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]

A rainy night in Georgia? It was raining sausages!

Private property appears to have come under attack in Georgia (Stalin’s Georgia), where a vegan cafe has reportedly been attacked by meat and sausage-throwing ‘Neo-Nazis’ (aren’t they busy, these ‘Neo-Nazis’?).

A vegan cafe in Tbilisi has appealed for public solidarity after being invaded by alleged ultra-nationalists wielding grilled meat and sausages.
More than a dozen men stormed into the Kiwi cafe in the Georgian capital on Sunday evening, the cafe said, shouting and throwing meat at patrons.
A brawl erupted but the attackers fled before police arrived.
The cafe has appealed for public support, saying it was no prank but a case of intimidation by neo-Nazis.

It’s as if Seattle had come to Georgia, and wasn’t welcome. And note the sly elision in the reporting of this incident, linking it with some other, dark forces…

The incident comes amid growing concerns about the rise of far-right nationalism in Georgia.
Last week, hundreds of nationalists marched through central Tbilisi – waving Georgian flags and anti-communist banners, reports said – to mark independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Homophobia is also commonplace in Georgia, correspondents say. The country made world headlines in 2013 when a small group of LGBT activists were attacked by a large mob led by an orthodox priest.

But wasn’t homosexuality disapproved of in the USSR?

So what are we to make of events in Tiflis, as Georgia’s capital is called by some?

Why would neo-Nazis object to vegans when you-know-who was history’s pre-eminent vegetarian?

The Facebook post of the café rounds off with the ominously dreary declaration:

‘…café is continuing to work and is ready to accept all costumers (sic.) regardless of nationality, race, appearance, age, gender, sexual orientation, religious views etc. Equality is the most important thing for us. Animal liberation! Human liberation! ¡No pasarán!…’

But where is ‘political views‘ in that declaration of tolerance?

The local police, however, appear to have had a beef with the vegan café…

The police arrived only after the attackers had left*, but the cafe said even some of those officers behaved aggressively, “yelled with anger, said that we are guilty of what had happened”. Some cafe workers were taken in for interrogation.

Let’s hope the staff weren’t grilled too unpleasantly by the police.

* In the Facebook post, the café reports that ‘…Surreptitiously Nazis left, got away clean…’.

Samizdata quote of the day

There needs to be a cull of Malthusians every five years or so. In the interests of preventing overpopulation. And a pretty memorial to these heroes.

– Antoine Clarke

VAT-ever next?

The Leave campaign have helpfully reminded the good people of the UK that if the UK were to leave the EU, it would be possible to eliminate VAT on domestic heating. This is one of many ills of the monstrous regime of Value Added Tax, which bring with it a gruesomely complex web of regulations and case law, quietly throttling economic activity throughout the EU.

In fact, if we left the EU, we would not need to have VAT at all. There would of course be an even bigger hole in the public finances without VAT revenue, but it would be an opportunity to simplify taxation, reduce rates and make an improvement to most people’s standard of living.

VAT was a modest 8% when Mrs Thatcher came to power, having promised not to double VAT, she allowed her Chancellor, Sir Geoffrey Howe, to hike VAT to 15%, which had been the plan all along.

The Conservatives secretly agreed plans for a “massive” increase in value-added tax from 8 to 15 per cent almost a year before the 1979 general election, party papers from the period, seen by the Independent, show.
The charge that the Tories would double VAT on taking office was levelled during the election campaign by the Prime Minister, James Callaghan, and other leading Labour figures. It was denied both by Margaret Thatcher, the leader of the Opposition, and byGeoffrey Howe, the shadow Chancellor, in a campaign in which the impact on prices of the Conservative’s declared plans to switch from direct to indirect taxation played a significant part.

Sir Geoffrey (now Lord Howe) declared: “We have absolutely no intention of doubling VAT.” The allegation was depicted as one of Labour’s “dirty dozen” lies in a Conservative press release.

But papers marked “secret” and circulated in numbered copies only show that proposals for a “massive” hike in VAT to 15 per cent or even 17.5 were canvassed in February 1978 by Lord Cockfield, a member of Sir Geoffrey’s economic team.

I recall reading musings in the press in the 1980s to the effect that moving from direct to indirect taxation was an improvement in terms of liberty. Now at least there is talk of removing some things from VAT.

Even in the dying days of the last Labour government, there was a backhanded acknowledgment that reducing taxes is good, when the rate of VAT was lowered from 17.5% to 15% for a year, (with howls of indignation from the Conservatives and Lib Dems) before it was hiked again to its current (Standard) rate of 20%. For some reason, as part of the ‘Single Market’, VAT has to be levied on goods and services in line with EU law at rates that seem to be between 17 and 27%. Quite how this helps free trade is, frankly, opaque.

