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]

Election Party

Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings and Brian Micklethwait are currently sat around my television discussing the election. We plan to stay here eating pizza and drinking beer for as long as we can stand. I will be posting some sort of running commentary in a hastily prepared chat room. If you want to join in, give yourself a username and leave the password blank.

Sunny intervals and scattered showers – as seen on a roof in Peckham

Yesterday some Samizdatistas met up on the roof of a multi-story car park in Peckham, where there just happens to be a semi open air restaurant (i.e. open air but under a canvass roof), which operates over the weekends of the summer. I first blogged about it here, but never since, I now realise, even though this is not the first time we’ve all met there. It is a splendid place, which looks like this:


That shot was taken during a favourite photography time: during sunshine, after rain. The rain cleans the air, and the sun then shines through it, to delightful effect.

Believe it or not, that cement muddle thing in the foreground is Art. But it was Art that was really suffering from the rain. Art in the outdoors shouldn’t do that, should it? Well, maybe it would be better if quite a lot of outdoor Art did just get rained out of existence, like a sandcastle being washed away by the tide (and many a sandcastle has deserved better than that).

And boy did the rain rain. Rain is not easy to photo, in my experience, but this rain was so violent that, what with the marginal cost of digital photography being zero, I just snapped and snapped, hoping I’d get lucky.

And I did:


I wasn’t the only one of us taking photos:


That’s Rob Fisher, whose wife and young son were also present, which made it all a lot more fun. → Continue reading: Sunny intervals and scattered showers – as seen on a roof in Peckham

Cooking with the Ceasars

In a few days’ time, I am seeing friends and the theme of the evening meal is that all the food is going to follow Roman recipes. No, I don’t mean the kind of thing you order in a restaurant now, I mean the sort of food that Marcus Aurelius might have eaten. Or as described in this book about the Romans by Ferdinand Mount.

Togas, I am told, are required.

Okay, time for all those Animal House comments.

The meaning of Guido


Even if the GDP numbers are not entirely unexpected, they are still a failure, a failure to grow the economy. The deficit can only be paid down if the economy grows, we can’t borrow our way out of a debt crisis. It is time for a supply-side revolution, why is the government implementing a policy of selected regional enterprise zones, why not make the whole economy an enterprise zone? It was a mistake to hike VAT and it is a strategic error to burden industry with crushingly high green taxes, penal marginal income tax rates of over 50% discourage entrepreneurs and investors from coming to Britain.

If the government is going to miss the deficit target, and it is, miss it because the government slashed taxes to grow the economy. The international bond markets will forgive a finance minister with a growing economy who misses his deficit target, they won’t forgive a finance minister with a contracting economy in any circumstances. Chancellor Zero knows that with no growth there is no hope for the deficit.

Whether Guido is right that there is any hope for the deficit, under any circumstances, is a proposition I leave to others to ponder. I quote the above posting because it illustrates something important about Guido himself.

In among all the knockabout gossip about who is sleeping with whom and who is cheating on their expenses, Guido regularly slips in more thoughtful stuff. He regularly, that is to say, drops in explicit libertarian messages, in among all the merely implicit libertarianism about how they are all conspiring with each other to rob us blind. This is why they all hate him so much. He is absolutely not one of them. They want to believe that he is only a gossip monger, and a mere partisan Tory, with no principles other than that he wants his particular team to be in charge of all the robbing and conspiring. But those of his pro-state (I often think more fun than is might be had with that hyphen) enemies and victims with any antenna or honesty know that he is something far more dangerous to them than that. He is a principled libertarian with readership numbers and influence most of them can only dream of. He, more than anyone else in Britain, is responsible for the widespread perception in British politics that the arrival of the internet was a breakthrough for libertarian ideas. Before Guido, we were talking amongst ourselves, which was good. Now Guido regularly shoves it in front of them, which is even better.

Okay, a simplification. Others were doing this before Guido. But none so entertainingly, or to such a wide readership. One of Samizdata’s prouder boasts, I think, is that before Guido found his own blog persona and his own voice as a blogger, he was briefly part of ours.

Here is a photo I took of the great man, at a recent gathering at Samizdata HQ:


A fine if rather blurry addition to this collection. (This is my favourite one of these.)

By the way, do you remember the posting I did here a while back about how so much of what happens in the world is down to two-man teams? Well, these days, anyone who cares knows that there are now two Guidos. I asked original Guido about this at the party where I took the above snap, and the partnership between him and Harry Cole is definitely the real two-man team deal.

Wishing all friends of liberty a prosperous New Year

A low key get together at Samizdata HQ this year…


The finest pig, heavily smoked, glazed with honey and infused with cloves…


…your hostess, with assorted Central European Fire Water…


… and your host, about to gorge on splendiferous smoked pig and other delightful haram joys


Wishing all friends of liberty a prosperous New Year. Buy gold and drink the very finest grog.

