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]

Some objectives are in the eye of the beholder

British forces are continuing their aggressive incursions into Basra, capturing some senior Iraqi Army Officers and killing a Republican Guard colonel in the process.

My guess is that the object of this is keeping the Iraqi forces off-balance and probably trying to demonstrate to the population of Basra that Ba’athist control is decaying daily… hence the day before yesterday’s foray into the city by British Challenger Tanks for the decidedly non-military objective of blowing up a statue of Saddam Hussain in a public square with the tank’s 120mm gun!

Including Troy and excluding Troy – Britain’s current education policy

Natalie Solent links to a typical education story from education.guardian.co.uk.

A six-year-old boy has become one of the youngest children to be permanently excluded from school, following an 18-month reign of terror that left some of his classmates psychologically traumatised.

The boy was thrown out of Ashton Vale primary school in Ashton, Bristol, after worried parents wrote a letter to governors demanding his removal. They reported him urinating on fellow pupils, stamping on children’s heads and scratching classmates’ faces. One parent claims he bullied her son to such an extent he needed speech therapy, while another victim began wetting the bed through fear. However, his father, a BBC technician, yesterday blamed the school for exacerbating his son’s bad behaviour and not acting quickly enough. “I think they’ve gone the wrong way about it,” he said. “At home he’s as good as gold.”

What’s this? The Guardian making a BBC employee look like an idiot?

He did, however, admit that his son had been given “more than enough chances” and had “taken it too far” at the school. “He’s always been naughty. He fights everyone all the time but doesn’t know when to stop – he just carries on.”

The boy was known as a trouble-maker at nursery, but the frequency of violent incidents has risen steadily and he has been suspended numerous times.

His father fears his unusual domestic environment may have had an effect on Troy’s behaviour. He has split from boy’s mother, but they still share the same home, despite the fact she is now expecting a baby with her new boyfriend, who lives in the Birmingham area.

Yes, that doesn’t sound good.

But to get more serious, here’s what Natalie says about this boy’s expulsion. → Continue reading: Including Troy and excluding Troy – Britain’s current education policy

A worry about the war

This is not a blog about whether the war was a good idea or not (for better or worse the choice has been made, and it is too soon for any historical analysis). Nor is it a blog about how the war should be fought – I do not have access to all the military information and I am not a soldier anyway.

My concern in this. Will the war get the blame for the coming economic downturn, thus diverting attention from the real cause?

For 30 years most newspapers, television and radio shows, economics textbooks and other such have blamed the failure of the Keynesian system in the 1970′s on the “Oil Shock”.

The fact that wage and price controls were introduced in the United States in 1971 and in Britain in 1972, whereas the ‘Oil Shock’ was in 1973 is overlooked. The idea that one can just pump up the money supply to hold down unemployment was clearly coming under strain (hence the effort to deal with the price rises, caused by the monetary growth, by direct controls), but then the “Oil Shock” came along to give the establishment an excuse for the failure of their system.

A similar thing could happen again. There is a vast credit bubble out there (in most Western nations) – the great majority of credit-money is not backed even by paper notes (let alone by anything else) and we are due for a big bust that will hit asset prices hard.

We have seen some of this already (with the decline in stock markets) – but there are a lot more problems to show up yet.

However, now the war has come – thus giving the establishment an excuse. “There is nothing basically wrong with the system, it was the war that messed things up”.

I know that it is cold to write about such things when people are dying – but it still has to be thought about.

No war for flu!

Britain’s Channel 4, whilst known to have more than its fair share of nit-wit journalists, does nonetheless turn out some splendid documentary programmes. The best of the current crop being a series called ‘Secrets of the Dead’ which attempts to explore the science behind great disasters of the past.

This past week (and I cannot help wondering if the scheduling was more than coincidental) they devoted themselves to the great Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918/19 that swept right around the globe and claimed some 20 millions lives. Or at least, that is the death toll that I believed was generally accepted but, according to this documentary, the real toll was between 50 million and 100 million! If that is so then surely it must rate as the single most lethal pandemic in history? Not to mention that fact that, coming hot on the heels of World War I, it has to be the biggest ever kick in the head.

But here is the rub, because according to the senior virologist advising the documentary makers, there is some convincing evidence that the troop concentrations of World War I is what led to the outbreak:

John Oxford and his team found pathology reports from an army camp in Etaples, northern France, that have given him vital clues about the origin of the 1918 pandemic. Etaples was a huge army camp, almost the size of a city. 100,000 soldiers, well and wounded, moved through the camp daily. To supply food to this number, the army installed piggeries at the camp. There is evidence that soldiers bought live geese, chickens and ducks from the local French markets. Crucially, there were lots of opportunities for a flu virus to move from bird to pig, to soldier. Indeed, in the winter of 1916/1917, Etaples pathologists describe a disease-like flu that ended in heliotrope cyanosis and death. John Oxford believes the weight of evidence points toward Etaples as the viral mixing bowl that produced the 1918 strain of flu.

Mr. Oxford also adds,

‘If we had another influenza pandemic, and we will have another influenza pandemic, I think it will make the HIV outbreak almost look like a picnic.’