However, as a rule of thumb, the crappier the government, the higher the VAT.

Illegal schools

Here is a BBC story from a couple of weeks ago: Thousands of children taught in ‘illegal schools’. Similar pieces appeared in the Times, the Guardian, and other newspapers. When this story came out I listened on the radio to an interview on the subject with some Ofsted guy, either the Sir Michael Wilshaw quoted by the BBC or one of his minions. Whoever it was, he came across as so evasive on one particular point that by comparison even the BBC interviewer was plain-spoken. From the way Ofsted Guy spoke of these illegal schools as places where only “religion” was taught you’d think clicking on the BBC Bitesize GCSE Religious Studies page makes a red light flash in GCHQ, and from the way he spoke of “radicalisation” you’d think that all roots resulted in the same flower. Oh, and from the way he spoke of these schools being “illegal” you would think that they had been convicted in a court of being illegal. The BBC interviewer pressed him and eventually got him to admit that the alleged illegality was merely his opinion, not having been tested in court, and that “some” of these schools were Islamic.

That’s progress of a sort. The Guardian article linked to above does not mention Islam at all but has a quote from a disgruntled former pupil at a Charedi school. We should all be very grateful to the Charedim and the Belzers. When one simply must have someone other than the Muslims to point to, they are there. They ought to start an agency and charge for their services: “Jews in Hats: the safe option for all your denunciation needs.”

The Times says the unauthorized schools are “predominantly Islamic”.

So far this post has almost written itself. The usual pathetic fear of naming Islam from the establishment, the usual pushback from angry commenters, the usual opportunity for bloggers like me to use up old out-of-code packets of sarcasm from the bottom of the freezer. But now things get a little odd and diffuse and unsatisfactory.

I would like to offer a few scattered thoughts regarding three points. (1) Not for the first time, the efforts of the media to conceal that some minority are disproportionately involved in some disfavoured activity has resulted in the public overestimating the involvement of that minority; (2) this whole effort on the part of the so-called Office for Standards in Education has all the characteristics of a power-grab and a smear; and (3) there is no evidence that these little informal schools, including the Muslim ones, do any worse than the state schools at either education or terrorism-prevention. There is some reason to suppose they might do better in some circumstances despite worse facilities. Many children turn to these schools having suffered bullying at normal schools. The low number of people involved means that everyone, teachers and pupils, knows everyone else; no one can “slip through the cracks”. Another benefit is that the presence of an affordable alternative helps keep more traditional types of schools on their toes.

Taking point (1) first, scroll down to the end of the BBC story with which I started this post. It says, “Update: This report contains new information from Ofsted, which had previously said most of the schools involved were Islamic or Jewish.” The following line seems to have been inserted into the main text since it was first published: “Roughly a third of them [the unregistered schools] were Islamic and a sixth either Christian or Jewish.” So fully half of them are not religious! I’m guessing hippies. Daft but not scary.

Point (2). If this whole fuss were any more of a smear you could use it to test for cervical cancer. Let us look at the BBC article in particular.

He said his inspectors found schools operating in warehouses and old factory buildings, and the establishments were “often charging parents for the privilege”

Oh, the horror. They weren’t in pretty buildings and they charged a fee. Did Sir Michael Wilshaw ever stop to think what the fact that people, often rather poor people, would rather pay to have their children taught in an old warehouse than not pay to have them taught in a purpose-built school implies?

He said the children were in “very serious danger” and not just from the “filthy” premises, with open drains running through some of them.

I call bullshit. There is dirt a-plenty in modern Britain but there really aren’t that many buildings with open drains running through them any more. I looked on Zoopla and “Open sewer in middle of room” was not offered as a search term. Depend on it, “some” means “one”, and that was probably an ambiguous case.

“If the people in these institutions are not carefully vetted and they are not, then the wrong sort of people could be looking after these children,” he said.

It is undeniable that they could be. It is also undeniable that not a week goes by without a newspaper account of some carefully vetted right sort of person teaching in an official school being revealed to be a kiddy fiddler. I don’t claim that vetting is useless, but its efficacy is greatly overstated. Frequently the effect of CRB forms and other box-ticking exercises is to reduce vigilance. People think the paperwork is correct so all must be well.

“And they could be associating with people who have extremist views.”

Which takes us to point (3). Again, it is undeniable that these children, meaning Muslim children, in unregistered schools could be associating with extremists, meaning Muslim extremists. You know, like Muslim children in state schools definitely do. You want to see Islamisation in schools? This is Islamisation in schools:

Investigations by Ofsted and the Education Funding Authority in 21 schools found evidence of an “organised campaign to target certain schools” by Islamists.

