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.

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How pausing the world leads to catastrophe

Well worth your time:

Some fallacies will never die

“SNP MSP claims border with England would ‘create jobs'”, writes Tom Gordon in the Herald.

AN SNP candidate has claimed that a new a trade border between Scotland and England resulting from independence could “create jobs”, despite the impact on business.

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper, who is challenging a Tory incumbent in Galloway & West Dumfries, was accused of spouting “half-witted nonsense” after the comment.

Speaking to ITV Border, Ms Harper criticised Boris Johnson for creating a Brexit hard border down the Irish Sea despite previous assurances it wouldn’t happen.

Asked “so why add another one here?”, she replied: “If a border will work, we can show that a border will work, there are issues that have been brought to my attention that show that jobs can be created if a border is created.

Job creation for guards: sounds just the Scottish National Party’s style. Perhaps that is why they are so keen on the Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill. Think of the career opportunities for snoopers and informers!

I predicted this, it didn’t happen. I predicted this, it didn’t happen. I predicted this, it’s happening.

European MPs targeted by deepfake video calls imitating Russian opposition

Five Eyes, one closing

“Five Eyes on China cut to four as New Zealand puts trade first”, reports the Times.

New Zealand has broken with Anglophone allies over using the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network to confront China, reversing an agreement to expand the network’s remit.

Nanaia Mahuta, the foreign minister, declared that New Zealand was “uncomfortable” with pressuring China and wanted to pursue its own bilateral relationship.

The network, a Cold War-era partnership to share intelligence, took a new turn last year when it began issuing statements as a single entity, including condemning China’s human rights record.

Last May defence ministers from Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand endorsed an expanded role with a public commitment not only to meet shared security challenges but “to advance their shared values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights”.

Mahuta, 50, said she had informed the other Five Eyes members of New Zealand’s changed position.

Ms Mahuta waxed poetical about the relationship between New Zealand and China:

She symbolised the China-New Zealand relationship as one between a “dragon and taniwha”, a serpent-like creature from Maori myth.

“I see the taniwha and the dragon as symbols of the strength of our particular customs, traditions and values, that aren’t always the same, but need to be maintained and respected,” she said. “And on that virtue we have together developed the mature relationship we have today.”

Oddly, the Times report makes no mention of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. If only she knew of this cynical act of realpolitik by one of her ministers!

The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight

In the (Glasgow) Herald, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf writes,

New Hate Crime Bill extends protection of people

Odd headline. Make that some people.

This week Parliament will consider further amendments to the Hate Crime Bill before a final vote on our proposed reforms

By “Parliament” Mr Yousaf means the one with him in it, i.e. the Scottish Parliament. The SNP love this rhetorical trick of pretending the Scottish Parliament is the only one of any relevance to Scotland. Wishing this to be so is a perfectly legitimate goal, but pretending it is already so is premature. Of course all the Scottish people have to do to ensure that the Parliament with Mr Yousaf in it becomes the sole decider of what laws they live under is carry on voting for Mr Yousaf’s party in the numbers they now do.

The new Bill will modernise and consolidate hate crime law and provide clarity. It brings together various piecemeal additions and changes to the law made over time, while also recognising the need to clamp down further on this all too pervasive, damaging behaviour.

As a person of colour the law has protected me, for the last 35 years, from anyone stirring up hatred against me due to my race.

The law cannot have done a very good job of protection, given that he said in the previous paragraph that hate crime was “pervasive”, and that he complains a few paras down about all the hate he receives.

This Bill now extends that protection to people in relation to their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variation of sex characteristics (previously known as intersex).

The legislation has come a long way. As Parliament has been considering the detail of the Bill the Government has listened – making changes and reflecting on concerns to improve a piece of powerful legislation that I believe is fitting of the Scotland we live in.

That being the Scotland where race hate crime is pervasive.

Robust Parliamentary scrutiny has been essential to the process.

