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]

Oh Canada!

I get press releases. Here is the text from one of them, via Ideas Beyond Borders. I repeat most of the content, and I am sure IBB won’t object.

New standards for library book removal left students, parents, teachers, and board members of the Peel District School Board confused recently as they noticed the number of books in various school libraries drop by what may be as much as half. Adding to the confusion is the assertion by some that books, including significant titles such as Harry Potter, The Hungry Caterpillar, and Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, were removed simply because they were published before 2008. The situation has prompted so much discontent that Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce wrote to the PDSB around September 13th, requesting a halt to the removals.

Like most school districts in Canada and other countries across the globe, libraries periodically conduct a process sometimes referred to as “weeding,” where some books are added, some removed, and some replaced with newer editions. Unheard of, however, is removing a book solely because of its publication date, particularly one as seemingly arbitrary as the year 2008. Getting a straight answer to what happened hasn’t been easy for parents, students, community members, or the media. The board’s education director, Rashmi Swarup, said in a statement, “PDSB teacher librarians have not been given the direction to remove all books published with a publication date older than 2008, nor has the board received provincial direction to remove particular books from our collections.” The chair of PDSB’s board of trustees, David Green, claims staff were told to focus on books published around 2008 or older as that was when there was last a major weeding. Students and other community members claim staff told them they were told to remove anything pre-2008.

Documents obtained by a group of parents, teachers, and other community members known as Libraries Not Landfills show that PDSB formulated their weeding methodology to comply with a directive issued by (plot twist!) Education Minister Stephen Lecce himself based upon a 2020 report commenting on systematic discrimination in the district. According to the documents, the first step of the process apparently places the age limit in question before two other measures aimed at improving equity and diversity. The district’s guidelines were written by the non-profit Canadian School Libraries (CSL) and are known as “MUSTIE”.

● M (Misleading) – a book is factually inaccurate/obsolete or contains stereotypes

● U (Ugly) – a book is torn, dirty, moldy, etc.

● S (Superseded) – a book has a newer edition

● T (Trivial) – a book has no literary/artistic merit or is poorly written

● I (Irrelevant) – a book doesn’t interest or serve the needs of its target community

● E (Elsewhere) – the book’s info can be better explored in another book or format

Some of these guidelines seem obvious – nobody wants a moldy book lying around. Others can be left to a troubling amount of interpretation – whether or not a book is trivial or irrelevant can vary wildly from student to student. Weeding out books with stereotypes is tricky too – what constitutes a “harmful” stereotype is somewhat subjective, and the line between that and accurately depicting certain cultural tropes can be quite blurry. Too heavy-handed an approach on this metric could lead to such important Canadian authors as Richard Wagamese, Margaret Atwood, and Dionne Brand being unfairly targeted for removal because they tackle race, ethnicity and gender in a manner some may find uncomfortable.

So what happens to the books that get weeded? The physically damaged ones should be thrown away, but what about those that don’t meet the trusted MUSTIE standards? Donating them might be nice, but no, apparently not. According to the documents obtained by Libraries Not Landfills, PDSB is straight up destroying many of the weeded books because “they are not inclusive, culturally responsive, relevant or accurate” and therefore “not suitable for any learners.” Tom Ellard, the founder of Libraries Not Landfills, says a landfill in the area told him they’re looking to hire extra staff because of all the discarded books they’ve received. That’s pretty astonishing (assuming it’s accurate) and incredibly troubling, evoking images and memories of tactics used by authoritarian regimes across history.

Coverage of the removals has been non-existent since Lecce’s letter to Peel District School Board in which he requested the current removal process to “immediately end.” His initial statement was, “Ontario is committed to ensuring that the addition of new books better reflects the rich diversity of our communities. It is offensive, illogical and counterintuitive to remove books from years past that educate students on Canada’s history, antisemitism or celebrated literary classics,” which seems to be a defense of the program overall while criticizing the scope and severity of the removals. His office has not commented since.

There is a website called End Banned Books. Worth supporting.

