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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Putin and Trump

President Donald Trump, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton before him, hoped to “reset” Washington’s dismal relationship with Moscow, but that was always the longest of long shots. Vladimir Putin’s ideology and perceived national interests require the West as an enemy, and no matter how many times Trump tweets that he respects Putin’s “strength” and says it would be “a good thing” if we could get along with Russia and unite against ISIS, neither the Kremlin nor permanent Washington will allow it.

Michael Totten.

The whole article makes a lot of sense. I particularly liked the point about how Putin might be annoyed that with Trump in office, he (Putin) no longer has a perceived monopoly on being That Unpredictable Guy. I think that is a very astute observation. Putin liked being the man who was constantly messing with our heads over Syria, or Ukraine, or wherever. But if he is up against a US president who makes unpredictability part of his central appeal, that changes. Then maybe Vlad. has to change, to be more predictable in certain ways. And this whole saga also somewhat undermines the “Russian spies put The Donald into the White House” narrative, although given the self-deception and insanity I see on part of the Democrat Party and its media allies, this is likely to continue for some time.

Another couple of paragraphs:

Before long, anti-Russian sentiment in the United States could eclipse anti-Americanism is Russia. The only reason that hasn’t happened already is because so many Americans hoped for so long against hope that Russia shorn of totalitarian communism would eventually return “home” to the West like the prodigal son.

Russia, though, hasn’t been fully European since the Mongol invasion of Rus in the year 1240. Its forcible incorporation into the Golden Horde Empire endured for more than 200 years. Sure, Russia’s capital is on the European continent, but Russians see themselves as Eurasian. (North Korea and China, don’t forget, border Russia.)

Putin crafted the Eurasian Economic Union—which includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia—as an authoritarian crony state-capitalist competitor to the liberal democratic West that he detests. There isn’t a damn thing anybody in Washington can say or do to convince him to dump that project and align himself as a junior partner with the European Union and NATO, not when he’s the undisputed one-man boss of an entire continent-spanning alternative.

Totten is right, I think, that Putin had not expected Trump’s winning last autumn. He might, naively, have hoped for such a win, but I am not sure he actually expected the result. Totten is also right to point out that Putin is not some sort of chess-playing genius from From Russia With Love. He makes mistakes.

 

Call that an attack on the press? This is an attack on the press

In 1917, as this cutting shows, the German navy shelled Margate and Broadstairs. Nothing strange in that, you might think, they had done much worse to Scarborough and Great Yarmouth.

The Times 27 February 1917 p6. Right click for the whole article.

However, this raid was a bit different. Far from causing general mayhem and tweaking the tail of the Royal Navy, on this occasion the target was one man: Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of The Times, The Daily Mail and – I kid you not – The Daily Mirror. Not that you would know it from this heavily censored report.

Northcliffe had attracted the ire of the German government by – apparently, I get little impression of this from The Times itself – being the main cheerleader of anti-German and pro-War sentiment in Britain. In 1918, doubtless aided by the Kaiser’s ringing, if unintentional, endorsement, Northcliffe became Britain’s Director of Propaganda.

I appreciate that in writing this article I may be giving the God-Emperor some ideas. So, Donald, if you’re reading, just remember: sailing a battleship up the Hudson, shelling the New York Times building and turning it into a smoking pile of rubble just so you can wipe the smile off the faces of a bunch of smug, arrogant, conceited, snobbish, self-satisfied, aloof, out-of-touch, blockheaded, group-thinking, bubble-dwelling, histrionic, paranoid, lying, devious, dissembling, childish, cry-baby, bitter, vindictive, divisive, conspiratorial, freedom-hating, progress-denying communists… is not nice.

It may even be wrong.

Samizdata quote of the day

“So much of our popular culture depends on the loudly proclaimed pose of being “rebels,” of being outside the mainstream, of being “transgressive”—while repeating clichés that have become deadly boring through decades of repetition. It reminds me of a brilliant little bit in The Onion: “Purchase of Jeans Ushers Man into Exclusive, Ultra-Cool Subculture of Jeans-Wearing Americans.” They all want to be nonconformists just like everyone else.”

Robert Tracinski

On political ignorance

A commenter over at the Guido Fawkes blog, with the joyful name of “Rasta Pickles”, comments on the notion that the UK electorate is too thick to figure out the complexities of Brexit, and that such complex matters should be left to a political class that has done such a tremendous job down the years. He or she notes a flaw in this “argument”:

“99.9% of the UK electorate have no idea what they’re voting for every time they vote in a council election; they regard local elections as a popularity poll on what’s happening in Westminster. Your local Labour/Tory council might well be planning on a compulsory purchase order on your house and those around you in order to build a new mega-PoundLand store and you’d still have people voting for them out of sheer ignorance.”

