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]

Power in the U.S. – that doesn’t make the U.S. powerful

“If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn’t want to answer.” (Monica Lewinsky, talking about Bill Clinton, in 2018)

If you want to know what power looks like, watch Democrat after Democrat safely, even smugly, say that Republicans intend to “put y’all back in chains”, to “go back to the days of enslavement and to the days of Jim Crow”, without ever worrying whether they will be asked which party backed slavery and Jim Crow back in the day. (Biden in 2012, Pelosi and others in 2022, lots in the decade between.)

Vlad the Mad?

I’ve seen this idea expressed a couple of times in the last day. Here’s Nigel Farage:

I always thought that we were dealing with somebody who was actually very logical. But I now begin to wonder whether he is. 

The Daily Sceptic, which is really branching out now that most Covid-related restrictions have ended – and in ways I tend to agree with – has a whole article speculating that Putin is paranoid about his health and further speculating that this has sent Putin a bit mad.

I don’t think we have to assume a lunatic in the Kremlin to explain what is going on. Imagine for a minute, you are a Russian imperialist. You have no time for this democracy crap. You have no time for this self-determination crap, or this international law crap. You regard it as Russia’s manifest destiny to rule over Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and a few other places. You look at your opposition, the West. These are people who are bankrupt. They argue about whether men should be allowed to use women’s toilets. They have elites who despise the populations they govern and the customs and traditions that made their countries strong. They have universities that have become communist re-education camps. They fritter away their prosperity on wind farms and useless railways and welfare. They spend little on defence and when they do it is mostly on making sure that their forces embrace diversity. Almost all of them are to a greater or lesser extent dependent on your natural resources. And the “leader” of this rabble is at best a stubborn, wishy-washy, incompetent. And you say to yourself “Why shouldn’t I go to war? Who is going to stop me?” 

P.S. Having drafted this I tuned into YouTube to find that David Starkey has made much the same point but much more eloquently than I ever could.


Samizdata quote of the day

Start fracking.
Arm Ukraine.
Fuck Putin.

Tony Parsons

Strange days make for strange allies.

The Guardian finds a few, a very few, Christians it likes

Christians in MP Steve Baker’s seat pray for him to quit role on climate thinktank

Protesters gathered in High Wycombe on Friday to implore their MP, Steve Baker, to quit as a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a thinktank that has been accused of being one of the UK’s leading sources of climate scepticism.

When it says “protesters gathered”, we are not talking about the First Crusade. The gathering process probably took less than three seconds.

Those assembled, including local children and members of the local Lib Dem, Labour and Green parties,

I see something missing there.

said they hoped the MP would be voted out at the next election if he did not change his mind on net zero. Baker currently has a majority of 4,000, which means his seat could be marginal.

The MP, who is a member of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group and has called for the government to rethink its policy of decarbonising the economy using renewable energy, came out to

Smite the idolaters?

join the gathered protesters in prayer and answer their questions.

All very civilised, and these doubtless well-meaning folk, all fifteen of them, have every right to make their protest, and I am glad that Mr Baker smote them not.

But if we’re gonna be doing political prayers, here’s mine. Oh Lord, open their eyes: we need fracking and nuclear power for the sake of the poor and the peace of the world.

As Andrew Neil writes in the Mail,

While Putin was making these painful preparations to withstand sanctions, what was Europe doing? Why, increasing its exposure to Russian energy, of course.

In 2013 the European Union bought 135 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas. Six years later, despite indisputable evidence that a revanchist Russia was on the march, annexing Crimea — a 21st-century Anschluss — and occupying parts of Georgia and eastern Ukraine, the EU had managed to increase its purchase of Russian gas to 166 billion cubic metres.

Despite pouring billions of euros into wind and solar energy, the EU has also managed to import a lot more coal from Russia.

And, of course, it just can’t get enough Russian gas, hence the German enthusiasm for a new gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, from Siberia through the Baltic Sea to Germany (currently suspended — but not abandoned — in the wake of the invasion).

In a very real sense, the EU has paid for Putin’s Fortress Russia defences. With oil prices spiking at over $100 a barrel, $700 million a day in oil revenues is pouring into Kremlin coffers. Germany’s dependence on Russian energy is close to complete: 50 per cent of its coal imports, 55 per cent of its gas, 35 per cent of its oil — all from Russia.

