As Perry de Havilland has just said, there is to be a Stephen Davies talk organised by Libertarian Home next Monday (June 17th), As Perry also said, several Samizdatistas will be attending, definitely including me.
By way of a further teaser, here is an interesting titbit of verbiage that I rather laboriously typed out recently, from an earlier talk that Davies gave, last October, at Essex University. I did Sociology at Essex University in the early 1970s, and I recently learned that there is now an Essex University Liberty League, who organised this Davies talk. We never had that in my day.
The complete talk lasts 46 minutes. Here, at 41:00, is what Davies says about how politics now is currently in a process of realignment. I don’t know if I entirely agree with him about this, but it certainly is an interesting idea:
I think that what we’re seeing at the moment is a major realignment in politics. We’re in the early stages of it, but I think it will be completed within the next decade or less.
For the last thirty or forty years, politics has essentially been about an argument between two large blocks, if you will, of voters and the politicians who represent them. On the one side you have people who combine social conservatism and traditionalism with free markets and support for limited government. Their opponents are typically people who are their mirror image. They are in favour of individual liberty in the social area, but they favour government activism in the economic area. What I think is happening – and this is not only happening in the UK; it’s happening is several other countries, in some it has already been realised, like Poland – what we’re seeing is a shift towards a different polarity underlying our politics, between on the one side more consistent libertarians – people who are consistently pro-liberty in the way that perhaps they were in the early to late nineteenth century, against government intervention in the economy but also in favour of individual liberty in other regards, and opposed also to aggressive state action at the global or international level, and on the other side people who are consistent authoritarians – people who favour large scale government intervention in the economy, and industrial policy for example, protectionism, things of that sort, a heavy degree of economic planning by the state, but who are also nationalistic and strongly socially conservative.
Watch, as they say, the whole thing. If you can’t watch the whole thing, at least watch from 41:00 to the end. Or not, as you please. It is, after all, about liberty.
If I know Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home, which I do, this Stephen Davies talk next Monday will, like that Essex University Liberty League talk, be videoed. And if I know Stephen Davies, which I do, this talk next Monday will be a fascinating and excellent performance.
I’m guessing that the new talk may be covering similar ground to the one at Essex University, but for me this is a feature not a bug. I generally have to read or listen to things several times in order to absorb them properly. (Which is another reason why I am such a particular fan of repetition.)
Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Still, everyone should try—if only once—to start a business. After all, it is small and medium enterprises that are the key to job creation. There is also something uniquely educational about sitting at the desk where the buck stops, in a dreary office you’ve just rented, working day and night with a handful of employees just to break even. As an academic, I’m just an amateur capitalist. Still, over the past 15 years I’ve started small ventures in both the U.S. and the U.K. In the process I’ve learned something surprising: It’s much easier to do in the U.K. There seemed to be much more regulation in the U.S., not least the headache of sorting out health insurance for my few employees. And there were certainly more billable hours from lawyers.
- Niall Ferguson.
I am not quite sure about his assertion about the UK being so much freer, but I get the general point. By the way, I have just returned from a week in Singapore, and the pro-capitalist vibe there is so strong you could almost put in a bottle. (Actually they do: you go to the bar at Raffles Hotel, natch.)
Libertarian Home is hosting an evening lecture next week with Dr Steve Davies called ‘the History of Individualism’ in London.
Most libertarians would agree that to build a free society “we wouldn’t start from here”, but we here we are. Dr Davies will put the present rise of libertarian politics into context and show how the progress of liberty, and the words used to describe it, have changed through the ages. Dr Steve Davies is a historian, a PhD, and Education Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
This inaugural lecture takes place in the Griffin Room above the Counting House pub, a first class meeting space in The City.
The event will be catered for with a buffet of pub fare sponsored by the Pro Liberty Party.
Formality begins at 8 and will be concluded by 9. Please RSVP.
7:00 pm, Monday June 17th
The Counting House
50 Cornhill, London EC3V 3PD (map)
This event is highly recommended if you are in the London area. Several Samizdatistas will be there to hear the lecture.
My last Friday of the month meetings are now under way again, and they are accomplishing everything I here hoped they would. Worthwhile thoughts are being thought. I am making new friends. I am also reconnecting with friends from way back, which is a bonus I should have seen coming but did not. The most recent meeting was especially fine. About it I will surely be saying more, by and by.
Meanwhile, however, I continue making my small living room into the best place that it can be for these evenings. What I need next is one of these:
I came across that in a Pret a Manger (it seems they allow you to forget about accents) near Waterloo Station. The Wi-Fi there proved unsatisfactory for my purposes, but the above item of seating is exactly the sort of thing I now want.
It seats three in comfort, as do many sofas on sale these days. But it also has two other features which seem to be harder to come by.
