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]

Samizdata quote of the day

So, the EU is primarily a political project. Just think about it. The mantra of the Remain camp is “to trade with Europe you have to be part of it”. But this is bizarre. Nobody says “to trade with China you have to be part of it”. That would be very scary. They don’t even say “to trade with the USA, you have to be part of it”. Nobody suggests accepting the US constitution or the dollar as part of the price to trade with America.

Alan Sked

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

Scary viruses and clinical trials

Some people think the Rio Olympics might cause the Zika virus to spread all over the world. Reddit is not a reliable place for sensible political commentary, but I am heartened at how up-voted comments like these are:

mixmastamikey: “Global Health Disaster” How about just “Global Disaster”… Why the fuck can’t we reuse olympic venues? Seriously why does a different country need to host the olympics every 4 years. Cant everyone just buy a fucking island and call it olympic island maybe update a few things here and there.

BlueBlazerIrregular: But then the IOC wouldn’t be able to steal millions and would lose out on all that graft and bribery. Think of the rich for once! They are people too!

kangamooster: Hmm, I guess you could consider lizardfolk people….

Kamuiberen: Wait, are we talking about IOC or FIFA here?

BlueBlazerIrregular: Same modus operandi

Anyway it seems unlikely that the Olympics will be stopped or moved and I am not sure if doing so would really make any difference. I am hopeful of solving problems with technology, though. I am quite keen on the plan to exterminate all mosquitoes. And then there is IBM’s rather interesting research into a chemical that blocks viruses in general.

“We began to think, how can we move forward and kind of attack the virus in a very different way,” says Hedrick. “Instead of going after its RNA or DNA, we looked at the glycoproteins that surround…the virus.” No matter what the virus and how it mutates, it’s going to have these substances on the surface; they have electric charges (some positive, some negative) that a chemical can stick onto. What the researchers developed is a polymer that adheres to the virus, blocking it from hooking onto a victim cell in the body.

The idea is to put the molecule in soap and hand-wipes, but it could also be put into a person.

Assuming it works as well as the researchers say, the macromolecule couldn’t come soon enough to handle frightening outbreaks like Zika, Ebola, and chikungunya. But it hasn’t quite come yet. “My gut feeling is, something like a wipe, something like a hand cleaner is going to be relatively straightforward to move to market,” says Hedrick. “It you market it as a true antiviral, I would imagine it would take 3, 4, 5 years maybe maximum.” Getting the macromolecule into humans, where it uses all three of its powers, would require clinical trials than could extend over several years.

Serious question: why the need for such long clinical trials? What is wrong with marketing something with the caveat that it is not fully tested yet and it might be a cure worse than the disease but if you have a terrible enough disease it might be worth a try?

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

Manoeuvring the Benevolent Laissez Faire conference

Since Brian is busy exploring rooftops and mountains in the south of France, it is my turn to be “nudged” by conference organiser Simon Gibbs whose event is running this Saturday (May 14th).

As Brian predicted Simon has indeed been busy, not least sorting out a new venue – De Morgan House, on Russell Square. Problems with a floor, or something. Make sure you go the right place.

It is also interesting that the event has won over a new speaker – Syed Kamall. Syed has always kept good company by attending the right events and has impeccable free-market credentials. That he has made it to quite a senior position and is continuing to speak at such events is a compliment to the man.

In case you never heard of him, he has been MEP for London for years, rose to chair a bit of the EU parliament, and lately stood against green lunatic Zac Goldsmith for the Tory mayoral nomination. He would have made a much better candidate. He also, amusingly, pissed off the right people, including David Cameron and his own EU counterpart Guy Verhofstadt (triggering the Daily Mail to use a big red warning).

Syed is very serious about making sure his constituents know how to solve problems without relying on people like himself – solving their problems outside politics. That he is coming to say this at “Benevolent Laissez Faire” is a great compliment to the event. Fair enough: under one roof are Syed, two blockchain-enabled anarchists, the second most senior Randian, and a certain “Doctor Anton Howes” (whose name sounds familiar).

