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]

So what is your Covid-19(84) risk calculation?

This interesting Oxford University Covid risk calculator produces number that do not surprise me at all.

This is what my results were (COVID associated death):

(a) Absolute risk = 0.0256% 1 in 3906

(b) Absolute risk with no risk factors = 0.0227% 1 in 4405

Relative risk (a/b) = 1.1278

I had Covid-19 in March 2020 & recovered in two weeks (plus a couple weeks more until taste and smell fully recovered).

I wonder how long it will take for this risk calculator to be taken down, as I suspect it will make many people very angry at those in authority who have intentionally terrified them regarding this disease.

Statists of the world unite!

Monbiot sounds like a cross between Chairman Mao and a 17th century Puritan, banning anything that doesn’t fit his world view. The really weird thing is that the authoritarian Left are making alliances with authoritarian Right. The above-mentioned covidfaq website is run by Sam Bowman who used to take his shilling from the right-leaning Adam Smith Institute, one of the many so-called “think tanks” out there. At this point it’s worth mentioning – in line with documentary maker Adam Curtis – that think tanks don’t actually do any thinking. They are in effect PR operations for ideologies. And were previously sworn enemies of the Masons and Monbiots of this world.

In a similar vein, Mason has called for Boris Johnson to silence (or at least mock) the dissidents. He tweeted: “I don’t just want Johnson to say “Stay home, save lives” etc. I want him to call out and ridicule the bull**** anti-maskers, lockdown skeptics and denialists in his own party – and order social media platforms to suppress/label Covid disinformation. That’s leadership.”

No Paul, that’s tyranny. As I said, it’s sad to see a formerly radical thinker abjectly submitting to authority in this way. And we’re perhaps lucky that, for all his faults, Boris is not actually a tyrant; at least, not yet. The problem for the Left is that it’s been the contrarian Tories like Toby Young and James Delingpole who have led the questioning of government policy on lockdowns. So, almost instinctively, people like Mason recoil against lockdown scepticism simply because Young, Delingpole and their shock-jock ilk are lockdown sceptics.

Tom Hodgkinson

Hodgkinson is a left-statist with a tenuous grip on economic reality and an equally poor grasp of the inevitable civil liberties implications of his world view. Nevertheless, as many on my side of the fence have long known, one should never just read people you always agree with. We are far more likely to have read Communist Manifesto, Capital, Mao’s Little Red Book, Revolt against the Modern World etc. than the other side is to have read Fatal Conceit, Human Action or Wealth of Nations.

The linked article makes many good points, and he is certainly on-the-money about Sam Bowman, who was always an authoritarian; I think the ASI is well shot of him. In a similar vein, I need to also write an article about the not unrelated reason I also stopped giving a token monthly pittance to the Institute of Economic Affairs. These days I give substantially more to Lockdown Sceptics than I ever did to the IEA.

But I think the “touchingly naïve disappointment” also applies to Hodgkinson, who failed to see long ago that George Monbiot and Paul Mason were always up the Orwellian INGSOC end of the political spectrum. In many ways Monbiot and Mason are just more consistently applying the ideology they share with Hodgkinson.

But hey, if Hodgkinson and his ilk are starting to see the light, the war we are well and truly in today is such I for one care little who is in the trench next to me, just so long as they are pointing their weapon of choice at the enemies we share. A great many things are realigning on oh so many levels.

Why do so many Americans get their news from British newspapers? This is why.

Today’s Daily Mail:

“Nothing to see here: How most of the left-leaning US media totally ignored Biden’s Air Force One stumble – while the foreign press did their job for them”

The Mail’s Keith Griffith writes,

Major left-leaning U.S. press outlets are largely avoiding mention of President Joe Biden’s repeated stumbles as he boarded Air Force One, while many foreign publications are devoting prominent coverage to the incident.

