Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.
E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)
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Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.
( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
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Friday, June 28, 2013
Discussion point: what should have been done with Typhoid Mary?
The Daily Mail has published eerie pictures of the abandoned medical facility in North Brother Island, to which Typhoid Mary was exiled by the New York public health authorities.
She meant no harm, certainly had not committed the sort of crimes that usually result in a life sentence, yet she caused several deaths. What should have been done with her?
Mary Mallon ended up causing more deaths by her stubborn refusal to believe that she was a carrier, and her breach of her undertaking to cease working as a cook. What should be done with someone who through no fault of their own carries a dangerous disease and unlike Mallon tries their best to act responsibly - but who nonetheless still causes deaths by their mere proximity to other people? We are horrified at the medieval leper's bell and the leper colony but our sense of superiority rests on the fact that we now can treat leprosy. New plagues might arise that we cannot treat...
...yet we can be certain the plague of tyrannical abuse of power in the name of health will always be with us.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
A light has gone from my life
I did so enjoy contemplating the coming inevitable defeat of Julia Gillard and the Australian Labor Party. Unimportant in the greater scheme of things, I know, but just to contemplate the ululations of grief and ritual cries of "misogyny" that would have come from the Guardian the morning after the next Australian election was a little thing that gave me a few snatched moments of innocent pleasure in this hard world.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Gifted, cursed, whatever
In response to a rather gushing article by Sally Gardner, a dyslexic novelist, entitled "Dyslexia is not a disability – it's a gift", one Alftser responded that if he or she had been given that gift "I'd find the receipt and get a refund."
I laughed at that. However stripped of all the self-dramatisation (a pardonable sin in a novelist) and the wishful bagging of Einstein, Steve Jobs, and any public figure who ever misspelled a word as fellow dyslexics, Ms Gardner's story is quite impressive: she is a winner of the Carnegie Medal who did not learn to read until she was 14. In a sense one cannot quarrel with her assessment that her own dyslexia has been a gift - and not just because she has been successful but because one cannot quarrel with anyone's experience of their own lives. Well, one can quarrel with it. I've known people who could quarrel with the speaking clock. But you know what I mean.
Sadly, for most dyslexic people dyslexia is a pain in the part of the anatomy that I have sufficient self control to not make a joke of misspelling, because they've heard all the jokes before. Most children with dyslexia are not going to have their inner genius unleashed even when presented with positive role models because they do not have an inner genius. Humanity is like that: mostly supplied with the inner genius slot vacant. Dyslexia may indeed, as Ms Gardner suggests, promote the skill of navigating the world by other means than arranging the written word, but in most cases this skill is simply not as useful as the one it substitutes for. That's tough, but not insurmountable. Surmount it.
For a minority of dyslexics and quite a few pretenders, the diagnosis is a means to get free laptops, extra time and marks in exams, and a ready made victim identity.
Free stuff takes a very strong spirit to refuse. The extra marks are OK, so long as you do not end up deceiving others or yourself. But DO NOT TAKE THE VICTIM IDENTITY. It is poison.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Property rights and protests at sporting events
Much outrage in the Guardian because
The Australian activist who disrupted the 2012 Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race in protest at government cuts has been ordered to leave the country, after receiving a six-month jail term that many thought was severe.
The degree to which I shall miss Mr Oldfield's anti-elitist activism when he leaves these shores is impossible to underestimate. He should regard deportation as an opportunity to activate his home nation of Australia instead. I believe you start the process by holding hold down the "sleep" button.
However the issues are wider than the question of whether he, or elitism, or the ejection of lawbreaking foreigners, is a good thing or a bad thing. One can see why the government felt they had to stomp down hard on this sort of protest. He ruined a contest for which the crews had trained for months and messed up the pleasure of thousands of spectators on the riverbanks and many more on TV. If one protester gets away with that then every sporting and cultural event is going to be liable to disruption by any fool with a grudge, particulary if, as in the case of the boat race, the event takes place on the public highway, so to speak. The cultural life of the country would be greatly diminished.
Would that actually be bad? My gut reaction says yes, but my gut would like some backup from principle.
Even if it would be bad, does "the country" have the right to stop it happening? Sure, the people who want the event to proceed uninterrupted are the majority, but so what?
Samizdata joke of the day
What's the difference between Fleet Street and Hacked Off?- Solent Minor