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]

The New York Times, on the Minimum Wage

Back in January of 1987, about thirty years ago, before it opposed economic theory on principle, The New York Times wrote an editorial against the minimum wage.

In a short piece provocatively entitled: “The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00”, they said, among other things:

[…]It’s no wonder then that Edward Kennedy, the new chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, is being pressed by organized labor to battle for an increase.

No wonder, but still a mistake. Anyone working in America surely deserves a better living standard than can be managed on $3.35 an hour. But there’s a virtual consensus among economists that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed. Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market.[…]

The newspaper was hardly expressing the sort of fully libertarian view I would prefer — the editorial suggests wage subsidies and state sponsored job training as an alternative to minimum wage laws. However, it is still noteworthy that thirty years ago, the New York Times’ editors still possessed the fundamental understanding that raising the price of something lowers demand, and that labor isn’t an exception.

It is worth reading, if you can, if only to remember how far the terms of the debate have slipped over the decades. Today, the editorial board of the same newspaper strongly favors doubling the minimum wage, to $15 an hour, which, in inflation adjusted dollars, vastly exceeds any level it has had in the past. No serious consideration is given in the more recent editorials to the notion that doubling the price of low skill labor might result in unemployment. This is quite a change, and not one for the better.

What the Russians saw

Samizdata commenter Niall Kilmartin has sent the following observations about the claim that the Russians “hacked the US election”. – Natalie Solent

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve read quite a bit in the slew of articles kicked off by the Washington Post‘s claim that the Russians ‘hacked the election’ – everything from supportive articles through ridiculing ones, from articles focussed on the mechanics of the Podesta phishing attack – was it actually spear-phishing! – through articles focussed strictly on the politics of it all, or on the comedy of hardened lefties’ new-found faith in anonymous CIA assessments.

One thought occurred immediately to me but I have never seen it raised; understandably never raised by left-wing supporters of the theory, but also never raised by vehement libertarian or right-wing opponents.

The argument is that the Russians hacked both the DNC and the RNC, then revealed their evil Trump-supporting agenda by releasing documents only from the DNC. Let us, just for the sake of argument accept everything up to the comma – that it was the Russians, and they had access to both DNC and RNC servers. (Others have argued intelligently against accepting all that with the unquestioning credence of today’s MSM, or indeed even thinking it likely, but that’s not my point; let us, for now, presume it’s accurate.)

Clinton was the DNC’s candidate. There would of course be evidence of their preference for her on their servers. And since even the BBC’s correspondent could not keep a straight face when reporting her 6 successive coin-toss wins in the Iowa primary, it should be no surprise this evidence included acts beyond what was fair, even by the low public standards of politics, so was damaging to her and to the DNC.

Trump was not the RNC’s candidate. Nor was runner-up Ted Cruz. From early in the race, it became clear it was between these two, with the RNC having a hard time deciding which of them it disliked more. When Trump won, the most insider RNC people were the most openly appalled, right up until the convention. After it, some remained nevertrumpers, and others had grave doubts he could win (the more they were RNC insiders, the more doubts they had). So what would the RNC’s servers have shown?

Hypothesis 1) The RNC ran a fair enough primary process, while publicising all the arguments against Trump (and Cruz) that they had. Occam’s razor makes this the most reasonable hypothesis, since two candidates they disliked became the front-runners early. (Variant Hypothesis: the RNC took seriously Trump’s promise not to run 3rd party if the primary process was fair. They therefore avoided any major unfairness, so they could hold him to his promise after his expected defeat.) After Trump won the nomination, they thought more about down-ballot damage-limitation than about helping him to an improbable (they thought) victory by any shameful-if-exposed tactic.

Hypothesis 2) The RNC cheated but not as much as the DNC, so failed to prevent Trump’s win (perhaps through failing to anticipate it till too late) and in doing so released all possible argument against Trump (as in 1 above) plus knowingly unfair or concocted opposition. If you have a hard time thinking a bunch of professional politicians could ever have run an honest process, you can mix what ratio you like of this with (1).

