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]

“The attacker was shot dead by a passerby”

“Four people killed in Israeli stabbing attack”, reports the Times:

At least four people were stabbed to death in southern Israel today before the attacker was shot dead by a passerby, in one of the deadliest such attacks in the country in years.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Beersheba, the largest city in the Negev desert. Israeli media reports identified the attacker as an Arab citizen of Israel, who is claimed to be a former high school teacher who had previously been imprisoned over alleged links to the Islamic State.

“It appeared to be a single terrorist who went on a stabbing spree,” Eli Levy, a police spokesman, said on Channel 13 TV. “A civilian took the initiative and shot and killed him.”

The presence of that armed civilian saved many innocent lives.

If a similar Islamist or other terrorist stabbing spree were to happen here in the UK tomorrow – and who is to say that it will not – then the odds for the defenders are much worse. If they are lucky there might be something like a narwhal tusk handy. If not… I have often thought of the brave last moments of Ignacio Echeverria:

At around 10pm on Saturday 3 June 2017, Echeverría, carrying his skateboard on his back, was skateboarding with friends in London. Near Borough Market, they saw a man attacking a police officer lying on the ground. When the man left the body of the officer and began to assault a woman (a French citizen who survived the incident due to Echeverría’s actions) Echeverría used his skateboard to strike the attacker, diverting his attention long enough that several people were moved to safety. He subsequently attacked a second terrorist who was also attacking a police officer. He was then stabbed twice in the back by two attackers, causing his death.

Samizdata quote of the day

Current national myth of Russia & the core of Putins ideology is the lie about Russia as liberator. All of us between Russia and Germany are watching Ukraine being liberated and hope that for once the West understands that this is how the Russian liberation has always looked like. This is what was done to us either in 1918-21 or 1939-45 or both. And it kept going until 1991. And it began again in 2008 and the West pretended, again, that it was not happening.

Germans have apologised for 80 years but I still felt a bit uneasy listening to Scholtz saying: wir werden uns remilitarisieren. Thankfully, for once, the Germans r on the right side of things because even there, after 80 years, the demons are not entirely dead under the surface.

So. No. It’s not about Putin. It is very much about the state of Russian society. It’s not Russians’ “fault”, there are too many factors, but to fix this means a process of national breakdown, regrouping, redemption and re-education for, well, 80 years.

It can only be done by the Russians themselves and the best thing we can do is not get in there to tell them how. Because we don’t know better. All that is needed is help Ukraine win, set strict cold war rules relating to Russia until the war crimes have been tried, by them, and a representative government is in office. Let them demilitarise. And then take it slow. Very slow

Eerik N Kross

Samizdata quote of the day

Dominic Cummings was completely right in his belief that ‘Generally, the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated’. The history of communism is the most obvious example, Bolshevism being a student cult that was passionately believed in by some very intelligent, brilliant people long after it was exposed as a disaster.

Ed West

False parallels debunked

An internet acquaintance called Tim Starr, who writes a lot about foreign policy from a “realist libertarian” point of view (ie, the opposite of the sort of “it’s all our fault” line that I see too much) has an interesting comment about the Russia/Ukraine drama on his Facebook page. I asked him if I could reprint it here, and he said go ahead. So here it is. It skewers the notion that there were parallels with Putin’s fears about Ukraine becoming pro-Western and JF Kennedy’s alarm at the Soviet Union’s stationing of nuclear weapons in Cuba in the early 1960s. And he makes an excellent point about the difference between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. These are obvious points, but a lot of those excusing Putin’s monstrous regime seem to be trying to confuse them.

A false analogy keeps being made between the Cuban Missile Crisis and Russia’s supposed fear of having offensive missiles in NATO countries bordering Russia. Supposedly, Russia has just as much right to object to NATO missiles in its neighboring countries as the USA had to object to them in Cuba.

One of the main problems with this analogy is that the Cuban Missile Crisis happened before there was such a thing as ICBMs – Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles. Thus, there were no Soviet missiles capable of hitting the continental USA, until they sent IRBMs to Cuba, thus threatening the USA with nuclear missiles for the first time ever. Russia has already been living under the threat of nuclear ICBM attack by the USA for decades, we have never launched one, we have signed multiple nuclear arms-control treaties with Russia, we have kept the terms of those treaties (unlike Russia), etc.

Another problem is that Russia already has nuclear-capable missiles stationed on NATO’s borders, in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders both Lithuania and Poland, and is within IRBM range of many other EU and NATO countries. Do those countries have the right to invade Russia because of the IRBMs in Kaliningrad?

(Emphasis mine.)

Going back to the Cuba analogy, Castro was so unstable that he actually urged the Soviets to launch a nuclear first strike on the US from Cuba. Fortunately, the Soviets never put Cuba in command of their nuclear forces there, didn’t grant his request, and soon thought better of leaving their nukes where he might be able to get his hands on them.

