Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Natalie Solent on Victor!
Peter Briffa on Ashes black out
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Michael Jennings on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Schrodinger's Dog on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Tatyana on Victor!
Daniel Hannan on Daniel Hannan's latest book(s?)
Tatyana on Michael Jennings photos the bridges of Porto
Brian Micklethwait on Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
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- How big should these squares be?
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- The Kelpies of Falkirk
- A quota thought that (luckily for me) went nowhere
- Polish girls in Moscow doing a selfie
- Music classified
- Quota videos
- Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
- Sidwell (and me) on selfies
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Category archive: Comments
I just left a comment at Samizdata, on this posting by Natalie Solent (who has been very productive there of late) about the lack of security of the ObamaCare website, and this Guardian story on the subject:
The insecurity of the site, probably incurable in less than several months (from what I’m reading), has always struck me (ever since I first read about it a week or two back) as the absolute worst thing about ObamaCare, though I admit it’s a crowded field. The Bad News letters from insurance companies at least put a number to how much money is now going to be screwed out of you, that Obama said (about forty times) you would not be screwed out of. But all that data lying around for any tech-savvy passer-by to grab means there’s no upper limit to what you just might lose, if you have anything whatsoever to do with this horrible horrible thing.
It took me years to trust Amazon with my bank details. Only when about half the world seemed to be signing up for that deal did I take the plunge, and I still fear that in some mysterious way I might one day regret this. I mean, what if Amazon gets taken over by greedy incompetents, skilled only at crookedness, of the sort now already running ObamaCare (and also “advising” people about it)? I know, there are safeguards in place, but my fear is, although small, real. My fear with Obamacare would now be big, and real. My attitude to ObamaCare would be (a) I want nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with it, and (b) If the President and his gang say I have to have something to do with it, then I hope the President and his gang rot in hell.
Obama, it seems to me, has been treated like a great many other bad black Americans. He has been cut a million miles of slack, never criticised, never taught any morals, and now suddenly, patience has run out and he faces a lynch mob of enraged citizens. He is going to get the political version of a life-time prison sentence, namely a place in the Presidential Hall of Infamy. (I know what you’re thinking: wishful thinking on my part. Maybe. But his friends are all abandoning him now. He surely now realises that he has screwed up big, and that there is no way back.)
Heinlein had things to say about this. If you are going to punish big later, then it is kinder to give your punishee some warning, with small punishments earlier, when he does small things wrong when younger. I’m not talking physical abuse here, just the odd harsh word when the kid does a bad thing. That way he learns, instead of being hit with the kitchen sink, out of the blue, when he turns 18 or 50 or whatever.
There was a comment this morning from Rob Fisher (and I do love it that we finally have Samizdata author archives), on a piece I threw up on (?) Samizdata yesterday comparing 3D printing to blogging. This comment has the feel of something that ought to be a bit more than a comment. So here it is, here:
Google the Ubuntu Edge smartphone. This is a device that many people wanted, but not quite enough to raise 35 million that the company behind it say was needed to make 40,000 phones.
A large part of what made the device desirable was its physical construction. I imagine a time when people can choose from a wide library of smartphone physical designs and customise them with a choice of materials, colours and shape modifications. Those with the skills will contribute new designs to the library.
Similarly, smartphone innards are increasingly boiling down to two or three interchangeable chips. Why not select the system-on-chip you prefer; add some RAM and flash storage; and pick the screen you want? Placement of these parts is then just physical design.
So we build a one–off smartphone. The chassis may be 3D printed or cut from a metal block with some sort of robotic machinist. The circuit boards and final assembly will be robotic.
Look at how Foxconn is replacing its “slave” human labourers with robots.
So what, really, is the difference between today, when a new design for a run of 40,000 gadgets costs $35m, and my world, where a single unique device can be assembled for $800?
It’s partly logistics, which 3D printing is part of the answer to. Some entrepreneurial soul will surely eventually build the factory to solve the rest of the logistical problems.