Blimey! The only thing missing from that is the spooky background music. Still, TV producers do like to spice up their dry-as-dust science programmes with a bit of melodrama and, let’s face it, general doom-mongering has probably overtaken fly-fishing as a favourite recreational activity. But I would more prepared to let this slide into great public melee of cried havoc were it not for the persistant, and increasingly troubling reports, of SARS:

Dr Carlo Urbani, a 46-year-old Italian and an expert on communicable diseases, had identified Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in an American businessman admitted to hospital in Vietnam in February.

Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are all confining people to their homes if they have been exposed to the disease.

Isolated cases have been identified in Europe and North America.

Of course, SARS (the technical name for which is ‘shitscarey-itis’) appears to be a virulent form of influenza or pneumonia and we’ve got very large troop concentrations indeed in Iraq and the surrounding vicinity. Who was it that said that history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme?

Now I am not about to get all wild-eyed and apocalyptic on you. In fact, as soon as I have finished posting this I am going to go to bed and sleep like a baby. Also, and let me be quite emphatic about this for the benefit of the ‘quagmire’ lovers out there, there is no comparison whatsoever between the current hostilities in Iraq and World War I and I do believe that SARS has, in fact, been knocking around South-East Asia for quite a few months but we’ve only recently got to hear about it.

But, crystal-clear distinctions aside, nobody is going to tell me that there isn’t just a hint of eerie resonance here.

A different angle on bias

I think this is one of the best summaries I’ve encountered of the bias problems that media people are having with this war. It’s from an emailer to Natalie Solent:

When you’re told to talk about the war for hours every day and only a finite amount happens in a day, you tend to exhaust rational remarks and reasonable questions and, after doing all you can with repetition of the obvious, must ask unreasonable questions and explore less likely contingencies. In this mental state, prejudices are apt to come more to the surface as the commentator’s mind searches for something else to say.

That’s a better explanation of what is going on than to suppose that it’s all some great big conspiracy. It is quite a lot of little conspiracies, although maybe “networks” might be a better word. And it’s a great big zeitgeist, that is to say a conspiracy that is all out in the open. And that has the results described above.

But the main thing these people are biased in favour of is keeping their jobs. If you can help them do their jobs while you do what you’re trying to do, they won’t necessarily stop you. Zeitgeists can be changed.

The home front

At my last-Friday-of-the-month meetings chez moi, my computer – and especially its round-the-clock Internet connection – tends to degenerate into a tragedy of the commons illustration.

And thus spake Antoine at Brian’s Friday…

…and his adoring audience rejoiced

But sometimes I come across vaguely good stuff this way. This, which found itself on my screen as things began to wind down last night, is quite good. It is a Richard Littlejohn Sunpage, and sports as its main headline the following: “You’re Salford Shi’ite and you know you are.” That’s about the British Muslim captured in Iraq, fighting against Britain.

That headline is the world crisis in one phrase. Daft Muslims do daft things, and by the time the abuse has settled, all the other Muslims have been insulted.

Next to that story was another, in a grey box on the right hand side. That looks like a Samizdata story I said. Yes it does, said someone else closer even than I to the heart of things Samizdatarian. So here it all is. It doesn’t deserve to be swallowed up in the pay-per-view maw of the Murdoch archives.

If he were a few years younger, Patrick Hamilton would be on the front line in Iraq today.

A former paratrooper, he is a Falklands veteran and served seven tours of duty in Northern Ireland.

He spent 25 years in the Army ready and willing to lay down his life for freedom and justice.

Today, he must be wondering why he bothered. When Mr Hamilton, 52, saw his 16-year-old daughter Catherine being menaced by a gang of hooligans, he rushed to her defence.

She was being threatened by a gang of teenage boys and girls who followed her back from her part time job at McDonald’s, in North Shields, Tyne and Wear.

Mr Hamilton gave chase, grabbed hold of one of the gang and tried to make a citizen’s arrest.

When police arrived, he called out: “I’ve got one, I’ve got one.”

But the police weren’t interested in nicking the troublemaker or going after the gang.

Instead, they arrested Mr Hamilton, handcuffed him and drove him away in a police car. He was held at the local police station for an hour before being released without charge.

Mr Hamilton, who now works as a college lecturer teaching youngsters who want to join the police or armed forces, was livid.

And rightly so. He said: “I can’t believe the police treated me and my family like this. It’s disgusting. I can’t believe the police protected these scum.”

I can.

The police have gone from being on the side of the law-abiding, through being neutral, to actively siding with vermin.

Mr Hamilton’s arrest is par for the course.

The Old Bill can’t be bothered to go after thugs, either because they’re frightened of getting a kicking, or because they’re scared of the Left-wing, legally-aided lawyers who infest our so-called justice system.

So they take the easy option and nick the good guys.

Tens of thousands of British servicemen and women are risking their lives in Iraq because they believe in freedom and justice.

But, on the home front, exactly what kind of “justice” can they expect?

It could be a long war.

