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]

‘Dave’ Cameron has been very clear indeed

The Daily Telegraph ran a story titled Blow for Cameron as poll lead is slashed, with this as the leader article on the front page. However the analysis struck me as very strange indeed.

The poll will increase the pressure on Mr Cameron to use his conference, which opens in Bournemouth tomorrow, to counter charges that he is “all style and no substance”.

[...]

YouGov says that 54 per cent agree with the proposition that “it is hard to know what the Conservative Party stands for at the moment”, while 60 per cent agree that Mr Cameron “talks a good line but it is hard to know whether there is any substance behind the words”.

That makes little sense. Dave Cameron has been both consistent and explicit about what he stands for and anyone who thinks “it is hard to know what the Conservative Party stands for at the moment” must be hard of hearing. It stands for regulatory statism, high taxes and Euro-Federalism. In short, if you want to know what the ‘Conservative’ Party stands for under Dave Cameron, you have but to look at Britain for the last nine years under ‘Tony’ Blair. The Tory Party stands for continuity with Blair-ism, just with a fresh set of managers with their snouts in the trough hands on the helm.

If you like what Blairism (or ‘radical centrism’ if you like) has done to Britain but want a fresh Blairite in control, Dave Cameron has made it crystal clear that he is your man.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The moral and political track record of modernist artists is nothing to be proud of. Some were despicable in the conduct of their personal lives, and many embraced facism or Stalinism. The modernist composer Karlheinz Stockhausen described the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as “the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos”, and added, enviously, that “artists, too, sometimes go beyond the limits of what is feasible and conceivable, so that we wake up, and that we open ourselves to another world.” Nor is the theory of postmodernism especially progressive. A denial of objective reality is no friend to moral progress, because it prevents one from saying, for example, that slavery or the Holocaust really took place.”

- Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate, page 416.

Horny Dave likes to be watched!!

David Cameron is at home and he is as horny as hell:

David Cameron will today unveil radical plans to harness the power of the internet by reaching out to a blogging generation that is disaffected and disconnected from mainstream politics.

At the heart of the initiative, which is designed to make the Tories one of the most technologically progressive parties in Europe, is “webcameron” – a website for video blogs by their leader. Mr Cameron will provide regular clips with him speaking direct to camera, as well as written blogs and podcasts.

Dave ‘Boy’ Cameron is in his bedroom and he wants to play. He is ready to fulfill all your fantasies. Anything goes. Features include:

  • Tory leader undresses in his bedroom, reveals 7″ uncut
  • Anonymous access
  • Free registration
  • Live sex chat
  • The 3 ‘G’s – Girls, Guys and Goats!
  • Meet hot and sexy Tory singles for erotic chat and more
  • Cheapest cam rates on the web

So join now for hot, horny, sexy live action with Tory leader. Everything turns him on. Whatever you like, he is into.

A whispered warning about a loathsome, eldritch and unnameable…

… bit of hugely entertaining fun. Heh, and you thought I was about to put the boot into the hideous and unspeakable David Cameron again, didn’t you? Not at all. I was introduced to H.P. Lovecraft’s works by an erudite Jamaican friend many years ago, who took a perverse delight in the author’s often insanely racist Neo-Gothic between-the-wars horror stories.

But now a band (or perhaps ‘cult’) of enthusiasts for Lovecraft’s lavishly adjectival genre of occult-cum-SciFi horror have made a 1920′s style silent movie called The Call of Cthulhu. It captures the spirit of the story and style of the era perfectly. I just received the DVD today and it was simply a delight to watch (if a tale of madness and horror can be thusly described). You too can view the full length version and have your sanity blasted away for the very reasonable sum of $20 + pp, simply by making the ‘voorish sign’ with your mouse here…

CallOfCthulhuPosterS.jpg

‘Fan art’ (for that is most certainly what this is) is often very turgid and accessible only to the initiated hardcore (be they ‘Trekkers’, ‘Xphiles’, ‘Whovians’ or whatever) but this splendid silent movie shot in ‘Mythoscope’, a process that makes it look like, well, a 1920′s silent movie, should delight enthusiasts not just of the narrow Cthulhu genre but fans of horror and silent movies generally.