Looks like a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

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

A Tale of the Sea

This anecdote was sent to me by a correspondent – NS.

*

I chanced to be speaking to a chaplain who works with a mission to seafarers in a British port, and had the following tale from him.

One of the seamen he knows is a guy – let us call him John Smith – who is fine provided he remembers to take his meds but not so fine if he forgets. On a working ship, daily life is structured and John reliably remembers to take his meds, and if he did not, the captain would look into it, or John would be given medical evacuation. However the control regime is different in port.

Recently, John’s ship was sent to port for several months awaiting a new cargo or scrapping. Presently the chaplain was summoned by port security. When you are asked to the main security point, things are serious. When they offer you a cup of tea, things are really serious. Security told him that John had clearly not been taking his meds, was doing things that were not dangerous in themselves but “violated security protocols”, so they’d have to act in a way that they would prefer to avoid, unless the chaplain could make something better happen.

The chaplain contacted the Port Health authority and was told, “Well, you know, a seaman has rights. If we get involved and the result is to say he’s unfit or whatever, he could sue for loss of earnings or whatever …”

He contacted the company that contracts John’s labour. “Oh well, we’d like to help but seamen these days have a lot of rights. If we get involved and it’s later ruled we did not respect all of them …”

He contacted the union rep, whose first words were “You do know John has rights, don’t you?” and who then pointed out that John’s ship “is not my flag state, so I can’t come aboard uninvited.”

The chaplain solved that one by saying pointedly, “I’m inviting you to come aboard with me.” So, with the union rep in more or less literal tow, the chaplain went aboard, and was told by the captain, “Do whatever you can and I’ll back you.” He had a long and sometimes very strange talk with John, at the end of which John swallowed his meds, whereupon a very hyper man swiftly became calmer.

This example was in the context of the chaplain’s explaining to me how much of his job these days was doing what none of the jobsworths dared to do, even when some of them were not such creeps as not even to want to help. As he put it, “Sometimes the one with no formal power is actually the only one with any remaining power to act.”

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

A man kills someone whilst shouting “Allahu Akbar”, but…

When I saw this, I thought…

A German man suffering from psychiatric problems stabbed four people at a train station near Munich early on Tuesday, killing one man and wounding three more in an attack investigators said did not appear to be politically motivated.

Witnesses said the alleged assailant, a 27-year-old unemployed carpenter, attacked his first victim shouting “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is Greatest’ in Arabic). Some witnesses said they also heard him shout “infidels must die“.

…Well thank goodness this killing has nothing to do with the killer’s Islamic political beliefs. Good to know. Because if he had been motivated by Islam, presumably he would have shouted something like “The best döner kebabs in München are on Leonrodstraße and I’ll kill anyone who says otherwise!”

Yeah, nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

UPDATE to linked article: “Investigators said the suspect may have converted to Islam but there was no indication that he had been radicalized“.

…presumably because as everyone knows, killing a stranger with a knife whilst shouting “Allahu Akhbar” is not an indication of radicalization, and therefore he must be a common or garden variety nutter.

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

Samizdata quote of the day

Indeed, one of the advantages of tax havens is that they help hold governments to account. They make it possible for businesses to avoid the worst excesses of government largesse and crazy tax systems – including the 39 per cent US corporation tax rate. They have other functions too: it is simply wrong to say that they have no useful purpose. It is also wrong to argue that, if only corrupt governments had more tax revenue, their people would be better served.

Philip Booth

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

Samizdata quote of the day

There are many, many reasons why the UK economy remains skittish and the global recovery extremely patchy – and almost all of them predate not only this referendum campaign but even the announcement the UK electorate was to be given its first say on our relationship with Europe since the mid-1970s. Yet, while real investors fret about the prospect of another sub-prime style meltdown, a lack of genuine banking reform, the implosion of the eurozone, the lunacy that is negative nominal interest rates and now, we’re told, “helicopter money” – a kind of quantitative easing on steroids – it suits a wide variety of political and financial interests to blame every blip in the British and broader European economy on “the prospect of Brexit”.

