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]

A pompous Green sees red

I occasionally watch the Top Gear motoring-lads-having-a-laugh show on a Sunday evening, fronted by the bumptious Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson is a sort of British version of P.J. O’Rourke, (although O’Rourke is at his best in print, rather than on the box) in that he loves to mock cyclists, Greens, do-gooders and other earnest protectors of our public welfare. Excellent. It is amazing really that his show has run on the BBC for so long. His mails must include a fair share of rudeness from those he mocks and it looks like he has really got up the nose of veteran Green campaigner Jonathan Porritt, a person who at one stage was very much the “reasonable” face of environmentalism.

Porritt misses the point completely. He is part of a puritanical new establishment dedicated to the removal of fun, or at least that of those other than themselves. We have had more than a decade of this, and Clarkson is rather like a shot of brandy to the half-drowned. He may be overly laddish for some people’s tastes, but he acts as handy counterweight to the scolds. Long may he sing the praises of Ferraris, supersonic jet aircraft and other fast machines.

(I have classified this post under “Arts and Entertainment” since Top Gear is purely entertainment. Do not expect to learn a lot about practical car maintenance.)

Taiwan legislators star again

Chinese Taipai, or Taiwan, or the Republic of China; whatever you call it, you have to admit that the small electronic island has some of the best legislators in the world.

Not because they are particularly wise or sensible, but rather, they are perhaps the best exponents of the ‘scrummage’ school of legislative thought. The proceedings of the Parliament there are frequently punctuated by brawls, biffs, and other exciting interruptions.

And they have been at it again:

Pandemonium broke out in Taiwan’s parliament when deputies attacked a woman colleague for snatching and trying to eat a proposal on opening direct transport links with China in a bid to stop a vote on the issue. Lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party charged towards the podium and protested noisily to prevent the review of an opposition proposal seeking an end to decades-old curbs on direct air and shipping links with China.

Amid the chaos, DPP deputy Wang Shu-hui snatched the written proposal from an opposition legislator and shoved it into her mouth, television news footage showed. Wang later spat out the document and tore it up after opposition lawmakers failed to get her to cough it up by pulling her hair. During the melee, another DPP woman legislator, Chuang Ho-tzu, spat at an opposition colleague.

“She spat saliva,” yelled Hung Hsiu-chu of the main opposition Nationalist Party.

In Australia, although there is plenty of legislation going about, I fear it has almost zero nutritional value. However, I applaud Ms Wang Shu-Hui’s novel approach to legislation and I think it should be adopted in legislatures throughout the world.

Two memorable sporting moments

Go here for video of Boris Johnson‘s amazing football tackle (actually more like an American football block), in that bizarre pro-celeb England Germany match about a month ago. Apologies if this has already been alluded to here, but a search through the archives suggests not. “Finest hour” is, however, an odd way to describe it. More like finest five seconds.

Talking of great sporting moments, ideal for the delectation of internetters, can anyone direct me to any video of Kevin Pietersen‘s equally amazing (and equally subversive of established order and decency) reverse sweep of Muttiah Muralitharan, last Friday? There are plenty of photos of this extraordinary stroke, but you need video to get the full flavour of what Pietersen did.

Immediately after this, Pietersen got out. But nobody cared, because that shot was one of those “worth the price of admission alone” moments. Not that I was there, or paid this price. I just heard about it on the radio, and then saw it on the TV highlights, which I sadly do not yet have the ability to process and pass on.

More ruminations from me about the wondrous enrichment of cricket fan memories offered by the internet here.

The Italian job

Funny that Paul should mention Italian elections; I watched a piece on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Foreign Correspondent tonight that trailed a couple of Australians (I call them Australians, because that’s what they are – not Italians, despite their declarations to the contrary) who have just been elected to the Italian federal parliament under the utterly ridiculous new system that mandates a level of parliamentary representation to “Italians abroad” – that is, emigrants. One of the two men, Nino Randazzo (who’s been an Australian for more than fifty years), nominally supports Romano Prodi’s coalition, however he is seen as a potentially swinging voter in a tightly balanced senate and thus holds power far beyond that which his diminutive stature implies.