In truth if the movie has a failing, it is actually rather too good to be a genuine 1920′s creation. Highly recommended.

Bryan Appleyard on Tony Blair

I have just added Bryan Appleyard’s blog to my personal blogroll, here, this being one of several recent reasons why:

He has been the greatest politician of his generation and a truly awful Prime Minister. This distinction can be made so clearly in his case because he has so successfully separated the acquisition and sustenance of power from its exercise. Having made his crucial mistake – not sacking Brown – ten years ago, Blair has effectively been unable to do anything domestically. Brown has blocked or wrecked every initiative. Meanwhile, New Labour’s management ineptitude has produced one financial catastrophe after another – the NHS computer, tax credits and so on. This has driven Blair to undertake foreign adventures and to redefine politics not as what actually happens but as a combination of what is said and the tedious, personality-driven soap opera of Westminster. …

As for Blair’s recent Labour Party Conference fairwell triumph:

Blair’s speech was, thus, a cosmetic masterpiece – piss and wind, basically – and no more. …

I don’t know if Blair has “done up Brown like a kipper”, as is earlier proclaimed in the paragraph quoted from above. Time will tell. But separating “the acquisition and sustenance of power from its exercise” is central to understanding Blair and the Blair era.

However, the essence of the Blair message throughout has been “I’m not like those appalling Conservative gits”, and now that the Conservatives seem to have found their own version of Blair, similarly ingratiating to the voters, similarly obsessed with getting power and similarly indifferent to doing anything worthwhile with it, Blair may be leaving the stage at just the right moment.

My thanks to Stephen Pollard for alerting me to the Appleyard blog.

(Boys and) Girls on film

Brendon O’Neill reports:

Throughout the country are an estimated five million CCTV cameras; that’s one for every 12 citizens. We have more than 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV cameras, which, considering that Britain occupies a tiny 0.2 per cent of the world’s inhab itable land mass, is quite an achievement. The average Londoner going about his or her business may be monitored by 300 CCTV cameras a day. Roughly 1,800 cameras watch over London’s railway stations and another 6,000 permanently peer at commuters on the Underground and London buses. In other major city centres, including Manchester and Edinburgh, residents can expect to be sighted on between roughly 50 and 100 cameras a day.

So if these cameras are so good, why is there any crime at all in the United Kingdom?

The outward explosion begins

The Manchester based Starchaser has rolled out its prototype and they hope to give the Rutan/Branson team a run for the pole position in suborbital tourism.

They intend to launch in 2007 and follow up with a manned launch in 2008. Their spaceship can carry 3 passengers to 100 miles at 98,000 Pounds Sterling (US$183,000) for the half hour flight.

“The race is on,” he said. “This is a new space race. We’re building the vehicles, we’re building the hardware, we’re building capsules, we’ve done manned drop tests of capsules, we’re building engines,” he said. “We’re really going for it. You know we’re not just buying a ready made system from someone else so we have more control over what it is we do and I think we’re going to probably beat him to the punch.”

I am guessing I will see them at Las Cruces a few weeks from now, perhaps running their engine in a less spectacular fashion than last year.

Richard Branson has ‘rolled out’ the interior concept for the Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo:

“It won’t be much different than this,” Branson told reporters here at Wired Magazine’s NextFest forum. “It’s strange to think that in 12 months we’ll be unveiling the actual plane, and then test flights will commence right after that.”

Meanwhile, Anousheh Anseri has returned from her week aboard space station Alpha and UP Aerospace is retrieving their sounding rocket payloads after a launch which failed to reach suborbital altitude.

There may soon be some other news much closer to home ;-)

“Russia is fucked”

…declared my recently-returned father, after enthusing over many aspects of Russia’s cultural heritage and before waxing lyrical about the beauty of its landscape. He opined that the country appears to be in a sort of collective malaise; birth rates have declined markedly, with terminated pregnancies outnumbering their full-term counterparts significantly. The population is shrinking and the remainder are scared out of their wits – Dad surmised the latter opinion from his observation that Russian churches appear to be the most highly maintained, furnished and adorned buildings in Russia.

