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]

Zero tolerance

Great is the rejoicing among most of the Guardian commentariat at the news that the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has said that if it wins the election the Labour party will outlaw all zero-hours contracts.

However there is a steady stream of comments from those not thrilled by their coming liberation from the capitalist exploiter, such as this comment by “fivemack”:

Employing people is not compulsory; if it had to employ people for 40 hours a week at £10 an hour regardless of demand, Deliveroo wouldn’t keep on the same number of employees as it has now, it simply wouldn’t exist. If the Guardian had to publish articles only by people who are full-time Guardian employees, it would miss out on an awful lot of interesting content.

The Guardian‘s own business section ran a story that said in large type that “McDonald’s offers fixed contracts to 115,000 UK zero-hours workers” and in small type that

McDonald’s has been trialling the shift to fixed-hours contracts in 23 sites across the country. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts

Samizdata quote of the day

This is not so much a realignment in British politics as the corrosion of the old alignments, the scrubbing out of the old dividing lines. May is making hay out of Labour’s demise, and her decision to champion Brexit – to attach herself, albeit opportunistically, to the democratic cry of the 17.4million – has boosted her stock. But the technocratic May is still living on borrowed time, time that is being extended by a weak and conflicted opposition that lacks the courage to neither thwart nor champion Brexit. A Tory landslide in June will mark both an extension of the public’s determination for Brexit, and a recognition of Labour’s disarray – not a rejuvenation of Toryism.

Tom Slater

Rejoice, Mary Tudor!

The moment I saw this headline: Macron vows to renegotiate Calais treaty with Britain, I felt a frisson of excitement, and no doubt Mary Tudor’s ghostly inscribed heart started beating once again! Perhaps for the first time since January 8th, 1558, that splendid little town will soon be back under its rightful rulers.

Speech codes

EU mulls legislation in the fight against online hate speech, reports Reuters.

Glad we’re leaving. But do not expect our current prime minister to fight for free speech. That would violate her programming.

Added later: Posterity, and one or two bewildered humans, demanded that I explain the foregoing. Our revered Foreign Secretary, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in a recent column for the Sun called Jeremy Corbyn “that mutton-headed old mugwump”. The Sun helpfully provided a glossary for its readers, defining the terms “mugwump” and “revanchist”, though not “glossary”. Mind you, it got the Harry Potter reference wrong; it’s International Confederation of Wizards, not Internal. What do they teach them in these schools? Soon the whole country was googling “mugwump”.

When all they really had to do was ask Theresa May. She has the answer to all our questions.

Added still later, but less late at night: I cannot now remember how I ended up with two links to the same, possibly spliced, audio clip of Theresa May’s definition of a mugwump. Let it be.

Never mind her. If you want to know the up-and-coming political candidate whose name you should look out for, take a look at this leaflet.

The solution to money woes was there all along

When we were little my siblings and I would accompany my mother as she went from greengrocer to butcher to grocer in those pre-supermarket days. Often the first place she visited in the daily round would be the local bank, National Westminster as I recall, where she would queue to write a cheque “to cash”. (For thus it was, my children, when cash machines and internet payments were as yet unknown.) Boring though it was listening to all those grown-up conversations, at least I was learning about how the world worked.

One day my parents were moaning about lack of money. I was tired of their obtuseness in the face of the obvious. I stamped my little foot and said, “If you haven’t got enough money, go to the bank and get some more.

What are you laughing at? I’ll have you know that my youthful economic ideas have been taken up by our government in waiting:

Labour will promise to increase spending on infrastructure and public services, the script says. Among the key pledges are a £10-an-hour living wage, a national investment bank to create £500bn to fund capital projects and infrastructure, and a guarantee on the triple lock for pensions.

