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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

I’ll see your bid and raise it

The tsunami disaster in Asia appears to have spawned something of a pissing contest in the West:

The US plans to increase by 10-fold – to $350m – its contribution to help the survivors of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The largest pledge so far was made just before talks between senior US and UN figures on co-ordinating aid efforts.

HMG may now be forced to raise its own bid. And the French. And the Germans, And the Japanese. And the Australians. And then the Americans will feel obliged to up the ante again in this unseemly ‘my-foreign-aid-dick-is-bigger-than-yours’ antler-lock.

And people call me cynical!

Friday is the day for cats?

Here is my mother’s new kitten.


Happy new year everyone.

Governments cannot be charitable

When people criticise ‘America’ for not giving more money to help with the horrendous calamity that has overwhelmed a large part of southern coastal Asia, they really need to keep in mind that, as mentioned on James Bartholomew’s site, private aid does not get counted and that far outwieghs US government aid. Moreover, money received from a nation-state cannot be charity as the money is not freely given, whereas willingly donated private funds are true charity.

Start your conspiracy theories

Ok, so I have been told some fruitcake stated the tsunamis were ‘Gaia’s revenge’1 (which would explain why it was only SUV driving capitalists who were drowned)… but how long before some nut job decides that the tsunami was actually caused by the Americans setting off nukes on the seabed? You just know it is going to happen!

1 = anyone have a link to this or other similar moonbatness?

Who make da wave? WHO????

Polly Toynbee gets her priorities right:

Social democracy and global cooperation are struggling under the tsunami of US neoconservatism.

Few things in life are as reliable as the Guardian.

My New Years Resolutions

1- To quit smoking
2- To lose weight
3- To post more and better stuff on Samizdata.net

Happy New Year to all my fellow contributors and to the readers.

Possible light blogging…

…as many of the Samizatistas are locked in deadly contests with several bottles of excellent Port at a party at Samizdata HQ tonight

Update: (from MJ)


David Carr was particularly cutting at the party in question. (Of course, he could get ten years for this)..

Wanted – more rocket scientists

As regulators impose more onerous capital adequacy and reporting requirements on the Western world’s banks, investment firms and brokerages, demand surges for increasingly sophisticated computer infrastructure to keep track of all the new systems deemed necessary to make the regulations work. As a result, demand is rising, according to this Financial Times article, for graduates with science degrees, especially in the field of physics. And it does not come as much of a surprise to learn that Britain’s mostly state-run education system is not doing a very good job at churning out young physics students. I am shocked, shocked to hear this!

I would greatly prefer it if clever folk with scientific knowledge were engaged in the potentially fruitful areas of nanotechnology, biotech, aviation and civil engineering, all fields likely to see continued rapid growth, than working to make increasingly Byzantine bank regulations work better. It looks like a waste to me. We want our budding Isaac Newtons and Richard Feynmans working on spacecraft, not greasing the wheels of the latest EU banking directive.

Soldiers Question Rumsfeld

The media lads are quick to jump on their own planted questions, but I doubt they will pick up on this rather incisive remark from a soldier when Rumsfeld spoke in Mosul yesterday:

Q: Sir, how do we win the war in the media? It seems like that is the place where we’re getting beat up more than anybody else? I’ve been here – this is my third tour over here and we’ve done some amazing things. And it seems like the enemy’s Web sites and everything else, they’re all over the media and they love it. But the thing is everything we did good, no matter if it’s helping a little kid or building a new school, the public affairs sends out the message, but the media doesn’t pick up on it. How do we win the propaganda war?

It is not really the job of the DOD to win an internal propaganda war. Mr. Rumsfeld indicated his understanding of this in his answer. The press has a right to do what it is doing and nothing can or should be done about that side of the equation. On the other hand, every Yin must have its Yang. The one-sided nothingness of the old media universe begat the blogosphere in a balance restoring reaction.

Here on Samizdata, terrorists are named the enemy and coalition forces are our people. We make no bones about it, make no false pretentions of neutrality. I consult in Manhattan (I will be on that side of the Atlantic much of January) and DC; I grew up in small town Western Pennsylvania(*); people I know work or have worked in the Pentagon at low levels. Perry worked in the World Trade Center during one phase of his life. For us, neutrality is not an option. We and people we know and love are in the enemy’s crosshairs.

This does not mean we will give the State a pass on much of anything. You will find us solidly against most of the civil liberty undermining machinations in Congress. We do not believe in winning a war by turning America (or the UK here) into a prison camp. We believe in winning it by going out and killing the enemy.

* However I was born in Florida and most of the family is in the Carolinas. I therefore claim red-blooded American status. Besides which, the Western Pennsylvania towns and countryside where I grew up are pretty solidly Jacksonian.

EDITOR: For those who may be interested, here is the transcript of the original DOD Town Hall Meeting at which a soldier passed on a question for an embedded reporter. It has been much reported on since so I will not bore you with a rehash. Other DOD transcripts following the aforementioned cover the up-armouring issue in excruciating detail.