Of course, the fact that Russia is facing a profound demography-related meltdown is unlikely to be news for the average Samizdata reader. One of the more renowned articles written about the deep population crisis facing the modern Russian state was penned by Mark Steyn. It makes for interesting, if not always absolutely convincing, reading. In a piece of analysis that I think is dead wrong, Steyn, citing the precedent of the sale of Russia’s North American territories to the United States, asserts that a depopulated Russia will soon enough have its resource-rich Siberian hinterland snatched from it by an envious (and greatly more populous) China – so it may as well benefit from the inevitable and sell Siberia to Beijing. I suspect that if the Russians possessed as plentiful a supply of nuclear-tipped ICBMs in 1867 as they do now, Alaska would still be known as ‘Russian America’ in the Anglophonic world. Tom Clancy-esque Chinese plots against Siberia aside, Steyn is right to be gloomy about Russia’s future prospects; whilst her formidable nuclear deterrent should guarantee her borders, it will not secure her birthrate. The Economist recently published an article detailing the depressing facts regarding modern Russia’s population. Russia’s birthrate is dangerously low, but still comparable to a number of European nations (which certainly does not auger well for them, either). However, the real catastrophe is found in Russia’s soaring death rate:

At less than 59, male life expectancy has collapsed in a way otherwise found only in sub-Saharan Africa. It is around five years lower than it was 40 years ago, and 13 years lower than that of Russian women—one of the biggest gaps in the world.

The article goes on to detail a host of lifestyle-induced afflictions and misfortunes that kill Russians off at uniquely high rates, resulting in unparalleled population contraction.

For those concerned with curtailing the influence of government, it is worth pondering how much of the blame for this utter catastrophe can be laid at the feet of Russia’s previous political arrangements, ending 1991. Not all, but I suspect an awful lot. Admittedly, most of the health issues responsible for the abysmally low male life expectancy are related to alcoholism, and vodka was around a long time before 1917. However, the Soviets showed they understood the power of hard liquor as political lubricant on a massive scale in Mongolia in the 1970s, when the dissemination of previously rare vodka ensured growing discontent was muted by an alcoholic fog that continues to blight the lives of countless Mongolians today. I find it difficult to believe that vodka was not widely distributed for similar purposes throughout the duration of the Soviet Union. → Continue reading: “Russia is fucked”

Trench clearance in the 21st century

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester has been further honoured for her bravery and coolness under fire.

The United Service Organizations celebrated its 65th anniversary last night and honored troops from each branch of the military for heroism.

“We are thankful that we are defended by men and women of character and courage, and we are grateful to all the USO volunteers to work to entertain them,” President Bush said in a video message to the 65th annual USO gala here. “They lift their spirits and express the gratitude and support of the American people.” The five troops who received USO Servicemember of the Year awards at the gala represent the highest ideals of courage and patriotism, and have demonstrated extraordinary loyalty, bravery and heroism, Bush said.

I wrote about this back when it happened, but here are the details again:

Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, of the Kentucky National Guard. Hester served as a team leader with the 617th Military Police Company at Camp Liberty, Iraq. On March 20, 2005, Hester was in one of three escort vehicles providing security for a convoy when the convoy was ambushed by insurgents. Despite being outnumbered five to one and coming under heavy fire, Hester led her soldiers on a counterattack, maneuvering her team into a flanking position and clearing trenches occupied by the insurgents. Hester is the first woman since World War II to receive the Silver Star for combat action.

The events of that day would make a great war movie for the 21st Century if someone with real military cred decided to do it right. No ambiguous messages needed, just the good guys and gals blowing hell out of the enemy.

David Cameron – irony free zone

The media are going all out to boost Mr David Cameron (the leader of the British Conservative party). The Daily Telegraph newspaper has a front page story about how people are paying tens of thousands of Pounds to have lunch with Mr Cameron or one of his associates and how this proves that Conservatives are becoming popular (this is in the face of a declining party membership, only a quarter of whom bother to vote on the meaningless documents that are put in front of them, and opinion polls that state that about 38% intend to vote Conservative – out of the just over half of British voters who are likely to vote at all).

