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]

North Korea threatening nuclear war

According to the New Zealand Herald, North Korea says nuclear war is possible at ‘any moment’. I’ll still guess it’s just blackmail and grandstanding. Invasion didn’t work for them in 1950 and it certainly won’t work now, even with a couple nukes. A couple nukes is just enough to get the whole planet really ticked off at them. They’d be done for. Everyone (except the French of course) would want a piece of them.

Unless their leaders are some unbelievable combination of stupid and desperate…

Spiteful

Having spent half-a-lifetime confronting, facing down and baiting my left-wing compatriots, I have the benefit of knowing exactly what words, names and phrases to use in order to elicit a dramatic response.

For example, the very name of George Bush has become the etymological equivalent of a nerve agent. One only has to drop it into a conversation and then watch the lefties convulsing themselves in spasms of bug-eyed hatred-cum-delirium. At the moment there is no antidote.

Robust political partisanship of this kind is nothing new nor is it confined to the left; the name of Tony Blair will turn the face of most Conservatives into a rictus of horror. For most of the time, this kind of mutual baiting is fun and, in many ways, indicative of a healthy society.

However, I have found evidence of something a little darker in this quite awful cartoon in the Guardian.

The two figures are supposed to be those of Messrs Bush and Blair but it is the image of George Bush, portrayed as a sort of cross between a pointy-eared alien and an ape, which I find just a little disturbing. Presumably the cartoonist is trying to convince his audience that George Bush is less than human.

The art of caricature is a time-honoured British tradition which I particularly enjoy and it is right that all political figures should be regarded as fair game. But this is not just caricature, it is deliberate dehumanisation; a process with a very unfortunate provenance.

Nor can this be simply dismissed as the work of an ‘unrepresentative fringe’ as the Guardian is undoubtedly the most important organ of the British left. Given their alleged commitment to ‘humanitarian’ policies, depictions of human beings as apes is the kind of thing I though they would go to any lengths to avoid. As it is, they have provided us with a window into the kind of psychosis which lies at the heart of at least some portions of the ideological left.

When George Orwell wanted to warn us all of the horrors of communism he did so by portraying animals as human beings. My feeling is that those who portray human beings as animals have a far less worthy agenda.

Canadian Government – “lost its moral compass”

A Canadian Samizdata Reader writes in to alert us about the state of privacy & civil liberties in Canada.

The Canadian Privacy Commissioner yesterday released a damning report of the Canadian federal government with respect to its approach to the privacy of the citizens of Canada. According to him, fundamental human rights are at stake and September 11th is being used as an excuse for the infringements. Frankly, as a Canadian, I have been consistently dismayed with Ottawa’s response to all matters related to September 11th.

There are articles in the major Canadian newspapers – including the National Post.

“The government is, quite simply, using Sept. 11 as an excuse for new collections and uses of personal information about all of us Canadians that cannot be justified by the requirements of anti-terrorism and that, indeed, have no place in a free and democratic society.”

[...]

Mr. Radwanski also took issue with proposals that would allow the government to monitor Internet activities and cellphone calls, stating: “I do not see any reason why e-mails should be subject to a lower standard of privacy protection than letters or phone calls.”

[...]

Mr. Radwanski’s complaints about anti-terror measures relate primarily to “function creep,” when information collected ostensibly to stop terrorists is subsequently used for a host of other purposes.

Additionally, you can go directly to the source, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Blair bolsters the Anglosphere

A number of commentators in the Big Media and of course in blogosphere have remarked on how UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to back up the US on the Iraq issue has put Britain at odds with Germany and France while mightily improving the standing of lil ‘ol Britain in the eyes of Uncle Sam.

Christopher Caldwell makes the point eloquently in the latest edition of British weekly, The Spectator. The whole thing is worth a read but I have one quibble with a remark he makes in the final paragraph, where he says Britain has an “economy in far better shape than that of the United States”. Huh? The British stock market has been falling proportionately more severely than the main indices of the U.S., a fact which can be explained by the higher taxes and red tape emanating from Whitehall and Brussels.