Canada has become a shitshow, politically and culturally. People like to go on about how “nice” Canadians are, but I always thought that something a bit patronising about that. The Canadians who hit the beaches at Normandy in 1944, liberating the continent from the Nazis, were magnificantly not “nice”. The truckers who objected to the Trudeau insanity over vaccine mandates had some of that old grit. That country could sorely use that spirit now, assuming any of it is left.

The obesity of the State and its consequences

In his book, After America (published in 2011, which already seems a loooong time ago), Mark Steyn wrote this:

“Any visitor from the Fifties would soon discover, in a bleak comment on the limits of predictive fiction, our brains didn’t get bigger. But our butts did. If DC Comics had gone with the `Super-Ass of Jimmy Olsen,’ they’d have been up there with Nostradamus. `Our culture’s sedentary character – our strong preference for watching over doing, for virtual over real action – seems closely related to our changing body shape,’ wrote the Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. `We now consume significantly more fats and carbohydrates than we actually need. According to the standard measure of obesity, the body-mass index, the percentage of Americans classified as obese nearly doubled, from 12 percent to 21 per cent, between 1991 and 2001. Nearly two-thirds of all American men are officially considered overweight, and nearly three-quarters of those between 45 and 64. Only Western Samoans and Kuwaitis are fatter.’ We are our own walking (or waddling) metaphor from consumption unmoored from production.”


“Our `changing physical shape’ (in Ferguson’s words) seems an almost literal rebuke to the notion of republican self-government. Never mind the constitution, where are our checks and balances?”
Mark Steyn, After America, pages 225-6.

Steyn is connecting two things: a government/central bank policy mix that focuses on consumption, rather than production, and ties policy to that, including welfare policy (ideas such as Univeral Basic Income, etc). Also, the risk-adverse, Precautionary Principle of our time seems to go against humans being adventurous, taking calculated risks, getting up and going places, etc. For example, he notes how young adults today can go through their teens and early 20s without having a job. When, as I did, you worked on Saturdays and during the summer holidays (paper rounds, working on farms, in shops, etc) there were various consequences – all good – including the fact that you had to be physically active. (Glenn Reynolds writes in a similar vein on why teenagers should work before going to college.) Now, the idea of young people working is treated as being on the same plane as evil Victorian mill owners out of a Dickens novel. But Steyn is also making the point about production – and a very anti-Keynesian point. As the “Austrian” school notes (as in George Reisman’s book Capitalism), to consume, you have to produce and that means accumulate capital (physical capital, and mental capital, such as skills and habits). So much present policy seems to work against accumulating capital (taxes, regulations, inflation, the general demonisation of wealthy people, etc). And we print or have printed money to fill the gap. So our economy becomes zombified on ultra-low rates, and like someone who hasn’t taken a regular walk, lifted weights or performed physical work, we get bloated and sick.

Much of what Steyn wrote 12 years ago was accurate, and many of his predictions hold true. I think where the book is a bit off is that he thinks the threat from fundamentalist Islam was the biggest threat to the US while he did not write lot about China, although China does figure in this book quite a bit, to be fair. And the idea of Russia running amok in Ukraine or wherever, while he hints at this risk, it does not really figure all that much. I am quibbling, though. This is a book that holds up well. Its conclusion – that we have to shrink the State, remains as valuable as ever.

Right, off to the gym.

That thing 22 years ago…

I have not forgotten it.

An unprivate death. Instapundit met with some opposition when he showed the famous photograph of a man falling to his death upside down, having leapt from the burning World Trade Centre.

You can’t help wondering: did he know as he jumped that he’d turn in the air and spend his last seconds upside down? Mortal insult added to mortal injury. If he had known, would he have chosen the other death? I had a friend who died when both parachutes failed to open. I think of her when I see that picture. I don’t know if she fell upside down. I hope not.

