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]

Kinsella sues Levant but Levant is not bothered

Ever since Ezra Levant came to the attention of Samizdata readers, thanks to a posting by Perry just over a year ago, I have had his blog on my personal blogroll and have occasionally visited there. But I do not read all of it. Sometimes the sheer detail of Canadian politics becomes too much to endure. But this recent posting I did read, right through, with great pleasure. Some political hack called Warren Kinsella, who sounds like a cross between Alastair Campbell and Derek Draper, has sued Levant for defamation, demanding five million dollars. The idea was presumably to make people scared of Kinsella, and maybe it has. But not Levant.

Filing a $5-million lawsuit to try to silence questions about his Adscam involvement probably isn’t Kinsella’s smartest move. I’m not sure why someone who wants to stop people talking about Adscam would create a conversation-starter like a massive lawsuit. And then there’s the prickly matter of Kinsella subjecting himself (and his private documents) to unlimited cross-examination by me – I mean days or weeks, not the brief appearance he made before Justice John Gomery’s Inquiry.

What is Adscam, I wonder? Something that makes Kinsella look bad, presumably. I ask this to show how right Levant is about how this bizarre and way-over-the-top lawsuit causes faraway people like me with no direct interest in any of this to get drawn into the story. Levant is asking for donations. Defending against lawsuits like this, thanks to the internet, can now be paid for by sympathisers.

The bigger picture here, or part of it, is that the political left is losing its grip on the means of political communication, and it does not like it. Time was when people like Kinsella could get up to all kinds of mischief and nobody would say a word. If anyone did complain, the story would be told from Kinsella’s point of view and then forgotten. Thanks to people like Ezra Levant, those days are passing. But Kinsella seems to be having a problem adjusting to this new media reality. It looks to me like Kinsella is really suing Levant for the more elemental crime, if that’s the right phrase, of not grovelling. Levant doesn’t know his place. But Levant does know his place. It is Kinsella who no longer seems to understand his.

The bigger party political picture is that Kinsella risks damaging his political master. This is a certain Michael Ignatieff, known to Brits only as a talking head on late night culture shows on the telly, but now a Big Cheese politician in Canada.

Major breakthrough in Nanotechnology

I have just been reading an article in this month’s Scientific American that has me smiling from ear to ear. One of the difficult problems for ‘strong nanotechnology’ has been cracked: how do you handle C3I with millions or billions of nanoassemblers? How do you program them? How do you tell them when to start and stop or do something different? How do they report problems, lack of raw materials, whatever?

University of California Berkeley physicist Dr. Alex Zettl and colleagues have built nanoscale radio receivers and transmitters using a single buckeytube each. One tube performs all the actions of an AM radio. Antenna. Tuner. Amplifier. Demodulator. Best of all this is not just theory. It already works well enough to communicate to and from the human scale at this primitive stage of development.

I might add that if you can turn radio waves into mechanical energy at the nanoscale, then you also have another tool in the nanoparts box for feeding energy to nanosystems.

This is big.

Death of a B-2

While doing some research for other purposes I ran across this excellent video of a B-2 stalling and crashing on takeoff. If you have the vaguest interest in aviation I am sure you will find this as fascinating as I did.

All escaped unscathed except the USAF budget.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Whenever someone complains that libertarians are just pie-in-the-sky utopian (or distopian) intellectuals, just ask them again about the real world consequences of the War on Drugs, and see who gets all pie-in-the-sky right quick”.

Randy Barnett.

Mr Barnett clearly did not get the memo from former UK prime minister Tony Blair that all that talk about liberty was so 19th Century, dahling.

Samizdata quote of the day

Love doesn’t scale.

– Eric S. Raymond (spotted yesterday and discussed by Joshua Herring)

Fighting financial mercantilism

Reuters, last month:

LONDON, Jan 26 – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned on Monday against a retreat into financial protectionism as the global economic downturn gathers pace.

With sterling near record lows against the yen and 23-year lows against the dollar, Brown also reiterated that his government policy was not built around currency exchange rates.

“We have not yet seen the same protectionism in trade with beggar-thy-neighbour policies of the ’30s,” he told reporters, referring to the Great Depression. “And I will fight hard to ensure we do not. But we also need to ensure we do not exercise a new form of financial mercantilism of retreat into domestic lending and domestic financial markets.

Reuters, this month, from Berlin:

BERLIN, Feb 22 – European leaders meeting in Berlin on Sunday have backed oversight of all financial markets and products, including hedge funds, and urged that sanctions be drawn up to punish tax havens, according to a final statement seen by Reuters.

Where was Gordon? Apparently he was there. Perhaps he has changed his mind about financial mercantilism in the meantime.


