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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

ThouShaltNotSteal

– More about Wicked Campers and their vans (copiously illustrated and with further links) at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom. Click on the middle picture at the bottom of that posting to see where I found the above sign.

My 2015 in pictures

Like Michael Jennings, I end my 2015 blogging efforts here at Samizdata with a clutch of pictures. Unlike Michael, I haven’t managed to do anything like this for every one of the last ten years. I did do something similar two years ago, but this time last year my retrospective attention was concentrated on the speakers at my monthly meetings, without any pictures of them.

I began my 2015 in France.

→ Continue reading: My 2015 in pictures

Samizdata quote of the day

“Fear not,” said the angel at Christmas, “for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Indeed. There has never been a better time to be a human being.

– Dan Hannan writes in Conservative Home that 2015 was the best year in human history, and 2016 will be better yet.

Libertarians are now the optimists about the human future, and collectivists are the pessimists. Libertarians know how to make the world better for humans and are doing this, by resisting and (wherever possible) rolling back collectivism. Collectivists never did know how to make the world better for humans, but now not even they believe that they know how to do this. All they can now do is fabricate catastrophe and demand that keeping human progress going be made into a crime.

QSD?

So, as I regularly do, I read a recent posting at Mick Hartley, which is about what nutters the rulers of Saudi Arabians are, spreading the theology of bedlam and then griping when people do what the theology says, and all the while blaming the Jews for their own ridiculousness.

And then I read this comment underneath that posting, from someone called “Graham”:

Ironically, it’s the Israeli-Saudi alliance behind the QSD that’s defeating ISIS.

QSD? Quesque c’est?

I found my way to this piece (I love the internet):

These are Kurds, Muslim Arabs, Turkmens, and Syriac Christians. …

… which, to me: sounds good, sounds bad, sounds don’t-know, and sounds good …

… About two weeks after this EXTREMELY disparate group was created, it launched the most successful series of offensives in the entire five-year Syrian civil war. The US immediately began arming the QSD, and the Turks suddenly stopped complaining that the Kurds in this new army were up to no good.

This guy goes on to say (I think) that the “Muslim Arabs” are Tunisian special forces, the Tunisians having become very pissed off with ISIS for having recently destroyed their tourist industry. So those Muslim Arabs sound semi-sane, or as semi-sane as Arabs ever are.

And I also found my way to this piece of Kurdish Daily News (Kurdish Daily News, to me, sounds good) which says:

Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) has released a six-day balance sheet of the operation they launched against ISIS gangs in the rural areas of south Hesekê on October 31.

During the first six days of the operation, an area of 350 square kilometers has been cleared of ISIS gangs; which involves 36 villages, 10 hamlets, 2 gas factories, 3 quarry areas and some guard posts near the borderline.

The operation has thus far left 196 members of the gangs dead, 99 of whom were killed by QSD forces and 79 as a result of airstrikes by jets of the international coalition.

Part of my daily reading these days consists of Instapundit, and people linked to by Instapundit, telling me that the Middle East is going totally to hell, and that US Middle East policy now has no redeeming features at all. But I am unpersuaded that the answer to the Middle East’s many problems is for the Middle East to be totally conquered and then micro-managed by the USA, with everyone else just standing around and either waiting for their chance and getting it, or else hoping for the best and not getting it. US policy now seems to have been to back off, wait for some Good Guys to emerge out of the mess, and then when they eventually did, to back them with a few guns and a few missiles and a few airstrikes, but not with a huge US army stomping about making friends-that-are (and then abandoning them following an election) or friends-that-aren’t and enemies-that-are, and generally crowding out the best local answers. Is that – “leading from behind” (i.e. not actually leading at all) – such a very terrible idea? It sounds like a rather better idea than earlier ideas have been. Whether President Obama started out wanted that policy, I really do not know, but that now seems to be what is happening.

This more recent posting at Mick Hartley says that if QSD beats ISIL, the big winner could end up being al-Qaida. But might not QSD first defeat ISIL, and then might not QSD, or something closely related to or descended from QSD, then turn on al-Qaida and defeat al-Qaida also?

