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]

Minsk ‘worse than Munich’?

If Russia now presumes to dictate what should be the constitutional order in Ukraine and if he has gained the assent of the German chancellor and the French president, Landsbergis continues, then the world has the right, even the obligation to ask, “when will you begin to observe the [Russian] Constitution, Mr. Putin?”


The Lithuanian leader said that he was disappointed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel apparently accepted Putin’s “puppet theater” when she suggested that the Kremlin leader had put pressure on the separatists to sign the agreement. To say that is also to give them a status independent of Moscow which they do not deserve.

Paul Goble discussing the views of Vytautas Landsbergis

It is hard to see a downside for the even-farther-left winning in Greece…

… not for Greece, which is screwed regardless of who wins, but rather for the rest of Europe on the basis that cutting a gangrenous limb off is often a good idea.

After all, to yet again use one of my favourite quotes from H. L. Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard”.

And if ever there was a nation filled with people who deserve to keep getting what they voted for, it is Greece circa 2015.


Now that’s what I call a comment

I just read a comment, written by someone calling himself “Jonny Overcat”, which (a) tells me that the art of invective is not dead, and which (b), I think, deserves wider circulation. At the time of me concocting this posting, it is comment number six on this take-down of the appalling Mehdi Hassan. Here it is in full:

I can hardly put into words how viscerally disgusted I’ve felt the past couple of days with a significant number of allegedly “progressive” writers in American media who just trip all over themselves to denounce Charlie Hebdo as racist, wrong, oppressors and likely people who fuck puppies for fun. The forceful ignorance, the utter lack of even the most basic research or familiarity with the publication and people they are crassly denouncing, and the apologism (is that even a word? Now it is I guess) for the murderers are just utterly subhuman. A big part of it is that I’ve lived in Paris, I have family in Paris and I’ve pounded the pavement in every arrondissement pretty extensively (I do a lot of street photography). I absolutely love that city and its people, and any sort of terrorist attack there is deeply upsetting to me. I’m quite familiar with the neighborhood where Charlie Hebdo’s offices are, I have friends I used to visit who lived just a couple of blocks away from there. I take a terrorist attack in Paris kind of personally, even though I realize that it’s not all about me. I’ve been there during terrorist events in Europe (the Madrid train bombing) and I’ve seen the squads of soldiers patrolling the streets due to that, and the fear on people’s faces in the Metro etc.

So over on Slate, there’s the walking abortion that is Jordan Weissmann, who, before the puddles of blood of the murdered were even dry, valiantly asserts that Charlie Hebdo is just some racist rag and does everything short of just coming right out and saying that they had it coming to them. Never mind, of course, that he quite clearly demonstrates with his mischaracterizations, outright falsehoods and quite obvious lack of actual knowledge about the publication or its staff, that he just hasn’t got a fucking clue. An opportunist piece of shit trying to burnish his PC cred by symbolically standing over the corpses of the murdered and screaming “RACISTS!”

Then over at Salon there’s a specimen called Falguni A. Sheth, who ideally should’ve been fed into a wood chipper as an infant, whose article asserts that the REAL issue is Muslim feelings and how utterly horrifically Muslims are treated by everyone and boo fucking hoo because the world doesn’t bow low enough to Islam. Of course she asserts that the murderers who invoked Islam as their motivation before and during the attacks weren’t motivated by Islam at all, because whitey is racist. Yep. She hilariously states that Charlie Hebdo, a paper that has been published weekly for about 35 years, which amounts to roughly 1800 or so editions, “disproportionately targets Muslims” because they’ve published about 10 or 12 images satirizing radical Islam in the past ten or so years. Thus they are just some Muslim bashing rag, and basically had it coming. Don’t say what we don’t want you to say or we’ll kill you, and it’s your own fault. Never mind, of course that ten or twelve editions satirizing radical Islam don’t even amount to one percent of Charlie Hebdo’s total published works. Yeah, “disproportionate”, but she can barely bring herself to denounce the killers in anything but a passing fashion, as though their murdering is some minor technicality to be glossed over, because the REAL issue is that some fucking Muslim somewhere has had their religious sensibilities sullied by these evil, evil cartoonists. Because cartoonists do such irreparable harm to society. Muslims, of course, are all saints.