But that is a quibble. Overall, Caldwell’s article reads true to me and suggests that Blair, either by luck or judgement, has put the UK on a much stronger geo-political footing by siding with the U.S.. Optimism is always easy to knock but I cannot help thinking that Blair may have unwittingly given the Anglosphere a powerful boost, and pushed this country a little further from the EU behemoth.

Of course, I may be eating these words soon.

Threat to freedom in British universities

Chris Bertram of Junius has written:

I’ve just blogged about a matter that I think has potentially serious implications for freedom of expression in British universities. See link.

It is, too. Universities are understandably anxious not to have their names dragged in the dust by things like the Mona Baker affair. These proposals, however, would have a chilling effect way beyond that. As Bertram says:

“We could see, for example, a physicist who feels strongly about Tibet and protests against the Chinese government, being held to account for endangering the reputation of a university. Academic freedom would be no defence.”

UPDATE: Apologies for the bad link, and thanks to those who pointed it out. It ought to work now.

The noble six

Forty-two US Nobel Prize winners have signed a declaration denouncing any unilateral, pre-emptive strike by the US against Iraq:

“The undersigned oppose a preventive war against Iraq without broad international support. Military operations against Iraq may indeed lead to a relatively swift victory in the short term. But war is characterized by surprise, human loss, and unintended consequences. Even with a victory, we believe that the medical, economic, environmental, moral, spiritual, political, and legal consequences of an American preventive attack on Iraq would undermine, not protect, U.S. security and standing in the world”.

The Nobel laureate who wrote and circulated the declaration is chemist Walter Kohn of the University of California at Santa Barbara, a former adviser to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Other signatories include physicists behind the nuclear research that ended the Second World War. Hans Bethe was an atom bomb designer and Norman Ramsey was part of the Manhattan project to build an atom bomb.

“We are a group of bright people who have had very relevant experiences. We hope to contribute to the sharpness of the discussion.”

Yeah, right, we wish. However, all is not lost. Apparently, six Nobel laureates refused to sign the declaration. According to Kohn their reasons were a lack of faith in the UN, a desire to avoid mixing science with politics and a fear of appeasing Iraq. Seems like a sound bunch of scientists to me (I am, of course, only assuming that they are scientists). Unfortunately, I could not find their names anywhere as the only source of the report seems to be New Scientist. If anyone knows who they are and what they said, I would be interested to read their comments in full.

In any case, it looks like the well-meaning Nobel-prize-winning professors have struck a bonanza in signatures. Last time I looked their support form had about 1360 signed and counting in just a couple of days! Well done. Only, it seems that most of the ‘signatories’ appear to be Raelians adding their own garbled and emotionally incontinent messages…

They are all stark raving mad. Bloody marvellous!

Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery

We all know about those archetypal laws. Parkinson‘s – work expands to fill the time available for its completion. The Peter Principle – people get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. They’re useful laws. They answer basic questions. Like: Why all the crap? Why is everything done so badly?

Well, I think I may have discovered another one of these universal laws, which answers the question: Why are so many people who you would think ought to be happy instead so miserable? I give you: Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery.

It starts with the observation that more and more people are “self-managed” these days. Even people working inside giant business or governmental bureaucracies are being encouraged to think of themselves as free trading entrepreneurs, providing services in exchange for payment, in cash or in kind. Horizontal networking, self-starter, internal markets, intrapreneuring, etc. etc. blah blah blah.

Okay. You’re a self-manager, and maybe even self-employed.

There are four kinds of work you think about maybe doing.

  1. There’s work you love and are good at.
  2. There’s work you hate and are good at.
  3. There’s work you love and are bad at.
  4. There’s work you hate and are bad at.

The world pretty soon decides that you must stop doing (3) and (4) and of course, you are delighted to stop doing (4). If you insist on doing (3) you are going to have to do it as a hobby.

