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]

Readers of the Times try to help Greta out

The problem:

Greta Thunberg stranded as climate summit moves from Chile to Spain

In the centuries before powered flight, getting from California to Madrid was an arduous business, necessitating a long yomp over the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains, and then a turbulent sea voyage across the Atlantic.

Greta Thunberg has 28 days.

The teenage climate activist and pioneer of “flight shame” has appealed for help to travel from Los Angeles to a UN climate summit in Spain without releasing so much as a wisp of unnecessary carbon dioxide.

In perhaps the sternest test of her convictions yet, she must complete the journey of at least 6,000 miles by rail, sail or electric car before December 2.

The solutions:

Richard77:

Perhaps she should consider using Skype.

Ian Howlett:

Just find a normal scheduled flight with an empty seat and get on. The plane will be leaving anyway, whether you’re on it or not.

Anthony Morris:

If it wasn’t so far she could just walk on the water .

A lot of politics consists of politicians doing one of these two things

Here.

In case the video at the other end of that link disappears, what we see is a guy on a railway platform bringing a train to a halt, with great effort. And then he gets it going again, with even more effort. (Except that the train was doing all of this anyway, under its own steam.)

What airports tell us about a police state

Kevin D Williamson doesn’t hesitate to put the boot in:

With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of their freedom of speech, herded around like livestock, and bullied by bovine agents of “security” in a theatrical process that has an 85 percent failure rate because it isn’t designed as a security-screening protocol at all but as a jobs program for otherwise unemployable morons.

Now, when I hear the words “otherwise unemployable morons,” I think of Robert Francis O’Rourke and his sad little presidential campaign, which suffered a little setback on Tuesday night when the gentleman who advertises himself as “Beto” tried out some tough-guy shtick on Pete Buttigieg, who is, whatever else you can say about him, a veteran of the Afghanistan campaign, one who rightly pointed out that he doesn’t have to prove his “courage” to the idiot son of a well-connected El Paso political family who has done almost nothing with his life other than show himself a reasonably effective fundraiser in the family business.

O’Rourke is a cretin, and an ambitious cretin at that. And what are his ambitions? Turning America into the airport.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

One incident of Sectarianism in Northern Ireland does stick in my mind – myself and a friend were dropping off a car at a “park and ride” in Belfast and went for a bus – I went to buy a ticket and the driver said “We are full”, the bus was half empty so I tried again and got “WE ARE FULL” as a reply, and the bus drove off.

I asked my friend what that was all about – and he said “it is your English accent” and when I questioned further I got the further information “the driver was clearly from the Nationalist Community”.

So there you are – my own “Rosa Parks” moment, except that the lady was told to sit at the back of the bus, whereas I was not allowed on the bus at all.

Paul Marks

Mercedes benz with the prevailing wind

The Mail can be a little sensationalist sometimes. I am hoping that some of our well informed and technically aware commenters will tell me that the following story is ridiculous:

How ALL cars could spy on you like Mercedes by 2022: EU plan could see location-tracking devices fitted in new vehicles despite privacy concerns

All new cars could be fitted with devices to track down drivers that are speeding, driving irresponsibly or have fallen behind on finance payments, under controversial new plans.

From 2022 the EU wants all cars made inside the Union to feature location-tracking devices so they can monitor speed, driving behaviour and whether motorists are using safety features properly.

The black boxes have sparked a privacy row with drivers concerned they are ‘being watched’, as trackers can be activated without their knowledge.

Yesterday Mercedes was at the centre of the uproar after bosses admitted all new and used cars sold by them are fitted with trackers.

A silly and alarmist piece, right? What is being proposed is beyond the capacity of current technology, surely? Not to mention legally out of the question, irrespective of whether Britain is in or out of the EU. That’s right, isn’t it, guys? Guys?

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.

A little phrase to look out for

The Times Saturday magazine features the latest of its series of quick interviews in which a famous person tells the readers “What I’ve learnt”. This one is with that fine actor, Jared Harris. Among the things that Mr Harris has learned and wants to pass on to the reader is that,

“We don’t have another planet. This is it. We’ve nowhere else to go. We’re going through a crisis of denial over climate science. A very small group of people are frustrating the political will to tackle it head on. But when people’s homes become uninhabitable, they will move somewhere else. If you think it’s awkward with tens of thousands of people at the southern border of the US or with a couple of hundred thousand at the borders of the EU, what are you going to do when a couple of hundred million are on the move?”

