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]

Ben Bernanke’s record

Brian Doherty has an article slamming the record and conduct of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. It will not be news to the likes of us hard-money advocates, but still, well worth your time.

I like Doherty’s recent book on the American libertarian movement, by the way.

Farewell to the King of the Blues

Sir Bobby Robson, former manager of Newcastle Utd, England and a brace of successful European clubs (such as PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona), has died after a brave fight against cancer. But the club that in many ways will feel the pain of his loss the most is Ipswich Town FC, the club I have supported since I was a young boy

He took this relatively unfashionable club on the UK’s east coast to the heights of success in the FA Cup and in European competition, coming also very close to winning the old domestic First Division. His teams were glorious to watch. He conducted himself with grace, good humour – apart from the occasional tiff with the media – and had an infectious love of the sport that inspired football fans and players from all clubs. RIP.

Not waving but drowning

Dan Rather is calling on the state (naturally) to prop up the old mainstream media and had this to say:

“If we do nothing more than stand back and hope that innovation alone will solve this crisis,” he said, “then our best-trained journalists will lose their jobs.”

From your lips to God’s ear, Dan.

But innovation is indeed ‘solving’ this ‘crisis’ as the meteoric spread of blogs and other forms of new media are demonstrating. And Dan, if you think all those bloggers who are pissing on the ashes are trying to help put the flames out, I assure you their motives are rather… different.

(Via Instapundit)

How did children ever manage before ‘alchohol educators’?

Someone called Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times has written about the use of alcohol in the latest Harry Potter film and I must say I find her article deeply… something…disturbing? No, not quite right… alien… yes that is it. It is deeply alien.

As Harry Potter fans crowd movie theaters to catch the latest installment in the blockbuster series, parents may be surprised by the starring role given to alcohol. In scene after scene, the young wizards and their adult professors are seen sipping, gulping and pouring various forms of alcohol to calm their nerves, fortify their courage or comfort their sorrows.
As the mother of a 10-year-old Harry Potter fan, I was taken aback by the reaction of the young people in the theater. They snickered at Hermione’s goofy grin and, later, guffawed when an inebriated Hagrid passed out. While I don’t think my daughter fully understood what was going on, I wondered how other parents, educators and addiction experts would react.

If she found funny drunk people funny, it sounds to me like her daughter understood just fine.

Liz Perle, a mother of two teenage boys and the editor in chief of Common Sense Media, which reviews books, movies and Web content aimed at children, said she was bothered by so many scenes showing alcohol as a coping mechanism.

“Hermione is such a tightly wound young lady, but she’s liberated by some butterbeer,” she said. “The message is that it gives you liquid courage to put your arms around the guy you really like but are afraid to.”
Alcohol educators say that they don’t want to ruin the fun, but that parents should be aware of alcohol’s role in the Harry Potter series, the books as well as the movies. Several studies suggest that movies influence teenagers’ behavior when it comes to drinking, drugs and tobacco.

So why is this alien? Partially because booze really is a quite effective ‘coping aid’ that people have used since time immemorial to pluck up their courage to put their arms around the object of their affections for the first time. Why? Because at the risk of stating the obvious, it bleedin’ works. Is this really shocking or alarming to “parents, educators and addiction experts”?

I rather doubt my folks would have found a drunk giant and some pie-eyed teenagers in a film all too perplexing. But then they were hardly puritans and came from a more robust generation who felt there was value in a child occasionally colliding with life’s sharp protruding edges. Nor did they get the vapours from the sight of their little treasure’s bumps and bruises or feel any need to call in ‘experts’ when I intermittently got rat-faced drunk.

And what exactly is an ‘alcohol educator’? Pointing out that drinking can make you drunk and being drunk can make you walk into lamp posts or crash cars requires a specialist ‘alcohol educator’? How did anyone reach adulthood before such people existed I wonder?

Well I learned that drinking has its downside too, not from an ‘alcohol educator’ but from puking my guts up rather too often. I recall a teacher seeing me once heaving miserably after a school event and did he send me to an ‘alcohol commissar educator’? No, he left and returned a while later to present me with a bucket and mop and rather unsympathetically said “clean up before you leave”. Quite right too. He also never mentioned it again, because what could he possibly tell me about the downside of drinking too much that I had not just taught myself?

Teachers and parents teach children many things. And many of those things are true, half true or pure unadulterated lies. And most children know when what they are taught is hogwash. As a consequence, they learn the importance of critical judgement in ways that were not really intended by the person doing the ‘teaching’.

