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]

There may be a delay in unsmiting…

As a key element in the samizdata-world interface has left London for a while, it is possible that there may be delays in unsmiting people whose comments get moderated by the samizdata SmiteBot.

Why? I am out of London in a strange place where taxi drivers have five phones powered by a cigarette lighter…

five-yes-five-phones

…the art is interesting and often very irreverent towards cultural icons and authority figures…

jade-wtf

…oh, and William Gibson, please call your office…

William-Gibson-call-your-office

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Juan Peron and Hugo Chavez won the N.H. Primary?

Seriously guys, did the 1st of April come early this year? Boy oh boy, and I thought UK politics was messed up. I was considering tagging this under “humour”, but there is nothing funny about large numbers of people taking Donald “Peron” Trump and Bernard “Chavez” Sanders seriously.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

There should be room in our hearts for pity…

for the striking London black cab drivers whose hard won skills have been rendered obsolete by Uber and Addison Lee, just as we should remember with pity the thousands of drivers of hansom cabs whose hard-won skills with horses were rendered obsolete by the coming of the internal combustion engine. I am not being flippant or sarcastic. To lose one’s accustomed livelihood to new technology is a tough spot to be in, and there will be many reading this, some of them highly paid at present, who should look at Trevor Merralls’ situation and tremble.

But that pity should not extend to offering to keep Mr Merralls forever in the style to which he has become accustomed simply because he was born working class, or to stifling the opportunity for self-employment that Uber offers to its drivers (also working class), or to depriving Londoners who could not afford black cabs of the ability to take a cab at a reasonable price at any time day or night, and which will, as one of the Guardian commenters put it, “actually go to exotic destinations like Lewisham”.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Oilfield Expat

I have been meaning to link to the excellent blog Oilfield Expat ever since I found it mentioned in a comment here a few weeks ago. There is so much goodness. You can start with its author’s comment on low oil prices below.

I particularly enjoyed this piece of prose, which I find a useful retort to doom-mongers. It is important because people need to realise that we have it good in order to understand why we have it good, lest they throw it all away, the risks of which the article it is taken from is partly about.

I have long subscribed to the view that, in the developed Western nations, we solved the major issues facing mankind several decades ago: infant mortality, hunger, disease, poverty (the genuine kind, not the SJW “relative poverty”), and deadly violence. Nobody of my generation died of malnutrition, treatable disease, or sectarian violence outside of a (statistically) few extreme cases. By historical standards, those who were born in the West after about 1960-70 were the wealthiest, safest, and most fortunate people ever to have lived. Several factors contributed to this situation. The guns falling silent after WWII followed by a Cold War which thankfully never got hot was probably the most important. The Western nations becoming wealthy was probably the second most important.

[…]

three successive generations of Westerners who have found themselves fully fed, clothed, housed, healthy, educated, and blessed with luxuries unseen by anyone else in history (one word to those who doubt this: dentistry). Spoiled rotten, in other words.

[…]

Having never seen wholesale malnutrition, destitution, and death, the populations of Western nations believe their standard of living is inevitable, as irrevocable as being born. Fewer and fewer grasp the mechanism by which their standard of living is a result of a section of the population spending their time, efforts, and capital to produce something of value, something that people want to buy with their own money.

[…]

They lead lives of such wealth and luxury that pontificating over a potential rise in global average temperatures is considered a more worthy and valuable activity than generating the electricity that powers their entire way of life, and without which most would almost certainly die within weeks.

The blog is robust and straightforward. On concerns about population: “it isn’t condoms that the poor need to start having smaller families, it is 1) increased wealth and 2) reliable, cheap electricity”.

On “those jumped-up tossers in places like Aberdeen”: “A cruise past the offices of the oil and gas companies, the engineering companies, and service providers would show the car parks full of Audis, BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches, Jags, and Bentleys, enabled by soaring wages and full employment of those who work in the oil industry. And now they need a bailout? Fuck them.”

On architects: “Fordham is your run-of-the-mill statist, authoritarian rent-seeker who has amassed a veritable fortune of taxpayers’ cash by preaching to governments from the environmental pulpit (naturally, his grubby mitts can be found all over the London Olympic 2012 facilities). The world would have been better off if he’d stayed in his spare bedroom the past 50 years.”

On the Hubbert curve: “In other words, the curve is subject to change at any point due to unlimited external factors and therefore utterly useless save for an object over which academics can while away the hours pontificating.”

There is technical insight into how to invest in oil in the face of low prices. There is discussion of how well-run Netflix seems to be. There is good, old fashioned Fisking.

