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]

Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!

Much beer will flow today…

Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

Rightly not trusting our leaders to deliver on their statements (there were, IFUC, no promises about leaving the EU from Mrs May), the Sage of Kettering and I have left the EU in that recently, we have visited our nearest escape hole, the Channel Islands. A fleeting visit, one day in each, but we have seen a future, and it works, more or less. For our more distant readers, Jersey and Guernsey are ‘Crown Dependencies’, historically part of the Duchy of Normandy, owing allegiance to the British Crown but not part of the UK. The UK government has arrogated to itself the overlordship of the islands, holding responsibility for foreign affairs and defence (well, sort of, as we shall see), but the two Bailiwicks are otherwise independent jurisdictions with autonomy in most areas, crucially taxation, and are outside of the European Union, albeit within EU Customs arrangements, allowing them to trade with the EU. Here, they say, the Queen is the Duke of Normandy, although monuments refer to ‘la Reine’. She is the only Duke I can think of married to a Duke. Whether or not they can simply declare independence is constitutionally unclear, but with Labour dangerously close to power, they might be advised to make some plans.

→ Continue reading: Leaving the EU – a Jersey jaunt and a Guernsey gallivant

What are your rules for giving a good party?

It’s the party season, here in London and presumably all around Christendom. Speaking for myself, I attended a dinner party on Christmas Eve, had a quiet day on Christmas Day, but then held a party at my home on the 28th. I have just now got back from a party at the home of a fellow Samizdatista, and will be attending another get-together on New Year’s Eve, i.e. tomorrow evening.

All of which events, my own one in particular, make me wonder: How are such events best organised? Rather than elaborate on the imperfections of my own party (imperfections which – before, during and after – got me wondering yet again about this question), let me just ask the question, of anyone who is willing to oblige with an answer or answers. How do you go about laying on a good party? What particular and perhaps rather surprising or counter-intuitive rules or recipes do you find yourself needing to keep in mind? What things, in your preparations, matter the most? What other things that many would assume to be crucial do you consider not to matter nearly so much?

Also, and closely related: What makes a great party? What’s the greatest party that you personally have ever attended? What was so great about it?

I’m leaving all these question deliberately vague just because I am hoping to be delighted and surprised by the answers, as well as merely, as a future host, informed and improved.

There are few joys like the joy of choosing what you hope will be great company and then being delighted at how well your choice worked out. But how do you, or the hosts you most admire, contrive this particular kind of miracle? I hope that any parties you have recently attended or organised, or which you are about to attend or are in the process of organising, are a great success. And I’d be delighted to hear how you think that such joy is best contrived.

Being in somewhat of a rush to get this up this evening, before I stagger into bed, I am not including any links to www-places where questions like these are already persuasively discussed and answered, basically because I do not now know of any such places, that being because I have never until now even thought to look. But that need not stop commenters rectifying this omission.

A Lincoln Lark

The Sage of Kettering and I have been on another day trip, this time to Lincoln. We have also visited a mystery town I shall leave you to guess below, and also at Stow-by-Lindsey, a tiny village west of Lincoln, with a now incongruously large Minster, Anglo-Saxon in origin, having been added to over the years.

It also claims to have the earliest known Viking graffito in England, a carving of a long ship. It is not clear if this was a marauder or a merchant, but he presumably came up river to here, the Humber is not far away.

It also has a curious face on the font.

And an austere interior, perhaps barer than in its glory.

→ Continue reading: A Lincoln Lark

Victory

 

THE ARMISTICE DAY, NOVEMBER 1918 (Q 80135) Crowd cheering outside Buckingham Palace during the Armistice Day, 11 November 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205324739

The Times 12 November 1918 p10. Right click for full page.


→ Continue reading: Victory

Rare literal example of ‘No True Scotsman’ Fallacy

Twitter urged to bring in ‘Verified Scottish’ status

A Scottish member of the European parliament has warned that fake Scots are taking to twitter and spreading fake news.

It is unclear what led natz MEP Alyn Smith to this appalling discovery. Some suggest he first became suspicious when he realised that tweets from an Aberdeenshire businessman named Donald were in fact coming from an IP address in Washington D.C. Others speculate that his scepticism was naturally aroused when an allegedly-Scottish comic expressed more liking for the English than for the natz, which Alyn found neither Scottish nor comical. Surely it cannot be that the very disciplined natz party suspects its former leader of having too close an association with a source of twitter bots?

