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]

Samizdata quote of the day

In the NHS, unforeseen demand simply results in more queuing and rationing. Given that budgets are largely fixed by the political process, and resources are allocated to different parts of the service based on highly speculative demand estimates, deviations in demand can lead to acute shortages.

Of course, on the margin, having more resources can help. An NHS awash with cash would no doubt be under less pressure than it is today. But no reasonable amount of funding would solve these structural economic realities entirely.

There is a reason the NHS has these winter crises regularly, and other countries do not

Ryan Bourne

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is conceivable that Mrs May could, with Labour support, push such a half-baked Brexit though Parliament. But her party would be finished. For most of its advocates on the Government benches, Brexit is about global free trade or it is nothing. Leaving the single market is not enough; Britain must also regain the power to trade freely with the rest of the world. Anything less would not just be a monumental betrayal but would tear the Conservatives apart. The party split in 1846 after the Corn Laws were repealed; it would surely do so again if Mrs May sells out her Brexiteers.”

Allister Heath

Thank goodness so many people have university degrees

In 1820, the vast majority of people lived in extreme poverty and only a tiny elite enjoyed higher standards of living. Economic growth over the last 200 years completely transformed our world, with poverty falling continuously over the last two centuries. This is even more remarkable when we consider that the population increased 7-fold over the same time. In a world without economic growth, an increase in the population would result in less and less income for everyone. A 7-fold increase in the world population would be potentially enough to drive everyone into extreme poverty. Yet, the exact opposite happened. In a time of unprecedented population growth, we managed to lift more and more people out of poverty.

[…]

Despite the clear evidence, many people are not aware of the fact that extreme poverty is declining across the world. The chart below shows the perceptions that survey-respondents in the UK have regarding global achievements in poverty reductions. While the share of extremely poor people has fallen faster than ever before in history over the last 30 years, the majority of people in the UK thinks that the opposite has happened, and that poverty has increased!

The chart below presents evidence from a survey in the UK, but ignorance of global development is even greater in other countries that were also surveyed. The extent of ignorance in the UK is particularly bad if we take into account that the shown result corresponds to a population with a university degree.

Max Roser & Esteban Ortiz-Ospina

The pitchforks are out for Count Dankula

“M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi.” That link takes you to a video in which a man who wished to annoy his girlfriend trained her cute pug to lift its paw in a “Nazi salute” in response to Nazi slogans. Well, it used to. At present for me it takes me to a video of a black screen saying “This video is not available in your country”. Mark Meechan, the man who made the video, is from Scotland and I am in England, but I do not think that explains it.

From the Telegraph‘s account and even more from a swing round Mr Meechan’s “Count Dankula” YouTube channel, it does sound as if his humour tends towards the crass and tasteless. But do these words from the beginning of the video sound to you like the voice of a man committed to the triumph of Nazism?

The court heard that at the start of the clip, he said: “My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

In the video, the dog is seen perking up when it hears the statements and appears to lift its paw to the “Sieg Heil” command in the video, which has now been viewed more than million times.

Mr Meechan is currently on trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court for committing a hate crime. If convicted he faces up to a year in prison. The verdict was due two days ago but has been delayed for reasons unknown.

One of the more detailed reports on the case came from the Washington Post:

The dog is also seen watching a Hitler rally during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The dog appears to raise its paw when Hitler proclaims “Sieg Heil.”

“Who’s a good wee Nazi?” Meechan praised the dog.

The video ricocheted around the Internet and has now been viewed more than 3 million times. Some found it amusing; others feel it was crude and anti-Semitic, including a woman who Meechan says confronted him, then spread dog feces on his front door.

Prosecutors say it’s a hate crime.

That April, soon after the video was posted, police knocked on Meechan’s door in Coatbridge, a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, he told Alex Jones. The officers told him that he was being charged with a hate crime and that the video could be seen as promoting violence against Jews. They told him to change his clothes, took pictures of his apartment and hauled him off to jail.

He spent a night there and is now on trial for violating the Communications Act of 2003, which prohibits using public telecommunications to send discriminatory religious messages.

Who Dares Wins (Arts Council Edition)

When it came out a couple of weeks ago, I managed to miss this gem from the Guardian’s “Associate Editor, Culture”, Claire Armitstead.

Literary fiction is in crisis. A new chapter of funding authors must begin

Unlike the performing arts, publishing has always been a largely commercial sector that has had to square its own circles. This is reflected in the fact that it gets only 7% of the funding cake handed out by the Arts Council, compared with 23% to theatre and 11% to dance.

Most of that money has gone to support publishers who produce poetry and literature in translation, which have never been able to pay their way. So there will be blood on the carpet if existing resources are shifted to support literary novelists.

