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]

If you want to be welcome, do not demand entry

The ceremonial of the State Opening of Parliament includes a moment when Black Rod, the Queen’s representative, approaches the door of the Commons to summon MPs for the Queen’s Speech. Tradition demands that he – or in 2019, she – has the door slammed in her face to symbolise the independence of the Commons from the Crown. Only after knocking three times is Black Rod allowed to enter.

The door closed to a demand but open to a request is a powerful symbol.

In the election we have just had, one of the most contentious issues was immigration and nationality. As stated in its manifesto Labour’s policy was to give the vote to “all UK residents”, and not just the vote, automatic citizenship, according to the Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey. Labour did not exactly shout about the fact that “UK residents” includes foreign citizens, but several people including the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings did notice. He then informed the nation in his own inimitable style: “BATSIGNAL!! DON’T LET CORBYN-STURGEON CHEAT A SECOND REFERENDUM WITH MILLIONS OF FOREIGN VOTES”.

But underneath the all-caps headline he made a fair point:

Before the 23 June 2016, many such as the Economist and FT predicted a Leave win would boost extremists and make immigration the central issue in politics. VL said the opposite would happen: that once people know there’ll be democratic control, it will quickly fade as an issue and attitudes towards immigrants will improve. VL was right, the FT was wrong — as all academic research shows. If you want immigration to fade from politics, then democratic control is the answer. If you go with Corbyn and free movement for the whole world, then immigration will be all over the news and extremism will grow. A system like Australia’s will be fairer, good for the economy and take the heat out of the issue.

Imagine that Corbyn had won, formed a coalition government, enacted Labour’s manifesto promise to give the vote to EU citizens and others, and held a second referendum in which their 2.4 million votes for Remain swept away the majority for Leave among British citizens. Imagine if the ignored and scorned people of Leave-voting towns in what were once Labour heartlands saw that Labour had imported a new foreign electorate to replace them. Some may not like that wording but it would have been accurate. Imagine the bitterness towards foreign residents in the UK if that had happened.

It didn’t, thanks in no small measure to Mr Cummings himself. In a month or two the Guardian will report that public hostility to immigration has gone down and attribute it to a burgeoning movement to rejoin the EU. But the real reason will be that people will feel that at some level the wishes of the existing citizens of the UK control who else comes in the country. When you know you can close the door you become more willing to open it in welcome.

Having written the above, I remembered that this is not the first post of mine with a title that uses the metaphor of knocking on a door. Rather than be embarrassed at repeating myself, I will assert that it is a metaphor with several applications. Here is the old post: “To knock on the door is better than booting it in”. It is about relations between transgender and cisgender women.

We owe the relatives of murder victims our compassion but not our belief

Saturday’s Daily Mail carries this headline: ‘He’s a fraud’: Father of London Bridge terror victim Jack Merritt blasts Boris Johnson for making ‘political capital’ out of son’s death – and backs Jeremy Corbyn after TV debate

The article continues,

The father of a man killed in the London Bridge terror has slammed Boris Johnson for trying to ‘make political capital’ over his death.

David Merritt said the Prime Minister was a ‘fraud’ for using the attack as justification for a series of tougher criminal policies in a post on social media.

His son Jack Merritt, 25, was one of two people killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan at a prisoner reform meeting in Fishmongers’ Hall last Friday.

What bitter irony that the two young people Usman Khan murdered believed strongly that criminals like him could change for the better. Because Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were attending a conference on rehabilitation of offenders alongside Khan they were the nearest available targets for his knives. No doubt Khan planned it that way. One of the consistent aims of Islamists is to sow distrust for Muslims among non-Muslims.

David Merritt has suffered the cruellest blow imaginable. Nothing is more natural than that he should strive to counter the narrative that the ideals for which his son strove are disproved by the manner of his murder.

