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]

New York nannying

New York is a place I have got to love in my all-too brief visits there, but one of its less endearing characteristics is the puritan bossiness of some of the folk who unfortunately get to run that city. Mayor Bloomberg has already succeeded in a total ban on smoking in private places like bars, regardless of the wishes of the owners of such private property.

Well, now they are trying to regulate the teaching of martial arts, as pointed out by a justifiably enraged Russell Whitaker over at his excellent blog.

What the hell is it with these people? Do they really, actually want us to have no means by which we can defend ourselves? Do they really want us to be like so many docile sheep?

The only logical answer, I fear, is “Yes.”

Addendum: definitely bookmark Russell’s site. Strongly recommended for those like me who are interested in everything from self-defence issues to space.

Fatty food causes global warming!

History certainly does have a knack of repeating itself here in the UK. Just as we’re about to embark on another war against a mustachioed despot, we’re all set to bring back rationing:

“A ban on marketing fatty, salty and sugary products at youngsters is one of the options supported by the study from the Food Commission campaign group.

It also backs those calling for a nationwide promotion of healthy foods and a possible “fat tax” on junk food advertising.”

But why stop there? Why not compulsory jogging every morning? Followed by an invigorating dip in ice-water? How about mandatory colonic irrigation, too?

Actually the question is redundant, because, whoever the ‘Food Commission Campaign group’ are, we all know that they have not the slightest intention of stopping there. They wll get what they want and then move on to Stage 2 (and Lord alone knows what that consists of). And because this is Britain we can all more-or-less write the script for these campaigns now. It is even becoming mundane.

I don’t know who these campaigners are but perhaps, by some extraordinary stroke of luck, it will transpire that they have some connection with the WTC attacks. Then the Americans can come and drag them all off to Camp X-Ray.

P.S. Don’t forget the hoods!

Columbia updates

I have not been posting on this subject for awhile as there has not been any single bit of news significant enough to require it. The weight of the bits and pieces has finally built to the point at which I must return to it.

Little has changed in the basic scenario of the breakup. Most everything I have read has added detail or backed up early scenarios. One of the more interesting bits was the set of internal emails released by NASA. As an engineer myself, I know this sort of “what-if” goes on all the time. In any given team at any given time there will be persons who are overly optimistic or pessimistic. Everyone takes a turn in these roles; everyone has a day of certitude on some new hypothesis. The problem a manager faces is how to figure out whether that person is actually correct on some particular day and some particular issue. Usually the answer is in the middle ground. When it isn’t, you’ve just bet your career,

In this case the pessimist wasn’t pessimistic enough. He was worried about a portside gear door burn through causing a failure of that gear to descend on landing. An aircraft with one gear down is in deep shit. A friend of mine managed to get he and his wife safely on the ground in a Cessna 180 with that problem… but none of the techniques he used would work on a brick that doesn’t so much land as carry out a controlled 220 mph near-crash. Believe me, you really, really do not want to ground loop at those kinds of speeds. I’m sure anyone else out there who has ever landed an airplane by their sweet lonesome would get the same retractive reflex I get at the thought.

The point is, things were far worse than the most polyannish engineers thought.

Some of the other interesting news is confirmation bits were coming off even before the shuttle crossed the Pacific coast. This validates the report we noted from a San Francisco paper, and the first hand report of one of our friends at XCOR in the Mojave Desert. A shuttle tile has been recovered from Nevada. They are searching for more in the area as it is those earliest bits of debris which will tell the greatest tale.

The USAF has a lot more detail on the radar reflection from near the shuttle on Day 1. Something 1×1.3 feet in size was floating near the shuttle shortly after a “major maneuver”. I’ll guess that means a brief blip on the OMS system. If something were loose, that is exactly when you’d expect a seperation.

No one knows what it was. The size and orbital characteristics coupled with the time it appeared suggest to me it is not from a waste water dump and not due to an orbital debris impact. We’re left with either something floating out of the payload bay or something broken during the ascent. Its’ rapid de-orbiting tells us it had a low mass to area ratio. That certainly isn’t true of water at 60 pounds per cubic foot. I cannot tell you much else though. Virtually anything structural on the shuttles is quite light.

I read this as evidence of quite severe damage caused by the foam/ice impact we’ve all seen in slo-mo by this time.

The news I found rather amazing is the recovery of video tape that was in the cabin. Some was burned: I am utterly amazed that it wasn’t all fried, or at the very least heated above it’s Curie point and completely demagnetized. This is a sad experiment to have the results of, but I must admit the details are fascinating and not at all what I had expected. Other than the larger debris footprint, the results are little different from an airliner crash. Some bits are amazingly intact through sheer providence… and nearby parts ravaged beyond belief.