There will be those who argue that this just shows that literary fiction is a hangover from the past, and the poor dears should knuckle down and resign themselves to writing what people actually want to read. But few would dare to make the same argument about experimental theatre or dance.

A number of the comments may have helped Ms Armitstead revise upwards her estimate of the audacity of readers outside the literary elite. A sentence or two later she makes one of the most pathetic cases for subsidy I have ever seen:

Moreover, research from the New School for Social Research in New York last year suggested that literary fiction has a measurable social value, increasing empathy levels in readers where more popular forms of genre fiction do not.

It seems unkind to the readers of literary fiction to say that they in particular are in such dire need of an injection of empathy as to justify a targeted intervention. But her profession has obliged Ms Armitstead to live at close quarters with this reclusive and marginal tribe for many years and no doubt she knows their character better than I do.

More recently, the author and occasional Guardian columnist Tim Lott shot back, which is how I came to see the earlier piece. He writes,

Why should we subsidise writers who have lost the plot?

This would not be uncommon. Worrying about plot and story has long been unfashionable on the literary scene. Style and voice are what gathers plaudits. Martin Amis wrote: “If the prose isn’t there, then you’re reduced to what are merely secondary interests, like story [and] plot.” Edna O’Brien suggested plot was for “silly boys”, which might explain why men in particular are reluctant to buy literary novels.

It might also explain why, when I went to teach postgraduate students at the University of East Anglia – the foremost writing course in the country – about the fundamentals of plot, I was astonished to discover that these superbly talented young writers knew nothing whatsoever about it after years of studying the form.

Mr Lott is within the subsidy-bubble himself, hence his surprise that those studying creative writing at university were unaware of such vulgar skills as making a plot. But at least he’s in the bubble looking out.

Parasites invading Houses of Parliament – DO SOMETHING!!!

Shocking news, despite the best efforts of voters over the years, and repeated manifesto promises, and reform of the House of Lords, all of which has been to no avail, parasites are invading the Houses of Parliament.

As Oliver Cromwell put it:

You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

My 2017 in London photos

This posting may not see the light of day until tomorrow, or worse, because this evening I have a date at Chateau Samizdata to see in the New Year. But, I will now try to get it posted before the end of the year that it is retrospectively about. And yes, it’s one of those month-by-month photo-postings, one photo for each month.

Unlike, say, Michael Jennings, I not only live in London but spend almost all of my time in London, and I spend a lot of that time wandering about in London, taking photos of London’s architecture, of its adverts, of its other photographers, and of its many other oddities, such as this one:

I love to discover out of the way spots in London, spots that others don’t know about, but which, if they did, they might enjoy greatly, almost as much as I do. That strange and rather funny sculpture (be patient with this link (to my personal blog) – I do believe it worth the wait), which I photoed in January of 2017, is to be found beside the River Lea, just before it does a kink on its way south. It’s a hard place to describe, because if you look on Google Maps there is little of note in the area. The best I can do is to say that to get to this place, I went to Bromley-by-Bow tube station, went east across the River Lea and then went south, past big warehouses, of the sort that have become so important in this age of computerised shopping. There’s a big Amazon shed there, for instance.

The above sculpture concerns itself with the more regular sort of shopping, and what with it being the work of an artist, she thinks that it criticises such shopping. Materialism, the badness of capitalism, consumerism, blah blah. But to me it looks more like a celebration of shopping. Whatever it “is”, I like it.

Next up, a photo which notes the fact that exactly a hundred years ago from this year, there was that Revolution, in Russia. I didn’t visit the exhibition that this poster advertises, because I feared that too many of the exhibits would be celebrations of that disastrously destructive event, and would hence annoy me. But I did photo the advert:

Thank goodness for the movie The Death of Stalin, which came out later this year, and which I did see. That is very comical, but it is anything but a celebration of Soviet communism. The horrors are not wallowed in photographically, but they are portrayed, in the form of the terror felt by all those who had anything to do with Stalin, and in the form of all the absurd events that Stalin’s most casual instructions were liable to set in motion. Although I promise nothing, I hope to be writing more here about that movie.

March, and more politics, this time in the form of a big anti-Brexit demo that I chanced upon, in Parliament Square:

It’s tempting to mock this demo as a complete farce. It happened, after all, several months after the Brexit referendum had yielded its result. But although a demo like this attracts little public notice, given that the vote it denounced was, you know, a vote, such demos do still accomplish quite a lot. There is more to politics than mere voters merely voting. Demos, much like indoor meetings (of the sort I continue to hold every month in my own home), strengthen the personal relationships which add up to a political movement, and draw more adherents to the cause, whatever it is. Thanks to this effort, and many other less photogenic efforts, the anti-Brexiteers have been able to put all sorts of political barriers in the way of Brexit, to spread all sorts of doubts in the minds of waverers. I still don’t think they will accomplish their central goal, but they are putting up quite a fight.