Hypothesis 3) Hardened lefties who believe that Republicans are evil and stupid may, without inconsistency, insist that the RNC cheated as much or more than the DNC but much more stupidly, so failed to achieve their end of stopping Trump win the Republican nomination, unlike the clever Democratic cheating done by the DNC.

Thus what do the Russian hackers find on the RNC’s servers?

In Variant 1, they find evidence that the RNC is more highminded than the DNC in how it runs primaries, and also that they have put into the public domain everything they know against Trump and every argument they can think of. Revealing this would praise the RNC relative to the DNC, and do no harm to Trump.

In Variant 2, the RNC is not so highminded; some of what they urged against Trump was offered in bad faith. Revealing this leaves the RNC looking bad, but still less corrupt than the DNC, and creates some sympathy for Trump.

In variant 3, the RNC looks as bad as the DNC, and outsider-candidate Trump benefits bigtime in public opinion.

So lets revisit the final part of the sentence above: “The argument is that the Russians hacked both the DNC and the RNC, then revealed their evil Trump-supporting agenda by releasing documents only from the DNC.”

Can anyone correct my impression that even if the first clause were correct, the last would not follow? Why would the hackers find secret anti-Trump information, or evidence of corrupt manipulation for Trump (or indeed, for Cruz)?

Samizdata quote of the day

That’s the New York Times which has been repeatedly asserting that higher minimum wages do not affect employment? It is indeed possible to have the most lovely arguments about how much a higher minimum affects whom but the assertion that there is no unemployment effect is simply an untruth.

Tim Worstall

Samizdata quote of the day

The case is very simple indeed. Do you believe in freedom of speech or not? If you do then Stormfront gets to have a website detailing whatever it is that it misunderstands about the world. As does every other vile and hateful group from left and right. There is no shortage of sites insisting that Stalin had nothing to do with the Holodomor, that it was disease not starvation, that the starvation was just bad weather, that there was no campaign against Ukrainians and anyway, it never happened did it?

Tim Worstall

Samizdata quote of the day

What is funny is to watch the media try to interpret [Trump] through their prism of politics. It is like trying to understand the workings of a nuclear reactor through the prism of deconstructionist feminist semiotics.

Fraser Orr

Parlez pas trop vite

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

Samizdata quote of the day

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

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.

Nice job breaking it, Huffman

Amelia Tait, writing in the New Statesman, says,

Reddit’s CEO edited comments on a pro-Trump thread and everyone should care

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has publicly admitted to editing comments on the pro-Donald Trump subreddit r/the_donald in a move he has described as “trolling the trolls”. Huffman – who goes by “spez” on Reddit – deleted comments from the pro-Trump community on the site, and also altered comments that insulted him. He replaced comments reading “fuck u/spez” with those of the users who moderate the thread. This meant the criticism directed towards him appeared to be attacking the thread’s own moderators.

[…]

Yet although this might seem like a small and temporary lapse in judgement, the implications are huge.

Normally when a comment is edited on Reddit – by a user or a moderator – a small asterisk will appear after the time stamp to indicate that it has been changed. In this instance, no such asterisk appeared, meaning Huffman ostensibly has the ability to edit comments without a trace. This is crucial because two months ago, a Redditor was taken to court for comments he left on the site. Huffman’s editing powers could clearly be abused to cause trouble for individuals.

Beyond this, however, Huffman chose the wrong Reddit community to anger. Those on r/the_donald are already deeply convinced by conspiracies, and, in a way, Huffman has now validated their claims.

