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]

Blurred images from the rugby World Cup

I have quite enjoyed watching the rugby so far; the Argentinian side has been a revelation; some of the South Pacific sides have played with their customary bravery and gusto; even England, after a stuttering start, look a bit better. The side that is – supposedly – fancied to win the contest this year by many observers are the New Zealand All-Blacks.

So you can imagine my befuddlement yesterday afternoon when I watched the game with friends down in deepest Suffolk. The shirts of the ‘All-Blacks’ were covered in a sort of grey-blue, while the Scots, instead of their old, neat blue shirts with the old Thistle emblem, instead had some weird grey-blue stripes on top of some other colours. At a distance, it was actually pretty hard to tell the two sides apart, colour-wise. I understand all the marketing stuff that goes on in sports these days but is not a fairly basic notion that you can tell one side apart from the other? I mean, during the thick of a rugby match, for example, it might actually be a good idea for teams to be easily able to recognise one another. As a friend of mine put it yesterday, the referee should have ordered one side off the pitch to change into recognisable shirts.

The whole thing was bizarre. Mind you, New Zealand won by a large distance, to no-one’s great surprise.

Alisher Usmanov discovers that networks have surprising properties

For those unfamiliar with Alisher Usmanov, he is a Soviet era criminal (and I do not mean a dissident) and multi-gazillionare oligarch who is trying to ‘do an Abramovich’ and buy English football club Arsenal. More to the point he is also the man responsible for taking Tim Ireland’s UK based Bloggerheads off-line for pointing out his criminal background (and thereby also taking down Boris Johnson’s blog as ‘collateral damage’ as he was managed by Bloggerheads).

I must confess that I am a couple days late to this fight for the inexcusable reason that I simply cannot abide Tim Ireland, but in truth that has nothing to do with the outrageousness of some jumped up plutocrat throwing his weight around like this. However much I might dislike the notion I am forced to support Tim Ireland unequivocally.

As Mr. Eugenides aptly puts it:

And let’s be clear on this point; these blogs are down not because Usmanov has been libelled, but because he says he’s been libelled, and has a room full of paid monkeys sitting at typewriters firing off threatening letters to that effect.

I don’t give a shit about this character, or Arsenal FC (no offence to any Gooners out there); nor do I share all or even most of Tim Ireland or Craig Murray’s politics. But that’s far from the point. If you can be silenced for calling a businessman a crook, then you can be silenced for calling a politician a crook, too. Then it’s everyone’s problem.

It is for reasons like this that Samizdata is hosted in the USA, where I have no doubt whatsoever that should the likes of Schillings, Alisher Usmanov’s solicitors, approach my hosting company with a demand they pull the plug because I said something mean about some porcine thug-in-a-suit, they would be calmly invited to go get a US court order requiring them to take the site down (good luck with that) and until they do, they should please feel free to go fuck themselves.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is not the source of any right, it is just a legal tool used by Americans in America to secure the natural right all people have to express themselves. But in this networked world we have, it actually has the unlooked for effect of extending a significant degree of that protection to other people across the world who write from foreign keyboards about foreign things for foreign audiences, hosted on a server in the USA. I find that quite interesting.

D-Jet flies

Diamond Aviation, a UK General Aircraft company, has test flown its single engine private jet.

Oh, if I were a rich man…

Samizdata quote of the day

It is capitalist America that produced the modern independent woman. Never in history have women had more freedom of choice in regard to dress, behaviour, career, and sexual orientation

- Camille Paglia

Naomi Klein is left bleeding on the canvas

This reviewer plainly does not care much for Naomi Klein, scourge of the supposed evils of global capitalism. I plodded through some of her writings once just to see what the fuss was about and the economic illiteracy of this woman surprised even a jaundiced observer like me. She has achieved the rare feat of making the late JK Galbraith look like a great sage by comparison, which is quite a feat, given that many of his predictions were wrong, although he was a witty writer at times, which I suspect explains a lot of his appeal. And yet it is all such a shame: I think we free marketeers need to be challenged by high-class criticisms in order to sharpen our own defence of the market order; the problem is that if the anti-capitalist types out there become self-parodies, we can fall into a sense of false security. It never fails to surprise me just how bad a lot of anti-market writing often is.

On the issue of anti-capitalism, this old gem by Ludwig von Mises is a must-read, as fresh now as when he wrote it decades ago.

The ‘Jena 6′… the issue is the same as the Mohammed cartoons

There is a strange situation in Louisiana in which absurdly mis-labled ‘civil rights’ protests have been occurring. This has happened because six black students were arrested for seriously assaulting a white student in the aftermath of some nooses being hung suggestively from a tree in order to intimidate black students.

Now correct me if I am wrong but whilst hanging nooses from a tree is a very offensive reference to lynching, unless the owner of the tree objects or someone’s neck is in one of the nooses, dangling some rope from a tree is an act of constitutionally protected freedom of expression, is it not? It may be offensive (like, for example, a rap song extolling the murder of policemen) but it is not actually illegal. Beating a seventeen year old unconscious on the other hand is not constitutionally protected freedom of expression, it is at the very least assault and was initially being treated as attempted murder.

So…

It seems that the ‘civil rights’ protesters feel that if members of the local black community have their sensibilities (quite rightly) upset by the admittedly vile way some teenagers have expressed themselves (namely hanging nooses from a tree), then they should be given the right to assault people they are offended by without charge or indeed any restraint of law.

