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]

A tale of two paradigms

Here is an interesting observation by Jo Nova of two sets of reactions in an article titled Company stops Ebola, Bureaucracy puts it on a plane:

The rubber plantation has 8,000 workers with 71,000 dependents. It is an hour north-east of Monrovia, surrounded by Ebola outbreaks. The virus arrived on the plantation in March. Knowing that the UN and the Liberian government were not going to save them, the managers sat around a rubber tree and googled “Ebola” and learned on the run instead. They turned shipping containers into isolation units, trucks into ambulances, and chemical cleaning suits into “haz-mat” gear. They trained cleaners, and teachers, they blocked visitors, and over the next five months dealt with 71 infections, but by early October were clear of the virus. There were only 17 survivors (the same 70% mortality rate as elsewhere). But without good management, there could have been so many more deaths.

In contrast, the nanny-state takes a good brain and stops it thinking. In Texas, trained health professionals were caught unprepared, following inadequate protocols they assumed were good enough, and even risking their own lives. A nurse who cared for a dying Ebola patient — and knew how bad Ebola could be — still needed to phone someone to ask if it was OK to board a plane with a slightly raised temperature (99.5F or 37.5C). The official she spoke to “didn’t Google”, they just said yes because her temperature was lower than the official threshold of 100.4F.

Read the whole thing.

Samizdata quote of the day

Bank bail-outs have been a cultural catastrophe for those of us who support free markets, low taxes and enterprise. During the 1980s and 1990s, much of the British public came to accept and even embrace capitalism, in return for a simple deal: profits and losses would both have to be privatised. Clever entrepreneurs, savvy traders or brilliant footballers would be encouraged to make money; but companies and investors that placed the wrong bets would be allowed to fail, with no pity. Not only did this trigger an explosion in prosperity, it also helped shift the British mindset towards a much more pro-enterprise position. The rules of the game felt fair: risk and reward went hand in hand. The government would serve as an umpire, not a supporter of vested interests.But the crisis of 2007-09 put an end to this implicit bargain, at least in the eyes of vast swathes of the public.

Allister Heath.

Bailouts are a disaster for pro-capitalists. It is almost as if it was deliberate. My only slight caveat here with what is a typically incisive article is that I am not sure how deep the greater support for capitalism really ever went. It certainly never penetrated academia, and parts of the policy maker world. But I am an optimist: the continued respect that seems to be shown among ordinary people for genuine entrepreneurs (not crony capitalists) shows that something has taken root.

In Canada, the term sergeant-at-arms means what it says

Apparently the sergeant-at-arms in the Canadian Parliament is not just a ceremonial position.

An Islamist by the name of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a Canadian soldier on guard duty at a war memorial, before entering the House of Commons in Ottowa… whereupon 58 year old sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers shot him dead. Nicely done, sir.

If The Cloud is the future, we need more than one future

There is a good article on TechRaptor about alleged Chinese intrusions into iCloud.

Greatfire.org, a website dedicated to monitoring and combating online censorship in China, has provided technical evidence to substantiate these allegations. Apple was already facing some heat after pulling anti-censorship apps from it’s iStore and also it’s recent decision to move iCloud storage of Chinese user data to centers within mainland china.

And just in case you think China is the only Bad Guys we need to worry about…

Of course, no one should pretend that this kind of spying only goes on in repressive countries like China. In comparison to the NSA use of ‘fiber-optic splitters’ to copy and filter data directly from the telecommunications backbone, a MITM attack seems rather quaint. Furthermore, it was reported earlier this year that the NSA had capitalized on the Heartbleed bug to steal passwords and other sensitive information.

Big Brother has many guises.

Understanding GamerGate

I had an e-mail asking if Samizdata had any views on the GamerGate issue, and where are the best places to read about it.

So… for those of you who do not know, it is a scandal about corruption in the games industry and the serious lack of journalistic ethics in sections of the games press. Indeed the sites who cover games in the Samizdata sidebar are specifically ones who actually have some notion of journalistic ethics like, you know, real journalists should.

If you do not see any of the large mainstream games sites linked, there is a very good reason for that: they are not worthy of your clicks so I sure as hell do not want to send traffic their way. IGN is actually a noteworthy exception to the ‘mainstream = corrupt’ paradigm, in that they actually accepted that yes, there is a problem. So kudos for that. The only reason I am not linking them in the sidebar is not that they are corrupt, it is that they are crap.

I do not actually propose to expound on GamerGate at length other than to say “I support the objectives of #gamergate” and link to various articles about it.

The TL:DR version: many games companies have been getting the best product reviews that money can buy, and also many of the reviewers are a networked coterie of far-left Critical Theory fans who sometimes do hatchet jobs on games for purely ideological reasons. This annoys the hell out of many gamers who are not interested in “does this game objectify women?” but rather just want to know if the cover mechanics work well and is the game-play fun?

Also part of the whole GamerGate thing is an attempt by the anti-GamerGate side to re-frame it all as being about misogyny. To wit, a number of the principal actors (actresses actually) have claimed to have received ‘death threats’ as part of a plot to “force women out of the games industry”. However there is, to put it politely, some speculation that some of these ‘threats’ may be part of a viral marketing campaign to sell stuff to the beta-male/feminist demographic.

The best overall explanation of the pro- and anti- side was written on TechRaptor. Other good sources are found on Niche Gamer. There is also good stuff on GamesNosh, also here. Breitbart Network has been covering this rather awesome soap opera. And there are the twitter hashtags of #GamerGate and #NotYourShield.

And for a rather, ahem, robust set of views, there is the vastly entertaining Internet Aristocrat.

Oh and Gawker takes an arrow to the knee over this. How cool is that?

