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]

Government minister guilty of ‘bullying’: expecting senior civil servants to do actual work

Michael Gove stands accused of bullying his civil servants. According to The Sun, he “was said to have been visibly angry with a string of officials” over the abject state of the visa scheme for Ukrainian refugees.

This has led Jeremy Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, to complain to Jeremy Pocklington, his counterpart at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). … when Priti Patel was accused of the same, the report into the incident concluded that: “Her approach on occasions has amounted to behaviour that can be described as bullying in terms of the impact felt by individuals”. … If they feel bullied, it’s bullying

One would not expect Conservative Home to be overly sympathetic to the whining permanent secretaries, or harsh to Gove. That said, I think a new series of ‘Yes, Minister’ would see Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby sobbing “How can you bully me like this?”, then behind-the-scenes fixing the ‘enquiry’, as another way to block whatever Minister Jim Hacker was pushing him to do. Whether it’s Priti Patel ‘bullying’ a permanent secretary to bar illegal immigrants the higher civil service is happy to see enter the UK, or Michael Gove ‘bullying’ a permanent secretary to admit Ukrainian refugees the higher civil service is happy to see kept out of the UK, it’s a great way to ensure that if the minister ever reaches the point of banging the table and demanding that orders be carried out, yet another obstacle to that can be put in place.

The WWII Jewish Brigade was formed when Churchill banged the table and stated that of course it would be, putting an end to the meant-to-be-endless delays of certain advisors. The Jewish Brigade spent the last six months of WWII killing Germans and learning everything the British army knew about military technique (by the end of WWII, that was a lot). Historians of the wars of Israel’s formation say Israel would not have survived without the Jewish Brigade. It was lucky Churchill banged the table then, not today, when the brigade’s creation could have been delayed yet longer by a ‘bullying’ enquiry.

Vaccines: some seek confidence, others a confidence trick

A dailysceptic article on the phenomenon of negative vaccine efficacy points out how routinely analysts still assume an efficacy minimum of zero, despite some negative vaccine efficacy examples having been well researched.

However what most caught my attention was this.

Nonetheless, despite my harsh words about IFR education above, we must acknowledge that the UKHSA is so far standing by the basic moral and foundational principles of public statistics. Their answer to the confounders and denominators debate is clearly written, straightforward, reasonable and ends by saying:

We believe that transparency – coupled with explanation – remains the best way to deal with misinformation.

That’s absolutely true. The deep exploration of obscure but important topics by independent parties is possible in the U.K. largely because the HSA is not only publishing statistics in both raw and processed forms, but has continued to do so even in the face of pressure tactics from organisations like Full Fact and the so-called Office for Statistical Regulation (whose contribution to these matters has so far been quite worthless). England is one of the very few countries in the world in which this level of conversation is possible, as most public health agencies have long ago decided not to trust the population with raw data in useful form. While the outcomes may or may not be “increasing vaccine confidence in this country and worldwide”, as the HSA goes on to say, there are actually things more important than vaccines that people need confidence in – like government and society itself. Trustworthy and rigorously debated government statistics are a fundamental pillar on which democratic legitimacy and thus social stability rests. Other parts of the world should learn from the British government’s example.

One such other part of the world is the USA. The FDA wants to keep its Pfizer vaccine approval data under wraps until 2076. They took 108 days to approve, but would like another 20,000 days before we can check their work.

To be sure, the context is different. Last year, they were deciding whether the data supported letting Americans take the vaccine. This year, the issue is whether the data supports forcing Americans to take the vaccine.

If they thought that research to justify denying choice should meet a higher standard than research to justify allowing choice, I’d understand. A woman I know in the States teaches pre-calc to students over the web, under the aegis of a teaching company that also does US-government-funded work. She has a platelets issue that makes her reluctant to take the vaccine, but her employers have told her the US government insists that all their employees be vaccinated – even those who only ever teach remotely from their homes. I can see you’d need many days of data analysis to extract a justification for that!

Sadly, I fear it is their lack of statistical justification that they are hiding.

That should fix the comments…

Looks like the technical glitch (caused by a rubbish WordPress update) that had borked the comments & removed much functionality has been fixed for now by adding moar Russian hamsters.

If only the Italian government had not so much else to do and can defer none of it

To add to the burden, hospitals in Italy depend on medical personnel to try to trace the contacts that people who test positive have had with others. One doctor in Bologna, who asked not to be named, said he had spent a 12-hour day tracing people who had been in contact with just one positive patient, to ensure those who next need testing are found.

(from this interesting comparison of Italy with South Korea, h/t instapundit.)