The rest of the answer is the dispersal of the required knowledge. In the same way that making new software is largely a matter of combining libraries written previously by domain experts with a smidgen of new ideas, so the physical design of gadgets will eventually become a matter of combining standard parts with a touch of customisation.
It’s largely a software problem, too. If you imagine a Web site that lets you design your own phone in the way I have described, a lot of the problem is systematising smartphone design and putting a usable user interface on that system.
So, to make my own analogy, if the world I have just imagined of making your own gadgets is blogging, 3D printing is the web. Small, automated factories that can cheaply produce one-off items using 3D printing and robots are the Internet. And some clever software to make it easier to enter one’s designs is WordPress.
Regular Samizdata commenter Alisa called that “brilliant”, which was what made me think it ought to be immortalised.
One of the things I like to do with this blog from time to time is to single out particularly eloquent Samizdata comments, comments that deserve to echo in eternity, as Russell Crowe put it in that gladiator movie. Putting a comment here probably doesn’t do much to assist such an outcome, but it can’t hurt, can it?
Here, from Perry Metzger, joining in the comment thread on one of his quite numerous recent Samizdata postings is a particularly choice comment, I think:
For myself, I decided long ago that it was best to take my ideological enemies at their word when they claim to have a particular concern.
Although they might be lying, perhaps even to themselves, it rarely seems fruitful to explore that. For one thing, it has no impact on whether their public claims are true or false — we may (indeed, must) analyze those without any resort to ad hominem analysis of the speaker. For another, I myself resent it when my enemies claim that I actually truly want the poor to starve in the streets (or something similar) and am only professing concern — I see no reason not to grant them what I ask them to grant me, which is to say, the benefit of the doubt as to the sincerity of my motivations.
Once one goes down the path of debating “true intentions” instead of arguing the substantive points, one gets into endless cycles of meta-analysis, distraction, and attempts at impossible feats of remote psychoanalysis.
I prefer to simply stipulate, even if I cannot possibly conceive of how my opponent could not have evil motives, that if he says his motive is to help people that for purposes of the conversation we will assume that this is his motivation.
So, for myself, I just act as though they’re telling the truth about what they want and show that their proposals will do something entirely different, if not something entirely in opposition to their stated desires. That is enough to demonstrate their program is bad. If their actual concerns are elsewhere, I happily wait for them to tell me and begin anew — the results are rarely different anyway.
I recall having an argument in a magazine, way back when, with Peter Tatchell, in which he attributed base motives to me, in my desire to see the USSR toppled. I responded not by denying, or not at any length, his accusation of bad faith. I merely asked him what he thought of my argument, however insincere he believed me to be about it. Supposing someone said that and meant it. Then what, Mr T? Tatchell subsequently became an arms length ally of libertarianism, once he got that we meant all that also. I think this exchange helped to cause that, not least because, by declining to discuss evil motives, in this case my own supposedly evil motives, I remained civil and respectful. It helped that I did then, as now, greatly respect Tatchell.
Here are two Samsung products. (Click on each to get each picture bigger.) And the question is, what is the connection between these two gadgets?:
Okay, no messing about, they are the same gadget, viewed from one side and then from the other.
Samsung has just officially announced its latest cameraphone running Android and it’s called the Galaxy S4 Zoom. It’s basically a hybrid between the Galaxy S4 mini and the Galaxy Camera, combining solid smartphone functionality with the versatility of a zoom lens and a proper flash.
An early commenter says that this thing is ugly. But function trumps beauty. Function creates beauty. If a thing works, it is experienced as a thing of beauty. To those who want exactly such a thing, this will be very beautiful. My guess is the commenter was hired by a grumblesome rival that wishes it were doing as well as Samsung is these days, but is not.
