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 invasion proceeds according to plan


Our Chavez, who art in heaven

Progressive Venezuela has rediscovered the benefits of Emperor worship:

“Venezuelan Socialists rewrite Lord’s Prayer: ‘Our Chavez, who art in heaven'”

No doubt, like Claudius, the Divine Hugo will be worshipped by the more gullible among the British tribesmen. As Seneca wrote in the Apocolocyntosis,

Is it not enough that he has a temple in Britain, that savages worship him and pray to him as a god, so that they may find a fool to have mercy upon them?”

Planning for the Zombie Apocalypse…

This is certain to cause much mirth:

The U.S. military has always been the one place in government with a plan, forever in preparation mode and ready to yank a blueprint off the shelf for almost any contingency. Need a response for a Russian nuclear missile launch? Check. Have to rescue a U.S. ambassador kidnapped by drug lords? Yup, check, got that covered. How about a detailed strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse? As it turns out, check.


Peculiarly named menswear stores – an occasional Samizdata series


Minsk, Belarus. May 2014

Ah yes. Marc O’Polo, the great Irish explorer who travelled to and returned from the O’Rient.

Central planning causes empty shelves in Cuba, say BBC

Years after the collapse of the USSR, Cuba remains a bastion of communism, central planning… and shortages of basic goods.

I am not surprised that there are empty shelves in Cuba. I am surprised to be reading such things on the BBC.

despite Cuba’s proximity to the US, Washington’s 50-year-old trade embargo – which was designed to squeeze this island’s communist government from power – means there’s no American investment here. There’s no Starbucks, no Coca-Cola plant.

Some might see that as a good thing. But they might not find shopping for essentials quite so quaint. I once approached my big local supermarket full of optimism. I now know I’m likely to find a mixture of half-bare shelves and ones stacked with a single product: cheap ketchup, say, or adult incontinence pads.

Basic items disappear whenever Cuba struggles to meet its import bills. For weeks there was no toilet paper or cartons of milk. Now even the delicious local coffee is “lost,” as Cubans say – “esta perdido”.

Mind you there’s plenty of “partridge in brine,” should anyone fancy that. I’ve seen the same pile of cans on display for more than two years at $25 apiece. Perhaps a central planner ticked the wrong order box.

The story is even promoted from other stories under the banner “in today’s magazine”.

This would make a hell of a movie!

My reaction upon reading this story was “wow, this would make a hell of a movie!”

When Mohammed Abu Ali went to bed on August 8, he was living in Makhmour, a Kurdish-populated town near the border of Iraqi Kurdistan. When he woke up the next day, he was in Makhmour, an abandoned town under the control of the Islamic State

Time to stay calm and think very carefully before saying anything!

Samizdata quote of the day after tomorrow

The real conspiracy is hiding the fact that the US government has had FTL and time travel technology since the 1950s. The first sightings were USAF space-time machines being tested on backwards jaunts of about 5 to 10 years. Navigation was a problem in the early days.

Why keep it a secret? Would you want the Soviets to get that technology or face average Americans rushing off into the void to claim their own planets? Real smooth way to crash the economy and get a bunch of people lost in space and time.

But now that NASA has gone public with their starship program and the astronomers have started naming ‘earth like’ extrasolar planets it’s only a matter of time before they announce a FTL breakthrough. How do I know all this? I pulled it out of my ass and why would my ass lie to me?

– Commenter “AlfredHerring”, trumping this Guardian article claiming that the real UFO conspiracy consisted of the US government faking their existence.

Am I misunderstanding something here?

From a couple days ago, I just noticed a story from Breitbart Network claiming the government of Israel was being criticised for not sharing Iron Dome technology with Gaza’s government (i.e. Hamas) so that Hamas could defend its population from bombardment… presumably by Israeli attacks.

Please read the article and then tell me if I have misunderstood this. It seems rather like criticising the government of the United Kingdom in the 1943 for not sharing centimetric radar technology with the German government so that the German government could better protect their population from bombardment… by the RAF.

Either Breitbart Network have got the story wrong or the world is an even more absurd place than even cynical old me realised.

Fuck Banksy

It is graffiti for goodness sake, and here we have assorted people arguing about whose graffiti it is. Oh what a strange world we live in.

