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]

Samizdata quote of the day

So, the EU is primarily a political project. Just think about it. The mantra of the Remain camp is “to trade with Europe you have to be part of it”. But this is bizarre. Nobody says “to trade with China you have to be part of it”. That would be very scary. They don’t even say “to trade with the USA, you have to be part of it”. Nobody suggests accepting the US constitution or the dollar as part of the price to trade with America.

Alan Sked

Something they don’t want you to think about

Oh, they’ll report it. Every now and then, tucked away among “other news”. But not in any depth. The evasion is not conscious. Such a strange and disturbing story unsettles their deepest assumptions about humanity, about what is happening to the world. They would rather not think about it.

Link.

Dealing with those awkward social moments when someone mentions Labour and anti-semitism

Most of the time I have fairly tight choice over the sort of people I talk to and associate with, which means that I usually have a reasonable chance of not breaking bread, so to speak, with sympathisers with Islamic terror, haters of Jews, haters of capitalism, America, the West, fun, etc. Okay, there are one or two people who are in social circles I mix in who have what I consider to be “out there” views (I know one lady who seems, in her dottily amusing way, to be a full-on Jeremy Corbyn fan), but they are few and I can ignore them without giving offence. A more challenging problem are those family gatherings (I have just been involved in one) where a person I know who is quite close to my family  stating why it wasn’t odd or bad that the inhabitants of Israel should be “transported” to the US (as has been suggested by a Labour MP and councilllor), or some other large continent, far away from the Middle East, and that Ken Livingstone should not be pilloried for saying Hitler was a sort of Zionist, and that Jewish people are over-sensitive, and anyway they control the media, and that this person never buys anything which might have come from Israel…

In that situation, what do I do? (I was sitting at a table, having a family dinner). Do I:

Get up slowly, announce that I am not sharing the same room with this person again?

Try and think of a smart rejoinder that will shut the person up (if so, anyone got a suggestion)?

Send a copy of George Gilder’s The Israel Test?

Put laxative in the coffee?

Also, how do commenters here deal with the “maniac in the room” problem, such as the Uncle who brings up violent opinions or views so batshit ugly that no-one knows where to look? The responses may be different on which side of the Atlantic one is on. In the UK, it has been for a long time considered bad form to have arguments about politics and religion at all, particularly in family settings where there are children around, etc. In the US, it may be different.

I’d be very interested to know what people think.

A government that does not wish to steal everything it can…. step forward India

The endless scamming of NGOs seems to be a plague on the World, but the Federal Government of India is resisting claims from an NGO, I understand it to be the All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front (but what’s in a name?*),that it should seek to obtain the Koh-i-Noor diamond from Her Britannic Majesty.

Ownership of the famous gem is an emotional issue for many Indians, who believe it was stolen by the British.
However, the solicitor-general said was “neither stolen nor forcibly taken”.

Ranjit Kumar said the 105-carat diamond had been “gifted” to the East India company by the former rulers of Punjab in 1849.
The case is being heard by the Supreme Court after an Indian NGO filed a petition asking the court to direct the Indian government to bring back the diamond.

Oddly, despite its secession from India at independence, a lawyer in Pakistan has claimed the Koh-i-Noor for Pakistan, presumably on the basis that it was the property of a ruler of the Punjab.

The Pakistani petition, lodged with a court in Lahore by Javed Iqbal Jaffry, names Queen Elizabeth II as a respondent.
“Grabbing and snatching it was a private, illegal act which is justified by no law,” he told Reuters.
He is quoted as saying that he has written 786 letters to the Queen and Pakistani officials about it.

Thankfully, most of Mr Jaffry’s fellow citizens do not seem to share his enthusiasm. And a cheer for them too.

There has never been a popular debate or campaign to get the Koh-i-Noor diamond returned in Pakistan, our correspondent adds.

Now will India’s sensible example be enough for Greece to shut up about the Elgin Marbles? After all, they named a whole musical film after the place, and yet they complain about Macedonia daring to speak its own name.

* This group appears to have some form in litigation, without it being immediately clear that Human Rights were foremost in their consideration, trying to get a Bangladeshi lady kicked out of India.

The bench was hearing the appeal filed by NGO ‘All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front’ seeking cancellation of Nasreen’s visa alleging that she has been violating the Foreigners Order of 1948 and the Foreigners Act of 1946 by airing her views on every issue without prior permission.

UPDATE: as Tim’ points out, it appears that another element of the Indian government seeks to maintain the claim, despite the concession made by the Right Honourable and learned Solicitor General in open court. So perhaps the attitude of those bothered is to maintain the ‘learned grudge’ that we find in Greece, Argentina and other delightful places.

Samizdata quote of the day

The problem of poverty is not a shortage of experts; it’s a shortage of rights.

