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]

Passing the port from left to right at the Science Fiction Writers of America dinner

“Dammit, Clive, don’t be a bloody fool. Think of your wife. And the children. And the regiment.”

It was a British thing. One passed the port from right to left. When in a moment of madness poor, doomed Clive passed the port to the right, there was only one way to atone.

Back in 1979 when that episode of Ripping Yarns came out, I expect our colonial cousins were amused at our former belief that right-to-left was fine yet left-to-right was abominable. Such absurd stress on an insignificant difference in the manner of performing an everyday action!

The Yanks of 1979 laughed at Brits of 1979 laughing at Brits of 1879. The Yanks of 2022 say, “Hold my beer.”

Jim Treacher retweeted this from “Undoomed”:

Read their statement and was like: Holy shit, what did she do? Did she drop N-bombs on stage while wearing a white hood and setting a cross on fire??

Undoomed is referring to the following statement by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) on the removal of the author Mercedes Lackey from the Nebula Conference.

Click on Undoomed’s link to find out what Mercedes Lackey actually did. Dashed bad show. Off you go, Mercedes.

Give us power. We won’t use it, honest.

“Bill C-11 would give CRTC power over user-generated content, but it won’t use it: chair”, reports CityNews Ottawa.

The chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says a federal bill would give it power to regulate user-generated content, such as homemade videos posted on YouTube.

But Ian Scott predicted at a House of Commons committee that this would never happen as the broadcast regulator has no interest in overseeing content produced by individuals.

Even so, critics of the online-streaming bill have seized on his remarks, saying they contradict assurances by Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez that it would not give the regulator power over homemade content, such as cat or cooking videos.

Bill C-11, now going through Parliament, would update Canada’s Broadcasting Act and give the CRTC power to regulate online platforms such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify and TikTok, along with traditional broadcasters. It would make digital platforms promote Canadian content, including films, music videos and TV programs, and contribute financially to their creation.

Scott Benzie, executive director of Digital First Canada, said the CRTC chair confirmed what digital-first creators have been saying since the bill was published. They have warned it could give the regulator power over their work, including posts by comedians, animators and gamers on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitch.

Hat tip: Michael Geist via Ezra Levant.

Give us power. We won’t use it, honest. We just want to keep it to look at. [Checks notes] No, not even to look at. We have no interest in overseeing content produced by individuals. Really, if that doesn’t reassure you I don’t know what will. We are so chilled that power bores us. Now hand it over.

“Disrupting traditional standards of what grant making in philanthropy looks like”

I should never have tried to say the Daily Mail‘s headline detailing the founder of Black Lives Matter’s dodgy deals all in one go.

REVEALED: BLM founder Patrisse Cullors paid her baby father $970,000 for ‘creative services’, her brother $840,000 for security, a fellow director $2.1m and reimbursed the organization $73,000 for a charter flight

But not all the sums were so high:

She paid the foundation an additional $390 over her uses of the 6,500 square-foot Studio City property for two private events.

The chair of BLM’s board of Directors, Cicley Gay, had this to say:

‘We are decolonizing philanthropy,’ Gay said. ‘We, as a board, are charged with disrupting traditional standards of what grant making in philanthropy looks like. It means investing in black communities, trusting them with their dollars.’

I am sure BLM will have no trouble trusting black communities with the last few dollars left over once the organisation has taken its cut.

Lend-Lease 2.0 explained

An interesting demystification by the excellent Perun…

“Who said the ‘N’ word?”

Natalie asked, “Can you guess what Lufthansa is talking about here?” For a bonus point, can you guess what word, beginning with ‘N’, the German policeman is prohibiting here?

… Jewish passengers were confronted by a layer of armed police who stood between them and the departure gate. In a scene that conceivably would have won critical praise had it been staged in a dark historical comedy, one of the distressed passengers asked plaintively, “Why do you hate us?” as the officers grimly surveyed them. Then someone else said the word “N—” … one of the offended police officers began barking in a thick German accent, “Who said the ‘N’ word? Who was it?”

[Excerpted from this article, edited to omit some letters following ‘N’ lest these offend any German police readers, or sympathisers thereof.]

