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]

UKIP gains a Member of Parliament, but…

…that is not the really interesting political story.

I rarely write about party politics, but today is an exception. UKIP took a seat from the Tories, with a very popular defector winning a crushing victory. And the newspapers are agog naturally.

And UKIP also came within a hairs breadth of taking a Labour seat, loosing by only 617 votes. Now THAT is the interesting political story today.

So next time someone says “Vote UKIP, get Labour”, tell them, ever so politely, that the facts suggest otherwise. Or just tell them to get stuffed, up to you. It looks increasingly like the truth is: Vote UKIP, get UKIP. That is not an endorsement, simply an observation.

1944: Warsaw Uprising – 2014: Kobani

Starting on 1st August, 1944, the Polish Home Army resistance rose against Nazi Germany in Warsaw, mounting what was by far the largest single military effort by a European resistance movement in World War 2. The advancing Soviet Red Army halted and waited for the German Army to completely crush Polish resistance and did not lift a finger to help, even though it had air force assets less than five minutes flight time away from where the Poles fought and died, light infantry weapons and a few captured heavy weapons against tanks and artillery. The Soviets quite literally watched and did nothing, refusing requests by the Western Allies to use Soviet airbases to provide assistance to the Poles. More than two hundred long distance supply drops were conducted by the RAF in spite of Soviet opposition, but were completely inadequate for the needs of the defenders.

However as the Polish Home Army was loyal to the Polish government-in-exile in London, the Soviets saw it as an obstacle to their intentions to turn Poland into a communist puppet state, and were delighted to have their former ally but now bitter enemy Nazi Germany eliminate this politically inconvenient group.

Starting on 16th September, 2014, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) began defending the town of Kobani from the Salafist forces of the Islamic State, light infantry weapons and a few captured heavy weapons, against an enemy who have heavy weapons and copious munitions that they acquired in Iraq, when the Sunni elements of the Iraqi Army either changed sides or simply abandoned their depots and ran away. Also early on in the Syrian Civil War, what was to become the Islamic State gained material support as part of the resistance movement against the Syrian Government, from Turkey under its politically Islamist leader Tayyip Erdogan.

The largely Kurdish defenders of Kobani in Syria are associated with Turkish Kurdish nationalists of the Marxist PKK, and thus the Turkish army are quite literally watching from across the border from within small arms range, as Kobani’s defenders are being crushed in bitter street fighting by the numerically superior and better armed Islamic State.

The Islamist government of Turkey is really not that concerned by the Islamic State, and so they are quite happy to see them crush the politically inconvenient and politically secular Kurdish nationalists in Kobani. Turkey has refused requests for NATO aircraft to use Turkish airbases, and the mostly American strikes have failed to prevent the Islamic State from forcing their way into the town at the time this article is being written.

The parallels are striking.

Samizdata quote of the day

We in the West proclaimed that what set us apart were free speech, free movement, free(ish) markets,rule of law and democratic elections; and while not the whole truth it’s still mostly true.

I say mostly in this context because rich, prosperous, flourishing Hong Hong had all those attributes except the last: democratic elections.

Yep, it turns out no elections were necessary in a society based on the sound principles of low taxes, low regulation, free movement, and rule of law – it made them rich extraordinarily quickly. Who’d want to vote that away? Well quite a few folk if elections around the world are any indication.

So what are we to make of the Hong Kong ‘democracy’ protests? On one hand I find myself saying, ‘go get ‘em tiger,’ in support of the protesters. On the other, I’m wondering if they should be careful what they wish for.

– the delightfully pseudonymous ‘Suzuki Samurai

Suddenly ‘Homeland’ does not seem quite so fanciful!

When I read this story

A former French intelligence officer who defected to al Qaida was among the targets of the first wave of U.S. air strikes in Syria last month, according to people familiar with the defector’s movements and identity. Two European intelligence officials described the former French officer as the highest ranking defector ever to go over to the terrorist group and called his defection one of the most dangerous developments in the West’s long confrontation with al Qaida.

…I started to wonder who gets to play what role in the inevitable Hollywood ‘based on real events’ feature length movie (which will of course change everything and make it a CIA defector, because everyone knows France is a place deep fried potatoes come from, not secret agents).