I’ve just been watching the weekly highlights of the Johnny Vaughan TV show which is on BBC Nobody-watches-that 3. One of his guests was complaining about how depressing the Oscars show was. Said Vaughan:

“I had to switch over and watch some war coverage just to cheer myself up.”

Why we fight



Samizdata slogan of the day

So while the war in Iraq might only be beginning, the pundits of the Blogosphere can already register a victory. It’s a bloggers’ world. We only link to it.
- Steven Levy in his article Bloggers’ Delight, MSNBC

The truth about the Aussie SAS…

There has been some speculation about why the Australian military contribution to the war in Iraq has not received anything like the coverage that the American (obviously) and British forces have.

Well the reasons are twofold: firstly, the size of the force is a great deal smaller as it is made up of the elite Australian Special Air Service (which is operating in conjunction with their British SAS and American Delta Force & SEAL counterparts)… and secondly the fact they are special forces means operational security is paramount. The Aussies are famous in Special Forces circles for their ability to survive without resupply for long periods of time, something very useful when operating behind enemy lines. Just how they do this is a closely guarded secret.

However there is another more… puzzling… aspect to the lack of news, considering the Australians are the only group to invite the Al-Jazeera TV channel to embed journalists with them. A recently broadcast signal from a Australian SAS unit ‘somewhere in Iraq’ made mention that they had run out of embedded journalists and could they send a couple more out, preferably less stringy ones this time. It is unclear what the significance of that last remark was.

Evil Propaganda Ship Reaches Iraq

In a horrifying, senseless and brutal attack on innocent Iraqi mothers and toddlers, a British ship carrying more than 500 tonnes of aid for Iraqi civilians has docked in the southern port of Umm Qasr.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad, carrying food, water and other essential supplies, arrived at the quayside just before 12.30pm British time. The ship had been delayed for several days while mine sweepers and American forces using specially trained dolphins cleared a path through a minefield in the approaches to the port. That’s right. Dolphins. I am not joking. These people will go to any lengths to ensure their sick plans are carried out, even to the extent of training charming sea-creatures to perform impressive tasks. Is there no end to their evil cunning?

Aid agencies grudgingly described the shipment as “a meagre and pathetic attempt to steal our thunder” and expressed concerns over British soldiers distributing the supplies, suggesting that maybe trained idiots would do the job better than them. However, the Americans explained that although they had managed to train dolphins to do quadratic equations and sew patchwork quilts now, their attempts to communicate basic reason to people such as themselves had utterly failed, and they were even beginning to lose interest in trying.

There are fears that the most needy Iraqis are in areas outside army control where deliveries are not being made. The Americans suggested that maybe even more of their troops should risk death in order to be able to get food to the people whose country they were liberating? But the aid workers completely missed their sarcasm and agreed.

Military planners have yet to decide where this delivery will be sent, but there is little prospect of it reaching the centre of Basra, where Ba’ath party paramilitaries have forced a stand-off with British troops. The delivery is seen as central to coalition hopes of winning over critics of military action around the world as well as ordinary Iraqis.

Alex Fentoon, spokesman for a big food-aid charity, said:

We welcome any aid that can be delivered to the people of Iraq. They needed it before the war and they will need it all the more as the war goes on. But it is terribly obvious that civilians in a war are tools, whether used as human shields or propaganda. It would be better to let them starve than to give them food and tell anyone about it. Charity should always be done in secret.

While we welcome this aid, a few boxes chucked out of the back of an army truck may look good but it is not the same as organised distribution to the 16 million in Iraq who needed it before the war even began. Why weren’t the Americans feeding Iraq before? Whose fault do they think it is that this country is in such an economic and political mess anyway? Don’t they realise it is their job to deliver food to all the peoples of the world who are hungry, in a huge Marixst wave of wealth redistribution?

The Americans told Mr Fentoon to fuck off.

(Thanks to The Telegraph)

Operation Grand Slam

The trouble with the TV coverage of the war isn’t just that the various TV stations have their various biases. It’s that most of the time nothing is happening. Long periods of boredom, and short bursts of total panic. Mostly nothing happens, so they recycle old stuff. But you still tune in to the nothing just in case something happens, and for the same reason they don’t like to switch to anything else either.

How much more convenient is the televising of sport! You know when it will happen, and the excitement is spread reasonably evenly over a set period. Only one thing can happen at a time. Imagine if a rugby match, for example, took place over such a large area that it needed half a dozen different commentators simply to give you a rough idea of what is happening. And imagine if the players spent half their time holding press conferences to tell lies about who’s doing best.

Well, rugby fans can see where I’m going. I’m going to Lansdowne Road, Dublin, where Ireland will play England in a Grand Slam shoot-out in the final game of the Six Nations rugby tournament, which has been televised in its entirety by the BBC, and very well they’ve done it. Ireland and England have both won the first four of their five matches, so it’s winner take all. → Continue reading: Operation Grand Slam

The truth about those who protest

Aqui hay algo para personas que hablan Español, quienes son unos ‘utiles idiotas’. Esta presentación ha sido creada por algunos que no lo son.

(Although it helps if you speak Spanish, the meaning of the presentation can be understood by anyone.)