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]

On why feminists ought to be glad about skyscrapers

Asks the headline above this Guardian piece by Leslie Kern: Do cities have to be so sexist?

Let me ask a similar question: Do skyscrapers have to be so tall and yet so comparatively thin? Do skyscrapers have to be shaped, that is to say, like penises? The answer is: yes. That’s the whole point of skyscrapers. Their reason for existence is to fit a lot of floor space upon a very small patch of land, in a place where land is very expensive to buy because lots of people are needed to work in this one spot, and consequently where the elaborate technology needed to build them is justified by the advantages gained.

Says Leslie Kern:

From the physical to the metaphorical, the city is filled with reminders of masculine power. And yet we rarely talk of the urban landscape as an active participant in gender inequality. A building, no matter how phallic, isn’t actually misogynist, is it?

I’d say that the urban landscape is not actually that misogynist. After all, the basic economic fact that made female political, social and economic equality something which it made sense for women to demand was that the modern economy depends far less on physical labour done in fields and factories, and far more upon mental work, done in places like skyscrapers. Men are, on average, physically stronger than women, so in a world dependent on sweated labour, men were the dominant sex. But now, it counts for more that women have always been, again on average, just as clever as men, and rather more conscientious, while also being rather more biddable and risk-averse than men. Very useful corporate functionaries, in other words. How would all this new indoor and sexually more egalitarian mental labour have been accommodated in the exact places where it has been most needed, without the “urban landscape”, and in particular without skyscrapers? Instead of grumbling about skyscrapers, feminists ought to be glad about them. Even if skyscrapers are shaped like penises.

I once had an unpaid job in the office of the recently deceased and much lamented architect Ivor Smith. Much lamented, because even as I was, even way back then, beginning to have my doubts about his architecture, I had to acknowledge, and I say again now, that he was a lovely man, just as all the obituaries I have today been reading said he was.

One of my more vivid recollections of Ivor Smith was when he and some of his young colleagues were discussing a tower that some other architect had designed, and Smith speculated that this architect had done his design by slapping his cock down on the drawing board and drawing round it. Having only just stopped being a rather nerdy schoolboy, and having just become an equally nerdy student, I was a bit startled to hear a grown man in a suit and tie make a joke like this, in an office, as I think were some of the other architects. But there was as much masculine self-mockery in this joke as there was mere masculinity. Smith was no misogynist. I still remember also how much Smith’s wife and daughters adored him, and he them.

But then again, although I don’t know if this applies to Leslie Kern, many feminists don’t approve of happy families, any more than they approve of skyscrapers.

Thoughts on Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

For me, the most important thing about President Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech, apart from the splendour of what it says, is that, thanks to the internet, we can all of us, if we wish, read the entire speech, without depending upon any of those people whom Instapundit refers to as Democratic Party operatives with bylines to tell us what they merely want us to think that Trump said. We now live in a world where those old broadsheet “newspapers of record” have been reborn, and are now readable at no extra cost by anyone with an internet connection.

I’m a libertarian, and what I really want is a really libertarian enclave of territory, somewhere in the world, which will really prove to the world for ever the superiority of all of my opinions about how the world should really be, over the opinions of all others. But meanwhile, I’m the sort of libertarian (which nothing like all libertarians are) who will settle for the actually existing United States of America, as it is now is and as it has been since it was founded, a vast but very imperfect nation, constantly disfigured by unfreedoms imposed upon it by collectivist would-be despots of one sort or another, yet constantly disappointing those same despots with those pesky freedoms which it started out by proclaiming. Likewise, American military might is frequently hurled by careless American adventurers at places that ought to be left to solve their own problems, in a way which only makes such problems even worse. Nevertheless, the world is surely a better place than it would have been had America made no attempts of this sort to bully it into behaving better. A world that consisted only of the Old World would surely be a much duller and poorer and more brutal place.

The New York Times and the Washington Post, echoed by many other organs in America and beyond, have described Trump’s speech as “dark and divisive”. Well, it was a bit divisive. It divided Americans into two camps. In the one camp are violent looters and rioters and despotic cancellers, and their enablers in slightly less impolite society, like the people who run the New York Times and the Washington Post. In the other camp are all the many Americans of the sort who feel approximately as I do about America and its flawed and violent but nevertheless inspiring history.

