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.

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The Death of Stalin

Not late news, but a film review. The Death of Stalin opened recently across the UK. It is an excellent black comedy, 5 stars. The film opens with a musical performance for Radio Moscow, Stalin likes it, and asks for the recording. There is none, so, in true Soviet style, the recording is ‘faked’ by the terrified producer, who resorts to desperate measures. The backdrop to this is nightly NKVD raids, roaming through apartment blocks with the citizenry knowing what to expect, Beria adds his own touches to the minutiae of the raids. We see Stalin’s inner circle, all desperately keeping track of what they have said, and striving to please their master.

Then Stalin collapses, with a little sub-plot device thrown in. Beria is the first to find him, and gets his head start on the race for power. The others in the Praesidium arrive, and the plotting begins. Efforts to get a doctor for Stalin are complicated by the consequences of the Doctors’ Plot, with the NKVD rounding up whoever they can find instead. But it becomes clear that Stalin is in a terminal condition and he then dies.

It should be noted that the film is by the writers of The Thick of It, something, not having a TV, I have never seen, but it has the flavour of a much coarser version of an Ealing Comedy. Beria’s raping and torturing is a major theme, and anyone who sits through the first 15 minutes should by then be under no illusion about the nature of the Soviet Union and socialism. Another excellent aspect of the film is the use of various accents, Stalin is a cockney (perhaps he should have been Welsh, an outsider, emphasising his Georgian origins). Zhukov a bluff Lancastrian (or Northerner), Malenkov and Khrushchev have American accents.

Malenkov, who behaves more like a Principal at a minor East Coast University, seems blissfully unaware that his revolutionary colleagues are actually real murderers. He is nominally in charge of the country and the plotting begins. Beria wishes to start a liberalisation for his own reasons, Khrushchev is put in charge of transport and is lumbered with the funeral arrangements, much to his disgust. Stalin’s son, Vasili, appears on the scene, coming over as a spoilt lunatic. He plans to make a speech at his father’s funeral, which is reluctantly agreed to. Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, frets over her future. Khrushchev and Beria both promise to protect her. Molotov, played by Michael Palin, is still the Old Bolshevik, totally loyal to the Party, and still regarding his beloved wife as a traitor after Beria gets her released from prison. Eventually, he comes round to support the others against Beria, who has done a Robespierre and shown his hand against his rivals. An excellent Marshal Zhukov plays a decisive role in the final confrontation with Beria, after the competing plans for the funeral arrangements lead to an embarrassing massacre by the NKVD. At the final trial, numerous allegations of sexual abuse are made, a curious echo for our times.

It is hard not to laugh throughout the film, and yet the relentless nature of the evil of the Soviet State is laid bare for all to see, with torture and terror common. It is fairly accurate to what we know of those events, and whilst one might wonder why if the NKVD is so powerful Beria did not simply arrest everyone, it does not and need not show the full picture of the what checks there were on his power, such as the Peoples’ Control, and the Party/NKVD/Army balance. The film credits also acknowledge the tax shelter of the Belgian Federal government.

Every one who voted Democrat, Labour, Green or SNP should watch this film, for a bit of nostalgia and to dream of the future. Everyone who did not support any of them should watch it and be grateful that they are not in total control, for now.

Bondi – beyond the Pale! And ‘Judenrein’?

In the deep Australian winter, comes a chilling judgment from the New South Wales Land and Environment Court, a plan to build a synagogue is refused by a planning authority, partly on the ground that it presents an unacceptable risk to neighbours, due to the threat of terrorist attack.

In New South Wales, the Local Authority objected to the proposed development with a ‘Contention 3’, which was tested in proceedings before the Land and Environment Court.

Site Suitability
3. The proposed development should be refused as the site is not suitable for
the proposed synagogue use as the Preliminary Threat and Risk Analysis relied on by the Applicant raises concerns as to the safety and security of future users of the Synagogue, nearby residents, motorists and pedestrians in Wellington Street and the physical measures proposed to deal with the identified threats will have an unacceptable impact on the streetscape and adjoining properties.

And the Court found against the Friends of Refugees from Eastern Europe, who wished to build a synagogue:

Who bears the onus of proof?

Having found that Contention 3 identifies a potential unacceptable risk of threat and there is a factual basis for the contention, the onus to address the contention rests with the applicant.
Is the evidence of Mr Rothchild sufficient to address Contention 3?

