The inimitable Guido Fawkes decides to use Samizdata to explain what he is… and what he is not.
Over on the misnamed Liberal Conspiracy blog ‘Gracchi’ proffers a serious and fair minded critique of my Guido alter ego’s oeuvre, rather than the usual “Guido is an evil baby eating Nazi who once voted Tory, does not use trackbacks and deletes comments” tripe. I will give it a reply here and defend my approach.
Clearly we all have a political agenda of some kind. Mine is the politics of anti-politics. It stems from wanting to expand the non-political space in life and culture. This flows from my belief in the primacy of individual liberty.
The charge of partisanship does have some validity, I would rather get this shower in government out, but the choice on offer is hardly compelling. It is not as if there was any attempt on my part to pretend to some kind of impartial objectivity. So far as the right-of-centre leaning blogosphere has any influence on the Tories it is often attacking from the ‘right’ of the Tory centre of gravity. The Samizdatistas despair of the Tories, Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome is more hawkish and less socially liberal than his party, even Iain Dale is more Thatcherite than the Tory leadership and my views on tax cuts, the minimal state, free migration and drug prohibition position me in a very different place on the political spectrum to the Tories. It is inimical to Toryism for instance to be a republican, so to characterise me as a Tory seems intellectually lazy to the point of cretinous.
I have written no ideological essays for nearly two decades. There are some still available from the Libertarian Alliance if you are interested – on human rights, the economics of the City and most famously acid house culture.
Gracchi is right to nuance the self-interest charge against politicians, they are more precisely motivated by “perceived self-interest”. I will adopt that phrase from now on. As for my understanding about policy development and the importance of wonks, well I have lived in that world, financially supported think tanks and indeed worked for think tanks in my youth. I just do not advertise it.
The rest of the complaint is based on a poor premise, on the evidence of Guido’s blog I am naive, according to Gracchi. Do you mean Paul Staines or the Guido personality? You are confusing the character with the author. The blog provides a tabloid sensationalist, personality driven narrative. It is meant to entertain in order to be populist. Carefully nuanced argumentation is not what it is about. Complaining that it is populist and not what blogging should aspire to, is like complaining that the New York Post is not the New York Times. You do your thing, Guido will do his thing.
Of course the irony is that more intellectuals, wonks and political thinkers read Guido’s blog than the New Statesman. In Gramscian terms Guido’s blog is now arguably the more important ‘site of struggle’. Discuss.
Patrick Crozier has views on the saga of footballer Al Bangura
Many of you will be vaguely aware of the Bangura affair. Al Bangura is the Watford footballer who is about to be deported to Sierra Leone, where, according to him, he is likely to be killed. For extra colour there is some stuff about a voodoo cult and the bizarre ruling that his being a professional footballer with excellent prospects do not count because Sierra Leone is not one of the top 75 football teams in the world. Go figure.
I should point out that I am a half-hearted Watford fan but this does not affect what I am about to say. I would say the same if the guy played for L*t*n. All it means is that I am slightly more familiar with the case.
I have no idea if what Bangura says is true. Frankly, it could be a pack of lies for all I care. Given the stakes involved: the best job in the world or exile to some African shithole, it would hardly be surprising if he were telling the odd porkie. But it does not matter. The way I see it the guy has every right to be here. Not because he is fleeing persecution, not because he is a good footballer, not because he pays his taxes or ‘enriches’ British culture…
But because he is a human being.
I think everybody should be able to live everywhere, subject, of course, to the usual libertarian provisos about property rights.
My guess is that sense and political manipulation of the judiciary will prevail. This has the potential to become a real cause celebre – you can just imagine the stink if he gets sent back to Sierra Leone and does indeed wind up dead – and because of that I do not think it will happen. Or if he does get deported he will soon find a job somewhere else. I hear LA Galaxy are looking to strengthen their midfield.
But it makes me think about all those who are not professional footballers – the ordinary joes who just want to make better lives for themselves or to escape the hope-crushing Kafka-with-machetes world that is so common in Africa. They have to face the more ordinarily-Kafkaesque world of the immigration system without the support of football clubs and their umpteen thousand supporters. For them the difference between prosperity and poverty hangs on a civil servant’s whim. The more honest must be tortured by debates over when to tell the truth and when to lie like crazy. It must be agony.
