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 slogan of the day

If the UN adopts the kind of resolution authorizing force to enforce the kind of inspections that they should have a resolution adopted for, then I believe this resolution should say: In the event the UN adopts a resolution authorizing member states to use force to enforce the inspections, I believe this resolution should say that under those circumstances we should authorize force to enforce that UN resolution.

    Carl Levin, chairman of the USA’s Senate Armed Services Committee, summing up the current Democrat position on attacking Iraq, reproduced by Mark Steyn in his Chicago Sun-Times column yesterday

The German bomb

While doing some research on my previous news item, I ran across this fascinating article on the WWII German nuclear weapons program.

Much of it was shrouded in mystery and misrepresentation prior to the declassification of the “Farm Hall Reports” discussed in the aforementioned link. Werner Heisenberg was caught out by statements he made in a bugged room when first told of the American bombs. It is quite apparent he was indeed committed to building a German nuclear weapon and might have if not for an egregious theoretical error.

Sometimes the gods do smile on us.

Not so bad… or is it?

I’m sure most of you have read or heard by now about the “15 kilos” of Uranium seized by Turkish authorities. It’s turned out to be only 100 grams. I delayed writing about this due to my skepticism about the quantity. A quantity of enriched Uranium (ie high in U235) that “close” to critical mass in that small a container would be, shall we say, a bit on the warm side? …in both senses! There are ways around this if it is all pelletized (as from power plant fuel rods) and packed in neutron absorbing materials. Those, along with the lead shielding, would drive the weight up. The taxi would have been down on it’s axles!

So there were only 100g of possibly enriched Uranium and it was caught. That’s the good news. But there is a dark lining to this “silver cloud”. According to Ha’aratz:

Smugglers use Turkey’s porous eastern border to import drugs, and hundreds of thousands of migrants each year illegally cross the rugged frontier on their way to more affluent European Union nations.

Police in Istanbul seized more than one kg of weapons-grade uranium last November that had been smuggled into Turkey from an east European state. The smugglers were detained after attempting to sell the material to undercover police officers.

Note what Ha’aretz leaves you to infer for yourself. We all know how successful attempts to stop drug smuggling have been. About all you can do with drug seizure data is infer an order of magnitude more was not caught. Given the value of fissionable material and the actual quantities seized in Turkey alone in the last year…

Folks, we have a problem.

Armadillo flies!

Armadillo Aerospace has finally let one of it’s team fly on their testbed. Although the flight was a tethered one of short duration and trivial height, it encompassed all the dangerous bits of engine startup, liftoff, hover, setdown and engine shutdown. Major kudos are due to John Carmack and his team! You can read more and find the video here.

In John’s own words:

We finally let someone ride on one of our landers. Only a few seconds in the air, but still pretty damn cool!

If the name John Carmack sounds familiar… it’s probably because it is. He is a founder of Id Software and the author of all those classic state-of-the-art pushing games from Castle Wolfenstein through Quake Arena and beyond.

Dogs and dog people – is Jan Fennell the new alpha-dog-expert?

For some years now, sister Daphne and brother-in-law Denis, with whom I had a most happy stay last weekend, have been telling me interesting things about dogs. I promised to do a posting about this earlier, and here it is. (“Education” is an odd way to categorise it, but this was the best I could find.)

D&D have two dogs themselves, but more to the point they’ve also been reading a particularly interesting book about dogs, The Dog Listener by Jan Fennell. Denis did a very positive customer review of this book for Amazon. However, these customer reviews apparently come and go, and Denis’ one, which was there a week ago, seems now to have gone. Luckily I had already copied and pasted some of what he had said:

Her suggestions are so simple that, as a dog owner for many years, I thought they could not possibly work. I was so wrong that I was amazed. Within days my two labradors were so much more relaxed and better behaved that I experienced a fresh delight in keeping dogs. … Over the years I have read many books on dog training and this is the best.

Jan Fennell’s wisdom is based on the observation of dogs and dog packs in the wild, including wolf packs, dogs being the domesticated descendants of wolves. In this respect Fennell’s work resembles that of Monty Roberts, the famous “man who listens to horses” alluded to in the title of Fennell’s own book, and the writer of the forward for it.

I read through The Dog Listener while staying with Daphne and Denis, and I can’t say that I grasped all of its subtleties. But a few core notions I do now understand. → Continue reading: Dogs and dog people – is Jan Fennell the new alpha-dog-expert?

Stacy Tabb worked on the samizdata.net web site and then threatened us with carnivorous plants until we agreed to pay her

Samizdata slogan of the day

Delectable! Her derriere is the very apogee of nadirs
- Overheard recently by Samizdata Illuminatus

Human nature

The image above, which I took about an half an hour before writing this article, shows an employee of Britain’s premier cancer hospital, The Royal Marsden, standing by the front door having a cigarette. This is a man who works in a cancer hospital and comes face to face with the savage realities of what his habit vastly increases his risk of contracting, on a daily basis.

