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]

Samizdatista sightings in Manhattan?

There have been rumoured Dale Amon sightings in the Irish bars of Manhattan. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid…

Patrick Crozier says it will definitely be No

Personally I do not know what to make of the referendum we are now promised about the EU constitution. Will the forces of darkness triumph, or will it be: NO!?

Patrick Crozier has no such doubts. In 1975, the verdict was Yes, but this time, he says, it will be different:

  1. We know what the EU is like.
  2. Then all the main political parties were in favour. Now they are not.
  3. Then most of the papers were in favour. Now most of them are not.
  4. Then, our economy was a laughing stock. Now it is the rest of Europe that has the problem
  5. Then, most businessmen were in favour. Now things are much closer.
  6. Although I don’t know what it was like then, now there are plenty of celebs prepared to endorse a “No” campaign.

Setting aside the matter of why he thinks Blair has decided to hold this referendum (and here is another explanation), is Patrick right? I want to believe him, but do I?

I have the feeling that the people writing this blog are not quite so confident, or why would they bother?

“The Times” and identity cards

James Hammerton’s Blog has a sound fisking of two pro-ID card articles published in the Times yesterday.

Michael Gove, author of one of the Times articles argues that given the changed circumstances of the 21st century we may need to reexamine this prejudice [prejudice against the state exercising arbitrary authority] where, in the west at least, the main threat to individuals comes not from state power as it did in the 20th century, but from terrorists who have the will and may get the means to carry out slaughter on a horrendous scale.

James spots the consistency in the Home Secretary’s policies:

To take the last part of that first, I’d respond that Blunkett has not merely “rethought” civil liberites, he (and Straw before him and Howard before him) has set out to dismantle them plain and simple. A “rethinking” would not have attacked every single protection across the board. The right to a jury trial, the presumption of innocence, the right to security of property, freedom of expression, freedom of association, doctor-patient confidentiality, lawyer-client confidentiality, freedom from arbitrary surveillance, the right to protest, all of these have been sytematically eroded. Every year since 1999 (before 9/11!), the government has produced bills with swingeing attacks on civil liberties. Only a small proportion of them could possibly be justified on the grounds they may help protect us from terrorism. Even where such measures can protect us from terrorism they’ve often been applied broadly weakening protections when the authorities are investigating crime in general rather than just terrorism.

He concludes with the point that cannot be repeated laudly and often enough:

Thus the state incompetence or inability to actually control would be terrorists and criminals and the odd clever civil libertarian via the system does not transfer to the state’s ability to control the law abiding majority with the system. The cynical might suggest that controlling the majority is the whole point, whilst crime fighting and dealing with terrorism are just the sales packaging.

Read the whole thing, as they say

Biometric ID: ‘Will work, will happen and will be popular’

Says government’s partner for passport trials…

Silicon.com reports that the company behind the biometric technology being used by the UK passport office says biometric IDs will happen – and they will happen with the blessing of the majority of UK citizens.

NEC technology is being used by the UK government in the roll-out of biometric IDs and, having already been involved in similar schemes worldwide, the company is confident that the UK implementation will be a success despite vocal opposition from “a noisy minority”.

The roll-out won’t be without problems, according to Gohringer, but he anticipates that the problems will owe far more to the complicated logistics of getting everybody signed up than to the issue of end-user opposition.

People need to realise this is not going to harm them – if anything it is going to be beneficial to them.

However, Gohringer believes that those opposed to the systems are actually a very vocal minority, making enough noise to get themselves noticed. He cited recent research – supported by that conducted by silicon.com – which shows strong support for biometric identification.

Mr Gohringer just does not get it. In his world the state is probably just doing its job and those who do not see that are just so… unreasonable. And in any case, they should be silenced by all the civilised and sensible people, you know, the majority. As we are so fond of saying here, the state is not your friend and anything that looks like infringment of your freedom, most definitely is. Despite the purported ‘benefits’ that the measure should bring. The government should be justifying its existence to you on a daily basis, not you proving your identity to the government.

Weapons of mass hypocrisy

In recent weeks the governments of the West (including Britain and the United States) have been getting very friendly towards Muammar Muhammed al-Qaddafi, the dictator of Libya.

Whilst I must stress that there is no plan to sell weapons to the dictator (and I do not believe that the United States, at least, will ever do this), in every other way Western governments are now seen as being supportive of the dictator of Libya.