Golden Hillock School, Nansen Primary School, Park View Academy – all run by the Park View Educational Trust – Oldknow Academy and Saltley School were placed in special measures after inspectors found systemic failings including the schools having failed to take adequate steps to safeguard pupils against extremism. Another school investigated, Alston Primary, was already in special measures. A sixth school was labelled inadequate for its poor educational standards and twelve schools were found needing of improvements. Three schools were commended.[3]

Ofsted expressed concerns about an exclusively Muslim culture in non-faith schools and children not being taught to “develop tolerant attitudes towards other faiths”.[3] The inspections found that head teachers have been “marginalised or forced out of their jobs”. Ofsted found that the curriculum was being narrowed to reflect the “personal views of a few governors”. Teachers reported unfair treatment because of their gender or religious beliefs. Ofsted found a breakdown of trust between governors and staff and that family members had been appointed to unadvertised senior leadership posts[3]

Parkview Education Trust were found to be in breach of the Education Funding Agreement by failing to promote social cohesion, failing to promote the social, moral, spiritual, and cultural development of pupils, failing to promote balanced political treatment of issues, and failure to comply fully with safeguarding issues concerning criminal records checks.[50]

Emphasis added. Note that this (“Operation Trojan Horse”) happened in state schools, and they weren’t even the dreaded “faith schools”. Also note that the much vaunted criminal records checks went by the wayside.

Birmingham is not the only place where all that vetting and inspecting that state schools get proved ineffective. Here is a story from London: School of Jihadis: Why have six former pupils of the ‘Eton of comprehensives’ been linked to terror? The July 7 bombers were also products of British comprehensive schools. One of them even mentored at one. Of course vast numbers of pupils go to state schools and do not emerge as mass murderers. But when a high official raises fears that “illegal” schools might incubate terrorists, it is legitimate to reply that we know that “legal” schools have incubated terrorists, rather a lot of them.

A determined and cunning would-be child abuser or would-be terrorist recruiter would not direct his attentions at some wretched hedge school with half a dozen pupils. He would go for richer pickings.

You can not carry that

Today I learned that Stansted Airport security will make you put your child’s comforter through the Xray machine. And before you get it back, if the beeper goes off, ask him to stand still on his own to have a wand waved at him.

My two year old boy sat down and screamed at the man. I was very proud.

Islam versus cat photos

I know, I’m busy today, but I absolutely love this Daily Mail headline:

Senior Saudi cleric bans taking photographs of cats in a bid to stop people trying ‘to be like Westerners’

Thank you Instapundit.

In the great conflict between Islam and human decency, it is easy to forget that often the bad guys feel overwhelmed and overrun by the opposition too.

The West is, as I write, being flooded with potential terrorists. All it takes is for a tiny few of these Muslims and/or their progeny to take seriously what their horrible holy writings say and we face a potential fight to the death. Calling Islam a “religion of peace” is, for the time being anyway, not working very well. It only seems to embolden the terrorists. But would the rulers of the West describing Islam more accurately be any sort of improvement? Maybe. But, that would be to tell terrorists that they are right about Islam. (Which they are.) That would be to tell Muslims that they are obliged by their religion to be as nasty to the rest of us as they can contrive to be. (Which they are.) That would be to tell Muslims that if they don’t want to behave like that or think like that, they should stop being Muslims. (Which they should.) Problems, problems.

But meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, the great abomination that is cat photos is overwhelming everything that Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh considers to be right and proper. It must be stopped! People pointing out what a bucket of evil nonsense the Koran is, that he can handle. That he is used to. But cats! People taking pictures of cats! The horror!

Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh is never going to win this one.

LATER: Actually, I don’t think anything was said about cat photos on the internet. Simply taking photos of cats (and various other animals) was itself forbidden. I have taken the liberty of correcting this posting, originally entitled “Islam versus cat photos on the internet” accordingly. Apologies for the mistake. Apologies in particular to commenter “the other rob”, whose comment about the internet is made a bit of a nonsense of.

Just taking photos of cats will be even harder to stamp out.

Dominic Frisby takes on the Edinburgh Fringe

Today, I am in my usual last Friday of the month tizz, because this evening I have an event in my home, and I am, as usual, behind in my preparations. This particular event is more than usually tizzual, on account of it being not a sit-down talk but a stand-up performance, by Dominic Frisby. Frisby is honouring my home with an early dry run of his forthcoming Edinburgh Festival show, Let’s Talk About Tax, which he will be performing in Edinburgh from Aug 3rd until August 28th.