One can hardly blame a German policeman for speaking “with a thick German accent”, and in Germany, it is a crime to call a police officer that word. Prudent Germans who wish to use the word without consequences are better advised to apply it to Donald Trump, or to call Israel a ‘N— state’. And prudent Jews who find themselves in Germany were reminded three years ago by the (perhaps unfortunately termed) ‘German anti-semitism commissioner’ to avoid looking Jewish – advice these “visibly Jewish” Lufthansa passengers had completely failed to heed.

I guess one take-away from this is that, next time anyone make a fuss about “the ‘N’ word”, they’ll need (and frequently deserve!) to be asked, “Which one?” Commenters are welcome to add any other take-aways that occur to them.

A formula for failure

There is a shortage of baby milk in the US. Few fears are more primal than that of not being able to feed your baby. Parents across America are stressed and angry. (Some people, however, find the situation amusing.) One of the many reasons to like unbridled capitalism is that by reducing scarcity it reduces conflict. Whenever there is a shortage people become angry when they see others getting what they cannot get.

“Texas governor criticises Biden administration for giving baby formula to migrant children”, writes the Independent. There are several things worth discussing there. It would be unconscionable not to give formula to children who need it, but the knowledge that “Uncle Sam will provide” probably is a factor attracting illegal immigrants to the US, including children both accompanied and unaccompanied. The consequences of that can be horrible.

However the thing that struck me most about this story was tucked away as background information:

A recall of formula produced at a Michigan manufacturing facility – along with a Covid-19-fuelled supply chain issues – has made formula difficult for families to find, or subject to purchase limits in stores, after manufacturers shut down and warehouse stocks were recalled but not replaced. US formula is largely monopolised, with stringent regulations on imports; shortages from the recall are compounded by demand among a handful of companies relying on the same fragile supply chain.

President Biden has called on federal agencies to help address the shortages, including easing rules that manufacturers must follow for their products to be eligible under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which supports low-income families.

Few dare argue when “stringent regulations on imports” and “rules that manufacturers must follow” are introduced under the cry of “We must protect the children!” Yet now that the children are being protected half to death, these measures seem astonishingly hard to remove.

Update: Eric Boehm of Reason magazine has more detail: America’s Trade and Regulatory Policies Have Contributed to the Baby Formula Shortage

Thanks to strict FDA regulations and oppressive tariffs, America is already largely dependent on only domestic suppliers for infant formula: America exports far more than it imports every year.

That’s exactly the situation the economic nationalist want in all industries—and we’re now seeing exactly how that can go wrong. Cutting off foreign trade and protecting domestic suppliers can make a country more vulnerable to unexpected supply problems, not more resilient.

Can you guess what Lufthansa is talking about here?

This is possibly the most weaselly statement since the coppers interviewed the Chief Weasel after the retaking of Toad Hall.

Statement of May 10, 2022 on the denied boarding of passengers on flight LH 1334

On May 4, a large number of booked passengers were denied boarding on their onward flight with LH 1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest. Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight, for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes.

While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day, we regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non-compliant guests.

We apologize to all the passengers unable to travel on this flight, not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense caused and personal impact.
Lufthansa and its employees stand behind the goal of connecting people and cultures worldwide. Diversity and equal opportunity are core values for our company and our corporate culture. What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values.

My challenge to readers is to guess without sight of the internet what the “large group” had in common that caused them to be denied boarding – they were not flying together – and exactly what the “non compliant guests” were non-compliant about. Winners will be awarded the sought-after title of Wieselbeobachtersmeister, or something with most of the same syllables anyway.

Actually I do not find this sort of thing funny. Weasels are cute. Lufthansa’s behaviour was not cute, it was shameful, and they deserve to pay the heavy price they will pay.

But…

I also believe that the payment should come from the airline being boycotted by all decent people and/or from them being sued until they have no more Sitzfleisch left for their egregious breach of contract, not from the German or American governments. The proliferation of laws against every tiny, even unintentional, manifestation of this sort of thing has atrophied people’s own sense of its gross wrongness. They can’t see it in themselves. The Lufthansa representative on the scene was apologetic, but firm. She probably congratulated herself on a difficult job well done.

