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]

How the other half lives

He also maintained homes in Colombia, Barcelona and Paris and continued to keep up his friendship with Fidel Castro, who gave him the use of a villa in Havana. During García Márquez’s frequent visits to Cuba, Castro would call on him as often as twice a day; the two men went fishing together, and talked about books and the nature of absolute power.

– from the Telegraph obituary of Gabriel García Márquez

Thank’ee, kind sir: John Prescott overtips a chambermaid in Cuba

That rough diamond of the Labour party, ascended man of the people John Prescott, has fulfilled a lifetime’s dream, courtesy of a holiday to Cuba “provided by” Journey Latin America.

Rum and cola in hand, he does the online equivalent of showing the neighbours his holiday slides, by regaling the Guardian audience with a matey account of his adventures: John Prescott leaves the 21st century behind in Cuba.

He and his son, also along for the ride, had a fine old time. A moment of embarrassment over the right amount to tip provided an entertaining anecdote:

As a tourist, you must use a special tourist currency – the CCP, Cuban convertible pesos – while locals use Cuban pesos or CUP. It’s not really too hard to work out, but it did manage to get me in trouble when tipping. I left the equivalent of £15 in convertible currency for the chambermaid, who immediately threw her arms around me to express her appreciation. I then learned that she earned only £30 a month, and was suddenly fearful that the embrace might provoke comparisons to the French politician and the American maid.

Down in the comments, this fisking by ‘brituser’ fails to enter into the holiday spirit. What a grinch! I have quoted only some of it; do not on any account read the rest. Prescott is in italics, ‘brituser’ in bold.

I rarely take holidays, so the concept of the trip – to remove myself from the distractions of 21st-century life – was an attractive one.

What an interesting way of describing everyone around as incredibly poor. Would you have wished that on your constituents?

Many cities become so valuable to business that residents are pushed out of the heart of them. Here, however, people are king

In other words there’s no office jobs here. Look outside Havana and you’ll see 20% of the population working on the land in back breaking work in intense heat. Or rather you wouldn’t because you’re too exhausted from sitting on sunbed. You wouldn’t wish that on the UK population would you?

….

I realised I am built to rush, rush, rush, argue, argue, argue, but that’s not the mood of Cuba.

Something to do with the fact it’s a Communist dictatorship and you know if you say something you’d be rushed off to jail-no freedom of speech.

I rarely take holidays, so the concept of the trip – to remove myself from the distractions of 21st-century life – was an attractive one. It also turned out to be easily achieved

The trip was provided by Journey Latin America-Yes if was a freebie, despite the taxpayer paying a fortune in salary to you. You have registered the bribe-sorry holiday?

With another rum and cola in hand and the air full of cigar smoke,….. I felt as though I was experiencing the Cuba that I’d imagined all those years ago.

Or the UK before you banned smoking in public places. I thought it was supposed to be a health measure. Don’t you care about cuban workers and second-hand smoke?

They live life at a far more relaxed pace there, which is why it’s the perfect place for a holiday.

In other words nothing works. With my western money I can act and feel like a millionaire.

Samizdata quote of the day

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world. When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target’s reputation.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not ‘surveillance,’ it’s ‘data collection.’ They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement – where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.

- Edward Snowden

Che Guevara condemns himself

These ten quotes by Che Guevara are getting quite a mention around the blogosphere, and deservedly so.

David Thompson includes a link to them in his latest clutch of ephemera. Instapundit linked to them. And now I’m doing it here.

This is exhibit number five of the ten, picked pretty much at random, to illustrate the atmosphere of these ghastly pronouncements:

To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary.  These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail.  This is a revolution!  And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.

This posting is now at the top of this long list of Che Guevara postings here, but will surely sink downwards in the future, as we all continue to point out what a monster this man was.

Samizdata quote of the day

That’s the counterintuitive thing about totalitarian systems. They herd people into Borg-like collectives, yet every individual is savagely atomized.

I never felt so alone in my life.

- Michael Totten writes about the “total surveillance police state” that is Cuba.

It isn’t “counter-intuitive” to me, and probably not to Totten either, but I guess it still is to many. I worked out long ago that totally nationalising society totally destroys society, and that the greatest freedom of a free society is the freedom to choose what company you keep, both when you work and in your time off working.

