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]

Do not forget what today is…

War and crimes

The BBC have produced an article on the ‘crime wave’ that swept Britain during World War Two.

As you might expect, the war provided plenty of cover for criminal elements, with looting of bombed-out houses, stealing rings from the dead and so on.

But, as the article notes:

One of the reasons for the rise in crime was there were suddenly many more laws citizens could break, says Ms Gardiner.
Numerous orders were issued by the government to keep the wheels of war rolling smoothly.
For example, compulsory work orders were made and anyone failing to do their bit could end up in court.
An engine tester in Coventry was sentenced to three months’ hard labour in 1943 after taking 10 days off without permission when he got married.

And there were price controls as well, again creating new crimes.

Other orders included maximum price controls to prevent businesses from profiteering.
In 1941, in Newcastle, the Blaydon District Industrial and Provident Society was fined £290 after it sold two pounds of apples for about £11 when the maximum price was £4.

£11 for 2lbs of apples would be criminal now of course, but only because of the use of Imperial measurements, but £12.10p per kilo would be fine, rather than lead to one.

It’s a good thing the War is over and freedom prevailed….

But back to the War, the government had its quotas for production

Elsewhere a farmer near Darlington was fined more than £1,000 in 1942 after failing to grow two acres of potatoes, as ordered by the minister of agriculture.

The Northern Echo reported County Durham needed to grow 23,000 acres of potatoes that year for the war effort which “depended entirely on each individual doing his share”.

So that’s ‘The Common Good before the Individual Good‘, fighting fire with fire. At least it was only a gross input indicator, cultivate two acres, not produce X thousand lbs of potatoes, with fines for not having a good crop.

And would you believe it, a government compensation scheme was abused by an unscrupulous person!

One man in London was jailed for three years after claiming to have lost his home 19 times in a three-month period. On each occasion he had received at least £500 compensation.

My image of life during the war is one of a life of dreary, unrelenting anxiety: Will we have enough to eat? Will we be killed by bombs? Will my family survive? When will it all end? Whilst the war had to be fought and won, I cannot help wondering if the brutal conditioning of the populace helped to pave the way for the subsequent strangulation of the freedoms preserved by victory.

The article concludes:

“Human nature doesn’t change. There was a great deal of bravery, strength and fortitude shown by many people but there were also those willing to abuse the situation for their own advantage.”

Isn’t that what the Soviets called ‘speculation‘?

And from that long lesson in human nature and economics, never in the field of human conflict, has so little, been learned, by so many.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Twentieth-century eugenicists used government power to forcibly prevent parents from passing on traits they deemed deleterious. Now 21st-century eugenicists contend the government should require parents to risk passing along genes that the parents think are deleterious to their children, whether they want to or not. What sort of horrors are parents who want to take advantage of modern gene editing likely to impose on their hapless offspring? Fixing genes that increase the risk of ill health and perhaps adding those that boost their chances of having more vigorous bodies, nimbler brains, and greater disease resistance.

Individuals may not always make the right decisions with regard to reproduction, but parents are more trustworthy guardians of the human gene pool than any would-be eugenicist central planners. Government diktats about what sort of children people can have are always wrong.

Ronald Bailey, making many excellent points why the state needs to stay away from this entire subject… which of course it will not. Fortunately in this era of cheap air travel, genetic engineering can and will be done in a clinic pretty much anywhere if the market for that service exists, which it will.

Wenn du sie nicht schlagen kannst, verbünde dich mit ihnen

GERMANY’S secret service spied on the EU’s British foreign policy chief and on the US secretary of state, it emerged yesterday.

The Bundesnachrichten- dienst, or BND, Germany’s equivalent of MI6, placed Baroness Ashton of Upholland under electronic surveillance when she was the EU’s high representative on foreign affairs and security.

It also tried to tap the mobile and office phones of John Kerry, the secretary of state, according to Der Spiegel magazine.

However, the attempt to listen in to Kerry’s mobile conversations failed because a bungling spy used an African country code by mistake. His other phones, including one at the American State Department, were successfully tapped.

The revelations are deeply embarrassing for Angela Merkel, who criticised the US over allegations the National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the German chancellor’s phone as part of a mass surveillance programme that included snooping on allies.

Speaking at the time, Merkel told President Barack Obama that “spying on friends is not acceptable”.

Particularly not those friends. To expose your poor spies to hours on end of Baroness Ashton or John Kerry is an unacceptable violation of the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC on Occupational Safety and Health.