It is, of course, right to say that the ideal of rehabilitation is not disproved by one failure. No policy is proved or disproved by individual cases. Let us not forget that James Ford, one of the men who bravely fought to subdue Khan, was a convicted murderer on day-release.

However while Khan’s example of terrorist rehabilitation gone wrong does not prove that it can never go right, it is a data point. Thankfully we do not have many data points for the graph of jihadists playing a long game. But that means the ones we do have weigh comparatively heavily. What Khan did others can copy. The prime minister and those who make policy on parole and rehabilitation of prisoners must assess that possibility. They cannot allow what Jack Merritt would have wanted or what would ease David Merritt’s pain to factor in their decision.

In 2001 I wrote a pamphlet for the Libertarian Alliance called Rachel weeping for her children: understanding the reaction to the massacre at Dunblane (PDF, text). When discussing massacres carried out by Muslims with a Libertarian audience it is worth bringing up the subject of massacres carried out by gun owners, because our prejudices are likely to run in a different direction. We are better protected from the temptation to make group judgements. There are other common factors in how we should strive to think rationally about these two sorts of mass killing as well. In 2001 I wrote how the agony of the bereaved parents of those children preyed on my mind. I would have done anything to comfort them – except believe what I knew to be untrue.

When the parents of the Dunblane children spoke there was every reason for the world to hear about their terrible experience. There was never any particular reason to suppose that their opinions were right. In fact their opinions should carry less weight than almost anyone else’s should. This point is well understood when it comes to juries. It goes without saying, or, at least, it once did, that guilt or innocence must be decided by impartial people. Decisions of policy require the same cast of mind as decisions of guilt and innocence. The relatives of murder victims cannot be impartial. In a murder trial it is no use saying that it is as important to the family of the victim as to the judge that no innocent person be punished. In pure logic it ought to be, but in fact it almost never is. The bereaved want to believe that the evildoer has been punished. If the real evildoer has escaped (either escaped in the literal meaning of the word or escaped by suicide, as Hamilton did) someone must be found to suffer. Even in cases of pure accident we don’t have Acts of God any more: always some arm of government or business is pursued and sued so that the weight of blame may fall on somebody.

Guards, guards!

“Passengers locked on train with violent thugs”, reports the Times:

Two “psychotic” thugs spent 30 minutes assaulting and abusing commuters after rail staff locked them in a carriage and refused to open the doors.

Witnesses said that the two suspects had been clashing with other passengers on the Southern rail service from Hastings to Brighton on Tuesday last week when a train guard intervened. The men attacked the guard, onlookers said, before he locked himself in the driver’s cabin.

When the train arrived at Lewes station in East Sussex, the doors were locked.

Megan Townshend, 22, who was travelling with her two-year-old daughter, said the decision to trap the men inside the train fuelled their anger.

“The men then began walking up and down the train between carriages threatening people and punching the seats,” she said.

“Anyone who tried to confront them got punched. They tried smashing the windows and said they were going to burn the carriage. I was terrified they’d come near the buggy my daughter was sleeping in.”

This gives a whole new spin on that ancient question, “Who shall guard the guards themselves?”

Universal healthcare vs the rights of doctors and nurses

So it wasn’t George Bernard Shaw after all.

It wasn’t him in the funny story about the dinner party, I mean, the one where a man teasingly asks the woman seated next to him, “Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?” Laughing, she answers, “You bet!” “All right,” he says, “How about for five pounds?” Now she is outraged and says sharply, “What do you take me for?” He replies, “We have already established that. All we are doing now is haggling over the price.”

*

“Bristol Southmead Hospital: Racist patients could have treatment withdrawn”, reports the BBC.

North Bristol Trust (NBT) launched its Red Card to Racism campaign after staff reported an increase of abuse from patients and visitors at the city’s Southmead Hospital.

The abusive behaviour covers racist or sexist language, gestures or behaviour.

Trust chief executive Andrea Young said they wanted staff to “challenge and report it”.

