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]

Interesting little shifts

History has shown us that communist nations are frequently obsessed with symbolism. Even the most mundane alterations to edifices physical, ideological, political – you name it – can signify profound shifts within the hidden inner workings of such regimes. North Korea provides a timely example.

The dead communist arsehole sadly departed Kim Il Sung is infamously referred to as the Great Leader by brainwashed communist apparatchiks adoring and grateful beneficiaries of the socialist Juche revolution. Kim Jong Il, Kim Il Sung’s repugnant spawn son is now also termed “Great Leader” at the official North Korean website, the Korean Friendship Association. Interesting. Kim Jong Il used to be known as “Dear Leader”.

(See http://www.korea-dpr.com/pmenu.htm for further details – the KFA bounces all embedded links to its precious virtual domain)


His grandmother, Kang Pan Sok, his grandfather’s younger brother.

A “that explains something” moment regarding Kim Jong Il’s lineage, gleaned from his “brief” 160 page history fielded by the ever-admiring KFA. Found here (pdf).

Shamelessly partisan promotion for The Raving Wingnut

Just a quick plug for a good friend of mine. Steve Edwards, author of the now-defunct Daily Slander, is back with his new blog, The Raving Wingnut. Steve’s posts are still as lucid and pleasingly inflammatory as ever – true to form. Welcome back, Stevie.

Do drop by, and whilst there, take a closer look at Steve’s “Charlie don’t surf” photo. That shot was taken in Yun’nan province of south-western China – not Vietnam! – at a spartan guesthouse along the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek Steve and I embarked upon last year (my second time through that glorious part of the world). And note Steve’s Cherie Blair-esque grin is clasping a particularly cheap and nasty Chinese cigar. He’s all class, that fella.

“An industry’s prosperity cannot be decided by law”

In connection with my regular writing duties here (at one of the blogs that Alex Singleton was recently so kind about) I have been unable to avoid learning about the huge takeover battle that now surrounds Arcelor. I hazarded the guess over a month ago that Lakshmi Mittal, one of the protagonists, seemed to be doing okay, despite much opposition, and now it does indeed look as if he will win.

Cécille Philippe‘s latest piece for the Molinari Economic Institute may have been particularly inspired by this huge news story, although all that she alludes to is a “large wave of takeovers”. Anyway, she writes lucidly about the benefits of takeovers, and of the constant disciplinary effect they have upon the managers of large enterprises, concluding thus:

Takeovers make it possible to put an end to sources of loss, to increase the wealth of shareholders and thus to preserve employment which would otherwise have been lost if the company had been brought to bankruptcy for failing to satisfy its consumers. Takeovers are thus an alternative to bankruptcy which leads in a brutal way to a total reallocation of assets to better performing companies.

An industry’s prosperity cannot be decided by law, it has to be created. If one allows the owner’s deeds to be exchanged freely on the financial markets, they end up in the hands of those who think they are most capable of developing them. The reason why they are better placed than the public authorities to carry out this task is that they will have to undergo the financial consequences of their actions in the event of failure. The bureaucrats while escaping the sanction of loss and profit, cannot do other than carry out industrial projects by hazard and chance.

It is thus necessary to recognise the legitimacy of takeovers and to make sure that foreigners are free to make purchase offers. It is equally important that nationals are free to compete with them. The freer the financial market is and the more the shareholders’ right is respected, the more the industry’s prosperity depends on industrial projects being adequate to consumers’ requirements.

Most of which will be fairly obvious to the average Samizdata reader. But France is, perhaps, a country in which such obvious propositions need to be stated with particular clarity just now. Knowing Cécille Philippe a little, I not only hope but assume that she is also doing this in French.

However, Arcelor is a very special case, and Cécille is probably right not to name that particular case in this piece, because it would complicate her argument dreadfully. With Arcelor, wider considerations, as they say, are at stake. However, having now come across this earlier piece, I am surer than ever that it is the Arcelor case that she, and her, I trust, numerous French readers, have been particularly thinking about.

Glad to know the cops have their priorities right

This story about a drugs bust at a drive-thru restaurant may get some folk chuckling but I am not getting the joke. One of thousands of examples, in fact, of how the war on drugs is a waste of time, energy and law-enforcement talent. At a time when we live with the threat of terrorism, one would like to think that priorities were a touch different on both sides of the Atlantic.

A horrendous murder primes the rumour mill

My home town of Perth recently bore witness to perhaps the most shocking crime in recent memory around these parts – earlier this week, an eight year old girl was raped and murdered, her body dumped in the disabled toilet of a popular Perth shopping centre just minutes after she was separated from her parents. Now a strange twist has created even more public interest in the case. The individual apprehended and charged with the offence, twenty one year old Dante Arthurs, is rumoured to be one of the two boys who killed James Bulger back in 1993.

There are a number of coincidences that have given rise to the aforementioned rumour. Perth’s local rag, The West Australian, notes that

a Sue and Ron Arthurs lived in Surrey, south of London and left to return to Australia in 2002. Around the same time, the Bulger killers were believed to be entering a secret relocation program

More chillingly, The West – in its typical muckraking fashion – actually made the link between Dante Arthurs and the Bulger case last year. It put the question regarding Dante’s identity to the family then; long before he committed the offence he is currently being held for. It is quite remarkable that Dante, quizzed about his identity vis-Á -vis the Bulger case, would later go on to commit such a similar crime.

When the rumour surfaced, the Western Australian police force and justice system immediately rushed to scotch it. British authorities declared it untrue; the Bulger killers were not relocated to Australia. The Arthurs family vehemently denied that Dante Arthurs is an assumed identity, masking one of the Bulger killers. They produced a birth notice, published in The West Australian in 1984, declaring Dante’s birth. This would appear to conclusively bury the rumour, however some have pondered whether the birth notice simply illustrates the depth of Dante’s cover. Personally, I suspect it is more than likely that Dante is not a re-identified John Venables or Robert Thompson, and the startling coincidences linking the two cases are no more than startling coincidences. However, it must be noted that all the parties who have denied the rumour also have a strong interest in ensuring the confidentiality of such an arrangement, if it indeed exists. If child-killers like Venables or Thompson were released, given new identities and shipped off to foreign lands – only to re-offend there in similar circumstances – the political consequences would be enormous. It would at least spell the end of such expedient methods of dealing with society’s most notorious (but presumably rehabilitated) malefactors; a scenario authorities in Britain and Australia would rather not suffer. If Arthurs is one of the Bulger killers, I have no doubt that authorities would sooner lie about it if they think such evasiveness could head off the ensuing major international scandal that would inevitably follow the breaking of such news.

Unfortunately for any government agency attempting a cover-up, if the rumours are correct about Dante Arthurs, I think it likely that the truth will be explosively revealed here and in Britain sooner rather than later. There is so much public interest in the Dante Arthurs case that every angle of this tragic affair will be exhaustively probed by investigative journalists. No doubt they are at it now – wading through birth and death records, electoral rolls and the like, hunting for inconsistencies – whilst hounding their snouts within the public service for information. A devastating public service leak is a strong possibility; if there is anything to leak, that is. I still maintain that all the journalistic investigations will probably come to naught, as Dante Arthurs is most likely not Jon Venables nor Robert Thompson. However, I may be wrong and we could be seeing the early stages of a scandal that will shake the justice systems of Great Britain and Australia to their foundations.

Are they by any chance related?

Andrew O’Hagan in the Telegraph takes up the fashionable topic of ‘anti-social behaviour’:

I grew up on a housing estate myself, and I watched it go, in the course of 20 years, from being a zone of optimism and clean living to a sink estate and an unemployment black spot.

My mother lives alone and her door was kicked in by junkies in the middle of the night, just so they could steal her telly. My mother has never been the same (she moved into sheltered housing) and I recognise that the yobs who ruined our street are very different from the respectable working class of my youth, who deserved (and still deserve) every bit of support the Government and the community can give them.

But a couple of paragraphs later we have,

Miss Rooney’s street, like so many in Britain, has been over-run by people fuelled by a mad sense of entitlement, by a vast carelessness and selfishness, and violence on their minds.

Overrun? I suspect Mr O’Hagan would find the yobs, like him, grew up on the estate. The difference is they (and probably their parents and grandparents) also grew up on the state. It is the support the “Government [with the same capital G as God] and community” gave them that created the “mad sense of entitlement”. If the state teaches people that they are not responsible for themselves then those without other information will believe it.

