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]

Eliot Stein tormented Cathy Seipp on her deathbed

Or at least he tried to, but her friends and family made sure she was never made aware of the sick actions of her daughter’s former schoolteacher.

As I say in the article, there is no law against being a jerk – nor should there be – but “It is a First Amendment right” is a coward’s excuse for trying to hurt a dying woman and her grief-stricken daughter. There are lots of things in life against which there are no laws, but which are heartless, meanspirited, and downright disgusting things to do to another human being. If you consider the US Constitution your moral guidebook, you need more help than any lawyer can offer.

Eliot Stein refers to himself as an “internet pioneer” (in gutless actions?) and takes great pride in the lengths he went to in order to distract Cathy from her waning health and to try to get her to focus her attention on him (“I WILL NOT BE IGNORED!”), which says almost as much about his character as you need to know. Eliot Stein, while Maia‘s schoolteacher, also posted nasty comments on Maia and Cathy’s blogs; when Maia’s school got rid of him, he came to work in a tuxedo on his last day and made sure to tell every class that his departure was Maia’s fault, which he must have known would lead to her being bullied and humiliated (which is exactly what happened).

Like I said, Eliot Stein is a real peach. And yet he still persists in the belief that Cathy could say or do anything which would make him seem more unfit to be around children than his own professed actions – of which he boasts with considerable pride. Would you want your kids to spend any amount of time around this man, let alone be stuck with him as a schoolteacher?

eliot stein

What state policy videos and pornos have in common

Francis Stokes, creator of YouTube sensation God, Inc:

It’s funny and kind of charming when things like this, the Sexual Harassment Policy Video, never evolve beyond their most primitive and mockable state. Being poster children for the post ironic post-post modern society we live in, it’s hard to even imagine something so bleedingly achingly sincere. And yet totally insincere. A sincere video would flash across the bottom the screen the entire time, “PLEASE DON’T SUE US. WATCHING THIS MEANS YOU CAN’T SUE US. YOU PROMISED. YOU SIGNED A THING.”

But my point is, we live in a society that is keenly aware of irony. You’d think there’d be nothing left to mock. But thankfully, we have group think. A bunch of beaurocrats would never agree to allow the Sexual Harassment Policy Video to have any knowing hint of irony, even if they each individually hold the strong belief that personally they aren’t stodgy humorless corporate drones, after all, they watch “The Simpsons”. So group think will prevail where post modern can never go. You can’t really have a funny Sexual Harassment Policy Video. And it’s this commitment to non-humor that makes it so hilarious.

Read the whole thing to find out the answer to this post’s title.

Charlize Theron prefers Cuba to the US

We know what she is smoking (see below), so the real question is: What is taking her so long to move there?

charlize theron

Israel’s oldest kibbutz privatises itself

You can almost hear the crunch of gritted teeth as the Guardian reports on how kibbutzers have “allow[ed] the market to take the place of the idealism”.

The Advice Goddess and the statist-in-training

My friend Amy Alkon (ask Perry about her delightful “Godless Harlot” business cards) is a nationally syndicated advice columnist in the US. She gets requests for assistance “a little too frequently,” as she puts it, from a certain girl in the UK. After being copied in on a round-robin email appeal from this British girl to several advice columnists, Amy pointed out to the help-seeker that she is more likely to spend her time responding to those who are not mass mailing loads of other people with the same question. How did the girl respond?

Excuse me, but you are supposed to give me advice, not insult me. Now give me advice, before i report you to the council.

Somehow I do not think that Amy need worry about having to fight an extradition order.

Samizdata quote of the day

For my last birthday I was offered jewellery or shotguns. I chose the guns.

Elizabeth Hurley, via Robert Avrech

Liz is our kinda girl

Big Brother in schools

Labour MP Tom Watson is undecided as to whether or not vein scanning and other biometric technology being forced on Britain’s schoolchildren is a good or a bad thing. Perhaps you can share your views on the matter with him. Please note that Watson told me a couple of years ago that his view on ID cards was actually changed by the persuasive arguments he read on various blogs, so this is a man who is willing to listen to reason.

The faultless MSM strikes again

My friend Russ Willey has written the London Gazetteer, a brilliant book which explores all of the lesser known nooks and crannies of this city. Russ is a life-long obsessive about ‘Hidden London‘, and if ever someone was born to write a book like this, he was.

On October 12, Will Self wrote the following in his Evening Standard column:

IT IS with sadness that I censure the London Gazetteer. This handylooking tome was sent to me by its publisher, Chambers. It claims to be “An A-Z guide to the famous and hidden quarters of Britain’s capital”. However, the very first quarter I looked up, Tokyngton, wasn’t in it.

I myself have never actually been to Tokyngton but I’ve often noted its peculiar name while perusing my bog-ordinary A-Z map. Now it’s been so unjustly neglected by Chambers I feel an almost insuperable urge to travel to what a website describes as “the most populated part of Harrow”, albeit in the medieval era. The “farm of the sons of Toca” was first mentioned in 1171, so it seems rather shabby that it doesn’t make it into Chambers’s Gazetteer 900-odd years later.

