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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Does anyone know who this arsehole is?

Does anyone in London know who this piece of shit is? This creep assaulted Jackie, one of our intrepid Samizdatistas, so if you recognise him, please either let us know (e-mail link is in the sidebar) or if you prefer call British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40. For the story, see here.


2012 – The great chance for liberty in the United States?

I do not know whether the Democrats will win the office of President in 2008 or not.

Walmart bashing, promises of worse barriers to trade (the free trade deals with Colombia, Ecuador and Peru seem to be the latest targets of the Democrats [the various Marxist terrorist groups in Latin America will be pleased] – with demands that these countries further cripple themselves with more “union rights” and other regulations) and even bigger subsidies for universities (which will push up costs again) and even more regulations on HMOs and insurance companies (which will also push up costs again), even more money tossed away on “No-Child-Left-Behind” (and other unconstitutional welfare state schemes) than the Republicans tossed away on them and…

I doubt that this agenda will still be popular after another two years of Nancy Pelosi and the rest pushing it. Indeed I do not think it is that popular now – I think the Republicans lost the midterms partly because of sleaze and Pork, but mostly because of “the war stupid”.

And by 2008 the great George Bush – Mark Steyn project to spread democracy to the Muslims will either be abandoned (and voters will forget it fairly fast once they stop seeing American soldiers dying on the television news) or there will be some evidence that it is actually a good idea – either way it is not going to shape the 2008 elections in the way it shaped the 2006 elections.

However, the Democrats may win. The power of the mainstream (i.e. leftist) media is vast (and the left are just as good as anyone else in using the internet – perhaps better than their foes) and the Democrats have huge amounts of money that are not hit by John McCain’s death-to-the-First-Amendment ‘campaign finance reform’. → Continue reading: 2012 – The great chance for liberty in the United States?

The Kettering Gang Show

As promised to various Samizdata people, here is my posting on the Kettering Gang Show. I have lived in Kettering almost all my life, but I had never been to the Gang Show before.

For those who do not know a ‘Gang Show’ is not an event put on by street gangs, it is an entertainment event put on by Scouts (which include not only the young cubs, and the adult scout masters but, these days, girl Scouts). It is a matter of songs, dances and comedy – put on to aid Scout funds (supposedly on every night of the year there is a Gang Show going on someone in the world).

Well on a cold and windy night I walked to event, passing only few groups of youths hanging about on street corners (surely, whatever one thinks of groups like the Scouts, these youngsters would be better off joining in rather than just hanging about, they looked rather depressed – even by my standards).

The singing, dancing and comedy routines were not amazing – but they were not bad either. And I was rather moved by the effort the children put in (the speed of the costume changes alone was very impressive). Even us in the audience tried to do our bit – we stood up and sang “God Save the Queen” at the start, and did a bit of participation in one song and movement thing (yes we proved that we could not sing and were uncoordinated – but we had a go).

My strongest impression was of the attitude of everyone (entertainers, people selling stuff, people checking the tickets, St John’s people on call against anyway getting hurt or falling ill) – all seemed to have a good time and to show benevolence for others.

The Northamptonshire folk may not be wildly attractive (neither the large native Northamptonshire people, nor London overspill stock like me) and they may not be clever or knowledgeable (but intelligence and knowledge are not always an advantage in life – after all I have the ability to produce strong arguments showing how any situation is hopeless and it is pointless to try anything, and I can produce lots of facts and stats to back up my inactive despair), but their faces showed both courage and good will – and not just good will for the event.

The people there were clearly honest and good (if not beautiful or profound). Rather like Tolkien’s hobbits, they are clearly folk who are both decent enough companions in the ordinary run of life – but better companions if something terrible were to happen.

Stating the bleedin’ obvious

A BBC journalist this morning informs us that the death in highly suspicious circumstances of a former Russian KGB official could lead to a “potential diplomatic incident” between Britain and Russia.

You think?

Mr Fleming would be very impressed

Last night, I went along to see the latest 007 movie along with my wife, as well as Perry de Havilland of this parish, regular Samizdata commentator and friend Julian Taylor, David Shaw and others. There had been so much media noise and excitement leading up to the film, starring Daniel Craig as Bond, that I just had to go and see it.

I am very glad that I did so. I am one of those folk who actually prefers the original Ian Fleming books to the films, and I have a consequent dislike of the nonsense of the Roger Moore films, and the excesses of gadgetry and sheer silliness that the film-makers imposed on the stories after the first two or three of the Sean Connery movies, which are my favourites. So the fact that the new film deliberately sought to be more hard-edged, less dependent on gimmickry and cheesiness, was a good development.

