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While we follow the soap operas at Westminster, Brussels and Washington other things happen in the world. Some of them will have effects that may still reverberate when the names “May” or “Merkel” or “Trump” have become no more than answers to pub quiz questions. Harry Phibbs, writing in CapX, has depressing news:

Anti-scientific EU rules are hindering work to save millions of lives

Let us consider another EU imposition. It is a rule that inhibits our contribution to the fight against malaria. According to UNICEF this disease is “the largest killer of children” on the planet. That agency estimates that malaria kills one child every 30 seconds, about a million a year. Most of those children are under five years of age, with 90 per cent of cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Research suggests that while the number of deaths has fallen since 2010, in the last couple of years progress has stalled.

The good news is that a gene editing application has been developed which could eradicate malaria. It is called CRISPR — Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats — and is considered “cheaper, faster, and less error-prone than any gene editing technology that came before it”. It could help preserve endangered species, improve welfare for farm animals — and save the lives of millions of children. The idea is to make mosquitoes immune to the disease.

But

In July, the BBC reported that the “European Court of Justice ruled that altering living things using the relatively new technique of genome editing counts as genetic engineering.” It added that “scientists who work in the areas of gene editing and genetic modification warned that the ruling would hold back cutting-edge research and innovation.”

Denis Murphy, professor of biotechnology at the University of South Wales, said the EU rules would “potentially impose highly onerous burdens on the use of genome editing both in agriculture and even in medicine, where the method has recently shown great promise for improving human health and well being.”

I must be honest here. As I read that article, mixed in with the genuine sadness and anger I felt about the way the EU’s restrictions look likely to hinder the development of a technique that could have alleviated large amounts of human suffering, I also felt a certain ignoble exhilaration. The European Union is being as bad as I always said it was. I had found a devastating answer to “Name me one bad thing the EU does, then!” It is possible that partisan passion is blinding me to the good reasons the ECJ might have had for caution. Ecosystems are complicated. Messing about with them has a habit of going wrong. Think of the introduction of rabbits to Australia or Mao’s attempt to eradicate sparrows from China.

One of the skipped-over paragraphs from Mr Phibbs’ article that I covered with the word “But” is this one:

“The team began with just two edited males, designated mosquitoes 10.1 and 10.2, into which the drive was inserted. After two generations of cross-breeding with hundreds of wild-type mosquitoes — and in mosquitoes, two generations can pass in less than a month — they produced 3,894 third-generation mosquitoes, of which 3,869 (99.5 percent) had the resistance gene. Just two mosquitoes were able to spread the trait to thousands of progeny — and malaria resistance along with it.”

The speed of that geometric progression scares me. Once started, the spread of these gene-edited mosquitoes could not be easily reversed.

But maybe it does not scare you, and you know more of genome editing than I do. My knowledge of biology is that of an attentive reader of pop science. Can any of you tell me more about this subject? Is the EU being as bad as I always said it was?

Samizdata quote of the day

I don’t think the average South African looks at Zimbabwe and says “I wish we lived like that”. But I bet Ramaphosa looks at Mugabe and thinks “I wish I lived like that”. Ramaphosa’s wishes matter more than the average citizen’s.

Mikesixes

Samizdata quote of the day

South Africa has until recently been a decent model for other countries to orient their policies toward. But if the continent’s biggest economic engine moves more and more in the direction of Zimbabwe, then economic growth, investor confidence, and, most important, average people going about their daily lives will suffer not only in South Africa but in the nearby countries with which it trades and does business.

John Fund

One day the Times headline writers might figure out what actually helps save rhinos

The paper edition of the Times that hit my doormat this morning had an interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit keeps rhinos safe from poachers”.

The online version has an even more interesting headline: “Hi-tech kit and ex-spies keeps South Africa’s rhinos safe from poachers”.

