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]

Samizdata quote of the day

…given there is a cross-party consensus that energy rationing is good for growth.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that bureaucrats can manage businesses better than their owners.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that paying money to people to not work is investing.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that the more complex the tax system is, the ‘fairer’ it is.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that when the public ignore the current laws then more laws are needed.
…given there is a cross-party consensus that giving ‘offence’ is a more heinous crime than mugging.

– Samizdata commenter Kevin B.

SpaceShipTwo First Powered Flight

I have been a bit scarce around Samizdata lately as I have been out in the Mojave desert working on the Lynx Spaceplane… the same one you get to ride if you win the Lynx for Men contest. You know, the “Nothing Beats an Astronaut” one? In any case, we are not alone at the Spaceport. There are engine firings, vertical takeoff test flights by Masten Aerospace and yesterday… a milestone by our next door neighbours, Scaled Composites.  I have very little time to write just now, but I do want to share a few of the images with you.


I got in by 6am and one of our guys was monitoring the tower frequency so we knew when they were cleared for takeoff.


We spent the next hour or so hanging out in the viewing area about a mile from our hangar. Most of the time we could not even find the little tiny spec in the sky.


My camera refused to focus on the tiny white dot of fire in the big blue sky so although I saw the drop and ignition visually, I did not get a picture. Their burn lasted in the range of 15 seconds and Doug Jones (XCOR) said he heard a mild boom so they may well have gone supersonic as planned.  In this photo WhiteKnightTwo is diving to close on SpaceShipTwo, now on its glide to landing phase.


We were not all that far from the touchdown point on Runway 030. For those with long memories, Sir Richard Branson’s rollout bash on December 7, 2009 happened at the jet blast deflector at the threshold of 030. You can find that photo essay in the archives here.


I managed a number of good shots on the approach and was particularly happy to catch the very instant the wheels bit into the runway. Later on, outside our hangar, I spotted a grinning Richard Branson animatedly talking to designer Burt Rutan as they walked under WhiteKnightTwo on the way over to SpaceShipTwo. Yes, I do have those photos but I was on field outside our hangar so those photos will have to wait for posterity.


UKIP it is, then

The UK version of the Huffington Post reports that Ukip’s ‘NRA-Esque’ Gun Control Comments Described As ‘Inaccurate Upsetting Drivel’. Furthermore, advises the author of the piece, Felicity A Morse,

Farage’s support for relaxed gun control is particularly controversial given there is a cross-party consensus that restricting firearms helps reduce gun crime and protects communities.

Emphasis added. Consider yourselves warned.

Mrs Thatcher clones

An unexpected pleasure, leftists chocking at the sight of people celebrating Margaret Thatcher, has just got even better.

The Daily Mail informs us that the “Thatcher haircut” is the rage in central London, with one salon claiming to be overwhelmed by demand.

Italian-born Christina Bellucci, 37, a digital consultant, said she felt the look reflected a modern attitude.

‘This is a strong style and gives me authority,’ she said.

‘When I walk out the door I feel a few inches taller, it gives me power without sacrificing any of my femininity.’

A slight discrepancy in the numbers

Sometimes, a straight, even dryly-written news-wire report can tell you about the vastly different interpretations of certain issues out there. This Bloomberg report about the world of “offshore money” is a classic case in point. The whole article is worth reading, but this caught my eye:

“According to Tax Justice Network, a U.K.-based organization that campaigns for transparency in the financial system, wealthy individuals were hiding as much as $32 trillion offshore at the end of 2010. Fewer than 100,000 people own $9.8 trillion of offshore assets, according to research compiled by former McKinsey & Co. economist James Henry.”

That is one hell of a contrast. You have the TJN’s $32 trillion, or $9.8 trillion. Take your pick.

Suppose TJN is correct. $32 trillion is a lot of money. And I ask myself how on earth a leftist campaign group such as the Tax Justice Network comes up with that figure. According to Wikipedia’s page on the size of the global economy, the latest available figure for the value of total GDP, based on the 20 richest countries, is $18.8 trillion. So maybe there is a “long tail” of money from smaller economies, but even so, it is a bit of a stretch to arrive at $32 trillion, and then to assume that this money is all parked, or routed via, offshore centres. And even if some of this huge amount of money does pass via offshore centres (such as Bermuda, Caymans, Jersey, Delaware, Zurich, Geneva, and er, cough, London) it does not stay there, but is invested in various places. (What would be the the point of just stashing money in a nice Caribbean island rather than putting it to work?)

