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]

We are all Uighurs now.

The ramblings of our Prime Minister this evening, no data, no projections, no reasoning other than the projected incompetence of our nationalised health care system, no laws cited (but they are there), and have been since 10th February 2020, backed up by threats and fear-mongering, announcing restrictions on the UK in an echo of what the Chinese Communist Party is imposing on Uighurs, evidence the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party in crushing the West, without (and indeed on account of not) lifting a finger.

And yet the borders remain open, as far as we know, to flights from hotspots such as China, Italy, Spain and Iran. This has all been thought through, and Johnson is content that it be so, is he being played or a player? if we wanted loo roll shortages and economic chaos and inflation we’d have voted in Corbyn last December, a man who is in power in terms of outcomes, but is not in office.

Let us follow the righteous policy of Iran

Postrel’s kidney lasted Satel 10 years. By the time her immune system rejected it, aged 60, she had found another donor. Satel is now on her third right kidney and is feeling fine.

She was fortunate – twice. But as a policy expert the experience left Satel deeply dissatisfied with a system that relies on luck and the kindness of strangers. The reason so few kidneys are available for transplant, she contends, is that under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, paying for organs is illegal.

The US is not exceptional – Iran is the only country that allows such transactions and it has no kidney shortage. Satel is not advocating an Iranian-style market for body parts.

But I am.

By the way, the “Postrel” mentioned as having given Sally Satel her first donated kidney is Virginia Postrel, whose writing will be familiar to many of you.

Bringing a criminal to justice at the cost of telling their victims what they would rather not have known

A horrible thought occurred to me while reading press accounts of the recent trial and conviction of Reynhard Sinaga, who may have been Britain’s most prolific rapist.

Sinaga’s modus operandi was as follows:

He would wait for men leaving nightclubs and bars before leading them to his flat, often offering them somewhere to have a drink or call a taxi. Giving them a drugged drink, believed to have been spiked with GHB, Sinaga would then assault the victims while they were unconscious and video the attack with a mobile phone.

In this fashion he got away with more than a hundred rapes because his victims did not know they had been raped. Finally,

In June 2017, his last victim, an 18-year old, regained consciousness during the rape, fought off his attacker, and reported the incident to the police. Sinaga was badly beaten and was taken to hospital, while police initially arrested his victim on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. Subsequent examination of Sinaga’s iPhone by the police led to the discovery of more than 3 terabytes of digital video evidence of his assaults and rapes. Many of his victims were traceable because Sinaga kept their phones, watches, ID cards, etc., and he had used social media to reach his unknowing victims online.

Note the word “unknowing”. The horrible thought that occurred to me was this: some (not all, but a substantial number) of Sinaga’s victims have said that their lives were seriously damaged by the police tracing them and telling them that they had been raped while drugged and unconscious. They would have preferred not to know. More painful yet, the fact that they had been raped became public knowledge at the trial. But if the police had not traced Sinaga’s victims and marshalled the evidence against him for the judge and the jury to see, he would have been able to continue with his crimes indefinitely.

In the end, I would say that in Sinaga’s case the public interest had to take precedence: he had to be stopped. Yet I think that situations could occur where it might be justifiable to let a criminal go unpunished in order to save his or her unknowing victims from the pain of discovering that they had been wronged.

If women own their bodies they can choose to modify them

The BBC reports,

Calls for ‘virginity repair’ surgery to be banned

Campaigners are urging the government to outlaw “virginity repair” surgery.

Many Muslim women risk being outcast, or in extreme cases killed, if their spouses or families discover they have had sex before marriage.

And some are opting for a medical procedure in which doctors restore a layer of membrane at the entrance to the vagina.

But there are concerns a ban would increase the dangers to Muslim women by driving the procedure underground.

Guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) state a patient’s consent to undergo a procedure should come into question if it is suspected of being “given under pressure or duress exerted by another person”.

Those GMC guidelines are correct. Forcing a woman to have her hymen repaired is a serious crime, as is threatening her with violence because she had sex outside marriage to get it broken in the first place. That violent threats so often go unpunished is a national scandal.

But the fact remains that most women who go to have their hymens repaired want it done. In less drastic cases they want the procedure for such reasons as to get and keep a husband, to avoid letting their parents know that they no longer adhere to traditional Muslim mores, or to avoid a breach with their husband’s family. You may say that it is a bad thing that such crushing social pressure for a bride to be a virgin remains prevalent in some communities in the UK. But the principle that an adult human being owns their own body does not cease to apply because he or she gives in to social pressure. Plenty of women get boob jobs and bum lifts because of social pressure, too. Are these bad decisions? Possibly. Cosmetic surgery has risks. But good or bad, the decision is theirs to make.

In more drastic cases women want their hymens repaired because it is the only way to protect themselves from the twisted “honour” of their fathers and husbands. Of course no woman should have to resort to such desperate measures in order to be safe from murder. But what sort of idiocy is it to see a person taking extreme measures to protect themselves from murder and then to think the course of action that best serves justice is to prosecute the victim – or the surgeon who is helping her keep safe?

The usual sort, unfortunately.

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.

Our ‘Stasi’ face a legal challenge – ‘The right to be offended does not exist’ says a High Court Judge.

A Lincolnshire businessman (and former police officer), Mr Harry Miller, has sought a judicial review of one of the more sinister aspects of current policing, the recording of ‘hate incidents’ by the police even when there is no offence (on their own admission). The case is ongoing, and a report in The Telegraph (paywall of sorts) indicates that the judge made a remark that might indicate that he was surprised at the position of the ‘College of Policing’, one of those quangos that isn’t needed and might even have been invented to hammer nails in to the coffin of the liberties of Englishmen.

The “right to be offended” does not exist, a judge has said, as the High Court hears that British police forces are recording hate incidents even if there is no evidence that they took place.

The College of Policing, the professional body which delivers training for all officers in England and Wales, issued their Hate Crime Operational Guidance (HCOG) in 2014, which states that a comment reported as hateful by a victim must be recorded “irrespective of whether there is any evidence to identify the hate element”.

Mr Justice Knowles expressed surprise at the rule, asking the court: “That doesn’t make sense to me. How can it be a hate incident if there is no evidence of the hate element?”. Mr Justice Knowles made the remark on the first day of a landmark legal challenge against guidelines issued to police forces across the country on how to record “non-crime hate incidents”.

He added: “We live in a pluralistic society where none of us have a right to be offended by something that they hear.

“Freedom of expression laws are not there to protect statements such as ‘kittens are cute’ – but they are there to protect unpleasant things.

“Its utility lies in exposing people to things that they do not want to hear.”

I note that the BBC takes a different line on the case, highlighting the following:

He (Mr Miller) previously described police as using George Orwell’s novel 1984 as an “operating manual”.

His barrister, Ian Wise QC, told the court his client was “deeply concerned” about proposed reforms to the law on gender recognition and had used Twitter to “engage in debate about transgender issues”.

Mr Wise said Humberside Police had also sought to “dissuade him from expressing himself on such issues in the future”.

This, he said, was “contrary to his fundamental right to freedom of expression”.
Mr Miller has “never expressed hatred towards the transgender community”, he said.

“He has simply questioned the belief that trans women are women and should be treated as such for all purposes.”
His views, he added, “form part of a legitimate public debate and cannot sensibly be regarded as ‘hate speech'”.

In response, Jonathan Auburn, for the College of Policing, said: “While the claimant now expressly disavows having any personal hostility or prejudice towards transgender people, his social media messages speak for themselves.”

In one tweet, he said Mr Miller posted: “I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me.”

It strikes me that Counsel for the ‘College’ is not making a legal point there, but is trying to stretch a factual one, and conflating incredulity with hostility.

At last, someone is taking on the PC State. The case continues. It could set a most welcome precedent on this issue, but it would need the Court of Appeal to rule on the issue to make a generally-binding precedent for England and Wales.

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?

The Anti-Saloon League is back

“Prohibition showed bans can be good for us”, writes David Aaronovitch in the Times. Unironically. He means it. He thinks Prohibition was good and wants it back. I suppose it was ever thus; it is like the way that when the people who remember the last banking crash die the banks start crazy lending again.

Mr Aaronovitch writes,

Your mental charge sheet against prohibition may well include the accusation that it didn’t get rid of drinking but sent it underground; that the resulting appetite for “bootlegged” liquor led to the rise of organised criminal syndicates, Al Capone, the mob and the St Valentine’s Day massacre; that it helped to make corrupt hypocrites out of public servants; that the rich were able to indulge while the poor were criminalised.

Why yes, it does.

And after just a few years the Americans saw what a disaster it was and repealed it. It may not improve your view of it to know that the Ku Klux Klan were very much in favour of prohibition.

That does not surprise me.

