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

“No one died in any of these imperial takeovers of British soccer teams, no wildlife killed, no beaches littered with tarballs. But perhaps the outraged columnists in the UK should inform their football-obsessed readers that, like BP, most everything is globalized these days—from the strikers on their favorite club, to the companies headquartered in London. BP is a multinational corporation with American subsidiaries and workers, Swiss well operators, and a gaffe-prone Swedish chairman. And McDonald’s—that often-invoked symbol of American cultural hegemony—is no longer run out of Ray Kroc’s garage. The dreaded hamburger giant uses local products, employs regional officers and franchisees, is staffed by high school students from Flanders and Dortmund, and is eaten by almost everyone on Earth. Sarah Palin’s lame attempt at vilifying “foreign” BP, or Barack Obama’s subtle attempt to underscore the company’s non-American roots, is little different than former BBC reporter Andre Gilligan complaining that London is “owned by Americans,” with its streets “lined with New York Bagel shops, Manhattan Coffee Company outlets.” The stakes are different, of course, but the sentiment is much the same; if the city goes to pot, if the oil well explodes, it ain’t our fault. Obama is a blame-passing protectionist. Palin is an attention-seeking populist. And the poor British columnists are giving me reflux, that fashionable and incredibly painful American disease.”

Michael C. Moynihan

His right, of course. Given the amount of anti-American BS that regularly comes out of the UK intelligentsia (or what passes for it), a certain amount of “take some of that, Limeys!” is understandable. Another point that adds to the angst here, of course, is that so many British people imagined, naively, that that post-racial, leftie POTUS would not lower himself to the sort of nationalist rhetoric allegedly indulged by his Texan predecessor. But then we should remember that even a supposed “progressive” such as Gordon Brown was able to come out with lines such as “British jobs for British workers”, a remark that must have surely raised a sour expression among the many US expats who work in the City over here.

Bangalore changing to Bengaluru says that English will keep on pulling itself together

This sounds like the kind of thing that our own Michael Jennings is fond of saying:

“I was recently waiting for a flight in Delhi, when I overheard a conversation between a Spanish UN peacekeeper and an Indian soldier. The Indian spoke no Spanish; the Spaniard spoke no Punjabi. Yet they understood one another easily. The language they spoke was a highly simplified form of English, without grammar or structure, but perfectly comprehensible, to them and to me. Only now do I realise that they were speaking “Globish”, the newest and most widely spoken language in the world.”

That’s journalist Ben Macintyre, quoted by Robert McCrum, in a recent Guardian piece about the global evolution of the English language. But, McCrum then asks, will English, having spread so widely, and like Latin before it, then fragment into distinct languages? Or will the effect of what is loosely called globalisation mean that enough English speakers who start with their local variant of English will want then to move towards a more internationally tradeable, so to speak, version of English, and make the effort? Will they try to add some of that grammar and structure that Ben Macintyre spoke of? And will global standard English, particularly as spoken by the more globe-trotting sort of American and in due course by most Anglos, itself hold out its hand, as it were, making its own effort, and come half way to meet Globish, to ensure that English, although changing faster than ever before, nevertheless remains one language, or at least one linguistic continuum? Will English, in other words, keep on pulling itself together? Note that Ben Macintyre had no problem understanding the Globish that he heard in Delhi, and would presumably have no problem speaking like that.

My guess is that there are powerful unifying forces at work here, as well as fragmenting forces. What follows began life as a separate posting, and was mostly written before I encountered the above article. → Continue reading: Bangalore changing to Bengaluru says that English will keep on pulling itself together

Go east, young man

Occasionally, whenever one of us Samizdata scribes writes about events in the UK, such as loss of civil liberties, or the latest financial disasters perpetrated by the government, or crime, or whatnot, there is sometimes a comment from an expatriate writer, or US citizen in particular, suggesting that we moaners should pack our bags, cancel the mail and come on over to America. Like Brian Micklethwait of this parish, I occasionally find such comments a bit annoying; it is not as if the situation in Jefferson’s Republic is particularly great just now, although a lot depends on where you live (Texas is very different from say, Vermont or for that matter, Colorado).

But considering what might happen if Obama wins the White House and the Dems increase or retain their hold on Congress, I also wonder whether we might encounter the example of enterprising Americans coming to Britain, not the other way round. The dollar is rising against the pound, so any assets that are transferred from the US to Britain go further. Taxes are likely to rise quite a bit if The One gets in, although they are likely to rise in the UK too to pay for the enormous increase in public debt, even if the Tories win the next election in 2010.

