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]

Really jump in

“Top Biden aide prods big tech to crack down on climate change misinformation”, Axios reports.

Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s top domestic climate adviser, said tech companies should do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information about climate change and clean energy.

Driving the news: “The tech companies have to stop allowing specific individuals over and over again to spread disinformation,” she told Axios’ Alexi McCammond at a virtual event that aired Thursday.

“We need the tech companies to really jump in,” McCarthy said.

Who is “we”?

And what the [fossil fuel] industry is now doing is seeding, basically, doubt about the costs associated with that and whether they work or not.”

Expressing doubt about the cost of a proposed government measure, and whether it will actually work as promised? How dare they! Such dangerous speculation cannot be allowed.

Hat tip: Iain Murray.

The Matrix Preloaded

I thought that after most of a lifetime reading science fiction and alternate history I knew all the ways Hitler could have won World War II if just one little thing had turned out differently, but I had never heard of this one:

Onthisday.com for May 12th included this entry:

1941 Konrad Zuse presents the Z3, the world’s first working programmable, fully automatic computer, in Berlin

W-w-what? Straight to Wikipedia I went. Here is the entry for the Z3:

The Z3 was completed in Berlin in 1941. It was not considered vital, so it was never put into everyday operation. Based on the work of the German aerodynamics engineer Hans Georg Küssner (known for the Küssner effect), a “Program to Compute a Complex Matrix”[b] was written and used to solve wing flutter problems. Zuse asked the German government for funding to replace the relays with fully electronic switches, but funding was denied during World War II since such development was deemed “not war-important”.

The original Z3 was destroyed on 21 December 1943 during an Allied bombardment of Berlin.

Well, good. While it is interesting to speculate on how the development of the computer might have been different, it sounds like the Lord guided the bomb-aimer’s hand on that occasion.

Anyone know, how close did they come?

What a difference a year makes: the green dream dies in Sri Lanka

April 2021:

“Sri Lanka will become first country to be free of chemical fertilizer”, the Sri Lankan news website News First reported:

COLOMBO (News 1st); President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has stated that he will take up the challenge in making Sri Lanka the first country in the world to eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers without reversing any of the steps that have been taken.

The absence of any country in the world that has eliminated the use of chemical fertilizers is not an obstacle to achieving the goal, President Rajapaksa noted.

The President urged all to unite to educate the farmer and create a healthy generation at a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday (29) to raise awareness on the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and the ban on such imports.

“The government must guarantee the right of the people to a non-toxic diet to produce a healthy and productive citizen,” said the President.

April 2022:

“How Sri Lanka’s shift to organic farming left it in the manure,” reports the Times:

What turned Sri Lanka’s economic situation from difficult to catastrophic was the decision by the Rajapaksa government to implement a nationwide ban on synthetic fertiliser. It was made not at the behest of neoliberal economists doing the bidding of global capital, but rather on the advice of environmentalists in the name of sustainable agriculture.

[…]

But that strategy backfired in spectacular fashion. Domestic rice production fell by 14 per cent from 2021 to 2022, forcing the nation, long self-sufficient in rice production, to import hundreds of millions of dollars of rice and more than eroding all of the savings from ceasing fertiliser imports. On top of that, the ban decimated tea production, leading to a $425 million economic loss to the industry in its first six months of implementation. Tea, one of the nation’s primary crops, is a key source of its total export income, making a bad foreign exchange situation far worse.

Digital Markets Act

With the Digital Markets Act, the EU wants to make competition between tech giants more fair. What could possibly go wrong?

In his weekly podcast, Linus Sebastian gushes about all the wonderful things it will bring: ensuring interoperability of instant messaging services (so you can more easily abandon Apple devices even if all your friends have them and use iMessage); the ability to use alternative app stores (which is what Epic games was hoping for so it could sell Fortnite VBucks to iPhone users without paying Apple); the right to uninstall pre-loaded apps (aka bloatware); no self-preferencing (e.g. putting your own products at the top of search results); more rules about combining personal data without consent; no more requiring developers to use certain services to get their apps onto app stores, making it easier to, for example, use alternative payment processors; allow app developers fair access to supplementary functionalities of smartphones (for example access to NFC for third party apps on iPhones).

