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]

Why I want Scotland to vote YES

I have many Scottish friends, both north and south of the border. My views have nothing to do with ethnicity, it is entirely about political culture. And if other Samizdatistas want to say why they want a NO vote, by all means do so.

I am of the view that English political culture has become steadily more toxic, hollowed out by multiculturalism and moral relativism, resulting in shocking incidents like the Rotherham scandal. Indeed the Tory party is hardly a conservative party at all, and is increasingly interchangeable with Labour and the LibDems. The mere fact the Tories chose David Cameron as leader tells you something about the state of the Stupid Party, a man unable to win an outright majority against probably the most inept, least charismatic and most spectacularly unsuccessful Labour Prime Minster since Harold Wilson. Yet the best Cameron could manage was a coalition.

But there are quite a few counter currents. The classical liberal tradition is not dead and buried, and it is by no means impossible to posit plausible scenarios in which the values of Cobden, Acton, Burke, Mandeville and… Adam Smith… and other followers of what Hayek called the “British Tradition” such as Montesquieu and de Tocqueville, once again informed a mainstream political movement. Those traditions of thought are not dead, they are just… waiting. At least in England.

But it has long seemed clear to me that as toxic as the political culture had become in England, it is even worse in Scotland.

And so my support for an independent Scotland is not because I do not think there are many fine classical liberals and other friends of genuine liberty north of the border, but rather there are just not enough of them. It is an exercise in ‘political triage’ on my part. Much as I would love to see Scotland once again embrace Adam Smith and Hume, I cannot see that happening any time soon. I may admire those willing to stay and fight for a better Scotland than the one they will get under the likes of Salmond, but I think it is a fight they cannot win.

And that is why I support Scottish independence. I see it as a gangrenous limb in need of political amputation, or we risk loosing everything it is attached to.

Don’t you know there’s a war on?

The British Army might be involved in a desperate struggle in northern France but that doesn’t mean that life should come to a standstill at home:

The Times, 14 September 1914 p2

The Times, 14 September 1914 p2

I jest, the Football Association has asked for guidance. This is what the Army Council had to say:

The question whether the playing of matches should be entirely stopped is more a matter for the discretion of the Association, but the Council quite realise the difficulties involved in taking such an extreme step, and they would deprecate anything being done which does not appear to be called for by the present situation.

One of the problems – a problem that will haunt the British Army until 1917 – is that it is a small army with a small supply industry. There simply is no great stockpile of uniforms, weapons and ammunition and no easy way of producing more. Sure, the Army may have recrutied 100,000 men (or is it 500,000?) by this stage of the war but there’s precious little they can do with them. So football might as well continue, as indeed it did until the end of the season in 1915.

Why fast and powerful computers are especially good if you are getting old

I recall, in the very early days of the personal computer, articles, in magazines like Personal Computer World, which expressed downright opposition to the idea of technological progress in general, and progress in personal computers in particular. There was apparently a market for such notions, in the very magazines that you would think would be most gung-ho about new technology and new computers. Maybe the general atmosphere of gung-ho-ness created a significant enough minority of malcontents that the editors felt they needed to nod regularly towards it. I guess it does make sense that the biggest grumbles about the hectic pace of technological progress would be heard right next to the places where it is happening most visibly.

Whatever the reasons were for such articles being in computer magazines, I distinctly remember their tone. I have recently, finally, got around to reading Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies, and she clearly identifies the syndrome. The writers of these articles were scared of the future and wanted that future prevented, perhaps by law but mostly just by a sort of universal popular rejection of it, a universal desire to stop the world and to get off it. “Do we really need” (the words “we” and “need” cropped up in these PCW pieces again and again), faster central processors, more RAM, quicker printers, snazzier and bigger and sharper and more colourful screens, greater “user friendlinesss”, …? “Do we really need” this or that new programme that had been reported in the previous month’s issue? What significant and “real” (as opposed to frivolous and game-related) problems could there possibly be that demanded such super-powerful, super-fast, super-memorising and of course, at that time, super-expensive machines for their solution? Do we “really need” personal computers to develop, in short, in the way that they have developed, since these grumpy anti-computer-progress articles first started being published in computer progress magazines?

The usual arguments in favour of fast and powerful, and now mercifully far cheaper, computers concern the immensity of the gobs of information that can now be handled, quickly and powerfully, by machines like the ones that we have now, as opposed to what could be handled by the first wave of personal computers, which could manage a small spreadsheet or a short text file or a very primitive computer game, but very little else. And of course that is true. I can now shovel vast quantities of photographs (a particular enthusiasm of mine) hither and thither, processing the ones I feel inclined to process in ways that only Hollywood studios used to be able to do. I can make and view videos (although I mostly stick to viewing). And I can access and even myself add to that mighty cornucopia that is the internet. And so on. All true. I can remember when even the most primitive of photos would only appear on my screen after several minutes of patient or not-so-patient waiting. Videos? Dream on. Now, what a world of wonders we can all inhabit. In another quarter of a century, what wonders will there then be, all magicked in a flash into our brains and onto our desks, if we still have desks. The point is, better computers don’t just mean doing the same old things a bit faster; they mean being able to do entirely new things as well, really well.

