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]

Two bad articles in The Spectator

The Spectator is, and has been for many years, the leading conservative magazine in the United Kingdom. By ‘conservative’ I do not mean that it always supports the Conservative party (it has often had articles that have attacked the certain aspects of the Conservative party), but that the magazine opposes the socialist-social democratic forces that have dominated the United Kingdom for many decades (and it must be remembered that the basic cultural institutions of the United Kingdom remained under socialist-social democratic control even when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister).

However, it has long been a open secret in conservative and libertarian circles that The Spectator is often somewhat half hearted in its opposition to the “left” (for want of a better word). So one has to be careful about buying it. Under a poor editor, or even on a bad week in the time of a good editor, it may be little better than the BBC.

Last week I bought a copy of The Spectator. I wanted a change from the death-to-Israel, death-to-America line of all the television and radio stations and much of the print media in Britain (not that they have guts to just say ‘death-to-the-Jews’ of course – outlets like the BBC on the Daily Mail claim not to be anti Jewish in the slightest, it is just a matter of opposing the bad things that Israel does and opposing the backing of the United States gives to Israel).

The editor of The Spectator (Matthew d’Acona) may be a friend of the unprincipled David Cameron (present leader of the Conservative party), but he (like, to be fair, many of the people around Mr Cameron) is known to be pro-America and pro-Israel.

Also on the front cover of The Spectator it was advertised that Norman Tebbit had written an article. Tebbit was Chairman of the Conservative party when Margaret Thatcher was leader. He was always an independent man willing to argue with Mrs T. if need be, but always a loyal and honourable and was badly wounded by an IRA bomb (the same bomb left his wife paralysed and many other people dead) which led to his semi withdrawal from politics, thus leaving Margaret Thatcher exposed to the plots of her enemies. The Tebbit article was good (a polite demolition of Mr Cameron’s line of policy – too polite for my taste, but that is the way Norman Tebbit writes).

And there were other good articles in the magazine, however two very bad articles were present.

The first was by the ex Labour ‘minister for Europe’ (i.e. minister for the EU) Denis MacShane… → Continue reading: Two bad articles in The Spectator

Happy Birthday to Milton Friedman

For all the arguments between the Chicago and Austrian schools of economics, the fact remains that Milton Friedman is one of the good guys. Milton Friedman has struggled for freedom all his life and has brought the basic ideas of private property rights and free markets to more people (via, for example, his weekly article in Newsweek magazine and in his best selling books such as ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ and ‘Free to Choose’) than any other person alive.

Like millions of other people I express my good wishes to Dr Friedman, to Rose Friedman and to their children and whole family.

A picture is worth a thousand words sometimes

The picture on top of this New York Times story about Iran’s reaction to the conflict in Lebanon demonstrates the problem.

It also distracts from the story itself, which is pretty interesting in the way it describes how many hopes, and fears, the Iranian regime has invested in Hezbollah.

Its fears are about the military damage that Hezbollah is sustaining under the weight of Israel’s attack. That is something that is totally speculative, as we don’t have any way to assess it. However given the weight of fire that northern Israel is under at the moment, it is quite possible that Hezbollah is being weakened quite considerably by the sheer volume of munitions that it is expending.

I am not a military person at all, but I cannot help but wonder what the military situation might be like if Hezbollah used its rocket artillery strictly against military targets.

Be that as it may, Iran feels that it is benefiting from the increased prestige that Hezbollah is getting from Arab populations, which normally would be denied it for sectarian differences. It is a moot point how well that prestige will last when the fighting stops and Hezbollah has to account for its actions to the rest of the Lebanese community, which is by no means pleased with what Hezbollah has done.

But I still can not get over that image from the streets of Tehran.

Maybe it is an omen, Meeester Bond

Pinewood Studios, the place where the latest 007 movie is being made, has been damaged so badly by fire that it may have to be demolished. Very sad. The place has been used to make James Bond and other films for many years. I wonder whether the ghost of Fleming was appalled at the choice of actor and sent down a thunderbolt?

For a whimsical look at Bond’s place in post-British film and publishing and this country’s history, this whimsical book by Simon Winder is great and rather informative about the Cold War era phase of British history, despite the odd error of detail.

Slightly less small jets

Kevin Connors mentioned this blog story about the fascinating new small jet from Honda to me a few days ago and I remembered it when I ran across this today:

Honda announced today it will begin taking orders for a new, small jet aircraft later this year.

The HondaJet, unveiled last year, will enter the “very light jet” market in the United States, the company said.

It sounds like quite a nice piece of kit:

The sleek jet has an an all-glass flight deck. An over-the-wing engine design maximizes space in the fuselage for passengers and luggage, the company said. The configuration is also said to reduce drag at high speed to improve fuel efficiency.

The prototype jet, which seats up to seven, has completed more than 240 hours of flight testing, flying to 43,000 feet and hitting 412 knots.

I am much afraid I will not be running out to buy one myself, but I will certainly have my camera ready to click on it at first sight!

Brittannia rules the spacewaves

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic expects to start flying in 2008.

Designer Philippe Starck, former soap star Victoria Principal and ‘Superman Returns’ director Bryan Singer have booked their flights for tourist trips in outer space, an official from the company selling the galactic voyage said Monday.

Virgin Galactic, a Virgin Group company, has sold some 200 tickets to passengers for suborbital flights, starting in 2008, said Will Whitehorn, the company’s president.

It has collected 8.5 million pounds (US$15.6 million, euro12.4 million) in deposits for the flights that cost 109,000 pounds (US$200,000, euro158,000).

