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]

You have to wonder when, not if, Obama is arrested

This story, via that well-known extreme rightwing news outlet, Associated Press (sarcasm alert) ought, given the enormity of what is stated, surely lead to former President Barack Obama having his collar felt by the Feds. But he won’t of course because he was “hope and change”:

WASHINGTON (AP) — After striking an elusive nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration found itself in a quandary in early 2016: Iran had been promised access to its long-frozen overseas reserves, including $5.7 billion stuck in an Omani bank.

To spend it, Iran wanted to convert the money into U.S. dollars and then euros, but top U.S. officials had repeatedly promised Congress that Iran would never gain access to America’s financial system.

Those assurances notwithstanding, the Obama administration secretly issued a license to let Iran sidestep U.S. sanctions for the brief moment required to convert the funds through an American bank, an investigation by Senate Republicans released Wednesday showed. The plan failed when two U.S. banks refused to participate.

Yet two years later, the revelation is re-igniting the bitter debate over the nuclear deal and whether former President Barack Obama was too eager to grant concessions to Tehran.

All those friends of mine on the libertarian side who rightly get annoyed by Donald Trump will, I trust, be equally oxidised about what the Obama administration has got up to. The situation is shocking because, in recent years, dozens of foreign banks have been punished by US authorities for breaching sanctions against countries including Iran. The most egregious breach was by French banking group BNP Paribas, paying a fine to the US totaling $8.9 billion. (One wonders if President Macron of France will lobby Donald Trump to refund some of this cash to France, if the previous administration was crapping on its own rules about sanctions.)

Here is Ben Shapiro going into the increasingly unhinged one-sided media coverage of US public affairs.

Back to the original article, it seems important to me that it is AP, not just a blog or some YouTube commentator, that has spelled out in devastating detail the dishonesty of the Obama administration over Iran. I recall (yes, I am that old), how White House shenanigans over Iran (the 1986 Iran-Contra scandal) nearly brought down Ronald Reagan and led to multiple hearings, firings and resignations. Obama may now hope that, as a former POTUS, he can relax, do his netflix thing, play golf, give socialist speeches for big bucks, and occasionally vent on how terrible it is that Biff is reversing some of his policies.

But I do wonder. What powers, exactly, exist to bring a former Prez. to book for what appear to be lies on an epic scale, on matters affecting national security? OK, I do doubt that it could happen against the first non-white man to be elected to the office, but if there is any justice in this world, Obama should be contemplating life behind bars or at least, being made to sweat under intense questioning. The man is a snake and yet far too many intelligent people treat him as a sort of secular saint. It is nauseating.

Douglas Murray on Tommy Robinson

If you want to understand the ongoing Tommy Robinson affair, then this article by Douglas Murray strikes me as as very good next thing to read. Read the whole thing says Instapundit, quoting a big chunk of it.

It occurs to me that Tommy Robinson’s public performances are a lot like President Trump’s tweets. If Trump phrased everything perfectly, his tweets would be ignored. But faced with a spelling mistake or some such vulgar blemish, his critics can’t help themselves, and they wade in, making pedantic fools of themselves, thus drawing attention both to what Trump is saying and to the fact that they typically have no actual arguments against it.

Tommy Robinson makes legal “errors”. And people whose real objection to Robinson is that he is an oik who speaks truths to them that they don’t want to be told, about Islam and about Muslims, likewise can’t help themselves. They loudly pontificate about what a bad person Robinson is. Such persons are now linking to pieces like this.

Thereby drawing attention to what Robinson says.

If you read the comments on our previous Tommy Robinson posting, you will see claims that he is an “idiot”, or even a “tit”. But I think Robinson is quite a formidable operator, saying important things with skill and flare and drama. He is getting himself heard.

In my opinion the Gandhi comparison is also a good one. Gandhi also used to break laws and provoke public dramas. He also got himself imprisoned. And heard.

The only way that respectable citizens will shut Tommy Robinson up is if they are willing to pay proper attention to the things he says. Douglas Murray has been doing this for quite a while.

Samizdata quote of the day

I’m not making up my mind on Gaza until I’ve heard what Gary Lineker and Lily Allen think

Jeremy Briar offers sage words of advice 😜

Why Corbynites think that antisemitism is a feature rather than a bug and why Corbynite antisemitism won’t go away until Corbynism itself is destroyed

Labour is now described as having an antisemitism problem. But those who talk like this are neglecting the fact that for many Corbynites antisemitism accomplishes something very important. It helps to drive out of the Labour Party all of those Labour supporters who think that the badness of antisemitism ought to be publicly talked about, instead of these Labourites silently or vocally caving in, for now, to the Corbynite project. And that, as far as the Corbynites are concerned, is a feature rather than a bug.