But what the hell do I know? Comments anyone?

Calling all Russian-to-English translators: What does this say?

Ever since the universe obliged me by inventing digital photography, I have been taking a lot of photos (only click on that if you really want to see some of my photos and are willing to wait). One of the sorts of photos that I like to take a lot of is photos of other people taking photos. I particularly like it when they are holding something in front of their face, like a camera or a coat or a bag, so that I can then stick my photo of them photoing up on the internet without them being very recognisable, by which I mean face-recognition-software-recognisable.

And earlier this month, I took this photo, of a lady on Westminster Bridge, taking a photo of another lady. Well, that’s what I at first thought, but later I realised that she was almost certainly videoing the other lady. That’s because in addition to holding up her iPhone (over most of her face) she was also holding up a hand-made teleprompter, covered in text:

WhatDoesThisSay1

I did a few months of schoolboy Russian about half a century ago, so I am pretty sure that this is Russian. But what does it say?

Here it is closer-up and more easily readable, with the blueness removed:

WhatDoesThisSay2

So, is this harmless tourist guidance? Viciously mendacious Putinite propaganda, full of nonsensical lies about the Ukraine? Some kind of personal message? I have enjoyed wondering, but now I would really like to know.

I am sure that at least one of our most knowledgeable and obliging commentariat can knowledgeably oblige with the answer.

Nico Metten on the tacit philosophy that must underlie David Friedman’s consequentialism

I am reading the latest piece at Libertarian Home by Nico Metten, a man whose thoughts and thought processes I am coming greatly to admire. I am only a tiny bit into this piece so far, but already I have read this very lucid observation, which I think is worth passing on:

A prominent libertarian advocate of consequentialism is David Friedman. Consequentialists argue that it is useless to deal with philosophy or morals, as these are very unclear and subjective. What matters are the outcomes of certain policies. As long as the outcomes are ok, the rest does not matter so much. People like David Friedman simply don’t seem to want to deal with philosophy and morals. They are uncomfortable with it. Because of that, they only deal with what they consider more objective, which in this case is economics.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with people getting into libertarianism through economics. Economics seems to play a major role in exposing the state and it can make a lot of converts. I myself have learned a lot from economists when it comes to questioning the state. Labelling this approach as consequentialist however suggests that this follows a distinct philosophy. And here I am not so sure.

To me it seems impossible to be a pure consequentialist. I would agree that results matter. However, how do we know which results are good results? It seems in order to evaluate results, one first will need an evaluation tool. This evaluation tool logically needs to come before the actual consequences and is therefore not consequentialist itself. If this is true, then consequentialism as a stand alone philosophy seems logically impossible. But how come intelligent people like David Friedman can think that they are consequentialists? Friedman clearly must have an evaluation tool. I think the reason for this is that his evaluation tool is completely tacit. It is there, but Friedman is not consciously aware of it.

Good point. I have certainly been vaguely aware of this point, rather as Metten says that Friedman must have been. But I have never read it spelt out quite so clearly and so explicitly. Or, if I have, I wasn’t paying attention.

I am now reading the whole thing.

Lee Jussim on stereotypes

Claire Lehmann describes some of the work of contrarian social psychologist Lee Jussim:

It appears that descriptive stereotypes are a crutch to lean on when we have no other information about a person. When we gain additional insights into people, these stereotypes are no longer useful. And there is now a body of evidence to suggest that stereotypes are not as fixed, unchangeable and inflexible as they’ve historically been portrayed to be.

So, it would appear that “we” make use of stereotypes exactly as I make use of stereotypes (or as I try to), as crude first approximations, rather than as the last word. Bigotry, it has always seemed to me, means not having no prejudices, but rather having prejudices which you are unwilling to alter, when faced with circumstances which do not fit your prejudices. And it seems that “we” think like that also.

Good to know. My thanks to Bishop Hill for telling me about this piece.

Having written all of the above (apart from the thanks to Bishop Hill), I see that the previous posting here is also about stereotyping.