Not much space in those cavities

Of all the criticisms of the War on Terror (and there are many legitimate ones), at least there appears to be no intention on the part of the prosecutors to deliberately target children.

Alas, the same cannot be said for the War on Drugs:

PUPILS at a secondary school will undergo random drug testing when they return from the Christmas holiday next week in what is believed to be the first state scheme of its kind.

Students as young as 11 at The Abbey School in Faversham, Kent, will have mouth swabs taken to detect the use of drugs including cannabis, cocaine and Ecstasy, Peter Walker, the headmaster, said.

Oh but why settle for all these namby-pamby, milquetoast, half-measures? There is only one sure way to stop children taking drugs: kill them.

Yes, that’s it! Kill the little bastards. Think of all the valuable police and court time it will save, not to mention precious and overstretched NHS resources.

Kill them all now. You know it makes sense. If it saves just one child from a life on drugs it’s worth it. It’s for their own good. It’s called ‘tough love’…etc…etc… (adding shopworn cliches infinitum).

Contributions via Arthur C Clarke

Arthur C Clarke has stated via Jose Cordeiro, roving ambassador for the World Transhumanist Organisation, that he is safe and well. Here is his brief message on the catastrophe, including websites for providing aid in Sri Lanka.

I am enormously relieved that my family and household have escaped the ravages of the sea that suddenly invaded most parts of coastal Sri Lanka, leaving a trail of destruction.

But many others were not so fortunate. For over two million Sri Lankans and a large number of foreign tourists holidaying here, the day after Christmas turned out to be a living nightmare reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow. My heart-felt sympathy goes out to all those who lost family members or friends.

Among those who directly experienced the waves were my staff based at our diving station in Hikkaduwa, and my holiday bungalows in Kahawa and Thiranagama ­ all beachfront properties located in southern areas that were badly hit. Our staff members are all safe, even though some are badly shaken and relate harrowing first hand accounts of what happened. Most of our diving equipment and boats at Hikkaduwa were washed away. We still don’t know the full extent of damage — it will take a while for us to take stock as accessing these areas is still difficult.

This is indeed a disaster of unprecedented magnitude for Sri Lanka, which lacks the resources and capacity to cope with the aftermath. We are encouraging concerned friends to contribute to the relief efforts launched by various national and international organisations. If you wish to join these efforts, I can recommend two options.

– Contribute to a Sri Lanka disaster relief fund launched by an internationally operating humanitarian charity, such as Care or Oxfam.

– Alternatively, considering supporting Sarvodaya, the largest development charity in Sri Lanka, which has a 45-year track record in reaching out and helping the poorest of the poor. Sarvodaya has mounted a well organised, countrywide relief effort using their countrywide network of offices and volunteers who work in all parts of the country, well above ethnic and other divisions. Their website, www.sarvodaya.lk, provides bank account details for financial donations. They also welcome contributions in kind — a list of urgently needed items is found at: http://www.sarvodaya.lk/Inside_Page/urgently%20needed.htm

There is much to be done in both short and long terms for Sri Lanka to raise its head from this blow from the seas. Among other things, the country needs to improve its technical and communications facilities so that effective early warnings can help minimise losses in future disasters.

Curiously enough, in my first book on Sri Lanka, I had written about another tidal wave reaching the Galle harbour (see Chapter 8 in The Reefs of Taprobane, 1957). That happened in August 1883, following the eruption of Krakatoa in roughly the same part of the Indian Ocean.

Arthur Clarke
29 December 2004

Onwards and outwards

Dale Amon is Samizdata.net’s man in the know about this stuff, but I link to it also, if only because the enemies of freedom (see the first paragraph of the first comment on this posting) seem to hate it so much, and write attacks (“Among their sacred causes are the decontrol of gun ownership and decriminalisation of all drugs…”) on Samizdata.net that could not be bettered if Samidata.net had paid for them.

Like SpaceShipOne, the homebuilt rocketship that claimed a £5.2m cash prize for twice reaching suborbital space, Rutan’s next creation will travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere as well.

SpaceShipTwo (SS2), however, will have more than a single occupant.

Rutan is toying with designs to accommodate up to eight passengers at a time, with enough upgrades to warrant a ticket in the £104,000 (£200,000) price range.

“I think anyone who had the chance to go would want to go,” said Trevor Beattie, a British advertising personality, who already has booked a flight.

Rutan, who has been averaging better than one new aircraft design every year for the past three decades, says he is finished with airplanes for a while.

The mission now for his Mojave-based company, Scaled Composites, is to create 3,000 new astronauts a year – per departure point, Rutan adds, and per ship.

“Mojave is not going to be the only place in the world where there will be a place to buy tickets and fly a spaceflight,” Rutan said.

Not everything in the world is good just now, and that would have been true even without that terrible earthquake. But some things are going very well.