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]

You wanted edgy comedy, and you got it

Of course Jeremy Clarkson’s pun on the word “slope” was racist. That was the point.

When sex talk was forbidden, sexual innuendo was funny. When blasphemy against Christianity was forbidden, sly puns in scurrilous seventeenth century pamphlets and even ambiguous symbols in paintings and engravings were funny. So powerful is the link between humour and prohibition that our modern comedians often seek to buttress a weak joke with a plea to be persecuted, only not too much.

Nowadays what is forbidden? Hostility to homosexuality is forbidden, hence the schoolchildren use “gay” to mean “unfashionable”, “lame”, “rubbishy”. Blasphemy against Islam is forbidden, hence Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons and Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. And racism is forbidden, hence Clarkson.

I don’t care for that sort of humour, myself. Clarkson can be much funnier than that. Also much funnier than that is the spectacle of all those Guardianistas and BBC types who fell over themselves to proclaim their free-spirited devotion to “edgy”, “transgressive”, “brave” comedy clutching their smelling-salts now that they are the bourgeoisie being épaté.

From the earth’s core to the uttermost star: how far up and down should property rights extend?

I see that government ministers have authorised an expansion of fracking in the UK. In general anything that riles up the Greens pleases me. But only in general.

As I understand it – OK, make that “I think I remember reading somewhere” – it has hitherto been the case in the UK that if you own a property you also own what lies below, not just immediately below such that you can prevent someone excavating their bomb shelter under your house, but all the way down in a long thin cone to the Earth’s core. So a property owner can forbid fracking beneath their land however deep the drilling. Anyone know, is this right? And whether it is or not, should it be?

I really do remember reading somewhere a science fiction story in which the entire universe had been assigned to various Earthly nations based on what cone of sky was above the territory of each country at midnight on a particular date. I cannot recall how or if that story dealt with either the effects of terrestrial boundary disputes, possible objections from as yet undiscovered alien species at their involuntary inclusion in one of these thin but infinite empires, or the curvature of spacetime. Granted that “to the edge, if such exists, of the universe” is taking property rights a tad too far, how far above your house should your property rights go?

My ten years with 2004′s least exciting phone

Instapundit linked to this: Razr Burn: My Month with 2004′s Most Exciting Phone. Apparently, having become accustomed to smartphones, the lady found the ten year old Motorola Razr V3 un-smart.

Lady, that ain’t a 2004 phone.

This is a 2004 phone.

OK, it would have been nice at this point to download a picture of my phone. But one can’t do that with the Sagem myX-2, the only cell phone that a person of discernment need ever own. The myX-2 does not hamper my appreciation of the world by tempting me to take photographs. Nor does it download things, preferring to keep itself pure. I believe that it is capable of going to look at the internet, at warp 48.3, I am told, but in the decade since I first owned this jewel among telephonic devices, my affairs have never been so disarranged as to oblige me to attempt this feat.

It sends text messages. There is a thing called “predictive text”, but I prefer to make my own decisions.

It has a picture puzzle in which one does something or other with a grid of numbers. Of course technology has moved on and no one nowadays would play anything so primitive.

It falls into rivers. It gets left in the saddlebag of a bicycle stored in a lean-to shed for a month. It is stroked lovingly by people who had one in 2003. It distracts jurors from the case in hand when all the mobiles have to be put in a safe and it is the coolest one there. It bounces. It will be replaced when it finally dies which is sure to happen by 2008 at the latest.

You can telephone people on it.

The worse the better

Perhaps I would not go quite so far as the Russian revolutionary Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky in regarding with delight any failure to reform the old regime on the grounds that more misery for the poor brings forward the day of revolution.

But I am rather pleased that “arch federalist” Jean-Claude Juncker is to be the next president of the European Commission. Though it is not his fault, even the man’s name rankles.

The British Medical Association – auf den Tag!

Teresa May, I could learn to like even you. Just deal with the BMA as you have dealt with the Police Federation.