Neither headline is untrue, both the hi-tech gadgetry and the spies are helping preserve the rhinos, but both are missing something. My use of the “Deleted by the PC Media” tag is a little inaccurate, as is my use of the “Hippos” tag, but we seem to lack a tag for “Rhinos” or for “Never even entered the PC Media’s pretty little heads despite the facts staring them in the face from their own reporting”. See if you can guess what the missing factor is from this excerpt:

South Africa, home to 80 per cent of the world’s 29,000 rhinos, loses about three a day to poachers, the vast majority in state parks. Private reserves have become essential to preventing the animals from extinction, as long as the owners can afford to protect them.

Turning the 150,000-acre reserve into a 21st-century fortress in the African bush costs £1 million a year but the investment has paid off. The park has not lost a rhino in the past two years. It is hardly surprising. At each of the park’s four gates, guests visiting its five-star lodges, as well as staff, only enter after systems have checked numberplates and fingerprints against a national criminal database and are tracked and monitored until they leave.

Kruger National Park is far less secure and the rate of survival among its 9,000-strong rhino population is poor. Sixty per cent of all poaching incidents in South Africa occur there. Too often its rangers, police and officials are in the pay of poachers. Rhino horns can fetch up to £70,000 per kilogram in Asia, where they are imagined to cure a range of ills from hangovers to cancer.

The spirit of Nongqawuse lives on

Nongqawuse was a fifteen year old Xhosa girl who in 1856 had a vision in which three ancestral spirits told her that if the Xhosa people showed their trust by destroying their crops and killing their cattle, then on the appointed day the spirits would raise the dead, bountifully replace all that was destroyed, and sweep the British into the sea. Thousands believed this prophecy and slaughtered their cattle. But the dead slept on and the British remained in place.

Nongqawuse explained that this lack of action was due to the amagogotya, the stingy ones, who had kept their cattle back from slaughter. She urged everyone to greater efforts. A new date was set for the prophecy to finally come true. The rate of cattle-killing rose to a climax.

Eventually the Xhosa lost patience, and, with remarkable mercy, handed Nongqawuse over to the British. By then famine had reduced the population of British Kaffraria from 105,000 to fewer than 27,000.

*

City A.M. reports that John McDonnell says Venezuela is failing because it is ‘not a socialist country’.

Oh, and our Chancellor-in-waiting says that he will overthrow capitalism.

If you want to watch the Sunday Politics interview where he said all this, this BBC link will work for another 28 days.

South Africa decides Zimbabwe is an instruction manual, not a warning

Grim news from South Africa. Just in case anyone thought that the departure of President Zuma, a corrupt man who has stripped his country (South Africa faces severe water shortages brought on by neglect of infrastructure) might lead to better things will be disappointed. The new regime has signed off on a land-grab policy of confiscating white-owned land without compensation. (About 70 per cent of South African farmland is owned by whites.) The claim made is that any white person who owns land in the country must, by definition, have stolen it. (The idea that such ownership might have come into being without theft just does not cross certain persons’ minds. That fact is simply undiscussible.)

As we have found in the seizure/collectivisation of farms in the former Soviet Union, in China, and in Zimbabwe more recently, such moves herald mass poverty and violence. South Africa has ironically seen an influx of poor Zimbabweans since the vile Mugabe regime started to attack white farmers and seize land; the country has suffered a catastrophic decline in its farmland output, which may never recover. South Africa seems keen to follow suit; it has a range of largely self-inflicted woes: the current government is deeply corrupt. The country needs inward investment – seizing white-owned property hardly encourages any investor, of any racial background. As a matter of simple common sense, taking land by brute force, without compensation, from owners and giving it to those who are political cronies and hangers-on will inevitably reduce output and wealth, not the other way round.

The unfolding of South Africa’s history is a tragedy, and it is easy to see why there is an element of “score-settling” at work here. Apartheid, let it not be forgotten, was introduced in the late 1940s at the behest to some degree of the white trade union movement, keen to bolster its bargaining power. Even if you were a private entrepreneur who wanted to hire non-whites for certain jobs, for example, you couldn’t. (Minimum wage laws operated in ways that hurt, not helped, non-whites.) The system was as absurd and vile as the Jim Crow laws of the US, or other examples of serfdom and oppression down the ages. It had to go; for anyone who supports a free market economy, apartheid and its cousins are absurd as well as wrong.

