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]

Pirate Bay blocked

The BBC reports that certain ISPs in the UK must block access to the Pirate Bay, but supplies few details. The International Law Office has detail:

The claimants relied on Section 97A of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, which requires ISPs to take measures to block or at least hinder access to infringing websites.

1988? This legislation has been lurking around since before the Internet. Never mind scary new legislation: one wonders what is lurking in old legislation, waiting to be used. Says section 97A:

The High Court (in Scotland, the Court of Session) shall have power to grant an injunction against a service provider, where that service provider has actual knowledge of another person using their service to infringe copyright.

All it takes is reams of vague legislation and the right interpretation to be made.

Update: As Dave points out in the comments, it seems that section 97A was added by The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003, in 2003. My point about old legislation is weakened but this post was also intended to shed light on how Pirate Bay was blocked. It really is Nomic.

Olympic SAMs

The Ministry of Defense wants to put surface to air missiles in residential areas as part of security measures for the Olympics. This is highly irregular. They are to be used against…

…all manner of airborne attacks from the 9/11 style assault to a smaller “low and slow” attack from a single light aircraft.

I would be surprised to see hijacked airliners ever again. A light aircraft attack sounds plausible, but shot down aircraft wreckage landing on London might still be considered a win for the terrorist.

There are also to be army troops, fighter jets and naval ships at the ready. The MOD are certainly preparing for more than a kid with a bomb strapped to his chest.

National elections go global

On the Sunday between the two rounds of voting for the French presidential election, a curious thing happened in North-West London. Two Frenchmen rang the doorbell of my parents’ house and asked to speak to my mother (who is French). They wanted to know if she would be supporting Nicolas Sarkozy next Sunday, and if she had any doubts, would she like a leaflet outlining the President’s agenda for his second term. Naturally, not a word of English was spoken.

As it happens, I have never been canvassed in France for a French presidential, or any other kind of election. I was under the impression it was not done the same way as in the UK (privacy laws and so forth). Yet here were a couple of party activists, one white, the other of likely South-East Asian origin, wandering around London looking for swing voters. With about 400,000 votes cast by French citizens in the first round outside France (a turnout of nearly 40% of the registered overseas electorate), I can see why this get out the vote operation [GOTV] would exist. But even in London, where most of the UK’s half million French people live, it is not a case of calling door to door.

Before recent changes to French election law which create constituencies outside French territories that are represented in the National Assembly, presidential elections in the Fifth Republic (since 1962) were already a worldwide affair. Citizens in such French territories of Wallis and Futuna, Tahiti and Mayotte would cast votes at polling stations in Mata’utu, Papeete and Mamoudzou respectively. → Continue reading: National elections go global

Samizdata quote of the day… or The Law of Unintended Consequences

…the Great Firewall has been an enormous boon to freedom. Without it, the authorities in China would not have been foolish enough to allow the entire country to have internet access. With it, they thought they would be able to control the flow of information, so they hooked up to the net, and now they’re in a position where disconnection is unthinkable.

Perry Metzger

Moore’s Law keeps on ticking…

Intel is keeping up the pace established many decades ago in Gordon MooreŠ› eponymous law:

The chips are the first to become available from any company with features as small as 22 nanometers (the finest details on today’s chips are 32 nanometers), allowing transistors to be smaller and packed more densely. Ivy Bridge chips offer 37 percent more processing speed than the previous generation of chips, and can match their performance while using just half the energy.

I personally believe it is one of the reasons why Socialist efforts at Global Domination have been spiked. It is damned difficult to control the flow of information when individuals have this kind of power in their hands.

Samizdata quote of the day

Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt

– Attributed to Herbert Hoover

If this bastard wins …

The Wisconsin Recall election on June 5 is national news and a much discussed political watershed moment. And, conveniently, voter ID laws have been temporarily blocked during the recall.

If this bastard wins the Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial primary, expect all hell to break loose.

His platform is available courtesy of Occupy Wisconsin.

I didn’t know about the Republican primary and thought that what everybody is calling “The Democratic Primary” didn’t have any Republican elections on the ballot. I hadn’t planned on voting.

That bastion of unbiased neutrality, aka Wisconsin Public Radio, even put up an article saying that “Gov. Walker is urging Republican voters not to meddle in the Democratic primary recall elections on May 8th” . Notice the NPR article has the exact same date that the Government Accountability Board (notice 5 to 1 Democratic appointees) announced that they had qualified an additional 369 petition signatures that they had previous determined to be ineligible and Kohl-Riggs would be running against Walker.

Their plan might even work. If it does, expect what we’ve seen so far to look like it was a warm-up.

Is there anything a printer cannot do?