→ Continue reading: Why fast and powerful computers are especially good if you are getting old

Bono

Bono is annoying. This was supposed to be a post in which I gloated about how, if I had an iPhone, I would be making use of the U2 removal tool, too, the story being that Apple gave away the latest U2 album for free and enough people complained that they had to offer a way to remove it.

And I would support my argument with stupid Bono quotes. But it turns out he is harder to pin down than that.

If globalisation means a better life for more people, we’re all in favour of it. If it means a better life for less people, we’re all against it.

Non-commital but hard to disagree with. And then there is this analysis:

While Bono has become synonymous with campaigns such as Drop the Debt that fit his right-on rock star image, he also has a well-developed sense of how capitalism works. U2 has acquired a business empire with an estimated worth of nearly (EU)700m. Much of that is due to their artistic talent, but a substantial portion has come from careful management of business opportunities.

Bono’s idea for helping the Third World involves the destruction of trade barriers and protectionism, and investment in the development of self-sustaining businesses. His economic instincts are pro-globalisation, but in a perfectly sensible business way. One of his big ideas to help the Third World, the launch of the ethical brand Product Red, with partners such as Motorola, Gap and Giorgio Armani, is based firmly on capitalist principles.

That is from an article criticising him for tax avoidance, of all things.

I am almost starting to like him. It is very annoying. Still, I do sympathise with @twitflup via The Daily Poke:

Just woken up to find U2 downstairs watching TV and eating my biscuits. Will their presumptions that I want them in my life ever end?

Wise words regarding children and firearms

Finally some common sense regarding firearms and children!

crew_served_weapons

Via Knuckledraggin

Scotsmen struggling to regain their freedom

Iain Connell and Robert Florence make a break for freedom here.

Samizdata quote of the day

The only ‘cross’ most westerners care about is the little cross hair in a laser guided bomb aiming unit used to send a 500kg cultural critique in your direction, from our technologically advanced culture to your dark ages one.

- Perry de Havilland

Are these people stupid or do they think other people are?

So John Kerry says the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam“. And presumably the USSR had nothing to do with Communism and Nazi Germany had nothing to do with National Socialism and the Vatican has nothing to do with Catholicism.

I have linked before to an article from a Middle Eastern writer laughing at such claims before, but seriously: how can Salafist Islam not be described as Islam? Feel free to presage comments about Salafists by noting there are non-toxic forms of Islam such as Sufi or whatever, but please stop these preposterous claims that the Islamic State is not Islamic.

It is as if John Kerry thinks that by repeating this manifest nonsense that somehow it will become true. Could this be some sort of warped world view in which people must be ‘goodies’ or ‘badies’? Therefore if (say) the Kurdish Peshmerga, who are pretty much accepted as being ‘goodies’ happen to be made up mostly of Muslims, OMG we must therefore pretend the Islamic State is not Islamic as our tiny minds cannot accept a nuanced world view that maybe, just maybe, the Peshmerga might see themselves as Kurds first and who have very little interest in political Salafist Islam?

Or could it be that Salafist Islam is actually the same as Saudi Wahhabi Islam, minus a dynastic Royal government and plus a Caliph? An embarrassing and politically inconvenient little factoid that one.

As of late I have taken to exchanging e-mails with a Kurdish couple who live near Kirkuk and they have no problem describing the Islamic State as, er, Islamic. But they way they see it, describing someone as ‘Islamic’ does not actually tell you very much about a person’s views… whereas saying someone is ‘Salafist’, for example, tells you a great deal.

But unlike the jackasses in the White House with their notions of imaginary Disney-Islam, people in the Middle East understand perfectly that Salafist ideology has a great deal to do with ‘Islam’. And so what? You think that will stop a Kurd who might or might not be a Sunni Muslim, from shooting a Salafist Islamic State soldier deader than dead? Clearly that is not the case.

By all means hyphenate the version if you want, but enough of “the Salafist Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam” crap.

German Barbarism

The Times from 12 September 1914. A vicar passes on a letter from his son, an officer in the British Expeditionary Force:

Another poor girl has just come in, having had both her breasts cut off. Luckily, I caught the Uhlan [German cavalryman] in the act, and with rifle at 300 yards killed him. And now whe is with us, but, poor girl, I am afraid she will die. She is very pretty, and only about 19, and only has her skirt on.

The article continues in a similar vein with this and other letters from the front telling tales of rape, the use of civilians as human shields and other forms of German treachery.

But what is one to think? I suppose the first question is, is it true? And then, was it intentional (on the part of the Uhlan)? Are there any mitigating factors? And are the British any better?

On that last one I am inclined to think yes, simply because they are amongst friends.

And on the first one, I see little reason why an officer or a vicar would make it up. But someone else might. And The Times which backs the war effort might not be that keen on checking up. Or maybe the officer was suffering hallucinations through lack of sleep.