Which leaves (1) and (2), the stuff you are good at, and either (1) love or (2) hate.

How much do you get paid to do (1), work you love and are good at? If you are a good negotiator, then plenty, because you are good at it, and demand lots of money.

But what if you are a bad negotiator? You jump at the job and accept bad money.

How much do you get paid to do (2)? Chances are you get paid good money. Why? Because you will only consent to do work you hate if you are paid good money. So, with no great effort, you hold out for good money (even if all you thought you were doing was Just Saying No), and, because you are good at the work, you get paid good money. Eventually, someone makes you an offer you can’t refuse, and you take it.

So, if you are a bad negotiator, unable to repress your natural desire to do what you love and to avoid what you hate, you get paid bad money to do work you love, and good money to do work you hate.

Bad negotiators can have semi-good lives if they can afford to oscillate between work they love and work they hate. For a while, they do that. But, by the end of that period the only way they know to make good money is to do work they hate.

Then factor in the following circumstance. They switch to a life in which they then have to make continuously good money. Wife, kids, mortgage. Maybe an addiction to an expensive type-(3) hobby. Or maybe the life they lead just happens to get much more expensive. Clang. The gates of the prison slam shut. From then on they must do work they hate, continuously.

Result: An inexorable tendency for the “self-managed” classes to negotiate themselves into lives of permanent misery.

Is this a truth about the world? I think it is. Am I the first person to have noticed it? Surely not. Certainly not in so many words. But maybe I am the first person to have nailed this extremely widespread experience down into a simple law with a simple name.

(If so, hurrah! I love it. And how much was I paid? Bugger all.)

Comments and links please.

Former UN Inspector says Saddam has nukes

Many thanks to Instapundit for pointing me to this article by Trent Telenko. The whole article and all his links are interesting reading, but this one is evidence for the nightmare scenario. I very strongly suggest everyone read it. Tell everyone you know: some of the first round UN inspectors believe Saddam already had nukes in 1997 and prevented them from getting at the things. This is enough to give you chills.

I just pray (for what its’ worth from a nonbeliever) we don’t lose a city before we cure the problem at source.

Saddam’s ‘useful idiots’

There are two anti-war movements… and I think both of them are wrong, though for quite different reasons. But it is the Old Left’s anti-war sentiments regarding Iraq which Janet Daly takes to task in her article in the Telegraph Answer this: do the people of Iraq deserve freedom?. Although I am not a huge fan of “hang ‘em an’ flog ‘em” conservatives like Janet Daly, I find myself in broad agreement with her on this.

Whilst I realise isolationists (many of whom are on the conservative right or are paleo-libertarians) who oppose the destruction of the Ba’athist regime are often a different intellectual kettle of fish and do not see themselves as give aid to a tyrant, it is the questions like the ones Janet Daly poses which cause me to describe the left wing/paleo-socialist ‘anti-war movement’ as the ‘Pro-Saddam Hussain/Anti-liberation-of-the-Iraqi-people movement’.

Bush nails it

I don’t expect isolationists who oppose George W. Bush’s policy of pre-emption to be converted by his State of the Union address last night, but this paragraph helped to tilt my mind in favour of the view that taking Saddam Hussein down is the right, if perilous, course:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restratint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.

Exactly.

Blogosphere blogosphere on the screen: who’s the most famous one you’ve seen?

In the course of my duties as a occasional and strictly-when-I-feel-like-it culture blogger, I watched, with a view to commenting on, a short profile that was shown on BBC2 TV last Monday night about the great conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim, a musician I’ve admired and enjoyed the recordings of ever since I first heard him in the nineteen sixties. The show only lasted half an hour and there wasn’t time for much to be said, but one very interesting thing was said, by conductor/composer Pierre Boulez, who, perhaps somewhat surprisingly (trad classical musician versus enfant terrible avant guardist, etc.), is a close friend of Barenboim’s, as well as a musical collaborator from way back.