→ Continue reading: My 2017 in London photos

Samizdata quote of the day

This was a real threat to the press, and our #FreeThePress campaign urged citizens to say No to both prospects. Section 40 would mean strong-arming newspapers into signing up to a press-backed regulator – ending centuries of a (relatively) free press. What’s more, the only press regulator that has been approved by the Leveson-created Press Recognition Panel is Impress, which is staffed by snobbish ‘hackademics’ and funded by tabloid-loathing millionaire Max Mosley.

Naomi Firsht

The police hit-job on Damian Green

Matthew Parris recently, in the Times (registration required):

The media and political world is in a lather about whether the (now) de facto deputy prime minister once accessed pornography in his office. Here I am, fretting — some will say nitpicking — about whether it was appropriate for a now-retired Metropolitan Police officer (1) to have gathered and kept what he claims to be the evidence for these allegations, though there is no suggestion the law was broken; (2) to have disobeyed orders by keeping the evidence; and (3) nine years later to have put the allegations into the public domain.

My acquaintance with Damian Green is slight. He strikes me as one of those necessary second-rank men (in a world of third and fourth-rank men) who combine a useful level-headedness with a dispiriting blandness: podgy and unflappable, with the advantage at least — a quality in a Tory MP to be fallen on with relief — of not being mad. So my strong sense of injustice in this case has little to do with the merits of Mr Green and everything to do with what looks like a co-ordinated police vendetta against a politician they’ve clashed with.

He concludes:

When it comes to issues of rumour and reputation I’m no dry rationalist. Every journalist knows that the appearance of things does matter, and that stern logic cannot always rescue a wounded public figure. We know too that “process” stories often fail to hold public attention, and this column’s complaint about the abuse of police powers is essentially a process story.

But behind process may lie principle. What Damian Green was alleged to have watched might be thought disgusting, but what two former Met officers have been up to is little short of sinister. Disgust can rule the headlines and may win the day, but former police officers are trying to destroy a senior minister with whom they have clashed. This is London, not Chicago. Parliamentarians, in retreat for a decade now, should unite to push back.

I hold no particular brief for Mr Green; I disagree with him on Brexit. It actually worries me that some Brexiters I know are almost gloating that a pro-Remain senior Tory has had to resign after giving, it is said, less-than-truthful answers about the matter of his computer, but the fact remains that, as Parris says, evidence gathered in a decade-ago investigation, and not remotely connected to it, was brought up for no other reason than I can think of to embarrass and damage an elected politician. The ex-copper in question, who appears to nurse a grudge, seems, as Parris says, to be arguing not that what Green did was illegal, but improper. So we are getting into the murky territory of police officers taking moral stands, they claim, about what a democratically elected political figure does. (See here, for a version of events in the Guardian.)

I remember in the early days of this blog that we sometimes used to refer to the UK police as the “paramilitary wing of the Guardian newspaper”, more concerned about enforcing PC doctrines, or chasing after real or alleged bogeymen of the Right, such as those saying mean things about homosexuals, Muslims, etc, than catching crooks. The recent period post the Jimmy Savile fiasco (a paedophile who preyed on people for decades) seems to have seen the police morph, perhaps out of guilt about failing to nail the old BBC presenter, into a hyperactive pursuer of alleged perverts, with due process of law taking a back seat. The recent shabby treatment of Sir Cliff Richard, the entertainer, is an example of where this sort of zeal leads.

As an aside, it appears that the Tory Party, in its enfeebled parliamentary state, is or has been unwilling to clamp down on the police, to insist on reforms and push back against the assault on Common Law principles of fairness and due process. The Met are not necessarily part of any sort of Deep State (conspiracy theory alert!) taking root but they are certainly showing a level of presumption that is dangerous in a liberal order. The police are, in some respects, out of control, and need to be reined in. Just imagine the damage that can be done if police are emboldened to chase after enemies if or when Mr Corbyn and his re-heated Marxist allies take office. Something to think about for 2018.

Signs perhaps of MPs waking up to the problem.

 

All together now: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

Sorry for the unoriginal choice of title. This is about the fourth Samizdata post with a title related to that slogan, and the umpteenth to mention it. Don’t blame us. If the authorities would stop repeatedly proving that slogan to be a cruel travesty, we would be happy to stop going on about it.

Until that day arrives, the Guardian has a good report on the latest example of what innocent people have to fear:

Police made ‘appalling’ errors in using internet data to target suspects

Police have made serious errors getting search warrants for suspected sex offenders, leading to the targeting of innocent people and children being wrongly separated from their parents, an official report has revealed.

The errors – highlighted by the interception of communications commissioner, Sir Stanley Burnton, in his annual report to the prime minister – had “appalling” consequences and related to some of the most intrusive powers the state can use against its citizens.

