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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

National anthem of Libertaria

The excellent Dominic Frisby is crowdfunding a music video for his National Anthem of Libertaria. He is very much out there spreading good ideas, including in such unfriendly territory as the Edinburgh Festival. I applaud his efforts.

Arise libertarians
Above totalitarians
Our guide is the mighty invisible hand
Reject state controllers
Collectors and patrollers
Our choices are better than government plans

Taxation is a form of theft
Free markets and free trade are best
Free speech, free movement, free minds and free choice
Our actions are all voluntary
Not coerced or compulsory
War we abhor, socialism does not work

No debt or inflation
No stealth confiscation
No pigs in the trough at the gravy to drink
No state education
To brainwash our nation
No experts dictate what to do, what to think

We scorn your fiat currency
Gold and bitcoin is our money
We own ourselves and we live and let live
We take responsibility
Life, love and liberty
Leave us alone, let a thousand flowers bloom

President Bush will soon bring Gilead to America!

Some time ago a striking article by Fiona Maddocks appeared in the London Evening Standard. The link that Google gives you to the Evening Standard’s own site is dead, but I found a working one on Questia. Here it is:

A Twist in the Tale; Margaret Atwood Is Dreading the UK Premiere of the Opera of Her Novel the Handmaid’s Tale – It Will Be a Shocking Theatrical Experience

THE question all readers of The Handmaid’s Tale want to ask its Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, is: “How did you know?” Her 1986 best seller, set in a futuristic totalitarian regime called the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, has chilling prescience: Christian fundamentalists have seized control and imposed repressive laws, brainwashing women and depriving them of all the rights they have spent the past 1,000 years securing – education, property, freedom to give birth when and via whom they choose.

(I commented at the time, “I don’t know why poor old Dubya does hold off from imprisoning all the women and depriving them of their names so that the top men’s personal concubines are called “ofdonald”, “ofjohn” and “ofdubya”, according to the system described in the book. That’s obviously what he wants, as proven by the fact that he sometimes goes to breakfast prayer meetings, and it’s not like he gets any credit for restraint.”)

The book, already translated into 35 languages and a regular A-level and university set text, was turned into a film starring Natasha Richardson, with a script by Harold Pinter. Tonight an operatic version of this dark fable, by the Danish composer Poul Ruders and British librettist Paul Bentley, receives its first UK performance at the Coliseum, having been premiered to rapturous reviews in Copenhagen three years ago.

[…]

To underline contemporary parallels, English National Opera’s publicity material shows a woman, naked and heavily pregnant, prone on an unfurled Stars and Stripes, observed by a helmeted soldier.

“There’s nothing new in The Handmaid’s Tale,” Atwood says. “One of my rules was that I couldn’t put anything into the novel that human beings hadn’t actually done. Stories exist within the world. They’re not on some other planet called literature or the moon.” Small, droll, benignly austere, Atwood hardly strikes you as a Cassandrine figure. Only her startling eyes, clear blue, slightly exotic and almond shaped, hint at some farseeing otherness.

[…]

The general critical response was ‘what a jolly good yarn’, and that was the end of the matter. You’d had Oliver Cromwell and religious war. You wouldn’t expect it to happen again. In Canada, instead, people asked, ‘Could it happen here?’

“Well, no, probably not, because of Canada’s history and its disparate elements. Only in America did people ask, in utter seriousness, ‘How long have we got?’ They realised that they were closest of all to the real thing, especially compared to Europe, which is now so much more secular a place than the States.

“How long did they have?” asks the narrator, in an epilogue written long after the events described. Since that article was dated April 3rd 2003 and the Gileadification of America is not yet upon us we can safely answer “a minimum of 16 years, 5 months and 8 days”. But do not be deceived. Gilead is coming. Real soon now.

“The Handmaid’s Tale increasingly rings true”, writes Alice Thomson in today’s Times.

They walked, heads bowed under their white bonnets, red capes trailing along Piccadilly, past men in Lycra ogling on their bikes and into Waterstones. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” women shouted at the fertile handmaids as they joined the midnight celebrations for the publication of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. There were green drinks and talks on how to embroider feminist wall hangings. Then the 79-year-old prophet spoke, warning that her characters had a new resonance in her dystopian sequel because of threats to women’s rights.

