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]

Samizdata quote of the day

Iran is a country full of hot women forced to wear binbags on their heads by religious fascists.

– Samizdata Uber driver of the day

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Thoughts on an open letter to Trump

Instapundit just linked to something calling itself An open letter to Trump from the Press Corps. I clicked on the link, because I thought it might be a masterpiece of self-parody. It is.

No comments allowed on the open letter itself, but I clicked on the Instapundit comment thread, suspecting that there might be some entertaining and quite well crafted abuse to enjoy. Again, I was not disappointed.

An odd thing about this open letter is that it seems so lacking in the very knowledge which you might expect the “Editor in Chief and Publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review” to know quite a lot about, namely how the technological context of journalism has altered in recent years. He says to Trump: You need us to say nice things about you! You need us to get your messages across! But everything that Trump has said and done since he first got into his stride as a seemingly long-shot candidate has said, right back at them: “No, I don’t.”

It will be interesting to see if Trump’s current anti-social media heckling of his Obama-worshipping media opponents keeps happening. I suspect that he’ll start being more polite to them, but only if and when they start being more polite to him. But that could just be wishful thinking on my part.

More generally, one of the things I notice about effective people, including me at those times in my life when I have been effective, is that effective people often do things that they “can’t” do, but which actually, they can do, and which if they do do will serve their purposes very well. “You can’t do that” actually only means that until now you couldn’t do that. And it often also means: Now that you can do that and now that you are doing it, we want you to stop.

Until recently, no President of the USA could tweet back at his media critics, very quickly and cheaply and easily, without in any way having to beg from them any right to reply to their criticisms, and without irritating anyone else who isn’t interested. Now, the President can. The claim that he shouldn’t, because “proper Presidents don’t behave like that” needs him to be persuaded of this claim. But if ignoring this claim is a major reason for his effectiveness, why would he be persuaded?

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Discussion point: porn on the bus

Here are two contrasting articles from the Guardian:

Watching porn in public is not OK. It’s harassment – Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Pussy Riot celebrate the vagina in lyrical riposte to Trump – Luke Harding

It is no discredit to the Guardian that different writers for the paper have said contradictory things, although none of the dozens of comments I read to Ms Cosslett’s article brought up the the difference between the views of old and new feminists on whether it was liberating or deplorable to shock the public.

Many Libertarian-ish people would say that incompatible preferences across different groups of people regarding what should be seen in public could be solved by property rights and competition. Each shopping mall and bus company could set its own rules, some catering to the puritans, some to the libertines. That would be nice, but until we find the door into Libertopia we must deal with the major regulator of such things being the State.

What do you think? How should people behave here and now? Do the existing laws come first or ten millionth on our list of things to oppose – or should we support them? Is there more of a problem than there used to be, now that people can watch R18 movies on their Kindles on the bus while a twelve year old sits next to them? Or is this just another moral panic that could be solved if people kept their eyes to themselves?

By the way, consider this blog post to be a a venue where, as they say on the cinema screens, “Strong language may be permitted, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency within the work as a whole and any special contextual justification”.

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A triumph of world culture

A few years back one of my children introduced me to the glory that was Star War The Third Gathers: The Backstroke of the West.

Now I see that Mark Liberman of Language Log has flagged up this piece by Patrick Shanley for the Hollywood Reporter:

‘Revenge of the Sith’ Dubbed With Bootleg Chinese Dialogue Is a Fan-Made Masterpiece

YouTuber GratefulDeadpool has done the unthinkable: He’s made Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith cool.

Using the original Chinese subtitles, which feature multiple lost-in-translation misinterpretations, GratefulDeadpool redubbed the prequel trilogy’s final installment — with hilarious results.

Entitled Backstroke of the West Highlights Part 1 (Star War: The Third Gathers), the recut features such memorable lines as “I has been hating you,” from the villainous Count Dooku, and “The front is a lemon avenue flying straightly,” spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi while piloting a careening starship.

Dorkly explains the bizarre translations likely “began with a machine translation of the Chinese script to [Revenge of the Sith], which attempted to literally translate from Mandarin to English, despite the multitude of barriers between the two languages.” The end result was great quips, such as “Smelly boy” from General Grievous to Kenobi and “Your dead period arrived, teacher” from a rebellious Anakin Skywalker during his fateful lightsaber duel with his master on Mustafar.

You can view either edited highlights of this semi-accidental masterpiece or the whole thing by following the links in the Hollywood Reporter piece. Back at Language Log, one of the commenters, Jonathan Smith, rightly says that, “This latest editor’s genius was to get voice actors to read it with straight faces.”

However I cannot endorse Mark Liberman’s view when he writes, “I’m skeptical of the machine-translation idea, because I seriously doubt that there has ever been an MT system that rendered “the Jedi Council” as “the Presbyterian Church”.

Doesn’t he know what happens when you say things like that about Star Wars?