John Louis Swaine wrote in with an interesting piece about his own ‘road to Damascus’. “It took approximately 8 years to move from being a Labourite teenager to a Libertarian at the age of 23. I used to blog quite a lot so I felt the urge to write something about it. Since the Samizdata weblog has been one of the most important contributing factors for this change, I thought I would submit it to you.”
Most people have a “Summer of ’69” they can relate to; a magic period of youthful exuberance, tempered by important life experiences and left to bake softly in the warmth of the July sun. Mine was in 2001, I was 16 and beginning to ask the bigger questions about society and life.
I had opinions, I suddenly cared about issues. Like virtually every young person I came to the conclusion that equality was of paramount importance and that the only means by which to achieve it was through the prescription of schemes and initiatives by Government. After all, is that not what my generation had been taught? The importance of civil duty, of taking part in the organs of governance and through them making life better for your fellow man?
I dutifully signed up to the Observer brigade. Things could change, things could be fixed and crucially, the fix was always within the grasp of Government.
I did have the benefit of a decent grounding in knowledge of markets. I rather suspect you cannot have spent a significant amount of time growing up in Hong Kong without absorbing it – capitalism and free markets are in the air there, mixed in amongst the toxic levels of pollutants and exhaust fumes. Your chances of developing lung cancer or respiratory disorders may be high but you will also assimilate at least some understanding of how a financial system works.
Tony Blair’s governing ideology therefore seemed intoxicating – using the state to care for one’s fellow man whilst reforming the public sector and embracing free markets. Everything fitted nicely into place.
The first cracks in my political viewpoint began to appear on the 11th of September, 2001… → Continue reading: 180 degrees in 8 years
Paul Staines takes a very gloomy view of the situation in Britain’s two wars
I take no pleasure in reporting this, but it seems to be going unsaid in the British press. British forces are painted, particularly by broadcasters, as having achieved a measure of success in Basra due to superior British peace-keeping techniques honed in Northern Ireland.
The truth is very different. To quote from a report;
Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by “the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors,” a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.
The Washington Post reported a senior U.S. intelligence official yesterday saying that “The British have basically been defeated in the south”.
The article went on to say that British forces
… are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as “surrounded like cowboys and Indians” by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain’s remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.
In May Blair visited the Basra HQ and came under mortar attack – not a sign of pacification.
The head of the armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, told the BBC that success depends “upon what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place… I’m afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations for Iraq, and for the south of Iraq.” The reality is that once British forces exit Basra the fighting will escalate into a full-scale civil war: Mission failure.
This begs the question – what now is the plan in Afghanistan? They are a people who fought the Red Army and won. The Soviets were brutal and were still defeated. Is NATO going to match and exceed that brutality in pursuit of “victory”? Afghanistan should be monitored closely and elements that present a clear and present external danger should be eliminated. It is not the job of NATO to impose Western values by force as Rome’s Imperial Armies once imposed Roman law.
Dave Walker sees more online samizdat, which he deftly names samizdata. Sounds familiar?
The original Samizdat consisted of textual material intended to criticise and subvert repressive political regimes – it was surreptitiously copied and circulated in a “pass it on to your trustworthy friends” manner.
Today’s samizdata – such as a certain hex string which, in the last month, has spread from one blog across Digg and thence to thousands of blogs and sites – is material which can now also be intended to subvert repressive data management regimes.
In the days of the Cold War, samizdat was spread between people who typically knew each other, whereas today’s typical samizdata – even though it could conceivably propagate via USB memory sticks in a similar manner – employs more of a “scattergun” approach. This may well be down to the fact that secret police organisations in Cold War times were not omniscient; by contrast, today’s data management Politburos have access to Google, so the top priority for samizdata proponents is, as well as concealing their identities, ensuring that their data is propagated so widely that the probability of all the sites carrying the data being gagged becomes as close to infinitesimal as possible.
