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

It was deplorable that the woman hostage should be shown smoking. This sends completely the wrong message to our young people.

– Patricia Hewitt denounces Iranian treatment of a member of the fifteen captured British navy personnel. Is there a more perfect illustration of the misplaced priorities of Blair’s Britain?

(Via Tim Blair, who notes “as always with such a blindingly stupid quote, be alert to the possibility it’s too stupid to be true.” Perhaps regular Hewitt-watchers would not see the need for such caution.)

Destroying wealth

Scott Wickstein notes a priceless piece of bureaucratic imbecility in New Zealand:

A New Zealand council has taken itself to court and successfully been fined $4,800 […] it will pay itself the fine, minus the court’s 10 per cent cut. It has already stumped up $3,000 for pre-trial “outside legal opinion”.

I also enjoyed an anonymous comment left on the post at Scott’s:

I wouldn’t be surprised if they lodge an appeal

The Great Global Warming Swindle available online

As an addendum to Brian’s post on the Channel 4 documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, I thought I would inform anyone unaware that the programme can be viewed in full at Google videos. Brilliant – I am downloading it as I type.

(picked up from LGF)

How appropriate

The president of our National Welfare Rights Network is a man named Michael Raper.

Surely an excellent name for someone who constantly thinks about how best to take advantage of taxpayers.

Tech support

I will be going to live in China shortly, however I intend to backpack around South East Asia for a few months before settling in Beijing. I do not really wish to lug my two hundred and fifty or so CDs around Asia. I am not a masochist. Also, I would hate to lose them. Yet I would also hate to be without my music – so I plan to buy a portable MP3 player and copy all of my CDs on to that. However, I do not know which model to buy, so perhaps a knowledgeable reader could help me out.

Firstly, I should mention that I do not want an iPod. I do not like having to use iTunes to plonk songs and data on the device, and I have heard a lot of stories about reliability problems – units dying just after the warranty has run out, unprovoked formatting of memory and that kind of thing.

I want a player that is compatible with Windows and has a relatively simple procedure for the addition of files – as I may be doing a fair bit of that at internet cafes and places where the software available is limited. Ideally, I would like to be able to rip a CD straight to the player without having to store the music files on a computer in the process. I am not awfully concerned about a video playing ability or an especially fancy display for viewing photos, as I will primarily be using the unit to listen to music. I would like the unit to have at least 30 gigabytes of memory, and I do not want to spend much more than 200 pounds or US$400.

A tech-savvy friend told me to check out the Creative Zen Vision M and the Toshiba X-series. Does anyone have any comment on these units, or any other recommendations?

The unforgivable crime of being American

Today I visited the consulate of an Asian nation to apply for a tourist visa. When observing the visa application fee, I noticed that those travelling on a U.S. passport must pay almost three times more for a visa to enter this particular country. I believe many other countries impose an extraordinary surcharge for visa applicants travelling as U.S. citizens, too. Talk about American exceptionalism.

Still, I expect Americans are used to this sort of arrangement. When it comes to a whole suite of multilateral projects, the rest of the world expects the American taxpayer to cough up a hugely disproportionate share. When the American taxpayer wants to travel to the rest of the world, they find themselves paying considerably more for an entry visa to many countries as punishment for their poor choice of nationality.

Being a U.S. citizen must rankle at times.

Movie night

It must be a good show when a sociologist (who does not seem to think his discipline is a by-word for socialism) says:

A lot of progressives have stopped believing in progress… and have begun to look nostalgically to the past and have come to reject modern life in many respects and, in a very kind of desperate way, believe that in the good old days when things were small and tangible and when people lived in small villages, everything was all right.

Yah. When asked if those making charitable donations to certain green organisations campaigning to halt industrial-scale development in the third world realise the consequences of their support, this same individual says

Absolutely not, people do this for the best possible motives, but the kids don’t realise that by going there and telling them ‘this is the way you must live your life’, you’re actually being fairly coercive; you’re imposing upon people a lifestyle that is quite ill-suited to their circumstances, and you end up becoming complicit in an authoritarian world order where one group of people’s world-view becomes the dominant one and everyone else’s becomes quite secondary.

[my emphasis – JW]

Who is this erudite chap? Why, it is Professor Frank Furedi, interviewed on the excellent Mine Your Own Business documentary. This movie has been billed by some as a ‘right-wing’ counterpart to a Michael Moore production, but it comes across as considerably less polemical – and enormously more believable – than the average output from the portly and infamous self-declared son of Flint.