For reasons set out in the previous paragraphs I do not accept that Mr Rothchild has provided sufficient evidence to address Contention 3.

So, as we can’t keep you safe, you can’t build on your own land. I have long wondered how long it would take Lefties to use planning law to well, enforce a policy of ‘Separate Development‘, that well-known Lefty plan from elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, now swept away.

It is a judgment that presumes that the State cannot uphold the law (and in that it may be right!). It also has an indirect consequence of pointing to something like the ‘Pale of Settlement‘ of Tsarist Russia, where the law determined where Jews may or may not live, but here, live freely. To be fair to those Tsars, others apart from Jews had restrictions on their movements and residence, but that is not to excuse them. And to be fair to the Court, they are not targeting Jews, just simply upholding the law, following precedence perhaps, or even orders. The same could happen to Christians next, all you need to do is terrorise them, it seems.

In my understanding, ‘beyond the Pale‘ derived from English settlement in Ireland going out beyond the protection of the law. Ironically, here the law says that under it, you are beyond its protection, at least if you are an observant Jew, or near to one.

I have some modest, tongue-in-cheek suggestions for these unsafe Antipodeans:

1. Re-submit the application but ask to build a mosque, church or temple.

2. Offer to become Crypto-Jews, like those of Belmonte in Portugal, who finally felt safe and ‘came out’ in 1917 (rather poor timing given looming events in Germany, but thankfully they remained safe) having hidden their faith for centuries.

3. Build a proper Ghetto like Venice, and with a few canals you might have a tourist attraction, and wait for Napoleon to liberate you.

Advance Australia Fair.

Footnote (edit): This council is in the Federal constituency of Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Edit: 10th August 2017 H/T to Confused Old Misfit below: The Daily Mail reports that the Council have now agreed to the Synagogue being built. I wonder why?

A trip to Venice

Last month, the Sage of Kettering and I went to Venice for a few days, marking decades of friendship. The visit to the Most Serene Republic, home to distrust of government that lasted for over 1,000 years, fell during the Biennale ‘Festival’, when modern art invades Venice, which for all its ghastly, sinister absurdity, at least allows the occasional foray into fine, otherwise closed buildings, in which the modernists squat like bats dripping rabies with their urine, and I thought that I would share some pictures from our trip.

The gardens of the Armenian Institute, in Dorsoduro, open for the Biennale. Venice was long a refuge for the Armenian diaspora, and there is an Armenian monastery island.

Within the Armenian gardens, Tibet had an exhibition, tactfully reclaiming a Buddhist sun symbol from the last power to occupy Venice before the resumption of Italian rule.

A trip to San Giorgio Maggiore, opposite St Mark’s Square, gave us a full taste of the modern ‘Artist’. Behind the fine façade…

…lurked the artist.

And of his work, as the Sage pointed out, with one opera, you could not tell if it had been vandalised or not.

And of course, there was the use of contrast.

Uplifted by this, we needed a snack and prosecco (archive pic) at a bar in Dorsoduro just off the Giudecca canal, opposite a Squero (boat yard) where gondolas are made, still following a sumptuary law; any colour you like, so long as it’s black.

And just over the Guidecca Canal from the bar, the Redentore (Redeemer) Plague church, testament to a lack of understanding of pathogenesis, and Andrea Palladio’s eye for style.

A visit to the Doge’s Palace and the grim dungeon, but luxurious by the standards of Stalin’s prisons. This would have had a mere 5 people, and some cells had a capacity of 2.

And the Guardia di Finanza boats lurked, ready to levy for the heavy hand of Rome, taxes, and woe betide any retailer who does not proffer a receipt for each and every purchase, one of the most irritating aspects of modern Italy.

The Biennale spread its wings far and wide, such as this ‘car’ in Campo San Stefano. How many Cubans would wish to try their chances in such a vehicle?

A definite highlight was a trip into the lagoon to see Torcello, the first inhabited island in the lagoon, where the Veneti built a cathedral, starting in 639 AD under the Exarchate of Ravenna. Torcello is an astonishingly peaceful contrast to the bustle of central Venice, a few houses, some restaurants and the Cathedral, and the main sound in June was birdsong.

The Sage found himself the Bishop’s Throne to sit on, outside the cathedral.