Edit: Originally I included no links in this post in order to make the guessing game more fun. But on second thoughts I ought to credit Ed Driscoll at Instapundit, where I first read about this. No peeking.

How not to change minds on abortion

Last December Meghan McArdle tweeted,

“Looking at abortion opinion, it’s actually quite striking how little men and women differ on this question. The whole pro-life is about men telling women what to do with their bodies” schtick simply isn’t grounded in reality . . . Men are more likely to self-id as pro-life, and women as pro-choice, but when you drill down into specifics, it’s clear this stems from differences in labeling quite similar views.

She backed up her opinion with a link to this article by the polling organisation Gallup: “Abortion Trends by Gender”.

On specific questions relating to abortion, the opinions of American women and men were amazingly close. For instance, in this detailed survey from 2012, 71.5% of men and 69.4% of women said abortion should be legal if there is a strong possibility of a serious fetal defect, and 43.1% of men and 43.3% of women said abortion be legal for married women who don’t want more children.

Opinion has also been remarkably consistent over the years. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1995 60% of Americans thought that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Now it’s 61%. In 1995 38% of Americans thought abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. In 2022 it is 37%.

Why are the lines so flat? Over the same period church attendance has dropped. Support for other ideas once considered the preserve of the radical left, such as gay marriage, has steeply increased. The standing joke is that the Right won on economics and the Left won on culture. So why did the Left’s advance falter on that one issue?

By the way, although I talk about abortion as a left-right issue, because it certainly is one in US politics and to a lesser extent in politics across the Anglosphere, in this post I am not making an argument for or against abortion. If you wish to read my slightly indecisive thoughts on the issue you can do so here: “Thinking aloud on a mountainside”.

I am just interested in the Left’s relative failure to change the minds of Americans on abortion when in the same period it did so well in changing minds (including mine) on issues usually bundled with abortion.

I think it was because in the US and the UK, the pro-choice side almost never engaged with what their opponents actually believed. Over the years I must have read hundreds of Guardian articles on abortion, mostly in its US section because abortion is such a live issue there. I do not recall a single one that argued against the main sticking point of the pro-life side, namely that abortion takes a human life – let alone argued for it. On other issues the Guardian would occasionally let the odd Conservative or other non-progressive have their say about fossil fuels or the nuclear deterrent or whatever, and would often feature writers who, while left wing themselves, at least knew enough of the right wing view to argue against it. However when it came to abortion the line always was, and judging from Twitter in the last few days, still is, that opposition to abortion arises (a) only from men and (b) only from men who wish to control women’s bodies.

It works, a bit. Some men who read that will decide that they do not want to be that sort of man, others will decide that they do not want to be thought to be that sort of man. But an argument that does not even acknowledge the existence of female opponents of abortion will obviously not change their minds. Nor will silence reassure women who are not firmly pro or anti. If the Left will not talk to them about their doubts, then by definition the only arguments they hear will come from the other side.

How about male opponents of abortion and/or men who are not sure what they think? In most cases they simply will not feel that this charge that they want to control women’s bodies has any relevance to them. It’s like being accused of bank robbery when the most you’ve done is put non-recyclables in the recycling bin. Or like being accused in the modern fashion of misogyny rather than sexism: a conscientious man might examine himself and admit that some unjustified assumptions about women might be lurking in his subconscious, but that does not mean he hates women. All in all, that way of presenting the abortion argument is great for firing up those who already agree, but ensures that practically no women’s minds will be changed, and few men’s.

The above “model” is just my supposition, of course. But the remarkable stability of US opinion on abortion over decades is a fact that needs explaining, and that would explain it.

Samizdata quote of the Vaccine Mandate Exemption

As the restrictive form of a poem sometimes forces a clearer expression of a thought than less demanding prose, so the need to present his belief in the scientific process as a request for religious exemption to the vaccine mandate forced physician Joseph Fraiman to create what Sarah Hoyt called “one of the more interesting pieces of writing i’ve seen in a while.”

