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]

Some sports news

Team 1: A Samar, Mudassar Muhammad, R Pillai, D Weston, Sajid Liaqat, Asad Mohammad, Khaled Khan, Kashif Hussain, ME Latif, D Kumar.

Team 2: Afzal Virk, B Zaigham, Sadat Sidiqi, Azam Khalil, Shahzeb Choudhry, Usman Arif, Muhammad Asif, Azam Mohammad, Mohammad Naveed, Sweed Ullah, W Jalali.

Team 1 is Germany. Team 2 is Sweden. These two teams have today been contesting a game of cricket, a game truncated by the weather. Keep track of all the other games in the ICC World Cricket League Europe Region Division Two Twenty20, here.

I know what you’re thinking. “D Weston” doesn’t sound like a very German sort of name.

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British government makes it illegal to tell a person how tax law actually works

Tax evasion is illegal. Tax avoidance is finding ways within the rules to arrange your affairs to minimise the tax you pay. So by saying advisers who tell you how to actually do that will be fined, the British government is prohibiting people from being told how existing tax laws work.

Unless there is something I am misunderstanding, this appears to be completely insane. It seems to now be illegal to, er, legally arrange your affairs in such a manner as to inconvenience HMG.

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All hail the Bob Crow Brigade

Middle East Eye reports:

Bob Crow brigade ’30 miles’ from IS-stronghold of Raqqa in Syria

The Bob Crow Brigade (BCB), a group of British and Irish volunteers fighting in northern Syria named after a famous British trade union leader, are edging closer to the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.

A spokesperson from the BCB told Middle East Eye that the group was based on the “Raqqa front” around 30 miles from the IS group’s de facto capital.

The BCB is named after the late leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), who was known for his down-to-earth combative style and a staunch supporter of left-wing causes. He died in 2014.

I must confess that when I first heard of a brigade named after Bob Crow I thought it was a joke. It seems not. They are real, and they are really fighting some of the worst people in the world. Good luck to them.

Added later: Sure, they’re commies. And they support the strikers on Southern Rail. But they are doing it from Northern Syria while fighting Daesh. As Winston Churchill said during WWII, “if Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

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Samizdata quote of the day

What those who instinctively reach for more state regulation of companies such as Uber assume is that a few laws and rules can “perfect” perceived failures of markets without unintended consequences. In other words, they assume markets are “imperfect” but “perfectable”. They judge markets by anecdotal failings and interventions to correct them by intentions.

Those of us who believe that markets tend to work well have more humility about our judgement. We recognise that achieving a perfect market by design is impossible. In life, things go wrong. What we think examples such as the above show is that markets work better than government regulators in developing innovations and institutions for dealing with problems, because that is in fact part of the service customers want. And the best bit? Over time, these new innovations, by enhancing competition, raise the game of everyone else too.

Ryan Bourne

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Charlie Hebdo once again seeks to sooth the savage beast

The people at Charlie Hebdo may be a bunch of benighted lefties with only the most tenuous grasp on reality, but they sure know how to thrown a party! Nice to see folks taking it all in calmly.

→ Continue reading: Charlie Hebdo once again seeks to sooth the savage beast

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An unhappy tune in Venezuela

Do dooo doo-doo. Right! Do you remember David Cameron’s happy little hum after announcing his resignation? A Venezuelan composer and pianist, Gabriela Montero, improvised upon that theme in the Baroque style. ‘Then, adding humour to creativity,’ reports the Times, ‘she closes the keyboard-lid with a crisp “right!” — exactly as the former prime minister did as he closed his front door.’

Sadly the rest of the article is not so jolly.

Montero has expressed her views in music as well as on social media. Five years ago she poured her vitriol into an astonishingly explosive 13-minute composition for piano and orchestra, significantly called Ex Patria. Described by her as an “unapologetic vision of Venezuela’s accelerating civic collapse and moral decay”, it comes across as a vivid musical portrait of a traumatised country. The BBC should have had the courage to ask her to play it at the Proms rather than Grieg’s anodyne Piano Concerto.