Except that, er, Tokyngton is actually right there in the book, and fills nearly half a page between the entries for Three Mills and Tollington. Perhaps Will Self is alphabetically-challenged, but you would think he and an editor would have double-checked this claim before slamming a book whose success depends on being viewed as comprehensive and authoritative. Having had the error pointed out, no correction has been issued by Self or the Evening Standard.

Sadly, it is not likely that as many people will read any correction as have read the original, prominent damning column – even if Self does the right thing and makes the correction in his next column.

Political parties in ‘critical condition’?

It does warm the cockles of one’s heart to read a lede like this:

Political parties are so small they are “nearing critical condition” in many constituencies, a survey suggests.

Of course there is an agenda accompanying this report from an organisation calling itself Unlock Democracy. UD is a joint project of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network, and their aims are far from pure:

Revitalise local political parties through targeted state funding – Political parties are fundamental to our political system and should be funded in ways that encourage political participation and activism at a local level.

The group cannot seem to keep broken links (which are supposed to lead to their own project sites) off of their main website, but they do manage to get governmental ‘support’ for their People and Politics Day. (I have contacted the New Politics Network to ask what form that ‘support’ takes, and await a response.) The day boasts speeches from Tory chairman Francis Maude, Theresa May, various Lib Dem and Labour politicians, and even the leader of UKIP. Exhibitors include the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, British Union of Anti-Vivisectionists, and the League Against Cruel Sports.

So the good news is that political parties face death. The bad news is, there are people who are trying to keep them alive, and getting governmental support to do so. The surprising news is…nowhere to be found.

UPDATE: New Politics Network’s press officer, James Graham, responded to my query about whether or not taxpayer money is funding this event:

The Electoral Commission, DCA and PEU are indeed financially supporting the event. I don’t have the exact figures in front of me but they have contributed around £17k in total, two-thirds of which comes from the Commission. I hasten to add that we are not making any money out of this project and it is currently just about breaking even.

Well, that makes it okay, I guess! (Not.)

Borders and Paperchase pushing Marxism to children

Riding the 211 bus from Hammersmith to Chelsea yesterday, I was in a good mood, anticipating a tipple or two with Samizdata Overlord Perry de Havilland. As the bus drew up beside Borders, though, my mood took a significant tumble upon spotting this:

Back to school supplies featuring jaunty references to the ideology that has killed 100+ million
people worldwide and which has a long history of persecuting homosexuals

Paperchase is a British stationery chain which also operates within Borders stores, having been acquired by Borders Group in 2004. If you click on that link, you will see that the “Top Marx” line of back to school supplies is the central feature of their new season’s products. The product descriptions refer to the red stars and other iconography as “Chinese emblems”. I suppose that is true, much in the same way that the swastika became a “German emblem”.

It was only a few months ago that a number of people decided to boycott Borders, due to the chain’s decision not to sell the issue of Free Enquiry magazine which featured the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammad. The reply I got to my complaint letter to Borders about this was exactly the same as the one Dale Amon received. It read, in part:

[W]e place a priority on the safety and security of our customers and our employees.

So is it safe to presume that Borders would cease to carry the “Top Marx” line if they were subject to sufficient threats of violence over it? Is it possible that no Paperchase or Borders employee voiced concerns about the wisdom of this line at any time? Or is it more likely that the people at Paperchase and Borders are really that ignorant of such recent history? I am curious what Samizdata readers think of this one.

Party for the princess of podcasting

Friday night saw yet another party at Samizdata HQ; it has indeed been a busy summer for such gatherings. This one was in honour of Tracy Sheridan, CEO of podcasting company Waxxi. I was fortunate to meet Tracy at the inaugural Techdirt Greenhouse event in Silicon Valley earlier this year, and since then have had the pleasure of her company twice more in the Bay Area. I promised her that if she came to town, we would throw her a party, and – what do you know? – she took me up on it. We are glad she did!


Yes, it’s a living manga character/Samizdata editor.


The Algonquin Roundtable crowd had nothing on this bunch.


Someone had just told me that Ken Livingstone was hanging from a light pole outside; seconds later, the truth emerged and my smile disappeared.


The Three Blogateers: JP Rangaswami, Adriana Lukas, and guest of honour Tracy Sheridan

See more pictures of the festivities on Flickr.

Ben Casnocha in London

When Silicon Valley’s youngest dot-com dynamo (and all around delightful guy), Ben Casnocha, told me that he was coming to Europe for his gap year travels, I knew he could not leave London without the full Samizdata experience.


Of course, first an offering to the Hippo God had to be made…

elena y perry

Elena and Perry performed their synchronised hand-jive performance to an adoring crowd

al fresco

PooterGeek found something else to applaud – guesses on a postcard, please…

elena, dave, jackie

I tried not to show how revolted I was by the unsightly growth that had suddenly sprouted from Elena’s head


What could possibly have these capitalists so rapt with attention?

evil capitalists

But of course…

There are more photos at Flickr.