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]

All that glitters

Call me an incurable optimist, but I can’t help wonder whether the recent jarring fall in the price of gold to near the psychologically-key $300 per ounce level may be a sign that the worst is over in the global stock market.

Gold has shot up in recent months partly because it is seen as a safe store of value at a time of cratering equity markets, corporate scandals and worries about developments in the Middle East. Now that yellow stuff is getting cheaper again. A straw in the wind, perhaps. But without investing erroneous mystique in this metal, I think its recent fall from highs is the market’s way of telling us that better times may be ahead.

On the other hand, if an when the U.S. goes after Iraq, gold may go into hyperspace for a while.

Sun, sea and Sinai4you.com

My absence from the blog (already briefly interrupted by two postings) was not due to aesthetic disagreements with the new face of samizdata.net. I went away on a holiday to Egypt where Internet access is not a priority and the ‘camel connection’ is particularly slow.

Upon my return I also noticed a link to Samizdata merchandise and given my newly acquired tan I know which product to buy.

Although I spent most of the time cocooned in a luxury holiday resort (Marriot hotel in Taba Heights), I did have a chance to go on a trip into the desert proper and visit a Bedouin village for a bit of ‘local culture’.

There are the standard impressions of a traveller in the Middle East i.e. dodgy hygiene of food and other amenities, genuinely friendly locals (unless they are trying to sell you something), really hot weather, the graceful poise of camels, the beauty of the desert and the sea, but I have tried to add a few of my own.

I think the first prize goes to the local women for swimming in their chadors, which are like burqas but show the face. I felt sorry enough for them watching them walking around in the blistering heat but my sympathy soon turned to astonishment when I saw them floating in the swimming pool, their black garb trailing behind. Oh, well, to each his (or her) own…

Another slightly surreal moment occurred during a lunch in a Bedouin village where a large horned animal was roasted and placed at the mercy of the guests and their knives. The meal was accompanied by bottled water as drinking from the local water supply equals a gastric suicide. On the bottle, among Arabic script, I could clearly read www.sinai4you.com. Yes, the information highway reaches and extends even beyond goat tracks.

English libido? Not tonight, dear…

This is what you get for having a female contributor to Samizdata – I don’t think any of the guys would care to link to an article by Leah McLaren about The tragic ineptitude of the English male.

Leah is a Canadian reporter who moved to London and found her ‘dating’ experience profoundly inadequate. If you are an English male and thinking well, perhaps, it’s just her, she wasn’t interesting, attractive, sexy, blah, blah, blah enough, don’t even go there. She is right whether you like it or not!

Obviously, there are exceptions, I hasten to add in order to salvage my reputation and male egos of those who might take my emphatic agreement with Ms McLaren personally.

The truth of the matter is that the English male is confused by women in general, and by English women in particular. He handles foreign ones better, simply because he can be more patronising to them, especially if their first language is not English….Ouch! I know that hurt.

The trick of a quasi-normal interaction with an English male is to stop behaving as a woman and just be a person easy to talk to. Generally, it works provided they can get past certain features of the female anatomy. Obviously, this approach is not suitable for ‘dating’ and Leah may have to stick with North American ex-pats. Good to hear that things have really changed there over the last 10 years…

The Blair Government

In his blog article The Brown Government, Brian Micklethwait observes that the present Labour government is expanding the state. However, Brian thinks this is something new and that it represents the defeat of Prime Minister Blair by Chancellor Brown.

Actually the present government has been increasing taxes, spending and regulations since day one. Neither Mr. Blair nor Mr. Brown are Marxists, but they are certainly not free market folk either. The Brown-Blair dispute is about who should be Prime Minister – it is not about high principle.

However, I am glad that the patronising “you just don’t get it” rubbish about ‘New Labour’ has finally come to an end. There is indeed such a thing as ‘New Labour’ but it is about culture not economics – it is words, spin, ‘lifestyle’.

As I have said neither Mr. Blair nor Mr. Brown are Marxists – but then neither was Prime Minister James Callaghan – indeed Callaghan was rather less of a spend-and-regulate man than Mr. Blair and Mr. Brown.

As for Mr. Blair and Mr. Brown I think I prefer Mr. Brown. Mr. Blair clearly has a deep seated hatred of this country (it is not ‘modern’, European etc – and should be broken up into Euro Regions as fast as possible). Mr Brown may be like this too but if so he certainly hides it rather better.

I have not mentioned the Conservative and Unionist Party. Let me see – lots of expensive trips to various European nations in order to talk about how to make the public services work (i.e. no understanding that the public services cannot work by their very nature).

Perhaps the least said the better.

Paul Marks

Blogger lost… then found, in London

At Brian Micklethwait’s monthly meeting of libertarian subversives in Victoria, American blogger-in-exile Robert Bauer, of Hokiepundit fame, attended after first getting spectacularly lost en-route.

