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]

Samizdata quote of the day

BBC should be abolished, not because of blatant bias but because the whole idea of a state broadcaster was a terrible idea on day 1 of the BBC’s existence. And in the internet age, it is now an anachronistic bad idea. Bin it entirely or at least make it voluntary subscription

– Perry de Havilland

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 …)

Samizdata quote of the day

In between the torturous Brexit process, May’s government has been busy implementing her interventionist vision. Take the minimum wage, first introduced by the Blair government in 1999, which the Tory party long ago dropped opposition to. But now, Chancellor Philip Hammond, supposedly a member of the more free-market wing of the party, is considering hiking the minimum wage from 59% to 66% of median earnings, which would make it the highest in the world and mean that a quarter of British workers would be paid a government mandated wage.
[…]
The rest of the supposedly Conservative Party has seemingly given up on these values, more concerned with virtue signalling and kowtowing to the latest politically correct fad.

– ‘Creative Destruction’ on The looming death of the Tory Party

I seek a software or sporting metaphor to explain why a second referendum would be wrong

When discussing Brexit I am often asked, not always disingenuously, “What is so wrong with having another referendum? Is not another vote more democratic by definition? Now that we know more, isn’t a good idea to check if people really do want to leave the European Union?”

I have been trying to think of a metaphor to explain what my objection to a second referendum is. The non-metaphorical explanation is that the government solemnly promised in the pamphlet sent to every household that whatever people voted for in the referendum of 23rd June 2016, “the government will implement what you decide”. A so-called democracy that will not allow certain results is a sham democracy.

(“Buuut,” comes the cry, “we aren’t disallowing any results. We’re just checking.”)

It was the European Union’s habit of ignoring or repeating referendums that gave the “wrong answer” which more than anything else turned me against it. I can truly say that even when it was in its infancy I foresaw that the trick of making a few cosmetic changes then running the referendum again would work devilishly well because it is difficult to describe in one sentence what is wrong with it. One can point out that it only ever seems to work one way: results of which the EU approves never seem to need to be confirmed. But to do that requires that you recite a whole chunk of history about Denmark and Ireland and the difference (clue: there wasn’t one) between the European Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. If your interlocutor is young, as a lot of Europhiles are, then this is a lot to take in and a lot to take on trust.

I wish there were a quick, engaging story I could tell to show what I mean. Two possible types of anecdote occur to me, one from the world of sport and one from the world of computers. Being ignorant of both fields, I would like to ask readers if they know of anecdotes or examples from sporting history or computery stuff which would fit the bill.

Computers first: it infuriates me when the efforts of Microsoft or Samsung to get me to adopt their proprietary software seem almost to amount to harassment. I have a Samsung phone. One day this crappy thing called “Samsung internet” appeared on the front screen or whatever it’s called. I don’t recall that I ever asked for it but I cannot make it go away. To be honest I probably did ask for it in the sense that I once, once, failed to reject it on some occasion when some damn prompt asking me to take it popped up and I had to get rid of the pop-up quickly in order to get on with whatever I wanted to do.

That anecdote is probably wrong in its terminology. I may have been overly harsh to Samsung or its internet. The point is that this type of situation, where the user has to keep rejecting something that the software company is pushing, and if they slip up just once they are deemed to have accepted it, is widely recognized to be a right pain. Can anyone give me the words to make this a metaphor for why “neverendums” are a bad thing?

Or what about an example from the history of sport? Little though I know about sports, even I can see that there can be few things more frustrating for an athlete than to run the race of your life – and then have it announced that, “Oh, sorry, old chap, that was a false start. We’ll have to run it again.” This would be even worse if it were suspected that the sporting authorities had applied the rules in a partial manner. For instance there may have been times when white athletics officials were more prone to declare that a re-run was necessary if a black athlete won than if a white athlete did.

I may have described a similar situation regarding football in an earlier post I cannot find now.

Has this scenario actually happened? Dates, names and places please!

And if you know as little as I do of those two fields, how do you make the argument against a second referendum?

Or, if you prefer, what stories, anecdotes or metaphors do you use to argue in favour of a second referendum?

