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.

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He’ll still be around next year

There are all manner of idiots in the world. There are dangerous idiots, annoying idiots, (Lord help us) influential idiots and then there are some idiots who wallow in such specious gibberish that it requires a hard heart to look upon them as anything other than pitiful.

The Guardian (where else?) has a long record of providing a platform for pitiful idiots as illustrated by the column they insist on giving to George Monbiot:

“If we take into account such factors as pollution and the depletion of natural capital, we see that the quality of life peaked in the UK in 1974 and in the US in 1968, and has been falling ever since. We are going backwards.”

Perhaps it’s just you that is going backwards, George. Not sure about the rest of us. Mind you if you right, then perhaps the nutty 60′s has something to do with it.

“The reason should not be hard to grasp. Our economic system depends upon never-ending growth, yet we live in a world with finite resources. Our expectation of progress is, as a result, a delusion.”

Ah George, you haven’t been reading your Julian Simon like a good boy. You haven’t have you? Naughty.

“Speak this truth in public and you are dismissed as a crank, a prig, a lunatic.”

Which you clearly have been.

“The laws of thermodynamics impose inherent limits upon biological production.”

Er, care to explain that, George?

“Even the repayment of debt, the pre-requisite of capitalism, is mathematically possible only in the short-term. As Heinrich Haussmann has shown, a single pfennig invested at 5% compounded interest in the year AD 0 would, by 1990, have reaped a volume of gold 134bn times the weight of the planet. Capitalism seeks a value of production commensurate with the repayment of debt.”

I’d love to give this a Fisking but I must confess that I have no idea what the f*cking hell he is actually talking about. It sounds like the kind of marxoid tripe they teach at universities and which is so deliberately opaque that it must be very clever and authoratative and therefore beyond question.

“Now, despite the endless denials, it is clear that the wall towards which we are accelerating is not very far away. Within five or 10 years, the global consumption of oil is likely to outstrip supply. Every year, up to 75bn tonnes of topsoil are washed into the sea as a result of unsustainable farming, which equates to the loss of around 9m hectares of productive land.”

Time for a ‘Made-up-Statistics’ warning!

“Every national newspaper in Britain lamented the “disappointing” volume of sales before Christmas. Sky News devoted much of its Christmas Eve coverage to live reports from Brent Cross, relaying the terrifying intelligence that we were facing “the worst Christmas for shopping since 2000″.

Suppose that has nothing whatsoever to do with Gordon Brown’s tax increases which have deprived us of so much of our disposable income? No, course not. Silly me for even asking.

“The economist Bernard Lietaer has shown how a system based upon negative rates of interest would ensure that we accord greater economic value to future resources than to present ones. By shifting taxation from employment to environmental destruction, governments could tax over-consumption out of existence. But everyone who holds power today knows that her political survival depends upon stealing from the future to give to the present.”

‘Bernard Lietaer’? Never heard of him but I’ll wager that he’s the kind of smelly, dysfunctional political activist who haunts Labour Party fringe meetings with a shopping bag full of newspaper clipping and scribbled essays in the hope that he’ll get an opportunity to corner some hapless victim and bore them into the grave.

“Everything we thought was good – giving more exciting presents to our children, flying to a friend’s wedding, even buying newspapers – turns out also to be bad.”

Buying the Guardian is definitely bad. Otherwise that one sentence contains everything you need to know about Mr.Monbiot. He is a jealous, begrudging loser who has spun an ideological mask of deceit around himself in order to provide a fig-leaf for his po-faced, anti-human, defeatist miserabilism.

Pitiful. Just pitiful.

Why doesn’t the CIA tell them?

There has been some discussion on the Libertarian Alliance Forum about “if they know where the weapons are, then why don’t they just tell the inspectors where to go?” I will attempt to tackle this question from a tacticians’ point of view.

Iraq is big: about the size of France and a hell of a lot emptier. There are miles of underground facilities. We can’t possibly be one hundred percent certain we’ve found everything. No matter how long the inspectors take there is uncertainty for the Searchers. However there is also uncertainty for Saddam. He can’t know what our spies have found out, if anything.

So we have a mathematical “game” with two players that might be likened to “battleship”, but is far more complex. It’s also deadly serious. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of lives at stake.

One player has assets on his hidden board and the other player is trying to find them. The second player knows where some of the assets are but can’t even be sure what percentage they know of; the other side knows all of its’ assets but can’t be sure how many of them the other side knows. This gives us a matrix of four possibilities:

  1. Searcher knows of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher knows of it.
  2. Searcher does not know of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher knows of it.
  3. Searcher knows of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher does not know of it.
  4. Searcher does not know of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher does not know of it.