So when we hear this…

“I hope parents can talk to their kids and tell them even though Harry Potter made that seem fun, that it isn’t O.K.,” said Dr. Welsh, the author of a 2007 article about alcohol use in the Harry Potter series, published in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse.

…any 100+ IQ child who has had a few beers learns something valuable: his parents, and Dr. Welsh writing in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse, are full of it, because for most people it really is okay and their own experiences confirm that. They sank a few brewskis, had a giggle and maybe made an ass of themselves, and 99.9% of the time, no one died, got pregnant or lost an eye.

And this is an important lesson we all learn when growing up: some of what we are taught makes sense and quite a lot of it is complete and utter tosh, and just because your parents tell you something, ain’t necessarily so. And when an ‘alcohol educator’ is trotted out to tell you something, it is because he is being paid to tell you that, and often there is quite a bit more to it than he is letting on.

There is only one kind of professional ‘alcohol educator’ worth listening to, and they are called sommeliers.

Michael and Brian chat about the Ashes

Tomorrow morning, the third test in the current five match Ashes series begins in Birmingham, weather permitting. Ashes as in cricket, between England and Australia, which is as big as test cricket (i.e. the long-drawn-out goes-on-for-days-and-days variety) in England ever gets. Both Michael Jennings and I have had a break from blogging in recent weeks, but earlier this evening we got together to record a conversation about it all, and here it is. We rambled on for just under forty minutes.

However, two blemishes should be noted. First, for some reason, there are occasional little bursts of crackly sound, of the sort that used mysteriously to afflict gramophone records and which caused all classical fans other than vinylphiliacs to switch to CDs. These noises are not that obtrusive, given that this is a mere chat between mates, but they are a mild irritation. Apparently something weird happened every now and again in Michael’s laptop, which was what we recorded into. Sorry about that.

Second, I (Brian) referred to the current England player Stuart Broad as “Chris” Broad, which is a quite common error because Chris Broad, Stuart Broad’s father, was also a test match cricketer. Nevertheless, apologies again.

Apart from that, and if you think you might like this, do what we did. Enjoy.

Maryland is for pie fights

After working over fourteen hours today, with perhaps three hours of sleep the night before, my boss on the DC consulting job took me out for dinner at a diner, nearly the only restaurant still open in Bethesda at that hour. After dinner he asked for a Banana Cream Pie, his usual self-treat after this sort of marathon work day. The night chef told us it is no longer available. Montgomery County outlawed Trans-Fats and such pies are now contraband. For a moment I considered asking if there was a back room where one could gorge on smuggled pies, but thought better of it. Such secret places would be only for locals and those known to the Mafia, not for transient gypsy engineers such as myself.

Cream Pies outlawed.
The Morons of Montgomery.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

Maybe the time has come to bring back The Living Theater: “I am not allowed to eat Banana Cream Pies!!!” they could exclaim dramatically whilst standing about naked on stage. Perhaps a Three Stooges level cream pie fight is called for. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Residents of Montgomery County Arise! You have nothing to loose but your cream pies! Give your politicians the respect they have earned and deliver them their just deserts!

I hereby declare ‘The Cream Pie Revolution’, a proper descendant of ‘The Marshmallow Revolution’ (1) tradition of my youth. Yes, back to those days of yore when we hurled soft confections (probably illegal in Montgomery County) at the Pittsburgh Federal Building and Senator Strom Thurmound!

The concept of politicians with whipped cream covered visages appeals to the inner Yippee of my street theatre past. Of course, should such a terrible thing actually be done by some miscreants, it is definitely not my idea… but please send photos.

(1) ‘The Marshmallow Revolution’ was a street theatrical realization of a song from the 1970 Carnegie Mellon University Scotch and Soda Company BMI award winning original musical “Something Personal”, written by David Spangler and Mark Pirolo, with some input from Stephen Schwartz (yes, that one).

A great day for the state…

Surely the Second Coming is at hand!

The way to absolute power is to dress up empty cruelty as public virtue, and have the organs of propaganda promulgate it for ‘carers’ to inflict on children. Finally they have an excuse to take Teddy Bears from toddlers.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Paul Krugman, in one of his more inflamatory statements, claimed that congressmen who voted against cap and trade were guilty of “planetary treason.” The bill contains substantial support for biofuels, including a five year moratorium on letting the EPA decide whether, on net, producing ethanol actually reduces carbon dioxide. Converting food crops into fuel drives up the price of food. Driving up the world price of food results in more people in poor countries dying. Krugman is, no doubt, opposed to world hunger in theory. But he has come out passionately in favor of it in practice. Treason or murder, take your choice.”

