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]

Further news from Sarajevo




As I wrote previously, the city of Sarajevo yesterday commemorated the centenary of the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand with a fairly confused set of events. A member of a not entirely ceremonial royal family and in a sense therefore a political leader was murdered 100 years ago, as was his wife. Neither of them were bad people and the murder was a horrible thing in itself, even without the terrible events that it set off. The city of Sarajevo held events to commemorate this centenary, but there was much ambiguity about what message (if any) were being sent.

Inevitably, the memories of more recent events in Sarajevo were in the air, even if not explicitly spoken about. The assassin Gavrilo Princip was a Serb nationalist and the sides of buildings in Sarajevo are full of holes that were put there by other Serb nationalists for four years during the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996.

However, there are two Sarajevos. The bulk of the city is part of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (not to be confused with the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which it is a constituent entity), and is populated mostly by Bosnian Muslims, with a small Bosnian Croat population also. However, to the east is Istočno Sarajevo (East Sarajevo), which is part of the Serbian Republic (not to be confused with the Republic of Serbia, of which it is not a constituent entity but would probably like to be) and which is populated by Bosnian Serbs. East Sarajevo consists mostly of new housing that was built on the edge of town using international aid money in order to house Serbs from Sarajevo who either fled or where expelled from Sarajevo during the siege. There is no obvious sign that one is crossing the boundary between the two entities when one does, but they are quite separate just the same. Public transport does not cross the border. People from East Sarajevo to not have access to healthcare in the principal hospital in Sarajevo. People from one side do not socialise or work on the other.

If you look more carefully  there are differences between what is on the two sides. As I said,  the housing in East Sarajevo is mostly new. The housing in nearby neighbourhoods of non-East Sarajevo are older, and the walls of buildings are full of holes where they were hit by shells during the siege. There is a large and new Orthodox Church overlooking the boundary between the two parts of the city. Away from the populated areas but still on the boundary is the base of the EUFOR peacekeeping force. The boundary goes right through its middle.

Although the memory of the siege of 1992-6 was hanging over the events in the historic part of Sarajevo yesterday,  allusions were vague. In East Sarajevo, not so much. Public spaces are still being established in that part of town. One of these is a new park. A ceremony was held yesterday to name it “Gavrilo Princip Park”, and a statue of the murderer himself was also unveiled. Thankfully, I suspect, we did not make it to East Sarajevo for that dedication ceremony. However, we did visit the park and the statue today. A few people were posing for photographs with it. Whereas the main commemorating events were deliberately non-provocative, those in East Sarajevo were extraordinarily provocative, and very crude. Also, insane.

Best idea ever?

Crowdfunding military procurement? Could this be the best idea ever? Or at least the best idea since letters of marque?

Actual link to the project here.

Fuck Banksy

It is graffiti for goodness sake, and here we have assorted people arguing about whose graffiti it is. Oh what a strange world we live in.

It is an amusing work I grant you, and if someone can find a mug who wants to lift it off and buy it for real money, I can see why the lawyers get called in… but please spare me the “Banksy is a National Treasure” crap. He is a talented criminal who does not think ‘crimes against property’ are really crimes (and the reason they are is because the crimes are actually not against ‘property’, they are against the owner of the property).

I wonder if he expects anyone to respect anything he owns, such as his legs for example? Fortunately for him not everyone thinks the way he seem to.

That said, where he to find himself in a prison cell for said ‘crimes against property’, he should probably be given a brush and some paint to pass the time.

Samizdata quote of the day

To people clucking that the First Black President deserves more respect, may I suggest that you should have done a better job of picking the First Black President?


A mildly strange day

Samizdata’s World War 1 correspondent Patrick Crozier and I are presently in Sarajevo,  on the hundredth anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which triggered World War 1. It has been a slightly peculiar occasion, as nobody – local, or visiting – seems to be quite clear about what exactly is the correct way to commemorate such an event. There are musical events, art exhibitions (mostly only tangentially related to the occasion), conferences, and a vast number of television crews from all around the world looking for people to interview and things to film other than one another, mostly without great success. It has been, a long, hot day, and the journey into Sarajevo from Belgrade (that we made yesterday evening) is a long and tiring one through steep mountain roads, and I lack the strength to write at length now, alas.

However, whatever the correct way of commemorating an event such as this is, my guess is that it does not involve dressing up as the Archduke and/or his wife Sophie and sitting in a similar open car to the one they were riding in when they were murdered on the exact same spot exactly one hundred years earlier.

It was, however, possible to to that in Sarajevo today.