I am on the email list about new technologies that “Mr Singularity”, Ray Kurzweil, puts out. And this one caught my eye:

The onslaught of ultra-tiny technology is giving rise to the idea of “printable spacecraft” consisting of electronic circuits, power generation, sensing, fluid handling, propulsion, telecommunications and mobility subsystems — all integrated onto a single substrate, Leonard David at Innovation News Daily reports. The project, if successful, could allow scientists to one day pepper other worlds with atmospheric “flutterflyers” as well as “flutterlanders” — devices the size of postage stamps or confetti that reach a surface imbued with sensor smarts.

Research on the notion of printable spacecraft is being scoped out under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program — one of many novel space initiatives detailed late last month at a NIAC symposium in Pasadena, Calif.

“Flat-sheet spacecraft” with printed chemical sensors can be deployed high above a target world and flutter to the surface like a leaf, eliminating the need for large and complex landing systems. The spacecraft would see a low-G impact at touchdown.

Samizdata quote of the day

The main problem with monetary policy is that there is such a thing as monetary policy.

Detlev Schlichter

Am I a Rawlsekian?

Last night I learned a new word: “Rawlsekian”. Apparently Rawlsekian is a thing that you can now be.

I don’t know exactly what others mean by this word, although this morning I made a start by reading this, by Will Wilkinson. But, I have long believed in at least one notion that could well be described as Rawlsekian, that is to say, combining a John Rawls idea which I consider to be good with all the good ideas of persons such as Friedrich Hayek.

The Rawls idea that strikes me as good is the veil of ignorance idea. This (commenters will please correct me if I have it wrong) says that a very good way to judge the relative merit of two contrasting societies is to say to oneself: Which would I rather be a citizen of, if I have to take my chances as to whereabouts I land up in each society? Choosing either society is a lottery. You could be a duke or a dustman, a government apparatchnik or a concentration camp inmate, a plutocrat or a pauper, or anything in between. The question is: Which society offers you your best chance of a good life? The “ignorance” bit being that whereas you do know quite a lot about the contending societies, you do not know where you might land in whichever one you decide to pick.

I think that this is a very good way to judge the relative merits of different societies. It is not the only way, by any means, but it is a very good way.

So far so Rawlsian. What puts the -ekian on the end of Rawls, when it comes to describing me and my opinions, is that if my understanding of Rawls’s many other and far worse ideas is even approximately right, I believe that Hayek World scores much better, by the Rawls veil of ignorance test, than does Rawls World. Rawls is not just wrong by the standards of other and wiser persons. He is wrong by his own standard, at any rate by this particular standard.

Follow that veil of ignorance link (that’s it again) and you will find that Rawls talked about “justice” rather than the more general idea of a good life. But it is my further understanding that Rawls did not mean by justice what I mean by justice. For me justice is a particular aspect of a society. A society can be hideously unpleasant, but quite just, or quite pleasant but hideously unjust. For Rawls “justice” was the entire deal, including such things as the government imposing a high degree of equality of economic outcome. So what he calls “justice” is what I prefer to call, in a deliberately rather vague way, “a good life”.

(I consider equality of economic outcome to be, among many other wrong things, very unjust.)

Presented without comment

An article in the Telegraph by Colin Hines: Seeing off the extreme Right with progressive protectionism

It begins,

Tim Worstall’s piece accusing Compass and me of promoting “fascist economic policy” is a libellous smokescreen, hiding the fact that it is the very free market economic policies that he promotes that are bringing about the economic stresses and rising insecurity that allow and will continue to encourage the rise of the extreme Right.

How Steve Cooksey is being prevented from expressing his opinions

Instapundit today links to this report, about how a blogger and diabetes sufferer called Steve Cooksey is being told by a North Carolina regulator that he is breaking the law by giving tips, based on his own experience, to others about how to deal with diabetes. Good for Instapundit.

This is the kind of spat which, if it gets a decent slice of publicity, can be won by the forces of free speech and freedom of expression. Hence this posting of mine in response to the Instapundit posting, which I offer as another straw on the bureaucratic camel’s back. It will surely not be the only such straw. I like to think that, if Steve Cooksey finds out about this posting here, the fact that it is happening Abroad may cheer him up that little bit more. “Hey, this damn regulator is making me world famous!”

It helps that they have a Constitution over there, which includes a bit about how you can say what you want, even if a mere state law says otherwise.

Is Steve Cooksey, who has no “license” to offer the advice he is offering, in fact giving bad dietary advice? If so, the correct response from those who think this is to say so, and to explain why they think this. Perhaps one of them could start another blog, saying things like: “Steve Cooksey is talking nonsense.” “Don’t do what Steve Cooksey says, and this is why you shouldn’t.” And so on.

That is, or ought to be, the American way. (It ought to be the way everywhere.)