I say, show it. Show it often. I know all about hating to see it: like most of you I can remember first seeing that picture on September 11 – only in my case it was September 11 2002. Out of all the hundreds of hours of film and the thousands of photos taken of the slaughter on September 11 2001, I saw only a few seconds of footage until a year later. On that day I didn’t want the children seeing people die on camera (though we talked about it, of course), particularly as I didn’t know if there were more attacks to come. My fear of the children seeing it flowed from my fear of me seeing it. I’ve always disliked even fictional images of modern-day, realistic violence, the sort of violence that can happen to me and mine; and this dislike has hardened into almost a (controlled) phobia since I had children. It’s a thousand times worse when the images are real. Yet my hunger to know more about what had happened was as primal, as voracious, as anyone’s. That hunger is a survival trait. (Refined and systemised, it is also a victory trait: the defining victory trait of Western civilisation. It will win us this war, too – if a fatal squeamishness more sickly by far than my purely visual queasiness doesn’t rot our guts first.)

I have nothing to add to what I wrote twenty years ago, and nothing to subtract either.

There’s no shame in not knowing, only in being determined not to find out

I had never heard of Noam Dworman before today. Apparently he is the owner of a comedy venue in New York and he does podcasts. I had vaguely heard of the Washington Post columnist Philip Bump, and I had certainly heard of the Washington Post. Woodward. Bernstein. Watergate. Like thousands of others, after seeing ‘All the President’s Men’, I dreamed of being an investigative reporter.

The WaPo is not what it was, judging from Bump’s performance on this edition of Dworman’s podcast. When Dworman called it “Live From The Table: Philip Bump Battles Hard on Hunter Biden” he was too charitable. The main thing Bump battles to do is not acknowledge the steaming great news story in front of his nose and to extricate himself before someone asks a reporter at the Washington Post to investigate the President.

I often think it is a valuable exercise to type out extracts from videos so that what is in them has a better chance to reach the quite large number of people who don’t watch videos. So I tried to transcribe what was said in the last few minutes of this podcast, starting at 1:10:25. There were several places where Bump and Dworman talked over each other, so forgive me if I didn’t get every word. All the bold type was added by me.

NOAM DWORMAN: What do you take from the text message to his adult daughter where Hunter says, “I have to give 50% of my income to Pop”?
PHILIP BUMP: I have no idea what that means. I don’t. I have no idea what that means.

I would have thought it was clear enough.

NOAM DWORMAN: Well, it’s, it’s –
PHILIP BUMP: I know it’s circumstantial evidence and you’d prefer that…
NOAM DWORMAN: What – what could it be?
PHILIP BUMP: I have no idea.
NOAM DWORMAN: Well does it – ?
PHILIP BUMP: I appreciate your asking-

I could not hear whether Bump then says that he appreciates Dworman asking the question or that he appreciates Dworman asking him to be on his podcast, but judging from his repetition of the line later, it was probably him trying to end the session.

NOAM DWORMAN: Has anybody asked her?
PHILIP BUMP: I don’t know. I don’t know.
NOAM DWORMAN: Don’t you think that somebody should ask her?
PHILIP BUMP: “OK, like I’m – I just said I don’t know what to make of it, so I have nothing to say. What do you want me to say?
NOAM DWORMAN: Yeah, but you say, ‘There’s no evidence, no evidence’ but then there’s a text message where he says, ‘I give Pop 50% of my money. That’s – that’s evidence.
PHILIP BUMP: Okay, well, what, fine, fine. It’s evidence.

For a very brief moment I thought that Mr Bump was about to say that the Washington Post would fearlessly grab the story and not let go.

PHILIP BUMP:. I appreciate you having me on.

NOAM DWORMAN: It doesn’t…? That something like that…?
PHILIP BUMP: I feel you want me to leave, like just walk out in the middle of this so you can…
NOAM DWORMAN: You can go, but is this the standard, really, is this the way, that the Washington Post handles people who disagree with them?
PHILIP BUMP: When I agreed to be on for 45 minutes and then I get on for an hour and fifteen, then, yeah, after a while I go. Thanks for having me on. [He leaves.]