Blame St. George for the lack of blogging

Too busy to blog substantively as it is St. George’s Day icon_flag_ENG.gif

St. George, doing his best to rid the world of endangered species

God’s Own Lunch

Gin and Marmalade cocktail (sort of a mutant Gimlet)

“Voting Tory in #GE17 is a vote to kill people like me”

With the Tories overtaking Labour to provide the main opposition in Scotland to the dominant Scottish National Party, disability activist Fiona Robertson has decided to embark on some swing voter outreach:

When I and my fellow disability activists woke up on the morning after the last General Election, we spent an unrelenting few days tag teaming as we tried to keep people in our community alive. We were not always successful. Over and over, hour after hour, we saw iterations of the same message: “I do not think I will survive this government.”

The day of the election, we had all taken a few moments to remember the people who were not there to vote because of the actions of the coalition government. We took a moment to think of the people who would not make it to the next election if we lost.

Amid the elation so many in Scotland felt at the sweep of SNP seats, we disabled people also felt utterly betrayed and hopeless, because the population of the UK had voted to enforce extreme, frequently lethal, damage to our health.

If you do it again, if you do this to us again, we will never forgive you. You can’t pretend you don’t know, you can’t pretend that other things are more important, that it’s not the killing of disabled people you’re voting for really; it’s the other stuff.

Douglas Carswell ends his political career

Guido quotes ex-UKIPer Douglas Carswell, who is stepping down as an MP, and who will, he says, be voting Conservative in the general election:

It is sometimes said that all political careers end in failure. It doesn’t feel like that to me today. I have stood for Parliament five times, won four times, and helped win the referendum last June. Job done. I’m delighted.

Lucky man.

Unless: Carswell’s political career has not, despite his present protestations, actually ended, and his actual political career is yet to end. In failure.

Guido’s early commenters say that the Conservatives wouldn’t let Carswell back in, i.e. let him fight a seat for them, and that the UKIPpers are all fed up with him, in short that his career is even now ending in the very failure that he says he does not feel. But I think it altogether likely that Carswell is telling the truth. Carswell switched to UKIP at just the moment when UKIP itself was migrating towards being a slightly nicer National Front. Remember when UKIP used to be rather libertarian? The way Carswell still is? I do.

But I also agree with Carswell that getting out of the EU was far more important than whatever other policies UKIP says it has. A rat, say those commenters, leaving a sinking ship. I partly agree. UKIP is indeed sinking. It had just one important policy and that is now happening. UKIP agrees with itself about nothing else, and is already disintegrating. You would only vote UKIP now to make quite sure that Britain does indeed leave the EU. But once Britain really has left the EU, UKIP will become a mere echo of a very remarkable but now passing moment in British political history. Oh, the remains of UKIP will stagger on for a few years. Political parties in decline always take for ever to vanish completely. But already, British voters are asking: What is UKIP now for? What does voting UKIP now mean? And they are getting about twenty different answers, depending on which UKIPer they ask, which is the functional equivalent of no answer at all.

LATER: I just listened to that entire conversation, linked to above (here it is again), between Carswell and Mark Littlewood of the IEA. The biggest news in it, for me, is that, following Brexit, Carswell’s next target is the fiat money banking system. I wish him well. I hope that effort does not end in failure. A man of his talent and his connections could make a big difference.

Discussion point: UK general election called for 8th June 2017

Ah, stop pretending to be above it all. If you are on the UK electoral roll, who will you vote for? If you are not, who would you vote for?

Who will win is scarcely worth discussing. But, as the post from politicalbetting.com I linked to says, there are a few questions to which the answer is not so certain:

Can she satisfy the fixed-term parliament act in the vote tomorrow?
Will Mrs May receive any backlash, like Gordon Brown, for going back on her word on holding an early election
If she loses the vote, what then?
If the SNP put in their manifesto Scotland should have Indyref2 next year, and they win a majority of votes or seats in Scotland, how can Mrs May refuse, Mrs May might have put the Union at risk. (It also damages her argument against holding an Indyref2?)
If Corbyn gets creamed at the general election, will he continue as Labour leader? This might be the easiest way for Labour rebels to get rid of Corbyn.

Vantablack

Finally, all those silly season, slow-news-week fashion commentary pieces, about how this or that colour that isn’t black and never will be is now “the new black”, can cease. Vantablack is the new black.