But on the other hand, the Kaiser’s men did raze Louvain to the ground, and massacre civilians at Dinant and use the ones they hadn’t massacred as human shields.

Ultimately, I am inclined to believe this. And I am shocked. And if I am shocked a hundred years later it is not difficult to imagine what people must have been thinking at the time.

150912p6_Beastliness_s

“This referendum is about power … we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks”

The Scotsman reports (emphasis added):

FORMER SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has claimed there will be a “day of reckoning” for major Scottish employers such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life after a Yes vote.

Speaking from his campaign vehicle the “Margo Mobile”, Mr Sillars insisted that employers are “subverting Scotland’s democratic process” and vowed that oil giant BP would be nationalised in an independent Scotland.

Earlier this week, a number of banks, including Lloyds Banking Group and RBS, said they would look to move their headquarters south of the border in the event of a Yes vote.

Mr Sillars, who earlier this week claimed he and First Minister Alex Salmond had put their long-held personal differences behind them to campaign together for independence, also revealed that he would not retire from politics on 19 September but said he would be “staying in” if Scotland became independent.

He claimed there is talk of a “boycott” of John Lewis, banks to be split up, and new law to force Ryder Cup sponsor Standard Life to explain to unions its reasons for moving outside Scotland.

He said: “This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks.

“The heads of these companies are rich men, in cahoots with a rich English Tory Prime Minister, to keep Scotland’s poor, poorer through lies and distortions. The power they have now to subvert our democracy will come to an end with a Yes.”

He added: “BP, in an independent Scotland, will need to learn the meaning of nationalisation, in part or in whole, as it has in other countries who have not been as soft as we have forced to be. We will be the masters of the oil fields, not BP or any other of the majors.”

The most recommended comment on the Scotsman website is from someone called “Common Sensei”:

Who would want to live in a post Yes Scotland run by these scarey people?
Academics who cross them get phone calls to their employer.
Companies scared to speak out against them.
Business leaders scared to sign a No letter for fear of retribution.
Media outlets who tell the truth get vitriol thrown at them.
No campaigners shouted down and mobbed.
No campaigners scared to put No signs in their window.

Yesterday Salmond attacks the BBC about telling the truth about companies moving south, and today Ex SNP Deputy Leader Sillars (who shared a stage with Salmond this week) threatens companies who have dared to tell the truth about what would happen in a separate Scotland.

“a day of reckoning”.

It’s genuinely scary stuff, the SNP and yes camp makes Scotland appear like a wannabe soviet state or banana republic.

No wonder Salmond admires Putin…

It is perfectly possible to be in favour of Scottish independence and have views very unlike those of Mr Sillars. But, as Common Sensei said, this is not some random cybernat talking; it is the former deputy leader of the SNP.

I think Common Sensei is also right to say that No campaigners have some reason to be scared to put up signs. A few days ago the Times columnist Melanie Reid, herself a Scot living in Stirlingshire whatever the commenters denouncing her plain speech may think, wrote,

“Every roadside No poster in fields between my home and Glasgow has been vandalised, an unpleasant message of violence and denial of democracy.”

Such behaviour is certainly a common and bitter complaint in the comment threads of Scottish newspapers. My friend Niall Kilmartin, who up until a couple of days ago was happy to let Twitter pass him by, signed up simply to express his anger at the way that so many No posters in his area had been vandalised. He posted some pictures he took of smashed signs (all of them on private property) under the hashtag #vandalnats .

Samizdata quote of the day

What’s the difference between Jim Davidson and Frankie Boyle?

One is reviled as a right-wing Tory and thus an obvious racist whilst the other is an ardent far-lefist whose jokes about black mentally handicapped babies are not racist but absolutely hilarious and the sign of comic genius.

BOOM BOOM!!

- Samizdata commenter Lee

There should be further action – against false accusers and tyrannical police

The comedian Jim Davidson has been described as a “throwback”. Criticisms that his style of humour cynically courts outrage are not confined to the politically correct. It takes a lot for me to feel sympathy for someone who jokes about rape victims.

I think what happened to him in 2013 qualifies as “a lot”. In fact a better description might be “kafkaesque”. Daniel Finkelstein writes in the Times (paywalled), regarding Davidson’s book No Further Action:

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book was to read detailed accusations put to Davidson that couldn’t possibly be true: someone who claimed to have been assaulted in an upstairs bar of a place that doesn’t have an upstairs bar, or to have travelled with him in a gold-coloured Bentley that Davidson didn’t possess. Someone who said that they were assaulted at the London Palladium stage door and then, when that was disproved, said it was at the Slough Pavilion, which couldn’t have been right either.

And

Yet I think the most important aspect of the Davidson case is just how long the whole thing took. He spent the best part of a year waiting for the allegations to be dismissed.

It is hard not to warm to him as he tells of the strain he was under. The whole thing cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost income and more in legal fees.

So we return to the justice of the Devil’s Mark and the extra teat.