A gecko on the cathedral wall, note the building materials. Much stone from old buildings has been recycled.

The view from Torcello Campanile

A fisherman on the lagoon, off Torcello.

A welcome reminder of how they got to be civilised.

Back in St Mark’s Square, the statue of the Tetrarchs, on the wall of St Mark’s Basilica, was virtually unremarked. A useful tip if you do visit the Basilica is that you can (a) queue outside for up to 45 minutes and get in for free or (b) pay 2 Euros and get a time slot when you get into the procession through the basilica straight away, a rare implicit recognition of the benefit of pricing.

And within the Doge’s Palace, a column with contrasting faces.

On the day-to-day side, the logistics of Venice never cease to delight; a mobile bookshop.

And the secret of how Venice sustained itself in the saline lagoon, the wells dug below the lagoon into the fresh water aquifers underneath (now capped and sealed).

A typical scene in Cannaregio district, near the Ghetto, where we had a nice meal in a Jewish restaurant, whose ‘meat sauce’ was not at all like Bolognese 🙂 There was a grim reminder of present-day realities as there is a permanent Army post in the Ghetto now.

And of course, outside the Ghetto, there was seafood.

And the locals were friendly.

Another highlight was the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, virtually empty of tourists on a Monday afternoon, despite having 25 Doges entomned inside, and a fine equestrian statue outside…

…and the finest little church on Earth? Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Castello district, tucked away from the crowds.

Yet another Plague Church, the Salute.

There is lots of graffiti in Venice, this one says ‘The Left is the problem’. Not sure who Yago is, but I hope he is free.

And the first aerial bombardment in warfare was of Venice by the Austrians, using a balloon, on 12th July 1849. The Church of Tolentin was bombarded by Austrian cannons on 6th August 1849, and they have put the cannonball in the front of the church, facing, as it happens, the Austrian Consulate.

Samizdata quote of the day

Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic our citizens are confronted by yet another danger; one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.

– Donald Trump speaking in Warsaw today.

Samizdata quote of the day

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

— Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987, speaking in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

Reagan’s speech was exactly thirty years ago today.

The crossings between the East and West Germany were finally opened two years later on November 9th, 1989.

[Edited: Apologies for the error, this post originally indicated the wall fell in 1987.]

(The quote starts at 10:46, but the whole speech is generally quite good.)

Film Review – Bitter Harvest (Stalin’s Terror Famine)

Today I went to the cinema, Cineworld, a round trip of some 100 miles, to see the film Bitter Harvest, a film about the Stalin’s Terror Famine in the Ukraine in 1932/3. The film takes the form of a dramatic ‘love story’, starting in a Ukrainian village (most likely but it unspoken – Cossack) as the Bolshevik Revolution has started, and news of the Tsar’s death breaks. The Revolution seems far away in this idyll and the couple who are the heroes are young children. There is an echo of Tolkien’s shire about the place, very beautiful even if life is hard. Then Lenin dies and Stalin (called ‘Koba’ by his Comrades) comes to power. The local Commissar comes around, backed by Red Army troops, and the village is to be collectivised. All land belongs to the State, as the Commissar reminds everyone, and evidently he has some targets to meet, enemies of the people to kill, kulaks to be purged, icons to be seized (for sale) and Collective Farms to be formed. His brutality is probably only tempered only by his anxiety at which target he has the greatest need to meet, something which diverts him occasionally from the most brutal option available.

The heroes of the film are a couple Yuri and Natalka from that same village. Yuri is one of several artists, he is a painter, and all his friends in his age group are keen to go to the Big City Kiev, some eagerly noting how the State has work for artists. Eventually Yuri goes to Kiev (on his internal passport*), leaving behind Natalka. On the way to Kiev, there are encounters with the starving peasantry, a passenger talks about the famine and gets arrested by the NKVD. There is a constant theme of the starving and dying, with an unmechanised disposal system of horse and carts scouring the streets for corpses for mass burials here and there, and corpses in open train wagons. The starving flock to Kiev, simply to die in the streets. The film is simply and properly unrelentingly grim, and it does not shy from showing the brutality of the Bolsheviks.

Stalin is informed of the resistance to collectivisation and the starvation that his policy is causing, he implements Lenin’s plans but without mercy, and the greater the resistance, the higher the targets become until all food is to be seized. The official line is that there is ‘malnutrition’ but not famine, a lie that Walter Duranty and the New York Times were happy to peddle, the latter partially recanting many decades later.

