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]

Festive greetings from Samizdata HQ

Greetings from Samizdata HQ and best wishes to friends of liberty everywhere.

Tonight we feast on a roasted beast upon which Adriana has worked her sorcery, celebrating all the wonders that our modern technological society has wrought.

Wishing a year of champagne for our real friends, and real pain for our sham friends. Have a splendid Christmas, be it Godly or godless, as is your wont.

Perry de Havilland, Alec Muffet, Adriana Lukas, Michael Jennings & Brian Micklethwait behind the camera

Dumb headline of the day

This headline and lead paragraph in the Times (of London) deserves a sort of award:

Thrifty families accused of prolonging the recession

Anxious families are repaying debts instead of spending in the shops, amid concern over the uncertain economic outlook. The share of income saved in banks and building societies has risen to its highest level in more than a decade, heightening fears that faltering consumer demand could prolong the recession.

This is a sort of reflexive crude Keynesian message at work; the laziness of the assumption that recessions are ended by people spending more – never mind where the money comes from – continues to hold a grip on the MSM. In fairness, maybe what the writer is trying to say is that saving is a good thing but if everyone saves “too much” (however one can define that), then in the aggregate, it drags everything down. But that does rather ignore the situation that has built up over the years, and the disruption to the economic system caused by excessively cheap credit. People who try to reduce their debt, save more and decide to forgo spending money they haven’t got are not “prolonging the recession” beyond some point that can be marked down on a graph. The current economic Snafu was caused – as the author of this newspaper item must be dimly aware – by a country hooked on the drug of cheap credit, beguiled by the idiotic notion that whenever the drug wore off and the hangover kicked in, that that nice Dr Greenspan and friends would administer yet more of the drug, to get yet another high. That way lies the equivalent of liver poisoning.

It may seem a Scrooge-like message for this time of year to point out that you cannot spend money that you don’t have; businesses cannot invest money that has not been already saved, and that interest rates must reflect the balance of supply and demand for savings. The “Austrian” economic insight that money is a claim on resources, and that two people cannot hold the same claim on a resource at the same time, needs to be relentlessly rammed home.

The best way to end a recession is to unravel the massive misallocation of resources caused by printing money as soon as possible, to let labour markets clear, to cut public spending and cut taxes, and where necessary, recapitalise banks speedily. (Check out this paper for a good course to steer). Such a process is inevitably painful. In the short run, the pain is worse than the sort of dragged out situation we have now. But ask yourself this question, dear reader: what is the more compassionate policy – a short, sharp recession and closure of failed banks, followed by a rapid 1921-like recovery, or a Japanese-style multi-decade of stagnation?

On that note, this makes a good Christmas present for those interested in economic affairs, if you still have the time to get it shipped.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat. God is an elderly or, at any rate, middle-aged male, a stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds men strictly accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well-being of the disadvantaged. He is politically connected, socially powerful and holds the mortgage on virtually everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God’s heavenly country club. Santa Claus is another matter. He’s cute. His nonthreatening. He’s always cheerful. And he loves animals. He may know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but he never does anything about it. He gives everyone everything they want without thought of a quid pro quo. He works hard for charities, and he’s famously generous to the poor. Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: There is no such thing as Santa Claus.”

PJ O’Rourke. (Page XXii of Parliament of Whores). Of course, now that the Democrats are led by a Chicago machine “Community Organiser” who is prepared to throw inconvenient former allies under a proverbial bus, it is unclear if O’Rourke’s relatively charming portrayal of the Democrats really holds any more. But hey, any excuse for a Christmas reference.

Jack Bauer gives Santa some harsh interrogation

Hilarious (H/T, Glenn Reynolds).

Samizdata quote howler of the day

Mr Rudd made it clear that the deal had been an exercise in saving the international climate change process.

“As of 24 hours ago, these negotiations stood on the point of total collapse … at midnight last night, we were staring into the abyss,” he said.

He said the “big step forward” in the talks came with rich and poor countries agreeing to the goal of containing global warming to 2ºC.

Hmmm… Staring into the abyss… and then a big step forward. Not often you hear a politician speaking the truth!

(via Francis T, quoting The Australian)

What people vote for

I occasionally come across comments, usually expressed with a sort of “how terrible!” undertone, that more people recently voted in the X-Factor singing talent show on the ITV station in the UK than voted in the 2005 General Election. But there is another way of looking at it: the fact that more people care to vote for their favourite singer than the various types of authoritarian statist twerp in fact shows that the Great British public have a healthy set of priorities.

In case any commenter sniffs at my possibly making nice comments about the X-Factor, I don’t like the show, although I find that there is something gruesomely compelling about Simon Cowell and some of the acts.

At last, action on global warming that makes sense

Finally some meaningful gestures I think we can all support…


Simply… delightful.

XCOR has funding for Lynx II

Rand Simberg posted the news that XCOR has closed a deal with Yecheon Astro Space Center to provide Lynx II flights. The Lynx I they have been working on will now only be used as a test article to work out design issues before moving on to the fully suborbital Lynx II. Previously their plans were to fly passengers in the Lynx I at a price and altitude somewhat comparable to adventure flights in advanced Russian fighter planes. The income was to have been ploughed into the development of the Lynx II, the true suborbital spaceship. Thus there will be at least two companies flying passengers into space in the near term, Virgin Galactic and XCOR.

