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]

The ways of France

A close friend who recently bought a lovely property down in Cannes, France, invited Mrs Pearce and yours truly down for Christmas. How can one refuse? We did not. I rather like the old seaside town, with its 19th Century Belle Epoque hotels and small side-streets. The place is pretty civilised over Christmas: unlike the Film Festival season or the various financial services conferences held there during the year, the place was mostly filled by locals and there was a merciful lack of beer-swilling Brits. France likes to pride itself as being far more grown-up in its approach to alcohol than the British, and I think this is mostly accurate, having been to France many times to see the locals in action of an evening. This item, however, says the French go pretty “British” in their drinking habits over the New Year.

Meanwhile, France is of course joining the puritanical Anglosphere by banning smoking in all cafes and restaurants from next February. A shame: although I dislike tobacco smoke intensely, if I choose to enter a bar where the owner of said private property allows it, it is my problem, not his. I can choose to leave. No-one forces me to work in a bar or drink in one at gun point. One of the things I quite like about France is that despite it being a more bureaucratic nation than Britain in many ways – although that is passing – the French have always struck me as a fairly tolerant bunch on certain social issues (the Catholic influence, maybe, I am not sure).

It will be interesting to see whether the ban is enforced in all French premises. I rather doubt it.

If you are looking for something profound…

Then this is sooooo not the article for you.

As I am still in a residual Christmas torpor and fully expect to remain in one until after New Years Day, I am going to resist commenting on the appalling assassination of Benazir Bhutto by some Islamic fundi-mentalist fucktard and instead give you a link to the trailer for a completely gonzo Japanese movie.

Well it was either that or post a gratuitous cat picture.

The passing of a master

I was sad to read this story as I got back into the office today – having resolutely refused to read much press over the holidays – about the death of Oscar Peterson, the jazz pianist. Jazz is not everyone’s cup of tea: some modern stuff is unlistenable, in my view, but this man crossed a lot of barriers with his wonderful blues style. I love his album, Night Train. I might just put it on the CD machine later.

And he died at the ripe old age of 82, proof, surely, that not all great musicians have to die young or mess up their talents by drugs or general over-indulgence.

Oh good grief…

Yes, I know I wrote an article tentatively supporting Ron Paul, but please, someone, tell me this clip in which Dr. Ron Paul rejects the theory of evolution has been edited to remove the full context of the remark.

The oldest pubs

I remember having a discussion some years back about what was the oldest pub in the world. I still do not have the answer to that, but I recently came across the list of contenders in Britain.

The oldest ones in Belfast are from the 1640 era, White’s Tavern and Kelly’s, the latter of which actually looks the part as the floor is enough below street level now that there are small ramps at the entryways.

Are there older pub’s in Europe, perhaps in Rome? Some little wine establishment tucked away near the ruins of the forum? Or perhaps in China. where one could imagine some spice road inn from Biblical times.

Could there perhaps be some ancient establishment in India with a sign saying: “Buddha Got Pissed Here?”

Samizdata quote of the day

We were thinking of challenging the Taliban to a game of football on Christmas day, but I’m not sure they’d get the joke.

- Sgt Kraig Whalley, 29, Royal Military Policeman

Samizdata quote of the day

The welfare state has largely failed as an anti-poverty weapon… Higher welfare payments often encourage students to drop out of school, they often encourage families to disintegrate, and they often lead to lifelong dependency.

- Robert F. Kennedy

The face of the enemy

Sometimes it is worth plagiarising yourself.

I was asked in a pre-interview chat the other day, about 30 seconds from live TV, “Why is the government doing this? ‘Terrorism’ doesn’t seem to make sense; there has to be something more to it.” It’s hard to be snappy on the point even without crazy pressure, so mumbled something about my interlocutor going to Google and typing “Transformational Government”. I do recommend it, but I have a fairly neat explanation for why Transformational Government too. Just not quite neat enough to recall and pitch in 30 seconds on a GMTV sofa at 6:30 in the morning.

I actually wrote it about 3 years ago, in the days when I had time to think, as a comment on Phil Booth’s (whatever happened to him) blog, the Infinite Ideas Machine:

My answer arises from a pub conversation a while back with the post-Marxist commentator Joe Kaplinsky. He maintains “they” don’t know what they want the information for, they are just collecting it just in case it should ever come in useful, because that’s what bureaucrats do. There is much in that, but I think there’s slightly more.

The slightly more is a glimpse of bureaucratic fundamentalism to rival the more explicit fundamentalisms of religious and political fanatics. The administrative class (“class” in the cultural not economic sense) in Britain, but also in Europe more generally – and from which New Labour is almost exclusively drawn – holds it as self evident that the life and personality of an individual is a unitary object capable of being better managed if only there is enough information collected and enough “best practice” followed.

It is a fundamentalist faith in that if the world is out of line with the model, the world is wrong; that written rules and established methods are unquestionable from outside the tradition; and that forcing people to live within the categories determined by the faith is justifiable for a general and individual good that is evident to the elect.

It’s not that control is sought for its own sake, more that they yearn for the best well-ordered and coherent society, and believe this can be determined and imposed given sufficient expertise and information. Hence joined up government. They really do believe that efficiency is achieved by connecting everything to everything else in a giant bureaucratic system. It is the Soviet illusion, dressed up in “new technology” and market-friendly initiatives that co-opt corporate bureaucracies into the dream rather than setting them up as enemies.

The same people who claimed to have absorbed Hayek’s explanation of why 5-year plans can’t work during their turn away from Old Labour are too dull (or too intoxicated by the vision of the power to make a good society) to see that replacing some of the clerks with machines and the telegraph with the internet makes no difference to the basic proposition.

