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

The attacks on Paul Pelosi and Gabby Giffords: some parallels

There is no doubt that Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has been the victim of a vicious assault. There is no doubt that the person who carried out this attack was David DePape. There is widespread doubt about many other aspects of the story. The most common theory is that far from breaking into to the Pelosi residence as an assassin, DePape was invited in as a male prostitute, only for the two men to quarrel over payment or drugs. I will not rehash the arguments put forward in support of this theory, which are available to be read all over the internet. I do wish to stress that if all or any of this is true, it in no way excuses the crime. It would, however, make it a different type of crime from the one the media say it is.

The media would have you believe that these doubts come only from mad conspiracy theorists. They are not helping their case by silently changing details of their own reporting.

Look at these screenshots of two Politico accounts of this story, presented side by side by Stephen L. Miller under the apt caption “Seriously WTF”.

The screenshot on the right takes you to a Politico story about the attack on Paul Pelosi written by Jeremy B. White and Nicholas Wu. I was familiar with this version because I had read it myself a few hours earlier. The title is “Police offer new details in Paul Pelosi assault” and the dateline (in American format) is given as 10/28/2022 09:46 PM EDT. The URL is https://www.politico.com/news/2022/10/28/police-pelosi-attack-intentional-00064098. Do I labour the point? That’s because I think this version of the story will disappear soon. Read it while you can. It says:

→ Continue reading: The attacks on Paul Pelosi and Gabby Giffords: some parallels

Samizdata quote of the day

“The irony of Xi’s Ahab Quest is that Taiwan has never been a part of China. ‘China’ today is a recapitulation of the old Qing Empire (which, to add irony to irony, was not Chinese but Manchurian). Tibet, East Turkestan, Mongolia, and Manchuria are in no historical sense remotely ‘Chinese’. Ditto for Taiwan, in which Qing officialdom evinced only desultory interest until 1854, when American Commodore Matthew C. Perry, fresh from his gunboat-treaty journey to Japan, showed interest of his own.”

Jason Morgan, Spectator. Morgan says a Chinese attempted conquest of Taiwan, and war with neighbours, such as Japan, and the US, is inevitable.

The ‘Tony Soprano’ theory of Russian geopolitics

Much has been written about what underpins the current war in Ukraine; how Russian revanchism is driven by Russkiy Mir ideology, the concept of the ‘Russian World’. This means all parts of what was the Russian Empire must once again be ruled from Moscow (the ‘New Rome’) for Russia to be spiritually and politically whole. It is very much like Nazi notions of “Germany is anywhere there are Germans” with a bit of lebensraum theory thrown in as well.

What makes the Russkiy Mir concept a bit more ‘inclusive’ than the Nazi version of Herrenvolk versus Untermensch, is the insistence that Russia also includes people who are said to be Russified, such as Chechens, Georgians, Moldavians, Buryats, Yakuts etc. etc…and of course all Ukrainians. If you read RIA Novosti (aimed at Russians) rather than Russia Today (aimed at foreign useful idiots), these are the official state narratives proffered day after day.

And the notion that is driving or at least justifying Russian aggression is true.

But there is another way to see this, not so much an alternative but rather a very complimentary perspective. Even if “Russkiy Mir” as both context and meta-context internally justifies Russian actions to Russians, is this the real driver pushing Putin and his supporters at the highest levels of Russia’s establishment? The push certainly isn’t “Ukraine trying to join NATO” (which Germany made clear it would always veto), the “Nazi government in Kyiv” hilarity or assorted biolab absurdities, but rather the ‘Tony Soprano’ theory of Russian geopolitics (Tony Soprano being a fictional mafia boss from the American TV show The Sopranos).

I have seen many people suggest forms of this but Matt Steinglass provides one version that is useful and succinct even if I think it is not entirely right:

In the Sopranos analogy, a business, let’s say a chain of groceries, at the edge of his territory decided they were going to stop paying protection and start trusting the police.

Tony Soprano obviously cannot tolerate this. It’s not just the loss of revenue: it’s that letting it go unpunished tells everybody else who’s paying him protection money that they can leave, too. So Tony decides to hit the groceries, take out the owner and ensure a more pliable one is installed, to send a message to anybody else who might get ideas.

Unfortunately it turns out the grocery clerks are packing shotguns and Tony’s soldiers, who were overconfident, get shot up and retreat. Now Tony has worse problems: he’s lost the grocery chain and he looks weak. Yet he may have inflicted enough damage that his other businesses hesitate to leave; who needs the trouble? Similarly, Ukraine’s economy has shrunk by a third.

