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]

And now for something completely different…

A combination of perfect timing and extremely strong arms. Repect!

It is when things go very wrong that you learn how far you can trust an institution

The alleged atrocity carried out by a fire-team of US Marines in Iraq is ghastly news and whilst I hope, like so many other allegations against Allied soldiers in the Middle East, it turns there is much less to this than meets the eye, the reports do seem to be indicating that this time there really was a monstrous massacre of innocents.

However the fact this horrendous incident has not been swept under the table shows that the US military does have structures that work as intended. Whilst it is appalling such a thing could have happened, it would be even worse if it had happened and the people responsible got away with it.

In that respect at least, one cannot but compare the accountability of the USMC with what happened when British police shot dead Jean Charles de Menezes, a innocent Brazilian man, and what we got was a stream of barefaced lies and complete fabrications and still no one has been brought to book (which should not just be the people responsible for the killing, but everyone involved with what has clearly been a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice).

It is when things go badly wrong that you discover how decadent an institution has become. The contrast between the US military and British Police is quite revealing.

Mirrormask: a quirky and splendid little movie

Last night Adriana showed me a very strange DVD which will probably not appeal to folks who dislike ‘art house’ movies… but if you like bizarre English phantasmagoria at its quirkiest, set in Brighton and by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean no less, then you will probably just love Mirrormask.


Young actress Stephanie Leonidas has presence beyond her years and reminded me of the young Natalie Portman in Leon, which makes me think she may be one to watch in the future.


I particularly liked the evil sphinx-cats. It is all intensely English, in a magic mushroom induced hallucinogenic Alice in Wonderland sort of way. “We are not at home to Mister Grumpy”.

Can Suffolk really rival Bordeaux?

The Daily Telegraph reckons that global warming might advance the chances of England, or at least select bits of it, one day rivalling the wine producing prowess of France. Maybe. It has been rather hard to become convinced of the global warming thesis in what has been, by any standards, an exceptionally wet month of May. There is no doubt that a run of hot summers has got people thinking about the implications for agriculture. In my native Suffolk, there are a few quite famous wine producing farms, such as this one. The wine tends to be a bit too sharp for my taste, rather like the stuff produced in the Rhine area. (My favourite wine from the north European area is the very distinctive white wine from Alsace). Personally, I think the best booze in East Anglia is the cider, although it is very strong.

England produced quite a lot of wine in centuries past, when average temperatures were quite possibly hotter than now. The Romans produced a fair amount of the stuff (and no doubt their passion for baths and washing was partly driven by the desire to sweat away the subsequent hangovers). So maybe England could become a great wine producer again. Even so, it will have to go some way before it can rival the Lafites, Latours of Montrachets of France. Anyway, it is my 40th birthday today, so I may just have to find an excuse to do some tasting.

To hell with everything, let’s have a song contest

Blogger and friend Andrew Ian Dodge, at one of his many venues, Tech Central Station, offers this poser on the recent, ahem, bracing winners of the Eurovision song contest:

Does Lordi’s win reflect the rot in Europe, a final admission of rock’s power on the continent? Or is it merely an unintentional blip that Eurovision’s chiefs will seek to keep from ever recurring? Will heavy-metal find its way into Finland’s EU presidency? Is it just a silly music contest won by a bunch of rubber clad nut-cases? Oh no dear reader. It is far more than that.

Hey, heavy metal music is not exactly everyone’s cup of tea, although I often find that the most unusual sorts of people (mostly men, but some women too), will confess to a passion for the odd heavy metal track, played as loud as possible. I have had some of the funniest and most enjoyable nights out at gigs where such nutters play. Most of these people don’t take themselves remotely seriously. The very fact that their music offends “right thinking” people of the crusty left and the crunchy right only adds to the appeal. Rush, the Canadian rock band, were inspired by Ayn Rand. The Iron Maiden front man, Bruce Dickinson, is a qualified and working commercial airline pilot. Heavy rockers often seem to have an equal passion for gadgets and cars. I once visited a Royal Navy warship at London’s Docklands and went into the navigation/weaponry control room, and in the background, ACDC was playing (Very ideologically sound, if you ask me).

Meanwhile, on the subject of music competitions and the usual feelgood sense of life they tend to give out, this comment by Timothy Sandefur on the recently completed American Idol is rather nice:

Moreover, American Idol is a rebuke to those silly “crunchy conservatives” who insist that modern technology and mass production denigrates community, and so forth – in T.S. Eliot’s idiotic words, “The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely.” But that’s not true! The community has all joined in on this wholesome, fun, harmless moment to celebrate opportunity, singing, and lightheartedness. What could be more American than that? Lightheartedness is, I think, a profound and incredibly rare value, and one which our country has figured out how to mass produce. That may be among its greatest accomplishments ever.

