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]

Who cares about what these old white men think in modern, progressive Scotland?

“Writing in Scottish Legal News today, Quis? – a group of senior retired lawyers who have held high office in Scotland – express concerns over the Crown Office’s behaviour during the Salmond inquiry and call for reform to prevent prosecutors from overstepping their role.”

I would imagine Scottish Legal News is usually rather a staid journal, of interest only to legal professionals and legal journalists. Give ’em the clicks, this is important.

For instance, this is a sinister development:

Contempt of court orders protecting the identity of witnesses and victims of crime were once a relatively unusual feature of our legal landscape. No more. At last count there were more than 400 such orders currently in force in Scotland alone.

and so is this:

When did Crown Office, our state prosecutors, become our state censors?

When did Crown Office get the power to tell anybody to keep their correspondence secret?

Some might reasonably ask if what has been going on has remarkable similarities to English ‘super injunctions’, where you can’t even publicise the fact that the injunction exists, and some might also reasonably ask if this is quite simply ‘bullying’ tactics in order to achieve the Crown Office objective of removal of material which Crown Office asserts is necessary for protecting identities.

That would be a perfectly legitimate objective – if it was right. It will be borne in mind, however, that in a recent high-profile prosecution for such a breach, 50 per cent of the material alleged by the Crown to amount to contempt was found by the court not to be a breach of the court order.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Konrad Adenauer, the first post-war West German chancellor, reportedly once said that people who own a detached house rarely become revolutionaries. Whether he actually said that or not, his government certainly acted upon it, facilitating large-scale housebuilding as a means to promote political and social stability (as well as, presumably, for the more self-interested motive of winning votes). The dictum also holds in reverse: if you deliberately wanted to alienate an entire generation and turn them against the market economy, creating a severely supply-constrained housing market like the British one is exactly the way you would do it.”

Kristian Niemietz

In case anyone brings this up, central bank money printing is a factor behind the inflation in residential prices (rents, mortgages) relative to post-tax income, but probably not the only factor. There’s also a rising population as birthrates are a touch above replacement level, immigration (although that might have changed a bit since the Brexit vote of 2016) and changed household composition (divorce, more people living in single-person units, etc).

Ideas are more powerful than armies – a tribute to Brian Micklethwait

I have often disagreed with Steve Baker as of late, but I must say this is good to see.

We need to listen to Black Lives Matter

We need to listen to BLM so we know what sort of people they are.

Janet Powe of BLM UK writes:

SEWELL COMMISSION WAS WRITTEN BY HOUSE SLAVES

Note for readers from outside the UK: a report recently issued by the government Commission for Race and Ethnic Disparities said that, although racism still remains in the United Kingdom, the UK’s relative success in removing race-based disparity in education and the economy “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”. The black man being called a “house slave” by Janet Powe is the Chair of the Commission, Dr Tony Sewell, an educational consultant and author.

A Cambridge professor of postcolonial studies, Dr Priyamvada Gopal, was also displeased by the report. Dr Gopal first questioned whether Dr Sewell really had a doctorate, and, when informed that he did, set a new standard for gracious acknowledgement of error by saying that “Even Dr Goebbels had a research PhD.”

A heretic speaks, the mob… cheers?

“Boris Johnson will be branded a Covid serial killer but no one will lay a glove on our bloated NHS”, writes Jeremy Clarkson in the Sunday Times.

Jeremy Clarkson that Jeremy Clarkson – is rich and famous and has a well-established persona as an opinionated loudmouth. He can get away with saying things that the ordinary man or woman could not get away with. Nonetheless, I wonder if he did not take a swig of liquid courage before typing this heresy:

All those things contributed to our high death toll, but none to quite the extent of the biggest problem. And this certainly won’t be raised in the inquiry. That the NHS is useless.

Oh I know you’re all flying those rainbow flags and that every night last year you went out and banged your saucepans together. So you don’t want to hear it. But you were clapping a big, stupid, expensive monster.

I’m not talking about the doctors and the nurses, of course. Many of them are far from useless. But the organisation they work for? Dear God in heaven, it’s so far past its sell-by date, you’d die from taking a single whiff of it.

The problem is simple. Unlike every successful entity, it does not exist to make money. It exists to spend it.

If he did, he didn’t have to. The Times commenters loved it. Here are the first sentences of the most recommended comments:

“Bullseye Mr Clarkson, and whilst the vast majority of care staff are acceptable, good or excellent, there is a significant minority who shouldn’t be in the job. Laziness being the main problem.”

“You are omitting the elephant in the room – hospital hygiene.”

“Clarkson is spot on. Abolish the NHS, it’s useless.”

“Nailed it. My heart sank the other day when I saw a survey which suggested that the NHS was the thing which made most Britons most proud.”

“JC is spot on. The NHS is a sacred cow and no politician would dare to challenge its behemoth incompetence as they’d be unelectable.”

