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]

Lockdowns probably don’t work because the alternative scenario they supposedly protect against isn’t real

Lockdowns are claimed to be “effective” against a modelled counter-factual of mass deaths if they aren’t done. If the counter-factual is wrong then lockdowns by definition cannot be “effective”. And we know the counter-factuals are very wrong because model predictions keep being falsified, over and over, most recently with UK freedom day. Note that all the models for COVID at the start were predicting a single giant wave. They couldn’t predict anything else because they assumed only lockdowns can stop epidemics and that otherwise a virus will simply keep spreading exponentially until 100% of the population has been infected. With no understanding of natural immunity, nor for how long SARS-CoV-2 had really been spreading in the population before mass testing started, they had to make this assumption in order to make predictions, but it renders their model useless. They ended up confidently asserting nonsensical scenarios on the back of very incomplete scientific understanding, something which our broken and brainwashed society was totally unable to push back against.

So: lockdowns probably don’t work because the alternative scenario they supposedly protect against isn’t real, because they’re based on bad understandings of probability and biology, and because the germ theory on which lockdown theory rests appears to be incomplete. And underneath it all, because the “experts” who push this theory know no more about viruses or disease than you or I do.

Norman Powers, in a comment under an article with a somewhat different article rather different topic Will Trump bring down DeSantis?

Samizdata quote of the day

If the peer reviewer at one journal says no to a scientific study, the researchers will generally move on to another, less prestigious journal, and will keep going like that until they can get the study published. There are so many journals that everything gets published somewhere in the end, no matter of how poor quality.

The whole system of peer-review builds on trust. The guiding principle is the idea that bad studies will be caught out over the long term, because when other people try to replicate the results, they won’t be able to.

There are two big problems with this line of thinking. The first is that scientific studies are expensive, so they often don’t get replicated, especially if they are big studies of drugs. For the most part, no-one but the drug company itself has the cash resources to do a follow-up study to make sure that the results are reliable. And if the drug company has done one study which shows a good effect, it won’t want to risk doing a second study that might show a weaker effect.

The second problem is that follow-up studies aren’t exciting. Being first is cool, and generates lots of media attention. Being second is boring. No-one cares about the people who re-did a study and determined that the results actually held up to scrutiny.

Sebastian Rushworth, writing about How to understand scientific studies (in health and medicine)

Samizdata quote of the day

[The scientific establishment has always had a tendency] “to turn into a church, enforcing obedience to the latest dogma and expelling heretics and blasphemers.”

Matt Ridley

Deleting the weather report to make the rain go away

“Facebook axes team over far-right data”, says the Times.

Facebook has disbanded one of its teams after the data they produced suggested that far-right commentators outperformed all other users.

Facebook executives, including Sir Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, became concerned that the CrowdTangle tool was being used by journalists to produce embarrassing evidence that right-wing content was read more than anything else on the platform.

The analytics tool is owned by Facebook but is available to the public. It is one of the only ways for users to measure how well a post is doing in terms of being shared, commented on, liked or receiving a reaction emoji.

Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, told colleagues last September that he was concerned “our own tools are helping journos to consolidate the wrong narrative”, according to The New York Times.

CrowdTangle’s data showed that in the US the links posted on Facebook to other websites which got the most engagement was to content by right-wing commentators such as Ben Shapiro and the Fox News host Sean Hannity, and to right-wing sites including Breitbart and Newsmax.

A commenter called LucasTheCat gave me the title for this post when they responded, “This is strange for two reasons – none of the commentators listed are what I would consider to be ‘far right’ and isn’t removing the report – the same as taking the weather report out of your paper – because you don’t like the weather – or am I missing something?”

By the way, the idea that Nick Clegg was released on the world deliberately is a fringe conspiracy theory that Facebook has rightly banned. The current theory is that he was accidentally leaked from an insufficiently secured British political system.

The future works, just as it is being stolen from us, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is now real

The future of the flying car is finally arriving, a flying car, the AirCar, has completed a test flight between two airports in Slovakia, reports the BBC.

This wonderful development brought to us by Professor Stefan Klein (the article has a short video showing the car flying etc.) is not yet licensed to fly, and given the caution around aviation, such approval may be a long way off, but it is technically possible now, almost a century after the English Electric Wren which was seen as a rival to the emergent motor car. To think that within around 31 years, English Electric would build the Lightning is simply mind-boggling.

However, this fantastic development runs on a petrol engine, has an airborne range of c. 1,000 km (625 miles) and can cruise at 170km/h (c.106 mph), at 8,200 feet (pressurisation not an option at the moment it seems). Imagine the liberty of flight, in your garage, the horror of unrestricted travel, no speed cameras, the Left’s (and the State’s) hatred of mobility and autonomy will shine like the fiery pits of Hell.