Yuri in Kiev meets up with his friends, and awkwardly hints and the famine and its increasingly visible consequences. He finds himself working as a painter, with his friends all doing political work, but his art lacks the necessary ideological flavour, his boss is purged (we infer) and he is then fired, working as a ‘rag and bone man‘, sorting through the possessions of the dead for sale, the only growth industry apart from terror. His friend from the village, who has risen in Kiev to be local party chief, shows some perhaps surprising independence, before shooting himself as the NKVD close in. Yuri gets arrested after a brawl, but manages to escape. Yuri’s family have been arrested for anti-Soviet activity after realising that they are doomed in the village as it is collectivised. Yuri meets up with Ukrainian partisans, and manages to spring some of his family. The film gives the impression that there was a significant amount of resistance to the Soviets, and also that people in the early 1930s spoke more freely that you might have imagined. Perhaps this has been overlooked in the face of the apparently monolithic Soviet police state. Yuri and Natalka realise that they have to escape, and they hope to make it to Canada, (long before the Trudeaus starting fawning over Castro). They head for the Polish border before making for a break chased by shooting Soviet Border Guards.

The film is very well shot, CGI is minimal, and barely noticeable. The grimy, shrunken starving hordes are a constant presence, very well done. The clothing and fashion are convincing, and whilst the dialogue is a little forced sometimes, the message that the State is your executioner (which it was) is well put across. It also mentioned famines in Kazhakstan and amongst the Jews in Belarus. The plot feels slightly fanciful, being necessarily at the high end of expectations, not in that it obviously shows a fight-back, but that there was so much spirit in those fighting the Soviets. However, it at least tells a story that should be told again and again.

That the film has had minimal publicity is a shame, even in the cinema showing it, it was not advertised except for a partial listing. In its first and only week, 11 people came to this Sunday showing, the nearest to me at 50 miles away. I enjoyed it, I appreciated it, and it was nice to be somewhere watching an anti-Soviet film feeling pretty damn certain that I wouldn’t end up sitting next to Jeremy Corbyn.

As I write, some speeches are perhaps being polished for the Oscars. I’m sure that the people in this film heading for a border as a matter of life and death won’t feature in the minds of the speech makers, and you won’t hear an actor not called, say, Sterile Weep, making a heart-renching condemnation of the system that led to an estimated 7,000,000 to 10,000,000 deaths.

* per Wikipedia, The Ukraine only scrapped internal passports in 2016.

There has never been a greater day, than this.

So said Churchill on VE Day, but in its own way, 25 years ago, 25th December 1991 was a yet greater day, the day when the Soviet Union collapsed with Gorbachev’s resignation as President of the USSR, and so it vanished after the leaders of Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus had told Gorbachev, who had by then become Lenin’s Dönitz, to go away and take what Auberon Waugh called ‘that accursed, groaning slave empire’ with him.

The events leading up to the disappearance of the USSR are recalled in an article on the BBC website, ‘How three men signed the USSR’s death warrant‘ rather lacking in nostalgia for the slaughterhouse of nations. The then leader of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich, was a key figure, as the article tells us:

8 December, at 09:00 the leaders (of Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus), with their prime ministers and various officials in tow, gathered for the negotiations – still apparently unclear what they were about to discuss.

The first suggestion came from a Russian adviser, Gennadi Burbulis – and it could not have been more radical.”I will remember this sentence to the end of my life,” says Shushkevich.
“It is the opening statement of our agreement, the only one which was adopted without any arguments. ‘The USSR, as a geopolitical reality, and as a subject of international law – has ceased to exist.’ And I was the first to say that I would sign up for this.”

The agreement would render the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev irrelevant, while giving more power in Moscow to Russia’s president Boris Yeltsin.
But putting an end to the centuries-old Russian empire and its successor, the USSR, was a big step. Years later, many wondered whether the three politicians were entirely sober when taking this momentous decision?

“According to a popular myth, we drafted our agreement while drunk,” says Shushkevich. “This is completely wrong! Of course, it was a typical Soviet arrangement, and alcohol was freely available everywhere in the residence – but no-one touched it. The most we would allow ourselves was a drop of brandy every time we adopted a new article.”
In the next few hours, 14 articles in all were adopted. By about 15:00, the document confirming the dissolution of the USSR was ready. The next step was to inform the world, and the Byelorussian leader drew the short straw.

