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]

The Downing Street bullying allegations

Back into the Westminster Village. Readers may have already seen the news reports alleging that Gordon Brown bullied members of his own staff in Downing Street (his office, it should be said, denies such claims). Apparently, a charity that runs a sort of hotline service took a call or calls from folk at Number 10 pleading for help. The issue threatens to turn into a major political storm. On the BBC Breakfast News this morning, one of the presenters was trying quite hard to put the charity on the defensive but the charity adamantly backed up the claim that complaints of bullying had been received. It did not, it should be noted, state that it believed Brown was in the wrong.

Some may say that harping on such matters misses the “Big picture”: should it matter whether a prime minister is a decent person to work for or is a total jerk? I think it does matter, just as it matters when it turns out that so-called climate scientists fabricate evidence and then try and lie about it, or bully or generally try to intimidate anyone who disagrees. It matters, in other words, that some of the people that we might disagree with in our ideological battles are shits and liars. For one of the emotional tactics that collectivists of various hues have used over the ages is that “We are good people.” To be an AGW skeptic, for instance, is not just to be wrong, it is a sign that you are a Bad Person. To have disagreed with socialism was, for a long period of time, also a sign that you were “bad” in some way, or that you failed in terms of compassion, etc. Mr Brown is a man who goes on a lot about “values”: indeed, he waves his morally excellent beliefs around like a badge. So to find out that he allegedly bullied junior staff who might be reluctant to answer back is a useful fact to know about.

This point should not be pressed too far. After all, people whom I regard as being broadly on the side of the angels can sometimes be hard work and be rude. But it is interesting, I think, that a person known to be tough as a debater and sometimes rude to cabinet colleagues, as was the case with Mrs Thatcher, was well known for treating her staff in Downing Street with great kindness and consideration, according to various accounts that I have read. In the end, I think it matters in how a powerful person treats those who are not powerful. On that basis, the stories coming out about Brown are very damaging indeed.

This could be an interesting week in UK politics.

Update: I see that Rod Liddle has suggested that the alleged victims of workplace bullying grow a bit of backbone. I guess he has a bit of point, but Mr Liddle would presumably draw the line when an employer starts throwing physical objects at staff, causing potential injury. Many years ago, I used to hear stories about a news editor for a regional publication who would hurl typewriters at staff, lose his temper uncontrollably, etc. In that case I think an employee should not only sue, but if necessary, hit the employer in self defence.

Israel’s new unmanned bomber

One of my little pleasures in life is finding interesting pictures to put on my personal blog which are vertically very thin, and which thus assist in the pursuit of blogging brevity. As here for instance, yesterday, when I displayed a wafer thin slice of a picture of the rings of Saturn.

And I was all set to put this picture up at my personal blog too, until I found myself asking technological questions of the sort that Samizdata’s commenters are the very people to answer.


That picture, severely cropped by me, I found here. It is the new unmanned Israeli bomber, the Heron TP. The Israelis have apparently just put a flock of them into service.

Two thoughts.

One, this is surely vivid evidence of the wisdom, from the purely defence point of view (never mind the wider economic arguments), of the Israelis contriving, with encouraging tax policies, their own version of Silicon Valley, said to be second only in the world to Silicon Valley itself. And who knows how long the original will last, given the current insanity of Californian fiscal policy. The surrounding enemies of Israel can only dream of being able to contrive such birds. But is this a purely Israeli achievement, or did Americans have a big input? And do Israelis now have quite a big input into American aircraft of a similar sort?

Two, I find it interesting that although there is no pilot on board, there is still a bulge at the front and on top, just as if there was. Why is that? It surely can’t just be that they are used to such bulges at the front of airplanes, so they stuck with it. Could it? I’m guessing it’s the logical spot to put lots of guidance kit, telling the bird where it is and where to fly next and how to aim its weapons. It’s the best place to put, that is to say, the various “pilots”. Or, is their some aerodynamic reason? Comments on that appreciated.

Samizdata quote of the day

Unlike traditional commodities markets, which will eventually involve delivery to someone in physical form, the carbon market is based on lack of delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.

– Samizdata commenter RAB

Climategate – keeping the bad guys on the run

Instapundit today links to a bizarre article at something called The American Interest Online, by someone called Walter Russell Mead, which summarises itself thus:

Short summary: the current iteration of the movement – with its particular political project and goals – is dead.