Before the AACS product key, the last major piece of data management-subverting samizdata was DeCSS. DeCSS spread by website, newsgroup and T-shirt, the AACS key has spread much more quickly by blog, wiki and tag indexer. It is a sign of the times, although I am not about to predict that AACS product key T-shirts won’t happen soon.
While the contribution of samizdat and its influence on populations to the eventual fall of various regimes is discussed in detail elsewhere, the effects of samizdata (online samizdata for the purposes of this discussion) are also not entirely straightforward; DeCSS and the falling cost of embeddable processing power clearly influenced AACS, particularly in the case of the upgradable key. However, as AACS could be broken once, on the grounds that key and encrypted material are stored together in a device under the physical control of the user, it can be broken again. The most accurate prediction I can make is that we’ll be seeing a lot more samizdata in future.
Frequent commenter ‘Old Jack Tar’ has a rather different view than the one being offered up by the UK media regarding the conduct of some of the British naval personnel being held captive in Iran.
Ever since the capture by Iranian forces of fifteen British naval personnel, the UK news channels have been falling over themselves to praise female British sailor Faye Turney. I have heard her described as “professional” and “well trained” and “sensible”.
Really? I beg to differ. From the moment they were captured they should have responded with NOTHING except “Name, rank and serial number”. These people have a professional (and legal) requirement to keep their yaps shut and not give aid with their words to a clearly hostile foreign government.
Yet she appears to have written a ‘heartfelt’ letter home praising the ‘kind’ and ‘warm’ Iranians who kidnapped her at gunpoint, admitting the boarding party had strayed into Iranian waters, presumably in return for a kebab.
My equally ex-RN wife’s remark upon seeing Turney on TV wearing a headscarf was “I would have thanked them for giving me something I could use to strangle one of the guards with when I eventually make my escape, but if they want me to wear it, well I would have told them exactly where they can…”
My good wife is a forthright person and decorum prevents me from finishing her remarks.
“Professional” and “well trained” my arse. Yet I have the sickening feeling this woman will be lionised when she is eventually released.
Nicolas Chatfort foresees the coming Holy Inquisition… albeit a rather innumerate Inquisition it must be said
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its long awaited pronouncement last Friday in Paris and I am informed by the media that this most definitive of all documents closes the debate on anthropogenic climate change. Now is the time for action, no more discussion will be allowed. I have read the document, and most assuredly it does use uncompromising language ascribing recent global warming to human activity. The science in the document, which I am told was reviewed by 300 eminent scientists, at first sight appears to be impeccable, but I must admit that was a little perturbed to find on page 5 that 0.16 + 0.077 + 0.21 + 0.21 = 0.28 rather than 0.657. I must not fully understand that esoteric form of mathematics known as addition. This level of ignorance on my part clearly shows that I am incapable of judging the merits of the science on my own and I give thanks to the IPCC for taking this burden off my shoulders.
With the debate now settled, what are we to do with those scientific heretics (deniers is a much too mild a term for these dangerous individuals) who continue in their error and refuse to accept the teachings of the UN’s ecumenical council of scientists. David Roberts has already called for climate change heretics to be put on trial, but he goes too far as he appears to want to punish people for heretical statements they made prior to the issuance of the latest UN writ. After all, as the earlier pronouncements from the UN’s ecumenical council were not as definitive as the current one and the debate not yet closed, these unfortunate souls must be given a chance to repent from their errors before they are punished.
Following enlightened historical precedence (see Galileo), I humbly suggest that the UN create an office to be known as the Permanent Tribunal of Universal Inquiry to investigate into the views of scientists on climate change. Those who publicly repent from their errors would be given leniency, but those who maintain their heretical positions should be handed over to civil authorities for proper punishment. In times past the penalty for the crime of heresy was burning at the stake but, regretfully, this would release too many greenhouse gases, so another form of punishment must be found.
Lord Monckton should be one of the first of the heretics to be brought in front of the tribunal of inquiry. I cite his recent critique of the IPCC report only as evidence with which he condemns himself. He has had the audacity to continue to publish his heretical views even after he was duly informed that the debate was officially over. His critique of the IPCC report is comprehensive and it could cause weaker minds to question the infallibility of the IPCC.
