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]


The call centre, known as the Casualty Bureau Appeal Centre, that the FCO established to take calls from concerned relatives or friends, has taken flak as many have found that they were unable to get through to the operators.

But Sri Lankan national Ivan Corea, chief executive of the Dream Harvest Group, in Stratford, east London, said he had called repeatedly on Sunday without success.

“We have been trying to contact relatives in Sri Lanka, all lines are engaged,” he said.

Kevin Tunbridge, of Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, said he has had no contact with his son Luke, 20, or his son’s girlfriend Laura Blackman, 20, who are a coastal resort in south Thailand.

“I have tried to contact the Foreign Office and the Bangkok Embassy all day, but all I have reached is a recorded BT message. All we want is some information,” he said.

There is no doubt that FCO civil servants have been working in an emergency situation to provide those who do succeed in contacting them with the necessary information. However, accusations of understaffing and inadequate capacity have been levelled against the Foreign Office by the Conservative MP for Aldershot, Gerald Howarth, who has received complaints from his constituents.

The FCO has replied to criticisms by stating that they have had to field an unprecedented number of telephone calls including inappropriate inquiries concerning flights and travel advice. The unfriendly structure of their website may have contributed to this state of affairs.

Commander Ronald McPherson, who is in charge of the Hendon operation, said the volume of calls was among the highest levels they had experienced for a mass casualty incident, including September 11.

He said: “Since we opened, the lines have permanently been at capacity.”

Mr McPherson said staff were taking calls from people from anywhere in the world concerned about relatives or loved ones who were UK nationals.

A Foreign Office spokesman also stressed the system had been taking an unprecedented volume of calls, and said consular staff in Thailand were working through the night to answer inquiries.

Although this is an unprecedented situation, emergency call centres are supposed to deal with emergencies and it is noteworthy that McPherson stated that the Appeal Centre was “at capacity” rather than promising to “increase capacity”. Does this mean Buggins turn for those who have to wait on the line until they obtain an operator?

It is the FCO’s role to deal with situations such as this catastrophe. They have dropped the ball.

The year in review… but only the stuff that REALLY mattered

I do not know about you but I just hate those ‘year in review’ things that clog up the TV and the internet at this time of year. And now for something completely different.

1 Jan 2004: The year started with a party
2 Jan 2004: many people with hangovers…
8 Feb 2004: Party at Samizdata.net HQ
29 Feb 2004: Capitalist Ball in Brussels
14 April 2004: A bunch of Aussie bloggers miss the target date by 14 days
23 April 2004: St. George’s Day
19 July 2005: another inexplicable party to celebrate the arrival of an Irish Samizdatista
31 July 2004: Yet another party to celebrate Hot American Babes at Samizdata.net HQ
13 August 2004: Lonely and disconsolate, we have a party
11 September 2004: Death to the Wahhabbis!
22 October 2004: Some Texan blogger misses out on some really good chili…
1 November 2004: Halloween
3 November 2004: Samizdata.net exclusive: Michael Moore gets a nice letter from Dubya
5 November 2004: Fond fantasies about blowing up Parliament
5 December 2004: Samizdata.net Christmas party

Oh, and some good and bad things happened in Iraq, some guy got elected in the US and some other stuff happened in some other places.

Samizdata quote of the day

How I feel about Africans is not relevant. Even if I hate them, it is not relevant. Trade barriers are relevant, and removing them is crucial.
-David Carr

The era of ‘shoulder shrugging agnostics’

There is an interesting article about the decline of religious belief in Britian that got me thinking. I am also one of those ‘shoulder shrugging agnostics’ yet it is not that I do not have ‘beliefs’, just not religious ones.

I often wonder though if the decline of religious belief across great swathes of western society is a product of the growth of rationalism… or is it a decline in the ability to think about abstractions by millions of folks who think ‘Reality TV’ has something to do with reality?

Just the essentials of life


I mean, what else does one need?

Update: Cool. God bless Texas.

Who cares about hippos?


A special message to…

… certain people who need to know.


Poor performance from FCO

With a natural catastrophe of this proportion, it is clear that the whole region will be picking up the pieces for the foreseeable future. Death toll is now 10,000 and rising, depending upon your news site, and the emergency situation has been publicised for ten hours

The Foreign Secretary sent out the message of condolences and said “stand by for action“. However, there are no links or help on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for families to telephone or leave messages for family members or friends, holidaying in the tropics. Nothing on the State Department for US citizens either, although such aid may be dealt with at a local level. Australia is far better prepared with a hotline. The BBC, agitprop wing of the government, wishes to hear your experiences of the tsunami, but does not provide you with a number if you wish to let your loved ones know that you are still alive.

Especially as it is the holiday period, such emergencies are the time when government departments should place themselves at the service of their citizens. Should, but do not.

UPDATE: The FCO emergency telephone number is 0207 008 0000. However, if you wish to obtain more direct information on each country, you have to visit the ‘Travel Advice by Country’ pages on the FCO website. These will give you direct numbers for the embassies in individual countries: India, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.

If you were to visit the frontispiece of the FCO website, there is still no indication where such information is held. The BBC does not hold this information on its indepth webpage concerning the disaster. Both the BBC and Skynews tuck the number away at the bottom of their webpages reporting the deaths of Britons.

David Blunkett – a festive orangutan?

This was too good to pass on… while browsing the Telegraph pages and stumbling across their Review of 2004, I must have caught one of the billion monkeys at work!

You need to click on the thumbnail and read the image title.

The right to fight back

Tory MP Patrick Mercer has tabled legislation to ‘rebalance’ the right to defend life, limb and property in favour of the victims of crime.

And how exactly will that make a lone 60 year old woman safer if someone breaks into her house? Please remember that it was a Tory government which decided she will have no right whatsoever to have effective means to defend herself by restricting firearms.

The Mercer Bill is welcome but all it does is make Britain a little bit safer for houses containing one or more adult males from their late teens to their late sixties who are actually capable of picking up a blunt instrument and taking on an intruder with a reasonable chance of success. The unpalatable truth is that most people are not able to effectively defend themselves against your typical house intruder (one or more young men between 16 and 35) unless they have an effective weapon. And that means a gun.

“God made man but Colonel Colt made them equal”

Samizdata quote of the (Christmas) day

The goose is nothing, but man has made it an instrument for the output of a marvellous product, a kind of living hothouse in which there grows the supreme fruit of gastronomy.
-Charles Gerard, L’Ancienne Alsace À Table

Christmas greetings from Samizdata.net

To all our readers, Christmas greetings from the Samizdatistas on three continents!