He has wisely decided to keep quiet about certain secrets he has learned about me and as a result I see a long and healthy future for the young man.

The Commonwealth: tyranny acceptable, prosperity frowned on

The Commonwealth games have been organised to be a ‘logo free’ event so that they are not ‘tainted’ by commercialism. Ok, now let me get this straight… the Commonwealth, an association of kleptocratic nation states that includes mass murdering tyrants like Robert Mugabe, think it is okay to celebrate nationality, a concept in whose name Commonwealth subjects are robbed and imprisoned, but it is not okay to celebrate commercialism, a concept that allows people to gain employment and acquire the money that the state then steals in taxes. Riiiiiiight, gotcha.

However when I saw that the game’s organisers were annoyed at David Beckham for wearing a track-suit with ‘Adidas’ sequined across it when he presented the weird looking baton to the Queen, Beckham went up in my estimations. Way to go, Becks, you subversive capitalist tool you!

Yo, Mugabe! Guess where I’m gonna to stick this thing!

Linkage due

Due to the chaos caused by the change over to the new blog format (plus the fact we actually have lives beyond blogging… shocking I know), many people to whom we have written saying we would link to them have not seen the link appear.

We will try to catch up with all the additional blog links (and perhaps cut a few inactive ones) over the next week or so. Feel free to remind us if we have previously promised to link to you

It ain’t over till the Fat Man wins

Imagine walking into a branch of a fast-food restaurant with a view to buying yourself a quadruple cheeseburger and fries, only to be told by the smiling counter-assistant; “Sorry, sir, we can’t serve you that food because you’re already too fat. Have a nice diet”.

When you protest at this public humiliation you will be told (through a rictus smile) that they are only acting on their legal advice.

This is the scenario that could be coming to a town near you if a certain Mr. Caeser Barber gets his way. Mr.Barber, a resident of New York City, has launched a legal action against several world-famous fast-food restaurant chains who, he claims, have conspired to turn him into a hog-beast.

“He claims the fast food restaurants, where Barber says he used to eat four or five times a week even after suffering a heart attack, did not properly disclose the ingredients of their food and the risks of eating too much.

It is too much to hope that that is a mis-print? Even after suffering a heart-attack this human vacuum-cleaner continued shovelling cheeseburgers and fried chicken down his neck. As somebody who is engaged in a lifelong jihad against flab, I am only too aware that my waistline is entirely my own responsibility but that sort of makes me a marginal minority in an age when one’s woes are expected be laid at someone else’s doorstep.

I could wax angrily about the rank silliness and raging absurdity of this victim-culture but I’d only be treading over well-worn carpet. Besides, Mr.Barber is highly likely to win regardless of my posturings.

Those of us who are familiar with the Holy Scripture of Post-Modernism (Neurosis, Chapter 1, verse 12 – “He that provideth for me shall face a mighty reckoning for his sin”) know only too well how this will play out. Mr.Barber will sit in the Courtroom (in a reinforced chair and with some sort of drip in his arm for theatrical effect – it generally works) and blub about his ruined life. His pudgy hand will wipe away a tear as he recounts how his childhood dreams of competing in the Olympic Decathalon have been cruelly dashed by Colonel Sanders and his monstrous regiment of corporate calorie-peddlers. Mr.Barber will blub, the Judge will blub, the lawyers will blub, the jury will blub and the press reporters will blub. Everyone will have a good old blub about blubber and the good citizens of New York will do their humane duty and compensate this poor man and punish the wicked purveyors of tasty nosh who have actually profited from his misery.

And once the inevitable verdict has been delivered, the flood-gates (or should that be ‘the food-gates’) will be open for everyone who has ever popped a button off their shirt or moved up from dress size 14 to dress size 16. The money may even make it worthwhile. Hey, if you can’t be beautiful, you may as well be rich. I swear that I see a new form of prohibition on the horizon, together with a War on French Fries.

Attack the idea, not the man

Journalist and writer of various leftist economic tomes, Will Hutton, comes in for a bit of a Fisking in this week’s edition of The Spectator magazine, as mention previously by Paul Staines.

Normally, I would be cheering such a piece on but I have my reservations about such articles. It is of course dead easy to belittle a person’s opinions, however dumb, by pointing to examples of hypocrisy. However, it always better and more intellectually powerful to confront a person’s views as such and argue about whether they are sensible or not rather than go after a person’s character. I recall reading Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals some years ago in which his basic theme was that, whatever one might think of Rousseau, Hemingway and so on, they were all basically shits.

I like to think that we try to play a loftier game here at Samizdata. The libertarian meme will spread much faster if it is propelled by fairness and good manners. Well, most of the time.

