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 making of an atrocity

Read Squander Two on Bloody Sunday.

of course hiding amongst non-combatants gives you a huge advantage. Such tactics would give anyone — the British, the Israelis, the Americans — the same advantages, yet they don’t use them. There’s a reason why civilised people disallow such behaviour, and that is that every single time you step into battle disguised as just another member of the public, you make Bloody Sunday more likely.

I would add that one defining characteristic of a terrorist organisation is that it wants to make Bloody Sunday more likely.

Samizdata quote of the day

“No one died in any of these imperial takeovers of British soccer teams, no wildlife killed, no beaches littered with tarballs. But perhaps the outraged columnists in the UK should inform their football-obsessed readers that, like BP, most everything is globalized these days—from the strikers on their favorite club, to the companies headquartered in London. BP is a multinational corporation with American subsidiaries and workers, Swiss well operators, and a gaffe-prone Swedish chairman. And McDonald’s—that often-invoked symbol of American cultural hegemony—is no longer run out of Ray Kroc’s garage. The dreaded hamburger giant uses local products, employs regional officers and franchisees, is staffed by high school students from Flanders and Dortmund, and is eaten by almost everyone on Earth. Sarah Palin’s lame attempt at vilifying “foreign” BP, or Barack Obama’s subtle attempt to underscore the company’s non-American roots, is little different than former BBC reporter Andre Gilligan complaining that London is “owned by Americans,” with its streets “lined with New York Bagel shops, Manhattan Coffee Company outlets.” The stakes are different, of course, but the sentiment is much the same; if the city goes to pot, if the oil well explodes, it ain’t our fault. Obama is a blame-passing protectionist. Palin is an attention-seeking populist. And the poor British columnists are giving me reflux, that fashionable and incredibly painful American disease.”

Michael C. Moynihan

His right, of course. Given the amount of anti-American BS that regularly comes out of the UK intelligentsia (or what passes for it), a certain amount of “take some of that, Limeys!” is understandable. Another point that adds to the angst here, of course, is that so many British people imagined, naively, that that post-racial, leftie POTUS would not lower himself to the sort of nationalist rhetoric allegedly indulged by his Texan predecessor. But then we should remember that even a supposed “progressive” such as Gordon Brown was able to come out with lines such as “British jobs for British workers”, a remark that must have surely raised a sour expression among the many US expats who work in the City over here.

Cleaning up the garbage in space

One of the issues that comes up with a space that no-one owns, as in private property, is the so-called “tragedy of the commons”. As no-one has to bear the long-run costs of pollution or reaps the rewards of rising property values, so there is an incentive for people to over-farm, or over-fish, or pollute and generally muck things up. This occured to me when I read this article about the amount of junk that there now is in orbit around the Earth. The article, at Wired, also contains some rather cunning ways to deal with the problem. We cannot assume, for instance, that all this stuff eventually falls down and burns up during re-entry (although a lot does). There have been some potentially catastrophic near-misses in space.

So if any of you are star-gazers and think you have spotted a new planet, it might instead be an old satellite that is now out of commission.

Samizdata punning quote of the day

The ultimate quack remedy

– Simon Singh on the Today Programme a few minutes ago, describing how France’s biggest-selling homoeopathic flu remedy, earning zillions of dollars, is made from the heart of a single Muscovy duck per year.

Samizdata sporting quote of the day

It’s becoming an interesting evening of sport on the television, and on the www. A teenager scored a century for Surrey (my team) in their T20 game. (I follow T20 cricket on cricinfo.com.) And Matt Prior scored a century in less than fifteen overs for Sussex, in their game. The USA, who seem to me to have a very good team, topped their group in the soccer World Cup, by beating Algeria with a very late goal, shading England from the top spot and elminating Slovenia, whom England beat, also 1-0. And the USA did this while having what looked like two perfectly good goals disallowed, one in today’s game, and one in their game against Slovenia, which might have won that for them. Now Germany are playing Ghana, and if they don’t score, they’ll be out. Hold that. Germany have just scored. If it stays like that, Germany will, I think, play England in the next round. Yesterday, France were eliminated, when they lost to South Africa. And I’ve just heard that Australia have beaten Serbia, which means that Ghana also go through.

But I heard nothing else remotely as strange as this:

“If you’ve just joined us, do not adjust your set. It is indeed fifty five all in the final set.”

I had just joined them. It’s someone called Isner versus someone called Mahut, at Wimbledon. Goodness knows how it will end. Or when it will end. Or if it will end. It is now fifty six all.