Concerns over the impact that stirring up hatred offences could have on freedom of expression were raised. And these have been listened to and are being acting upon. We have made a number of significant changes already, including ensuring that any successful prosecution for the new offences must prove that the person intended to stir up hatred. We have also inserted a “reasonable person test” to clarify that when determining if behaviour is “threatening or abusive” an objective test is applied.

By “we” Mr Yousaf means that the SNP reluctantly accepted one amendment from the Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins. That link takes you to a Guardian article that also notes that “Tomkins and fellow Conservative Liam Kerr failed to secure an amendment that they argued would protect disagreements, for example, at the family dinner table.”

Mr Yousaf continues,

The Justice Committee has offered critical scrutiny and recently held constructive discussions on a freedom of expression clause that would further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech.

You don’t say whether these discussions led to any action, Mr Yousaf. Hint: they didn’t. His only reason for cooing about how constructive the discussions were is to conceal the fact that the this clause that would theoretically further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech was not actually constructed, just talked about.

I am confident that our proposed amendment on this now strikes the right balance between protecting groups targeted by hate crime and respecting people’s rights to free speech.

A number of national Women’s Organisations, such as Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender and Rape Crisis Scotland have raised concerns over the inclusion of a Sex Aggravator.

I’m not surprised. They should never have let a Sex Aggravator sit on a parliamentary committee. → Continue reading: The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight

Health is the war of the state

The Telegraph reports:

EU threatens war-time occupation of vaccine makers as AstraZeneca crisis spirals (£)

“The EU sledgehammer is coming down. The European Council is preparing to invoke emergency powers of Article 122 against AstraZeneca and Big Pharma within days.

This nuclear option paves the way for the seizure of intellectual property and data, and arguably direct control over the production process – tantamount to war-time occupation of private companies. This is Europe First pushed to another level. It takes the EU into the territory of 1930s methods and an authoritarian command economy.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, is being badgered by member states to take action before the escalating vaccine crisis mutates into a political crisis as well and starts to topple governments. He is offering them the most extreme option available in the Lisbon Treaty.

Article 122 allows the EU to take emergency steps “if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products”, or “if a Member State is in difficulties or is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control”.

Begun the vaccine war has.

Newsflash: Empire now says Order 66 “was a silly mistake”:

“EU backtracks on decision to block supply of vaccines to Northern Ireland”, the Irish Independent reports.

The EU has backtracked on a decision to block vaccines being transported into Northern Ireland.

The move followed hours of diplomatic chaos after it emerged the EU triggered an article of the Northern Protocol which introduce check on good entering Northern Ireland. This would have allowed EU authorities stop the importation of vaccines manufactured on the continent entering Northern Ireland.

[…]

There were frantic phones calls between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen when it emerged vaccines could be stop from moving between the EU and Northern Ireland.

There was also significant backlash against the EU from both sides of the border when the decision emerged.

A Government source said the Taoiseach had not being given any advance warning of the EU decision to invoke the article in the protocol. The source said the article may have been inadvertently triggered by “someone who did not understand the political implications” of the decision.

I am shocked, shocked to find that there has been a political riot in the US

Biden victory confirmed after deadly attack on Capitol

Note the convenient unidirectionality of the word “deadly” in that BBC report.

A writing challenge for you: how would these events be reported if those who stormed the Capitol had been doing it in support of Black Lives Matter?

Trouble comes to the EU from three directions

“The EU is a divided house”, writes John Keiger at the Spectator:

A 2019 German think tank report, entitled ‘20 Years of the Euro; Winners and Losers’, costed the single currency’s impact on individual states. From 1999 to 2017, only Germany and the Netherlands were serious winners with the former gaining a huge € 1.9 trillion, or around €23,000 per inhabitant.

In all other states analysed the Euro has provoked a drop in prosperity, with France losing a massive €3.6 trillion and Italy €4.3 trillion. French losses amount to €56,000 per capita and for Italians €74,000. Without fundamental reform the nineteen-member single currency’s divide between high-debt, high-unemployment southern states and their low-debt, low-unemployment northern counterparts will widen. The next crisis will come as the ECB’s quantitative easing programme ends and southern debt ceases to be sucked up by the Bank.