It seems clear another of my early predictions is correct as well. They are never going to find more than a fraction of the vehicle. Tangled bits will be showing up for centuries. Farmers will be plowing them up and selling them to museums and collectors 500 years from now. It may even be centuries, or at least many decades before the last of the major parts turns up.

Columbia is now an eternal part of the Texas landscape and history.

Help Wanted

If any of our readers are Iraqi permanent residents we’d love to hear from you.

The voice of Iraqi’s is being grossly misrepresented by British media and we’d love to do our small part to adjust the balance.

Death to Saddam!

No distance at all

You’ve heard the name Al Arian recently I’m sure: the Florida professor alleged to have assisted with Islamic Jihad fundraising? It seems he also has some connections to the “Not In Our Name” fundraising as well:

“For its fund raising, the Not In Our Name Project is allied with another foundation, this one called the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization. Founded by several New Left leaders in 1967 to “advance the struggles of oppressed people for justice and self-determination,” IFCO was originally created to serve as the fundraising arm of a variety of activist organizations that lacked the resources to raise money for themselves.

In recent years, IFCO served as fiscal sponsor for an organization called the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom (their partnership ended when the coalition formed its own tax-exempt foundation). Founded in 1997 as a reaction to the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, the coalition says its function is to oppose the use of secret evidence in terrorism prosecutions.

Until recently, the group’s president was Sami Al-Arian, a University of South Florida computer-science professor who has been suspended for alleged ties to terrorism. (He is still a member of the coalition’s board.) According to a New York Times report last year, Al-Arian is accused of having sent hundreds of thousands of dollars, raised by another charity he runs, to Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Times also reported that FBI investigators “suspected Mr. Al-Arian operated ‘a fund-raising front’ for the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine from the late 1980s to 1995.” Al-Arian also brought a man named Ramadan Abdullah Shallah to the University of South Florida to raise money for one of Al-Arian’s foundations – a job Shallah held until he later became the head of Islamic Jihad. “

The courts will have to decide if the charges against Al Arian are true, but the connections are interesting nonetheless. The far left looks to be nearly as incestuous in its’ interconnections as the spacer community…

And that’s going some.

Iraqi bounty hunters

Isn’t this evidence enough?

“Two weeks ago the Philippines expelled Iraqi diplomat Husham Husain after discovering he had received a phone call from an Abu Sayyaf member the day after the group staged an October 3 bombing that killed a U.S. Green Beret on the southern island of Mindanao. After the diplomat’s deportation, Abu Sayyaf leader Hamsiraji Sali stated on Philippine TV that Iraq was paying bounties to his gunmen to murder U.S. troops.”

ARA aka Armed Robbery Agency

Yesterday, the Assets Recovery Agency has been set up to seize the wealth of previously untouchable “Mr Bigs” who have not been convicted of an offence but whose way of life is paid for by crime. It will take on cases referred to it by UK police forces, Customs & Excise, the Inland Revenue, the National Crime Squad and the Serious Fraud Office. Its work is considered so sensitive that its agents will be allowed to use pseudonyms – including in court – and the Government refuses to say where it is based.

The Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) will not have to prove that the people whom it prosecutes are guilty of any crime. The onus will be on the man with the Jaguar, the gold bracelet and the holiday home in Ocho Rios to show that he came by his luxuries legally. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which set up the agency, cases will be decided on the balance of probabilities, rather than the stricter criminal test of certainty beyond reasonable doubt.

The prosecutors will need only to accuse someone of living ‘above their means’ to bring them to court (without a jury, I might add), if they have “reasonable grounds” for believing that their wealth had been acquired illegally. However, it is the owner’s responsibility to prove otherwise and assets could be seized on the “balance of probabilities”. This is a far cry from the “beyond reasonable doubt” requirements of the criminal courts. It will, therefore, be possible for the civil courts to seize the assets of someone found not guilty in the criminal courts. Oh, and the presumption of innocence has gone out of the window long before the judge’s ‘balancing act’.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary elaborates:

The agency is coming after the homes, yachts, mansions and luxury cars of the crime barons. This is also about cracking down on local crooks well known in their communities for their flash cars, designer clothes and expensive jewellery but no legitimate means of income.

And Jane Earl, director of the ARA reassures:

If you have a large house and five places in the Caribbean, with no visible means of support, no rich aunties who have recently died leaving the odd five million and no successful lottery tickets, it will not do to say that someone gave you the money.