Given my faith in the scientific process, I do not claim that this observational data is a good representative of reality; however I also cannot claim with certainty that it is false. Without randomized controlled trial data comparing the rare risk of hospitalization in young healthy participants, there is no way of estimating if the vaccine is more likely to prevent hospitalizations than to cause a serious adverse event. …

The entire concept of the mandate is based on the idea that it is safer for patients and staff to be near vaccinated individuals. This is not based on any experimental evidence; this is classical anti-science ideology. It is offensive to believers in the scientific process that one can claim to be certain regarding the truth of an objective reality, without experimental data to support that view. … those who have faith in the scientific process are concerned that this hubristic certainty of benefit, without experimentation, can easily harm more than benefit. … Now if our hospital system was attempting a cluster randomized trial across its many hospitals, in which hospitals are randomized to mandate or no mandate, I would gladly be a participant in this study and be randomized to a hospital with a vaccine mandate or not. …

… followers of the scientific process believe that experts do not dictate what is true about our objective reality. … To a follower of science who has reached a different conclusion than experts on the potential benefits and harms of the vaccine; in this situation for an employer to mandate the vaccine in question would be the equivalent of forcing an individual of Judeo-Christian faith to pray to a pagan idol to keep their employment.

Would being vaccinated interfere with your sincerely held religious belief or your ability to practice or observe your religion? If so, please describe.

Yes, being vaccinated would interfere with my sincerely held beliefs which is the reason I am requesting the exemption. I believe I should be allowed to finish my scientific evaluation of the meta-analysis of the vaccines, which is still ongoing. If my evaluation determines the harm benefit profile in an individual of my demographics is favorable I will gladly take the vaccine, but not until that point.

The longish text is worth reading in full here (h/t instapundit).

That Fraiman did not get a mere arrogant refusal owes as much, I suspect, to his presentation (both skilled and restrained) as to his factual details – a bureaucrat would have to be fanatical indeed not to realise that, if they just said ‘no’, the writer might prove a persistent and difficult opponent, not so easy to denounce and silence. But of course, like a Judeo-Christian in a Mohammedan country, this believer in the scientific process had to pay the Jizya to those who believe science is a result, proclaimed by ‘experts’ who are not to be doubted, still less mocked.

Your religious exemption has been reviewed and approved. Because of the direct threat posed by individuals who are infected with Covid-19, our accommodation requirement for your needs [my bolding] is to wear a N-95/KN-95 mask (which we will provide) and undergo weekly testing.

Maybe there’s benefit in having a useless POTUS, but dangers too

The US has a leadership vacuum, at least in terms of the White House.

After four years of a bitter war with Donald Trump, much of the US media establishment has returned to its old deferential approach now that one of their own is back in the White House. To them, the appearance of normality, the fake return to mainstream codes of behaviour, the fact that Ivy Leaguers are back in charge at Treasury and State, matters far more than the reality, which is that the president isn’t really presiding and that America’s constitution is once again in deep crisis.”

Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph.

What is worth noting is that even if Biden was mentally sharp, his comments and opinions have been notable for their crassness and foolishness. He is also a plagiarist. And that was when he was younger. I fear that far too many reporters and others covering politics are desperately trying to now play down what an empty shell he is.

(By contrast, the actor Bruce Willis has had to end his acting career because of a cognitive decline problem, and I find it very sad to see the star of Die Hard and other films retire. But he’s had to be honest, and that is brave of him.)

I suppose the issue is whether all this matters very much. To some extent, the fact that Biden is too far gone to make lots of decisions might not be a bad thing. The problem is that his policy ideas, even if they are not going to be enacted, are still terrible, such as on the plan to impose some sort of “wealth tax”. Sooner or later, one of his dumb ideas could actually have very bad consequences for The Republic.

And meanwhile, in the back of everyone’s minds, is the thought “God, imagine Kamala Harris dealing direct with Xi and Putin.”

So my question to the commenters here is this: what is to be done? There are another two and a bit years to run under this man. What’s the realistic chance he will make it?

If it is OK to hit someone who insults your wife, is it OK to hit someone who insults your religion?