Liam Halligan

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

Discriminating against people on the basis of philosophical belief is unlawful

I suspect that we all hear a lot about discrimination by employers against people on the basis of sex, race, disability, religion and age, but there is also under the Equality Act 2010 (all 90,000+ words of it) in Great Britain protection against discrimination on the basis of philosophical belief, or the lack of it. Or rather, you have a means of legal retaliation against your employer.

The main case in this area came from an employee who had a profound belief in ‘man-made climate change’, but a recent legal case involving a Mr Harron has shed a bit more light on the issue. Mr Harron apparently had a problem with his employer, for which he sought legal redress, he had:

a belief (which the Employment Tribunal thought genuine) that public service was improperly wasteful of money

He worked for Dorset Police.

One might think that this sounds like a vegan putting himself on the boning line in a slaughterhouse. However, all we know is that Mr Harron though waste of money improper, not public service. It is not clear from the case how it was (or was alleged) that this belief led to Mr Harron suffering at the hands of his employer. Poor Mr Harron has also had a Tribunal waste public money holding a hearing listening to his case and getting the law wrong, and now he will have to go back and re-argue his case all over again.

At least we do know that in order for a ‘belief’ to qualify for legal ‘protection’, there are 5 criteria to be met.

(i) The belief must be genuinely held.

(ii) It must be a belief and not,… …an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.

(iii) It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

(iv) It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

(v) It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”

Note that if your ‘belief’ is evidence-based (or even reason-based, like economics), as per (ii) above, your beliefs are not protected, but if you have a belief in an Flying Spaghetti Monster, your beliefs might be ‘protected’. But sacking a libertarian because he did not believe in climate change would be unlawful as it would relate to the ‘absence’ of a belief, rather than the holding of it.

Of course, no libertarian would be seen dead suing his employer over discrimination, so may we say that those of us of a libertarian bent would not sue if fired or harassed at work for being a libertarian (of whatever shade or degree)? In fact, claims of this sort seem to be quite rare.

For information, membership of a political party per se does not qualify one as holding a ‘philosophical belief’, which is an inadvertent judicial recognition of what is fast becoming the ‘bleeding obvious’ with some parties. And ‘Jedi Knights’ will find that the Force (of the law) is not with them.

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

The de-ulsterisation of Ulster

When I was a child Northern Ireland was rarely off the front pages. That has changed, and thank God for that. Back in the ’90s, I did not expect the peace process to work. This just papers things over, I thought; it has done nothing to solve the fact that the two sides want incompatible things. But the years have gone by and that layer of paper appears to be holding up the whole house.

Why? I am happy it worked, but why has it worked?

Maybe the two sides stopped wanting incompatible things. Or to be accurate, one of them stopped caring so much and the other almost stopped caring at all. In 2011 I saw a few scattered reports about this survey that said 52% of Northern Irish Catholics in the sample wanted to remain in the UK. Given all the blood and ink spilled about that question the reaction to this was curiously muted. Sinn Fein, its raison d’être gone, continued to do pretty well in elections to the NI Assembly, local elections and EU elections.

Today’s Observer has another such story, equally little regarded. Malachi O’Doherty and his subeditor have done their best. They gave it a dramatic headline: “The nationalist identity crisis that could change Northern Ireland for ever”. Yet at time of writing it has a grand total of 54 comments while the umpteenth opinion piece in which a Labour guy with some connection to reality laments the unelectability of Corbyn has 3,882.

Yet Mr O’Doherty’s story records a development that no one would have dared predict twenty years ago:

The easy assumption about politics in Northern Ireland is that it is a contest between two ideas of sovereignty. Unionists see the place as British; nationalists see it as Irish. And the Good Friday Agreement, in effect the constitution – according, as it does, sovereignty rights to each – is the best interim solution to the old quarrel.

