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]

Why is Sally Bercow trending? *innocent face*

…Because a backbiting and disingenuous woman has got her comeuppance.

High Court: Sally Bercow’s Lord McAlpine tweet was libel

A tweet published by Sally Bercow about Tory peer Lord McAlpine was libellous, the High Court has ruled.

The wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow tweeted two days after BBC Newsnight wrongly linked a “leading Conservative politician” to sex abuse claims.

Amid widespread speculation about his identity, she wrote: “Why is Lord McAlpine trending. *innocent face*.”

Her claim that this blatant innuendo was merely a factual enquiry was always an insult to the intelligence of anyone who heard it. But should there be an offence of libel at all?

On the evils of identity politics

One of the most shocking things about the brutal attack in Woolwich yesterday was the arrogance with which one of the bloodied knifemen claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims. In what sounded like a South London accent, this British-seeming, casually dressed young man bizarrely spoke as if he were a representative of the ummah. He talked about “our lands and what “our people” have to go through every day.  He presumably meant Iraqis and Afghanis, or perhaps the broader global “Muslim family”.

How can a couple of men so thoroughly convince themselves that they speak for all Muslims, to the extent that they seriously believe their savage and psychotic attack on a man in the street is some kind of glorious act of Islamic resistance? Perhaps because they live in a country in which claiming to speak “on behalf of” a community, even if you’ve never been elected by or even seriously talked to that community, is taken seriously. A country where one’s identity, one’s racial or religious or cultural make-up, now counts for everything, certainly for more than what one does or what one believes. A country in which the politics of identity, the narrow and deeply divisive communal politics of shared cultural traits, has been privileged over all other kinds of politics.

Brendan O’Neill


He was writing in the aftermath of the murder of a young soldier in London this week.

There are many reasons how this state of affairs came about, and I am sure commenters have their views on this. I would point to what has happened in our own education system and the climate of ideas in the West for the past few decades. While Western society is, by some measures, more “individualistic” than it used to be – and that is a good thing – in some ways tribal mentalities remain strong. Maybe part of that has to do with post-modernism and the whole challenge to the idea that there is such a thing as objective truth, and that there are universal, shared qualities that all humans have, most importantly, the capacity for long-term, rational action, coupled with notions of taking responsibility for one’s actions, linked as that is to the idea that humans have free will.

As those notions have been challenged, or even mocked – consider how it is fashionable these days to say we are all driven by “unseen” motives and urges that come from Darwinian evolution – then people are more susceptible to collectivism, to group-think, with its consequent view of people as either “belonging” to this or that group. Throw in the features of Islam as it is today as described by the likes of Bernard Lewis, and this fusion of religious fundamentalism, craven Western self-abasement, victimology, and post-modernist moral relativism, then it is not hard to see why these thugs can claim to speak for a whole chunk of humanity.

The Color Purple, faded

Prize-winning author Alice Walker gives support to David Icke on Desert Island Discs.

Not a headline you see very often.

For those that don’t know, Alice Walker is a “an American author, poet, womanist, and activist”, Desert Island Discs is a long-running BBC radio programme in which celebrities say which eight records (look it up) they would take with them to a desert island (I suppose the gramophone must be one of those wind-up ones), and David Icke is a former Green Party spokesman who believes that, among others, the Queen, President George H. W. Bush, President George W. Bush, Al Gore and Boxcar Willie are really twelve-foot alien lizards.

Not only is David Cameron a liar, he is a bad liar

“I feel I am one of them” Cameron bleats, regarding the hilariously named “Loongate” incident that has set the UK media atwitter.

How many people actually buy this crap I wonder? Precious few I suspect. Cameron is so remote from the Tory grass roots, who are ever more rapidly becoming the UKIP grass roots, that I very much doubt he has more than the vaguest idea who “they” actually are.

Life in China

And I also (see below) recommend this video. I won’t describe it at length. Suffice it to say, as David Thompson does say, that you need to watch it right to the bitter end. DT found it here, where viewers were also urged not to miss the end.