I especially like what Trump said about how the fundamental principles of the USA meant that those principles would, in the end, put an end to slavery and legally imposed racial discrimination. The fundamental principles bloody well took their time, but they eventually did just this.

Here, in case you doubt me, is how Trump said this:

We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King, when he said that the Founders had signed “a promissory note” to every future generation. Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals. Those ideals are so important to us – the founding ideals. He called on his fellow citizens not to rip down their heritage, but to live up to their heritage.

To call this speech racially divisive, as many have, is a flat out lie.

And, a “dark” speech? Again, I don’t think so. Naive and optimistic, starry-eyed even, historically over-simplified, yes, maybe all of that. But “dark”? Hardly.

But what of Trump’s enemies? The rioters are saying: “Screw America, smash America!” Their Democrat enablers indoors are saying: “America, you want this to stop? Vote for us, and then we’ll stop it. Meanwhile, it’s all Trump’s fault.” That’s rather “dark”, isn’t it?

Trump’s America, aka “America”, is now resisting this uprising, and the uprisers and their enablers are now turning on each other. The rioters and outdoor looters, after all, have no love at all for Democratic Party insiders. On the contrary, they regard them as the people who stole the Democratic nomination from them and their man in 2016. Other rioters merely hate the rich and the powerful in their entirety, including those paying the wages of the people urging them to riot.

It is now – is it not? – almost entirely in Democrat-governed places that the rioting, and now the crime waves consequent upon the hobbling by Democrat politicians of local police forces, are happening. Those McCloskeys, rather inexpertly waving their guns at rioters outside their nice big home are classic Democrat insiders. As is the Mayor of Seattle, who only shut CHOP down after her own home had been attacked by rioters.

So, I want Trump’s America now to prevail and its enemies now to retreat in ignominy, many of them also to prison, because of their various crimes, indoors and outdoors. We win, they lose, as President Reagan said when asked about how to settle the Cold War. Reagan also made very “divisive” speeches about that big old misunderstanding, didn’t he? After which the Good Guys did win and the Bad Guys did lose. Again please.

In this same spirit of melodramatic divisiveness, I would like now to suggest that the way that the writers of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and their many imitators, are using the word “dark” is blatantly racist. These people are assuming that to be “dark” is to be bad. This is the language of white supremacist slave-owners. Next thing you know, they’ll be referring to African Americans as “darkies”.

I’m kidding, but I also sort of mean it. I entirely get what the wokist media are trying to say, and are not trying to say, with the word “dark”. Punishing them for being racist for using this word in this way is not a rule I’d want to see universally applied. On the other hand, rules of exactly this perverse sort are the rules that these people have been unleashing upon others. So the wokists now deserve, if not actually to die by this rule that I just made up, then at least to be chucked out into the streets for a while, there to think about what they’ve been doing.

But my basic point here is that you don’t need to take my word, or anyone else’s word, for any of this. Trump’s speech itself, the complete text of it, is worth a second link. Read the whole thing. And as I said at the start of this, be glad that you can.

LATER: Further thoughts from me about Trump’s speech in a piece entitled Trump as Republican Party Reptile. This is about how his Mount Rushmore speech echoes a piece by P.J. O’Rourke in the 1980s, about an epic journey across America in a Ferrari.

It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression

The most significant thing about this Daniel Hannan tweet, I think, is not his praise of a Michael Gove speech, but his aside to the effect that FDR “turned a recession into a depression”. This idea is really getting around, and this is a very good thing.

It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression. (I found myself emitting this sentence at the end of this at my personal blog, which started out being about something else entirely, namely the current Lockdown, rather than about how the world will or will not emerge successfully from it.)

I just googled the above epigram, and the first piece I got to asked: Did New Deal Programs Help End the Great Depression? That item one in such a search casts doubt on (rather than simply endorsing) the claim that The New Deal did end the Great Depression, is a big propaganda step in the right direction.