Make that fifty seven all. Now it’s fifty eight fifty seven to Isner. Still no breaks of serve in the final set. Apparently someone called Ron Mackintosh is commentating for the BBC. And this is his very first match. Follow this mate. Follow this. Mahut has now served fifty times to stay in the match. I think he is French, by the way, and Isner is American. John McEnroe just said he feels sorry for the umpire.

Fifty eight all. They are taking a break.

LATER: It’s fifty nine all, and there’s been an appeal against the light. Play is suspended.

The longest tennis match ever played, anywhere in the world. And tomorrow it will go into its third day.

Samizdata quote of the day

“It is typical of the spin era that the first serious “crisis” in relations between General McChrystal and President Obama occurs over a few disobliging words the General and his team spoke about the President and his team. The endless rounds of deaths and dangerous patrols, the delays in finding political settlements on the ground and the ubiquitous ability of the “insurgents” to reappear are not apparently worthy reasons to recall the General for talks, but a magazine article is.”

John Redwood, MP and blogger.

The lecher, his “wee bit of culture”, and wondering what happened to ours

“There’s a very attractive girl in the second row. Dark and dusky … We’ll maybe put a wee word out for her. She’s very attractive, very nice, very slim. The heat’s getting to me. She’s got that Filipino look – the kind you’d see in a Gauguin painting. There’s a wee bit of culture.”

Thus spake Frank McAveety, Labour member of the Scottish Parliament … unaware the microphone was on. Mr McAveety thus ended his tenure as chairman of the petitions committee and the Labour spokesman for sport at Holyrood, and began his career as YouTube star.

Silly old fool. I bet his wife had words when he got home. He must be wondering whether the voters of Shettleston will punish him come the next election. That, and the YouTube, should be punishment enough. He should not have had to resign. Yes, the girl was fifteen (not seventeen as in earlier reports) – but he did not know that. He did not refer to her in explicit sexual terms. He just said she was attractive. I do not believe for a moment that his “put a wee word out for her” was a plan to arrange an assignation. The poor old boy just wanted to give her a tour of Holyrood and bask for a few moments in her proximity, as tubby middle aged men have tried to bask in the proximity of slim young women since the stone age. This is Benny Hill, for goodness sake, not Lavrenti Beria picking out rape victims from the lines of female gymnasts who performed before the politburo.

Yet according to the Guardian a Scottish National Party MSP, Sandra White, described the comments as “sexist, sleazy and racist” (er, why racist?) and said Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray’s failure to act as soon as the incident came to light showed an “appalling lack of judgment”. Oh, and we have spokesmen from Disclosure Scotland (er, why? Just why?) and the Scottish Parliament burbling on about the “The Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003″ as if the mere mention of that was not damn close to libel.

How did we get here? You know the world has got weird when you find yourself defending a Labour politician. You know the world has got weirder when his being Labour is not enough to protect him from the press. How on earth did we arrive at a place where someone as old-fashioned as me thinks this all has got a little bit crazy? I used to be fond of observing that puritanism had moved out of the bedroom and into the recycling bin, but now it’s back everywhere. It’s in the air we breathe, so that every wistful little fantasy, every bumptious little burst of bravado, is potential career disaster – at least for males. Females who do this sort of thing are demonstrating the rich, raunchy sexuality of the mature woman. Just so’s you know, boys.

Added later: A comment from CountingCats sparked a further thought: how come Frank McAveety’s mere words were enough to make him resign from a chairmanship but Chris Huhne’s actual adultery has not made him resign from anything? I speculate that sex comes under the old progressive rules whereas speech comes under the new progressive rules, which are much stricter. Also, he said “dusky.”

Cover art

I am addicted to the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child (I have read practically all of them). On Child’s website is a nifty collection of the cover art for his novels, taken from all around the world. Cover art is a much under-rated aspect of design, in my opinion.

A few weeks ago, I got my hands on an old Ian Fleming hardback – You Only Live Twice. It is a US first edition that I bought for £25, which I reckon is a serious result. It was printed in the early 60s, and its cover is deceptively simple. (Here is a collection of all the hardback covers of that novel.) The first edition Bond novels that were released first in the UK often go for a bloody fortune. The first edition of Casino Royale will cost tens of thousands. The cover art on those novels is great.

And SF cover art is often excellent. Here are some ones I like on this link.

A photo can tell a thousand words

Well, here is a good way to start the week.

The photo reminded me of a joke I heard somewhere. Back in the 1950s, the-then President, Eisenhower, was famed for enjoying his golf. There was apparently a bumper sticker around at the time that said something along the lines of, “If We Wanted A Golfer President, Vote Ben Hogan”. That’s quite funny, but at least Ike, given his pretty weighty military record and – in my view – pretty decent performance in the Oval Office – was a better president than the current occupant. (H/T: Instapundit)

Another World Cup post

Disregarding my long standing feelings about Association Football, I have been watching the World Cup. England fans have rapidly gone from optimism after England’s excellent qualification campaign to pessimism after two lackluster draws in the first round against the United States and Algeria. From my present location in Spain, I can report that Spanish fans and the Spanish media are even more brittle than those of England: it only took one goal from Switzerland to get from “We are certainties to win this” to “Oh no, not again”.