In one example, two children were separated from their parents for a weekend while the parents were questioned as suspects in a child sexual exploitation case. It later emerged that police had raided the wrong address due to an error on the documentation and the parents were innocent.

Digital devices belonging to innocent people were also forensically examined by police, Burnton said.

The errors identified were mainly because details were wrongly entered into software that helps police work out the location where a specific IP (internet protocol) address has been used.

But IP addresses are routinely reassigned by internet providers. Burnton warned investigators not to rely on them when trying to work out who is hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to commit crimes.

He wrote: “These [errors] are far more common than is acceptable, especially in cases relating to child sex exploitation. The impact on some victims of these errors has been appalling.”

Samizdata quote of the day

The BBC were interviewing an ex police officer today who was complaining that it wasn’t their fault because of “cuts” and they couldn’t resource their investigations properly. This is nonsense. The cases were assigned an investigation officer. He – or she – failed to do their job properly. They also don’t need “resources” to forward all of the evidence to the defence team. They fucked up. This has much to do with politicising the police and the culture in which they now operate. They have gone from not believing the “victim” to believing them unconditionally. Somewhere along the way, they lost the ability to conduct an impartial investigation of all of the relevant evidence. To do this they need to take a neutral stance of neither believing nor not believing until the evidence determines whether there is a case to answer. Then and only then, seek to charge.

Longrider

When offering your employees a pay rise violates their human rights

Of all the crimes against humanity that one can imagine, it may seem hard (or perhaps all to easy) for the visitors to this parish to imagine that, if you are an employer, offering your employees a pay rise can be regarded as legally actionable under principles of Human Rights law, and give rise to a claim for compensation. But such is the law in the United Kingdom, in defined circumstances. Those circumstances being where an employer’s principal or only motive for making an offer (regardless of it being accepted) is to get 2 or more employees to forego their rights to collective bargaining.

The situation was recently highlighted in a case involving a UK branch of a German engineering company, Kostal UK Ltd.

The employer had a ‘recognition agreement’ for a group of its workers with Unite (the UK’s largest Trade Union). This agreement is described as ‘binding in honour only’, and under it, the employer agreed to negotiate terms of employment for those covered by the agreement with the Union, rather than with the employees directly. it was not, by itself, legally enforceable. However, despite this ‘agreement’ being unenforceable as such, the Union’s ‘right’ to negotiate on behalf of its members is protected by a specific piece of legislation which prevents employers from making offers of different (including better) terms to two or more of its employees if they are (or are proposing to be) covered by a (non-binding) collective agreement between the employer and a Trade Union, if the employer’s motive is to go over the heads of the Union to reach an agreement with the employees represented by the Union.

Under this law, it is, of course, for the employer to prove what its motive was for making any offers to its employees in these circumstances, and if the motive (or main motive) is benign, there is no liability. And the risk? An award of £3,907 per employee for every offer that is made. In the Kostal case, it came out at around £422,000 per some reports, as the employer made two offers to around 57 employees. For some bizarre reason, apparently to do with its German parent company, its first offer, made in December, included a Christmas bonus, but its second offer, made in January did not, so two offers were made and two lots of compensation (at the time £3,800 per offer) was due, twice penalising what was essentially a single course of conduct.

Why is this ‘law’ in force, you may ask. The answer is that it is to protect the Human Rights of the workers, as, if an employer gets fed up dealing with a Union on pay negotiations, and tries to bypass it, so that the terms of employment of two or more employees covered by a collective agreement are no longer decided in line with that agreement, this is, according to the European Court of Human Rights, a violation of the right of freedom of association.

As the judgment in this case puts it:

…under Article 11 of the Convention, which provides:
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary to a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others…”

The judgment goes on to explain the ‘reasoning’ of the European Court of Human Rights (the Strasbourg Court):

“In other words, the Strasbourg Court held that states have positive obligations to secure effective enjoyment of Article 11 rights; and if direct offers outside the collective bargaining process can be made and would lead to less favourable treatment of workers who do not accept, that acts as a disincentive to the exercise of Article 11 rights and allows employers to undermine or frustrate a trade union’s ability to strive for protection of its members.

So, lest an employer find a Union is asking for Mars and it can only offer the Moon, and it offers the Moon to Alphie and Bill, Charlie’s right to claim Mars is protected by making the employer pay compensation to Alphie and Bill for having the temerity of trying to cut them a deal, or even if the deal for Alphie and Bill is Venus plus Mars. And, lest you ask, if Alphie and Bill accept the offer, it is still enforceable against the employer.

Having met someone who went through the gates of Belsen at its liberation, it is hard not to think that Human Rights law is a sick mockery of the dead.

I am not saying that this judgment is outwith legal principles, it is starkly in keeping with them as they stand. With this as ‘law’, the UK has a long journey back to a Common Law that can be deduced from reason.