What people now think is the quickest and best way to end an economic recession matters very much. That surely being why Hannan felt the need to say this about FDR’s disastrous economic policies, even though he was tweeting about something else.

Samizdata quote of the day

“….the Americanisation of culture wars deserves resistance in itself. It homogenises national priorities, obscuring cultural and political differences, to such a ludicrous extent that British people end up arguing about police violence in a year when, yet again, it was revealed that the police had sat back and done next to nothing as a gang of men had groomed and raped young girls in Britain. Police brutality and overzealousness might be a particular problem in a Midwestern US state, while not being a priority in a northern English county; the globalisation of politics obscures local conditions.”

“It also distorts our understanding of the world, limiting our awareness of international affairs to those which are the focus of the narrow spectrum of social media trends. Whether you are a progressive or a conservative, you should be so in the terms of your national circumstances, and with broader frames of references than those which have been provided by social media monopolies.”

Ben Sixsmith

Police free zones – do they always have to end this way?

“One dead and one wounded in shooting in Seattle police-free zone”, the Guardian reported an hour or so ago.

Let me say at once that I know nothing about the circumstances of this killing, other than that it occurred and that young men should not die by violence at nineteen.

But almost regardless of the circumstances, a lot of people are going to be saying, “I told you so” to the leftist protestors who formed CHAZ, the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

They might also say it to us. “Hey, you ‘libertarians’ or ‘anarcho-capitalists’ or whatever you call yourselves, this is what you want, isn’t it? No state, no cops, citizens with their own guns making their own rules?”

How would you answer?

Samizdata quote of the day

“Rather than aiming for a better future, woke militants seek a cathartic present. Cleansing themselves and others of sin is their goal. Amidst vast inequalities of power and wealth, the woke generation bask in the eternal sunshine of their spotless virtue.”

John Gray

(As a reminder to readers, quoting a person does not imply I endorse everything that the writer in question says. Gray is a decidedly mixed bag of a thinker. Far, far too gloomy for my liking and he buys the whole Green deal, or at least he did. But this essay makes important points about the parallels between the culture war being played out in the West right now and the madness of the 15th and 16th centuries. Yes, I think those parallels are accurate. This is a rat with a long tail.)

A list of abuses

I saw the following list of problems with the US legal and law enforcement system, which taken individually may not appear to be major issues in terms of it being a “systematically unjust” country, but which taken together do tend to suggest there is a big problem. This is mirrored to a certain extent in other countries, such as here in the UK.

qualified immunity;
LEO unions;
LEO militarization;
inadequate civilian oversight;
plea bargains;
victimless criminal statues (e.g. drugs, sex-work, immigration);
occupational licensing;
civil asset forfeiture;
eminent domain (esp in re gentrification);
unaccountable fines & fees, and quota-based policing;
private prisons;
FISA Courts; and
no-knock warrants.

That is a good list for radical classical liberals and small-government conservatives to get to deal with.

The State’s lament: ‘A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened;’

Thus went the UK government’s discussion paper on increasing social distancing on 22nd March 2020.

The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat.

There were other considerations:

Hong Kong’s experience:

Having a good understanding of the risk has been found to be positively associated with adoption of COVID-19 social distancing measures in Hong Kong

And carrots:

Incentivisation
6. Social approval: Social approval can be a powerful source of reward. Not only can this be provided directly by highlighting examples of good practice and providing strong social encouragement and approval in communications; members of the community can be encouraged to provide it to each other. This can have a beneficial spill-over effect of promoting social cohesion. Communication strategies should provide social approval for desired behaviours and promote social approval within the community.

And of course, coercion, along with ‘social disapproval’:

Coercion
7. Compulsion: Experience with UK enforcement legislation such as compulsory seat belt use suggests that, with adequate preparation, rapid change can be achieved (16). Some other countries have introduced mandatory self-isolation on a wide scale without evidence of major public unrest and a large majority of the UK’s population appear to be supportive of more coercive measures. For example, 64% adults in Great Britain said they would support putting London under a ‘lock down’ (17). However, data from Italy and South Korea suggest that for aggressive protective measures to be effective, special attention should be devoted to those population groups that are more at risk (18). In addition, communities need to be engaged to minimise risk of negative effects. Consideration should be given to enacting legislation, with community involvement, to compel key social distancing measures.