– On December 6th 2015, William Easterly gave the most recent Hayek Memorial Lecture, on the subject of “The Tyranny of Experts: Foreign Aid versus Freedom for the World’s Poor”.

Just after 13 minutes and 40 seconds into his lecture, Easterly said the above words, twice.

Kofi Annan says it is time to legalize drugs

Somehow I did not expect this from the former Secretary General of the United Nations:

Lift the ban! Kofi Annan on Why It’s Time To Legalize Drugs

In my experience, good public policy is best shaped by the dispassionate analysis of what in practice has worked, or not. Policy based on common assumptions and popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions.

Nowhere is this divorce between rhetoric and reality more evident than in the formulation of global drug policies, where too often emotions and ideology rather than evidence have prevailed.

Take the case of the medical use of cannabis. By looking carefully at the evidence from the United States, we now know that legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes has not, as opponents argued, led to an increase in its use by teenagers. By contrast, there has been a near tripling of American deaths from heroin overdoses between 2010 and 2013, even though the law and its severe punishments remain unchanged.

This year, between April 19 and 21, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a special session on drugs and the world will have a chance to change course. As we approach that event, we need to ask ourselves if we are on the right policy path. More specifically, how do we deal with what the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has called the “unintended consequences” of the policies of the last 50 years, which have helped, among other things, to create a vast, international criminal market in drugs that fuels violence, corruption and instability? Just think of the 16,000 murders in Mexico in 2013, many of which are directly linked to drug trafficking.

Der Spiegel

The tone is condescending (“popular sentiments can become a recipe for mistaken prescriptions and misguided interventions”) and gently repressive (“The steps taken successfully to reduce tobacco consumption … show what can be achieved.”). Mr Annan makes no reference to questions of personal liberty. All the same, when the world’s former top tranzi starts talking this way it may be that, for the War on Drugs, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.*

*With the slight difference from Churchill’s time that in this case the good outcome is surrender.

What are the risks that Hillary Clinton goes to jail before she could reach the White House?

This story has been around for such a long time that the cynics in the media and political world are inclined, perhaps, to roll their eyes at yet another article going on about how Hillary Clinton (who beat Bernie Sanders by a whisker in Iowa last night) allegedly put classified material through a private email account, including material considered so sensitive that the lives of CIA and other US operatives are potentially at risk. A full account can be seen at the Observer blog (not to be confused with the British newspaper.) From a reading of this tale, it seems to me that Clinton has misbehaved on a scale equivalent to say, a Bradley Manning or, maybe in some ways, an Edward Snowden (contrary to some people, I don’t regard Snowden as a libertarian hero, at least not consistently). And one effect may be that supposed allies of the US, such as the UK, may be asking very urgent questions indeed, right now, about all this. What UK intelligence material has been compromised? Have Brit agents’ lives been put at risk? And so on. And given that there is no love lost between the Obama and Clinton camps, it may be that Obama, with his Chicago-educated ruthlessness and malice, may absolutely love to torpedo the candidacy of this woman and try and get a hardline socialist into the White House (although that might be wishful thinking.)

There has been so much focus on Donald Trump’s extraordinary rise to political prominence that some of the media attention that could have been focused on the Clinton email affair has been diverted. Even allowing for media bias to the Clintons, there are enough liberal/left journalists, as well as more obviously conservative and libertarian ones, who loathe the Clinton dynasty, who are appalled by its corruption, to make a serious assault. I expect the next few weeks and months to be fascinating.

So a question for commentators on this blog is: how serious a risk does Clinton face of going down for this and are there precedents of a front-runner for a candidacy being brought down by criminal charges/investigation?

 

Posing a question about migration

I wonder if it ever crosses the mind of any refugee that the countries of western Europe are free and prosperous not as a temporary co-incidence and a convenient solution to their woes, but because the inhabitants of those countries fought over many centuries at an incalculable cost to life for the freedom they enjoy today? It is a matter of not inconsiderable astonishment to me that of the many millions of us who care for justice and an end to human misery, few if any are calling attention to the conditions that prevail in theocratic tyrannies, or demanding, in the first place, absolute rejection by western governments of theocratic tyranny, wherever it may prevail (even in nominally “friendly” nations), and, concomitantly, resistance and rejection by citizens of theocratic (and secular) countries to the tyrannies that exist either in their name or the absence of their implacable resistance. No commentator that I have yet heard has ever held the citizens of theocracies accountable for the “governments” they live under, There has been much hand wringing at the absence of effective action now available to the Western powers to bring peace to Middle Eastern tyrannies, but no suggestion that citizens are complicit in the establishment of fascist regimes that always and inevitably morph into tyranny.