An early DT commenter declared that he saw how things would end right away, but I didn’t.

Danny Weston on Hansen at the LSE

I recommend this report by Danny Weston (guest writing at Bishop Hill) of a talk at the London School of Economics given by NASA’s James Hansen. Hansen is a manic climate alarmist, and the audience was almost entirely other manic climate alarmists. But Weston himself managed to get a question in edgeways.

To echo many of the Bishop Hill commenters, congratulations to Danny Weston for attending this event, for spoiling the party by actually expressing doubts out loud about what Hansen said, and above all for writing his report of the event, for an influential climate skeptic blog.

Opponents, however manic, need to be listened to, and argued against. The point is often made here by commenters that arguing against such people as Hansen and this LSE audience is a waste of time and effort, and there is a definite and entirely understandable trace of this feeling in Weston’s own report. Wrong, wrong, wrong. In among that audience were other doubters besides Weston, a few of whom identified themselves to Weston afterwards sotto voce, congratulating him for what he said. Genuine undecideds, and even some of the majority who flatly disagreed with Weston, may also have been impressed by Weston’s sheer guts, as well as by his arguments. And by writing it all up, Weston greatly reinforces this silent bystander effect.

Weston ends his report with these words:

All in all a thoroughly depressing experience.

I hope that responses like this, and like the many other positive comments at Bishop Hill likewise full of congratulation and admiration, will have cheered Weston up a bit, and maybe even a lot.

The real IRS argument

Everyone in America who cares knows that President Obama has for years been encouraging his supporters within the governmental machine to use their governmental powers to harass his political opponents. You have to be deaf, dumb, blind, and living a lot further away from America than I do, not to have known about this for a long time. When it comes to IRS harassment of those he objects to, President Obama has been behaving absolutely as transparently as he promised he would.

To talk now of a “smoking gun” is like witnessing the Battle of Waterloo and saying: “Hah! A smoking gun! Over there!” True, but daft.

A serious defence of President Obama in this matter, from him or from anyone else, cannot be based on the claim that he has not been behaving as he has been behaving. The serious argument is about whether it matters how he has been behaving, and if it does matter, whether it is a good or a bad thing. To defend Obama, as his wiser supporters already realise, must mean defending what he has quite obviously and publicly been doing.

Which might well work, because it is also clear that a great many Americans do agree with what President Obama has been doing. They want big government, and they want the big government they already have to silence anyone who doesn’t want big government.

New Space is taking over (Part 2: The Lynx Engine)

Sad to say, the thing about which I know the most is the one about which I can say nothing except point you to what is public domain. Here is the video which XCOR released after we got a 67 second burn out of our LOX/Kerosene engine. That was about the max we could go with the tankage we had for that test series. It is also the first dual reciprocating pump fed rocket engine ever fired. Can you say “reliable” and “low maintenance”? Stay tuned for further developments this summer.

Although I was on the test stand crew, I was not assigned to console duties in the test bunker that day. If you look closely in the background, you will see me with an idiotic grin developing as it becomes obvious we are going all the way with the burn. Had I not known I was on camera I would probably have given a rebel yell at shutdown.

Sometime in the next year four of those engines, in a non-teststand form, will give our pet astronaut a kick in the seat which will put a similar smile on his face.

New Space is taking over (Part 1: The Grasshopper)

Perhaps I should call this Part II since I recently posted my photos of the first flight of Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo: I was even thinking of doing a series to update our readers when I posted that article. Unfortunately the rest of the stories had to wait for these few mostly free hours on a late Sunday afternoon.

There are really big things brewing in the world of NewSpace. This is no long the realm of a bunch of cash starved spacers of the wild eyed variety. The recognition that just maybe they were wrong and we were right has got to be scaring the bejesus out of their financial offices. In some senses there is nothing new under the sun. It the same curve of accelerating technological change that overturned the IT business over 20 years ago. It has just taken a couple more decades to smash into the somewhat more difficult realms of aerospace.