But the solution of seizing white-owned land, regardless of the honesty or provenance of it, and giving it to people via a political carve-up, turns the injustices inherited from the old regime on their head, creating a new form of racism. Two wrongs do not make a right. And further, one suspects that the land seizures are an attempt to deflect attention from the failings of the existing regime. Compare and contrast how, for example, the “Asian tigers” threw off their old colonial masters and focused on getting seriously rich, not least by respecting property rights. And wherever one looks, there does seem a pretty tight correlation between respect for property rights – indeed their very existence – with prosperity and happiness more broadly. Hernando de Soto has made something of a career pushing the point that the world needs more property rights, spread among more people. (Check out this recent lecture by Niall Ferguson on the same sort of issue.) As an aside, it also seems to be a pretty solid marker of respect for property rights to have a large and growing middle class. I suspect that one of the underlying problems in South Africa is that among the non-white population, persons who can be so described aren’t a big portion of the total.

Lest anyone pounces on the notion that what has happened proves that certain racial groups are incapable of building a civilized political order, bear in mind that here in the UK, the oh-so-white Caucasian leadership of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, and his colleagues, want to do to the owners of privately-owned industries such as electricity, gas, and the rest what the new leadership in South Africa wants to do to white farmers. The defence of settled property rights remains a vital cause for anyone interested not just in prosperity, but liberty. As of this week, that cause took a turn for the worse in South Africa.

The Rank(ed) Evil of Socialism

Under Ian Smith (remember him?), only 5% of the population of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) had votes that counted (and all but one in twenty of them were white) but the other 95% of the population did eat: Mugabe inherited a country where their prosperity was rising. By 2016, only Mugabe and a few cronies had votes that counted, and Zimbabwe produced not the 300,000+ tons of grain per year that it once did, but 20,000 tons. Or, as the poet did not quite put it,

My other enemy is such
As you too should abhor:
Who justly hates white racists much,
Hates socialists yet more.

It seems so superflous to add that non-white racism (between the Shona and Ndebele tribes) was also a feature of Mugabe’s rule; he was a Shona as well as a socialist.

Of more than local interest

I imagine that for many Samizdata readers, the daily diet of gossip and snark and tittle tattle that dominates the output of Guido Fawkes is not to their taste, even if they do entirely see the point of it, and are glad that it happens.

But every so often, Guido does a posting that is of much more than local appeal, which would connect to a far wider audience, provided only that they are alerted to its existence.

So, allow me to alert you to this posting, which features the maiden speech of Kemi Badenoch, Conservative MP for Saffron Walden. Guido describes this maiden speech as his favourite of the 2017 intake by far.

I especially liked the Woody Allen reference. But basically, I liked it all. Her website is here.

If more British Conservative Party people were capable of talking or even thinking like this, I’d seriously consider joining them.

Decolonise your mind!

David Thompson has up a most interesting post:

Don’t Oppress My People With Your White Devil Science

In the video below, filmed at the University of Cape Town, members of the science faculty meet with student protestors who wish to “decolonise” the university and not pay their bills. During the meeting, one of the staff, one of the “science people,” points out that, contrary to claims being made by a student protestor, witchcraft doesn’t in fact allow Africans to throw lightning at their enemies. He is promptly scolded for “disrespecting the sacredness of the space,” which is a “progressive space,” and is told either to apologise or leave. The offended speaker, the one claiming that Africans can in fact throw lightning at each other – and who disdains “Western knowledge” as “very pathetic” – then uses the apparently scandalous reference to reality as the sole explanation for why she is “not in the science faculty.”

There follow some related links. I’m afraid I can’t remember which I read first to give proper credit. I think my brain has been frazzled by all the witchcraft flying about.