I am not even having to drill deep for this quality. It is lying about on the surface in plain sight.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Samizdata quote of the day

The continuing plunge in the price of oil from $115 a barrel in mid-2014 to $30 today is really, really good news. I know just about every economic commentator says otherwise, predicting bankruptcies, stock market crashes, deflation, political turmoil and a return to gas guzzling. But that is because they are mostly paid to see the world from the point of view of producers, not consumers.

Matt Ridley.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

A government gag, you say? I hope they tie the knots good and tight.

The Times reports:

Charity lobbying rules are ‘government gag’ say critics

Attempts to stop charities using taxpayers’ money to lobby ministers have been branded draconian and are an “attempt to gag organisations raising concerns about policies”, it was claimed today.

A clause has been inserted into new and renewed charity grant agreements, stipulating that money must be spent on improving people’s lives and on good causes rather than lobbying for changes to regulations or for more funding.

While the government insisted that the clause would not prevent charities from using privately-raised funds for lobbying campaigns, others were not convinced.

Matthew Hancock, cabinet office minister, said: “Taxpayers’ money must be spent in improving people’s lives and spreading opportunities, not wasted on the farce of government lobbying government.

“The public sector never lobbies for lower taxes and less state spending, and it’s a zero sum if Peter is robbed to pay Paul.

“These commonsense rules will protect freedom of speech – but taxpayers won’t be made to foot the bill for political campaigning and political lobbying.”

Good. This incestuous relationship between the government and what were once charities has corrupted both.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Exterminate All Mosquitoes

Zikavirus, which is now spreading rapidly throughout South America and the Caribbean, is just the latest mosquito-borne disease to plague mankind.

Mosquitoes spread Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, a variety of forms of encephalitis (Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, LaCrosse Encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, and others), West Nile virus, Rift Valley Fever, Elephantiasis, Epidemic Polyarthritis, Ross River Fever, Bwamba fever, and dozens more.

I’ve been unable to find a reliable overall death toll for mosquito-borne disease. However, it is likely that at least a million people die a year from malaria alone. Countless more die from the other diseases. It is known that the number of people infected with one disease or another by mosquito bites every year is in the hundreds of millions.

In short, the mosquito is one of mankind’s greatest enemies.

Thanks to the recent development of CRISPR/Cas9 based gene drive technology, the human race is now at last on the cusp of having the capacity to drive those varieties of mosquito that feed upon humans (which are a minority of the 3500 known species) entirely into extinction, by producing mosquitoes that will produce fertile male descendants but no fertile female descendants. [See my explanation after the end of this essay on how this might be done.*]

Few actions could reduce human misery and improve the condition of mankind so greatly as the permanent elimination of mosquitoes and the myriad of diseases they spread throughout the world. It would be worth doing even if it required decades and vast expenditures to accomplish. The fact that it can be done at fairly low cost and quite quickly (over years rather than decades) is almost icing on the cake.

I am certain that some people will vocally and perhaps even violently oppose this work, both because of an irrational fear of genetic engineering technology and because of a misplaced belief that eliminating mosquitoes will somehow damage the environment. The general consensus is that it will not. However, I strongly feel that even if there was minor collateral damage to the environment, it would be well worth that cost to prevent at least a million deaths a year.

Some would caution we should consider an act such as the deliberate extinction of a whole class of parasitic insects with great caution and take such steps only quite slowly. However, in a world where a child dies of malaria every 40 seconds or so, I think we should, if anything, be racing ahead as fast as we can possibly manage.

Now that we have the capacity to exterminate mosquitoes, not to do so strikes me as a gravely immoral act.

→ Continue reading: Exterminate All Mosquitoes

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Good grief! The President of the European Parliament said something I agree with!

“If Brits want to leave, let them leave!”

…says Martin Schulz.

And I agree! How very nice of him to want to ‘let’ the Brits leave. He goes on to say how the UK “tests the patience” of EU politicians, presumably by being a net contributor to the EU’s funds.

Keep talking, Herr Schulz. Please, just keep talking. It is almost as if Farage himself had written this plonker’s remarks to push ever more people into voting OUT.

I believe the cry at Senlac Hill was “UT! UT! UT!”, even if on that occasion it was my Norman ancestors who had the best of the day.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Peter Tatchell changes his mind

Contrast this recent Guardian comment piece by Peter Tatchell:

I’ve changed my mind on the gay cake row. Here’s why

Like most gay and equality campaigners, I initially condemned the Christian-run Ashers Bakery in Belfast over its refusal to produce a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan for a gay customer, Gareth Lee. I supported his legal claim against Ashers and the subsequent verdict – the bakery was found guilty of discrimination last year. Now, two days before the case goes to appeal, I have changed my mind. Much as I wish to defend the gay community, I also want to defend freedom of conscience, expression and religion.

with this one from 2010:

Chris Grayling reveals the real Tories

… the right of B&B owners to turn away gay couples is an echo of the bad old days when some landlords used to stipulate: “No blacks, Irish, gays or dogs.”