What capitalism did in less than two years

Recently someone added, or tried to add, a comment on to ancient (July 1st 2004) Samizdata posting of mine, about some great photos taken by a guy called Richard Seaman, of the SpaceShipOne launch. Such are the ways of Samizdata that I got an email about the comment, and was thus reminded about the original posting. Which was quite short and included the following:

Seaman used a Canon 1Ds digital SLR camera, a snip at $8,000.

Seaman is a fine photographer, but much of the genius of these photos lies in the automatic focus system that this camera has in it. More fuss should be made of the people who devise things like this, I think. Boy would I love one of these – but smaller and for nearer $80, in a couple of years time.

Well, even since about last November, I have had just such a system on my camera. This camera didn’t cost me $80. It cost me just under £130. But then, I only had to wait just over a year for it. But in about July of this year, exactly two years after that earlier posting, I reckon that a cheapo digital camera with automatic focussing will probably cost, I don’t know, around … $80?

Imagine a world in which politicians cut there prices for their “services” to the tune of about 99% (or whatever amazing figure it is), over a period of two years. Ah, statists will say. But what politicians do is so much more difficult. But that’s the whole point of capitalism. It concentrates its efforts on that which is not merely desirable but on that which has become, despite all appearances to the contrary, possible. If it can’t be done, they just walk away from the problem, and make a note to come back later when it can. Meanwhile, they don’t throw good money after bad.

Politicians spend fortunes merely shuffling back and forth the fact that this or that problem is indeed a very great problem, claiming all the while that ever more money must be pointlessly thrown at it, right now, so that we can continue to hope against hope for an answer, immediately, from them.

And of course many of the problems of politicians are self-inflicted and impossible. Like: how do you abolish a queue for something very nice that you are giving away, but which you have only a limited supply of? Answer: forget it, fools. Many politicians actually prefer impossible problems, because if their preferred urgent problems were solved, then no more money would be “needed”. (The whole environmental movement is best understood, I suggest, as a search process to invent problems which are impossible to solve, because impossible to really know about, but very, very important – thus requiring infinite money and political interference, for ever.)

Capitalism. I love it. Just so long as nobody tries to make it compulsory reading.

Remove the UK from the US Visa Waiver

The litany of failures for the immigration system in the United Kingdom continues to defy imagination. This New Labour government allows rapists, paedophiles and violent criminals from all corners of the globe to stay in Britain, live off the welfare state, escape from prison and commit crimes at the expense of the law abiding public. Now they are giving them passports.

THE Home Office was under more fire yesterday after it was revealed jailed foreigners are being given British passports after release.

Officials confirmed convicted criminals from overseas were granted British citizenship if they stay out of trouble for a period after prison.

The length of the “clear” period depends on their sentence.

Yet the Government has promised to deport overseas convicts in an immigration crackdown.

It is clear that Britain cannot be trusted to run its citizenship programmes in an efficient or secure manner. Therefore, the United States should remove Britain from its Visa Waiver program without further ado. That would concentrate minds at the Home Office.

EU to tax SMS messages and e-mails?

Alain Lamassoure, a prominent French (naturally) MEP is proposing the idea of a pan-European tax on e-mail and SMS text messages and is quoted as saying:

“Exchanges between countries have ballooned, so everyone would understand that the money to finance the EU should come from the benefits engendered by the EU.”

Huh? I hate to break this to Mr. Lamassoure but countries neither communicate with each other nor ‘exchange’ with each other, companies and people do. Moreover I think the ‘benefit engendered by the EU’ is highly debatable. If I am understanding this klepto correctly (and as he is both French and a politician, that may be beyond me), he thinks that without the EU, people would not be able to exchange e-mails and SMS messages? And if that is not what he means, what the hell does he mean? I do not even grasp what he is talking about, let alone understand why even more money should be appropriated from people to pay for that sublimely corrupt institution.

Thus always to tyrants? And what about would-be tyrants?

George Galloway thinks assassinating Tony Blair would be justified because of the war in Iraq… but if that is true, others might start thinking if Mr. George Galloway MP wants people to play that game, this notion should be more widely applied to all whose political views inevitably have violent consequences.

And so if politics did start to become more overtly and directly violent, with PM’s being bumped off because of their foreign policy decisions, this new paradym could well lead others who equally as intemperate as the Honourable Member for Bethnal Green and Bow to decide it was now acceptable (or ‘justified’ if you like) to start bumping off people who have demonstrated by their support for communist mass murderers like Fidel Castro as well as inciting violence against British troops by Ba’athist fascists and sundry Islamo-fascists in the past.

Just for reference, a definition of treason is:

The act of betraying; betrayal of a trust undertaken by or reposed in anyone; a breach of faith, treachery. High Treason or Treason Proper is the violation of a subject of his allegiance to his sovereign or to the state, levying war on the King’s dominions, adhering to the Queen’s enemies in her dominions, or aiding them in or out of the realm.