As for other scientists whose views remain suspect, helpfully Canada’s National Post has recently provided a survey of some of the more prominent scientists who have veered from the true path in the past. These individuals are particularly dangerous as they all have reached such high levels of respectability in their professions that they will most certainly pollute the minds of the impressionable if they are allowed to continue to publish their heretical views. I will cite just a few of these scientists to show how much damage these individuals can do.
The first of these is Dr. Edward Wegman, professor at the Centre for Computational Statistics at George Mason University and chairman of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. Dr. Wegman’s crime is that he verified the McIntyre and McKitrick critique of Michael Mann’s famous “hockey stick” graph, and has also complained that climate change scientists have routinely made basic statistical errors and insists that climate scientists actually consult with professional statisticians when using statistics in their work. I do note that the IPCC, quietly and without comment, has dropped the use of Dr. Mann’s graph from its latest report. The IPCC’s current global temperature graph, which only starts in 1850, will hopefully stop all the embarrassing distractions on the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age.
Then there is Dr. Henrik Svensmark, director of the Centre for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Space Research Institute. Dr. Svensmark presents an alternate theory on climate change that involves the sun’s magnetic field, cosmic rays and cloud formation. Dr. Svensmark has even conducted experimentation to support his theory. As the IPCC report concedes that cloud formation and feedback remains a major source of uncertainty and its discussion of the role of the sun is limited to solar irradiance, it is clear that an alternative theory that attacks the weakest parts of the IPCC dogma must be silenced.
An what are we to do about Dr. Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the Russian Academies of Sciences’ Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St. Petersburg and head of the International Space Station’s Astrometry project? He comes to the puzzling conclusion that the simultaneous global warming on Mars, where there are no man-made (or martian-made) greenhouse gases, shows shows that the sun rather than man’s industrial activity, is the main cause of warming on the Earth. The very fact that the IPCC report did not address Mars warming shows how irrelevant this argument is for global warming on the Earth. Another of his heresies is that the IPCC has the cause and effect backwards, that it is the Earth’s warming that causing the release of CO2 from the world’s oceans, rather than rising CO2 causing the warming. He also points out the surface layers of the world’s oceans are actually cooling. Allowing the dissemination of such information will only cause confusion.
I will stop my indictment of prominent climate change heretics at this point, the reader can follow the link to the National Post if more information is desired. Furthermore, I do not want to leave the reader with the mis-impression that these are the only heretics within the scientific community, there are many more. Although the media is doing their best to keep these unsound views from the public, they can not do the job alone. Now that the debate is over, I urge the UN take immediate steps to set up the tribunal of inquiry so we can rest easy at night and not worry that we may have to weigh the merits of these arguments for ourselves, knowing that superior minds are taking on this awesome responsibility on our behalf.
We cannot but be astonished at the ease with which men resign themselves to ignorance about what is most important for them to know; and we may be certain that they are determined to remain invincibly ignorant if they once come to consider it as axiomatic that there are no absolute principles
– Frédéric Bastiat
Taylor Dinerman is a professional journalist and one of our long time readers. He has an ability to spur a lively dinner time discussion amongst visitors to North by Northwest in the upper west of Manhattan where he is often to be found. As you read on you will soon discover why!
For many years now I have subscribed to First Things, a monthly magazine put out by Institute for religion and Public Life whose purpose is to ‘advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society’. Obviously not a very libertarian endeavour, but the magazine does, on occasion support limited or small government ideas and stands firmly against the totalitarian monsters of our age. The editor Father John Neuhaus is a Catholic, but a very American one and the magazine is full of great stuff that for a non Catholic and Non Christian like myself (I am a not very pious Reform Jew.) is a window into a culture that is an important part of the world around me.
For readers of Samizdata the December 2006 issue has an article on ‘The Witness of Dietrich von Hildebrand’ by John Crosby, that they may find interesting. Hildebrand, a philosopher and theologian, was an early and unyielding opponent of Hitler’s who did ‘battle with the Nazi ideology at the level of philosophical and theological first principals.’