Strangely though, the one question that almost no one seems to ask of this epic public health measure is whether or not it actually improved public health. Yet it doesn’t take much digging into the available statistics to discover that it did — quite a lot, in fact.

Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to all kinds of adverse health conditions. The most obvious is alcoholic cirrhosis (or scarring) of the liver. In 1911 the death rate for cirrhosis among American men was nearly 30 per 100,000. By 1929 that had been reduced by more than 30 per cent. Registered admissions to mental hospitals for psychosis linked to alcohol more than halved. Even by 1933, when Volstead was revoked, alcohol consumption had gone down by a third since pre-prohibition. Whatever Mark Twain may have written, prohibition saved many, many lives.

The commenters made several good points to contradict that assertion. Some pointed out that in the same period alcohol consumption also went down other countries, including the UK, where alcohol continued to be legal. Bryan Dale said, “If prohibition reduced alcohol consumption by a third that can hardly be called a success. It was supposed to eliminate it entirely after all. With 2/3 as much alcohol being illegally consumed as had been done legally before prohibition, the impact on respect for the law must have been dreadful.” Others described well-stocked drinks cabinets in modern Saudi Arabia, or the way that the type of alcohol consumed shifts from beer to spirits when it must be sold and transported illegally.

I expect readers of this site can supply many other historical and factual arguments. All I will say is that there is a void at the heart of the passage I quoted above. Mr Aaronovitch never even questions the assumption that it is for him and people like him to decide what other human beings may or may not put in their own bodies.

Another unfortunate speaks

A few months back I posted about the conflict between feminists and strippers at the Spearmint Rhino strip club in Sheffield.

Writing in the Guardian, Kate Lister both provides an update on that dispute and brings up a fascinating parallel from a hundred and sixty years ago:

Today’s sex workers, like their Victorian sisters, don’t want ‘saving’

In a series of letters written to the Times in 1858, an anonymous sex worker, referring to herself as “Another Unfortunate”, challenges the widespread assumption that all sex workers are an “abandoned sisterhood”. The tone of Another Unfortunate is defiant, proud and attacks the paternalistic moralising of the groups who wish to save her.

I had no idea that such things were allowed to be said in the Times in 1858. I suspect it would not have been allowed in 1958.

That Which Shall Not Be Named

It waits. It hungers. In its tenebrous embrace all memories, all identities, all names are lost. What was once known becomes unknown.

And a jolly good thing too, that’s what I say.

The Scottish government’s creepy Named Person Scheme has been fed to Azathoth, the BBC reports.

An earlier post of mine called “Sixty pages” described one father’s experience of the pilot scheme:

The surviving extracts appeared to indicate that the minutiae of his family life had been recorded in painstaking detail for almost two years, under a Named Person scheme which has been introduced in his part of the country ahead of its final roll-out across all of Scotland in August. A separate note made by the Named Person charged with keeping an eye on the academic’s two little boys was concerned with nappy rash.

Rob Fisher also wrote about it here: What the GIRFEC?

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.

Keeping the poor from wealth and the sick from health

“Bulgarian authorities bust gang suspected of illegal organ trading”, reports the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

Bulgarian law enforcement authorities have dismantled a four-member organized criminal group suspected of illegal human organs trading, an official said here on Friday.

Two of the gang members were arrested on Tuesday evening when they were trying to leave the country at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the border with Turkey, and the other two were detained later, Siyka Mileva, a spokesperson for the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office, said at a press conference.

The evidence gathered so far indicates that the gang has been active since Feb. 2019, recruiting donors and recipients of kidneys, and transporting them to a clinic in Turkey where transplantations were performed, Mileva said.

All the criminals, donors and recipients are Bulgarian citizens, she said.

The recipients paid the gang between 50,000 euros and 100,000 euros (55,500 to 111,000 U.S. dollars) for a kidney, of which from 5,000 euros to 7,000 euros were paid to the donors, and the surgery cost between 20,000 euros and 25,000 euros, Mileva said.

The donors were of low social status, she added.

Thanks to the splendid work of the Bulgarian authorities their low social status will now be lower still, as in “criminal”. The people who needed the kidneys will have their status changed from “sick” to “sick and in jail”.

I first heard this story on the radio. Unfortunately I cannot remember which station I was listening to, but I do remember that the report specifically said that all the participants, including the would-be donors, were willing participants in the exchange of kidneys for money. Both sides were better off in their own judgement; the poor wealthier, the sick healthier. This evil had to be stopped.