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

The 1619 project wasn’t about being right. It wasn’t even about history. It was about pushing an anti-American narrative. It’s best understood as a psywar operation aimed at demoralizing the enemy, in this case the American people.

Glenn Reynolds

One of my favourite places to find SQotDs is in the little summaries of issues that Glenn Reynolds often adds to the links he supplies.

Samizdata quote of the day

At least a few federal agency buildings could be greatly improved by the complete omission of entrances.

Commenter Ferox

Architecture wars

Robinson Meyer tweets:

If most Americans hate architectural abstraction and Mies-inspired modernism, then there’s still a compromise solution. It’s simple: All federal buildings should be designed in the style of India’s National Fisheries Development Board.

Trump has put architecture centre stage in the culture wars. Which will make it all much more interesting. Especially if more creature buildings are built, like the one in the picture above. And especially if they built something like a huge panda building or huge frog building, in Washington.

Eventually, there should be a giant building in Washington, the tallest in town, shaped like Donald Trump. A giant Trump sculpture. That would drain the swamp. They’d all flee in terror.

To be a bit more serious, but only a bit, just think about Trump’s edict, which says that from now on, all Federal Government buildings in the USA must be designed in the “classical” style. No more office blocks looking like multi-story car parks or international space stations. From now on, they’ll have to have a Parthenonic frontage stuck onto them.

Were any such buildings actually to get built, everyone who looks at one of these buildings is going to see … Trump. But all the people who work in government buildings hate Trump from the depths of their tax-dollar-sucking bossy-boots souls. So, they’ll make a huge stink to ensure that no such buildings ever get built. How beautiful is that? The governmental classes will, for the duration of Trump’s reign of architectural terror, expend huge amounts of energy opposing the expansion of the Federal Government.

The more I hear and see of Trump, the more I like him. But I’m talking about America, and what do I know about America? Luckily, we have plenty of commenters who do know about America, because they live there. Gentlemen, start your engines.

I just did a bit of copying and pasting

Of this:

Born in New York City in 1945, Tesler eventually studied computer science at Stanford University before working in the school’s artificial intelligence research lab in the late 1960s. He moved to Xerox in 1973, where he devised the time-saving concepts to cut, copy and paste in computer systems.

“Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas,” Xerox tweeted Thursday to honor Tesler.

Oh, it goes far beyond that, for me and surely for many others. My whole life was made possible by this sort of stuff.

With thanks to Instapundit. It’s little postings like this that keep me going back there. If all there was there was politics, I’d keep going back, but surely not so often.

Imagine having to copy out just the two links above, letter by letter, number by number. Absurd.

A BIT LATER: I put together all of the above for my personal blog, but then I thought: this should go to Samizdata. So I copied and pasted it across. Took me about two minutes.

Trump’s predictable triumph…

I have a question for readers who watch US politics more closely than I do these days: given how the process of impeaching a US President works & the nakedly political nature of the whole thing, in view of the cold hard number of Democrats vs. Republicans in the US Senate, what sequence of events did the architects of this venture see that would result in a different outcome?

How could this not have ended in a victory by Trump and vastly increase the chance of him getting re-elected? Anyone care to explain the Democrat gambit? I mean, they must have assumed they could successfully depose the duly elected POTUS when they started this ball rolling, so what am I missing?

Five, six, seven, eight, who do we assassinate?

Please try not to get arrested, but in the shadow of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, might it not be interesting to have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of assassination?

Most states, most of the time, follow a rough convention that important government employees – heads of state, government ministers, top brass et cetera – of State A do not assassinate their counterparts in State B, however wicked those counterparts may be. President Trump has shown himself indifferent to that convention. He could be praised for his courage (including personal courage: his own risk of being assassinated has obviously gone up) or damned for his disregard of the evil consequences that are likely to fall on others. In a world where national leaders target each other, wars are more likely.

Or are they? Did the fact that men like Soleimani could kill minor employees of other governments, not to mention civilians, without much personal risk, actually smooth the path to war? It does seem unjust that those steeped in guilt are sacrosanct while relatively innocent spear-carriers are acceptable targets.

Here is another question for us and anyone watching us to ponder. Many people have argued strongly over the last few hours that President Trump was right to break the convention of the immunity from assassination of senior state employees. But I have heard no one argue against the convention that only senior state employees can order assassinations.

ADDED LATER: In the comments “Chester Draws” made a very relevant point:

There is a convention that political leaders are not killed.

There is also a convention — literally — that embassies are not to be attacked. Iran broke that one first. And then again recently.

That fact alone, that until now the Islamic Republic of Iran got away scot-free with invading an embassy and kidnapping diplomats, made me much more willing to approve the unconventional killing of a representative of that government. Let those who boast that the rules do not apply to them learn that in that case the rules do not apply to them.