This new black has been contrived by a bunch of nano-techies working for something called Surrey Nanosystems. The point about Vantablack is that it is really black. They claim that Vantablack absorbs all but 0.036% of the light that strikes it. Normally, if you shine a torch at a black surface, you can see the light from the torch registering on the supposedly black surface, in other words being reflected rather than absorbed. But Vantablack just gobbles up all the light and continues to look totally black. You’ll be double-checking your torch to see if it is working. This is a godsend for space telescopers, and for the makers of very high-end cameras of all kinds.

The original target for Vantablack was the suitably money-no-object space telescope business. Space telescopes need to minimise – really minimise – the number of light particles that bounce about inside them in the wrong places and blur the resulting images, and Vantablack absorbs light particles to a unique degree.

But Vantablack also has potential applications in art and in the world of luxury design, which is why I first heard about Vantablack at Dezeen, the design website that I frequent. And then, quite recently, I encountered mention of Vantablack at David Thompson’s blog, in one of his lists of internetted oddities, and then at Instapundit (who feared it might be an April Fool prank). I imagine it has been much the same for all internetters with any interest in such things, large numbers of whom will by now have heard of this remarkable, newly invented-stroke-discovered material-stroke-paint, which is blacker than the blackest black ever not-seen before. The Vantablack story combines hot button highest-technology issues, like nano-tech (which was how they did it) and space exploration, with a visual outcome which is very bizarre, but the basic nature of which can be understood by almost anybody. An ideal combination for virality.

→ Continue reading: Vantablack

She fought Scots law, and the law won.

News reaches us from Dundee, of a lady, Carly Mackie, who thought that she could have her cake and eat it, by parking on another’s land and ignoring the notices demanding the payment due in exchange. Having ignored around 200 such notices, she was taken to the Sheriff court and the Pursuer (Plaintiff/Claimant) won a tidy £24,500 (c. USD 30,400).

Well Carly, it’s your party and you can cry if you want to, but the Sheriff would be unmoved.

Sheriff George Way ruled: ‘[Miss Mackie] has, in my judgment, entirely misdirected herself on both the law and the contractual chain in this case.’
He added that the company had a valid contract and residents in the area had a ‘legitimate interest arising from their title to the land to protect their property and amenity’. The sheriff continued: ‘Parking is not only an amenity but a valuable commodity in modern life.’

Well, he might have said: “The Defender was a trespasser, the Pursuer offered to let her park there if she agreed a fee, she did so, and so the fee is due.“.

However, a Conservative MSP has, we are told, chipped in:

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser has highlighted the distress caused by ‘bully-boy’ tactics, including the threat of court action, increased fines and damage to an individual’s credit rating.

The bully-boy? This was a woman parking on other’s land. Court action is there as the lawful way to prove a claim, and the credit rating? Who (sensibly) would lend money to Miss Mackie now? She clearly seems to think that debts are optional.

The Daily Mail has its own view.

The Dundee case is thought to be the first in Scotland involving a private parking firm and a member of the public – and lawyers say it could open the floodgates in a sector that is notoriously poorly regulated.

Yes, what regulations are there to stop people trespassing? What regulations are there to stop people from breaking contracts, such as an agreement by conduct to pay a fee for parking on land without prior permission? Do tell. Or perhaps let us stick with this private system of offer and acceptance.

It’s nice to know that out there, some judges sit, like spiders, waiting for a buzzing fly to land in their web. Can we have a bit more of this please, it might help to rebuild faith in the law?

Samizdata quote of the day

As the Daily Telegraph said on Tuesday – the government has got things the wrong way round on European Union regulations.

The position should be that all E.U. regulations on our domestic (internal) life are void when we leave the E.U. – unless it can be shown that a specific regulation serves a useful purpose (I would be very hard to convince on that point).

Sadly the government is saying “we will incorporate all the regulations into British law – and then decide which regulations we want to repeal later”.

That is the wrong way round – the burden of proof should be the other way round.

Paul Marks