Shushkevich goes on:

“Yeltsin and Kravchuk said to me jokingly: ‘We have voted to nominate you to inform Gorbachev.’ And then I said: ‘Kravchuk and myself nominate you, Mr Yeltsin, to call your good friend, the US president George Bush.’

“I dialled Gorbachev’s office in Moscow – but they wouldn’t put me straight through, they kept passing me from pillar to post, and I had to explain who I was over and over again. Meanwhile, Yeltsin, seeing that I was on the phone to Moscow, dialled President Bush. [Andrei] Kozyrev, the [Russian] minister of foreign affairs, was on the other line, translating Bush’s comments.”

For a more sanguine review of the Soviet Union, the good people at Breitbart have provided this piece, full of details of the horrors of Soviet power.

An example of a diary entry from 1920.

The machine of the Red Terror works incessantly. Every day and every night, in Petrograd, Moscow, and all over the country the mountain of the dead grows higher … Everywhere people are shot, mutilated, wiped out of existence …

Every night we hear the rattle of trucks bearing new victims. Every night we hear the rifle fire of executions, and often some of us hear from the ditches, where the bodies are flung, faint groans and cries of those who did not die at once under the guns. People living near these places begin to move away. They cannot sleep …

Getting up in the morning, no man or woman knows whether he will be free that night. Leaving one’s home, one never knows whether he will return. Sometimes a neighborhood is surrounded and everyone caught out of his house without a certificate is arrested … Life these days depends entirely on luck.

And then there was Brezhnev’s abuse of psychiatric hospitals for those who rejected the logic of Socialism, and it wasn’t just locking people up, it was using drugs for torture.

As head of the KGB in the 1970s, Yuri Andropov (who later was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after Leonid Brezhnev’s death in 1982), accepted a new theory in Soviet psychiatry which said opposition to the socialist regime was a sign of mental illness.

Why? Because only the mentally disturbed would resist the logic and the truth of Marxian dialectical determinism and its “proof” that socialism and communism were the highest and most humane stage of social development. Those who criticized the system or wanted to reform or overthrow the Soviet socialist regime were mentally sick and required psychiatric treatment.

And the grim reality?

Of all the drugs administered [at the mental institution] to impose discipline, sulfazine stood at the pinnacle of pain … ‘People injected with sulfazine were groaning, sighing with pain, cursing the psychiatrists and Soviet power, cursing with everything in their hearts,’ Alexei told us. ‘The people go into horrible convulsions and get completely disoriented. The body temperature rises to 40 degrees centigrade [104 degrees Fahrenheit] almost instantly, and the pain is so intense they cannot move from their beds for three days. Sulfazine is simply a way to destroy a man completely. If they torture you and break your arms, there is a certain specific pain and you somehow can stand it. But sulfazine is like a drill boring into your body that gets worse and worse until it’s more than you can stand. It’s impossible to endure. It is worse than torture, because, sometimes, torture may end. But this kind of torture may continue for years.’

So remember when people talk of the need to reform or reduce government, it is possible for an entire State to be swept away, without bloodshed, in hours, and whilst in the Soviet Union’s case, the aftermath was economically chaotic, that was because of where they had been, not because of where they were going.

Edit: TM Lutas points out in the comments, for which I am grateful, the following regarding an apparent error in the linked article:

Sulfozinum is not sulfazine. The former is what was used in political psychiatry. The latter is actually used in legitimate medicine. Could you add the spelling variant at least to the article so people unfamiliar with the substance are not led astray? The following two links above in combination illustrate the problem.

Bellingcat chronicles the Russian war against Ukraine

The investigative reporters at Bellingcat have produced a very interesting report on the Russian war against Ukraine, including many incidences of the Russian army firing artillery across the international border in 2014.

Fake news – Putin has been pushing it for some time before Mrs Clinton noticed

From Observer (not the leftist UK newspaper, but another site):

The Washington Post reported this week that Kremlin-backed websites pushed “fake news” regularly portraying Hillary and the Democrats in a negative light. There’s really nothing new here for anybody who’s followed Russian propaganda for any length of time. Kremlin agitprop aimed at the West—properly termed disinformation—contains an amalgam of fact and fiction, plus lots of gray information somewhere in between which can be difficult and time-consuming to refute.