For my first exhibit: SpaceX. By now most of you have heard of them. In about a decade, from a cold start, they have brought 3 different enginesl 2 different expendable launch vehiclel, a two way cargo capsule that is already passenger capable in an emergency; a large production facility in California, launch facilities at Kwajelein Island and at Spaceport Florida, and an engine test stand and test pad in Texas. They have booked enough business in the satellite market to put a serious bite into the competition. I believe three of those fully commercial, non-test flights will be happening this year with the first of them next month in June. In the Falcon 9 a rocket in the lift class needed for many commercial or government jobs, one which has proven operationally that where other vehicles fail, it just keeps going, a regular Duracell bunny of a rocket. Even an engine shutdown and a dynamic pressure caused collapse and spitting out of an engine bell does not slow it down. No one else can turn a launch vehicle around from an a pad abort where engines have fired… within an hour or two. No one. And to top it off they did the entirety of it for less total cost than the big aero guys are spending on their cost-plus throw away escape system.

And as the commercial says… wait, there’s more! They are in the process of certifying their own spaceport at Brownsville, Texas, where they will be having rockets not only launch… but come back and land when done. If you watch the Grasshopper flight below, bear in mind this is a 10 story building that climbs to 263 feet in the air, balances on a pillar of fire, then sets itself down exactly on the intended spot as soft as you please. I have had far rougher landing in commercial airplanes.

If all goes to plan, we can expect them to flight test these on the three upcoming commercial launches. After the booster separates it is scrap metal just waiting to meet its oceanic junk yard. Elon is going to wring the squeel out of that pig and it is going to fire its engine to attempt a controlled re-entry and it will be brought to a temporary hover some feet over the water. Maybe they will accomplish it on the first flight, maybe not for many flights. However many it takes, they will beat it and the cost of the tests will be a very small marginal cost since they would be dumping it in the water and it is already paid for anyway.

Once they have a handle on that procedure, they will fly it back to Brownsville and land it on a pad, just like in the test video. Then they will check it out, gas up the tanks and fly her again. They will next do something similar with the second stage. This will be a bit more difficult but at the end of their development program is a very big pot of gold. They will be many years ahead of all the competition, even national governments. They will have a fully reusuable, heavy lift, ‘man rated’ launch system that will drop the cost to orbit by anywhere from a factor of 10 to 100.

At that point the rest of the launch vehicle suppliers might as well pack up and go home. SpaceX is going to dominate the commercial launch market.

And then they are going to Mars. After all, you didn’t think Elon was doing this just for the money did you?

Not as smart as they think

Nile Gardiner has this to say about the Obama administration:

This week, thanks to unprecedented levels of Congressional and mainstream media scrutiny of the actions of the Obama administration, the American people have been given a powerful insight into the way in which this presidency has operated. For far too long, the Obama administration has acted like an imperial court rather than a government that is accountable to the nation. The White House’s culture of arrogance and impunity, coupled with a deeply unpleasant vindictiveness, is increasingly there for all to see. Suppression of political dissent, a callous disregard for the loss of American life in Benghazi, and the relentless rise of big government – these will be three of the most of enduring images of Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.

In some ways, however, one could argue that the thuggery, deviousness and unpleasantness of this administration – and let’s not forget the Fast and Furious scandal, which is arguably the worst of all of them – in some ways shows that Barack Obama and his colleagues are not particularly crafty men (and women). If they were really as smart as some think, they would not have allowed some of these disasters to have seen the light of day. Perhaps what the stories suggest is that – as Brian Micklethwait suggested in a comment thread note the other day – that years of enjoying a placid, supine MSM meant that Obama and his colleagues got cocky. They probably thought that no matter how bad behaviour was, whether it was the ACORN episode, the blame-the-other-side nonsense over the budget impasse, Fast and Furious, Libya, insults to old friends (the UK, Poland), failure to shut down Gitmo (as promised), the IRS harassments, the AP phone record stories, etc, etc, that nothing would happen. Jon Stewart would continue to mock mostly Republicans. The MSM would, at most, treat these and other episodes as distractions. (At Reason magazine, here is an example, nicely dissected.) But I think what the administration failed to see is that even in a situation like this, cockiness will lead to a series of disasters and scandals so bad that even usual allies wake up. There is a certain inevitability. The passing of time means memories of how glamorous and appealing Obama seemed have faded.

