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]

Samizdata quote of the day

The social justice warrior’s gain is the civil libertarian’s loss. The ACLU still engages in the fight for civil liberty, especially in opposition to the post-9/11 security state and as part of the anti-Trump ‘resistance’. But the 21st-century ACLU has chosen its battles with a progressive sensibility that devalues free speech and due process for all. Most notably, it has shied away from confronting campus-censorship crusades and the threat of an ideology that equates allegedly hateful speech with discriminatory action, subordinating the right to speak to the imagined rights of particular listeners to suppress what offends them.

Wendy Kaminer

Thanks for letting us in on the joke, but why now?

This story has been quite widely reported in the British press:

‘Special relationship’ was seen as a joke by US diplomats, claims former Presidential adviser: Aide also admits slipping Malvinas references into press conferences in bid to ‘spoil it’

Barack Obama and his aides regarded the idea of a special relationship between Britain and the US as a joke, it was claimed last night.

Jeremy Shapiro, a former presidential adviser, said the special relationship was ‘unrequited’ and he revealed he would insert references to ‘the Malvinas’ – Argentina’s name for the Falklands – into Press conferences.

He must have been cross when Obama couldn’t even get that right.

This story is not so much news as confirmation of what everybody had guessed anyway. The interesting question for me is why admit it now? Shapiro was speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. That’s nice and all, but is impressing that audience enough to make it worth losing your reputation for discretion, which ought to still matter to someone who now works at the European Council on Foreign Relations?

Mr Shapiro is following in the footsteps of Obama’s former political strategist David Axelrod, who admitted in 2015 that Obama’s 2008 change from supporting to opposing gay marriage was completely cynical:

Axelrod: Obama Misled Nation When He Opposed Gay Marriage In 2008

Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,'” Axelrod writes.

Safely in power, and needing to appeal to rich white donors rather than poor black voters, Obama modified his position right back again two years later. Anyone who had observed the timing of Obama’s switches as related to the US electoral cycle will scarcely be bowled over by Axelrod’s revelation. What is still unrevealed is was the benefit to Axelrod in finally saying this?

Samizdata quote of the day

Then last week we got news that “Russians” had placed adverts on Facebook during the presidential election, paying in the region of $50k-$100k for them. As Streetwise Professor points out, Hillary spent $400 million on adverts. And she still lost. Whatever the causes of her loss, a hundred grand on Facebook adverts wasn’t it.

Tim Newman

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.

Some lies are long a-dying

Future historians will doubtless be wary of books on the history of the Negro in the United States when they find the word “Negro” being displaced by the word “Black” in the 1960s and 1970s – just as they are wary of books on German history in the era when the word “Aryan” became fashionable. … The history of the Negro American began to be chronicled, and was being well-chronicled, before “Black” became fashionable. … The “Black Studies” movement has tended to inflame the subject without proportionately illuminating it, and has become the Trojan Horse of a new racism.

(Daniel Boorstin, ‘The Democratic Experience’, 1973)

It’s more than 40 years since Daniel wrote this – and less than 4 since I first saw “All Lives Matter” called racist by those who shout “Black Lives Matter”.

– I’ve read minutes of meetings of tiny lefty groups in Victorian London where other members patiently explained to Karl Marx that his theories had flaws. Since then, the world has been force-fed a huge slice of socialism. You might have thought it died in the 90’s – or at least transmogrified into watermelonish (green on the outside, red on the inside) environmentalism, but Sanders and Corbyn want to put us back on the straight stuff.

– In late 1991, before the first gulf war faded and the recession kicked in, I recall a UK article explaining why the Democratic presidential hopefuls were being called (by their unhappy US media friends) “the seven dwarfs”. It listed the failings of each in turn; 5th on the list came Clinton, whose dwarfishness was because of sleaze and even more because “The Democrats know that more sleaze is coming on the Clintons.” (‘Clintons’, plural, even then, IIRC.) Well, that was true, but across-the-pond had 8 years of Clintons and just missed having a second helping.