“The EU’s China deal is bad for democracy”, writes Edward Lucas at the Times:

The deal itself is quite narrow. It replaces and amplifies multiple existing agreements, with the aim of protecting investors against arbitrary treatment. Their bugbears include mandatory joint ventures, which China uses to steal technology and other secrets, and subsidies for local competitors. China has also made a mealy-mouthed commitment to make “continued and sustained efforts” to ratify International Labour Organization conventions that underpin free trade unions and prohibit slave labour.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may have given away a bit on this front but has gained far more on others. Hopes of a global stance against Chinese bullying are dashed. Australia, the subject of ferocious pressure, is left marooned. Countries mulling how far to stand up to China will draw their own conclusions: Europe talks about values but self-interest trumps solidarity.

The deal exemplifies the gap between the EU’s foreign policy aims and reality. The European Commission claims to be “geopolitical”. In 2019 it deemed China a “strategic rival”. Yet the mercantilist influence of big business, particularly in Germany, steamrollers ethical and security concerns.

“EU’s coronavirus vaccination strategy in chaos as supplies run short”, write Oliver Moody and Charles Bremner, also in the Times:

The European Union’s vaccine strategy has been criticised as “clearly inadequate” after a first week of inoculation on the continent was marred by logistical mishaps.

President Macron reprimanded his ministers over France’s sluggish start after only 400 people received the Pfizer-Biontech jab in the first six days.

A senior German minister and the German-Turkish scientist who developed the Biontech vaccine questioned why the EU had not amassed a sufficient stockpile of the only vaccine it had licensed. Brussels has ordered up to 300 million doses of the jab — barely enough to cover a third of the EU’s 450 million residents — but turned down an offer of an extra 500 million doses, according to Der Spiegel magazine. This has left the bloc dependent on a range of vaccines that have yet to be licensed, including those from Sanofi and Curevac, which are not expected to be available until at least the second half of the year.

But the EU has survived many predictions of its demise, and it is not the only union of nations under strain. “With Brexit, the UK may be bolstering the EU and seeding its own disintegration”, writes Andrew Hammond in the South China Morning Post:

Within the EU, for instance, there are several key debates about the 27-member bloc’s future well under way, including rebalancing the union given the new balance of power within it, and whether the EU now integrates further, disintegrates or muddles through.

For instance, with the UK no longer in the Brussels-based club, the EU 27 has already made significant steps last year towards greater federalism. One example is the new €750 billion (US$825 billion) coronavirus recovery fund, a major political milestone in the post-war history of European integration, which saw the continent’s presidents and prime ministers commit for the first time to the principle of jointly issued debt as a funding tool.

What do you think will happen to the EU? What do you want to happen? Views from citizens or residents of EU countries would be especially welcome.

It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it

Chorus of dissent after police stop carol singers in car park

Police have been criticised for disbanding an outdoor fundraising performance by carol singers in a quiet village.

Four patrol cars swooped on the socially-distanced “mini-concert” in Woodborough, Nottinghamshire, on Sunday.

The county is in Tier 3, where carol singing is allowed, and organisers said the event had followed coronavirus guidelines. However, officers said that about 40 people had gathered, making others feel “worried and unsafe”.

Anyone might feel worried and unsafe when confronted with this:

Five members of the Woodborough Songbirds were being pulled through the village on a 15m-long trailer decorated with fairy lights when officers arrived. They had planned to sing in six areas in a “Christmas tour”, raising money for the Nottingham Hospitals Charity.

Five “songbirds”. Only four patrol cars. Lesser men and women might have been daunted by that grim arithmetic, but not Nottinghamshire Police.

This proves what I always said about Brexit!

Says absolutely everyone.

UK faces Brexit limbo after talks deadline missed

Britain risks weeks without trade transition plans from 1 January after missing EU parliament Sunday deadline

– The Guardian last night.