Two passengers, provided that they don’t weigh more than 31 stone. Let physics limit your weight, not the government.

Dr Stephen Wright, senior research fellow in avionics and aircraft, at the University of the West of England, described the AirCar as “the lovechild of a Bugatti Veyron and a Cesna 172”.

but there is obviously a cautionary note:

“I have to admit that this looks really cool – but I’ve got a hundred questions about certification,” Dr Wright said.
“Anyone can make an aeroplane but the trick is making one that flies and flies and flies for the thick end of a million hours, with a person on board, without having an incident.
“I can’t wait to see the piece of paper that says this is safe to fly and safe to sell.”

With a 600 mile range, a self-fly/drive break on the Continent would be a breeze. Short-haul aviation is pointless in such a world, as are inflexible trains (HS2 etc.), even car hire. Bring it on.

To call it “Project Cassandra” was hubris

As soon as I saw it I thought of psychohistory. I was not alone, judging from the most recommended comment to this fascinating Guardian article:

‘At first I thought, this is crazy’: the real-life plan to use novels to predict the next war

An extract:

In one of his last reports to the defence ministry, towards the end of 2019, Wertheimer had drawn attention to an interesting development in the Caucasus. The culture ministry of Azerbaijan had recently supplied libraries in Georgia with books carrying explicit anti-Armenian messages, such as the works of poet Khalil Rza Uluturk. There were signs, he warned, that Azerbaijan was ramping up propaganda efforts in the brewing territorial conflict with its neighbouring former Soviet republic.

War broke out a year later: 6,000 soldiers and civilians died in a six-week battle over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave of Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the war to bolster his strongman image, hailing Armenia’s defeat in December as a “glorious victory”. Russia, traditionally allied with Armenia, successfully leveraged the conflict to consolidate its influence in the region. Germany and the EU, meanwhile, looked on and stayed silent: being able to predict the future is one thing, knowing what to do with the information is another.

Samizdata quote of the day

And frankly, a lot of what DARPA did was crap, like SDI. They had successes, but if you spend decades doing research projects some are going to work. The question is whether this works better than leaving money in the pockets of the likes of Dyson and Bezos, or whether the government should take a shot.

The UK version doesn’t have a government customer. It’s being led by the department of business, energy and industrial strategy who are some of the most worthless of all bureaucrats in government. People like Amanda Solloway are going to pick the person to lead this. Do you want someone who thinks HS2 is a super great idea selecting the person who is going to pick where to direct blue sky research?

Tim Worstall

The European Digital Identity is born

The Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age loves the idea:

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age said: “The European digital identity will enable us to do in any Member State as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles. Be that renting a flat or opening a bank account outside of our home country. And do this in a way that is secure and transparent. So that we will decide how much information we wish to share about ourselves, with whom and for what purpose. This is a unique opportunity to take us all further into experiencing what it means to live in Europe, and to be European.”

However Laurie Clarke of TechMonitor is not so keen:

“The EU digital ID scheme could be a boon for SMEs but a security nightmare”,

Today, the EU announced plans for a bloc-wide digital identity scheme that will allow citizens to use public and private services online. The digital wallet would store payment details, passwords and digital ID cards, and be interoperable across the 27 EU member countries. But the scheme is yet to settle on technical standards, and could be besieged by privacy and security concerns before it gets off the ground.

The EU will reportedly force a structural separation preventing companies that use the system from repurposing customer data for other commercial activities, such as marketing. It also stressed that users of the digital identity solution will be in control of their data. But the melding of public and private services could pose privacy concerns in future. Privacy advocates have repeatedly warned about the potential for digital ID cards to erode civil liberties – particularly when data collected by the scheme ends up being used for immigration control or policing purposes.

On the security side, “This puts an awful lot of sensitive data in one place,” says Marcus. Cybersecurity threats have been growing over the years both from commercial and government-sponsored hackers, which could threaten the digital ID scheme. “This is a high-value target, both for criminal gangs and for governments. If this data gets out in the wild, it would be bad.”

Some of the responses to Ursula Von der Leyen’s tweet are less enthusiastic still. Someone called “Tom” says,

This would sound like an impending Orwellian nightmare if not for the inevitable certainty that the Commission will find a way to f*** it up.

The point is that anyone can do this to anyone

Don’t like what someone says on social media? Don’t worry, with just one phone call you can arrange for whoever said it to have to tell their autistic kids that mummy has to go away and doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed to come back.

“I can’t sleep, says accountant Marion Millar in trans tweet row”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, an accountant from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, was told to report to a police station over allegations that she had posted “homophobic and transphobic” tweets.

Her account of her ordeal has been viewed by millions of people on social media. Millar, who works for For Women Scotland (FWS), a feminist group, wrote: “On April 28 I received a call from a PC Laura Daley from Police Scotland requesting I attend an interview under the malicious communications act. She told me I had to attend East Kilbride police station so I could be then transported to Cathcart station in a police car because I would have to go to a station where there are holding cells.”