Another point is that when Obama was elected, the expectation was enormous, although commentators at the time, such as Glenn Reynolds in the US and James Delingpole in Britain pointed out the gulf between the rhetoric, the image, and the reality. That gap has become so vast, and so difficult to ignore, that the media coverage of Obama is getting worse and worse. And all the while voters in the US are understanding that the sort of people who run the IRS will be running healthcare. Marvellous.

Eventually, even Andrew Sullivan will slag him off. Then it’s all over.

Samizdata quote of the day

It’s not possible to prevent people, particularly people whose goal is power, from abusing it. All we can do is deprive them of it.

– This comes near the end of a very good piece by Rand Simberg about the IRS, what it did, why, and what to do about it.

Which is what our own Jonathan Pearce also said recently.

If you do not want to see the BNP vindicated, try not proving them right

Rape, enslavement, child prostitution go unpunished for years. The victims’ complaints are dismissed by social services. The accusations are not seriously investigated by the police. With a few honourable exceptions the politicians and the media won’t even discuss the issue.

No one disputes that the crimes themselves are the responsibility of the criminals, but who is to blame for the conspiracy of silence?

Why, the first man to break it, of course!

In the comments to my earlier post, Jaded Voluntaryist pointed out an article by Sean Thomas in the Telegraph “…which blamed Nick Griffin for the events in Oxford, since by talking about this issue no-one wants to talk about way back in 2004, he made it impossible for anyone else to talk about it seriously. Yes, I’m sure if he had kept schtum it would have all been sorted out years ago…”

Here is said article: Oxford gang rape: did people ignore this sort of scandal because racist Nick Griffin was the first to mention them?

Mr Thomas has wisely opted not to allow comments. They would be radioactive.

He wrote,

As long ago as 2001, Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, was making claims about Asian grooming gangs. In 2004 he repeated these allegations in a speech clandestinely recorded by the BBC for a TV documentary, Secret Agent. He was arrested and charged with inciting racial hatred.

Which is exactly what he was doing, of course. He was making his allegations to stir up ethnic strife. Right-thinking people, aware of the BNP’s record as liars, presumed that these stories were just racist demagoguery. No doubt Griffin feels vindicated today: for telling the truth before anyone else. And yet it was thanks in part to his thuggish intervention that society felt able to ignore the scandal. And thus the abuse continued.

[UPDATE 17 MAY 09.45: As those viewing Samizdata on the morning of 17 May will have seen, I tried to edit a minor error in the post and somehow deleted the text from this point onwards. A kind person has emailed me the lost text, which now follows. I will gradually reinsert the links. Apologies for this interruption – NS]

Some background on “the events in Oxford” here.

…a jury at the Old Bailey convicted seven men responsible for running an underworld child sex abuse ring in the Cowley area of Oxford of 43 charges of rape, child prostitution, trafficking and procuring a backstreet abortion. Six victims gave harrowing evidence during the three-and-a-half month trial, but police believe the number of girls recruited by the gang and abused numbers more than 50.

The gang – who were of Asian and north African descent – targeted extremely vulnerable white girls as young as 11 on the streets of Cowley and sold them for £600 a time to be raped and violently abused over an eight-year period. Two other men were cleared by the jury.

A litany of failings by police and social services had allowed the men between 2004 and 2012 to groom young, vulnerable girls they met on the streets, outside schools and in cafes, entice them with the promise of alcohol and trinkets, and subject them over years to sexual atrocities and torture.