This is a useful film for the liberal cause. I am twenty six, and I have a lot of friends who I would describe as instinctively left-leaning. I have shown the film to some of them. I would like to describe a ‘road to Damascus’ scene, but there were no Pauls in my audience. Still, several seeds of doubt were planted, and that is a great start – I too was a socialist, but for that seed of doubt planted several years ago. Consequently, I talk to a lot of young people about extending the principle of personal responsibility. I have often thought that the young are natural libertarians – yet, because they are frequently reliant upon the patronage of others for their livelihoods, matters of economics concern them not. Socialism appears affordable and desirable when one pays less than 10% of their income to the tax man. Regardless, I have discovered that it is not so hard to convince a young person of the merits of what is dismissively described as “rugged individualism” by statists – until the environmental question is raised. This is much harder to overcome, because the underlying science is arcane, mastered by few and is thus vulnerable to manipulation. I firmly believe that green politics represents the ultimate bulwark against the adoption of liberal ideals. Therefore I recommend this film. It graphically displays the victims of international green politics – the world’s poorest – those that the green movement purports to champion. For this alone, Mine Your Own Business is a useful production. Young people who are socialists are generally well-meaning. They want to help the poorest. Fine – help the poorest the liberal way. Help them via voluntary charity. Decouple the link between the Greens and the poor, because the poor confused Greens are inherently antipathetic towards the plight of the poor, whilst championing them. They are no good to anyone – in fact, they can be positively deadly.

Thus, it is essential that the Greens are denied the ability to become a large ‘catch-all’ political movement by encroaching meaningfully into the economic arena. Scarily, they have come thus far and we must aim to roll their influence back to saving sequoias and killer whales, because when it comes to economics – that is, the realm of human welfare – Greens are instinctively genocidal. Of course, they will deny this, but ask them about the earth’s grave overpopulation problem. Most will concur but not extend this rationale to its logical conclusion because they are good (and misguided) people who would never associate themselves with a cause that overtly demands the slaying of billions. Deduction, fools! Admittedly, the Greens have their consistent advocates. And you thought the Final Solution was a pretty fucking awful idea.

The point is that the Green movement has crept into the mainstream. It urgently needs to be repulsed to the ideological fringes, because it is inherently anti-human. Mine Your Own Business contributes to this process, so it should be supported.

Samizdata quote of the day

One thing that is really bugs me about the guy or at least the Obama phenomenon is that he and his supporters (definitely his supporters) like to make a big deal about every possible racist interpretation that can be put into what his opponents say about him. Yet it is obvious to Blind Freddy that he would not be in the limelight in the first place were it not for the whole race issue. If Obama were white would anyone really give a damned what he said? He’s milking this mixed heritage business for all it’s worth. How much of his book is about his philosophy and how much of it is about converting his personal life story into a heap of ‘we are the world’ cliches?The hype that has been placed on the guy speaks volumes for the ridiculousness of the media’s patronising attitudes on race.

Is there any evidence that he is any much smarter than the average politician? Any wiser or more intellectual? Does anyone know what he stands for besides banal platitudes and a trendy populism?

Jason Soon of Catallaxy enunciates what I suspect a number of Samizdata readers and contributors are thinking about Barack Obama.

Notes on soy sauce

I was swapping recipe tips on a comments thread recently, and the recipe in question involved soy sauce. I am a big fan of this particular seasoning, and I launched into a lengthy discussion of it. When I had finished regurgitating, I got to thinking – hey! This is good stuff! Why am I wasting this on a comments thread? It could be a discrete blog post! So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado I present to you Everything You Needed To Know About Soy Sauce (But Were Afraid To Ask):

There are two – and only two – important points that need to be considered if you are to get the most out of your soy sauce investment. The first is in the buying. Look at the ingredients list of the soy sauce you are interested in. It should consist of soy beans, water, wheat flour and salt. That is it. If it has some kind of hydrolyzed protein shit in it or any other weirdness, recall that that is the mark of an inferior sauce. Desist.

The second is in the storing. Soy sauce goes stale. Remember this when considering storage options. Once opened, most leave their soy sauce on the shelf at room temperature. This is not optimal. Storing it in the fridge will keep it fresher (much) longer. Unfortunately, the majority of non-Asians require a couple of years to work their way through a bottle of soy sauce. No wonder; it will start to taste pretty ordinary if opened and subjected to a few months at room temperature. When soy sauce goes stale, it tastes like salty brown water. It loses complexity. Who would want to cook with that? You will see what I mean if you compare the taste of fresh sauce to that of the stuff sitting in your cupboard for the past half-decade. Look, just keep your soy sauce in the fridge and stop quibbling. And if you have not used the bottle after – say – no more than a year, replace it.

Of course, soy sauce is not soy sauce. There are many breeds of this beast, from the light soy poured over cheong fun (the so-called Cantonese cannelloni) at a dim sum banquet, to kecap manis, the viscous, sweet soy sauce common in Indonesian cuisine. The recipe mentioned at the start of this post benefits from a light soy sauce.

And what is this recipe? Perhaps you have had Hainanese chicken – this dish is very similar and very easy to prepare. You need a whole chicken, some roughly chopped shallots (spring onions), a handful of roughly chopped ginger and eight to ten star anise cloves. Put the shallots, star anise cloves and ginger into a large pot and place the chicken on top of it. Fill the pot with cold water – enough so that the chicken is comfortably submerged. Heat until boiling, then allow to boil for a further thirty minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool for several hours; overnight is ideal. Remove chicken and place on a platter – it should fall apart with little effort and be very tender. Sprinkle flesh with light soy sauce immediately before eating – “immediately” as in when the chicken is on your plate and you are about to stuff it in your mouth.

