As I work away at a talk I am to give tomorrow evening at Christian Michel’s, I am also, of course, wandering about in the www. And during the latest wandering I was provoked into thinking about another talk, one that I will be hosting rather than giving, on the last Friday of February. Marc Sidwell will, that evening, be speaking about: “Twilight of the Wonks? Promoting freedom in a post-expert world”.
This rather witty cartoon, which I came across here, is very pertinent to Marc Sidwell’s talk, I think:
This cartoon is now to be seen all over the www, partly because, I surmise, both sides of the argument that it alludes to are drawing attention to it. The Clintonians are pointing at it and saying: there, look at those silly Trumpsters, all voting to crash and burn America. And the Trumpsters are pointing at it, and saying: look at those smug liberals assuming that they are better at flying the airplane of government, in the way that a pilot obviously is better than his mere passengers at flying an actual airplane. They just don’t get it, blah blah.
The point being: there is being an expert, where you actually do know essential stuff. And then there is being an “expert”, where what you say you know or think you know ain’t necessarily so.
Personally I favoured and favour Trump, partly because I put Hillary Clinton into the latter category, of being an “expert” with sneer quotes rather than without them. She has a long career of crashing whatever metaphorical airplanes she flies, her email fiasco being only one of the more recent of such crashes. Crashing rather than flying is what she is “expert” at. And her speeches over the airplane intercom only convince those already convinced. Many feel the exact same way about Trump, but my impression, reinforced both by his campaign and by how he has conducted himself since his campaign ended in victory, is that when it comes to being less un-expert, Trump wins compared to Clinton. We shall see.
I also prefer, with all the usual libertarian reservations, the ideological agenda that Trump, almost despite himself, is now dragging into greater prominence. The agenda (see this gigantic crash) that Clinton would have kept in great prominence is one I that detest.
I will now send the link to this posting to Marc Sidwell. If you would like to learn more about attending the meetings I host every month, and/or those that Christian Michel hosts, email me by clicking on where it says “Contact”, top left, here.
I wanted to believe that Hillary Clinton would lose the recent US presidential election, so when I started reading Scott Adams saying that she was indeed going to lose, to Trump, I kept on reading him. Like so many others, I like to read within my bubble, as well as outside it. That means I also now read Scott Adams on every other subject he deals with in his blog. I am now digging back into his archives for more wise and witty verbiage. I am surely not the only one doing this now.
Scott Adams has a girlfriend called Kristina Basham, who, it would appear, is working and working at becoming one of those people who is famous for being famous. This is one of those labels that most people seem to assume is an insult. But being famous is a skill and a job, like any other skill and job. Your basic skill is that you know how to attract attention, and you basic job is that you sell this ability and live with the adverse consequences of it as well as the benefits. Scott Adams describes very well the sort of work that goes into becoming one of these F4BF people, as I will call them from now on. Kristina Basham is not, you see, outstandingly good at anything in particular. She is just pretty good at a whole “stack” of things, which, when you combine them, are making her into someone F4BF.
I say: good for her.
The claim that people who are F4BF contribute nothing to the world is the latest iteration of that very old and very bad idea that there is a “real” economy, consisting of work that people are used to doing and which their ancestors even did, like farming and then after that factory working; and then there is the “unreal” economy, consisting of silly things that add nothing to the “real” economy, but instead just leach off it, like financial services (which actually make farming and industry massively more productive by telling farmers what to farm and industrialists what to industrialise), and more recently jobs like being F4BF. (Even being a factory worker was once upon a time denounced as being unreal.)
Being a celeb, and in particular being nothing but a celeb, an F4BF, which is to say being good at attracting attention to oneself but for no single and obvious reason, but still being good at it, is a vital part of the modern economy. Celebs, including F4BFs, enable attention to be diverted away from major economic investments, while the work of creating or building them is being done and needs not to be disturbed, in the secure knowledge that when attention is finally demanded, and you need to attract a lot of business very quickly or else a lot of money will be lost while the word spreads by mere unassisted word of mouth. For that grand opening of whatever it is that you have been quietly working on for however long it has been, you hire a bunch of celebs. Including maybe some of that particular sort of celeb who are F4BF, pure and distilled celebs who are nothing but celebs.
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)?