I am not doing this blog posting because I need more people to come to my home this evening. I can fit in a few more, but I already have a decent number of acceptances. Nor am I doing this blog posting to tell you what a brilliant show this is. It is being done by the always entertaining and always thought-provoking Dominic Frisby, so I expect it to be entertaining and thought-provoking. But meanwhile, I haven’t yet seen it.

No, what I want to do here is simply to praise Frisby for the fact of this show. Even if – worst case – it flops in Edinburgh, which I don’t think it will, but even if it does, … well played sir! The fact that Frisby is sallying forth to the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the key facts of British showbiz life where would-be upwardly-mobile entertainers all vie with one another to make their mark as writers and performers, and that he will there proclaim the sort of pro-free-market notions and crack the sort of pro-free-market jokes that seldom get spread or cracked in this arena or similar arenas, is cause for praise in itself. The way to get anything started is to start, and this is a start. In the illustration above, Frisby is wearing a hat. Were I now wearing a hat, I would take it off to him.

I did an earlier posting here, praising Frisby’s excellent book Life After The State. Today is, see above, a busy day for me, so to save me the bother of making the same point in different words, please allow me to quote myself and make a point I made in that earlier posting, in the same words:

If we think that showbiz people typically proclaim bad political ideas, then our task is to persuade such people to think better and to proclaim better ideas, rather than us merely moaning that such people somehow have no right to be heard opining at all, about anything except showbiz. Maybe it is in some ways true that celebrity opinion-mongers shouldn’t be paid attention to, as much as they are. But they are, if only because being paid attention to by lots of people is the exact thing that these people specialise in being very good at. Maybe people are foolish to get their foolish political ideas from politically foolish showbiz people. But many do. Whether we like it or hate it, recruiting at least a decent trickle of showbiz people is a precondition for us achieving any widespread public acceptance of our ideas.

I rather think that this show marks a new moment in Frisby’s career. At his website, he describes himself as a Financial writer, comedian, actor of unrecognized genius and voice of many things. The “voice of many things” bit concerns his voice-over work, often to be heard on British TV. But note the “financial writer, comedian” bit. Hitherto, Frisby has tended to keep these two activities distinct from one another. As a speaker and writer on libertarian friendly matters he is always witty and entertaining, but he hasn’t, when doing that stuff, gone straight for laughs. He has basically been arguing and informing. Yes, with a smile on his face and plenty of reader and audience amusement as well as thought-provocation. But basically, he has done comedy for laughs and when being serious he has been serious. This Edinburgh show, on the other hand, looks like it may mark the moment in Frisby’s career when he seeks to combine his financial thinking and talking and writing with comedy.

I wish Dominic Frisby all possible success in this enterprise, and hope that others follow where he is leading.

Brexit – the argument from confusion

A common complaint made by Remainers is that Brexiteers constantly say wrong things about what the EU actually does and actually demands. I recall an entire round of the TV quiz show QI, presided over by the lordly Stephen Fry, devoted to exposing such fabrications. Bendy bananas, rules about rubbish disposal, that kind of thing. I can’t recall what all the alleged EU meddlings – there were about half a dozen of them – were. But I do clearly recall the QI verdict that came at the end of the round. Which of these claims is true, and which false?, asked Fry, with a tremendous air of impartiality. All, he subsequently announced, were false. The Brexiteers just do not get their facts right. They are wrong about bendy bananas, etc. etc. Therefore, the clear implication followed, the Brexiteers are wrong about everything, and Britain should Remain, in the EU.

I don’t trust QI about things like this. At the very least, I suspect that several of these situations were more complicated than Fry said, but that is not my central point here. Even supposing that QI had got all its facts right, I assert that this sort of confusion, rampant on both sides of this argument rather than just on the one side, is a major fault of the EU itself, at least as much as it is a fault of those who criticise, or for that matter who praise, the EU. Such confusion is built into the very way that the EU operates.

Someone proposes some new EU rule or regulation. If it is vehemently objected to, the proposers pull back, often claiming as they retreat that they “never intended” what they intended and will have another go at doing later when the fuss has died down. If, on the other hand – as is much more usual – nobody objects, the rule or regulation goes through, with no discussion. No wonder nobody knows what the hell all these rules consist of. They consist of mostly of those rules that have never been objected to by anyone, and hence never even talked about by anyone, except those who proposed the rules and who will profit from them in some way.

The Remainers say that us Brexiteers should become better acquainted with all these rules, that have never been discussed.

I say that all this confusion, inherent in the nature of the EU and ineradicable, is yet another reason for Britain to (Br)exit.