As of Friday afternoon, the homepages of MSNBC, CBS News, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times had no mention of Biden’s stumbling incident earlier in the day at Joint Base Andrews.

and

In contrast to the lack of interest in Biden’s stumbles, mainstream U.S. outlets heavily covered an incident last year, in which Trump took mincing baby-steps down a ramp at West Point, which he later explained was ‘very slippery.’

Although Trump did not stumble during the incident, it sparked rampant speculation about his health and criticism over his capacities, including from Biden himself.

‘Look at how he steps and look at how I step,’ Biden said in September 2020, in a clip featured on CNN. ‘Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. OK? Come on.’

If you want to follow Mr Biden’s own advice and compare Trump to Biden on Trip Advisor, the indefatigable New York Post is one of the few US papers with clips of both.

Samizdata quote of the day

This has long been an aim of a certain type of authoritarian, to abolish juries in criminal trials. After all, how can the authorities jug those they dislike if juries won’t convict people merely of being someone the authorities don’t like?

This actually being the entire point of juries from their beginning. The King doesn’t get to jug just anyone he doesn’t like. There must be a crime, on the books, which someone is convicted of. And the jury is there to agree that what is being convicted of happened, it was ‘ee wot dun it, and that it should be a crime to be punished. It’s that last bit which is the protection of freedom – jury nullification as we’re not supposed to mention in the English courts.

Tim Worstall

Samizdata quote of the day

The Scottish Crown Office subsequently wrote to us on March 5th demanding we remove the article. Guido decided to ignore it as it seemed unlikely to prejudice matters or reveal witnesses. The Spectator has taken the same approach to the same letter.

Guido Fawkes

Last year’s official guidance is this year’s misinformation

“Coronavirus: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns” reported the Independent on March 12 2020:

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

“For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea” to wear a face mask in the hope of preventing infection, she added.

Sales of the masks have sky-rocketed since the Covid-19 outbreak began, with retailers including Boots and Amazon selling out of the products before the virus had even taken hold in the UK.

Asked about their effectiveness, Dr Harries told BBC News: “What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won’t wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven’t cleaned.

“Or they will be out and they haven’t washed their hands, they will have a cup of coffee somewhere, they half hook it off, they wipe something over it.

“In fact, you can actually trap the virus in the mask and start breathing it in.”

Asked if people are putting themselves more at risk by wearing masks, Dr Harries added: “Because of these behavioural issues, people can adversely put themselves at more risk than less.”

I do not post this in order to mock Dr Harries. She made several reasonable points in the video. If she was nonetheless wrong about the overall effect of the population wearing masks, she was wrong in good company – that was medical orthodoxy at the time. I do not post this in order to advocate for or against wearing face masks. (I wear one when circumstances require, while seeking to avoid the behaviours that Dr Harries warned against.) I post it to show how dangerous it is to censor unorthodox views on medical issues. If would-be censors like the Guardian‘s George Monbiot had had his way, we would have banned all talk of mask-wearing in March 2020.

Samizdata quote of the day

I’m sorry, but if you didn’t object to the Metropolitan Police’s brutal tactics in dispersing anti-lockdown protestors in Trafalgar Square last September, you cannot condemn their employment of identical tactics last night. Either you defend the right to protest for everyone, or you defend it for no one. You cannot just get worked up about it when it affects those whose cause you approve of.

Toby Young

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

Discussion point

In your experience, dear readers, has any comment you have seen in media, whether mainstream or alternative, that refers to “neo-liberal”, “the one per cent” or “globalisation” accurately described free enterprise, the case for free trade and the advantages of severally-owned property? Because in my experience such terms almost always suggest that the metacontext (a trademarked term of this parish) of the commentator/writer is collectivist/statist to some degree. As an example, I came across someone describing today’s UK as being governed by “neoliberalism”, and was not in the least put off by my pointing out that the State now grabs almost half of UK GDP and regulates a goodly portion of the rest of it.

Here is an article from six years ago from the Institute of Economic Affairs that challenges the idea that there is much that is very “neo-liberal” about today’s UK.