No one can explain it

Venezuela food shortages: ‘No one can explain why a rich country has no food’

I know you all want to jump in and offer your suggestions. Do not, however, be too scathing. Seriously, the clue train shows signs of having made an unscheduled stop at the Guardian station. The article mentions, albeit in a hurried way and sandwiched between irrelevancies, price controls as a possible explanation for the mystery. And this is downright subversive:

For Oliveros, an additional cause for the shortage of basic food staples is the decrease in agricultural production resulting from seized companies and land expropriations.

From the way that is phrased one could almost think that a decrease in agricultural production was a result of seized companies and land expropriation. I am beginning to wonder if the “No one can explain it” title was selected by either the writer or the mole among the Guardian‘s sub editors in order to call forth the responses it did get.

… without a paddle

Venezuela seizes toilet paper factory to avoid shortage

Blackmail plot fails by reason of sucker shortage

Yasuni: Ecuador abandons plan to stave off Amazon drilling

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has abandoned a unique and ambitious plan to persuade rich countries to pay his country not to drill for oil in a pristine Amazon rainforest preserve.

Environmentalists had hailed the initiative when Correa first proposed it in 2007, saying he was setting a precedent in the fight against global warming by reducing the high cost to poor countries of preserving the environment.

“The world has failed us,” Correa said in a nationally televised speech. He blamed “the great hypocrisy” of nations who emit most of the world’s greenhouse gases.

“It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change.”

Correa had sought US$3.6bn in contributions to maintain a moratorium on drilling in the remote Yasuni national park, which was declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1989 and is home to two indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation.

But on Thursday evening he said Ecuador had raised just $13m in actual donations and $116 million in pledges and he had an obligation to his people, particularly the poor, to move ahead with drilling.

Schemes outwardly quite like this, that ask people to put their money where their mouths are, might yet turn out to be a great way to find the balance between development and preservation that actually pleases most people as revealed by what they are willing to pay for. But given that Mr Correa has already shown, as Tim Worstall points out, that he considers payment of his country’s debts to be optional, I think the required foundation of trust might be lacking for this one. Sadly there were quite a few private individuals who contributed to this scheme even though the rich world’s governments prudently refrained – some of these individuals lament their wasted money in the comments to this second Guardian story. Someone else replies that it is a sin to leave a sucker in charge of his money, but there are worse things to be than a sucker. They are not the environmentalists who should arouse our scorn. Reserve that for the first commenter, who says to general approval, “If we want to save the planet, we are going to have to do this by force.”

Samizdata quote of the day

Finally! A politician I have no hesitation endorsing and who, if I lived there, I would actually vote for!

- Perry de Havilland at a ruinous piss up get together of thoughtful political analysts.

Plus ça change: Tito and Chávez

Bernard Levin wrote this about a deceased leader much-lauded by progressives when certain domestic grievances became public after the icon’s death:

Tito’s widow has been claiming (unsuccessfully) her inheritance; he had got rid of her a few years before his death, no doubt to instal something more agreeable and up-to-date in her place, and they clearly parted very non-speaks indeed – so much so that she seems to have lived under conditions not far removed from house arrest ever since.

The marital relations of Tito do not concern me; what caused me to twitch an eyebrow when I read of the dispute over his property was the list of said property. It included cars, motorboats, horses, yachts, jewellery, paintings, a score of villas, orchards, a safari park and vineyards; and the value amounted to millions of pounds.

You see the point immediately, no doubt. What was this noble, selfless, upright, honourable, caring, moral, austere, heroic, truly socialist figure – the Stafford Cripps of the Balkans, the Keir Hardie of the non-aligned, the Nye Bevan of small nations – what was he doing with millions of pounds’ worth of luxury goods, disappointed widow or now disappointed widow?

[...]

Nor … is the corruption of power limited to one end of the political spectrum. It is true that supporters of left-wing regimes, and of left-wing insurgents against right-wing regimes, invariably claim that the defeated or beleaguered forces of the right are financially corrupt, and those making the claims proudly contrast their own side’s scrupulous purity in money matters, to such an extent that it sometimes seems as though Marxism is not an ideology but an antibiotic, with the miraculous property of cleansing the patient’s blood of avarice, dishonesty and a taste for grands crus and caviar.

But apart from the fact that it almost always turns out, even if only after some years, that the Marxist power-brokers were not in the least averse to sleeping off feather beds, dining off gold plate and exercising every variety of droit de seigneur, there is no evidence at all that a belief in communism, even if it is genuine rather than cynically professed, is in any way a guarantee of financial probity and moral uprightness.

[...]

As it happens, I knew that Tito was a crook as long ago as 1977, when on a state visit to France, he stopped at Michel Guérard’s place at Eugénie-les-Bains (to judge by that waistline, I bet he didn’t go for the cuisine minceur) and skedaddled without paying the bill.

