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Samizdata quote of the day

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. So he went on Twitter instead and called Michael Gove a ‘vile reptilian evil tory scumbag’, and linked to a cartoon of Iain Duncan Smith stealing a paralysed woman’s wheelchair. And lo, he felt better and went for a £3.50 caramel macchiato with some mates from the BBC.

– Libby Purves, who lives behind the Time paywall, has some fun with Matthew chapter 19. Mick Hartley quotes from the Purves piece at his blog, in a piece entitled Virtue signalling. You can’t Read The Whole Thing at Mick Hartley’s, but you can read a bit more of it.

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I invented that. Probably.

You may have seen all sorts of weird hexagon-based maps of the United Kingdom in the last week or so. Here’s one from the Telegraph but lots of other people from Sky to the Guardian have their own versions:

Election Map

The BBC had one filling up the square at Broadcasting House.

The reason for these maps is to do with the way people vote in the UK. People in rural areas vote Conservative (up until Thursay, that is) while people in urban areas vote Labour. When you take a geographically accurate map of the UK and colour it in according to who won what seat the map is almost entirely blue no matter what the overall result. If you make all constituencies the same size and carry out the same exercise hopefully you will get a much more accurate representation of what happened.

Here’s another map:


From 1997. Drawn up by yours truly. I believe it was the very first. One of the oddities is that all the subsequent maps have included my design flaw. It should be squares not hexagons.

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Dear God that is harsh


As seen in the Sydney Morning Herald, reported on Twitter by Antony Green

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Now it can be told…

As I am now part of the core engineering team on a spaceship, I am much more limited in what I can say on certain subjects than I was as a consultant assisting on early stage projects in the previous decade. Here is a picture of our baby, the XCOR Lynx, as it sits in our hangar. My job is its ‘nervous system’, the sensor systems and onboard data collection and storage and use.

XCOR Lynx Spaceplane under construction

XCOR Lynx Spaceplane under construction

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Because things are far too serious at the moment…

Here I am, sitting in Arkham, eating pungent octopus salad left overs and looking at the wife as she gets uglier and more fish-like by the day, pining for her home town of Innsmouth. Meanwhile, across the ocean, all my limey chums seem to be sharing a collective freak-out over dodging an Ed Miliband shaped bullet. It is all depressingly… serious.

So I was going to write something really interesting about Japan, just to change the subject…

… and when I remember what I was going to write, I will let you know.

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In defence of the politics of fear

It is being claimed by the losers in this election that the winners campaigned on fear. Which they did. But what is wrong with fear? What is wrong with being scared? It is a very rational thing to feel, in the face of something scary.

The experience of the British electorate is that when the Labour Party promises to do stupid things, it is very stupid and you shouldn’t vote for it. So far so adequate. But when Labour promises to do only sensible things, that is when it is truly dangerous, because then it is liable to win, and to wreck the finances of the country. It does this every time it gets into power. Who wouldn’t be scared of that? Who, when campaigning against this wrecking ball of a political party, wouldn’t appeal to the fear that so many entirely sensible voters feel about such a scary thing?

Which is why, by the way, Ed Miliband is not the basic reason why Labour lost, this time around. The main reason was the recent bad experiences of the electorate. “New Labour” turned out even worse than Silly Old Labour, because New Labour actually did some serious damage. The more cunningly it (by which I mean Prime Minister Tony Blair) misled us about the damage it would do, and then flat out lied about the damage it was doing, the worse that damage became. So, what could Ed Miliband do? He floundered waffled, not because he is by nature a flounderer and a waffler. Others, unable to separate what he was saying from how he said it, will disagree with me, but I think that had Ed Miliband had a persuasive case to put, he could and would have put it very well.

Tony Blair recently said that Miliband had turned left, i.e. opted for Silly Old Labour, and that Miliband would consequently lose. But had Miliband presented himself as New Labour 2, he would have done little better, given the electorate’s recent experience of New Labour 1.

Because of all those opinion pollsters, I was becoming very scared that Labour might win. Which was why, with all his and their faults, regularly explained here, I wanted Cameron and his Conservatives to win, and with as little help as possible from inevitably even more statist small party collaborators. Was I wrong to be scared? I don’t think so.

Luckily, it seems that a decisive slice of my fellow-countrymen shared my fears. Maybe all those polls were right and this slice of Conservative support only made up its mind at the last possible moment, after all the pollsters had ceased their polling. No doubt quite a few baffled pollsters now think that, or at least want to. Or maybe David Cameron, in some nefarious Prime Ministerial way, arranged for the pollsters all to say that it was going to be a dead heat, to scare his more indolent and unwilling voters off their bums or away from UKIP. Whatever. My point is, all those frightened people were quite right to be frightened of the prospect of Labour government (especially one in league with the Scottish Nationalists), and the Conservatives were quite right to speak to those fears. It was their best argument. For many voters, it was their only argument. It was also a very good and persuasive argument.

As for the supposed superiority of the politics of hope, well, if this means hoping that tax-and-spend-like-there’s-no-tomorrow statism will turn out better next time, then the less hope anyone can be persuaded to feel about all that, the better.

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BBC is at it again…

I saw a BBC article about JK Rowling getting abused by SNP Brownshirts on Twitter… and frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. She is a champagne lefty who wrote some nice books with a libertarian message, even if she was not aware of that. She can cry Evian tears all the way to the bank. Whatever. Ok… in truth I do kinda like her.

