This is quite old – the previous presidential election – but I cannot help thinking, given the huge gap between the supposed cleverness of soon-to-be-gone President Obama and his actual performance on the job, that the actor Clint Eastwood summed up the current occupant of the White House perfectly with this speech.
On a totally separate point, I really enjoyed the Eastwood-directed film, Sully, starring Tom Hanks. What I liked about this film, like another Hanks film (Apollo 13) is its celebration of grace under pressure, of competence, and of a sort of grown-up maturity and adult willingness to accept responsibility. Given the state of the culture, these are good things to put out there on the Silver Screen.
Things were looking good for the Allies at the close of 1916. The French had pushed back the Germans at Verdun. The British were consistently doing much the same on the Somme. The Russians had made huge gains at the expense of the Austrians during the Brusilov Offensive. The Italians were continuing to attack and it appeared that it was finally all systems go on the Salonika Front. The only real fly in the ointment was Romania which was being invaded.
Away from the frontlines there was also plenty of scope for optimism. The British were at last getting guns and shells in sufficient quantities. The Irish rebellion had been crushed. The U-boat campaign was quiescent. Conscription seemed to be working. Even the Russians seemed to have turned the corner when it came to their supply problems.
Most importantly, the Western Allies – and particularly the French under a dashing young commander – appeared to have found the formula for winning battles on the Western Front.
Meanwhile the Germans were slowly and literally being starved by a combination of the Blockade and their own economic incompetence. Splits were beginning to appear with the communist, Karl Liebnecht demanding an end to the war. At the same time they were having to prop up their increasingly helpless allies. In Austria, the death of Emperor Franz Josef followed on the heels of the assassination of the Prime Minister by another communist in protest at the continuing refusal to recall parliament.
It must have looked like victory was just around the corner. In such situations you often find that unscrupulous politicians like to jockey for position in order to be able to take the credit. Not that such things would ever happen in Britain.
On 6 December, having out-manoeuvred his predecessor, David Lloyd George became Prime Minister.
Oh and the name of that dashing French commander – he of the formula? Nivelle. Robert Nivelle.
The Times 28 September 1916
Samizdata is being moved to a newer, more lush, perhaps more louche server. This will also provide for freshening-up of the blog software, and a gradual migration to HTTPS.
Impact: Samizdata will be irregularly-offline this upcoming Monday, December 5th, starting from an estimated 3pm London time (10am Eastern, 1600h CET) for an estimated 4-to-6 hours, perhaps a little longer depending on how long the DNS bookkeeping takes.
If the migration fails we’ll fall back to the existing machine and continue, but it’s likely to be okay. Assuming that everything goes well, you may still expect a little flakiness when accessing the blog for up to 24 hours afterwards; after that time it’s a “bug”, or else we dropped something in transit.
“Fortune favours the bald!”, or something like that…
…you cannot please everyone no matter what you do, so do not even try:
Cambridge Rainbow vegetarian cafe refuses new £5 note
I would sign a petition not to remove animal products from the £5 note. Seriously. I am so through with being accommodating in oh so many ways and on oh so many issues.
If it was up to me, bank notes would all be printed on slices of bacon 😉
[Sweden] appear[s] to have stumbled on the concept that a low-tech economy in which consumers have fewer choices produces fewer greenhouse gases. Now they want to move to such an economy, which is in the precise opposite direction everyone else is moving. We have the developed world. We also have the developing world. Sweden wants to kick-start the undeveloping world.
– Tim Newman
“Richmond Park marks the start of a new, cross-party rejection of Brexit”, says Hugo Dixon in the Guardian. Predictably. People like Geraint Davies MP and David Lammy MP been weaselling away since the week of the referendum. Zac Goldsmith’s defeat at the hands of the Liberal Democrats in the Richmond Park by-election has worked on the Remainers like a psychotropic drug in their carrot juice.
A Reddit user called “lordweiner27” neatly turned around every cliché of the Weasel genre. His or her post seems to have been removed from r/ukpolitics, so I thought I would preserve it here:
The LibDems only won by 4% in Richmond, there should be a second by election.
We know that the LibDems lied and put out fake news during the campaign. When people realise this how many people will change their mind?
We also know that this wasn’t really a vote for the LibDems, it was a by election with very low turnout. What this really was was a rejection of the establishment in the form of multi millionaire Goldsmith, not a vote in favour of the LibDems.
I’ve already spoken to people in Richmond and they’re telling me that their having Libgret and wish they’d voted for Zac. They’re telling me that they were decieved by the LibDem campaign, they fell for the lies and they feel that they themselves are possibly retarded.
