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]

Sir Alfred Sherman – an ignorant obituary from the Daily Telegraph

I knew Sir Alfred Sherman only slightly (we met a few times), and in my youth I was too silly to value him as I should have done. I remember Sir Alfred once warned me (and others) of the plot by the establishment (by the way, as Sir Alfred was fond of pointing out, ‘the establishment’ is not the aristocracy or gentry, although some members of the establishment, such as Sir Max Hastings, may pretend to be gentry) to destroy the Federation of Conservative Students (FCS), I dismissed what he said as paranoia. I had yet to learn that the establishment were prepared to tell any lie and use any tactic, both in their unholy war against liberty generally and in their specific struggle to destroy the independence of the United Kingdom and make this country a province of the European Union.

Sir Alfred was of course correct in thinking that the destruction of FCS was an experiment by the left to see if they could destroy the democratically elected Mrs Thatcher later on (if an elected body could be destroyed, why not an elected Prime Minister). Without the FCS Mrs Thatcher could be presented as ‘extremist’ (as we were much more libertarian than the lady was, Mrs Thatcher could not be successfully presented as ‘extremist’ whilst FCS still existed, that tag would be monopolised by us silly students).

Also the lady would lose her most visible young supporters and could be later presented as isolated within the Conservative party (although a majority of both party members and members of Parliament supported Mrs Thatcher that little problem could be got round by manipulating the party rules). The antics of students (real or invented) would never cost the Conservative party votes, but without the students Mrs Thatcher herself could be presented as the wild and wacky person.

It would still take years to destroy Mrs Thatcher (as part of a general campaign to eliminate resistance to statism in Britain) – but the ground work would have been laid.

So the party Chairman (the normally tough and intelligent Norman Tebbit) was manipulated (via a campaign of great skill and dishonesty) into abolishing the FCS and the ‘libertarian’ Chairman of FCS itself was bought off with various promises (he is now a Conservative party MP and about as libertarian as the rest of Mr Cameron’s other little statist friends). Sir Alfred predicted all of this well in advance and told us – and (moron that I was) I did not believe him.

However, I was sad to learn of the death of Sir Alfred and read his obituary in the Daily Telegraph newspaper (supposedly the main Conservative newspaper in the United Kingdom) with interest.

I will not go into the various distortions and half truths with which the writer of the obituary seeks to smear Sir Alfred (the establishment has no honour and will even spit upon the dead), but I will comment upon one part of the obituary where the writer tries to praise Sir Alfred. → Continue reading: Sir Alfred Sherman – an ignorant obituary from the Daily Telegraph

Why the rule of law matters

And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Sir Thomas More, played by Paul Scofield in a Man for All Seasons. Even if Tudor history means nothing to you, I definitely urge folk to rent out this movie. It is an object lesson in what integrity means.

Thanks to a commenter for pointing out that I got Scofield’s first name wrong. It was Paul, not John. (Dolt!)

Samizdata quote of the day

I would like to compare the situation of Iran and the price of oil with teams in the AFL [Australian Football League] languishing at the bottom of the ladder.

West Coast Eagles captain and star player Chris Judd weighs in on the big issues. I love it when professional athletes branch out into other disciplines where their prowess is – erm – slightly more modest.

(Article link found at Yobbo’s)

Israel’s other ‘rocket war’

Michael Totten has another excellent and well illustrated article reminding us that rockets fired into Israeli civilian areas are not just launched from Southern Lebanon.

There is no right to freedom of expression in Britain

Artur Boruc, a Polish goalkeeper playing for with Celtic, has received a police caution for “a breach of the peace” after he made the sign of the cross during a game. I can only marvel at how Muslims can march through London carrying signs threatening death against people who do not share their beliefs can get a police escort, whereas a devout Christian making the sign of the cross in public can get a police caution. The Polish player was not making rude gestures at a hostile crowd [see update & link below - perhaps he was] or trying to threaten anyone, he was just making a personal gesture indicating a set of beliefs.

I may be a godless rationalist myself but I sincerely hope Artur Boruc not just ignores the police caution but robustly reject it and continues to demonstrate his beliefs as he sees fit. If some Rangers fans cannot stand that and become violent, then perhaps that is where the police’s attention should be more properly focused. Moreover I hope his club supports him regarding this matter and if it does not then I hope he takes his talents elsewhere.

However I am rather bemused that the dismal Ruth Kelly is ‘surprised’ at this development seeing as how she is a leading member of the political class which put the legal infrastructure in place so that exactly this can happen.

Britain has nothing even vaguely resembling the First Amendment or the US Bill of Rights generally, instead relying on common law that springs from a highly imperfect cultural tradition of liberty. As this culture has been in effect ‘nationalised’ and largely replaced by fifty years of highly malleable legislation, there are now few legal tools left to secure individual rights against the state in the UK. Consequently we are left with just hoping for the state to act in a restrained manner as there so now so many laws that can be used to suppress freedom of expression (including not just social but also political speech) that the state can prohibit almost any action it wishes if it really wants to. Moreover public bodies have now been given so much discretion to exercise power ‘in the public interest’ that almost any petty-fogging official can seriously mess with your life if he or she is so inclined. And we can thank the likes of Ruth Kelly in both of the main political parties for this.

Update Update: Although I stand by my general contention regarding the state of the law and freedom of expression in the UK, there may be a bit more to this specific story than the Telegraph article suggested.

Gay pride – with North Korean characteristics

Four firefighters are due before a disciplinary hearing over their refusal to hand out leaflets at a gay pride march in Glasgow

When did the ‘enthusiastic participation’ become compulsory?