On the BBC, persons of no appearance attack Jews in New York

In May, I wrote: “The attacks, and the silence of progressive New York, are utterly appalling.” In ­December, it’s more than appalling. It’s complicit. (Karol Markowicz)

To say that today’s BBC broadcast reports of the latest attacks in New York pivoted swiftly to denouncing generalised “racism and homophobia” in the age of Trump might be called an exaggeration – since to pivot, one must first be pointing in a different direction. But arguably that is unfair, and the beeb’s afternoon and evening news broadcasts did indeed merely swiftly pivot to a more acceptable talking point. Certain omissions, hinted at in this post’s title, assisted that pivot.

How far the BBC is on the same complicit page as against how far they are just unwisely still treating their progressive American friends as trustworthy and sufficient sources of insight, I do not know. My impression was that the beeb covered Corbyn’s little problem in this area a bit less absurdly than what I saw today. It is easier to fool UK viewers about the US than about the UK – and some beeboids do seem to be trying.

I should note that a hint of appearance did appear on the BBC’s website. And, thanks to crime movies, most UK viewers know enough of the geography of New York to realise that Harlem is maybe not the most obvious place for a white-supremacist-style anti-semite to hide out. It will be revealing to see whether coverage becomes more informative – or not.

Does Trump have a case to answer?

I have not been following the Trump impeachment hooha with any great interest but I can’t fail to notice that it is dominating Sky News’s coverage today. Some might say they are doing so to distract attention from their defeat in last week’s general election but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Anyway, I would be grateful if the commentariat could help to bring me up to speed on this. For instance, does Trump have a case to answer? Has he done anything illegal and – more to the point – has he done anything wrong? Perhaps even more to the point, has he done anything that other US presidents – Obama for instance – wouldn’t do?

I can’t help but notice that people I trust have been rather quiet on this.

The Anti-Saloon League is back

“Prohibition showed bans can be good for us”, writes David Aaronovitch in the Times. Unironically. He means it. He thinks Prohibition was good and wants it back. I suppose it was ever thus; it is like the way that when the people who remember the last banking crash die the banks start crazy lending again.

Mr Aaronovitch writes,

Your mental charge sheet against prohibition may well include the accusation that it didn’t get rid of drinking but sent it underground; that the resulting appetite for “bootlegged” liquor led to the rise of organised criminal syndicates, Al Capone, the mob and the St Valentine’s Day massacre; that it helped to make corrupt hypocrites out of public servants; that the rich were able to indulge while the poor were criminalised.

Why yes, it does.

And after just a few years the Americans saw what a disaster it was and repealed it. It may not improve your view of it to know that the Ku Klux Klan were very much in favour of prohibition.

That does not surprise me.

Strangely though, the one question that almost no one seems to ask of this epic public health measure is whether or not it actually improved public health. Yet it doesn’t take much digging into the available statistics to discover that it did — quite a lot, in fact.

Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to all kinds of adverse health conditions. The most obvious is alcoholic cirrhosis (or scarring) of the liver. In 1911 the death rate for cirrhosis among American men was nearly 30 per 100,000. By 1929 that had been reduced by more than 30 per cent. Registered admissions to mental hospitals for psychosis linked to alcohol more than halved. Even by 1933, when Volstead was revoked, alcohol consumption had gone down by a third since pre-prohibition. Whatever Mark Twain may have written, prohibition saved many, many lives.

The commenters made several good points to contradict that assertion. Some pointed out that in the same period alcohol consumption also went down other countries, including the UK, where alcohol continued to be legal. Bryan Dale said, “If prohibition reduced alcohol consumption by a third that can hardly be called a success. It was supposed to eliminate it entirely after all. With 2/3 as much alcohol being illegally consumed as had been done legally before prohibition, the impact on respect for the law must have been dreadful.” Others described well-stocked drinks cabinets in modern Saudi Arabia, or the way that the type of alcohol consumed shifts from beer to spirits when it must be sold and transported illegally.

I expect readers of this site can supply many other historical and factual arguments. All I will say is that there is a void at the heart of the passage I quoted above. Mr Aaronovitch never even questions the assumption that it is for him and people like him to decide what other human beings may or may not put in their own bodies.

Goats save the Reagan library

News comes to us that creatures more commonly associated with destruction, a herd of goats in California, have helped to preserve the Reagan Presidential Library by the simple act of eating scrub, thereby clearing brushwood, as the BBC put it:

In May, the library hired the goats to clear flammable scrub surrounding the complex as a preventative measure.
The goats ate the brush, creating a fire break that slowed the flames and gave firefighters extra time to react.
The library near Los Angeles was threatened by the Easy Fire, the latest in a spate of fires causing evacuations and power cuts across the state.
The caprine contractors included Vincent van Goat, Selena Goatmez and Goatzart. They helped save exhibits including an Air Force One jet and a piece of the Berlin Wall.
We were told by one of the firefighters that they believe that fire break made their job easier,” Melissa Giller, a library spokeswoman, told Reuters.

Well at least the firemen in California recognise the worth of a fire break, and some act prudently to preserve property using forward planning.

Perhaps these caprine fire fighters will become the go-to contractors for those Californians who don’t wish to be incinerated? How long before Sacramento regulates goat use (more than it probably already does, I have no idea?) lest something be left of the Goaten State?

Personally, I’d put them in the State Legislature with some statute books and whatever laws they eat are repealed, surely that would be an improvement? Then they could move on the State Supreme Court.

A question about the racial experience at Harvard

A recent post looked at the hypocrisy of Harvard’s racist admissions policies. I want to look at what it teaches – not at what Harvard says but at what the actual experience it gives to its students teaches them.

1) Harvard invites students to attend a university – one of the halls of academia. By presenting itself as elite, it invites its students to think that academic ability, academic ways of thinking, are hallmarks (the hallmarks!) of an elite.

2) Having implied the importance of academic talent in overt and subtle ways, Harvard creates an artificial racial reality: it selects its asian-american students to average 140 Scholastic Aptitude Test points more that its white-american students. It selects its white-american students to average 130 SAT points more than its hispanic-american students. And it selects its african-american students to average 180 SAT points less than its hispanics, 310 SAT points less than its whites and 450 SAT points less than its asians.*

Thus Harvard gives members of each of these easily-distinguishable racial groups the routine experience of encountering a consistent, marked discrepancy between their group and other groups in precisely the area that the whole essence of being at Harvard implies is important, not just for gaining some academic degree but for being worthy to decide on politics, social mores, life in general. Day by day, the experience of being at Harvard teaches its students that, in the quality that matters, asians are typically superior, whites are typically normal, hispanics are typically inferior and blacks even more so. Harvard is a university – a pillar of academia, a place that implies academic is everything – and they chose the racial mix of their students to incarnate academic racial inequality.

3) Harvard also teaches that it is the most appalling sin, unspeakably evil and harshly-punished even when the evidence is slight or non-existent, for any student ever to refer in the slightest, most micro, most indirect way to this routinely-experienced reality that Harvard admissions has created. Students must not in any way betray that they have noticed any aspect or even distant side-effect of the artificial reality Harvard has created for them – and this of course compounds the artificiality of the Harvard reality.

So my question is: what does this experience in fact teach Harvard students?

In the early 1930s, workers in Kiev and similar cities frequently had to step over starving people and corpses in the streets as they walked to catch their trams for the daily commute, on which they could read newspaper articles about the “new, happy life” that collectivising agriculture had brought, or look at posters proclaiming “Life has become better, life has become more joyful – Stalin”. (The NKVD swiftly removed the man who, by adding a letter, changed the Russian to mean: “Life has become better, life has become more joyful – for Stalin.”) The few trustworthy reports of the time say the bizarre contrast between experienced reality and official propaganda (that one did not dare question) produced strange mental dislocations.

Harvard (thank God!) is a far lesser evil, but similar in this respect: students are immersed in an artificial reality – and then told it is a vile crime to betray the smallest symptom of having noticed it. Does anyone know anecdotes, or studies, of what the psychological effects of this are?

—-

* That the differences are large is not open to honest dispute – which excludes many a PC commentator. Back in the 1990s, when this situation was less developed, Thomas Sowell (in e.g. “Race and Culture”) reported that the black-white discrepancy was well into the three-figure range while asian-americans had to average 50+ points above whites to have the same admission chances. Admissions discrimination against asian-americans, and for those minorities the PC like, appears to have grown since then. My figures above come from this article. The effect and its scale are clear; the precise SAT point values are debatable and vary (rather growing than diminishing) over time.

This is the country Dems wish an open border with ???

Then the coup de grace: as the Chapo sons’ forces engaged in direct combat with their own national military, kill squads went into action across Culiacán, slaughtering the families of soldiers engaged in the streets.

The report is from an (understandably!) anonymous informant, h/t instapundit, who comments,

This is getting very little coverage in the US

(The BBC covered it yesterday but it’s off their website frontpage today and searching ‘Mexico’ doesn’t find it – you have to know the story specifics to find it.)

We want a less open border with the EU, but I have to admit this kind of thing makes the Calais camp, and even Merkel’s million, look tame by comparison.