What is the best strategy for each player?

The owner will be as helpful as possible on all the sites they believe the Searcher knows of. They can clean them out in advance and pretend great surprise at the inspection. The pretense also assists them in their game playing over the other three categories. → Continue reading: Why doesn’t the CIA tell them?

When lawyers attack!

I am trying to figure out who ‘Holland & Barrett’ are worried might sue them if they discovered NUTS in their packet of… Whole Cashew Nuts!

Remember, communism is evil

Perhaps not the best feel-good title for my first posting and certainly not the usual New Year’s Eve admonition but it concerns the aspect of reality that urged me to blog in the first place. It is also just too horrible to pass on in the interest of New Year’s festivities.

There are many living hells in the world today but North Korea deserves a special mention. According to Anthony Daniels, one of the few journalists to have visited North Korea, no other regime comes remotely as close to annihilating the human personality as North Korea’s does.

Never in history have human beings been so dragooned into uniformity and blind obedience as in North Korea. The regime is one of bread and circuses: but attendance at the circuses is compulsory and the bread has been replaced by rockets.

The North Korean ideal is an eternal marchpast of the Leader by millions of people, expressionless until they let out a howl of rehearsed joy when the leader raises his hand to them. I have seen it myself, and am glad to have done so: for it was absolute political evil, the ne plus ultra of inhumanity.

I know most people realise that North Korea is a ‘bad guy’ although Bush mentioning it as part of the Axis of Evil will certainly prompt some anti-American idiotarians into defending it. In some vague way, we know North Korean are oppressed by a Stalinist-type regime, have been starving for some time and now the North Korean leadership have hit the headlines with their nuclear weapons antics. But just as during the Cold War we didn’t know what communism really meant for the individual citizen in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, now we don’t know how exactly the North Korean variety of communism continues to crush human creativity, spirit and dignity.

It doesn’t help that an alarmingly high number of other useful idiotarians who have encountered the evil there either cannot or refuse to see it. The former US President Jimmy Carter managed to see in Pyongyang a second Manhattan. Anthony Daniels calls it not blindness, but hallucination. He concludes:

The only question, then, is how to destroy it once and for all: whether to let time take its toll (for all things pass); to offer little fat Kim a gilded retirement in Monaco watching the pornographic films that he is said to like; or to threaten war.

I know which option I’d take.

Happy new year to everyone… and maybe even to the Conservatives!

For about the last six or seven years I have been reminding whoever would listen that there is nothing pre-ordained about the survival as a serious force in Britain’s affairs of the Conservative Party. It could disappear without trace. Now I find myself making the equally (now) controversial point that it might not disappear. That isn’t pre-ordained either.

I have a theory about the Conservative predicament. It’s basically guesswork and could prove entirely wrong, but here goes.

The plight of the Conservatives is basically punitive. People hated their nastiness and then their nastiness and their incompetence (a particularly lethal combination) and decided to make the bastards suffer. For as long as arrogant, careerist bastard idiots continued to regard the Conservatives as an appropriate focus of their pathetic careerist fantasies, the voters would go on humiliating them. It would feature them as pathetic villains in girlie fiction who would in due course have to make way for PC wildlife photographers in the affections of the heroines. It would sneer at them relentlessly on the BBC. It would regard Conservatives as worse than motorbike freak drug addicts as potential boyfriends for their daughters in old-fashioned suburban TV sitcoms. It would trash them so mercilessly that even they, the Conservatives, would realise that something was seriously and probably permanently wrong, public affectionwise, with their social situation.

→ Continue reading: Happy new year to everyone… and maybe even to the Conservatives!

Tale of a Winter’s Launch

I recently had an email chat with Paul Blase, the CTO of TransOrbital, and he kindly provided me permission to publish his description of a winter night’s launch in Baikonur. I’ve known him for many years because we’ve both been involved with the Artemis [Lunar Settlement] Project, and my company (Village Networking Ltd) is also a proud member of the Artemis Group of companies. However I will be the first to admit that a small Linux, internet and software consulting and development company in Belfast, which barely (and I do mean barely!) makes ends meet is not nearly so interesting as TransOrbital. I’ll leave the rest to Paul. I had just asked him about O-rings in Russian winter…

