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]

“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.

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.

Lorry driver shortage

In the news cycle of late: lorry driver shortage threatens empty supermarket shelves.

One product so affected is apparently bottled water. I can say I have been having trouble buying the particular brand of bottled soft water I put in my coffee machine to avoid having to descale it so often.

The Road Haulage Association wrote to the Prime Minister with five causes of the shortage: covid, Brexit, retiring drivers, a driving test shortage and IR35. The first two are causing foreign drivers to return to their home countries, not to return, they say. The last two I imagine are exacerbating the first three. If you make lorry driving pay less and cost more (whether obvious monetary costs or by increasing bureaucratic hurdles) it stands to reason that supply will diminish. To get supply back to the same level, you will have to pay more. In macroeconomic terms: taxes and regulations reduce economic growth. This is how that looks in real world terms.

IR35 is particularly egregious. A driver recruitment agency writes:

The effect of the IR35 reform is to force agency workers who previously operated as Ltd Companies to pay more tax and their agencies or end clients to pay Employer NI Contributions. If we were to keep the drivers’ net income the same, it would result in an increase in employment costs of 25% to the agency.

Maybe they are exaggerating their own costs, but the exact number does not matter too much. More tax is being collected from the employment of lorry drivers: that is the point of the IR35 regulation. One way or another it will be paid for by people directly and indirectly using the services of lorry drivers. Someone might argue that prior to IR35, the haulage industry was immorally getting away without paying enough tax, but that someone must now accept the increased costs of certain goods, including to poorer people for whom such goods are a more significant portion of their income.

Increased barriers to immigration are also said to play a part here. It is undoubtedly true that increased immigration drives down wages as it increases supply, which is to say it drives down the cost of hiring lorry drivers, and drives down costs to everyone who is indirectly using their services. Quite possibly the remaining lorry drivers are happy about this shortage (although I do suspect that any thus increased earnings are just going towards the now higher taxes). Also happy are the people who want everyone to have higher wages and use terms such as “living wage”, even if (as I suspect) those people also want more freedom of movement without wanting any reduction in wages that comes with it.

In the long term, more immigration should not mean lower wages: there is no lump of labour; if there are more people then there is more work to be done. On the contrary, denser concentrations of people create efficiencies that decrease costs, which makes things cheaper, which is the same thing as increasing wages. But dynamics are often overlooked. If you suddenly reduce the supply of lorry drivers you are going to suddenly increase the price of them. All of the other effects take time. And some of those effects will be cost-cutting innovations that reduce the need for lorry drivers. So watch out, lorry drivers.

I am a computer programmer. There was a time when there were suddenly many computer programmers arriving from Europe. My wages did not go down. The increased supply of programmers meant that more projects were started, there were more interesting things to work on, more interesting people to work on them with, and in general much more opportunity. Now it is becoming harder to hire programmers. I suspect if this continues, a lot of projects will happen in places where it is not so hard to hire programmers. My wages will not go up. The equivalent problem for the lorry drivers might be that as things get more expensive, people buy less things. Everything gets less interesting. That is how economic decline looks and it will not be good for the remaining lorry drivers in the end.

I have my doubts about whether the shortage will become a real crisis. So far, supply chain crises as a result of Brexit and covid have proved remarkably short-lived, and supply chains remarkably robust. Some new equilibrium will be found. But relative costs do change, and the people who want higher taxes, more regulation, higher wages or less immigration, ought to have the downsides of their demands pointed out to them.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It has become something of a cliche, but it also happens to be true. If you want to do your bit for the planet, forget Tesla and other super-expensive electric vehicles: just carry on driving the same old gas-guzzling banger you’ve always had. As much, if not more, carbon tends to be expended producing a new car as actually driving one.”

Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph (£).

I own an S-Type Jaguar (V6, 3-litre) – one of the last ones to be built – and it drives as smooth as you like, and what makes it all the sweeter is knowing that every time I turn that big black cat’s engine on, a little bit of Greta Thunberg’s cult hopefully dies.

Discussion point: restrictions on elderly drivers

“Over-70s facing driving curfew in licence shake-up”, reports the Times.

Before you pile in, the headline is misleading. What is being proposed is actually a relaxation of existing regulations:

Over-70s in poor health may be allowed to continue driving if they agree to fit a tracking device restricting them to daylight hours near their home.

That could be liberating. Or it could be a Trojan horse. First elderly people with health problems, then elderly people in general and sick people in general… what other groups might the government decide need to be tracked?

Licences expire when drivers turn 70, and those wanting to keep driving must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) of medical conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, diabetes — if it is treated with insulin — and any condition that affects both eyes or the total loss of sight in one eye. Reviews follow every three years.

Under the proposals discussed at a meeting this month between the DVLA and Driving Mobility, the official network of driving assessment centres, the over-70s could be eligible for “graduated driving licences”. These would potentially restrict them to a radius of 20 or 30 miles from home and bar them from night driving. They would apply only to those who would otherwise face losing their licence because of ill health.

Edward Trewhella, chief executive of Driving Mobility, said: “A lot of older drivers stick within their own locality — they go to the shop, the doctor’s surgery, go and see a granddaughter down the road, probably on minor roads with which they are familiar. This process would regularise that, and make it legal for them to do so as long as they didn’t take a trip outside of an area or outside of a time restriction. That would mean that they were driving safely within their familiar environment.”

For many elderly people, especially those who live where public transport is poor, the ability to drive is the difference between an active, sociable, productive life and imprisonment until death.

