powerful liquor mafia.

Half of rural women in Bihar are illiterate. I cannot blame them for not knowing the story of how prohibition turned out in a faraway country a hundred years earlier:

How Prohibition Put the ‘Organized’ in Organized Crime

Kingpins like Al Capone were able to rake in up to $100 million each year thanks to the overwhelming business opportunity of illegal booze.

Modern-day prohibitionists in the rich world have no such excuse. Nor do Indian politicians such as the aforementioned Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar. They can read. They have the internet. They can easily find out how this story always ends.

Definitions of what is shameful differ

A human interest story from the Daily Record:

‘Kalashnikov councillor’ running for seat in Scottish Parliament after machine gun shame

A shamed politician – dubbed the Kalashnikov councillor after being captured on video coaching his young children how to use a machine gun – is campaigning for a seat in the Scottish Parliament.

Former SNP councillor Jahangir Hanif was forced to apologise after footage emerged of him training his young children to fire an AK-47 assault rifle during a visit to Pakistan.

The SNP condemned his “inappropriate conduct” and suspended him for two months while his his own daughter wrote to the party demanding his expulsion, claiming she had been terrified on the gun-toting trip.

On the ukpolitics subreddit, where I saw this story, a commenter called “ragnarspoonbrok” says,

No ear defenders isn’t a good start. Only one hand on the rifle as someone else is holding the fore grip. Rifle not shouldered correctly. No one has their eye anywhere near the sight meaning it’s not aimed correctly with their bugger hook on the bang switch.

It’s not a small caliber it’s a 7.62

Wouldn’t really class that as safe.

Hey, let’s make it a three-way racial grudge match!

“The purity of a revolution can last a fortnight”Jean Cocteau

I thought from the start that most of the “solutions” the Black Lives Matter protesters demand would make the lives of black people worse, but (as with the Me Too movement before it), the BLM movement would never have got off the ground if there were not justifiable anger at real abuses.

To fight real abuses is hard. It might require thought. It might require compromise. To fight images of dead men is much more exhilarating. Don’t worry, you still get to crack heads.

The Leicester Mercury reports,

Gandhi statue campaign ‘a distraction’ from Black Lives Matters – Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe

Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe says a campaign to remove the statue of Mahatma Gandhi risks being a distraction to the Black Lives Matter movement.

A 6,000 name petition is calling for the sculpture of the Indian leader and civil rights campaigner to be taken down from the plinth in Belgrave Road where it has stood since 2009.

The petition was launched after a statue of Bristol slaver Edward Colston was toppled during a recent Black Lives Matters protest and dumped in the city’s harbour.

The organisers of the Gandhi statue petition said he was a “fascist, racist and sexual predator” who brought “inconsolable suffering” to millions of people during the partition of India before his assassination in January 1948.

That has enraged many people from the Indian community in Leicester East.

You don’t say!

Ms Webbe spoke out on the issue of the Gandhi statue after her predecessor as MP Keith Vaz arrived with city councillors and community volunteers to throw up a symbolic human ring around the piece of art.

Mr Vaz, who stood down as an MP after more than 30 years representing his city constituency prior to December’s General Election, had vowed to “defend it personally”.

Architecture wars

Robinson Meyer tweets:

If most Americans hate architectural abstraction and Mies-inspired modernism, then there’s still a compromise solution. It’s simple: All federal buildings should be designed in the style of India’s National Fisheries Development Board.

Trump has put architecture centre stage in the culture wars. Which will make it all much more interesting. Especially if more creature buildings are built, like the one in the picture above. And especially if they built something like a huge panda building or huge frog building, in Washington.

Eventually, there should be a giant building in Washington, the tallest in town, shaped like Donald Trump. A giant Trump sculpture. That would drain the swamp. They’d all flee in terror.

To be a bit more serious, but only a bit, just think about Trump’s edict, which says that from now on, all Federal Government buildings in the USA must be designed in the “classical” style. No more office blocks looking like multi-story car parks or international space stations. From now on, they’ll have to have a Parthenonic frontage stuck onto them.

Were any such buildings actually to get built, everyone who looks at one of these buildings is going to see … Trump. But all the people who work in government buildings hate Trump from the depths of their tax-dollar-sucking bossy-boots souls. So, they’ll make a huge stink to ensure that no such buildings ever get built. How beautiful is that? The governmental classes will, for the duration of Trump’s reign of architectural terror, expend huge amounts of energy opposing the expansion of the Federal Government.

The more I hear and see of Trump, the more I like him. But I’m talking about America, and what do I know about America? Luckily, we have plenty of commenters who do know about America, because they live there. Gentlemen, start your engines.

