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]

Have they brought back the window tax?!?!

If you type “window tax” into google, and click on “images”, you get images like this one:

BrickedUpWindows1

That being the first image that wikipedia shows you, in their entry on the Window tax.

Says wikipedia about this tax:

The window tax was a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France, Ireland and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date). In England and Wales it was introduced in 1696 and was repealed in 1851,

London, and presumably all the other cities of Britain, still contain many such bricked-up windows, that date from this time.

But yesterday, I saw a new block of flats, still in the process of being constructed, just a few dozen yards from my own front door.

The front of which looks like this:

BrickedUpWindows2

Let me be clear. There is a vertical row of bricked-up windows there, in between the real windows. And you can clearly see that this is a brand new building, not even yet occupied.

Here is a close-up shot of an individual bricked-up window:

BrickedUpWIndows3

I have long known the bare outlines of this window tax story, as I guess most of my fellow Brits do also, especially if they live in towns or cities. Windows were taxed, so people filled the windows in, to avoid paying the tax.

So, my first – outraged and spasmodic – reaction to this new building, when I saw these non-windows was: My God, have they brought back the window tax?

But, on further reflection, I further guess that this is isn’t the first time that recent property developers have created bricked-up windows, or what look like bricked-up windows, to create, pretty cheaply, the suggestion of antiquity in an otherwise blandly modern building.

When I see other bricked-up windows, I will no longer assume that they date from the time of the window tax. Maybe they merely allude to this time.

But, am I missing something? Is there a more practical purpose to such non-windows? Is it helpful to create windows that can later be un-bricked-up (bricked-down?), at some future date? Does it help to think about maybe wanting a window that you don’t want now, beforehand, just in case?

Is this a mere part of the construction process. Will these bricked-up windows all turn into real windows very soon, before anyone even moves in?

Or are there quite different reasons for making a new bricked-up window, which I am unaware of? Perhaps so. In fact, probably so. And if so, I hope that commenters will perhaps enlighten me.

“Et tu, Beetrute?”

I am not the only one who perceives a Caesarian theme to modern British politics. This portrait of political treachery chilled me to the marrow:

Entry into vegetable competition in summer fête in London

Samizdata random picture of the day

Because I cannot bring myself to write about Brexit yet again, I thought I would let you know what sits behind me every day…

Adam Smith threatened by a xenomorph!

…that said, as the UK will be taking control of its borders, we can keep those damn xenomorphs out now! Oh, I just wrote about Brexit again! :(

Well, I dunno

The pro-Remain Daily Mirror has an odd choice for its front page:

Mirror front page referendum

Update: Mr Ed has suggested the following caption:

“THIS IS WHERE THE MONEY GOES”

I know what the Mirror is trying to say, but what with “REMAIN” being in capitals and larger type, the instant impression that it gives to me is that REMAIN is a deep dark hole sucking the hapless voter inwards to destruction. A valiant effort by the Leave mole in the Mirror graphics department, but judging by the final polls, it may not be enough. But don’t let the polls cause you to give up and not bother voting: the pattern has been that phone polls tended towards Remain and online polls towards Leave. I attribute this to “Shy Leavers” being put off from disclosing their true intentions to a possibly disapproving human being, particularly since the murder of Jo Cox. I could, of course, be wrong in this supposition. But it is worth a go.

My final Referendum thought? It’s one you could share with undecided left-wingers. A Leave win would increase the chance of Labour winning the next election, an outcome I do not want. But better a thousand times a party with the wrong policies in power for a few years in a system where we retain the power to throw them out next time than being sucked past the event horizon of the European Union, where all votes are votes for ever closer union.

An un-convent-ional hiding place in Argentina for cash and a gun

Try as I might, I cannot but chuckle at news coming out of Argentina, of a lawmaker, Señor Lopez, from the Kirchnerite movement in Argentina being arrested in the alleged circumstances of hiding between 5-8 millions of dollars worth of cash and a gun in a convent.

An Argentine former secretary of Public Works with the Cristina Fernandez administration, Jose Lopez, and currently a member of the Mercosur parliament, was arrested on Tuesday in the Buenos Aires province locality of General Rodríguez while he was trying to hide bags full of money and an automatic gun in the garden of a convent.

The reason for the formal arrest was possession of a war weapon, a Sig Saguer rifle, loaded with 25 cartridges.

