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

All suspicions which have been raised have been dispelled

- German interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, referring to reassurances that British and US intelligence agencies “had observed German laws in Germany”.

It is compulsory to recite this quote in the voice of Cecil Baldwin from Welcome to Night Vale.
Dogs are not allowed in the dog park.
People are not allowed in the dog park.
All suspicions which have been raised have been dispelled.
Do not approach the dog park.

Aiden Gregg tomorrow night at the Rose and Crown

Yes, tomorrow night at the Rose and Crown in Southwark, Aiden Gregg will be giving a talk entitled Sax and Violence, hosted by Libertarian Home.

Aiden Gregg already did an earlier version of this same presentation, at my home on May 31st. The second half of his talk that night was him reading out this essay, which concerns a country called Equistan. Attenders tomorrow night are asked to acquaint themselves with this interesting and thoughtful text.

Equistan is afflicted by extreme sexual inequality between different men, caused by there being many more men in Equistan than women. Luckily for Equistan, however, it has a government which addresses this issue by imposing sexual justice, of a sort that redistributes some of the sexual favours bestowed by women upon appealing men to less appealing men. Most Equistanians understand that these arrangements are both fair and necessary. A few sexual libertarians (such as the so-called “Liberty Belles”) grumble about them, but such malcontents are an extremist fringe, whose arguments are briefly described and refuted.

The talk at my place was not recorded, but this one at the Rose and Crown, assuming nothing goes wrong, will be. Highly recommended.

LATER: Libertarian Home has more.

On diminishing expectations, or how an Australian liberal could enjoy tales of American motorists escaping red light camera fines just a little too much

As a liberty-loving individualist, it is easy to become pessimistic in the face of the ever growing authority of The State. Perhaps you were delighted to be a part of replacing your centre-left governing party with your centre-right opposition party, but your lesser of two evils still turned out to be pretty damn evil. Or perhaps you were one of those libertarians who embarrassed themselves way back in 2007 by getting all excited over that compelling Democratic candidate whose background screamed **extreme belief in government action across society** to the point that his beltway CV was visible from space, yet was Hopefully going to usher in a libertarian-flavoured Change somehow. Or perhaps you’re just one of those goodly folk drinking in the glorious sight of the irrepressible green shoots of free association, free enterprise and free will that sprout up in spontaneous order everywhere, whilst simultaneously despairing of their vulnerability to the everpresent Big Farmer (how to work a Big Pharma pun in here?) who really loves to harvest. Is his scythe getting sharper? That’s not a soithe, this is a soithe.

Even when faced with the depressing reality of the modern welfare state, you can still find hope in minor but heartwarming tales of individual defiance and bureaucratic incompetence. Consider an article with a very boring title published by Popular Mechanics. If I were the PM subeditor, I think I would have gone with a food metaphor; Several Small Delicious Canapes Of Little Nutritional Consequence Which Nevertheless Make For Highly Enjoyable Eating Plus A Few Which Give You The Trots. Much snappier than 10 Crazy Red-Light Camera Cases, right?

Not feeling it? Well, me neither. I’m not a fan of pieces with excessively long titles. Still, there’s plenty of grist for the anti-authoritarian mill here, anyway. O, the palpable, glorious schadenfreude felt reading about how the city of San Bernadino tried to wring extra red light camera tickets out of motorists by illegally shortening the yellow/amber/orange light (this is an international blog, after all) duration by a second and got busted. The blood-red light revenue infusion henceforth became a revenue haemorrhage, particularly when the company the city had hired to run the haemorrhage insisted on sticking to the terms of their contract. Most unsporting. This contributed to the city’s bankruptcy. What a shame. All right, you may feel pity for the unfortunate residents of San Bernadino – well, perhaps only for those who didn’t vote for a Democrat to create new problems as well as expand existing problems created by a previous Democrat. (Regarding the majority of those who didn’t vote for a Democrat, what was I saying about the lesser of two evils above? Drat.)

Ah, San Bernadino, sitting pretty in the California sun. No rustbelt industrial decay there. Things aren’t so bad. Its bankruptcy was not the biggest municipal default in American history. Detroit’s was bigger. It’s not the poorest city of significant size in the USA. Detroit is poorer. That must be of some comfort.

However, the tale of San Bernadino’s red light blues isn’t my favourite vignette from the article. It is the following:

When Tacoma, Wash., motorist Kevin Schmadeka received a ticket accusing him of running a red light, courtesy of the Australian company Redflex that installed the system, he wanted to face his accuser and challenge the ticket. Just one problem: He was told he’d have to pay $670 in travel expenses to bring in a Redflex employee from out of state. “When I was at the clerk’s office inquiring about chain-of-custody information, the employee at the counter mentioned that if I wanted to subpoena a camera company representative that there was a fee,” Schmadeka told TheNewspaper.com. The judge singled out the Sixth Amendment right to face one’s accuser and dismissed the charges against Schmadeka.