Samizdata quote of the day

You can come back tomorrow. We should have a doctor then.

Unknown medical receptionist, explaining to Will Luke his chances of actually finding a doctor working in his local surgery.

The passing of a blogger

I just discovered that O.G. blogger Acidman passed away last Monday, which is really too bad as he was a splendidly cantankerous and hugely entertaining SOB. I always thought of him as the Ted Nugent of the blogosphere.

If my blog does not meet your standards, then LOWER YOUR STANDARDS. Who the hell do you think you are, anyway?

Rock on, Rob.

The situation is even less simple than you think

Writing on the CNE Competition Blog, my co-Samizdatista Brian Micklethwait responded to my post on the present anti-trust investigation of British Airways, by in response to a mention on my part of “landing fees”, bringing up the question of whether there should be a free market in airport landing slots. Brian clearly has in mind something like an airport charging a fee for aircraft to land that is driven by demand, and setting it at a point such that the supply and demand curves meet, and thus allocating airport capacity using market pricing signals.

While I agree completely that this would be the optimal way of allocating airport capacity, things are never going to work like this. In aviation industry terms, I didn’t mention the question of landing slots at all. I mentioned “landing charges”. Slots are seen as something else. Even when people talk about a free market in landing slots, they still aren’t talking about landing charges specifically. Landing rights, landing slots, and landing fees are all separate from one another, and it wouldn’t occur to many or most people in the aviation industry that they are connected. The situation is an awful mess, and if it is ever going to be untangled, it is necessary to understand it.

For this reason, I am going to attempt to explain it. This is going to be rather nerdy. If Transport Blog still existed, it would be a fine post for that blog. However, it does not, so I will do it here. → Continue reading: The situation is even less simple than you think

Putting the boot into Tony Blair

Want to see Tony Blair getting a political kick in the cobblers?

Sweet. Agree or disagree, it is nice to see some political hardball. UKIP thrive on such confrontations. It is hard to imagine the pointless milksops of the ‘Conservative’ Party getting stuck in like that.

Samizdata quote of the day

Logic has made me hated by the world
– Abelard of Le Pallet

Corrupt and sad times in Italian football

Football, whether you love it or loathe it, is now a huge global business. It stands to reason, then, that the temptations on the part of some folk to bend the rules to make themselves rich are considerable. There are currently extremely serious allegations surrounding a number of big-name Italian clubs, including AC Milan and Juventus, to the effect that officials and others collaborated to fix games. And all this while the game’s main showcase, the World Cup, is going on.

And then there is this story today:

Juventus team manager and former defender Gianluca Pessotto has been seriously injured after falling from a building at the club’s headquarters.

“Gianluca suffered multiple fractures, but his life is not in danger,” said Juventus spokesman Marco Girotto. It is unclear where exactly the 35-year-old fell from – early reports suggested he had fallen out of a second-floor window, but now it seems he may have fallen from the roof of the building. Club officials said they were unable to give details and were looking into all possibilities.

Oh I bet they are. Consider the final paragraph of the story:

Juventus are currently facing charges relating to the massive match-fixing scandal rocking Italy. The scandal began last month with the publication of intecepted telephone conversations between former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi and Italian Football Federation officials discussing refereeing appointments.

Italian clubs are now a major part of the corporate structure of that country. Questions about the trustworthiness of Italian corporate leaders have already been stirred by the scandal of collapsed food group Parmalat, a scandal that was a European equivalent of Enron or the Fannie Mae debacles.

Football needs trust to survive. The antics of players who writhe in fake agony after being tackled in a bid to get an opposing player sent off, or who fall over in the penalty area to get a goal (Italy arguably did this in the match yesterday against Australia) are part of a cancer eating at the game. I can put up with the antics of footballers off the pitch and I do not get upset at their huge salaries – they operate in a market after all – but without trust, without a sense that the players concerned are giving their all to win, then the game is in grave danger. Similar scandals have besmirched cricket and remain a shadow over horse racing. I hope the Italian authorities prosecute any guilty folk severely. If found guilty, some of the clubs could be relegated from the top-flight league and forced to sell some of their star players, presumably at a loss (I wonder if Ipswich Town can afford any of them?).

What a mess.