Of course, this is an issue at the margins. If I were an American looking to get out of a left-tilting America, there are many other countries apart from Britain I would want to live in, not least because the weather here is generally lousy, you cannot defend yourself with deadly force, and the place is so crowded. Switzerland is likely to be popular for those who want to go to Europe; some East European states will be attractive. And there is the whole of Asia to consider, possibly even the better bits of Latin America. But do not be surprised to read of a steady exodus of Americans in the next few years, assuming Obama proves to be as bad as some reckon he is. We might hear the accents of the West Coast or New York on the London Underground and in the bars of the West End a bit more.

Update: Here’s more on the collapse of the pound. At this rate, New Yorkers will be heading to London to do their Christmas shopping. Seriously, this shows that markets believe Brown has so badly mortgaged the UK economy on debt that Labour will try to turn on the money printing presses. And we know where that leads.

Gordon supporting Obama is more than a joke

Although of course it is a joke, see the posting immediately below. As Jonathan has already noted, Guido Fawkes has had a lot of fun over the last few months noting that every time Gordon Brown comes out in support of anything, it immediately tanks. Andy Murray was Mr Brown’s latest victim, apparently. So when I read on the Coffee House blog this morning that Gordon Brown now supports Barack Obama, I knew that Guido would be crowing with laughter, if not now then very soon, and sure enough, he is. Obama, says a delighted Guido, is now officially doomed. Luckily, before posting this, I also checked out Samizdata to see if anyone else here was having a laugh about this, and of course, they are.

Apologies if you think I am duplicating here, but behind the hilarity of all this is to be observed an interesting re-arrangement of the political conventions, which is why I still put this thought up as a separate posting. More and more mere people, especially political people, like the ones who read Samizdata for example, have their particular preferences not just in their own countries and constituencies and districts and states and towns, but in ‘foreign’ parts also. The logic of the internet – even of instant electronic communication itself, which got started getting on for two hundred years ago – has always, to me, suggested global political affiliations, and in due course, global political parties. Certainly the Communist movement thought so. Maybe language remains a big barrier, but geography now matters less and less.

Remember that counter-productive attempt by the Guardian to swing the last (was it?) Presidential election against Bush? Many concluded that this proved the wisdom of political people staying out of foreign elections. To me it merely proved that if you want to help this or that side in foreign parts, make sure that you really are helping. Because attempts to help like this are absolutely not going to stop. As the very existence of Samizdata now nicely illustrates, this is all now one big Anglospherical conversation.

Obama’s idiotic campaign trip to Germany was, you might say, a self-inflicted version of that same Guardian blunder. But nor does that folly prove, to me, that campaigners should never go abroad and seek foreign support when campaigning, merely that they should choose their foreign supporters with more care than Obama did. Having the right sort of foreigners waving and cheering next to him can do a politician all kinds of good, now that the pictures can be flashed around the world in seconds.

Under pressure from the McCain camp, the Brown regime is conducting another of its hasty and shambolic retreats. All sorts of stuff gets read out by Mr Brown, or appears under his name in printed articles. But you don’t suppose that he actually reads it all beforehand, do you? Mr Brown’s people are now assuring us that it was one of them who inadvertently revealed this sentiment, rather than Mr Brown himself who actually said it. All Mr Brown did was allow his name to be attached to the bottom of a newspaper article. So once again, there is this pattern, of the political leader trying, but failing, to observe the old and obsolete conventions, against his natural instincts, but his mere people not being so inhibited about saying what they think. Sooner or later the world’s leaders will all follow their mere supporters, and stop pretending to be neutral in foreign elections. Their line should be, because this will be the truth: of course I’ll work with whoever wins, I’m a politician. But meanwhile, yes, I do most definitely have my preferences.

The particular awfulness and embarrassingness of Mr Brown’s particular expression of a preference in the US Presidential election should not detract from the more general interestingness of this little event. Inevitably, most of the commentary will be about how the Obama campaign may now have peaked (the comments on Jonathan’s previous posting are already saying yes it has), and about how the Brown regime is unravelling, definitely, again, some more. But I find the more general global political party angle at least as interesting.

After all, this is not now only Brown preferring Obama, which we all know he does despite any denials (does anybody at all in what is left of the Labour Party not prefer Obama to McCain?). This is also now the McCain team opposing Brown, and not caring who knows it. And by extension, and whatever Mr McCain may personally feel or even know about the man, helping David Cameron. After all, the heading at Coffee House says: “The McCain campaign mocks Gordon Brown”. So now Mr McCain is doing it too, whatever denials he may subsequently issue.

Happy Birthday, USA

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

From the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

It is a melancholy thought that in much of the Anglosphere today, the concepts of classical liberalism: natural rights, limited government, private property, free trade, freedom of speech, rational enquiry, and the pursuit of a happy life, are under attack. The US has been and still is an imperfect exemplar of those values, but in my mind it still is the best of them, amd I wish my American Anglosphere cousins a very happy Fourth of July.

Fire up the barbecues!

Talk of the Devil

…or should I say Ron Paul. The previous post makes the case against Ron Paul as a champion of the libertarian faction of the US Republican party.