The equality laws exist to protect everyone against discrimination.

But Grayling apparently believes that some people – homophobic people – should be above the law. Why this exception? After all, he does not agree with B&Bs refusing accommodation to black or Jewish couples. If race discrimination is wrong, why is Grayling saying that homophobic discrimination is right?

I am glad to see Mr Tatchell go from being wrong to being almost right. I am glad and surprised to see most of the Guardian commenters agree with me as to which is which. (I say “almost right” because he is still of the opinion that “Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas”. One day I hope he will acknowledge that the distinction is meaningless. The former behaviour is as much an inherent human right as the latter.) I do not think it is coincidence that the older article was, as well as being wrong, badly argued. There were two howlers in the first three sentences. The article started with reference to the ‘the bad old days when some landlords used to stipulate: “No blacks, Irish, gays or dogs.”‘ It is difficult to prove a negative, but… nah. Never happened. Signs saying “No Irish” and “No blacks” certainly did exist. Signs saying “No xxxx or dogs” turn up everywhere on internet discussion boards but not so much in photographs. As for signs saying “no gays”, it would never have occurred to anyone in the bad old days to specify homosexuals as a group against whom one could wish to discriminate. By the time things got to the stage that anyone could think of gays as unwelcome – rather than as criminals – it was practically the good new days. A couple of lines later Mr Tatchell says, “But Grayling apparently believes that some people – homophobic people – should be above the law.” You would think that he of all people would be aware that peacefully advocating for legal change is the opposite of wanting anyone to be above the law.

And to be fair, it now looks as if he is.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Samizdata quote of the day

“Over the past two or three years people have finally started waking up to the fact that conspicuous consumption is now about useless degrees, not SUVs.”

Adam Smith Institute. The comment comes from a new monograph by the ASI, entitled The New Aristocrats: A cultural and economic analysis of the new virtue signalling. 

Well, I am really old school, then. I drive a Jag.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

A good day in Iowa

There were six coin tosses in Iowa last night – to determine contested delegates in various parts of Iowa.

And Hillary Clinton’s people won all of them. Against the rather stupid socialist from Vermont – and his innocent-minded helpers (who do not seem to understand what sort of people they are dealing with).

Hillary Clinton reminds me of David Hume’s picture of a human being – a creature (according to Hume) whose passions always reduce reason to a “slave” (Hume’s fellow determinist Martin Luther used the word “whore” rather than “slave”). Mrs Clinton appears to have no conscience – no “moral sense” or “moral reason”. And neither do her servants. At least not about big things – such as, when Secretary of State, selling American influence (and secrets – who cares about dead intelligence officers?) for cash for the Clinton Foundation – a “charity” piggy bank for the family and associates of Mrs Clinton. And not about small things – such as Iowa Caucus coin tosses.

There is a seamless vileness about Hillary Clinton – if there is a straight way of doing something (big or small) and a crooked way Mr Clinton will always choose the crooked way – on principle.

“What do you mean I wiped the e-mails on my sever? Do you mean with a cloth or something?”

On the Republican side the three leading candidate were as follows:

The person who came third (Marco “Fox News” Rubio) basically argued that government had only got too big in the “last seven years” – and that taxation and government spending levels were about right under President Bush.

The person who came second (Donald “Juan Peron” Trump) argued that a “better manager” was needed for an even bigger government.

And the person who actually won the Iowa Caucus argued that government was much too big, and had been for a very long time. And that, for a start, 5 Federal Government Departments and 25 Federal Government Agencies should be abolished.

For example all energy subsidies should be abolished – including “mandates” for ethanol. To argue this in IOWA was supposed to be the kiss of death.

However, Senator Ted Cruz won anyway – which I did not expect.

Senator Cruz refused to give in or to sell out.

No doubt the establishment will continue to try and undermine Ted Cruz – seeking a return to the big government “Compassionate Conservatism” of President Bush.

But Iowa was a victory – whatever comes after.

A good day.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK

Ted Cruz wins in Iowa

Ted Cruz has won in Iowa. How happy should I be? How significant is it? Will he really abolish the IRS and “do away with the departments of energy, commerce, education, and housing and urban development.” For all those things I could forgive him an awful lot of anything else I might disagree with him about, and many other issues become non-issues anyway, given a strong enough economy.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VK