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

Doctor Who is a bit like the NHS, a mediocre product that many Brits bizarrely think is world-class, and which is forcibly funded by taxation.

– Perry de Havilland

Under socialism, the crows will not fly away

In the comments to my earlier post about the West Indies Federation, Bruce relayed something his schoolteacher once told him:

Question to the class:

There are ten crows sitting on a wire.

You shoot one. (This was back when guns, shooters and shooting had not been totally criminalized by the ruling-class sociopaths).

How many are left?

Nine?

That would be the answer expected from most kids.

Correct answer?

NONE!

Crows, unlike most of the lamestream media, academics and politicians, are NOT STUPID.

To which Niall Kilmartin replied:

Bruce (November 23, 2017 at 8:11 am), there is a socialist version of your ‘crows’ story.

At one of the glumly festive parties Stalin used to inflict on his politburo cronies, he told the story of how, while he was in exile in Siberia under Tsarism, he was out skiing and saw several crows perched on a branch. He shot a couple then skied back for more ammunition, returned and shot the rest. After he left the room, Beria said, “He’s lying” (understandably the others were cautious in responding, fearing a provocation). Conquest, in his biography of Stalin, charitably suggests the story may have been just a Siberian version of the old US Western “tall tale’, told for entertainment as a whopper not intended to be believed. It has also been suggested that the crows’ feet were frozen to the branch and Stalin for once in his life was telling the truth.

Whatever the truth of it, the moral is clear: under socialism, the crows will not fly away.

Far be it for me to say that our Shadow Chancellor is taking tips from Stalin, but that line did remind me of what I heard him saying on an audio clip posted last week by Guido Fawkes:

McDonnell now sure there won’t be a run on the pound.

John McDonnell has changed his tune from Labour conference […] Now he insists “there’s never going to be a run on the pound” and “of course” he isn’t planning capital controls if it happens. Only a few years ago McDonnell used to openly threaten the City with capital controls if they opposed his policies.

“One from ten leaves nought”

In writing this post I do not attempt to draw any particular moral, merely to share an episode of history I found out about by chance which has some incongruous parallels with the present day.

Quoting the Wikipedia article on the West Indies Federation:

Three member states were proposed as hosts for the capital city of the federation: Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Earlier in the federal negotiations the general opinion had been that the capital should be one of the smaller islands so that the capital would be in a neutral position to the larger territories and it would be able to inject some buoyancy into one of the (then) poorer economies.

The West Indies Federation had an unusually weak federal structure. For instance, its provinces were not contained in a single customs union. Thus, each province functioned as a separate economy, complete with tariffs, largely because the smaller provinces were afraid of being overwhelmed by the large islands’ economies. Also, complete freedom of movement within the Federation was not implemented, as the larger provinces were worried about mass migration from the smaller islands. In this sense, the current European Union can be said to have implemented a more unified economic space than the West Indian attempt.

Nor could the federal government take its component states to task. The initial federal budget was quite small, limiting the federal government’s ability to use its financial largesse as a carrot. It was dependent upon grants from the United Kingdom and from its member states. The provincial budgets of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were both larger than the federal budget. This led to repeated requests for those states to provide greater financing to the federal government. These requests were not well received, as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago together already contributed 85 percent of the federal revenue, in roughly equal portions.

For many Jamaicans it appeared that the Federation would then just hamper their development and movement towards independence.

As a result, the Bustamante-led Jamaica Labour Party (the local component of the West Indian DLP) successfully forced Manley to hold a referendum in September 1961 on political secession from the Federation. It passed, with 54% of the vote, despite the opposition of Manley, the province’s Chief Minister at the time.

On January 14, 1962, the People’s National Movement (the Williams-led Trinidad component of the WIFLP) passed a resolution rejecting any further involvement with the Federation. Williams himself stated that “one from ten leaves nought”—in other words, without Jamaica, no Federation was possible. Trinidad and Tobago became independent on August 31, 1962.

Without Trinidad and Jamaica, the remaining “Little Eight” attempted to salvage some form of a West Indian Federation, this time centred on Barbados. However, these negotiations ultimately proved fruitless. Without its two largest states, the Federation was doomed to financial insolvency.

You say that like it’s a bad thing, Mr Barnier

The Times tells us that a moment of decision approaches. “EU nations will block Brexit deal if Britain ditches Brussels regulations, warns Michel Barnier”:

National parliaments or regional assemblies across the European Union will block a future trade deal if Britain tears up Brussels regulations on competition, food safety, social standards or environmental protection, Michel Barnier warned today.

