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]

The weirdness of the modern world

The Chinese People’s Daily features an article called “The miracle called Communist Party of China”.

With uncensored comments.

Some sports news

Team 1: A Samar, Mudassar Muhammad, R Pillai, D Weston, Sajid Liaqat, Asad Mohammad, Khaled Khan, Kashif Hussain, ME Latif, D Kumar.

Team 2: Afzal Virk, B Zaigham, Sadat Sidiqi, Azam Khalil, Shahzeb Choudhry, Usman Arif, Muhammad Asif, Azam Mohammad, Mohammad Naveed, Sweed Ullah, W Jalali.

Team 1 is Germany. Team 2 is Sweden. These two teams have today been contesting a game of cricket, a game truncated by the weather. Keep track of all the other games in the ICC World Cricket League Europe Region Division Two Twenty20, here.

I know what you’re thinking. “D Weston” doesn’t sound like a very German sort of name.

All hail the Bob Crow Brigade

Middle East Eye reports:

Bob Crow brigade ’30 miles’ from IS-stronghold of Raqqa in Syria

The Bob Crow Brigade (BCB), a group of British and Irish volunteers fighting in northern Syria named after a famous British trade union leader, are edging closer to the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.

A spokesperson from the BCB told Middle East Eye that the group was based on the “Raqqa front” around 30 miles from the IS group’s de facto capital.

The BCB is named after the late leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), who was known for his down-to-earth combative style and a staunch supporter of left-wing causes. He died in 2014.

I must confess that when I first heard of a brigade named after Bob Crow I thought it was a joke. It seems not. They are real, and they are really fighting some of the worst people in the world. Good luck to them.

Added later: Sure, they’re commies. And they support the strikers on Southern Rail. But they are doing it from Northern Syria while fighting Daesh. As Winston Churchill said during WWII, “if Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

4,367 Miles to Wall Drug

Free Ice Water. It brought us Husteads a long way and it taught me my greatest lesson, and that’s that there’s absolutely no place on God’s earth that’s Godforsaken. No matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!

So said Ted Hustead, founder of the Wall Drug store. He bought the store in 1931 in the “godforsaken” town of Wall, North Dakota. He and his wife decided to give it five years to make something of. There were not enough customers. In the final year his wife noticed the increasingly heavy traffic on the nearby highway and hit upon the idea of putting up signs enticing travellers with ice water. They started putting signs further and further along the highway. Now there are signs everywhere.

I imagine this story is well known to Americans. I first heard of Wall Drug from chapter 30 of the serialised web novel Unsong, a review of which I promise when it is finished.

After the sky cracked, the Wall Drug coordinate system started to impose itself more and more upon the ordinary coordinate system of longitude and latitude. Worse, the two didn’t exactly correspond. You could be driving from New York to New Jersey, and find a billboard promising Wall Drug in only thirty miles. Drive another ten, and sure enough, WALL DRUG, TWENTY MILES. Drive ten more, and you’d be promised a South Dakotan shopping center, only ten miles away. Drive another ten, and…who knows? No one has returned from Wall Drug in a generation. It’s become not only an omphalos, but a black hole in the center of the United States, a one-way attraction and attractor fed by an interstate highway system which never gives up its prey.

It is by Scott Alexander of the fascinating blog Slate Star Codex.

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…’.