Discuss. And while discussing, note that any disagreements concerning the facts of what the EU does will only serve to confirm how right I am.


A hundred years ago the British Army may not have been fighting a major battle on the Western Front but it was still taking casualties.

The Times 4 May 1916 p4

The Times 4 May 1916 p4

I make that 187 deaths. It represents the typical daily rate for the Western Front. How did these men die? Most would have been killed by shelling, or in trench raids or in machine-gun strafes while erecting barbed wire entanglements in no-man’s land. Others would have been killed by snipers. An unlucky few would have been killed in motor accidents or when shells exploded prematurely causing guns to explode or when grenades went off prematurely or in gas attacks or underground fights between tunnelers. Most of the Canadians would probably have been killed in German counter-attacks at St Eloi.

By the way, you will notice that some of the casualties are listed as suffering from shell shock. Obviously, this had become a recognised condition by this stage of the war and presumably didn’t incur the death penalty.

Samizdata quote of the day

The fundamental reason FDA placed the public at greater risk of the health problems that come with smoking traditional cigarette was that it cannot pass up on a chance to expand its power. As the tortured language of the regulation shows, the FDA recognizes that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes, but refuses to admit their potential positive consequences. Instead, the agency twists congressional intent in its deadly power grab.

Jared Meyer

Samizdata quote of the day

“Liberalism was always counterintuitive. The less society is ordered, the more order emerges from the ground up. The freer people are permitted to be, the happier the people become and the more meaning they find in the course of life itself. The less power that is given to the ruling class, the more wealth is created and dispersed among everyone. The less a nation is directed by conscious design, the more it can provide a model of genuine greatness. Such teachings emerged from the liberal revolution of the previous two centuries. But some people (mostly academics and would-be rulers) weren’t having it. On the one hand, the socialists would not tolerate what they perceived to be the seeming inequality of the emergent commercial society. On the other hand, the advocates of old-fashioned ruling-class control, such as Carlyle and his proto-fascist contemporaries, longed for a restoration of pre-modern despotism, and devoted their writings to extolling a time before the ideal of universal freedom appeared in the world.”

Jeffrey Tucker.

New uses for copyright law

Much as I like to jeer at the Guardian, sometimes it does a good deed in bringing sinister developments to the public’s attention. For instance:

Revealed: How copyright law is being misused to remove material from the internet

As soon as the DMCA takedown request had been filed, Google de-listed the entire thread. All 126 posts are now not discoverable when a user searches Google for BuildTeam – or any other terms. The search company told Mumsnet it could make a counterclaim, if it was certain no infringement had taken place, but since the site couldn’t verify that its users weren’t actually posting copyrighted material, it would have opened it up to further legal pressure.

In fact, no copyright infringement had occurred at all. Instead, something weirder had happened. At some point after Narey posted her comments on Mumsnet, someone had copied the entire text of one of her posts and pasted it, verbatim, to a spammy blog titled “Home Improvement Tips and Tricks”. The post, headlined “Buildteam interior designers” was backdated to September 14 2015, three months before Narey had written it, and was signed by a “Douglas Bush” of South Bend, Indiana. The website was registered to someone quite different, though: Muhammed Ashraf, from Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Quite why Douglas Bush or Muhammed Ashraf would be reviewing a builder based in Clapham is not explained in “his” post. BuildTeam says it has no idea why Narey’s review was reposted, but that it had nothing to do with it. “At no material times have we any knowledge of why this false DCMA take down was filed, nor have we contracted any reputation management firms, or any individual or a group to take such action on our behalf. Finally, and in conjunction to the above, we have never spoken with a ‘Douglas Bush,’ or a ‘Muhammed Ashraf.’”

Whoever sent the takedown request, Mumsnet was forced to make a choice: either leave the post up, and accept being delisted; fight the delisting and open themselves up to the same legal threats made against Google; or delete the post themselves, and ask the post to be relisted on the search engine.

“Although we understood the user’s argument that something odd had happened, we weren’t in a position to explain what – our hope was that by zapping one post we might ensure that the thread remained listed.”

Mumsnet deleted the post, and asked Google to reinstate the thread, but a month later, they received final word from the search firm: “‘Google has decided not to take action based on our policies concerning content removal and reinstatement’ which (it turned out) meant that they had delisted the entire thread”.

Interesting though it might be to read about BuildTeam meeting the Streisand Effect, I do not assume they are in the wrong. But someone has found a clever new way to censor comment on the web. I can see this strategy might prove popular. How could it be fought? A related question, also unrelated to this particular case: how can companies protect themselves against dishonest bad reviews?