Soon, soon, oh let the day be soon!

Doctors vote for ban on UK cigarette sales to those born after 2000.

There are no problems, only opportunities

The travails of Greenpeace continue to entertain.

If ever John Vidal tires of being the Guardian‘s Environment editor, he will be well placed to audition for the role of David Brent. How about this for an attempt to see the silver lining behind a very dark cloud: “Greenpeace’s £3m gamble could yet reap dividends in the fight against climate change”. What? How? Oh yes, of course:

If it only costs £3m for Greenpeace to prove to the world that speculation on risky markets to raise money is madness, then it may be money well spent.

O-Kaaay.

Meanwhile, and though I often mock the Guardian I must concede that it has diligently reported all this, it has also emerged that in an effort to prove to the world that the question “What kind of compromises do you make in your efforts to try to make the world a better place?” can be a bit of a toughie for a sought-after young Third Sector exec with a work-life balance to maintain, Greenpeace’s International Programme Director has over the last couple of years been flying from home to work several times a month.

Oops!

Greenpeace loses £3m in currency speculation

I liked the first comment, from a merry soul called ‘casaleiro’:

“Shoulda put the money in armaments and petroleum.”

Blame Bush and Blair like it’s 2003 forever

Forces of an offshoot of Al-Qaeda advance on Baghdad

“Blame Bush!” “Blame Blair!”

Can anyone explain to me why the starting point for anything newsworthy that Muslims do is eternally set at 2003?

Why not September 11th 2001 – one might have thought that was the big day this century for violent beginnings connected with Islam? Or why not date it from 1988, with the formation of Al-Qaeda? Or from the year 622, first year of the Hijra – if you take a long view of history, as ISIS themselves undoubtedly do? Or why not start the count later? How about late 2011 when President Obama took the last American troops out of what he called a “a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” just “in time for the holidays”?

Not that it is likely, as Muslim Iraqi fights Muslim Iraqi in a land from which the infidel was so delighted to absent himself, that comabatants on either side think much about American presidents at all.

You know you want me to . . .

… give you this week’s most valiant attempts by Guardian writers to contrive a link, any link, between a news story of the last few days and their own ongoing obsessions.

From Lindsay Beyerstein, an article very approximately about a recent attempted murder in Wisconsin allegedly motivated by an internet meme: “Slender Man is a convenient target for our fears. Misogyny and racism aren’t.”

My favourite comment came from doshermanos_III:

It’s really quite amazing.
Two girls stab another girl 19 times. But misogyny.

Another quintessential Guardian take on current events came from Giles Fraser. (I should explain for overseas readers that the Michael Gove mentioned is the current British representative of SPECTRE, Witchfinder-General, and Secretary of State for Education.) It seems this here Gove goes in for a bit of kulcha and likes his Handel and his Saints-Saens. Fraser does not hesitate to draw the obvious conclusion: “Samson was like a suicide bomber. So why do you love the opera, Mr Gove?”

The comments section for this article fizzed with good ‘uns. To choose but one, robjmac quoted Fraser asking,

But isn’t this also a version of Gove’s religious extremism, too?

and replied,

No. Next?

An alternate history in which the D-Day landings failed

Ten years ago today I tried my hand at alternate history with a post whose title was taken from the words General Eisenhower prepared for use in the event that the Longest Day had ended in defeat: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold.”.

Here is an earlier effort in the same genre – a German newsreel made, I would guess in late June 1944. It mentions stiff fighting around Caen, but since Caen did not fall to the Allies until late July, that does not narrow the date down much.

The claim made at 2:07 that infantry assault troops were “airlifted in for the first night of the engagements” is false. The Allies owned the skies. Nor do I believe that the “German wartime fleet” ever gave the “signal for resistance” (as claimed at 2:46), or any other signal at that time and place.

