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]

El Comandante inspires the troops

It has been said that El Comandante Salmond resoundingly won the debate with Alistair Darling. So hopefully this boosts the YES campaign to the point where English I mean Scottish independence takes wing like a majestic eagle, soaring aloft amidst a swirl of stirring bagpipe music (whereupon it can fly off and crash into the middle of Havana for all I care).

Peculiarly named menswear stores – an occasional Samizdata series


Minsk, Belarus. May 2014

Ah yes. Marc O’Polo, the great Irish explorer who travelled to and returned from the O’Rient.

You would need a heart of stone to not laugh

Tim Newman has a great piece about the authorities shutting down McDonalds in Russia. The article is splendid on oh so many levels, such as:

Apparently, he told one of the Russia servers to greet the customers and offer a smile, which prompted the following response:

“Why? We’re the ones with all the burgers.”

It seems that almost 25 years later some Russians still haven’t worked out the basic relationship between business and customer.

Read the whole article.

What size law?

It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.

(James Madison, writing as “Publius” in The Federalist No. 62)

The current Code of Federal Regulations in the United states is pushing 180,000 pages, far more than any human can ever hope to read. The Federal Register, which reports on changes to these regulations, is now in the vicinity of 70,000 pages per year. This does not include, of course, the size of the underlying United States Code, or the size of many rules that are not part of the CFR, or the size of local and state laws and regulatory rules, or the mass of court rulings, administrative rulings, tax court rulings, IRS opinions and the like.

Venezuela circles the drain

Venezuela enters the high farce stage of its development.

In a move that will no doubt help further the Venezuelan government’s aim of establishing a socialist utopian republic, President Nicolas Maduro announced this week that grocery stores will soon begin the mandatory fingerprinting of customers. The peculiar initiative, which could be implemented by the end of the year, is meant to help combat the hoarding and smuggling of government-subsidized goods.

Is this not truly epic? Is not socialism stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?

An independent Scotland will have to choose between the pound and Socialism

Whatever the “Yes” campaign claims, threatens or believes, here will be no currency union between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom. All three major parties plus UKIP have said this outright, and the voters back them up. Quite right too, unless you think it’s a good idea not to cancel the joint credit card after a bitter divorce.

(Just a reminder: there almost certainly will not be any divorce. All the polls point to Scotland choosing to remain part of the UK.)

So, to Plan B. Sterlingisation. The Guardian has flagged up a report from the Adam Smith Institute saying, correctly in my opinion, that for iScotland (OK, so I did just say “iScotland” and I cannot guarantee to resist “rUK” either – sue me) to use the pound as Panama uses the dollar would be the best option.

Under “sterlingisation”, Scotland would not be able to print its own currency and would lack a lender of last resort. But the ASI report said the experience of Panama pointed to this being an advantage because it would force lenders to be more prudent.

In contrast to the situation for a currency union, there would be nothing the rUK could do to stop iScotland simply deciding unilaterally to use the pound, and no reason it should care anyway. But it would be tough for Scotland at first. It would be the equivalent of gastric band surgery. No more splurging on welfare for you, Alba my love!

This is not the first time the Adam Smith Institute has said something like this. My post on currency options for an independent Scotland back in February was partly inspired by an article by Dr Eamonn Butler of the ASI.

You know my views. No surprise that a free-marketeer like me agrees with the ASI here. It does seem a little odd for the Yes campaign, spearheaded as it is by the Scottish National Party, backed by the Radical Independence Campaign and the National Collective, to be quite so keen.

I want one of these!!!

I want one of these!!!

The murder of journalist James Foley: a spectacular ‘own goal’

This is my take on the intended semiotics of the video showing the beheading of journalist James Foley, by a jihadi with a British accent:

If you continue to mess with us, we will kill your people. See what I just did? And do you hear my voice? We have people who can strike at you in your homeland.

This is my take on the perceived semiotics in the west:

I do not get the Middle East. Shi’ite, Sunnis, Wahhabis, Kurds, Yazidis, who the hell are all these people any way? I don’t understand why they kill each other. But this guy was just a journalist. Who the fuck cuts the heads of journalists? Yes we are war weary but suddenly all I want is to see those jihadi mother-fuckers dead! Those Kurdish guys, the Pesh-something-or-other, they seem like the only non-arseholes in the region and they hate the jihadis, so give them a fuck load of weapons, and give them air support and bomb the FUCK out of those crazy Islamic State lunatics!

The Islamic State just made it a trivial domestic political task for anyone who wants to support their enemies against them.

Hamas fires rockets at Israel and then tries to get the IDF to kill some journalists in Gaza to win sympathy. The ‘Islamic State’ murders a journalist themselves by cutting his head off.

I guess the ‘Islamic State’ cannot afford the same a PR advice that Hamas gets 😀

Discussion point: Belgian vs Burka

‘Drunk’ Belgium diplomat specialising in protocol is arrested for tearing full-face veil off a Qatari princess

A senior Belgium [sic] diplomat specialising in protocol [!] has been arrested for tearing off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions.

In the latest example of the difficulties involved in imposing a so-called ‘burka ban’, Jean-Marie Pire did not know the identity of the massively wealthy VIP before attacking her.

She approached him with two other women in broad daylight in central Brussels last week, asking for directions to the famous Grand Place.

The kind of full face veils favoured by some Muslim women are banned in Belgium, just as they are in neighbouring countries including France.

‘I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,’ said Mr Pire. ‘With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.

‘Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!’

The woman, who has not been named, said she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings were violently dislodged, along with her veil.

I assume that any woman wearing the full Islamic garb is either a slave or a fanatic, but it was the diplomat “specialising in protocol” in the tradition of Kira Yoshinaka who first used force. She just asked him for directions. Admittedly, she was breaking the Belgian law against full face veils, but it is an unjust law of which she may not even have been aware. And somehow I don’t think all the British people cheering his vigilante enforcement of that law would be quite so keen on a random Belgian taking it upon themselves to impound some unfortunate British tourist’s car if he were to break, through ignorance or indifference, the Belgian law requiring a red warning triangle and a reflective waistcoat to be carried in a vehicle at all times.

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.