If you are reading my posts in expectation that I am a neutral observer of this industry rather than a deep insider passing on tidbits of info then you must be a new reader. Lessee… Rand Simberg and I are in business together in Wyoming Aerospace. I know a bunch of the Virgin Galactic High Command and work with them through the National Space Societies ‘Space Ambassadors’ program. As to XCOR… well, not counting that I have known some of them for up to 30 years… I wrote software under contract to them which was used by their aerodynamics guy for the initial rough planform design of the Lynx.

So yeah, I have dogs in this race. All of them. And I am damned proud of whatever tiny contribution I have made to the industry over my lifetime and ecstatic that I am actually around to see it all come to fruition.

Ad Astra and Merry Christmas to all of my aerospace family. May you reverse the adage about aerospace and fortunes and break the surly bonds of gravity and self-induced poverty. And while we are at it… may a now minuscule Wyoming aerospace company also make a bloody fortune for its owners!

Samizdata quote of the day

Declaration of interest – I know a guy who works on an oil rig. That’s my credibility shot then.

Bishop Hill muses on how any link to Big Oil however tenuous means that your climate scepticism can be ignored by the AGW True Believers.

Mojave journey: Part 5

After the speeches finished I headed up to the stage to take a photo or two. We were supposed to wait for the speakers and the press to go outside first so I intended to put my wait to good use. To my surprise, I was nearly run down by the group of very very important persons and had to squish back against the edge of the stage as Arnold hurried past inches away. Once they were all outside I joined the rest of the merely VIP filing out onto the tarmac at the side door .

It was cold outside, at least down into the twenties. That would not have been so bad except for the rather brisk wind coming down the runway into our faces.

SS2 Rollout Press stand
There were a lot of media folk freezing their tuckus off in the Press Stand.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

There was music and a deep percussive bang as each of the huge images on the left of the runway flashed to on, starting from the direction in which we could hear the sound of distant engines. Then a white line became visible in the distance, the wing of WhiteKnightTwo. It lengthened as the singing jets grew louder… and then I could see it: the underslung SpaceShipTwo.

WK2 and SS2 taxis toward crowd
It came from out of the dark of a Western night… the first commercial Space Ship. Am I really here? Is it really here?
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
SS2 close up
Is it just love in the eyes of the beholder or is she just plain gorgeous?
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
WK2 and SS2 come to a stop
Ship and mothership came to a stop in front of us.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

A group of four persons went up to the ship for the Christening and the Governors simultaneously smashed bottles of champagne. I had expected the woman with Richard, his daughter, to do this as it seems more in line with centuries of British and American naval tradition.

SS2 Christening group
Left to Right: Holly Branson; Sir Richard Branson on the mike; Governor Richardson; Governor Schwartznegger.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

To my great surprise, we were allowed to move forward right up to the dual vessel. I might say I was almost shocked that in this day of lawyer-induced destruction of our quality of life something as cool and wonderful as this would be allowed. Of course, now that it has been done I am sure they will realize people got to directly experience something amazing and you can not have things like that, now can you?

Crowd moves towards ship.
You would almost imagine this was still a free country: we were allowed to walk right up to her.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
Crowd at SS2
A crowd formed around the nose of SpaceShipTwo.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
SS2 Nose Art
It even had sexy nose art like American warbirds of WWII.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

There were too many people at the starboard side of the nose so I started working my way counterclockwise around WhiteKnightTwo. My fingers were numb well before this and when I was taking these photos I could quite literally not feel my finger depressing the shutter button. I could only tell it had happened by watching for the still image to show on the preview screen.

It seems that not very many folk did what I did, so there are not a lot of other photos floating around showing the business end of SpaceShipTwo.

SS2 Portside
Portside of SS2 nose.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
SS2 Engine
Like any old spacehand, I went around the other side to look at the most important part of any spaceship.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
WK2 and SS2 tails
Two ships and four vertical stabilizers.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
SS2 frontal view
As I had hoped, the crowd had mostly headed for the relative warmth of the tents and Absolut vodka by the time I got back to the nose.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved
WK2 and SS2 Port front
I framed one last shot of the huge ship as I left the tarmac.
Photo: copyright Dale Amon, All Rights Reserved

In part six our crowd of future space travelers party on until dire storm warnings force an emergency evacuation.

The previous section of this tale may be found here

The intellectual surrender of the UK Conservatives

When you read this passionate denunciation of the sheer intellectual cowardice of the Conservative Party over the issues of tax, public spending and the banking sector, ask yourself again: who gives a brass farthing as to whether David Cameron and friends win power next year? Who?

The Kitchen Devil on societal demons

… people are beginning to be afraid of the state – but they are also afraid to be without the state

Chris Mounsey

But I think, in fact, it is worse than that. There are many people – and you can often tell them by their fierce, defiant pronouncements that they have nothing to hide, they have done nothing wrong – who are in a dependant, abusive relationship with the state. They feel the bullying and their fear itself as evidence they are wanted and have a place in the world. Being pecked is reassurance that you are somewhere in the pecking-order. Seeing people who are outside the hierarchy of subjection as evil, a threat, and pleading one’s own inoffensiveness at every turn is a way of legitimising one’s own pigeonhole.

It is a nasty tendency. The feeble people who are trying to hide in the mainstream make up the lynchmob. And it is entirely equivalent to the morality of the prison-house, where violent gangsters are at the top and sex offenders are brutalised at the bottom, of an alternative chain of being. “You may think I’m scum, but at least I’m not one of them.”

(Hat-tip: Iain Dale, even if he was only advertising his magazine)