The controversy on Will Smith hitting Chris Rock after the latter made a distasteful joke about his wife’s hair loss is interesting because it cuts across party lines. Though most politicians have made statements disapproving of Smith, some traditional conservatives and radical left wingers have both spoken in support of him. To take but two of many examples:

– Representative Ayanna Pressley (D) said, in a now deleted tweet “#Alopecia nation stand up! Thank you #WillSmith Shout out to all the husbands who defend their wives living with alopecia in the face of daily ignorance & insults.”

– Simon Hoare MP (C) said, “I’d just hope if someone thought it in good taste to make a joke at the expense of a medical condition of my wife then I’d get up and lamp him.”

Me, I support Rock. His joke was cruel. Smith had a right to be angry. But I would rather not set the precedent – or rather go back to the precedent – that words justify violence. For why, see the title of this post.

The big guy takes a big percentage

Back when Vice-President Joe Biden was in charge of US policy for the Ukraine, he weaponised his power over US aid. Later, he boasted of it.

“I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired.” (text and video link)

That Ukrainian prosecutor was investigating the company Biden’s son ‘worked for’. Except that Hunter Biden couldn’t have been working for them. Never mind trivia like Hunter’s knowing nothing of Burisma’s business. As a reformed addict explained, the timeline makes it impossible Hunter’s salary could have been for any services whatever that he himself rendered.

From my own experience, there is no such thing as a functioning cocaine addict. The worse it gets, the faster it gets worse.

A few years have passed, a few things have happened, Biden is again in charge of money voted for the Ukraine – and is again weaponising it. It’s $13.6 billion now, and these days even Biden’s ‘military aid’ includes actual weapons. However Biden is including it in other things – $1.5 trillion-worth of other things.

It was must-pass legislation, needed to keep the government operating and avoid the kind of partial shutdowns that have been seen in the past. But this one was not only huge — it was different from recent spending measures. The difference was that it revived earmarks, which are spending provisions put in at the behest of individual lawmakers. In the past, earmarks created a culture of runaway pork spending, which led Republicans to push for a ban successfully in 2011. Now, they are back.

Not back, because it was never gone, is MSM misreporting of it. For once, I think the New York Times’ phrasing,

To push the package through the Senate, lawmakers had to navigate a series of objections from conservative Republicans, who complained that they had little time to examine the legislation and pushed to prioritize emergency aid to Ukraine.

…may not suit Biden, and the cabal that gave him the presidency, quite as well as the way the Washington Post’s headline,

More than two dozen Senate Republicans demand Biden do more for Ukraine after voting against $13.6 billion for Ukraine.

…reported (or, one could say, avoided reporting) that a request to separate the aid-for-Ukraine bill from the earmarks bill was strongly made and was absolutely refused.

The WaPo’s headline is not wholly without information. If two dozen voted against, that tells us some other Republican senators voted for $13.6 billion for the Ukraine – along with a mere $1.6 million to assist “equitable growth of shellfish aquaculture in Rhode Island” and $800,000 to fund “artist lofts” in Pomona CA, and … and … and … (an earmark here, a thousand earmarks there – pretty soon you’re talking about real money). Whether they did this reluctantly, because they feel the Ukraine needs whatever fraction of that $13.5 billion it will finally get, or eagerly, because they feel they themselves need whatever fraction of that $1.5 trillion they will finally get (the 4000-odd earmarks were mostly for Democrats – but not exclusively so), I leave it to any readers who know those senators to speculate.

Meanwhile, here as elsewhere, the pro-Biden narrative and the pro-Putin narrative overlap. It was a Putin shill or dupe commenting way down a thread on this very blog who first told me it was Biden’s opponents in congress who “voted against aid to Ukraine”. Did he get that line from Russia Today or from the Washington Post? Who knows!

There’s nothing special to the Ukraine in all this, of course. All his political life, Biden has been exceptionally that kind of politician who demands his percentage of every transaction. It’s only noteworthy (and, let’s face it, it’s hardly surprising) that even now the Ukraine is fighting for its life, ‘the big guy’ still does.