8. Social disapproval: Social disapproval from one’s community can play an important role in preventing anti-social behaviour or discouraging failure to enact pro-social behaviour (15). However, this needs to be carefully managed to avoid victimisation, scapegoating and misdirected criticism. It needs to be accompanied by clear messaging and promotion of strong collective identity. Consideration should be given to use of social disapproval but with a strong caveat around unwanted negative consequences.

So, for us rats in the lab, we can see the experimental parameters. I can’t find the words ‘rights‘, ‘freedom‘, ‘free‘ or ‘liberty‘ anywhere in this document. I can see this, my emphasis in bold, with the lie about people being ‘asked’:

9. Community resourcing: People are being asked to give up valued activities and access to resources for an extended period. These need to be compensated for by ensuring that people have access to opportunities for social contact and rewarding activities that can be undertaken in the home, and to resources such as food. Adequately resourced community infrastructure and mobilisation needs to be developed rapidly and with coverage across all communities (6, 15).

10. Reducing inequity: Adherence to these measures is likely to be undermined by perceived inequity in their impact on different sections of the population, especially those who are already disadvantaged, e.g. those in rented accommodation and those working in precarious employment. Reducing costs of phone calls, data downloads etc. by ‘responsibility deals’ or government subsidies should be considered.

Just in case you don’t think that this is an experiment, there is a reference to methodology including this, but read the whole thing:

The criteria go under the acronym, APEASE (Acceptability, Practicability, Effectiveness, Affordability, Spill-over effects, Equity)

Edit: Just after Paul’s comment, a bit more has just come out, from 25th February 2020, about the risk of disorder, foreseeing a risk of PPE shortage on 25th February 2020, so they knew that they could be short long before they did anything about it:
The last paragraph says it all:

Promote a sense of collectivism: All messaging should reinforce a sense of community, that “we are all in this together.” This will avoid increasing tensions between different groups (including between responding agencies and the public); promote social norms around behaviours; and lead to self-policing within communities around important behaviours.

Mick Hartley on the politics of the Lockdown

I at first thought that I’d just wait and see, and avoid opining about Cornonavirus until the whole ghastly episode was over and we were all back to the new normal, whatever that turned out to be. But, having waited, I am already now seeing. It is becoming ever clearer, as a few were loudly asserting from the get-go, that this bug is far more widespread, but far less likely to kill you even if you get it, than had at first been proclaimed. I do not care who Professor Ferguson is bonking, but I care very much about how wrong he has been, about so much, for so long, and yet how the governing classes around the world, including the British government, still chose to listen to him. (Is it known (comments anyone?) what Ferguson thinks about climate change? I bet he’s been a fanatical catastrophist about that also.)

Someone who has done a lot to persuade me to get off the fence like this is Mick Hartley. As I mentioned in passing at the end of this earlier posting here, Mick Hartley has been very good on the subject of the Lockdown. His typical posting on the subject has tended to consist of a big quote from someone else, often dragged out from behind a paywall, with a few comments from him topping and tailing his posting. But, in his piece on Saturday, entitled Lockdown politics, although there are links in it to the thoughts of others, Hartley writes for himself.

On the whole I’d say that the left is more supportive of the lockdown than the right. Yes I know, left vs right doesn’t mean so much any more, but it still means something. The left more supportive of the state, perhaps, vs the right more concerned about individual freedom. I haven’t looked, but I imagine somewhere in the Guardian comments someone has said that the right only want to get back to work because they want to make money and don’t care about people’s lives. And, seen this morning prominently displayed in a window: “Capitalism isn’t worth dying for”. …

Which is odd in a way, because the lockdown might be seen as a left-wing cause. Against the lockdown, that is.