Millar was told that social workers would be sent to look after her young twin boys, who are autistic, while she was questioned.

“This nonsense has been hanging over my head for a month,” she said. “I still don’t know what the offending tweet is. Anyone who knows me knows I am not homophobic or transphobic. ”

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “We received two complaints regarding comments made on social media, enquiries into this are ongoing.”

To comply with human rights legislation interviews have to take place at a station with custody suites, which East Kilbride does not have.

I cannot but admire the elegance of using the supposed protections offered by human rights legislation into a vehicle for twisting the knife a little more. Shame if you aren’t allowed to return home, love. But don’t worry, we have a nice custody suite.

Some of you might think this is an example of what a oppressive place Scotland is becoming now that the Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill has been passed. If so, you are wrong. It is an example of what an oppressive place Scotland already is under existing law. Ms Millar was summoned for offences under the Malicious Communications Act. And before English, Welsh or Northern Irish readers feel superior, let me say that as far as I know that same 1988 Act applies to the whole of the UK. As I said in a post from 2012 called “The kraken wakes”, despite its obvious potential for oppression, for the first twenty years or so of its existence the Malicious Communications Act 1988 did not seem to do much harm … but you are not safe just because a monster sleeps.

Samizdata quote of the day

It has been a well-known fact for the past hundred years that masks are useless against viral transmission. All one has to do is contrast the moon-suits used in virology labs with the “bandana across the face” to understand how actual protection works. I’ve designed military NBC (nuclear/biological/chemical) filtration systems (that I still cannot discuss) and the difference between those and the relatively simple gas turbine filter systems is enormous.

And yet the discussions in the lame-stream media all center on “when can we take our masks off”, rather than the central question of, “do masks perform any positive function in preventing or slowing the spread of viral diseases”. The Danish study alone (more than 6,000 people) of the ‘rona puts the lie to the latter. Every single study done has shown that non-rated cloth and paper masks have no positive effect, and have many negative effects. Hypoxia is only one of them; the negative effects also include higher rates of other infections, including bacterial and fungal. Major dental issues are also now arising from chronic mask use. Despite that, many of the government-funded studies conclude that, “masks should be worn anyway, mostly for the psychological benefit”. I guess that’s now considered “sciencey”.

This despite the fact that places that underwent lockdowns and mask mandates suffered higher infection rates and death rates than those without mandates.

– Commenter Blackwing1

CMV: the threat to liberty from mandatory voter ID is insignificant

“CMV” stands for “Change my view”. It is the name of a subreddit where people go to argue, expecting disagreement, as I expect it now.

In the most recent Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty told the Lords and the Commons that “My Government will invest in new green industries to create jobs”, but there were serious proposals as well. She also said, “Legislation will be introduced to ensure the integrity of elections”. This was a reference to the proposed Electoral Integrity Bill. You can read the Hansard account of the debate in Parliament here. Chloe Smith MP, who it appears is the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, there’s posh now, said,

Asking voters to prove their identities will safeguard against the potential in our current system for someone to cast another person’s vote at the polling station. Showing identification is something people of all backgrounds do every day.

Northern Ireland has used voter identification in its elections since 1985, and expanded this in 2003 during the last Labour Government. In the first general election after photographic identification was introduced in Northern Ireland by the then Labour Government (2005), turnout in Northern Ireland was higher than in each of England, Scotland and Wales. Since then, the experience in Northern Ireland has shown that once voter identification is established as part of the voting system the vast majority of electors complete the voting process after arriving at the polling station. A wide range of countries, such as Canada and most European nations, require some form of identification to vote.

New research published yesterday on www.gov.uk clearly indicates that the vast majority of the electorate of Great Britain, 98% of electors, already own an eligible form of identification, which includes a broad range of documents and expired photographic identification.

And, um, that sounds fair to me. Note that the Northern Irish Electoral Identity Card is not required to be shown before one can vote. It is but one of several acceptable forms of ID, and is issued free of charge to those people who don’t have any of the other forms so that nobody will be unable to vote due to poverty. It is not the abominable high-tech integrated without-this-you-starve Identity Nexus proposed by the Right Honourable Tony Blair. My opinions on that have not changed since 2003. To look at, the Northern Irish Electoral Identity card is a poxy little photocard that looks like it was issued by your local library. This lack of sophistication, the fact that you only need the effing thing once every five years or so, and the fact that voters have been obliged to show ID before voting in Northern Ireland for years without any obvious bad consequences, lead me not to fear the rollout of a similar scheme in the rest of the UK as the first step on the slippery slope towards a national ID card.