And anyway, why should ordinary people get to decide who their MP is? Zac was more well qualified than the LibDem candidate having been an MP for years. All the experts back Zac and they’re always right.
To be honest, if his colourful quotes were intended to alarm me, they actually had quite the opposite effect.
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
– James Mattis
Hollande and Europe are turning the tide. Where will it leave Cameron?
Labour gains from the triumph of the French Socialist leader with his intellectually cogent rallying cry for a new direction for Europe. Look how he won with a promise to tax the super-rich at a heart-attack rate of 75%, yet the French stock market actually rose slightly. Can he now turn the great liner of the EU’s disastrous economic policy?
– Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, 7 May 2012
François Hollande will not seek re-election as president of France
François Hollande, the least popular French president since the second world war, has announced he will not run for a second term in office.
With a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%, the Socialist president appeared shaken and emotional as he said in a live televised address from the Élysée palace that he would not attempt to run for a second term, conscious of the “risks” to the French left if he did so.
– Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, 1 December 2016
Liberal columnists, wounded that so much of the public ignored their overtures first on Brexit and then on Trump, claim good, decent, supposedly ‘elitist’ journalism must now assert itself. Our role in ‘seeking the truth’ must be ‘harnessed with steely determination’, says one. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour says the ‘tsunami of fake-news sites’ is an affront to journalism and the thing that journalism helps to facilitate: democracy. We must now fight ‘hard for the truth’ in this world where ‘the Oxford English Dictionary just announced that its word of 2016 [is] “post-truth”’, she says. Numerous hacks have been despatched to Macedonia and Russia to confront the fresh-faced youths who run these fake-news sites for cash. ‘How teens in the Balkans are duping Trump supporters’, says one headline. ‘Russian propaganda effort helped spread “fake news” during election’, says another. The image we’re left with is of dastardly Easterners suckering stupid Westerners and undermining the democratic tradition, and now pain-faced, well-minded columnists must stand up to this foreign threat to reason.
It’s the fakest news story of the week.
– Brendan O’Neill
“UKIP leader Paul Nuttall says UK should ban burqa”, the Independent reports.
In the 2015 election I was pleased to note that UKIP, the third most popular party in the UK in terms of number of votes, was also the closest to libertarian among the mainstream parties. Since then the United Kingdom Independence Party has both fulfilled and lost its purpose. Its new leader, Paul Nuttall, seems to want to achieve his aim of supplanting Labour as the main opposition to the Tories by outcompeting Labour in the field of authoritarianism. Just listen to the tail-wags-the-dog justification for banning the burqa that Mr Nutall gives in the video clip linked to by the Independent:
“Whether we like it or not we are the most watched people in the world. There’s more CCTV in Britain per head than anywhere else on the planet and for the CCTV to be effective you need to see people’s faces.”
As to the position of intellectuals in Cuban society, it appeared that they had almost everything estranged Western intellectuals desired. There was, to start with, ample official recognition. They were taken seriously and, if loyal to the regime, given generous opportunities to share in power and the management of the new society. They were given responsibilities such as the visitors rarely enjoyed in their own societies. For the most part these were, in the words of Susan Sontag, “pedagogical functions,” and “a major role in the raising of the level of consciousness.” The jubilation on the part of the visitors, as they witnessed Cuban intellectuals moving into positions of power and responsibility, signaled their relief that at long last intellectuals could abandon their traditional roles as social critics and outsiders and could now joyously affirm, endorse, and assist an ongoing social system. At last the painful dichotomy between thought and action was dissolved; Cuban intellectuals were men of action, some actually fought as guerillas; others became revolutionary deans of universities, revolutionary officials in ministries of education, culture or propaganda, revolutionary writers, film-makers, academics. Most of them shared, from time to time, the manly burden of manual labor with the masses. Most importantly, they were fully integrated into society, there was nothing marginal about them.
Under these circumstances, it was possible to accept with a clear conscience the material benefits and privileges the regime bestowed on them, unlike in Western societies, where the material privileges and status advantages of estranged intellectuals often became a major sources of their bitterness, inner conflict, or self-contempt. Wishing to be severe social critics of the societies they lived in and half expecting some measure of retribution or mild martyrdom for their criticism, instead they often found themselves either ignored by the holders of power or, worse, in positions of influence or high social status despite their relentless castigation of the social system which continued, almost absent-mindedly, to feed generously the mouths that so regularly bit it.
– Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, 1928-78, Paul Hollander, page 264.
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.