The reason for all my meandering about in the London Bridge stroke Southwark stroke Waterloo area last Thursday was that I needed to be at London Bridge to photo the bottom of the Shard before it got too dark, in other words around 4pm, but then had to wait around until after 7pm, before going to the Rose and Crown for the Libertarian Home social. Had I gone home, I’d only have had to turn around and come back again, more or less immediately. Hence all the meandering.
The LH social was a lot of fun. There was no one big conversation, just lots of little ones, and one of mine was about architecture and city planning. The problem of how to switch from a statist world to a libertarian one without destroying lots of sacred buildings was touched on, which I think is a very good question. Libertarians aren’t the Taleban, but the early effect might be the same if we aren’t careful. And if we don’t have answers to such questions, we won’t get very far.
Also on an architectural theme, I was reminded of these photos, by the man, “Ian F4”, who took them. He still had them on his mobile, and reminded me that he had put them in a comment here, on this posting. They deserve greater prominence, and at the very least, another showing:
I love how, in the left hand photo, a bright light (or in this case a bright reflection of the sun) makes everything else go dark.
The one on the right is the shot of the Shard from near the bottom of the Monument,
It was Ian F4 who got me doing this mad series of Thursday Odyssey postings, by telling me about how he reads my blog. This cheered me up no end, and I decided to have a bit of a go here, more than I have been doing lately. So, all these recent postings are his fault.
I participated in an interesting exchange today at Samizdata, on the subject of this posting, about why I support the Tea Party. But the exchange came towards the end of a longish, and nearly dead now, comment thread, so few will read it, and I at least want to remember what was said.
I disagree with this article for one main reason: the Tea Party has been nearly entirely co-opted by the social conservatives. The small-government folks seem to accept this as a necessary compromise, without realizing that they have lost control of the movement.
If you took a poll of people identifying themselves with the Tea Party, you would find that religious issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc.)) are more important than government spending. From an article from 2011: “Tea Party supporters … are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues.” (Emphasis mine)
Farther down in the same article: 42% of Tea Party supporters agree with the conservative Christian movement, while 11% disagree. The remainder are somewhere in the middle, but the dominance is clear.
The Tea Party was a great idea, until the religious zealots got ahold of it ...
Some of what you say is obvious and not bad news at all. None of what you say is definitely bad news.
Much depends, in surveys, on what questions are asked.
It’s obvious that Tea Party Christians get their social issue opinions from their Christianity. Who has ever doubted it? This does not prove that they will use the Tea Party primarily to spread or to enforce these Christian views to or upon others.
Even the claim that they take social issues more seriously than government spending, though suggestive of what you are arguing, does not prove it.
If any question had asked: What do you think the Tea Party is for? Cutting government spending? Or: propagating (or even enforcing) Christian values? Then, the answers would be interesting, and very troubling if the Christians mostly said: For propagating and enforcing Christian values. The government spending stuff is just something we say, in order to spread Christianity.
But a quick read of the piece you link to tells me that no such question was asked, or if it was, the answers was not reported. What this survey seems to be about is what else Tea Partiers tend to believe, besides believing in the Tea Party. Nothing in it surprised me, or lowered, or even altered, my opinion of the Tea Party.
By the way, not only am I a libertarian, I am also a strong atheist. I think Christianity is not just untrue. I think that Christian beliefs about such things as the virgin birth and the meaning of the crucifixion of Christ are downright daft. If I thought that the Tea Party was either founded to create a Christian theocracy or if I ever think in the future that it has degenerated into such an enterprise (as it certainly might), I would not merely stop supporting it, I would, for whatever difference it would make, oppose it. Meanwhile, what seems to unite Tea Partiers now is, see my posting, the belief that the US government does too much, spends too much and borrows too much, and making that idea stick is what the Tea Party is for. Nothing in this survey says otherwise.
