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]

Samizdata quote of the day

The odds of people dying in a terrorist attack obviously are still a lot lower than in a car accident, unfortunately.

– President of the USA Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, speaking on the Jay Leno show

Mrs Thatcher clones

An unexpected pleasure, leftists chocking at the sight of people celebrating Margaret Thatcher, has just got even better.

The Daily Mail informs us that the “Thatcher haircut” is the rage in central London, with one salon claiming to be overwhelmed by demand.

Italian-born Christina Bellucci, 37, a digital consultant, said she felt the look reflected a modern attitude.

‘This is a strong style and gives me authority,’ she said.

‘When I walk out the door I feel a few inches taller, it gives me power without sacrificing any of my femininity.’

Paying for the Margaret Thatcher Funeral

I’ll pay my share of the Thatcher funeral cost and that of two objectors if they’ll pay my share of government spending I don’t like.

Any takers?

UPDATE: At least Mr Cameron is being as consistent as I would have expected.

National elections go global

On the Sunday between the two rounds of voting for the French presidential election, a curious thing happened in North-West London. Two Frenchmen rang the doorbell of my parents’ house and asked to speak to my mother (who is French). They wanted to know if she would be supporting Nicolas Sarkozy next Sunday, and if she had any doubts, would she like a leaflet outlining the President’s agenda for his second term. Naturally, not a word of English was spoken.

As it happens, I have never been canvassed in France for a French presidential, or any other kind of election. I was under the impression it was not done the same way as in the UK (privacy laws and so forth). Yet here were a couple of party activists, one white, the other of likely South-East Asian origin, wandering around London looking for swing voters. With about 400,000 votes cast by French citizens in the first round outside France (a turnout of nearly 40% of the registered overseas electorate), I can see why this get out the vote operation [GOTV] would exist. But even in London, where most of the UK’s half million French people live, it is not a case of calling door to door.

Before recent changes to French election law which create constituencies outside French territories that are represented in the National Assembly, presidential elections in the Fifth Republic (since 1962) were already a worldwide affair. Citizens in such French territories of Wallis and Futuna, Tahiti and Mayotte would cast votes at polling stations in Mata’utu, Papeete and Mamoudzou respectively. → Continue reading: National elections go global

OMG ASAP? OMG ROFL!

Obama Must Go.

The only shock is why this has not become a meme before now.

Post-Fordist Fordism

Time was when Ford was the model for corporatism and seen as a template for the State.

But that was before we got to a situation where Communist China’s state media castigates the US federal government for wasting money on welfare programs and over-borrowing.

I like the fact that Ford let Chris choose his own words to explain why he wouldn’t buy a government bail-out car. Very Post-Fordist.

Probably the only thing the Vichy government got right

As a new (slightly overweight) inhabitant of Neuilly-sur-Seine, I have got into the habit of walking the boundaries of this small suburb to the West of Paris [link in French]. The idea is to become familiar with the street names and neighbourhoods, and drop a few kilos in the process. At many of the main road junctions, rather nicely-built small brick houses can be found, looking like 19th century rural railway stationmasters cottages. They are in fact a vestige of one the French Revolution’s greatest failures, and probably the only thing the collaborationist government of Le Maréchal did right.

August 1st, 1943 is the date when Pierre Laval’s proposal to abolish internal customs tariffs in France came into effect. It was even done for a good reason: wartime hardship meant that the population of France was suffering enough trouble obtaining food at all without having to deal with a tax for crossing a city boundary.

One of the complaints that triggered the 1789 revolution was the practice of taxing the transport of goods within France. For nearly a decade, the “octroi” was eliminated, but restored by the Directorate in 1798. Several attempts were made to scrap the tax during the 19th century. At the turn of the 20th century, individual towns were allowed to scrap the tax, but many did not do so, due to the lack of an alternative source of revenue.