It’s clear that the poor are having a much harder time than the middle classes at the moment: stuck in worse accommodation, with worse facilities, desperate for an end to this, and, for many, worried sick about their jobs and their future. We hear almost exclusively now from the middle classes – what books they should read, what films they should watch, and how to keep their kids active and up-to-the-minute with their education. These are the people, generally, who don’t have big financial worries, can work from home, and feel perhaps rather smug about how well they’re coping. But it’s obvious that there’s a whole mass of people that we never hear from … destitute, miserable people stuck in lousy over-crowded housing wondering how on earth they’re going to cope.

The longer the lockdown continues, the worse it’s going to be. …

And for what? Who are we protecting? Well, Covid-19 is deadly serious notably for the very old – not at all for the young – and especially for men. So, we’re protecting old men, at the expense of just about everybody else. …

Whatever happened to the attitude embodied in the slogan “women and children first”?

You might think this would resonate with the left, but it doesn’t seem to. …

Will Keir Starmer start pressing Boris on ending lockdown? I hope so. He should do, in the name of the people that Labour claims to represent. He did, to be fair, make some noises to that effect some weeks back, asking for the government to set out guidelines for the return of schools and getting businesses back to work. I haven’t seen much since. …

And then this:

… I hope he pushes it more, because I’m beginning to lose faith in Boris ever getting together the necessary determination.

Me too. Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Labour, it seems to me and to many others I’m sure, has mutated from once upon a time being the party speaking for the poor, often against the government, to being the party of government, even when they aren’t the politicians in titular charge of that government. These people are now “supportive of the state”, to quote Hartley, even when they’re not personally in charge of it. It’s the process of government, whoever is doing it, whatever it is doing, that they now seem to worship. It is, as similar people in earlier times used to say, the principle of the thing, the principle being that they’re in charge. Many decades ago, Labour spoke for, well, Labour. The workers, the toiling masses. Now they represent most determinedly only those who labour away only in Civil Service offices or their allies in the media, in academia, and in the bureaucratised top end of big business.

Anyone official and highly educated sounding who challenges whatever happens to be the prevailing supposed wisdom of this governing class, on Coronavirus or on anything else, must be scolded into irrelevance and preferably silenced. The governors must be obeyed, even if they’re wrong. In fact especially if they’re wrong, just as the soldiers of the past were expected to obey their orders, no matter what they thought of the orders or of the aristocratic asses who often gave them. Whether they were good orders was an argument that those giving orders could have amongst themselves, but that orders must be obeyed was a given. “Capitalism” isn’t worth dying for, but this new dispensation is, right or wrong.

Our new class of entitled asses, together with all those who have placed their bets for life on carrying out their orders or trying to profit from them, seems now to be the limit of the Labour Party’s electoral ambition. And who knows? The awful thing is that this class and its hangers-on could be enough, in the not too distant future, to get them back into direct command of the governmental process that they so adore.

Meanwhile I note, with a twinge of satisfaction amidst all the gloom, that the British politician speaking up most loudly for the right of workers, especially poorer workers, to get back to work is this excellent man. The sooner the campaign gets under way to replace Boris with him, the better.

The signs of the times, they are a-changing…

England may soon have new road signs for pedestrians. We have some new signs coming out, to remind us about ‘social distancing’. Here are the samples taken from the .gov.uk website.

What are these signs for? The UK government’s Department of Transport is clearly playing the long game in short order in the war on freedom and against the private motor vehicle, er.., Covid-19 in England. On Saturday 9th May 2020, guidance came out for local councils (who manage most of the road space) to make changes to road use to facilitate the use of ‘roadspace’ by cyclists and pedestrians. This has been done by providing new ‘guidance’ to local councils on under The Traffic Management Act 2004. So the response to this epidemic is clearly going to be rather more ‘permanent’ than temporary, the government is engaged in not just a reaction to widespread respiratory tract infections and the inability of the NHS to provide health care. Take a look at some of the wording:

“The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel.”

“When the country gets back to work, we need them to carry on cycling, and to be joined by millions more. With public transport capacity reduced, the roads in our largest cities, in particular, may not be able to cope without it. We also know that in the new world, pedestrians will need more space. Indications are that there is a significant link between COVID-19 recovery and fitness. Active travel can help us become more resilient.”

