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]

He’s no fun, he fell right over

It seems a Japanese company has invented a human steering device. It is external, harmless and affects the sense of balance.

The article suggests uses in gaming where tweaking the balance system helps make immersive gaming more realistic. One must wonder: how much time will pass before the porn industry picks up on this?

There are darker uses I am sure you can easily imagine. A company is already studying the use of the ideas for crowd control by affecting their sense of balance. One can imagine implants to control gulag prisoners of future Stalin’s.

My dark crystal gets darker still from there.

M, call your office

It turns out that Daniel Craig, the latest man to play 007, might not be cut out of the sort of material that Ian Fleming might have imagined. The guy doesn’t even like the Bond-style martinis!

Never mind. Whatever happens to the series, we will always have the early Sean Connery films to treasure.

Bob Bidinotto is unimpressed.

On property

The great irony is that the most fundamental right to individual sovereignty—private property—is the one most highly questioned. Property rights are usually construed narrowly to cover only things that can be exchanged, given away, or abandoned. But since a property right is the right to use and dispose of something, it actually has a far broader meaning. One begins with a right to one’s own person, including one’s body and energies. Indeed, this is that basic right that gives rise to the right to appropriate unowned objects from nature and to exchange peacefully acquired property with willing traders. In fact, without property rights there are no no rights at all.

From the Independent Institute.

Galloway’s desserts

Well, one hopes this means George Galloway will never sully our shores again.

Although, really, how low does a man have to sink to be contemptible, to a US Senator?

Samizdata quote of the day

“We must have faith in the social and economic benefits of the free market. A real programme for prosperity will progressively remove the barriers to wealth creation in Britain today. We need to open ourselves to risk and treat adults like adults. The stock of regulations must be reduced: we should trust people to make their own mistakes and learn from them. And the flow of new regulation from the EU must also be reduced: our aim should be to take back control of employment and social regulation…

“We must reduce and simplify taxes so we can take on with confidence the long term challenge of competing with China and India for jobs. This means not only proper control of public spending, but also a thoughtful and long-term strategy for tax reduction.”

David Cameron MP

The end of Conservative oppositionism?

Something extremely interesting has just been reported on Newsnight.

David Cameron has apparently been saying for some time now (but I missed it until now) that he is against “opposition for opposition’s sake” and that the Conservatives may well be voting for the Government’s latest education reforms. David Cameron is and has for some time been the Conservative spokesman on education, and he seems to be handling the Conservative response to these proposals.

Yesterday I did a posting concerning Cameron, and the consensus among the Samizdata commentariat was that nobody knew what Cameron stood for, or what any of his ideas might be. But I think what we have here is an idea of great importance. Maybe not an especially original one, and long overdue, but extremely potent mevertheless.

The Conservative Opposition has spent the last decade opposing everything that the Government has done, a process which I particularly associate with William Hague, but which his successors have not fundamentally altered. And since the Government has been relentlessly “triangulating” – i.e. stealing whichever Conservative policies they think are popular or which they think will eventually prove popular because they think that they will in the meantime work – this has meant the Conservatives suffering from a permanent, yet self-imposed, philosophical incoherence.

One moment the Conservatives would be saying that something or other that the Government was talking about should be more market-oriented. A moment later, some other Government initiative that was more market-oriented would be complained about. Complained about, as Cameron has apparently said, for the sake of complaining. One moment the Government was being not tough enough on terrorists, the next moment too tough, for doing pretty much what the Conservatives had just said they should do in another context. This is not opposition, so much as opposition-ism. It says: whatever they do is wrong! Never mind why. Never mind what we would do, or what we really think of it. Denounce it! We just scrape up whatever mud we can find on the floor and chuck it at them. No wonder the Conservatives have won parliamentary battle after parliamentary battle, but have been slaughtered again and again in the electoral war.

