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]

While we’re at it, why not gas the dog?

Mark Meechan a.k.a. “Count Dankula”, the man who imperilled us all by making a funny video of a little dog lifting its paw like a Nazi salute, has been found guilty of a crime under the Communications Act 2003 at Airdrie Sheriff Court.

If we are handing out punishments to obvious non-Nazis for doing stuff that reminds people of Nazis I don’t see why that Seig-Heiling pug should get away scot-free.

Is this what strong women do these days?

In yesterday’s Guardian Jill Abramson asked,

“Are we seeing signs of a Democratic wave in the primaries?”

The article optimistically discussed the Democrats’ chances in various upcoming US electoral contests, including the next presidential election:

Though winning control of the House of Representatives in 2018 is their focus, my Democratic sources say that there are already 20 credible presidential challengers giving serious thought to opposing Donald Trump in 2020. The list, unsurprisingly, includes a raft of Democratic senators, and, perhaps surprisingly, at least three strong women, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren.

My eyes had been glazing over at the mention of “strong women”. Then I read this:

It’s easy to look at what’s happening in Washington DC and despair. That’s why I carry a little plastic Obama doll in my purse. I pull him out every now and then to remind myself that the United States had a progressive, African American president until very recently. Some people find this strange, but you have to take comfort where you can find it in Donald Trump’s America.

Ms Abramson is “a political columnist for the Guardian. She is visiting lecturer in the English department at Harvard University and a journalist who spent the last 17 years in the most senior editorial positions at the New York Times, where she was the first woman to serve as Washington bureau chief, managing editor and executive editor.”

Something of a prototypical strong woman herself, then. And if she wants to carry around a little plastic Obama doll to hug when she feels sad, far be it from me to deny her the right. Though I do not believe I ever went through the phase of needing to have a “blanky” or other “comfort object” constantly around me, many toddlers do. I am sure the right to keep and bear blankies is in the penumbra of the US Constitution somewhere. It just… somehow… is not what I expected of a former bureau chief, managing editor and executive editor. (Visiting Lecturer in the Harvard English department, maybe.) Is that what strong American women (who by definition are all Democrats) do these days? Maybe I’m just out of touch. Maybe it is accepted that among the accoutrements of the modern strong woman is a doll representing a male authority figure that she can clutch for comfort. Maybe New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren all have little plastic Obamas that help them cope with their fears, and that’s OK.

The Perils of Polly Brexitstop

“Heyulp! Heyulp”

Who will rescue Polly this time? Who will answer her call?

Will it be those apparently reformed criminals, the Ant Hill Mob?

“Come to parliament, Sinn Féin, as saviours of Ireland – and Britain”

Or will it be her trusted guardian Sylvester Sneekly and his business associates?

“Business must speak up, and save Britain from Brexit”

Two desperate appeals in five days have gone unanswered. Oh, won’t somebody come?

The strange lack of any media or political noise about the Las Vegas shooting

Like Matt Walsh, I remain baffled at why the slaughter of concert-goers in Las Vegas a few months ago, and the almost total lack of evidence or data on the killer’s motives and actions, haven’t caused much in the way of a media/political firestorm, contrasting with events of recent days:

If you recall, dozens upon dozens of people were gunned down in Las Vegas on October 1. There were 58 fatalities in total. Another 422 injuries. That’s 480 casualties — 480 casualties — and I’m not even counting the hundreds more injured by trampling or shrapnel. It was the worst mass shooting in modern American history by a mile. It had more casualties than Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland combined — times two. And it was carried out in the middle of a major American city.

Yet that terrible massacre seemed to fade from the headlines rapidly and inexplicably. The country had almost entirely moved on by the beginning of the following week. It seemed to me that we had forgotten about it within three or four days, but I’ll say a week just to be safe. The media is so obsessed with Parkland that several of its survivors are now practically household names. Does anyone remember the names of a single one of the Las Vegas survivors? Did any of them do media tours? Did CNN hold a “town hall” about Las Vegas? Was there an extensive conversation about potential law enforcement failures in Las Vegas, as there has been about their failures in Florida? We’ve all had quite a bit to say about the police officer who waited outside while kids were gunned down, but what about the police officers and armed security who made it to the shooter’s hotel room while he was still raining shots down on the crowd, but stood outside the door for an hour before entering?

From my vantage point, it seems that fairly early on, the media seemed to give up a hunt for explanations and for holding various people to account. Consider this point: Vegas hotels are famously packed with CCTV to foil thieves and crooks of various descriptions. And yet a man was able to get a large cache of weapons into a room and do what he did.

The trouble with even writing about this topic now is that I feel that I sound like a conspiracy nut, which I am emphatically not.

All very odd.