However, I shall be speaking about the US primary system and what Congressman Paul’s campaign means at the Putney Debates tonight. I shall try to get a summary up over the weekend, either on Samizdata or here. The title of my talk is ‘Change at the Top: How the US Election Process Works and What are the Opportunities for Ron Paul?’ Details from here.

I shall also be continuing to cover the US primaries on my election blog.

American and British women

The screenwriter, Tad Safran (whoever he is), has penned a rather coarse and unpleasant item about the physical pros and cons of British vs American women. It says something about the state of the Times (of London) that they would print this sort of thing at all. There may be some limited truth in his observation that women (or for that matter, men), spend different amounts of time on personal grooming and appearance. But in my experience of travelling to the States, I have seen enough examples, from both sexes, of scruffiness/smartness to reckon that his generalisations are BS.

This is a rather more uplifting study on the wonderful womenfolk of these Anglosphere nations.

Note: in my original item I said Safran was an actor, not a screenwriter. Mea culpa.

Samizdata quote of the day

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

– General Charles Napier expresses a nineteenth century view of multiculturalism, quoted by Douglas Murray in the course of explaining that the West’s values are better.

I think you must have some other Britain in mind

Now I am always quick to say nasty things about the British state and the state’s educational system in particular, but this article is really strange (as in ‘has little relation to reality’ type strange).

So waiting for the Dolphin swim at Discovery Cove in Orlando, my daughter Nikki and I were seated with a Brit family – mom, daughter and son. After small talk about the great value of the pound vs the dollar etc, I mentioned that Churchill was one of my heroes. The son, no more than 16 countered that he really liked Hitler, and his sister Gandhi. I was stunned and sickened. […] In speaking privately with his mother after my discussion, she stated that this is the new curriculum in the British schools to combat “prejudice” against Germans. They teach the children not to “judge” Hitler.

Sorry but much as I might slag off the state and all it’s works, this is preposterous. In fact of all the screwed up things I have heard about the goings on in British schools, I have never heard of anything even close to this. I suppose it shows the dangers of deriving your views of the situation in some other country on a casual conversation with a single group of strangers.

So what was Conrad Black really on trial for?

Yes, I know what the actual charges filed against Black were, but there is an interesting article in the Guardian by former Telegraph editorial director Kim Fletcher called The wages of envy which raises some interesting points.

It is in the nature of court cases that findings of guilt lend an artificial certainty to the world. Black will now find himself spoken of as another Robert Maxwell. But while Black’s detractors were quickly out of the traps to say “we told you so”, it became clear during the trial that nothing going on at Hollinger was in the same league as the Mirror under Maxwell. Before his trial the result had been seen even by Black’s circle as a foregone conclusion. “There’s no way a blue collar jury in Chicago can let a man who looks like Conrad off every charge,” said one of his friends to me, before the trial began

Given that the central charges failed, it does make me wonder if he was not in truth convicted of being unapologetic about being rich and being called Lord Black. Perhaps the verdict had as much to do with the jury selection process and where the prosecution chose to hold the trial than whatever Lord Black actually did or did not do.

Lord Black convicted

Conrad Black has been convicted of some of the charges that were directed against him.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case (my own view is that the whole case was bullshit and the jury convicted him because of envy of his ‘lavish lifestyle’) it underscores the old point that being a director of corporation is a very dangerous thing to be in the United States. Far more managers go to jail in the United States than in any other Western country (even as a percentage of the total).

Perhaps the first Henry Ford had it right. After losing some civil cases against him by minority shareholders, he bought them out – every one of them. Only if owned 100% of the company could he feel secure against someone saying he was not doing right by the shareholders.

As for the other shareholders, the campaign against Lord Black has cost them vastly more than his pay and perks ever did. Too late perhaps some of them now understand that he was the company and, without him, it was nothing.

All the above should not be held to mean that I now accept Lord Black’s opinions. For example, I still do not agree with his opinion that FDR was a moderate man or a good President. However, it is possible that Sir Conrad may now revise his opinion of the person who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to help create the vastly powerful (almost arbitrary) American government that was directed against him.

On cricket, Zimbabwe, John Howard, the ICC, Pakistan and Bob Woolmer

Guy Herbert this morning posted a piece commenting on Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s decision to “ban” the Australian cricket team from touring Zimbabwe later this year. I generally have little time for Mr Howard, but in this case I can not personally be very harsh on him. What clearly happened is that the Australian Cricket Board (which these days prefers to call itself “Cricket Australia”) begged him at length the make such an announcement, and he eventually gave in despite considerable resistance, and he did this because the alternatives open to him were probably worse. I have no disagreement with Guy that the outcome is essentially a dishonourable one, but the other easy options were worse. Some background.