She wasn’t just talking about President Trump boasting of grabbing women “by the pussy” and curtailing their reproductive rights but about any country trying to force women back into the “unnaturally cramped spaces” from which they had so recently emerged.

[…]

We pretend that women’s rights are still progressing, with more jobs for the girls and in some areas more equal pay, but in many ways Britain feels increasingly like Atwood’s theocracy of Gilead where women are expected to know how to cook a quiche, the man is master and only the sisterhood saves them. #Silenced, which started trending yesterday, seems to be about so much more than the proroguing of parliament: it’s about vulnerable groups, women, gays and ethnic minorities once more feeling excluded from the hierarchy. “Are we to be silenced like little mice,” as the handmaid Offred says in Atwood’s novel.

The prime minister thinks nothing of using femininity as an insult, calling Jeremy Corbyn “a great big girl’s blouse”, associating masculinity with power. The journalist William Cash wrote an article this week about having a relationship with a former girlfriend of Boris Johnson as though she were some vassal, and volunteering to bring his illegitimate child up for him. David Cameron’s “calm down dear” now seems relatively benign.

Good, so you won’t mind if I say “Calm down dear” to you.

Planned obsolescence

Leaping from link to link like a young gazelle – part of the appeal of the internet is that it is the only place where I get to do the gazella arabica thing nowadays – I came across an interesting article by Ernie Smith called “The Many Ways Planned Obsolescence Is Sabotaging How We Preserve Internet History”.

He writes,

The world of technology has a problem, and it’s not something that we’re talking about nearly enough. That problem? We keep making old stuff significantly less useful in the modern day, sometimes by force.

We cite problems such as security, maintenance, and a devotion to constant evolution as reasons for allowing this to happen.

But the net effect is that we are making it impossible to continue using otherwise useful things after even a medium amount of time. I’m not even exclusively talking about things that are decades old. Sometimes, just a few years does the trick.

A quick case in point: Google has a set date for every type of Chromebook architecture to fall into an “end of life” status, where it will no longer be developed or updated, despite the fact that it’s effectively the modern version of a dumb terminal.

And the timeframe is surprisingly short—just 6.5 years from the first use of the architecture, the machine will stop auto-updating, despite the fact an equivalent Windows machine will still be usable for years after that point.

Like many people, I find the whole phenomenon of planned obsolescence infuriating. Unlike many people, I do not believe that my feeling of fury should be assuaged by forcing other people – in this case software companies – to do my bidding. But I would still like it if planned obsolescence were less of a thing.

It’s Tom’s Diner for computers, and you are most welcome to discuss the political and ethical issues involved.

But if you did enough of that yesterday, just wallow in the computer nostalgia. Here’s a website: http://textfiles.com/. Not “https://textfiles.com”, just “http://textfiles.com”. It has stuff like Alien vs Predator. Wallow.

How we are saved from limiting ourselves

“First ads banned for contravening UK gender stereotyping rules”, reported the Guardian some days ago.

Two television ads, one featuring new dads bungling comically while looking after their babies and the other a woman sitting next to a pram, have become the first to be banned under new rules designed to reduce gender stereotyping.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ads for Philadelphia cream cheese and Volkswagen, following complaints from the public that they perpetuated harmful stereotypes.

The new rules, introduced at the beginning of the year, ban the depiction of men and women engaged in gender-stereotypical activities to help stop “limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take”.

… by limiting what they are permitted to see and making their life decisions for them.

Perils of alternate history wargaming

A father and son duo run a YouTube channel about historical tabletop wargaming called “Imperator Vespasian”. They run through demo games, talk about making and painting models and so on. Recently they were offline for about six months. They explain why in the following ten minute video:

“Unexpected side affects of Gaming! Channel update”

The two of them were creating a game called “A very British Civil War” set in an alternate-history 1938 in which Prime Minister Oswald Moseley was fighting to put down an anti-fascist rebellion. The British Union of Fascists was a playable faction. Here is a video they made about this game from six months ago.