Boulez pointed out that Barenboim is unusual in being a musician whose repertoire and general interest in the world and its affairs have both broadened over the years rather than narrowed. And it’s true. The typical top-flight classical music career starts in a blaze of somewhat indiscriminate fireworks and political pontifications, and then as age sets in our wunderkind becomes a not quite so wunder-mensch, cuts out the political posturing and the extraneous repertoire, and homes in on a gradually diminishing core of favourite pieces, and then disintegrates and dies.

Barenboim is doing the opposite. He started out as your typical sheltered prodigy who loved the great classics of classical music to distraction, and ignored just about everything else. But his repertoire has never stopped expanding, and simply as a result of being an A-list classical musician, and especially in his capacity as boss of one of the Berlin opera houses in the years since unification, he has found himself reflecting, if not quite on the wider world as such then most certainly on the place of classical music within that wider world. (You don’t conduct the first Wagner ever played in public in the state of Israel without thinking about that very carefully!)

To this end, he writes. Go to his website (see the link above) and you’ll see what I mean.

Barenboim is not an actual blogger. He is no daily diarist. Nevertheless, his writings are referred to at his website as a “journal”, and had this site been set up only a few years later, it might have included a bona fide blog. After all, these classical musicians are having to sing for their suppers, to fight for their arts council grants and their permanent recording contracts, and they know it. (And if your appetite for supper is anything like Barenboim’s, you really have to sing, let me tell you. Old style opera in the newly wilting German economy. That’s one hell of a sell.)

So, Barenboim writes. My question is: are any genuine Barenboim-level celebs actually finding the time to blog, in approximately the kind of way that we guys do?

I rule out writers, because that is not enough of a sideshow to really be a sideshow. But how about sportsmen? Do any movie stars blog? Perry mentions film producer/occasional blogger Brian Linse here from time to time, and he could become very famous if things go well for him. But, unsurprisingly, Linse seems like he’s too busy to put frequent postings on his blog. Either that, or he just can’t match that Barenboim level of energy. (Few can, let me tell you. That’s no big criticism.)

I’m guessing that some pop stars blog. But are they any good? Also, I tend to discount them because, if they write lyrics, that sort of makes them writers too.

But that’s my question. Who is the most famous blogger? Not famous for blogging, but who happens to blog about the life that does make him or her famous. Anyone?

Chocolate barred

Professor Malcolm Law, a leading nutritionist in Britain, proposed a solution to obesity increasingly prevalent among children. As with most health professionals who are given a public platform in this country his proposal reflected the spirit of our statist age. Faced with evidence that Britons are fatter than ever and that increasing numbers of children are classified as clinically obese, he argued that politicians should seize the initiative and force food and drink manufacturers to reduce the size of products.

Professor Law believes that nothing less than an end to the ’20 per cent extra free’ culture will stave off the kind of nationwide obesity which in recent years has swept across America. He pointed to a study carried out last year which revealed that diners who ate a large meal at one sitting felt no more hungry after eating a smaller portion – if the plate was full, in most the cases the diner felt satisfied with their meal.

“Forty years ago the Government forced the tobacco companies to reduce the tar content of their cigarettes in the interests of public health. A similar approach needs to be taken today with ice creams, chocolate bars and other products.”

Note the language that our learned friend uses: “If we don’t cut down on the size of our portions we will find that in future we have a much higher incidence of obesity and heart disease. There is likely to be a large public health impact.”

This is the kind of attitude that has kept the NHS (Britain’s National Health Service) in place and indeed as long it exists the ‘public health impact’ will always be an argument for the health fascists. As long as the taxpayers are required to cover the cost of the consequences of other people’s actions, that is, a state-funded health system having to pick up the bill for the treatment of diseases associated with obesity, the ‘statist’ wolves in ‘public health’ clothing can make demands on the government to control our eating (drinking, smoking, living etc) habits.

And we know that the state is not your friend.