I am aware that by their endless chicanery, opportunism and hypocrisy, western powers have signally contributed towards the destabilisation of many countries of the world, certainly including many in the Middle East, and they therefore have a lot to answer for, but even so, this does not in itself exculpate the residents, the sometime voters, the fellow travellers, and – sorry it must be said – the co-religionists of tyranny, who looked the other way when bad things were done in their name, or who indeed conspired in the doing of such bad things.

It will be argued by the professional philanthropic classes of the West that the conditions prevailing in the many tyrannies of the Middle East or Africa or Asia are altogether too hostile, cruel and implacable to admit of resistance. They conveniently forget the iron grip that monarchism and the Roman Catholic Church had on Europe, but which was successfully prised open by freedom loving people, to say nothing of the unendurable socio-economic conditions that ordinary people had to fight so hard and so long against to overcome. It is the heroism and the courage of such ordinary people that we all have to thank for the blessed conditions of freedom that prevail in Western Europe, it is not a consequence of good luck or privilege.

Colin Bower

It is difficult to know to what extent people who live in theocracies can have or should have responsibility for the waking nightmare of the society in which they live or be blamed for not doing more to change it. For example, to what extent should I, or any other Samizdata commentator, take responsibility for some of the cretinous, statist, zero-sum economic views that are embedded in the governance of the countries in which we live? We can do what we can to change the climate of opinion, but this is hard and the beneficial effects of any struggles take decades or more to bear fruit.

Scotland’s vote for independence one year on

It is now a year since the formerly-United Kingdom woke up to an independent Scotland. What is your verdict on developments since the incredible news that Scotland had voted “YES”?

Prime Minister Alex Salmond’s decision to “walk away” from Scotland’s share of the rUK’s National Debt and the subsequent borrowing crisis has proved particularly controversial. Despite Mr Miliband’s softening of his predecessor’s stance in the “war of the gold reserves”, he has not actually agreed to release Scotland’s share until agreement has been reached. Nevertheless Mr Salmond’s groundbreaking use of “Progressive Quantitative Easing” to mitigate the effects on the Scottish economy of the manipulation of oil prices by hostile speculators is widely seen as an example to be emulated by the emerging People’s Union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For pity’s sake, separate giving succour from accepting migrants

The drowned body of little Aylan Kurdi is on front pages all over the world. His surname and the name of his home town, Kobani, tell the story of why his family were so desperate to leave their homeland.

What can be done to stop this happening, as the Middle East burns? What should be done? In the long term – God only knows.

But we don’t have to know. In the short term there is something we can do which has a proven record of saving lives in a similar situation.

Could Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy solve Europe’s migrant crisis?

When the bodies of asylum seekers en route to Australia washed up on the shores of Christmas Island in 2010 everyone was in agreement that something needed to be done.

Five years later Australia has implemented one of the harshest border policies in the world. It is characterised by three core points: turning or towing back boats of asylum seekers at sea; forcing asylum seekers to live in detention centres across the Pacific in Nauru and Papua New Guinea; and guaranteeing they will never be resettled in Australia.

Dozens of would-be migrants are reported to have drowned between Libya and Sicily, the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean this spring. The increasing numbers making the perilous journey on overloaded boats has brought the issue of migration into Europe to a head. But what can be done about it?

Prime minister Tony Abbott is now making a clarion call to Europe, where crisis meetings have taken place following the deaths of over 800 migrants in the Mediterranean this week. The only way to stop deaths at sea, he told reporters this week, “is in fact, to stop the boats”.

They were stopped.

Building a camp – a decent camp – and putting all those attempting illegal entry in it does not satisfy either side of the immigration debate. But at least it could be tolerated by both sides and might stop the bodies floating in on every tide. To use an unhappy metaphor, it would keep the floodgates closed by showing that taking ship with a people smuggler is not a successful strategy to get to the West. To work this policy would require both sides to acknowledge very clearly that doing this for now implies absolutely nothing about what the permanent policy on refugees and/or migrants should be.

Trust us, we are not spying on you any more

Nice Mr. Obama has told the Frogs the NSA is no longer spying on them at the highest level. And of course that’s that, because there is no way a US President would lie about that, right? Indeed if the NSA kept spying on France, they would of course tell nice Mr. Obama, right?

Any country that does not spend a chunk of change specifically targeted at protecting their communications from the USA is simply not serious about defending themselves, and that includes ‘allies’.

China hacks Google…

Chinese government cyber division accused of hacking Google is a very self explanatory headline and I hope this vulnerability will be addressed swiftly.

But of course the NSA would never do that. They do not need to when they have FISA courts to rubber stamp any fishing expeditions they wish to carry out. No need to break in when you have a spare set of keys under the doormat any time you want to look around.