Lawyers having a riot – in a hospital – some killed

I am surprised that this story from Pakistan – perhaps this is real ‘lawfare’? –

Three die as marauding Pakistan lawyers rampage through cardiac hospital

has not gained more attention, there is a paywall but there is other coverage. The gist of it is that after a dispute at a cardiac unit over priority for treatment, and insults being traded between physicians and lawyers, a riot of lawyers ensued that the Pakistani police could only contain with military assistance, and there are unconfirmed reports of patients dying after either being attacked by lawyers or deserted by medical staff.

Breitbart has the story too, with a death toll of around 12.

A mob of two hundred lawyers attacked the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) in Lahore, Pakistan, on Wednesday, causing at least 12 deaths, several of them critical care patients whose treatments were interrupted by the riot.

The swarm of lawyers was armed with firebombs and a number of handguns. Police cars were set ablaze during their confrontation with riot police, while the hospital suffered damage to windows, doors, and delicate equipment inside.

The genesis of the dispute is reported as being:

The bizarre rampage was touched off by a scuffle on Tuesday that sounds like a comedy skit gone horribly wrong: a lawyer demanded priority treatment at the hospital, the doctors said no, and the lawyer marched off to the local police station to demand they arrest the recalcitrant doctors on terrorism charges.

When the police said no, the infuriated lawyer returned to the hospital with some of his colleagues for a confrontation with the doctors, who filmed the ensuing confrontation and posted the video online with commentary mocking the lawyers. The following day, a mob of two hundred enraged lawyers descended upon the hospital and began trashing everything from parked cars to medical equipment.

So the good news is that Pakistan’s police have a firmer grasp of the concept of the rule of law than this gang of lawyers.

The hospital itself is the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, which provides free health care to almost 500,000 patients a year. Presumably it is State-funded, but there may be some religious charitable giving. It does accept donations for patient welfare, and provides private treatment in the evenings.

So why couldn’t the uppity lawyer who started this have waited till the evening and paid for some private care?

There may be more to this than meets the eye, the article alludes to long-running tensions between lawyers and doctors in Lahore (but no reason for them). A local lawyers’ rep. doesn’t seem to be particularly conciliatory:

The vice chair of the Pakistan Bar Council, Syed Amjad Shah, condemned the violence but described it as “the individual act of a few lawyers” while blaming the doctors for starting the fight by “misbehaving.”

Presumably the ‘lawyer’ pictured pointing a pistol in this local piece fully complies with the rules of professional conduct? In the USA, he might be simply vigorously demonstrating the Second Amendment.

What is the answer to this sort of behaviour, apart from rigorous law enforcement? It is, I suppose, a backhanded compliment to Pakistan’s hospitals that people will kill if denied priority treatment. Why doesn’t the NHS provoke such passions?

Crowd-funded cyber-policing

In what I like to describe as anarcho-capitalism in action, the pseudonymous Jim Browning is investigating, reverse-hacking, harassing and disrupting people engaging in tech-support fraud. His work is made possible by YouTube advertising revenues and Patreon donations.

Just a few days ago, with help from YouTuber Karl Rock who makes videos about life in India, he was able to shut down a call centre that was robo-dialling people and convincing them to pay for non-existent security software. Typically, they then call back a few months later and perform a refund scam, which involves offering a refund, pretending to refund too much money, and fooling people into returning the difference.

In his softly-spoken way Browning is also performing the service of educating people about how these scams operate so that they might better avoid falling foul of them.

It is not just him: there has emerged a network of people who are working in various ways to disrupt this sort of crime. BobRTC is a way for people to phone up the fraudsters and waste their time. Scammerblaster is a group of people who take reports of phone numbers being used for fraud and use a network of servers to bombard them with enough calls to render the number inoperative.

All this can be more effective than state policing. Indian authorities can be slow to act on reports of crimes where the only victims are in foreign countries. Jim Browning speaks of one occasion where he was listening in to a call where the American victim had been sent to buy gift cards so he called the local police who were not interested in taking action because the crime had not yet taken place.

Nonetheless state authorities do sometimes take action when they are sufficiently embarrassed, as in the case of a call centre raided after it was featured in a Canadian TV programme.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

I spent two summers speaking about the Modern Slavery Act to female factory workers in Sri Lanka’s free trade zones, which are industrial areas with a number of garment factories that supply many foreign companies. I found there is intense pressure on local managers to clean up their assembly lines in such a way that the western companies which hire them could not be accused of modern slavery. The pressure to appear “clean” results in an unhealthy working environment.

It also limits women’s freedom in a number of ways. For instance, a number of women I spoke to engaged in part-time sex work to make extra money outside of their factory jobs. This work was of their own choosing – and very different to the sexual trafficking or exploitation that the Modern Slavery Act is also designed to stop. But local managers feared it would be seen by Western auditors as exploitation and threaten their contracts. As one factory manager told me: “If we do not fire part-time sex workers, our factories can get blacklisted, and our orders will be cancelled.”

