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]

Oh Dear…

What’s the last thing you need while desperately trying to survive as your country is mercilessly bombed by a state-of-the-art US Air Force? How about a bunch of Western pacifists who can’t speak Arabic and don’t know their Dinars from their elbows standing around getting in the way?

The ‘human shield’ left for Iraq yesterday. In three Routemaster buses (the kind they stopped making around 1946, you see them in all the old movies). So at least we can assume it will take them several months to get there, which will be a relief to Baghdad because, as Adriana Cronin noted a few weeks ago, Baghdad residents like the always-interesting Salam Pax don’t actually want a ‘shield’ of pointless woolly Westerners making a burden of themselves. They would actually rather have proper help, like food and first aid on the border crossings, if anyone happens to feel like a bit of charity Gulf war work.

But this pack of doves’ real enemy is not American bombers or Western politicians: it’s you and me, the public. Although insistent that, “Nobody really wants this war except those who stand to gain from this by selling guns,” (well of course, there’s a stash of rifles ready and waiting up in my airing-cupboard right now) they are actually attempting to hold ordinary Western members of the public to ransom. Former US marine Ken Nichols-O’Keefe, founder of “The Truth Justice Peace Human Shield Action Group” is going on hunger strike, not until the war is stopped, but until more people join his cause.

Ten thousand supporters is the exact price he stuck on his own head.

“If we don’t get 10,000 people, I think this is a world that will be hard to live in for all of us” said Ken.

Well, at least he won’t be living in it; that should help a little bit.

“This conflict will lead to World War Three,”

…he went on, presumably in a burst of wishful thinking…

“We need to stop this war first and foremost, if we don’t, shame on us all and pity on us all.”

Shame and pity it is, then.

So, comrades, get yourselves out there with the Shield of Confusion, or the war vet snuffs it. What a choice. As shieldster Ube Evans said:

“Somebody’s got to save humanity from themselves. I’m very scared.”

Baghdad: be very afraid. These people are trying to help you.

Although, as the hunger strike isn’t scheduled until Ken arrives in Iraq, and as it will take them all so long to get there in the double-deckers, my guess is that T.T.J.P.H.S.A.G.’s (say it loudly with enthusiasm and people will think you’re speaking Arabic) real secret plan is to trundle up some time around Christmas when the war is over, have a little holiday, buy a few carpets, and fly back home again. Let’s hope so, for the Iraqi people’s sake.

Mickey Mouse would never sink so low…

The famous cartoon mouse is far too busy making money for the Disney company to waste his time on a BSc in “Golf-Course Management” or “Decision-Making”. However, higher education minister Margaret Hodge has finally noticed the proliferation of ridiculously silly publically-funded university courses, identified them as “Mickey Mouse Degrees” and promised to solve the problem!

Even the Guardian can’t resist making fun:

“There are the apparent oxymorons – turfgrass science, amenity horticulture, surf and beach management and the BSc from Luton University in decision-making, which begs the cheap but irresistible observation, how did those on the course manage to make the decision to take it in the first place?”

But has New Labour got some right ideas for once? Have they finally decided that market forces and the education system should meet?

“…students themselves will ensure that what is offered by universities not just meets their aspirations but also meets labour market needs,” [Margaret Hodge] told a seminar in London organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research”

Well, no. Because actually, it shouldn’t actually be any of their business what universities do, because they shouldn’t be funding them in the first place, whereupon students would be obliged to be much more careful in their choice of how to spend their first three years after school than they are now. Perhaps some might even not go to university at all! But that would be a terrible blow to the government’s Ten-Year-Plan to keep as many young able-bodied people as possible well away from the workplace:

“The Government remained committed to its target of higher education for 50 per cent of under-30s by 2010.”

Actually, all the government is doing about their embarrassing joke-degree problem is trying to ban more things. This isn’t going to help. Anyone can ban things if they use enough coercion: but the real answer is to make those libertarian economic reforms and then just watch the students abandon ship as the daft degrees suffer a slow and painful death… Madonna studies, feminist ice-skating theory, cross-dressing, nail varnish and citizenship, and all their loyal leftie practitioners disappearing down the post-communist rabbit-hole once and for all.

But don’t hold your breath just yet. Not until you have a proper PhD in Underwater Oxygen Management first, at least.

The consequences of convenience

Alice Bachini looks at parenthood without any rose coloured glasses.

I moan a lot about having children. This sometimes makes me feel really mean, and I certainly wouldn’t do it in the presence of my dear friends who have wanted children for years and been unable to conceive so far. But maybe I should.

Of course, children are wonderful. The problem is, they are likely to be only slightly more wonderful than the treatment they get from you, the parent, and we parents have an incredibly difficult time trying to do things right.

Let me take the hypothetical example of, say, a one-year-old baby. This is what a day is like with a one-year-old baby. You wake up, with the baby in your bed, and breastfeed, for maybe an hour. Then you get up, carrying the baby. Then you try to get dressed, while the baby plays with something, if you’re lucky. Maybe you get interrupted a few times. An hour later, you can attempt to get some breakfast.

Entertaining one-year-olds is not easy; there isn’t much they can do, and their attention-span is zero. Another hour later, you can maybe go out, carrying the baby yourself or pushing it in a buggy for maybe fifteen minutes before she gets bored again.

Where will you go? A friend’s house, or a playgroup, where you will follow your baby around trying to make sure she doesn’t eat any live wires or spiders, and constantly looking for anything that will occupy her for ten minutes so you can have a cup of tea and some conversation. About feeding babies, entertaining babies, baby illnesses, and how to get any housework or cooking done.

I won’t bore you any further. It’s not much intellectual stimulation for a person with an adult-sized brain. → Continue reading: The consequences of convenience