This election has signalled a change in the old model of two mirror-image communities at odds with each other
But one of these two blocks is not sticking to the old template. Nationalism – if we can even call it that any more – is diversifying. And the strongest evidence of that is the fact that in the assembly elections Sinn Féin has taken its first reversal in its traditional heartlands of Derry and West Belfast. The party was outflanked on the left by People Before Profit, an anti-austerity party that has also put economic policy before ending partition.

Not just on the left,

And Sinn Féin wasn’t the only nationalist party to suffer. The SDLP lost seats in both cities, too – and one of those, held by Fearghal McKinney, was fought over the question of whether abortion should be legalised. McKinney had allowed himself to be photographed beside strident anti-abortion campaigners – and paid for it.

The issue had risen to unexpected relevance with the prosecution of a young woman who had self-administered abortion pills. Both Sinn Féin and the SDLP are now caught in a dilemma over this issue and stand to lose voters whichever way they move. They can placate the conservative Catholics by holding fast to “pro-life” positions and lose the newly secular liberals; or they can go with them, as the Green party did to its advantage, and lose the religious.

Yet even among conservative Catholics who do want a united Ireland, some have put their moral causes before the constitutional question. In East Derry last week, a group of conservative Catholics campaigned for the DUP as the party most likely to resist abortion reform and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

I am not trying to get anyone to cheer for the unionist or the nationalist side, just observing that a significant change has quietly taken place.

Farewell the plumèd troops and the big wars
That makes ambition virtue! Oh, farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, th’ ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!
And O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
The immortal Jove’s dead clamors counterfeit,
Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone.

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

Quite right too…

Politicians from all sides lined up to condemn the Conservative Party tactics in the race, but in the aftermath, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon refused to apologise.

“In the rough and tumble of elections, you get stuff said, questions asked,” Fallon told the BBC. “I think it is right that candidates for some of the most important offices in Britain do get scrutinised about their past associations.”

And Fallon is right to refuse to apologise, because apologising for highlighting Sadiq Khan’s vile associates would be like apologising for highlighting the past associates of some ‘right-winger’ who had shared a platform with members of the KKK.

What the Tory Party should be apologising for is running a twattish zillionare green like Zac Goldsmith as a candidate.

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

Something they don’t want you to think about

Oh, they’ll report it. Every now and then, tucked away among “other news”. But not in any depth. The evasion is not conscious. Such a strange and disturbing story unsettles their deepest assumptions about humanity, about what is happening to the world. They would rather not think about it.

Link.

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

Trade is a good thing

A nice riposte to the “we don’t make anything anymore and those evil Chinese sell us stuff and take our jobs” line that comes from both Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and quite a few politicians in other parts of the world:

On the trade front, American manufacturing continues to expand and thrive — an absolute economic fact that is, perversely, unknown to the great majority of Americans, who believe precisely the opposite to be the case. Americans have false beliefs about manufacturing for a few reasons: One is that while our factories produce much more than in the past, they employ fewer people; another is that we tend to produce capital goods and import consumer goods — you won’t see much labeled “Made in the USA” at Walmart, but you’ll see it on everything from the aircraft flown by foreign airlines to the robotics in automobile factories overseas. Another factor, particularly relevant to the question of manufacturing and trade, is that a large (but declining) share of those imported consumer goods comes from China, a country with which we have a large trade deficit. That isn’t because the Chinese are clever, but because they are poor: With an average annual income of less than $9,000, the typical Chinese household is not well positioned to buy American-made goods, which are generally expensive. (China is a large consumer of U.S. agricultural products, especially soybeans.) Add to that poorly informed and sentimental ideas about what those old Rust Belt factory jobs actually paid — you can have a 1957 standard of living, if you really want it, quite cheap — and you get a holistic critique of U.S. economic policy that is wholly bunk.

Kevin D. Williamson

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