“As a doctor of over 25 years I can sadly recognise this theme. The are a whole raft of people I work with that I can’t help but think “if their job didn’t exist it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference”.”

As ever, remember that Times commenters are not representative of the nation. They are not even representative of Times readers. But I do not think you would have seen that response from Times commenters to the opinion that the National Health Service is a “big, stupid, expensive monster” before the pandemic.

By the way, many of the comments go out of their way to express gratitude to NHS staff, and several of them say that the vaccine rollout has shown the NHS at its best. But in all the praise there is something reminiscent of the way Britons spoke of the British Empire in 1945. The Empire’s extent was never greater than in the year of victory. But they knew in their hearts it had to go.

Samizdata quote of the day

Yep, Deliveroo must be banned because consumers like it. That’s The Guardian we know and love, right?

Tim Worstall

Safely under supervision every minute of the day

“School almost ‘eliminates bullying’ with break-time ban on games”, the BBC reports.

A school claims to have almost eliminated bullying by banning games like football at break times.

Instead, students at Hackney New School participate in supervised quizzes, poetry recitals and other activities, including chess and choir clubs.

The school says there have been only five reports of bullying, including cyber bullying, in the last year.

Head teacher Charlotte Whelan said: “A school without bullying sounds like a utopia but it is achievable.”

I do not doubt that it is achievable. Greater safety from ever having a bad experience is always achievable – at the cost of being cut off from experiencing anything much at all.

The students, aged 11 to 16, are still taking exercise during breaks and PE lessons, but sports are “more structured” and supervised.

“The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving,” Ms Whelan said.

Rather than kicking a football around or jumping skipping ropes in the playground unsupervised, students practise sonnets by classic poets like Shelley and Tennyson or quiz each other on capital cities, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

At certain times when I was a schoolgirl I would have been glad to escape the cruelty and cold of the playground. It was nice when I got to the Lower Sixth and we were allowed to spend the lunch hour in a common room. Unprompted, we literally did have a phase when our favourite activity was to quiz each other on capital cities (Mongolia – Ulaan Bator, Botswana – Gaborone), and I would have welcomed a little more Shelley and Tennyson and a little less depressing modern poetry in my English lessons.

To give children the choice to engage in indoor and/or structured activities in their free time, whether because such activities are a safe harbour from bullies or just because these are the things they enjoy, is good. To deny them the chance to ever kick a ball and skip and play tag and scream and quarrel and make up without being under the eye of authority is inhuman.

It is not just unplanned social activities between groups of children that Ms Whelan wants to put a stop to; she also says she wants to be “doing more for pupils” in terms of preventing them from “aimlessly wandering the playground”. Heaven forbid that they have time to walk and think.

Edit: Several commenters have rightly said that to suffer bullying in childhood is a terrible thing that can have lifelong effects on the victims. But surely that is best answered by giving children as far as possible the chance to follow their own judgement as to where they are safest and happiest. The lunchtime club ceases to be a haven from bullies if the bullies are forced to be there too.

Back in 2003 Brian Micklethwait wrote about how well the children behaved in a voluntary karate class he observed.

What struck me, so to speak, about these “martial arts” classes was that although the children present may have supposed that all there were learning was how to be more violent, what they were really learning was no less than civilisation itself.

The children were all told to get changed into their Karate kit in an orderly fashion, and to put their regular clothes in sensible little heaps. They all lined up the way he said. They all turned up on time. They left the place impeccably clean when they’d finished, all helping to make sure that all was ship-shape and properly closed-up when they left.

Were these children being “coerced”? Certainly not. They didn’t have to be there, any more than The Man had to teach them Karate if he didn’t want to. If they wanted out, then out they could go, with no blots on their copybooks or markings-down on their CVs.

Samizdata quote of the day

Yet there has never been a more pressing time to engage with these issues in the classroom. If I were a teacher of Religious Studies, I would find it difficult to justify ignoring the question of the perceived conflict between religious faith and free speech, or not to discuss the murders of Samuel Paty and the satirists of Charlie Hebdo. While there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the potential offence that depictions of the Prophet Mohammed might cause, it is not a sufficient reason to avoid the topic altogether. I am sure that many pupils are disturbed by the anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda cartoons that are routinely included in history textbooks, but they serve an important function in the learning process. We know very little about the context in which the images of Mohammed were shown at Batley Grammar, but it is implausible that the teacher’s motives were anything other than educational.

Andrew Doyle

Discussion point: restrictions on elderly drivers

“Over-70s facing driving curfew in licence shake-up”, reports the Times.

Before you pile in, the headline is misleading. What is being proposed is actually a relaxation of existing regulations:

Over-70s in poor health may be allowed to continue driving if they agree to fit a tracking device restricting them to daylight hours near their home.

That could be liberating. Or it could be a Trojan horse. First elderly people with health problems, then elderly people in general and sick people in general… what other groups might the government decide need to be tracked?

Licences expire when drivers turn 70, and those wanting to keep driving must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of medical conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, diabetes — if it is treated with insulin — and any condition that affects both eyes or the total loss of sight in one eye. Reviews follow every three years.