Seriously, fuck these people, all of them, and anyone who agrees with them.

I’ve always been socially and politically liberal, never a lockstep liberal, but always generally liberal. I’ve always had a problem with the significant number of so called American liberals and progressives who are rigidly doctrinaire to the point of stupidity, but over this issue, my disgust is reaching critical mass. I need to seriously consider whether I really have common cause with the unfortunately significant number of so called liberals and progressives who are more enamored of finding common cause with the severely illiberal tenets of Islamic fundamentalist thinking. When Bill Maher called Islam “the motherlode of bad ideas”, he was seriously understating his point. These supposedly liberal pieces of shit who find common cause with Islamic fundamentalism, whose basic grasp of the nature/purpose/context of satire is just as tenuous, or even weaker, than that of their braindead counterparts on the right, are just a bit more than I can stomach anymore.

I just needed to get that off my chest …

For someone who can “hardly put into words” how disgusted he is, Jonny Overcat sure does have a way with words, doesn’t he?

I do love the internet.

Common sense from a politician? Whatever next!

It is incomprehensible that you can turn against freedom… But if you don’t like freedom, for heaven’s sake pack your bags and leave. There may be a place in the world where you can be yourself, be honest with yourself and do not go and kill innocent journalists. And if you do not like it here because humorists you do not like make a newspaper, may I then say you can fuck off.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Mayor of Rotterdam, speaking on live TV.

Samizdata quote of the day

Likewise, in terms of domestic European politics, giving in to far-left Syriza would certainly strengthen economic illiterates in popular anti-euro parties like Italy’s Five-Star Movement, and Spain’s Podemos, the last thing Merkel desires. The euro itself hasn’t been particularly troubled by the crisis, with Italian and French bond yields holding steady. Surely, as some have reported, Merkel is right to think that now is the time to sever the weakest link.

John Hulsman

I LOL’ed.

Eject, eject, eject!

“Greece versus Europe: who will blink first?” asks the Telegraph. I care not who blinks, or who wins this contest of braggarts. All that matters is that for Greece to be ejected from the Euro would be good for Greece, good for Germany, and a good example for all the peoples of Europe yoked together in this vainglorious folly. Go on Germany, give that Marxist fool Alexis Tsipras a demonstration that your gullibility is not endless. Go on Greece, plough your own furrow and while you are at it give the Eurocrats a demonstration that their most public and cherished commitments can fail. Remember “Black Wednesday”? Far from being a disaster for Britain, that was the day its fortunes began to recover.

Before the Wall fell down

The Berlin Wall was breached 25 years ago today. The New York Times has an article about those for whom it came too late: On Berlin Wall Anniversary, Somber Notes Amid Revelry

BERLIN — It was the morning after the best party ever, the tumult and joy that marked the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989. After 28 years, East Berliners were giddy with marvel that they could now visit the West.

Günter Taubmann felt different, as if, he said, “I am in the wrong movie.” Eight years earlier, his only child, Thomas, had been killed trying to cross the wall, one of 138 people who died at the barrier erected by the Communists in 1961 to stop Germans streaming out of the poor, repressive East.

ADDED LATER: Re-reading the New York Times article to which I linked above, something about the reference to one of those killed attempting to escape, Marinetta Jirkowski, being shot 27 times, triggered a memory. I dug out from our bookshelves a collection of Bernard Levin’s columns for the Times called Speaking Up. Here is what he wrote in a column dated 22nd January 1981:

For a week or so ago there was a report, so irrelevant to the world’s concerns that I could find no trace of it any newspaper other than the Daily Telegraph, where it was recounted in exactly fifty words, which tells a story often recounted by me in the past and no doubt even more often to be repeated by me in the future.