Added later: From Tipp Insights, “Anti-Fossil Madness Funds Putin’s Ukraine Aggression”

“Xi Jinping is *a***i** himself dry”

That’s Konstantin on Triggernometry’s YouTube on Ukraine. Lots of good, thoughtful stuff on Putin, Western weakness and everything in between. Well, not so much on that country in between, you know, Ukraine which is all the more remarkable when you consider that Konstantin has Russian-speaking family there. But, as he says, he doesn’t think people in the West are particularly interested in what is best for Konstantin’s family.

Update Maybe that title (see comments) should be toned down.

As Russian troops overrun Chernobyl…

… simultaneously we have achieved peak insanity in the west with this:

I fear some sort of criticality is imminent.

Perhaps we need a “What the actual fuck?” category.

The Americocentric delusion

I am seeing a phenomenon being floridly expressed today, but it is something I have observed for many years: nothing happens in the world, at least nothing good, unless the malign USA is driving it.

Yes, the United States is the richest, most powerful nation on earth and it has been since World War II. And yes, it has interfered under presidents of all stripes in pursuit of its perceived geopolitical interests. It has done this for good or ill in a great many places, sometimes benignly, other times with a breathtaking lack of judgement.

But just as the leaders of that great nation often overestimated the USA’s ability to impose its will in far away lands, many people in many places also overestimate America’s influence in world affairs. They largely deny that locals have agency, oblivious to the fact people everywhere are capable of organising politically in ways not directed and driven from an agency in Langley, Virginia. As a friend of mine who was deeply involved in the 2014 Maidan revolt in Kyiv said to me once:

“Woah! I’ve just heard we’re all CIA puppets on Washington’s payroll. There must have been an oversight as me and my friends never got a penny. You know people in America, so can you get me an address to apply for that lovely CIA money I’m apparently due?”

He was of course joking, but Maidan was a golden example of how something overwhelmingly driven and executed by Ukrainians, in Ukraine, in response to Ukrainian political and social pressures becoming intolerable, was nevertheless written off as CIA mischief-making.

That idea was pushed hard by Russia when their pet oligarch was deposed, and it is entirely possible Putin even believes it himself. It is actually more supportive of his worldview than the notion it really happened because millions of Ukrainians loathed Putin, hated his Ukrainian puppet in Kyiv, and reject the malign influence of Russia generally.

But so many people seek a simpler world, a bipolar one in which everything is down to the Big Actors (with America still the biggest at the moment). Understanding that and feeding into it grants profound insight into Russian (and to some extent Chinese) propaganda. Add to that the rightly shattered confidence in Western institutions the last two years has wrought, and it is not surprising otherwise discerning folk fall for it.

Many seek to explain the world through the distorting prism of the Americocentric delusion, rather than face the complex frequently fracturing mosaic that explains the world more accurately. People do things locally for local reason; not everything is about some current iteration of the Great Game.

If the USA (and UK) have a share of blame for what is happening in Ukraine right now, it is not because they ‘provoked’ Russia: Putin has made it clear the very existence of a politically and culturally independent Ukraine is intolerable to him. No, their mistake, their toxic involvement, was when they pressed Ukraine into surrendering the nuclear weapons Kyiv inherited from the defunct USSR in return for meaningless guarantees.

Russia is not attacking Ukraine in response to actions of the USA since then, that’s an Americocentric delusion. This is not happening because Ukraine wanted to join NATO, it’s happening because they are outside NATO, which is not the same thing at all. Russia is not driven by fear of NATO strength, it is driven by perceptions of western weakness. Russia believes the cultural, military and geopolitical balance has tipped in their favour, expecting the west will respond to their invasion of Ukraine today with nothing more than official grimaces. I hope they are not correct about that but we will soon see.

Putin is motivated by oft stated imperial ambitions to Make Russia Great Again, to ‘restore’ Russia to its imperial boundaries with Moscow as the New Rome (yes, they really say that); Ukrainian rejection of that notion and assertion of their own identity is therefore intolerable. But reject ‘the Russian world’ they did, because Ukrainians do not wish to be ruled from the Kremlin even indirectly. That is why they overthrew Russia’s favoured oligarch and sought to chart their own course in the world.

That is what this war is about.