The Dnepr is silo-launched, so environmental problems are minimal. Being an ICBM, though, they can launch the thing into a blizzard if necessary. Fortunately the night was very clear. At the launch last week it was -30 C with a nice breeze from the North. I had very warm boots and an insulated coverall. Even so, we all spent a lot of time in the tea-and-coffee trailer. Perhaps 60 people there, including the Italian launch team and the Kosmotras and Baikonur reps. (The Saudi professor got sick and went home, the German and American teams went home after the payload capsule was sealed and didn’t stay for the launch). Rather neat: it was dark so that we couldn’t see the silo proper, even with the full moon. They announced “liftoff” (they don’t use a countdown, just tell us the time left at about 15 second intervals) and suddenly this light appeared about 50 ft in the air. The sound didn’t hit for 20 seconds (the viewing stand is 7 km from the silo); not loud enough for a Shuttle launch, but definitely a rocket going off. The light soared away to the East and the night was clear enough that we could see it for a good 2 minutes, and even see the first stage cutoff and separation. They need to work a bit on their anouncer’s patter – their updates were mostly along the lines of “all systems functioning well”. It hit orbit and deployed the payloads at 915 seconds after launch, at about 5 second intervals.

Paul Blase

A new dawn in Kenya?

I have visited Kenya several times over the last thirty years and have always regarded it as one of the few outposts of relative sanity in that part of the world. Over the last fifteen years however it has grieved me to see one of the brighter sparks on the continent gradually sink into the kleptocratic morass that generally characterises African nation states.

So I really do hope that the fall of President Daniel arap Moi and his corruption riddled Kanu party spells a new beginning for Kenya. I am far too cynical to automatically assume that Mwai Kibaki and his victorious National Rainbow Coalition will not succumb to the ‘African Disease’ but I suppose the mere fact that the passing of the old political order was so painless is grounds for a little cautious optimism.

Samizdata slogan of the day

…if evil men were not now and then slain it would not be a good world for weaponless dreamers
- Rudyard Kipling, from Kim

Weblog

noun. See ‘Blog’.

LewRockwell.com adopts a deliberate no-brain strategy

Garry North at LewRockwell.com tells us:

Once the United States military has established control over the oil fields, which I assume it will do at the beginning of the invasion, Iraq will not be able to feed itself.  Control the flow of oil, and you control the only thing worth controlling in Iraq.  The government will topple.  Even if it doesn’t, who cares if the U.S. government controls the oil?

At that point, the oil-drilling concessions will be handed out by the United States government’s puppet regime.  ”Y’all come!”  This will buy off Europe’s foot-dragging politicians, who will be able to go to their voters and say, “fait accompli.”  They will have offered token resistance to the United States, which is all that European voters expect.  Now they will reap the rewards, either directly by the participation of their national oil companies or indirectly by enjoying a lower price of oil.

The USA wants to invade Iraq to ‘control’ the flow of oil. Bush wants to do this in order to increase the supply of oil and therefore lower the price… and clearly saying “Y’all” is prima facie evidence of conspiratorial evilness. Gotcha.

However…

“Iraq’s oil fields are capable of providing far more than an extra million barrels of oil a day.  This is why the United States has in effect capped Iraqi wells by its oil-for-food embargo.

Right, so Bush has been doing beastly things to Iraq to keep oil prices up then?

Richard Perle is the chairman of President Bush’s Defense Policy Board, a civilian advisory group.  He co-authored a paper in 1996, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” which was published by the previously mentioned Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies.  The report is still on-line.  It calls for the establishment of a new balance-of-power foreign policy in Israel – the same system, it might be added, that twice led England into world war, and which twice required the United States to bail out England.  The report made suggestions to the Likud Party, which is Ariel Sharon’s party.

Ah, its not about oil, its about Israel. Right. And if ‘balance-of-power’ is such a terrible idea, when why are LewRockwell.com always so bent out of shape by the current pre-eminence of the USA?

And what is this about bailing out England? I guess Scotland, Ulster and Wales were not ‘bailed out’ then? It is usually a good indication of someone engaging in a cranio-rectal insertion when they refer to the UK as ‘England’, which is rather like describing the USA as ‘New York State’. And this is someone who has such knowledge of International Affairs that he can see through the machinations of the sinister Oil Illuminati.

The United States must defend the interests of the alliance by bringing new supplies into production.  This was what the invasion of Afghanistan was all about: establishing protection over a new pipeline from the Caspian Sea oil fields, either through Afghanistan and Pakistan and into the tankers, or through Turkey.  This pipeline is important if Russia is not to control this flow of oil.  The Great Game of the 19th century – Russia, Turkey, England, Afghanistan, and India – is still being fought.  For a good analysis of the pipeline issues, see the September, 2001 article on Turkey and the pipeline, which is posted on the Web site of the joint Israeli-American organization, the Institute for Advanced Strategic & Political Studies.

