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]

Discussion point: Don’t lock me down, baby

It seems that the Mekon might be about to be knocked off his levitating chair. Dominic Cummings is in trouble for breaking the lockdown. He joins the epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, for whom the lockdown was no obstacle to pantsdown, in the list of those caught violating the quarantine they urged others to obey. Oh and let us not forget Scotland’s (former) Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, though I must admit I had.

Should Calderwood and Ferguson have resigned? Should Cummings resign now? Are there any principled reasons for differentiating between the three cases, by which I mean principles better than which political parties each of them are associated with?

Security against what?

“China proposes controversial Hong Kong security law”, reports the BBC:

China is proposing to introduce a new security law in Hong Kong that could ban sedition, secession and subversion.

And:

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which provides the territory certain freedoms not available on the mainland, does require its government to bring in a security law. It had tried to enact the so-called “sedition law” in 2003 but more than 500,000 people took to the streets and it was dropped.

I would have welcomed more information on this mysterious clause in the Basic Law that requires Hong Kong’s government “to bring in a security law”. On what timescale? Who is the judge as to whether a security law does or does not meet this mysterious requirement? Oh yes, and SECURITY FROM WHAT?

But that paragraph was a model of robust independent reporting compared to this one:

A mainland source told the South China Morning Post that Beijing had decided Hong Kong would not be able to pass its own security law and the NPC would have to take the responsibility.

That makes it sound as if Hong Kong’s parliamentarians were not clever enough to pass this law, or that they were dodging the “responsibility” of passing it the way a negligent father might dodge his maintenance payments. To be charitable, these are the words of a “mainland source”, that is, a man whose tongue is operated from a distance by a controller with a joystick, but why does the British Broadcasting Corporation let pass without challenge the Orwellian language of the Chinese Communist Party? We do not have to do that. We are not in the EU any more.

Of what crimes do the contents of your bookshelves convict you?

My mother was in her early teens in World War II. I once asked her what it was like not to know who would win. Alas, I cannot remember in detail how she answered, but among the things she said was that she did not speculate about it much because any such discussion would have been instantly quashed by her father, a former soldier, with some words along the lines of “There will be no defeatist talk in this family, young lady!”

Yet this atmosphere of stern patriotism did not stop her openly reading a translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf on the principle of “Know thy enemy”.

“Owning a book isn’t a declaration of belief,” writes Janice Turner in the Times.

Journalists own a lot of odd books. Some are sent to us unsolicited, others we buy to illuminate a news story. That Michael Gove, a former Times columnist, has The War Path by Holocaust-denying historian David Irving nestling among Alastair Campbell diaries and Stalin biographies does not alarm me. But the online outrage at a photograph showing this book on Gove’s shelves does.

Because if I’d covered, say, the 1996 libel case brought by Irving I’d have bought his work, too. Why? Curiosity; the desire to quote from original sources; to hear Irving’s authorial voice; to understand how he magicked away mass murder. Later, my piece written, I’d have squeezed it in my unruly shelves with Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth and Naomi Wolf’s Vagina.

At this point I feel I ought to mention that the original Times article has that last word in italics.

Yet owning Irving’s book was to activist-journalist Owen Jones a window into Gove’s dark soul. On Twitter, people questioned why you’d read Irving rather than his many critics, as if they couldn’t trust their own minds not to be swayed. Gove was accused of “proudly displayed” antisemitism in his home. But books are not posters or cushions, mere expressions of personal taste.

What is the correct thing to do when you’ve read this book, in case some visiting fool concludes you’re a Nazi? Donating it to a charity shop risks further dissemination of evil. Well, you could burn it. That always goes well.

Here is Owen Jones’s tweet in all its glory.

Which of the books on your shelves would make you wish you had enabled the “blur background” function before turning on Zoom?

Apart from the obvious – a copy of Chavs by Owen Jones – I have three coffee-table books of reproductions of selected articles from the English language edition of Signal magazine, issued by the Wehrmachtpropaganda from 1940-1945. (It continued to publish an English language edition even after the US entered the war, ostensibly for the benefit of the Channel Islanders.)

How about you? Confess all and the tribunal will be merciful.

Big Tech platforms – are they common carriers? Clearly not.

Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo protect themselves from liability springing from what gets published on their platforms by claiming to be common carriers, like a phone company or ISP. But they are clearly nothing of the sort.

I have a saved file copy of this for later publication in case this video is also taken down. This is not about whether or not you support or oppose the lockdown, this is about being allowed to say what you think about it and why. Here is the original video.

