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]

Secrets of history revealed

An interesting hysterical historical document has come into the possession of Rand Simberg.

It is a good thing this sort of idiotic nonsense would never happen in our more enlightened era, right? Right?

Have a gruesome All Hallows Eve

Greetings from London on this All Hallows Eve. I have always thought this festival was wasted on the very young… it is not a time for ‘friendly ghosts or good witches’, it is a time to get in touch with your inner werewolf

Wishing everyone a suitably ghastly Halloween. Just remember what happens if you have too much fun!

Urgent help required

Though most of our readers will doubtless be unaware, the BBC has been running a competition to find the ‘All-time Greatest Briton’.

I have, thus far, been indifferent to the whole wretched exercise but it has been brought to my attention that, currently, Lady Diana is topping the voters poll.

I am no longer indifferent. If Lady Diana wins, it is not just a victory for sentimentality over reason but a gross insult to this country’s glorious history. I cannot allow that to happen without let or hindrance.

So may I please urge all contributors and readers to go to the BBC vote page and vote for Cromwell, Brunel, Shakespeare, Newton, Churchill or anybody except Lady f*cking Diana!

I thank you in anticipation of your kind and worthy assistance.

[My sincere gratitude to Hadrian Wise for the alarm bell]

Read it and laugh

The tide of mendacious pro-EU propoganda that has flooded this country for the last 20 years or so, has been so relentless and has become so institutionalised that us beleaguered ‘antis’ were, until recently at any rate, quite despondent about the prospects of getting our message across concerning the reality of this misconceived ‘Reich’.

No lie has been too outrageous and, on occasion, the lies have even been contradictory without anybody seeming to notice. We have been told that Europe is more prosperous, Europe is fairer, Europe is more open-minded, Europe is more dynamic, Europe has less crime, Europe is more modern, Europe is more generous, Europe is more caring, the cost of living is cheaper, everyone in Europe has a better standard of living and (drum roll, please) Europeans are more sophisticated!!

My father told me that he remembers exactly the same things being said about the Soviet Union in the 1930’s.

So it gives me an incalculable thrill to see an article about Europe’s coming collapse in a British newspaper:

“The cause is a self-destruction wrought by a political elite that has wrapped itself in fantastical self-delusion about the superiority of its economic system, the coming ascendancy of the single currency over the dollar, and the tide of wealth and prosperity that would inevitably flow from the relentless pursuit of “ever closer union”. Here, on an epic scale, has been a procession of naked emperors who cannot begin to grasp why the world has stopped applauding.”

The article may be right or it may be wrong but, for my purposes, that almost doesn’t matter; its very publication is the rub. It would certainly not have appeared even a year ago and the fact that it has surfaced now, and in a mainstream publication to boot, is an indication that the tide is turning.

No, we really do not care for super-statism

Big Business is often the enemy of capitalism

What so many of capitalism’s defenders seem to miss is that just because a large company is doing something legally, that does not mean it is ‘kosher’ capitalism. In Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s, companies like Krupp and Seimens remained under entrenched private management in spite of the National Socialist German Workers Party coming to power, or more accurately, because of the new overtly anti-capitalist government.

They did this by running their companies in such a manner as to support the objectives of the National Socialists. In return, the state ensured they maintained a privileged position, insulated from upstart new market entrants in their respective fields. These companies, working hand in glove with the state, could ensure that national laws would be adjusted as needed to support whatever business models the entrenched companies liked, and the state could be sure that company strategies would be based servicing the needs and objectives of the Nazi Party, not to mention paying backhanders to leading Party members.

Of course, one does not have to look as far back as National Socialist Germany of the 1940’s to see examples of companies trying to manipulate the state to prop up an entrenched way of doing things: for the last few years the music industry in the United States has been trying to use the law of the land to crush challenges to its old physical media based business models. Rather than running their business in the interests of the state, nowadays in modern democratic statist political systems, large companies spend vast sums on lobbyists and on funding the election campaigns of politicians who might as well have an hourly rate for their services stamped on their foreheads.

Now in Australia, Microsoft looks ready to try and buy themselves some legislation for much the same reasons after an Australian court declined to stop people modifying XBox hardware:

Microsoft would be forced to reconsider selling the Xbox video game system in Australia, or seek changes to the law, following the acquittal in July of a Sydney man alleged to have sold chips that modify a Sony PlayStation 2 to play imported games, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said yesterday.
“Given the way the economic model works, and that is a subsidy followed, essentially, by fees for every piece of software sold, our licence framework has to do that,” Mr Ballmer said. “If there are aspects that are not allowed, it would encourage us to require a change in the legal framework. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make economic sense.”