It would have been a remarkable stroke of journalistic good fortune to have happened to be filming when the first news of the invasion came and to have captured the moment when soldiers grabbed their rifles, so I guess what we saw one minute in was a drill. The numerous shots of explosions and guns firing could have been filmed at any time during the war, although they may show real combat. Film of men looking through binoculars and speaking into microphones in a resolute manner is best obtained on days when little else is being done.

Since reality did not grant German soldiers an opportunity to stroll around abandoned Allied landing-craft on the beaches of Normandy, I think the shots shown at 5:16 (just after the picture at 5:13 of an SS soldier who looks oddly like Barack Obama) must be of the aftermath of the Dieppe Raid of August 1942. Given the great losses the Canadians suffered that day I initially thought the film at 8:25 of Canadian prisoners from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders was also taken after that operation, but Wikipedia makes no particular mention of soldiers from Nova Scotia taking part in the Dieppe Raid, whereas the North Nova Scotia Highlanders are listed as having taken part in the Canadian D-Day landing at Juno Beach. I now think that last part of the film is mostly true.

The panning shot at 3:16 of the invasion fleet itself – impossible not to admire the steady nerves of the German cameraman who took that – looks as if it really does depict that vast armada coming “straight for me”, as Major Pluskat famously told his superiors, and I cannot see how the pictures of downed gliders could show anything but the real price paid by the D-Day vanguard.

I see no particular reason other than the general mendacity of the Nazis to disbelieve the section showing the fighting around Caen. There was plenty of time for film really taken then to have reached Berlin and be made into a newsreel. The announcement at 7:09 that the men shown surrendering “are all surprised that the invasion is over so quickly” turned out to contain a wrong assumption, but one that might have been believed at the time.

Many Samizdata readers know much more than I about military history – including the Samizdata reader to whom I am married – and I expect some of them will make better informed judgements than mine as to the actual origin of some of the scenes in the newsreel. Let us be glad that we can look back at these images with the tranquility of the historian in a society that, unlike the Nazis, still cares, if diminishingly, for objective truth.

For a view of D-Day from the German side that strove a little harder to be honest, see Von Rundstedt’s report for distribution to commanders.

And remember those Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who died. Their comrades who survived are mostly entering their nineties now and vanishingly few will live to assemble on the beaches for any big anniversary after this.

Duplitecture for fun and profit

Most of the commenters to this fascinating Guardian article on the many copies of famous Western buildings and bridges being built in the Chinese city of Suzhou dismiss the replicas as vulgar.

Vulgar they are. They are what you get when the some of the vulgus get rich and build what they like.

It [the explosion of urban mimicry] is also a result of housing becoming a free-market commodity. After Mao’s death, the introduction of a new economic policy, starting in 1979, opened the nation to foreign investment and restored private control over land use. Real estate investors supported by Hong Kong, Taiwanese and overseas Chinese financiers were quick to exploit the new opportunities in the booming housing market. With a rapid increase in the number of cities, a growing middle class and a desire to invest capital in property, there has been a boom in residential construction, investment and sales, coupled with a desire to demonstrate personal prestige.

In which this humble writer is pulled under the bridge and eaten

I thought this bijoux little commentette of mine to my post demanding reparations be paid to women, a reply to an irritating factual objection from running dog of the neoliberal neopatriarchy Tim Worstall, was rather good in the insane troll logic line:

Tim Worstall,

“As it happens the majority of wealth is held by women (longer life spans and inheritance etc to blame for that), so, on average women are richer than men.”

You just don’t understand.
Clearly it is a benefit to receive money (such as reparations) without having to work for it.
Therefore possession of whatever quality makes one eligible for reparations is a form of unearned privilege.
Relative group poverty is by definition the result of past injustice, and makes your group eligible for reparations.
Therefore you males, by your relative poverty, are the possessors of unearned privilege.
Therefore it is only justice that you privileged ones make reparations to those like me who are underprivileged.
(Standing orders and direct debits payable to the Natalie Solent Justice for Womyn Settlement Account.)

However Beatrix Campbell has me beat:

Crime is only “free trade” by another means, and since it involves force, it is not free.