Snapshots of Labour collapse

If you are an anti-Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty grim just now:

By his disastrous widening of the franchise for electing the party leader, Ed Miliband has handed control of it to what a previous leader, Hugh Gaitskell, memorably denounced as “pacifists, unilateralists and fellow travellers” – people not only antipathetic to ordinary voters but anathema even to most ordinary Labour MPs. It will be hard, it may even be impossible, to get the institution back. …

Quite so, except that the people to whom the Labour Party has just been handed are not pacifists. They favour violence provided that it is inflicted upon Britain and upon civilisation by Britain’s and by civilisation’s enemies.

This is Robert Harris, in today’s Sunday Times, and dragged out from behind its paywall here.

Such chaos cannot go on much longer.. Those MPs who either defy a three-line whip to vote for military action against Isis, or who are permitted to follow their consciences in a free vote, may well prove to be the nucleus of a new party.

If that sounds apocalyptic then so is the mood of many Labour MPs: obliged to watch at close quarters day in, day out, the incompetent antics of a leadership that has no hope of ever winning a general election but which is nonetheless impossible to dislodge.

But if you are a Corbynite Labourite, things are looking pretty good:

Formed as a successor to the Corbyn campaign, Momentum is in the process of setting up governance arrangements to represent its supporters amongst the Labour Party membership as well as the wider social movement which is springing up. As it grows, Momentum will develop democratic governance structures at every level of the network.

That being from the Momentum website. However, I prefer this piece of Momentum propaganda, which I spotted recently in the tube:

Momentum

Who knew that political feuding could be so glamorous?

Here is another Labour Party related picture which I took, when walking beside a disconnected and unnavigable canal (a certain creek springs to mind) in north London earlier this year. Did the person who threw this sign into the water know something that the rest of us did not, about the future of the Labour Party?

VoteLabour

To be more serious, I am content to see the Labour Party reduced to a state of ruin.

→ Continue reading: Snapshots of Labour collapse

Samizdata quote of the day

Far leftists do not laugh to mock communism. They laugh to forget communism. They dismiss the mass murders, and the suppression of every right that makes life worth living with a giggle and a snort, and imply that you are a bit of a prude if you cannot do the same.

Then they throw a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book across the chamber of the House of Commons and look round with utter bemusement when no one gets the gag.

Nick Cohen

With thanks to Mick Hartley.

Yiannopoulos on fire

I hugely enjoyed this bravura exercise in self-promotion by Milo Yiannopoulos.

Sample quote:

Sure, I work harder than everyone else, sleep less than everyone else (four hours, on average), I’m funnier, more charming, smarter, better looking and more modest than everyone else. But that’s not the whole story.

My technique isn’t some great contact book, or a crack team of cyber commandos, or some big secret social engineering secret. Nor is it even the fact that I’ve made myself social justice-proof by letting my flamboyant personality loose in public and never shutting up about black boyfriends. (They can’t get me on racism, homophobia or misogyny, so half the time they don’t even bother showing up to debate me.)

My secret is just this: I don’t exclude people. …

And much else in a similar vein. Or maybe that should be vain.

As I say, I greatly enjoyed this fireword display. More than any other recent piece of writing, this one reminded me of the most persuasively entertaining stuff that the hippy-lefties were saying and doing in the 1960s, in an earlier age of alternative media. Like Yiannopoulos, they only grew stronger with all the outraged attacks on them by third-rate establishmentarian bores. The hippy-lefties won. Yiannopoulos, as he says, is also now winning. Given that he calls himself a cultural libertarian, that’s all part of what I like about him.

But what do others think? I doubt everyone here likes this man’s way with words as much as I do. Maybe I like him because I have only recently started noticing him, and maybe after a while I’ll get bored of him. Perhaps so, but as of now, I want to know more. And you learn a lot about something, or someone, by watching people argue about it, or him. All comments – pro-, anti- or anything else- – will be gratefully read, by me at least.

Why are there so few Muslim terrorists?

In a posting sarcastically entitled Great questions of our time, the usually excellent Mick Hartley pours scorn on a book with the question in my title above as its subtitle, without (I’m guessing) him (Mick Hartley) having read any of this book.