Then the son’s school reported him to the police as a potential terrorist. Note that the father and son both say that the police were quite quick to realise that this case was not the best use of their time, and reserve their criticism for the school.

I am a little more sympathetic than are the “Imperator Vespasian” duo with the dilemma faced by schools over whether or not to bring the police in when they suspect a pupil is involved in crime as victim or perpetrator or both. The pair of them did make one unwise decision. Apparently their standard practice in their YouTube shows is to make announcements of what is happening in their games while “in character” for the various factions, with appropriate props as the backdrop. Fine when your prop is a medieval helmet, not so fine when it’s the lightning flash emblem of the BUF.

But was there really no one among the school staff who had ever wargamed? Or whose kids had wargamed, or whose kids’ friends had wargamed, or who was simply enough in touch with the lives of their male pupils to know that playing the Tyranids in Warhammer 40K does not mean you seek to literally devour all life? Given the nerdiness of historical tabletop gaming, I would have guessed that gamers were just as likely to end up as teachers as in the police force. So why did the police quickly get that this was fictional while the teachers did not?

A little phrase to look out for

The Times Saturday magazine features the latest of its series of quick interviews in which a famous person tells the readers “What I’ve learnt”. This one is with that fine actor, Jared Harris. Among the things that Mr Harris has learned and wants to pass on to the reader is that,

“We don’t have another planet. This is it. We’ve nowhere else to go. We’re going through a crisis of denial over climate science. A very small group of people are frustrating the political will to tackle it head on. But when people’s homes become uninhabitable, they will move somewhere else. If you think it’s awkward with tens of thousands of people at the southern border of the US or with a couple of hundred thousand at the borders of the EU, what are you going to do when a couple of hundred million are on the move?”

Very stirring. But I could not help noticing that the little potted biography of Mr Harris at the top of the page says this:

The British actor Jared Harris, 57, played Lane Pryce in Mad Men, King George VI in The Crown and Valery Legasov in Chernobyl, for which he has been nominated for an Emmy. He is one of three sons by the notorious hell-raiser Richard Harris and his wife Elizabeth Rees-Williams. He splits his time between New York and Los Angeles with his third wife, Allegra.

New York and Los Angeles are 2,790 miles apart by road, and 2,450 miles apart by air. It’s a fifty-hour drive, so I think we can safely assume that Mr Harris travels between his two bases by air. Compared to most people’s, his personal carbon footprint is more like a personal carbon Tunguska crater. It must be hard to juggle the claims of a far-flung family and a demanding acting career, so I do not begrudge Mr Harris his air miles. But going from what he said, he begrudges me mine.

When reading the views of celebrities on the environment it is always worth looking out for the words “splits his time” or “divides her time” or equivalents thereof. I first saw this pointed out on a Biased BBC post back in November 2009, about a model called Helena Christensen who held an exhibition of pictures she had taken to document climate change and divided her time between Copenhagen and New York, with occasional side trips to Essex to see her agent.

Dominic Frisby needs another week to get the video up

I did the blogging equivalent of buying shares in Dominic Frisby quite a while ago now. More significantly, from Frisby’s point of view, Guido Fawkes has been boosting him, most recently by remembering this heartfelt ode to Nigel Farage. See also this other Brexit-related song by Frisby.

Now, it seems that another Frisby comic song is in the pipeline. Concerning this, Frisby tweets:

I’m now in the situation where I desperately don’t want Theresa May to resign because I have written a really funny song about it, and I need at least another week before I can get the video up.

Theresa, are you reading this? Of course you are. I know that you are planning to step down as Prime Minister any hour now, because you have been listening carefully to what people like this have been saying. But I urge you, Theresa, for the sake of your country’s Comedic Future (see above), to hang on in there for another week. Force yourself.

(Delingpole agrees.)

(This bloke, on the other hand …)

The European Union has passed Articles 11 and 13 of the Copyright Directive. How can this be reversed?

The European Parliament has voted in favour of Article 13, reports Wired:

European politicians have voted to pass Article 13 and Article 11 as part of sweeping changes to regulation around online copyright. The European Parliament passed the legislation by 348 votes to 274.

As Guido put it, “348 MEPs you’ve never heard of overruled 278 MEPs you’ve also probably never heard of. So much for all that democratic accountability Remainers like to go on about…”

Previous relevant posts:

Anyone know how the new EU internet censorship & link tax law will affect the UK? June 13 2018

Two days before the EU (probably) votes to end the free internet. Should we care? June 20 2018

EU votes yes to copyright reform, also June 20 2018

Those MEPs, eh? September 14 2018

And just to show that Samizdata has been warning of this for a long time (hey, at least Cassandra had the satisfaction of being right), here is a post from 2002: The European Copyright Directive.

If I have missed any posts that should be in that list, let me know.

So how does one repeal a bad EU law? As the politicians say, I am glad you asked me that. Let me direct you to yet another past post in which a denizen of Reddit Europe called Ask_Me_Who explains:

MEP’s can not create, amend, or reject proposals. They can act as a method of slowing them, requesting changes or rethinks of proposed policies, but if the other (unelected) parts of the EU want to force through a proposal they can just keep pushing it until it gets through in the knowledge that elected MEP’s will not have the power to propose future updates, changes, or abolition of legislation.

The European Commission only has to win once and it can never be repealed without the European Commission wishing it so.

What should we be doing while they make art?

Let’s be honest, the huge size of the People’s Vote demonstration and the huge number of signatories on the petition to revoke Article 50 are both very impressive. They show that millions of people want very strongly to remain in the European Union.

But of course they will have very little effect on whether Brexit actually happens or not. Don’t mistake me, I am seriously afraid that it will not happen – which will send a signal to every supporter of every cause, whether related to Brexit or not, that trying to gain their objectives by democratic means is pointless. However the million marchers and four million signers are not the reason for my fear. They are not doing anything significant to stop Brexit. They are performing for each other. We should rejoice that they thus distract each other from actions that might have more effect.

Why do I think these great manifestations of opposition to Brexit do so little to stop it? Because the people who can stop Brexit know that the marchers and signers can do and will do nothing for them. Those people are MPs, mostly but not entirely Conservative MPs.

Not one Conservative MP stands in danger of losing their seat because four million people who would never vote Tory anyway sign a petition. Quite a few Labour MPs do stand in danger of losing their seat because it is beginning to dawn on habitual Labour voters who voted for Leave in the referendum, who disproportionately live in marginal seats, that their victory in the referendum might be stolen from them. John McDonnell can work this out, and he can tell Jeremy Corbyn. This is why both of them were conspicuously absent from the People’s Vote march. Meanwhile I do find something ironic in all these “Revoke Article 50” petition-signers thinking that the government should do something just because a lot of people have said that they want it.

I said on the 18th that No Deal would be the best option for Theresa May. I am no longer sure that May will be in power long enough to get to choose her best option, but the same calculation applies to her successor as Conservative leader and (possibly interim) Prime Minister. As I said in that post, the most committed supporters of the Conservative party are exactly the group who want Brexit most. Their anger is to be feared by the people with whom power to stop Brexit rests. It is scant reassurance to worried Tory MPs to say that Tory Brexiteers are scarcely likely to vote for Corbyn the extreme left-winger or for the Europhile Liberal Democrats or Independent Group. In fact Tory Brexiteers don’t even have to vote for UKIP or Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party in order to punish Conservative MPs for failing to honour the referendum result. All they have to do is slack off. The Conservative party is desperately short of active members, particularly young active members who are physically capable of going house to house delivering leaflets and talking to potential voters.

Which brings me to the question I asked as the title of this post. I have thought of one suggestion for something Conservative Leavers can do to secure Brexit: tell your MPs and your local Party chairmen and chairwomen that the Tories had one job, as the meme goes, and if they cannot bring themselves to do that then you cannot bring yourself to pound the streets on the Party’s behalf in the coming General Election.

Note the mildness of this threat. That, I believe, is what makes it effective. It is literally no effort for you to carry it out. It is less effort than not carrying it out.

I know that many local Conservative Associations have been working to deselect overly pro-Remain MPs. I think it is too late for that strategy. Brexit does not need more formerly-Conservative Independent Group MPs, it needs scared Conservative MPs.

