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]

Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, Liz

“Labour surges to 33-point lead over Tories”, reports the Times.

Labour has surged to a 33-point poll lead over the Conservatives after a week of market turmoil triggered by Liz Truss’s tax-cutting budget.

The YouGov poll for The Times finds Tory support has fallen by seven points in the past four days amid fears the government’s plans will lead to spiralling interest rate rises.

It is thought to be the largest poll lead enjoyed by any party with any pollster since the late 1990s.

Labour’s lead is fuelled by voters switching directly from the Conservatives, with 17 per cent of those who backed Boris Johnson in 2019 saying they would vote Labour.

Just 37 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters said they were planning to stick with the party, suggesting a Tory wipeout.

Liz Truss now faces a choice. She can pull back. This might regain her a percentage point or two. She would then be 31 points behind instead of 33. Her place in history would be secure: as an answer to a difficult pub quiz question about who was Prime Minister between Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer. Or she can push onwards. She might still fail, but more gloriously. And if she succeeds, she gets to sit alongside Margaret Thatcher in the Told You So Hall of Fame. Even if, as seems likely, she loses the next election but hands Sir Keir an economy in significantly better shape, she will be remembered as someone who put country before party.

Discussion point: what do you think of the apparent sabotage of Nord Stream 1 and 2?

On February 7th, Joe Biden said, “If Russia invades…then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

Today the Guardian reports: “Fears of sabotage as gas pours into Baltic from Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines”

Was it sabotage? If so, who did it and was it a good thing to do?

Don’t give up the day job. Try doing it instead.

Here is a confession: I wrote most of this post on January 17th, the day I read the Times article that I quote. Then something distracted me and I put it aside to finish later. It is now “later”, as in “250 days later”, and, having been reminded of the onrushing apocalypse by the reaction to Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, I have finished it up and present it to you now.

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How’s your science fiction novel getting along? Oh. Sorry. Same here, I must admit.

Maybe we would be doing better if the government were paying us to write the stuff?

“Met Office forecasts a Britain of militia war, bartering and child labour”, the Times reports:

It is 2070 and Britain as we once knew it has vanished. The government has collapsed, the police and justice system no longer exists. Militias control feudal microstates within the UK, with people accepting severe restrictions on freedom in exchange for work and protection.

This is not the beginning of a sci-fi film but a report commissioned by the Met Office into how the UK might evolve over the next century.

The “Met Office” is the Meteorological Office, the UK’s national weather forecasting service.

The weather service is behind a “ground-breaking project” to explore five different paths the nation could take up to 2100, and show how it will be easier to mitigate and adapt to climate change in some versions of the future than others.

In one scenario, researchers explore what would happen if international tensions caused the UK to increase border controls and increase military spending. Political and social tensions would initially be spearheaded by “nationalistic public attitudes” that would support populist leaders who drive a breakdown in international relations. A lack of foreign trade would push the government to lift environmental regulations to focus economic growth on domestic manufacturing and intensive farming. Food safety and animal welfare standards would also be lowered.

By 2040, in this scenario, the four UK nations have become independent of one another, with strict border controls leading to the countries making use of their own resources. By the 2050s, the railway system, the NHS and universities will have collapsed, while “child labour re-emerges in connection to a widespread return to subsistence farming and bartering systems”. By the 2070s, the government has collapsed and militias enforce laws in microstates, while controlling resources and an illegal arms trade.

The scenario is one of five different outlooks called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, a UK-version of a framework used by international climate scientists and economists to examine how societies and economies might change over this century.

The Met Office report was carried out by Cambridge Econometrics, a consultancy firm, the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and the universities of Edinburgh and Exeter. It was funded by the Met Office and UK Research and Innovation, a government-funded body.

There are a few more pessimistic scenarios, including one in which “a rich elite has privatised the NHS and introduced military conscription to deal with criminality and social unrest” (I could go with the first half of that) and then, shining softly in the darkness like your one permitted eco-friendly lightbulb, there’s the one where…

… the UK makes a “societal shift towards more environmentally sustainable systems”, researchers believe poverty will be “eliminated”. This would also involve rejoining a “progressive and expanded EU”.