Another disanalogy is that NATO membership is voluntary. No country is forced to join NATO against its will, the agreement of all existing NATO members is required for any new members to join, and any member can leave at any time. Cuba was taken over by Castro in a violent, Soviet-sponsored revolution, so Cuba had no choice about whether to become a Soviet ally. No Soviet ally was ever allowed to stop being a Soviet ally without Soviet permission, and none of the other Soviet allies ever had any say in the matter. Cuba was a Soviet puppet, completely dependent upon the Soviets. Cuba was ruled by its secret police, who were under the command of the Soviet secret police. It was subsidized by the Soviets with billions of dollars a year. Cuba remains a one-party state, more than 30 years after the demise of the Soviet Union, having only in desperation permitted a little bit of free enterprise and replacing its former Soviet subsidies with money from Venezuela’s oil exports, drug smuggling, etc. Cuba sponsored terrorism all over the Americas, and engaged in military adventurism in Africa. Nothing comparable to that has ever been the case with any NATO members.

To the final point Starr makes, it is worth noting that in the 1960s, France left the NATO command structure (de Gaulle was not happy about US foreign policy). No Warsaw Pact country was able to do so; any attempt at dissent was crushed (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968).

Samizdata quote of the day

It’s time for your new favorite game! It’s called “Paid Russian Shill or Prominent Western Idiot?”

Ever thought that some extremist’s bad take sounded indistinguishable from actual Russian propaganda? You might be right!


The press big up Psaki to conceal that they are throwing the fight

When a boxer or wrestler who would normally be expected to trash-talk his opponent instead gushes about how strong they are, be suspicious. Here is the Jen Psaki story the press want to talk about:

“Jen Psaki Has Now Held More Press Briefing Than All Of Trump’s Press Secretaries Combined” – Jason Easley, Politicus USA. Mr Easley writes,

Biden and Jen Psaki have returned the government back to the people and restored accountability to the Executive Branch. The Trump administration consistently set records for days between press briefings.

This story about Psaki’s achievement in having done her job on two hundred separate days has been syndicated across the English speaking world. Jason Easley’s enthusiasm is matched by that of David Charter in the (London) Times: “Jen Psaki holds onto the White House job no Trump aide could handle”

For 14 months Psaki has earned a reputation for calmness under fire, no-nonsense put-downs and an ability to dodge most of the traps set by the more pugilistic members of the White House press corps. She has Facebook pages devoted to her including the Jen Psaki Fan Group, which recently discussed: “Are we seeing the next US president?”

I hope that Mr Charter remembered the stamped addressed envelope and the required four box tops from special Psaki-edition cartons of Rice Krispies when he sent off for his membership badge. He regales us with tales of her witty put-downs of Fox News reporters and Republican Senators. Only a spoilsport would say that the information revealed in the eleventh paragraph of the Times story, the one paragraph out of fourteen that had any news value, might have been given more prominence:

Psaki is also adept at evading well-aimed arrows. She was put on the spot about her tweet during the election campaign dismissing a story about Hunter Biden’s laptop as “Russian disinfo”. The New York Times finally conceded this week that emails from the laptop had been “authenticated”. Psaki’s response? “I’d point to the Department of Justice and Hunter Biden’s representatives. I’m a spokesperson for the United States; he doesn’t work for the United States.”

Emphasis added.

The New York Post’s October 2020 scoop about Hunter Biden’s laptop was censored by Facebook and Twitter, derided by the establishment media, and certified as “Russian disinfo” by “dozens of former intel officials”, according to Psaki. For some reason the Post wanted to talk about that rather than her 200th briefing: “Psaki won’t defend claim Post’s Hunter Biden laptop scoop was ‘Russian plant’”.

Putin’s useful idiots – a continuing series

During my morning trawls of newsfeeds I came across this from some film industry news portal called Deadline:

A long list of celebrities from the film, television, sports and music industries has sent a letter urging City National Bank’s parent company, Royal Bank of Canada, to defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The letter, sent “In solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders,” is demanding the immediate withdrawal of financial support for a 416-mile gas pipeline slated to cut through what’s termed “sacred and sensitive ecosystems” in Wet’suwet’en land, in British Columbia, Canada without consent from hereditary chiefs.

More than 65 Hollywood celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, and Robert Downey Jr., released a letter to City National Bank’s (CNB) parent company, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

More than 65 celebrities – that’s serious firepower, man!

Here is a chart showing natural gas prices over the past five years, and the huge fall and bounce back in some ways tracks the lockdowns, and also, I suggest, what is going on in Ukraine. The past few weeks have been a wakeup call about where natural gas comes from, and who controls it. Maybe these “celebrities” might want to reflect on that, assuming they have above-room temp IQ capacity to do so.

Protecting wildlife is important. So is keeping the lights on, the air conditioning working and the heating. Those “celebrities” presumably want these things to continue. If they don’t, and would prefer to live in a tent, they should say so.

The rot goes deep

I was going to say the rot goes deep in Scottish politics, but it ain’t just Scotland.