Under the proposals discussed at a meeting this month between the DVLA and Driving Mobility, the official network of driving assessment centres, the over-70s could be eligible for “graduated driving licences”. These would potentially restrict them to a radius of 20 or 30 miles from home and bar them from night driving. They would apply only to those who would otherwise face losing their licence because of ill health.

Edward Trewhella, chief executive of Driving Mobility, said: “A lot of older drivers stick within their own locality — they go to the shop, the doctor’s surgery, go and see a granddaughter down the road, probably on minor roads with which they are familiar. This process would regularise that, and make it legal for them to do so as long as they didn’t take a trip outside of an area or outside of a time restriction. That would mean that they were driving safely within their familiar environment.”

For many elderly people, especially those who live where public transport is poor, the ability to drive is the difference between an active, sociable, productive life and imprisonment until death.

And yet –

Patricia Colquhoun, 69, lost her son, Neil, 28, when Turner Waddell, 90, a one-eyed retired GP with dementia, drove a mile the wrong way down a dual carriageway. Colquhoun, who lives in Hampshire, said the current system, which relies on self-referral, is flawed. “Nobody likes to say they’re old. They all say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’

The Streisand-Challenor effect

On the evening of the 22nd March, visitors to the main UK politics subreddit, /r/ukpolitics found a mysterious message saying that the subreddit, which has nearly 400,000 members, had been set to “private” by its own volunteer moderators.

It was the beginning of a cascade. The lights are going off all over Reddit! Subreddit after subreddit was set to private in sympathy with /r/ukpolitics. Most of them dealt with topics unrelated to politics. At its peak the wave of protest closures affected subreddits collectively having tens of millions of members all over the world.

To understand why this protest against Reddit by its own users gained such traction, we need to go back to the 8th of March when the Spectator published an article by its unlikeliest new writer, the radical left wing “gender critical” feminist Julie Bindel, called “The Green party’s woman problem”. It contained the lines,

The formidable feminist author and journalist Bea Campbell, a former Green party candidate, resigned from the party last year after being disciplined, in part for refusing to keep quiet about the shocking and disturbing Aimee Challenor case.

That brief reference to “the Aimee Challenor case” was to have dramatic consequences. A hyperlink on the word “case” linked in turn to this Independent article dated 13 January 2019:

Aimee Challenor: Green star failed to properly alert party of father’s child rape charges Independent investigation found transgender activist only alerted two colleagues in ‘informal’ Facebook message

Having parted ways with the Greens, Aimee Challenor joined the Liberal Democrats. Once again her association with the party ended as a result of child safeguarding issues related to someone with whom she lived. This time it was her fiancé Nathaniel Knight. He claims his twitter account was hacked.

A point to note: these events were widely reported. Given a prompt about a person who had left both the Greens and the Lib Dems under a cloud, anyone who follows UK political news would probably be able to dig up her name in half a dozen keystrokes.

Getting back to the main story, at about quarter to eleven on the morning of the 23rd, the ukpolitics subreddit reappeared. It now carried the following announcement:

→ Continue reading: The Streisand-Challenor effect

Samizdata quote of the day

We have so far “spent”, ie borrowed £410 billion to pay for the lockdown policy which was meant to “save the NHS”. Would anyone have agreed to that if they had known the cost? Vulnerable people could have been given a pension to stay at home and supplied by Ocado at a tiny fraction of the cost. We have shut down our society for the sake of a disease with a survival rate of over 99.5%. That is just decadent.

JohnK

Europe’s vaccine mental breakdown

“On the surface, it is hard to understand why the EU is resorting to such extreme measures. According to the consultancy firm Airfinity, even if the EU does ban exports, it will gain only an extra week of supply, while the British will lose two months. The political and economic price will be high. The EU will trash its reputation as a place in which to do business. Why base a plant in somewhere such as Leiden if the authorities will seize control of production lines whenever it is convenient? If these contracts get overridden by bureaucratic fiat, then so can any other agreement. (After all, if the AstraZeneca deal with the EU was legally binding, the company would have been hauled before a judge in Brussels by now.) The EU risks turning itself into a pirate state, for very little gain, which helps explain why smaller countries that depend on multinational investment, such as Ireland, have become nervous. Blind panic is the only explanation that makes sense.”

Matthew Lynn.

In the past, some classical free market types preferred that the UK stay in the EU as the lesser of two evils, and although I think they were misguided, I understood that basis of such a concern (loss of free movement, etc). Given the behaviour of the EU over vaccines, including an obvious contempt for private property, contracts and so forth, the classical liberal case for EU membership looks very ragged now. At the very least, the risk-reward trade-off of being in such a bloc must have shifted. I wonder whether one or more of the smaller nations might bug out if this sort of shit continues. And I am sure some Scottish voters, tempted by independence but concerned about what it means to stay in the EU and be under its single currency, are now thinking.