Moral blindness

“Danny Baker’s excuses don’t cut it – the impact of racism is inseparable from the intent”, writes Kuba Shand-Baptiste in the Independent. Or rather her headline writer does, since the headline claims that intentions matter deeply and the article claims they matter not at all. No, I’m wrong; on closer reading, the headline-writer took the headline from the penultimate line of Ms Shand-Baptiste’s article. But that line contradicts everything that went before. Oh, I give up. You can read it yourselves.

For context, Ms Shand-Baptiste’s article is about the sacking of the DJ Danny Baker for tweeting an old black and white picture that showed a very posh couple with a dressed-up chimpanzee, to which Baker added the caption “Royal baby leaves hospital”. Given that baby Archie is mixed race (a touching photo of him surrounded by beaming relatives from both sides of his multi-racial family went round the world in an instant), and there is a long history of racist depictions of black people as being apes or monkeys, Baker was a fool not to see how his tweet could be misread. But he says it was misread. He says he was jokingly making a left-wing point to the effect that all the royals are in a sense performing animals, dressed up for the cameras. I see no reason to disbelieve him. Neither does Kuba Shand-Baptiste in the Independent, she just thinks innocent intent does not matter:

When it comes to racism in Britain, naivety has long been key to pushing the harmful messages we accept as inadvertent or good natured. But there’s no excuse. Whether or not these acts are accidental, the impact is almost always inseparable from the intent. You don’t have to have a “diseased mind” to be part of the problem, but blind belief in your own sense of decency in the face of facts that suggest otherwise, definitely helps.

Wait a minute, “blind belief”? Kuba Shand-Baptiste just used the word “blind” as a metaphor for a moral failing!

When it comes to ableism in Britain, naivety has long been key to pushing the harmful messages we accept as inadvertent or good natured. But there’s no excuse.

Never mind the context, never mind her intention, the Independent must fire her now.

Added 10.20pm, 10/05/19: Good grief: Danny Baker being investigated by police over ‘stupid’ royal baby tweet that saw him sacked by BBC.

To be fair to the police this looks like a case of “someone has made a complaint so it must be investigated”. Welcome to the world you made, lefties.

What answer were you expecting?

Diana Darke, writing in the Guardian, asks,

Britain used to ask Muslims to move here. What happened to us?

In the current climate of Islamophobia, I wonder how many British people are aware of a series of films made in the early 1960s, which were expressly designed to encourage people from Arab countries to come to Britain to work or study. The four films, all in Arabic, were made on behalf of the Foreign Office, and all begin with a mosque skyline and melodic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, the start of the Muslim call to prayer. They are unapologetically religious, eager to show Arabic-speaking Muslims how welcoming Britain is, how Islamic institutions exist in Britain to cater to their cultural and religious traditions, as a friendly home from home.

I truly, literally hesitated to post this Guardian article that purports to combat hostility to Muslims because it is so obviously certain to infuriate people against them. In the end I did post it because the phenomenon of its existence is worthy of examination. Why do the writers of such pieces do it? Why does the Guardian facilitate them? What answer were they expecting?

John Lewis Gaddis on good versus evil in the Cold War

One of the particular pleasures of twenty-first century life is that it is now easy to purchase interesting books which have been around for quite a while, cheaply and easily rather than expensively and complicatedly. I recently bought, from Amazon, We Now Know, by John Lewis Gaddis, which is about the Cold War and was published in the 1990s. I’ve been meaning to acquaint myself with this book ever since I first heard about it, which must have been well over a decade ago.

I have so far only skimmed We Now Know, but I have already encountered a rather striking passage, towards the end. (Skimming usually involves looking at the end, doesn’t it?)

The Cold War, says Gaddis, was not decided in the Third World, but rather in such places as Europe and Japan. And why, asks Gaddis (pp.286-7 – his italics in bold), did “Washington’s empire in those pivotal regions”, generate so much less friction that Moscow’s:

One answer may be that many people then saw the Cold War as a contest of good versus evil, even if historians since have rarely done so.