“This is just such an obvious list of things that no consumer should oppose,” says Linus. And he is right. All these things would be very convenient.

But Linus does not consider the means by which these things are being attempted. One wonders what minor inconveniences he would not resort to legislation to solve. The non-aggression principle does not occur to him. Never mind the motivations of the people behind it or the time-proven tendency for all state regulation to have unintended consequences.

At 18:48 he responds to a commenter. “BFire just outed themselves as someone who doesn’t get it. ‘More government control. You’d think Canadians would have learned.’ No! This is a government body stepping in to reduce corporate control. Everything here is about loosening an iron fist. How is it not clear? This is one of those things: I just don’t get it. How can you oppose being allowed to remove crap you don’t want from your devices?”

Linus has fallen into a semantic muddle. No-one is being allowed to do anything. People are being forbidden from doing things. The answer is easy: if you want to be allowed to remove crap you do not want from your devices, simply buy devices that do not take that control away from you. The beauty of this is that it does not require any violence!

Linus must know on some level that violence is involved. His next sentence: “Companies being forced to make their products inter-operable. How can you oppose pro-consumer legislation?”

Perhaps one might oppose it because it is legislation which means that force is used. You might also oppose it because it may not lead to the utopian world its proponents imagine. Alec Muffet tweets that enforced interoperability will weaken end-to-end encryption of messages (and he goes into much more detail in a recent essay). There is a consequence that might not actually be unintended by the state actors behind this legislation and that might well harm the very consumers they claim to help.

The whole thing is also obviously unnecessary. In the video there is some discussion of Google search results becoming a bit rubbish lately since many more of the top results are just adverts. Luke Lafreniere (the chap on the right who works with Linus) talks about using Duck Duck Go to get better results, not just for privacy. So there is a free market solution to these problems that is already working.

At 29:39 Luke straight up announces that he would consider not buying Pixel phones if other phones allowed him to remove all the crapware. He seems completely unaware that the problem of crapware is already solved: simply buy devices that do not have crapware.

But for all the practical considerations, there is an easy way to counter all of this from first principles. Violence is bad, and the ends do not justify the means. You just need to have the semantic discipline to see through such constructs as “pro-consumer legislation”.

Samizdata quote of the day

I’m not saying that I think the present science establishment is good. It has been utterly poisoned by the interference of government, and the biggest mistake we make is thinking that something like the FDA or the CDC are science establishments, when they are in fact government institutions. It might be populated by people with science degrees, but they are still civil servants before being scientists. (especially the higher up the greasy pole they climb.) And unfortunately the universities have also been largely sucked into the poisonous stream of government funding.

Fraser Orr

Net Zero is “in Nigel Farage’s sights”

I have considerable respect for the Guardian‘s John Harris. Though a Remainer himself, he was one of the first left-wing journalists to see that the campaign to leave the European Union had popular support, particularly among the working class, and the reason he could see that while others could not was because he and his colleague John Domokos did what others did not and put in the legwork to report from “Anywhere But Westminster”.

But respect does not mean agreement. Mr Harris writes that “Nigel Farage’s hard-right faction won Brexit. Now net zero is in its sights” like that’s a bad thing.

Some proposed amendments to the programme of public events when the revolution comes

So who is to be first against the wall? The traditional view is that it should be the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. While anyone who could call a robot “Your plastic pal who’s fun to be with” deserves their fate, bear in mind that Douglas Adams died before the triumph of the chatbot.

“For God’s sake, chatbots, let me talk to a human being”, cries Jessie Hewitson in the Times. She had a rotten time when both her bank cards stopped working.

Cross though the bus driver looked, he took pity on me and waved me to a seat. When I got off at the Tube station I tried again with the card readers at the gates. Same problem. My cards weren’t working, so there I stood, stranded, unable to get to work.

I called Barclays. After ten minutes of extreme faffery, an automated voice told me that I had to use the chat function because I had downloaded the phone app. So, thumbs frozen outside the tube, I typed my problem into the “chat”.

It was more like an endurance test, where the bank pushes you to the limit of your resolve. To see how long you will hang on to speak to a real person, if indeed you can figure out when you finally are.

