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]

The New Statesman gets it right

It seems like we are getting there. The serious press is starting to understand the threat posed by the nationalisation of personal identity dressed up as a populist system of “ID Cards”

This devastating quote appeared in an article in the New Statesman, house magazine of the British political left:

“Public opinion likes the idea of ID cards because it seems like the ultimate solution to all known problems,” says Brian Gladman, retired director of strategic electronic communications at the Ministry of Defence. “But actually, the way this bill is designed enables a police state. You’re not going to be allowed to opt out of having an ID card, the linked databases make detailed tracking feasible, and a system with this combination of complexity and scale is way beyond the state of the art. It won’t be reliable or safe. Anybody with access to the database will be able to target anybody. It’s horrendous what you’ll be able to do.”

One hopes the message is now starting to get through to Labour MPs, and they may find important other things to do rather than vote for the second reading (the first non-formal stage) in parliament.


A very small silver lining to the very large dark cloud that overshadows these violent times is that the war on drugs – that is to say the “war” on a particular form of unhealthy behaviour – no longer gets the prestige it once did. I think someone is feeling left out.

Police have claimed new successes in the war on drugs in central Scotland.

Officers have swooped on nearly 20 homes in the Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire areas in the past week as part of Operation Overlord.

They called it Operation Overlord?

Did Congress pass a law or something?

According to the New York Times:

An American military inquiry has uncovered five instances in which guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba mishandled the Koran, but found “no credible evidence” to substantiate claims that it was ever flushed down a toilet, the chief of the investigation said on Thursday.

All but one of the five incidents appear to have taken place before January 2003. In three cases, the mishandling of the Koran appears to have been deliberate, and in two it was accidental or unintentional, the commander said, adding that four cases involved guards, and one an interrogator. Two service members have been punished for their conduct, one recently.

I am not sure if the service members that were punished had other things to answer for- the investigation is by no means complete, apparently.

However, I am curious if that was what they were punished for. Does the Koran have some special legal protection in the United States now?

ID card plans are back and ‘more popular’

Silicon.com reports that government wants them and the public too seems to be warming to the idea… The UK government is preparing to reintroduce legislation paving the way for its controversial biometric identity cards. The proposed legislation was dropped in the run up to the election but the controversial bill is set to be reintroduced by Home Secretary Charles Clarke on 25th May.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this week, junior Home Office minister Andy Burnham said ID cards will give the public a “highly secure” way of protecting against identity theft which costs the UK economy £1.3bn a year and that support for identity cards was running at around 80 per cent. This was due to growing awareness of identity fraud.

Early analysis of the scheme that is being developed has indicated that the benefits – including to the public sector in terms of cutting fraud and the improper use of services, and to the private sector in terms of cutting identity fraud – will, when the scheme is fully operational, outweigh its cost.

Research released earlier this week reveals 57 per cent of adults aged between 16 and 64 said the controversial ID card is either their first or second preference for protecting their identity. David Porter, head of security and risk at Detica, says the problem of electoral fraud is one issue which “throws the spotlight back onto ID cards” – most notably the problem of people voting in person with no required proof of identity.

So in order to stop identity theft that has very little to do with the ability to identify people correctly and more to do with the stupidity of people guarding their details, we are going to change the balance of power between the state and the individual. No prizes for guessing which way… And the central identity database is going to make it identity theft simpler, if you ask me as you’ll only have to fool one system.

What about beard-trimmers?

This kind of thing used to enrage me. Then it got to the stage where it embarrassed me. Then it began to perplex me. But now, I am almost entirely resigned.

Go on, do your very worst. Bring it on:

A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing.

A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase – and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.

Next: Doctors call for ban on opposable thumbs.

Voting is just for show

Having been subjected to some robust criticism for my occasional cyncism about the whole modern democratic process, I am actually a little peeved to discover that I am but a mere dilettante:

If the French and the Dutch reject the EU Constitution on Sunday and Wednesday, they should re-run the referendums, the current president of the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said.

“If at the end of the ratification process, we do not manage to solve the problems, the countries that would have said No, would have to ask themselves the question again”, Mr Juncker said in an interview with Belgian daily Le Soir.

‘No’ is not the right answer, you see.

The whole bloody continent is heading for another war. Britain out now.

Sidenote: This Mr. Juncker chappie is the president of the EU? Hands up anyone, anywhere who has ever heard of him!

Strangeness in Zürich

Whilst in Zürich on business, I was puzzled to see large teddy bears everywhere on almost every street corner in the centre of town and a veritable platoon of them in the Bahnhoff … there seems to be literally hundreds of them scattered around the city. It is certainly interesting but I have no idea why they are there. Does anyone know?






Interesting but… a bit perplexing

Who says the Swiss have no sence of humour?

A big weekend in France

French voters go to the polls this weekend to vote on the European Union constitution, with polls so far suggesting that the “no’s” will narrowly win and shaft the wretched project, although one should never, ever under-estimate the ability of the political establishment to scare voters into saying “oui”. My hope, needless to say, is that the French vote against the constitution and throw a great big spanner in the works and prevent the creation of what will be, explicitly, a European superstate.