We can see this process described in this piece, by “New Labour” (i.e. the kind of Labour that the Corbynites are determined utterly to destroy) Prime Minister Tony Blair’s senior shouter-down-the-phone, Alastair Campbell:

In a speech to centre-left campaign group Progress, Mr Campbell said: “All my life I have been tribally Labour. But my Labour tribalism is being pushed to the limit – by the return of Militant style nastiness in local politics; by my revulsion that any anti-Semitism has been allowed to fester; by the feeling that some in the leadership, and their supporters, feel much greater animus against other Labour supporters than against Tories.”

Campbell is right. The Corbynites do indeed hate Campbell and his ilk far more than they hate the Conservatives. The Conservatives, by allowing themselves to be lead by people like Theresa May, are bringing the day of glorious socialist triumph ever closer. Campbell and his sort are a far more immediate threat to Corbynism. So if antisemitism serves to cure Alastair Campbell of his tribal love of Labour, … good for antisemitism.

As of now, the Corbynites are far more interested in establishing themselves in unchallengeable command of the Labour Party than they are in merely winning elections. Their thinking is that, sooner or later, capitalism will be hit by another crisis, and that at that point they’ll win a general election, and then the question will be: will there be any New Labour Alastair Campbell type bastards around to prevent them from turning Britain into Venezuela or worse? Meanwhile, they can agitate, do local activism, recruit the right sort of unswervingly loyal cadres, on the internet and in real life, and generally speed up the arrival of that crisis of capitalism and be ready for it. Having helped to bring about their crisis of capitalism, they can then blame capitalism for it and sweep to power.

At some point during all this, Corbyn will step aside and be replaced by a younger, better dressed and better shaved personage, more emollient, more “centrist” in tone, in appearance more like Alastair Campbell. Britain as a whole will be fooled. That “crisis” general election will be duly won, and then the “project” can really begin. And an essential part of that process is clearing out backsliding scum like Alastair Campbell, who, if they hang about and continue to attend Labour events, might blow the gaff in time to stop all this. At the very least such persons will be an unwanted nuisance.

Personally, I think that this is all a very long shot. But I wish it was a whole lot longer than it is.

The other thing to be said about antisemitism is that eradicating it from the Corbynite clan will be impossible. The Corbynites may, any year now, once all the Blairites are flushed out or permanently silenced, tone it down in public, once that besuited and beshaven person steps forward. But they will still all be antisemites.

→ Continue reading: Why Corbynites think that antisemitism is a feature rather than a bug and why Corbynite antisemitism won’t go away until Corbynism itself is destroyed

So, what do we think about Syria?

Some questions:

Was there a chemical attack?

If so, who was the perpetrator?

More to the point, do we care? Yes, I know there is a treaty and all that but is chemicalling someone so much worse than shooting them? And is it worth fighting a war over?

Samizdata quote of the day

In Britain in the 21st century you can be punished for mocking gods. You can be expelled from the kingdom, frozen out, if you dare to diss Allah. Perversely adopting medieval Islamic blasphemy laws, modern Britain has made it clear that it will tolerate no individual who says scurrilous or reviling things about the Islamic god or prophet. Witness the authorities’ refusal to grant entrance to the nation to the alt-right Christian YouTuber Lauren Southern. Her crime? She once distributed a leaflet in Luton with the words ‘Allah is gay, Allah is trans, Allah is lesbian…’, and according to the letter she received from the Home Office informing her of her ban from Britain, such behaviour poses a ‘threat to the fundamental interests of [British] society’.

This is a very serious matter and the lack of outrage about it in the mainstream press, not least among those who call themselves liberal, is deeply disturbing.

Brendan O’Neill

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 Netherlands and the oil crisis

I have a dim memory of a TV news report on how the 1973 oil crisis was affecting Holland. I can’t remember the specifics but it was something along the lines that the crisis was much worse in Holland than elsewhere. At some later date I got the idea that the Dutch had been selling arms to the Israelis and the Arab oil embargo introduced after the Yom Kippur War was much more strictly enforced on Holland than elsewhere.

As I got older (I was very young in 1973) this made less and less sense. How, I thought, do you control what happens to oil you’ve sold once it has been put on a ship?