It started with a minor story about a senior member of the Scottish National Party getting into hot water. Until this story broke Dr Tim Rideout was the SNP’s currency guy. Quoting the Times:

“Nicola Sturgeon ‘will root out racism’ in SNP after adviser Tim Rideout suspended”

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to “root out and condemn toxic racist political discourse” in the SNP after a senior party member said that Priti Patel should be “sent back to Uganda”.

Tim Rideout, a member of the nationalists’ policy development committee, was suspended from the party after the controversial social media posts about the home secretary came to light.

Pam Gosal, the Conservative MSP and the first Indian Sikh member at Holyrood, urged the first minister to condemn the “appalling racist comment”.

Pam Gosal was right. It was a nasty bit of snide directed at the Home Secretary solely because of her ancestry. I already knew Rideout was a twit on financial matters – here he is speaking at some sort of Modern Monetary Theory conference – but I had thought better of him than that.

A Conservative MSP angrily saying that a Scottish National Party official has said something appalling, when he has, is normal politics. What shook me, because not that long ago it was not normal politics, was the remark from the (Labour) Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray:

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, has called for police to take action against Rideout. He added: “These are truly horrendous and outright racist remarks from a key advisor to Nicola Sturgeon.

Once laws against “hate” unaccompanied by any clear crime are passed, as the SNP has done in Scotland, it does not take long for the policing of political speech to become literal.

How Putin managed to de-Russify East Ukraine in just 8 years

This is probably the best explanation of why Ukrainian political dynamics developed the way they did.

This conflict manufacturing strategy backfired on Putin. Russians are shocked by resistance they are now facing in the Russophone East Ukraine. Russians believed it would just switch to them immediately. After all, it voted for pro-Russian candidates on every election till 2014.

What happened? How Kharkiv which used to be culturally and politically pro-Russian so quickly turned super anti-Russian? It’s a huge cultural change and a very recent one. And the answer would be: Putin’s conflict manufacturing strategy killed pro-Russian sentiments in Ukraine.

Read the whole thing, highly recommended.

Samizdata quote of the day

It is telling that so many cosmopolitan liberal globalists now care about sovereignty for Ukraine, yet spent years telling Brits sovereignty was some kind of fascist fantasy. It’s now okay to be a ‘flag shagger’ if you’re from Lviv or [Kyiv], but not if you’re from Leeds or Kings Lynn.

– Commenter Martin

The US dollar’s future as reserve currency

From the Wall Street Journal (paywall):

Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price some of its oil sales to China in yuan, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would dent the U.S. dollar’s dominance of the global petroleum market and mark another shift by the world’s top crude exporter toward Asia. The talks with China over yuan-priced oil contracts have been off and on for six years but have accelerated this year as the Saudis have grown increasingly unhappy with decades-old U.S. security commitments to defend the kingdom, the people said.

The Saudis are angry over the U.S.’s lack of support for their intervention in the Yemen civil war, and over the Biden administration’s attempt to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Saudi officials have said they were shocked by the precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

From what I can recall, the demise of the dollar as the world’s most important reserve currency has been predicted for so long that it was probably being stated fifty years ago. Predictions of “currency wars” often crop up in the business sections of bookstores. Take this racy example from James Rickards.

The underlying problem is not oil exports, or whether Sleepy Joe is getting on well with whatever shithead is running Saudi Arabia. The problem is that the US government has racked up a debt of $28.43 trillion. Further, US savings rates haven’t held up. The US has been too reliant on savings from countries that have at times wished it ill. This is not sustainable. It is funny really. Sustainability is one of the buzzwords of our time, denoting a concern about the Planet, but surely if it also means anything it means having a state that does not go bankrupt.

The US Federal Reserve put up interest rates today, and in the next few months, is likely to put them up more. (See an interesting discussion involving a friend of mine, Keith Weiner, about the Fed.) Every time it does so, the interest costs of the US debt stock will rise. The amount of interest payable on that debt will be the equivalent of, say, an aircraft carrier fleet. High indebtedness is not just stupid in financial terms. It is a national security issue.

Or maybe not

The internet is awash with armchair generals (not that there’s anything wrong with being an armchair general – I am one myself) telling us that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not going according to plan. They point out that the frontlines have barely moved in the last week, that a lot of Russian vehicles have been knocked out or broken down, that the Russian air force seems to be absent and various other things (twenty-year old rations is one of my favourites.) Some are even suggesting that the Russians might get kicked out of Ukraine. 

I, and I am sure most Samizdatistas, would dearly like this to be true. But the facts don’t care about our beliefs. The truth may be very different. So, if you are looking for an antedote to the narrative I would suggest checking out Task & Purpose’s YouTube on the subject. He points out that the Russians have had victories and that during the Iraq War there was a similar narrative about the allies being bogged down when they were nothing of the sort. The thing I really like about it is that he – that would be presenter Chris Cappy, an Iraq War veteran – admits that he doesn’t know what’s going on. And that’s kind of the point.