TARP – Troubled Assets Relief Program – is not an acronym that has yet made its way across the Atlantic in a big way. But it surely won’t be long coming because yesterday it reached me, in the form of an email from Michael Jennings, containing this, which is a pictorial explanation of what it means. Apparently, some of MJ’s Aussie stockbroker mates have been circulating this amongst themselves. A few seconds of googling also got me to a TARP song.

Obviously sanity is losing all the policy battles at the moment, big time, but at least sanity is speaking – and singing – out, and may yet win the ideological war. As I said in a comment on a recent Johnathan Pearce posting here, this bodes well for our great grandchildren, if not for our children.

Preparing for a volcanic eruption

Yesterday, while I was cleaning my flat (you asking for a medal, Ed?), I had the TV on in the background and it was running a series of programmes via the Horizon team at the BBC about various natural disasters, such as earthquakes, killer giant waves and tsunamis. In the latter case, the programme speculated that if there was a volcanic eruption in one of the islands in the group known as the Canaries, off the African coast, that it would trigger a huge slide of rock into the ocean, therby causing a massive wave, which would then run left across to the Eastern seaboard of North America, probably parts of the Caribbean also, annihilating all in its path. New York, Balimore, Miami, etc would be obliterated.

This guy is not terribly convinced by the thesis. But suppose for a second that the direst predictions are accurate. Part of the theory is that the eruption will be so violent because of the enormous pressure that is building up inside the active volcano. So a question that occured to me was why doesn’t a team of geologists and engineers try to bore several large holes in the side of the volcano and let some of the pent-up magma come out, in a fairly controlled way?

I am not a scientist so feel free to mock this idea, but it occurs to me that given all the facts presented, this sort of idea might be a goer. I’d be interested to know what people think. There might be other techical “fixes” that spring to mind.

The state is not your friend… even when it does one of the few things it should be doing

Rihanna’s music is not particularly ‘my thing’ but clearly she is an internationally known high profile star. Thus when she was recently allegedly beaten up by her then boyfriend, this made it onto newspapers world wide. Unsurprisingly the police got involved, as indeed they should do in such cases.

But low and behold, far from treating the victim of a domestic assault with sensitivity, some piece of crap working for the police decided to make some money and sold the evidentiary pictures of her, which can now be seen across the internet. I would not even link to this if they were not already hard to avoid by anyone connected to the web.

I mean how low can someone go to have done this? I sure hope they find who is responsible and lock them in a dark hole for a portion of their life for a grotesque breach of fiduciary responsibility. The more I understand people, the more I like cats.

Paying respects

This looks like a film worth seeing for anyone who values the bravery and steadfastness of the American soldier, as I do and as should any Briton. (Full disclosure: I am related to several people serving in the US military). Kevin Bacon is a fine actor and well chosen for the lead part.

Bad ideas on economics

I see that the former BBC presenter of a programme about gardens and gardening, Monty Don, has recently argued that we should aim to be self-sufficient in food. The trouble with such calls for self-sufficiency is that the unit in which such activity should occur is not spelled out. Does Mr Don think trade should be confined to within Britain, or within a region of it, or a village? Has this character no idea of how starvation frequently accompanied those societies cut off from the benefits of trade? Has he no notion of the benefits of trade, division of labour, regional specialisation, etc?

Of course I have nothing against owners of land looking to grow their own food if they want – how could I? But of course I doubt that Mr Don or other self-sufficiency types want to adopt such a grass-roots policy, to excuse the pun. I grow most of my own herbs, for instance. People have at times brewed their own beer to avoid the insipid stuff on sale in the shops, and as a result, this encouraged the “micro-brewery” movement in the US and elsewhere. But that is an example of enterprise at its best. The trouble with Mr Don, I suspect, is that his approach tends to be accompanied by calls to restrict imports, and the like. I remember once watching a programme in which Mr Don went to Cuba, and presented a remarkably uncritical, almost fawning eulogy to the wonders of Cuban home-grown food. He is quoted gushingly by some Cuban website here. Ugh.

Talking of bad ideas, it does appear that Naomi Klein’s argument that crises provide fok with an “excuse” to “impose” free markets seems to have been rather turned over. In fact, the current crisis seems to have provided politicians and their media supporters with a great excuse to bash free markets, trade and entrepreneurship. It may be that eventually, of course, the disastrous consequences of interventionism will cause a reaction back towards free markets, in which case Klein will be correct, but not in a way she realises.

David Boaz has a good article on this issue.

Hope and change

All those folk who voted for The Community Organiser in the hope that he would lift some of the allegedly more questionable measures enacted by the previous administration to deal with terrorism are likely to be disappointed, at least if this report is accurate.

Shutting down Gitmo is just a stunt if all that happens is that terror suspects and other folk rounded up in the Middle East etc are locked up indefinitely in a different place. If people like Andrew Sullivan, who have hammered the institution of Gitmo, try to make excuses for this by arguing that such detention is somehow “different”, they deserve to be treated with contempt.