Very stirring. But I could not help noticing that the little potted biography of Mr Harris at the top of the page says this:

The British actor Jared Harris, 57, played Lane Pryce in Mad Men, King George VI in The Crown and Valery Legasov in Chernobyl, for which he has been nominated for an Emmy. He is one of three sons by the notorious hell-raiser Richard Harris and his wife Elizabeth Rees-Williams. He splits his time between New York and Los Angeles with his third wife, Allegra.

New York and Los Angeles are 2,790 miles apart by road, and 2,450 miles apart by air. It’s a fifty-hour drive, so I think we can safely assume that Mr Harris travels between his two bases by air. Compared to most people’s, his personal carbon footprint is more like a personal carbon Tunguska crater. It must be hard to juggle the claims of a far-flung family and a demanding acting career, so I do not begrudge Mr Harris his air miles. But going from what he said, he begrudges me mine.

When reading the views of celebrities on the environment it is always worth looking out for the words “splits his time” or “divides her time” or equivalents thereof. I first saw this pointed out on a Biased BBC post back in November 2009, about a model called Helena Christensen who held an exhibition of pictures she had taken to document climate change and divided her time between Copenhagen and New York, with occasional side trips to Essex to see her agent.

Boastful Boris’s big bad boondoggle

So, Boris wants to build a new railway line. Between Leeds and Manchester. He says he wants it to do “…what we did with Crossrail in London”. An interesting argument given that the only thing the still-unopened Crossrail has done so far is saddle the people of the South with some very big bills.

But that aside, there really is an awful lot of woolly-headed thinking going on here.

First of all there is the idea that the North should be as rich as the South; that “our” economy needs “rebalancing”, as the saying goes.

But should it? Maybe there are reasons the North is poorer than the South. There was a time – during the Industrial Revolution – when the opposite was the case. Probably due to presence of coal mines and ports. But historically, that was the exception. Historically, London has always been the richest part of the British Isles – doubtless due to its proximity to the Continent.

For how long have I heard politicians going on about doing something for the North? As long as I can remember. Surely, you get to a point when you realise that nothing can be done? Maybe the best option is rather than moving the jobs to the people to move the people to the jobs. Except you can’t because no one can afford to live down South because the government won’t allow anyone to build a house.

Western civilisation will end if anything is built on this land. Oh, it already has. OK, OK, some housing is getting built but very little.

Secondly, we have the idea that the government can do infrastructure. This is not completely stupid. A new rail line can make a profit. But typically it is the owners of land near the stations that gain and not the rail company. This is how Japan’s bullet trains got going with the first line being built between Japan’s biggest city, Tokyo, and its second biggest, Osaka. It was probably – I don’t think anyone was counting – a success. But the problem was that after that everywhere – from Nowhereyama to Nowhereshima – wanted a bullet train. And through the wonder that is that state, they got them. That’s a lot of debt.

Thirdly, we have the idea that railways are the answer to… well… anything really. Actually, I am being unfair. Nowadays, what railways are good at is moving large quantities of people or goods from one point to another. They are great for commuting in large cities. They are great for intercity travel [so long as the total journey time is less than three hours at which point aircraft are better]. They are great at moving huge quantities of grain from Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the St Lawrence. But for everything else they’re useless. There was a time when railways were the national transport. But those days are long gone. Nowadays they are niche players. Roads are better.

It occurs to me that it’s just possible – and I cleave to this hope – that Johnson’s announcement is part of the plan to cancel HS2. “HS2 is a marvellous idea but, zoinks! it’s expensive. Look at Leeds – Manchester. A much better bet. This shows this government’s commitment to rail, blah, blah, blah…”

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

A Brexit photo

Today I was at Euston tube station, and found myself admiring the antique signage on one of the platforms, the Northern Line I think, done with painted tiles, rather than with a printing press or with electronic wizardry as is the way such things are done now. Way Out signs are not what once they were. So out came my camera.

At this point I realised that there was some weekend, Brexit-related fun to be had, by including also part of the bit where it said, in much bigger letters, “EUSTON”:

If only the way out of the EU was turning out to be as simple as exiting from Euston tube station.

Like Top Gear but not funny

The Times reports,

Son travels 170 miles and beats ambulance to injured mother

In a race between a man travelling 170 miles by public transport and an ambulance starting ten minutes’ drive away, most people would have backed the ambulance.

Mark Clements assumed as much when he left his home in London to help his injured mother in Devon, but when he arrived after four hours she was still on the floor and the ambulance had not yet arrived.

Mr Clements caught a bus, the London Underground and two trains from London to Exmouth on Saturday after his mother fell and broke her hip. The first 999 call was made at 9am but paramedics did not arrive until seven hours later.