A pregnant girl of eighteen – we even have her name, Marinetta Jirkowski – was shot dead by East German border guards while trying to escape to the West with two men. The two men survived, and got to freedom; Fräulein Jirkowski did neither, but fell dead with nine bullets in her.


We have supped full of horrors these past few decades, and the worst result of such a diet is not indigestion but loss of appetite. And yet it seems to me that even if we have to hold our noses and make a face as we swallow, sup we must. For what lies upon our plate is the knowledge that some things are evil – evil sans phrases – and that what was done to Marinetta Jirkowski is one of those things.

As you will have noted, Mr Levin had underestimated the number of bullets that struck Marinetta Jirkowski. Other than that his assessment was accurate.

Levin’s column continued,

And so I feel it necessary to bang my head against the wall again today, upon the strange death of Marinetta Jirkowski. I do not know how the filthy thing that killed her is to be destroyed, though I know that sooner or later it must be. I do know that there are people in this country who admire that thing, and wish it to rule us, too, and some of them are in our universities, and some in our press and television, and some in the councils of our trade union movement, and some in Parliament, and many of them hardly bother any longer to pretend that their beliefs are other than they are, which suggests that they think they are near their goal; and in so thinking they may well be right.

How strange it is to read those words in conjuction with Perry Metzger’s post above. The particular avatar of the filthy thing that killed Marinetta Jirkowski was nearer to its destruction than Levin had dared hope when he wrote that column. It is gone. But the intellectuals and the media “personalities” who admire it are still there. As Perry wrote,

There are, everywhere, professors who teach a Marxist interpretation of history, of literature, of economics and sociology, and not merely for some sort of historical perspective, but as an actual active ideology they would like their students to adopt. It is, indeed, an entirely ordinary sort of thing, so common it is not even worthy of note. There are people who wear Che Guevara T-shirts in the streets, never mind the people Guevara ruthlessly executed, including children, in the name of Marxism.

Robot lorries now seem to me more immediately promising than robot cars

Great confidence is being expressed about how robot cars are about to change the world. Robot cars, says a typical headline that Google (one of the prime movers in this new technology) has just today alerted me to, may be coming sooner than you think. But doubts are also being expressed:

A good technology demonstration so wows you with what the product can do that you might forget to ask about what it can’t.

Case in point: Google’s self-driving car. There is a surprisingly long list of the things the car can’t do, like avoid potholes or operate in heavy rain or snow.

Yet a consensus has emerged among many technologists, policymakers, and journalists that Google has essentially solved – or is on the verge of solving – all of the major issues involved with robotic driving.

“Essentially”. That’s a word that often means “not”. And “on the verge of” often signals a problem that turns out to be hideously intractable, as year after year passes with nobody any nearer to a definitive answer. I seem to recall an entire British high speed train project being abandoned because they just could not make the tilting of the carriages work perfectly. It worked okay, but okay wasn’t good enough. It had to be perfect, and perfection proved elusive. Here is what wikipedia says about that, for whatever wikipedia may be worth when reporting a story that remains controversial.

Even that constantly repeated refrain about how robot cars are coming “sooner than you think” is, if you think some more, an acknowledgement from robot car boosters that there are actually widespread doubts out there in the regular, non-techy world about how well these devices really will work, and how completely, above all how quickly, all the problems that they will face have really been and will really be solved. Yes, the techies will eventually get their robot cars working, probably. But for a few more years yet, there will surely be a nasty little clutch both of known unknowns and of unknown unknowns to deal with, all of which will have to be thoroughly dealt with. Crucially, such problems will all have to be solved. If robot cars get the go-ahead and work flawlessly for two months, followed by a lurid catastrophe like something out of a disaster movie, when a bunch of robot cars all follow each other into a swamp or over a cliff, or just run amuck and kill dozens or even hundreds in one catastrophe like in a plane crash, then their introduction will be judged a failure rather than given nine out of ten for technical accomplishment and an A plus for effort.

This strikes me as a lot more immediately promising:

→ Continue reading: Robot lorries now seem to me more immediately promising than robot cars

How do you say “astounding stupidity” in Hungarian?

