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Of more than local interest

I imagine that for many Samizdata readers, the daily diet of gossip and snark and tittle tattle that dominates the output of Guido Fawkes is not to their taste, even if they do entirely see the point of it, and are glad that it happens.

But every so often, Guido does a posting that is of much more than local appeal, which would connect to a far wider audience, provided only that they are alerted to its existence.

So, allow me to alert you to this posting, which features the maiden speech of Kemi Badenoch, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden. Guido describes this maiden speech as his favourite of the 2017 intake by far.

I especially liked the Woody Allen reference. But basically, I liked it all. Her website is here.

If more British Conservative Party people were capable of talking or even thinking like this, I’d seriously consider joining them.

Dog biots Mon

Sam Dumitriu of the Adam Smith Institute has written a piece called “Fake news in the Guardian.

Oh dear, how embarrassing. The Guardian’s George Monbiot appears to have fallen hook, line and sinker for Nancy Maclean’s poorly (dishonestly?) researched book Democracy in Chains.

Democracy in Chains smears Nobel Laureate James Buchanan (amongst others) with deliberate misquotes and pernicious accusations of racism. It asserts that Buchanan sat at the centre of an elaborate academic conspiracy to undermine democracy and replace it with ‘a totalitarian capitalism’.

Yeah, I know, the presence of fake news in the Guardian is not news. It’s a “Dog bites man” story if ever there was one. But Mr Dumitriu’s article is still well worth a read. With terrier-like tenacity (I had to justify the “dog” bit of my title somehow) he worries away at the arguments made in George Monbiot’s article and by extension at the arguments in Nancy MacLean’s book. Dumitriu backs up his claim that MacLean misrepresents Buchanan with copious supporting links to Buchanan’s actual words, demonstrating that he has actually read the books concerned. Monbiot usually prides himself on providing references to enable the reader to check his sources but appears to have taken MacLean on trust.

This paragraph shows how little she deserves that trust:

This wasn’t Maclean’s only ‘mistake’. David Henderson at EconLib highlighted a particularly egregious misquote.

Maclean writes

‘People who failed to foresee and save money for their future needs’, Buchanan wrote in 2005, ‘are to be treated as subordinate members of the species, akin to . . . animals who are dependent.’

Contrast that with what Buchanan actually wrote

The classical liberal is necessarily vulnerable to the charge that he lacks compassion in behavior toward fellow human beings – a quality that may describe the conservative position, along with others that involve paternalism on any grounds. George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” can be articulated and defended as a meaningful normative stance. The comparable term “compassionate classical liberalism” would approach oxymoronic classification. There is no halfway house here; other persons are to be treated as natural equals, deserving of equal respect and individually responsible for their actions, or they are to be treated as subordinate members of the species, akin to that accorded animals who are dependent.

Maclean doesn’t just get this quotation wrong—she edits it so that it says exactly the opposite of what Buchanan actually wrote.

This isn’t an aberration. It’s not a sloppy mistake in an otherwise well-researched book. This is Maclean’s modus operandi.

Added later: Gene in the comments has pointed out this detailed and damning analysis of MacLean’s book by Professor Michael C. Munger. It begins,

This essay is a response to the recent book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, by my Duke University colleague, Nancy MacLean, a professor in our distinguished Department of History.

It is, let me say at the outset, a remarkable book.

He makes very clear that he does not mean “remarkable” in a good way. It is indeed remarkable that the Professor of Political Science, Economics and Public Policy at Duke University is willing to say the following about a colleague he might meet on campus:

The misuse of the cut-and-paste feature of MacLean’s word processor is not accidental, and it is not intended ironically. MacLean knew perfectly well that the main points of Public Choice are that checks and balances are actually crucial, and that “social consensus in favor of the Constitution” is good, not bad, for Public Choice scholars. Thus, it is not “fair to say” that Cowen was writing a handbook for fifth-column subversion. But the truth is rather boring, and that just wasn’t the story she wanted to tell here. As you read the book, you may notice that when something like “fair to say” is used for a paraphrase, that paraphrase is destructive of the meaning the person being quoted actually intended.