Seven hundred to one

Via Ed Driscoll of Instapundit, I found this admirably thorough story by Mollie Hemingway in The Federalist. Here, she said, are some of CNN’s reports about Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh:

Read the letter Christine Blasey Ford sent accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct,
Post reporter says Kavanaugh accuser was ‘terrified about going public’,
Republican senators weigh in on delaying Kavanaugh vote,
Echoes of Anita Hill in allegations against Kavanaugh,
Dems call for delay of Kavanaugh vote after accuser comes forward, Listen to letter from Kavanaugh’s accuser, and
Washington Post: Kavanaugh accuser comes forward.

These senators could make or break Kavanaugh’s nomination,
The Kavanaugh controversy is a watershed moment for GOP,
Trump stands by Kavanaugh, supports ‘a full process’,
Why the Kavanaugh allegations come at the worst possible time for Republicans,
an interview with the reporter who broke the Post story,
Kellyanne Conway says Kavanaugh’s accuser ‘should not be ignored or insulted’,
a page devoted to a video of Kellyanne Conway’s statement,
Kavanaugh allegations lead to White House scramble,
Lawyer: Kavanaugh accuser willing to testify publicly,
State of play of the Kavanaugh nomination on Capitol Hill,
Joe Biden reacts to Kavanaugh allegation, reviving memories of Anita Hill hearing,
Why sexual assault survivors often don’t come forward,
Why Dianne Feinstein waited to take the Brett Kavanaugh allegations to the FBI,
White House plan to defend Kavanaugh relies heavily on women,
Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford to testify on assault allegations in public Monday,
Anita Hill’s accusations did not hurt public support for Clarence Thomas in ’91,
Republicans and Democrats grapple with Kavanaugh political fallout 7 weeks from midterms,
The power of a named accuser: Kavanaugh’s future now hangs in the balance,
Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school classmate, details high school parties in past writings, and many others.
By September 18, CNN’s participation in the anti-Kavanaugh campaign was even more intense:
Why Kavanaugh should make men question ‘himpathy’,
Dianne Feinstein, elected in the ‘Year of the Woman,’ navigates the politics of #MeToo,
Julia Louis-Dreyfus lends support to Brett Kavanaugh accuser,
Anita Hill: Senate should ‘do better’ than it did in 1991,
Doug Jones: Senate should compel Kavanaugh’s friend to testify,
Kavanaugh nomination descends into chaos,
What happens if Christine Blasey Ford doesn’t testify?,
With Kavanaugh, McConnell’s throne is on the line,
Christine Blasey Ford is risking it all to speak out,
Kavanaugh decision moment: A horrendous act or a monstrous lie,
Emmy attendee shows up with ‘Stop Kavanaugh’ written on her arm,
What The Wall Street Journal gets dead wrong about Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh,
Women hold the key to Kavanaugh — and maybe control of Congress,
Trump on Kavanaugh: ‘This is not a man who deserves this’,
Former classmate of Kavanaugh’s denies being at party in sexual assault allegation,
Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation before testifying,
Sen. Hirono’s message to men: ‘Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing.’,
5 big questions about the Kavanaugh hearing,
Kavanaugh hearing uncertain for Monday as accuser wants FBI to investigate before hearing,
George W. Bush defends Kavanaugh as ‘a fine husband, father, and friend’,
Accuser’s friend: She is nothing but honest,
Reliable Sources: Kavanaugh questions; left and right reactions,
Mark Judge tells Senate he ‘has no memory of alleged’ incident with Kavanaugh,
Read: Christine Blasey Ford’s attorneys’ letter requesting FBI investigation, and many others.

Trump calls Kavanaugh ‘an extraordinary man’,
Kavanaugh’s accuser made her move — now Republicans have to choose,
Mazie Hirono: Kavanaugh accuser is hesitating to testify because she’s afraid of a GOP ‘railroad job’,
Trump says he wants to see Kavanaugh’s accuser testify,
6 possible Kavanaugh scenarios, including a Supreme Court vacancy until 2021,
Anita Hill: FBI should investigate Ford’s claim,
Kavanaugh’s accuser says he was drunk at the time. What studies say about alcohol and memory loss,
Kavanaugh accuser’s lawyer: ‘Rush to a hearing is unnecessary’,
Friend of Kavanaugh’s accuser speaks out,
Toobin: If she won’t testify, he gets confirmed,
Reliable Sources: The Supreme Court clock is ticking,
Republicans just made a giant gamble on Brett Kavanaugh,
Collins says ‘it’s not fair’ for Kavanaugh accuser not to testify,
Did Donald Trump just hedge on Brett Kavanaugh’s future?,
McCaskill’s voting against Kavanaugh – and it has nothing to do with the accusations,
Grassley sets Friday deadline to hear back from Kavanaugh accuser,
Garamendi: This is a defining Me Too moment,
Accuser’s lawyer: Rush to hearing unnecessary,
Gillibrand: GOP approach amounts to ‘sham hearing’ on Kavanaugh allegations,
Begala: Hypocrisy, thy name is GOP,
GoFundMe raises more than $100K to help Kavanaugh accuser with security expenses,
Graham wants Kavanaugh vote before midterms

In Hemingway’s report, every one of these is a link. Click ’em and see. There were more, I just got bored of copying them.