How very sad that Italy evidently lacks any pool of state employees whose ordinary tasks could be deferred or done with fewer people, so they could be used to trace contacts while doctors treated patients.

How very fortunate that in the UK, we have an overstaffed bureaucracy in many offices of the administration. As doctors will be very busy in coming months on tasks that need their skills, and police busy enough (to defer policing speech? – if only!) and the army perhaps busy if new facilities must be quickly built, the government should immediately give itself the power to allocate up to half the bureaucrats in any state office to the task of tracing the contacts of the infected, requiring the others to step up as needed to keep any essential tasks going (some offices of course, like cruise liners, could go into mothballs pro tem).

I despise PC talking heads who demonstrate (yet again) that they see a crisis as just a terrible thing to waste, so would not wish us to imitate them. Does anyone see a problem with my suggestion, considered strictly as a way of addressing the upcoming issue better than Italy has?

(Alas, I can see one – and will be interested to see who else has the same thought. 🙂 )

Barking Parking Teslas

Long ago, Milton Friedman suggested the US might be better off without the Food and Drug Administration. People wrote to him saying the FDA should not be abolished but reformed so it would act differently. Friedman replied by writing a column he titled ‘Barking cats’:

What would you think of someone who said, “I would like to have a cat provided that it barked?” … The way the FDA now behaves, and the adverse consequences, are not an accident … but a consequence of its constitution.”

Today I chanced to hear a couple of medical professionals discuss the Tesla they have just arranged to buy, bemoaning its cost but rejoicing there would be “no more gas-guzzling trips”. Later they spoke of government policy on parking at NHS hospitals. Labour brought in the policy – which Cameron and May kept on, of course – to help save the environment by making parking at hospitals difficult (its proposers used different words) to encourage use of public transport. I learnt this policy much annoys shift-working NHS staff, who must sometimes travel in and out at hours when there is little or no public transport (or in areas that are not too salubrious). I already knew from my own friends and family that it much annoys elderly relatives visiting hospital patients – friends of mine have had to give up and go home again because an old man was not up to walking the distance from the nearest viable parking to visit an old woman, and might have had to be signed into the hospital himself if he’d tried. These Tesla-buying NHS professionals conceded that the numerous (by government policy) almost-always-empty electric-car-only spaces that adorn the limited hospital parking provided were also annoying. The man remarked that a hospital he’d recently served at really wanted to convert an available site nearby into a car park – “but knew they’d never get permission.” The woman said that if the government wanted NHS staff and patients to use public transport, they should try and ensure large hospitals were well-served by buses, but her experience was the reverse – “They need some joined-up thinking!”.

The thought flitted across my brain that greenie civil servants were not alone in needing to join up their thinking. And then I thought of Friedman, long ago, recalling his “Barking Cats” column of yet longer ago:

The error of supposing the behaviour of social organisms can be shaped at will is widespread. It is the fundamental error of most so-called reformers. … It explains why their reforms, when ostensibly achieved, so often go astray. (‘Free to Choose’)

Of course, I believe that the western world’s social organism could be shaped to respect science more and virtue-signalling AGW non-science less. So maybe I shouldn’t be too critical. Still, the BBC reported today that SUVs are outselling electric cars 37:1, “making a mockery of UK policy” so there is hope – of a kind.

There may be a delay in unsmiting…

As a key element in the samizdata-world interface has left London for a while, it is possible that there may be delays in unsmiting people whose comments get moderated by the samizdata SmiteBot.

Why? I am out of London in a strange place where taxi drivers have five phones powered by a cigarette lighter…


…the art is interesting and often very irreverent towards cultural icons and authority figures…


…oh, and William Gibson, please call your office…


Inactive for now

Just to state the obvious, White Rose is inactive. This is due to a simple lack of time on the part of the main contributors. Work, life, other blogging… alas White Rose is currently a ‘blog too many’.

Quite possibly WR will be reactivated at some point in the future as Gawd knows the need for it has not gone away.


What is the Home Office up to now?

At first sight, this story is incomprehensible.

Secret terror courts considered

Special courts sitting in secret for pre-trial hearings in terror cases are being considered by the Home Office.

Forget the justice of the process–secret hearings with Home Office-selected advocates and judges–for a moment. What would the value of this be? If an actual trial must still take place under normal conditions, what’s wrong with normal committal proceedings, which rarely require much in the way of presentation of evidence?

There must be a prosecutorial advantage to be had, now or later, or the Home Office would not consider it. Is this a staging post to something more? A piece of impossible kite-flying for some bait-and-switch? Or is it a way to evade other procedural safeguards?