And yet –

Patricia Colquhoun, 69, lost her son, Neil, 28, when Turner Waddell, 90, a one-eyed retired GP with dementia, drove a mile the wrong way down a dual carriageway. Colquhoun, who lives in Hampshire, said the current system, which relies on self-referral, is flawed. “Nobody likes to say they’re old. They all say, ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’

How dare they not want to be rescued

Two days ago the BBC reported that the Supreme Court had ruled that Uber drivers are workers rather than being self-employed.

With what glad hosannas did the drivers greet the news of their liberation!

Er, no. As Sam Dumitriu writes in CapX,

Putting questions of legality to one side, it’s clear Uber’s business model works for drivers. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. Countless surveys have found that the majority of Uber drivers are happy with the status quo and would not sacrifice flexibility for greater security.

A survey carried out by Oxford University academics Carl Benedikt Frey and Thor Berger, in partnership with Uber, found that drivers reported higher levels of life satisfaction compared to other London workers, despite on average earning less. And, counter to the conventional wisdom, drivers typically worked full-time in other jobs before choosing to shift to Uber. Furthermore, more than four-fifths of drivers agreed with the statement: ‘Being able to choose my own hours is more important than having holiday pay and a guaranteed minimum wage’. They found that drivers would accept a move to fixed hours – but only if it came with a 25% pay rise.

Perhaps they had looked across the Atlantic and seen the results of California’s attempt to save gig economy workers from working in the gig economy:

In Uber’s home state of California, 70% of drivers backed Proposition 22, a ballot measure that created a carve-out for ridesharing services from the state’s tough laws on freelance work. The measure passed with 59% of the vote in November.

AB 5, the freelancer law which Prop 22 was responding to highlights how interventions designed to solve a problem in one market can have unintended consequences in others.

When it passed, Vox published an article: “Gig workers’ win in California is a victory for workers everywhere”. A month later they published another article: “Freelance journalists are mad about a new California law. Here’s what’s missing from the debate. The alternative to AB5 would be worse”. Two months later, Vox Media itself cut hundreds of freelance writing jobs in California.

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.

Welcome to the future

‘Why did it take nine hours to go 130 miles in our new electric Porsche?’, was the question Linda Barnes and her mysteriously un-named husband found themselves asking at the end of a very long day, as reported by the Guardian:

A couple from Kent have described how it took them more than nine hours to drive 130 miles home from Bournemouth as they struggled to find a working charger capable of producing enough power to their electric car.

Linda Barnes and her husband had to visit six charging stations as one after another they were either out of order, already had a queue or were the slow, older versions that would never be able to provide a fast enough charge in the time.

While the couple seem to have been “incredibly unlucky”, according to the president of the AA, Edmund King, their case highlights some of the problems that need ironing out before electric car owners can rely on the UK’s charging infrastructure.

Though beset by tribulations, Ms Barnes keeps the faith:

Linda says she now knows why most drivers charge their cars at home overnight and avoid using the public network. “Our car is lovely to drive and electric cars are the future. However, someone needs to get a grip of the charging infrastructure,” she says.

Buried deep within that paragraph lies the answer to her question.

The foundling

Anyone know whose baby this is?

Mystery Deepens Around Unmanned Spy Boat Washed Up In Scotland

Sadiq Khan will not be displeased that Uber has won its appeal

The BBC reports,

Uber spared from London ban despite ‘historical failings’

Uber has secured its right to continue operating in London after a judge upheld its appeal against Transport for London (TfL).

The ride-hailing giant has been granted a new licence to work in the capital, nearly a year after TfL rejected its application over safety concerns.

It ends uncertainty for the 45,000 drivers who use the taxi app in London.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court said Uber was now a “fit and proper” operator “despite historical failings”.

Snip

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said TfL was “absolutely right” not to renew Uber licence last year but acknowledged the company had “made improvements”.

However, he added: “I can assure Londoners that TfL will continue to closely monitor Uber and will not hesitate to take swift action should they fail to meet the strict standards required to protect passengers.”

Remember this from 2017?

Sadiq Khan is accused of ‘capitulating’ to black cab drivers’ union that bankrolled his London Mayor’s election campaign as petition to save taxi app reaches 600,000 signatures

The Mayor’s previous two attempts to ban Uber from London were unpopular with Londoners in general, and particularly unpopular with groups that normally vote Labour. Uber is a godsend for people living in non-posh places where black cabs do not venture, and for people who cannot afford the fares they charge. Uber drivers are very often from ethnic minorities and/or relatively recent immigrants. (All over the developed world taxi drivers tend to be immigrants for very good reasons – unless restrictive practices keep them out.)

Mr Khan knew all that, of course, but he could not afford to refuse the cab drivers’ union.

Now a nice judge has got him off the hook.

Ask not for whom the tik toks

“TikTok and WeChat: US to ban app downloads in 48 hours”, reports the BBC.

All things considered, I do still want Trump to win the US election, but this sounds like a stupid measure. Banning things is almost always intrinsically stupid, as is running your politics by the threat of bans. It will also lose him votes from people who happen to like TikTok.

I suspect that like Sadiq Khan’s ban on Uber operating in London (the appeal against which will be heard on 28th September), Trump’s move is basically a shakedown. Note the delay before implementation in both cases. Either ban could be reversed at a moment’s notice for the right price. So far as I know Londoners can still use Uber now, and that will continue until the appeals process is exhausted, which could mean ten days or ten years. As for Tiktok in the US,

If a planned partnership between US tech firm Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance is agreed and approved by President Trump, the app will not be banned.