The EU was alarmed a fortnight ago when Liam Fox, the secretary of state for trade, hinted that after Brexit Britain would ditch regulations on health and the environment to secure new trading deals with countries such as the United States.

In a stark warning to Conservatives and Brexit supporters, Mr Barnier, the European chief negotiator on Brexit, warned that Britain’s choice between Donald Trump’s vision of a deregulated laissez-faire economy

Are we talking about the same Donald Trump here? Swanky hotels, reality TV, funny hair, President of the United States of America? ‘Cos that guy’s a protectionist. Like you.

or the “European model” of social and environmental protection will determine the shape of a final Brexit deal.

“The UK has chosen to leave the EU. Does it want to stay close to the European model or does it want to gradually move away from it?” he said at the Centre for European Reform in Brussels.

Any preference?

US Navy: Penis in sky drawn by jet trail was ‘unacceptable’

A display of ‘airmanship‘, the sort, but not the pattern, that was needed in Operation Taxable on D-Day, appears to have fallen on ‘stony ground’ as it were, it looks like a pilot will be having a hard time.

US Navy officials have said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that one of their pilots used a jet’s contrail to draw a penis in the sky.

What else could, or should, he have used? Wider reaction is mixed:

Ramone Duran told the Seattle Times newspaper: “After it made the circles at the bottom, I knew what it was and started laughing.”
But one householder told KREM 2 she was upset about having to explain to her children…

However, the good news is that the Brylcreem Boys beat the Yanks to it:

In August this year, an RAF fighter pilot drew a 35-mile penis on radars monitoring skies over Lincolnshire, England.

Just wondering if they did that in the Cold War, and what the Soviet spy trawlers reported back.

Photo credits: ‘jon’, and, of course, the Secretary of the United States Navy.

Samizdata quote of the day

One claim by campaigners is that this will ‘help the poor’, who are disproportionately more likely to suffer from alcohol-induced ill-health. How making poor people poorer will improve health is a real head-scratcher. This is typical of the missionary attitude of public-health zealots – imposing policies that poor people don’t want ‘for their own good’. Neither will minimum pricing do anything to solve the problem of weekend revellers ending up in A&E – bars already charge way above the minimum price. Instead, this new policy will target those trying to relax with a cheap drink at home.

Rob Lyons

Samizdata quote of the day

A Tory MP on the other side of the debate, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that the leaks which brought down Patel had probably come from Remainers inside the Foreign Office: ‘There are still some people who are still very bitter about the result a year ago and inevitably that colours their behaviour.’ That bitterness was evident recently, when Rees-Mogg’s own reactionary-but-principled opposition to abortion made outraged headlines. Why was this Conservative’s well-known backward view of abortion suddenly made the stuff of scandal, at the time when he was being discussed as a possible successor to Theresa May? Not because anybody seriously believed that an imaginary Rees-Mogg government was about to outlaw abortion, but because they wanted to discredit and delegitimise the most eloquent Tory Brexiteer.

Mick Hume

Berwick and Carlisle off-licences, just rejoice at that news!

Scotland has become the land of the minimum alcohol price. Gushingly the BBC says that Scotland will become the first country in the World to have a minimum alcohol price (if you don’t count prohibition as an ‘infinite’ price). The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that the proposal does not violate EU law (when pretty much anything else might).

And of course, it is for the good health of the wretched, like Gorbachev’s war on vodka.

When he took over the Soviet government in 1985, Gorbachev unleashed a massive campaign to promote soft drinks and fruit juices — instead of vodka.

His government also hiked the price of vodka and severely limited its sale. In typical Soviet style, he also proposed truly heavy-handed, excessive regulations to combat the shift from vodka to other forms of alcohol.

For instance, in the south of Russia, 100-year-old vineyards were systematically eradicated. The result was predictable enough. There were huge lines in vodka stores, of course. And in those lines, arguments and fights broke out incessantly.

Prior to Gorbachev’s anti-vodka campaign, the drink was often consumed by a “troika.” Consuming vodka in groups of three made sense because a bottle cost three rubles. In this way, each person contributed one ruble — and in turn, each had one glass.

But now, instead of just boozing up with each other, people actually shared their misery about life in larger groups. These people realized that in their miserable, detoxed circumstances, waiting in line had never been harder. And it had never been more politically explosive.