I agree that Christians loom very large in the Tea Party, but Christianity is not the Tea Party’s publicly agreed purpose. As of now, I remain optimistic that whereas most Tea Partiers seem to be Christians, and as such profoundly influenced in what they think by their Christianity, these Christians do not think that the purpose of the Tea Party is to spread Christianity, and that the government spending stuff is just a front.
If your response to that is: well, of course they wouldn’t say that. My response to that would be that nothing is this survey settles that particularly argument about what these Christians are trying to accomplish one way or the other. Are you aware of any other evidence that Christian Tea Partiers are actually engaged in a huge deception of this sort? I am not, but that proves very little. What I do know is that your link does not supply such evidence.
An analogy. The libertarian movement seems to consist largely of men. (It’s certainly that way in London.) But this absolutely does not mean that the libertarian movement’s purpose is to spread the idea of male domination of the world generally. To say that “libertarianism has been taken over by men” is sort of true, in the sense that it is indeed mostly men. But as an attempt to describe what the men in the libertarian movement are really trying to accomplish, such an observation would be seriously misleading.
As yet there has been no reply, and probably there won’t be. That’s not itself any sort of argument. Just because you had the last word, if you did, that doesn’t mean you won. Merely that communication ceased.
More to the point, if there is any news or evidence that Tea Party Christians are indeed trying the old Popular Front routine rather than supporting the public agenda of the Tea Party in good faith, I would very much like to learn about it.
Yes, Patrick Crozier (to whom deep thanks) has just improved the state of this blog, by making it that if you go via a monthly archive, you can easily access the comments on a selected posting here, even though the chances are you almost certainly won’t be allowed to add any more comments.
If you follow one of my links back to an earlier post here, however, you still may find yourself at a posting which has comments, but which makes no mention of them. In a recent posting, for instance, I did a link, back to an earlier posting about a Muslim man photoing four Muslim ladies in black letter-box costumes. But, as linked to by me, this posting has no mention of any comments. If you want to look at the comments (a bit interesting in this case), then click on the title of the posting, and you will arrive at this, which is the exact same posting, but with all the comments there.
If you feel compelled to add something more, try emailing me.
A recent Patrick Crozier piece at Samizdata illustrates further the value of being able to access ancient comments. Often a blog posting is a question, and a pretty blatant - often shamelessly explicit - attempt to solicit comments that answer that question. I also do this a lot, and I do mean a lot. There is little point in being able to read such questions, but not being able to read the answers.
I am still hoping that someone will tell me who this guy is. He looks a bit like a young Rio Ferdinand. Anyone?
This idea (alluded to in my previous posting about my comments system here) of readers digging up old comments and admiring them is no joke, as regular Samizdata commenter “llamas”, obligingly and entirely coincidentally, and after most of that previous posting had already been written, says, in a comment on my latest posting at Samizdata (which is about Obama potentially losing both (a) the US mainstream media and consequently (b) the plot and his rag in public).
(puffs out chest) I actually predicted a lot of this, right on these very pages, almost 4 years ago
See what I mean. Others may not care what you wrote four years ago, but you might. And you might want to dig it up, llamas style, and say: I told you so. Okay maybe you only told the world whatever you told it in comment number three (of three) in a posting here about kittens, but … you did say it. You genuinely were thinking that, then. You are not just saying it now, and imagining it now. You aren’t making it up.
Here, just out of interest, is some of what llamas said, on November 5th 2008, about what was in Obama’s future:
Once the voters actually start getting what they voted for, ‘good and hard’, I think there will be a backlash that will make 1994 look like a walk in the park. If there is a really-good foreign-policy crisis in the mix - even sooner. Obama simply does not have the leadership, the skills or the experience to impose himself or his ideas on the nation in any significant way. He is Pelosi and Reid’s tame poodle, and as they go, so will he.
I saw a piece of video (widely re-broadcast) that shows an Obama supporter crying that now she won’t have to worry about her mortgage, won’t have to worry about putting gas in the car anymore - if she helps Him, He’ll help her.