A quick science lesson for the #ScienceMustFall idiots. I sincerely hope that the unnamed staff writer who wrote this reply for what seems to be a Zimbabwean online publication is more representative of the state of scientific thought in Africa than the Social Justice Witches.

Tim Blair reports that science is a product of the (very pathetic) West.

What did Newton know? Rioting students determined to defy gravity, reports the Times. It’s behind a paywall but sufficiently decolonised people can overcome that with a spell.

Science Must Fall: it’s time to decolonise science – The Spectator‘s Coffee House blog.

Fallism: Into the intellectual abyss – Michael Cardo, a South African MP for the opposition Democratic Alliance, wrote a good post lambasting the cowardly response of the UCT authorities.

This might be the ur-video, posted by someone called “UCTScientist”.

Oooh, here’s a good one, from the University of Cape Town Left Students Forum: “As the UCT LSF we will like to clarify our position on a recent statement by a member of the movement, captured in a viral youtube video #ScienceMustFall”. I bet you would.

By the way, “#ScienceMustFall” is not a parody name imposed upon these students by imperialist Western witchcraft-deniers. It is what they call themselves.

It seems these people do not want to pay fees for university, and also do not want to be taught Western science. Thinking about it, that might not be so difficult to achieve. Could they not go to learn at the feet of a shaman, who obviously would not take money to pass on his wisdom, and let the silly people willing to pay to learn Western science do that?

A traditional lament

Willie Penrose, a Labour member of the Irish Dáil, is singing an old song from a tradition known all over the world:

Musicians hold sing-song outside Leinster House in bid to get more radio play

LABOUR’S WILLIE PENROSE wants to get more Irish music played on the radio – and says that a proposed bill of his could save thousands of jobs in the process.

So he gathered up a group of Irish musicians and brought them for a sing-song outside the gates of Leinster House this morning, while a host of Labour TDs looked on.

[…]

Longford-Westmeath TD Penrose, who is presenting the bill to the Dáil today, said that it seeks a quota of 40% airtime for Irish music – and that this means “of all genres once it’s Irish music”.

Asked if it specifies in the bill how a song is determined to be Irish, Penrose “we’re working through that, yeah we are”.
“We are not asking for much – this has been in France for the last 20 or 30 years, 40% quota, it’s in Canada – there’s a 90% quota after being introduced in South Africa in recent weeks,” he said.

The 90% quota was brought in by national broadcaster SABC in South Africa.

Penrose said there are “8 – 10,000 jobs depending upon [the bill]“, but didn’t detail where these jobs are located within the Irish music industry.

Following the link about South Africa took me to this BBC story:

SABC radio introduces 90% South African music quota

The BBC describes the quota in lyrical terms:

South Africa’s national broadcaster SABC has brought in a new quota system, requiring 90% of the music played on its 18 radio stations to be homegrown.

SABC says the move, which has been hailed by local musicians after years of campaigning, will promote South African culture and heritage.

[…]

“We believe that is important for the people of South Africa to listen to the music that is produced for them by the musicians in South Africa,” SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told the BBC, explaining the decision.

Jazz musician Don Laka, one of the leaders of the quota campaign, celebrated on his Facebook page, thanking SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

“Today I am proud to be South African. This man Hlaudi made me share a tear for the first time in many years… Freedom at last!”
Local hip-hop star Slikour described it as the music industry’s version of “Nelson Mandela coming out of jail”.

The governing African National Congress also welcomed the decision, saying it will empower local artists and help spread African culture at home and throughout the world.

Many South Africans have taken to social media to celebrate the announcement, saying it will help to showcase the country’s musical diversity.

It almost seems a pity to tear oneself away from sharing these glad hosannas to look at a couple of ominous lines some grinch has inserted into the same report:

…this is just for the next three months – subject to whether the listeners want it to be a permanent move, industry insiders are hoping that it will help boost the profiles of local artists.

and

There is no limit to the amount of foreign music commercial stations play.