The siege of Kurdish Kobani: Turkey is not a disinterested party…

… and I think it goes without saying that in international affairs, there are no ‘good guys’, there are just ‘bad guys’ and ‘less-bad-guys’. So I was asked today why is Turkey, with its army literally lined up along the border, just sitting there and (also quite literally) watching the Syrian town of Kobani be squeezed to death by the Islamic State? That was when the axiom of there being no ‘good guys’ came to mind.

I think it is worth looking at what is motivating the Turkish government. I see it thus:

Firstly, Turkey was an early enabler of what came to be the Islamic State by virtue of it assisting pretty much anyone who (1) was willing to shoot at the Ba’athist Assad regime (2) was not Kurdish. And whilst President Tayyip Erdogan is not a salafist, he is not just Islamic, he is an Islamist, and has been significantly muted in his remarks about the Islamic State. Conclude from that what you will.

Secondly, the Kurdish YPG in Rojava (Northern Syria, the largely Kurdish bit) has close links with the Marxist PKK (the Kurdish group who has fought against Turkey intermittently for decades and who have proved simply impossible for the Turks to completely crush). This means that from the perspective of a politically Islamic Turkish President like Tayyip Erdogan, who by all accounts has a personality and inclinations probably best described as ‘Putinesque’, he probably sees this as simply one mildly simpatico but unduly exuberant Islamic group who may well be a problem in the future, wiping out a largely secular and hostile-to-the-Turks Kurdish group who are a problem right now. Plus once Kobani falls, the Islamic State can then concentrate on getting rid of Assad, which is really what Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Turkey wants.

So expecting Turkey to sweep in and save Kobani is unrealistic. I expect this is the calculation: if the YPG triumphs and creates a Kurdish controlled Rojava (the Kurdish north of Syria bordering on Turkey), it will encourage Kurdish nationalism in Turkey. Even worse, as Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish Northern Iraq, capital of Erbil) now has an excellent chance of becoming an independent nation (it is already largely autonomous), it is possible Rojava might unify with South Kurdistan, which would really stoke the fires of Kurdish nationalism. And as Turkey does not want a major resurgence of Kurdish insurgency in Turkey (there is currently an agreement with the Kurds there), they are happy to see the Islamic State crush the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

That said, when I ran this past my Kurdish chums who live near Kirkuk, they mostly agreed but noted that as the YPG are Marxist and the PKK are Marxist, they are natural allies (addendum: upon them reading this article, my Kurdish friends said I should have written “hand in glove” as they would be more accurate than mere ‘allies’)… however South Kurdistan is a multi-party democracy (the ruling coalition is the politically secular centrist KDP and leftist PUK, and the main opposition is the aggressively secular centre-right Gorran Movement). However the Kurdish Syrian YPG imposed its control over Rojava against other Syrian Kurdish political groups at gunpoint. I asked my friends “Why do many see the YPG as terrorists?” to which they replied “Because they kind of are”. The general view they shared was that whilst the YPG are admired for their spirited defence of Rojava against the Islamists, and for their cross border rescue of the Yezidi Kurds in Iraq near Mt. Sinjar, in the event the region was ever unified with South Kurdistan, they would probably be a ‘problem’. The way it was described to me was, and I quote: “a Marxist party winning overall power in an election in Erbil is about as likely as a politically Mormon party winning”… a notion which did make me laugh I must confess. But Marxists tend to not just shrug and say “oh well” when that happens.

And thus whilst there is horror in South Kurdistan at the notion of Kobani falling to the Islamic State, there are some in Erbil who actually prefer to play footsie with Turkey and although they wish the people of Kobani well, they will not be heartbroken to see the YPG taken down a peg. And if anyone doubts that the Kurds in Erbil have a deal with the Turkish government, ask yourself this: much to the anguish of the rump Iraqi government in Baghdad, Erbil has been selling its oil independently. Take a look at the map and then figure out who is enabling that to happen.

So if the Turks do rescue Kobani at the last moment, it will only be because they have milked the political advantage sufficiently to have extracted some very sweet deals behind the scenes. My guess is that they will just let the YPG be crushed. But we will know soon enough it seems.

So how was that for some labyrinthine speculation?

Using a Playstation controller to fire a machinegun in combat… no, really!

Talk about ingenuity! That thing does not looks very RPG-resistant, so it very wisely has a top mounted camera so it can fire from behind cover!

But guys, it is an improvised armoured ambulance, not a ‘tank’.