Even so, there are libertarians/classical liberals who point out that democracy, unless hedged with checks and balances, isn’t compatible with liberty and can be harmful to it. Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of The Rational Voter is a good read, as is this recent effort by Jason Brennan. But my problem with the arguments they make is that what, realistically, can they propose other than the sort of return to oligarchy of “smart people” that, as history tends to show, descends into corruption pretty damn quick?

Samizdata quote of the day

“The really big point is that far from being a tumultuous, cacophonic, unstable, firecracker of a polity, Brexit Britain is starting to feel like a relative island of calm, more at ease with itself than it has been for many years, led by a sort of 1950s Prime Minister, who is nearly 20 points ahead in the polls. The spotlight of worry has swivelled round elsewhere, to Greece, France and to the United States. If Brexit is a revolution, it is so far turning out to be a very British and incremental one, lacking in violence or upset. More tea, vicar?”

George Trefgarne

Indeed. What has struck me about some on the Remain side, for example, is that they have been coming across as a bid mad, unpleasant or utopian, not the other side. It is pretty hard to portray the likes of David Davis, for example, as fire-eating radicals when the eurozone, for example, is and remains an economic clusterfuck of Old Testament proportions.

Obama in Unsong

Obama is described in the web novel Unsong:

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton originally looked set to sweep the national vote based on her connections and name recognition. Then things got interesting. People all around the country started talking about “hope” and “change” and “yes we can”. New political phenomenon Barack Obama inspired huge crowds wherever he went. The older, stodgier candidates were swept aside in the wave of enthusiasm at the revolution he promised.

Me, I figured he was probably a demon.

I mean, I’ve read enough folktales to recognize the basic arc. A mysterious tall dark stranger arrives in the capital and quickly gains the ears of the court. There’s no particular reason why anyone should like him, but everyone who listens to him can’t shake the feeling that he’s a trustworthy, intelligent figure. When he’s out of earshot, the nobles of the land plot against him, wondering how such a relative lightweight could dream of usurping their power – but as soon as he speaks to them in his smooth, calming voice, they immediately forget what they were going to do and join in the universal chorus of praise.

And in every one of those folktales, the stranger turns out to be a demon.

This post was necessitated by a conversation at Brian’s Friday.

The Great War 1914-1917

Things were looking good for the Allies at the close of 1916. The French had pushed back the Germans at Verdun. The British were consistently doing much the same on the Somme. The Russians had made huge gains at the expense of the Austrians during the Brusilov Offensive. The Italians were continuing to attack and it appeared that it was finally all systems go on the Salonika Front. The only real fly in the ointment was Romania which was being invaded.

Away from the frontlines there was also plenty of scope for optimism. The British were at last getting guns and shells in sufficient quantities. The Irish rebellion had been crushed. The U-boat campaign was quiescent. Conscription seemed to be working. Even the Russians seemed to have turned the corner when it came to their supply problems.

Most importantly, the Western Allies – and particularly the French under a dashing young commander – appeared to have found the formula for winning battles on the Western Front.

Meanwhile the Germans were slowly and literally being starved by a combination of the Blockade and their own economic incompetence. Splits were beginning to appear with the communist, Karl Liebnecht demanding an end to the war. At the same time they were having to prop up their increasingly helpless allies. In Austria, the death of Emperor Franz Josef followed on the heels of the assassination of the Prime Minister by another communist in protest at the continuing refusal to recall parliament.

It must have looked like victory was just around the corner. In such situations you often find that unscrupulous politicians like to jockey for position in order to be able to take the credit. Not that such things would ever happen in Britain.

On 6 December, having out-manoeuvred his predecessor, David Lloyd George became Prime Minister.

Oh and the name of that dashing French commander – he of the formula? Nivelle. Robert Nivelle.

The Times 28 September 1916

The Times 28 September 1916

Another fail by Obama

With the TTIP, the EU and US set out trying to construct a slightly watered down version of the single market – in which corporations would be able to use the courts to force governments to open up their public services to foreign providers. It was doomed to collapse because there is such an obvious asymmetry between the US and the EU on this. The US already has high involvement of private companies in the provision of public services. As for those where the state does still retain a monopoly – like defence – there is no way US courts are going to allow, say, French missile manufacturers to supply weapons. It will be ruled out on grounds of national security.

Europe, by contrast, has a relatively high degree of state involvement in the economy, giving plenty of juicy opportunities for US firms – and plenty of reason for left wing parties in France and Germany to oppose TTIP. Britain may now be at the back of Barack Obama’s queue – though what relevance that has given that it will soon be where we stand in Hilary Clinton’s or Donald Trump’s queue that matters. But my money would be on post-Brexit Britain sewing up a trade deal with the US before the EU has managed it.

