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]

Taking a hard line in Basra

Some of Britain’s problems right now in Basra are a consequence of the absurdity of Muqtada al Sadr still walking around when killing him last year would have been clearly legitimate and just a damn good idea. At the very least he should be sitting in a prison cell. This is not an election campaign, it is an insurgency and the US missed a big opportunity to ‘retire’ Sadr when his militia previously fought against the allied armies.

When I called for ‘no pussyfooting around’, I was just suggesting that when an Iraqi faction shoots at British soldiers or throws petrol bombs at them, the respsonce should not be to just ‘contain’ it or to ‘negotiate’ with the faction responsible (at least not until much later after it has been suitably knocked down to size), no, it should be to use all the force at their disposal to try and cut that faction to pieces. Moreover, it should result in significent reinforcements being sent to give UK forces more options.

People like Sadr will use violence only if they think using violence will gain them a political advantage at a tolerable cost… so the trick is to make the cost intolerable. It is crazy to give such people a ‘second chance’ during an active insurgency as clearly all Sadr has done is use the time since he last took on the occupying powers to rebuild his power base. No, just treat the guy like the Islamo-fascist he is, put a bullet through his head and make it clear that hard line Islamists militias will not be tolerated in the Iraq.

So if local administration in Basra were truly considering handing British soldiers over to Sadr’s militia, then they need to be dragged into the nearest HQ and told if they plan on growing old, that sort of behaviour is a very bad idea. Far from giving them an apology that those undercover SAS man were free by force, they should be told to ‘get stuffed’ and expect more of the same if they prove by their actions that they are the enemy.

This does not look good

Rita is starting to look like she is right up there amongst the mothers of all storms. According to the National Weather Service:

WTNT63 KNHC 212351
650 PM CDT WED SEP 21 2005





If you are in Rita’s path, please get out.

UPDATE: Here is the current (updated hourly) satellite image of Rita.

UPDATE: Current Category 4 warning. Note that Lake Ponchartrain and New Orleans are within the danger zone.

Goodbye Kyoto

Allan M.R. MacRae of Calgary, Canada points out something rather interesting that seems to have gone largely unreported in the mainstream media.

Here are verbatim quotes by Tony Blair from the September 15, 2005 Plenary Session of the Clinton Global Initiative Conference.

Tony Blair seems to have let the cat out of the bag on his new energy policy at the Clinton Global Initiative Conference last week. Blair said:

“I would say probably I’m changing my thinking about this [Kyoto treaty] in the past two or three years…

…The truth is no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem…

…There is no way we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology…

…Some people have signed Kyoto, some people haven’t signed Kyoto, right. That is a disagreement. It’s there. It’s not going to be resolved…

…I don’t think people are going, at least in the short term, going to start negotiating another major treaty like Kyoto.”

This must be a major disappointment to Kyoto enthusiasts, who say ten more Kyotos are needed for effective reduction of atmospheric CO2.

On July 12, 2005, on the subject of the Gleneagles Summit, I wrote the following to a number of colleagues:

“…we may now be at a point where many Euro politicians are realizing the science of Kyoto is bogus, but they are reluctant to admit they have been duped about global warming and have misled their public with scary stories for which there was no evidence – their new approach suggests a politically-correct “quiet exit” from Kyoto. We’ll see…”

Allan M.R. MacRae

Stockholm syndrome?

One cannot say, in general, that there should be more
or less legislation: that is for governments to
decide. If the present volume of legislation is
causing problems at the various stages of the
legislative process – and all our evidence confirms
that this is so – the first requirement is not a
reduction in that volume, but improvements in the
process at those stages where it is under strain. The
kitchen should be big enough and properly equipped to
satisfy the legislative appetite.

Making the Law, Hansard Society, 1993.

So much for separation of powers in the view of serious British parliamentarians.

Houston and Galveston in the cross hairs?

We will just have to get used to bigger storms as we head deeper into the upside of the decades long Atlantic storm cycle. Over the next decade nature will be reclaiming land which became saleable during the downside of the cycle. Unfortunately there are some pretty useful things in threatened areas. One of which is the marvellous Lone Star Flight Museum.

I hope they are getting their airframes out of Dodge and their exhibits to safety. I would hate to see a repeat of what happened to Kermit Week’s collection in Florida about ten years ago.

“Space Race” on BBC2

Tonight I watched the excellent second episode of a BBC series on the US/USSR space race of the 1950’s and 1960’s. I found it highly entertaining and well worth the watching.

As some of you are aware, I have some slight knowledge in this area. It was for the most part well researched and an accurate portrayal both of historical facts and the atmosphere of the time. I found the use of bits of old black and white TV from the period fascinating. I must also admit to recognizing the Life Magazine covers as those and Werner’s Disney appearances had at least something to do with my own passion for space.

This would not be a proper review if I did not also point out what was wrong. The history they presented was what anyone would find by researching the times and accepting the received wisdom about ‘what happened’. There was more to the events of the era than most are aware of even though a great deal of it is no longer classified.

There was more at stake than whether ex-German Werner Von Braun launched the first satellite or not. There was an intelligence sting in progress; perhaps one of the most successful in US intelligence history.

The story began some years earlier with a top secret report on the use of space for military purposes, and in particular for spy satellites. The problem was whether flying an object repeatedly and undeniably over an enemy nation would be taken as an aggressive act. Would satellites be treated the same as Francis Gary Powers and his U2 were treated many years later? That was the sticky point, and the way around it was to make sure the Russians were suckered into doing it first. Once they had established the ‘open skies’ precedent, the US was free to roll out the spy satellites. It was no accident that the technology was ready to go and that many of the early Explorer’s were less than scientific in purpose.

The public response, or ‘blowback’ caught Eisenhower by surprise. He’d accomplished precisely what he had wanted to accomplish but was now publicly on the hook for a missile gap which did not actually exist. Even at the time of the Nixon-Kennedy debates, the Russians did not have a significant number of ICBM’s reliable enough to generate a serious strategic threat to America. LBJ, as a member of a key Senate committee was well aware of the real facts and almost certainly used the fact of their secrecy to his and Kennedy’s political advantage.

Meanwhile, Nixon had to hold his tongue on the issue. Some pundits have suggested this may have caused him to strike back in inappropriate ways a decade later, leading to the Watergate fiasco. Personally I cannot forget that he was a key player in the McCarthy hearings of the early fifties, hearings which ruined many lives and did not uncover any of the real Stalinist moles in the heart of the US government.

I will not hold this against the BBC however. Few are aware of this bit of history and there are many who consider it controversial.

I give the BBC an 8.5 for history and a solid 10 for presentation and entertainment.

“I am The Law”

We know that it took Ian Blair a day to find out that an innocent man was killed by his officers. We know that he foresees little difficulty in retraining ex-soldiers on short-term contracts to act as armed police officers, accelerating the trend towards paramilitary forces in British cities.

Sir Ian’s suggestion that soldiers could be used as firearm officers is specially controversial after the shooting in London in July of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician mistaken for a suicide bomber the day after the failed July 21 attacks.

A Scotland Yard spokesman later said that retiring servicemen were just one group with pre-existing skills that could be hired on short-term contracts to allow police officers to focus on core policing activities. “It is absolutely not about hiring in soldiers for use on London’s streets,” the spokesman said.

We also know that, infected by memes of ‘command and control’, he wishes to shortcircuit archaic constitutional liberties that protect the individual, reduce the accountability of the police and give them additional quasi-judicial powers:

Radical proposals for a new breed of supercop with on-the-spot powers to confiscate driving licences and issue Anti-Social Behaviour Orders have been put forward by Britain’s top policeman.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, whose proposals were backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), admitted allowing officers to impose instant punishments could blur the line between police and magistrates…..

Director of civil rights group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, accused the Commissioner of behaving like Judge Dredd, the post-apocalyptic policeman-come-executioner in British comic 2000AD, whose catchphrase is “I am the law”.

Ian Blair stated that he thought of resigning (as if it were a particularly hard day at the office?) :

However, he told Mr Sakur he did not come “very close at all” to quitting. “Because the big job is to defend this country against terrorism and that’s what I’m here to do.” He added it would not have been right for the force, “the country or the city of London” for him to resign.

Yes it would.

Inventors ripped off in secret undersea phone tap technology

Respect for property rights in America seems to be at a new low these last few years. Just a few months ago we heard the Supreme Court announce that any government can apply Eminent Domain to steal pretty much anything it wants.

Now we have the Federal Government using a technology for ‘secret’ purposes and making sure the inventors cannot sue for fair recompense.

I do not know about you, but I do not find it surprising enough to warrant high secrecy that the US government is using submarines to tap undersea cables. They have been doing this for decades, albiet with copper. They even had a special submarine for it, the USS Halibut.

I can understand sensitivity to which cables and what data… but to pretend that we do not already know what they are doing is much like the 3 year old with a cake smeared face confronted with the empty cake plate proclaiming: “I didn’t do it!”

Samizdata quote of the day


I am terrored! A film has just arrived on the markets of Cameroon, this film the American Police Team or some name that is similar. My nephew, purchased this and asked me to watch because he said is had something to do with DPRK. The shock I see! The general, beloved general, Kim Jong Il is a puppet character in this film and speaking the most offending things! He swears in English, kills his interpreter, and turns into a small insect at the end. They make the Dear Leader to be evil man, and lonely man. They find risible the undying love of the Korean people? They think the leadership of DPRK and the revolution is a joke? Forgive me for saying but makers of this film are bastard people! I denounce them and curse them! Bastard people!

Can we not complain to someone about such slander? Why has not the KCNA denounced this piece of capitalist propaganda? To think that they make light of the general and debase his greatness!


J Nelson reacting to this – thank you Mark Holland

The bourgeois nature of Chinese propaganda art

I love the internet. I went from this, which I posted here, to this, to this, to this, to this:


. . . to this:


. . . . which is the work of Ha Qiongwen. Of this particular poster, Stefan Landsberger says:

The design reproduced above was at the root of Ha’s problems: why had he depicted a bourgeois woman instead of a female proletarian? Where was Chairman Mao? Why didn’t the poster praise the Chairman more explicitly? Every time the literature and arts world held a criticism session, he was dragged out as an object of public abuse. As a result, Ha was publicly beaten and humiliated more than thirty times.

Personally I think the Red Guards were on to something. I think these delightful and amazing Chinese propaganda posters and China’s current, rampantly aspirational and bourgeois rise towards superpowerdom are cause and effect.

I offered further thoughts along these lines in this ASI blog posting . This is the bit that is relevant:

I recently encountered, in a remainder shop, a big book containing hundreds of Chinese Communist propaganda posters, much like these ones. They depict a vivid and colourful fantasy world of industrial excellence and economic triumph, of collective progress and personal fulfilment, of joy. The people who now preside over China’s current economic miracle were teenagers when posters like these were at the height of their influence, and I think this is no coincidence. It makes perfect sense to me that the more imaginative and impressionable people brought up on imagery like this would turn away in disgust from the lumbering state centralism that these posters were intended to sell, once they realized that state centralism could never deliver such wonders, and instead switch to being enthusiastic pro-capitalists and even capitalist entrepreneurs. After all, only if China switched to capitalism could a real future like this be even hoped for, let alone rationally anticipated.

If you follow the link in that and scroll down to the bottom, you get to this:


Red Guards eat your hearts out.

(I now possess that book.)

Did Ayn Rand have anything to say about these Chinese posters? She should have.

No pussyfooting around please

If the Iraqi local administration in Basra was, as claimed, about to hand over a pair of captured SAS under-cover soldiers that were in their custody to a hostile militia, then it seems that the escalation of tension and violence in Basra should be escalated further… by the British army.

Lesson One of occupying a country has to be to let any local administration know that it is the occupying army that is ultimately in control. The logic is clear: if we are there until Iraq (or whatever comes after the break-up of a unitary Iraq) has been sufficiently stabilised, then we must expect the army to use force to stabilise things, and that is a euphemism for being willing to kill people who oppose that process or interfere with military operations. If the local administration has indeed been infiltrated by enemies with antithetical aims who are cooperating with the enemy, then politics is probably not the answer at this juncture, force is. Unmake the local administration and replace it with another one at bayonet point. Show people in Iraq that some options are simply not on the menu. This is not a normal functioning civil society and should not be treated as one, any more than post-war West Germany was until acceptable institutions were in place to allow it to function as a viable post-totalitarian nation.

If Britain’s government ever wants to extract its forces at some point in the future without leaving behind something almost as bad as what was there before, it needs to be ruthless and none too squeamish. If this is a revelation to the UK government, I cannot imagine what it was thinking when this whole process started. When the decision to use force is made, use it effectively and resolutely, giving the Army the resources and support it needs to prevail… or if Tony Blair is not willing to do that, he had no business using force in the first place. What else was he expecting?

Britain’s film industry on the skids?

The BBC is reporting that the British film industry – however defined – cut its total payroll by about 20 percent in 2004, caused in part by uncertainties over the future tax treatment of said industry. It is a familiar tale.

British governments, especially the current Labour one, liked to attract the plaudits of the film-buff classes by promising to shower grants and tax breaks on the film business, but the returns on all this activity have been mixed at best. I am not sure whether tax is the prime reason for choosing to avoid Britain or not. Surely the availability of top talent, on both sides of the camera; good locations, ease of access and relatively decent labour market conditions also play a big part in all this. The latter point gets overlooked, particularly given the still-severe armlock on the industry by the acting union Equity, which operates a closed shop system on the industry.

Another thing – far too many British films try to go for the “quirky” or period-piece route and I suspect that the industry is now saddled with a fairly set image. Brits continue to ply their trade around the world – some of the best movie directors, special effects artists and so forth are Brits – so maybe some concerns are misplaced. Film-making is a global industry anyway and I would not be at all surprised if a lot of work is getting outsourced to cheaper locales like India.

I do not believe the government should dangle even bigger tax breaks under the noses of our would-be Spielbergs or Ridley Scotts to get them to make movies here. Cutting taxes overall and keeping labour costs free of regulatory red tape would be a better long-term bet. The film industry is a nice thing to have but it does not deserve and should not get, special treatment from the State.