Samizdata quote of the day

The ADC is a fire-eater and longs for the fray.

– Douglas Haig, Diary entry for 20 July 1917 commenting on a meeting with American Commander-in-Chief Pershing and other members of his staff.

And the name of this fire-eating ADC?

George S. Patton.

German cyclists competing at this year’s Tour de France

Those with French-sounding first names:
Marcel Kittel
André Greipel
Simon Geschke
Emanuel Buchmann
Marcel Sieburg

Those with first names that could be either French or German:
Paul Martens
Christian Knees
Robert Wagner
Marcus Burghardt

Those with British-sounding first names:
Tony Martin
John Degenkolb
Rick Zabel

Those that don’t seem to fall into any of the above:
Nikias Arndt
Nils Politt
Jasha Sütterlin

Those with out-and-out, no-question-about-it, traditionally German first names:
Rüdiger Selig

Update: As of this afternoon both the Marcels are out. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

The overheating Samsung S24F356 – and thoughts about why there are so many complaints about capitalism

There are several reasons, mostly to do with me getting older, which have caused me to slow down as a Samizdata contributor, but just recently something more mundane has been getting in my way. I needed a new computer screen, my previous one having stopped working. I thought that a sprint, metaphorically speaking, would sort this out, but the sprint turned into a marathon.

When buying things like computer screens, I prefer shopping in actual shops to internet shopping. I find returning defective goods to shops less complicated than returning them to internet suppliers, not least because I now get free travel on London’s public transport system, but also because I have a face in front of me to complain to and from whom to demand satisfaction. But more fundamentally, I like to see, close up, what I am thinking of buying, rather than relying on imperfect internet imagery. When I start out buying something like a new screen, I don’t really know what’s now being offered or what I would now like, until I start looking at what’s now available, in the flesh, so to speak.

So, for instance, as I got stuck into my screen browsing, I realised that I might appreciate at some time in the future being able to attach my screen to one of those bolted-onto-my-desk swinging arms, thereby freeing up some desk space. Not all screens have the screw holes in the back of them to make this easy. Often, those imperfect internet images don’t tell you about this.

I will spare you a blow-by-blow account of everything that happened during my screen marathon, but two particular things made life difficult. One, shops (Currys PC World in particular) have a nasty habit of displaying screens as being on sale when, it turns out, they aren’t available on account of having run out. Only the one manky old display version remains. Twice, my efforts to buy a screen were thwarted by this nasty little shop habit.

But worse, far worse, was that the first screen that I decided to buy, a Samsung S24F356, turned out to be defective. When I got it home and plugged it in, I discovered that it was seriously overheating. The right hand edge of the screen, near to where the power feeds in, quickly became almost too hot to touch. That couldn’t be good. The tropical weather that has been afflicting London lately solidified my determination not to tolerate this. So, back I went with it to Currys PC World Tottenham Court Road. And I swapped my Samsung S24F356 for an identical model, another Samsung S24F356. Everything else, apart from the overheating, about the Samsung S24F356 seemed very nice, and I assumed – well, I hoped – that the overheating on the first Samsung S24F356 was a one-off misfortune.

→ Continue reading: The overheating Samsung S24F356 – and thoughts about why there are so many complaints about capitalism

Class and all that

Obviously life is far harder than it used to be for young graduate professionals, and an increased reliance on the state (which the Labour vote represents) would be a completely natural, self-interested response. Today’s Labour middle classes, though, do often sound a little bit like they themselves don’t quite recognise that this is the dynamic here. ‘It is vital that we keep having free healthcare and education so that you do, too!’ they’ll say, effectively, to the far poorer. Or better still, ‘My mediocre philosophy degree contributes to the intellectual health of the nation at large!’ And at what point, I’m wondering, do the people who aren’t ever going to have a mediocre philosophy degree call bullshit on that? At what point do they look at the resources doled out to people far richer than them and ask bluntly whether this alliance is really working in their favour?