Let me focus here on a single significant case: it has to do with what happened in Germany immediately after the war as its citizens confronted their respective occupiers. What Stalin sought there, it now seems clear, was a communist regime in the east that would attract Germans in the west without requiring the use of force, something the Russians could ill afford given their own exhaustion and the Americans’ monopoly over the atomic bomb.

Obviously, this is not what he got. Germans first voted with their feet – fleeing to the west in huge numbers to avoid the Red Army – and then at the ballot box in ways that frustrated all of Stalin’s hopes. But this outcome was not fore-ordained. There were large numbers of communist party members throughout Germany at the end of the war, and their prestige – because of their opposition to the Nazis – had never been higher. Why did the Germans so overwhelmingly welcome the Americans and their allies, and fear the Russians?

→ Continue reading: John Lewis Gaddis on good versus evil in the Cold War

“Added impotence …”

Tweet of the day. That’s what Julia Hartley-Brewer says. She’s Tweeting about this Tweet:

Theresa May’s spokesman says the local election results “have given added impotence… I mean impetus,” to Brexit talks with Labour.

My position on Brexit is: I want it. As in: national legislative independence, no customs union, etc. I want Brexit in the way that the Brexit Party wants Brexit. As smooth as it can be but as unsmooth as it has to be.

But, my position on a Corbyn government is: I don’t want it. The second sentiment may well trump the first, for me, come the next general election. I don’t believe I’m the only one thinking like this. How odd that Corbyn and his pals, who have always wanted Britain out of the EU, may be the ones who end up keeping us in.

My hope is, if the Conservatives do now – to coin a phrase – succeed in failing to deliver the Brexit that they promised, that the Brexit Party will actually be a better bet than the Conservatives, come the next general election, to stop a Corbyn government. This because so many disappointed Labour Brexiters will be voting for the Brexit Party along with most of the formerly Conservative vote. So: No Corbyn government, actual Brexit. Two for two. I can hope.

Also: What if you are strongly pro-EU, but even more strongly anti-Corbyn. Might you also, in the circumstances just described, vote in a general election for the Brexit Party, if they looked like a better bet than the Conservatives to stop a Corbyn government? There presumably won’t be many such people, but maybe enough to make a difference.

Weird times.

A distant mirror

“Turkey officials order re-run of Istanbul election, voiding win for Erdogan opposition”, reports the Independent:

Turkish authorities on Monday ordered a redo of an election won by an opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party, snatching away a major victory from the country’s opposition.

Under heavy pressure by Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s High Election Commission (YSK), which is described as packed with the president’s loyalists, cancelled the results of 31 March Istanbul mayoral elections narrowly won by Ekrem Imamoglu, a rising star in the Turkish opposition.

The news was reported by Turkey’s state-run Anatolia News Agency. It sent the Turkish lira, already battered by inflation and high borrowing costs, tumbling.

Mr Imamoglu appearing before a crowd of supporters struck a defiant tone.
“We won this election by the hard work of millions of people; they attempted to steal our rightfully won elections,” he said. “We are thirsty for justice. The decision-makers in this country may be in a state unawareness, error or even treason, but we will never give up.”

The Times has also reported on this story: “Election chiefs order re-run of Istanbul poll Erdogan lost”.

Imamoglu, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate who won the March 31 poll by 14,000 votes, of the office and duties that he had already assumed.

In a statement to crowds waving Turkish flags in the city’s Beylikduzu district hours after the announcement was made, Mr Imamoglu, 48, urged his supporters to “stand up against what you know to be immoral”.

Street protests broke out across the middle-class, secular neighbourhoods of Istanbul where support for Mr Imamoglu and his party runs highest.