Since he came to power in 1969 the dictator has followed a policy of socialism and his interpretation of Islam at home (with all the terror one would expect) and aggression and the support of terrorism abroad (in Africa, Asia and Europe). In his speech at the EU centre only a day or so ago, the dictator reserved his right to finance terrorism in future and expressed moral support for the terrorism being practiced in the Middle East today.

Can we now expect an apology for the claims that the war in Iraq was motivated by a desire to spread support for ‘human rights’ and freedom in general? I doubt that there will be such an apology – after all there has still been no apology for the claims about ‘weapons of mass destruction’.

The above being said, we are at war in Iraq now and (whatever lies were told to get us into war) the war must be won. It is just that the recent events concerning the dictator of Libya have left my tolerance for all the hypocrisy and general nonsense at a low ebb.

Dealing with one enemy at a time

The Al Qaeda attacks in Syria may be good news… whilst I am far from calling for significantly making common cause with the ghastly (& Ba’athist) regime in Damascus, there is much to be said for dealing with the bad guys one at a time and also for getting sundry vile ideologies to shoot it out with each other on their own time and dime.

And to that effect, if the Syrian state sees stamping on Al Qaeda and other Islamists as a ‘survival issue’, then that can only be a good thing. It needs to be remembered that whilst Syria is a primary threat to Israel, it is far from looming that large on the list of Things To Be Dealt With for the US, Britain or the Western World generally. Their time will come but that need not be right now.

So let us encourage as many people of whatever cloth as possible to stomp on the Islamists, and once that problem recedes to manageable proportions, well, no need to shed too many tears if Ba’athism’s last outpost comes in for a bit of serious stick from the US, Israel or whoever, as it is not like we need mistake them for being in any way admirable just because we might have once shared a common enemy.

Free trade is good, even in cricket

This is not about sport.

Libertarian and conservative policy obsessives tend not to read the sports pages of newspapers. There is a theory that most politicians were victimised at schools and their pursuit of politics is a form of revenge. Even those libertarians who are sporty are often practitioners of solo sports: jogging, skiing, suba-diving. I merely point this out to explain why the collectivist drivel which infests the sports sections of newspapers rarely gets challenged.

One of the the great myths of modern England is that the cricket team is rubbish because of the ‘polluting’ effect of foreigners. Some people have suggested that the solution would be to ban non-white players from the England team. Others suggest a more merchantile approach: ban foreign players from playing for the counties. The argument is exactly the same as for US steel tariffs, or restricting the number of American TV shows on European TV stations.

This article in the Daily Telegraph describes a development in the labour laws that should be welcomed. But English cricket keeps its ostrich head rammed into the ground.

The problem is that cricket does not generate enough money to pay for squads of highly paid professionals. The bulk of the money comes from televised matches involing the national team only. Therefore if a team is going to shell out a large sum of money for a couple of players, it wants a big name, which means an established international player.

Perversely, restrictions on foreign players mean that each club is only allowed to hire two, roughly the number of players who could be paid big wages. Result, cricket is not a viable professional sport for most young English players.

The sensible commercial decision would be for cricket to go either go semi-professional (part-time players paid appearance money), or cut the number of teams to a level that is affordable. Instead we have demands for EU citizens who are allowed to work anywhere in the EU to be banned from playing cricket in England. Is this the way to spread one’s market?

Imagine if the software industry worked like this.

Californian firms would initially be banned from hiring more than one programmer from outside the state of California. These firms would also refuse to serve customers outside Silcon Valley, except at international trade fairs. Then when the Supreme Court prohibited restraint of trade for non Californians there would be a moan about the number of Texans etc in Californian software firms. With a market restricted to one state there would be demands for subsidies, wage control, and repressive immigration laws.

This is the economic orthodoxy of cricket, yet there is no reason why it should be. Other sports such as baseball, gridiron football, soccer, basketball, even rugby union in recent years, are profiting from globalisation. What English cricket needs are better business models, not laws.

Reflections from the gym

Like a lot of folk who spend much of their time working in an office in Central London, I try to grab what exercise I can by going to a gym. I have been visiting one of these places in London for about eight years, and, gratifyingly, my once pencil-thin physique has acquired a bit more muscle. (I have a long way to go, mind, not that I remotely want to look like the Governor of California). I have also acquired other benefits, such as being able to sleep much better, better chance of avoiding injuries in everyday life, and a better pallor… The benefits have not gone unremarked by my girlfriend, either.