“Asian” generally means Pakistani background, although two of the perpetrators here were Eritrean. All the abusers were Muslim. None of their victims were. This was not coincidence. The men generally targeted girls from children’s homes and disrupted family backgrounds. The abusers saw their victims as promiscuous white trash, in an utterly different category from their own wives and daughters. This is the latest of a string of such cases, all following the same pattern, such that a report produced by the police-staffed Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre “found that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of suspects reported to Ceop were of Asian origin, and the majority of groups identified were Asian”. There have been other trials of similar “Asian” (specifically British Pakistani) grooming gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby, Telford and Keighley.

Keighley, as it happened, was where Nick Griffin made one of the speeches that got him prosecuted. In that speech, Griffin said,

“These 18, 19, and 25-year-old Asian Muslims who are seducing and raping white girls in this town right now are not particularly good Muslims, they drink and all the rest of it, but still part of what they are doing comes from what they are taught is acceptable.”

It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for the Holocaust denier Nick Griffin’s literally fascist party, but I rather think that if Griffin feels vindicated that is because he has been vindicated.

Thug he may be, but his “thuggish intervention” in this case consisted of stating the truth when almost nobody else would – and being prosecuted for it. The charges covered many things said by Griffin, but the opening speech by the prosecuting counsel specifically featured his claims of “paedophile drug rape” in Keighley. (The prosecution was unsuccessful. Two juries acquitted Griffin and another defendant in two separate trials.)

Society did not just “feel able to ignore the scandal”, society – in the form of police chiefs, social workers, and the media – actively, cravenly dodged saying anything about it. Why? Because they were all afraid of being branded racist. As one of the few exceptions to the media silence, the documentary-maker Anna Hall, wrote, “…a senior children’s services manager said: “The men are Asian, Anna, but you’ll never get anyone on the record to say that.”” Or as Tim Loughton, the former Children’s Minister admitted, “There are clear cultural sensitivities around these cases that too often meant the relevant agencies were reluctant to intervene properly”. Or as retired police Superintendent Mick Gradwell said, “There is a problem with some members of the Pakistani community targeting young women in this way […] In the past there have been major fears of being seen as racist, especially after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry at the Met police said the force was institutionally racist.” (H/T: Laban Tall at UK Commentators, who has followed this story for years.) Note how Gradwell described the former Home Secretary Jack Straw as “brave” for speaking out as late as 2011. He was, too, even though his fellow Labour MP Ann Cryer had been much braver in speaking out back in 2004 when she was MP for Keighley. Bravery was required to speak out because bad things were likely to happen to the careers of those who did, particularly if they did not have Cryer’s or Straw’s Parliamentary privilege.

And thus the abuse continued, Mr Thomas.

Incidentally, the police “requested” that Anna Hall’s documentary “Edge of the City” be postponed until the 2004 local elections were over, for fear it would send votes to the BNP. I thought the police were meant to be politically impartial.

There is a grain of truth in what Sean Thomas has written. When I first saw reports that the BNP claimed that Asian gangs were grooming white girls, my eyes skated over them because claims that “their” men are seducing, corrupting and raping “our” girls have been a staple of racist propaganda through the ages. Thus far, Mr Thomas was right. But to attempt to shift the blame for even a fraction of years of sustained, repeated evasion of their duties on the part of every organ of the establishment onto Nick Griffin is… inventive. Were the social services departments of multiple British towns really listening that hard to Nick Griffin? Did the chief constables of several different police authorities check that the chairman of the British National Party hadn’t spoilt the atmosphere before giving the go-ahead to investigate? Should we assume that the fact that in the last couple of years the Crown Prosecution Service has finally started to actively prosecute these gangs (following the initiative taken by Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England Nazir Afzal, himself of Pakistani heritage, please note) is because the CPS lawyers have finally got over their sulk at Griffin making them look bad?

A question for the mainstream media: aren’t you ashamed that the British National Party reported what you dared not?

A question for the politicians, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service: do you now regret the prosecution of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett on charges of using words or behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred, specifically including his claims about Keighley? Do you acknowledge that your action in attempting to curtail and punish his free speech, in part for saying this type of crime was happening at a time and a place when it was, will certainly have deterred others from speaking out?