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]

I want one of these!!!

I want one of these!!!

The murder of journalist James Foley: a spectacular ‘own goal’

This is my take on the intended semiotics of the video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley, by a jihadi with a British accent:

If you continue to mess with us, we will kill your people. See what I just did? And do you hear my voice? We have people who can strike at you in your homeland.

This is my take on the perceived semiotics in the west:

I do not get the Middle East. Shi’ite, Sunnis, Wahhabis, Kurds, Yazidis, who the hell are all these people any way? I don’t understand why they kill each other. But this guy was just a journalist. Who the fuck cuts the heads of journalists? Yes we are war weary but suddenly all I want is to see those jihadi mother-fuckers dead! Those Kurdish guys, the Pesh-something-or-other, they seem like the only non-arseholes in the region and they hate the jihadis, so give them a fuck load of weapons, and give them air support and bomb the FUCK out of those crazy Islamic State lunatics!

The Islamic State just made it a trivial domestic political task for anyone who wants to support their enemies against them.

Hamas fires rockets at Israel and then tries to get the IDF to kill some journalists in Gaza to win sympathy. The ‘Islamic State’ murders a journalist themselves by cutting his head off.

I guess the ‘Islamic State’ cannot afford the same a PR advice that Hamas gets :-D

Discussion point: Belgian vs Burka

‘Drunk’ Belgium diplomat specialising in protocol is arrested for tearing full-face veil off a Qatari princess

A senior Belgium [sic] diplomat specialising in protocol [!] has been arrested for tearing off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions.

In the latest example of the difficulties involved in imposing a so-called ‘burka ban’, Jean-Marie Pire did not know the identity of the massively wealthy VIP before attacking her.

She approached him with two other women in broad daylight in central Brussels last week, asking for directions to the famous Grand Place.

The kind of full face veils favoured by some Muslim women are banned in Belgium, just as they are in neighbouring countries including France.

‘I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,’ said Mr Pire. ‘With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.

‘Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!’

The woman, who has not been named, said she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings were violently dislodged, along with her veil.

I assume that any woman wearing the full Islamic garb is either a slave or a fanatic, but it was the diplomat “specialising in protocol” in the tradition of Kira Yoshinaka who first used force. She just asked him for directions. Admittedly, she was breaking the Belgian law against full face veils, but it is an unjust law of which she may not even have been aware. And somehow I don’t think all the British people cheering his vigilante enforcement of that law would be quite so keen on a random Belgian taking it upon themselves to impound some unfortunate British tourist’s car if he were to break, through ignorance or indifference, the Belgian law requiring a red warning triangle and a reflective waistcoat to be carried in a vehicle at all times.

Let the young heir be seen to rebel a little

Raúl Castro’s daughter first lawmaker to vote ‘no’ in Cuban parliament.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, has given an unprecedented “no” vote in the Cuban parliament to a workers’ rights bill she felt didn’t go far enough to prevent discrimination against people with HIV or with unconventional gender identities.

None of the experts contacted by Associated Press could recall another “no” vote in the 612-seat national assembly, which meets briefly twice a year and usually approves laws by a unanimous show of hands.

One pretty hand among that multitude could safely, even profitably, remain at rest.

Samizdata quote of the day

To be fair, Swiss agriculture is so heavily subsidised that it makes French agriculture look like a bastion of free market liberalism. If the Swiss were to expand it further to make more exports to Russia, that would make them poorer, not richer.

I see that places like Argentina do seem to be attempting to sell things to Russia in response to recent developments. I wish them luck with it, honestly, and this might be good for Russian consumers from the perspective that Argentina does, at least, produce some decent cheeses.

On the other hand, doing business with Russia is likely to be a nightmare. Just like doing business with Argentina. Possibly they deserve each other.

- Michael Jennings

Another top quality report from the Middle East

This excellent report from what used to be Iraq and Syria highlights the very strange bedfellows that conflict in the Middle East can produce:

It is great to see reportage like this as watching CNN or the BBC is often like watching a weird Disney version of reality. Highly recommended.