They couldn’t resist.

In this outlook, the UK will have a “fully functional circular economy” as society quickly becomes more egalitarian, “leading to healthier lifestyles, improved well-being, sustainable use of natural resources, and more stable and fair international relations”.

Decades ago the U.S. Center for Disease Control got bored of doing its day job and decided to spend its time controlling guns instead. In vain did the Republicans add a rider to the 1996 omnibus spending bill telling ’em to stick to diseases; Obama repealed it. Turned out the CDC might indeed have been better employed doing what it said on the tin.

I hate to dash the dreams of fellow aspiring science fiction writers, but I think the same advice might apply to the Meteorological Office.

“We don’t have to feel like prey”

Fair play to the Guardian for running (sorry) this article, which will have gone against the preconceptions of many of its readers:

‘We don’t have to feel like prey’: the female joggers running with guns

Jamie, a 40-year-old runner who prefers to withhold her last name for privacy, says, “Women who carry while running are not monolithic, but we are often characterized as such in the media. We are characterized as right-wing, aggressive, backwards-thinking, and ignorant of the risks of gun ownership. I am none of these. I am educated, politically moderate, and sane.”

Jamie goes on to describe her own experiences. “I was followed around a popular lake trail by a man who exposed himself to me … about a half mile later, I heard steps behind me and it was him.” It was getting dark, and Jamie realized she was alone with the man, who she assumed was strong enough to overpower her. He came closer and closer, ignoring her entreaties to leave her alone, and backed her into some trees. Finally, “I put my hand on my [up until then concealed] pistol like I was about to draw and I told him to get away from me.” Suddenly, Jamie’s aggressor completely changed his demeanor, telling her to, “stay safe”, and running away.

Paypal have shut down the account of the Free Speech Union

“PayPal shut down the accounts of the Free Speech Union, its founder the journalist Toby Young and a news website he created after alleged Covid-19 vaccine misinformation”, the Times reports:

Recent tweets by Young appear to question links between excess deaths and the Covid-19 jab, despite no evidence of a link between the two. The Daily Sceptic, of which he is editor-in-chief, also publishes articles on the topic. In 2021 Young was rebuked by Ipso, the press regulator, over a “significantly misleading” column that claimed the common cold could provide “natural immunity” to Covid and London was “probably approaching herd immunity”.

However, he insisted he was not anti-vaccine: “I believe the risks of the mRNA vaccines outweigh the benefits for those under 65 and without any medical conditions. We have repeatedly made it clear in The Daily Sceptic that while we have reservations about the efficacy and safety of the mRNA vaccines we do not take a position on whether people should take them or not but encourage them to do their own risk assessments.”

For the record, I have had all the Covid vaccinations, and plan to have the booster. But if Big Tech wanted to spread doubt about the safety of Covid vaccines there would be no better way to do it than what they are doing now. The purpose of this is obviously to censor. Like all types of lying, censorship can often work well for the liar at first, but once people know that censorship is occurring, they start to doubt every subsequent statement from a censored source. Every line is read through a lens stamped with the words “What else are they hiding?” In this case, “Are they hiding reports of adverse reactions? Do they even know if adverse reactions are occurring, given that you can’t talk about it?”

What about the argument that Paypal are a private company and ought to be able to exclude whoever the hell they like? This is one of many things I would gladly leave to the free market if we lived in anything like a free market. Unfortunately, in the real world the big companies are locked in a loving embrace with the State. They are quite happy to squelch troublesome people like Toby Young in exchange for regulators squelching troublesome competitors. In an industry where there are very few big players, it does not take long for a senior civil servant to make all the necessary calls. Then suddenly all sorts of ordinary things get difficult. Want to buy or sell on eBay? This is the list of permitted payment methods. Short, isn’t it? How long before all of them follow Paypal’s lead?

I miss the days when these verses from the Book of Revelation were the preserve of wild-eyed men walking the streets wearing sandwich boards:

16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand or in their foreheads,

17 that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Riding the Covid tiger

“He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount” – Chinese proverb.

