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]

Even leftists are getting concerned about Hugo Chavez

The UK’s Channel 4 news channel tends, in my experience, to cover the news with a fairly obvious leftist slant, so it was quite a surprise this evening to watch the programme’s longish report about what is going on in Venezuela, focussing on the activities of President Chavez and his increasingly dictatorial leanings.

I have a very rough-and-ready theory, which holds that countries blessed with vast natural resources are, in some senses, cursed. Venezuela is one of the world’s top oil producers and at a time when crude is trading at the present high levels, it means that a demagogue like Chavez can buy favours with selected groups for quite a while. A country not so blessed — such as Hong Kong say — has to live on its free market wits. In some cases an oil-rich place — such as Dubai, which I mentioned a while ago — is led by folk with the wit to develop its economy with a mind on what will happen when the black gold runs out.

This blog does not seem to like Chavez very much. As and when his government falls, it will not be a pleasant process.

Amazing aerial photos of Mexico City

Interesting how these things get around. The word of these amazing photos of Mexico City got to me from him, who got it from him, who got it from him, who apparently found them here, which is where, for me, the trail went cold.

The picture Patrick Crozier chose to reproduce is particularly extraordinary. Talk about ‘fake but real’. Something to do with how the guy photoshops the pictures to make things clearer, I am guessing. I often do the same with shots I take from airplanes.

Architecturally, I think this is particularly bizarre. There are times, may the God Who Does Not Exist forgive me, when I yearn for a violent revolution in sleepy little Britain, just so that the planning permission (i.e. non-permission for almost anything remotely interesting except when the government wants it) system collapses, and people could build, in Britain’s still overwhelmingly green and pleasant land, whatever crazy thing they liked. Just as a for instance, why are there not more castles built nowadays, with cylindrical and pointy towers?

Mind you, extraordinary things are still being built in Britain, by the sort of people who are still allowed to do such things.

Brazil scores a magnificent goal!

Despite the urging of much of Brazil’s ruling classes to support the measure, the world’s first national referendum which put the proposition to ban the sale of firearms was smashed decisively by a 2:1 margin.

The people who are baffled why so many common people in a murder wracked country like Brazil would oppose such a measure need to realise that it is precisely because the country has such problems with violent crime that people need the means to protect themselves.

As I have said on other occasions – the right to keep and bear arms: it’s not just for American anymore.

Maybe more Brazillians in London should be armed as well…

Che Guevara under the spotlight

A new film is to be made about Che Guevara, the man whose image adorns the T-shirts of many a young student “radical” or someone trying to appear hip (even if they haven’t much clue about his real life). This story, drawn from a report at the Venice Film Festival, suggests that the man will be portrayed warts an’ all, making use of declassified CIA files. Good. It is something of a pet issue here at Samizdata that while the monsters of Fascism are rightly excoriated in film and print and unthinkable of a youngster to wear a picture of Adolf Hitler on his shirt, it is considered okay to do the same with the portrait of a mass murderer like Lenin or Chairman Mao. Of course in some cases the results of this mindset are unintentionally amusing.

Maybe the message is getting through. Totalitarian socialists are not hip, and not clever.

Democracy Cuban style

I love this headline:

Castro Lauds Cuban Municipal Elections

I bet he does.

Under Cuba’s one-party system, city and provincial leaders, as well as representatives of the National Assembly, are elected by citizens on a local level. Anyone can be nominated to these posts, including non-members of the island’s ruling communist party – the only one recognized in Cuba’s constitution.

So, in theory, anyone can stand for election, and if they win they can then take part in choosing anyone as President.

Well, not quite.

Cuba consistently defends its system as democratic, but critics of Castro’s government argue that tight state control, a heavy police presence and neighborhood-watch groups that report on their neighbors prevent any real political freedom on the island.

It is easy to sneer, and I hereby sneer, at elections like this. But what also strikes me is that fraudulent though this system obviously is at the moment, it might eventually mutate into something genuine. To put it another way, window dressing can end up taking over the shop.

What if Castro dies – Castro will, I predict, eventually die – and there is no longer any widespread agreement about who it is proper to vote for, and who those voted for should themselves vote for when they choose Castro’s successor?

At least Castro now feels sufficiently pressured by the challenge of true democracy to feel the need to arrange his own fraudulent version of it. And the experience of participating in this charade is quite likely to make at least some of those taking part in it wonder how it might feel to vote in a real election.

Harry Hutton squashes Pilger about Colombia … from Colombia

Harry Hutton mostly does sarky, misanthropic humour, so this on the spot reportage from Colombia might very well get missed by a lot of more earnest types than him who would appreciate reading it.

Here is John Pilger arguing that American military aid has caused a humanitarian disaster in Colombia. The trouble with this is that, since the really huge flows of US arms and money began, the level of violence has plunged.

Kidnapping fell 42% last year, and 26% the year before that; the number of massacres was down 53% in 2004, and murder fell 17.7%; street crime, the number of displaced persons, crime against taxi drivers… all down. And every single Colombian I have spoken to, without a single exception, has told me that the situation has improved. I had dinner with some foreign human rights workers, who told me that this was also their strong impression.

Harry’s commenters have mostly concentrated not on whether the above reportage is true, but rather about the rights and wrongs of legalising the drugs, the proceeds of which are so much a part of the problems of Colombia. Or maybe not, because Colombia has always been a violent place. I favour total drug legalisation for all the usual libertarian reasons, but whatever you think about that, this is an interesting piece of reportage.

