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]

Un nouvel ami

French police are now allowed to carry their guns when off duty. But why stop there? I would like to have seen more bullets going the other way in Paris. I don’t happen to agree with his recent posts about immigration, but Vox Day is wondering about how to defend against terror attacks, and it applies to all criminal shooting sprees. The goodies vastly outnumber them so the baddies should not have it so easy. The first step is to allow people to defend themselves. What I do not know is how willing to do it people would be.

Data retention

Police have arrested a UK teen following the leak of ISP-U-Like’s browsing history database. The news follows revelations of a hack of the internal systems of the nation’s most popular ISP that left 60% of the country’s browsing history accessible from a public web site based in Sweden. British ISPs are required to retain records of the last 12 months of users’ browsing history under the so-called “snooper’s charter” introduced in 2016. Previously only police could access the information. Now visitors to ismyneighbourapervert.com can simply type in an email address and view anyone’s browsing history. Since then, there have been calls for a senior officer at Gloucestershire Police to resign after it emerged that he once visited a pro-GamerGate website. And the Daily Mail has defended criticisms of its “20 Celebrity Health Searches That Will Shock You” article, stating that the boil on the home secretary’s groin is “in the public interest”.

Meanwhile, the CEO of ISP-U-Like issued the following statement: “In the unlikely event that your mother-in-law finds out about your membership of gaymidgetsgonewild.com, then as a gesture of goodwill, on a case by case basis, we will waive termination fees.”

The investigation is ongoing.

Unsustainable monopolies

Monopolies are only sustained by force. Sometimes examples are useful.

In his book The No Breakfast Fallacy, Tim Worstall relates how in 2010 China limited the supply of rare-earth minerals to force the price up. The only problem was that rare-earth minerals are not rare at all, and the increased prices meant that Lynas Corporation and Molycorp were able to raise finances to re-open some mines that had been previously closed due to the previous low prices from China.

Today, Imprimis Pharmaceuticals announced that they are making for $1 an alternative to the drug Daraprim, in direct response to Turing Pharmaceuticals increasing its price from $13 to $750.

Update: Tim Worstall wrote about the Daraprim and rare-earths in Forbes. I hadn’t seen it when I wrote this, honest!

TfL Consultation Fun

Uber might have won a court case, but Transport for London are still threatening to regulate all sorts of silly things. But you can have your say, by copying and pasting the link below and filling in the survey which is full of free-form text boxes. I am deliberately not linking directly to it as I do not want them to be tempted to analyse where their traffic is coming from.


Along the way you get to be entertained by the barmy, Soviet-style ideas they have for meddling in the intricacies of other people’s affairs, and the absurd justifications thereof. My answers made much of customer choice, the regulator’s inability to predict individuals’ needs and how some of the proposals would discriminate against minorities. I feel better now.

Get your climate popcorn out

From Breitbart:

The plan by climate alarmists to have other scientists imprisoned for their ‘global warming’ skepticism is backfiring horribly, and the chief alarmist is now facing a House investigation into what has been called “the largest science scandal in US history.”

These are the RICO20, and if everything works out it will be very funny indeed. And ironic, as the “scientists” wanted to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to silence their critics.

You can follow along at Watts Up With That and Climate Audit.

Eric Raymond needs you

Eric Raymond is the reason I’m here. He’s the guy I found while learning about Linux who gave a name to my vague sense of injustice at having to pay tax and taught me that a libertarian is a thing. Googling “libertarian UK” after reading his web site is how I found Samizdata, and found out that there were libertarians on my doorstep. He taught me that anarcho-capitalism is a thing. And that it’s okay to like guns. And that it does not make me some sort of lefty for enjoying messing about with Free Software. He explained the economics of it and gave it a better name: Open Source. And he’s out there propagandising, and making some of the software that keeps civilization ticking and not being hacked. And his code is all over the place and you probably use quite a lot of it every day.

But he has a problem.

First, Obamacare killed my wife’s full-time job and the health insurance that came with it. Then Obamacare drove personal health insurance costs into the stratosphere, so I now pay more per month on it than I do for my mortgage. $973 a month is what it costs us to go to a doctor, which is ridiculous and every politician who voted for this disaster should be hung from a lamppost. Until it’s repealed or collapses, though, the money has to come from somewhere.

You get more of the things you encourage. I think ESR needs to be encouraged. And luckily, you can, via his Patreon page.

Also, on his blog post about Patreon, there is some interesting discussion about Obamacare:

Petro says:

People are shocked when I tell them what the “bronze” plan costs a family of 4 for insurance that has insane deductibles (it looks like they went up to 5k/person 10k/family) they are shocked.

