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]

There is still a long way for Zimbabwe to fall

The Economist posted an article about Zimbabwe this week reporting that Zimbabwe is ‘at the end of its tether’, with the news that the vile regime of Robert Mugabe has introduced price fixing as a means of legislating away the rampant inflation that has left Zimbabwe banknotes worth less then toilet paper.

Instead the president, who famously despises “bookish economics”, has decided to outlaw inflation. Price freezes have only been enforced through the arrest of scores of businessmen who are accused of profiteering. The result: shops are bare of basic goods, as businesses refuse to sell more than a minimum of flour, sugar, maize and other items at a crippling loss. There has been panic buying all over the country. In Harare, the capital, crowds wait outside supermarkets ready to rush in and grab whatever they can. Where basics such as cooking oil are available they are rationed by shopkeepers. Fuel is in short supply, with long queues of cars reappearing outside Harare’s petrol stations. As factories prepare to close operations their owners, in turn, are being arrested and forced to keep operating.

Some have expressed the hope that the oncoming economic collapse might presage a political upheaval that will remove Mugabe and restore a democratic government in Zimbabwe. There is no doubt that there is a great upswelling of discontent in the country. It has few friends internationally and those are of dubious repute.

But there is faint hope to expect the end of the regime as long as Mugabe has the strength to kill his domestic enemies and hang on to power. There is the dreadful example of Communist Kampuchea as an example of how low a country can go before it becomes extinct. Things in Zimbabwe are going to get much, much worse.

Executing regulators won’t make a difference if you don’t execute the regulations

In China, the State does not muck about; in the wake of scandals about the safety of various Chinese products for export, the former head of the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration, Mr. Zheng Xiaoyu has been executed for taking bribes. Zheng Xiaoyu can count himself unlucky, given the maze of corruption that is a fact of life in China. But China is very sensitive about the safety of its products at the moment, and all the more so with the Beijing Olympics not far away.

And whoever Mr Zheng’s successor is, he or she will no doubt face similar temptations and dangers. For regulation is nearly as ubiquitous as corruption in China:

Regulators said their ability to monitor food and drug purity would greatly increase by 2010, when they enhanced their ability to respond to accidents and establish a national product recall system.

The authorities said inspectors would start shifting posts more often to prevent corruption, and that they would inspect a wider range of goods more frequently to ferret out fakes.

But they acknowledged that they face challenges in eliminating unsafe products. China has about 200 million farms, many of them less than an acre in size. It has nearly 450,000 food processing companies, nearly 80 percent with 10 employees or fewer, said Lin Wei, a senior official at the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

“This is our national condition,” Mr. Lin said. “It is our hope that by 2010 we can reduce the number of small food workshops by 50 percent and effectively curb law breaking and counterfeiting.”

Officials acknowledge that responsibility for food and drug safety involves as many as 17 government agencies, ranging from the Ministry of Health, which sets hygienic standards, to the Public Security Bureau, which has power to investigate criminal cases.

For Chinese companies, dealing with up to 17 agencies, the temptation to take shortcuts through corruption must be overwhelming. The answer for China must surely lie in a simplified administration system, not yet another layer of red tape.

Have you been brainwashed by a jogger lately?

President Sarkozy has made an immediate impact as French President:

President Sarkozy has fallen foul of intellectuals and critics who see his passion for jogging as un-French, right-wing and even a ploy to brainwash his citizens.

Adding weight to the ‘jogging as a right-wing activity’ meme is the support he has received from Boris Johnson. I fear that going for a run is not my style. A gentle perambulation is as much as I can be persuaded to do these days.

Media bias? What media bias?

In Lebanon media bias goes to a whole new level:

A Lebanese TV news presenter has been sacked over comments in which she gloated over the assassination of anti-Syrian politician Walid Eido.

The presenter, who has not been named, then went on to name a Lebanese MP who would be assassinated next.

She was unaware that her microphone was on and that the comments were being broadcast live.

That is taking character assassination way over the top.

I disagree with what you wear, but will defend your right to do so

There’s a new social trend in Belfast whereby women are dropping their children off to school still in their pajamas. This has got the local worthies of Belfast worried, and a little peeved.

In a bulletin to parents, Mr McGuinness wrote: “Over recent months the number of adults leaving children at school and collecting children from school dressed in pyjamas has risen considerably.

“While it is not my position to insist on what people wear, or don’t, I feel that arriving at the school in pyjamas is disrespectful to the school and a bad example is set to children.”

Women walking round Belfast estates in all-day pyjama gear is a phenomenon that has been well documented by Robin Livingstone, a columnist in the Andersonstown News, but until now it has been confined to the west of the city.

Mr Livingstone said that he first identified All Day Pyjama Syndrome (ADPS) in 2003. He knows a student at the Belfast Institute for Further and Higher Education who is writing a dissertation on the subject.

The women are colloquially known as “pyjama mamas” or “Millies”. Their pyjama ensembles are often complemented by large, gold hoop earrings known as “budgies” – because such cage birds could swing from them. They also sport “scrunchies” to create the “Turf Lodge facelift”, in which the hair is scraped so tightly to the back of the head that it pulls the facial skin taut.