However, this measure is backed by remarkably precise science:

27. The University of Sheffield study went on to model the effect of a 50 pence per unit of alcohol minimum price on drinkers in poverty and not in poverty. It concluded that annual consumption by harmful drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of 681 units (as compared with nearly 181 units for such drinkers not in poverty), while consumption by hazardous drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of just under 88 units (as compared with a fall of only 30 units for such drinkers not in poverty). There would be 2,036 fewer deaths and 38,859 fewer hospitalisations during the first 20 years of the policy, after which when the policy had achieved its full impact, there would be an estimated 121 fewer deaths and 2,042 fewer hospital admissions each year.

The good news is that this is not a tax, the extra cost goes to the retailer, not the government (or, worse still, the UK government) although presumably they will get a cut from the VAT imposed on the ‘value-added’ of the extra paid, but don’t get me started on that.

The ultimate justification, and the reason why it was all being litigated, was that the minimum pricing was one way to skin the cat without having a general tax increase, whilst balancing the government’s health policy against the right to trade freely.

As to the general advantages and values of minimum pricing for health in relation to the benefits of free EU trade and competition, the Scottish Parliament and Government have as a matter of general policy decided to put very great weight on combatting alcohol-related mortality and hospitalisation and other forms of alcohol-related harm. That was a judgment which it was for them to make, and their right to make it militates strongly against intrusive review by a domestic court. That minimum pricing will involve a market distortion, including of EU trade and competition, is accepted. However, I find it impossible, even if it is appropriate to undertake the exercise at all in this context, to conclude that this can or should be regarded as outweighing the health benefits which are intended by minimum pricing.

More good news is that the laws are ‘experimental’ (Where have we heard that before?), so will expire after 6 years… Don’t hold your breath waiting for non-renewal.

So are good times ahead for alcohol retailers in the English Border towns, as the poor, harried Scots seek to trade with free England?

On the plus side, it is at least not a tax. But what unintended consequences might flow?

Edits: My thanks to Longrider for reminding us of the (late, unlamented) Danish fat tax, butter late than never.

I note that Part VI of the Act of Union with England 1707 states:

That all parts of the United Kingdom for ever from and after the Union shall have the same Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks and be under the same Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and lyable to the same Customs and Duties on Import and Export And that the Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and the Customs and Duties on Import and Export settled in England when the Union commences shall from and after the Union take place throughout the whole United Kingdom . . .

And the English Act of Union 1706 has the same wording.

Samizdata quote of the day

All the while, parallel negotiations have been ongoing between the EU and our more militant Remainers: Blair, Clegg, Clarke, Adonis, Corbyn and more have all been along for meetings with Barnier and Juncker. Calls for a second referendum from senior Remain politicians are now regular. It’s not rocket science to see what is afoot: a co-ordinated effort to offer Britain the most punitive terms imaginable, with which the British will then be presented in a second referendum – crawl back to the EU or face a financially ruinous bill to trade.

Calls to ‘rule out no deal’ must be understood in this context – it is simply begging the EU to give us the worst possible deal, and everyone knows it. The EU’s apparent concessions in October are simply theatre to keep Theresa May in place – they have no desire to reach a reasonable deal.

We cannot continue walking into this trap. Instead, we propose the Government starts immediate preparations for reverting to standard global trade, the basis on which both the US and China trade with the EU, and create a ‘WTO transition fund’ with the money the EU is demanding: likely to be around £60 billion or more. Britain does, after all, do more trade with the rest of the world than it does with the EU under the cherished Single Market.

Brendan Chilton

“Due to officer safety it was not safe or legal for them to enter the site”

What are Cambridgeshire police for?

“Police find stolen caravan hunt too risky”, reports the Times:

An owner was forced to retrieve her stolen caravan from a traveller site after police refused to enter, claiming that it was unsafe.

Officers from Cambridgeshire police were called by Helen Cox, 44, after her family caravan was taken from a farm near her home in Ely.

The force told her that they had spent five hours trying to gain access to the site, in which the caravan had been spotted by a local farmer, but that the travellers “wouldn’t let them in”.

Instead, Mrs Cox’s mother arranged for a microlight to fly overhead and capture images of the caravan hidden by some trees. She gave the photographs to police but officers still refused to enter, claiming that they had too little information to obtain a warrant.

In the end, Mrs Cox launched a social media campaign to try to retrieve her property. Several people said that they had seen the £9,000 Hobby Excellent caravan, and shortly afterwards it was found dumped in a nearby field. Mrs Cox said that a dozen travellers had surrounded her when she went to collect it.

The same story was reported in the Mirror:

“Woman tracks down her stolen £9,000 caravan to travellers’ site using microlight after police ‘too scared’ to enter camp”

…She [Ms Cox] added: “I had posted the stolen caravan all over Facebook and that is why I have it back.

“In the words of the PCSO who accompanied us to the caravan, ‘I’ve never seen a caravan returned to its owner in x number of years’.”

A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said: ‘Officers attended the location of where it was believed the stolen caravan was and also used a drone to look over the site, however these attempts were unsuccessful.

“Due to officer safety it was not safe or legal for them to enter the site.

“There was insufficient information for officers to be able to obtain a warrant to access the site, however the caravan has since been recovered and returned to its owners.”

A masterful use of the passive voice there. “Has since been recovered and returned to its owners.” A reader who did not know the whole story might even think Cambridgeshire Constabulary had something to do with it.

I won’t add an extract from the Daily Mail story (“Caravan owner is forced to track down her stolen £9,000 vehicle to a travellers’ site with a MICROLIGHT after police refuse to send officers fearing for their safety”), as it is almost identical to that of the Mirror and very similar to that of the Times. (Despite the demonization of the Mail as “fake news”, this similarity is not uncommon.) Both the tabloid newspapers quote a comment on social media from Larry Locke, who said, “I would like to know what we are paying the police for […] if that had been in my house they would soon be in, even if I said you could not come in. Is there a law for one and not for another?”

That bewildered question has been heard in this context for a while now. Back in 2011 in a post called Guardian readers hate gypsies and travellers”, I wrote, “If you want to poison a human soul with racial hatred, just do that. Tell him that the laws that burden him do not apply to them.”

A Named Unperson

Mark McDonald was the Scottish National Party’s MSP in charge of delivering the Named Person initiative for Scotland’s tiny tots (despite its troubles in the courts, the natz are still pushing it). He was in charge of it until, very suddenly, he wasn’t. His opaque resignation statement hints coyly at the possibility he’d watched one too many Harvey Weinstein films, but an article in the Scottish Review is sceptical that’s the real cause. The writer finds the opacity of Mark’s resignation statement as nothing compared to his prior attempt to explain how Named Person should work:

It is excruciatingly bad. It shows no feeling for the English language or even for the meaning of words.

but he tries to be charitable

It may have been written by a civil servant

Welcome to Scotland today, where political observers rationally speculate whether the plea of Harvey-esque behaviour is just the cover-up for the real reason why the man literally in charge of the wellbeing of the young must resign in haste.

Meanwhile, the Spectator seems to think that another brilliant idea of Scot natz educators has run into problems

… a fellow secondary school teacher who, due to unmanageable stress, now tutors young offenders rather than return to the classroom. A once enthusiastic primary teacher who said to me, ‘I’d rather do anything — anything — than go back …’

The intersection(ality?) of maths pie charts with Shakespeare’s plays is, I confess, one I did not see coming.

Fox News vs. BBC impartiality

Fox News breached impartiality rules, says state censor Ofcom.

Ofcom’s ruling concluded there was “no reflection of the views of the UK government or any of the authorities or people criticised” and the presenter “did not challenge the views of his contributors; instead, he reinforced their views.”

Leaving aside the question of whether the state has a role in telling broadcasters what news they can broadcast (it does not), let me take a quick look at the front page of the BBC News website right now.

Here is my translation of the pertinent headlines (stories that are probably neutral I have marked in italics, and non-political stories I have omitted):

  • Big companies like Apple should pay more tax.
  • Tax avoidance is wrong.
  • Lewis Hamilton should pay more tax.
  • Bono should pay more tax.
  • Rich people should pay more tax.
  • The state should control who has guns.
  • Mugabe wants his wife to take over from him.
  • Plastic is bad and greedy people are destroying the planet with it because they are greedy.
  • Global warming is still really real and only states working with the UN can save us.
  • Trump is being mean to Turkish people.
  • Trump wants Japan to help defend against North Korea.
  • People were kidnapped in Nigeria.
  • A writer used politically incorrect language.
  • A woman who was rude to Trump got fired.
  • People who voted for Trump probably regret it.

No sign of anything other than a completely neutral world-view there. None at all.