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]

“Papua New Guinea is threatening to dramatically reduce the money it receives from Canberra …”

Every day or two I visit The Croydonian, and today The Croydonian links to an amazing report. Papua New Guinea is having a row with Australia, about an Australian evildoer who escape in a Papua New Guinea airplane, and Papua New Guinea is now threatening a range of nasty things against Australia, of which this, apparently, is the most nasty:

The most serious step being contemplated is the suspension of significant elements of Australian aid deemed not essential to PNG, the Herald understands.

Yes, you did read that right. Papua New Guinea is threatening to cut off aid, from Australia to Papua New Guinea! Imagine the consternation that must now be sweeping through the Australian aiding classes. They do not want us to help them any more! Worse: Perhaps they do not think we were helping.

Is this an idea whose time has come?

Goodbye to the Nighthawk

The F-117 Nighthawk, the stealthy USAF ‘first responder’, is retiring after 25 years of active duty.

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., Oct. 31, 2006 – After 25 years of storied service, the F-117 Nighthawk, the Air Force’s first stealth fighter, is about to retire.

The technology that once made it unique has now caught up to it, and newer fighter aircraft are joining the fleet. Still, the Nighthawk was the first of its kind, a fact anyone who has spent time around the aircraft is quick to point out.

Many of these people gathered here Oct. 29 to commemorate 25 years of Nighthawk history at the Silver Stealth ceremony. Members of the F-117 community, past and present, were on hand to pay homage to the aircraft’s illustrious history, a history that contains as many secrets as it does legends.


F-117 over Las Cruces, New Mexico airport on Oct 21st during X-Prize Cup,
Photo: Dale Amon, All rights reserved

Making fun of amputees is not terribly funny

One of the problems with Political Correctness, if one can define it as a desire to change the words we use to change how we think, is that it will invite a backlash. That backlash will not necessarily be for the good, but could encourage a new sort of ugliness: a desire to say things that are by any yardstick offensive, rude and coarsening of public life.

Consider how we talk about people suffering from physical and mental handicaps these days. Even the word, ‘handicap’ might get you into trouble. This Wikipedia take on PC terms shows to what lengths the speech-code enforces will go to change language. Yet there seems to be something of a fightback, and I am not sure if I like the results any more than the PC stuff. Last night, TV presenter Jonathan Ross, a man famed for his massive BBC salary, loud suits and inability to pronounce the letter R, launched an attack on the now-estranged wife of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney in terms so vile that Ross’s career might have been destroyed a few years ago. On the Have I Got News for You satirical current affairs ‘quiz’ show last night, the same sort of mockery was sent the way of Heather Mills, again playing on the fact that she is an amputee. Now, of course some people who suffer such calamities learn to put on a brave face about it and even laugh at their own misfortune. Humour can be a great source of strength. But I thought it pretty striking nonetheless that it is considered okay by mainstream, left-leaning members of the chattering entertainment classes to have a crack at someone by reference to their disability. Personally I have no desire to discuss the rather nasty divorce case. Life is too short.

I suppose context does matter. The media, or at least parts of it, have taken the view that the soon-to-be ex-Mrs McC is a gold-digging trollop who has played on her disability to win support for her case, so she is fair game. But I also suspect this is just another example of the boorish strain in what passes for British public cultural life these days. A year or so back, Andrew Sullivan noted how (link requires subscription) British TV shows and magazines like Maxim or Big Brother were spreading the Brit gospel of crassness and vulgarity across the United States. He had a point then and it applies just as much now.

Excerpt:

The most powerful British influences on American culture today are ferociously crass, unvarnished, unseemly – and completely unapologetic about it.

Vulgarity, I suppose, has its uses. A strong tradition of satire and mockery of the rich, famous and powerful can and does act as a check on the over-mighty. A certain level of vulgarity is probably rather healthy. But my goodness, would it not be refreshing, just for once, if the supposed public merrymakers focused more of their aim on our corrupt and power-mad political elite, and rather less on people who, for all their supposed failings, are not really very important? But perhaps to state the question is to know the answer. Taking the piss out of religious fundamentalists, crooks or tyrants is quite dangerous to the would-be piss-taker (just ask Theo Van Gogh). Much easier to have a go at a pop star instead.

Civil rights activism of the libertarian kind

Glenn Reynolds posted this link to an almost forgotten but pivotal story of the early civil rights movement. A group of young men opened an entire chain of stores to black americans by patience and nonviolence, and more notably without disrespect of private property or sobbing to mama government to kiss and make better.

They broke no laws. They neither committed nor threatened to initiate any violence. They just sat at a counter day after day, waiting to be served until:

On August 11, while the early arrivals were sitting at the counter waiting for their friends to show, a white man around 40 walked in and looked at them for several minutes. Then he looked at the store manager, and said, simply, “Serve them. I’m losing too much money.” He then walked back out. That man was the owner of the Dockum drug store chain.

The owner then gave the same orders to all of his other stores.

These people deserve to be better known than they are.