The Pontins blacklist

“Secret Pontins blacklist prevented people with Irish surnames from booking”, reports the Guardian.

For the benefit of readers not from either the UK or Ireland, Pontins is a company that runs holiday camps, and 90% of British or Irish adults who read that headline understood without reading another word that it was not the Irish in general that Pontins wanted to blacklist, it was Irish Travellers. (The Travellers, or Mincéiri as the current term is, are a separate ethnic group to the Gypsies or Romani but are often grouped together due to their similar way of life.) Reports of this incident from several sources, such as this later Guardian article by Séamas O’Reilly that I saw after most of this post had been written, confirm that people with those names were not banned from Pontins outright, it was rather that Pontins staff were told to check their addresses against the postcodes of Traveller sites before allowing them entry.

The Guardian continues,

Outrage over anti-Traveller list of ‘undesirable guests’ that was sent to booking operators

A blacklist circulated by the holiday park operator Pontins telling its staff not to book accommodation for people with Irish surnames has been described as “completely unacceptable” by Downing Street.

The list of “undesirable guests” was sent to booking operators, who were told: “We do not want these guests on our parks.” It said: “Please watch out for the following names for ANY future bookings.”

The list, which included names such as Carney, Boylan, McGuinness and O’Mahoney, was an example of “anti-Traveller discrimination”, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said. The document had a picture of a wizard holding up a wand and staff declaring: “You shall not pass.”

The Guardian did not open comments for that story. As I said in 2011, that is because it knows perfectly well that Guardian readers hate gypsies and travellers.

However the Times did allow readers to comment on its report of the same events, “Pontins had blacklist of Irish surnames”. The comments, as I knew they would, consisted almost entirely of personal accounts of being the victims of theft, violence and intimidation at the hands of Travellers. This outpouring reminded me of something, but I could not put my finger on what. Then it came to me: the #MeToo movement. That came about when women compared notes about their bad treatment by predatory men. Exchanging their “Me, Too” experiences gave these women the knowledge that they were not alone and brought forth a demand that men in general should examine and change their behavioural norms. The #MeToo movement for women was celebrated by modern society, even when it degenerated into condemning men as a group without trial or investigation. Take note of both halves of that sentence. To forbid people to speak of their bitterness only embitters them more. But the historical record of “Speak Bitterness” movements should terrify anyone who cares about justice.

One of the most highly recommended comments to the Times article came from Patrick Joseph Maloney, who said,

As an Irishman with a name that might have made the list, I sympathise with companies that have to walk this tightrope of exclusion and inclusion.

Not all Irish Travellers are guilty of bad behaviour but a sufficiently large enough minority are.

I understand that the Chinese government recently introduced classes for their tourists on how to behave abroad?

Perhaps Traveller rights groups might consider similar moves as an alternative to simply waving the race and discrimination card? The problem is not one of race….. but behaviour.

The government says it wants to end prejudice against Travellers and passes laws to forbid discrimination against them. Mr Maloney’s comment illustrates how spectacularly that effort to bring about goodwill by law has failed.

Some readers, particularly those new to libertarian ideas, will find it hard to believe that anyone could have any other motive than hatred of Travellers for saying that it would be better for all parties, including the Travellers themselves, if there were no such laws. I can only beg such readers to ask themselves if our current policy is working. People who have done nothing wrong being turned away merely for appearing to belong to a certain ethnic group is clearly unjust. But that is not a description of the bad old days before the Race Relations Act 1965 and the many anti-discrimination laws that followed, it is a description of life in Britain in 2021 with all the laws in place. All that has been achieved by more than half a century of ever-increasing punishments and social pressure is to ensure that these days the “undesirables” are usually excluded by means of a nod and a wink. Whichever Pontins employee wrote that list was unusually careless to put it on paper. But the fact that they did put it on paper, complete with jokey reference to The Lord of the Rings, shows how accepted anti-Traveller hostility is. You don’t put Gandalf clip art on top of an announcement that is likely to be met with outrage. The writer assumed that the staff would accept what he or she saw as the obvious need to keep Travellers out. Evidently most of them did accept it: the blacklist operated for quite some time before someone blew the whistle. I do not consider it wicked to ask what experiences brought the Pontins staff to this state of mind. I assume that there was an implied “after what happened last time” there.