He said ‘the signature of the age’ was a certain anti-personalism. One expression of this anti-personalism was collectivism, the philosophy that takes human beings as mere parts in some collectivity. Hildebrand held that each human being as a person called by God and answerable to God is always more than a part in a social whole; as a person each exists before God as his own whole and thus refuses to be completely contained in any social whole. Each is a person at a far deeper level of himself than he is a member of the German State or of the English people, to say nothing of some political party.
There is a lot more like this and despite it being densely argued it tends to enlighten some of our current dilemmas. With a German theologian and philosopher as Pope these kinds of arguments and ideas may get more and more circulation. The Regensburg speech which pissed off the Muslims so much is another example of these kinds of ideas.
Libertarians and small government conservatives may find that on some issues they have a fellow traveler in the Vatican. Of course, the Pope is always going to be Pope first , any comfort he may give to us free market types will always be secondary to that role, but if he moves the Church away from the statist and collectivist doctrines that have occasionally been promoted by the Church over the last couple of centuries or more it will be a monumental change.
If it is done it will be done in language that will be difficult for laymen or non theologians to follow. The good effects (if any) may take years or decades to trickle down, but we all should be aware of the possibilities. This may be overly optimistic, but who knows ‘God’?
There is a link if anyone is interested.
Alan K. Henderson has some seasonal musing to share on this day, the fifth of November. Warning… contains critique and therefore spoilers for ‘V for Vendetta’
This graphic novel V for Vendetta was first published as a comic book series which began in 1982. Many readers will laugh at author Alan Moore’s second-guessing of future history. In the story, the Thatcher government’s loss in the 1993 elections sets up a Labour government whose unilateral disarmament measures somehow keep Britain on the sidelines during a US-USSR nuclear confrontation. The war is triggered by an un-detailed situation analogous to the Cuban Missile Crisis – and there’s even a Kennedy in the White House (which Kennedy we are not told). Why a non-nuclear Africa gets wasted and a non-nuclear Britain survives is not explained.
The likelihood of the next major event – the rise of the Norsefire party into power – is debatable. Post-holocaust Britain would still have a strong domestic military presence. It would have to be weakened significantly for an insurrection to succeed. The story mentions that there were several insurgent factions; perhaps Norsefire sat back while these multiple rebellions sapped the military of its strength. It is also possible that some of these insurgents drew their membership in part from the military.
The story does accurately portray the function of a Fascist state. The church is nationalized but powerless, serving a mere ceremonial function. Surveillance cameras are everywhere (hey wait a minute, some social democracies are like that…) The government also conducts audio in addition to video espionage against its citizens. Separation of powers between executive, legislators, and judiciary is vastly diminished or non-existent. The economy is planned. Propaganda is pervasive. Citizens are forcibly resettled, and some like Evey are forcibly sent to work in certain industries. Undesirables are deported or incarcerated (and sometimes experimented upon). Policemen are granted latitude to allow certain criminals to ‘disappear’, as in Evey’s case. To formally prosecute her for prostitution makes it a matter of public record that the State is not meeting her economic needs as government propaganda promises.
Enter V… His identity unknown, he is one of the last four survivors of the Larkhill Resettlement Camp, where he was subjected to medical experiments involving hormone injections. having escaped, he now dons a Guy Fawkes costume and is orchestrating a vendetta against the Fascist government.
While Alan Moore himself allows the reader to determine whether or not V’s actions are warranted, many have described V as a morally ambiguous character. Such people are wrong; the direction of his moral compass is crystal clear. → Continue reading: Vendetta vs. Just War
Tom Wright of wrightwing.net wrote the following as a comment but it is simply too splendid to languish in the comment section…
I have said this before and in other venues:
I will support public [CCTV] cameras only if they are first placed in those areas where the worst and most egregious crimes occur:
In every room and every hallway of every police station in every nation.
In every room and every hallway of every legislative body in every nation.
In every room and every hallway of every executive and judicial branch of every nation.
