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]

Fight the power

Hackers in Indonesia have defaced a government website in protest over that increasingly authoritarian nation’s plans to block internet access to porn (and what is the internet for if not porn?)… Sadly the site has now been repaired, but nice one, guys. Stick it to them!

And here is a nice list of proxy servers for our Indonesian readers (yes, we do have at least a couple).

This is why John McCain is a nightmare

From NRO ‘The Campaign Spot’:

The tour will begin at McCain field, named for the family in Mississippi. McCain will note in a speech there that a distant ancestor served on George Washington’s staff, and “it seems that my ancestors served in every conflict this country has fought”. One of the themes in that speech will be how government should support parents, and how it should help, not complicate, how parents pass on their values to their children.

Holy. Crap. And this is the Republican candidate. Read that again: “government should support parents, and how it should help, not complicate, how parents pass on their values to their children”. Just de-construct that for a moment. Is that not a phrase that should send cold shivers down the spines of anyone who thinks civil society has been fucked over by the state quite enough for the last fifty or so years, thank you very much?

Clearly the government does not want any old values passed on to the kiddies, so John McCain must see a role for state approved politically vetted family values. And what if someone want to pass on the values of respecting the property of others and so not tolerating proxy theft via third parties (like, say, the state), is Johnny going help out there somehow? How about atheism? Contrary to the popular perceptions, I know a great many God-Free Americans (almost all of whom are self-described hyphenated Republicans). Will the state give them a hand passing that one on to Junior too? How about utter contempt for the political elite and their army of functionaries? John McCain’s kind offer to ‘help‘ is another manifestation of the baseless arrogance of so many members of the political class who think that civil society revolves around the state and is something for them to tinker with.

So John, let me tell you how to “help, not complicate, how parents pass on their values to their children”… mind your own goddamn business. There is nothing complicated about that.

What you are not being told about the current financial crisis

I received and read a copy of this article from DC Downsizers early this month but have only today been given a go ahead for republication. I think you will find it an interesting and refreshing account of just who is responsible for the whole subprime mortgage problem.

You can watch hours and hours of news, or read columns of print in most newspapers, and come away no wiser about the causes and prospects for the current financial turmoil.

Most journalists and TV talking heads do not really understand the subject, and those that do speak and write using so much jargon that the average person must feel he or she is trying to follow a conversation in ancient Hebrew.

We are going to try to cut through the jargon, and explain the situation as best we can, in plain English. If you find our explanation of value, please forward it to others.

The current housing crisis, and all that flows from it, comes from two main sources, both deriving from Washington. → Continue reading: What you are not being told about the current financial crisis

The fall of Finland

I previously reported on the saga of Mikko Ellilä. Here is the trial (in English) and now the state has spoken its verdict: guilty.

So it has happened: thoughtcrime is now officially a crime in Finland. Stating your opinion, moreover stating your opinions based of government statistics, is illegal. Finns may now only express a politically sanctioned range of opinions subject to supervision by official Gauleiters like Mikko Puumalainen. The fine is small but so what? The message is clear. Dissent will not be tolerated by the Finnish state. It should not matter a damn if you agree with what Mikko Ellilä says, it is outrageous that he is not being allowed to say what he thinks.

The thing I find so nauseating is these sanctimonious pathological control freaks act as those they are not repressive government thugs using force to prevent dissent. The freedom to only state popular opinions is no freedom at all because freedom of speech is the right to say what some other people do not want to hear. It is the right to express opinions that may offend because if you cannot do that, you do not have freedom of speech.

People like Finnish bureaucrat Mikko Puumalainen exist everywhere (see the Ezra Levant case in Canada) and they must be resisted by any means necessary.

Situation Normal, All F**ked Up

Heathrow’s Terminal Five, the one which is fingerprinting passengers even if they take domestic flights, has got off to a glorious start.

The British Airports Authority, now owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, is a joke. In an ideal universe, it would be broken up – as it should never have been privatised as a monopoly in the first place. If the wannabe Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants a campaign issue, this is it.

Update: I should of course stress that BA, which operates out of the terminal, bears a heavy lump of the responsibility for this. Its share price is down today by more than 3%. At least BA feels the economic chill of this sort of mess, BAA does not. One commenter points out that hitches often happen at the start of a new venture, but that does really wash since one assumes – right? – that the baggage and check-in facilities at a new airport were beta-tested to make sure they work properly. One would like to think that this is standard procedure in any new operation.

Tonight’s feature presentation is…

Fitna. The film made by Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

Make of it what you will.

WARNING: May not be worksafe.

When is it time to quit?

The pseudonymous Sunfish is well known member of the Samizdata commentariat and brings some interesting perspectives as when he is not throwing down pixels in this parish, he is a policeman ‘somewhere in the USA’. And Sunfish has a question…

Governments have goons. That’s what makes them governments rather than debating societies. Even the governments of relatively free societies have them. I would like some guidance from my fellow goons now.

Back in the 1990’s, when I first graduated the academy and became a cop, I thought I was going to go out and slay dragons. I also thought that I would not have to compromise any of my beliefs in order to do so. I can not have been the first libertarian to go into this line of work. However I did not originally sign up to be a drug warrior, tax collector, or the mailed fist of the ‘Mommy Knows Best’ state. Yet somehow, I occasionally end up being all three of those things. Most of the time, though, I think that we still do more good than harm.

But at what point do we actually do more harm than good for liberty? When is it time to quit?