A new world, are we on Mars? It goes on:

“We recognise this moment for what it is: a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a lasting transformative change in how we make short journeys in our towns and cities. According to the National Travel Survey, in 2017-18 over 40% of urban journeys were under 2 miles – perfectly suited to walking and cycling.”

Never let a crisis go to waste.

“Active travel is affordable, delivers significant health benefits, has been shown to improve wellbeing, mitigates congestion, improves air quality and has no carbon emissions at the point of use. Towns and cities based around active travel will have happier and healthier citizens as well as lasting local economic benefits.”

Will those citizens be happier and healthier cycling to work in the cold November rain? Sorry, I assumed that there will be any meaningful jobs left by then. Why haven’t they been cycling already? ‘…no carbon emissions at the point of use…’, really? I think it means ‘carbon dioxide’ of course. But if anyone rides a pushbike and doesn’t emit carbon dioxide, whether immediately or via lactic acid metabolism, they will be dead.‘…lasting local economic benefits…’: Never mind the bigger picture. The bull is big on this and they know it and don’t care.

So all this is what the Secretary of State for Transport, Mr Grant Shapps, a sort of Bruce Foxton lookalike, has in mind. He seems to be there to make the rest of the Cabinet look good, and who has a very trustworthy past.

Is, in this ‘new world’, (their words) HS2 going to be viable as this virus will still be deemed a threat in 2030 or whenever it is ready, and the train will be ‘socially-distanced’? Don’t hold your breath, unless you want to reduce carbon emissions.

Whatever the UK Prime Minister says tonight, the UK government is clearly using this situation as an opportunity to regulate ever more closely every aspect of our lives. This is Mr Johnson’s green agenda bursting out into the open, the Khmer Vert with Covid-1984.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Turning ourselves into China for any reason is the definition of a cure being worse than the disease. The scolders who are being seduced by such thinking have to wake up, before we end up adding another disaster on top of the terrible one we’re already facing.”

Matt Taibbi

The whole essay will, I bet, resonate with all you freedom lovers in the comments.

Identifying the socially-undistanced elements…

I read (iirc in one of Viktor Suvorov’s books) that in the Ukraine of the 1930s, a peasant who was not starving and thin automatically came under suspicion of food hoarding. Whereas, in besieged WW2 Leningrad, the populace were starving, and I read somewhere that there was a sub-stratum of the population who had unusually rosy cheeks and an almost healthy glow compared to their starving fellow citizens, they were not under suspicion by the Party. These were not privileged Party members, but cannibals, who had resorted to devouring the abundant supplies of human flesh.

Grim as that was, and we are nowhere near anything like that yet, I can’t help but noticing that the impact of the CCP-Covid-19-Terror is beginning to show in people. This is a country where, whilst not illegal per se, getting a haircut other than from a member of your household (and how many live alone or with those unable to help) necessarily involves leaving your home (or someone else leaving there’s) without ‘reasonable excuse’ under the (not quite limited) excuses, so if your hair is now neat and short, or dyed or coloured in your usual fashion for those so inclined, you might come under suspicion of having failed to have followed ‘social distancing rules’ or having patronised a business operating illegally. Will we see a ‘haircut hotline’ open up for us to denounce a neighbour whose thatch is well-trimmed?

Will we have Ministers of the Crown denouncing professional haircutting at the daily 5pm press conference, a ‘Two Minute Hate’ against the ‘Socially Undistanced’ (or should be the ‘Unsocially distanced’)?

What else might be a give-away in this new culture of conformity? Looking unconcerned as the economy collapses, or not clapping the sky when the time comes to applaud the NHS?

There is more to be done. Perhaps to deter breaching of ‘social distancing’ in those elements of the populace who pay for ‘personal services’, the Queen could grant a Royal Charter to a new organisation “RASEL – The Royal Anti-Sex League“, that might give the Duke of York, who currently seems to be at a loose end, a useful role as its Patron should he seek a new role and a spot of image polishing, there’s not much use for his Airmiles at the moment, and even if there were, he might wish to avoid countries with US extradition treaties, just in case he is unjustly accused.