Last year there were nearly 28,000 murder victims and those are just the reported ones
“You know, it’s even worse now,” she says. “I wrote Ex Patria in 2011 and dedicated it to the 19,336 people who were murdered in Venezuela that year. Last year there were close to 28,000 victims, and those are just the reported ones. Imagine how many deaths are unrecorded. Then you will understand that, unfortunately, Ex Patria will have a long life. I always hoped that one day I could put it away and never play it again because I wrote it as a cry of anguish during the darkest times for Venezuela, but that day seems far away.”

[…]

Since composing Ex Patria, Montero’s website and live performances have become rallying-points for Venezuela’s expatriate dissidents. “Yes, the concerts are far more than musical events now,” she affirms. “So many Venezuelans come and speak to me afterwards about their children who have been murdered, or their parents who have been kidnapped, or their homes that have been taken away, or their lives fractured by forced exile. Even my Facebook page has become a pharmacy directory for people in Venezuela who are desperate to get medicine.”

Montero will not be the only Venezuelan musician at the Proms. A separate Times article says,

He is simply The Dude, arguably the best-known conductor in the world. The superstar product of the famed Venezuelan music project El Sistema, his appeal crosses continents, generations and even genres: a close friend of Chris Martin, he appeared with Coldplay at the Super Bowl half-time concert.

Gustavo Dudamel, the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, can seemingly do no wrong.

However, the 35-year-old star, who once conducted what was described as “the greatest Prom of all time”, has come under blistering attack from a fellow Venezuelan musician, the pianist Gabriela Montero.

She has denounced him in the strongest possible terms in an interview with The Times for failing to speak out about the economic collapse facing their home country, where inflation is running at 200 per cent and people cross the border into Colombia just to buy household necessities.

“I don’t care how well he conducts,” Montero said of Dudamel, who has failed to dissociate himself from what is happening in Venezuela. “What he has and hasn’t done as a human being invalidates everything else.”

Having read this I was on fire with sympathy for Montero and anger at Dudamel. Yet Dudamel does have a defence. It is scarcely heroic yet I find it hard to condemn, given that I have never lived under anything but a liberal regime. It’s just the usual thing – the usual justification for collaboration with the powerful offered by artists in somewhat repressive regimes. That is, artists of around the average level of courage among humans living in regimes of around the average level of badness in history.

A product of El Sistema, the state-funded music project that mentors 300,000 children at a time, many of them from the country’s poorest slums, Dudamel is the most successful individual to have emerged from the programme.

In The Los Angeles Times last September he wrote: “To those who believe I have been silent too long, I say this: do not mistake my lack of political posturing for a lack of compassion or beliefs. If I aligned myself with one political philosophy or another then, by extension, I could also politicise El Sistema. That might turn a revered and successful program into a political punching bag and make it much more vulnerable to political whims.”

Brian Micklethwait has twice speculated on this blog that repression is good for music, citing the example of Shostakovich dodging the murderous caprice of Stalin. I have speculated that, while a morally dubious amount of familial pressure may be often be applied to children to create a classical musician, El Sistema seems no more coercive than most other musical education. Venezuela itself is a remarkably clear demonstration of how socialism turns an up-and-coming country into a dump, but comes far down the list of tyrannies of the world. If (piling impossibility upon impossibility) I were Venezuelan and a great, or at least very good, musician which would I be, a Montero or a Dudamel? Which ought I to be? Is the answer different if I were citizen of the democidal Soviet Union rather than Chavista Venezuela and/or an indisputably great composer, like Shostakovich?

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Samizdata quote of the day

If that sounds familiar, it’s because this amounts to Mr. Corbyn’s People’s Quantitative Easing concept in all but name. The idea much derided last year is becoming so mainstream that even a leadership candidate for Britain’s Conservative Party, Stephen Crabb, could recently propose a £100 billion ($130 billion) public-works investment fund that wasn’t so different from PQE. Mr. Corbyn’s PQE is essentially indistinguishable from the suggested 50-year Japanese bonds.

This probably says more about the central bankers’ desperation than Mr. Corbyn’s prescience. With government spending and borrowing constrained by slow growth and high debt, and supply-side reforms still politically far off in many economies, the pressure is mounting on central bankers to act as magicians pulling rabbits out of their hats. The longer this continues, the deeper they’ll have to rummage around for the next rabbit. It’s enough to make one wonder what will be the next extreme idea to follow the journey from crank to orthodoxy.

John Phelan

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As time goes by

People vote for socialist policies. Time goes by. Things get worse. Time goes by. People vote out the socialist policies. Time goes by. Things get better. Time goes by. People forget what it was like before. Time goes by. People vote for socialist policies. The fundamental things apply…

Here’s why renationalisation won’t make the trains run on time

When Owen Smith was asked at his Labour leadership launch about his stance on railways, he replied, “I would re-nationalise our railways tomorrow.” Needless to say, this went down well. In August last year, a YouGov poll found that 58% of the British public support renationalising the railways compared to just 17% who oppose it. The irony will not be lost on followers of the Labour party who may remember that renationalisation of the railways was Corbyn’s first official policy as Labour leader. Recently, Corbyn has thrust this issue back into the spotlight, jumping on the recent troubles of Southern Rail.

To set the scene, until 1994, the railway network in the UK was operated by the Government-controlled and owned British Rail. The Railways Act 1993 started the break-up of British Rail and the privatisation process concluded in 1997. The operation of passenger services is now contracted out under a system of franchising.

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Samizdata quote of the day

It is widely recognised that today’s generation of so-called snowflakes – with their Safe Spaces, microaggressions and ‘that’s offensive!’ tantrums – has its roots in an educational system governed by therapeutic norms. The same was true of the London riots. They emerged from the same assertive grievance culture, the same well of victimhood and entitlement, the same sense that it’s all someone else’s fault. One young rioter even justified his trashing of a local branch of Comet on the grounds he didn’t get a job there. Other kids gloated about how ‘we can do what we want’, a dismissive attitude to adult authority they no doubt picked up at school.

Now, five years on from the London riots, some commentators argue that welfare cuts and widening inequality mean that ‘many of the conditions that created the riots are still in place’. London’s Time Out magazine went further by arguing that the Brexit vote means that racism has acquired a new-found respectability, which will lead to greater poverty for, and ill-treament of, London’s ethnic minorities.

These cheap anti-Brexit jibes raise a question: why are marginalised rioters viewed with sympathy, while poor, marginalised Brexit voters are viewed with contempt? Why are the violent actions of looters and arsonists interpreted as a legitimate protest, while voting to leave the EU is seen as an exercise in brainwashed stupidity?

Neil Davenport

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Samizdata quote of the day

Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners

George Carlin

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Samizdata quote of the day

For those that already have, Mark Carney is the gift that keeps on giving. Borrowed imprudently and struggling to make those interest payments ? Worry not; the Bank of England has your back. For those that don’t have, the Bank of England is taking away your chance of ever realistically saving anything, now that interest rates have been driven down to new historic lows of 0.25%, and may go lower yet. For the asset-rich, for the 1%, for property speculators, and for zombie companies and banks, Carney is your man. For the asset poor, or for savers, or pensioners, or insurance companies, or pension funds, the Bank of England has morphed from being anti-inflationary fireman to monetary arsonist.

Tim Price

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Samizdata quote of the day

Of all the shallow, conceited and pernicious phrases to have emerged in political discourse in recent years, the term ‘post-truth politics’ takes some beating. Forget ‘unwitting racism’. Bin ‘glass ceiling’. Be gone ‘check your privilege’. ‘Post-truth politics’ surpasses them all in the stakes for fraudulent and fatuous self-importance

Patrick West

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