The spectacle of the cultural left getting absolutely reamed over and over again by angry villagers with pitchforks in full view of anyone who cares, is something that really makes for compulsive viewing, even if you are not a self-described ‘gamer’ (I am, I might add).

Grab some popcorn and enjoy :-D

UPDATE: also some articles on Reason.com here and here.

Long live Guido!

I have always been a fan of Guido Fawkes… he writes about party politics in the UK so we don’t have to! Not joking, I literally do not bother 98% of the time because we have Guido. Whatever I would have said, Guido already said it. Samizdata does not even have a ‘politics’ category for articles. In the sidebar, he effectively has his own link category :-D

And he has been fighting the good flight for ten years.

Well done Guido!

How do you say “astounding stupidity” in Hungarian?

It appears the government in Hungary wants to ensure than there is essentially no significant IT sector within their borders, with all the knock on joys to a modern economy that will bring.

Hungary’s government plans to levy a new tax on Internet data transfers, according to the draft 2015 tax bill submitted to parliament late on Tuesday, which could hit Internet providers and the country’s telecommunications companies.

The draft tax code contains a provision for Internet providers to pay 150 forints (60 US cents) in tax per gigabyte of data traffic, but would also allow companies to offset corporate income tax against the Internet tax.

To tax data is like subsidising idiocy by taxing insight. All states do amazingly stupid things but this one is a real doozy.

Yeah, that always works

I could write for an hour on why this is logically unjustifiable, practically unenforceable, systemically corrupting, and morally wrong:

Northern Ireland ban on paying for sex is approved by Stormont assembly.

Then again, why bother? A brick wall is conveniently placed and sticking plasters are cheap.

A bet on Ebola

Bryan Caplan, over at the EconLog blog, has issued a sort of challenge to folk in the US getting worried about Ebola:

Mainstream scientists assure us that Ebola poses very little threat to Americans; unless you’re a health worker who cares for the infected, Ebola is almost impossible to catch in a rich, modern society.  Yet many populists and borderline conspiracy theorists are convinced that the experts are seriously understating the danger.  In their contrarian opinion, we desperately need to close the border now. Fortunately, this is an easy argument to put to a bet. My tentative offer: $100 says that less than 300 people will die of Ebola within the fifty United States by January 1, 2018.  I’m willing to switch to “Unless the U.S. changes its Ebola-related policies, $100 says that less than 300 people will die of Ebola within the fifty United States by January 1, 2018,” but then we’d have to carefully define what policy changes count.

Leaving aside what you think about the specifics of the Ebola case, this idea of economists and other commentators making hard financial bets on specific claims has the merit of injecting a certain edge to proceedings. There is nothing quite so much like a bet to make people prove they are convinced of something. And as the late Julian L Simon proved when he bet against a neo-Malthusian about commodity price trends, there is nothing more satisfying than being proven right.  (Paul Ehrlich, who lost the bet to Simon, was invited to have another go and declined the offer, despite responding to Simon with singular ill grace.)

Bravo for extending the middle finger to Turkey!

The fact Turkey was an early enabler of the Islamic State has been made starkly clear from its behaviour towards the Kurdish defenders of Kobani.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said his country would not agree to any US arms transfers to Syrian Kurdish fighters.

So the US has started air dropping supplies to them. This means that the supply situation within Kobani must have reached a truly critical state.

Moreover for extra added political significance, the supplies being dropped are in fact ones provided by the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil, in Iraq (i.e. US supplies that were promised to the Peshmerga but which the KRG agreed to instead see sent to the Syrian Kurds). This will give the wily Masoud Barzani in Erbil a nice political boost, cementing his position as the godfather of Kurdish nationalism.

I really did not think the current leadership in Washington had it in them, but by the actions of the USAF within sight of the Turkish border, Tayyip Erdogan cannot be in the slightest doubt he has just been invited to go rotate. Clearly there as been a significant rethink in US regional political strategy.

ISIS openly practises sexual slavery. What will be the effect on Islam and the world?

There is an account in the Observer in which a Yazidi woman relates how she was sold into slavery by ISIS. The article adds:

ISIS said in an online article that it was reviving an ancient custom of enslaving enemies and forcing the women to become wives of victorious fighters.

“One should remember that enslaving the families of the [non-believers] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the sharia, that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’an and the narrations of the prophet,” the article said, adding that mothers were not separated from their young children.”

In one sense the “ancient custom” of raping and enslaving women did not need to be revived. It had never died out. The aspect of ancient custom that had died out and has been revived by the Islamic State is of carrying out the rape and enslavement openly. That is a major change. Ever since World War II the tide of egalitarianism has been advancing; equality before the law in one place, equality at the verge of the mass grave in another, but everywhere the ideal of equality has been exalted.

Everywhere included the Islamic world. For the last half century whenever Muslims wrote about the inegalitarian aspects of Sharia they were usually at pains to describe the different treatment of women and men as being a deeper sort of equality, or as being an expression of special regard for women. Until recently even Al-Qaeda propaganda often had a slightly politically correct air.

No longer. Tides turn. Will this change add to the appeal of ISIS among Muslims, or decrease it? Will it add to the appeal of Islam among potential converts or decrease it? My impression is that, just as rape is sometimes more viscerally loathed than murder, the open practice of rape and slavery by Isis has repelled and embarrassed many Muslims more than the open practice of hostage-taking and murder by ISIS and its estranged parent Al Qaeda.

I know that to speak of the response “of Muslims” covers a vast spectrum of individuals ranging from very evil to very good. I believe, not without reason, that there is a majority who are repelled by both, albeit not the “overwhelming majority” that Western politicians pretend there is.

Samizdata quote of the day

When nanny staters say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’.

Brendan O’Neill