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]

800Mhz toaster

I’ve found another capitalist Object of Desire, via B3TA: WE LOVE THE WEB, whoever they might be. It’s a toaster.

Or is it? They were trying to sell stuff like this. So they rigged one of them up as this.

This Toaster is loaded!!!

It got:
800Mhz CPU (VIA C3).
40GB Harddrive.
16X DVD Drive.
Built-in Video and sound.

The HD-light is wired to the Bagel LED 🙂
You turn on the PC by pushing down the lever 🙂

Anyone like to try turning my cooker into a mainframe?

Fire at Staten Island

Currently watching on Sky News a massive fire on a propane barge which exploded off New York’s Staten Island. So far it is not clear what the cause is, either an accident or something more sinister. So far no reports I can link to on the Web.

Getting out of Arabia

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz pointed out we will no longer need troops in Saudi Arabia after Saddam is gone. I’ll just quote him because he says it all:

“First of all, let’s talk about Saudi Arabia. We won’t need troops in Saudi Arabia when there’s no longer an Iraqi threat. The Saudi problem will be transformed. IN Iraq, first of all the Iraqi population is completely different from the Saudi population. The Iraqis are among the most educated people in the Arab world. They are by and large quite secular. They are overwhelmingly Shia which is different from the Wahabis of the peninsula, and they don’t bring the sensitivity of having the holy cities of Islam being on their territory. They are totally different situations. But the most fundamental difference is that, let me put it this way. We’re seeing today how much the people of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe appreciate what the United States did to help liberate them from the tyranny of the Soviet Union. I think you’re going to see even more of that sentiment in Iraq.”

The general tenor of what is coming out of Washington lately is much less “diplomatic” than in the past. Spades are being called spades; phony allies are being given the respect they deserve…. and I imagine the rate of coronaries inside the beltway has fallen considerably.

Soon is a good time to get out of Saudi Arabia in any case. They are seeing serious poverty in the cities now; they are seeing young men hanging out on the streets and ignoring the the Vice and Virtue cops and there is considerable terrorism occuring inside the country. The ruling family has done everything in its’ power to cover this last fact up. They imprison and torture a few Brits or others every time something gets blown up. They claim the bombs are “gang” murders for the alcohol trade between foreigners.

There is also some liberalization going on inside the country and it would be best for the liberalizers if we were not there as a target for the conservatives.

Weapons? What Weapons II?

Dr. Johnson-Winegar of the US DOD discussed NBC readiness on 60 Minutes a few days ago. From the transcript, it appears NBC readiness was a total bollocks last summer. From the “subtext” I can imagine Rumsfeld having fits when all of this first came to light. There were Congressional hearings as late as October, faulty suits being hunted down through a Byzantine (ie military) inventory system, training filters shipped with some suits to Kuwait. SNAFU from word go.

It appears they have been getting it sorted, albeit at great cost of time and money. Hundreds of thousands of new suits have been produced in the last few months. Soldiers have received some training. Mostly in Kuwait I’d bet. They are tracking down the problem gear the Army way. Throw manpower at it. When a soldier is doing nothing else on a battlefield they “clean their gun”. I think “inspect your NBC gear” will be the 21st Century’s addition to that old adage.

There are bound to be problems. We have not actually fought on an NBC battlefield since WWI. Whatever we see, it will not be static trench warfare with tightly bunched troops so there are no real tactical lessons to be learned from WWI. Doctrine is based on training exercises, some with live Chemical/Bio agents. Good, but not the same as a real enemy with the same weapons trying to kill you before you kill him. → Continue reading: Weapons? What Weapons II?

Mind the closing gap

And now, a bit of homegrown outrage. If you live in a EU country, in a few years, you could be subjected to the new European arrest warrant. Under legislation going through Parliament, it might soon be possible to have you extradited to the Continent for “racism” and “xenophobia”.

There is a new form of bigotry – “monetary xenophobia”, or opposition to the euro as identified by some EU funded bodies, such as EUMC, the European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia.

It has become increasingly obvious that European integration means transfer of authority to ever greater number of EU institutions, further from the reach of the member states’ citizens. Despite the decades of assurances that there are no plans to set up a common legal system and its enformcement, the Federasts just couldn’t contain themselves.

Now, it is becoming a reality – smuggled past unsuspecting publics in the traumatic days after September 11, 2001. If the emerging European constitution is ever implemented, Britain seems destined to give up its remaining veto in home affairs.

This has already been seriously diluted since the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 – which, incidentally, committed Europol to a more aggressive role in combating “racism” and “xenophobia”. Indeed, clause 3, section 20, sub-section 2 of the proposed legislation states that arrests under such warrants can be effected by policemen or “other appropriate persons”. Who are they? Commission officials? Europol?