First, unlike most the sofas I am now looking at, this one is not too deep from front to back. This comes partly from this sofa not also being a sofa-bed. I already have a sofa-bed. The last thing I need is another sofa-bed. A sofa(-bed) that sticks out too far into my small living room is no good to me. But many sofas that are not sofa-beds also stick out into the room far too much for my purposes. A sofa like the one above is what I need.
Second, the above sofa does not have wide and rather squishy arm rests. Instead it has narrow wooden ones. So just as it economises on depth space, it also makes the most of sideways space, space that I need every inch of for more seating.
Such wooden arm rests, in between meetings, can be easily used to rest a big plank on, which is helpful for when I am battling with paperwork, which I am, now and always. Also, during meetings, the wooden arms would be good for resting drinks on, in the way that big squishy arm rests are not.
Nevertheless, I would definitely consider something which is the same shape as the sofa in the picture, but without any arm rests at all. The important thing about this sofa is how well it uses space, compared the usual lumbering monster sofas that are to be seen in every furniture shop or furniture website in such abundance. Pret a Manger presumably have a problem not unlike mine, that made them want what I want. I want one sofa that helps me get as many people into my small living room as I can. They want as many sofas as possible, to get as many people as they can get into a larger space.
The sofa I seek doesn’t have to be any particular colour, or in as good condition as the one above. Rather battered would probably be rather good, because cheaper. It just needs to be that particular sort of shape, or as near to it as I can find.
So, can any of my London friends, or for that matter anyone reading this and living in London, or, really, just anyone, help? All relevant information would be gratefully received. (Comment, or email me by going here and clicking where it says Contact, top left. (That needs to be a slightly complicated process, to deter spammers.))
In order to rescue this posting from being an unadulterated personal advert, let me adulterate it with a broader observation about modern life. Notice how much harder it would have been for me to get across what kind of sofa I am seeking, had I not been able, at zero additional cost to me, to include a photo in this posting of what I am looking for.
→ Continue reading: On the sort of sofa I am looking for – and on the impact of digital photography on trade
If you doubted that the €uropocalyse was at hand…
French President Francois Hollande has declared an end to the eurozone debt crisis, which has gripped the region for the past four years.
… well everything is going to be okay after all then! Thank goodness for that!
Facebook, Google etc are falling over themselves to deny that they have given the US espionage organisation the NSA direct access to their servers and customer information.
And to put it bluntly, there is simply nothing they can say that would make me believe them.
Why? Three reasons:
Firstly, it is very much in their commercial interest for customers not to take the view that their personal information can be browsed pretty much at will by American civil servants for whatever reason they can contrive.
Secondly, very few people within Facebook and Google would actually be privy to any involvement with PRISM, so much of the shock being expressed will no doubt be genuine (I know some quite highly placed technical people within both Google and Facebook and I would totally believe them if they told me to my face they found this all hard to believe, but then none of them are at board level, so unless they needed to know…).
Thirdly and most importantly, the court orders giving blanket access include threats if they reveal they are cooperating with the court order. In short, they are required by law to lie about their cooperation if asked.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that no person shall disclose to any other person that the FBI or NSA has sought or obtained tangible things under this Order, other than to: (a) those persons to whom disclosure is necessary to comply with such Order; (b) an attorney to obtain legal advice or assistance with respect to the production of things in response to the Order; or (c) other persons as permitted by the Director of the FBI or the Director’s designee.
So it really does not matter what Facebook and Google et al says, does it?
UPDATE: This is a very interesting suggestion… in short, once they got Verizon (i.e Tier One) they actually did not need much cooperation from the people downstream. Fascinating stuff. I wonder to what extent that is actually true.
Over the years in which climate change has been discussed in the media, there have been continual suggestions that it will be of benefit to gardeners – allowing us to grow fruit and vegetable crops that enjoy the continental climate, but fail to thrive in a traditional British summer. As those warm summer days have failed to materialise, and look increasing unlikely, I am eyeing up my new allotment with a view to planting crops that will enjoy our cool climate.
- The opening paragraph of a piece by Emma Cooper entitled Crops for a cool climate, quoted by the ever alert Bishop Hill.
The truth about Global Warming (that there has not been any lately) is starting seriously to circulate.
Eventually, when enough of it has been laid end to end, weather is climate.
From a security point of view, the trouble with cloud-based applications and closed source software in general is that you can never tell whether there are flaws that will leak your information or even back doors put there deliberately to allow third parties to get at it.
Open source software gives you many advantages.
You can understand exactly what the software will do when run. Strictly speaking you can understand what any software does, but source code written in a high level language serves the purpose of both telling the computer what to do and telling humans what the program is intended to do. This is because classes, functions and variables in the program are given English names. Programmers may even write comments in the source code to annotate it. The names and comments may be misleading but this becomes apparent when you look at what code does as a whole. If you can not personally understand the program, you can be reasonably sure others do. One thing that gives me confidence is that previous flaws have been found and fixed.