It is pointless at this vantage point to guess exactly what will be the impact on British political life if the French do nix the constitution. My rough guess is that Blair will secretly breath a deep sigh of relief, as will the Tories. I also think that the United States will also be glad about a no vote, although I am just guessing.

As Anatole Kaletsky writes in the Times today, the chronic underperformance of the euro zone economy is at the heart of much of that disenchantment (although other issues are important too).

Here’s a key graf:

The relative economic decline of “old” Europe since the early 1990s – especially of Germany and Italy, but also of the Netherlands and France – has been a disaster almost unparalleled in modern history. While Britain and Japan certainly suffered some massive economic dislocations, in the early 1980s and the mid-1990s respectively, they never experienced the same sort of permanent transformation from thriving full-employment economies to stagnant societies where mass unemployment and falling living standards are accepted as permanent facts of life. In Britain, unemployment more than doubled from 1980 to 1984, but conditions then quickly improved. By the late 1980s it was enjoying a boom, the economy was growing by 4 per cent and unemployment had halved. In continental Europe, by contrast, unemployment has been stuck between 8 and 11 per cent since 1991 and growth has reached 3 per cent only once in those 14 years.

He has a point, although I am struck by the fact that in France, much of the hostility to the constitution is coming not from pro-free marketeers, as is the case in many respects in Britain, but from those who fear that the process will open up France’s high regulated, high-tax economy to the icy winds of laissez faire. The ironies abound.

Of course, the fact of mere voters saying no to the EU juggernaut is unlikely to deflect the mixed assortment of deluded idealists, crooks, place-seekers and sundry camp-followers from trying to advance their aims. But a delicious irony would it be if the land of Bonaparte, de Gaulle and Asterix puts a major block in their path.

Only a game

I am definitely not a real football fan. If the team I want to win is winning, well jolly ho. If it is losing, then it is only a game and nothing to get fussed about it.

So when I came home from a walk along the river in the evening sunshine, to find that Liverpool were already 3-0 down in the European Cup Final against AC Milan, it was no great source of sadness to me. Only a game. I switched to CSI Miami.

But every so often I flipped back to see how Liverpool were doing, and quite by chance, I caught the first Liverpool goal, scored by captain Steven Gerrard. Hullo, said the commentator. Expectantly. And prophetically.

When I next flipped back from the gruesomenesses of CSI, Liverpool were already celebrating goal number two, scored by substitute Smicer (pronounced Smeetzer), and on my next visit I saw Liverpool get awarded a penalty.

At this point, I did not want to watch it, not because it did not matter, but because it did. It had gone from Only A Game to: God On A Bike!!! in the space of about five minutes. If I allowed myself to get all excited, Liverpool would then lose, and I would suffer idiotic agonies. So, back to CSI, where the news was that more people were being murdered gruesomely, by really nasty people. Lucky thing the forensic scientists all look like actors. Back to find that Liverpool have converted the penalty. (I spare myself the agony of actually witnessing what they show me later: the Milan goalie saving it and then the Liverpool guy knocking it in at the second try. This is rare.)

From then on it was a visit back every five minutes or so. 3-3. 3-3. 3-3. 3-3. Extra time looms. 3-3. 3-3. Extra time. 3-3. 3-3. 3-3. Penalty shoot out looms. 3-3. 3-3. Penalty shoot out.

Can not bear that. If I watched that I would get even more wound up, and additionally wound up by the sense of shame at getting so additionally wound up. It is only a game!!! (God on a bike!!!!)

Ten more minutes of something, else. Ooh, I wonder how the shoot out is going. Milan have missed their first two! Amazing. Liverpool are actually likely winners. So I watch their next one, and of course the Milan goalie saves it. Liverpool are still one ahead, and still probably winners, but again, over to Celebrity Home Makeover Love Island on Ice Meets Eastenders Uncovered Confidential. (Actually I think that by then it was Blackadder.) And when I go back again, Liverpool are celebrating. Bloke in specs: “Jamie, tell me honestly, did you think at half time that you had any chance?” Jamie: “No.” Bloke in specs: “Rafael, that was fantastic, fantastic.” Rafael: “Yes, bloke in specs, that was fantastic fantastic”, etc.

As Alex Ferguson said after his Manchester United won the 1999 final of the same tournament against Bayern Munich in equally improbable style, with two extra time goals from Sheringham and Solskjaer: “Football. Bloody hell.”

At half past one a.m. tomorrow morning they will be showing it again. And that I will video, and then watch it properly later, and then again in the months and years to come. That is how to enjoy sport, if you are a not-proper sports fan like me. Watch and rewatch the games your guys win in style, and forget the rest. Do not waste your one life obsessing over games that got away, or which were won by your team but unmemorably, without any amazing magic moments to savour. Take all that spiritual energy, and apply it to doing real life better, I say. My method wastes far less time on all this nonsense.

But when games go right, enjoy.

More Eye jinks

I reckon it was a plot to make us all buy two copies of the Evening Standard.