Gymnasiums are now a major business. Their success in the West speaks of an ever-expanding desire on our part to live the healthy life and do something direct about it. I find it amusing that at a time when we are constantly told by our masters that we need new laws, taxes and the like to avoid obesity and other problems, that more folk than ever before are getting off their backsides and working out. Screw the nanny state, put on some gym shoes! It is a rather encouraging sign that the spirit of self-help, at least when it comes to developing a flat stomach or a nice torso, is well alive.

The gym culture also I think shows just how secular British society has become. If you lack faith in an afterlife, and want to squeeze the most out of life on this Earth, then get fit! Also, if you do not believe that pride is a sin, as I do not, then there is nothing wrong in doing one’s best to look good and feel physically on top of the world, and enjoy that fact.

There are other reasons for working at home besides the miseries of travelling

Further to this posting here, here is Instapundit on the same subject:

I DON’T KNOW WHETHER Amazon is going to replace brick-and-mortar merchants, but I notice that I’m buying more and more stuff from them. And in a related development, my wife heard from a real-estate person that small commercial-office space is in a glut because a lot of people are running their businesses out of their home, given the ease of doing so that comes from the combination of Internet, cellphones, and UPS. I suspect that there’s more of this kind of thing going on under the radar.

The point about UPS is interesting, I think.

There are lots of good reasons why working at home all round the clock is difficult. Add up all these reasons and you have the answer to the question: Why do “offices” exist? But there is especially potent reason, at any rate here in Britain with its particular sort of postal system, why working at home is easier, and that is that you are actually at home when the man from UPS (or whoever) knocks on your door with a parcel that is too big and valuable looking to just leave lying around outside. → Continue reading: There are other reasons for working at home besides the miseries of travelling

Don’t just do something, stand there

Is there simply no end to all the bad news?

Diplomats and leading experts are warning that the “chaotic” European Union is ill-equipped to cope with the biggest expansion in its history.

Shame, shame. A pox on humanity and all its works.

Finnish ambassador to the UK Pertti Salolainen, who said he was speaking in a personal capacity, said: “The EU is chaotic, it has no vision, no leadership and it seems it will have no constitution.”

Is there no justice in this wicked world? I do not know how I will sleep at night (speaking in a personal capacity).

Natalie Solent on what to do about hostage taking

I have only just noticed this. But I agree with it, and I think the point is good enough to last way longer than a fortnight. It is from our own Natalie Solent on what to do about hostage taking:

Iraqi gunmen of the Mujahideen Brigades, a previously unknown group, have taken three Japanese citizens captive and say that Japan must pull out its troops or the prisoners will be burned alive.

Well, it worked in Spain. It worked in Somalia. The question is, do we keep it working?

I say, no. Kill the Muhajideen brigades. God willing the hostages might be saved, but if they are killed too, better a bullet than being burned alive and better a world where they die thus than one where the tactic of threatening hostages with death by torture works. As I said in January when Israel more-than-foolishly released many terrorists in exchange for an Israeli hostage, “Yes, of course I’d feel and speak very differently if it was my relative held hostage. Do you think I’m made of stone? But what is that to the purpose?” Think not only of the hostage we see now but of the next, and the next, and the next – because unless war is waged and won on this tactic, that is what there will be.

Whenever I line up next to, or myself say, things like this, I recall Saki’s phrase about the reckless courage of the non-combatant. As Natalie asks, what if a relative of hers were a hostage? What if she was? What if I was?

Nevertheless, I truly believe that she is right, and there is no future in giving in to these people, and not too abysmal a hope of a present for any hostages if the captors and their fortress are stormed rather than negotiated with.

The Asian boy boom

Feeling cheerful? Have a read of this:

In a new book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer warn that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these “surplus males” will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young men’s aggressive energies.

“In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause,” says Ms. Hudson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.

With luck, if the two armies do go to war, it will be against each other.

Apart from that, what is the answer? Homosexuality via genetic modification, administered with magic gamma rays beamed in by satellites? Male death, ditto? An immediate plan by someone to test-tube a lot of girls, now? Polyandry? When confronting such a problem we generally find that the answers have a way of mutating into grisly restatements of the problem. How can we avoid …?

In the words of Noel Coward, there are, as always, bad times just around the corner, although that song (recently covered with what appear to be somewhat rehashed words by Robbie Williams) was originally only about places like Kettering (where I believe this Samizdatista lives), Hull and the isle of (because it rhymes with Hull) Mull.