You can be sure you are running the same software you have gone to the trouble of understanding because you can compile it yourself. You can compile the user applications, libraries, operating system kernel, drivers and even the compiler yourself if you want. More usually you will entrust most of this work to others such as Linux distributions. Programs downloaded from such sources are cryptographically signed. Becuase the source code is available anyone can check that the source code produces the same program that is provided pre-compiled.
So there is little likelihood of a back door in open source software. Linus’s Law states that many eyes make bugs shallow. This means that bugs in open source software, especially the most important and most widely used open source software, get fixed quickly. In The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric Raymond described how the Linux style of development leads to superior code quality. All this means there is less likelihood of accidental leakage of your secret information.
Should they decide they do not like us encrypting our files or obscuring our online activity, it would be very hard for authorites to take open source software away. The nearest they have got is the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act which was intended to protect music companies who wanted to put DRM into music by making trusted computing compulsory. The idea was that computers would be required to have a special chip that would only let them run programs that would be cryptographically signed by some authority. You would not be able to run your own programs.
The bill got nowhere and such laws are unlikely to because open source software is so ubiquitous. It runs the Internet. Samizdata runs on a computer running the Linux kernel using GNU libraries and uses an open source web server, database and blogging software written in languages compiled by open source compilers and interpreted by open source interpreters. So do everyone else’s web sites. Most of the electronic gadgets in the world that have any software at all have open source software in them, including phones and TVs. None of this is going away.
As much as Google and Microsoft have brands to protect, if the government makes laws big companies have to follow them. Governments have no such hold over open source programmers who are geographically, organisationally and ideologically dispersed.
The people who write GNU Privacy Guard or OpenSSL are not going to put a back door in their software. If they did it would be spotted and someone could simply fork the project.
It is possible that certain algorithms have mathematical back doors and that the NSA has hired all the people clever enough to find them. It is possible that the NSA tried this with a cryptographic random number generator and were caught out. We can be somewhat confident that the NSA can not break AES encryption. There are other encryption algorithms available.
Nothing is certain, but open source software gives us some control over our computers and some defense against governments that closed corporate software never can.
When I read this…
US spy chief James Clapper has strongly defended government surveillance programmes after revelations of phone records being collected and internet servers being tapped. He said disclosure of a secret court document on phone record collection threatened “irreversible harm”.
… my first reaction was “Irreversible? I certainly hope so”.
The flood of revelations about the sheer scale of NSA information theft… direct server access without an individual court order whenever the NSA wants something from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype*, PalTalk, YouTube, AOL and Apple… has made me wonder if savvy non-US based business might not be able to market their services as explicitly non-US.
Just imagine the possible tag lines:
“Don’t worry, the NSA does not have easy assess to your data as we are not a US based or owned company”
…or tapping into a bit of anti-Americanism never hurt the bottom line…
“We are not located in the ‘Land of the Free, Home of the Brave’, so your data cannot be browsed at will by unaccountable NSA spies!”
… which is not to say such services cannot be marketed to Americans…
“Non-US nationals across the world are not protected by the US constitution, come to think of it, neither are Americans in America, so your data is safe with us as we are a NON-US owned and NON-US based company!”
The creative possibilities are endless and anyone who cannot leverage this into internet gold is not trying hard enough! Capitalism for the win!
*= Skype, originally a Luxembourg based company, was purchased by eBay in 2005 and then Microsoft in 2011.
The media and blogosphere are abuzz with the astonishing info-grab by the US government…
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
I assume the Guardian got this information because someone inside Verizon said “fuck this” and leaked it. I also hope the Guardian has the ghoolies to well and truly protect their source.
How to tell when a politician is lying about freedom of expression: the key is the use of the word ‘but‘…
Newport city councillor, Majid Rahman said: “I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter and it’s up to them whether they think it’s broken any laws.”
… the first fifteen words are negated by everything after the ‘but’, which is to say Newport city councillor Majid Rahman very explicitly does not believe in T-shirt printer Matthew Taylor’s freedom of speech and rights to say what he wants. No, he believes in state regulated speech enforced by the police and that he is only ‘free’ to say things that do not offend certain categories of people. And that is not freedom of speech.
Personally I would like to see Newport city councillor Majid Rahman arrested and thrown in jail, not because he offends me (although such view do indeed offend me) but because a politician threatening people with the police because of a T-shirt should be regarded as a crime. Do you think if I called up the Plod in Newport and complained that might happen?
If I was Matthew Taylor I would say “Get stuffed you nasty little thug, it stays in the window and if you don’t like that, I suggest you arrest me and charge me so we can run this past a jury of my peers.” I know quite a few people who would be able to find a pro bono lawyer who would delighted to take such a case.