December 22nd, 2016 | 30 comments - (Comments are closed)
Said the Donald to the Salmon(d), erstwhile First Minister of Scotland, in a letter about the plans for windfarms off the Aberdeenshire coast, we know now from the Trump letters, obtained under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act.
A series of colourfully-written letters sent by Donald Trump to then-Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has been published in full for the first time.
The letters formed part of an intense lobbying campaign against plans for an offshore wind project near Mr Trump’s Aberdeenshire golf resort.
Some examples of Mr Trump’s forthright style:
On 12 March 2012 he asked Mr Salmond: “Do you want to be known for centuries to come as ‘Mad Alex – the man who destroyed Scotland’?”
He added: “If you pursue this craziness Scotland will go broke and forever lose whatever chance you currently have of making Scotland independent.”
he sent a one-sentence missive to the then first minister asking why Swedish energy firm Vattenfall was being allowed to “ruin” the Scottish coastline, adding: “Let them ruin the coastline of Sweden first.”
On 9 February 2012, Mr Trump told Mr Salmond: “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.
I note that the letters indicate an appreciation of pragmatism by Mr Trump.
In one letter Mr Trump said: “History has proven conclusively that the world’s greatest leaders have always been those who have been able to change their minds for the good.”
He also said he would be “your greatest cheerleader if you can change or modify your stance on at least the inappropriately placed turbines.”
In the other letter he told Mr Salmond: “Your idea of independence is ‘Gone With the Wind’.”
Well, I am slightly puzzled by Mr Trump’s writings, if only by the use of the future tense in the reference to a third-world wasteland. And he surely meant to say ‘sh*thole’, which in Scots English I’m told is spelt ‘Cumbernauld‘.
I have to say that I am looking forward even more to 12 noon on 20th January 2017.
December 21st, 2016 | 17 comments - (Comments are closed)
Though many things have changed in American political life over the past couple of years, one aspect remains a comforting constant: Democrats never lose an election. Not really. Not fairly.
Sure, elections can be stolen. Americans can be misled. Big Oil or Big Business can buy elections – because these institutions possess the preternatural ability to control human actions. Voter always fail to understand what’s good for them (which, amazingly enough, always aligns with the state-expanding goals of the Left.) Whatever the case, something fishy and nefarious must also be going on, because there’s absolutely no way voters could reject Democrats.
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.
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.
December 4th, 2016 | 15 comments - (Comments are closed)
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.
November 28th, 2016 | 24 comments - (Comments are closed)
No Reagan or Thatcher. No Paul Joseph Watson or Stefan Molyneux either.
“Ah, it’s a homage to The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. How clever.” I thought.
“Let’s see who’s here.”
“Well there’s Nige, Ron Paul, Pepe (of course), Ann Coulter, Milo, Harambe (heh!), Joseph McCarthy, Scott Adams. All good or good-ish stuff. Well maybe not Pepe. Or Harambe.”
“Who’s that skulking in the shadows?”
“Oh shit, it’s that Norwegian mass murderer!”
“And hang about that’s Gaddafi!”
By my count it’s 4 tyrants, 1 fascist leader, 2 mass murderers and 1 serial killer. And that’s the ones I recognise.
The disturbing thing is that this image may well be accurate. These people represent the intellectual (stop sniggering. Seriously, stop sniggering) underpinnings of the Trump presidency. Obviously, there are serious differences which will probably lead to serious subsidence.
But there are things that unite them. With the exception of Farage, I cannot think of any who would have been on the right side of history in 1939. Which is remarkable. Even Neville Chamberlain got that one right.
They are also united by a loathing of the establishment. Which I loathe too. The UN, the EU, the welfare state, crony capitalism, fiat money, political correctness, climate alarmism, regulation after regulation after regulation: they’ve all got to go. But in all of that happening all sorts of other things may happen. One can only hope those things are nearer the Farage than Mosley end of the spectrum.
November 23rd, 2016 | 40 comments - (Comments are closed)
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.
The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property. Amongst our many crimes is a sense of humour and the intermittent use of British spelling.
We are also a varied group made up of social individualists, classical liberals, whigs, libertarians, extropians, futurists, ‘Porcupines’, Karl Popper fetishists, recovering neo-conservatives, crazed Ayn Rand worshipers, over-caffeinated Virginia Postrel devotees, witty Frédéric Bastiat wannabes, cypherpunks, minarchists, kritarchists and wild-eyed anarcho-capitalists from Britain, North America, Australia and Europe.