Some Christmas Eve photos and some Boxing Day thoughts

A belated and photographic thankyou for the Christmas hospitality the night before last at Chateau Samizdata, which was predictably perfect. Madam Hostess having originated from a part of the world where they do their feasting on Christmas Eve rather than the day after, this meant that the food was no mere warm-up for the real excesses to come. This was it.

Here is some of the food we enjoyed. Guy Herbert is a cheese-spotter, a fact from which we all benefited:


Although, I marginally preferred the Christmas pud. Good as the cheese was, that was even better.

Here are our hosts:


The Dear Leader is side lit by another camera, an effect I have always liked. Head-on flash is abomination, I think. But flash from the side, done either with an attachment at the end of a wire, or by some other photographer joining in, is another thing entirely. My next camera will definitely let me do this.

Because all this was on Christmas Eve, I had no trouble getting back to my home, without any expense, for the quiet and contemplative Christmas that I now so much enjoy.

Christmas, they say, is a time for families. Mine exchanged convivial phone-calls. A beloved grandmother who reached a hundred just over a year ago, has just died, peacefully, well looked after, and not before learning that she had recently acquired a new great grand-daughter. (Which means I am also a great uncle for the first time.)

Christmas, it is also decreed, is a time to accumulate unwanted things. But mine, this time around, has been a time for ejecting such stuff. My great clear-out continues. Today, Boxing Day, more boxes will be removed. (Although I did buy a few things for friends, in the form of a couple of battery-less wind-up torches.)

Has this been, I wonder, the Second Great Kindle Christmas, when, on Christmas Day itself, people discovered that they possessed new Kindle e-books that they themselves had not asked for? The point being that the First Great Kindle Christmas was the Christmas when people were first given actual Kindles on a large scale. Which happened last year, did it not? Downloading for others brings a whole new meaning to last minute Christmas shopping, doesn’t it? So when is the absolute final deadline? 11.59 pm on Christmas Day? Or is that just too late?

Christmas now, for me, in the age of instant global communication, also means the start of the Melbourne test match, which begins in England even before Christmas Day itself has even ended. This time around Australia are playing India. As an England cricket fan I can now feel very smug and indulgent about this event. This year, England began by thrashing Australia, and then proceeded to thrash India. Whoever wins this series now won’t be better than England. Long may it last. Australia are 277-6 after day one (which is a lot better than they did after day one at Melbourne this time last year). And guess what, when I first typed that, Sri Lanka, playing South Africa were … 277-6, just before the end of the first day of that game.

So, a Happy Christmas. Next, a prosperous new year? No chance. Hence the wind-up torches.

Merry Christmas from Belfast

Belfast Session
Yuletide Cheer to the sound of jigs and reels well played.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

It is often said that Guy Fawkes was the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions


No, Tony Stark does not live here

You could live decades in Manhattan and still be surprised by what its vibrant capitalism throws up at you. Last weekend I got an invite to go along to a party that was raising money for some charity cause, although I was not one of the ones there to be a high roller. Let us just say I got in via the journalists back door since one of the celebrity guests was a Fox News personality who was also a friend of my usual Manhattan drinking buddy. It should come as no surprise to long time readers that when in New York I chill with journalists, spacers and the odd Irish musician.

I knew it was going to be interesting before I met up with Taylor Dinerman at the usual media waterhole, but on the some thirty block walk we were lost in discussions about typical fighter pilot behavior with the fair sex, space policy and which foot Paul Krugman is currently inserting. I was expecting something exceptional but when I finally walked over to the railing of the rooftop party I was not quite prepared for a night time view of New York like this. It is really different when you can see the city laid out in front of you in every direction and yet you are close enough to be struck by the full three dimensions. I can hardly imagine what waking up to this every day must be like, but I am glad to know there are people out there who do.

Chrysler Building and New York Cityscape
A Northerly view of the Chrysler building and surrounds.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

The party had the standard accoutrements. If you simply looked at the bar man serving drinks from a table by the core wall, or at the disk jockey in the corner, it would look like the standard parties we have all attended. The DJ laid down a modern sound track to insure all would eat, drink, be merry and network till they dropped. I was of course doing just that. I handed out Immortal Data Corporation business cards to all and sundry while keeping up my energy from the passing trays of hors d’oeuvres. I do not think I had a repeat taste all evening.

Penthouse Disk Jockey
The disk jockey kept the place rocking, or whatever you call it with dance music.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Being the spacer that I am, my actual first photograph of the night was the stunning image of a fall moon rising over the East River from a southeasterly direction. A mere photograph cannot come close to what the eye took in. Believe me, this poor small subset of photons does not come close to doing it justice.

Moon and East River
The view of the moon was even more amazing in person.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Later on, after several drinks and much mixing I decided to temporarily break from the crowd, and that was when I discovered the flat was even more spectacular than I had thought. This is where Tony Stark would live if he owned a flat in Manhattan. No doubt about it.

This is not one of Tony Stark’s residences. But it should be.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Taylor and I mostly talked with media folk, although there were lots of financial types there as well, with some of which we also spoke. I knew Taylor was fluent in French and Hebrew. Tonight I found him talking at length in German to a businessman and doing the occasional phrase in Mandarin. We were also joined by James Taranto of the Wall Street journal after he returned from a quiet far corner where he did a radio show call in to express his opinion of the latest Krugman piece at the New York Times.