The Swiss model

Raising issues like non-intervenionist foreign policy on a site like this is a bit like poking a bear with a stick: potentially hazardous. In my recent item on WW2, the issue surfaced again of whether a viable foreign policy for a nation is the “Swiss model” (no, not that kind). I personally doubt it works for all nations, certainly not the largest ones with long, porous borders. But as I have praised tax havens recently, I am reminded of how the Swiss seem to cope very well thankyou outside a surpranational organisation like the EU or a military alliance like NATO. But is that country what economists call a “free rider” – taking advantage of the fact that other, bigger nations have done the heavy lifting in standing up to tyrants, etc?

Lynx announced

XCOR’s press conference will start in LA in a couple hours and I have just found that the embargo on the Lynx Spaceplane press release has been lifted. For those few lucky ones who happened to catch my earlier article and then wondered why it vanished, it was due to a communications SNAFU. The person who sent me the info forgot to state it was embargoed so I blogged it. An hour later I received a frantic phone call whilst I was watching a DVD and pulled it as soon as he explained the mistake.

In any case, there is now a lot more information about the Lynx showing up. Rand Simberg, one of my business partners, will be there and no doubt live blogging it.

Disclosures: I might add that I spent several months doing software support for the aerodynamics guy. 🙂

Lynx artist conception
The Lynx will fly within two years with Astronaut Searfoss at the controls.
Image: With thanks to XCOR.

Sports lessons

What Sport Tells Us About Life: Bradman’s Average, Zidane’s Kiss and Other Sporting Lessons
Ed Smith
Penguin books, 2008, 190 pp., £14.99

I rarely buy new books in hardback at full price, because I rarely want any particular book. Usually I am just looking for something that is interesting, and prefer to soften the financial blows by taking my chances in the remainder and charity shops. But something about Ed Smith’s little book appealed to me, despite its combination of brevity and a high price-tag. Partly it was that the first three people quoted on the cover saying how good it was were Mike Atherton, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Michael Brearley, all of them big names if you are an England cricket fan like me, and all people whose opinions I greatly respect. Ed Smith himself is also a name, if you follow England cricket, because he is one of those many unfortunates who played a handful of test matches (his were in 2006 against South Africa), but who was then, somewhat unluckily, discarded. He now captains Middlesex. On the other hand, maybe he won’t prove to be so unfortunate in the longer run, because England batting places are now up for grabs again, following several batting debacles in recent months, and Ed Smith, who read history at Peterhouse, Cambridge, is just the kind of thoughtful, intelligent type – like the aforementioned Michaels, Atherton and Brearley – whom selectors like to have trained-up and ready to take over as England captain, should they be caught short for one. There are a few broad hints in his book to suggest that Ed Smith has not given up on such hopes himself. He certainly still hopes to play for England again. Meanwhile, I was not disappointed by this book, nor did I feel that the fifteen pounds I spent on it was wasted or bestowed upon an unworthy cause. There are basically two big reasons why I liked it.

The first reason is simply that Ed Smith writes not just about sport, but, as his title suggests, about the psychology, sociology and history of sport, and about psychology, sociology and history in general, merely illustrated by sport, in the sort of relaxedly middlebrow way that I particularly enjoy. Recently I have been doing some teaching, having always wanted to, and there is a lot of the teacher in Smith and in his family. You can entirely see why he is now a county captain. → Continue reading: Sports lessons

Dubious wisdom from the FT

This priceless comment adorns the Financial Times comment pages this morning:

“Public funds are also not always well-directed”

Wow, alert the media!

This remark is contained in a remarkably wrong-headed piece of analysis as to the implications of a recent decision by 3i, the large UK investment firm, to pull out of financing early-stage companies, or what it is generically known as venture capital. Compared to other news events, this might seem like arcane stuff, but in its own way, tells us a lot about the rough environment that entrepreneurs face not just in Britain but in the continent. Venture capitalists typically will back dozens of fledgling businesses, hoping that a minority of them become Google-type successes to compensate for the inevitable failures and just-about-break-evens. VC is very much a long-term game: it can take up to 10 years or more for a portfolio of these investments to bear fruit. The epicentre of VC investing is in northern California; investment outfits like Sequoia Capital have helped to fuel the Silicon Valley startups that are now part of business folklore.

Yet the writer of the FT piece lamely argues that public – taxpayer’s – money be used to encourage such businesses. Groan. It is vain to point out to this person that politicians should have rather more urgent things to do than risk public funds on highly speculative investments. Far better to get to the roots of why 3i and similar outfits have turned their backs on venture capital: a stifling tax and regulatory climate in Britain and elsewhere. If the rewards to success are not taxed at high marginal rates, then the money will flow in eventually, just as it has in the US.

Ideology before pupils in Britain’s schools

Tony Blair’s support for City Academies – schools with some private sector funding and management – was a move in the right direction, albeit a small one. Now it seems that the Brown government is trying to water that down. Mick Fealty has a perceptive blog posting talking about the war of ideas being fought between Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, and Lord Adonis, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools and Learners.

“So what?” I hear you say. Well it turns out that Mr Balls is not just unworried about Britain’s tax burden, he is also blinded to the problem of centralised, top-down state control of education. Apparently, one of Mr Ball’s colleagues says that the man is “entirely ideological. He has a strong belief in the role of local authorities in the delivery of services. He is a big state man.”

Lord Adonis on the other hand is a believer in school freedom and wants sponsors to keep having their say on how City Academies run. I fear, however, that the government may well make another balls-up here. While Baroness Thatcher’s reforms have largely stuck, the glue behind Mr Blair’s few good ones is so weak.