As to whether a legal requirement to show photographic ID before one votes is a thing good, bad or indifferent in itself, that is a separate debate. Dawn Butler MP, writing in the Times, says, “This, to me, is nothing more than a cynical attempt at voter suppression by our government — and it must be stopped. It mirrors some of the subversive tactics deployed in some states in America.” Jess Garland of the Electoral Reform Society writes in the Guardian that it would undermine democracy. Over in the US, where the state of Georgia has recently passed its own Election Integrity Act, President Biden said a thing about eagles.

The King can do no wrong

George Archer-Shee died at nineteen, in what might almost be called a natural death for a young British man of his class at that time – he was killed in the First Battle of Ypres. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate but he has no known grave.

He shared the manner of his death with thousands of others, but, quite against his own wishes, his short life before that had taken an unusual turn. At the time of his death he had been famous for six years.

It all started in 1908 when George Archer-Shee was thirteen and a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Osborne. He was accused of having stolen a five shilling postal order intended for another cadet. An elderly post office clerk said she remembered Archer-Shee as having cashed two postal orders that day, one of his own (which no one denied) and the stolen one. Archer-Shee protested his innocence to no avail; he was expelled without much ceremony.

That should have been that, a minor story of Edwardian disgrace, but his father refused to take it lying down. He engaged one of the most celebrated lawyers of the day – Sir Edward Carson, famous for many reasons, some of which are still controversial today, and determined to pursue the case to the highest court in the land. But there was a slight problem: if I have understood it right, at that time one could not sue the Crown.

Quoting a 1939 article in the Pennsylvania Law Review:

It was early recognized in England that while an action could not be brought against the King, yet as the “fountain of justice and equity” he would entertain petitions from his subjects for the redress of their wrongs; and it was established during the reign of Edward I that the subject might bring a petition of right, which, if approved by the King, would be heard in his courts. The King indicated his approval of the petition by writing on it, “Let right be done”. A petition of right, as distinguished from a petition of grace, asked “for something which the suppliant could claim as a right, if the claim were made against any one but the King”. Originally a petition of right was employed only to recover some interest in land, and there was doubt whether it would lie to recover chattels, but by the time of Henry VI it was settled that it would lie for the recovery of goods and chattels. It was not until 1874 that it was decided that the petition would lie for breach of contract. It would never lie for a tort, for the King can do no wrong.

At the time the petition of right was filed in the Archer-Shee case the law was clear that those in the service of the Crown, whether military or civil, could be dismissed at will and were without remedy by petition of right or otherwise.

Carson won in the end, as he usually did. Archer-Shee was exonerated. And the important precedent was set that the King can do wrong, and can be sued.

So far, so Whig history. The setting of that precedent is how I come to know about the case. I think I read a rather good account of it and why it mattered in Look and Learn magazine in the mid 1970s. Terence Rattigan wrote a play loosely based on the story called The Winslow Boy. It has been filmed at least twice.

But a more recent event also involving the Post Office – and the refusal of the Post Office to admit the possibility of error – and the refusal of the British State as a whole to admit the possibility of the Post Office being in error – and the blackening of the names of innocent people – made me think that we need to learn that lesson again.

Let the BBC tell the story:

Post Office scandal: What the Horizon saga is all about

A group of former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have seen their names cleared at the Court of Appeal after the UK’s most widespread miscarriage of justice.

It marks the latest stage of a computer scandal, and a long and complex legal battle, which could leave the Post Office with a huge compensation bill.

Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses – an average of one a week – based on information from a recently installed computer system called Horizon.

Some went to prison following convictions for false accounting and theft, many were financially ruined and have described being shunned by their communities. Some have since died.

Edit: In the comments Rudolph Hucker pointed out that the doctrine driving the Post Office’s reckless prosecution of so many of its own employees bore an even closer parallel to the doctrine, supposedly overturned by the Archer-Shee case, that “the King can do no wrong” than I thought. He linked to a piece from the radio station LBC called ‘The Post Office were mendacious in the way they denied justice’ The title is a quote from Nick Wallace, a journalist who has been covering the Horizon scandal for many years.

Due to its long legacy, the Post Office has a “proximity to state power that is almost unparalleled.”

Mr Wallis continued: “It was able to use its own investigation and prosecution units to bypass the CPS and the police force to prosecute its own employees to the tune of one a week for 14 years. There were 736 successful convictions just using Horizon IT evidence.”

He told Shelagh that when the Post Office found out its prosecutions may be unsafe, “they covered it up.”

“They went out of their way to say to campaigning MPs and the Justice for the Postmasters’ Alliance that nothing was going wrong with the IT system and there was nothing wrong with their prosecution.”

They then “threw tens of millions of pounds trying to deny the subpostmasters justice,” Mr Wallis said.

“They were mendacious in the way they went about denying justice and they colluded with the Government in order to do this, because the Government is 100% shareholder of the Post Office and it has skin in this game.