Anyway, the point is that if you think about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an old-fashioned attempt at territorial conquest, it makes no sense. States don’t gain power by conquering territory anymore, this isn’t the 18th or 19th century. But if you think of it as a mob hit to intimidate states from exiting the protection racket that delivers corrupt rent streams to Russia’s ruling kleptocrats, then it at least made sense–until Ukraine fought back.

It is demonstrably untrue that aspirations for territorial conquest are a thing of the past (see China often stated threats towards Taiwan), but Steinglass’ analogy stands nevertheless. Certainly Ukrainians who understand Russia far better than most Russians understand Ukraine have been making this kind of ‘gangster’ analogy for quite some time. However, too many people in the West have been mesmerised by Russia Today narratives and ingrained Americocentric delusions to look at this from a more local perspective.

Where the birds do not fly free

“The bird is freed”, says Elon Musk after buying Twitter.

“In Europe, the bird will fly by our 🇪🇺 rules”, replies Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market.

It seems evidence keeps building that COVID-19 came from a lab

I think the headline is self-explanatory. A new US report delivers what looks like a devastating verdict. (It was from a Republican committee; I am unclear what the Democrats might have said.) For me, the refusal of the Beijing regime to allow independent inspections and its bullying of anyone who raised questions, triggers my suspicions. Science writer Matt Ridley has come to the same conclusion, although he is far more qualified to write about it than someone like me. He co-authored a book on the topic.

It is not clear what, if anything, the West can now do other than the following:

Cease all funding of gain-of-function or similar experiments carried out in China. No Western individuals or organisations should be allowed to fund experiments of this nature in China. So it means people such as Dr Fauci would, under my rule, be treated as criminals for having any financial or other involvement with such research.

Where such experiments are conducted in places such as the US, they must be disclosed from the start, and subject to regular review and full reports given to the authorities, including media. There was a recent report that such work was being done in Boston, where the virus has a high fatality rate, although there has been pushback on this story here. Can someone explain to me what is the possible purpose of this? (If it is to defend against viruses, this should be made clear from the start.)

Restrict Chinese government/business (usually front organisations anyway) access to Western medical and scientific research as much as possible (I realise that in an online world, there are limits), particularly around technologies that can be weaponised.

Continue to demand answers about the sources of the pandemic, and make a willingness to be open about this a condition of more open relations going forward. Make it clear that unleashing a virus, even by accident, and doing nothing much to warn neighbours in good time or be open about investigating it, is a hostile act. I would like to hear the likes of Sunak, Biden, Macron, Scholz and the rest make these points, regularly. If not, they need to be asked why they aren’t raising it. And for good measure, the World Economic Forum head honcho Klaus Schwab needs to be regularly asked about this, and about whether any WEF members are funding such research. Let’s at least use the whole ESG agenda for some good and demand that no ESG-linked finance should touch gain-of-function research unless for a clearly-stated and checkable benefit, in full public view.

I don’t think sanctions are of much use here. Ironically, China’s zero-covid policy, which appears without end, is a form of self-harm that is more damaging than any amount of sanctions activity. President Xi has been re-elected by the Chinese Communist Party, and presumably hopes to be in post until he dies, or is too infirm to do the job. That is punishment enough for those who want to prop up this regime. It is, alas, miserable for the hundreds of millions of Chinese people who, through little fault of their own, live under this tyranny.

Samizdata quote of the day

“I ended up as an activist in a very different place from where I started. I thought that if we just redistributed resources, then we could solve every problem. I now know that’s not true. There’s a funny moment when you realize that as an activist: The off-ramp out of extreme poverty is, ugh, commerce, it’s entrepreneurial capitalism. I spend a lot of time in countries all over Africa, and they’re like, Eh, we wouldn’t mind a little more globalization actually.”

Bono, the rock musician from U2. It would be quite amusing to see him say all this on stage the next time he is in front of the crowds at Glastonbury. Watch their heads explode. (I should add that he is far from going full classical liberal, but that’s not a bad start.) He is quoted at the Marginal Revolution blog, that took the quote from a paywalled New York Times page.

A theme park strategy

It is easy to understand why those who are not fully down with the whole Green alarmist agenda are annoyed at the fracking ban under Rishi Sunak’s new administration. (In reality, local authorities could and would still try and stop it, even if it was legal at the national level.)

A problem with the ban, though, is that it says something about the approach of the Sunak administration: it is in thrall to the Precautionary Principle. Don’t do anything if there is the slightest risk of harm to the environment or if it upsets some local people. And that means that on issues such as house building, new nuclear power plants, roads, Heathrow third runway or a “Boris island” in East London, or anything else, the risk is that nothing much gets done.