As usual a pure laissez-faire solution beckons: if Australia refuses to criminalize innovation and therefore Microsoft declines to sell its XBox Games Consols down under, then simply abolish all the idiotic import restrictions and tariffs currently clogging up Australia’s economy and then… who gives a damn where Microsoft chooses to sell their products: if there is a demand for XBox in Oz, a ‘grey market’ will rapidly appear as capitalist importers across the world buy up XBoxs by the container load elsewhere (such as Taiwan, USA, India) and ship them in themselves.

If that busts MS’s business model, so what? Let them find another one that actually works without the involvement of police around the world to make it succeed.

End of problem.

“Witchfinding” – a retraction

Under comment pressure from the deeply annoying A_t, and before he says it for me, I realise that “witchfinding” or “witchhunting” are no more appropriate as descriptions of what happened to Harry Stein than they are of what happened during the 1950s when McCarthy was chasing communists. Communists existed. Witches did not exist. But racists also exist. It’s merely that Harry Stein isn’t one. Oh well.

21st century ray gun plane

Many Samizdata thanks to reader FeloniusPunk who pointed out an article in the LA Times on the state of the art in laser weaponry. I must admit to being technologically blindsided and slack jawed after reading it.

I have been following the USAF conversion of a 747 into a chemical laser gunship (below) and I knew great advances had occured in solid state lasers… but nothing like this

Photo: USAF

Glenn Reynolds on the public safety calculation debate

Here’s a meme (“a pack not a herd”) that I’d like to see run wild. And allow me also to refer back to this and to this, a single piece by me in two fragments from the Samizdata archives (from before we had the “MORE” routine in place).

Says Glenn Reynolds (for it is he):

… After repeatedly slipping through the fingers of law enforcement, John Muhammad and Lee Salvo were caught because leaked information about the suspects’ automobile and license number was picked up by members of the public, one of whom spotted the car within hours and alerted the authorities – blocking the exit from the rest area with his own vehicle to make sure they didn’t escape. …

… So while Chief Moose and the other talking heads were holding press conferences in which they castigated the press for reporting information, they should have been figuring out how to take advantage of the vast resources that a mobilized public can command. But the officials didn’t want to, for fearof “vigilantes”. Luckily for them, a leak saved the day. …

… Rather than creating new bureaucracies, we need to be looking at ways of promoting fast-moving, dispersed responses, responses that will involve members of the public as a pack, not a herd. Even if doing so reduces the career satisfaction of shepherds. …

In other words and to extrapolate the principle only somewhat, what if security, catching bad guys, the very law itself maybe, turn out to be like the economy? What if, like the economy, the criminal justice system (and most certainly the criminal detection system) can’t be or – more modestly – works far better when not centrally planned? Oh sure, there’d be a mass of “waste and duplication of effort” in a free market in public safety, just as there is now in the electric kettle industry. But good electric kettles are not now hard to find, the way they would be in a world run by the likes of the F(ederal) B(ureau of electric) K(ettles). So …

Oh, by the way… it worked

What with islamic snipers, bombers and hostage takers, I never did get around to this story while it was current.

It seems the recent ground based anti-ballistic missile test was quite successful. Keep in mind this test series is an engineering effort and not testing of a product to be deployed. I point this out because most journalists I read don’t know the difference nor understand that bugs, glitches, failures, mistakes and blowing things up spectacularly are all part of everyday engineering R&D.

I must admit my own most spectacular glitch was not in the same league as these lads can accomplish. My “best effort” caused a dump of a fifty thousand gallon water deluge into a helicopter hanger outside Denver late one night in 1976. Well… it probably does rate well up the engineering test bug Richter scale. Fortunately for my career and possibility of future procreation, no helo’s were in at the time.

But that’s life in the world of engineering. “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”, along with a good healthy dose of the totally unexpected.

The glory of the English Courts

We are due for some fun. The Independent has reported a most extraordinary trial going on in the High Court at the moment in which a man named Chrysler is accused of stealing more than 40,000 coat hangers from hotels round the world. He admits his guilt, but in his defence he claims that… well, perhaps it would be simpler just to bring you a brief extract from the trial. We join the case at the point where Chrysler has just taken the stand.

Counsel: What is your name?

Chrysler:> Chrysler. Arnold Chrysler.

Counsel: Is that your own name?

Chrysler: Whose name do you think it is?

Counsel: I am just asking if it is your name.

Chrysler: And I have just told you it is. Why do you doubt it?

Counsel: It is not unknown for people to give a false name in court.

Chrysler: Which court?

Counsel: This court.

Chrysler: What is the name of this court?

Counsel: This is No 5 Court.

Chrysler: No, that is the number of this court. What is the name of this court?

Counsel: It is quite immaterial what the name of this court is!