Notwithstanding the fact that the legitimacy of these foreign men wielding Italian political power is extraordinarily tenuous, what do these people want from the Italian state? According to one of the two, financial assistance for “cultural purposes” to benefit people who have left Italy to make better lives for themselves in other countries. One newly-elected American member of the Italian parliament declared that Italy somehow owed its émigrés something due to the remittances they voluntarily sent back to Italy many years ago.* The mind boggles. Why, oh why do these privileged foreigners think they have the right to extract funds from the already hard-pressed Italian taxpayer – a group they deserted long ago? Why on earth are Italians not apoplectic with rage over these people who are only going to make the Italian government’s deficit slide further into the red with their demands of cultural grants for foreigners? And we’re talking about foreigners who have already helped create rich Italian cultures in their chosen countries and as a group could effortlessly afford to fund whatever cultural boondoggles these new enemies of the Italian taxpayer have in mind. Of course, most Australian-Italians would not give a cent (Australian or Euro) for these cultural pursuits – whatever they may be. Amazingly, in this circumstance the new Italian electoral system has made it easier to arm-twist a foreign government to do one’s bidding.

You have probably ascertained from my colourful use of formatting that I am a wee bit irritated by the exploits of these men. For a start, I do not like parasitic types who think they have some divine right to expropriate other people’s money. Secondly, I cannot stand those who move to a country like Australia, make their lives here and by all accounts do very well for themselves in a way that they could not have if they’d have stayed in the land of their birth, only to turn around and insult the nation that provided them with so much opportunity and declare “I’m Italian”. There is a simple solution to this problem. The Italians can have their new politicians back. It seems only fair; they are paying for them, after all.

*Apologies for not providing quotes; the programme in question – Foreign Correspondent on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s television channel – tends not to post the transcript of the segment until the day after it’s aired. It will be available here, and when it becomes available I will edit this post accordingly.

The Italian local elections

Ex-communists win re-election in Turin and Rome, and a Christian Democrat type (allied with the ex-communists) wins re-lection in Naples. Pity about Turin, where Rocco Buttiglione, the candidate for the ‘House of Freedoms’ is an interesting Catholic philosopher (but what can one expect from the city of the Red Brigades – and of that black hole for money, Fiat).

In Sicily the candidate supported by the ex-communists was defeated, although ‘the left’ (I know there is no agreed definition as to what ‘left’ and ‘right’ mean, but it is the term these people use to describe themselves) are claiming that “the friends” had a hand in the re-election of the foe of the ex-communists. Of course few complained when the Mafia supported Anglo American action in Sicily against the totalitarians of the time (the Italian Fascists and the German National Socialists), the Mafia may have their own (corrupt) reasons for opposing totalitarianism – but oppose it they do.

Of course the ex-communists now occupy the positions of President of Italy and of Speaker of at least one of the two houses of the Italian Parliament (the other being occupied by an allied ‘leftist’). Prime Minister Prodi has indeed worked hard to entrench his unholy alliance of European Union linked big business (the small family owned business enterprises in Italy tend to oppose Mr Prodi and his ‘Olive Tree’) and ex-communists into positions of power. Re-imposing inheritance tax (to undermine Italian family owned enterprises and hand the economy over to the state and to the corporations) will be the next move.

However, I more interested in what happened in Milan. The lady standing there for the House of Freedoms Party, Letizia Moratti, was not accused of corruption (the weapon the ‘left’ used against Mr Berlusconi.) nor is she a dodgy ‘National Alliance’ type (if one traces the National Alliance party’s history back one eventually comes to rather nasty collectivist statists – although of the ‘Black’ rather than the ‘Red’ variety). The lady was a moderate economic liberal, of exactly the sort one would think would suit a commercial city like Milan.

More than this, there was the terrible incident at the start of May when Letizia Moratti took her father to an event marking the liberation of Milan from the National Socialist Germans and their Italian ‘Social Republic’ (i.e. fascist) allies at the end of World War II. Although the lady was in the company of her elderly and disabled father (who had been sent to a concentration camp by the Germans), she was insulted, pushed and spat on by various ‘leftists’.

“Yes Paul, but Ms. Moratti won the election”.

Yes the lady won the election (in a city which has tended in recent years to vote against the ‘left’) – but she won it by only 51% to 47% (minor parties making up the rest of the votes). One would have thought that the pushing and insulting and spitting on a lady (especially in front of her elderly and disabled father) would be unacceptable to more than 51% of the population.

To put in bluntly, almost half the population of Milan have shown themselves to be lower than shit.

Hold onto your hats…maybe

I have come across an allegation I am unable to verify because I am a linguistic curmudgeon, unable to read (or even speak!) Swedish or Danish. Sorry, everyone. A late night trawling through a comments thread over at Tim Blair’s unearthed this very interesting comment from reader “TOGITV” :

I have just read that the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten is about to republish the Mohammed cartoons!

I can’t find any reference to it in any English language press. But here is the link to the article in the Swedish press

TOGITV later posts :

I just read the Swedish article a bit closer. It isn’t the same newspaper (Jyllands Posten) that will re-publish the cartoons, it will be another Danish newspaper called Politiken.

I can’t read Danish quite as well as Swedish, but I think the article in Politiken says that Harpers Magazine will also publish the cartoons in their June edition also accompanying an article on Art Spiegelman.

Interesting, if true. Perhaps someone versed in Swedish or Danish could enlighten the rest of us as to the articles’ content. If it is true, and the cartoons are published again in another Danish magazine, the seemingly obvious consequence would be another explosion of fundamentalist Islamic vitriol against Denmark, freedom of speech, the West and Western values, you name it. However, the furore over the Jyllands-Posten cartoons occurred several months after publishing, and was certainly incited by a few conspiring Islamic leaders, who provided the nexus between a liberal European paper and the protesting Middle Eastern mobs. On reflection, it is hard to see what good the rabble-rousing has done for the Islamic cause. In response to the disgusting behaviour of the Islamist mob, the silencing veil of political correctness was blown off various issues surrounding Islam in quite remarkable time. I’ve noticed that the educated middle class – possibly the social group most conscious of PC mores – are these days far more likely to openly discuss and criticise the ugly sides of Islam and its (in)compatibility with modern Western society. I’d go so far to say that, post cartoon-rage, even tracts of the left are less willing to defend Islam’s excesses.

I rather think that those who scurrilously incited the cartoon rage did not expect the mob to claw and bay with such intensity. Certainly, the hideous scenes we witnessed on our televisions at the time turned many erstwhile allies in the West away from the Islamic cause. More importantly, an enormous number who had no opinion one way or the other regarding Islam now see it in a negative light. It is most evident that the individuals who all-too-successfully activated the mob dealt themselves an almighty propaganda defeat – possibly one of the more spectacular tactical backfires we’ve seen in recent times. Surely, even the most benighted, zealous Islamic leader has the limited perspicacity required to concede that point. Hence, if the cartoons are soon published in another Danish newspaper, we may hear nothing more of it.

Minimum wage and immigration

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of economics is aware what a scam a ‘minimum wage’ is. When an artificial bottom placed on hourly rates is raised ,there are only two rational responses an employer can make: fire anyone whose value is now less than their cost; or raise prices to cover the added cost of doing business.

The raising of prices following a minimum wage hike sends ripples through the economy, like those of a handful a pebbles tossed into a farm pond. At some point everything damps out and the steady state returns. No new value has been created by the higher wages so the end result is roughly enough inflation to wipe out the change.

This analysis misses a detail however. The economy does not respond instantaneously. There is a time lag during which recipients have more purchasing power. They will pay for it later of course: TANSTAAFL. But from the viewpoint of a politician if the gain can be timed to properly coincide with something of value to them, say an election, it is a win. The pain comes later and memories are shorter than the interval betwixt elections.

I realized this morning there is a way in which politicians can hide much of the pain indefinitely: illegal immigration. Think it through. Raise the minimum wage in an environment where there is cheap, willing labour, undocumented and outside the system. What is the rational employer response? Raise wages for legal employees and export the costs to the undocumented workers. Illegal immigrants are not voters so this is a win-win situation to both the ruling class and those who keep them there. The voters get a higher real wage and living standard because the inflationary cost has been shifted. The pain has been exported outside the political game.

Statist politicians cannot do anything about illegal immigration because if they stop it, the deferred inflation will cause prices to rise enough to erase the excess income of their constituents. Employers will have to either drop low end jobs or else raise prices to support them. Voters will not be happy and it is well known the wallet is a bigger determinate of election outcomes than just about anything else. So, QED, illegal immigration is now a structural requirement of the centralized Western bureaucratic state.

A second force drives the need for cheap labour: the demographic transition in modern societies leads to a lowering of birthrates and a consequent labour shortage. Some places, like Japan, are looking to solve this with robots: the real deal kind. Less closed societies are covering the short fall with immigration of both legal and illegal varieties.

There is simply no practical way out of the situation in the short run and politics is all about delaying pain in hopes it will either go away or happen after you are gone.

Martian memorial

I ran across a fascinating historical footnote in the May issue of Sky and Telescope I feel should be much more widely known.

The builder of the Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers was a small Manhattan company named Honeybee Robotics. The company offices are just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, so it hardly bears saying the engineers were deeply affected by the events of 9/11.

They paid their respects in an unusual and touching way. With assistance of the Mayor’s office they acquired bits of mangled aluminium debris from the site. The engineers pounded and formed them into cable shielding parts.

Those bits of the World Trade Center have now been roving Mars for two years.

Zimbabwe’s military parasitical complex

Grovelling in Zimbabwe takes a different form from the NuLab sycophantism that Brits are used to although a Blair babe may wish to take up the option:

Making a belated birthday message to Mugabe, Senator Chief Musarurwa from Mashonaland East told fellow senators that Mugabe should be allowed to be a life President….The President was anointed to be a leader of this country and we wish that he should grow old to the extent that his back is rubbed with cow dung and until the followers know that his duty is to take care of this country, until there are no such things as corruption and until there is peace and equal distribution of land in this country.

Mugabe follows the strategies of his communist role models, eating the nation from the inside out, wasting away civil society until the power of the party is revealed behind the barrel of the gun, and all opposition is exhausted. In countries where such strategies are undertaken, all political forms are gradually hollowed out by a creeping militarisation as the crisis spirals. The problem is that the pirate state has to ensure that the army gets the majority of the spoils. The war veterans may have been bought off after their chairman, Jabulandi Sibanda, was expelled from ZANU-PF for the heretical thought that benefits should accrue to all Zimbabweans:

Max Mkandla, president of The Zimbabwe LiberatorsVoice which represents peaceful war veterans who believe all Zimbabweans deserve benefits, told us the government is trying to persuade war vets in the association not to walk away from ZANU-PF and follow their chairman Jabulani Sibanda who was expelled from the ruling party last week. Mkandla said the majority of war vets have thrown their support behind Sibanda and the new ‘salaries’ are a bribe to keep them close so their activities can be monitored. Mkandla added that ZANU-PF has lost the support of its own members and is attempting to buy loyalty from the police, military, nurses and now the war veterans.

The armed forces are taking control of state and parastatal institutions as Mugabe’s regime attempts to stave off hunger and maintain its core functions:

The use of the army to take control of the countryside has been mirrored by the appointment of military commanders to top positions in the civilian institutions, in an effort to strengthen 82-year-old Mugabe’s grip on the country.

Generals, some still on active duty, others retired, now control the reserve bank, the grain marketing board, the electoral commission, the state railway, energy ministry, parks authority and other key institutions formerly run by civilians.

Jonathan Moyo, a former minister of information who quit the Mugabe government and is now Zimbabwe’s only independent MP, said: “This is an admission that things have fallen apart and that governance can no longer continue in civilian mode.”

Perhaps the generals will tire of wiping Mugabe’s behind with cow dung and will feel that they can run Zimbabwe better themselves.

Hurrah for John Prescott

The Deputy Prime Minister is in trouble again. Apparently he has had a rest from the toils of office to play croquet at his grace-and-favour mansion. This has lead the something-must-be-done crowd to accuse him of slacking and call for his resignation. Apparently ministers – even ones without portfolio – are supposed to spend their every waking hour governing us.

Since Samizdata’s point of view (generally speaking) is that we would really rather be governed less, then I submit this is the sort of ministerial behaviour we want to see more of. With luck, it might spread to the Senior Civil Service, and stop the more serious business of the bureacratic dictatorship. Then Prescott would merit a dukedom. Meanwhile he certainly gets marks for making Britain a worse place more slowly than he might, and at the same time showing up the miserable priggishness of his political colleagues.

Or would you choose a world where a pleasant afternoon is better spent in a committee meeting figuring out how best to control other people’s lives, rather than enjoying a gentle game in the open air?

The stupidity of animal rights terrorism

It appears that so-called “animal rights” thugs’ targetting of scientists and attempted intimidation of investors has backfired, at least in terms of trying to win around public opinion to their cause. Well, it is true that the majority of Britons loathe such groups, but I don’t think these folk are really concerned about winning hearts and minds as so much working out their own damaged psychological problems through a “cause” that gives them a sense of power and fame. The sadness of it all is that the case for advancing animal welfare – hardly a trivial issue – gets lost in the noise. For all that I am an unapologetic meat-eater, I certainly think everything practical should be done to minimise suffering of animals. In fact, one of the great things about growing advances in the fields of biotech, genetic engineering and the like is that it reduces the need for animal testing, possibly removing it altogether.

Green terrorism is not something cooked up by science fiction. It is all too real and threatens immense damage to our economic and material wellbeing. Maybe the famously sentimental British animal-loving public are getting the point.

Samizdata quote of the day

Getting a lecture on morality from a politician is like getting a lecture on chastity from a whore
– Perry de Havilland