A few other commenters have also pointed out what a lying twat Pilger is. It is good that such drivel as his can now be challenged quickly by bloggers who, unlike Pilger, actually know what Pilger is talking about. Had I come across it by some other route, I would have dismissed Pilger’s piece as almost certainly being made-up rubbish, purely because of who it is by, but it is nice to be sure.

Che Guevara… just another dead thug

Yet another attempt is underway to portray Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara as someone who was actually admirable, rather than someone who should be remembered, if at all, as an inept communist thug and mass murderer who deserves to be buried under the scrapheap of history.

Fortunately not everyone is fooled.

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But was he worse than Hitler?

Just when you think that language cannot possibly become any more twisted or discourse any more debased, up pops a reminder that we still have a long way left to fall:

The 1971 shooting of students by government forces in Mexico’s so-called “dirty war” has been classified by an investigating prosecutor as genocide.

While marvelling at this breathtaking and brazen ridiculousness of this charge, I note that it is merely the opinion of a prosecutor as opposed to an official verdict. However, if it becomes an official verdict I trust that no-one will be surprised.

Like the word ‘rape’, the word ‘genocide’ has increasingly been deployed as a political trigger word and abused to the point where it has not just been devalued but is perilously close to being stripped of every smidgeon of meaning. I suppose we will have to find a new term to describe the extermination of an entire race now.

This particular case may or may not go any further but it almost does not matter. The point is that the bar has been lowered again and the occasion will not go unmarked among that class of jurists and campaigners who weave together the fabric of supranational laws.

Within ten years, charges of ‘genocide’ will be laid against people who tell racist jokes.

Bully for Fidel, terrible for Cuba

According to the great leader’s physician, Fidel Castro can live to “at least” the age of 140 years old. His proof? Castro still has the strength to go on protest marches. God help us if participation in moonbat gatherings is all it takes to guarantee more than a century of life on this planet; if you think old people are crazy these days, just wait until they’re all sporting “Not in my name” badges and spouting communist rhetoric.

Speaking of which, how long do we reckon it will it be before Fidel’s fans start trotting out this doctor’s expert opinion as further evidence — along with the country’s literacy rates and supposedly world-class, “free” healthcare — that Cuba is a great nation from which we could all learn so very much?

We don’t need no steenkin’ internet

Online purveyors of imperialist Yankee running-dog capitalism are not welcome in socialist paradise:

A new law has been passed in Cuba which will make access to the internet more difficult for Cubans.

Only those authorised to use the internet from home like civil servants, party officials and doctors will be able to do so on a regular phone line.

So there we have it. A country that has (allegedly) 100% rates of literacy but you are not allowed to actually read anything.

In Cuba, no-one can hear you scream

Seeking out fiskable material in the Guardian is altogether too much like spearing fish in a barrel. It’s almost unfair. Callous, even. In fact, spoilt for choice, I generally elect to leave the tiddlers and save my energies for the succulent, fat ones that drift serene and oblivious to my cravings for their ample and oily flesh.

Dinner is served, courtesy of one Brian Wilson who takes his readers on a moist-eyed trip down memory lane:

Twenty-five years ago this month, I visited Cuba for the first time. The occasion was the World Festival of Youth and Students, which drew 20,000 to Havana from 150 countries – probably, to this day, the country’s biggest display to the world of its revolutionary wares.

Come on over, Mama, whole lot of schtoopidity goin’ on.

Yet, for our Brian, these were the salad days:

But for me, that visit was the start of a life-long love affair.

Ah yes, the romantic boulevards of gay Havana, where Brian strolled arm-in-arm with the Revolutionary Vanguard of the Hoopty-Squat Dirtbag 25th of November People’s Liberation Front Army (or something).

There is no need to confuse that statement with uncritical acclaim for everything about the place. But criticism should never ignore the fact that Cuba’s primary service to the world has been to provide living proof that it is possible to conquer poverty, disease and illiteracy in a country that was grossly over-familiar with all three.

Where’s the ‘living proof’, O Besotted One? Why isn’t every Cuban Embassy on the planet besieged with sick, starving, illiterate people all clamouring for passage to Havana and salvation? → Continue reading: In Cuba, no-one can hear you scream

Tremble with fear, Yankee imperialist dogs!

I’m back onto Cuba again but, hey, it’s not my fault. The buggers keep provoking me.

But at least I can now look back on a certain record of achievement on this particular subject. No sooner have I intimated that Cuba’s allegedly splendiferous health-care and education statistics were probably a crock, then up pops cast-iron confirmation courtesy of this hilarious bit of fawnography in the Guardian:

Which only goes to reinforce what has long been obvious: that US hostility to Cuba does not stem from the regime’s human rights failings, but its social and political successes and the challenge its unyielding independence offers to other US and western satellite states. Saddled with a siege economy and a wartime political culture for more than 40 years, Cuba has achieved first world health and education standards in a third world country, its infant mortality and literacy rates now rivalling or outstripping those of the US, its class sizes a third smaller than in Britain.

Which goes a long way to explaining why untold numbers of Americans are risking their lives every year in order to escape from America and get a better life in Cuba.

Er, no, wait a sec…that’s the other way around:

Untold numbers of Cubans flee the island every year, trying to cross to nearby Florida – including via a truck turned into a raft this week.

Have these ‘untold numbers’ of Cubans all gone stark, raving mad? Who, in their right minds, would want to risk being eaten by sharks in order to get away from first-class health-care and education? Don’t these insane Cubans realise just how poor, miserable, stupid and sick they are going to be in America?

Some ungrateful people just don’t deserve ‘social and political successes’.