Samizdata quote of the day

Yesterday the Labour leader posted a video to his social media accounts. Dogged for days by accusations he was complicit in passing information in multiple meetings to the Cold War Czechoslovak agent Jan Sarkocy, and having dodged questions on the topic by the press, Corbyn (or Agent Cob as the Statni Bezoecnost called him) decided he would not answer the questions but attack the press that were asking them.

Matt Kilcoyne

The message on those Oxfam T-shirts

Have you ever watched someone make a speech and caught the moment when the speaker lost the sympathy of the audience? Those friendly to the speaker wince, suppress it, and lock their heads and their eyes into looking straight ahead. In contrast the hostile part of the audience exchange glances – did you hear it too?

There can be moments like that when reading a news story too. Suddenly a detail leaps out. The reader who is friendly to the subject of the story winces, while the hostile reader cannot wait to click on the comments. For the Oxfam story I think that detail was the prostitutes half-naked except for Oxfam T-shirts. Without that the story was and is a bit meh.

So men far from home use prostitutes? Meh. They call it “the oldest profession” for a reason. Most people, even those with traditional views on sexual morality, would say that is a private matter.

So women in countries stricken by war or disaster turn to prostitution to survive? In that case the power imbalance makes the picture look uglier – but realistically it is inevitable. There was a sweet letter in today’s Times in which the writer suggested that we send the army to administer aid rather than these NGOs. Like the writer, I have a higher opinion of our armed services than I do of our misnamed “non-governmental” organisations, but consider the centuries old connotations of the term “camp follower”. Where soldiers are, there will be women offering to sell them sex.

Every story on this seems to include the line that some of the prostitutes may have been underage. Serious if proven, but so far, not proven. No one has put their name to a definite allegation citing times and places. May have been underage. Meh.

But this is not meh:

Oxfam in Haiti: ‘It was like a Caligula orgy with prostitutes in Oxfam T-shirts’

“The group lived in a guesthouse rented by Oxfam that they called the ‘pink apartments’ — they called it ‘the whorehouse’,” said a source who says he was shown phone footage by one of the residents of the guesthouse.

“They were throwing big parties with prostitutes. These girls were wearing Oxfam T-shirts, running around half-naked, it was a like a full-on Caligula orgy. It was unbelievable. It was crazy. At one party there were at least five girls and two of them had Oxfam white T-shirts on. These men used to talk about holding ‘young meat barbecues’.”

That image has deeply unpleasant associations. There is not even the fig leaf of buying the girl a drink and making a little awkward conversation to make it feel more like an interaction of equals. Black women are labelled as available for white men by brand name packaging. Think how that must rankle in Haiti.

But we’re libertarians, right? (I have used this line before.) Indeed we are. Neither guilty whites in London nor resentful blacks in Port-au-Prince should have a veto on two individuals making a deal. Subject to some provisos about promises made by either party to their spouses, to local laws, and to agreed conditions of employment, that is still my opinion.

However it is not Oxfam’s opinion. Do a search for the word “Oxfam” on this blog. There were a few sensible noises on free trade from this semi-fake charity fifteen years ago, but in recent years Oxfam has grown fat peddling economically illiterate bullshit on the alleged evils of “inequality” and “speculation”. White guilt and black resentment were its stock in trade. Actual trade was something to be taxed, regulated and eternally prefixed with some veto-word like “Fair” or “Ethical” that showed permission had been given by censorious third parties for the transaction to occur.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Puritans IN SPACE!

H.L. Mencken defined “puritanism” as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”. Meet Nathan Robinson, editor of a journal called Current Affairs, Guardian contributor, and a man who has almost certainly named his kids “Fly-extravagance”, “Sorry-for-misgendering” and “If-carbon-had-not-been-offset-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned”. He writes,

Why Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch is utterly depressing

There is, perhaps, no better way to appreciate the tragedy of 21st-century global inequality than by watching a billionaire spend $90m launching a $100,000 car into the far reaches of the solar system.

Musk said he wanted to participate in a space race because “races are exciting” and that while strapping his car to a rocket may be “silly and fun … silly and fun things are important”. Thus, anyone who mentions the colossal waste the project involves, or the various social uses to which these resources could be put, can be dismissed as a killjoy.

But one doesn’t have to hate fun to question the justification for pursuing a costly new space race at exactly this moment. If we examine the situation honestly, and get past our natural (and accurate) feeling that rockets are really cool, it becomes hard to defend a project like this.

A mission to Mars does indeed sound exciting, but it’s important to have our priorities straight. First, perhaps we could make it so that a child no longer dies of malaria every two minutes. Or we could try to address the level of poverty in Alabama that has become so extreme the UN investigator did not believe it could still occur in a first-world country. Perhaps once violence, poverty and disease are solved, then we can head for the stars.