I first came across r/the_donald when news was breaking of the terrorist massacre of 49 people attending a gay nightclub in Orlando carried out on behalf of Islamic State by Omar Mateen. I say “news was breaking”, but it was not breaking at r/news. As one Reddit user said, “They deleted EVERY other thread about the shooting”. Another said, “You know whats crazy? I live in Orlando and I had no idea this was going on. I depend on reddit for my news 100% since it can rapidly deliver news from many sources that I can validate or discard. I have literally been up all night on Reddit and due to the apparent thread lockings and deletions, this story took 9 hours to make it to me — I probably live within thirty minutes of this place.” Yet another said, “This situation has been unfolding for hours, it’s the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and the only evidence of it on the front page is stuff from /r/the_donald?”

The talk is all of “fake news” at the moment, with a presumption that the fakery is coming from the right. But many of those Americans who saw with their own eyes the main Reddit news page attempting to play down a major news story while the Donald Trump subreddit reported it freely will have concluded that those Trump guys were telling the truth and the other guys were fakers – and who can blame them? Some of them will have switched from r/news to r/the_donald as their first news source and will have gone on to vote for Trump as a result. It is always fun to watch the “Nice job breaking it, hero” trope play out in real life, but r/the_Donald is not itself a good news source. The comments that Huffman altered were the usual conspiracy rubbish that is thrown at any politician these days. I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton is running a paedophile ring for the same reason that I never believed that Ted Heath was. Apart from anything else, major political figures are too closely watched. Steve Huffman had the right and was right to ban the “Pizzagate” subreddit, which made claims absurd even by the standards typical of such things and had caused real harm to innocent people. As ever, the believers in the conspiracy took any opposition to their theories as PROOOOF that the opposer was in on it too. Mr Huffman would have been completely within his rights and acting in the interests of his company to have banned the people who were libelling him. Instead he chose to play games with his own site’s credibility. A few weeks ago I would have dismissed the idea that the Reddit CEO would personally hack the accounts of his own customers on the r/the_donald subreddit as yet more conspirazoid rubbish. As Amelia Tait said, Huffman has now validated their claim to be persecuted. He has also validated their claim to be important.

Samizdata quote of the day

In his comments over the past week, Obama has sounded some of the same themes we discussed back in 2013. He told Remnick: “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us.” The 2009 revelations from the East Anglia emails that scientists had manipulated data and abused the peer-review process? Down the memory hole.

Remnick himself described the Obama presidency as “two terms long on dignity and short on scandal.” The IRS? The State Department scandal that arguably sank Mrs. Clinton’s campaign? Again, the memory hole.

In Lima on Sunday the president himself declared: “I am extremely proud of the fact that over eight years we have not had the kinds of scandals that have plagued other administrations.” That’s either delusional or very carefully worded: To our knowledge no other administration has used the IRS to punish ordinary citizens for dissent, nor faced FBI findings that the secretary of state treated classified information in an “extremely careless” fashion.

James Taranto

Should I contribute to the Guardian?

In this time of echo chambers and knee jerk slogans, shall I donate money to the Guardian to understand alternative views. The press is dying and alternatives still remain vulnerable to pressure and corruption. We have no online Private Eye, such an important component if we relax planning laws.

Investigative journalism is still required!

Trump nearly there

Well, here I am sitting at my desk, with a telly on it and a computer screen on it, at stupid o’clock in the morning. I’m following the internet version of events here. When I started out following this, Clinton was reckoned to be 75 percent likely to win. Now they’re saying the same about Donald Trump. But since the first figure proved so fallible, why would I trust the second figure either? What is going to happen?

A few thoughts for our commentariat – including many who have actual experience of being in the USA, as I have not – to chew over, or not, as they please.

On Brit TV, a sensible blond woman (British) is talking about Obamacare and what a train wreck it has been. I suspect a lot of Brits are hearing this kind of thing for the first time. She also talked about education, another minus for Hillary, it would seem. And another Brit – middle aged, comb-over – has talked about Hillary’s use of politics to enrich herself on a grand scale. Again, how often has this been talked about on Brit TV?