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China’s decision-makers face a quandary after maintaining an open-ended “zero Covid” policy with doomsday predictions of the alternative, said Huang. “What if they eased controls and nothing significant happened? Then people would question why Beijing imposed such harsh measures for so long.”

– Philip Sherwell, in a (paywalled) piece for the Sunday Times called “Millions under lockdown to stop Covid spoiling Xi Jinping’s party congress”.

Meanwhile, in an interview broadcast on Sunday, President Biden declared that the pandemic was over. Then someone noticed that would mean that the “Covid emergency” justification for his student loan payoff was also over, along with the justification for mask mandates. So the White House undeclared the president’s declaration:

A day later, an administration official told CNN that the President’s comments do not mark a change in policy toward the administration’s handling of the virus, and there are no plans to lift the Public Health Emergency, which has been in place since January 2020 and is currently extended through October 13.

I am not sure why “the administration” trumps “the president”, unless it is to give him practice in getting Trumped.

Exhibitionists like to know that others dare not object

Kayla LeMieux

“The kids here most definitely don’t think [it’s] normal…but realistically we can’t say anything,” said a person on Twitter who claims to be a student at Oakville Trafalgar. “Last year, the teacher was a man. I don’t think the school can fire him.”

Canada’s Post Millennial reports, “Canadian biologically male teacher wears massive prosthetic breasts to school”

The teacher is Kayla Lemieux and the school is Oakland Trafalgar High School in Ontario. Please note that there exist several other people with the same name, some of whom have been in the news recently.

The Daily Mail picked up the story: “Canadian high school defends transgender teacher who wore enormous prosthetic breasts underneath tight T-shirt to class”, and has plenty more pictures if you need to be convinced that this is not a joke.

Even after I was convinced that it was not a joke, I originally had plenty of jokes to make. But upon reflection I edited them out. This is not a funny story.

Kayla Lemieux’s motivations bear no relation to the motivations of a transwoman who was born male but simply wants to be female. Nor does Ms Lemieux want to be accepted as having an ambiguous gender identity. She does not want to be accepted at all. Kayla Lemieux wants to shock. She also wants the pleasure of knowing that the people she shocks dare not say anything. Better yet, she wants to have the pleasure of thinking that some of the people seeing her are secretly, even unwillingly, sexually aroused by her fetish costume. She is a teacher, so when I say “people” I mean “children she teaches”.

Imagine the sexes/genders were reversed, and a female-to-male transgender teacher turned up at school to teach the children while wearing an enormous prosthetic penis. Imagine – but the imaginary scenario scarcely differs from what is actually happening.

Let me be clear that I believe that adults should be free to alter their appearance in any way that pleases them. I would go further than most in defending people’s right to have body modifications that are designed to shock, though I would also defend the right of others to exclude such people from their premises, and that is one of the reasons why I would like to see less public space (which is open to absolutely everyone by definition) and more private space that is open to the public so long as they adhere to rules of behaviour. I would also, though more reluctantly, defend the right of a private school to employ a person with deliberately shocking body modifications as a teacher, and the right of parents to send their children there.

However, Oakland Trafalgar High School is a public school in the North American sense, a state school. Most of the families whose children attend have no other option. Even if that were not so, the pupil quoted at the beginning was correct to say, “I don’t think the school can fire him.” As the statement from the school says, “Gender identity and gender expression are protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code”.

And Kayla Lemieux knows it.

Mahsa Amini was beaten to death by the Iranian hijab police. Guess what Twitter did next.

Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested by the morality police for having an improperly adjusted hijab. Witnesses say that she was beaten in the police van. Her relatives published pictures of her lying in a coma in intensive care. They wanted the world to know what had been done to her. She never woke from that coma.

Anything a social media company might do pales in comparison to the evil of beating a woman to death because she did not cover her hair in the approved way – but what Twitter did next is still worth noting.

Vahid Yücesoy reports,

I’ve just spoken to @AlinejadMasih. @Twitter chose to suspend her account because she shared the picture of #MahsaAmini, 22-year-old Iranian girl in coma after she was severely beaten by the hijab police and later died.