Open prejudice is less cruel than secret prejudice. The sign in the boarding-house window saying “No blacks, No Irish” can be argued against. The quiet word to a member of staff about those people cannot be. A company that openly refuses the custom of members of certain groups purely on account of their race can be challenged – and they lose the custom. But turn them away with a smile and a lie and it can go on forever.

For some, that outcome is fine. What they object to in the anti-racism laws is not that the laws make racism worse but the laws put them to the inconvenience of having to lie. To be clear I object to these laws in principle (people should be free to associate with whom they please) and because I want to see a world where people are judged on what they have done as individuals, not on what someone else with the same surname did. True, there is evidence that the crime rate among Travellers is statistically high, and it is no more wrong to suggest that they need to ask themselves what they should do to change those parts of their subculture that are harmful than it is to urge that males or whites should do the same. But before you condemn the Travellers as a group remember that, like all of us, they have been moulded by their history. Ach, why repeat myself? I said it in my post of 2011 as well as I ever will:

“Welfare” has continued its steady work of ruin. I read a very fine article in the Telegraph about a decade ago which I cannot now find. It described with sadness rather than hostility how, although gypsies had lived half outside the law since time immemorial, there had at one time been countervailing incentives to build relationships of trust with settled people. The gypsies had regular circuits and seasonal work. They needed pitches, employment and customers. They needed people to remember them from last time as good workers and fair dealers. Welfare has eroded that, and their former means of making a living have gone the way of the cart horse and the tin bucket. Nor is the difficulty just that technology has moved on, it is also that the bureaucratic net of form-filling and taxes has tightened so that the casual jobs they once could do within the law must now be done outside it. As in the drugs trade, in illegal trade in labour where there can be no redress for swindling on either side, such swindling is commonplace.

In that post I also said much more hated Travellers and Gypsies had become in my village since I first came to live there. Since then it has only got worse. But, as I also said back then, “I really don’t think it is the gypsies themselves who have changed so much. What has changed in the last few years is that they have become a state-protected group. God help them. State protection is better than state persecution as cancer is better than a knife in the ribs.”

Nine years later the cancer is further advanced. For all that, I do not think it is incurable. Human nature is immutable, but laws are not. For now reversing the spread of “equalities” legislation seems politically impossible, but as the years go by and ever-multiplying laws against hate never seem to reduce it, people of goodwill will start to wonder if it might be time to try another strategy.

Lord Sumption – mass civil disobedience has begun

Lord Sumption: Our status as a free society doesn’t actually depend on our laws or our constitution, it depends on convention. It depends on a collective instinct as to the right way to behave. There are many things governments can do which it is generally accepted they should not do. And one of them, until last March, was to lock up healthy people in their homes.

Interviewer: So, do you think we have taken an irreversible step towards being more Chinese, more dirigiste?

Lord Sumption: I very much fear that we have

– From an Unherd interview titled: Lord Sumption: mass civil disobedience has begun

I do not agree with Sumption on every point by any means but this interview is well worth your time.

Eureka!

In 2012 scientists found the Higgs Boson. In 2015, after fifty years of trying, they finally found gravitational waves.

In 2021…

Leave camp turned Brexit into a religion to capture votes, study finds

Vote Leave turned Brexit into its own religion to capture supporters, a recent study by the universities of Birmingham and Warwick has found.

Researchers said slogans such as “take back control” used the NHS as the country’s Holy Grail that could be rescued from European forces threatened by Britain’s unique historical place in the world.

They also said Brexiteers focused on secular theological concepts such as sovereignty and nation to engage voters.

A study found it. It is Science.