How to make yourself look like a prat in one easy lesson

Will Smith has expressed his view that people are essentially good, they just do bad things as a consequence of following the logical train of thought from faulty premises.

Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today’,” said Will. “I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good’. Stuff like that just needs reprogramming. I wake up every day full of hope, positive that every day is going to be better than yesterday. And I’m looking to infect people with my positivity. I think I can start an epidemic.”

And this remark has sent the Jewish Defence League into a hissyfit of rage.

Smith’s comments are ignorant, detestable and offensive. They spit on the memory of every person murdered by the Nazis. His disgusting words stick a knife in the backs of every veteran who fought so valiantly to save the world from those aspirations of Adolf Hitler. Smith’s comments also cast the perpetrators of the Holocaust as misguided fellows rather than the repulsive villains of history they truly were. If people do not understand how idiotic and insensitive it was to make such a comment, it is like a Jew saying that James Earl Ray, the assassin of Rev. Martin Luther King, was basically a good person who did a “bad thing.”

Now that is a very dubious interpretation of Smith’s remarks, to put it mildly. I am not sure I agree with Smith that all people are essentially good, although I do think most people are capable of good. I think that absent a biological defect, we develop towards goodness or evil or, more usually, somewhere in the middle, through the exercise of our free will in accord or in conflict with our genetic predispositions, but all people are capable of both good and evil. Some are more predisposed to good, others to evil (and a disproportionate number of evil people are drawn to politics as a career as it offers such rich possibilities for doing just that), but I do not think we are inexorably forced down either path… and thus find it hard to entirely disagree with Smith.

However the theory that Will Smith is presenting is an entirely reasonable one to argue and using the example of a man not unjustly held to be the very epitome of evil seems a fair and relevant way to express his view of human nature. Without a doubt Smith is in excellent philosophical company on the issue of innate goodness and his position is a deeply Christian one.

When Hitler looked in the mirror, I am sure he did not see an evil man gazing back at him. Of course he did what he thought was ‘right’ within his world view, his meta-context, which was framed by the axioms of a collectivist racist drawing on a long history of collectivist and racist thought. To Hitler ‘right’ was whatever was good for the ‘herrenvolk’ which he perceived as being in perpetual conflict with other racial groups. As a consequence his concept of ‘right’ was always going to be monstrous (i.e. the “twisted, backwards logic” of which Smith speaks).

What Smith seems to be saying is that if someone had the chance to sit Hitler down and ‘unpick’ his ‘twisted, backwards logic’, then perhaps they might have been able to ‘reach’ his deeply buried innate goodness. Although I have serious doubts on that score, it is a far from unsupportable argument and in no way speaks to Hitler’s actual manifested goodness but rather the notion of an innate goodness being intrinsic in us all as a species. If you take that charitable view of humanity then of course Hitler (and Pol Pot, Stalin, Genghis Khan and Caligula) had an innate goodness buried somewhere in the deepest basement of their dark souls.

That the JDL feels that is an intolerable position to take rather than just an incorrect one, makes me deduce they are probably not worth the effort of debating, particularly given their preposterous characterisation of Smith’s remarks. And although as I have said, I do not entirely agree with Smith’s theory of innate goodness, if I was him my response to the JDL would be something along the lines of “Screw you, buddy” whilst proffering the Mighty Forks in their direction.

I do not know a great deal about the JDL but a brief trawl of the internet suggests to me that anyone not following certain ritual forms of abomination when discussing anything whatsoever relating to Hitler, is immediately branded as The Enemy Beyond The Pale. What an excellent way to make yourself look like a complete prat, not to mention wrapping yourself in the same psychological cloth as certain Islamofascist crazies who become unhinged at the sight of irreverent cartoons.

Thank you

As I sit here warm and safe at Christmas I cannot help but think of those of you who are far from home and have placed your lives on the line to make the world a better place. There is every appearance we are well on the way to Victory In Iraq this coming year and I sincerely hope you are all home and safe with your families this time next year.

I send my very special Merry Christmas to our rough men and women on the frontiers.

A Belfast Merry Christmas to all

It is half two in the AM as I write this Christmas greeting, warm in my well worn Aran jumper and to a soundtrack of carols playing on a 1990′s left over computer to which I have delegated such things. It struck me some of you might be interested in Christmas elsewhere, so I have selected a small number of photos to try to give you some of the atmosphere of a Northern Ireland Christmas.

City Hall and ferris.
The centerpiece to celebrations is City Hall. It has recently been attacked by a giant alien space station.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Christmas village.
The grounds are turned into a Christmas village with shops selling Christmas goods and foods from all over Europe.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Christmas village bar.
Like any village in Ireland…. it has a pub!
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Castlecourt mall.
We also have the typical modern mega-mall. It was filled with Saturday afternoon Christmas shoppers as I went in search of an ATM that could take my Chase Visa… and which had not been emptied by voracious shoppers. I finally found one, almost hidden behind Santa’s grotto, where the queue was only about eight shoppers in length.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

ATM line.
Unlike this somewhat longer ATM queue.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Trad Christmas.
A few hours later I was ensconced at the bar in my local listening to friends play a merry jig or three.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Friends.
But of course the most important part of Christmas anywhere is the company of old friends to share it with.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

City hall and ferris at night.
And here is my Belfast Christmas Card to all of our loyal readers. Have a good one and feel free to eat and drink too much and in general overindulge in happiness and joy.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Before and after…

The reason for light blogging tonight and probably tomorrow is…

Before…

Dinner was prepared by Adriana Lukas with assistance from her tiny elf-like helper Alec Muffet…

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Where mah fudz?

During…

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Potentially explosive desert

and after…

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after_02.jpg

Thaddeus crashed and burned, causing much hilarity

To all our readers, have a great Christmas… we certainly are!