Under the scheme, any patient abusing staff would be challenged and warned, leading to a “sports-style disciplinary yellow card” followed by a final red card in which treatment would be “withdrawn as soon as is safe”.

and

Ms Young said: “We’re sending a strong signal that any racism or discrimination is completely unacceptable – we want staff to challenge and report it and we want everyone to know that it will have consequences.”

Although I am not an adherent of the worship of the National Health Service that has replaced Anglicanism as the British English state religion, I can understand what people like about the NHS. Its founding principles were that its services should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. I think the experience of other countries shows that there are many other healthcare systems that would work better overall, but it is a genuine advantage to the UK system that when a British person falls ill they do not have to even think about where and how they will get treatment, or how they will pay for it. It’s universal.

Or it used to be. Bristol Southmead Hospital has changed all that.

I could go on about how easily this policy by North Bristol NHS Trust could be abused, could lead to tragedy. A story by Jack Montgomery at Breitbart UK did just that. But in a sense all that is just haggling over details: once it is established that the NHS is no longer universal, what is the point of it?

The National Health Service was meant to be like the justice system: no one can ever lose the protection of the laws, not proven criminals, not actual racists, and certainly not some shabby old man who has been waiting in Casualty for five hours and can’t stop himself blurting out some non-PC word because he is in pain.

On the other hand, in other contexts I have argued that state systems should drop their obsession with universality. When I was a teacher I saw how one feral child in a class in a state school could ruin the education of thirty other children. For a mess of perverse reasons the policy of putting them in “sin bins” was never applied wholeheartedly, and there are some children so monstrous that even the other denizens of the reformatory should be spared their company. Not to mention the teachers, many of whom quit the profession rather than having to face one more day trying to control these thugs. Whenever it was suggested that the state should simply cease the attempt to educate such children someone would wail, “We can’t just abandon them”. “We can and we should,” I would say. “If they make themselves so unpleasant that no one wants to teach them, no one should have to.”

So don’t those arguments also apply to NHS staff members and patients who find themselves cheek by jowl with some aggressive bigot spewing out obscenities? In this case I am not talking about people who are unjustly deemed to be racists or sexists (real though I think the threat of this happening is), I am talking about truly nasty people. I said one of the best aspects of state healthcare was that it is available to all. But my own words regarding state education, also meant to be available to all, come back to haunt me: if some people make themselves so unpleasant that no one wants to cure them, surely no one should have to.

What do you think?

People power!

“Commuters now physically dragging [Extinction Rebellion] protestors from the roof of the train”, reports ITV’s Holly Collins. If it will not cause a problem where you are for you to cheer out loud, watch that video.

A few points:

– There is some violence on both sides. Trumpian, I know, but there is. The Extinction Rebellion protester appears to be the first to kick someone, but then the crowd all pile on him at once. Don’t cheer that. But if Extinction Rebellion think “physical action” is allowed for them, why the hell shouldn’t physical action also be permitted to ordinary people? People trying to get to work from Canning Town Underground station at 7 a.m. do not generally have the sort of jobs where one can ring in and say, “I’ll work from home today”. They cannot afford to be late.

– Why are XR targeting Tube stations anyway? I thought public transport was supposed to be environmentally friendly. Update: It’s because there is an Emergency. Seriously, from their own website: “This morning (Thursday 17 October) a number of Extinction Rebellion UK affinity groups are peacefully disrupting the London Underground because there is an Emergency.” Not just any old emergency, one with a capital E.

Edit: There’s more! A longer video courtesy of “sid@1968Sid69” of the same incident from a different angle, showing the second Extinction Rebellion protester suffering what TV Tropes calls an “Oh, Crap!” moment and duly being pulled off the roof of the train in his turn.

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.

Discussion point: compulsory vaccination

Stop return of measles by making MMR jab compulsory, say GPs.

