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]


Perry de Havilland of this parish just loves these creatures. Here’s a great story to brighten up a rather dull, grey day in London.

I really must go on safari one day.

Michael Jennings on how a discount airline that loses the safety also loses the profits

Patrick Crozier and various others, of whom I am one, continue to put stuff up at Transport Blog from time to time (although my contributions are not always very profound). One of the more interesting Transport Blog items of recent weeks has been this recorded conversation in which Samizdata’s own Michael Jennings talks with Patrick Crozier about low cost airlines. Says Patrick: “Here‘s my favourite bit.”

This favourite bit is worth quoting in full:

Jennings: There was an airline named ValuJet which flew a plane into the Everglades and everybody on that plane was killed. Now this sort of put a damper on the discount airlines of the US, because ValuJet was the second largest discount airline in the US at that point after South West, and it got out … once there was an investigation into this crash, it turned out that ValuJet had cut costs in all kinds of places, and in particular they’d simply neglected safety. And because the fact that this one discount airline in the US had done terribly bad things with respect to maintenance, discount airlines in the US didn’t grow as fast after that as they probably would have if this crash had not happened.

Crozier: It’s interesting that that does sort of put a kibosh on the profits-before-safety argument. If you try to put profits you lose the safety, and if you lose the safety you lose the profits.

Jennings: The interesting thing which came out of that was that discount airlines in other parts of the world really, really learned a lesson from that. Discount airlines in Europe, in particular RyanAir, which is … one of the most ferocious cost-cutting companies I’ve ever seen of any kind … it doesn’t skimp on maintenance. The lesson was learned that whatever you do, you do your maintenance properly, because if you do skimp on maintenance and a plane crashes that will be the end of you, basically.

One of Patrick Crozier’s relentless Transport Blog memes is that safety and profit are not alternatives; they go hand in hand. As he says here in connection with railways, where exactly the same equation applies:

… crashes are expensive. You lose the train, you lose passenger revenue through delays and cancellations and you probably have to rebuild the track. As a rail executive once said: “Even a minor derailment or a collision can cost a fortune. I mean millions.”

No wonder Patrick was glad to hear Michael saying a similar thing not just about airlines, but in particular about cheap airlines.

My favourite bit is where, reflecting on the impact on low cost aviation of the Second World, Michael says:

There are probably more airstrips in East Anglia than there are in all of China.

It’s not so much that I never knew that as that it had never occurred to me to even think about it.

Qualms about seeing great pieces of stolen art

There are lots of posters on the Tube and other places about this exhibition of Russian-owned art at London’s Royal Academy. Henry Matisse’s “The Dancers” is shown in the adverts; I am not a massive Matisse fan, but the sheer variety and quality of the work on show is tempting.

A problem I have, however, is that these works were stolen from their original buyers back in the Russian Revolution or in the 1920s (ironically, Stalin wanted to destroy some of this stuff because he considered it to be “decadent”). I am not really comfortable in looking at something that has been stolen from a private owner; I feel slightly the same way about taking tours around ancient buildings that are no longer owned by their original owners because they have been forced to sell up due to massive death duties, now transferred to such bodies as the National Trust. One might argue, of course, that aristocrats who own massive stately piles are not worth too much sympathy since their families may have come into these lands as a result of earlier hand-outs.

Oh well, I fear my curiosity will overcome my squeamishness. It pays to book early: this exhibition looks to be a sell-out. Thanks to regular Samizdata commenter Julian Taylor for suggesting that I write about this topic.

Samizdata quote of the day

We’d all play like that… if we could.

– John Coltrane, no mean saxophone player, talking about arguably the greatest of them all, Stan Getz. His cool, silk-like style is the perfect cure for a stressful day at the office.

The Frontier

A number of persons placed comments about my recent article on SpaceShipTwo which showed they did not have a great deal of knowledge about the revolution in space affairs now taking place. Rather than write a long survey article I have decided to simply give you a reading list. The following is not complete by any means. These are just the names which came easily and immediately to mind on a Sunday afternoon and all are building serious hardware or providing services:

Blue Origin
Virgin Galactic
XCOR Aerospace
Armadillo Aerospace
Bigelow Aerospace
Masten Space
TGV Rockets
Rocketplane and Rocketplane-Kistler
Scaled Composites
Space Adventures
Orbital Outfitters
Zero G
Starchaser Industries
Orion Propulsion
Videos about settling the Moon
National Space Society
Frontier Aerospace
Wyoming Space and Information Systems


Ed: I may add more over the course of the day if the urge strikes. I know I have left out entire categories like spaceports and should probably fill in that gap if I have the time.