Well, come about May, when her mortgage bills just keep on coming and the tank of her car does not magically refill, she’s going to be asking - where’s mine? And when she then sees her net income go down - she has a job, ergo, she’s going to pay more taxes in ObamaDemocratWorld, and the price of gas does not go down, and her 401k is still in the tank ... you see where I’m going with this?
President-elect Obama has promised to solve all of the world’s problems. Every one. It’s right there in his speeches. We’re all going to be happy and prosperous together. He said so.
And when he fails to deliver - as he must, since he has no actual power to do any of what he promised to do - and when the Congress starts to do what it REALLY had in mind all the time - the balance will change, quick and hard.
It will be hard days getting there. But the pendulum always swings back to center, and the further from center that it has been dragged - as it was yesterday - the hard the swing back.
I’m starting to think that Obama is going not just going to lose this November, but be wiped out. But that could just be wishful thinking on my part, and in the event that Romney does win, even if by a landslide, then his troubles will have only just begun.
Basically, my take is that, yes, Romney has to win, but then the Tea Party has to keep him on the straight and narrow. It’s a lot to ask.
I doubt if anyone has been wondering where I have been for the last six days. Me not blogging is not exactly a big surprise these days. But I have actually been doing good things for this blog, by cleaning up the comment system.
Basically, spam commenters have been making my life a misery and this blog an object of ridicule to any who still bother with it, and I decided to drop all other blogging activity until I had turned back the tide. That is now done. For the time being at least, the spamsters have given up.
Basically I fixed it so that neither you nor the spammers can comment on any posting here, except the very recent ones. But you can now read all the proper comments that have accumulated here over the years, along with the postings. Previously, I had shut down quite a lot of the comments in such a way that not only could you not add a comment yourself; you couldn’t even read the comments that had once been there. Many (not most but many) comments from way back, not a few of them very interesting, had been scrubbed out as if they had never been.
Now, all those genuine, non-spam comments, every last one of them, are back. If you remember saying something brilliant about something I wrote about something or other, just type “something or other” into the search box on the left, and you can dig it up and admire it without fear of interruption.
I use Expression Engine, for the benefit of geeks. And the trick in Expression Engine was to fix it so that comments “expire”. Comments which have “expired” may not be responded to with further comments, but the entire comment thread can still be read.
Comments that have not been “allowed”, on the other hand, just disappear. But, those that I had disallowed didn’t disappear entirely. They could be re-allowed again. This is what I did, for all disallowed comment threads. But, I also made sure (by choosing a recent date now in the past) that all these comments have now “expired”. Are we clear?
All of which means that the spammers will no longer regard this blog as a target rich environment. They don’t mind me deleting their crap, so long of some of it sticks, for a little while, like when I am sleeping or having a life. The trick is to make it impossible for them to chuck it here in the first place, or not on any scale. There will still be a handful of recent postings for them to crap all over the comment threads of, but here’s hoping they will now look for bigger pastures (such as this blog used to be from their point of view) to ply their dishonourable trade. It’s now been more than a day since spam commenting opportunities here ceased to exist in anything resembling abundance, and the spammers seem, for the time being anyway, to have moved on.
I would love to meet someone who was foolish enough to boast to me, or come to that to anyone, that he does or ever did spam commenting for a living. I would probably end up in prison by the time I had done my thing to them, but it would be well worth it. Their lives would be a living hell from then on also, because I would have gone to as much trouble as was needed to accomplish that. Besides which, an enlightened judge or jury might decide that what I did, though harsh, was an entirely reasonable example of a crime of passion, or perhaps self-defence, even a public duty well performed, and that the little runt got just a little bit of what he entirely deserved, and that I owed the runt one pee in damages, which I would be delighted then to administer to the runt on the court-room steps, hopefully thereby ruining all the expensive clothes he had purchased for the trial in a vain attempt to persuade everyone that he was not a runt.