Presumably these same protesters would also argue that the editors of Jyllands-Posten should be the legitimate targets for violence by any Muslim offended by their provocative use of their right to freedom of expression. Certainly that is what many Muslims were saying about the publishers of the ‘Mohammed cartoons’. The protesters in Louisiana logically must agree with that notion as from what I have read they are not arguing just for broad social opprobrium for the noose-hangers (that is already the case), they are calling for legal sanction against them (just as there were demands for the editors of Jyllands-Posten to be ‘punished’) and some are contributing to the defence costs of the people who beat up the white boy, which presumably means they do not want the black youths who did it punished because being offended makes violence by six (black) teenagers against one (white) teenager perfectly okay.

Is that indeed a fair assessment of what the ‘protesters’ think should be the case, or am I missing something here?

Samizdata quote of the day

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

- HL Mencken, US journalist. I would love to have seen him write about the likes of Bush, Blair and Gordon Brown.

Full XML feed

As requested, Samizdata.net now provides a full text XML feed for those who want it.

The interesting example of Belgium

One hundred and three days after their general election, life goes on in Belgium. People go to work, they meet their friends, the beer is world class, the food is good, folks go about life as they always have. And there is still no government.

Hopefully the country will provide an inspirational example to the rest of the EU and split under the pressure caused by increasing Flemish unwillingness to pay the parasitic leftists who dominate Wallonia. Of course things might get messy but more likely it will be a velvet divorce… but the really interesting thing for me is that society and the economy continues to function just fine without any active government at all. No new laws, no cabinet meetings, and yet somehow the sky has not caved in and the world keeps turning.

The bailout of Northern Rock

The decision of the British government to rescue Northern Rock, the mortgage lender, with billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money, represents a terrible long-term blunder, in my view. It may also put the UK afoul of EU law, for those that care about such matters. Of course one feels very sorry for the people who have savings with NR and I suppose many of them are mightily relieved at the turn of events. I am sure I would be relieved if I were in their position.

But hard cases make bad law, and bad policy. Consider what has happened: a company gets itself into a pickle because its funding policies are up-ended by a sudden rise in short-term interbank borrowing costs; fears grow that the firm cannot make good all its commitments and a bank run occurs. Before the days when financial institutions of a certain size were considered too large to be allowed to fail, the collapse, however tragic, of Northern Rock would have been seen as a necessary if very nasty reminder that capitalism has its risks.

Banks and other institutions that lend money must not lend to people without being sure of the latter’s credit worthiness. But that caution has been thrown to the winds in recent years: in the US and Britain, for example, borrowing covenants have been relaxed, and pretty much any sentient lifeform has been able to get a mortgage. Some financial institutions are to blame for their plight although in mitigation, the price signals that are the essential feature of markets have been distorted by a long stretch of cheap money. The ultimate culprits, as I said the other day, are the central banks and their historically low interest rates. With so much cheap liquidity, the sort of returns investors made on safe investments were peanuts and so they took greater risks for often only a slightly higher reward. We are now moving to a position where risk is more realistically priced. The Northern Rock bailout undermines that move.

The rescue of Northern Rock also shows that the supposed success by Margaret Thatcher and even John Major in rolling back socialism is itself an exaggeration. It proves that if a company is big enough, it can call on the public purse. Northern Rock, based in Labour Party heartland of the north-east, has been effectively nationalised by the government, and inevitably, the clamour will grow for more and arguably more deserving groups of people to be bailed out. I can think, for example, of the hundreds of thousands of people who face retirement without a decent pension because Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, helped to shaft private sector pensions by changes to how equity dividends are taxed. They are arguably far more deserving of some form of recompense.

Of course, if the Tories had any moral or political backbone – and they most certainly do not – they would have denounced this state of affairs, rather than take the easy way out of playing to the gallery by supporting the tax-funded bailout of Northern Rock. Back in the mid-1990s, when Barings went down due to dodgy trades in the derivatives market, the collapse was seen as a harsh but necessary lesson about the realities of risk. For a while, Barings served as a useful warning, far more useful than any group of regulations. With the rescue of Northern Rock, careless financiers will now regard the state as an easy touch.

Off-line does not know how to handle ‘trolls’

A few days ago we quoted Adriana sticking it to Andrew Keen in a debate. Well she is at it again in a bit more detail this time on her own blog.

Irritatingly, debating with the man invariably leads from his arguments to the person he is. It is like trying to have a conversation about a picture or an image with a colourblind man. He is looking at the same thing but, in his vision, there are colours missing and so in his mind the resulting image may be fundamentally different from reality. In the end, you find yourself insisting that the colours are really there and that he should just take your word for it. He, on the other hand, insists on describing what is in front of him without taking any notice of others telling him that his vision is flawed.

I particularly like the bit about him ‘re-setting’ each time so that no intellectual progress is possible with the man over time even if you successfully refute some part of his argument… next day it is as if the previous debate never happened (kind of like watching old non-story-arc episodic SciFi shows that never referenced previous events).

Read the whole thing.

Alan Greenspan and Neil Cavuto

Neil Cavuto (of Fox news) to Alan Greenspan.

“Did you keep interest rates too low for too long, creating a bubble?”

Mr Greenspan to Mr Cavuto.

“Collapse of communism in Eastern Europe… [blah, blah, blah]… the Third World… [blah, blah, blah]… the rise of investment in China…”

Draw your own conclusions.