Hugo Rifkind, pondering on the love by some affluent people for Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of hard-Left politics

There are of course several factors in play: forgetfulness about how awful 1970s Britain was in an era of strikes, hyper-inflation, price controls, etc; a period of (relative) affluence that dulls the senses (at least for some of those, such as those without student debts); a Tory Party led by a “blue-rinse socialist” who seems almost as keen on regulation and state interference as some on the Labour side, thereby blunting the appeal of Tories to genuine limited-govt. conservatives; an education system that has turned out a group of “educated” people blind to the dangers of state power and reflexively hostile to the open market economy, and a legitimate sense of grievance over inflated house prices (planning laws, QE), heavy student debt/worthless degrees. As a set of background conditions, these are all ideal soil for a leftist politician, never mind a devious one as extreme as Corbyn, to grow in.

Rifkind is right to ask the question as to at what point does the middle-classness of Labour come into conflict with its purported “soak-the-rich” agenda particularly when said middle classes realise they are “rich” for the purposes of said agenda? For the time being, though, a large chunk of the “middle class” (well, the bit that works in the public sector and hence from the taxpayer) think the bearded one and his colleagues are just great.

All this stuff about class got me thinking. Recently, there was much muttering about how utterly middle class these days the Glastonbury music festival is, what with the fact also that the price of an admission is just shy of £250, which even today is a lot of money. Last weekend I went with friends to the utterly non-Corbyn spectacle, the Royal International Air Tattoo. It was noisy; the air was full of thunderous aircraft roaring about and doing their stuff. And as I looked about at the crowd, I saw lots of middle-aged blokes such as me in shorts and T-shirts with pictures of planes on them; wives and girlfriends who were just as keen; some ex-military types (you can tell by the haircuts and the physiques) and young kids all excited about these planes. There were a lot of people who, from what I can tell, were quite affluent but not showy apart from from camera lenses the length of RPGs; there were no loud Sloanes (maybe the aircraft noise drowned them out) or Islington scruffs. In some respects RIAT is an aviation version of Le Mans, the 24-hour motor racing odyssey I like to attend every year.

Frankly, the air show is a mental health break from the current news agenda.

A return to our roots

In the Guardian Hugh Warwick takes Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to end the oppression of students paying money for their higher education to its logical conclusion. He proposes that we rediscover the venerable tradition of corvée and let them pay their debt to Labour in labour.

What if all students spent a year working the land before university?

[…]

Yes, this is state coercion. But does that make it any worse than the corporate coercion that has helped create such an insular, unfit and unhappy society; that has helped create an ecological desert in the countryside? This is a chance to fight back against the enemy, because this is a war. We have just not woken up to the fact yet.

[…]

Of course there will be those who believe that this is wrong, that there should not be a compulsion to take part in eco-conscription. And it would be wrong of me to insist that everyone take part. So there will be an opportunity for opponents to state their case and to become, in effect, “conscientious objectors”. They could be given the alternative job of joining the army.

A trip to Venice

Last month, the Sage of Kettering and I went to Venice for a few days, marking decades of friendship. The visit to the Most Serene Republic, home to distrust of government that lasted for over 1,000 years, fell during the Biennale ‘Festival’, when modern art invades Venice, which for all its ghastly, sinister absurdity, at least allows the occasional foray into fine, otherwise closed buildings, in which the modernists squat like bats dripping rabies with their urine, and I thought that I would share some pictures from our trip.

The gardens of the Armenian Institute, in Dorsoduro, open for the Biennale. Venice was long a refuge for the Armenian diaspora, and there is an Armenian monastery island.

Within the Armenian gardens, Tibet had an exhibition, tactfully reclaiming a Buddhist sun symbol from the last power to occupy Venice before the resumption of Italian rule.

A trip to San Giorgio Maggiore, opposite St Mark’s Square, gave us a full taste of the modern ‘Artist’. Behind the fine façade…

…lurked the artist.