And, as a condition of employment, upon taking the oath of office, permanently bolted to the head of every elected official, every appointed official, and every official authorized to carry arms in the course of duty.
Turned on, broadcasting, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in a manner I, and every one else, can monitor and record.
Then I will support cameras on me.
Mark Edwards lays out some arguments against the Panopticon State
Yesterday I spent rather more time than I should have reading and commenting on the BBC ‘Have Your Say’ discussion about the surveillance society. Faced with the predictable response from the obedient serfs that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” I tried to make three main points.
The first was that you have nothing to fear only if the authorities are perfect, all the time and every time. Imperfections could be mistaken identity, linking you with some criminal activity; if the bloke who asked me for the time as I bought my paper this morning went on to rob the newsagent after I left, might I be an accomplice? There is also the risk of blatant corruption, where a government employee abuses the data they collect as part of their job to identify you as being worth burgling, or to watch through your teenage daughters’ bedroom windows.
My second point was that all of this surveillance does not make us any safer; the least implausible case for it suggests that evidence may be obtained that makes conviction of those committing crimes easier. This however is not proven beyond doubt. What is well established is that the constant surveillance creates an atmosphere of paranoia, in which we are convinced there is a greater threat to each of us than is actually the case. I have found no evidence that crime has fallen where cameras have been installed (I have seen reference to situations where crime fell when cameras were installed and police activity on the ground increased, but that is by no means the same thing).
Thirdly, I tried to explain that the level of surveillance in Britain had radically changed the relationship between government and governed, and between people and the law. There is no longer any presumption of innocence, because we are all suspects. Worse than that, we are suspected of crimes that we may not have committed yet. I feel we have moved from having a Civil Service that was motivated to serve the public (even if they were often misguided), to government employees who now see themselves as ‘the authorities’.
Later in the evening I thought back over the day and realised that I had tried to justify, on purely utilitarian grounds, something that should need no justification; why should I have to justify my desire to protect my privacy? And why are so many people so careless of theirs?
You may be asking why I would want to spend my time posting to what is actually an authoritarian left wing site (the BBC), when I regard myself as libertarian right wing. My reason is simple, and, frankly, arrogant. I kid myself that my arguments may be so persuasive that someone will read my comment, and understand it enough for me to have sown a seed of doubt. I suspect this is so unlikely as be a delusion, but I keep trying. I fear I am not even nearly as persuasive as I like to think I am, and my arguments are doomed to failure, so I am wasting my time but I continue anyway.
To end on a positive note, I counted the most recommended comments at 16:00, and found the first pro camera comment was number 70. None of my contributions were in the preceding 69 but at least the forces of common sense seemed to be carrying the argument.
Brian Scurfield brings some interesting developments in New Zealand to our attention
You might like to keep an eye on New Zealand politics, where a classic shit fight is taking place. And it was all started by Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton, who is suing the NZ government for misappropriation of taxpayer money during election campaigning of 2005. For some background information check out Darnton vs. Clark, Not PC & David Farrar
Having misappropriated taxpayer money and facing a lawsuit, the New Zealand government now wants to ram through legislation validating their thievery. To divert attention, they threatened to dish the dirt on opposition MPs, resulting in the exposure of an affair by the opposition leader. The dirt has come right back at them, however, with allegations that the PM’s husband is gay and that her marriage is one of convenience. Entering into the equation, also, are Exclusive Brethren who may have been snooping on the Prime Minister and tales of the government hiring private investigators to snoop on the opposition.
While I do not give a damn about either the Prime Minister’s or the Leader of the Opposition’s personal lives, the amount of dirt being dished is an indication that the New Zealand government is in serious trouble.
In Hungary, when governments lie, people riot. In Thailand, the tanks roll in. What will happen in New Zealand? For the government has not only lied, it has also stolen taxpayer money to win an election.
“Allegations of corruption are intolerable in a Western liberal democracy.”
– Helen Clark, NZ Prime Minister
No, [Mrs.] Clark. Corruption is intolerable. When allegations of corruption are intolerable, it is no longer a Western liberal democracy