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”.

“Is justice served by confirming a raid to the TV news in time for them to hire a helicopter?”

The police show off. A reputation is shattered.

- Libby Purves has written in the Times about the recent extremely well publicised police raid on Cliff Richard’s house. The article is behind a paywall, but here are some choice lines:

Lost in an unfamiliar landscape? Ask a policeman. What I want, officer, is statistics on the usefulness of dawn raids, especially where the allegation involves not weapons, drugs, account books or contraband but a sexual misdeed 30 years ago. Do you generally find a diary from 1985 saying “Molested X today”? Or is there always some extreme porn left around to confirm dodginess? Does this apply even if it is only one of the suspect’s homes you raid? Suppose all his wicked stuff was in Barbados all the time?

More pressingly, officer, is justice served by confirming a raid to the TV news in time for them to hire a helicopter? Then complaining that this causes them to turn up? How do you square it with the College of Policing guideline that without compelling reason suspects shouldn’t be identified? Is the fact that chummy will make headlines a compelling reason?

And

And there are flaws in the theory that famous names must be named: when some ordinary joe is accused there is no publicity, yet convictions are achieved.

Another problem is the risk of attracting hysterics, liars, and fantasists keen to surf on the excitement and waste police time.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq decries the abduction of women for a life of rape and servitude under the black banner of the Islamic State, doomed to supply jihad al-nikah, or “sex for the pursuit of struggle,” but the organized feminists, so eager to complain of abuse, such as having to pay for their own birth control, are strangely silent.

- from a Washington Times editorial.

Health and safety law in action

All eggs that are sold in the United States would be illegal according to European health regulations.

Also, all eggs that are sold in Europe would be illegal according to US health regulations.

So the Big Threat to the USA does not have a Black Flag after all…

… apparently it flies a yellow flag with a rattlesnake on it, rather like the one in the sidebar of this blog.

“The sheer number of people that belong to the movement is probably the biggest concern,” Johnson said. “The fact that you have people across America that believe that the federal government is an illegal entity, that a lot of state governments are illegal, and that the laws do not apply to them is very subversive to our rule of law and to our society.”

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC, told VICE News that a complete lack of racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric separates sovereign citizens from their Posse Comitatus predecessors, who distinguished their “organic citizenship” from “14th Amendment citizens,” implying that black people have limited rights.

“What has happened that is very bizarre is that very large numbers of black Americans have adopted the sovereign citizens ideology, but without the racist twist,” Potok said. “I would say that if you looked at sovereign citizens today, almost none of them know the racist and anti-Semitic origins of the history. You just don’t hear about it anymore.”

It is only bizarre if you do not understand what drives such notions. Indeed such an approach to the state makes perfect sense given what the state has done to black American civil society. But expecting that to comprehensible by people deeply invested in the modern regulatory state is unrealistic, so of course he finds it bizarre. And I wonder how many Democrats know about the origins of the KKK or the eugenics movement?

Samizdata quote of the day… that was posted today :-P

So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it’s not a fashion faux pas, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these “policemen” talk. Look at the video as they’re arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: “This is not up for discussion.”

Really? You’re a constable. You may be carrying on like the military commander of an occupying army faced with a rabble of revolting natives, but in the end you’re a constable. And the fact that you and your colleagues in that McDonald’s are comfortable speaking to your fellow citizens like this is part of the problem. The most important of the “nine principles of good policing” (formulated by the first two commissioners of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and thereafter issued to every officer joining the force) is a very simple one: The police are the public and the public are the police. Not in Ferguson. Long before the teargassing begins and the bullets start flying, the way these guys talk is the first indication of how the remorseless militarization has corroded the soul of American policing.

Which brings us back to the death of Michael Brown. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that everything the police say about this incident is correct. In that case, whether or not the fatal shooting of Mr Brown is a crime, it’s certainly a mistake. When an unarmed shoplifter in T-shirt and shorts with a five-buck cigar box in one hand has to be shot dead, you’re doing it wrong.

- Mark Steyn