Covid Amnesty?; Canada: Born Fighting, Died Bureaucratizing; & Sci-Fi Comes to Life
Enemies of the People: John Kerry
Michael Walsh’s Editor’s column this week discussed the calls that have started to come out of Leftist quarters for all of us to forgive and forget their actions during the darkest days of Covid.
'Vaccine Amnesty'? Not On Your Life
This really says it all:
Nothing better encapsulates the Stalinist Left's ability to turn on a dime and argue the same set of facts both ways than its reaction to Covid. From the "scientifically" induced panic and hysteria over a fundamentally non-existent threat to the survival of humanity (something one would think the Left would welcome, and in fact they do and are even beginning to admit it) to a state of weaponized HIPPA was but a journey of two years. Beginning as an area of some mild public concern to a fascist boot stamping on a human face for what seemed like forever, the Hoax of the Century has become the Crime of the Century. Without the slightest bit of proof that Covid-19 was indeed a planetary menace, but merely the assertions and "projections" of hypocritical "scientists," cranky lunatics, and foaming totalitarians of every stripe, a near-worldwide lockdown was imposed upon an innocent and trusting populace.
Result: madness. The elderly, dying imprisoned and alone. Families sundered. Children tortured. The rise of an internal, informal Stasi, as neighbor turned against neighbor and ratted him out. It was insane, but even worse: it was evil. Cold, calculated evil. And yet they—and you know who you are, Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern, Joe Biden, and the rest of you nasty international socialists—now have the unmitigated gall to beg for mercy:
LET’S DECLARE A PANDEMIC AMNESTY
In April 2020, with nothing else to do, my family took an enormous number of hikes. We all wore cloth masks that I had made myself. We had a family hand signal, which the person in the front would use if someone was approaching on the trail and we needed to put on our masks. Once, when another child got too close to my then-4-year-old son on a bridge, he yelled at her “SOCIAL DISTANCING!”
These precautions were totally misguided. In April 2020, no one got the coronavirus from passing someone else hiking. Outdoor transmission was vanishingly rare. Our cloth masks made out of old bandanas wouldn’t have done anything, anyway. But the thing is: We didn’t know.
Baloney. Of course, they did. Not only did they know, but they enjoyed it, in a way leftist sadists like those at the The Atlantic and their ilk always do. In a way that international moguls like Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum did in his book, Covid-19: The Great Reset. In the same way that all genuine Enemies of the People do, formerly secretly and, increasingly, openly.
Unabashed and unashamed, they have the chutzpah to throw themselves on the temporary mercies of their victims, most of whom still haven't realized that the Rubicon has been crossed, and that there is no going back for the antagonists of Western civilization. So ignore their pleas to "focus on the future." Like Satan himself, they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit. By their masks shall ye continue to know them.
Our newest contributor, Elizabeth Nickson (you can subscribe to her Substack here, by the way), contributed a piece about her native Canada, and how the rough-and-tumble Scotch-Irish settlers of yore became the Boomer bureaucrats who are ruining the nation today.
The Passive Perversity of the Canadian Elites
Canada’s only readable political scientist, Barry Cooper, made a nice distinction a few years back. “America’s boomers,” he said, “innovated. Canada’s built a vast sclerotic bureaucracy that has shut down the future.” I’m paraphrasing Barry in that last phrase, but when I was growing up in Montreal, the most ambitious older boys were taking foreign service exams purported to be damned hard, but which ushered in a virtuous life swanning around embassies and consulates promoting “peace.” Marrying one of them became a goal for my group of debs who saw a life of garden parties in exotic locales.
This vision of Canada's role in the world was led by the distinctly pacifist prime minister Lester Pearson, who managed to rebrand Canada as a peace broker via peacekeeping troops, public relations, and a strong presence at the United Nations, and by the Marxist Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who succeeded him; together, the two men managed to shut down any spirit of entrepreneurial energy or indeed vigour in the country. Henceforward, we were to be the patsies of the known universe. Got a problem? We’ll turn up, hand out blankets, and pose for photos. No one seems to notice the absurdity.