Meanwhile, the price this blog pays for all this anti-spamming activity is that no non-runts can now comment on ancient postings here, or not with a “comment”.
But very few ever did, and if you really do want to add something to some old thing here, do please feel entirely free to email in with such commentary, making it clear that you would welcome me including it in a new posting, which will then (because very recent) be available to be commented upon by others besides me.
The other somewhat bad news is that this all took me a very, very long time. Basically, I re-edited every single individual posting here, of which there are now getting on for three thousand. I am sure there was a much quicker way for me to have done this, but in truth I quite enjoyed the task. It went well with listening to music. Plus, I enjoyed acquainting myself with clever things I have written in the past, and with clever comments that others had written (some of them showing me to be not so clever, but there you go, that’s the price of mouthing off on the www).
Nevertheless (Patrick C)? Could I have done all this in a few moments? I bet I could.
What the anti FR …
i.e. anti fractional reserve banking …
… position argued by Rothbard and some of his supporters claims is that all such contracts are fraudulent, and so should be banned. If so, all insurance contracts should be banned as well, since if all the insured houses happen to burn down in the same year the insurance company won’t have the money to pay off on them.
I’ve never encountered that argument before. (Which shows how much attention I’e been paying to all this ...)
I intend to make it a Samizdata Quote of the Day. But for the time being, let it be a mere BrianMicklethwaitDotCom Quote of the Day, because I don’t want to separate out this idea from the comment thread in which it appears, and cause commenters to go to two separate places. When the thread has expired, then I will post it, and this is me reminding myself to do that.
Separating this notion out here won’t affect anything, especially during this summer relaxation period that I am now indulging in, and which, by the way, I think I will continue for another month. It is working well.
I find it interesting that a bunch of impeccably free market supporting individuals can’t agree about things like this. Which I think is one of the big reasons to have markets. Let the market decide about FR banking, rather than the law.
Off-topic notice Brian (apologies):
Bitcoin. A virtual currency run over a distributed network with no central authority to control it.
Plenty of techie interest, e.g. here.
Hasn’t anyone at Cobden been looking at this yet?
Not that I know of.
Anyone got any opinions about Bitcoin?
Plus: any other otherwise off topic comments on whatever you feel like commenting about? Put them here.
I have for ages been intending a blog posting about the relevance of all this to Climategate, etc.
Many now fret that “science” is being corrupted. Others fret that because “science” is being wrongly accused of having been corrupted, it will lose lots of its funding. Either way, disaster.
But you only fret like this if you misunderstand what science is. If you think it is a public good that has to be publicly funded, then, when publicly funded science does what publicly funded anything always does eventually and turns to shit, there goes all of science down the toilet.
But the publicly funded bit of science is not all of science. The best bits of science - rooted in technology, profit, etc., like Keeley says - can shrug off the travails of publicly funded science like they never happened. Rather as real genetics shrugged off Lysenkoism.
Not a bad start.
As I also commented at Croziervision, my brother got me some remaindered copies of this, and anyone in London who wants a copy can have one for free. I have about eight now and can get more.
I’m having a busy first half of the week, so instead of answers to all your problems and questions and entertainment needs, a question: why are Democrat politicians leaving the state of Wisconsin just now? What rule is it that makes such behaviour rational, when they are trying to stop something happening? In regular world, if you want to stop something, you stick around and then try to get in its way, e.g. by voting against it. But not in Wisconsin, now.
This is one of those questions that was all explained about a fortnight ago, to everyone interested except me, and now, everyone assumes that everyone understands what is going on. But, I don’t.
LATER (Wed 23rd): Just to say, many thanks for all these comments. I asked, and was answered. I now understand all this a great deal better.
This, from something that will not be appearing at Samizdata:
Thank you for fantastic blog post. Where else could I get this kind of information written in such an incite full way.
My italics. “Incite full”. There’s been a lot of that in my part of the internet just lately.