David Friedman.

A slow burn radicalisation

Although we have had one of the most savage downturns since the 1930s, an analysis of the crisis would conclude that we have still not met its full political or social effects. Indeed, the whole experience has been dampened by fiscal stimulus and an air of artificial normality. Economists still call for green shoots and implore the broken totem of consumer spending and house prices to merge, giving a new impetus to the economy. Salient voices say that the model is broken, but ‘debt and spend’ is only postponing the inevitable.

Riots that have broken out were concentrated on particular countries where the elected authorities were particularly mendacious or incompetent: Iceland, Latvia etc…but they have tended to peter out. Action has been displaced by apathy, indifference and a mood of anti-politics as social democracy has withered on the vine. Disagree with much of the Left’s analysis, but they can smell the rot as the European elections attested:

What we are seeing in Britain and throughout Europe is the last death throes of historical social democracy that emerged from the split in the world workers movement after the Russian revolution. This does not of course mean that we shall see the early demise of the parties that originated in social democracy, but the project – in the early phase socialism via successive reforms and then pro-working class reforms within the framework of capitalism – is all but dead, and in any case nowhere the majority or the leadership of parties like the French SP or the SPD in Germany.

The social democratic Left may no longer have the institutions to mobilise disaffected voters and workers. Their most recent travails are based upon the migration of the disaffected to marginal parties more in tune with their attitudes and goals: euroscepticism in Britain, radical right in the Low countries or Austria, hard left and poujadiste in France.

What is left out of the equation is that the social, cultural and political reaction to a depression can take two years or more to surface in a slow burn radicalisation. Political crisis did not start to hit till 1931 with the sovereignty crises. Are we in the early stages of a new migration to the extremes; awaiting that tipping point?

More on the war on hippies

The alternative news-agency SchNEWS, frequently offers inchoherent and borderline-mad stories, but it does carry some interesting stuff from time to time, including this well-composed and entirely plausible account* of how even hippy festivals are now closely regulated by the authorities:

In spite of these setbacks, [the Big Green Gathering (BGG)] managed to scrape themselves back off the floor with shareholder cash and some potentially dubious corporate involvement. Every effort had been made by the gathering’s organisers to accommodate the increasingly niggling demands of police and licensing authorities. The procedure lasted over six months – just check out www.mendip.gov.uk/CommitteeMeeting.asp?id=SX9452-A782D404 for the minutes of meetings held between organisers and the authorities. Demands included a steel fence, watchtowers and perimeter patrols, having the horsedrawn field inside a ‘secure compound’ and wristbands for twelve undercover police. At a multi-agency meeting on Thursday, police took those wristbands in order to maintain the pretence that the festival stood a chance of going ahead. A catalogue of other obstacles were also continually placed in the organiser’s path.

All of the businesses associated with the BGG came under scrutiny, licensing authorities contacted South West ambulances, the Fire Brigade and the fencing contractors and asked them to get payment up front from the BGG. Needless to say this caused huge problems.

For their own good, of course. One cannot just have hippies hiring fields from farmers in order to have a place to enjoy themselves as they see fit. Someone might not get hurt. And that would open the floodgates to anarchy in the UK. Or Wessex, at least.

hat-tip: Dr Geraint Bevan
* Though they do get the date of the vile Licensing Act 2003 wrong

LA conference in late October

It will be tough to follow what was a great event last year, with speakers such as David Friedman – but this year’s Libertarian Alliance annual conference, on 24-25 October in London, promises to be a good one. I have just been sent the agenda and list of speakers, including Tibor Machan, the US philosopher (one of my favourites), Richard Wellings of the IEA, Jan Lester and Chris Mounsey (aka The Devil’s Kitchen). Book early to avoid disappointment.

Time for a quango to be abolished

Iain Dale, the UK politics blogger, has interesting things to say about how Sir Trevor Phillips, head of the Equalities & Human Rights Commission, has come under attack from the far left over his not being sufficiently on-message with their agendas. Well, as Mr Dale eventually states, it is probably about time that this quango – quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation – was scrapped. Far from soothing racial or other tensions, it seems at times to require their continuation to justify its existence. As any student of Parkinson’s Law will tell you, such a bureaucracy will endlessly look for new things to do, new causes to embrace, or new dragons to be slain. Sir Trevor is, by the standards of such organisations, relatively sane, which no doubt is one of the reasons why the hard left hates him. If he had sense, Sir Trevor should commend the government, any government, to heed Mr Dale’s advice. This organisation needs to join a long list of quangos for annihilation.