Lopez was arrested with six bags and a suitcase stashed with dollars, Euros, Yuan and Qatar currency as well as very expensive watches (Rolex, Omega). “We found 160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China’s central bank”, revealed Cristian Ritondo, head of Buenos Aires province security. Ritondo said Lopez tried to bribe the police officers and went into shock when they did not accept, and later suffered a deep depression.

At first he told the officers he was planning to donate the funds to the nuns monastery. In effect one of the nuns interviewed said that Lopez had visited them the previous day and “he was quite crazy”, saying he had stolen the money which was to help the monastery, “but today when he turned up and started dumping the bags, police arrested him. I told the officers he was a good man, he came once a year to visit us and would help us with donations of coffee and tea”

Corruption in Argentina is, at least, like a certain beverage, reassuringly expensive. The comments are quite good, especially the one about the nuns needing a good Rolex to time their prayers.

Unconventional warfare

The Independent (still alive online) reports:

Isis has been trolled with mountains of porn – and it’s been far more effective than imams telling young Muslims off

More from the International Business Times:

Hackers target Isis supporters with thousands of graphic ‘Pornbots’ sex images

When the worst movie direction since Ed Wood becomes the Voice of Reason…

You know the world is in a strange place when the authoritarian Islamist thug and all around violator-of-goats who runs Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sues Uwe Boll for making unkind remarks about him.

Uwe Boll: the voice of reason. What a time to be alive :D

A rainy night in Georgia? It was raining sausages!

Private property appears to have come under attack in Georgia (Stalin’s Georgia), where a vegan cafe has reportedly been attacked by meat and sausage-throwing ‘Neo-Nazis’ (aren’t they busy, these ‘Neo-Nazis’?).

A vegan cafe in Tbilisi has appealed for public solidarity after being invaded by alleged ultra-nationalists wielding grilled meat and sausages.
More than a dozen men stormed into the Kiwi cafe in the Georgian capital on Sunday evening, the cafe said, shouting and throwing meat at patrons.
A brawl erupted but the attackers fled before police arrived.
The cafe has appealed for public support, saying it was no prank but a case of intimidation by neo-Nazis.

It’s as if Seattle had come to Georgia, and wasn’t welcome. And note the sly elision in the reporting of this incident, linking it with some other, dark forces…

The incident comes amid growing concerns about the rise of far-right nationalism in Georgia.
Last week, hundreds of nationalists marched through central Tbilisi – waving Georgian flags and anti-communist banners, reports said – to mark independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Homophobia is also commonplace in Georgia, correspondents say. The country made world headlines in 2013 when a small group of LGBT activists were attacked by a large mob led by an orthodox priest.

But wasn’t homosexuality disapproved of in the USSR?

So what are we to make of events in Tiflis, as Georgia’s capital is called by some?

Why would neo-Nazis object to vegans when you-know-who was history’s pre-eminent vegetarian?

The Facebook post of the café rounds off with the ominously dreary declaration:

‘…café is continuing to work and is ready to accept all costumers (sic.) regardless of nationality, race, appearance, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious views etc. Equality is the most important thing for us. Animal liberation! Human liberation! ¡No pasarán!…’

But where is ‘political views‘ in that declaration of tolerance?

The local police, however, appear to have had a beef with the vegan café…

The police arrived only after the attackers had left*, but the cafe said even some of those officers behaved aggressively, “yelled with anger, said that we are guilty of what had happened”. Some cafe workers were taken in for interrogation.

Let’s hope the staff weren’t grilled too unpleasantly by the police.

* In the Facebook post, the café reports that ‘…Surreptitiously Nazis left, got away clean…’.

The ‘Clownocracy’ – modern Britain on show

A couple of unrelated incidents, and a political milestone all in the news today appear to me to sum up the ascendency of the ‘clown class’ in modern Britain, where personal responsibility and personal dignity appear to be outmoded notions.

Firstly, after a bomb scare led to the abandonment of the last football match of the Premier League season between Manchester United and Bournemouth, it appears to have turned out that the realistic but inert suspect device found just before kick-off was in fact a practice bomb left by a company engaged to plant suspect devices as part of a security drill. But this was only found out long after the event and after the Army had carried out a controlled explosion on the device.

What part of counting them all out and counting them all in was too hard to organise? Did no one remember the drill?

Secondly, it appears that a senior woman police officer in Greater Manchester Police has been suspended after attending a conference on Women in Policing.

Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe has been suspended after the alleged “inappropriate behaviour” following a reported row with Superintendent Sarah Jackson.

The pair are said to have become embroiled in a “loud disagreement” over who had the “best boobs” while attending the Senior Women In Policing conference.