Incidentally true things are said by Mead about the “movement to stop climate change”, to the effect that it has indeed taken a severe beating in recent weeks, and that its denizens will, once they get this, become extremely distressed, and will blame everyone except themselves, rather as Mead himself blames Al Gore. He calls his fellow Warmists “immature, unrealistic and naïve”.

But the most obvious and most important truths of the matter that Mead does not mention are that this “movement to stop climate change” was trying to do something hideously destructive on the basis of a huge pack of lies. This movement was and is both intellectually and morally wrong, and all the more morally wrong as its intellectual failure becomes ever clearer. Mead merely says that warmism has, this time around, been a political failure. It tried to reshape (i.e. utterly screw) the world economy, but (alas?) it failed.

Mead even has the nerve to compare these would-be climate tyrants with the people who, in the 1920s, tried to put a stop to world wars. Bit of a difference there, Mead. There actually was a horribly destructive world war, not long before those efforts. Another equally real world war soon followed, which would also have been well worth stopping. Whereas your planet catastrophe now stands proved as having been imaginary.

I’m with Mead’s appropriately scornful commenters, like this one, “RKV”:

“The climate change movement now needs to regroup.” Excuse me for asking the obvious, “Why?”

What they really need to do is shut the hell up.

And this one, “Lazarus Long”:

Sounds like a defense of the Soviet Empire, after its defeat.

“Darn it, if only the right people were in charge communism WOULD work!”

Sorry, the AGW myth collapsed under the weight of it’s own lies and corruption.

Sorry, as in: you’re a twat, rather than as in: I actually do apologise for anything.

These two worthy commenters, and this posting, all illustrate an important technique of propaganda. Which is: when you have your opponents on the run, keep them there. Do not, because they have started to acknowledge parts of the truth, let them get away with continuing to tell unchallenged lies about other parts of the truth, and especially not if the parts of the truth that they continue to contest are the most important parts.

Do not, so to speak, let them get away with a draw, and with it the continuing prospect of long-term victory, out of a misplaced sense of fair play. I have long known this, but was still extremely glad to find the commenters on this earlier Climategate posting here also getting this particular point so well.

Samizdata quote of the day

I bought a number of pirated DVD’s in Malaysia recently and they all include unskippable piracy messages at the start. …

– A commenter, who unsurprisingly preferred to remain anonymous, contributes to a discussion about how the crap at the beginning of legally purchased DVDs makes pirated DVDs, provided they are of sufficient quality, a happier watching experience. Not always, it would seem. I now copy all my DVDs from the television.

Man flies plane into tax office

I always knew that something like this would happen, sooner or later, justified by sentiments like this, which are not that different my own. Basically the guy drove his airplane into a tax office, causing his own death in a fireball, and much other damage besides.

This event may mean angst for libertarians like me. So, Mr Libertarian, Do you believe that such acts of violence are justified? Question mark, question mark. And we will prevaricate, like moderate Muslims being challenged to explain Muslim-inspired terrorism. I will, anyway, if asked. No, but. Or perhaps in some cases: yes, but. Personally, I don’t see how you can have tax gathering on the scale that prevails nowadays, and for purposes that prevail nowadays, without violent responses of this sort. Frivolous and somewhat incongruous thought, of the sort that pops into the head at such times: will gadgets like this hexakopter make such attacks easier?

I remember how President Clinton’s political fortunes took a turn for the better following that bomb attack by Timothy McVeigh. He went from looking like a probable one-termer to a two-termer, pretty much from that moment on, because it perfectly illustrated what loons his supporters thought his opponents were. Will something similar now happen for Obama? His supporters will surely have no problem explaining what they think about this, which is all part of the case against such attacks. How will the Tea Party movement be affected?

Further thought, the body count, including the man himself, seems to be low. Maybe, logically, that ought to make little difference, but low body counts are much sooner forgotten. Another thought: the pictures of this are dramatic. Not so soon fogotten, perhaps.

More here, and here.

Obsessed as I now am with Climategate, I first learned about this drama here.

Blue Origin sticks nose out of closet

I have surmised much about the Blue Origin program and on occasion heard things I was perhaps not supposed to, but this is the first time they have had a speaker at a major conference.