Despite the seemingly hard scheduled time here, I have heard Virgin Galactic officials state emphatically they will not fly until Burt Rutan says SpaceShipTwo is ready nor will they put pressure on him to rush the job. Branson is in this for the long haul, and that means he has to ‘Bring ’em Back Alive’.

For want of a stainless steel nut

The official report on the SpaceX Falcon-1 launch termination at Kwajalein in the Pacific has been released and as it turns out, the problem was not human error after all. it was subsurface corrosion, possibly due to the tropical ocean climate and galvanic action, of a single nut on a fuel pump.

You can read more about it here.

Elon Musk’s next launch is now scheduled for November.


Angloslavia was originally a term coined by Ken MacLeod in his science fictions series about The Fall Revolution. If you have not picked these four books up, you should do so, now! The term is utilised here as a playful reference to the current flow of immigration from East Central Europe into the United Kingdom. This flow has serious consequences due to the interplay between immigration and public services. East European workers naturally respond to the market incentives provided by New Labour’s decision to open up Britain’s employment market. This improving migration is combined with an inflexible public sector which is not geared towards dealing with such a large increase in local populations. This inflexibility is due to the incompetence of New Labour’s administration, since they appear to have undermined, indeed destroyed, the Northcote-Trevelyan ethos of the mid-Victorian civil service, that ensured Britain’s civil service was more competent than most for a while.

A massive rise in immigration next year could trigger a devastating crisis in Britain’s schools, housing and welfare services, according to a secret Government report leaked to The Mail on Sunday.

The document reveals that every Government department has been ordered to draw up multi-million-pound emergency plans after being told public services face catastrophe as a result of the hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans pouring into Britain.

The government faces disaster if the courts, applying European law, conclude that all East European immigrants are eligible for the same benefits as United Kingdom subjects. A large influx will either force up taxes to pay for the extra services and benefits required, rewrite the rules to ensure that public services remain remain viable through radical reform, or do nothing.

One of her [Home Office Minister Joan Ryan] biggest fears is that the courts may force the Government to scrap its restrictions on East European immigrants applying for council houses or benefits. At present, they receive some benefits only if they register for work – which one in three don’t do – and earn full benefit rights after they have worked for a year.

Ms Ryan says: “The legal basis for this is precarious and there is a strong risk of a successful challenge. This is a concern.”

Benefits will provide an additional incentive for immigration from Eastern Europe. The pressures that this will place on the welfare state may provide a force for accelerated reform, since the free market will provide services cheaply and more efficiently, if given free rein.

So far, the addition of cheap flights to Eastern Europe, the added mix of Slavic tongues to polyglot London and the chance to taste more beers from exotic climes, has proved an exciting experience. Let us give the same chance to Sofia and Bucharest.

What is in a name?

Where the people of Malaysia would be without their government to do their thinking for them, I really do not know.

Malaysian authorities have published a list of undesirable titles to prevent parents giving their children names such as Hitler, smelly dog or 007.

It is a classic ‘Samizdata’ story which allows us to make fun of the silly politicians but behind it is the serious point that the Malaysian government is arrogating for itself the right to have a say in what a citizen calls him or herself. A person’s name is at the heart of their identity in many ways, and it is sad that governments think they have the right to interfere with whatever name a person chooses to call themselves.

Blue Origin prepares for next government hurdle

Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame is moving his spaceship company, Blue Origin, forward through the high hurdles race called government regulations.

The Blue Origin craft is slated to fly regularly by 2010. While this is indeed an aggressive schedule, I find it more reasonable now that I know a bit about the spaceship. It is the next step in development of the McDonnell-Douglas DCX. The test article for this was built and flown at White Sands for under $60M in under two years by Dr. Gaubatz and his team in the early to mid nineties. Takeoffs required a ground crew of less than a dozen people and they were perhaps the first to ever fly a Vertical Takeoff/Vertical Landing craft or “A spacehip like God and Robert Hienlein intended”, as one pundit put it, multiple times in a day. They also proved DCX could carry out a safe emergency landing after a major problem on takeoff and proved out the flight software for the complex flipover maneuver to rotate from pointy end first flight to ass end first for landing.

For those interested in such things, the McDonnell-Douglas master control console inside the single control van on site was… an Apple computer.

I am now wondering if Blue Origin will show up at Las Cruces this fall to compete for the NASA moon lander technology challenge prize I wrote of a few months ago. The beauty of a VTVL spacehsip is it works anywhere, whereas spaceplanes are rather limited in their choice of landing worlds. I know Dr. Gaubatz is going to be there and if they do, I am sure he will shed a tear of grandfatherly pride.

Hot Jets and Good Luck to Blue Origin!

Ben Casnocha in London

When Silicon Valley’s youngest dot-com dynamo (and all around delightful guy), Ben Casnocha, told me that he was coming to Europe for his gap year travels, I knew he could not leave London without the full Samizdata experience.


Of course, first an offering to the Hippo God had to be made…

elena y perry

Elena and Perry performed their synchronised hand-jive performance to an adoring crowd

al fresco

PooterGeek found something else to applaud – guesses on a postcard, please…

elena, dave, jackie

I tried not to show how revolted I was by the unsightly growth that had suddenly sprouted from Elena’s head


What could possibly have these capitalists so rapt with attention?

evil capitalists

But of course…

There are more photos at Flickr.

Comments overheard

An intriguing remark overheard, with no supporting context, at tonight’s bash at Samizdata HQ:

“I was an immigrant chambermaid in Hotel Babylon”

That sounds fascinating!