Quite how this would be a breach of police discipline, even if the alleged incident happened, is not immediately clear. However, ACC Sutcliffe has been reported as saying:

“I’ve nothing to say. This is an incredibly stressful time.”

Thereby immediately contradicting herself. And grammarians may ponder if she ought to have said ‘better boobs’ rather than ‘best’ as surely the comparative applies, rather than the superlative?

But if this is a stressful time, what on Earth are you doing in policing? Try something really stressful, like bomb disposal, like Lt-Cdr John Bridge GC GM and bar. He would have come in handy at Old Trafford yesterday.

And finally, Natalie Bennett is not going to stand for re-election as Leader of the Green Party when her term expires. So the party memorably described as ‘Communism for middle-class women’ will have a new leader. So the Schadenfreudefest of Ms Bennett being interviewed (very softly I think) on any topic may no longer be repeated so as to expose the Greens for what they stand for, banning anything that they can think of. This of course may be a negative development in terms of the political landscape, but why didn’t she either resign at the time or stand on her record?

A man kills someone whilst shouting “Allahu Akbar”, but…

When I saw this, I thought…

A German man suffering from psychiatric problems stabbed four people at a train station near Munich early on Tuesday, killing one man and wounding three more in an attack investigators said did not appear to be politically motivated.

Witnesses said the alleged assailant, a 27-year-old unemployed carpenter, attacked his first victim shouting “Allahu Akbar” (‘God is Greatest’ in Arabic). Some witnesses said they also heard him shout “infidels must die“.

…Well thank goodness this killing has nothing to do with the killer’s Islamic political beliefs. Good to know. Because if he had been motivated by Islam, presumably he would have shouted something like “The best döner kebabs in München are on Leonrodstraße and I’ll kill anyone who says otherwise!”

Yeah, nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

UPDATE to linked article: “Investigators said the suspect may have converted to Islam but there was no indication that he had been radicalized“.

…presumably because as everyone knows, killing a stranger with a knife whilst shouting “Allahu Akhbar” is not an indication of radicalization, and therefore he must be a common or garden variety nutter.

Discriminating against people on the basis of philosophical belief is unlawful

I suspect that we all hear a lot about discrimination by employers against people on the basis of sex, race, disability, religion and age, but there is also under the Equality Act 2010 (all 90,000+ words of it) in Great Britain protection against discrimination on the basis of philosophical belief, or the lack of it. Or rather, you have a means of legal retaliation against your employer.

The main case in this area came from an employee who had a profound belief in ‘man-made climate change’, but a recent legal case involving a Mr Harron has shed a bit more light on the issue. Mr Harron apparently had a problem with his employer, for which he sought legal redress, he had:

a belief (which the Employment Tribunal thought genuine) that public service was improperly wasteful of money

He worked for Dorset Police.

One might think that this sounds like a vegan putting himself on the boning line in a slaughterhouse. However, all we know is that Mr Harron though waste of money improper, not public service. It is not clear from the case how it was (or was alleged) that this belief led to Mr Harron suffering at the hands of his employer. Poor Mr Harron has also had a Tribunal waste public money holding a hearing listening to his case and getting the law wrong, and now he will have to go back and re-argue his case all over again.

At least we do know that in order for a ‘belief’ to qualify for legal ‘protection’, there are 5 criteria to be met.

(i) The belief must be genuinely held.

(ii) It must be a belief and not,… …an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.

(iii) It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

(iv) It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

(v) It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”

Note that if your ‘belief’ is evidence-based (or even reason-based, like economics), as per (ii) above, your beliefs are not protected, but if you have a belief in an Flying Spaghetti Monster, your beliefs might be ‘protected’. But sacking a libertarian because he did not believe in climate change would be unlawful as it would relate to the ‘absence’ of a belief, rather than the holding of it.

Of course, no libertarian would be seen dead suing his employer over discrimination, so may we say that those of us of a libertarian bent would not sue if fired or harassed at work for being a libertarian (of whatever shade or degree)? In fact, claims of this sort seem to be quite rare.

For information, membership of a political party per se does not qualify one as holding a ‘philosophical belief’, which is an inadvertent judicial recognition of what is fast becoming the ‘bleeding obvious’ with some parties. And ‘Jedi Knights’ will find that the Force (of the law) is not with them.

Elton John knows Barbra Streisand, so…

With that in mind, it seem positively hilarious that he appears to be unaware of the Streisand Effect!

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh :D