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]

What a guy

“William Shakespeare evaded tax and illegally stockpiled food during times of shortage so he could sell it at high prices, academics have claimed“.

Safe under the watchful DNA database …


Some organisation has recently filled my local neighbourhood in the inner London borough of Southwark with a remarkably large number of the above signs. These have been attached to stop signs and other traffic signs, poles holding street lighting, and a few are even attached to poles that hold nothing else and have presumably been installed specially for the occasion. It is hard to imagine government of some kind not being involved, given the public places where they have been erected, but WTF?

Are these supposed to make me feel safe? Reassured? Threatened? Creeped out? Vaguely worried? Concerned that money that could otherwise be spent on something useful is being used to pay the salaries of people with far too much time on their hands? Also, WTF?

Going to the advertised website is only of limited help. Something about fighting crime with fighter jets? In any event, a badly designed website of the kind one would find from some small company that is desperately short of capital and trying to impress investors after an unsuccessful listing on AIM. Oh, okay, there is something about some kind of partnership in London with the Metropolitan Police elsewhere on the website, but it is virtually impossible for me to link to due to the horrendous overuse of Flash. So taxpayer money probably is involved somewhere.

Once again, WTF?

Earth Hour

The annual Earth Hour, in which people are requested to turn their lights off out of respect for the planet Earth, commences at 8.30pm this evening, local time. Here in London this is seven minutes from now. Please do what you think is right.

Samizdata quote of the day

So far Voyager 1 has ‘left the Solar System’ by passing through the termination shock three times, the heliopause twice, and once each through the heliosheath, heliosphere, heliodrome, auroral discontinuity, Heaviside layer, trans-Neptunian panic zone, magnetogap, US Census Bureau Solar System statistical boundary, Kuiper gauntlet, Oort void, and crystal sphere holding the fixed stars.

- A rather marvellous alt-text from Randall Monroe of xkcd. Can we just give the guy the Nobel Prize for Literature right now? And possibly also the prize for Peace (assuming he has the bad taste to want it)?

Samizdata quote of the day

“Last time I remember over-reaching legislation being similarly rushed, we ended up with the Terrorism Act Section 44 which started out as preventing terrorism and ended up as random stop-and-search powers being exercised by the Met on any motorist they felt like bothering.”

- Alec Muffett, in a rather depressing summary of his thoughts about the meeting that he, other members of the Open Rights Group, and other civil liberties groups had with Hacked Off last night. Read the whole thing. (This is a subsequent post to the one that was linked to earlier).

Paying attention in Cyprus


In December last year, I had some delicious seafood in one of a chain of restaurants in Cyprus. The chain was actually South African owned, and the style of cooking was actually Cape Malay. The restaurant didn’t mention either of these things in its advertising, signage, or on its menue. There was a vague suggestion that it was Cajun. (Being very vague about where they come from is a skill South African businesses picked up in the apartheid era, and they haven’t lost it). When I got my bill and paid by credit card, I was intrigued to see that the merchant bank was not a local Cypriot bank, but was a South African bank. I was slightly mystified by this at the time (other than that it is no secret that, well, interesting capital flows go through Cyprus), and wondered if the restaurant and the bank shared ownership for reasons similar to the reasons why the mafia also finds it convenient to own lots of restaurants.

Possibly, though, the situation is simpler. The Cypriot banks were and are bust. A South African company doing business in Cyprus does not trust the Cypriot financial system and is avoiding it as much as possible by bringing its own bank. Perhaps my payment for seafood was going directly to somewhere else in the euro area rather than to a Cypriot registered institution. Possibly it was going further afield. Some of the species of seafood on the menu were not native to the Mediterranean, so there were certainly foreign payments to be made, and that part would at least be legitimate to some extent. (To be fair, seafood may be one of the world’s most globalised industries, and this is true of almost any seafood restaurant anywhere). Someone, though, may have suspected what was coming.

Ah, freedom


Encountered at a truck stop near the Armenia/Georgia border (on the Armenian side) yesterday.

The cheapest of cheap shots

London, January 18, 2013

“Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past”

- The Independent, March 20, 2000

Note to the Australian government

If you are a national government wasting spending investing at least A$27.5bn (£18bn) of taxpayers’ money – over $1000 per capita – on building a government owned “National Broadband Network” because you think it is the job of the government do do this kind of stuff, and you then employ civil servants to ghost-write articles that can be published in the media under the bylines of lazy journalits, it is not a terribly good idea to include journals published by libertarian think tanks amongst your target publications.

Overpopulation, or not

Well done Jeff Wise at Slate. You have managed to notice what has been obvious to absolutely everybody who has been looking at demographic trends and population projections for at least the last 20 years. Specifically, growth in the world’s population is in fact slowing down, and the population will start to contract in aggregate within a small number of decades, and is already doing so in some places.

As a less scientific but still useful, rough rule of thumb on demographic matters, I would recommend taking any prediction made by Paul Erlich in the first half of the 1970s and assuming the precise opposite has happened since.

The year is almost gone


We at Samizdata will be onto the champagne soon, but it is gingerbread hippos for now.

Indeed not


Middlefield, Dorset. Today.