It appears the government in Hungary wants to ensure than there is essentially no significant IT sector within their borders, with all the knock on joys to a modern economy that will bring.

Hungary’s government plans to levy a new tax on Internet data transfers, according to the draft 2015 tax bill submitted to parliament late on Tuesday, which could hit Internet providers and the country’s telecommunications companies.

The draft tax code contains a provision for Internet providers to pay 150 forints (60 US cents) in tax per gigabyte of data traffic, but would also allow companies to offset corporate income tax against the Internet tax.

To tax data is like subsidising idiocy by taxing insight. All states do amazingly stupid things but this one is a real doozy.

Samizdata quote of the day

But when we look around in Europe today, we see that not only is Europe not whole and free, we see the ghosts from the painful 20th century returning to our midst. Ghosts that we thought we’d never see again, that we had buried deep in history’s trashbin.

Today, when we look around us, we see it all again. The annexation of territory, the violation of borders, religious conservativism pairing with political authoritarianism and imperialist bravado. 80% of Russians support annexation through military aggression in Crimea, where the Anschluss – and I use that term most seriously here – the Anschluss of territory was justified by the presence of co-ethnics. Moreover, there is widespread support for an anti-liberal attack against decadent Western “permissiveness,” be it in freedom of speech or choice of life-partners. Indeed, we see that liberal democracy has not only failed to win the battle of ideas against authoritarianism, it has failed even to prevent the resurrection of that once vanquished demon, fascism. The nationalist fervor east of us is expressed in arts in a way that makes Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will look like a liberal programme – I suggest you look at the video of the so-called “biker show” staged on August 8 this year in Sevastopol. It is on You Tube. It is a genuine Gesamtkunstwerk. Everything is there – music, art, ballet, motorcycle gangs, it’s all there.

– Estonian President Toomas Hendrik

Discussion point: Belgian vs Burka

‘Drunk’ Belgium diplomat specialising in protocol is arrested for tearing full-face veil off a Qatari princess

A senior Belgium [sic] diplomat specialising in protocol [!] has been arrested for tearing off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions.

In the latest example of the difficulties involved in imposing a so-called ‘burka ban’, Jean-Marie Pire did not know the identity of the massively wealthy VIP before attacking her.

She approached him with two other women in broad daylight in central Brussels last week, asking for directions to the famous Grand Place.

The kind of full face veils favoured by some Muslim women are banned in Belgium, just as they are in neighbouring countries including France.

‘I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,’ said Mr Pire. ‘With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.

‘Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!’

The woman, who has not been named, said she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings were violently dislodged, along with her veil.

I assume that any woman wearing the full Islamic garb is either a slave or a fanatic, but it was the diplomat “specialising in protocol” in the tradition of Kira Yoshinaka who first used force. She just asked him for directions. Admittedly, she was breaking the Belgian law against full face veils, but it is an unjust law of which she may not even have been aware. And somehow I don’t think all the British people cheering his vigilante enforcement of that law would be quite so keen on a random Belgian taking it upon themselves to impound some unfortunate British tourist’s car if he were to break, through ignorance or indifference, the Belgian law requiring a red warning triangle and a reflective waistcoat to be carried in a vehicle at all times.

The left and anti-semitism

It is not an accident that the three key planks of the Left-wing outlook today – the anti-Israel anti-war sentiment, the shallow anti-capitalism of Occupy, and the worship of those who leak info from within the citadels of power – should all have had issues with anti-Semitism. It is because the left, feeling isolated from the public and bereft of any serious means for understanding modern political and economic affairs, has bought into a super-simplistic, black-and-white, borderline David Icke view of the world as a place overrun and ruled by cabals and cults and sinister lobby groups. And who has always, without fail, been the final cabal, the last cult, to find themselves shouldering the ultimate blame for the warped, hidden workings of politics, the economy and foreign turmoil? You got it – the Jews.

Brendan O’Neill.

That parts of the left has a penchant for anti-semitism, and other forms of mad conspiracy-mongering, is not a new observation. Take this link, for example, from Discoverthenetworks.org