There is even a dress hierarchy among those suffering from APDS: the wearing of silk-effect, baggy pyjamas with fluffy, mule-type slippers contrasts, for example, with the traditional dressing gown and hair rollers.

Bloggers, who of course are famous for working in their pajamas, should rally around the millies, and defend their right to drop off their offspring at school, no matter how unsightly it may appear.

First they came for the millies….

Samizdata quote of the day

Now I party with petrochemicals like it’s 1999!

Glenn Reynolds, taking his environmental responsibilities seriously.

Culture Wars in the classrooms

Australian students have been force-fed a diet of a certain version of Australian history, the ‘black-armband’ school of Australian history, which paints the entire colonial period of Australian history as a moral disaster. Now in evidence before the Australian Senate, history teachers have admitted that this is provoking resistance from students, who feel pride in their country.

HIGH school students resent being made to feel guilty during their study of Australia’s indigenous past and dislike studying national history in general.

The History Teachers Association called yesterday for a rethink of the type of Australian history being taught in schools and the way in which it is taught.

History Teachers Association of NSW executive officer Louise Zarmati said her experience teaching in western Sydney was that students were resistant to learning about Australian politics and, in particular, indigenous history.

“This is a somewhat delicate subject but they don’t like the indigenous part of Australian history,” she told a hearing of the Senate inquiry into the academic standards of school education in Sydney yesterday.

“The feedback I get is they’re not prepared to wear the guilt. They find it’s something that’s too personal, too much of a personal confrontation for them.

Since the students are not responsible for decisions made in the late 18th and early 19th century they are quite right to reject the ‘guilt’ being pushed on them by teachers. And it is nice to see that attempts by education authorities to politicise the classroom are rebounding on them.

General Nuisance in Pakistan

In Pakistan they are having ‘interesting times’, in the Chinese sense of the term. Violent protests in Karachi have killed dozens of people as the authority of President Musharraf has been challenged by the Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court.

Sooner or later, the rule of General Musharraf will come to an end, regardless of how much help the Americans give to prop up his regime. It is anyone’s guess who takes over when he does leave the scene – it could be a weak democratic government, another Army commander, or a more sinister Islamic style government. Whatever sort takes over, they
will have a hard time keeping the country in one piece.

These musings on the future of Pakistan would be idle chatter though except that Pakistan is right on the fault line of many of the conflicts in the world today, and it also happens to have nuclear weapons. Quietly, India must be watching with some concern as General Musharraf loses his grip on power. The fastest way for a new regime in Islamabad to gain some legitimacy is to ratchet the tension with India. Given that both are now nuclear armed, it could be interesting times all round.

People go where governments lead

There is an old and wise saying that ‘an armed society is a polite society’. It is also the case that a private society remains a private society as well. That is, the importance and respect paid by governments to a citizen’s right to privacy flows on to the rest of society. In contrast, when a government disregards the right of its citizens to keep matters private, other organisations in society will take their cue from the government’s lead.

Take gambling for example. The online sports betting industry in Australia has sprung up like mushrooms after autumn rain in Australia since the advent of the Internet. People used to like to have a wager on a football or cricket game in the friendly environment of a pub, but since the online bookmakers have opened, the betting habits of Australians have increased markedly.

It is not only Australians that have been bitten by the sports betting bug either. But it is illegal in many parts of the world, and that has created more problems then it has solved. When a market is not allowed to be filled by honest business folk, it is instead filled by organised crime figures and all the baggage that this brings. One of the biggest items of luggage is the curse of match-fixing in popular sports.

→ Continue reading: People go where governments lead

In the beginning

In the beginning God covered the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, with green, yellow and red vegetables of all kinds so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives.

Then Satan created Dairy Ice Cream and Magnums. And Satan said, “You want hot fudge with that?
And Man said, “Yes!” And Woman said, “I’ll have one too with chocolate chips”.
And lo, they gained 10 pounds.

And God created the healthy yoghurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair.
Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them.
And Woman went from size 12 to size 14.

So God said, “Try my fresh green salad”.
And Satan presented Blue Cheese dressing and garlic croutons on the side.
And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.

God then said, “I have sent you healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them”.
And Satan brought forth deep fried coconut king prawns, butter-dipped lobster chunks and chicken fried steak, so big it needed its own platter.
And Man’s cholesterol went through the roof.

Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with potassium and good nutrition.
Then Satan peeled off the healthy skin and sliced the starchy centre into chips and deep fried them in animal fats adding copious quantities of salt.
And Man put on more pounds.

God then brought forth running shoes so that his Children might lose those extra pounds.
And Satan came forth with cable T.V. with remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels.
And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering light and started wearing stretch jogging suits.

Then God gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite.
And Satan created McDonalds and the 99p double cheeseburger.
Then Satan said, “You want fries with that?” and Man replied, “Yes, and super size ’em”.
And Satan said, “It is good.”

And Man and Woman went into cardiac arrest.
God sighed. And created quadruple by-pass surgery.
And then Satan chuckled, and created the National Health Service.

You can’t talk to us like that!

Samizdata quote of the day

Watching cricket is one of the best ways of avoiding working known to man

– Someone from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) is worried about the impact the Cricket World Cup will have on the economy.