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

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Samizdata quote of the day

By definition, a customs union is an agreement between countries to embrace tariff-free trade between members but impose common tariffs on goods imported from non-members. At an EU-level, this means a Common External Tariff (CET), a dizzying array of over 12,651 different taxes (and some quotas to boot) imposed on goods from the rest of the world. The long and short of it is that the EU is internally trade liberating but outwardly protectionist.

Ryan Bourne

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That’s how the cookie warning crumbles

KitGuru reports:

The European Union proposes law to stop browser cookie pop-ups

Back in 2012, the European Union passed a law requiring websites to give visitors a warning regarding browser cookies. These pop-ups or banner warnings are now common place across the web and were initially intended to protect user privacy but for the most part, they are just seen as an annoying box getting in the way of whatever content you are trying to access. It seems the European Union now also agrees with that and has proposed new regulations to do away with cookie pop-up warnings.

We initially saw a drafted version of the proposed law back in December but this week, the European Commission officially unveiled its proposal. The plan is to essentially remove website banners that provide disclaimers on browser cookies. A user’s browser preference in regards to cookies will automatically apply to sites they visit instead.

See, Brexit is doing them good already.

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Samizdata quote of the day

“I don’t even want to like the guy… Stop being such assholes, news media! You’re such douches you’re making people root for him.”

Phrases like “I didn’t vote for him. But I’m starting to wish I had.” or “STOP MAKING ME WANT TO LIKE HIM.” are showing up all over the place. We’re even getting to “I’m not aboard the Trump Train yet. But I’ve got my ticket in hand and I’m standing on the platform.” or “I’m at the ticket counter for the Trump Train”

As Larry’s comment suggests, there’s a reason for this: the MSM and their buddies in Hollywood have thrown so much bile and hate towards Trump when he’s done next to nothing that the rest of us are beginning to think he might be all right after all. The accusations come from the sneering classes who have failed to hide their disdain for us normal people and are so over the top, so deranged, that it seems like they are scared of him. Plus of course Americans tend to have a spot for the plucky underdog, and although it is hard to see a billionaire as a plucky underdog, the frothing left have managed to do just that.

Francis Turner, writing “I didn’t vote for him but…”

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Part of the Western media are driven to madness by Trump

Rich Lowry, no great fan of Trump, writes what I think is a very astute column on the antics of parts of the media concerning recent “stories” about the man:

For all that Trump complains about negative press coverage, he wants to be locked in a relationship of mutual antagonism with the media. It behooves those journalists who aren’t partisans and reflexive Trump haters to avoid getting caught up in this dynamic. If they genuinely want to be public-spirited checks on Trump, they shouldn’t be more bitterly adversarial, but more responsible and fair.

This means taking a deep breath and not treating every Trump tweet as a major news story. It means covering Trump more as a “normal” president rather than as a constant clear and present danger to the ­republic. It means going out of the way to focus on substance rather than the controversy of the hour. It means a dose of modesty about how the media has lost the public’s trust, in part because of its bias and self-importance. None of this is a particularly tall order. Yet it’s unlikely to happen, even if it was encouraging that so many reporters opposed BuzzFeed’s decision. The press and Trump will continue to be at war, although only one party to the hostilities truly knows what he is ­doing, and it shows.

Sense can break out from unlikely quarters. This article by Piers Morgan, focusing on the absurd treatment of Trump, is right on target. Parts of the media, at any rate, does understand the self-inflicted mistakes the media is making, and that this must stop.

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If you aim for the sky then you may hit the ceiling

If you are a fan of Watford, Aston Villa or Lincoln City or just football in general you will be shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Graham Taylor at the age of 72.

He was a remarkable manager. He took Lincoln City from the Fourth to the Third Division. He took Aston Villa from the Second Division to runners-up in the First. He took England to the 1992 European Championships and successfully kept them out of the 1994 World Cup.

But it was with Watford he had his greatest success. Teaming up with Elton John in 1977 he quickly won promotion to the Third Division. Shortly afterwards he gave a talk at my old school. In the Q&A one of the cheekier boys asked him when we would be in the First Division. How we laughed. It was unthinkable. Not going to happen. Taylor replied that if you aim for the ceiling your feet won’t get off the ground but if you aim for the sky then you may hit the ceiling. Four years later having smashed through the ceiling, roof and lower troposphere we were indeed in the First Division making monkeys out of the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. [What’s changed? I hear you ask.] In 1983 Watford were the second-best team in the entire country. In 1984 they got to the final of the FA Cup.

For the benefit of North American readers unused to the joys of promotion and relegation the equivalent of all this might be the Montreal Expos winning the World Series or a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup. Or, if you’re not interested in sport, somebody without political experience, a coherent philosophy, tact, media savvy or plausible hair becoming President of the United States. As I said: not going to happen.

Taylor even returned to Watford in the 1990s once again taking them from the Third to the First Division (or Premier League as it was by then known).

There were a number of secrets to his success. One was fitness: it was essential that his teams could keep going for the full 90 minutes. Another was the employment of the sublimely-talented John Barnes and the sublimely-passionate Luther Blissett at a time when many of the big teams were reluctant to field black players. Another was going back to the stats and working out that the traditional English long-ball game was by far the most effective. This was indeed fortunate as to attempt to pass the ball on the notoriously glutinous Vicarage Road pitch of the 1980s was to engage in cruelty to spherical objects.