The alchemy is settled!

The words “climate change” have taken on occult significance.

Chant “the science is settled, the science is settled, the science is settled” over and over again, whilst arranging an arcane pattern on the ground with a ritually blessed hockey stick inscribed with the words “Gaia” and “Al Gore”, and if you do that on a solstice, the spirit of Karl Marx will appear!

There is no other explanation for some of the gonzo articles that get written.

Now there is a sight I will never get tired of seeing…

Now there is a sight I will never get tired of seeing. Better late than never!

Putin warns Ukrainians against implementing EU deal, so…

Vladimir Putin has warned the Ukrainian government against getting closer to the EU, threatening their access to Russian markets.

So the Ukraine has to decide between losing their access to 142 million Russians with a total GDP of $2.1 trillion (official), or improving their access to 511 million people with a total GDP of $16.95 trillion (official).

Hmm, yes I can see how that might be a difficult decision :-D

An indication two big tech companies might be on the right track?

Apple and Google recently stated that they intend to encrypt-by-default in future mobile phones, and the FBI does not like it one bit. Interesting.

But then again, I asked a highly skilled technical chum of mine about this a few days ago:

What is your technical take on this? Is this a welcome development or bullshit?

And his reply was:

Somewhere between. Trust in closed-source product is hard to build.

Still… the fact the FBI is bleating is heartening. But it is true that we need to keep in mind that these are indeed closed-source products, thus we really do only have Apple and Google’s word for it that they will be as secure as they say they will be.

David Cameron is a complete idiot

The Scots have voted NO, and the Prime Minister now has the justification to not just make good on the pledge to massively ramp up devolution north of the border, but to do the same for England in ways that could dramatically change the political landscape. So what does he do?

Downing Street has made it clear that David Cameron’s Scottish devolution pledge does not depend on giving more powers to English MPs at the same time. Mr Cameron vowed to give tax-raising powers to the Scottish Parliament “in tandem” with moves to restrict Scottish MPs from voting on English matters. But No 10 sources insist that “one is not conditional upon the other”.

And thus the sheer stupidity of the man is revealed. This could have been bundled up together as a quid pro quo to present the Labour party as a ‘hospital pass‘: back Scottish and English devolution right now and in this form, and we will accept no faffing about to delay it until after the next election. Support two tier MPs in Westminster as we hand over power to the Scots, or be seen as being The Anti-English Party.

But no, the Stupid Party never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The NO vote handed Downing Street a gun to hold to the other side’s head and they just tossed it away.

‘We do not need boots on the ground from any country’ says Kurds

Former head of the Marine Corps James Conway says Obama’s idea of relying on local forces with US air power has “not a snowball’s chance in hell“.

However Hemin Hawram, a leading member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, disagrees:

We just need armaments and training; we don’t need boots on the ground from any country to fight this war for us. We want these countries to support our Peshmerga – arm, train, and make them capable. Even for future confrontations against terrorists, there will be no need to support us militarily. In the coming 4-5 years, we hope the Peshmerga will be better equipped and trained, and that certain sanctions will be removed. Why should they not have tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, for example? I hope that they will be a part of an international military unit to fight terrorists in other countries and be part of peacekeeping missions.

Surely that must be a better solution.

And the reason I am inclined to believe him, rather than General Conway, is that the US and its allies were unable to create a viable unitary Iraq that could prevent what happened from happening, because Iraq is simply untenable as a nation. This has been clear for a great many years to anyone who does not have an institutional vested interest. A significant part of the US trained and equipped Iraqi Army simply turned its weapons over to the Islamic State, because they saw no reason to fight for an Iraq that was of zero value to them. The Peshmerga on the other hand has everything to fight for, and unlike foreign troops with western sensibilities and significant cultural ineptitude regarding the realities of the Middle East, the Kurds are far more likely to ‘sort things out on the ground’ if given the tools.

Southern Kurdistan intends to become an independent nation and moreover enabling that to happen by arming them (which will be the consequence) very effectively counters the threat posed by the Islamic State. It is hard to see the downside from the western point of view of enabling a pro-western de facto nation to become an effectively armed de jure nation, one very willing to do the dirty work and sort out Northern Iraq… and frankly probably Northern Syria (Rojava) too, rather than having to deal directly with the more politically problematic Syrian Kurdish PYG.