And of his work, as the Sage pointed out, with one opera, you could not tell if it had been vandalised or not.

And of course, there was the use of contrast.

Uplifted by this, we needed a snack and prosecco (archive pic) at a bar in Dorsoduro just off the Giudecca canal, opposite a Squero (boat yard) where gondolas are made, still following a sumptuary law; any colour you like, so long as it’s black.

And just over the Guidecca Canal from the bar, the Redentore (Redeemer) Plague church, testament to a lack of understanding of pathogenesis, and Andrea Palladio’s eye for style.

A visit to the Doge’s Palace and the grim dungeon, but luxurious by the standards of Stalin’s prisons. This would have had a mere 5 people, and some cells had a capacity of 2.

And the Guardia di Finanza boats lurked, ready to levy for the heavy hand of Rome, taxes, and woe betide any retailer who does not proffer a receipt for each and every purchase, one of the most irritating aspects of modern Italy.

The Biennale spread its wings far and wide, such as this ‘car’ in Campo San Stefano. How many Cubans would wish to try their chances in such a vehicle?

A definite highlight was a trip into the lagoon to see Torcello, the first inhabited island in the lagoon, where the Veneti built a cathedral, starting in 639 AD under the Exarchate of Ravenna. Torcello is an astonishingly peaceful contrast to the bustle of central Venice, a few houses, some restaurants and the Cathedral, and the main sound in June was birdsong.

The Sage found himself the Bishop’s Throne to sit on, outside the cathedral.

A gecko on the cathedral wall, note the building materials. Much stone from old buildings has been recycled.

The view from Torcello Campanile

A fisherman on the lagoon, off Torcello.

A welcome reminder of how they got to be civilised.

Back in St Mark’s Square, the statue of the Tetrarchs, on the wall of St Mark’s Basilica, was virtually unremarked. A useful tip if you do visit the Basilica is that you can (a) queue outside for up to 45 minutes and get in for free or (b) pay 2 Euros and get a time slot when you get into the procession through the basilica straight away, a rare implicit recognition of the benefit of pricing.

And within the Doge’s Palace, a column with contrasting faces.

On the day-to-day side, the logistics of Venice never cease to delight; a mobile bookshop.

And the secret of how Venice sustained itself in the saline lagoon, the wells dug below the lagoon into the fresh water aquifers underneath (now capped and sealed).

A typical scene in Cannaregio district, near the Ghetto, where we had a nice meal in a Jewish restaurant, whose ‘meat sauce’ was not at all like Bolognese 🙂 There was a grim reminder of present-day realities as there is a permanent Army post in the Ghetto now.

And of course, outside the Ghetto, there was seafood.

And the locals were friendly.

Another highlight was the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, virtually empty of tourists on a Monday afternoon, despite having 25 Doges entomned inside, and a fine equestrian statue outside…

…and the finest little church on Earth? Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Castello district, tucked away from the crowds.

Yet another Plague Church, the Salute.

There is lots of graffiti in Venice, this one says ‘The Left is the problem’. Not sure who Yago is, but I hope he is free.

And the first aerial bombardment in warfare was of Venice by the Austrians, using a balloon, on 12th July 1849. The Church of Tolentin was bombarded by Austrian cannons on 6th August 1849, and they have put the cannonball in the front of the church, facing, as it happens, the Austrian Consulate.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Excuse me. Would you like to defend the NHS?”

“No. I’d like to abolish it.”

(Incomprehension)

And

People in this country have no conception of how good they have it. Except with respect to healthcare, when they have no conception as to how bad they have it.

(Both these quotations supplied by the same anonymous donor.)

What are we to make of the “Imam of Peace”?

I first became aware of Imam Tawhidi aka the “Imam of Peace” when his tweets started to show up in my Twitter timeline. His views – for a Muslim – are a little unorthodox. To say the least. He believes in democracy, religious tolerance and rights for women and gays. He also claims to have received death threats for his troubles.