I have come to the conclusion that while some of the concerns about offshore wealth might be justified if we are worried about finances of criminals and the like, some of the amounts being bandied about are so vast that the credibility of the attacks is seriously compromised. And I remain convinced that much of the current furore about the offshore world is based on a desire by some policymakers to stamp out tax competition and create a sort of global fiscal cartel.

Paying for the Margaret Thatcher Funeral

I’ll pay my share of the Thatcher funeral cost and that of two objectors if they’ll pay my share of government spending I don’t like.

Any takers?

UPDATE: At least Mr Cameron is being as consistent as I would have expected.

You would have to be nuts…

When I read this

A supermarket chain has withdrawn bags of nuts – after failing to declare they may contain peanuts. The Food Standards Agency issued an allergy alert saying the presence of peanuts was not declared on Booths’ own brand packets of monkey nuts. […] Booths technical manager Waheed Hassan said: “It is our responsibility as retailers to accurately record allergy advice. […] In a statement, the supermarket said it had identified the labelling error and issued a warning to customers.

“If you have an allergy to peanuts, please do not consume this product and return it to your local store for a full refund. No other products are affected by this issue and we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

So the packets of nuts labelled as… nuts… are being recalled for not telling people allergic to nuts not to eat the nuts.

I would have much preferred if Mr. Waheed Hassan had instead issued the following statement:

“If you are allergic to nuts, do not buy anything labelled as… nuts. And if you do, then either you are illiterate or cannot read English, in which case an additional label telling you not to eat the nuts that you are allergic to from this packet labelled as… nuts… would not help.

But then again, anyone suffering from a nut allergy eating from a packet labelled… nuts… and which, when you open them and see them prior to stuffing them into your gaping maw, look exactly like the… nuts… that you are allergic to, well, such a person is so stupid that we feel that we are providing a public service assisting with their choice to remove themselves from the gene pool. No need to thank us and remember to always shop at Booths! Kthxby.”

But sadly, he did not say that.

Samizdata quote of the day

Dave is going to wake up one morning and find that the Conservative Party website, and any other right-of-centre source of information, is going to be shut away behind an “Over-18” “hate-and-porn” firewall and he will be too stupid to work out what happened.

– Samizdata commenter Rob

MPs & Guardian readers discover regulatory capture, demand more regulation

Say it ain’t so! Accountancy firms ‘use knowledge of Treasury to help rich avoid tax’ – MPs

Margaret Hodge, the PAC’s chair, said the actions of the accountancy firms were tantamount to a scam and represented a “ridiculous conflict of interest” which must be stopped. “The large accountancy firms are in a powerful position in the tax world and have an unhealthily cosy relationship with government,” she said, calling for the Treasury to stop accepting their staff to draw up new tax laws.

In other news, Margaret Hodge called for tighter regulation of the consumer credit industrycivil service procurementwelfare to work schemesacademies… and tax avoidance… and Guardian commenters demanded tighter regulation of the press.

Remember citizens, Get real – get regulated.

UK austerity?

“Yesterday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that they think the economy is growing again – by 0.3% in the first quarter of this year. You should take these statistics – good or bad – with a pinch of salt. But the breakdown of growth by sector does undermine lazy claims that the economy is in trouble because of cuts in government spending. Whereas the ONS data shows that manufacturing has shrunk by nearly 7% since 2008 and construction has shrunk by more than 15%, “Government” has grown by 6.9%. The real austerity has been in the more efficient private sector, not a still bloated public sector. Is it any wonder that the economy isn’t growing?”

– Matt Sinclair, chief executive, Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Technology is not “destroying our humanity”

“If, as I believe, the distinctive distance from our organic nature, we should rejoice in the expression of changing human possibility in ever-advancing technology. After all, the organic world is one in which life is nasty, brutish and short and dominated by experiences that are inhumanly unpleasant. Human technology is less alien to us than nature (compare bitter cold with central heating; being lost without GPS and being found with it; dying of parasitic infestation versus vermicides or spraying with pesticides) and the material of that part of nature that we are: our inhuman, or at least impersonal bodies. Anyone who considers the new technologies as inhuman, or a threat to our humanity, should consider this. Better still, they should spend five uninterrupted minutes imagining the impact of a major stroke, severe Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease on their ability to express their humanity…..Self transformation is the essence of humanity and our humanity is defined by our ever-widening distance from the material and organic world of which we are a part and from which we are apart.”

Raymond Tallis. In Defence of Wonder, page 200.

Samizdata quote of the day

“But the only job that someone like Antony Flew would get in a mainstream university today is cleaning the toilets”.

If that is true – then cleaning the toilets is the only job worth having.

– Paul Marks