I tried to attach the following comment to Hartley’s posting but could not make it work, so here it is, here:

I think this actually is a great question. Given what a totally vile doctrine Islam is, and given how many people say that they follow it, why indeed do so few Muslims, percentage wise, actually do the kinds of murderous things demanded of them in Islam’s holy scriptures?

The more vile you consider the things that Islam demands of its devotees, and they seem to me to be very vile indeed, the better the question is.

I am a regular and grateful reader of your blog. …

… by which I mean Mick Hartley‘s blog.

… I rarely disagree with you (and I greatly enjoy your photos (taken by you and by others)), but I think I do disagree with you on this.

Whether the above-linked-to book actually does supply good answers to this question, I do not know. But it surely is a question well worth asking.

Similarly good questions are: Why are there now so few wars raging these days, compared to how many wars that might now be raging? (Part of the answer to that would help to explain, in particular, all those verbally manic yet strangely well-behaved Muslims.) Why so few car crashes, train crashes, air crashes? And yes, I am well aware that there are a also a great many car crashes, but why not far more, given how many cars there are wizzing about hither and thither? Which are more numerous, I wonder, cars or Muslims? Muslims, I should guess, but it is not a confident guess. (Recent answer for the number of cars in the world.)

See also: Why is gun control not necessary, to prevent armed civilians killing each other in large numbers when mere arguments get heated? Because it seems not to be. Armed civilians actually almost never kill each other for bad, domestic or bar-room type disagreement reasons. They mostly (overwhelmingly so) defend themselves with guns against criminals, for very good reasons. The benefits of civilian gun ownership, in those states of the USA where civilian gun ownership is allowed seem to outweigh the harm that you might think that legalising gun ownership might unleash. Why? Was that predictable? To many, not. Minds are changed with questions and answers of this sort. (I can remember, a long time ago now, my own mind being thus changed.) Gun legalisation is now spreading in the USA.

That latter question, about gun control, has become very pertinent to the matter of how to see off the relatively few Muslims who do decide to become terrorists. Armed police in the numbers we have now can’t be everywhere, and shouldn’t be. Also, it is devilishly difficult to predict exactly which verbally fanatical Muslims are actually going to do something appropriately murderous about it. Muslim nutters make up a dauntingly large group to keep tabs on all the time, and in any case do we want to live in a world where the authorities have all the powers they would like to keep such tabs?

In Europe, the gun control argument doesn’t look like happening for real any time soon. But it is now happening for real in connection with the capital city of the USA, which terrorists are apparently saying is now high on their hit list. Are we soon due a Rand Paul “I told you so” moment?

Samizdata quote of the day

When Corbyn is challenged on his beliefs and his record, he tends to respond by characterising a political challenge as a personal attack. He treats it as intrusive, rude and vulgar. In so doing, he accomplishes three things. He paints himself as the innocent victim of unjust aggression; he avoids responding to the detail of the challenge; and he bolsters the distinction between the good people inside his tent and the bad people outside of it. Howard Jacobson writes:

There was something ‘How very dare you’, about Jeremy Corbyn’s recent temper tantrum in rebuttal of the charge that the company he kept reflected badly on him. ‘The idea that I’m some kind of racist or anti-Semitic person is beyond appalling, disgusting and deeply offensive,’ he said (Jacobson 2015).

‘Alarm bells ring when a politician stands haughty upon his honour,’ observes Jacobson. When Jeremy says he doesn’t do personal what he means is that he will not deal with criticism in the normal way. He will not respond to it by means of reason or argument; he refuses to enter into serious engagement over worldviews, over ideas or over his record. He is less interested in trying to persuade than in making criticism appear as personal insult. ‘Jeremy doesn’t do personal’ does not mean that he refrains from insulting others; it means that he refrains from responding to that which he is able to construct as insulting.

David Hirsh

My thanks to the invaluable Mick Hartley for flagging up Hirsh’s paper, entitled “The Corbyn left: the politics of position and the politics of reason”.