When mainsteam media like you, your lies are long a-dying. The new racism (anti-semitic, like the old) is still on its first growth cycle. I am so ready to reach Boorstin’s future when historians will “doubtless” doubt it.

[Boorstin’s quote is on page 648 of the Pheonix Press 2000 paperback edition]

Samizdata quote of the day

That’s terrible economics. It’s a classic application of a well-known fallacy called the Lump of Labor — the idea that there are a fixed number of jobs in the world, and those jobs get divvied up among people.

How do we know this is a fallacy? It’s obvious that the number of jobs in the world isn’t fixed. Imagine if the United States deported every single American except for Jeff Sessions. Would Sessions then have his pick of any job? No, he’d be in the forest trying to eat berries to survive. Kicking people out doesn’t just reallocate jobs from one person to another. It also destroys them.

Noah Smith

Marc Sidwell on Trump’s appearance of authenticity (plus me on Rees-Mogg and Corbyn)

The original version of the quoted sentence that follows concerned sincerity rather than authenticity, but here is how Marc Sidwell recycles it, in his book about Trump called called How To Win Like Trump (which as of now you can download for free):

If you can fake authenticity, you’ve got it made.

The above slight-mis-quote appears at the beginning of the part of Sidwell’s book entitled “Secret Five: Appear Authentic”. Appear Authentic, not Be Authentic.

The reason I here re-quote this slight-mis-quote is to emphasise that although Marc Sidwell’s book is an admiring attempt to explain How Trump Did It, he by no means swallows the Trump myth whole. Rather does he analyse, among much else, how this Trump myth was created, and then swallowed whole and spread by an amazing number of Americans, including an amazing proportion of Trump’s enemies. After all: “Blurts out every piece of crap that enters his ridiculous looking head” is but a rude way of saying: “Here’s a guy who says what he thinks and means what he says”, “Here’s a guy who’s authentic”. I am learning a lot, some of which I had long suspected, and am enjoying this book very much. If you hate Trump, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this book nearly so much, but you would surely learn a lot.

Sidwell continues:

We live at a time where politicians and spokespersons of all kinds have been scripted to death. Message management, jargon and political correctness have left official speech bloodless. Our leaders have lost their own voices. They read out statements that sound inhuman and often mean almost nothing. Ritual phrases are repeated more like prayers than in an attempt to inform or start a conversation.

Ah yes, “start a conversation”. That phrase began life as a way of actually saying something, but now it sounds to me like just another of those “ritual phases” (typically now used to excuse the incoherence and/or non-existence of anything actually being said) that died the death several years ago. What Trump does with his brilliantly “authentic” tweets is start slanging matches from which he emerges the winner, as Sidwell himself well explains. (See in particular his stuff about Trump’s participation in the world of televised wrestling.)

As an editor, I used to pray for an official who could give good quote. And for the media, as much as many hated him, Trump’s unfiltered style was a godsend.

In other words:

… his public persona was authentic.

See also: Jacob Rees-Mogg, who I and quite a few other Brits now hope will be our next Prime Minister. This peculiar man resembles Trump in deviating, but in a very different direction, from the scripted-to-death style, in his case by being coherent and educated and patrician. When Rees-Mogg starts a sentence, he finishes it, and he does this in a manner which makes no attempt to hide the expensiveness and the well-connectedness of his education. Rees-Mogg is happily honest about his poshness in the same way that Trump is happily honest about being, as his son put it, a “blue-collar billionaire”.

Trouble is, see also: Jeremy Corbyn. Like Rees-Mogg, Corbyn also comes across as not-a-Blair-clone. He presents himself as exactly the sub-academic tyranny-worshipping junk Marxist that he is. I feel towards Corbyn the same amount of fear and detestation as Trump’s enemies feel towards Trump. This is because a terrifying proportion of Britain’s voters seem now to feel that, because Corbyn is unapologetically sincere in his desire to ruin my country, he is at least sincere, and therefore a good egg. But if what you say is wicked, then meaning it is not a virtue.

LATER, re Corbyn (my thanks to first commenter below Brian Swisher), the late and much missed Helen Samuely: “Well, at least he has principles”.

Samizdata quote of the day

I found the reasons various people gave for choosing sides in the American Civil War fascinating, but the complexities of each choice have largely been ignored in contemporary discussions on the subject. I guess the BBC and their ilk prefer to stoke the flames of a race war by implying Lee was fighting to preserve slavery.

Well, they’re getting what they wanted, aren’t they?

Tim Newman

The progress of social programs and the debt

1960’s: Lets eliminate everything bad. We can go to the moon so why not end poverty!
“Yes, do it.”

1970’s: Well, it doesn’t look so easy. We’ll have to spend more money.
“Well, okay.”

1980’s: It is actually not working. Maybe we should spend some more slightly differently.
“Well, give it a try.”

1990’s. We’ve got so many people depending on this! We have to spend more to keep them afloat.
“Well, I don’t want to look like a terrible person, so okay.”

2000’s: The debt is growing, and the social programs are actually having negative effects, but we have to keep trying! We’re nice people! We have to DO SOMETHING!
“Well, is this really necessary… why not cut back… oh, okay, don’t look at me that way.”

2010’s: The country is in debt and things are awful! We must help those who are least able to help themselves. We have to let the world see what nice people we are!
“Well… no.”
You can’t say that! You EVIL RACIST HOMOPHOBIC ANTI-WOMAN OLD WHITE MALE SUPREMACIST!!!!!”
“Oh, bog off.”

Samizdata quote of the day

This kind of clotted nonsense could only be generally circulated and generally believed in England, where newspapers claiming to be conservative and reliable are the most utterly untrustworthy of any on earth. In apology for these newspapers it may be said that their untrustworthiness is not always due to intention, but more frequently to ignorance and prejudice.

– W. R. Hearst in a telegram to The Times printed on 2 November 1907. In it he denies ever using the words: “You provide the pictures and I will provide the war,”. Hat-tip W. Joseph Campbell Getting it wrong: ten of the greatest misreported stories in American journalism.

Once established, it is almost impossible to repeal a benefit or ‘public service’

The failure to repeal Obamacare is yet more evidence that Chief Justice Roberts was wrong not to stop Obamacare at the start – and wrong in his basic principles. The public rarely, if ever, ask for a new “public service” or benefit – but once such a government function is established it is almost impossible to repeal. People, and the system itself, grows used to the new government benefit or service – and it is incredibly difficult to get rid of it once it is established. This is why traditional Constitutions are written – to limit the powers of government at the start, to prevent these benefits and services being created in the first place.

However, a Constitution is only as good as the enforcement mechanisms to make sure it is obeyed – and as Luther Martin warned at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, trusting government appointed judges to limit the powers of the very government that appointed them is a fatally flawed idea.

This is not a recent problem. Even in the 19th century the Supreme Court often ruled that the Federal Government has powers that the Constitution does NOT give it. For example the infamous “Second Greenback Case” where the Supreme Court, with newly appointed “justices” (appointed, in part, for this corrupt purpose) overturned the “First Greenback Case” where the court had declared, quite correctly, that the Federal Government has no power to print (or have printed) money – only to “coin money” (Article One, Section Eight of the Constitution of the United States) and that only gold or silver coin (not paper money) may be “legal tender” in any State (Article One, Section Ten of the Constitution of the United States). Nothing could be plainer than that paper money is unconstitutional – indeed the very reason the United States Constitution was written in the first place was to prevent the “not worth a Continental” paper money issued by the Continental Congress to finance its government – those who support the Articles of Confederation system forget that one of its fundamental flaws was that it allowed the government to print money, as it gave no reliable source of taxation to finance the United States Armed Forces. Without a large scale and professional armed forces there is no point in having a United States of America at all – and each State might as well go its own way till conquered by European powers in the 18th century or by the People’s Republic of China in the 21st century.

→ Continue reading: Once established, it is almost impossible to repeal a benefit or ‘public service’

Samizdata quote of the day

Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic our citizens are confronted by yet another danger; one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.

– Donald Trump speaking in Warsaw today.