Back in the 1980s, when the KGB was pumping all kinds of outlandish conspiracy theories into Western media outlets to smear the Reagan administration, Washington got proficient at countering this sort of nasty deception (the Pentagon created AIDS, for instance). The Active Measures Working Group, an interagency entity stood up expressly to debunk Kremlin lies, became effective at its job, drawing on expertise from various government departments and agencies. With Cold War victory, however, it folded along with the Soviet Union.

By mid-2014, it was apparent that Moscow was up to its old disinformation tricks again, and it was obvious to anybody acquainted with the Kremlin that Washington needed to react to the torrents of lies filtering into Western media thanks to Russian intelligence and its friends in the West. Putin, that wily KGB veteran, is familiar with Active Measures, and his Kremlin has become more aggressive about employing it abroad than the Politburo ever was.

Raoul Wallenberg is dead – RIP

Sweden’s Tax Agency has formally declared Raoul Wallenberg to be dead.

This is long after his disappearance at the hands of the Soviets in ‘liberated’ Budapest, where Wallenberg and others had striven to defy the Nazis and the Hungarian Arrow Cross. Of course, a diplomatic passport was no defence against the NKVD, and whatever happened to Wallenberg, he will long be remembered for his heroism, as should many others be so remembered. I recall reading a book by his colleague Per Anger, who described how a Swiss diplomat, facing an Arrow Cross death squad said something like “So go ahead, kill me, but your man in Berne will hang tomorrow morning.” and they left him alone.

How very modern-Swedish for the tax authorities to be the ones who decide if you are dead or not.

Funny how this story wasn’t made into a big Hollywood movie, just a TV movie, but then again it doesn’t portray a certain cause in a shining light.

Reasons for the UK to leave the EU keep piling up – the EU Arrest Warrant

I have been familiar with some of the details of a Romanian case, which has taken a shocking turn, and it highlights the mess of the European Union’s Arrest Warrant. Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle,  writes about the case. Even the more cynical out there will be shocked at the brazenness of the Romanian government in this case. And it raises a wider issue about governments co-operating to move alleged suspects from A to B and sharing data with one another about their citizens.

Consider a new anti-tax evasion regime called the Common Reporting Standard, under which certain governments swap data to catch alleged tax dodgers. With CRS, there is a presumption that the countries involved can move information around and that this will not compromise legitimate financial privacy. All I can say is “good luck with that”. Abuses will occur. (Governments in recent times have been happy to obtain data from Swiss banks via thieves, for example.)

The UK has an extradition treaty with the US and this has caused controversy at times because of the alleged lack of a need for a prima facie suspicion of guilt to be proven against a person before extradition (instead, a country has to show “probable cause”, which waters the test down marvellously). What may be a crime in the US, for existence (running an internet gambling site, for example) isn’t in the UK. And so on.

The Romanian case in question here is particularly noxious to a sense of justice because of the heavy-handed behaviour of Romania. Its attempt to bully news organisations that are covering controversies, such as arms dealing, is also outrageous – such an attack on freedom of the press hardly meets the sort of test one would have supposed is necessary for a country to be a member of the EU at all. And as long as this arrest warrant remains, I see zero chance of a country such as Turkey joining the EU.

I’d like to know what the UK government’s view is of the case, and of whether any MPs have taken this matter on. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, is not exactly a poster girl for civil liberty, but even she might be shocked at what is going on here. (When she was Home Secretary, she blocked an extradition of a person to the US.)

One way for Mrs May to prove that “Brexit means Brexit” is to ensure that the UK removes itself from the EU arrest warrant process immediately. The reasons why I am so glad the UK voted to get out of the whole wretched structure continue.

Addendum: As an aside, it is also worth noting that these actions by Romania are often typical of certain regimes seeking to crush alleged corruption. Much of the media will applaud this; I even spoke to a fund manager about Romania, who applauded the steps that the country has made against corruption. But as we have seen in countries such as China, anti-corruption sometimes means little more than score-settling or persecution of political opponents or those who are deemed to be embarrassing. (And needless to say, the ultimate case of this is Putin’s Russia, and Romania is to some extent under Russian influence.)

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…’.