Going back to the report about Mr Penrose’s Irish Music Quota Bill in TheJournal.ie, some of the comments strike a discordant and ominous note:

“You want to kill off Irish radio entirely? Force stations to play at least 40% of Irish music.” – Peter McHugh

“And Number 1 this week is Ariana Grande’s ‘Into You’ and to comply with the Irish Music Act here it is as sung by Brush Shiels” – Daniel Patrick Carry

Unlike Mr Penrose, I am not musical, and I don’t keep up with these internet thingies the young folk use … but isn’t there a thing called “music streaming” now?

Farming Ivory

Between watching other things last night my television briefly showed me Ross Kemp in Africa talking to a park ranger about elephant poachers armed with AK-47s. In voiceover he said that in the last 10 years 1000 park rangers have been killed. I looked it up. The Game Rangers Association of Africa are quoting the same figure. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature are saying the same thing, adding that the numbers are as reported by co-operating countries to the International Ranger Federation.

My first thought was to wonder how the nature conservationists think it is worth that much human life to protect some animals.

But as David Moore succinctly puts it in response to a Tim Worstall post about “waste [disposal] crime”, this is really another case of “government regulations creating massive incentives to bypass government regulations”.

Now there are objections. A one-off legal ivory sale intended to reduce the price of ivory apparently increased demand for poached ivory because researchers Prof Solomon Hsiang at the University of California Berkeley and Nitin Sekar at Princeton University, “think the legal sale reduced the stigma of ivory, boosting demand, and provided cover for the smuggling of illegal ivory, boosting supply”. This strikes me as a problem with one-off sales specifically, which are distinct from the long-term balance of supply and demand seen in a free market.

A couple of years ago Simon Jenkins argued in favour of ivory farming, and Will Travers responded with some impertinent arguments and some teenage emotional outpourings echoed by the commentariat that seem to amount to little more than “why can’t we all just get along?” Case in point:

I think Simon Jenkin’s proposal is wrong & morally offensive. Surely we need to banish forever the premise that animals on this planet are for here for the purpose of human beings’ exploitation & use – that their body parts are commodities to be farmed & harvested!

It does sound awfully easy when typed by a middle-class Guardian reader coddled in his air-conditioned public-sector office or a newly-vegetarian thirteen-year-old girl.

Here is how this middle-class libertarian blogger would solve it from his air-conditioned office: Abolish Cites, legalise the trade, and privatise the reservations so that the owners have an incentive to keep producing ivory, therefore preserving the species. There will still be poachers, but at least the profits could fund some proper security.

Addendums: Ivory is in the news very recently and I commented there; we do seem to talk about ivory a lot here; this is a small problem compared to, say, mosquito borne illness (which I am planning to write about soon).

It’s not about the drought

Ethiopia again:

In Africa there is a humanitarian emergency unfolding that has largely escaped the world’s attention. It is a prodigious drought and it holds much of the continent in an unforgiving grip. Here in Ethiopia it is reckoned to be the worst for 50 years. The culprit is long-term climate change coinciding with a hot and unwelcome blast of El Nino. The result? Successive rains have failed. And when the rains fail, so do the harvests. In a nation where three quarters of the population relies on farming, that’s a disaster. And so a great hunger has arrived which will render as many as 15 million people in need of urgent aid.

The ruling party in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The name says a lot. Wikipedia details concisely their ideology.

The front views liberal democracy and free market capitalism as decadent, and has a “romantic attachment” to the beliefs of Vladimir Lenin…

That would be the kind of decadence that lets us feed ourselves when the weather is bad.

The Wikipedia article cites an article in the Addis Ababa university paper.

Not forgetting ‘revolutionary democracy’ as a pervasive and effective yet out-dated alternative to the ‘‘ill-fit and unsustainable liberal democracy’’, it is undeniable that EPRDF’s economic results owe their little success to the liberal economic reforms pushed into results by a powerful state.

They fucking know what they have done, and what they should do to fix it.

Socialism kills