Some asides – a whole chicken works best with this dish, but you can use whatever chicken you have, as long as it is on the bone. DO NOT use breast fillets – they will become unacceptably tough. Breast meat is over-rated, anyway. It may well be the leanest part of the bird, but it is also the chewiest and least succulent. Why would you pay more for it? It is crap. Thigh meat is by far superior.

Strain the ginger, star anise and shallots out of the remaining water, skim any fat off the surface and add some salt – you now have a pot full of proper, home-made, not-bought-from-the-supermarket, gourmet-approved chicken stock!

This recipe may not sound so tasty – cold, boiled chicken – but trust me, it works. It is ideal picnic food and goes brilliantly with a salad. Perhaps this salad. Enjoy.

Ouch

According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Cuban doctors have performed a number of experimental ass treatments on the 79-year old president-for-life since he first fell ill in July 2006. These treatments have reportedly included cork blockage, cork removal, high-pressure steam cleaning, violent stomach-punches from the Cuban national boxing team, Santaria chicken sacrifice, and mandatory public anti-constipation rallies.

Seeking to reassure citizens that El Jefe remained in control, a photo in Havana’s official newspaper last week showed a him relaxing and chatting with visiting Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez while receiving a colonoscopy. This appeared to be administered via an auger bit attached to the rear axle of a 1953 Plymouth.

Iowahawk

Safety day

In Australia, the federal government’s propaganda tends to condescendingly heckle citizens about various issues that are pretty much always best left to the individual’s discretion – not unlike the output from NuLabour’s Ministry of Truth – similar beast, albeit with a more sinister bark. So in Britain you get this (probably one of the more egregious examples), and in Australia, this (ditto).

On balance, the naff Australian stuff is the lesser of two evils, but it is still deeply irritating, patronising bilge. Take the abovementioned ‘understanding money really pays off’ campaign the government is running via billboards and television commercials. Thanks so much for spending my tax money on delivering that sterling piece of advice – let me just make a note of it on my invisible typewriter. The most wasteful entity in society is wasting more of our money by telling us to mind our pennies! That is rich – even if we are not.

Still, it is exactly the sort of hypocritical, wealth-destroying enterprise one would expect the government to embark upon. However, it is pretty depressing when your (private sector) employer gets in on the act. I arrived home today to find the company I work for have decided to post me a brochure titled ‘Safety At Home’. Apparently “every day is Safety Day – think safety 24/7”. It is full of handy tips along the lines of “don’t hold any part of your body over a boiling kettle – steam can be hotter than water” and “read labels before use…take notice of cautions and warnings” and “try not to stick your head in the oven when the gas is on but not lit – unless you feel suicidal. If you feel only slightly suicidal, keep reading this brochure and you will want to get it over and done with in no time at all.” And in the foreword from our CEO:

We have produced this booklet as a reminder of the simple [really, painfully, embarrassingly simple – JW] things that we can all do outside the workplace to make sure we’re thinking safety 24/7 (…) stay safe and keep well.

Where does a nice big steaming hot mug of “fuck the hell off!” flung at your nether regions fit into your Safety at Home recommendations, Mr CEO? And get the hell out of my house while you are at it, you finger-wagging ponce. Shareholders bankroll enough useless expenditure via the taxation system as things are; corporate nannies are not welcome. Give us our money back.

Blast from the past

Just got an e-mail from someone I met in Beijing in late 2005. I enjoyed his company especially because we shared a similarly self-deprecating, absurdist sense of humour. A good bloke – the sort that makes you understand why Aussies and Brits get along so well in spite of the silly state of sporting rivalry that exists between us. Craig was a thirty-something English teacher who had been on the Asia circuit for some time. Stories of his doomed-in-hindsight relationship forays amused me. When we were hanging out in 2005, his current romantic interest spoke no English and they (barely) communicated via the ridiculously inadequate translator installed on their respective mobile phones – think sub-2000 Alta Vista Babelfish – painfully erroneous. They had been out to dinner a couple of times. Boggles the mind, yes. Anyway, today I received an e-mail from him:

hey james….hows sunny australia these days? i got this email from kanjing, the girl with the very cute smile at the jade youth hostel. haha, this poor guys trying to chat her up and she goes and forwards the reply to every westerner she knows. ahhh, chinese girls.

He is right – she did have an awfully cute smile and was really quite lovely – in an untouchable sort of way. And he is also right about her forwarding said correspondence to a bunch of vague acquaintances – that is exactly the sort of thing a Chinese girl would do! Gotta love ’em. It is all one big English lesson.

What our amorous charge wrote to his fair damsel – and her response – is somewhat beside the point, but I could not help but note that the English proficiency he demonstrated was not enormously superior to that of our (slightly coherent) Chinese heroine. If I was feeling sympathetic, I would mark it down to the less rigorous standards demanded of e-mail communication. But still… awww… I had such a great time in China! I want to be there now. I laughed a lot. The glorious clash of customs taking place can be quite hilarious.