Daniel Craig has been a controversial choice for Bond. The Bond of the novels is a slim, dark-haired old Etonian, of Swiss-French and Scottish ancestry – with a hard streak, a weakness for beautiful women in distress and a belief in living life to the full. Craig does well to convey the hard side of Bond, but he tries a bit too hard, sometimes. He comes across as a sort of over-muscled army squaddie, who struts about the set rather than adopt the sort of feline grace of Fleming’s character. But there is no doubting that Craig – who says he loves the Fleming novels – has taken up the challenge of portraying Bond as not just some suave dude who can kill and seduce the girls, but who can also take risks and get hurt in the service of his cause – his country. And that is the unspoken message of this film, and very un-PC it is. Bond is a patriot (not much sign that he wants to work for the UN). He kills without the need to consult a post-traumatic stress disorder clinic, and is more likely to drink a large glass of bourbon instead. He gets cut, he gets beaten up, and he falls in love and learns the dangers of emotional involvement with ravishing brunettes (not that there is anything wrong with ravishing brunettes, ahem).

I thought the scene in the casino was the highlight, and even though the game was poker rather than baccarat – as in the story – the tension is built up nicely. The setting is nice, the actors who support Bond are pretty good, and the actress who plays Vesper is lovely – I can see why any red-blooded man can fall for her. The torture scene, taken from the original book, is pretty nasty, although the scene in the book is far nastier (it gave Raymond Chandler nightmares, apparently).

Some of the stunt/action scenes do not seem to add a great deal to the plot – such as the amazing scene at Miami airport – but they are incredibly well-done. For sheer excitement, the opening half-hour of the film cannot be beaten.

What is clear is that the film-makers, seeing how the Bond movies were mocked by the Austin Powers series of Mike Myers, have decided that our Jim is not going to put up with being a joke any more. Daniel Craig deserves a large, well-made vodka martini – made the right way, obviously – for playing 007 so well, and with such obvious conviction and relish.

Good review of the movie here.

The original Fleming novel is definitely worth a read. Meanwhile, Jim Henley has thoughts.

One final gripe: will the moviemakers ever get the casting right of Felix Leiter, Bonds’ CIA buddy? In the books, he is a fair-headed Texan, ex-Marine Corps with a wonderfully sardonic sense of humour.

(Update: here is my review of Simon Winder’s recent diverting if also irritating book about the James Bond phenomenon and post-war British history.)

First Things

Taylor Dinerman is a professional journalist and one of our long time readers. He has an ability to spur a lively dinner time discussion amongst visitors to North by Northwest in the upper west of Manhattan where he is often to be found. As you read on you will soon discover why!

For many years now I have subscribed to First Things, a monthly magazine put out by Institute for religion and Public Life whose purpose is to ‘advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society’. Obviously not a very libertarian endeavour, but the magazine does, on occasion support limited or small government ideas and stands firmly against the totalitarian monsters of our age. The editor Father John Neuhaus is a Catholic, but a very American one and the magazine is full of great stuff that for a non Catholic and Non Christian like myself (I am a not very pious Reform Jew.) is a window into a culture that is an important part of the world around me.

For readers of Samizdata the December 2006 issue has an article on ‘The Witness of Dietrich von Hildebrand’ by John Crosby, that they may find interesting. Hildebrand, a philosopher and theologian, was an early and unyielding opponent of Hitler’s who did ‘battle with the Nazi ideology at the level of philosophical and theological first principals.’

He said ‘the signature of the age’ was a certain anti-personalism. One expression of this anti-personalism was collectivism, the philosophy that takes human beings as mere parts in some collectivity. Hildebrand held that each human being as a person called by God and answerable to God is always more than a part in a social whole; as a person each exists before God as his own whole and thus refuses to be completely contained in any social whole. Each is a person at a far deeper level of himself than he is a member of the German State or of the English people, to say nothing of some political party.

There is a lot more like this and despite it being densely argued it tends to enlighten some of our current dilemmas. With a German theologian and philosopher as Pope these kinds of arguments and ideas may get more and more circulation. The Regensburg speech which pissed off the Muslims so much is another example of these kinds of ideas.

Libertarians and small government conservatives may find that on some issues they have a fellow traveler in the Vatican. Of course, the Pope is always going to be Pope first , any comfort he may give to us free market types will always be secondary to that role, but if he moves the Church away from the statist and collectivist doctrines that have occasionally been promoted by the Church over the last couple of centuries or more it will be a monumental change.

If it is done it will be done in language that will be difficult for laymen or non theologians to follow. The good effects (if any) may take years or decades to trickle down, but we all should be aware of the possibilities. This may be overly optimistic, but who knows ‘God’?

There is a link if anyone is interested.