This picture says something very profound about human nature. One thing is for sure, it says more than any lengthy exegesis I could write about the futility of trying to use the violence of law to mandate behaviour the state feels is in the regulated person’s “best interests”. Ponder that.

EU directive “worse than DMCA”?

You remember the DMCA? It’s that Digital Millenium Copyright Act that Americans concerned with freedom are getting so steamed up about. As usual the EU are not far behind in providing an equivalent for us over here to have bad dreams about. Chris Bertram of Junius has linked to an article by Julian Midgely which claims that:

…university lecturers or school teachers will need to appeal to the Secretary of State on each and every occasion that they need to make a copy of part of a copy-protected CD for teaching or research. Librarians, archivists, private individuals, and the disabled can expect to be similarly encumbered.

There’s no business like Shakespeare’s business

We’re based in London, and this is about London at one of its most glorious moments, the one that gave us William Shakespeare (1564-1616):

The London theaters represented a revolution in culture; they were apparently the first capitalist businesses in the world built entirely around entertainment. The heart of this cultural business model was the actors company, in which a group of actors invested money in a common stock of properties, costumes and plays. Each company of actors obtained finance from an impresario, who got a share (usually 50%) of the box office. Shakespeare was 10% owner not only of the Chamberlain’s Men but also of the Globe (that is, the building and real estate itself.)

Theaters were “big business” for the time. Costs included hundreds of very expensive costumes (velvet cost 1 pound a yard), plays (which if bought freelance were usually purchased outright for about 6 or 7 pounds), the salaries of “extras” and minor actors on stage and the salaries of about 30 paid hands (including musicians, actors, prompters, bookkeepers, stage keepers, and wardrobe keepers) behind the scenes. Hundreds of playbills, pasted up around the City, served as advertisements. The range of business affairs was so complex that each company had an administrator, usually called an actor-manager.

So just keep all this in mind next time you attend a Shakespearian play—what you are seeing was NOT created as “art for art’s sake.”

Friedrich of 2 Blowhards dot com wrote that after himself reading Peter Hall‘s book Cities in Civilization. I wonder if the people – scriptwriter Tom Stoppard in particular – who made the film Shakespeare in Love, the running joke of which is how similar Shakespearean London was to present-day Hollywood, had also read this book. I possess a copy myself. Friedrich’s piece reminds me that it’s about time I read it.

In general, 2 Blowhards looks really good and I’m going to be reading that some more also.

Last night in Pimlico…

That sounds like the name of some old British movie… but what I am referring to is the Libertarian Alliance meeting held every last Friday of the month at Brian Micklethwait’s place in Pimlico, London.

The speaker was samizdata.net contributor David Carr, delivering his views on the Middle East, specifically the Israel-Palestine troubles. It was possibly the most heavily attended Last Friday at Brian’s I have ever seen, literally standing room only… which made the final standing ovations for David’s outstanding talk all the easier

Standing room only for David’s talk!

Paul Coulam and Adriana Cronin: the intellectual hardcore

Judith Hatton and Amoy Ing: libertarian thought across the generations

If Shams Ali ruled the world …

I don’t know who “Shams Ali” is exactly, but he has established something called the The World Court of Justice, and so far as I can judge, his ambition is simple. He wishes to be the Supreme Ruler of Mankind. I know the feeling. I once wanted that job myself, and I reckon I’d probably still take it if someone offered it to me.

Mr Ali has got be a Muslim of some kind, because of being “Ali” and because he writes of “the prophet Jesus”, which (David Carr tells me) strongly suggests a Muslim.

But, from a libertarian point of view Mr Ali is by no means completely to be dismissed. Have a read of this, from his World Court of Justice Comments on The National Security Strategy of the United States of America Report (17 September 2002).

The only difference between politics and ordinary crime is that an ordinary criminal uses his own force to interfere with freedom, person or property of other people against their will, while a politician uses the powers of government for the same purpose.

That at least is a classic libertarian meme.

Politics is incompatible with economic freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human dignity.

A bit vaguer, but still in our territory.

Political freedom is nothing else than a socially acceptable form of organized crime. Only 100% impartial non-political government, that favors neither majority nor minority, but governs by application of strict rules to fundamental principles can guarantee economic freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human dignity.

And that is when it starts to become confused. Who exactly is going to do the applying? Evidently not “politicians”, but somebody will have to. What is a “non-political government” when it’s at home? What “fundamental principles” are these? Perchance, the Law of Sharia?

Meanwhile, the global triumph of liberty (which is what Shams Ali says he wants) means that liberty puts a stop to – conquers, you might say – the existing political arrangements of the planet, that is to say, national governments and their various collaborations and aggregations, such as the UN. And that is a lot like establishing an alternative world empire. This man could simply be an utterly deluded and utterly orthodox Muslim fanatic with a vivid imagination. But maybe his fantasies are more interesting than that.

If you wish to communicate your views on these matters to Mr Ali, you can email him, or you can write to him, at the following address:

The World Court of Justice
PO Box 10121
Birmingham B27 7YS
UK

Who says the British imperial spirit is dead?