When Mr Bump was a little boy, did he watch All The President’s Men like I did? Did he dream that one day he would be a journalist at the very same newspaper as Woodward and Bernstein, and that he too would have evidence of Presidential malfeasance put before him, and that he would see it for what it was, and that he would…

…complain that he’d been sitting in the same seat for half an hour more than he was booked for and say, “Yeah, after a while I go.”

Free speech and privacy are under siege across the Anglosphere

Here are three articles I saw over the last couple of days, one about Canada, one about the UK, and one about Ireland.

Jordan Peterson writing in the Telegraph:

As a professional, practicing clinical psychologist, I never thought I would fall foul of Canada’s increasingly censorial state. Yet, like so many others – including teachers, nurses, and other professionals – that is precisely what has happened. In my case, a court has upheld an order from the College of Psychologists of Ontario that I undergo social media training or lose my licence to practice a profession I have served for most of my adult life.

Their reason? Because of a handful of tweets on my social media, apparently. Yes: I am at risk of losing my licence to practice as a mental health professional because of the complaints of a tiny number of people about the utterly unproven “harm” done by my political opinions.

Bill Goodwin writing in Computer Weekly:

Plans by the government in the Online Safety Bill to require tech companies to scan encrypted messages will damage the UK’s reputation for data security, the UK’s professional body for IT has warned.

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, which has 70,000 members, said that government proposals in the new laws to compromise end-to-end encryption are not possible without creating systemic security risks and in effect bugging millions of phone users.

John McGuirk writing in Gript.ie:

Yesterday morning my colleague Ben Scallan attended the Electoral Commission’s announcement of the new constituency boundaries for the next Irish general election. While most of the focus of the event was on who would be voting where, Ben asked a question of more general relevance to the commission: It has been granted significant powers to regulate so-called “misinformation” in Irish election campaigns. If this was a power it needs, we reasoned, then surely it would have examples of the kind of misinformation that it intended to regulate in future elections. Ben asked for such an example, and here is what happened:

That the commission does not have examples of the kind of misinformation it intends to correct is hardly shocking if, like me, you are a cynic. It’s quite hard to genuinely shock us cynics.

And yet Mrs. Justice Marie Baker, the Chairperson of the Commission, did indeed manage to shock me at 3.15 in the clip above when she said “we’re also going to have to learn how to deal with the balance between the right to freedom of expression on the one hand, and on the other hand, the right of persons not to be misinformed”.

This is shocking firstly because Mrs. Justice Baker is a judge of the Supreme Court, and should know that while the right to freedom of expression is in the Irish constitution, the right not to be misinformed appears nowhere. Even granting some allowances for the fact that she was speaking off the cuff, it’s objectively remarkable to see a Supreme Court Judge essentially making up a law, and a right, that nobody has ever voted on – and more than that, assuming for herself the right to enforce on everyone else a right or a law that she’s just invented herself.

To do that is one thing – to do it while speaking of “defending democracy”, when democracy is about having the people choose their own laws, is quite another.

“The right of persons not to be misinformed” is a truly Orwellian inversion of the meaning of “right”. It describes the withdrawal of a right as the granting of one.

I would like to think that the absence of any news stories about threats to freedom in Australia, New Zealand or the United States in today’s little collection was because there were none to report. I would also like the figure and eyesight of a twenty year-old and a billion pounds.

How Putin fooled the Western Left… & influenced some US Republicans

Well worth watching…

Why are the Democrats suddenly so keen for Trump to get his say?

“Donald Trump indictment: Why these charges are most serious ones yet”, writes Sarah Smith, the BBC’s North America editor.

How will these people react when they hear detailed evidence that Donald Trump knew there was no evidence of electoral fraud? That he was told again and again, by his trusted inner circle, that he had lost the election?

Can their faith withstand the weight of the evidence the prosecution will bring to court?

I don’t know. But Ms Smith seems to be forgetting that in a trial it is not only the prosecution who bring evidence to court. Trump, too, will have the right to call witnesses and demand hidden things be brought forth. Faith can be tested in more than one direction.