The Guardian headline makes it sound as if all GPs (General Practitioners) have said this. In fact only four named doctors are quoted, and when one reads the article the “compulsory” of the headline is not fully justified, but I think most GPs would agree with the government moving from a “nudger” to a shover on this issue.

The MMR jab should be compulsory for children before they are allowed to start primary school to stop the resurgence of measles and mumps, leading GPs are demanding.

Schools should ask all parents to prove their four- or five-year-old has had their two recommended doses of the vaccine before they can attend, they say in a letter to ministers seen by the Guardian.

They want school entry procedures toughened so that the only exceptions made to the new rule would be for children whose parents have registered a conscientious objection to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine or those whose health means they cannot have it.

The four London GPs, who include a former government adviser on health policy, have urged the health secretary, Matt Hancock, and the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, to embrace the proposed change in policy.

Many a libertarian shuffles their feet when questions of herd immunity come up. The ghost of Typhoid Mary laughs. What do you think?

You’ve heard of precrime. Meet preantipathy.

The concept of “Precrime” was introduced to the world by the science fiction author Philip K Dick, whose dystopian 1956 short story Minority Report became a film in 2002 and reality in 2020 according to precogs working for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

“New law needed to take on far-right extremism, says Blair thinktank”

A new law allowing for hate groups to be designated and punished before they turn to violence is needed in order to tackle far-right extremists, according to a report by Tony Blair’s thinktank, which also seeks powers to ban marches and media appearances.

Generation Identity, a racist movement that promotes a conspiracy theory that white people are being replaced by non-whites in Europe, would be among the groups targeted by new legislation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change report said.

The law could sit alongside proscription powers, banning groups concerned with terrorism, but would not be directly linked to violence or terrorism. Rather, it would designate hate groups as organisations that spread intolerance and antipathy towards people of a different race, religion, gender or nationality, the report said.

Antipathy? They want to introduce laws that “sit alongside” the laws (sinister enough themselves) that ban groups suspected of plotting acts of terrorism before they have actually committed a crime, including the crime of conspiracy. Only these new laws would pre-emptively ban groups who might want to spread a strong feeling of dislike before they did anything about it.

The authors acknowledge that the issue of linking violent and nonviolent extremism is contentious and steps would need to be taken to protect free speech.

Very droll.

Perils of alternate history wargaming

A father and son duo run a YouTube channel about historical tabletop wargaming called “Imperator Vespasian”. They run through demo games, talk about making and painting models and so on. Recently they were offline for about six months. They explain why in the following ten minute video:

“Unexpected side affects of Gaming! Channel update”

The two of them were creating a game called “A very British Civil War” set in an alternate-history 1938 in which Prime Minister Oswald Moseley was fighting to put down an anti-fascist rebellion. The British Union of Fascists was a playable faction. Here is a video they made about this game from six months ago.

Then the son’s school reported him to the police as a potential terrorist. Note that the father and son both say that the police were quite quick to realise that this case was not the best use of their time, and reserve their criticism for the school.

I am a little more sympathetic than are the “Imperator Vespasian” duo with the dilemma faced by schools over whether or not to bring the police in when they suspect a pupil is involved in crime as victim or perpetrator or both. The pair of them did make one unwise decision. Apparently their standard practice in their YouTube shows is to make announcements of what is happening in their games while “in character” for the various factions, with appropriate props as the backdrop. Fine when your prop is a medieval helmet, not so fine when it’s the lightning flash emblem of the BUF.

But was there really no one among the school staff who had ever wargamed? Or whose kids had wargamed, or whose kids’ friends had wargamed, or who was simply enough in touch with the lives of their male pupils to know that playing the Tyranids in Warhammer 40K does not mean you seek to literally devour all life? Given the nerdiness of historical tabletop gaming, I would have guessed that gamers were just as likely to end up as teachers as in the police force. So why did the police quickly get that this was fictional while the teachers did not?