This sort of thing makes me suspicious. For starters, all sorts of dubious characters claim to have received death threats. But the bigger problem is with Islam. Most strands of the religion – even the ones at war with one another – agree on the nasty stuff: jihad, beheadings, treating women as property, banning anything resembling art, thought or fun. Just about everyone who has looked at Islam with an open mind has reached the same conclusion. The only, unequivocally civilised Muslim sect is the Ahmadis. They go to the extraordinary length of creating their own Messiah in order to rid themselves of the unpalatable aspects of Islam. As such one could argue that they are no more Muslims than Christians are Jews.

So how does Tawhidi manage to square Islam and civilisation? Mainly by separating the Koran from “interpretations” of the Koran. Here are a few quotes from a recent interview with Brittany Pettibone:

They [the ones who come up with these interpretations] are not scholars they are ideological terrorists.

I want to be very flexible with how I deal with some of the interpretations [of the Koran]. I can ban some of them. I can de-register some of them from the state libraries and universities…

…even have them [interpretations] banned when they are being shipped into the West.

The last two may not sound very liberal but freedom of religion is a very recent phenomenon in the West and only came about when the various Christian denominations for the most part stopped dabbling in politics. Up until about 1750 rulers were very clear that religious dissent had to be kept under control.

He makes one concession:

I wouldn’t say they [the interpretations] were wrong. I would say they were right and they were suitable for a specific era.

Now, at this point you might be thinking he’s going soft. Not a bit of it:

Everyone killing is a Muslim.

I don’t want to ban the Koran but…

He goes on to state quite explicitly that Western countries should ban further Muslim immigration and have no compunction about deporting anyone thinking of indulging in Jihad. I really can’t see how you can be in favour of things like that and be some sort of jihadi fifth columnist. Tawhidi is the real thing.

That’s quite a crescent to bear

As long as you took no pleasure in it, my son

There is an old Irish story – used by Connor Cruise O’Brien in an old speech – about a priest with a very forgiving attitude whenever a young Irish man confessed to straying from the path of virtue with an equally-willing young Irish woman. “As long as you took no pleasure in it, my son” was his gentle substitute for penance. The same might be said of Judge Watson’s attitude to the US travel ban: saintly Obama – though he banned Syrian immigrants for longer – took care to sound like a man who took no pleasure in it, whereas despicable Trump never made the same effort. For much the same reason, Churchill was kept out of the UK government till WWII was actually declared: the ‘happy warrior’ might love peace, might hate Hitler for compelling war, but he never sounded nearly miserable enough about accepting its necessity or having to wage it.

It’s admirable when people admit truths unwelcome to their point of view. Even in such honesty, however, there can be a lingering need to virtue signal – and this matters because it means their instincts are still giving them wrong answers about ‘what to do’.

Dr. Cheryl Benard has realised there’s a problem with Europe’s (especially Austria’s) migrant (especially Afghan) crime-wave (h/t instapundit). Since many others are still in total denial, she deserves credit for this (belated, IIUC) realisation. However she found it necessary to tell us:

This is not an article that has been fun for me to write.

Well, who would! Who would find it fun to write about vicious assaults on women, pensioners, etc. Precisely because that is so very obvious, it is not the reason she wrote that sentence. She would have skipped it in a reversed-context article about Austrians attacking Afghan immigrants. So I’m very grateful for her information, and the evidence that denial is cracking, but I notice when her conclusions are:

– statistically inattentive:

why is this current cohort of Afghans making its mark as sexual predators . . . and inept, stupid ones at that?

‘inept and stupid’ Afghani sexual predators will appear to be a higher percentage of immigrant perpetrators than they truly are. The Rotherham gang were not Afghans.

– politically correct:

… these young men are “ours.” They grew up during the years in which we [the U.S.] were the dominant influence and paymaster in Afghan society. Since 2001, we have spent billions on an Afghan school system that we like to cite as one of our greatest accomplishments. .. And here, now, are our “graduates,” rampaging across Europe like the worst sort of feral beasts.