There is my suggestion. But it only applies to members of the Conservative party, which I’m not. I honestly wish I had joined months ago so I could credibly make this threat now.

I throw the question out to you, dear readers. During WWII Churchill used to write “Action this day” in his own hand on documents. What action can we take today that will make betrayal of the referendum result less likely? I do not exclude performative art of our own, such as this petition to honour the referendum result, but in the end such things do not apply any new incentives to those who have power. What would? What should we be doing?

Mr Frisby and the rats of IN

Guido gleefully points out that this song by Dominic Frisby is currently the second best selling album on Amazon music. Presumably he just means UK Amazon, but that is quite an achievement. I am getting automatically generated adverts for it. Yours for a quid! However please note before you serenade the street with your new purchase that it is a tad sweary. Honestly, there’s about seventeen million F*** O**s in it.

It will not be news to regular readers of Samizdata that Mr Frisby is both a respected financial writer and an entertainer so good that he can make it despite being an open libertarian. Brian Micklethwait (repeatedly), Johnathan Pearce, Patrick Crozier and Rob Fisher have all posted about him. My finally joining the club to say he has a nice voice and a cool hat is something of an anti-climax. But he does have both of those things. And I get the feeling he’s a sporting bloke who will forgive me for being the millionth-and-first person to make irrelevant mention of this book just because it has the name “Frisby” in it. I also recommend the book, which I loved as a child and now I come to think about it as an adult has an almost John Galt vibe to it.

The enforced prosperity inflicted upon Jean Sibelius by the government of Finland

I continue to be obsessed by the Seventh Symphony of Sibelius, after hearing it performed at a live concert. (In a comment on that posting, Nick M expressed admiration for how Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performed this piece. I assume he meant this recording. Having listened to many recordings of Sibelius 7 recently, I find myself strongly agreeing with Nick M. (My surprise second favourite Sibelius 7 is, as of now, John Barbirolli and the Halle Orchestra. (But Karajan and the BPO are much better recorded.)))

While seeking to learn more about this amazing piece, I came across a delightful start to some writing about it by Paul Serotsky:

So often does adversity transmute talent into greatness that we seem to consider it a general rule. Sibelius would be an exception to prove that rule. While still only 32, the Finnish government awarded him a pension for life, a year before he even began work on his First Symphony. That he went on to produce some of the Twentieth Century’s finest and most original music says much for his strength of character in the face of enforced prosperity.

Much is made of the last few decades of Sibelius’s life and of how, during all that time, he composed nothing. But he was over ninety when he died, and sixty isn’t a ridiculous age at which to be retiring from the creative life. In general, his life is usually regarded as a case of a government arts subsidy scheme working out pretty well. As Serotsky says, Sibelius is exceptional in being so creative, after receiving a guaranteed minimum income. (Incidentally, I wonder if the government of Finland had its collective brain cells scrambled by what they surely saw as the success of their Sibelius experiment, and thus thought that a generalised version of the same scheme would be other than a dismal failure, that echoed the end of Sibelius’s life rather than his earlier creativity?)

Serotsky’s words remind me that I did a couple of other music-based postings here, quite a few years ago now, about how adversity can sometimes indeed transmute talent into greatness.

A book right out of the R. A. Heinlein tradition

Gregory Benford has a new book out, called Rewrite, and while I tend sometimes to be careful of pre-publication hype, this looks mighty promising and a good way for me to while away the hours as I fly to Hong Kong in a few days’ time. The author gets an interview in Wired magazine, proof that good things occasionally do appear in that publication, despite what appears to be its turn to eco-lefist nonsense in recent years.

I really enjoyed his novel, Timescape. Chiller, a book that features cryonics, is also good.

By the way, there is a Robert Heinlein Society, which runs a scholarship programme. I think the writer, former Navy officer, fencing expert and blood donor advocate would have approved.

Heinlein once wrote about The Crazy Years, a period in his early writings known as the Future History series. I am not the first person to wonder if our own era deserves that moniker, although with hindsight is it any nuttier than any other?