The Economist runs an editorial about how Mr Cameron should strip local Conservative members of what little choice they have left in choosing candidates, and how he should give up even his token policy of removing Conservatives from the ultra pro-EU European People’s Party group in the ‘European Parliament’ and totally submit to the EU in all things – oh sorry, how Mr Cameron should seek ‘influencei in the EU.

The Spectator magazine has, as its cover, a drawing of Sentator John McCain crowning Mr Cameron as King (which might interest the Queen) and, as its main story, how Senator (death-to-the-First-Amendment aka ‘Campaign Finance Reform’) McCain supports Mr Cameron.

And (of course) the BBC is still boosting Mr Cameron at every opportunity. Today Mr Cameron was given air time to explain that members of Parliament should be stripped of the power to set their own pay, and how elected governments should be stripped of power to give out honours (all those CBEs, OBEs, Kighthoods and even membership of the House of Lords) – both tasks should be done (according to Mr Cameron) outside of politics (i.e. most likely by the ‘great and the good’ who would, no doubt, give MPs even more money and make sure that no non-statist ever got an honour of any kind – certainly it would be an end to the chances of those free market types that Mrs Thatcher sometimes put into the House of Lords).

Whilst no fan of MPs getting paid lots of money (I would have been against the 1911 move to pay them at all) and no fan of how governments (especially the government led by Mr Blair) are alleged to sell honours in return for campaign money – I do find it ironic that Mr Cameron was flanked by ‘Ken’ Clarke when he launched his attack on democratically elected people deciding such things. Mr Clarke is Mr Cameron’s man in charge of producing policies to make democracy stronger and (especially) to restore power to the House of Commons.

This is ironic in its self – as Mr Clarke has a fanatical hatred of the powers of the House of Commons (of which he is a member) and wishes as much power as possible to go to the European Union.

But then Mr Clarke has just been put in charge (by Mr Cameron) of finding ways of carrying out the plan to strip elected people of both responsibility for the pay of MPs and for the honours system.

And Mr Cameron himself (with the strong support of the Economist) is busy destroying (in the name of democracy) what little democracy there is in the Conservative party and has already failed to carry out his leadership election promise to pull out Conservative members of the European Union Parliament out of the (pro-EU and anti-British House of Commons) European People’s Party group.

I can only conclude that Mr Cameron has no sense of irony.

Everything important you need to know is on the internet

Such as, how to pack and ship a hippopotamus

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I find the idea of life without the internet is just unimaginable.

The lessons the world must learn from New York’s Plibble crisis

“Teach you I cannot, my young Padawan.” As a science fiction reader I am used to meeting strange words and either guessing their meaning through context or not guessing and enjoying the story anyway. So I was only slightly hampered when reading a story in yesterday’s Times headlined “New York Mayor fights drain of IPOs to London” by my complete ignorance of what an “IPO” is and the complete failure of the story to enlighten me. You can tell me all about it in the comments if you must, but as far as I am concerned “eye-pee-oh” could be replaced by any other sequence of sounds, such as snurg-ah-poog or plibble. Plibble it is. Plibbles must be pretty nice things, because the mayor of New York is so concerned that all the plibbles New York used to win (apparently plibbles are things you win) now being won by London that he has appointed management consultants to investigate causes and possible remedies for the Great Plibble Crisis. Concern has focused on the fact that since the passing of the Somebody-Whatsit Act, London has gained a 26.4 per cent share of the global plibbles. Hurrah for London, I think. New York’s problem is that doing whatever you have to do to comply with the Somebody-Whatsit act before you can get your plibbles is one big hassle. So the plibbles go somewhere else.

Blimey, I could have saved Mayor Bloomberg a packet on consultancy fees and I still have no idea what a plibble is.

Come to think of it, anyone could work out that if plibble-getting is made tedious and expensive in your country then plibbleseekers will get their fun somewhere else.

Even if you do not know your plibbles from your twogbots.