We should also remember the owner of the chain for being a businessman and a reasonable human being who did the right thing in a time and a place where ideologic racists abounded.

Samizdata quote of the day

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

- James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 47

Blair’s last word on climate change

The Stern report on climate change is being published and has been seized upon by the government to continue its alarmist campaign for government expansion. Stern lists the usual disasters and argues that humanity must take action now to avoid impoverishment, although it was commissioned for an international audience. In Britain, the main impact is taxation, with the media concentrating on new charges and levies.

As the electorate are already sceptical about further tax increases, the self-appointed prophets are latching onto the paradigm of climate change to justify their onerous theft. Taxes on cars, aviation and other carbon generating activities will weigh more heavily upon the poor and lead to lower living standards now rather than the hypothetical poverty projected for the future.

The Letter from David Miliband, the appointment of the political failure Al Gore and the report by Stern are all designed to provide the intellectual ballast for continued government expansion. These taxes are politically unpalatable and would be rejected by the electorate, if levied without green cover. Therefore, climate change and catastrophism are the reasons for a ‘greener than thou’ ratchet effect, where politicians use Britain and our money to puff themselves up as a moral example for others.

Since the science and the scenarios are still so uncertain, climate change has been adopted as the vanguard for further taxation and a curb on British consumerism. Using the expansion of the state and taxes, rather than market mechanisms, our politicians will dampen our economic growth, steal our wealth, and wrap us in their parasitical hairshirt. The only light in this gloom is that the British electorate may reject such alarmism and the example of our political stupidity will lead India and other natiosn to seek technological and free-market solutions that do not curb their march away from poverty.

Firefox 2.0 crashfest

I have been experimenting with Firefox because of its superior ability to block annoying advertisements, something I was advised to do by a host of readers last month… but ever since upgrading to Firefox 2.0, I have been very grateful for its ability to ‘restore browsing sessions’ after a crash because I get five or six crashes per day, something I certainly did not get with Firefox 1.5 (or the Devil’s Browser IE 6, for that matter). Are many folks out there experiencing anything similar?

Confessions of an 80s man

Andrew Sullivan has been gently poking fun at 80s music recently. Steady on Sully, I am a proud 80s-era teenager (although I never sported a mullet haircut, honest). In my ‘umble opinion, you can keep your droning Coldplays, Travises and thuggish Oasises, for me, nothing comes close to the brio of Madness, the wonderful, cleverness of the Stranglers or for that matter, these dudes from Norway.

And of course, one should always remember to buy Danish!

(I originally said that Aha is from Denmark. Several latitudes of error. Thanks for the eagle-eyed reader for pointing this out).

Penalised for living in a prosperous, low-crime area

According to the Sunday Telegraph, a new way of calculating how council tax (local government taxes) are set will take account of aspects of a locality such as crime in setting the tax band. The nicer and less crime-ridden the area, the higher the tax you pay. Areas such as Chelsea and Westminster (I live in the latter area) will see their tax bills soar, while presumably if you live in a place such as Hackney, one of the most deprived and crime-ridden areas, your bill goes down. Marvellous. This is hardly an incentive for people to help curb crime and contribute to making their neighbourhoods more pleasant places in which to live.

One of the tropes of the MSM in recent years has been how the present New Labour government has turned away, in part, from the politics of punitive taxation as practised by Labour governments in the past. This is more about image than reality, however. Inheritance tax is biting into a broad swathe of the affluent middle class, the sort of folk that switched to Labour in 1997 or simply refused to vote for the Tories. Now Labour, in order to finance the swelling ranks of public workers, is proposing to hammer those same classes again. Even the Tories, who have been supine on the tax issue under the leadership of David Cameron, have started to kick up a stink on this issue.

The increasingly intrusive powers of officials in judging the values of our homes, coupled with this latest threatened increase, promises to be a gift to the Tories, if only they have the cojones to play the issue properly. The threatened increases are likely to hit precisely those marginal constituencies that the Tories must take from Labour to stand a chance of winning the next election. This does not look very intelligent from Labour’s point of view.

Samizdata quote of the day

If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

- H. P. Lovecraft

For me this quote can really be applied to almost any set of beliefs.

EnvironMENTALISM

For those of you in London, there’s a free showing of a new film on Wednesday looking at "the dark side of environmentalism". I saw Tom Clougherty on the internet TV station 18 Doughty Street (view recording) discuss the film against some statist from the Green Party. Clougherty’s view was that while there is something of the Michael Moore about this film, it makes an important point. It’s about an underdeveloped town in Romania full of unemployment and poverty. Capitalists want to create jobs by building an environmentally-friendly mine, but Western environmentalists swoop in from overseas and try to force the locals to stay poor, saying that the locals are happy being poor. The showing is at One Great George Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA. Doors open at 6:30pm, the film starts at 6:45pm, there is a Q&A session at 7:50pm, and there is a drinks reception at 8:15pm. RSVP to iea@iea.org.uk. View the trailer here:

The film is also available on DVD from here.

Samizdata quote of the day

The best research for playing a drunk is being a British actor for 20 years.

- Michael Caine.