It is my belief they will do something major and public this year and this slight parting of the veil of secrecy fits that perception.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Here the most fundamental relevant principle is the one discovered by Bastiat: economic value lies in service; an economic exchange is an exchange of services, each valued more highly by its beneficiary than the alternative situation in which the service is not performed. We are accustomed to talking about “goods and services”, of course. But the distinction, while perfectly all right in its place, does not reflect anything fundamental – rather, it obscures what is fundamental. When A buys some object, x, from B, what he gets from B is the right to use x. That is what it is to “have” x, in normative terms.”

Jan Narveson. His essay – which touches on an old bugbear of mine (!) – nicely slices through the fallacies that people engage in when they disparage services as opposed to manufacturing or other, more supposedly “real” kinds of wealth, as happened on the thread in this article.

Samizdata quote of the day

I was in a (US) bookstore when a group of young Chinese (15 – 25 years, I’d guess) tourist/students entered. While I was there, they bought a stack of Dalai Lama books, saying they were not available in China. They also bought several recent histories on China, saying that they liked to be able to compare with the histories they got in China, to keep track of what the government was changing/denying. Additionally, they said they were getting in less sight-seeing than they had planned, as they were enjoying the web w/o government filters, especially on searches.

There are a lot of implications there.

– commenter “J2” on this

Tetley Superheroes

Captain America did not dis the teabaggers. Only his writers and artists. It is time for some new superheroes: The Entrepreneur, Atlas Shrugs, The Tax Return (only in taxes paid…), Death Duty and so on

Why name superheroes after animals when you can dispel you favourite tax. I am designing the uniforms for the supervillains: VAT Package, Solvency 2, KPMG and IFRS…

Making the US old media notice Climategate

At the start of my previous Climategate posting, I suggested that James Delingpole might be slacking off on the subject. Maybe he is. There is still nothing up at his blog beyond his afore-linked Beano bit. Maybe he feels he needs a breather. But maybe he is working very hard on another Climategate story, of which there are now dozens to chase up. Talk about a target rich environment for journalists.

Not that you would know it in the USA, if blog complaints like this are anything to go by. The way that the USA’s old media are mostly ignoring the biggest scientific fraud in history, and one of the biggest global stories of the century so far, is itself an amazing story. Delingpole has written an entire book on recent US politics, and surely has many acquaintances in the US old media. Maybe he is now grilling these people, and will soon be doing a piece on why these persons are covering themselves in such unglory, Climategate-wise. Someone should.

Although, maybe I’m out of date and the US old media are getting their Climategate act together at last. Or maybe the Americans I’ve been reading are wrong, and the US old media have always been noticing Climategate, just not in the way those Americans would like. Comments from US readers about those possibilities would be most welcome. The Washington Post seems to be noticing. Weren’t they the guys who lead the way on that original gate thing?

ADDENDUM: In the course of shortening this post, cutting out some digressions, I omitted one crucial non-digression which I now take the liberty of adding.

If it’s true that right wing bloggers and right wing Brit newspapers are now savaging the Warmists completely wrongly, well, isn’t that a story in its own right, given the huge scale of this phenomenon? Aren’t these bad bloggers and cynical Brit journos threatening the very future of the planet? And you guys are ignoring that? Why aren’t you grilling these bad, bad people? Why no big exposures of the wrongness and wickedness of Steve McIntyre? Why no stuff saying “What’s up with Watt’s Up With That??” One way or another, this is a huge story.

Trouble is, I guess they want the story to go one way, but that if they investigate it properly they fear that they’ll find it going the other way.


Steve Mosher, the man who broke the CRU emails story and author of Climategate: The CRUtape Letters, is interviewed on PJTV. Some interesting thoughts on what it means and why the US press has largely ignored it.

Which would at least further suggest that they have ignored it.

On the boards

Over at the Adam Smith Institute blog is this nice item on a recent performance of s Tom Stoppard play, touching on the themes of oppression under the old Soviet Union. Apparently, as the ASI commenter notes, this makes some theatre reviewers a bit sniffy, since all this stuff about the USSR is so, well, dated, dahling. As the blog points out, it is not. The kind of issues that arose under the Soviet Empire are as relevant now as they were during the Cold War. Some of the names have changed a bit, that’s all.

Talking of dramatists, here is an old post of mine about David Mamet, who has had a bit of a Road to Damascus political conversion.