In international cricket, there are only three countries for who the game is directly profitable. These are India, Australia, and England (in decreasing order of profitability). The other countries that regularly play international cricket make money by playing the national teams of these three countries, and then selling television rights and other sponsorship opportunities for these matches. Thus it is very important to (say) Sri Lanka for (in particular) India and Australia to regularly tour Sri Lanka and play matches.

In order to assure its members of some sort of regular cricket and regular income, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has in recent years created a mandatory tour program, requiring each of its members to play each other both home and away over a five year period. Reactions to this rule have varied, and compliance with it has been variable. The rule allows two sides to postpone a series if both are in agreement, which has allowed India and Australia to at times get their way by offering more money or more matches if the matches are played at some undefined “later”. However, if a team takes a hard line, then (at least theoretically) the other side must tour, or must pay a fine to the ICC which will be then forwarded to the host team as compensation for the lost revenues from the matches that were to have been played. The ICC’s rules allow for two situations in which a fine is not payable: firstly in cases where there is a genuine issue of safety – tours of both Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been called off for this reason in times of high political tension and terrorist threat – and in cases where a government forbids a tour. This second rule has come into play more in cases where Zimbabwe were potentially the touring side, most notably when Zimbabwean players were refused visas by the government of New Zealand.

Zimbabwe are a full member of the ICC. In the mid 1990s Zimbabwe had quite a decent cricket team (of mostly but certainly not entirely white players) but in the years since then Zimbabwean cricket has gone the way of most other things in Zimbabwe. At the demand of the government, white players were pushed out of the team, as were any non-white players who dared to say anything critical of the government. Officials who ran the game and actually cared about cricket were replaced with compliant government yes-men. The organisation of cricket in Zimbabwe became a shambles, and we are not sure right now to what extent the domestic cricket is even taking place. (The Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians has recently been complaining about being unable to get scorecards for the domestic Logan Cup, which it has documented with no trouble for over a century). Inevitably, the standard of the national team has dropped from “decent, but not world beating”, to utterly woeful. Their performance in the recently completed World Cup was dreadful, and they have dropped to 11th in the world rankings, way behind the rapidly improving Bangladesh, and behind even Ireland, a side just consisting of part time Australian and English expatriates and who are not a full member of the ICC.

However, through all this Zimbabwe has maintained its full membership of the ICC. Zimbabwe has been “temporarily suspended” from playing test matches due to its declining standards, but it is still playing one day international cricket, and other teams are expected to tour in order to play these games. Australia was scheduled to tour Zimbabwe this year.

The obvious thing to do would be to expel Zimbabwe from the ICC, not necessarily on political grounds explicitly, but simply because cricket in Zimbabwe is no longer being administered and organised properly, that the board is no longer independent of government, and because selections are no longer taking place on the basis of merit. However, there are two reasons why this has not happened. The first is that there is a “third world” versus “first world” divide in international cricket, and some aspects of the administration of the game are a post-colonial nightmare. For many years Australia and England (and, prior to their expulsion from international cricket in the apartheid days, South Africa) had the right of veto over any decisions made in the ICC, and the other countries still have a lingering resentment of this. Once this veto was abolished, the Asian cricketing powers were eager to elevate other countries to membership of the ICC so as to gain a voting majority against the former “colonial” powers, and this is one factor that led to the elevation of Zimbabwe in the first place. Expelling Zimbabwe would increase the voting power of the “first world” bloc, and many people in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka do not want this.

Secondly, what are the objections to Zimbabwe playing international cricket? For one thing, Zimbabwe is ruled by a dictatorship that restricts civil liberties. Well, other members of the ICC include Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are not exactly wonderful on this score either. South Africa is ruled by people who consider Robert Mugabe to be one of their old comrades in arms. If Zimbabwe were kicked out of world cricket on these grounds, then this would “set a bad example” to Pakistan and Bangladesh in particular. Did I mention that the governing body of cricket in Pakistan is traditionally a branch of the army and the head of its board is usually a general? That complicates matters further, and rules out the “We should expel Zimbabwe because the government controls cricket in the country” argument. The government of Sri Lanka appoints that nation’s cricket board too (although not through the army). As for “Zimbabwe selects players on something other than merit”, well, South Africa does that too. (Affirmative action with respect to black and coloured players). One would think that “Zimbabwe should be expelled because Zimbabwean cricket is a shambles” might be enough, but the organisation of cricket in a number of countries is a shambles (most notably Pakistan again, also (sadly) the West Indies). The ICC is also a shambles, having demonstrated in its organisation of the recently completed World Cup that it is an organisation that could not collectively get pissed in Porto)

Australia was scheduled to tour Zimbabwe later this year. The Australian players did not want to make the tour. The Australian government definitely did not want the tour to go ahead. → Continue reading: On cricket, Zimbabwe, John Howard, the ICC, Pakistan and Bob Woolmer