Don’t think of it as a “power cut”, think of it as an “electricity holiday”

The BBC reports that the National Grid will “learn the lessons” after nearly one million people across England and Wales lost power on Friday.

But what lessons will those be?

The power outage happened at about 17:00 BST on Friday, National Grid said, with blackouts across the Midlands, the South East, South West, North West and north east of England, and Wales.

Industry experts said that a gas-fired power station at Little Barford, Bedfordshire, failed at 16.58, followed two minutes later by the Hornsea offshore wind farm disconnecting from the grid.

The National Grid director of operations quoted in this BBC article, Duncan Burt, has said that “he did not believe that a cyber-attack or unpredictable wind power generation were to blame”.

I do not know whether to disbelieve his disbelief. Those concerned with managing the UK’s power supply might have good reasons to keep mum about our vulnerability to cyber attack, and less good reasons for playing down the unpredictability of wind power.

Tim Worstall speculates,

One reading could be……wind farm closes down immediately as wind speed is too high. Gas plant on idle can’t spin up for some reason. Drax is low capacity because it’s burning wood chips, not coal.

On the cyber front, even if this power outage was entirely an Act of God in the insurance sense, the next one might not be. The bad guys have seen how much more damaging power cuts have become now that we are so reliant on the internet. As cashless payments become more common it will only get worse. I love cashless payments! What bliss to no longer have to worry about finding change when you’ve just found the last space in a crowded car park, manoeuvred into it with incredible difficulty while holding up the rest of the traffic, and only then remembered that you have to pay for the damn thing. But an entirely cashless society, as they seem to be moving towards in Sweden, might turn out to have its Orwellian nature tempered only by its lack of resilience.

A final observation: I have read a lot of comments from supporters of remaining in the European Union along the lines of “You think a few hours delay on the railways was bad? Just you wait until we leave the EU without a deal.” However, just as with the chaos caused by the Gatwick drone shutdown, that argument cuts both ways. All their frantic efforts to say “No Deal” must not be allowed to happen because it will cause vast queues at the ports and airports start to look a little silly when the same consequences seem likely to arise every time the wind surges or a cyber attacker gets lucky.

How to hand in your resignation

I thought about putting this in The Great Realignment, but the link to politics is slight. This is more about fantasy fulfilment. Have you ever dreamed of telling a bad boss what you think of him? Have you ever dreamed of telling the world what you think of your bad boss, shortly before making him your ex-boss? Meet Gareth Arnold, who until today seems to have handled the Twitter account for Jared O’Mara MP, regarded by all sides as the most useless MP in Parliament today. Actually as of now (20:36 BST) Mr Arnold still is handling Mr O’Mara’s account but Mr O’Mara may not be entirely happy with that.

The first indication that something was up came at 8:03. A tweet allegedly from Mr O’Mara said,

Jared O’Mara
@jaredomaramp

Comms Team signing off… forever: Jared, you are the most disgustingly morally bankrupt person I have ever had the displeasure of working with. You do not care about your constituents. You do not care about anyone but yourself.

Thick and fast they followed:

I cannot and will not defend you and your vile, inexcusable contempt for the people who voted you in. You selfish, degenerate prick.

*

My fear is that now (as I quit) the rest of the staff will leave and once again you will close your office and stop helping anyone but still take your wages until you have the decency to call a byelection.

*

Leaving constituents desperate for representation again. No matter if they are having their homes taken away, their liberaties disgraced or being deported because of your inaction.

*

Sheffield Hallam deserves so much better than you. You have wasted opportunities which people dare not to even dream of.

*

Consider this my resignation.

Thanks

Gareth Arnold
– @garetharnolduk

“GnasherJew” has archived the thread to keep it for posterity.

P.S. In other news, Boris Johnson will be made PM tomorrow.

What comes next after two?

Iran claims to have seized British oil tanker in strait of Hormuz

Second ‘British’ tanker ‘Mesdar’ seized near Iran after veering off course