Alinejad Masih’s post was mass-reported by supporters and hirelings of the Iranian regime. The grounds for suspension of her account were that she had included an image of “graphic violence” in her tweet. The fact that it was a true image of Iranian government brutality that Mahsa Amini’s family wanted the world to see was ignored. This is how a system of pre-emptive censorship inevitably works.

(Via Jim Treacher.)

I read it as “digital collar”

From the White House website:

President Biden often summarizes his vision for America in one word: Possibilities. A “digital dollar” may seem far-fetched, but modern technology could make it a real possibility.

A United States central bank digital currency (CBDC) would be a digital form of the U.S. dollar. While the U.S. has not yet decided whether it will pursue a CBDC, the U.S. has been closely examining the implications of, and options for, issuing a CBDC. If the U.S. pursued a CBDC, there could be many possible benefits, such as facilitating efficient and low-cost transactions, fostering greater access to the financial system, boosting economic growth, and supporting the continued centrality of the U.S. within the international financial system. However, a U.S. CBDC could also introduce a variety of risks, as it might affect everything ranging from the stability of the financial system to the protection of sensitive data.

To be fair, these remarks by Dr. Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Alexander Macgillivray, Principal Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer, and Nik Marda, Policy Advisor do acknowledge the existence of risks:

For example, these objectives state that a U.S. CBDC system should expand equitable access to the financial system, preserve the role of physical cash, and only collect data that is strictly necessary.

Given the record of the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, I would put very little faith in their definition of “strictly necessary” as a shield against the US government spying on its citizens.

Lizardmen need tampons too

Pollsters talk about “the lizardman constant”. It was given that name in this “Slate Star Codex” post by Scott Alexander:

So first we get the people who think “Wait, was 1 the one for if I did believe in lizardmen, or if I didn’t? I’ll just press 1 and move on to the next question.”

Then we get the people who are like “I never heard it before, but if this nice pollster thinks it’s true, I might as well go along with them.”

Then we get the people who are all “F#&k you, polling company, I don’t want people calling me when I’m at dinner. You screw with me, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you I believe lizard people are running the planet.”

Alexander put the lizardman constant at about 4%. Keep that figure in your mind.

A month ago, the polling company YouGov did a survey on “period poverty” (Tabs here.) The survey found that:

Period poverty looks likely to increase as the cost of living crisis bites

6% who currently have periods have been unable to afford period products in the last 12 months

13% are likely to be unable to afford period products in the next 12 months

The final line really ought to refer to “13% think they are likely”. The percentage of British wom… of British people who currently have periods who claim they have actually experienced being unable to afford period products is 6%. That’s the Lizardmen plus two percent.

Why so small? Because, though it is a real problem in the Third World, in developed countries period poverty no longer exists except in the minds of earnest sixth formers, publicity-hungry politicians and progressives seeking a government sinecure. The problem was solved years ago. As I said in a post from 2017 called “The Bleeding Obvious”, capitalism solved it. At Boots, tampons cost 4p each. Aldi’s tampons cost 4p each. Tesco’s tampons have been hard hit by inflation; at the time of the previous post they used to cost 4p each but now it’s 5p. As you can see if you click the links, tampons are usually sold in boxes of 20 to 24. I no longer have periods, but when I did, I used a little under one box per period. I usually picked up tampons in Tescos at £1 a packet. At nights I sometimes used sanitary towels instead or as well. 70p for ten. Some women might require more; so double that, no, triple it – you are still only looking at just over £5 per month.

So, market competition has developed period products that are far more hygienic, comfortable and discreet than the bloody rags of yesteryear, has evolved a distribution network to put them in every village shop, and has carried the price down almost to nothing. But not quite all the way, the evil bastards: four pence per tampon is not zero. That last 4p is an opportunity for some. Like a mediocre footballer who pushes forward to nudge the ball last and hence get the glory for a goal that others set up, the State can still swoop in at the last moment and get applauded for making them FREE.

In theory, there ought to be no need for this. In the UK, Universal Credit or other welfare payments ought to be enough, but sometimes the welfare system fails, and even if a woman’s problems are partly self-caused by drink or drugs or poor budgeting, I think most people would say, for pity’s sake, just help her anyway.

How is that best done?