Update: Niall Kilmartin adds, “Wow. They lose track of 130,000 immigrants from Isis recruiting areas but they can (almost) bug John Kerry. Is this a dramatic revelation of German government priorities, or does it merely indicate that the standard of electronic security set by Hillary was followed throughout her department and maintained by her successor?”

What could possibly go wrong with this?

Ah yes, Britain’s socialists, working tirelessly towards a world in which Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping & Kim Jong-un are the only people with nuclear weapons. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Samizdata quote of the day

Developers cannot build software that allows law enforcement to access encrypted communications but prevents malicious actors from exploiting that access. Cryptography cannot distinguish good people from bad, so a backdoor for one is a backdoor for all. Undermining the encryption used by U.S. companies would place the average consumer at risk of attack by malicious third parties, and merely motivate criminals and terrorists to use one of many alternative options. Powerful cryptography tools can easily be built outside the United States; as the self-declared Islamic State’s use of German messaging service Telegram demonstrates, software rarely respects borders.

Sara Sinclair Brody

The Price

Armageddon approaches!

Brexit could bring an unhappy ending for UK’s Oscar nomination bonanza

At first glance, Carol and Get Blake! do not appear to have much in common. One is an Oscar-nominated period drama about sapphic romance set in the lush interiors of upper-middle-class 1950s Manhattan, the other a French science fiction cartoon about alien squirrels. And yet both might never have been made were it not for EU funding.

But while one can just about imagine surviving without Get Blake, which was the centrepiece of a tabloid row about dreadful Europeans wasting our hard-earned British money on pointless film and TV projects in August, it is doubtful whether many right-minded Brit cineastes would be willing to dispense with Todd Haynes’s treasured drama about a love affair between Cate Blanchett’s opulent housewife and Rooney Mara’s wide-eyed department store ingenue.

If Brit cineastes would not be willing to dispense with EU-funded dramas starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, that must mean that in the event of a Brexit the rest of us would have to dispense with Brit cineastes.

Sounds good. Armageddon outta here.

What the GIRFEC?

I am not even completely sure this is really a thing. Surely Andrew Duffin is having a big laugh at my expense. That has to be it.

The Scottish Parliament has passed legislation to appoint a ‘Named Person’ for every child in Scotland.

How bad can it be? Says a leaflet: “Being responsible means things like…Your child says sorry when they do something wrong…People who work with your child will check your child is responsible.”

Just take that in for a moment.

“Being respected means things like…Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV…People who work with your child will check your child is respected.”

How are they taking this over at Netmums?

I understand some could think it was intrusive, but I suppose the answer is if you are not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about. This country has nearly 70 million people in it now, but if this scheme saves one single child from abuse – then it has to be worth it.

Free speech for all (neds need not apply)

Further to my earlier post about the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, Kevin Rooney, a self-described fanatical Celtic supporter with a “deep loathing” of Rangers, wrote an article for Spiked in 2012 to which I can add little except to say that I had heard nothing about this case, which horrifies me and proves his point.

Football fans need free speech too

A man has been jailed for singing a song that mocks a religious leader, yet liberty campaigners have said nothing.

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’

Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise – the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.


The other thing that strikes me is how anti-Catholic prejudice seems to be tolerated when it comes from our ‘national treasures’, like Stephen Fry or Richard Dawkins, but not when it comes out of the mouths of football fans. When the pope visited Britain two years ago, liberal campaigners lined up to accuse him of everything from hatred of women to paedophilia. To my knowledge, none of these words were deemed offensive enough to the UK’s Catholic community to prompt arrests or detentions, yet when a Rangers fan shouts of his hatred for the pope, that fan is locked up.

Hat tip: Rob Fisher

Harvard – Jacks of all trades (and Jills, and ‘Julls’*) but Master of none

The University of Harvard has decided to eliminate the job title of ‘Master‘, (but not the degree title) for certain members of staff after protests that the title had connotations of slavery, although they maintain that there is no connection between the protests and the change, and degrees at ‘Master’ level are unaffected.

Harvard has not accepted that the use of “master” was a link to slavery, but it has responded to a campaign for a name change.
It will mean a change in job title for 24 members of staff – but will not affect other uses of “master”, such as a master’s level degree.

Of course, with one apparently trivial point conceded, other demands continue:

Student campaigners are also calling for a change in the official seal of Harvard Law School, with a sit-in being held this week.

The seal includes the coat of arms of 18th Century college donor Isaac Royall, who as well as establishing the college’s first professorship in law, was a notoriously brutal slaveholder.