It is as if all their hatred is directed not so much against criminals as against the trappings of wealth. If Mr Blunkett and Ms Earl think they have a case against somebody, they should be made to prove it.

Oh, but they can’t do that because the justice system is so screwed up. Let’s hire some anonymous thugs then. First we get the Bad Big Criminals and then let’s see what we can do without any competition…

Great moments in history

On February 25, 1836 Samuel Colt patented his revolver. “God made man, Colt made them equal”

Saddam hangs on?

I have just received this briefing, courtesy of Stratfor. Since a hefty subscription fee is required in order to link to the article, here is an excerpt:

“Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, reputed to be a personal friend of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, made a lightning visit to Baghdad on Feb. 23. The purpose and results of the meeting are shrouded in secrecy, apart from a statement by Moscow that Hussein was asked — and agreed — to cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Reliable Stratfor sources within the Russian government say Hussein indeed has promised to cooperate with the inspectors’ demands — including that Baghdad scrap its al Samoud 2 missile program by March 1, an announcement that sources expect to be forthcoming within days.”

It seems that this ’11th hour offer’ also includes an invitation for Western oil companies to recommence business in Iraq and a blanket promise from Hussein to ‘play nicely’. The offer is being heavily sponsored by the French, the Germans and the Russians and is expected to be received warmly by HMG.

But the real test is whether or not it is accepted in Washington. It could be acceptable if it could then be presented as having only be achieved by the credible threat of force. However, the policy goal in Washington is regime change in Iraq and not status-quo.

Rejection of the offer by Washington could see Mr.Primakov flying back to Baghdad to broker yet another offer, although what more Hussein could possibly put on the table is hard to imagine.

What would you do?

A fable by Kevin Connors

Imagine a world not too much different from what we live in today…

Let’s say you have this neighbour who’s never grown up from his teen-age bully days. You know he beats his wife; you can hear the screaming at night and you see the bruises during the day. But she’s too terrorized by the guy to do anything about it.

But it gets worse: This guy has a bad habit of trying to move his fence over on to his neighbour’s property. You don’t live right next door, so he’s never bothered you. But once he tried to move the fence over your friend’s tomato garden. That fellow has quite a green thumb and you buy all the tomatoes you can from him at every harvest.

But further, this guys a gun-lovin’ irresponsible bastard, in fact, before you really got to know the guy, you went with him to a couple of gun shows and taught him how to reload. But he has this penchant for going out in yard every now and then and randomly blowing off a few rounds. Not a direct threat to you; you’re a few houses down the block, unless you go out on the street.

So, what do you do? Wait for his next door neighbours to act? Well, they’re kind of timid folks, deathly afraid of what he might do to retaliate. Build a high wall around your house, avoid the street, and give up on those nice fresh tomatoes? Why should you let this punk inconvenience you at all? Besides, there’s still a chance of one of those bullets going over the fence and you have it on good authority he’s shopping for hand grenades.

“Call the cops” is the obvious answer. But I forgot to mention this isn’t quite like the social system we live in; this is anarchy. Each household is truly sovereign onto themselves. Of course, being very wise in this sort of environment, you’re the baddest son-of-a-bitch on the street, an Nth degree black belt, armed to the teeth, with two ninjas for sons and a wife that can cook up bombs able to vaporize any other neighbour’s house in an instant.

Back when he pulled the tomato garden stunt, you went over and slapped him around a few times, made him move the fence back (which didn’t stop him from ripping up all the tomato plants in the process), took most of his guns away and told him to be nice to his wife. Well, he hasn’t tried to move the fence any more, but he still beats his wife, gets drunk and blows off a few rounds out in the yard.

What would you do?

Samizdata slogan of the day

There will be no war on Iraq. There will be a liberation of Iraq. There will be an end to the war that the Ba’ath Party has been waging on the people of Iraq through its policies of racism, persecution and genocide. Liberation will bring hope to enslaved Iraqis and justice for the dead, for the hundreds of thousands of Kurds murdered during such campaigns as the Anfal, for the Assyrians who were “disappeared,” for the Shi’a Arabs slaughtered for rising up against the regime, for the deported Turkomans and the Sunni Arab officers shot for plotting to overthrow the regime
– Dr. Barham Salih, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, in the region controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Blogs and marriage

Is this the first ‘blogger-marriage’, I wonder?

Regardless of whether it is or not, many congratulations to Andrew Dodge and Sasha Castel who are now Mr. and Mrs. Castel-Dodge.