Many might think that what Elon Musk chooses to do with his billions is Elon Musk’s business alone. If he wanted to spend all his money on medicine for children, that would be nice, but if he’d like to spend it making big explosions and sending his convertible on a million-mile space voyage, that’s his prerogative.

But Musk is only rich enough to afford these indulgent pet projects because we have allowed gross social inequalities to arise in the first place. If wealth were actually distributed fairly in this country, nobody would be in a position to fund his own private space program.

Protests in Iran and the Golden Globes

I see a great deal about protests by multimillionaires who work in show business in the USA, but very little about protests in Iran. Have the protests in Iran been completely put down by the Revolutionary Guard? And if so, what is happening in the aftermath? Is there a brutal crackdown on those woman daring to not wear their headscarves or… what? As I look to Oprah for so much of my news, I wonder if she knows or even has any opinions on the topic?

A couple show biz leftwingers share a moment together

The pitchforks are out for Count Dankula

“M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi.” That link takes you to a video in which a man who wished to annoy his girlfriend trained her cute pug to lift its paw in a “Nazi salute” in response to Nazi slogans. Well, it used to. At present for me it takes me to a video of a black screen saying “This video is not available in your country”. Mark Meechan, the man who made the video, is from Scotland and I am in England, but I do not think that explains it.

From the Telegraph‘s account and even more from a swing round Mr Meechan’s “Count Dankula” YouTube channel, it does sound as if his humour tends towards the crass and tasteless. But do these words from the beginning of the video sound to you like the voice of a man committed to the triumph of Nazism?

The court heard that at the start of the clip, he said: “My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

In the video, the dog is seen perking up when it hears the statements and appears to lift its paw to the “Sieg Heil” command in the video, which has now been viewed more than million times.

Mr Meechan is currently on trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court for committing a hate crime. If convicted he faces up to a year in prison. The verdict was due two days ago but has been delayed for reasons unknown.

One of the more detailed reports on the case came from the Washington Post:

The dog is also seen watching a Hitler rally during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The dog appears to raise its paw when Hitler proclaims “Sieg Heil.”

“Who’s a good wee Nazi?” Meechan praised the dog.

The video ricocheted around the Internet and has now been viewed more than 3 million times. Some found it amusing; others feel it was crude and anti-Semitic, including a woman who Meechan says confronted him, then spread dog feces on his front door.

Prosecutors say it’s a hate crime.

That April, soon after the video was posted, police knocked on Meechan’s door in Coatbridge, a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, he told Alex Jones. The officers told him that he was being charged with a hate crime and that the video could be seen as promoting violence against Jews. They told him to change his clothes, took pictures of his apartment and hauled him off to jail.

He spent a night there and is now on trial for violating the Communications Act of 2003, which prohibits using public telecommunications to send discriminatory religious messages.

Samizdata quote of the day

I am hardly a Trump supporter, but ask yourself: would a book saying everything his enemies want you to think about him is true sell? And would the media be guaranteed to market the hell out of it for free? Huh, what’s truth got to do with anything?

– Perry de Havilland

Samizdata quote of the day

This was a real threat to the press, and our #FreeThePress campaign urged citizens to say No to both prospects. Section 40 would mean strong-arming newspapers into signing up to a press-backed regulator – ending centuries of a (relatively) free press. What’s more, the only press regulator that has been approved by the Leveson-created Press Recognition Panel is Impress, which is staffed by snobbish ‘hackademics’ and funded by tabloid-loathing millionaire Max Mosley.

Naomi Firsht

“Despite Brexit”

From Forbes magazine’s website:

Wells Fargo and Apple both made substantial moves within London since the Brexit vote. Wells Fargo spent $400 million to buy a new European headquarters in London’s financial district. Apple announced plans to open a new London campus in 2021 that covers nearly 500,000 square feet of space. Facebook is also in the market for 700,000 square feet to accommodate 9,000 employees.

The whole article is worth a read. And it reminded me that there are now dozens of stories, tracked by the likes of Guido Fawkes,  going on about how This or That splendid thing has taken place “despite Brexit”. The joke here, of course, is that the Remain-leaning folks who write for the likes of the Financial Times and others have a hardwired assumption that Brexit is bad, will damage the UK economy, and that anything that appears to be positive is therefore in some sort of defiance of said presumption, to be dismissed, or cast aside. (This is not all one way, of course, there can be over-inflation of optimism about what the UK departure will mean, but my impression is that the volume of “despite Brexit” stories and the bias they reveal is much greater than the other sort.)

The point is soon being reached when an entire volume of news stories could be gathered into one place and the title of the book could be called “Despite Brexit”. Maybe those folk at Guido Fawkes or the Spectator, etc might bring out one in time for next year’s Christmas. I suspect the book will run to several hundred pages. (OK, I demand copyright on the idea, now!)