Ross Clark, having fun at the expense of Barack Obama, whose comment earlier this year that the UK would be at the “back of the queue” in trade deals with Washington if it had the temerity to quit the European Union has, along with so many others, backfired.

We are often told that President Obama was going to bring us an era of smart diplomacy, unlike that that moron Bush, etc, etc. The gap between the promise, and the reality, is wider than ever.

The Eurocrats were nothing if not predicted

I found this post from eleven years ago while hunting around the internet for something else. It is quite strange to read it now. The author may have been on to something:

As several people have predicted would be the case, many of the EU’s ‘great and good’ are just continuing with the Great European Integration project as if the French and Dutch NO votes never happened. But it does seem that the shock to the system those votes administered to the torpid media has indeed woken up a few people. It seems that the insects have not noticed that someone has picked up the rock they were under.

Have they noticed even now?

Patrik Schumacher – architect and libertarian

One of my daily internet visits is to a site called Dezeen. Here I learn about lots that bores me, involving designers making small buildings shaped like boxes rather than ornamented, and about lots that interests me, including such things as much bigger and (to me) much more interesting buildings that are being dreamed of, built and celebrated.

On the matter of Brexit, Dezeen reported that the the overwhelming majority of “creatives”, in London and in the world generally, favoured and still favour Remain. These creatives were very angry when they learned that a majority of British voters did not share their views.

But Dezeen also had a recent link to a creative who sings a very different sort of ideological song to that sung by most of the kind of creatives whose work and opinions Dezeen reports on. I give you Patrik Schumacher:

PatrikSchumacher

Patrik Schumacher has written an opinion piece for Archinect, with these words at the top of it:

Brexit: a chance to roll back the interventionist state and unleash entrepreneurial creativity …

I have very little in common with the arguments of the Leave Campaign, and in particular reject the anti-immigration thrust of the Campaign. However, I welcome Brexit as offering an enhanced ability and chance to experiment with new policies that dare more economic freedom.

Later on in the piece, we read stuff like this:

I am convinced that the next prosperity potentials of our civilisation can only be explored and discovered if the straight jacket of the nanny state is gradually loosened and dismantled. (The bigger the scale of a country or block, the easier it becomes for the state to expand its scope. That’s why I favour small countries: they must keep their state action small in scope and cannot afford to erect trade barriers or impose heavy tax and regulatory burdens.) It’s time to roll back the state and for us to take the risk of giving more freedom and self-responsibility to us all, unleashing entrepreneurial creativity, organisational experimentation as well as individual aspiration and empowerment.

It’s those particular sorts of libertarian phraseology that I find so intriguing. “Roll back” the “interventionist state”. “Unleash entrepreneurial creativity”. “Nanny state”. “Heavy tax and regulatory burdens”. Above all the simple: “Economic freedom”. This guy is one of us. There really can be no doubt about it. He has been reading the same kind of stuff that Samizdata readers have read, in among training to be an architect and then working as an architect. Any libertarians who doubt the ability of libertarian ideas to spread beyond the confines of mere libertarians should read this piece, and rejoice.

Patrik Schumacher works for Zaha Hadid architects. The recently deceased Zaha Hadid was rumoured to be a very “difficult” woman to work for. Bossy. Opinionated. Highly individual in her behaviour and in her designs. I don’t know much about Hadid other than noticing when she recently died (at far too young an age for an architect). But if Patrik Schumacher was the sort of man she hired to do her bidding, I am starting to suspect that she too may have been some sort of libertarian, maybe in the closet, but maybe of the in-your-face variety.

There’s lots more I could say about this, but my basic point is: how interesting, and how encouraging.

Samizdata quote of the day

First, Brexit means Brexit. The campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high, and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the backdoor, and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the government and Parliament to make sure we do just that.

Theresa May

May is currently the front-runner to be the next Prime Minister.

The risks we run

In all the talk and words about the UK Brexit vote last Thursday, a regular line is that the Leave side has been “misled”, and doesn’t know what it is doing, and it is going to have buyer’s remorse, etc, etc. Who knows, maybe that criticism is apt. However, it is a bit rich for those who, for example, favoured the creation of the European single currency, as many pro-Remainers did (they might hope we’d forget) to claim that those who wish to leave an entity with pretensions to be a superstate are not thinking of the risks. That is a bit rich.

The launch of the single currency is arguably one of the riskiest, most hubristic transnational projects of recent decades, and I still see very little sign of contrition for rolling out a new form of fiat money without creating the economic and political architecture to deal with life inside a one-size-fits-all interest rate.

One reason why remaining EU states are scared of what has happened is the fear that a eurozone member state, envious of how the UK has just voted, might have similar ideas.