This has got it all! A city authority falling afoul of their nasty little arrangement with one of those horrible private sector firms which exist solely to assist government authorities big and small to meddle in the lives of their subjects more effectively. A plucky individual fighting City Hall by asserting his natural born rights – and winning. A judge telling the state where it can stick its not-just-ridiculous-but-also-unconstitutional bureaucratic imposts. USA! USA! USA! There’s hope for us all yet!

Incidentally, I found this jolly article on the venerable Instapundit. Trouble is that the venerable Instapundit is liable to follow such an article up with a link to some story about how the NSA’s been collecting your e-mails, toenail clippings and belly-button lint, or perhaps an update on the IRS’s campaigning efforts during the recent Presidential campaign, or maybe even the media’s primary role in exorbitantly publicising and racialising the Zimmerman trial…and you, as an Australian small government-type, you start to feel a bit depressed again. Come on, America! We’re relying on you to somehow tow us out of this illiberal bog our ruling class has quite contentedly driven us into! It is really quite depressing to see that you are stuck in the same mud (if not quite down to your wheel arches like us)!

But after that flush of exasperation has passed, your thoughts may drift back to sunny California and San Bernadino, and you realise…well, at least we’re not Detroit. There will always be Detroit.

Sexism is fun!

I regularly read David Thompson’s blog, and like many of his postings, this recent one pokes fun at a Guardian article, this time a piece by Mike Power, complaining about the alleged sexism of barbecues. The outdoor cooking of meat is bad, because men think that this is men’s stuff!

Thompson copies and pastes Power asking the following:

But, as several thousand years have passed since men had to kill our protein, make a fire, cook it and eat it, why is barbecuing seen as something women don’t or can’t – or, more accurately, shouldn’t – do? How – and why – do men continue to claim this sacred fire-space as a male-owned sanctuary where women are not permitted?

My immediate reaction to reading this quote at Thompson’s was that Mike Power was confusing a comedy routine with a seriously held idea.

I recall enjoying a TV show that happened on ITV4 TV a couple of years back, called Richard Bacon’s Beer and Pizza Club. Series 1 was particularly good, I thought. Series 2 got a bit above itself and happened in a bigger studio and with a bigger budget, and the guests became less quirky and amusing, and I didn’t enjoy it so much, but it was still great fun. The basic agenda was a bunch of blokes sitting around discussing their man-ness, with a mixture of genuine pleasure at often decidedly daft male rituals but also a healthy dose of self-mockery.

I recently caught a repeat of one of these shows, in which comedian Rufus Hound described how a typical male stunt, namely doing something that looked dangerous but wasn’t actually that dangerous, had become truly dangerous. It involved him putting a small puddle of something flammable in his hand and setting fire to it. His story of how this had all gone very wrong, on account of him making the puddle too big and then the setting of it on fire being delayed until the fluid had seeped between his fingers, won Hound the round where they were taking it in turns to recount their worst injuries. That his injury was self-inflicted while pursuing manly fun was central to why Hound was victorious. Doing it to yourself trumps anything that merely happens to you. How manly is that? In both a good way, and a ridiculous way.

The Beer and Pizza Club regularly featured shots of women in the audience, creasing up with laughter at the various masculinities that were being thus both enjoyed and mocked. Ah, men.

And, getting to back to the original point of this posting, I recall another Rufus Hound fire-based comedy moment on the B&P Club, when they were each describing their idea of a perfect day. Hound’s perfect day involved him cooking meat out on his patio and inviting the neighbours round. He said something like: “Nothing says manliness like cooking meat, out of doors, over a naked flame.” Much audience laughter, from both men and women. And from me. “Bacon” being a good name for the man genially presiding over this meaty mirth.

This is the kind of thing Power was on about. But what he misses, probably on purpose because he’s such a puritan, is that … it’s a joke! No, says Power. It’s not funny, I tell you! Stop enjoying yourselves!

And guess what, David Thompson agrees with me, although really he said it first and I am agreeing with him.

He quotes Power again:

This grilled-food gender split is ubiquitous, odd and unacknowledged.

And he responds thus:

This may strike readers as a bold, indeed preposterous, claim to make. One of the rituals of the barbecues I’ve attended is the good-natured parodying – one might say acknowledgment – of precisely those conventions. “Man make fire. Man cook meat,” etc. But perhaps we’re to imagine that only the keen social observers who write for the Guardian have ever noticed such things or found them worthy of amused comment. More to the point, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mr Power that quite a few people, male and female, actually enjoy the role-play opportunity of the barbecue – the theatre, the ritual, the fun. Even – heresy! – gendered fun.

Gendered fun. Spot on. Can’t have that.

I particular like Thompson’s invention of:

The Plastic Spatula of Oppression.

Not that men oppressing women is always and everywhere such a joke. That other favourite blogger of mine, Mick Hartley, recently did a posting about how a woman in Pakistan was stoned to death by her male relatives for the crime of possessing a mobile phone. What does Mike Power make of that, I wonder? My guess (please prove this wrong if you can) is … nothing, on account of him being (I further guess) an anti-anti-Islamist. It’s not that stoning women to death for having mobile phones is right, you understand. Merely that complaining about it is wrong.