After the 2020 election, the US establishment and media made Herculean efforts to silence anyone arguing that election fraud had occurred. They may not have succeeded with the deplorables, but they succeeded with the respectables. There is scarcely a member of the American upper middle class without the protection of a private income or tenure who would dare to talk about the events in Maricopa County even to say that they were satisfied that no irregularity occurred. Doing that would imply that they had given Trump’s views on the 2020 election enough consideration to reject them. The censors got Trump himself and many of his most prominent supporters thrown off Twitter. They had Facebook groups with hundreds of thousands of members deleted. They deleted his videos from Facebook. Facebook also demoted posts from private individuals that contained “election misinformation”. The social media companies instituted regular meetings where government officials told them who to censor and shadowban next – and the companies asked what more they could do.

And now, after doing all that, they have decided to demand that Trump explains in detail why he believes the 2020 election was stolen. They are going to demand he does it in the one place where even they dare not keep the public from hearing him speak. “In all criminal prosecutions,” says the Sixth Amendment, “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

Is there some factor obvious to Americans but missed by my British eyes that explains why this reversal of policy is not as rash as it seems? True, it might work out well for the Democrats. Trump is irritating. He has an irritating voice. His speech from the dock will not echo those of Robert Emmet or Nelson Mandela in anyone’s ears but his. All the same, I would bet on him rather than them coming out ahead. He does not have to prove the election was stolen from him. He does not even have to prove that he believes the election was stolen from him. (Which of course he does believe. He’s Trump, for goodness sake. One doesn’t have to take a view on whether or not he truly has been wronged to see that Donald Trump is the last man on Earth to ponder whether the bad guy might be him.)

It is for the prosecution to prove that Trump does not believe the election was stolen.

Unless I am misunderstanding something, that seems a formidable task.

The Sound Of Freedom film

A new film is out, called The Sound of Freedom, and it is about the horrible topic of child sex trafficking, and based on the experiences of people, such as former US government agent, Tim Ballard, who tried to shut this trade down. The film has become a hit already in the US, overtaking the new and lame Indiana Jones film (starring an aging Harrison Ford).

The Critical Drinker – my favourite film reviewer – gives his verdict here.

I want to focus on a different angle here, because I can imagine some of the “whataboutery” sort of responses from those who, for example, dislike the emphatic Christian convictions of the actor who plays Tim Ballard – Jim Caviezel. The film has already provoked sniffy responses from certain quarters.

There is, as readers know, a gap between rhetoric and performance when it comes to Christian churches and other faiths’ groups in terms of the treatment of children in some cases, while Christians and those of no faith are also to be found in seeking to protect children, too. I hope and generally imagine that the benign consequences of religion, when it comes to care for children, outweigh the negatives (full disclosure: I am a lapsed Anglican). I recall reading, with horror, about the child abuse allegations that were sweeping through the Catholic church a few years ago in cities such as Boston. I recall there was a film about this, such as about the situation in Boston, a few years ago. On the flip side, consider the work of evangelical Christians, Quakers and others on issues such as building a moral storm against the slave trade, or the encouragement of prison reform, and so on. It is hard to contemplate the US civil rights movement and not see the importance of Christianity in the US. (For a fascinating account of how different Christian denominations have shaped American culture to this day, read Albion’s Seed, by David Hackett Fischer.)

So why the hostility to this film now? This seems driven more by political partisanship and point scoring between the Left and Right than an ability to view stories on the facts.

Even the most secular person can and should be appalled, and want to tackle the matter of sex trafficking and coercion of minors. This is why issues such as money laundering, for example, are such a big deal for banks (and why it is all the more important to get that sort of issue right.)

It is true that these issues can get out of hand when it comes to fear and panic about what is going on. In the UK and other places about 40 years ago there was a “satantic abuse” problem, in parts of the north of the UK, I think, and there were miscarriages of justice, and a serious concern about the errors and oversight of various government agencies.

Even so, on the face of it, there is a problem. Slavery today is, in numerical terms, a major issue. The United Nations said, in a report last year, that there are millions of people in a condition of slavery, and a number of them will be children. (The usual health warnings apply to official figures, but even with that, these are non-trivial numbers.)

I can understand the reason for some people, maybe from good intentions, to either play down the issue or hope it goes away because they don’t want specific groups to be portrayed in a negative light, or fear this will cause specific groups to be persecuted. Centuries ago, Jews were attacked for wanting to kill Christian babies, and other such nonsense. But the problem is that our politeness, even our desire not to “rock the boat”, creates a breeding ground for trouble.

Unfortunately, in today’s always-offended culture, and its myriad hypocrisies, blind spots and desire to wish things were different than they are, the chances that there will be a rational, realistic discussion on how to prevent abuses, deal with criminals, and so on are not great. But we have to try.

Samizdata quote of the day – the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history

One naturally wants to believe that an issue one is involved in is of world-historical importance. But as the judge himself wrote in the decision, “If the allegations made by Plaintiffs are true, the present case arguably involves the most massive attack against free speech in United States’ history.” That, my friends, is a strong claim, but as I have previously argued, an entirely accurate one.

Aaron Kheriaty

Be assured we do not want your kids for selfish reasons

Dear benighted parents, you must understand that we operate under a “higher obligation”.

There is a magnificently orotund opinion article by one Professor Sarah J. Reynolds in the Indystar* (the newspaper formerly known as the Indianapolis Star):

“Parents’ rights debate missing key piece: Kids’ right to learn to be free thinkers.”

“Parents’ rights” have been widely discussed in local, state and national debates around education in recent years. Here in Indiana, Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office has released a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which specifies that parents “have a constitutional right to direct the upbringing and education of [their] child in the manner [they] see fit.” Many of these bills and discussions, however, crucially forget that the higher obligation in education is not to the parent, but to the child themselves.

We have a collective community responsibility to ensure that children’s education is not determined by or dependent on the whims of a few, but instead is truly preparing children for a future as independent, free-thinking citizens in a world beyond their parents’ control and vision. In our communities, we need to work together to collectively ensure that children’s rights to education are what is privileged in our schools and laws.


Certainly, the parental impulse to protect and guide and nurture is an important one, and one that strongly benefits children and their education. However, we must remember that impulses can lead even the well-intentioned astray. Protection can be stifling, guidance can seep into control, and forms of nurturing that were once age-appropriate must transform and transition into different varieties of love and respect as children mature. Furthermore, we are sorrowfully aware that not every parent has their children’s best interest at heart.

In the comments to the Indystar’s tweet, a lady called Orietta Rose shares her own sorrowful awareness that “less than 40% of 4th graders [in Indiana] were testing proficient or above in reading & math in 2022. Can’t read, but they’re learning to be freethinkers, right?”

*I’ve got a lot of fond memories of that dog.

Cubans know the alternative to freedom

When I asked my five-year-old grandson what he knew about George Washington, all he could say was, “He owned slaves.” That’s how Washington is remembered today: slaves, bad teeth, and a face on the dollar bill. But he won the Revolutionary War by sheer force of character; the precedents he set as our first chief executive embodied the ideology of freedom and remain in effect today. Other great men of similar talents behaved quite differently. Napoleon began as first consul, then promoted himself to emperor. Simón Bolívar went from liberator to dictator. By contrast, Washington voluntarily and with much relief relinquished power and ended his days as a farmer at Mount Vernon. That was unusual, unlikely—and exceptional.

Martin Gurri on how he sees July 4th

Samizdata quote of the day – California gender cult edition

This bill, if passed, would fundamentally redefine family life in California. It would devastate parents’ rights. Your rights over your children – to love them, to look after them, to socialise them as you see fit – would be utterly contingent on your acceptance of the new state religion of transgenderism. AB957 is best seen as an act of forced religious conversion. It sends a stern message to parents across California that if they do not sign up to the cult of gendered souls, to the cranky belief that even young children sometimes feel a mismatch between their ‘real’ gender and their cursed biological casing, then they’ll be treated as the morally lesser party in custody hearings. Your worth as a parent will be determined by how willing you are to take the knee to the gender beliefs of your superiors.

Brendan O’Neill