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]

The lasting impact of Wuhan coronavirus will be geopolitical

The report findings come as a group of Conservative MPs in the UK have written to the Trade Secretary to say that they plan to amend the Trade Bill currently before Parliament to legally require the Government to reduce strategic dependency on China. The letter — which cites the HJS report — is signed by 21 MPs including David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith, and Owen Paterson.

Click the link, read the report, interesting stuff.

Wuhan coronavirus, in terms of foreign political fallout for the Chinese Communist Party globally, is like Chernobyl was for the Soviet Communist Party, but multiplied by twenty.

Samizdata quote of the day

To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.

– Frederick Douglass

Wokeness is toxic to show business. And yet…

I am so over the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek, like Star Wars, is an intellectual zombie, a parody of when it was alive, before it was bitten and infected with a virus. Consign the wretched thing to history and move on, there are other new, fresh and genuinely engaging series out there.

Wokeness murdered the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, to wit the recent dreadful outing as ‘Picard‘.

And yet, Tatiana Maslany’s tour de force ‘Orphan Black‘ (link: massive spoilers) demonstrated you can make a show Woke-as-fuck that is still clever and really innovative: I enjoyed it in spite of the Wokeness. Yet both Star Wars/Star Trek descended into badly made absurdities (I admit I stopped watching Star Wars anything after the execrable The Last Jedi).

So was it ‘Wokeness’ per se that actually zombified those two franchises? Or the fact people got hired to make these expensive clusterfucks on the basis they were Woke, rather than actually being any good at, well, making shows?

Discuss.

Samizdata quote of the day

The simplest explanation for modern academics’ hostility to 21st century capitalism’s “structures of power” is their complete exclusion from them.

T. Greer, from ‘History is written by the losers’.

Samizdata quote of the day

The only thing I want a war on is a war on government wars.

Hector Dummond

Covid-positive sex-mad Nazis and the Terminal Markets Act 1973

OK, the inclusion of the words “sex-mad” in that title was merely a desperate scheme1 to try and get you to read an article on a case brought against the UK by the European Commission in the European Court of Justice regarding the Terminal Markets Act 1973. However there really is mention of Nazis, and of the coronavirus, though not of the former being infected by the latter. In fact I would have preferred it if there had been less of the Nazi stuff2: the rather tasteless comparisons to World War II made me inclined to dismiss this “Briefings for Britain” piece on the case from two days ago, but I have a feeling that maybe it ought not to be dismissed.

In it, Caroline Bell writes:

This Thursday, the European Court of Justice delivers its verdict in the European Commission’s infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom for failing to impose VAT on transactions in the City’s multi-trillion-dollar derivatives markets. Launched during the murky days of the Brexit withdrawal negotiations in 2018, this judicial time bomb has the potential to blow up both free trade talks and the Withdrawal Treaty itself if the Court finds against the UK.

Which it did. The judgement issued today can be read here.

Caroline Bell speculates that a decision against the UK might have dramatic consequences:

In terms of trade talks, an adverse judgment would probably mean the City could kiss goodbye to any sort of enhanced equivalence (which Brussels is not willing to grant anyway) and even basic equivalence for financial services could be an issue. But for every blow the EU tries to strike here, the UK is in a position to retaliate much harder against EU financial institutions, so the outcome is again likely to be neutral. Does anyone even expect there to be a financial service agreement with the EU anymore? The EU’s action against the Swiss in this area to try to bring them to heel has badly backfired, and would do so if they applied the same tactics on the UK.

I know that quite a few of our readers work in the legal and financial fields. Is there anything to this story? What effect will the verdict on Case C‑276/19 have?

1I think it was the humourist Alan Coren who said that since the bestseller charts back then in the 70s always seemed to be topped by sex books, WWII books and golf books, his next book ought to be about sex-mad golfing Nazis. Edit: I had misremembered. Alan Peakall and Mr Ed have pointed out the existence of Golfing for Cats, pub. 1976. How many publishers would dare have that cover today?

2A wish shared by most of Planet Earth in 1945.

Putting students first

Dr. Douglas Young, Professor of Political Science at the University of North Georgia-Gainesville, has strong views about where the priorities of a university should be.

What a blessing to teach college for over 33 years. Educating folks on government and politics is my life’s work, and it has been such a joy teaching students at the University of North Georgia since 1999 where there are so many fine professors, staff, and administrators.

But recent disturbing trends have harmed students across the country. Indeed, on too many campuses there is an obsession with homogenization, bureaucratization, research, and money. As acclaimed University of Georgia Professor Emeritus Dr. Parker Young notes, “Any college worth its salt is a true free marketplace of ideas.” Yet there has been a huge increase in campuses with constipated “hate speech” codes or climates hostile to free inquiry. In the Orwellian guise of protecting “diversity,” too many higher education administrators restrict basic speech rights and, often invoking “social justice,” too many professors substitute agitprop for teaching many sides of issues.

So what should be the most free places in America are often the least. As the legendary liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black warned, “the freedoms of speech, press, petition, and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to the ideas we hate, or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish.”

Universities should provide an outstanding education and vibrant campus life that spur students to grow intellectually, emotionally, and morally. We should not just teach them propaganda but help them reason critically. They need to question everything – including their professors – and always think analytically for themselves.

Yet there is also far too much emphasis on uniform “assessment” at college. In ever more freshman and sophomore classes, administrators make professors give the same assignments using the same “rubric” to grade papers, a la high school. So much for hiring the best teachers to each create their own class assignments and grading methods. But so many bureaucrats crave the very standardization which has so stifled innovation and achievement in k-12 schools.

Education should help students learn, mature, and achieve the most meaningful lives possible. Instead, often administrators see students as little more than dollar signs, numbers, and means to get their offices, departments, or schools more funding, recognition, and power. Indeed, many administrators don’t teach and know little and care less about good instruction and the need for schools to create a challenging, yet nurturing environment for students navigating a vulnerable time in their lives. But all college and university workers should recall who pays our salaries.

Sadly, too often students get real world lessons in Machiavellian campus politics. In fact, U.S. Secretary of State and Harvard University professor Dr. Henry Kissinger concluded that “university politics are vicious”. In short, when administrators or professors put personal professional interests ahead of our students, we undermine the very purpose of education.

Alas, the biggest lessons I learned as a graduate student at a large “prestigious” (see: “publish-or-perish”) university were how NOT to teach and NEVER to treat people. Classmates and I got daily doses of just how cold and uncaring too many bureaucrats and faculty could be. Yet ever more administrators push precisely this publish-or-perish model.

When a professor knows he has to get published in X number of officially approved journals by Y date, time spent with students detracts from researching and writing – and keeping his job. So a closed office door with its window papered over and the light on inside tells students to go away. While some professors are inspiring teachers and researchers, the combination is uncommon. But too many universities covet the prestige (U.S. News & World Report rankings!) and government funding that follows an emphasis on research. Again, students’ education is sacrificed on the altars of reputation and money.

The surge in on-line courses further compromises instruction since posting lessons on a computer is a poor stand-in for in-person lectures and real-time discussions. There’s also far more cheating with on-line tests. Yet many schools covet on-line classes to make more money since they don’t need buildings. One day a salary-free computer might “teach” 100 such classes.

Making everything worse are the outrageous costs of tuition and textbooks that have followed the huge increases in government grants and loans to students in recent decades. Colleges have responded by spiking costs ever more, causing far too many students to go deeply in debt.

I pray every university rededicates itself to providing the best instruction at a reasonable cost to the largest variety of students cherished in a warm, welcoming environment that celebrates a true diversity of ideas and free inquiry. May students always come first, and may all educators be Good Samaritans who make a special effort to see no student is lost due to institutional neglect.

Note: we last heard from Douglas back in 2009.

If you ever for a moment doubted that we are ruled by lunatics…

If you ever for a moment doubted that we are ruled by lunatics, let this dispel such notions:

The BoE said last week Britain’s economy could shrink by 14% this year – the most since the early 1700s – due to the government’s coronavirus shutdown, before growing by 15% in 2021. But the central bank warned there were risks of an even worse performance.

Haldane said in the longer term, Britain needed to put its net-zero carbon target and boosting growth in underperforming regions – as pledged by Prime Minister Boris Johnson before the coronavirus crisis – into its growth strategies.

Net zero is the most insane anti-economic notion conceived in the last few decades, a literal rejection of modern energy intensive technological society. The idea that the economic fallout caused by the Wuhan coronavirus lockdowns can be alleviated by making energy more expensive and travel less accessible is like, well, drinking bleach or fish tank cleaner to ward off said virus: the behaviour of genuine authentic unalloyed idiots.

The only way to put net zero carbon targets into growth strategies is to utterly repudiate net zero policies in favour of actual economic growth.

Mick Hartley on the politics of the Lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samizdata quote of the day

No country has ever improved the health of its population by making itself poorer.

Dr John Lee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never let a crisis go to waste.

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

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

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

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

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

Samizdata quote of the day

Good quality housing only seems less available now to people who pretend the housing stock is the same and household size is the same.

Fifty years ago large families crammed into small leaky houses. Nowadays half as many live in the renovated versions of those houses. With decent plumbing etc.

We frequently blow up fifty year old tower blocks because they are considered sub-standard.

– the delightfully named Chester Draws