Sandya Hewamanne

Hobbs mania: How a cartoon depiction of Mohammad provoked Muslim outrage – in 1925

I have begun reading Leo McKinstry’s book about Sir Jack Hobbs, whom he describes in his book’s subtitle as “England’s Greatest Cricketer”. So, greater than W.G. Grace then? That’s what McKinstry says, and he emphasises this by telling, at the beginning of his book, on pages 5 and 6 of the Introduction, about how Hobbs surpassed Grace’s record for the number of centuries scored by a batsman in top class cricket (“first class” cricket as we cricket people call it), and of what a sensation this caused in England. This happened several decades before cricket was toppled by soccer as England’s greatest sporting obsession.

Hobbs began the 1925 county cricket season scoring heavily, and the centuries piled up, a century being a personal score of a hundred or more runs by the one batsman. But as Hobbs neared Grace’s record of 126 centuries, and as press and public interest grew, the nerves cut in and started affecting the performances of the usually nerveless Hobbs. The centuries slowed to a trickle. Once, when he got out for 54 (which would normally be rated a decent score), Hobbs walked back to his home pavilion at Surrey’s Oval cricket ground in complete silence, so deep was the gloom and disappointment of the spectators.

But, Hobbs having got stuck within one century of the Grace record, Hobbs’s team, Surrey, were playing Somerset at Taunton. On the first day of that game, August 15th 1925, Somerset were dismissed cheaply and Hobbs reached 91 not out, just a handful of runs short of reaching the record. And the next morning, he inched his way to century number 126. Equality with Grace was apparently what mattered, rather than doing one better, and with the pressure off, Hobbs’s first class century number 127 followed in the second Surrey innings of that same game.

Cue the celebrations:

Across the nation, Hobbs was acclaimed as the greatest sportsman of his age. ‘Jack Hobbs has taken the sporting world by storm. In two days and the same match he has equalled and surpassed the greatest feat ever performed in the annals of cricket; declared the Daily Mirror. Even King George V, a monarch notorious for his gruff reticence, sent a fulsome message of congratulations from Balmoral via his secretary Lord Stamfordham, expressing ‘much pleasure’ at Hobbs’s ‘remarkable success, whereby you have established a new and greater record in the history of our National Game’. Nor could the non-cricket world ignore the event. ‘Britain welcomes a new cricket hero; the New York Times told its readers, explaining that, ‘England has been in something akin to ferment this summer.’ …

But then comes this:

… A ferment of a different sort arose in Britain’s Indian Empire in the wake of Hobbs’s triumph. On the day that Hobbs beat Grace’s record, the Star published a cartoon by the brilliant New Zealand-born illustrator David Low, later to be renowned for his savage depictions of the European dictators of the 1930s. This 1925 cartoon, which perfectly captured the Hobbs mania that had gripped Britain, showed the Surrey player, bat in hand, towering over a series of other historical figures, including Columbus, Lloyd George, Caesar and Charlie Chaplin. Fatefully, Low also inserted in the line-up the Prophet Muhammad, standing on a pedestal and gazing up at Hobbs. When the image appeared in the Indian papers, it caused fury in the Muslim population, not just because Islam regards any portrayal of the Prophet as sacrilegious, but also because Muhammad was placed in a position of inferiority to a mere cricketer. According to the Calcutta correspondent of the Morning Post, the Hobbs cartoon ‘convulsed many Muslims in speechless rage. Meetings were held and resolutions were passed.’ So serious was the problem that the Indian Viceroy, the Marquess of Reading, wrote to the Cabinet in London to convey the feelings of Muslim outrage.

I note with approval that the internet allows us to see what all this fury was about:

Google quickly showed me this cartoon reproduction, which is apparently to be found at the Mohammed Image Archive. There are many other depictions of Mohammed (that being the third version in this posting alone of how this personage is spelt) on view at the other end of that link, but I could not find the above cartoon, although presumably it is there somewhere.

Nor have I been able to determine whether Indian Muslims issued any death threats, against David Low or against anyone connected to or working for The Star. From the reference to “meetings and resolutions” I get the impression: not, or the death threats would have got a mention also. But I would love to know.

Samizdata quote of the day

Black markets are the most underutilized tool for alleviating poverty. These underground markets are often portrayed in a negative light by governments because they are untaxed, unregulated, and therefore are a hazard to public safety.

A more sinister description often involves black markets as a cesspool of organized crime, overflowing with drugs and weapons, and a source of income for terrorist groups.

Such portrayals are completely dubious. Ninty percent of India’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, which includes everything from agriculture to small scale manufacturing and services

Jairaj Devadiga