The Tale of the Scorpion and the Frog

A British solicitor has been sentenced to six months in prison under the money laundering provision in the Drug Trafficking Act 1994

Not that he was actually laundering money, mind you. He ‘failed to report suspicions of money laundering’ i.e. he did not go behind his clients back to snitch him out to the authorities and he has now paid the price.

He has paid the price for not sufficiently appreciating that he has been conscripted by the government and that his first and last loyalty belongs to them. I fear he is not the last ‘draft-dodger’ to feel the wrath of the State.

‘When the Proceeds of Crime Bill goes through (it should recive its Royal Assent this week), money laundering will apply to the proceeds of any crime. The implications for the profession will be widespread.’

The Proceeds of Crime Bill will extend the current obligation to report suspicions of money laundering to cover all and any unlawful activity. And it will not be a question of what the professional adviser did know but what they should have know.

The professional classes are going to have their lives made hell and, whilst this is an undoubted injustice to the many who work hard and serve their clients interests as best as they can, there is also a raging irony and a fable here.

The professional classes have always anxiously sought the help of the State in order to establish the restrictive practices and barriers to entry upon which much of their wealth and influence has been built. The same State has now turned on them with a rapacious fury.

This should serve as an object lesson to everyone that the Leviathan may have strong arms in which to cradle you but it also has big, sharp teeth to eat you all up. And the beast cannot help its nature.

Disney: the MacDonalds of popular ‘culture’

There are several companies that anti-capitalist protestors love to hate and two of them are Disney and MacDonalds. These companies are seen as the very embodiment of American ‘economic and cultural imperialism’. Samizdata contributor and blogger in her own right Natalie Solent once remarked on the Libertarian Alliance Forum (20 June 2002) that there is a near 1:1 correlation between people who slag off MacDonalds, using derisory terms like ‘MacJobs’, and people who are in reality advocating a nihilistic communistic reordering of society.

And yet whilst I think Natalie is generally correct on that point, in the right leaning Daily Telegraph, Andrew Gimson also writes a rather flaccid article about why he too does not like Disney and it has nothing to do with big business.

Like Andrew Gimson, I have nothing against big business and am an avid supporter of globalization. As a result I regard Disney and MacDonalds as remarkable examples of international commerce and I have no problem with them plying their toxic wares everywhere across the globe… hang on a minute…’toxic wares’?

Yes, the truth is, I detest both Disney and MacDonalds.

Much in the same way as I support the right of looney toon Nazis and incoherent socialists to publicly advocate their idiotic views, so too do I support the right of Disney and MacDonalds to hawk their wares from Peoria to Petropavlovsk… and just as I support the right of people to shout abuse and pour scorn on Nazis and Socialists when they do air their views, so too do I support the right of people to vote with closed wallets in order to protect their children from near-fraudulent cultural hijacking by Disney and heart disease and obesity by garbage-like ‘food’ sold by MacDonalds.

If Disney wants to create animated movies (that are in reality little more than an exercise in merchandising) from whole cloth, then I have no real objection. But when they produce something like ‘The Little Mermaid’, I find my blood boiling. The Little Mermaid is a story by Hans Christian Andersen, and was written not as Disney would have us believe, to convey the message ‘go for your dream, girl, and live happily ever after’. No, not at all.

Your tail will then disappear, and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow. If you will bear all this, I will help you.”

“Yes, I will,” said the little princess in a trembling voice, as she thought of the prince and the immortal soul.

This is far from the pallid castrated ‘culture’ that Disney’s marketing wonks would have you believe the story contains. Now I realise this sort of gritty prose might not sell so well in some places with sugar coated rose tinted views of what children should hear and read, but then why the hell call it ‘The Little Mermaid’ then? Call it ‘The Adventures of Ariel’ or ‘Fishgirl gets her Prince’ or anything that does not claim to have the slightest intellectual similarity to what Hans Christian Andersen was actually trying to say.

Feel free to purchase Disney’s drivel if you wish for your hamburger bloated offspring, but do not kid yourself that your children are hearing anything whatsoever from probably the most famous writer of children’s stories who ever lived.

Will Hutton: charlatan and asset stripper

Paul Staines sees an old enemy and rejoices that someone else is also putting the boot in where it is much needed.

Over at The Spectator business guru Derek Matthews has a splendidly vitriolic go at failed stockbroker, turned failed newspaper editor and soon to be failed think-tank-wonk, Will Hutton.

How this fraud had a hit book I don’t know, even Blair’s circle think he is a left-wing loony.

Matthew’s piece shows Hutton’s total hypocrisy in glorious technicolour. I hate this guy so much I had a go at him myself a few years ago in an LA pamphlet called The benefits of speculation*

*= Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or similar pdf program to read.