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]

A muddle of psychiatrists

Here is a fun little article in The Independent about psychiatrists who think Donald Trump is mentally ill, and it is their professional duty to warn people. They are saying this sort of thing:

I’ve worked with murderers and rapists. I can recognise dangerousness from a mile away. You don’t have to be an expert on dangerousness or spend fifty years studying it like I have in order to know how dangerous this man is.

This sounds like complete nonsense, but it turns out that “clinical evaluation for predictions of future dangerousness, have become integral to the function of the legal system” — so it is qualified nonsense.

I don’t know about psychiatry; one commenter dismisses it as junk science. Most of the other commenters think it is a bit silly to attempt to diagnose a politician from viewing public appearances.

I think experts, especially when direct measurement of the phenomena is impossible, have a tendency to mistake shared opinions for objectivity. Politics amplifies that effect. See also climate science.

Samizdata quote of the day

In Justin Trudeau’s Canada, if I mention the Islamist ties of Akbardzhon Dzhalilov, the 22-year-old suspected of carrying out the subway bombing that killed 14 in St. Petersburg, Russia on Monday, am I guilty of Islamophobia?

What if I also mention that Khalid Masood, the man who mowed down scores of pedestrians, killing three, and stabbed a police officer to death outside the British Parliament last week, was a convert to Islam? Am I guilty of a crime against Canada’s new politically correct speech codes?

I admit, what constitutes a Muslim terror attack is not always black-and-white. Was London’s Masood driven by Islamist fervor or by his long, troubled criminal past? Or maybe a bit of both?

Lorne Gunter

Canada has been heading in this direction for a while now, part of a growing list of nation states denying one of the most most fundamental civil liberties: freedom of expression.

Samizdata quote of the day

Yet it is the Democrats’ relentless focus on minority issues that has enabled the GOP to capture parts of the white middle and working class vote. Trump exploited that opportunity more effectively than any other Republican. But he did it – with the alt-right’s help – by borrowing from the Democrats’ playbook. Aping the left’s identity politics, Trump adopted the alt-right’s cultural narrative around the oppression of white people. Gone was the traditional Republican belief in individual responsibility. In its place came the leftist credo of perpetual victimhood.

Simon Gordon

Another way of putting it is that Trump is a bit like Bernie Sanders, with skyscrapers and funny hair.

Question: was Trump’s strike on Syria motivated by geopolitical considerations or…

Was Trump’s strike on Syria motivated by geopolitical considerations or… genuine concern about the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces (and they have form for that)… or the need to demonstrate he is not in Putin’s pocket? Or something else?

Discuss.

How to win like Trump

Marc Sidwell’s book How To Win Like Trump: Nine Simple Rules for Victory Against the Odds explains how Donald Trump won the US presidential election. It is written in the style of a self-help book and in simple Trump-like language. This makes it a fast and easy read: it does not take itself too seriously. And it avoids “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity”. But it is packed with insight.

For example, politicians and the press are between them largely acting out a fiction which has similarities to the kayfabe of professional wrestling.

Trump had two insights, thanks to his grasp of kayfabe. First, Trump recognised the widespread fakery of modern politics. That let him see past the curtain of narrative, revealing the limited insight of political experts and the vulnerability of “inevitable” candidates whether Clinton, Rubio, Bush or Cruz. Second, Trump realised that by injecting the kind of entertainment and character common in wrestling narratives into the meek, grey world of political illusion, he could slam everyone else to the mat.

[…]

It’s underappreciated how much of the mainstream media’s tremendous influence lies in its power to frame big events. Hundreds of thousands of New York Times readers and millions of public radio listeners get taught the same framing story, and learn the socially acceptable limits for discussing whatever just happened.

As such, media organisations and a one-man master framer like Trump were always going to tread on each other’s toes. But Trump had an efficient, reframing response. All attacks on Trump through the media got reframed as evidence of a biased media persecuting a man it hated. This sidelined questions about the merit of any accusation. It established a catchall frame presenting Trump in a flattering light. And when negative stories did run, they only reinforced Trump’s favoured frame. That’s how to frame your way to victory.

It explains that Trump’s tweeting is partly about direct contact with people, and partly about quickly testing the product with real users.

Trump’s constant movement is also an endless process of improvement. It’s always looking for what works better. It is an evolving strategy, one that never gets to the end of the line. And that made his presidential bid more like a startup than a campaign. The Lean Startup movement believes in constantly evolving towards a product that fits the market through a cycle of building, measuring and learning. Rather than sweating to get something perfect, Lean Startups aim for the minimum viable product. Then they test it on an audience. Get it in front of a customer. See what they make of it. Improve it. Rinse and repeat.

This explains his constant changes of mind and hiring and firing, something that his opponents have claimed as a weakness. Another supposed weakness is his apparently defensive and petulant fighting back at anyone who criticises him, as he did with Megyn Kelly.

There is one very, very big way — and it’s so big, gigantic really, massive — that Trump’s haters and losers fail to get him. They think his temperament is unpredictable. Yuuge mistake. Believe me.

Marc argues that Trump’s consistent strategy is to maintain peace until he is attacked, and then consistently fire back, and that this is good game theory.

Trump’s essentially peaceful strategy relies on consistency and clarity to work. Every time he does what he always does, he reminds people of the consequences. The more disproportionate his reactions, the more Trump signals he is willing to bear any cost to get someone back.

This makes him not such a bad person to be holding the nuclear button:

What Trump understands by instinct, and demonstrates consistently in action, are the principles of nuclear deterrence. No first use. Credible threat of massive retaliation. That policy has kept the world safe from nuclear holocaust. Its creator Thomas Schelling worked it out using game theory, winning the Nobel for economics in 2005 in recognition of his breakthrough. Schelling even worked out that it helps if your enemies also think you are a little bit crazy and capable of attacking them at very high cost to yourself. It’s called the Madman Theory. President Nixon used it.

I am left wondering just how much of Trump’s strategies are luck rather than judgement, and it remains to be seen how long they will continue to work. But I do have more understanding of how the things he does that work, work. It is nice to see it all enumerated and made obvious.

Highlights I have not mentioned so far include the description of the way Trump picked off his opponents one by one in the primaries, how he used Clinton’s 3AM phone call commercial against her, and how he makes himself relatable to ordinary Americans. And there is a good bit about how Trump gets inside his opponents’ OODA loops (a concept I heard about years ago from one of my favourite sources of inspiration, Eric Raymond).

Donald and Hillary sex change

A university professor wondered what would happen if Donald Trump was a woman and Hillary Clinton was a man.

Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression—his tendency to interrupt and attack—would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.

[…]

We both thought that the inversion would confirm our liberal assumption—that no one would have accepted Trump’s behavior from a woman, and that the male Clinton would seem like the much stronger candidate. But we kept checking in with each other and realized that this disruption—a major change in perception—was happening. I had an unsettled feeling the whole way through.

[…]

Someone said that Jonathan Gordon [the male Hillary Clinton] was “really punchable” because of all the smiling. And a lot of people were just very surprised by the way it upended their expectations about what they thought they would feel or experience. There was someone who described Brenda King [the female Donald Trump] as his Jewish aunt who would take care of him, even though he might not like his aunt. Someone else described her as the middle school principal who you don’t like, but you know is doing good things for you.

I would like to see more video than this short excerpt. But they are working on a film version, “shot for shot, as they were televised on TV.”

This is indeed the way to deal with attacks… turn them into a badge of honour

D’Souza thanked the academy for the prizes, saying in a recorded message that “being dissed by you guys, this is absolutely fantastic.

“My audience loves the fact that you hate me.”

“The reason you are giving it to me is because you’re very upset Trump won.

“You’ve never got over it, you probably never will.”

– Dinesh D’Souza, as quoted in the Guardian upon getting four Razzies for the worst film of the year for his Hillary Clinton exposé.

This approach works equally well against both left and right.

Tim Harford on the power of bottom-up decision making (and on H. R. McMaster)

If you haven’t already partaken of this bit of video, then you really should. It lasts just under twenty minutes.

Tim Harford is speaking, in 2011, at some gathering of the clever and the smug, but it’s better than that. The name H. R. McMaster comes up several times, and this is, among other things, a very good quick way to learn why McMaster’s appointment by President Trump as his National Security Adviser might turn out to be such a very good one. It certainly explains why this appointment is already so very popular. You don’t have to believe that the USA rearranging matters in faraway countries is always or even ever a wise policy to get the points that Harford is making.

Harford also mentions, in passing, Hayek. From this, you may guess that this is a talk about decentralised decision making, and how on the spot knowledge, again and again, trumps the wisdom of the Central Committee or the High Command. If that is your guess, you would not be wrong.

The story that Harford tells reminds me of another transformation of policy that happened in China, and gave rise to what is now called the Chinese economic miracle. This miracle is now starting to look rather less miraculous, but it was still a massive improvement over what preceded it. That change too is usually attributed to a change of top leadership and of its top-down policies, but that policy also, I seem to recall reading, began at the bottom of the chain of command and in spite of the chain of command.

I even seem to recall having linked to stuff about that from here. Yes, here is that posting, about teeth of all things, and here is the article at Planet Money that the posting linked to. It’s the same story as Harford tells in the above-linked-to video.

How dare the U.S. demand NATO states have the means to defend themselves!

If you needed yet another reason to reject the EU as an utterly toxic organisation, here is an absolute corker:

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Europe must not cave in to U.S demands to raise military spending, arguing that development and humanitarian aid could also count as security.

No doubt Jean-Claude Juncker feels that NATO should deploy Oxfam, Save the Children & Charlotte Church to Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn in order to deter any Russian incursions into the Baltic states.

Left wing women threaten to bugger off for a day…

The comedy potential of a day without left-wing women is hard to overstate. It is a bit like malaria mosquitoes ‘threatening’ not to bite anyone for a day. Yup, that’ll show ’em!

Oh dear, how sad, never mind. Any chance of making this a more permanent fixture rather than just one single day off?

Samizdata quote of the day

In Neil Gorsuch, Trump has nominated to the Supreme Court a man with deep respect for the Constitution and the freedoms it protects.

David French.

I am not a great Trump fan but I find it hard to argue with this.

The Petition of the Scandalmakers

All libertarians should really be opposed to State Visits, by definition. But do I sense that not libertarians but sanctimonious prigs are out in force here in the UK? Trump executive order: Million sign petition to stop UK visit. This is somehow newsworthy, but read the small print in the petition, not visible on the headnote:

Donald Trump’s well documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen or the Prince of Wales.

Wasn’t Prince Charles the chap who talked about wanting to be a tampon? But then again, cancelling the visit would save Prince Charles the horror of meeting a climate sceptic!

So it would be a scandal for this visit to go ahead. Did they say that about the GIs in 1942? Wouldn’t it be a scandal for the government to take notice of this petition?

Given that the Queen was railroaded into giving a knighthood and a State Visit to the Romanian Communist tyrant Ceausescu, President Trump seems to have a long way to go before he could possibly compare. How about making President Trump an honorary Knight of the Thistle instead?

Some things can come out from the petition process (and I don’t mean changes to government policy). The site provides a breakdown of voters’ location by Parliamentary constituency (or, at the least, where the voters purport to originate), so you can see where those affected by the apparently ceaseless urge to agitate and virtue-signal, like a bird in some bizarre mating and nesting ritual, are found. As I write, the data suggests (well I never!) clusters of Lefties in University cities and towns across the UK, and relative indifference in-between. This is where the Left are found, and there are still 58,000,000 or more who haven’t signed the petition. The Left are outnumbered and isolated, but signalling away to each other, they come to think that they rule the roost.

I suppose this data might help the North Koreans estimate where the socialists are most densely packed and so to target their nukes accordingly when they get round to liberating us.