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]

People to remember

Blogger and soldier Andrew Olmsted was mentioned on a Fox News report I listened to on the net tonight. His posthumous last post from January of this year seems worthy of Christmas Eve.

If I (and apparently he) are wrong and there is an after… I sincerely hope it is populated by souls such as his.

Temples of learning

Here are some superb photos of those symbols of human civilisation, libraries. As ever, the British Library blows me away.

(Hat tip: Stephen Hicks).

I am spending Christmas in a part of the world boasting some pretty fabulous architecture of its own. In the meantime, I want to wish readers a Happy Christmas and hopefully not too stressful 2009, whatever the economic situation brings.

The metacontext of Madoff

Evidence is only of use to the mind that is prepared for it.

Every time I see the government of Japan (or some other government) spending yet more money, in spite of the failure of all their previous government spending orgies, I am reminded of this.

Because, of course, to them there is no such thing as evidence that expanding government spending is not a “good thing”, just as there is no such thing as evidence that trying to finance lending (“investment”) via credit/money expansion, rather than solely by real savings, is not a “good thing”.

On the contrary, any economic decline (perhaps even mass starvation) is interpreted as evidence that there should both be more government spending (an “expansionary fiscal policy”) and more credit/money expansion (an “expansionary monetary policy”).

This is due to the framework of ideas in the heads of the politicians, administrators, mainstream academics and media people – and, yes, many businessmen… What Perry would call the “metacontext”.

Yet in the private sector, this sort of behaviour is called this a ‘pyramid scheme‘ and people get thrown in jail for it.

Britain has lost the stomach for a fight

So writes Michael Portillo.

Well, you can certainly tell that he does not intend to stand for election again. This blog is not generally a fan club for politicians, but even here one must admit that when a former Secretary of State for Defence and Shadow Chancellor writes –

It raises questions about the stamina of our nation and the resolve of our political class. It is an uncomfortable conclusion that Britain, with nuclear weapons, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers and the latest generation of fighter-bombers, is incapable of securing a medium-size conurbation. Making Basra safe was an essential part of the overall strategy; having committed ourselves to our allies we let them down.

The extent of Britain’s fiasco has been masked by the media’s relief that we are at last leaving Iraq. Those who have been urging Britain to quit are not in a strong position to criticise the government’s lack of staying power. Reporting of Basra has mainly focused on British casualties and the prospect for withdrawal. The British media and public have shown scant regard for our failure to protect Iraqis, so the British nation, not just its government, has attracted distrust. We should reflect on what sort of country we have become. We may enjoy patronising Americans but they demonstrate a fibre that we now lack.

– it carries more weight than the same sentiments coming from most other sources.

Is it true? Broadly speaking, of course it is. I agree with those commenters to the Times who placed blame on the “carping, self-loathing left wing commentariat”, or made the parallel with the media in the Vietnam War, or with MGG of Auckland, who wrote

Fortunately Britain’s Armed Forces have not so far ‘lost the stomach for a fight’. But faced with this continuing lack of moral fibre in the civil population bred by the ‘Nanny State’ policies of New Labour it won’t be long before they give up too – in disgust!

As I wrote in a post about the New Cowardice in the emergency services called ‘Loss of Nerve’, “Poisoned soil does not long give forth good fruit.”

That said, I suspect that when viewed from the distance of thirty years, the sharp outline of defeat in Basra (and what is worse, a defeat that followed from a disgraceful accommodation with the enemy on the part of commanders too fond of their own cleverness) will be blurred by other, better parts of the picture.

Mr Portillo has shown an admirable willingness to make himself unpopular: he praised George W Bush, rightly, for the latter’s contempt of public and educated opinion. Mr Bush (contrary to popular opinion, which is one reason he has such contempt for it) has studied history and will certainly have paused over this quotation from Lincoln, written in August 1864:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such grounds that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.”