The Scottish government’s form of help was this: (1) Pass a law called the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act. The procedure for passing a bill in the Scottish Parliament is described here. I have no idea what it all costs, but no doubt it was less than most bills because no MSP was brave enough to oppose it. (2) Appoint a Period Dignity Regional Lead Officer (salary of £33,153 – £36,126 per annum) for each Scottish region, and a bunch of lesser Period Dignity Regional Officers to serve under the Lead ones. The salary and other employment costs of these new local government posts would depend on how many of these regions there are. I hope a region is more than just one Local Authority, because Scotland has 32 of those. (3) Just for fun, appoint a bloke as your first ever Period Dignity Regional Lead Officer, then scrap the role because of the controversy, and wait ’til he sues for sex discrimination. The costs of that argy-bargy remain to be seen, but the services of barristers, sorry, advocates since it’s Scotland, do not come cheap. (4) After the Members of the Scottish Parliament, assorted Parliamentary researchers and support staff, recruitment consultants, HR managers, Period Dignity Regional Lead Officers, Period Dignity Officers and the lawyers have all had their cut, use whatever is left over to buy some tampons to give away. Good thing tampons are cheap.

Free speech is indivisible

Let no one say that the police response to anti-monarchist protests is without precedent:

Nizhny Novgorod, 12 March 2022: Russian police arrest demonstrator for protesting with a BLANK SIGN

London, 13 September 2022: Man threatened with arrest if he wrote ‘not my King’ on blank sheet of paper

It is true that I am tempted to sarcasm when I see all the outrage about this from people who were silent about such things as the police telling someone to take down a tweet because it contained the term “illegal alien” a few days ago, or about five coppers being sent to arrest a man for posting an image of four “LGBTQ+ Progress Pride” flags arranged so the triangular bits formed a swastika.

Still, new recruits to the great cause of free speech are always welcome. Better late than never!

Daniel Hannan had a good response:

So we’re all agreed then? Hate speech laws are wrong? Provided you stop short of incitement to violence, you can insult King Charles, Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad or George Floyd? Because that’s the thing about free speech: it’s an indivisible principle.

May he defend our laws

Have you sung it yet? Here’s the second least worst known verse:

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her him be pleased to pour,
Long may she he reign!
May she he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen! King!

After Charles was proclaimed king at St James’s Palace, the same ceremony has been repeated up and down the country. They also told the royal bees.

However the Scotsman reports that a spot of bother broke out while the new king was being proclaimed in Edinburgh:

Moments before the ceremony on Sunday afternoon (September 11), a demonstrator appeared in the crowd opposite the Mercat Cross. She held a sign saying “f*** imperialism, abolish monarchy”.

Officers appeared behind her and took her away, prompting the crowd to applaud.

One man shouted: “Let her go, it’s free speech,” while others yelled: “Have some respect.”

A police spokesman said a 22-year-old woman was arrested “in connection with a breach of the peace”.

I would like to think there are still some people left who would say both “Let her go, it’s free speech” and “Have some respect.”

To be sure, such suppression of “Progressive” speech, routine a few decades ago, is now rare. These days the boot is more often on the Progressive foot. Courtesy of the Bad Law Project:

Listen to the @swpolice [South Wales Police] tell a citizen journalist to take down a post because he uses the term ‘illegal alien’. Being offensive is not an offence. Yet again, the police are grossly misrepresenting the law in order to intimidate the public.

As I have often said, once the principle of free speech is gone, what speech is censored is merely a matter of who happens to be momentarily on top at that time and place. Notice how far removed both the recent examples are from the true rule of law. In Scotland the woman was arrested under the vague catch-all charge of “breach of the peace”. In Wales the threats against the man by an officer of the law had no legal basis at all. (England is just as bad. Trust me.)

Many people have said that King Charles III will find it hard to win anything close to the level of public affection given to his late mother. But there is no denying that freedom of speech declined markedly in the final years of her reign. If the new king wants to do something useful, he could do worse than make real the role of the monarch as defender of our laws, like the song says. What better start than to direct one of his famous “black spider memos” to one of our actual rulers saying that the right to free speech of all his subjects is to be respected, including – oh, most certainly including – those who do not wish to be his subjects at all.