And here is all the reporting CNN had done of the very similar allegation against Joe Biden by Tara Reade until yesterday:

Is Italy heading for a (Terror-)Famine? Spanish press report

The ‘conservative’ Spanish newspaper/site abc.es. has a report about the food situation in Italy (in Spanish) which indicates the following, something our media seems to ignore, per my translation:

‘Increasing woe in Italy due to the coronavirus: almost 3,000,000 people need food aid’

There’s a 10% uplift there, as the report gives a breakdown with more details.

In Campania more than 530,000 people need food, almost 9% of the region’s population. More than 364,000 in Sicily, almost 283,000 in Calabria. Even Lazio has more than 263,000 people in need. One analysis says around 2,700,000 people need food aid.

There is much discussion of raids on pharmacies and supermarkets, with police guarding them. This might be Southern politicians screaming for ‘pork’. Or perhaps the economy collapses when the State imposes lockdowns.

The Italian State has responded (to the problem it created)

Urgent response of the government

On Saturday night, the government responded urgently to this cry of alarm from the whole South of Italy, where there is a grave risk which some have called a ‘Social Bomb’ or ‘A Social Powderkeg’ which could explode if urgent solutions aren’t found.

The Prime Minister announced on Saturday night aid of 4,300,000,000 euros for families (Mr Ed. What type of family?) and another 400,000,000 euros in vouchers “to help the citizenry who have no money to buy basic necessities”

Or is this about something else? This paragraph caught my eye:

The challenge of the black economy

The ex-president of the National Anticorruption Authority, Raffaele Cantone, a prestigious Napolitan magistrate, has indicated that the true challenge is the black economy, with thousands of people who are now helpless: «It’s about the existence –says Cantone– of a parallel economy which everyone knows about, which some, and not only Southerners, exploit and many others tolerate, hypocritically pretending that they can’t see it.»

And how long here before our food supply chains might disintegrate, when people have to laboriously shop 2 meters apart, queueing to get in, queueing to pay, as the capacity of the shops to serve customers is throttled, whether or not the products are limited or in short supply. Is there any modelling of how long this can go on, never mind if it should at all?

Melanie Phillips on why she left the Left – and in particular on antisemitism

Just now, a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands, and might therefore be open to the idea of watching and listening to a talking head for the best part of an hour. Accordingly, I now recommend this video interview, which I myself have just watched for the first time. Steve Edginton of the Sun newspaper asks a few short questions. Melanie Phillips supplies some much longer answers.

At the end of the interview, Phillips mentions a couple of relevant books she has written. These are her novel, The Legacy, and her memoir about how she used to work for the Guardian, Guardian Angel: My Journey from Leftism to Sanity.

A lot of us also now have more time for books. For actually reading them, I mean.

Melanie Phillips did this interview a few days ago. I wrote this Samizdata posting about Labour antisemitism in May 2018. I deduced what I did from the distant din of battles which I was not personally part of. Phillips tells the same story from direct personal experience, along with several other closely related stories.

Like I say: highly recommended.

What joining a union can do for you

In Laurence Fox’s case, get you Officially Denounced – and then a payout for being denounced.

In the midst of a pandemic, this story, comparatively trivial but not without consequences, may have passed you by.

Laurence Fox is an actor and musician. Two months ago he caused rather a stir on the BBC political panel show Question Time. I posted about it here: Has the BBC stopped putting bromide in its actors’ tea?

As I said in that post,

The actors’ union Equity helped spread the story by calling on actors to “unequivocally denounce” their fellow. Yes, those exact words. Equity has now backtracked, but it went to prove Mr Fox’s point.

In the end Equity had to do more than backtrack. On March 13th the Guardian reported,

Equity apology to Laurence Fox sparks string of resignations.

The entire race equality committee of Equity has resigned in protest after the actors’ union apologised on its behalf for criticising Laurence Fox’s views on race and paid an out-of-court settlement to the actor after he threatened to sue them for libel.