For some reason this week I was reminded of this dim and distant memory and decided to do some duckduckgoing. I discovered that someone has written a book on the subject. This is what the rubric says:

The Netherlands played a remarkable role during the October War and the oil crisis of 1973. In secret, the Dutch government sent a substantial amount of ammunition and spare parts to Israel. The Dutch supported Israel also politically. Within the EC they vetoed a more pro-Arab policy. The Arab oil producing countries punished The Netherlands by imposing an oil embargo. The embargo against the Netherlands was intimidating. The Netherlands was dependent on Arab oil. The embargo seemed to threaten the Dutch position in the international oil sector. The government introduced several measures to reduce oil consumption. However, within two months it became clear that oil continued to arrive in Rotterdam. There was in fact no oil shortage in the Netherlands.

Oh.

Some hippies on a road on a “car-free” Sunday in Holland, made “car-free” because the government was worried about oil supplies.

On Trump, Jerusalem and how social media makes me aware of what people really think

It is sometimes said in a disapproving sort of way that social media is bad in that it reduces social inhibitions. “You’d never say that to a person’s face”, sort of argument. It is a bit like the argument made as to why people are rude when behind the wheel of a car because, encased as they are behind metal and glass, they feel able to shout and swear at the real or alleged berk in front. (Needless to say, being the brilliant driver I am, all those who receive my ire deserve it.)

On places such as Facebook, which I use, I occasionally see people whom I thought are quite reasonable people write or say things that make me think again. A case in point is the recent outpouring of rage over the fact that Donald Trump had decided that the US embassy should be shifted to Jerusalem. Apart from anything else, he is merely executing on a policy that had been approved of, in a bi-partisan vote, in Congress back when Clinton was in office. But, my FB room-mates shout, he should have not done this, he is stoking up the “Arab Street” (such people have, I suspect, never been to the ME), and this shows he is reckless, silly, has an orange face, yada fucking yada. And in one case, an acquaintance went into “the Jews running Congress and American politics mode”, making various references to Trump’s relations, his being a New Yorker (full of those ghastly people), and so on. I decided not to put the point to this FB fuckwit lest I cause a total meltdown, which is that if it is so terrible for Jerusalem to host a US embassy, with the implied recognition of said city as the Israeli capital, then why not just come out with it and say that the state of Israel should not exist at all?

A lesson learned, therefore, is that there are a lot of people out there who buy into the whole “Jewish conspiracy thing”. Now I know that not all anti-Israel people are Jew-haters, and that one can and should be able to discuss what that country does without falling down the rabbit hole of anti-Semitism. But there is, from my own impressions, considerable overlap between the two. And while not infallible as a guide, I take the view that people who dislike or fear Jews, and Israel, are fuckwits, and people whose judgement should be regarded with scorn.

So Donald Trump, thankyou for clarifying a few doubts I have had about certain people I know out there. I am beginning to think, what with the tax bill, the Supreme Court, agency and most cabinet picks, and now this, that the man is actually proving to be a decent POTUS, and a lot less scary than I had previously thought. All he needs to do is turn down the Twitter feed, but maybe enraging people in the way he does is precisely part of what makes him effective, even if it upsets our fastidious tastes. As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has remarked, he’s even got “liberals” talking about the separation of power and Constitution again.

Here is an article by John Podhoretz on the issue of the embassy.

Key quote:

The idea that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital has been a global pretense for decades, including here in the United States. It’s a pretense because Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital from the moment the new country secured a future by winning a bloody war for independence waged against it by Arab nations after they rejected the UN partition of the old British mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

 

So what should we do about North Korea?

By “we” I mean the American government of course.

Let’s try some Q and A:

Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea, Japan and even the United States?
I’m guessing that’s a “no”. My understanding is that building a missile is one thing, building an atomic bomb another thing and combining the two really difficult.

If not, are they likely to acquire those means any time soon?
Well, they seem to have spent a hell of a long time just getting to this stage. So, it could be a while yet.

Were they to acquire them how likely would they be to use them?
I suppose the question here is whether or not the threat of instant nuclear annihilation would deter them. The point is that the Norks are atheists. They do not have a heaven to go to. They want to receive their rewards in this world. There is no upside to being nuked. So, they can be deterred.

Of course, I say they are atheists but their system of government is clearly a hereditary monarchy. Monarchies tend to have gods attached. But as yet (to the best of my knowledge) the Norks haven’t come up with a heaven. But when they do… watch out.