Samizdata joke of the day

What’s the difference between Fleet Street and Hacked Off?

One is a consortium of the rich and powerful with little respect for the law that has been given unwarranted access to our government, and the other… waaait a minute.

- Solent Minor

“You just don’t listen!”

When women tell us men how unhappy they are, our job is to listen, not to try to fix everything. What matters is empathy, not problem solving.

Here is a video that illustrates the principle.

My apologies to all those who saw this about half a year ago, which is often how these things work, and my thanks to 6000, which is where I first encountered it. Says 6000:

If my wife sees this, I’m dead. So let’s keep it between ourselves, ok?

So, commenters, try not to shout.

My main comment is that the still shot that introduces the video, and the title of the video, both give the game away. But maybe they have to, to get the video noticed.

Mrs Thatcher clones

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

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

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

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

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

Azathoth: crisis of trust

Crisis for that last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity as trust hits record low, the Guardian reports.

Public confidence in the boundless daemon-sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes; to which detestable pounding and piping dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic ultimate gods, the blind, voiceless, tenebrous, mindless Other Gods whose soul and messenger is the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep has fallen to historically low levels in the six biggest EU countries, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the primordial idiot god’s worst ever crisis, new data shows.

The blind idiot god encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in nameless paws “could do much better if its institutions coordinated better”, according to a press release issued today.


Kim Jong-un is looking at things, just like his father!

The Kim is dead, long look the Kim!

- commenter Alisa

Appropriate surname for a government regulator employee

This might be a bit of a cheap shot, you might say, but the benefit of cheap shots is that they often hit the target and are not expensive to fire.

This guy appointed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, an organisation that, remember, did such a splendid job in preventing the 2008 crash, Bernard Madoff, and so on, has the perfect name for the job.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Sudden Onset Regional Accent Syndrome

A recent blog post by Tim Worstall describes the lack of understanding that surrounds this embarrassing condition. He recalls his experiences as a chronic sufferer since childhood:

When at primary in Bath, good strong Bathonian. And the standard Eng middle class at home, like what I speak now. Of[f] we move to Italy to the Forces school when I’m 8. My mother still remarks on the near cockney (probably closer to what we would call estuarine now) that my brother and I both picked up in weeks. And started speaking as we walked through the doors of the school and dropped the moment we left them.

A SORAS survivor among his commenters, ‘Chris’, had an even more overwhelming attack,

“When I came back to England from British Guiana at 11, to attend an almost all-white boarding school, I had a strong Guianese accent – for about 10 minutes”

Another commenter, ‘Richard’ was a witness as the syndrome struck down a friend.

“… [he] said he could hear his accent change, in 2 or 3 stages, over the train journey home at the end of term.

Be aware that initial symptoms can seem trivial – hearing a person who has lived in England for half his life say, “put it down by there” within seconds of setting foot of the platform at Swansea station may not, at first, seem cause for concern. However without treatment “by there” can become interjections of “mun” or even “Ych y fi” with terrifying speed.

Although the disease is most common in its homolocutic form, in which people suddenly revert to an accent they thought they had abandoned years ago but did actually have at one time, it also has a heterolocutic variant.

At the London SORAS support group, I recently met Berenice (28) who blames the loss of her job at an advertising agency specialising in political campaigns on the heterolocutic form of the disease. At a creative meeting, she prefaced her query as to whether an advert suggesting that first time female voters might like to grant Ed Miliband the traditional jus primae noctis would really resonate with the youth demographic with the words “Not being funny or nuffink”, and was fired on the spot. Berenice was infected after discussing the weather with a work experience girl.

Some sufferers choose to carry an information card or medical alert bracelet in order to assist first responders when the victim himself can no longer communicate verbally in a way normal people can understand. ‘Quentin’ (not his real name), a plumber’s mate struck down with the disease after installing a combi boiler in this right posh house up on Primrose Hill, is very grateful he did. While just about still able to speak comprehensibly he called an ambulance to say he had “the most frightful case of SORAS” before lapsing into a kind of idiodialect in which the only words medical staff could understand were “yah” and “darling.” It was only his desperate gesticulation towards the bracelet while strapped to a medical trolley that stopped him being wheeled into the genito-urinary ward.

Related conditions such as TIGFAF – Talking In a Generic Foreign Accent to Foreigners – can be even more distressing.

Unofficial London Underground signs

What I like about these fake London Underground signs is the implicit disrespect of authority. If this idea catches on, some poor Transport for London official will have to make a statement about the importance and seriousness of signage on the London Underground and the terrible risks of meddling with it. This will only add to the fun, much as the fake cigarette health warning stickers were made funnier by the neo-puritans’ humourless reaction to them.

I want to see more of this kind of misbehaviour.