The Da Vinci Code

The JPMorgan ‘Technology06’ show for which I was webcast editor in San Francisco finally finished up Wednesday afternoon. After the loadout, or most of it, I and four of the other techs from the show caught the red eye flight back to New York. I dumped clothes into a drawer and crashed for several hours. Despite the work schedule of the last month, I only slept a few hours… the day was just too nice to miss. Call it New York City Spring. A lovely temperature, just a nice humidity, deep blue skies and a lot of smiling faces.

After a bite to eat, some catch up on my work log and a few business calls, I decided to take myself out to a movie in Times Square. Yes, I finally get around to the title line. It was the ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

The biggest question I have after watching the movie is: “What the hell is all the fuss about???” This is a decently enough done adventure/conspiracy story, typical summer fare, not intended to be great literature or win Oscars. It is just fun. Given the infantile sensitivities of our politically correct, ‘do not dare hurt anyone’s feelings lest they cry’ era, they stuck in a bit of unnecessary dialogue to make really, really sure no one would feel slighted. Perry has already spoken of what the real Opus Dei is; and in the movie they are not the bad guys either. The bad guys are a secret inner circle which just happens to have some members there. A sort of ‘Catholic Illuminati’ as it were. Yet it is a real ‘Opus Dei’ believer who in the end saves our heroes through his belief in truth and justice.

As to the premise Mary Magdalene had a child by Jesus and she was spirited off to France and secret organizations have warred in the shadows over this for some two thousand years… I ask, if people are so terribly upset about this story, then what of the various Indiana Jones movies? Or any of a hundred novels and movies I have read or seen which use biblical history as a kick-off point for a roaring good yarn?

My conclusion is the people making noise about this movie need to get themselves unwound a bit.

Now a question. Skip the Magdalene story. Prove to me through historical, documented facts of known and cross checked authenticity and provenance that Jesus Christ never knocked up any of his adoring fans. Prove to me that prophet never got himself laid. Not once. Given two thousand years and eighty to a hundred generations, virtually all of humanity could have a bit of JC’s bloodline.

Well, I guess it beats working for a living

Some recent court rulings show that marriage is turning into a nice little earner for certain spouses, as Tim Worstall discusses on his blog. He pinpoints a key problem in English law that it is not possible to have pre-nuptial agreements recognised as valid, although pre-nups might influence a ruling (he goes on to discuss how things are a bit different in Scotland). It seems pretty basic to me: the State has no business legislating at all on marriage. The way in which persons choose to form long-term contracts with another is for the parties concerned and no-one else, period.

If a rich entrepreneur, or musician like Paul McCartney, say, wants to shield himself or herself from being taken to the cleaners by a wife or husband, then it should be within their rights to do so. Of course, it may not be terribly ‘romantic’ to have pre-nups, but let’s face it, if rich people fear they will lose a huge chunk of their money to a cynical spouse on the make, it will raise calls for no-fault divorce to be abolished. It could prolong the divorce process at the expense of children’s happiness, foster further cynicism about the institution of marriage, and erode respect for an important part of civil society.

In the interests of the institution of marriage, then, I call on politicians to let consenting adults get on with whatever arrangements they please. It really is that simple. (Which is probably why it won’t happen anytime soon).

By the way, I will be getting married to a lovely woman in just over a week’s time in Malta. Just thought I would mention that.

Ruminations on advertising

Sometime Samizdatista and now Texan, Alice Bachini, has some thoughts on advertising on blogs.

I do not want big advertising on my blog, the front of my house, tattooed on my forehead, or anywhere about my territory, and I do cringe at the sight of otherwise nice-looking people and things decorated with ugly great banners selling big blue things that disturb the visual peace. And more importantly, if someone being given secret or otherwise free gifts by the coca-cola company offers me a drink, I may not fully trust their recommendation.

This does not mean I want to change any laws or tell other people what to do. It just means you know what my opinion happens to be on this, and also where it hails from.

If I want to advertise something I will do it anyway for free because that is what blogs are for: the spreading of recommended ideas, thoughts, pictures, experiences and other human beings as revealed in other blogs.

I will have to leap into the defense of advertisers here, on openness grounds. I think that if there’s a big flashy banner involved on someone’s blog, you can be sure that money traded hands. And like Dr. Johnson, I have faith in the innocence of those who are out to make money.

Mind you, I think you have to be a fairly large blog to make advertising worth your while. I had ‘google ad-sense’ on my old sport blog, and that did not make any money for me even though I was getting 400 or so readers a day. Not a lot, but it is no easy task to start a blog from scratch and get 400 readers a day.

But I will agree with Alice Bachini that the aesthetics are just awful on many blogs. Those huge ‘pajamas media™’ ads one sees around the place look dreadful. It is not for the likes of a humble mortal such as I to guess at the complex and elevated deliberations of the mighty. However, if the Editorial Pantheon ever do decide to go down the advertising road, I do hope they will not disfigure the stylish nature of this page in the process.