So, simply in terms of their ability to report the campaign and its nature, the British media failed as comprehensively as the Clinton-supporting media look like they’re failing.

Related point: I suspect that Trump’s use of the social media is going to be talked about a lot in the next few weeks and months. Trump is being described as a political novice. But he sure as hell isn’t a media novice. He understands television. He understands how to get attention.

Now, finally, someone is telling Britain that Hillary Clinton is too “robotic”, not “warm”. They couldn’t “humanise” her. Trump was able to exploit this. Now they tell us.

About Trump. For the last year and however long it’s been, almost everyone has been underestimating Trump, and they were underestimating him still, only a few hours ago. And now, it is being said, by people on both sides, that Trump will be a ghastly President. He will be, if he just sticks to shrieking the things he shrieked at the beginning of his campaign, to get the attention of the kind of voters who hate all the damn politicians, definitely including those Republican grandees whom Trump has rolled all over, up to and including doing much better in the Presidential election. But what if people are still underestimating him? What if he is actually a quite good President? Even to the point where he starts making sensible noises about the size of the nation’s debt? What if he actually gets that you can’t just legislate manufacturing jobs back into existence? What if he turns out to be better at handling the Russians?

The US stockmarket, we are being told, is certainly of the opinion that Trump will now be the President, but a very bad President, as in bad for American business, certain for the sort of businesses that get quoted on the stockmarket. But are they right?

I wouldn’t put it past Trump to be rather a good president, because if there is one thing that is very clear about this man, it is that he does like to be liked, and the incentives he will face, if he does get the Presidency, will now change. If he does get to be President, he will be wanting to be thought of as a great President. Well, maybe not. Maybe he will concentrate all his efforts on having his revenge on all his detractors, both Republican and Democrat, and meanwhile let the USA itself go hell. But might he not turn out rather better than that?

Or, Trump may decide that the future of America, indeed of the world, is “progressivism”, and he might turn out to be another Obama. He was, after all, a Democrat for many years, was he not?

The British lefty, on the extreme left of my TV screen, is talking about a “cataclysmic” rejection of the “progressive agenda”, as personified by President Obama. Obamacare is going to be repealed! The horror.

That Obama guy, eh? Lots of Americans seem to think that he’s an idiot, but, a likeable idiot. They carried on voting for him, while he was the candidate. But as soon as Obama himself stopped being who you had to vote for, the vote for mere Obama-ism collapsed. Well, no, not collapsed. We’re talking a few percentage points. But that is enough to change things radically. That’s democracy for you. 50.5 percent, happiness. 49.5 percent, misery.

Now, a bearded young American is saying that if Sanders – the Venezuelan candidate, so to speak – had got the Democrat nomination, he would have been more likely to have won this thing. Maybe, unlike Hillary, Sanders could have made Venezuela seem appealing. Like I say, it only takes a single figure percentage to change things.

Other Democrats have been fulminating about how racist Trump is. Well, as for that, I have been watching the political left insult white people – particularly white men – for my entire adult life, ever since the workers of the rich, white West made it clear that they preferred the affluent society (such as it has been) to revolutionary Bolshevistic self-immolation. For me, the surprise is not that the white working class has fled from the left. For me, the surprise is that it has taken them so long.

They’re now talking about Trump being 93 percent likely to win it.

Now: Nigel Farage, calling this, if it happens in accordance with the above percentage, “bigger than Brexit”. He’s not assuming it, but he is struggling to keep his grin under control.

It’s gone down to 88 percent. LATER: up to 95 percent!

Well, well, well.

This election has kept me up for so long that I am now following the start of this cricket match between England and India. The smart money says India are about 88 percent likely to win that, by a landslide. To bed, Brian, to bed. Apologies for all the typos and grammatical cock-ups. I may need to clean this up in the morning.

I now see that, with admirable brevity, Natalie Solent has said the very same thing that I have been rambling on about at such tedious length. Oh well. Repetition is allowed here. ?!? Indeed.