[...]

I remember thinking at the time that Tito had been so accustomed to bilking restaurateurs and shopkeepers in his his own country without being challenged (because none, back home, would dare to challenge him) that he had altogether forgotten that elsewhere a bit of give is expected to accompany the take.

– Bernard Levin, from an article originally published in the Times on January 24th, 1986, and reprinted in his collection In These Times.

I have never heard that the late Commandante Hugo Chávez went so far as to put his troublesome ex under house arrest, but he has certainly had wife trouble. Marisabel Rodriguez, his second wife, claims that he made use of his official position to bully her. Not just wife trouble, woman trouble generally. Like Tito, Chávez was something of a Don Juan. His longest lasting paramour, Herma Marksman, told the Sunday Times in 2006 (subscription required to see full article) that he was a romantic lover but was “imposing a fascist dictatorship”. The similarities between Tito and the now presumably re-reincarnated reincarnation of Bolivar do not end there. Chavez seems to have done well for himself. I would prefer to have more than one source before endorsing the oft-quoted estimate of his personal fortune at a billion dollars made by Criminal Justice International Associates (CJIA), but An Argentinian journalist, Olga Wornat, can be heard here being interviewed by ABC News in 2007 and she does provide sources to suggest he liked the high life. Wornat wrote a book about several Latin American leaders called “Accursed Chronicles”, for which she interviewed Chávez himself and many of those close to him including cabinet members, his two ex-wives, his long time lover Herma Marksman mentioned above, his tailor and his psychiatrist. She says that he had collections of luxury watches and Italian suits, spent $65 million on a private Airbus (with a $500,000 bill to repaint the flag on the jet so it would look the way it did when he used to draw it in school) and that his family, despite the turbulent relations between him and them, were the “richest in Venezuela” and were the “royal family” of their home state. His daughter Rosines flashing wads of dollars on Instagram caused widespread irritation among less well-connected Venezuelans, who face severe restrictions when trying to obtain dollars.

Comnandante Chavez had the waistline to match Marshall Tito’s. Did he feel obliged to pay his restaurant bills? I did not find any specific claim that he did not, but it would be a brave restaurant owner who presented El Presidente with a bill when said Presidente had displayed such a penchant for expropriations, often done openly on his personal whim and in revenge for trivial thwarting of his desires; who, for example, seized the Hilton resort on Margarita Island in with the words,

“To hold the conference we had to ask for permission… and the owners tried to impose conditions on the revolutionary government. No way,” AFP quotes Chávez as saying. “So I said, ‘Let’s expropriate it.’ And now it’s been expropriated.”

Chávez is one up on Tito; Josip stole the meal, Hugo stole the whole building. In response, let it be noted, to the rightful owners having had the gall to expect that their permission was required before the revolutionary government could use their building.

So, when’s the reading of the will?

The world is a slightly better place tonight

Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez kicks the bucket. At times like this I almost wish I believed in an afterlife and the whole eternal damnation shtick.

Fellow travellers

A couple of years ago, Oliver Stone made a pro-Chávez film, South of the Border. ‘I admire Hugo,’ Stone declared. ‘The pure energy of the man is intoxicating.’ Such condescension modernises the 18th-century myth of the Noble Savage. ‘I know President Chávez well,’ claimed an equally condescending Sean Penn, the actor. ‘He is a warm and friendly man with a robust sense of humour.’ After a sponsored trip by car around Venezuela with Chávez, Penn posted on the internet a diary of thousands of words recounting in soapy detail their time together. ‘El Presidente is really human, like a brother.’ ¡Mi Hermano! Without embarrassment Penn could boast, ‘Just Hugo and me in a convoy of black vehicles.’ And in the course of the drive the wonderstruck Penn caught sight through the car windows of poor people standing by the roadside and weeping with love.

David Pryce-Jones, eviscerating the sort of people who look up to thugs such as Chavez. There is nothing wrong with admiring a political leader, democratically elected, who respects the checks and balances of a genuine liberal order, and who has the necessarily humility to realise the limits of office. I can admire such a person, but I find the sort of worship for political leaders, both democratic and non-democratic, that we see still today, to be alarming.

On a related point, I can recommend a study by Gene Healy - of the CATO Institute – about the glorification of the role of president in the US in recent times. There has been some creepy behaviour around those who venerated Mr Obama, although perhaps some of the mockery of him suggests not all of this should be taken seriously.