If that school system took its political tone from the US educational system, then the result is hardly surprising. However, numerous US military personnel report seeing the problem in Afghanistan long before “our graduates” got out of school – and the New York Times agreed, even as it blamed them for fighting the Taliban instead.

Members of the relevant diaspora communities must make very clear to the refugees that they do not approve of and will not assist them

but the article itself explains some of the reasons why they do not and will not.

Can happen to anyone? Yes. Equally likely? No.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt university has written a quietly important article for the London School of Economics (LSE) blog: “Can homelessness happen to anyone? Don’t believe the hype”.

She writes,

The idea, then, that ‘we are all only two pay cheques away from homelessness’ is a seriously misleading statement. But some may say that the truth (or falsity) of such a statement is beside the point – it helps to get the public on board and aids fundraising. Maybe that’s true (I haven’t seen any evidence either way). But myths like these become dangerous when they are repeated so often that those who ought to, and need to, know better start to believe them. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard senior figures from government and the homelessness sector rehearse the ‘it could happen to any of us’ line. This has to be called out for the nonsense it is, so that we can move on to design the sort of effective, long-term preventative interventions in homelessness that recognise its predictable yet far from inevitable nature.

This caught my attention. A couple of years ago I wrote:

Yet it is possible to acknowledge the right of those put up these spikes to do so, and also have sympathy with the homeless. Ms Borromeo’s statement that “anyone, for any reason, could end up on the streets with no home” is the usual hyperbole (she need not worry about the chances of it happening to her), but it is true that things can go wrong for a person with surprising speed. There is probably at least one of your classmates from primary school who has lost everything, usually via drugs or alcohol.

And way before that, so far back that my blog post about it is lost in the waste of words, I had noticed well-meaning posters on the London Underground that stated that “wife-beating”, as it was then called, can happen to women of any class and any level of education. What is wrong with that? It is true, isn’t it? Undeniably, but “can happen” is very different from “equally likely to happen”, and if efforts to stop violence against women from their partners are equally spread across all demographics then fewer women will be helped than if resources are targeted to those most at risk.

Suzanne Fitzpatrick’s piece also gives another reason why framing the appeal in terms of “it can happen to anyone” is not a good idea:

On a slightly different note, the repetition of this falsehood seems to me to signal a profoundly depressing state of affairs i.e. that that we feel the need to endorse the morally dubious stance that something ‘bad’ like homelessness only matters if it could happen to you. Are we really ready to concede that social justice, or even simple compassion, no longer has any purchase in the public conscience? Moreover, it strikes me as a very odd corner for those of a progressive bent to deny the existence of structural inequalities, which is exactly what the ‘two paycheques’ argument does.

I might disagree with what seem to be Professor Fitzpatrick’s views on social justice and structural inequalities, but she is right about the morally dubious nature of the stance that “something ‘bad’ like homelessness only matters if it could happen to you”.

On similar grounds, I think it is a fool’s errand to try and promote a non-racial patriotism by claims that “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” or by exaggerating the number of black people who lived here centuries ago. I am all for non-racial patriotism, but, sorry, no. The arrival of a few tens of thousands of Huguenots or Jews did not equate to the mass immigration of the last few decades. The migrations into Britain that were comparable in scale to that were invasions. And while there were certainly some “Aethiopians” and “blackamoores” living here in Tudor times, for instance, their numbers were so low that to most of the white inhabitants they were a wonder.

For those that know their history, to read the line “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” promotes scorn. When those who at first did not know the facts finally find them out, their reaction is cynicism. Worse yet, this slogan suggests that love of country for a black or ethnic minority Briton should depend on irrelevancies such as whether the borders were continually porous through many centuries, or on whether people ethnically similar them happen to have been here since time immemorial. (The latter idea is another “very odd corner” for progressives to have painted themselves into.) If either of these claims turns out to be false, what then?

Better to learn from the example of the Huguenots and Jews. Whether any “people like them” had come before might be an interesting question for historians (and a complex one in the case of the Jews), but whatever the answer, they became British anyway.