Whatever it was alerted him to the problem, he knows the solution:

Alyn Smith urges Twitter to bring in ‘Verified Scottish’ status.

I hate to break it to my fellow Scot, but I’m not sure Jack Dorsey is going to be too interested in this. I’m also not sure how Jack would decide who is Scottish and who is not. Scots have a great love of their country from a distance: by one definition, there are said to be 5 or 6 times as many Scots around the world as there are in Scotland. Conversely, there are English people in Scotland, some of whom immigrated from south of the Tweed quite recently. Other recent immigrants come from a greater distance – the middle east, for example. Might Twitter think it wrong to withhold Scottishness from any who claim it? And how would they assess Alyn himself, who often tweets from Strasburg or Brussels?

I suppose Twitter could always apply the reasoning they appear to use in the US, but Mr Smith had better hope it gets adapted for the Scottish domain. The algorithm “Tweet account likes English – treat it as a bot” would no doubt suit him, but an automated “Tweet account likes ‘Donald’ – treat it as a bot” might rate some of his natz colleagues as ‘fake’ – and be all the more accurate for it. 🙂

(A description of the No True Scotsman fallacy is here.)

A Lusitanian* adventure

Last month, the Sage of Kettering and I went on another trip, this time to England’s oldest ally, Portugal. *It involved brief excursions into Spain over a raia (‘the stripe’ as it is called), one of Europe’s oldest borders, almost unchanged but still disputed many centuries after delineation in 1297, so it was an Iberian adventure. We focused on the north of Portugal, and then Lisbon.

We flew to Porto, with the least user-friendly tram system I have yet used, and made our way up north by noisy Diesel train through pleasant farmland, brushing the Atlantic coast on the way to our first stage, the fine fortress town of Valença on the Minho river, which here forms the border with Spain. Valença has a striking fortress citadel as its old town, with many layers of defences. The scale of the walls can be judged by the horses in the pictures. A drone video of the fortress, a 17th Century construction on an older 13th Century construction, is here.

→ Continue reading: A Lusitanian* adventure

A Suffolk sortie

The Sage of Kettering and I have been on another trip, not to some distant, warm, European setting, but a distinctly chilly Suffolk on a bright early Spring day. Here is my account of our trip to an oft-overlooked corner of England and a dip into the past, focusing on the damage done by the iconoclasts. I am indebted beyond measure to the wonderful Suffolk churches site for inspiration on what to see, and links to pictures.

The first stop was a quick look at a proper windmill, unfortunately under repair, the Post Mill at Saxtead. So much more attractive than the hideous electric-powered windmills that clutter the landscape, sucking up subsidies and slowing down the wind.


Next stop, the focus of our trip, Framlingham Castle, a series of towers with no inner keep, but it does contain an old Poorhouse. Noted as the place where Mary Tudor was when she was proclaimed Queen after the tumult of Edward VI’s death, and she then went on to make her mark with an unwise marriage and her trademark of barbecuing Bishops.

The walls of the castle are impressively high, with an excellent ditch.


Around the towers, there are Tudor chimneys, allowing some local heating.

The castle does not have a keep inside it, it is just a wall with a series of towers. The space inside was used to build a poorhouse.

And in the Poorhouse is a local museum, with a fine collection of curious, including this tribute to General Pershing and his Crusaders.

The Sage decided to try out the headgear, it might be useful with canvassing with local elections coming up.


→ Continue reading: A Suffolk sortie

Rod Liddle on Oxfam

The people of Haiti needed help — what they got was a bunch of Oxfam sleazebags

Yet another brilliant party I’ve missed out on. The Oxfam gig in Haiti back in 2011 — the whores, I’m told, were sensational, if a little on the young side. My own fault for having assumed it would be a grim convocation of death and destruction — plus pious white liberals blaming capitalism for everything. Not a bit of it. Those Oxfam staffers know how to party, especially the top brass.

No sooner had they arrived in the earthquake zone than they had set up their bordello, “the pink apartments”, and were ready for — as one of them put it — “young meat barbecues”.

The women were purchased — some of them younger than 16, allegedly — and decked out in Oxfam T-shirts — no undergarments, no jeans or skirts, just Oxfam T-shirts. Then began what was described as a “full-on Caligula orgy”, led by Oxfam’s then country director Roland van Hauwermeiren. Roly is 68 years old — you have to admire his energy. All that misery to sort out, but he still had the time to give some local teenagers a good charitable seeing-to.