But the line that caught my eye was this:

The SNP took 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland in Thursday’s election and is now the third largest party in the UK.

Bzzzz. Wrong, or at the very least misleading. It is the third largest party in Parliament, not the the third largest party in the UK, having 56 MPs for their 1.5 million votes. UKIP, not the SNP, is the third largest party in the UK, having 1 MP for their 3.9 million votes.

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The political class at its most despicable

There is a stunning article in City AM:

The former Labour Treasury minister behind the infamous “there is no money” letter has apologised for the gaffe, admitting it helped the Tories attack Labour’s financial irresponsibility. […] “I’ve asked myself that question every day for five years and believe me, every day I have burnt with the shame of it”

What? I mean… what? So the problem is not that he and his cohorts squandered the UK’s finances, but that he admitted it in a letter that was used to hold them to account? Really? He says he has “burnt with the shame of it”, but in truth he is utterly shameless. The lack of self-awareness is breathtaking. My loathing for these people is boundless.


6th April 2010: Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck! Liam

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The BBC at its very worst on the issue of freedom of expression

Allen Farrington drew my attention to this steaming pile of a BBC opinion piece entitled: What are the limits of free speech?

Read this bit and let it sink in:

Because what is becoming clear is that the fundamentalism of this new generation of radical Islamists risks provoking an extreme reaction from some of those espousing the cause of unlimited freedom and liberty.

Allen’s retort was so perfect I will just quote it entirely:

…which is so ridiculous as to require no further commentary, but I would nonetheless suggest: those radical Islamists make me so damn angry that one of these days I might just commit an act of drawing!

Indeed, Allen. Apparently sober opinion at the BBC holds that drawing opinionated cartoons and writing what you think constitutes an “extreme reaction” to radical Islam. I think nuking Mecca with a high yield air burst during the Hajj would be an “extreme reaction”, but personally I do not think explaining why someone might regard Islam (or indeed anything) as preposterous or the ‘mother lode of bad ideas‘ is an “extreme reaction”.

But alright, if saying what you think is what passes for an “extreme reaction”, then I would be honoured to be called an extremist by the BBC. I believe Barry Goldwater had something to say on that subject.

Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue

Not that I would expect anyone at the BBC to understand that, at least not without simply redefining what ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ means in a way a certain well known chap wrote about in 1949.

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In the spirit of the Guardian…

I think it is safe to say that the first Social Justice Warrior to be spaced has already been born.

(For non-spacers, that means “tossed out of the airlock… without a space suit.”)

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Bravo Norway!

In a direct response to the mass murder of people at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last January, Norway has abolished its blasphemy laws. This is a development of sheer magnificence!

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Wrong, wrong, wrongety-wrong, wrongbert, wrongble and wrong

A little over a year ago I asked the following question:

Has the day come when election polls are nearly always right?

Famously, in the last US presidential election, Nate Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. His prediction for the election before that was correct for 49 out of 50 states.

Both times, I had hoped it would turn out otherwise. My hopes had been a little higher than they should have been because of the residual glow from the Shy Tory factor, first exhibited to a dramatic extent in the 1992 UK general election and still apparent, though in lesser degree, for several elections after that. I had known about that factor in my guts before that election, from listening to people on the tube, and had correctly guessed the final result would be more Conservative than the polls claimed. As the results came in I did not rejoice that the Government would be Conservative, but I did rejoice that the Chattering Classes had been confounded, their bubble burst, their conversational hegemony broken open and their flary-nostrilled noses put out of joint. Yeah.

Unfortunately not-yeah since then. I haven’t eaten a hearty post-election breakfast with schadenfreude sauce about the polls for many a year now. George Bush winning in 2004 was splendid fun, of course, but it was no great surprise to anyone who had been paying attention. The polls had given him a consistent small lead for months before the election.

Betteridge’s law of headlines strikes again. That day had not come. The polls in the General Election of 2015 were wrong, wrong, wrongety-wrong, wrongbert, wrongble and wrong.*

As was I, but least I had the nous to put in a question mark.

So, elections just got interesting again. Goody! But none of the articles I have yet seen adequately explain why the Shy Tory effect was successfully allowed for by the pollsters in the UK General Elections between 1992 and 2015, only to burst forth again now, nor why political polling in the US has generally managed to factor in Shy Republicans just fine. Except for the 2014 midterms.

The one place where the UK polling companies did fairly well this time round was Scotland, although they still underestimated the scale of the SNP’s triumph. Wishful thinking led me to suppose that the estimates being chucked around of 48 seats for the SNP were exaggerated; in the event they were too cautious. Going back to 2011, it is part of Scottish Nationalist mythology that the victory of the SNP in the Holyrood election of 2011 was completely unpredicted by the polls. However the very last polls were quite close to the actual result when it came to the constituency vote, but much less close when it came to the regional vote in the Scottish Parliament’s semi-proportional voting system. Probably the polls recorded a shift of opinion in the last few weeks of the campaign, which is all you can ask of them. When you think about it, polls cannot predict anything; the people who look at them do that. The final polls for the Scottish referendum were out by a not-bad 5% or so, in the usual direction of underestimating the small-c conservative side.

All in all, a British or American polling company attempting to sell its wares to interested political parties or news organizations on May 6th 2015 could have made a fair case that they were on top of the Shy Tory problem. So what happened on May 7th? What will happen on November 8th 2016, and will we have any idea beforehand?

*This is funny but nothing to do with this post. Americans and people under 50: don’t ask.

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