What would the Conservatives do, if they were the Government? For the last ten years, they have offered no sort of answer. And for this reason, there has been, in the competitive sense, no opposition, because no alternative Government that it made sense to even consider voting for. All anyone knew about the Conservatives was that they did not like the Government. Big surprise. But that is not a policy; it is a mere emotion. It has condemned the Conservatives to relentless irrelevance and unending public ridicule.

Now, if this “Cameron doctrine” is what it appears to be, and more to the point, if it goes into action right across the board, with David Cameron imposing it across the board in his capacity as Conservative Leader, New Labour will finally face what you might call a New Nightmare.

Take these education reforms. Blair says they are intended to make schools more independent and self-governed, and less controlled by local authorities. This is very Conservative friendly stuff, and not at all Labour friendly. There is a good chance that the massed ranks of Labour MPs will not vote for these reforms in nearly sufficient numbers, but that a more unified Conservative Party will see the reforms through nevertheless. This will split the Labour Party from top to bottom. We are doing Conservative policy! And with Conservative help! And in spite of our core beliefs!

Repeat that procedure every time Blair presents one of his reforms, but oppose ferociously when they resort to old fashioned, Old Labour, collectivism, and suddenly it is a new Parliamentary ball game.

It gets worse for Labour. In the electorate as a whole, the question will start to be asked: if we already have a Government that does Conservative things, despite its own supporters, and if that is what that nice Mr Blair thinks should be done, then does it not make sense to vote for the real thing, and vote in a real Conservative Government?

This is a tactical switch that the Conservatives should, from the purely political and competitive point of view, have done years ago. Finally, they have done it.

Or then again, maybe they have not. Cameron might not win the Conservative Leadership. Davies might go back to crass oppositionism. Cameron may win, but it may turn out that “opposition for opposition’s sake” was just a nice sounding phrase to win him the job, and he will then forget about it and carry on with the mud slinging.

But, this might just be a political turning point.

Does having a smoke make you dumb?

A study claims that the long-term effects of smoking tobacco can impair mental functions. My goodness, what other horrors can the dreaded weed be held responsible for? I don’t smoke and dislike the pong of cigarette smoke in my clothes after visiting a pub, but is there no limit to the ways in which our blessed medical profession want to condemn smoking? The claim rings false to me (I am not a scientist mind so if this can be verified in a peer-reviewed journal, I’ll stand corrected). There have been lots of brainy smokers over the years, surely.

I wonder how many members of Mensa have been smokers?

Brazil scores a magnificent goal!

Despite the urging of much of Brazil’s ruling classes to support the measure, the world’s first national referendum which put the proposition to ban the sale of firearms was smashed decisively by a 2:1 margin.

The people who are baffled why so many common people in a murder wracked country like Brazil would oppose such a measure need to realise that it is precisely because the country has such problems with violent crime that people need the means to protect themselves.

As I have said on other occasions – the right to keep and bear arms: it’s not just for American anymore.

Maybe more Brazillians in London should be armed as well…

Aim high

“Don’t fear failure. After all, without aiming high and occasionally hitting something else entirely, we’d never have discovered how tasty Northern Spotted Owls can be.”

Stephen Green, of Vodkapundit, making a wonderful line in the course of an article where he writes about learning about individuality from Cary Grant. (The article is in the latest edition of the Objectivist publication, the New Individualist. Not yet on the web, as far as I can tell. Cary Grant is the patron saint of all well-dressed guys the world over).

Al Qaeda trial in Belfast

An Algerian man was arrested and put on trial in Belfast. We hope the evidence they have is of more substance than the mere presence of 25 disks of downloaded information on explosives. If that were ever to become a definition of crime in and of itself, I fear every technically inclined 14 year old in the Anglosphere would soon be imprisoned.

The defendant was living not far from a neighborhood controlled by Protestant Paramilitaries, most likely due to the presence of cheap housing.

Posh politicians and not-so-posh politicians who actually do things

How do they do it? To be more exact and honest, how do we do it? Some of us, that is to say. I am referring to the mysterious tenacity of poshly educated people in British politics. Tony Blair went to a posh school. Now it looks odds on that the Conservatives will pick another posh, after a generation of not-so-poshes, starting with Edward Heath. Why? What is the magic that the canniest and most ruthless of us public school educated people which keeps the most prominent of our kind so prominent?

Part of it is that the education of the non-posh majority has, in Britain, been severely damaged, in the name of advancing the non-poshes. That is certainly part of the story.

But I think that another quality that people like David Cameron manage to exude � honestly or dishonestly, it really does not matter which � is: humility. Personally I tend to find this type insufferable, which may be because I got to know these people close up when they were still perfecting their personas, and in some cases before they were even trying and were just being pure bastards. The nastier the bastard, the thicker the veneer of humility that they later glue on, in my experience. But if you are not intimately acquainted with these nice, nice chaps, that humble act can fool you. Plus, in a few cases, the humility is genuine and was there from the start. Anyway, Cameron’s type radiates the notion that he only got where he is by being very lucky. The cards he was dealt made Cameron what he is, Cameron seems to say. Without these cards, the undoubted skill with which he played the cards he did get would have availed him nothing. One, you know, does one’s best, but one has been fortunate, extremely fortunate.

The trouble with the meritocrats whom the likes of Blair and Cameron come up against is that they seem to believe that they merit their cratness. They deserve it. Gordon Brown, for example, suggests to me a man who not only thinks that himself to be an excellent Chancellor of the Exchequer, but also a man who thinks that he deserves to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and for that matter deserves to be Prime Minister, instead of recognising with his every public word and gesture that he also needed a hell of a lot of luck to get anywhere near either job. → Continue reading: Posh politicians and not-so-posh politicians who actually do things

All your jobs belong to us

Australian civil liberties are looking increasingly shaky as the Australian government proposes sweeping new laws that give security services astonishing powers to control ‘people of interest’.

UP to 80 Australian Muslims could immediately be placed under effective house arrest under the Government’s proposed anti-terror laws.

The laws mean they could each be required to wear tracking devices, or prevented from working, or using the telephone or internet, or communicating with certain people.

Fancy that. The state wants to have the power to rob you of your right to make a living and put an electronic dog collar on you.

The laws will apply to anyone who has trained overseas with any of the 17 banned terror groups, including al-Qa’ida, Jemaah Islamiah, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Abu Sayyaf and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The intent of the law is that authorities leave these people alone if it is considered they no longer pose a security risk.

Oh, so that makes it okay, then?

I must confess to having mixed feelings about this. I do not want people who have been hanging around that sort of outfit running around in Australia without some sort of supervision. I loathe these barbarians and their theological nonsense, and I concede that we do not live in a perfect world.

But to see people who have not actually committed an offence to be deprived of their ordinary right to make a living, and to be dragged hither and yon at the whim of an Australian beaurocrat is almost as grating as an Islamofascist.

There are real threats that Australia have to face. This story outlines how the Australian government sees the situation. But there are some troubling aspects.

For example, there hasn’t been any sort of terrorist attack in Australia since 2001 by Islamic extremists. The report claims that they’ve already disrupted several attacks. Therefore it seems that the onus is definately on the Government to prove the case that it actually needs these new powers. Instead,

The Government insists it should be taken on trust that the new laws will be carefully implemented and used only sparingly.

Only the most casual observer of the Australian political scene will have any trust in the government’s ability to do so. The Australian government has been mired in controversy over mis-management of the immigration system, and its competence in security matters is hard to assess. And with the re-introduction of ‘sedition’ laws, the government’s ability to prosecute people for their opinions is wider then ever.

All this is troubling enough, but what is even more alarming is the way democratic governments all over the world seem to be competing with each other to take more powers to control and imprison their citizens. The common thread is that if you are different, you are a threat.

Care to explain to me how that makes dealing with real terrorists any easier?