Ah. Its all about Russia! Or more accuratly, depriving Russia, the world’s second largest oil exporter, of oil. Gotcha. And that is what Afghanistan was ‘about’ too… in case an oil pipeline might, some time in the future, go through there. Or through Pakistan. Or through Turkey. Or maybe Gloucestershire?

The oil lever is the lowest-cost foreign policy tool at the government’s disposal.  This will require American troops in Iraq on a permanent basis. This is a deliberate no-exit strategy.  The Administration plans to send in troops that will become as permanent as its 5,000 troops in Saudi Arabia.  How many troops will this be?  As many as it takes to control the marginal price of oil. The United States government is about to replace OPEC as the pricing agent of world oil.  The name of the game is still cartel pricing, but there will be different hands on the spigots.

Oh, so it is all about oil then! If someone can explain what this gibberish actually means, I would be very grateful. And to think there was a time when I actually admired the Lew Rockwell group.

New Jerzy

I don’t think anyone is naive enough to believe that the highly state-controlled business of arms sales isn’t a tool of foreign policy. With that is mind, news of this deal might be interesting:

“Lockheed Martin has won a contract to supply 48 new F-16 fighter jets to Poland, in Eastern Europe’s biggest military deal.

The US firm beat off competition from the French manufacturer Dassault and a joint British-Swedish venture by BAE Systems and Saab to secure the deal.”

I have not the first clue about the relative technical merits, or otherwise, of the various fighter jets concerned but I do know that high-grade weapons deals such as this are loaded (scuse pun) with political and diplomatic significance. The arms business is seldom just about business as one of the parties to the negotiations is only too quick to point out:

“Dassault chief executive Charles Edelstenne accused the Polish government of making a political decision by choosing an American plane rather than a European one.

“The political element was the dominating element, much more than the quality of the material and the price,” he told Radio France Info.

“I felt for a very long time that they very much favoured rapprochement with the Americans. So it’s not a surprise,” he said.”

Sour grapes? Well, possibly. But, then again, he might just be right:

“Lockheed was backed by a $3.8bn US government financing package and some heavy lobbying by President George W Bush’s administration.”

Alright, every government lobbies on behalf of its domestic arms industry. But Poland is one of the ten or so former Eastern Bloc countries pencilled in to join the European Union in 2004 and, arguably, the most important of them. How odd that the Poles should so publicly rebuff their prospective Euro-partners in favour of the Great Satan.

Could it be that the above-mentioned ‘lobbying’ was about more than jet-fighters and that the Bush administration has decided it would be good strategy to gently lure the Poles away from the twitching tentacles of Brussels? Watch that space.

CARA is coming

I can’t imagine that HMG enacts legislation with a view to spawning a whole new line of British pulp fiction novels and crime thrillers but it certainly sounds like it:

“New powers allowing police and customs officers to seize criminals’ assets come into force on Monday.

The Proceeds of Crime Act will mean that money can be confiscated from all types of criminals and not just drug dealers, as previous laws allowed.”

‘All types of criminals’?. Only the financially successful ones surely?

The Proceeds of Crime Act referred to in the article has established the Civil Assets Recovery Agency (CARA) as a branch of the police force empowered to confiscate assets from those ‘suspected’ of criminal activity.

“The new act will enable police and customs officers to search for cash anywhere in the UK and not just at the country’s borders as was previously allowed.

From now on they’ll be able to crash into your home and root around the sofa looking for lost coins. Don’t laugh, you can pick up quite a lot of money like that.

“Even when there is no criminal prosecution a new assets recovery agency can now step in.”

Which is to say, they can target anyone they want whenever they like and for reasons they will never have to prove and whilst that all sounds (and is) scary enough, I have every reason to believe that it is HMG that will regret this in the long run.

Most nominally law-abiding, work-a-day citizens will not be targeted and, consequently, will bask in blissful ignorance. No so the drug-runners and gangsters, who will be only too aware of it (they are always far better versed in the law than most citizens and quite a few lawyers) and the smart ones will regard CARA as a corruption charter. For relatively low-paid public officials, the lure of easy cash, cars or luxury goods is something to which they can all too easily become addicted. Processing law-breakers through the justice system is difficult and time-consuming. Surely much more tempting to let the gangsters get on with doing whatever it is they do and live off the earnings.

This isn’t about the government stopping criminals; this is about the government getting into bed with criminals. It’s a scriptwriters dream.