The Guardian has followed Mr Imamoglu’s rise closely in recent months, not surprising given that Mr Imamoglu is a liberal secularist standing up for democracy against the Islamist demagagogue Erdoğan. For instance this admiring profile of Mr Imamoglu by Bethan McKernan appeared last month: “Ekrem İmamoğlu: a unifying political force to take on Erdoğan”. As it usually is, the Guardian‘s straight reporting of the story that the election is to be run again is fair enough: “Outcry as Turkey orders rerun of Istanbul mayoral election”. But something tells me that the newspaper’s liberal, secularist columnists may not leap with their customary vigour to defend Mr Imamoglu’s hard-won democratic victory against those in power who would use their control of procedure to make him fight it again. On the other hand, perhaps I am too pessimistic. They are all devotedly pro-EU, after all, and the left-wing MEP who might be thought of as the European Union’s spokesperson on Turkish affairs has spoken clearly and well:

Kati Piri, the European parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said the decision “ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections” in the country.

A cross-party group of Green, Labour and progressive Conservative MPs have finally seen the light and are demanding deficit reduction

I thought this day would never come!

New laws should be checked against a “compassion threshold”, to ensure they will not harm future generations or the most vulnerable in society, a cross-party group of MPs will argue this week.

At last “progressives” have acknowledged that to run up the UK deficit by reckless government spending is to bribe the present electorate at the expense of ruinous consequences for future generations. I do not know what caused the likes of the Green Party’s only MP Caroline Lucas, the Labour MP Thangham Debonnaire, or the famously wet Tory MP Tracey Crouch to belatedly see the wisdom of the US Tea Party movement and Senator Rand Paul’s Balanced Budget Amendment, but whatever caused this Damascene conversion, it is most welcome.

Naturally these generally left-wing MPs see the proposed “Compassion Threshold” that would bind this and all future Parliaments in what laws they can pass as primarily affecting issues of more traditional concern to the Left:

From rising levels of rough sleeping to the rollout of universal credit, there are a growing number of issues that campaigners believe underline the unintended consequences of policymaking on the most vulnerable in society.

Backers of the idea of the compassion bill say they hope it would allow those affected to bring legal action, as they can when they believe their human rights are being breached, for example.

But since it should obvious to anyone how readily this proposed law could be used to enforce stringent budget responsibility on future governments, including what may very well be our next Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, let us wish the sponsors of the Bill every success.

Quite…

Chinese tech, Five Eyes, and The British Establishment

The UK government led by Theresa May really is quite something, is it not?

Huawei is already embedded in Britain’s elite: in 2015 it appointed to head its UK board Lord Browne, the former chair of BP, who was ennobled by Tony Blair’s administration and served David Cameron too. At the same time, it appointed to its UK board as non-executive dierectors Dame Helen Alexander, formerly leader of the EU-loving Economist Group and Confederation of British Industry (now deceased), and Sir Andrew Cahn, a former civil servant who resigned from Cameron’s Trade and Investment Department in 2011 in order to chair Huawei’s new British advisory board.

May’s government is sacrificing national security, the special relationship, and Brexit in favour of Chinese money and EU integration.

The article is written by some chap called Bruce Newsome, and it makes a good deal of sense. Even if you are sceptical of some of his points about how accountable US intelligence operations are (not very, judging by what has been going on vis a vis Mr Trump) its contention that it makes more sense to trust the US rather than China seems correct to me. This current government is endangering the UK’s long-standing intelligence co-operation under the “Five Eyes” pact with the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And it is being done by a government that failed to deliver on taking the UK out of the EU by 29 March, giving comfort to those who still dream of taking the UK more fully into a developing European state with its own military command structure, at odds, as it will inevitably be, with NATO.

The rollout of a 5-G network in the UK will, hopefully, bring major benefits to users, but you don’t need to watch a lot of scary thrillers to understand the risks in getting a firm involved that is so closely embedded with the Chinese state. (Sure, many Western firms are also embedded in their respective states, so it comes down to a judgement call on which states are less evil, and I think I know the answer to that).

Even those of an anarchist/minarchist turn of mind when it comes to intra-government intelligence sharing processes ought to worry that the UK seems keener to do deals with Chinese state-backed tech firms than protect an alliance that helped to win the Cold War. Such matters should not be discussed behind closed doors of government, but be out in the open.

As far as Theresa May is concerned, my contempt for this individual has gone from gale warning to hurricane-force levels, with no signs of improvement soon.