The cheaper alternative

ONE in five Britons — nearly 10m adults — is considering leaving the country amid growing disillusionment over the failure of political parties to deliver tax cuts, according to a new poll.

Good evening, this is a public service announcement from Samizdata.

If you are one of the 10 million or so adults who are considering emigrating from Britain, then you may like to know that there is a simpler, quicker and more cost-effective way to avoid cripplingly high levels of taxation: STOP VOTING FOR THEM!!

Thank you for listening and enjoy the rest of your evening.

At least this one is a little more attractive

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I think that this building (the Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral in Tallinn) is every bit as assertively a statement that the Russians are in charge as is the Palace of Culture in Warsaw I wrote about earlier this year. It comes from a different Russian era (the Cathedral is a Czarist structure, completed in 1900), but I think the motives for building the two structures were not too different . Certainly the Cathedral is in every bit as prominent a location as the Palace of Culture – it is on the top of the Toompea hill in Tallin’s Old Town, directly opposite Tallin castle (now the Estonian national parliament). Certainly, also, it is every but as architecturally out of character from the historical city, which in style is a typical Baltic Hanseatic League city, although the people of the city are clearly very proud of the medieval town hall


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It is only six years since I was last in Tallinn, but the city certainly seems to have come a long way since then. At that point the Old Town was beautiful, but the rest of the city felt grimy when I left it. No longer. It’s not a terribly large city (half a million?) and it is not as frenetic as some larger cities, but it has the air of a place becoming, well, comfortable. Modern office buildings going up. Suburban tracts of nice, large houses being built on the waterfront to the west of town. That kind of thing. There are lots of Soviet housing estates between the old centre and the nice suburbs, but in truth I have seen worse in London. And Paris. And Amsterdam. It is difficult to believe that this was part of the Soviet Union only fifteen years ago. But it was.

And it was certainly a nice touch to be able to talk to friends in Australia using a software product that was developed here. The computer markets of China are full of people attempting to sell you cheap Skype handsets. However, Tallinn gave us Skype itself. That is worth more.

Proportionality

Israel scores a direct hit on the enemy.

Samizdata quote of the day

The bloody wombats were getting in over the fence. We had no idea they could climb.

– Australian farmer Bill deCorsie, complaining that local marsupials were eating his truffles. (The bigger picture behind this, which is that the Australian agricultural industry has over the last couple of decades been rapidly moving (shall we say) up the food chain from relatively low value (but high quality) basic foodstuffs to high value products largely for export is quite an interesting one).

Utterly gobsmacked

Sometimes you read something that you have every reason to believe was written by a sane, intelligent and logical person, and you are shocked. Shocked at how incredibly twisted this sane, intelligent and logical person’s perspective could be regarding one singular subject their pen encountered. Tim Blair points out such an example. To quote the estimable Mr Blair’s post:

Graeme Blundell’s review of The Falling Man includes a curious claim:

In an extraordinary act of national media self-censorship, several days after the photograph appeared, it vanished. Papers across the US defended themselves against charges of invading a dying man’s privacy and turning tragedy into pornography. The photograph became impermissible. There was a deeply held belief the deaths of the jumpers weren’t proper, indeed that they were cowardly. [JW - Blair's emphasis, not mine] The images that came to symbolise the day were of helmeted heroic rescuers working in the rubble and the jumpers disappeared to the shameful websites that traffic in autopsy photos and videotapes of executions.

The commenters at Tim’s site rightfully voiced their disgust at such a sentiment. I could not help but marvel at the sheer ignorance betrayed by the author’s reading of events, too. I quite confidently assert, with no supporting evidence, that not one media outlet in the Western world even briefly pondered cowardice as a motive of those wretched jumpers. The fact that Blundell so egregiously detects this wildly inaccurate perception as a “deeply held belief” amongst many suggests to me that this is his own delusion, which is where the ignorance part introduces itself. When trapped out on a stricken building’s precipice – with intolerable heat and the promise of excruciating pain at one’s back and cool, open air at one’s front – people do jump. I cannot possibly know or understand what would be running through a desperate victim’s mind at a time like that, but I would guess that a very basic, elemental survival mechanism – buried deep in our ancient animal instincts and wholly unencumbered by conscious and cerebral rationality – might well be invoked. Step back into a hellish inferno and certain death. Step forward into benevolent – tragically fleetingly benevolent – open air and possible survival. Only one profoundly ignorant of the human condition would mistake the latter choice as an act of cowardice.

On a lighter note; since I have mentioned Tim Blair here, I may as well press an unrelated fact. The man is right up there with the very wittiest writers in the blogosphere. In the middle of a gadfly-esque post confronting the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s marketing of a book published by them (the book is also written by an ABC science broadcaster) – whereby Blair contrasts a strident and hyperbole-ridden stance towards the rather wacky and more-or-less harmless Intelligent Design movement with the ABC’s generally sheepish reaction to the world’s most dangerous religious phenomena – we stumble across Exhibit A:

I’m not religious, so I don’t have a God in this fight

Brilliant.

Israel took Hizbollah by surprise

Report here stating that Israel’s response to Hizbollah’s kidnapping of Israeli soldiers took Hizbollah by surprise, particularly the extent and ferocity of the IDF action, according to a Hiz deputy leader.

Given the determination of Israel’s armed forces to defend the tiny Jewish state over the years against a host of enemies, why some terrorist organisation like Hizbollah should be surprised is, frankly, surprising. In any event, this interview may suggest that Israel’s campaign to hammer Hizobollah may not be quite the debacle that some commentators have supposed. The jury is still out on the future of the current Israel administration, however.