Chrysler: Then perhaps it is immaterial if Chrysler is really my name.

Counsel: No, not really, you see because…

Judge: Mr Lovelace?

Counsel: Yes, m’lud?

Judge: I think Mr Chrysler is running rings round you already. I would try a new line of attack if I were you.

Counsel: Thank you, m’lud.

Chrysler: And thank you from ME, m’lud. It’s nice to be appreciated.

Judge: Shut up, witness.

Chrysler: Willingly, m’lud. It is a pleasure to be told to shut up by you. For you, I would…

Judge: Shut up, witness. Carry on, Mr Lovelace.

Counsel: Now, Mr Chrysler, for let us assume that that is your name, you are accused of purloining in excess of 40,000 hotel coat hangers.

Chrysler: I am.

Counsel: Can you explain how this came about?

Chrysler: Yes. I had 40,000 coats which I needed to hang up.

Counsel: Is that true?

Chrysler: No.

Counsel: Then why did you say it?

Chrysler: To attempt to throw you off balance.

Counsel: Off balance?

Chrysler: Certainly. As you know, all barristers seek to undermine the confidence of any hostile witness, or defendant. Therefore it must be equally open to the witness, or defendant, to try to shake the confidence of a hostile barrister.

Counsel: On the contrary, you are not here to indulge in cut and thrust with me. You are only here to answer my questions.

Chrysler: Was that a question?

Counsel: No.

Chrysler: Then I can’t answer it.

Judge: Come on, Mr Lovelace! I think you are still being given the run-around here. You can do better than that. At least, for the sake of the English bar, I hope you can.

Counsel: Yes, m’lud. Now, Mr Chrysler, perhaps you will describe what reason you had to steal 40,000 coat hangers?

Chrysler: Is that a question?

Counsel: Yes.

Chrysler: It doesn’t sound like one. It sounds like a proposition which doesn’t believe in itself. You know, “Perhaps I will describe the reason I had to steal 40,000 coat hangers… Perhaps I won’t… Perhaps I’ll sing a little song instead…”

Judge: In fairness to Mr Lovelace, Mr Chrysler, I should remind you that barristers have an innate reluctance to frame a question as a question. Where you and I would say,”Where were you on Tuesday?”, they are more likely to say, “Perhaps you could now inform the court of your precise whereabouts on the day after that Monday?”. It isn’t, strictly, a question, and it is not graceful English but you must pretend that it is a question and then answer it, otherwise we will be here for ever. Do you understand?

Chrysler: Yes, m’lud.

Judge: Carry on, Mr Lovelace.

Counsel: Mr Chrysler, why did you steal 40,000 hotel coat hangers, knowing as you must have that hotel coat hangers are designed to be useless outside hotel wardrobes?

Chrysler: Because I build and sell wardrobes which are specially designed to take nothing but hotel coat hangers.

Sensation in court. More of this later, I hope.

Any comments, David?

Witchfinding in Dallas

I don’t know – I really do not know – how much clout little old limey Samizdata has in the big wide world out there, by which I mean the USA, but I hope it has some, and that if we flag up this article in City Journal (Autumn 2002), then it will count for a little something, or at any rate an extra little something to set beside the fact that Instapundit has already flagged it up a few hours ago. Maybe it will influence these particular PC witchfinders that they are now getting themselves detectably, internet searchably, despised all over the world (by which I mean in Britain).

The author of the article is a new name to me, Harry Stein. Stein is the author of the book How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace), and the article is about his trials and tribulations on the road selling his book, and specifically about a speech he gave in Dallas and its gutter-journalistic aftermath.

Perry likes quotes so that this will make sense even if the link one day goes dead, so let me see. Well, here’s quite a lot of the piece, but it’s a good piece, so …: → Continue reading: Witchfinding in Dallas

Free Trade Area of Americas… but not that free

So now we will see another test of George Bush’s very shaky Free Trader credentials. He rightly wants Latin America to open up its markets to mutually enriching capitalism via the Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) agreements… but will the USA do the same for its markets?

In order to make FTAA worthwhile, Brazil has demanded the United States open its fiercely protected sugar, steel and citrus markets to freer competition.

Analysts agree that without Brazil there will be no FTAA, and it is unclear how quickly Washington can lower key tariffs.

It amazes me how so many US Republicans who cursed every breath taken by Bill Clinton, damning him quite rightly as an unprincipled political weathervane, nevertheless just gloss over George Bush’s dismal record on liberalising world trade. Why is allowing the state to interfere in markets so as to make products such as sugar, lumber, steel and fruit more expensive to American consumers and industry just shrugged off?

The need for political support from key states, you say? Ah, I see. So you mean George Bush is just an unprincipled political weathervane, then. Gotcha.