Better still, Roland could later appear before the cameras, wringing his hands and saying of the situation in Haiti: “Too many donors from rich countries have pursued their own aid priorities.” You’re not kidding, Roland. You were clear about your own aid priorities, weren’t you? But, hell, what a party. And to think I felt bad about the Presidents Club dinner, where some right-wing men may have touched a woman’s knee.

This scarcely believable story was revealed in The Times: four senior Oxfam workers booted out for engaging prostitutes in Haiti as the country tried to recover from its earthquake. Oxfam complained it was old news and that the press had been told about it at the time.

Oxfam was lying. Sure, we’d been told back then some staffers had been sacked for “misconduct”. But misconduct could have been tearing up parking tickets or referring to a dying earthquake victim by their gender at birth, rather than the one to which she/he had transitioned. I suppose lying is stretching it, mind. Technically, you could say the Yorkshire Ripper was guilty of “misconduct”.

Oxfam also claims it told the Charity Commission about everything. That’s not how it looks. It told me on Friday: “We have written to the charity as a matter of urgency to request further information regarding the events in Haiti . . . This information will be considered as part of an ongoing case regarding the charity’s approach to safeguarding.”

It does give you an insight, though, into the way these perpetually angry and concerned middle-class lefties actually think of the people they are supposed to be helping. So pristine and pious, so sanctimonious towards the rest of us. So aloof from our own national concerns: internationalist to a man and especially in favour of countries where, like Haiti, the whores can be bought for one dollar. Yay, that’s the kind of country we like!

This is the second scandal to affect Oxfam this year: income £408m in 2016-17, almost half of it from government, with huge sums spent on salaries or advertising or lobbying — or indeed whoring. A few weeks ago the charity castigated capitalism for having enmired the Third World in poverty. It was pointed out, fairly quickly, that capitalism had elevated most of the world out of poverty and into affluence.

Oxfam’s assertion was the usual adolescent political grandstanding and weird warping of reality — and ignored the desperate poverty inflicted on hundreds of millions of people by socialism. It was virtue signalling by an organisation that, by now, is denuded of the slenderest vestiges of virtue. Most of the world’s poverty today is occasioned by bad governance and a predatory Third World elite, not by capitalism.

I think the Oxfam staffers know this. I think they know this and it makes them hot. Never give these people any of your money.

I have been known to give Oxfam small amounts of my money. I love a bargain, and if I’m passing an Oxfam charity shop I’ll pop in, and if there is a little something that takes my fancy, I’ll spend a quid or two to have it. Er, not in the Roland van Hauwermeiren sense. Call me over-optimistic, but I would like to think that alongside what Liddle rightly calls Oxfam’s “adolescent political grandstanding and weird warping of reality” – a.k.a. “socialism” – the charity has some employees who are actually quite good at getting help quickly to desperate people after an earthquake or similar catastrophe. That’s my excuse anyway.

By the way, so long as they are over the age of consent, I strongly oppose prostitution or the hiring of prostitutes being an offence in law. However I believe it was the case that Oxfam made a rule forbidding its aid workers to employ prostitutes, then covered it up when senior employees broke that rule.

Much of Oxfam’s sickness comes from its receipt of government money. No longer was it entirely dependent on the goodwill of ordinary people with their naive belief that the money they gave should be spent on medicine or tents or emergency latrines rather than politicking, and their equally tedious preference that their donations not be spent on prostitutes. Freed from all that, Oxfam could branch out into being a political party for people too sensitive to do the hard graft of going door to door and canvassing for votes, and as a bonus it could use government money to advocate for the policies that would keep the stream of government money coming.

Poujadisme, in Desborough, Kettering, England

10 ‘Conservative’ Councillors (of the 12 complement) on the Town Council in the little town of Desborough in Northamptonshire have resigned after an apparent hostile response to a 400% tax rise imposed by the local council, and there is an alleged undercurrent of unpleasantness in the local reaction, perhaps the spirit of Poujard lives on.

The BBC tells us:

Desborough Tory councillors’ mass ‘bullying’ resignation

Well, who is the bully?

Is it the Council for ramping up tax by 400% from £19.10 to £96.98 per year on those who have to pay, with the sort like the Chairman, Councillor Pearce, of whom it is reported:

Ms Pearce… …said “with hindsight we perhaps should have sent out some kind of warning it was coming”.

and then went on to say:

“But I absolutely whole-heartedly believe it was the right thing to do and I would do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat,”

That’s a ‘Feck you!‘ if ever I heard one, and which I assume is a reference to the true costs coming through after some financial juggling used to disguise the costs of the Council ended (more like that later). And the article goes on, Ms Pearce said that:

she was “shocked by the ferocity” of the reaction.
“My husband’s taken abuse on Facebook. I’ve had comments made to my eldest child who’s only 15. I’ve had people try to stop children playing with my nine-year-old daughter.