William Hague gets it right…

William Hague is on the money and bloody hilarious…

These kids these days…

A long time ago, when I was a wee nip of a lad, my parents would keep me quiet by turning on the television and having me watch such classics as Sesame Street. Little did they know that what I was watching was not suitable for children! I know that now, because the early seasons of Sesame Street have come out on DVD and they have been given a parental advisory, no less.

The first few seasons have just been released and come with, of all things, a warning.

“These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grownups and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child,” the warning reads.

“Sesame was created in the ’60s, and it was a bit edgier, if you will,” said Sherrie Rollins Westin, executive vice president of Sesame Workshop.

What parent today would want their child to see kids running through a construction site or jumping on an old box spring? Scenes like the ones included on the new DVD would probably not make it into today’s program now.

“We wouldn’t have children on the set riding without a bicycle helmet,” Rollins Westin says.

And what’s that little girl doing with that man?

“In the very first episode, Gordon takes a little girl’s hand who he’s just met on the street, befriends her and takes her into his home to give her ice cream,” Rollins Westin said. “That’s something we wouldn’t do on the show today.”

And rightly so. You wouldn’t want your kids to turn out like us dreadful Generation X old fogeys, after all!

Samizdata quote of the day

I am more and more coming to the conclusion that National Greatness Conservatism, like all quasi-fascist movements, is based on a weird romantic teenager’s fantasies about what it means to be a grown up. The fundamental moral decency of liberal individualism seems, to the unserious mind that thinks itself serious, completely insipid next to very exciting big boy ideas about shared struggle, sacrifice, duty, glory, virtue, and (most of all) power. And reading Aristotle in Greek.

Will Wilkinson

However I must disagree with Will elsewhere in his article. I see individualism as magnificently and floridly Art Deco.

The expectable unintended consequences

It had to happen and it has. Both statist parties have found a way around the anti-First Amendment law (MCCAIN-Feingold) of the contemptible John McCain. This is the law whose intent is to prevent protected political free speech from occurring during the late period of the US election.

I read somewhere recently (and cannot find it right now) about a liberal group who are raising money to attack George Bush through the entire campaign season. This seems silly until you realize that he is a proxy for the Republican Party.

The Republican’s have their own breed of professional slime tossers and they have settled on Bill Clinton as a good proxy for Hillary and the Democrats in general.

The bottom line? John McCain is not only a totalitarian: he’s a moron as well.

Even when you get robbed by the taxman, they mess up

Anyone in Britain who wishes to file a tax return to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs must do so online. Oh goody:

The security of the online computer system used by more than three million people to file tax returns is in doubt after HM Revenue and Customs admitted it was not secure enough to be used by MPs, celebrities and the Royal Family.

Thousands of “high profile” people have been secretly barred from using the online tax return system amid concerns that their confidential details would be put at risk.

Of course, as the Daily Telegraph rightly points out, the HMRC is the department that managed to lose details of 25m people back in the autumn; it may be a rash prediction to make, but the more this sort of nonsense piles up, the less likely it is that the ID card will go ahead as planned. We can all live in hope, anyway.

A military coup in Australia

It is not widely known even in Australia that in 1808 the NSW Corps of the British Army deposed the Governor of New South Wales, William Bligh, in a coup. This is known as the ‘Rum Rebellion’, but it was not really about rum. Reading about it on Wikipedia, it is clear that Governor Bligh, a Captain in the Royal Navy, who had already endured the Mutiny on the Bounty, was not fit to govern a colony like New South Wales was at the start of the 19th Century.

For there were already free settlers in New South Wales at that time, and they wanted their rights and liberties as British subjects respected. Chief among them was John Macarthur. Michael Duffy writes about the rebellion and Macarthur’s role in it here.

As for myself, since it is also Australia Day today, I am going to do the patriotic thing and toast my nation onwards- with good old Australian Rum.

The new face of South Africa

Glenn Reynolds links to an interesting-sounding book about South Africa’s poor whites, a group completely obscured – globally, by the international perception of the apartheid society and locally, by post-apartheid positive discrimination efforts to raise the country’s recently oppressed blacks out of poverty. It made me recall a piece I saw some time ago on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s international current affairs programme, Foreign Correspondent, that also examined the lot of disadvantaged white South Africans. It contained a very interesting interview of the ANC government minister Essop Pahad. I have reproduced the business end of the discussion below (the emphasis in bold is my own):
→ Continue reading: The new face of South Africa