PapayaSF adds:

It’s darkly ironic that one of the original arguments for Obamacare’s outlawing of inexpensive “junk insurance policies” was that many had deductibles that were “too high.” So now we’ve got expensive policies with high deductibles that are too high…

ESR explains his wife’s job loss:

The short version is that Obamacare mandates have added so much to an employer’s overhead for anyone full-time that the full-time job is being effectively abolished. Even professionals like lawyers are being fired to be replaced with contractors who have to buy their health insurance a la carte.

It’s a double whammy – first Obamacare destroys secure employment, then it saddles people living hand-to-mouth with ruinously high costs. Our health-insurance premiums are higher than our mortgage.

Science is hard

Science is really, really hard. Someone posted a report on Reddit about an attempt to replicate some psychology experiments, and how hard it was. The comments thread is fascinating. I particularly enjoyed a description of how research results can be “turtles all the way down”. This comment also suggests to me a mechanism for the formation of group-think.

These sorts of difficulties need to be borne in mind when reading excited reports in the media that simply paraphrase the university’s press release about the research. And when considering claims that particular branches of science are “settled”.


In the olden days, anyone got a letter from the Labour Party telling them their support was rejected and their vote wouldn’t count because “we have reason to believe you do not support the aims and values” would moan about it to a few friends and that would be that.

But it is not the olden days any more, so get your popcorn out!

Falling in love with Tolkien yet again

I am re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time in many years. I tend to dip into chapters now and again but I only recently realised it was available on the Kindle, which made it convenient enough to be my daily read. As a result I am rediscovering the way various strands of the plot weave together so elegantly.

I was also minded to dip into the large collection of supplementary material that is now available. I stumbled across this, from letter 52, written to his son on 29 November 1943:

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) — or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people. If people were in the habit of referring to ‘King Gerorge’s council, Winston and his gang’, it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into Theyocracy. Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.

I should have included this in my post about how language affects thought. And I am wondering to what extent reading Tolkien as a child led to my ending up here. And it has just occurred to me that I was introduced to The Hobbit by the same English teacher who lent me a copy of 1984 (which I did not return).

Automotive security bill

I was somewhat surprised to learn about the possibility of taking complete control of a Jeep Cherokee using a laptop and a mobile phone. It seems as if the car makers have added software features to their cars without properly understanding how to make them secure. I work with embedded software that merely has to prevent movies from being copied. If the hacking methods described by Wired are accurate, there are some quite obvious precautions we take that the makers of Jeeps appear not to. I am glad not to be working on life or death software; I expect more from people who do.

Nonetheless, this should all be fixed soon.

Carmakers who failed to heed polite warnings in 2011 now face the possibility of a public dump of their vehicles’ security flaws. The result could be product recalls or even civil suits, says UCSD computer science professor Stefan Savage, who worked on the 2011 study. Earlier this month, in fact, Range Rover issued a recall to fix a software security flaw that could be used to unlock vehicles’ doors. “Imagine going up against a class-action lawyer after Anonymous decides it would be fun to brick all the Jeep Cherokees in California,” Savage says.

Free speech and free markets seem to be working, then. Which makes this seem unnecessary:

It’s the latest in a series of revelations from the two hackers that have spooked the automotive industry and even helped to inspire legislation; WIRED has learned that senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal plan to introduce an automotive security bill today to set new digital security standards for cars and trucks, first sparked when Markey took note of Miller and Valasek’s work in 2013.

As an auto-hacking antidote, the bill couldn’t be timelier.

Meh. It sounds to me more like the government has come along after the problem is already being solved to take the credit. I suspect such a bill will end up protecting car makers from civil suits if they merely have to show they have complied with inevitably flawed regulations.

Netflix vs politicians

I’m sure Netflix is more popular than any politician

So says “Kilroy”, commenting on a DSL Reports post about Netflix being charged a 9% amusement tax by the City of Chicago. He suggests that Netflix should just stop selling services to people in Chicago and instead direct them to their local lawmakers. If it happened it would be a fine example of a company refusing to cave in, but it is unlikely. According to The Verge, “Netflix says it’s already making arrangements to add the tax to the cost charged to its Chicago customers.”

According to Ars Technica, what might stop this are conflicting federal telecommunications laws.

On Reddit someone pointed out that this is rather in conflict with the idea of net neutrality.

A side discussion on Reddit is about the extent to which companies can shop around for cities with favourable laws. Someone said, “see Detroit“. Did business move out of Detroit because of unfavourable laws and taxes?

When companies refuse to cave in

I am often disappointed when a company apologises or pulls an ad campaign after receiving complaints. Paul Marks recently called this “corporate cowardice”. According to Martin Daubney on Breitbart London, things might be about to change. Fighting back against such criticism seems to be good for business. This story has everything: capitalism, SJW-trolling and even girls in bikinis. Via Eric Raymond’s Google Plus feed.