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]

Air defense laser is a reality

According to a Janes newsletter:

US Navy successfully tests laser with close-in weapon. The US Navy has for the first time in a maritime environment successfully destroyed four unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) targets with a laser, essentially proving the basic premise of adding a directed-energy weapon to Raytheon’s Phalanx close-in weapon system. The trial was sponsored by the US Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA’s) PMS 405 Directed Energy Weapons programme office and used the navy’s own Laser Weapon System (LaWS) equipment, developed in conjunction with the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare .Center Dahlgren Division, combined with a Phalanx weapon mount.

The era of the ray cannon has arrived.

A tyrant’s tantrum

The North Korean football team has aroused the ire of the Dear Leader.

Early this month the players were summoned to an auditorium at the working people’s culture palace in Pyongyang, forced onstage and subjected to a six-hour barrage of criticism for their poor performances in South Africa, according to the US-based Radio Free Asia.

Only Jung Tae-se and An Yong-hak were spared a dressing down as they flew directly to Japan, their country of birth and where they play club football, according to an unnamed Chinese businessman the station cites as its source.

The “grand debate” was reportedly witnessed by 400 athletes and sports students, and the country’s sports minister. Ri Dong-kyu, a sports commentator for the North’s state-run Korean Central TV, led the reprimands, pointing out the shortcomings of each player, South Korean media said.

In true Stalinist style, the players were then “invited” to mount verbal attacks on their coach, Jung-hun.

The coach was reportedly accused of betraying the leader’s son, Kim Jong-un, who is expected to take over from his ailing father as leader of the world’s only communist dynasty.

Radio Free Asia quoted the source as saying he had heard that Kim Jung-hun had been sent to work on a building site and there were fears for his safety.

North Korea watchers said the regime had been hoping to attribute the team’s success to Kim Jong-un as it attempts to build support among military and workers’ party elites for a transfer of power.

It’s weird, this thing dictators have for sport. You spend decades building up your own and your dynasty’s power, and where do you end up? Wiith its continuation being significantly dependant on the outcome of some football matches, apparently. One almost feels sorry for Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un, prisoners of their own despotism. Of course the list of people to be sorry for in North Korea as a result of that despotism is long, and their names come last upon it.

The Gulf oil slick seems to be going away

An interesting piece about how the oil slick disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Something is getting attention: there is not as much of an oil spill as some might suppose. Apparently, in warm water like this, and due to certain acquatic organisms, the oil is gradually absorbed. It is, in a manner of speaking, gobbled up. (Belch).

That got me thinking that yes, oil slicks caused by human error are obviously going to cause a lot of anger and lead to tort lawsuits from affected parties, such as fishing businesses and owners of beachfront property, but then again, what about an oil leak that is caused by tectonic shifts in the Earth’s crust? In some geological areas, oil leaks of its own accord, sometimes in very large amounts. Which suggests that oil-cleaning technologies are a useful thing to invest in even if there were no offshore drilling.

None of this should, of course, remove any heat off those oil firms and contractors responsible for this disaster – which is what it is – nor indeed of the US government for its tardy response. However, it might help if more folk acknowledged that oil is the stuff of nature, and you know what, this stuff tends to move around occasionally, even without Man’s assistance.

(Apols for my light blogging of late and thanks to the others for all the great articles. I have been incredibly busy of late).

Adam Smith on international laws and national relations

“The regard for the laws of nations, or for those rules which independent states profess or pretend to think themselves bound to observe in their dealings with one another, is often very little more than mere pretence and profession. From the smallest interest, upon the slightest provocation, we see those rules every day either evaded or directly violated without shame or remorse. Each nation foresees, or imagines it foresees, its own subjugation in the increasing power and aggrandisement of any of its neighbours; and the mean principle of national prejudice is often founded upon the noble one of the love of our own country.”

Adam Smith, taken from “The Wisdom of Adam Smith, A Collection of His Most Incisive And Eloquent Observations, Edited by Benjamin A Rogge, page 173.

Samizdata quote of the day

We can confirm that eight of the nine people quoted on the website at the time either worked for the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), the Home Office or another government department or agency.

– A spokesman from the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) of the Home Office, in answer to a Freedom of Information request from Phil Booth of No2ID, asking how many of the people quoted on an IPS website expressing enthusiasm for the wonderfulness of their ID cards did in fact work for the government.

Actually, this was not a direct response to the FOI request, but was only admitted after the good Mr Booth demanded an internal review from the IPS after they answered the question with several lengthy paragraphs of content free bureaucrat babble the first time. Details thanks to The Register here.

Well, I am glad I did not order a new iPhone

Blogger Eric Raymond – who plainly is not on Steve Jobs’ Christmas card send-out list, points out the less-than-stellar launch of the new version of the iPhone.

What is noteworthy, however, is that at least when a product is brought to market and there are problems with it, then as demonstrated by the Eric Raymonds of this world, a swarm of bloggers, professional product evaluation writers and magazine journalists can weigh in. Capitalism will force Jobs and his colleagues to sort the matter out, in weeks, if not months, since otherwise the product and brand will be damaged with heavy losses.

Now compare this sort of process with say, a government project that involves spending billions of pounds of public funds on projects of questionable value, and consider how long it takes for a government to scrap such projects, admit they were wrong, etc.

Samizdata quote of the day

If you want to cut your own throat, don’t come to me for a bandage.

– attributed to Margaret Thatcher

At the 2010 Farnborough Airshow

Last Saturday, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and I went to the Farnborough Airshow, to which, of course, we all brought our cameras. The one with the cheapest and cheerfullest camera tends to take the most pictures, (a) because the pictures tend to be smaller and will fit with ease onto today’s infinite SD cards no matter how many you take, and (b) because with a cheap and cheerful camera you want to give yourself lots of chances to have taken some good snaps, in among the torrent of bad ones. So I took the most photos. There follows a very small selection of these compared to how many I took, and a very large selection compared to how many photos there usually are in Samizdata photo-essays. In the event that you would like to see any of them bigger, click on them. They are shown in chronological order.

Rob’s photos can be seen here. They include quite a few that show what it was like arriving. Rather chaotic, and aesthetically shambolic, in a way that really doesn’t suggest a great show of any sort. Farnborough only happens every two years, and I guess it just isn’t worth organising all the incidentals associated with the public descending on the place for just one weekend every two years, any better than only just adequately. The train from Waterloo (they’re very frequent) having taken about forty minutes (I bought a train-and-bus-included ticket to the show at Waterloo), there was then a satanically convoluted bus journey from Farnborough railway station, smothered in traffic jams of people trying to get to the same spot in their cars, a journey that caused us, in the evening, to prefer to take the same journey back to the station on foot. But we finally arrived at the airfield, where there was yet more too-ing and fro-ing, this time along improvised queue routes, bounded by temporary barriers such as you get around roadworks. We were herded along these tracks and into the show by men in flourescent tops shouting at us. Is this what pop festivals are like?

Mercifully soon we were in, and wandering past further aesthetic shambles, in the form of closely bunched exhibits with euphemistic signs on them about “all your force projection needs” (calling in an air strike when you get into a fight outside a pub?), “delivering ordnance efficiently” (killing people efficiently), “creative solutions” (killing people creatively), “mission specific solutions” (killing exactly the people you want to kill in exactly the way you want to kill them) and so on. Fair enough. The truth is too horrible to be faced head on.

Here was my favourite of these preliminary exhibits:


It’s this. Looks like a whale, doesn’t it? The twenty first century looks like being a golden age of unmanned flight. Who would have thought that model aircraft would turn into a grown-up industry?

Then on to join the main throng next to the runway, to confront sights like this:


This was the moment when I began to fear that I would be without food or water for the next six, hot hours. I could see lots of people, with their own picnic equipment, and lots of other guys with cameras. I could see a big runway, and distant hangers and airplanes. But what if I starved to death? I postponed such thoughts, because just as they were occurring to me, the main show (scroll down to Saturday 24th to see what we saw) was getting under way.

Item one, which I was really looking forward to seeing close up, having already photoed it from far below and far away, in central London, was this:


The A380 did a slow motion impersonation of a plane doing trick flying, going up too steeply and then down too steeply, and then tilting itself too steeply and cornering too much, all with the stately grace of the white elephant that I assume it to be. Beautiful. → Continue reading: At the 2010 Farnborough Airshow

One less public sector vacancy to fill

The UK Film Council has been scrapped. I am not sure why it was needed. According to a Guardian article, its inclusion in the quango scrappage scheme is a catastrophe. Presumably that is luvvie hyperbole for a bad outcome. Yet, who has come to this conclusion. Tony Hayward, Chief Executive of the UK Film Council. Not an impartial view then. More a biased testament of UK Film Council puffery helped by the Quango Support Group at the Guardian.

One must remember that any industry will gladly accept other people’s money if it is doled out to them. It seems that the UK Film Council was indispensable, as a middleman, broking films to ministers:

History tells us that governments do not understand cultural industries: they are too complex, with too many moving parts and too many competing factions. When there was trouble in the film world, the UK Film Council acted as a translator to government and a critical friend to the industry: that function saved the film sector’s bacon more than once. But no more – so in that respect, too, it’s back to the dark ages.

Words missing from this epitaph include audience, profit, success, blockbuster, and popular. Another example of redistributing taxes to fund elite culture (unwatchable films) under cover of some utilitarian rationale for supporting an ‘industry’. One less public sector vacancy to fill.

Donkeys led by donkeys

So… the global economy has been tanking in no small measure because certain states provided perverse incentives and pushed lenders to offer vast quantities of money to people who had no realistic probability of ever paying it back… and the solution to get us out of this whole mess is to twist banks arms into making loans they would rather not make.

The Lib Dem members of the Coalition favour a more interventionist approach to banking. Having been bailed out by the taxpayer, they argue, the banks have an obligation to lend. The Tories regard it as contradictory to try to control banks while encouraging them to build up their balance sheets.

No shit, Sherlock. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

“JournoList”… why Paul Marks is NOT rubbing his hands and saying “I told you so”

Yet again “JournoList” (the international organization by which leftist journalists cooperate to serve the cause of collectivism) has been exposed. Tucker Carlson over at the “Daily Caller” has exposed more of their propaganda and disinformation campaigns. Specifically the effort to distract attention from, and smear as a “racist” anyone who tried to report Barack Obama’s two decade membership of an extreme “Black Liberation Theology” (an ideology that mixes Marxism with black racism and then puts a “Christian” cover on both) church and his close connection with the vile bigot the Rev. Jeremiah “Audacity of Hope” Wright.

Outwardly such magazines as Time and the Economist pretend to compete and to offer different world views (the Economist pretending to be a free market supporting journal – in spite of its support for endless bailouts and other corporate welfare, and support government “stimulus” spending). Yet Mr Carlson shows (by publishing their discussions) that high ranking people at these (and most other) “mainstream media” outlets actively cooperate, and coordinate their disinformation and propaganda campaigns for the collectivist cause.

As I have attacked the “mainstream” media, especially the Economist – whose lying claim to support liberty has long offended me, for years, I might be expected to be saying “I told you so” at this point…

…But actually I am astonished…

This is because like Bernie Goldberg (of “Bias”, “A Slobbering Love Affair”) I have long believed the source of the pro-big government bias in the media to be a “mindset” produced by education at both school and university, and the environment that MSM (“mainstream media”) people operate within. To find out that their really is a sort of electronic “Star Chamber” where people (supposedly from competing media outlets) deliberately set out to cover up the truth and to coordinate their lies and disinformation (knowing they are lies and disinformation), well that is rather a shock. → Continue reading: “JournoList”… why Paul Marks is NOT rubbing his hands and saying “I told you so”

David Aaronovitch thinks the unthinkable about Joe McCarthy

From the latest Radio Times:

McCarthyism: There Were Reds Under the Bed

In the light of recent spy revelations, David Aaronovitch uncovers dramatic evidence that the notorious Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy may have been right after all about Soviet infiltration into the US government.

That’s this coming Sunday, July 25th, at 1.30pm, on BBC Radio 4.

Google, google. Here is more about the programme:

David Aaronovitch thinks the unthinkable about the McCarthy period.

The hunt for the so called ‘Reds under the beds’ during the Cold War is generally regarded as a deeply regrettable blot on U.S history. But the release of classified documents reveals that Joseph McCarthy was right after all about the extent of Soviet infiltration into the highest reaches of the U.S government.

Thanks to the public release of top secret FBI decryptions of Soviet communications, as well as the release under the fifty year rule of FBI records and Soviet archives, we now know that the Communist spying McCarthy fought against was extensive, reaching to the highest level of the State department and the White House.

We reveal that many of McCarthy’s anticommunist investigations were in fact on target. His fears about the effect Soviet infiltration might be having on US foreign policy, particularly in the Far East were also well founded.

The decrypts also reveal that people such as Rosenberg, Alger Hiss and even Robert Oppenheimer were indeed working with the Soviets. We explore why much of this information, available for years to the FBI, was not made public. We also examine how its suppression prevented the prosecution of suspects.

Finally, we explore the extent to which Joseph McCarthy, with his unsavoury methods and smear tactics, could have done himself a disservice, resulting in his name being forever synonymous with paranoia and the ruthless suppression of free speech.

Hearing from former FBI, CIA and KGB operatives as well as formerly blacklisted writers, David Aaronovitch, himself from a family of communists tells the untold story of Soviet influence and espionage in the United States.

Interesting. Phrases like “thinking the unthinkable”, coming from the BBC, generally signify something drearily conformist, of the sort that it is almost unthinkable to contest, like the claim that, I don’t know, economic growth is not all good, or that pollution pollutes. Not this time, I think you will agree.

Although, I distrust that last bit, about McCarthy’s “unsavoury tactics” being to blame for his failure. It was McCarthy’s fault that the Bolsheviks weren’t unmasked? I wait to be convinced that what saved the Bolsheviks of that time and place was Joe McCarthy’s ineptness. I prefer the more obvious explanation, which is that the very Bolsheviks who had, as McCarthy rightly claimed, dug themselves into the US government were the ones who stopped him.

I also rather resent the timing of this revelation. Now, they tell us? I think that one of the habits of the bad guys is to concede the truth, but only when it’s too late to do much good. The purpose of such admissions is not the truth for the sake of it, but to establish what honest fellows the bad guys are, so that their current or next pack of lies will also be believed, until that too is unmasked, too late, and so on. But maybe that’s to be too cynical, at any rate in this matter. I am not familiar with Aaronovitch’s writings and thinkings over the years. Maybe he’s a good guy.

I’ll certainly be having a listen to this. Either at 1.30pm on Sunday, or failing that, soon after.