Weakness and lies beget horrors of every kind

Anyone who cares about our liberty and security (the two are deeply entwined) needs to work tirelessly to ensure the future does not belong to tyrants, be they tyrants in Russia, China, or much closer to home. Even the smallest of daily acts of defiance can add to a countervailing pressure; every little decision you make, what you say, who you spend your money with, needs to be done thoughtfully and above all bravely.

At a time when it would be nice to have at least a measure of trust in our own institutions, the last two years have made that completely impossible. Putin and his ilk are predators who sense weakness, and culturally we have been greatly weakened by enemies within our own institutions public and private.

Come to think of it, comrades, I do want Jones back

George Orwell, Animal Farm:

“Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones back?”

Once again this argument was unanswerable. Certainly the animals did not want Jones back; if the holding of debates on Sunday mornings was liable to bring him back, then the debates must stop. Boxer, who had now had time to think things over, voiced the general feeling by saying: “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.” And from then on he adopted the maxim, “Napoleon is always right,” in addition to his private motto of “I will work harder.”

(Credit to, um, www.marxists.org actually, for providing the link.)

The Times yesterday, “Donald Trump praises Vladimir Putin’s ‘genius’ move on Ukraine”. The headline worked; there are more than a thousand outraged comments about how Trump is “supporting Putin”. I knew before I read the first line that the point he was actually making would be something along the lines of this:

He claimed that Putin, 69, would not have dared invade had he still been in the White House, rather than Biden. “This never would have happened with us,” he said, dismissing Biden as a “man that has no concept of what he’s doing”.

He told the radio show: “Had I been in office — not even thinkable. This would never have happened. But you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad.”

The BBC, this morning:

BBC LIVE: Russia launches invasion of Ukraine

Samizdata quote of the day

I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.

– Richard Feynman

Leftist pushback against wokeness

There is an article in today’s Guardian by Nesrine Malik called “Scared to be ‘woke’? It’s time for progressives to take a stand in the culture wars”. The title is a fair summary of her argument.

As so often, the comments were more interesting than the article. The five most popular top-level comments were:

14 hours ago

What is the point in winding everyone up about an empire that is long gone? Meanwhile China continues to exploit Africa and slavery is alive and well in Dubai.

14 hours ago

No one need be scared to be woke. The people who are threatened are those who are not woke, and who are abused and have their livelihoods attacked by the intolerant. Even when the woke have a point, the way they attack their opponents hardens opinion against them. I will support very nearly anyone attacked by the woke, and especially people like J K Rowling, Katharine Birbalsingh, Kathleen Stock and Howard Winstone. The only sensible response to cancellation tactics is to block the woke and let them scream and shout among themselves.

13 hours ago

The trouble with the woke is that they act as self appointed thought police in a land where policing is supposed to be by consent. Then they accuse any dissenters of having started a “culture war” and seek to have them ostracised, deplatformed, cancelled, fired, made to issue a grovelling apology. Is it any wonder they are disliked?

14 hours ago

I think this fails to understand just how toxic “woke” is. “Owing” and doubling down on narratives like “white privilege” and “critical race theory” and in particular using them in schools is likely to get you annihilated in the polls and rightly so. As has recently been seen in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia following the Loudoun county school incidents. The only way to deal with woke is to abandon it altogether and become true liberals again.

14 hours ago

Among the various diversity, the most important should be the diversity of opinion.

The days are long gone when the Guardian comment section was called “Comment is Free” and, true to its name, allowed readers to comment on practically every article. These days comments are rarely allowed except on those articles where most of the Guardian readership is likely to agree with the Guardian‘s own line. This article was an exception. Of course, the newspaper has every right to pursue whatever policy on comments it wishes, but the habit of not permitting people to talk back has costs. One loses the chance to feel the wind change. I think Nesrine Malik will have been surprised by the hostile reaction to her article, and many of the commenters will be surprised to find out how many of their fellow left wingers share their doubts.

Samizdata quote of the day

“This is the man whom Canadians have thrice elected, which speaks for a country that—with the exception of a courageous and steadfast minority—no longer values its freedoms and traditions. Fear and ignorance triumph over patriotism and reason. Some might be inclined to argue that Canadians had little choice given there was no credible opposition and that vote-heavy Toronto, Montreal and Halifax effectively determine the outcomes of elections in this country. Nonetheless, Trudeau was always a popular favorite despite his autocratic nature and a clear tendency to abuse his office. Trudeau is working to remake Canada in his own tarnished image. He can do no other. That is who he is.”

David Solway