It is an amusing work I grant you, and if someone can find a mug who wants to lift it off and buy it for real money, I can see why the lawyers get called in… but please spare me the “Banksy is a National Treasure” crap. He is a talented criminal who does not think ‘crimes against property’ are really crimes (and the reason they are is because the crimes are actually not against ‘property’, they are against the owner of the property).

I wonder if he expects anyone to respect anything he owns, such as his legs for example? Fortunately for him not everyone thinks the way he seem to.

That said, where he to find himself in a prison cell for said ‘crimes against property’, he should probably be given a brush and some paint to pass the time.

There are no problems, only opportunities

The travails of Greenpeace continue to entertain.

If ever John Vidal tires of being the Guardian‘s Environment editor, he will be well placed to audition for the role of David Brent. How about this for an attempt to see the silver lining behind a very dark cloud: “Greenpeace’s £3m gamble could yet reap dividends in the fight against climate change”. What? How? Oh yes, of course:

If it only costs £3m for Greenpeace to prove to the world that speculation on risky markets to raise money is madness, then it may be money well spent.


Meanwhile, and though I often mock the Guardian I must concede that it has diligently reported all this, it has also emerged that in an effort to prove to the world that the question “What kind of compromises do you make in your efforts to try to make the world a better place?” can be a bit of a toughie for a sought-after young Third Sector exec with a work-life balance to maintain, Greenpeace’s International Programme Director has over the last couple of years been flying from home to work several times a month.

The joys of London

Often, when walking near Old Kent Road close to my home in Southwark, I have seen this peculiar sight.


Yes, it appears to be a tank. London is London though. Our glorious city contains a lot of weird shit. Is it a war memorial? I doubt it. Is it a decoration in a public park? Again, I doubt it. The land is overgrown and is fenced off, although the fence has long ceased to be effective. Is it an art project? Possibly. Certainly the paint and graffiti on the tank changes from time to time, but as to whether this is planned or simply something done by the nearby and bored, once again who knows? As to what type of tank it is, my knowledge of military hardware is sadly lacking.

Half the Samizdata commentariat (and certainly this blog’s glorious leader) is no doubt jumping up and down and saying “It’s a T-34, you idiot”. As it happens, I discovered this when looking at Google Maps yesterday. The tank is in fact shown on the map, at the intersection of Mandela Way and Page’s Walk in London SE1. (Places in the UK that were ruled by Labour local governments in the 1980s are full of streets, council buildings, and lord knows what else named after Nelson Mandela, as this was considered a good way to annoy Margaret Thatcher).

Curiouser and curiouser. A T-34 is a Soviet tank. What the hell is it doing on an overgrown piece of land in Southwark? Thankfully we have the internet, which tells us one of those stories that is probably not entirely true but should be. Reputedly a man named Russell Gray, the owner of the now overgrown block of land, wanted to build a house on it. This seems perfectly reasonable to me. Although the block is fairly small and a peculiar shape, it is certainly big enough for a small house. As the location is no more than a 15 minute commute to the financial jobs in the City of London, any house there would be of considerable value. However, when Mr Gray applied to Southwark Council for planning permission, it was denied. In frustration he submitted another planning application requesting permission to put a tank on the site. This was granted. He then obtained a surplus Soviet T-34 and this has been on the site ever since. Apparently the turret was originally pointed in the precise direction of of Southwark Council’s offices and the tank was given the nickname “Stompie” after an ANC activist murdered by thugs loyal to Winnie Mandela after they suspected him of being an informer to the apartheid South African government in 1988.

Where does one obtain a surplus Soviet T-34, exactly? It was imported from Czechoslovakia as a prop in the 1995 film of Shakespeare’s Richard III, starring Ian McKellan and a large ensemble of Britain’s other finest actors. Prior to that it may or may not have been used by the Soviets in putting down the Prague Spring in 1968. In any event, Mr Gray was able to buy it cheaply after the film-makers had finished with it.

Er, come again? Didn’t Richard III die in 1485 before spending the next five hundred years beneath a car-park in Leicester? Were there a lot of T-34s involved in the Wars of the Roses?

Ah, this version was set in a fictionalised 1930s England. Soviet tanks that did not go into production until the 1940s were apparently a better fit in that world.

As I said, London contains some weird shit. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.


Greenpeace loses £3m in currency speculation

I liked the first comment, from a merry soul called ‘casaleiro':

“Shoulda put the money in armaments and petroleum.”