Here's a secret. Canada, modern Canada, was built by the toughest, sinewy-est, meanest bunch of people the world has ever seen. Called Scotch-Irish, they were largely Celtic Borderers, those medieval mercenary gangs who lived on or near the battlefields between Scotland and England. In 1603, James, in an attempt at unity, hanged or ran off as many of the warriors as possible to northern Ireland. Over the ensuing 150 years they scattered to the New World, to the Antipodes and Africa. One-third died on the voyage. Fierce advocates of self-determination, after near half a millennium of Anglo-Scots oppression, if hardship meant freedom, they welcomed it.
In the U.S., they peopled the mountains of the Carolinas, and out west, they are credited with building the cowboy way. The Nicsouns, my clan, were a riding clan, one of The (terrifying) Names of the border. They lived on horseback, earned money as cattle thieves, as mercenaries. Elizabeth I said with 10,000 such men, James I could topple any throne in Europe. Small holdings weren't possible since periodically, the Scots and English armies tore up every harvest, burned every house. In the summers, harnesses jangling, they’d drive their livestock into the highlands of the Lake District, living like aboriginals, in easily the most ecstatic scenery in the British Isles.
Settling Canada in the little ice age, was easy, even fun. With no competition but the weather and terrain, they exulted in the grand scope of the country. In both WW1 and 2, they formed the tip of the spear in the British army, so violent and explosive they terrified the Germans. To my mind, they built the basic, the fundamental idea, the spirit, of the country. Not the Indians, not the voyageurs, not French Canada. Left to themselves, they’d continue their pastoral lives. The Scotch-Irish, born fighting, had other ideas.
You can see them today in the trucker convoy and you can see the revulsion for them in elite opinion. Canada is run largely by the Boomers, who decided against war, or indeed much in the way of any effort whatsoever, and they live cushy, safe lives, buoyed by an endless supply of debt, borrowed against the energy wealth of the nation they refuse to develop or use. I could argue that our media oligarchy and the rest of Canada who are fed by the public purse, act in some kind of revulsion of their ordinary small-town pasts. Because when the Scotch-Irish finally found peace, they embraced it fully in town and city life that was impressive in its order and cohesion. Not good enough for their descendants who were hungry for sophistication, for power, for self-indulgence, for displaying their smashing virtue by selling off the work of their ancestors.
Richard Fernandez wrote for us about the shape that our sci-fi dystopia is taking.
Who is to Rule: Man or Machine?
In 2015, Malcolm Harris asked in the New Republic whether history would have been different if Stalin had computers, for then Communism might have had enough computer processing power and behavioral data to make central planning work better than the market. David Brooks performed the same thought experiment in the New York Times four years later. If only Stalin had possessed cell phones then he might have controlled everyone.
I feel bad for Joseph Stalin... he was born a century too early. He lived before the technology that would have made being a dictator so much easier! ...to have total power you have to be able to control people’s minds. With modern information technology, the state can shape the intimate information pond in which we swim.
The 20th century idea that technology monotonically increased the power of the state might be true only to a point. Further advances in technology might begin to shrink rather than enlarge institutions. Daniel Araya at the Financial Times thinks artificial intelligence could actually mean the end of government. Modern AI has the ability to replace white collar workers and therefore most bureaucrats by combining deep learning with algorithmic regulation. If politics sets the desired outcome, and the system could in real-time measure whether that outcome is being achieved and algorithmically (i.e. through a set of rules) simply make adjustments until the goals are being achieved. Government could go the way of banks, once so physically ubiquitous which very much exist but are invisible, with fewer personnel or even premises in evidence. It might actually be possible to shrink the giant public sector to a fraction of its current size and even eliminate the government deficit.
But not so fast! Rather than doing away with bureaucrats, Chinese ideologues have counter hypothesized that AI could shrink the private sector instead. In 2018, an opinion piece by Tsinghua professor Feng Xiang argued that AI could end capitalism. "If AI remains under the control of market forces, it will inexorably result in a super-rich oligopoly of data billionaires who reap the wealth created by robots... But China’s socialist market economy could provide a solution to this. If AI rationally allocates resources through big data analysis... while fairly sharing the vast wealth it creates, a planned economy that actually works could at last be achievable."
The immediacy of these once science fiction questions has been stoked by media reports that AI applications are passing Wharton MBA finals tests or law school exams, and are functionally more capable than most college graduates. The growing anxiety over competition was underlined by the refusal of human lawyers to allow an AI lawyer to represent a client in a US traffic court, a kind of desperate rear guard action. The ability of AI to even write software may have prompted Piers Morgan to ask Jordan Peterson if this was the end?
Morgan: "Professor Stephen Hawking before he died gave me his last television interview and said that the biggest threat to the future of mankind was when artificial intelligence learned self-design. What do you think?"
Peterson: "The biggest threat to mankind is narcissistic compassion. Now AI you know, is a threat. But if we had our act together ethically it's possible that AI could become a useful servant rather than a tyrannical master. You don't want to automate tyrannical masters."
Peterson's conditional response comes near the heart of the problem. Most current AI isn't real general intelligence, whose attainment has eluded researchers thus far, but predictions based on statistical similarities to situations found in a vast training set. "Generalization... is the ability of a learning machine to perform accurately on new, unseen examples/tasks after having experienced a learning data set... to build a general model... that enables it to produce sufficiently accurate predictions in new cases." Thus machine learning is an amplification and extension of its training set and will abolish government or democracy and capitalism with equal earnestness. AI is a means that reflects our choice of ends. It is human culture expanded to the Nth degree. If we had our act together ethically it would serve those ends, but if tyranny is in our hearts it can do that too.
Tom Finnerty wrote about the fear among Leftists that they’re losing their ability to bend corporations to their will.
Leftists Not Rousing the Rabble as Before
There is a tone of panic in this recent Axios newsletter which should inspire a certain delight in every red-blooded American. It is, to be sure, inspired by a truly terrible event, the indefensible killing by Memphis police of a man named Tyre Nichols. But the true source of leftist panic is the realization that their ability to whip people (and particularly the business community) into a frenzy is waning.
Under the heading, "The shift toward silence," the newsletter's author gestures at the fact that, during the riots of the summer of 2020, which followed the death of George Floyd, nearly every major American company took a hardline position on the complex issues surrounding race and policing, many of them donating hundreds of thousands of dollars each in support of the "Defund the Police" movement among other questionable causes. But, laments Axios, their response has been more muted in the wake of Tyre Nichols' death….
But why hasn't the corporate response been more righteously fulsome? The author (citing "experts") gives four suggestions: Power dynamics ("Companies are not facing public and internal pressure to make external statements"); Economic uncertainty ("Many tech companies have gutted their DEI departments in response to economic strains."); ESG pushback ("Recent pushback from activist investors and legislators at the state and federal levels have caused businesses to become more skittish on ESG initiatives."); and Fatigue.
The first explanation merely raises the question. WHY aren't they facing pressure to use their resources to exert more pressure on others? But the other three do address the issue, though not quite for the reasons the author thinks. The economic situation really is more precarious today than in 2020, and not just in the tech sector. Consequently, businesses are having to work harder to bring in revenue, and they are more concerned about not alienating potential customers with ham-handed political statements.
Relatedly, there really has been pushback on ESG, the scheme whereby businesses heavily invest in leftist causes from environmentalism to defunding the police, and pledge to avoid doing business with other companies that don't do the same. Though it is amusing that he blames "activist investors and legislators" for it. In fact, ESG was popularized by activist investors and legislators, and the pushback has come from people simply noticing what they're doing. And then fatigue: regular people are sick of companies sticking its nose into political debates, particularly when they don't have anything to add.
Finnerty also contributed a blog post about the myth that, in the words of Barack Obama, "Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: climate change is real, man-made, and dangerous." Virtually none of that statement is accurate.
Where did the '97 Percent' Claim Come From?
And David Cavena blogged about Pfizer’s questionable vaccine practices.
Bride of Pfizerstein
Thanks for reading, and keep a look out for upcoming pieces by Steven Hayward, Dave Cavena, and Clarice Feldman. All this and more this week at The Pipeline!
I love you guys! You get me.