That is why I say that the difference between the United States and Britain in this story is not so large as all that. After all, in this war the Americans voted in the favoured candidate of the Copperheads, a President-elect who did indeed secure his election on such grounds that it would have been impossible for him to win the war after his inauguration, though he will be glad enough to take the victory that was won by other hands before it.

White Knight Two flies

The carrier aircraft for SpaceShipTwo took off for its first test flight. This is the first step of what will probably be a year long test program culminating in drop tests and flights of the world’s first tourist spaceship.

It is late over here. I am sure there will be a lot of information up about it. If not, talk to me tomorrow!

Tranquility Dome

You might find this initial pilot for an animated not so far off future, ‘Tranquility Dome’, a lot of fun. The author, Chip Prosser, asked me to take a look and now I am wondering how soon the next episode will be available!

Merry Christmas from Belfast

Beflast City Hall Bazaar
City Hall Christmas bazaar.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

A lot of bottle

Chinese crew used beer bottles to fight off pirates

While I salute the captain and crew of the Zhenua 4, I cannot help thinking that guns might have been more convenient. What, exactly, is the difficulty over providing them?

The passing of an Enterprise crew member

I have been informed that Majel Barrett Roddenberry has died. She is best known to many as Nurse Chapel aboard the original Starship Enterprise. Despite being a major celebrity, she was perfectly at ease joining the rest of us in the hospitality suites until all hours of the night.

Somewhere I have a photo of her behind the suite’s ‘bar’ counter chatting with Buzz Aldrin, Lori Garver and another close friend of mine, Beverly Freed at once of our International Space Development Conferences.

She and her husband Gene Roddenberry, who died in the early 1990’s, were strong supporters of the National Space Society’s goal of a solar system wide human civilization.

Here are a few links to photos of Majel I took at the 1993 ISDC in Huntsville, Alabama.

Majel accepting posthumous award on behalf of Gene Roddenberry.

Majel accepting posthumous award on behalf of Gene Roddenberry

Majel with Lori Garver (currently member of the Obama transition team for space policy)

Majel with Buzz Aldrin

Meanwhile, the band played on… Home on Lagrange anyone?

Note: the dates on the files are the dates on which the rolls were developed, not the dates they were taken. Photos were scanned from prints and thus the quality is not wonderful.

Sounds like a re-run

I have just heard on an infrastructure mail list that India has lost much international bandwidth and the problem is due to failure on the SeaMeaWea3, SeaMeaWea4 and FALCON submarine cable systems at Alexandria.

There were multiple failures in Alexandria just a few months ago if I remember correctly.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh

The One is not yet in the White House, but already, one of his most enthusiastic cheerleaders in the blogsphere, Andrew “Excitable Andy” Sullivan, has discovered that Mr Obama might not be totally signed up to the notion that consenting adults should be left alone to make arrangements to their liking, such as gay marriage.

Well done, Andrew. It took Mr Sullivan just two years to swing from rather gushing praise for George W. Bush to treating him as as worse than Attila the Hun. Will Obama’s fall from Sullivan’s pantheon of political heroes be even quicker?

Just to be serious – and lest folk think I am just engaging in a spot of mud-throwing at Sullivan – it is truly sad to see how this influential commentator has made a prize ass of himself over his assumption that voting for Obama was something that anyone who favoured small, limited government could be comfortable with. Oh for sure, Mr Obama may remove some of the bad things that the Bush White House encouraged, but I would not bet on it. Come to that, I am not at all sure that civil libertarians, be they concerned about issues like gay marriage, drugs, free speech, abuse of police powers, etc, can be at all confident that Mr Obama, a scion of the Chicago political machine, is good news. That’s not to say that the GOP will be any better, of course.

What Sullivan, and indeed all of us, need to remember is that Bush, Obama, or for that matter Brown, Sarkozy and Merkel, are politicians.

Samizdata quote of the day

“The forgotten man… He works, he votes, generally he prays, but his chief business in life is to pay.”

William Graham Sumner
, from his essay, The Forgotten Man. Its relevance for our own time is unmistakable.