One of the more fun people I spoke to was a woman who started her career as an NPR reporter assigned to Belfast. She was there in the seventies, well before my time, but we still had much common knowledge to share as she was a lover of Irish Traditional music and I think it fair to say that a few of my close friends in Ireland can play or sing a note or two of that genre.

Taylor Dinerman
I was there with journalist and occasional Samidatista contributor Taylor Dinerman.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

It was a very international crowd, although it is sometimes hard to tell in New York. Someone who you think looks foreign may come out with a strong New York accent when they say hello… or they may speak with a strong accent from some odd corner of the world. You simply cannot tell.

Late in the evening Taylor and I were sipping our drinks and talking Chinese politics with a VP of Tang Dynasty TV, Mike Chen. He is very much the all American himself but is able to travel and mix in China and the three of us were off in a Samizdata like discussion of China’s economy, ethnic strife problems, what happens when the North Korean penny drops, why China is building forces, what sort of aircraft India is buying and why…

I think it rather suitable that drinks in hand, we were looking down upon the United Nations Building from our high capitalist perch.

UN and crowd
I have always looked down on the UN as an institution. But from here I really did look down on it.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Oh, and we had a chance to talk with Rita Cosby, an old friend of Taylor’s from Fox News, before he and I and James went off for our rather late dinner at McFadden’s Bar.

Despite the Corona’s, the wine, the rum and cokes, and the Johnny Walker I had already downed, or perhaps because of them, I decided after my dinner pint of Guinness that I could not let that poor pint feel lonely. So when they headed home, I headed further down Second Avenue to an old hangout of mine. The rest of the night (and pints) is another story and I was off duty as your Samizdata On The Scene reporter.


Doing my bit for ‘Earth Day’…

It is 8:30 pm in London and ‘Earth Day’ has begun. Every single light in our house and garden have now been turned on.

New Year argument at Antoine’s

Sometimes it is essential to stop an argument and clarify what a particular word means, if it is being used to mean different things without both parties realising. And sometimes it is essential not to allow an argument about what a word means to derail an argument. Because both of these things are true, many deduce from each truth that the other truth is false. But both are true.

I have tended (following Popper, and probably misunderstanding him) to think that arguments about meaning are pointless, even when they are not. Others err in favour of arguing about meaning, even when they ought not to be arguing about meaning.

Suppose both parties are using the same word in an argument (to describe an important part of what they are arguing about), but are, unknowingly, using this word to mean two different things. (An onlooker may help by pointing this out.) They need to pinpoint this disagreement, and see if, while agreeing to differ about what this word means (or ought to mean) they can agree about the substance of what they are saying. Or not agree. The point is: arguments about meaning can come disguised as something else, and seem more significant than they are. They can seem like arguments of substance. Then, the true nature of the disagreement needs to be identified. If there is no other disagreement, it helps to realise this. Even if there is, ditto.

But if two parties are having an argument, and one party introduces a new word into the argument, clearly meaning by it something that the other person thinks that this word doesn’t mean or shouldn’t mean. They disagree about the meaning of this new word, and they both know it. In those circumstances, getting sidetracked into a different and duller argument about what that word means or ought to mean can divert them from their original, more interesting and significant argument about something of substance.

Or to put it another way, my thanks to Antoine Clarke for his most diverting party yesterday afternoon and evening, where I found myself working all that out.

And a happy new year to all.

Down on the farm

For the last few days I have been far out in the Virginia hinterlands at the farm of a fellow libertarian with Belfast ties. In fact, his daughter was born there and it made for rather interesting evenings, chatting about firearms, how to live independently… and talking about Belfast pubs, pub owners and musicians we knew in common.

It goes almost without saying that I, being a Samizdatista of the Inner Circle and this, being a good size farm, one thing led to another and I let off a few rounds at innocent metal cans with a classic rifle.

DMA with Winchester .22
The can never stood a chance.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

In case you are wondering; this early 1932-34 era example of the Winchester .22 some of you remember from Boys Life, was lovely and in good shape except that the sight had serious issues. My first two shots at the can, about 25-30 yards out in the woods, missed. I thought I had lost the touch or perhaps my eyes needed work. I watched my friend try and saw the puff as his round impacted well above and behind the target. That told me what I needed to know. I aimed about six inches below the can and sent it spinning. A small thing, but I have not fired a rifle in a little over twenty years, so there was a bit of satisfaction in watching the can go flying.

I also had my opinion of chickens completely changed. Most chickens I have run across peck at the ground and pretty much do their dumb bird thing. But one of his hens was different. It was hand reared and as soon as we got to the coop it jumped up to ‘talk’ to us and be hand fed and get its feathers ruffled. This one had a real personality.

A hen with charisma
This personable young hen introduced herself to me while being fed by her personal nutritionist.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved