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]

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

Coming up with the perfect title

Sometimes when doing a blog post, the hardest bit is coming up with the most appropriate title. This one had me LOL’ing :-D

I Felt A Great Disturbance In The Narrative

Note, this is about the art of blogging rather than some civil disturbance in the USA, about which I really have no opinion beyond saying I am against US-style paramilitary policing. But I also think burning down local businesses because you are pissed off with the state indicates an advanced state of communal derangement. But have I have seen no reliable information that moves me to stick my oar in the water at any length about this particular bit of local nastiness.

This would make a hell of a movie!

My reaction upon reading this story was “wow, this would make a hell of a movie!”

When Mohammed Abu Ali went to bed on August 8, he was living in Makhmour, a Kurdish-populated town near the border of Iraqi Kurdistan. When he woke up the next day, he was in Makhmour, an abandoned town under the control of the Islamic State

Time to stay calm and think very carefully before saying anything!

Some Brittany holiday snaps

Earlier this week I got back from a week in Brittany. During the first few days of my stay, I and the friends I was staying with visited the island of Belle Ile. Their daughter is my god-daughter, and she was singing (very well) in a classical singing festival that happens in Belle Ile every year.

While in Belle Ile we also enjoyed other sorts of music making. In particular, at midday, in the fish market of Belle Ile’s biggest town, La Palais, we listened to a small beat combo called, as I later learned from the small print in some of my photographs, Les Gadgos. Les Gadgos are a bunch of blokes, but they have engaged a lead singer for their latest clutch of songs and their latest CD, a blond chanteuse named Mélody Linhart, who looked weirdly matter-of-fact in her days clothes. But she sang very well, in English. She did various venerable American standards, like St James Infirmary, and slightly more recent American movie tunes, including I Want To Be Like You. She made the latter piece of froth sound almost as profound and existential as St James Infirmary.

But take a look at this other Les Gadjos person, who I now know to be called Clément Lenoble:

Brittany01

A classic French type, I think you will agree. But that cigarette was actually quite a surprise, because Clément Lenoble was one of the very few people whom I observed during my week in France who was smoking. There were a few. He wasn’t the only one. But the basic news is, those Frenchies are no longer fumer-ing. Not the sort who live in or summer in Brittany, anyway.

Instead, this business is on the up and up:

Brittany02

That was just a clutch of e-cigarettes in the window of a shop that also sold other stuff. But later, I came across an entire shop devoted to this one product:

Brittany03

French smokers are a dying breed. No doubt, anti-smoking fanatics would reply that they’re a dying breed because smoking is killing them all off, and I do agree that this change of habit is probably a good thing. But even so, I miss guys like this, singing their gravel-voiced chansons in bars, with their whiskey glasses on the piano and their gauloises hanging down from their creased and lived-in faces. Or maybe I just miss the idea of such people, being around, in France.

Smoking is now illegal in most public places in France. I just wish les pouvoirs-that-be had been content to let the habit die away of its own accord. But that is not how such people think.

I also photoed many other more fun things.

→ Continue reading: Some Brittany holiday snaps