In comparison to that “your plastic pal” doesn’t seem so bad. At least you can hit it. Let us spare the Sirius Cybernetics Corp. for a little while and execute the entire British banking establishment instead. But even they, citoyens, do not go first. So far, Ms Hewitson’s article is a pretty standard moan about the way the telephone number of your local bank now sits alongside the nuclear codes as a closely-guarded secret. Things are indeed grim. They, the chatbots, have taken to giving themselves names. Happy female names, mostly amusingly mis-spelled variants of human ones. We may also have to kill everyone who has ever used the term “customer engagement”. But bad as our current plight is, there are very few bad situations that government “help” cannot make worse:

Why are financial companies doing this? The obvious reason is money, but there’s another one: banks, broadband providers et al are keenly aware of the complaints figures that are given to the Financial Conduct Authority and other regulators.

If they manage to reduce these, customers view them as more trustworthy. The harder they make it for you to speak to a person, the fewer complaints that will be logged. And so you have a warped situation where the good banks that encourage people to raise problems look worse than the bad ones that don’t.

I present my revised schedule for the public entertainments on Day One:

3. The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation
2. BarcWestLloydHSBCrap
1. The Financial Conduct Authority

How long before we see “Deinsulate Britain” protestors?

“Insulation was supposed to save us money… but it ruined our homes: Millions crippling repair costs after botched green upgrades”,writes Chris Brooke in the Daily Mail:

Getting Britain’s homes insulated is the cornerstone of the Government’s green energy policy and an obsession for road-blocking eco-protesters.

But the scale of damp-related problems linked to cavity wall insulation is so serious that an MP is calling for an independent inquiry to improve protection for householders.

One expert has estimated that up to two million homes may have problems as a result of insulation being pumped into the cavity between outside and inside walls.

In some extreme cases, the resulting problems of damp and mould inside the house have rendered properties worthless and unsellable.

If the Lockdown Frolics of Downing Street had never been revealed to the public (I must admit to a twinge of admiration for the fact that they kept the secret for well over a year), I believe this issue would have brought Boris down eventually. The insulation issue is just one bomblet within the incoming political clusterbomb that also contains the energy price crisis, and the fact that forcing millions of people to pay thousands of pounds to replace gas boilers with heat pumps is about as welcome as Dominic Cummings popping up between Carrie’s designer sheets.

Net Zero will become so unpopular that the next election will be won by whichever political party promises to stop it. (Edit: Or gives the impression of being most likely to break their promise to keep it.) There is scope here for the Tory post-Johnson redemption arc, if they change course in time. I can see it. You can see it. Why can’t they?

Out: “Follow the science”. In: “Let the hate flow through you”

Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you.

“Telling people to ‘follow the science’ won’t save the planet. But they will fight for justice”, writes Amy Westervelt in the Guardian:

The climate emergency has clear themes with heroes and villains. Describing it this way is how to build a movement

The biggest success of the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long campaign to push doubt about climate science is that it forced the conversation about the climate crisis to centre on science.

It’s not that we didn’t need scientific research into climate change, or that we don’t need plenty more of it. Or even that we don’t need to do a better job of explaining basic science to people, across the board (hello, Covid). But at this moment, “believe science” is too high a bar for something that demands urgent action. Believing science requires understanding it in the first place. In the US, the world’s second biggest carbon polluter, fewer than 40% of the population are college educated and in many states, schools in the public system don’t have climate science on the curriculum. So where should this belief – strong enough to push for large-scale social and behavioural change – be rooted exactly?

People don’t need to know anything at all about climate science to know that a profound injustice has occurred here that needs to be righted.

The most recommended comment was by someone called “Pilotchute”. It started by quoting Ms Westervelt’s claim that the the US entering the Second World War was an example of “social change driven by moral outrage at the power being wielded by the few over the many”.

Pilotchute responded:

?
OK, nothing to do with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines then.
Ironic misinterpretation really, given the underlying “ordinary folk are too stupid to understand . . .” thrust to the article.

Tomorrow I will wish peace and goodwill to all men

Today, however…

Though I did kind of like the contemplative thief at 08:16.

Everybody but me probably knows the explanation for this

Sometimes if one does an internet search for the headline of an article, one will find it in several different places on the internet.