(A speculative example of the last: The Special Judge says there’s a case to answer. The accused is remanded in custody. A trial will take place when the prosecution is ready. Reporting restrictions are in place, to avoid prejudicing a future trial. But further evidence-gathering takes a very long time. In effect one has indeterminate imprisonment with a radically lowered burden of proof. There may be no opportunity to test the evidence. But there can be no public disquiet. No one will care, because next to no one will know–and those who do will be bound to secrecy.)

Up and down… and up again tomorrow

For those who have already visited White Rose earlier today and noticed that the article One for the heart, is missing. It was written for someone else and forwarded to me for information only. We hope to get it cleared with the publication for which it was originally destined and aim to re-post it tomorrow. Apologies to those who were inconvenienced.

The RFID Scanner

For those who have not yet noticed, there is a new blog set up by one of our illustrious contributors, Trevor Mendham – the RFID Scanner. I guess the name is self-explanatory. Please read the suberb summary and arguments about RFID in the sidebar…

Technical problem

We are having some problems with the White Rose comments system (as in “it is completely buggered up” sort of problem). This has been caused by the installation of some comment anti-spam defenses over on Samizdata.net, which shares server space and some system resources with White Rose.

We hope to have the comments up and running again soon. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Update: Fixed! The comments are now working fine once again

Welcome to White Rose

Welcome to White Rose, a protest blog collective which looks at the issue of personal freedom and privacy and their erosion in the UK.

Why another blog when Samizdata.net has been increasingly drawing attention to the undermining of individual freedom and privacy? The reason is in the differing objectives. Samizdata.net is about meta-context and changing the way people view their world.

White Rose is about bringing together people from across the political spectrum to oppose invasive government, with specific focus on civil liberties. Its aim is to stimulate debate, offer practical ways to oppose and resist measures that deny personal liberty and encourage practical alternatives to problems that do not abridge individual’s freedom.

During the last year and a half I have become more aware, and more concerned with the stealthy New Labour transformation of the country that I have come to respect and admire. Many qualities of venerable British institutions have been ‘reformed’ out of recognition and, in my opinion, certainly not for the better.

Another disturbing factor is the lack of awareness by the British public of the fundamental changes that their country has been undergoing and the dire consequences these will have on their lives and personal freedom.

Some of the changes originate within the successive governments’ toxic mixture of discredited ideologies and spineless disregard for truth and reality. New Labour, however, has perfected the ‘virtual reality politics’ where facts are spinned until they fit their world-view and policies. Other tectonic changes to the fabric of British society are coming from the EU and reinforced by the government’s drive to let EU engulf the UK.

There are worthy organisations such as Privacy International, Liberty, Statewatch and others, who have been campaigning for the protection of civil liberties and fighting the good fight on a daily basis. We bow to their expertise and presence in the mainstream media and do not intend to duplicate their labours. Nevertheless, we would like to offer them a higher soapbox on which to stand in the blogosphere.

Having been an editor and contributor to Samizdata.net for some time, I have experienced first hand the scope and power of the blogosphere. By power, I mean the blogosphere’s ability to spread ideas, concepts and generate debate. In Samizdataspeak – its meme distribution potential. Recently there have been examples of bloggers reaching into the ‘real world’ but however gratifying this may be, I would not want to base my expectations of White Rose’s success on them.

The idea is to harness the interest of those individuals in the blogosphere (both bloggers and their audiences) who are concerned about erosion of civil liberties by the state. Our objective, ambitious though it may be, is to create a platform and a resource that may eventually extend its reach well beyond the blogosphere.

The motivation is to rally the Anglo part of the blogosphere to chronicle what is happening in the UK and help us make our voices heard. Again, why did we not choose to do this on Samizdata.net? Because it has a particular character and personality, with clearly stated opinions, which may not be palatable to everyone. In fact, we know they are not. However, in this battle we need people from across the political spectrum who oppose the state’s heavy handed imposition on individual freedom. Please join us here on White Rose.

Contributing bloggers can either post here exclusively or cross-post, linking back to original articles on their blogs. That means you can blog as normal and there is no the dilemma of posting either to White Rose or your own blog… you can do both. If things go well, the extra exposure from White Rose could be considerable… The objective is to extend White Rose’s contributors’ reach beyond the blogosphere into the mainstream debate.

White Rose editors are God and God moves in mysterious ways. We welcome erudite and interesting contributions but would like to avoid rants, sweeping generalisations and unfounded statements. Please help us to make a good case against the government’s attempts to strengthen its hold over the civil society.

Contact: email Gabriel Syme at gabriel at samizdata dot net or Perry at pdeh at samizdata dot net.