Apologists for Europol have always claimed that it would be nothing more than a ‘clearing house for information’. Yet, Europol is initiating changes in policy and is in the vanguard of moves to increase the power of the authorities over ordinary citizens within the EU.

Europol can hold information on individuals on its Central Information System database that includes their ‘sexual orientation, religion, or politics’, as well ethnic origin, age, address, and so on. Indeed under article 8.4 of the Europol Convention there is a catch-all category of ‘additional information’ that could include hearsay and unsubstantiated allegations. Individuals included in the database need not have been convicted of committing criminal offences under national law or be thought likely to have carried out crimes for which they were never convicted. Information can be entered about persons who it is believed will commit crimes in the future.

The difference between British and Continental public culture, manifested in the legal realm, could not be more obvious.

In Britain, expression of heinous – even unconventional – views can marginalise you. But unless you seek to incite violence, your opinions in and of themselves cannot subject you to the rigour of the criminal law.

Not so in Europe, where technocratic elites have inherited the jealous intolerance of absolute sovereigns. Even as ministers struggle feebly to minimise the remit of Brussels in criminalising opinion, one is left with the abiding impression that they are acquiring far more influence over our traditional way of life than we will ever enjoy over theirs.

I think we should now be thinking of how best to live ‘independently’ of the EU avoiding its technocratic nightmare, whilst aligning Britain’s strategy with allies more powerful and far more natural to our Anglosphere traditions.

The State is not your friend…
and the Superstate even less so

Is “Nagging Nora” sexist or homophobic?

Taking my life into my hands the other day, I squeezed around the London Underground and found myself pressed up against an advertisement on the Piccadilly Line for that manufacturer of jobs, I meant ‘first-rate military equipment’ British Aerospace or BAe as it would now prefer to be known.

I discovered that Royal Air Force pilots enjoy the delights of an ‘assertive’ and ‘calm’ woman’s voice, produced by electronic circuitry, telling them ‘Missile locked onto you’, ‘Pull up! Pull up’ and ‘You fool! You’re going to die’… I made that last one up, I hope.

The advertisement informed me that the pilots affectionately know this disembodied squawking harpy as ‘Nagging Nora’. Far be it from me to even hint that this nickname could be anything other than a cute moniker of endearment. However, the only person I have met in the last five years who worked in the R.A.F. was a woman, although she wasn’t a pilot. And I also know that gays are now allowed into the armed services. So this caused me to wonder… Has a pilot been sued for divorce yet, by a jealous wife, angry at her beloved calling out of ‘Nora, Nora’ in his sleep?

Can a female pilot sue the R.A.F. for refusing to provide her with a ‘Nagging Norman’ voice, perhaps modelled on the authoritarian tones of that former pilot Lord Tebbitt? Can a homosexual pilot demand the same (which would be funny given Lord Tebbitt’s known ‘enthusiasm’ for gay rights)? And if different voices are provided for women and gays, will it be considered ‘pressure’ on lesbians to reveal their sexuality to admit that actually, they rather preferred Nagging Nora’s soft and assertive tones, all along?

As we prepare for war, I hope that these vital issues for the nation’s defence are given the proper attention that they deserve. And never mind that the Tornado is hopelessly outclassed as a fighter by the Iraqi Mig 29s.

Defending economics

Do economists have much to tell us about war, terrorism, interventionism and the pros and cons? It strikes me that there is a bit of a dearth of stuff on this area from the libertarian-orientated economics camp, though I would be very happy to stand corrected.

After all, if we are going to invade Iraq as part of a grand strategy to bring liberalism, prosperity and free internet access to the Middle East, does this not in a way smack of the kind of hubristic utopianism which the likes of F.A. Hayek warned against when applied to socialism and central planning?. Do issues of defence and foreign policy inhabit seperate intellectual universes from business?


French Filth

I was going to write about Les 4 Vérités a French free-market libertarian/liberal weekly magazine. However I came across a survey on pornography on the magazine’s site which produced the following results:

  • 32.52 per cent – “The State must take strong restrictive measures”
  • 23.40 per cent – “I’m against it, I try to persuade others, but it’s none of the State’s business”
  • 2.13 per cent – “I’m a consumer and I would like politicians to stop me”
  • 41.95 per cent – “It’s a pleasant past-time which should not be prohibited”

From these figures I assume that the number of British immigrants in France connected to the Internet is small.

Weapons? What weapons?

Khidmir Hamza, a former member of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program has written an interesting article for the Opinion Journal:

“My 20 years of work in Iraq’s nuclear-weapons program and military industry were partly a training course in methods of deception and camouflage to keep the program secret. Given what I know about Saddam Hussein’s commitment to developing and using weapons of mass destruction, the following two points are abundantly clear to me: First, the U.N. weapons inspectors will not find anything Saddam does not want them to find. Second, France, Germany, and to a degree, Russia, are opposed to U.S. military action in Iraq mainly because they maintain lucrative trade deals with Baghdad, many of which are arms-related.”

Mr Hamzi also points out biochem carrying artillery shells are always stored empty in Iraq due to corrosion problems. They are only filled when they are to be deployed and used.

He says much more about the uselessness of inspections. This is from someone who worked inside the other side. It’s worth reading.

Irving Babbitt

Many people (including myself) comfort themselves with illusions.

Some people misread F.A. Hayek and think of corporations as examples of spontaneous order where people ‘just get on with things’ – rather than accepting the grim truth that whereas the interaction of various corporations and their customers may produce a spontaneous order, what goes on inside a corporation is (in part) a matter of plans and orders – what Hayek called Taxis rather than Cosmos (indeed Hayek greatly feared that most of the employees of a corporation had little direct contact with the market place).

Other people believe that poverty or unemployment can be dealt with by supporting credit-money expansion – a fallacy refuted so many times, but which refuses to die (for it is such an attractive fallacy).

Very many people believe in democracy. If the majority vote for good people things will get better. And if the majority make a mistake – why then they can ‘throw the rascals out’ and vote for different people.

At least (so the pleasing illusion goes on) this will work if most people are basically good.

In the United States the great critic of democracy is seen as H.L. Mencken (he is even honoured by the predictable attempts to smear him as a racist bigot – which would have come as a surprise to all the black and Jewish writers he helped in the interwar period).

However, I believe that the greatest critic of democracy in the United States was not Mencken. The great journalist often failed to use measured language (his attacks on President Roosevelt failed, in part, because people remembered the wild abuse Mencken had flung at such men as President Coolidge -“Stonehead” and all the rest of it). → Continue reading: Irving Babbitt

Malta, the EU, and Chirac

I was able to avoid the so-called peace rally on Saturday by spending the weekend in the altogether more agreeable company of my girlfriend and the wonderful people of Malta. Malta is currently going through a referendum on whether to join the EU, having won the dubious right to apply for entry to that body recently. Naturally, my temptation is to tell any proud Maltese (and they are proud) to say no.

Malta has a mixed and varied history, as rich as that of any much bigger European nation. English is widely spoken there and there are many signs of Britain’s influence on the island when it was a vast Royal Navy base – red telephone kiosks, old English cars, road signs, old-fashioned bakery stores out of an Arnold Bennett novel. The country has a relaxed feel about it and a fairly liberal business regime. I cannot vouch for this with 100 percent certainty, but I would imagine doing business in Malta is going to get a lot more of a bureaucratic ordeal if it does join the EU.

I think French President Chirac’s recent arrogance towards the European nations who have sided with the Bush administration over Iraq will not have gone missed among the Maltese. It may even have a direct impact on the referendum vote, if the antis can use this intelligently. The Maltese will see, in its rudest form, what being a member of the EU means. Obey moi.

We three ships from Middle Orient are …

This looks as if it might be interesting, in the Far Oriental sense I mean.

Three giant cargo ships are being tracked by US and British intelligence on suspicion that they might be carrying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Each with a deadweight of 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes, the ships have been sailing around the world’s oceans for the past three months while maintaining radio silence in clear violation of international maritime law, say authoritative shipping industry sources.

The vessels left port in late November, just a few days after UN weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix began their search for the alleged Iraqi arsenal on their return to the country.

Uncovering such a deadly cargo on board would give George Bush and Tony Blair the much sought-after “smoking gun” needed to justify an attack on Saddam Hussein’s regime, in the face of massive public opposition to war.

The suspicious ones amongst us will no doubt be saying: how convenient! If it’s just what they wanted to happen, then who’s to say they didn’t make it happen?

Well, either way it is interesting. If it’s a real threat, then … well if that isn’t interesting to you then you are now having a near death experience, and the usual follow-up to that will be with you very soon. And if the Axis of Bush contrived it, then that just shows you that these guys are serious, and serious right about now (what with now being when they broke the story, the timing of which is interesting either way), which in my opinion is all to the good, but which I can understand others not liking so much. We may never know.

Here at Samizdata.net we have our own somewhat wordy house style, and we like to spell the stories out for the time when Samizdata.net roams the earth unchallenged, but paltry things like independent.co.uk have collapsed into oblivion. If this had been Instapundit (to whom, by the way, personal and Samizdata thanks for this link, which made quite a difference here yesterday), this would just have said something like: I don’t know what this is about, but it sure looks like something.