First it was:

The French are making an audacious bid to take the London Eye to Paris.

And then later in the day it was:

The London Eye was saved today after an intervention by Ken Livingstone.

In my posting about this ruckus last week, I said that this attempt to gouge a hugely increased rent out of the Wheel might be linked to the plans now in hand to redevelop the South Bank in general, and in particular to rescue the acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall. Since posting that speculation, I have actually visited the South Bank, and can confirm that building work has already begun.

What I omitted to mention was the Olympic effect. The Wheel is obviously a key part of the attempt to get the 2012 Olympics for London.

Evidently the (for now) South Bank Centre (a government funded quango) boss Lord Hollick reckoned that the Olympic effect would work in his favour, and he still might be proved right. But this is politics he is playing, not business, and it seems more likely that he will come out of this very badly. And the South Bank Centre, instead of getting a substantial fraction of the original absurd rent demand, may end up actually losing money. Hollick, by precipitating this row, has already hurt London’s Olympic bid, and Ken Livingstone surely spoke for many, high and low, when he called him a prat. And being called a prat is the least of Hollick’s problems. The trouble with playing the game of Olympic blackmail is that you are liable then to be savaged by extremely savage people, in the form of our particular feral (when angry) current batch of rulers. Hollick is going to need all the friends he can muster in the days to come.

I do not know how seriously to take the alleged French plan to ship the Wheel over to Paris and make it the cherry in the cake of the Paris bid. I love the Wheel, and never for a minute did I fear that this French plan, even assuming it was serious and not just cooked up by some friend of Ken Livingstone, or of the Evening Standard, would be allowed to come to fruition. So I laughed out loud when I first saw the headline.

I also had another laugh this evening when I looked at this website plugging the South Bank Centre, and saw this:

Situated on the South Bank of the River Thames next to the popular London Eye, the South Bank Centre is at the heart of an arts quarter stretching from the National Film Theatre to Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe.

If London loses the Olympic bid, as most of us here at Samizdata.net pray that it does, then everything will turn out splendidly. Lots of entertainment, and no actual Olympics to spoil the fun.

On the other hand, if London does get landed with the Olympics, stand by for blackmail like you’ve never seen before, from whoever decides to give it a go.

Make stupidity history

And since we are on the subject of ‘Star Wars’ this evening, it appears that Our Glorious Leader has finally been seduced by the ‘Dork Side’:

They are the must-have fashion accessory for the socially aware – and now Tony Blair has got in on the craze.

Whether worn to highlight racism, cancer research or poverty, coloured bands are a familiar sight on the wrists of footballers and pop stars.

Now the prime minister has been photographed wearing a white Make Poverty History wristband during a trip to a hospital in Edgware, north London.

Perhaps he wants to be in a filmy-wilmy with Gwynnie and Braddie?

[Furthermore, for a polished and forensic debunking of this cloth-headed, celebrity-driven codswallop, I recommend Stephen Pollard]

Bloated ambitions, thin justifications

Last summer, I went on very public record with my opinon that the überhyped and screechingly hysterical ‘obesity epidemic’ was nothing but a crock of shit, cooked up (in this country at least) by grasping public sector vested interests and amplified by their MSM handmaidens.

While I will continue to do whatever is in my power to undermine this whole wicked, mendacious plot over here, I am pleased to note that there is also some serious fightback going on over on the gun-toting side of the Atlantic:

One would be forgiven for thinking CDC stands for Center for Damage Control. Just a year after its widely-publicized and exceedingly controversial announcement that excess weight kills 400,000 Americans annually, the agency is rumbling, bumbling, stumbling toward an explanation for a new study that says the real figure is just 26,000.

Unfortunately, trial lawyers who see dollar signs where the rest of us see dinner have seized on the CDC’s 400,000 deaths number to justify their frivolous crusades.

Now word comes from experts within the CDC that excess weight is about one-fifteenth as dangerous as previously thought, and has a lower death toll than diseases like septicemia and nephritis. Each death is of course tragic. But has anyone heard of the septicemia “epidemic” or the nephritis “tsunami”?

It’s said that a lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Well, the truth about obesity is finally lacing up. And that’s bad news for trial lawyers pursuing obesity lawsuits against food and beverage companies as well as the self-appointed diet dictators seeking extra taxes on foods they don’t like.

Not that that will stop them, mind. Truth has little currency when compared to the value of a well-forged career-path or the tantalising lure of brimming public coffers. (By the way, the link above is to the website of an American organisation called the ‘Center for Consumer Freedom’. Not only do they appear to be on the side of the Angels but their website looks like an excellent activist resource that is well worth a bookmark).

Still, the backlash has to begin somewhere, somehow and debunking the fraudulently inflated statistics is an important part of that process. However, it is equally important to maintain the principle that, even if all the har’em-scar’em statistics were true (which they clearly are not) then the responsibility for and solution to the problem of obesity lies with the obese themselves and not with judicial system or the apparatus of tax-collection.

[My thanks to Dr.Chris Tame who posted this link to the Libertarian Alliance Forum].