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]

Nothing new to say on Ian Tomlinson

I wish I had something new to say on the Ian Tomlinson case.

I wish the new thing was “the person who was caught on video as, unprovoked, he hit a man from behind and pushed him to the ground, with the result that the man died soon afterwards, is going to be prosecuted, and the fact that he is a police officer will make no difference at all.”

But of course I am not able to say that because it is not true.

What with the internet and all

Michael Tomasky blogs for the Guardian on American affairs. He is a fairly left wing Democrat, and is currently feeling down. He describes in this piece how a piece of internet humour cheered him up. He was sent a letter to the Red States (i.e. the ones voting Republican in the weird American convention for political colours) that reads:

Subject: Letter to the Red States:

Dear Red States.

If you manage to steal this election too, we’ve decided we’re leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we’re taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren’t aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all of the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.

We get stem cell research and the best beaches. You get faith healing and swamps.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood.

We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.

There is more if you click the link.

I am not so much interested in whether the contrasts drawn in the letter are true or fair. I did not even understand many of them. I am very interested in the way that this kind of humour can no longer be kept secret from those who are the butt of the joke. Despite being in the form of a letter to the Red States the original writer of this (from the reference to stealing “this election too” it dates from before Obama’s victory and probably from just before Bush’s second term) must have known that it would be harmful to the Democrat cause to have it actually read by too many Red Staters, particularly come election time. It would arouse even more hostility from a bloc of voters the Democrats would like to reach when accompanied, as it often was, by the Jesusland map.

A couple of decades back – when this sort of thing was photocopier humour rather than internet humour – such a letter would have been seen overwhelmingly by fellow Democrats and Blue State persons. Now it can be found by anyone. It can be found by anyone years after the event. It keeps on being found years after the event.

At first I thought of this in personal terms: one can imagine this letter to the Red States appearing on the website of some minor political guy in 2010 and causing him embarrassment in 2020 when the Republicans run it as an attack ad on TV, or whatever has replaced TV, just as his plane lands at Texas as part of the last-minute tour of swing states. But, imagining harder, he could probably laugh it off. Some of these red-staters might even laugh with him. By then, a cultural change will have occurred. It will have emerged that everybody has multiple skeletons in their cupboard; you can not spend years on the internet without accumulating them.

Bigger than the effect on any one person, though, is the dispersed effect of lots of Republicans being slightly irritated and slightly more prone to think that when Democratic party politicians come courting their votes they are laughing at them behind their hands. As indeed they are. (I could but heroically will not digress into the question of whether Republicans laugh at Democrats in the same way. You are not missing much; the term “hegemonic discourse” was in there somewhere.) However possibly that dispersed irritation also will be moderated by the coming everybody’s-got-skeletons cultural change: by then we will all know more about how everybody has multiple faces that they show in different groups. (Strange how “two faced” is an insult but “multi-faceted” is praise.) Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we will all be less able to ignore our knowledge of everybody’s rotating mild disloyalty to all the groups to which they belong except the one to which they are talking at any particular minute.

Oddly enough the name of Michael Tomasky has come up in another context concerning stuff on teh interwebs being seen by eyes it was not intended for. American right wing blogs are fizzing about “JournoList”, this being a private internet forum for American left wing journalists, academics and think tankers, where they would work out this week’s media consensus. Tomasky was a member. So was David Weigel, a journalist for the Washington Post, who had to resign from covering conservative affairs for that paper after expressing his opinion of several leading conservatives on JournoList by means of a term that I at first thought referred to their alleged propensity to engage in illicit commerce with rats but I now deduce means to behave towards someone in an underhand manner. You will have deduced that JournoList is no longer private and that some people think that its members were acting towards the American public in an underhand manner.

There will be several scandals like this. Then they will stop because everyone will have adapted. The words “private internet forum” will be regarded as oxymoronic. The politically imprudent humour will continue, though. Nothing can shut a human mouth once it has started on a joke, except possibly the prospect of saving it up for a larger audience on the internet.

Getting your priorities right

Things have been a little odd in Australian politics recently. In the last month, the governing Australian Labor Party has sacked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and appointed Julia Gillard as Australia’s first woman Prime Minister. While this has been going on, former Labor PM Paul Keating has been having a weird slanging match with former Labor PM Bob Hawke and his biographer/wife Blanche d’Alpuget. She was his biographer first. Long and somewhat tawdry story, which is some but not all that the slanging match (which has included a TV mini-series) has been about.

Obviously, the only thing that Ms Gillard could do in such circumstances was to call an early election, and thus Australians will be voting on August 21, even though the election may constitutionally be held as late as April 2011 . If this gamble does not pay off, Ms Gillard will be Australia’s fifth shortest serving Prime Minister. (Three of the shorter serving PMs held office very briefly during the period between when their predecessor either died or went mysteriously missing in the ocean and when their party elected a new leader, so she would be the second shortest Prime Minister ever placed in the job for reasons other than constitutional technicalities.

Australians, however, know what is important. Although televised leaders debates are a relatively new thing in the UK, they have been normal in Australian elections for over 25 years. The convention is that a debate will be held at 7.30pm on the first Sunday evening of the campaign. For this election, this would mean this coming Sunday.

Except, however, if it were held to that schedule this Sunday, the debate would clash with the season finale of the reality TV cooking show Masterchef Australia, and thus nobody would be watching. Therefore, the debate has been shortened from 90 minutes to 60, and has been moved from 7.30pm to 6.30pm. Really.

I am hoping to record a conversation about the personalities and issues behind this Australian election with fellow expatriate James Waterton at some point during this election campaign. Hopefully this should be up soon.

Update: The winner was Adam Liaw, the Japanese-Australian lawyer from Adelaide.

Samizdata quote of the day

“No gentleman goes to a lady’s house if he is affected by alcohol. A gentleman seeing a young man who is not entirely himself in the presence of ladies, quietly induces the youth to depart. An older man addicted to the use of too much alcohol, need not be discussed, since he ceases to be asked to the houses of ladies.”

– From the “Fundamentals of Good Behaviour”, published here, and thanks to Timothy Sandefur for the pointer.

Samizdata quote of the day

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

– Voltaire

Irish self defence

I’ve had a busy day, so do not have time for much Samizdata-ing, but I think that most of us will be agreeing that this is quite good news:

Irish homeowners can now legally use guns to defend themselves if their homes are attacked under new legislation.

Yes it’s not good when your home gets “attacked under new legislation”. Sorry. Carry on.

The new home defense bill has moved the balance of rights back to the house owner if his home is broken into “where it should always have been”, say top Irish police.

The police association of superintendents and inspectors, the AGSI, stated that “the current situation, which legally demands a house owner retreat from an intruder, was intolerable”.

I know, I know, it probably doesn’t go far enough, but it is a step in the right direction. I particularly like what “AGSI” said. Wish we had something like AGSI here. Our policemen have the default position which just goes: leave everything to us sir. As in: leave everything to us and if you dare to do anything except surrender, just because we only got there a day late, we’ll arrest you.

Thank you Guido, where this piece is currently number two on his list of “Seen Elsewhere” stuff.

Samizdata quote of the day

Oh, and anyone in the government opposing [calls for Islamic dress for women to be banned in Britain] is to be conditionally applauded…

…they are right to reject this vile authoritarian notion…

…but if they opposite it because “Islamic dress is ok” then they are a horse’s arse and need to called that.

A burqua or any item of islamic dress for women is as “ok” as a Nazi arm band… and people’s ability to wear Nazi arm bands also should not be banned, but they sure as hell should not be applauded.

– Perry de Havilland

The veil as a test of liberty

I am watching Newsnight with my wife. Kirsty Wark does the intro – something like: “When a Syrian university bans the niqab on campus, why is Britain defending it?”

“Good point,” says Sue.

“Because we’re not bloody Syria!” I yell, “thank God!”

Glad to see a fully veiled Moslem woman interviewed in the street making exactly the same point.

Samizdata quote of the day

So we live in a society where head teachers make kids wear goggles to play conkers and policemen are forbidden from rescuing drowning people on health and safety grounds… and then they make you drive at 70mph in pitch darkness to save the polar bears?

Mr Eugenides is not a happy baby concerning the latest environmentally motivated imposition.

iScream ice cream by Artisan du Chocolat

I just did a posting about iScream at my personal blog, iScream being a type of ice cream which I tasted earlier this evening when I dined at Chateau Perry. And then I thought, why confine the news of this delicious dessert to such a tiny demographic? The whole world should be told about this superb dining experience.


I guess one reason why people make things like this, concentrating entirely on making them tasty rather than making stuff that tastes like cardboard, and spending all their time, money and tender loving care on a lot of ridiculous and expensive advertising, is that word of whatever it is will now spread far and wide at no cost, provided the product tastes good. In my opinion, this iScream ice cream tastes wonderful, and word of it will surely spread fast. I suspect that “iScream” may prove to be a rather silly name, but better a silly name for superbly tasty ice cream than superbly named frozen mediocrity.

The website is here, but is not that informative about iScream ice cream. So if you live in or near London, or if you are ever in London, why not visit the Artisan du Chocolat shop in Lower Sloane Street, just to the south of Sloane Square, where the above supply of iScream ice cream was purchased.

I’m told their chocolate is very good too.

Are we in the throes of a Second Revolution?

I am not talking about classical revolution by arms, but a revolution of ideas. I have been watching, and in may ways participating, in the growing split between world views that is contemporary America. I have little time for the fabric of the leftist views, although I have little problem with many of the lifestyle threads they support. They have now moved so far away from my own ‘center’ that I am much more inclined to throw in my lot with the ‘Country Party’ discussed in this The American Spectator article.

It is well worth reading, and although not perfectly congruent with libertarians, it is certainly far closer than the positions of contemporary liberals.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Ministry of Defence employs 29,000 people in its procurement branch. Its equivalent in a country under actual military threat, Israel, employs a reported 400. Few would say that Britain’s Armed Forces were better equipped than Israel’s.

Andrew Gilligan