I am sure they will be greatly missed.

The former star of the detective drama Lewis also used his appearance on the BBC discussion show to insist it was “racist” for an audience member to call him “a white, privileged male”.

“We’re the most tolerant, lovely country in Europe,” he said at the time. “It’s so easy to throw the card of racism at everybody and it’s really starting to get boring now.”

In the aftermath of his appearance, minority representatives of the actors’ union made a series of accusations on Twitter against Fox, saying he wanted to “berate and bully women of colour attempting to discuss issues of race and gender discrimination”.

Narrator’s voice: he didn’t really.

On Friday, the actors’ union issued a carefully worded statement apologising for the comments, with sources saying a payment had been made to the actor: “We are sorry that in the tweets he was called a ‘disgrace’ by Equity. It was a mistake for Equity as an organisation to criticise him in this way. Nothing in Equity’s later statement was intended as a slur on his character or views, or to suggest that he should be denied the ability to work. We would like to make that clear. Equity and Laurence Fox condemn prejudice unequivocally in all its forms.”

Daniel York Loh, the former chair of the race equality committee, said he and his eight other colleagues on the committee, elected by the union’s minority ethnic members, felt forced to resign as a result of the decision to apologise to the actor.

I think that should read “as a result of the decision to apologise to their own member”.

He tweeted: “Equity and La*rence F*x can issue as many joint statements and apologies as they like. It’s nothing to do with me and I apologise for nothing.”

If Mr Loh says that Equity’s apology is nothing to do with him, I assume that means that he has not just resigned from the union’s race equality committee but from the union itself – which in practice would mean that he has resigned from being an actor. A principled decision indeed.

Fox, a member of a well-known acting family, previously said he was concerned he would not be able to work following the intervention from the Equity race equality committee. A source close to Fox said a particular concern was its call for him to be “unequivocally denounced” for his comments on race, which could have reduced his ability to earn money from roles and make a living to enable him to look after his family.

Having lost its race equality committee, Equity might like to see if it can manage without replacing this expensive luxury.

The death clock

A few years ago I remember the arrival of a sort of clock that measured the terrifying rise of the UK’s public debt, a pile that has got much heavier and scarier as a result of the splurge of spending enacted by the new UK finance minister last week. The idea of some dial on the dashboard of our lives, so to speak, which rises constantly, or maybe eventually slows and reverts, is an interesting one. In the media, some newspapers seem to have these daily counts of the number of people dying of coronavirus. On some of the TV channels there is a scrolling feed at the bottom of the screen (I saw this on Sky News, which is arguably even worse than the BBC these days) do this. It was rather like the tickers for the level of the S&P 500 or the latest cricket scores from Lords.

A writer on Linkedin, whom I quote from here but I won’t name as I am not sure I have permission, has written this, and I do sort of sympathise:

Is the news going to report every single death which include a majority of elderly people each day death by death? Many have cancer or asthma or weak immune systems or underlying health issues and many may be on respirators in assisted living or hospitals so how do we know the real cause of death? Smokers who harmed their lungs. Rx’s that damaged lungs and organs such as the heart. Every person is different. The news or government doesn’t report the 109 Americans who die everyday or the 660,000 deaths of individuals from cancer each year. How about the 47,000 plus individual deaths by suicide and illicit drugs? How long is the scare mongering going to linger on? Will be it be until July or August or longer? Viruses and diseases are always popping up…Influenza, Asian Influenza 1950’s, Hong Kong flue 1960’s, Meningitis, AIDS, Mers, Sars, Swine Flu, Ebola…..We don’t know what else may have contributed to the death. Just sayin’.

Of course the State should not in any way ban or try and interfere with such reporting, whether it is crass, hysterical, or sober. At least in the West the media is covering this outbreak heavily, whereas in China, as appears to be the case, people who blew the whistle on what was going on have been punished or just disappeared.

Everybody gets to be racist eventually

The latest newly discovered racist is Trevor Phillips.

Trevor Phillips, the former head of the equalities watchdog, has condemned Labour’s decision to suspend him from the party over alleged Islamophobia, while defending his view that the UK Muslim population is “different”.

Phillips, a pioneering anti-racism campaigner who previously chaired the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has been suspended from Labour pending an investigation and could be expelled.

To me, the remarks in question seem to have an honest attempt to engage with the fact that the attitudes of the Muslim population do differ sharply from the UK average – surely a matter of public interest. Some here, remembering Mr Phillips’ previous role as head of the Commission for Racial Equality and his lifetime of commitment to the ideal of enforced equality, will speak of karma and say “what goes around comes around”. I disagree. As a matter of policy and humanity, when someone starts to move in the right direction we should not rebuff them.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Guardian, wrong about everything, always. Doubly so on anything economic.