So, the best approach is probably to do nothing and let deterrence do its thing?
Probably. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the US doing the deterring. Japan and South Korea could do much the same, after they had developed nuclear weapons of course.

Getting back to this god stuff, the Iranians aren’t atheists are they?
No they’re not. And they believe in heaven. And they believe they would go to heaven if they nuked Israel. And rumour has it that the Norks are helping them with the tech. But my guess is that the Israelis have the means to deal with this threat before it becomes serious.

So, what you’re saying is that the US’s best approach is to do nothing?
Yes, I guess I am.

I would just add that it is remarkable how difficult smaller tyrannies find it to replicate 60-year old technology.

Samizdata quote of the day

I’ve noticed a concerted effort on the part of the mainstream media over the past few weeks to get everyone interested in the plight of the Rohingyas, a minority Muslim group in Myanmar who are being hounded by the majority ruling Buddists.

I have also noticed that nobody seems to give a shit. It might be tempting to put this down to the fact that westerners don’t generally care about brown people being killed in fat-off lands with no oil underneath, but I suspect there is something else at work as well: people in the west are getting a little bit tired of hearing how Muslims are suffering.

There is also a perception, one which is easy to understand, that various western political establishments pander too much to Muslims. Whether it be councils and police ignoring the systematic abuse of children in Rotherham, the British courts jailing a man for leaving bacon outside a mosque, Australian prime ministers taking part in Iftar suppers, newspapers promoting the likes of Linda Sarsour, or police charging people with hate crimes for making Islamaphobic comments on Twitter, there is a growing number of people in the west who believe Muslims are a minority who have got a large chunk of the state apparatus working on their behalf to the detriment of the majority. Whether this perception is valid or not scarcely matters: perceptions in themselves matter.

Tim Newman

Globalisation is very weird.

The above picture is the most commonplace thing in the world. There is a gift wrapped car in a shopping mall. Obviously, this is a prize in a competition, designed to encourage people to visit the shopping mall and spend money in the shops. The car is first generation Daewoo Matiz – later known as the Chevrolet Spark – an old design now but one of the cheapest cars in production in the world. It’s an utterly awful car to drive, but it is A NEW CAR!. If you are a shopping centre owner, then the main thing is that it is a new car. That it is the cheapest new car in existence is not the point. The point is that the prize in our competition is A NEW CAR! It’s a city car, also. If you are in a place where the traffic is bad enough, a lack of acceleration and an inability to drive above 80km/h matters less, anyway.

Well, yes. And no.

There is, of course a story.

I live in London by myself. My family are in Australia. London is cold, dark, and deserted between Christmas and New Year, and it can be depressing to be here by yourself. Although I don’t need much of an excuse to go travelling at the best of times, I particularly try to get out of town, ideally to somewhere where there is no Christmas. Last year this led to my finding myself in Tehran, Iran. I didn’t quite entirely escape Christmas – there was still a Christmas tree in the lobby of my hotel – but I mostly escaped Christmas. Certainly, the traffic gridlock on December 25 was horrendous, as indeed the traffic gridlock is horrendous in Tehran on most days. There is a metro in Tehran, but Tehran is a sprawling city which makes it only so useful, a little like the metro in Los Angeles. Tehran is a sprawling city of multi-lane freeways and horrendous traffic in a basin surrounded by mountains, a little like Los Angeles. In the expensive suburbs of north Tehran, it’s not especially hard to find yourself in achingly hip cafes that might almost be in Silver Lake, too, but let’s go there some other time.

The whole “enormous, car-centric sprawl with an immense freeway system” makes Los Angeles a polluted city by American standards, but in all honesty it is much less polluted than it used to be. Modern cars are more efficient and have more advanced emissions control systems than was the case even a few years ago, and like all developed world cities, the air in Los Angeles is much cleaner than it once was.

In Tehran, though, imagine a rapidly growing city, that despite sanctions is getting richer. Demand for cars is high, but due to those sanctions Iran is unable to import cars from many industrial countries. Cars stay on the road longer, which means the pollution will remain worse for longer than in many other cities of similar levels of development. Sanctions are uneven, so it is much easier to do business with carmakers in certain other countries than others. When you look around, you find that most of the cars are Korean, or French, or will be oddly familiar things or brands you haven’t heard of.

This gets us back to the overtly Korean car in the shopping mall.

→ Continue reading: Globalisation is very weird.