For instance the article that Johnathan Pearce linked to in this post, a piece by Gerard Baker for the Wall Street Journal with the title “Biden Emerges as Progressive Government’s Mr. Bad Example” turned up in a site calling itself “Daily News 4 U” which offers “News for you all day” in English, German and Filipino. The headline seems to have lost the final word “example” but apart from that it is the same article.

It could be that the WSJ has a particularly active syndication sales department, I suppose. Though one would think they would get the headline right.

Whether or not the route by which an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 20th December reappeared in Daily News 4 U on 21st December was entirely … homologated, there is no mystery about why a little-known news site would want to re-publish an article by an established columnist alongside lots and lots and lots of articles by columnists from all over the world.

But there is a related phenomenon which I do not understand.

On December 14th an opinion piece by Bret Stephens in the New York Times caused a stir. Its headline was “Biden Should Not Run Again — and He Should Say He Won’t.” The full article is behind a paywall, but here are the opening paragraphs:

Is it a good idea for Joe Biden to run for re-election in 2024? And, if he runs again and wins, would it be good for the United States to have a president who is 86 — the age Biden would be at the end of a second term?

I put these questions bluntly because they need to be discussed candidly, not just whispered constantly.

In the 1980s, it was fair game for reputable reporters to ask whether Ronald Reagan was too old for the presidency, at a time when he was several years younger than Biden is today. Donald Trump’s apparent difficulty holding a glass and his constricted vocabulary repeatedly prompted unflattering speculation about his health, mental and otherwise. And Joe Biden’s memory lapses were a source of mirth among his Democratic primary rivals, at least until he won the nomination.

Yet it’s now considered horrible manners to raise concerns about Biden’s age and health. As if doing so can only play into Trump’s hands. As if the president’s well-being is nobody’s business but his own. As if it doesn’t much matter whether he has the fortitude for the world’s most important job, so long as his aides can adroitly fill the gaps. As if accusations of ageism and a giant shushing sound from media elites can keep the issue off the public mind.

And here is the Uncanny Valley version from an outlet called “Lightlynews.com”:

Is it a good suggestion for Joe Biden to run for re-election in 2024? And, if he runs once more and wins, would it not be good for the United States to have a president who’s 86 — the age Biden can be on the finish of a second time period?

I put these questions bluntly as a result of they must be mentioned candidly, not simply whispered continuously.

In the 1980s, it was honest sport for respected reporters to ask whether or not Ronald Reagan was too previous for the presidency, at a time when he was a number of years youthful than Biden is in the present day. Donald Trump’s obvious issue holding a glass and his constricted vocabulary repeatedly prompted unflattering hypothesis about his well being, psychological and in any other case. And Joe Biden’s reminiscence lapses had been a supply of mirth amongst his Democratic major rivals, a minimum of till he received the nomination.

Yet it’s now thought-about horrible manners to lift considerations about Biden’s age and well being. As if doing so can solely play into Trump’s arms. As if the president’s well-being is no one’s enterprise however his personal. As if it doesn’t a lot matter whether or not he has the fortitude for the world’s most essential job, as long as his aides can adroitly fill the gaps. As if accusations of ageism and a large shushing sound from media elites can preserve the problem off the general public thoughts.

The level of similarity between this and the original is too great to save the publishers from a lawsuit, but let’s be real, the example of the Gerard Baker article and many others suggests that no lawsuit is likely. Why did someone bother to pass this article through the word-grinder, when it is clear they could have just copied the real thing with less trouble and no greater risk?

Samizdata quote of the day

A brand new medRxiv pre-print study entitled: “The BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 reprograms both adaptive and innate immune responses” has graced our world. This paper is so important and it provides evidence to support what many prominent immunologists and vaccinologists have been saying for a long time, including myself. These COVID-19 mRNA injectable products are causing, yes, causing, immune system dysregulation – and not just in the context of the adaptive system, but in the context of the innate system. Not only that, but these findings provide very good reasons as to why we are seeing resurgences of latent viral infections and other adverse events reported in VAERS (and other adverse event reporting systems) and perhaps more importantly, why we should under no circumstances inject this crap into our children.

Jessica Rose