Calling all Tory apologists

Again and again, when people here on Samizdata and elsewhere pointed out that there was nothing ‘conservative’ about ‘Dave’ Cameron, various Tory apologists kept saying “oh, but Dave does not really think those things!”…

I look forward to them now explaining how the Right Honourable Member for Witney can be making common cause for an authoritarian socialist like Polly Toynbee.

Perhaps the few remaining members of the dwindling faithful who voted for this jackass to be their leader should repent their ways and go join a real conservative party before ‘Dave’ does the ‘full Toynbee’ and backs the forcible suppression of all private education, confiscation of private wealth (oh, sorry, he’s already decided to back that) and nationalisation of whole industries like dear Polly would like.

Samizdata quote of the day

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to treat my setback at work as a chance to contemplate things like The Transient And Illusory Nature Of Material Things and Attachment As The Root Of Suffering – the bits of yoga that actually matter. And today I did a fairly intensive backbending practice – perhaps not the best possible idea in the circumstances. Backbending has a tendency to be emotional-turmoil-inducing at the best of times, let alone at the end of a weekend spent brooding on the Cruelty Of Fate. Even today, though, the peace that comes from just watching the breath going in, watching the breath going out, was there eventually. Even if it was only for the last four or five breaths of a two hour practice, that’s enough.

Alan Little just breathes

Samizdata photograph of the day


The Ashes are about to start. God it is wonderful.

I bet I can tell what Friedman would have said about the Olympics

The UK Olympic Games of 2012 are shaping up nicely to be the expensive, possibly corrupt affair that many of us crusty cynics claimed it would be over a year ago. There is only the grimmest of satisfaction to be gained from having been proved so emphatically correct. Given the history of publicly-financed construction projects in recent years, or even projects in which public finance is only a part, the predictions should not have been difficult (think of the Scottish Parliament, or Wembley Stadium, or the Channel Tunnel, to take just three).

The likely bill – to the taxpayer – of these Games is likely to be far higher than originally projected. It is almost certain that this fact was known to British politicians and sports-establishment types who lobbied to hold the Games in Britain over a year ago. If a company had bid for a contract with the same degree of financial acumen, probity and sense as the idiots in the UK public sector, rather long gaol terms, fines or hefty compensation packages might now be the order of the day.

We are remembering the late, very great Milton Friedman a lot at the moment, digesting his contributions to the fields of technical economics, monetary theory, politics, education and much else. But I think that his often disarmingly simple statements about the role of the state and the dangers of government will endure the longest, if only because they carry truths from the start of human history:

There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!

Finally, I can spend somebody else?s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I?m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income.

(Via David Farrar’s blog)

I think the Olympic Games falls into the final category. I do agree with Stephen Pollard on the possibly sensible idea of cancelling the Games, even at this stage. The lead article in the Times (UK), by contrast, is remarkable for its breezy indifference to the cost of the Games and the fact that the money for it will be screwed out of the pockets of people who regard the whole spectacle as an expensive joke.

Oh, and before any commenters of a pro-state sympathy start to wonder, no, I am not a sport-hater. I enjoy watching football, cricket and other sports, and play one or two sports myself (not very well, I will admit). However, I do not expect my fellows to support my enthusiasms. Is it too much to ask the same of others?

Commercial Space talk at Libertarian Alliance Conference

For those who might enjoy a non-virtual session on the growing New Space market sector, I will be talking at the Libertarian Alliance conference The National Liberal Club in London this coming Saturday afternoon.

Be there or be Earthbound.

Why buy the Sunday Telegraph?

On Saturday I went to the annual conference of the Bruges Group – an organization that has moved from a critical attitude to the European Union to an understanding that the United Kingdom should get out of the of the E.U.

One of the speakers was Mr Booker of the Sunday Telegraph a man who has specialized in detailing the exact harm done to business after business (normally small business enterprises) by EU inspired regulations after the Single European Act of 1986 allowed E.U. directives to be applied to most areas of British life. Small damage at first (just a few people’s lives destroyed) but over the last two decades more and more enterprises (and the people who go with them) destroyed. Although, of course, much of the damage of the EU (such as the CAP and the CFP) go back to when we joined back in 1973.

I will not go into the mistakes of some British politicians (such as Mrs Thatcher) who were tricked by the EU people and their British supporters, or the actions of other British politicians (such as Sir Edward Heath or Lord Howe) who deliberately acted for this hostile power against their own country. Other than to say that I do not accept the Benedict Arnold defence – i.e. that brave service in war means that a man should still be considered a patriot if he later changes his coat.

I am more concerned with a minor matter here. As I heard Mr Booker’s speech I thought “it is a long time since I bought the Sunday Telegraph – I will buy it tomorrow”.

And so I did buy it – and was reminded why I do not buy it any more. → Continue reading: Why buy the Sunday Telegraph?