As with most stock market swings, though, the supporters of both teams are guilty of massive overreactions to events, both before and after the games so far.

Firstly, England fans who have decided that their side is crap and that the sooner they are out of their misery the better should consider the performances of each of the five large western European countries:

Spain managed that 1-0 loss to Switzerland.
Germany lost 1-0 to Serbia.
France lost 2-0 to Mexico, a star player has been sent home and the other players are apparently on strike.
Italy were held to a 1-1 draw against New Zealand, and even that was only after being given a slightly dubious penalty. I watched this in a cafe full of Italians, and allowed myself to laugh loudly when the cameras showed utterly stone-faced Italians in the crowd at full time. I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do this in a bar full of England fans in similar circumstances if I had wanted to continue living, but this was fine with the Italians, and probably to their credit. On the other hand, my supporting a New Zealand team at anything – I do not think that has ever happened before.

A case can be made that England’s 1-1 draw with Algeria is the best result out of that lot. And yet, the claim that none of these sides will make the final stages seems absurd. One or two of those sides will miss the second round. Most likely these will be France and/or Italy, both finalists last time, but generally considered the two weakest of those five sides going into this tournament. And there is a fair chance that one of England, Germany, and Spain will miss out. However, at least two and likely all three will make it, and at that point everything starts again.

The best European side outside that group – and the greatest footballing nation to never win the World Cup – is the Netherlands, and they are looking good and appear to be playing well within themselves. The Dutch produce the best managers in the world, but they are a small country and one doubts they have the depth to actually win. I would be happy if they did, but I am dubious about their ability to do so.

So my feeling is that at least one of England, Spain, and Germany will survive a lackluster first round and get close to winning the tournament. Most likely this will be Germany, not so much because they have a better side than because they are more capable of understanding that the lackluster first round does not matter much. The point of the first round is to make the second round. If you have done that, everything is fine. And everything will be fine for England if they beat Slovenia on Wednesday. At least, fine apart for the fact that Wayne Rooney appears to be a stupid idiot, but we suspected that already, and he still scores goals for Manchester United.

Of the two strongest South American sides, Argentina are looking good but are a touch unpredictable and have a history of looking good early and going down later. On the other hand, this is Lionel Messi’s chance to demonstrate he is one of the all time greats. One kind of wonders about the whole Diego Maradona as manager thing, too, although one is also unsure whether he is the person actually running things. Whether or not he is, his presence might be a help if Messi is to do what Maradona did in 1986. Carlos Tevez playing so well is nice, too.

Brazil could only defeat North Korea by one goal, but they are Brazil, they did fine against Ivory Coast, and they look to be cruising at this stage of the tournament. In truth, not much to criticise there. Plus, no European side has ever won the tournament when it was held outside Europe and no Latin American side has ever won it outside Latin America besides Brazil, who have done this three times. Does that matter?

I have done Archbishop Rowen Williams an injustice

Archbishop Rowen Williams has never heard of me and he never will. However, I now believe I have done him an injustice in various thoughts and comments. I am fully aware that most people on Samizdata are atheists – but you do not claim to be Christians, and I am saying that I have been unjust by assuming a man who said he was a Christian was lying (i.e. was a fraud).

Archbishop Williams is a social gospel man and I have assumed that, like most such folk, he is a disguised atheist – someone who when they use the word “God” really means “society” or “the people” (or whatever code word for the state). However, this was an assumption on my part – I never bothered to do any background research (exactly the sort of failure I attack in others – when they make statements about the “moderate” Barack Obama, or whatever, without spending five minutes doing any research).

Recently I came upon an exchange between Bishop Spong and Archbishop Williams which leads me to the opinion that I have been unjust to Rowen Williams. Although the source is Wikipedia I have spent enough time reading this thing to have a good sense of when articles are false and when they are true. → Continue reading: I have done Archbishop Rowen Williams an injustice

The next logical step…

Now that the Falcon 9 has flown, the Falcon 9 Heavy is looking a lot closer.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the success of SpaceX is that they have designed and orbited multiple clean-sheet design engines; the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles; and a test article for a cargo/manned space capsule for about $500M. That’s comparable to the fully burdened (Not the incremental) cost of one shuttle flight. I believe it is less than the escape system development cost on the dead-on-arrival Ares I project.