The Neuilly Octroi buildings have been preserved and in some cases have better (or worse) uses today. One of them is a shop selling newspapers and sandwiches. Another is the local office of a trade union syndicate, which I am guessing, is provided either free of charge or at a subsidized rate.

I like the fact that a reminder exists of a time when families would go out of town to buy such things as butter or jam, and smuggle it in baby prams to avoid the tax, less dramatic versions of Checkpoint Charlie. I have not checked, but Montmartre was outside the Paris octroi in the 19th century and as a result a lot of bars opened up offering the Parisian equivalent of “booze cruises.” This in turn became the spot where artists looking for cheap alcohol – especially absinthe – would hang out. So the octroi may well have had a profound indirect effect on the artistic careers of Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

Pierre Laval was shot for his crimes in 1945. Scrapping the octroi was not one of them.

Seychelles versus Kenya

The first match fixture to be drawn for the 2014 soccer world cup. One of the manifestations of globalization that will go largely unnoticed for a couple of years.

UPDATE: With North Korea and Syria in the same qualifying group of four teams, it looked like we could have a different sort of “Group of Death” than usual, but FIFA chickened out and put Iran and China in other groups.

MORE: Guatemala and Belize. The former’s government claims ownership of the latter. Football correspondent with war zone reporting experience required?

On a more pleasant note, the job I want is covering CONCACAF Group B: Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Barbados and the Bahamas. Well, someone has got to go there and report on the beaches, I mean football matches…

EVEN MORE: “In consideration of the delicate political situation between Russia and Georgia, FIFA has agreed to a UEFA request that these two teams not be drawn together.” [From the news feed here]

Samizdata quote of the day

Better (a thousand times better) an athiest who believes in objective truth than a “religious” person who does not.

– our very own Paul Marks

A defeat for (gun) prohibition

Reading about the arrest of what appears to have been an extremist planning an attack on Ft Hood, Texas, I was struck by the contrast with the Oslo attack last weekend.

Private First Class Naser Jason Abdo, was arrested Wednesday after making a purchase at Guns Galore in Killeen, Texas, the same ammunition store where Maj. Nidal Hasan purchased the weapons he allegedly used to gun down 13 people and wound 32 others on Nov. 5, 2009.

The point being that a legal gun shop owner is more likely to call the police than a black market arms supplier would. Now if we could only get all the gun rights people in America to realise the advantages of legal outlets for drugs as well…

Who killed the polar bears then?

The good news: those polars bears killed by “global warming,” were not.

From the AP:

Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into “integrity issues.”

… observations suggested the bears drowned in rough seas and high winds and “suggest that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues.”

Bad news for some, I reckon.

The debt ceiling should be cut not raised

A few years back, I proposed an alternative budget for the UK. IIRC, it involved cutting taxes by a quarter, spending by a third. Even assuming no increase in economic growth (that would boost sales tax revenue), this would have created a massive budget surplus that could have cut the UK national debt by over 10%.

I opposed default then for what I still think were good reasons: first, many private individuals and institutions bought bonds in good faith; but second, because the UK nearly had to surrender to Nazi Germany in 1940, and had refused to confront Hitler when war was still not necessary partly because of the consequences of a partial default on war bonds from the First World War. In essence, appeasement was the necessary policy of 1930s British governments because they could not expect to borrow so had to pay in gold and whatever the British public could be persuade/forced to raise (yes I know pacifism was big too, but the financial imperative meant that it was the only option).

Whether we take an interventionist view or not, the re-militarization of the Rhineland in 1936 was the moment when, without firing a shot, Hitler could have been stopped.

What does this have to with events in Europe and the USA today? In short, I think the financial situation is so dire, and the political solutions on offer so inadequate, that default is now the only credible outcome. I therefore conclude that it needs to happen very soon, rather than after wasting more resources on more “bail-outs.”

We will just have to take our chances that no one decides to, invade the Falklands, or grab Gibraltar, or build nuclear weapons and give them to terrorists, or blow up US embassies. I explain why below. → Continue reading: The debt ceiling should be cut not raised