Well yes, seals belong on the shore, in the seas, or perhaps at Lake Baikal etc., so I find some common (seal) cause, and harbour no ill-will.Seal

Otherwise, I have to say that I know next to nothing about American Universities, and I could not name the (5?) members of the ‘Ivy League’ with any certainty, but I do sense in this a canary dropping drowsily off its perch in the coal mine of self-referential academia as the flatulence builds up, with no outlet for its escape.

* Inclusive terms for those who are not ‘Jacks’.

Update: Harvard Law School has yielded to protests about its crest, which I assume is the same as the ‘seal’ issue. A flock of these, they are.

New stirrings at the Old Firm

The Herald reports: Rangers and Celtic fans to unite for football grounds demo over anti-bigotry law

RANGERS and Celtic fans are among those who are joining forces to are support a new campaign in grounds across Scotland for the scrapping of a controversial law designed to stamp out sectarian abuse at football matches.

The demonstration over Saturday and Sunday aims to show a united fans front in protest against the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 on the grounds that it is “fundamentally illiberal and unnecessarily restricts freedom of expression”.

Supporters group Fans Against Criminalisation say protests are expected at Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship grounds featuring fans from Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Hamilton Academical, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton.

Hibs fans unfurled an “Axe The Act” banner on Sunday during their 3-0 victory over Alloa at Easter Road.

One banner unfurled at Celtic Park on Saturday said: “Scottish football – not singing, no celebrating.”

Another banner containing a rude gesture and the words, “Recognise This”, appeared to be a stark objection to the Scottish Professional Football League’s bid to bring in facial recognition cameras. Some fans have warned they risk driving fans away for making them feel like criminals.

An FAC spokesman said: “We have now been harassed, intimidated, filmed, followed, demonised and criminalised for four years and we have had enough.

It is interesting that fans from both the clubs in the Old Firm are among those involved in the protests. The series of pictures at the top of the Herald article shows banners being raised in protest at Celtic Park rather than Ibrox. Due to its association with Unionism the SNP government dislikes Rangers and would discount any protest coming from that quarter alone.

Marking Stalin’s victims in Russia

A valiant group of Russian activists, the Last Address project, have been commemorating some of Stalin’s many victims with plaques, the BBC tells us.

The rectangular plaques are small and simple. Etched into the metal there is a name, date of birth and occupation: radio technician, journalist, student.
Then come the dates of arrest and execution.

Fixed to buildings across Russia, the nameplates are gradually restoring the memory of some of the hundreds of thousands of victims of Joseph Stalin’s political repressions.

The initiative of a group of activists, it is also a direct challenge to the growing number of Russians who see the Soviet leader in a positive light.

Here is one example of a victim:

Gennrich Rubenstein was a manager on Soviet Railways, arrested as a “counter-revolutionary” in 1937 and then executed. The grainy, sepia photograph Anna holds shows a smart young man, hair carefully parted to one side.
She has just had a memorial nameplate fixed to his home.
“There are still people who don’t want to know about this,” Anna reflects, bitterly.
“Especially young people who are taught history in such a way now that these victims are justified.
“They say ‘Well, we leapt forward. We created a country of tanks from a country of ploughs. So there were victims? So what?'”

So what if after NKVD chief Gennrich Yagoda was executed, his dacha was used to dispose of 10,000 corpses?

Just a few steps into the forest off one of the main roads out of Moscow, there is an even starker reminder of why.
Kommunarka was once the summer house of Gennrich Yagoda, Stalin’s secret police chief.
After his execution, at least 10,000 purge victims were brought here by the truck-load and buried.

And should you think that Bernie’s supporters are bad, consider the disdain or hostility that these people face.

“People tell us they don’t want their buildings turned into cemeteries, that the plaques are depressing,” project-initiator Sergei Parkhomenko explains.

“Or they don’t want their children to see them, because it’s too gloomy.”But those we’re remembering are not just VIP victims. They’re ordinary people.”

And yet recent polls show that Russians increasingly see Stalin as an “effective manager” or war hero, rather than a tyrant.

Opposition activists are regularly labelled “enemies of the people” on state TV programmes and Memorial, the organisation long devoted to restoring the memory of the repressions, has been branded a “foreign agent”.
It is accused of blackening Russia’s image for Western paymasters.

They do not appear to be daunted either by that, or by the scale of the task.

But back in the city centre, the Last Address project has already installed more than 170 of their metal plaques on prominent buildings where they can no longer be ignored.
“Our aim isn’t just to put nameplates on every building in the country, although you probably could,” Sergei Parkhomenko says. “What’s important is to gather people around them. So that they explain what happened to those who don’t know, and tell their children.”

There’s hope for Russia yet, whilst there are people willing to commemorate the dead and remind the ungrateful living of what their forebears’ government did.