On Saturday, Watford are playing at home. The club and fans will attempt to honour Taylor’s memory – many already have via the #thankyougt hashtag. But it will be difficult. Graham Taylor was a remarkable manager – and by all accounts – a true gentleman. Watford owes him a huge debt.

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It’s a ruddy hate crime, that’s what it is!

The Times reports,

The home secretary’s party conference speech proposing that companies compile lists of foreign workers has been declared a “hate incident” by police under crime recording policies that she has supported.

Amber Rudd’s remarks about tougher rules for immigrant workers and foreign students attracted fierce criticism at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham last October.

She said that the government would be “examining whether we should tighten the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad” and ensuring that foreign workers were “not taking jobs British people could do”.

Joshua Silver, a physics professor at the University of Oxford, was so concerned that he reported the speech to police.

“I felt politicians have been using hate speech to turn Britons against foreigners, and I thought that is probably not lawful,” Professor Silver said.

Once he reported the speech, police were required to investigate.

West Midlands police have now written to the professor stating that the inquiry is concluded and the matter “has been recorded in line with the National Police Chiefs’ Council manual as a non-crime hate incident”.

The policy of blanket recording of all hate incidents was set out in 2014 by the College of Policing and backed by Ms Rudd last year.

I do not know whether Professor Silver’s motivation for reporting Rudd to the police was serious or satirical. Either way, it gave me a laugh.

Update: Apparently he was being serious. There is humour to be derived from his bout with Andrew Neil on BBC2’s Daily Politics, though I prefer my comedy to be less cruel. Kinder souls will hope that Professor Silver is remembered as the inventor of a type of low-cost user-adjustable eyeglasses – devices which might help millions of people – than for today’s embarrassing performance.

By the way, next time you read of the post-Brexit surge of reported hate incidents, remember the surge includes this.

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I am not saying it’s Autons but… it’s Autons

From Instapundit (my emboldenings):

The miniature Perdex drones, different from larger, more common remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) like the well-known Reaper and Predator, operate with a high degree of collective autonomy and reduced dependency on remote flight crews to control them. The large group of more autonomous Perdex drones creates a “swarm” of miniature drones. The swarm shares information across data links during operation, and can make mission-adaptive decisions faster than RPV’s controlled in the more conventional manner.

In a statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense, Strategic Capabilities Office Director William Roper said, “Due to the complex nature of combat, Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” Director Roper went on to say, “Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.”

Doctor Who fans will know exactly where this sort of thing leads:

You have been warned.

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What Obama wrought

It is nearly over. Obama has a few more days in the Oval Office, and then he is off, for what we cannot yet tell.

I left the following comment on a friend’s FB page, with some subsequent edits:

“A poor president on multiple levels. Trying to be generous, I am pleased he did not interfere with the expanding world of private space flight and certain other technologies that may affect lives for the better, but I am struggling to think of a very big positive development on his watch. He cannot even really claim credit for the economic recovery, since that has been largely a function of central bank money printing, the effects of which are uncertain; labour force participation has shrunk, which is one reason why the recovery hasn’t felt like one. The bailouts and stimulus package were, in my view, either a waste of money or a net drag on the economy. Debt levels remain scarily high. The fracking industrial movement took place despite, rather than because, of any policies he set out. He is hostile to entrepreneurs and the business ethic (“you did not build that”).

Race relations deteriorated on his watch, although not all of that can be laid at his door. The Solyndra fiasco highlighted the bubble around climate change fearmongering. The weaponisation of the IRS was an abuse of power, and Eric Holder’s tenure as Attorney General was littered with scandals, such as the Fast & Furious gun-running episode.

Mr Obama’s handling of foreign affairs has been inept, if not malevolent. He managed to alienate allies such as the UK, Poland and Israel, and was naive about enemies, especially Iran. The deal with Iran over nuclear issues is a joke. His intervention into the UK vote on Brexit, for example, saying that the UK would be put at the back of a queue in trade talks, was typical bullying, but also counterproductive. The decision to leave Iraq, come what may, was a mistake, although arguably, there was never a good time to do so. The horrendous procurement saga of the F-35 fighter suggests that some defence spending is as bloated as ever. The heavy use of drone strikes also did not square with a Nobel Peace Price image. 

He even managed to shock continental Europeans by not sending a high-placed official to the official mourning for the Paris massacre of 2015, raising questions over how seriously he takes Islamist terrorism, and his attempt to criticise anyone for suggesting that Islam has a problem shows an alarming naivete, at best.

His use of executive orders, and clear unwillingness to negotiate unless on his terms, sets a bad precedent, and opened the opportunity for Trump.

It should be acknowledged that Mr Obama has done a great deal to raise the profile of golf. There is a saying that we should be grateful that we don’t get all the government we pay for. So perhaps it is good that this man spent as much time he did hitting small white balls. He is, however, unlikely to make the US Ryder Cup team in the near future.”

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