So a frank expression of views and voluntarily withdrawing social interactions is shocking when you start robbing people under colour of law?

Her observation?

“They didn’t ask for that and they don’t deserve that.”

I think that is exactly what the residents are telling you, Madam! Action and re-action, this is not bullying, it is intra-election consultation.

For our more international readers, this council is about the smallest unit of local government that can levy taxes, and this council probably doesn’t need to exist, it can add a local ‘precept’ onto the taxes levied by the other local authorities, (4 layers are possible, 3 with taxing powers), all of which is loaded onto the ‘Council Tax’ bill that households pay, overall bills can be in the region of £1,200 to £2,000+ p.a.

To the resigning Councillors, I say ‘Oh dear, how sad, never mind‘, and count yourselves lucky that you live in such temperate times.

Meanwhile, at a County level, the County Council for Northamptonshire have spent £53,000,000 on a new headquarters, and in true Parkinson’s Law fashion, with the new HQ, matters have started to disintegrate, with spare money running out, so they have had to go to the government and tell them that they have cocked things up and run out of discretionary money to spend.

So having moved into a new HQ in October 2017, they are now looking to sell it to keep themselves going (by which they mean ‘sell it to a company who will lease it back to them, so that they can squander the capital and saddle locals with rent charges’ rather than ‘downsize and cut costs’). It’s just as well that the entire County is not rising up to berate the County Councillors, but perhaps the whole thing is too complicated and remote for people to care.

But at least the spirit of Poujade stirs from time to time, the BBC might think like Durin’s Bane, but actually more like Beorn. There is hope yet in England. And the Sage might wish to maintain a discretion on this one.

Edit: an erroneous ‘r’ removed, my apologies to the Gods of Accuracy, Spelling and M Poujade, and my thanks to Appianglorius, the price of accuracy is eternal vigilance, its true.

Have a splendid New Year

2017 was a very good year for me, and I would like to wish our fractious community of contributors and readers a splendiferous 2018.

New Year’s Eve at Samizdata HQ with a La Bomba Daiquiri

A festive quote and two more festive photos

Festive photos to add to that photo of meat, from Christmas Eve, meat which I was lucky enough to share.

That evening we all did much toasting, and one of us photoed all our glasses while we were doing this. Many get angry about the modern habit of photoing food and drink just before it is consumed, but I say: Why not? Where’s the harm?

On Christmas Eve I was too busy holding up my own glass and joining in the fun to be photoing it. But, I did take a photo of a very similar event back on December 18th, on Primrose Hill, just to the north of Regents Park:

Christmas, or in this case the run up to Christmas, is a time to renew old acquaintances. I don’t know who these people were and how they were connected, and in this time of computerised face recognition, I have deliberately made this difficult with my photo. Friends? Relatives? What I do know is that they were greatly enjoying each other’s company, just as Perry and I and his other guests did on Dec 24th.

Later on Christmas Eve I did get my camera out, and I got this shot of our Dear Leader, enjoying a present that one of us had given him, of one of his favourite chocolate treats:

On a more serious note, I have been reading Deidre McCloskey’s book, The Bourgeois Virtues. At the beginning of her chapter entitled: The Very Word “Virtue”, McCloskey offers a number of quotes from bygone years, including this one from Benjamin Constant, who until now has been only a name to me. Apparently, in the year 1814, Constant said, in celebration of the greatly increased opportunities for human enjoyment that commerce was at that time beginning to make available to the generality of people, this:

The progress of civilization, the commercial tendency of the age, the communication among the peoples, have infinitely multiplied and varied the means of individual happiness. To be happy, men need only to be left in perfect independence in all that concerns their occupations, their undertakings, their sphere of activity, their fantasies.

Plus, a bit of spare cash and the chance to spend it on luxuries, like high quality meat (as Perry put it: “Duck with skin turned to quackling, stuffed with pheasant & wood pigeon”), and amusingly packaged chocolate. Here’s another toast, to: stuff. The stuff that has, since Benjamin Constant’s time, so greatly increased, by means of exactly the processes he refers to.

Concerning who and what Benjamin Constant was, I have yet to read this. Tomorrow, I intend to. Happy Christmas everyone, what’s left of it.