Tim Worstall

Why Jack Powell and 1828 are not wasting their time trying to influence the Conservative Party – despite what Steve Davies says

Tomorrow evening, I am hosting a talk at my home which will be given by Jack Powell. Here’s the short biographical note that Powell sent me, to send out to my email list of potential attenders:

Jack Powell founded 1828, which is a new neoliberal news and opinion website, to champion freedom, especially within British Conservative politics. He is the editor of the website as well as being in his final year at King’s College London, studying Spanish and Portuguese.

Interesting guy. Here is the link to the 1828 website.

In the spiel about his talk that followed, Powell goes on to say that 1828 is especially trying to champion freedom in British universities. What this actually means is that he’ll be operating in the territory where politicians and students come together, to think about the bigger picture. An important spot in the political landscape, I think.

In general, Powell’s blurb for his talk abounds with ambition, energy, enthusiasm, attention to detail, and also with the names of Conservative Party politicians (Liz Truss, Priti Patel) and Media organisations (CapX, Guido, Quillette, New Statesman) with whom 1828 has had dealings and who have said good things about the efforts that Powell and the rest of the 1828 team have been making.

I have spent my libertarian life so far trying to spread libertarianism way beyond the merely party political arena, an approach which paid off big time when the internet arrived, in the form of such wonders as, well, Samizdata. But part of the reason I did that was that when I started out being a libertarian activist, it seemed to me that too many people were doing only party politics, and not enough people were trumpetting broader and undiluted libertarian principles to the wider world. There was not nearly enough proclaiming of the libertarian “metacontext”, as we here like to put it. But ever since that earlier time, the last two decades of the previous century basically, the Conservative Party, and in particular its youth membership, has moved away from those freedom-oriented principles and towards the as-much-government-as-we-can-afford-and-then-some position. I am very glad that people like Jack Powell are now trying to reverse that trend.

Recently, and I’m not changing the subject, I attended a talk given by Steve Davies, in which he talked, as he frequently does these days, about political realignment. In particular, Davies has long been noticing a definite shift by the Conservative Party away from free market policies and towards economic dirigisme. This shift, he says, is no mere whim of the people who happen to have been leading the party. He sees a deeper trend in action. So, does that mean that Jack Powell and his fellow 1828-ers are wasting their time talking to and listening to Conservative politicians?

My short answer is: No, they are not.

I say this not because I assume that Davies is wrong about where he sees the Conservatives going. I now suspect that he exaggerates this shift somewhat, but the policy direction he sees is the direction I also see, as, now, do many others. But that doesn’t mean that 1828-ers communing with Truss, Patel and also with the likes of the recently resigned Chancellor Sajid Javid and with the likes of Steve Baker won’t count for anything. When politics goes through upheavals of the sort that Davies now observes, this doesn’t mean that all the politicians who lose internal battles within their parties just vanish. Some do, but others often hang around and find new party settings to operate in, new allies to collaborate with. Davies himself said this in his talk, and offered historical examples of just such behaviour, by William Gladstone for example. Therefore, any time and effort that the 1828-ers spend talking to, listening to and generally cheering on freedom-sympathetic politicians could end up being very significant, no matter what happens to the broader political landscape.

You can never be entirely sure, but neither Sajid Javid nor Steve Baker seem to me like they are about to just fade away without any more fight.

Baker in particular, fresh from his Brexit agonies and ecstasies, is now making all sorts of promising noises. Scroll down, for instance, to the bottom of this piece, where it says:

The outgoing ERG chair has said he wanted to focus more on constituents and that it was time for him to “return to certain economic issues which I consider as least as important to the future of the country as exiting the EU”.

The writer of the piece, David Scullion, adds:

The Wycombe MP is known to be critical of the current system of global finance and what he sees as the problems of Keynesian ‘easy money’.

If you doubt Baker’s continuing commitment to such ideas, just listen to what he starts saying about two thirds of the way through this very recent interview with Scullion. That’s the same link twice, but that’s not the half of what it deserves. Really, seriously. As I believe they say on American battleships: Now hear this! Now hear this! Not many politicians have major impact on two huge issues in one career and in one lifetime, but if I had to pick someone who might be about to score two out of two, I’d now bet on Baker.

So, whatever Jack Powell and his 1828 mates manage to accomplish in the years to come, it is likely to do some good. Listening to him talk about that tomorrow evening will be very interesting.