The worse the better

Perhaps I would not go quite so far as the Russian revolutionary Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky in regarding with delight any failure to reform the old regime on the grounds that more misery for the poor brings forward the day of revolution.

But I am rather pleased that “arch federalist” Jean-Claude Juncker is to be the next president of the European Commission. Though it is not his fault, even the man’s name rankles.

A bit of advice for Gary Oldman

Never apologise for saying what you think. The people whose opinions matter to you either agree with you, or if they do not, they at least understand why you think the things you do… but your enemies will still hate you anyway no matter what you say, so why bother apologising? If you have offended someone, that is not your problem, that is their problem. It is a fairly major mistake to give a damn.


Here is what I think the issue is: ‘Jews’ pretty much run Hollywood. Indisputable. Generally when someone mentions this the subtext is “and this is bad because Jews are the secret reptile masters of the world” (or insert whatever particular strain of the craziness).

But I am pretty sure that is not the point Oldman was making. What I suspect is he was saying that it is actually impossible to mention that fact no matter what. Much like you cannot discuss race and IQ. Or race and crime statistics. Or race and GDP. Or anything that suggests some genders might be better suited to certain jobs. Cannot be done in ‘polite society’. It does not matter what your motivation and ‘subtext’ is, the entire subject is haram.

Now I understand why these topic are haram better than you might think. For example I once wrote this on Samizdata:

[it should be possible to discuss race in a reasonable manner with strangers]. In theory true but the reality is otherwise. I have yet to have a conversation with, well, almost anyone on-line about race which did not segue into a conversation expressing views that are simply race-collectivist (i.e. racist). That should not be the case but that is indeed my experience. Whilst I am willing to admit to the possibility of a discussion of race without racism, the empirical evidence suggest that if I assume anyone who brings up the subject of race is a racist, I will rarely, if ever, be proved wrong. Sure, if I was to find myself chatting academically with a genetic scientist, that may not be the case, but otherwise…

…and I shut down and ban ‘race realists’ on Samizdata’s comment section immediately, because of their habit of turning pretty much *any* discussion into a discussion about race. Utterly tedious. Some topics seem to simply be beyond rational discussion other than with a closed circle of friends.

But the trouble is people like the ADL are not defending their blog the way I do, they are reaching out and shutting down any discussion of “The Jews” (an alarmingly collectivist notion right there, it must be said, as if all Jews were some fungible mass). Heaven knows I can understand why a certain ‘sensitivity’ might have developed, but if Oldman was simply pointing out that people like the ADL treat the world as their blog and their job is to moderate all discussion therein, well he does have a point. And if the ADL dislike me saying that, take a guess how much I care 😉

Game, Set and Match Erbil?

I have been arguing since 2005 that propping up the Iraqi state was never a good idea. ‘Nation building’ was always a preposterous delusion, as if Iraq and Afghanistan could be turned into an Islamic version of Arkansas, if only enough schools were built and wells were dug. Ludicrous.

Also if an independent Kurdistan gives Syria, Turkey and Iran the vapours, I fail to see why from a western perspective that should change anything at all. I mean seriously, well ain’t that too damn bad. Moreover, there already is an independent Kurdistan in all but name, and it has the only viable army in Iraq, which now even controls Kirkuk. Game, Set and Match Erbil… and if Baghdad thinks that is ever going to change, well if they reckon ISIS is rough, good luck taking on the Peshmerga. Even politically, it is clear the Kurdish leaders have consistently outclassed the other players, be they Arabs, Turks or Iranians.

It is by no means clear the current festivities are inevitably heading somewhere undesirable, as it might end up producing something far more stable than a unitary Iraqi state. Yes, ISIS must not be allowed to take over all of Iraq’s oil producing areas, but frankly it is hard to see how they would manage to take and hold anything in the areas that are not overwhelmingly Sunni… they sure as hell will not be taking Kirkuk this side of hell freezing over, that much seems certain.

Samizdata quote of the day

“So why is it, then, that when it seems obvious that to understand finance you need to understand human behaviour, Finance World continues to insist that finance is `all about numbers’ and can be fully understood using mathematics? Partly, perhaps, because so many of them are mathematicians to start with and they find it difficult to see things other than within a numerical framework. Partly, perhaps also, because many have Type-A personalities and they find it difficult to deal with uncertainty. Yet surely also because so many are reluctant to admit that they may have been wasting their time all these years basing their work on the Markowitz worldview, just as so many unrepentant socialists found it difficult to admit they had been used as Stalin’s `useful idiots’ when the Soviet Union’ collapsed.”