Europe shuts door on Britain over fears of mutant virus

• Countries ban UK travellers as Covid cases rise by 50% in a week • Health secretary admits new strain is ‘out of control’

Britain’s border with France was closed last night with all travellers and lorry drivers blocked from leaving and the EU ready to ban all arrivals to the bloc.

Fears were mounting of gridlock on roads in Kent as the Channel Tunnel said that its services would be suspended at 11pm yesterday amid an international scramble to quarantine Britain over a faster-spreading variant of coronavirus.

Flights, ferries and trains from Britain are expected to be banned by Brussels after a wave of European countries including Italy, the Netherlands and Ireland implemented bans on arrivals. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, Germany and Sweden also announced travel bans. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said no flights from the UK would be allowed to land for 72 hours, a move which came into effect at midnight.

– The Times this morning.

“Hey, Brexshitters, Macron just proved that being a member of the EU does not mean you lose control of your borders. This just proves how idiotic your “sovereignty” argument was.”

“Hey, Remoaners, all the awful things you said were going to happen if we left the EU without a deal are happening anyway. Might as well make it official.”

P.S. This proves what I always said about Covid, too.

And the lesson for today is…

…from the Second Book of Kings, Chapter 20, Verses 12-19:

12 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. 

13 Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses – the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil – his armoury and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, ‘What did those men say, and where did they come from?’

‘From a distant land,’ Hezekiah replied. ‘They came from Babylon.’

15 The prophet asked, ‘What did they see in your palace?’

‘They saw everything in my palace,’ Hezekiah said. ‘There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.’

16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: 

17 the time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 

18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’

19 ‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’

While I would not go so far as to claim this post was divinely inspired, 2 Kings 20: 12-19 actually was the lesson in a church service broadcast on Radio 3 on Wednesday morning. I caught a little of it while in the car heading down to Bisley to perform an activity that once would have been proudly described as contributing to national security. (Do not try this line now.)

Anyway, for some reason over the next few days I found myself paying a little more attention to news stories like this one from today’s South China Morning Post,

“US blacklists about 60 more Chinese firms including top chip maker SMIC and drone manufacturer DJI”,

…or to this one from the BBC two days ago, “Huawei: Uighur surveillance fears lead PR exec to quit”,

Or to any of a thousand others. But what is the lesson for today? What should we do about the threat from the People’s Republic of China? “War is the health of the state”, wrote Randolph Bourne, and cold war is its daily vitamin pill. It was not so long ago that people like me were enthusiasts for China’s turn to capitalism. I still am, mostly. Now that their rulers have cast off all but the fig leaf of communism, a significant fraction of the human race has been lifted out of poverty in my lifetime. The Chinese people are not free, but they are much more free than they were in the days when the Eight Revolutionary Operas were almost literally the only music allowed. I am happy for them.

Yet when I see that famous video of Joe Biden, the man soon to take up residence in the White House, jovially saying, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man”, I cannot but remember the words of the prophet:

And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’

‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’

Ne laissez jamais une crise se perdre

As President Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said in 2008, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. I mean, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

The Daily Mail reports,

French parents are to be BANNED from home-schooling their kids as part of Emmanuel Macron’s fight back against Islamic extremism

Parents who home-school their children could face up to six months in prison under new measures to combat Islamic extremism in France.

The bill, which was unveiled on Wednesday, will make it a crime for children to be taught at home.

It is an attempt to stop children from being influenced by religious radicals, the Times reported.

It comes after the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded last month after showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his class during a lesson on free speech.

Samuel Paty was murdered by Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov, an 18-year-old Muslim Russian refugee of Chechen ethnicity.

Not home schooled then. Certainly not home schooled in France. But what about the perpetrators of other Islamic terrorist attacks in France? The relevant Wikipedia article does not make it easy to tell, since someone has decided to remove the names of the terrorists. But so far as I know none of the perpetrators of the biggest terrorist outrages in France were homeschooled. Like their counterparts in the UK they were typically products of their country’s state education system who first turned to petty crime and then were “redeemed” by Islam.