Guy Fraser-Sampson, The Pillars of Finance: The Misalignment Theory and Investment Practice, page 187. The book is about how, under the influence of mathematics specialists such as Markowitz, a lot of investment decisions got dangerously out of whack with reality, as we saw in 2008. Despite some pushback, a lot of the investment industry on which our pensions and savings depend are in thrall to risk and market ideas that are seriously mistaken. Throw in the joys of central bank fiat money and the rest, you have a problem. I should add that Fraser-Sampson, who is a professional investment figure as well as academic, is a big fan of the Austrian school (von Mises, etc). Even better, Douglas Adams, the 30 Year’s War and The Goon Show make an appearance. What more can one ask for in a book about finance?

The last hope of peace

The Times 20 June 1914 p8

The Times 20 June 1914 p8

Now you might think that a headline like that (from 20 June 1914) would be prescient. But no. They are not referring to the prospect of a world war but to the prospect of civil war in Ireland.

It is an issue that has been dominating the pages of The Times for the last two years. In that time the debate had not moved on an inch. It can’t because the aims of nationalists and unionists are fundamentally incompatible.

For our ancestors the prospect of a world war exists but there are no obvious crises at the moment and anyway all those that have threatened to blow up have been diffused pretty quickly.

A strange map


Partly due to despair at my unwillingness to decorate my flat in any way whatsoever, and partly because she knows I like this kind of thing, a friend of mine sent me this antique map of central Europe as a gift. She obtained it in an antiquarian map shop in Krakow, Poland.

First, obvious observation. This is a map from Nazi Germany. In the margin, it is identified as being the product of a mapmaker in Leipzig, but there is no date given.

Secondly, when I see a historical map, I like to play the game of figuring out the dates of the map by looking at the border, and using my historical knowledge of political geography to narrow the date down.

Figuring out the year of this map is easy. This map is from 1939. In most instances, getting the year is all you want to do. However, 1939 was a somewhat problematic year.

Klaipeda and the area around it is shown as part of Germany, not Lithuania. Also, Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist, Bohemia and Moravia has been annexed by the Reich, Slovakia is a supposedly independent country, and Carpathian Ruthenia has been invaded and annexed by Hungary. All these events occurred in March 1939, so the map was clearly designed after March 1939.

It’s looking at Poland that things get interesting. Firstly, Danzig is not shown as a free city, but is shown as part of the Reich. Danzig was invaded by Germany on 1 September 1939, proclaimed part of Germany on 2 September, and formally annexed under German law on 8 October. Danzig had, however, been under the control of the local Nazi party since 1933, and would have joined Germany instantly if it had been allowed to under international law. Is it possible that some German maps showed Danzig as part of Germany prior to September 1939? Possible, but I suspect probably not.


By far the most fascinating thing in this map is the red line through Poland, however. Poland is clearly identified as “Polen”, but the Molotov-Rippentrop line – it the limits of German occupation after the invasion of Germany in September 1939 – has been drawn through it. Therefore the map must have been printed no earlier than September 1939. This has clearly been printed at the same time as the rest of the map – it is not something someone added with a pen later, or anything like that.

What I suppose is possible is that the mapmaker had a map prepared reflecting recent border changes immediately prior to the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. When the invasion occurred, the map was quickly modified to show Danzig as German and the zones of German and Soviet occupation before being printed and sold.

And yet, this map does not reflect the view of the world that the Nazis wanted to present. Upon invading Poland, they declared that Poland as a country did not exist. On that same date of October 8, Germany formally annexed the northern and western sections of their Polish conquests (including the Suwalki triangle, clearly shown on this map), and declared the South-East to be the “General-government”, essentially a German colony (but not a “Germany colony in Poland”, as Poland did not exist). This map is therefore curious, as it essentially shows Poland (clearly identified as Poland) under German (and Soviet) occupation.

I cannot imagine maps like this being printed in Germany long after the annexation decree of October 1939. In the Nazi view, there was no occupied Poland the way there was later an occupied France. There was simply German territory that unfortunately happened to have Poles, other Slavs, and Jews living in it. It’s easy to imagine foreign maps from later showing the German and Soviet occupation of Poland like this, but German ones, not so much. So my conclusion is that this map was printed very soon indeed after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Plus of course this map ended up in an antiquarian map shop in Krakow in Poland, which between 1939 and 1945 was in that aforementioned “General Government”. One has no idea how and when it got there, but I suspect that “during the occupation” is the most likely answer.

Thoughts anyone?

The British Medical Association – auf den Tag!

Teresa May, I could learn to like even you. Just deal with the BMA as you have dealt with the Police Federation.

Soon, soon, oh let the day be soon!

Doctors vote for ban on UK cigarette sales to those born after 2000.