Lest anyone think this is a purely Tory issue, it isn’t. A Labour government is unlikely to be like the Attlee/Wilson ones where there was at least a sort of working class affinity with industry. Trade unionists used to be proud of how they worked in mines, factories and shipyards. They got dirt under their fingernails, and they wore this as a badge of pride. Today’s post-modernist Left bemoans developments such as the demise of steel production, but fails to join the dots between this and the deliberate raising of energy prices through “Green transition” policies. Also, much of the modern Left does not reside in the industrial sector, but is more about the public sector. So the problem is one of a wider cultural/philosophical aversion to making things or doing things that are in any way “dirty”.

Meanwhile, countries such as India and China, or Indonesia, suffer no such inhibitions. And we will import energy and other products from nations that are likely to enforce less stringent controls on pollution. And yet the likes of Starmer, and various commentators, will bemoan the demise of UK manufacturing. But if we refuse to build reliable, cheap energy (wind and solar don’t count, being weather-reliant), then our demise as an industrial power will continue. (Fossil Future, by Alex Epstein, is a must-read and corrective to current alarmist nonsense, not least because it addresses the philosophy of the Greens, and provides an alternative. Too few debunkers of Greens do this.)

A few days ago I went to Battersea Power Station, now fully refurbished and turned into a shopping mall and apartment block, with various offices and things like art galleries. I can admire the architecture, the lovely industrial-style touches and the gantries and machinery. But what strikes me as symbolic of modern Britain is that we have turned a power station into a shop, and when the wind doesn’t blow and sun doesn’t shine, and we haven’t enough baseload power, the building will go dark. That’s where decades of evasion and Green ideology have taken us.

We are turning into a theme park.

Update: Germany is keen to be a theme park too. Major chemicals manufacturers, unable to withstand surging energy costs, are moving out, according to this Reuters report

Samizdata quote of the day

“Restoring the fracking moratorium would be an error. To rely on imported gas when we have 50-100 years’ supply under our feet is not a stance rooted in science or economics, but political weakness in the face of militant protest groups and anti-development campaigns. This decision will not help the planet; the UK will become more dependent on gas imports, with higher emissions than local production. It will not help the growth plan; we will be borrowing to pay Qatari and US taxes rather than building an industry.
It will not help the low carbon transition; there will be fewer fossil fuel taxes to fund it and the cost of all energy sources will rise. It will not help our allies in the EU or Ukraine; surrendering further dominance of regional gas markets to Russian tyranny. It seems the Government and Opposition are determined to risk blackouts and freezeouts before taking hard decisions rooted in reality.”

– Andy Mayer, of the Institute of Economic Affairs (one of those evil organisations now safely removed from influencing our “sensibles” in government), talking about the decision of the new Rishi Sunak government to ban fracking. The quotation explains the imbecility of that decision. (I received the comments in an email; there is no weblink that I could see.)

Who needs vulgar industry anyway, when we can import all this stuff from grubby foreigners, daaaahhling.

Update: Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the Daily Telegraphs compliments the frackers of the US for helping to save the West (he’s not exaggerating) but argues that UK fracking is far less sensible as an investment proposition, and he may be correct. However, he goes onto laud the benefits of the UK going all in on Green, renewable energy, and talks about hydrogen, etc. But throughout the entire article, written with AEP’s typical brio, is not one single reference to battery storage capacity. Weather-dependent energy requires storage to deal with the baseload power issue. There may well be solutions in the skunkworks, but an awful lot is riding on this. There might well be a sort of “Moore’s Law” effect on renewables and affordability, but batteries are the key. And making batteries needs lithium, cobalt, and other minerals that come from places that are often not exactly very agreeable to the West. And there are environmental side-effects, including damage to water supplies (often far more serious than anything that fracking might cause.)

If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa

Dear Noah, thank you for your last contribution to this discussion. I particularly appreciate the title of your last piece given how neatly it maps onto a similar phrase about how “Real Communism hasn’t been tried”.

The thrust of your position, which is shared by a surprising number of people I respect and hold in high regard in Western heterodox circles, is that “if we could negotiate with Putin, wouldn’t that be better than war?” And I agree: if we could negotiate with Putin, that would be better than than war. But I’m afraid it brings to mind a rather “transphobic” saying we have in Russia:

“If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa.”

Forgive me, but I’m afraid you’ve forgotten who we are talking about.

In 2008, shortly after Russia’s invasion of South Ossetia, Vladimir Putin explained that “Crimea is Ukrainian. It is not disputed territory. Russia has long recognised and accepted the borders of today’s Ukraine”. When pushed, he further explained that [the suggestion that Russia would invade Crimea] “reeks of provocation”.

Three months before the annexation of Crimea, in December 2013, Vladimir Putin told journalists that the idea of Russia sending troops into any part of Ukraine, including Crimea, was “complete nonsense that cannot and will not happen”.

Konstantin Kisin observing that anyone arguing for good faith negotiations with Putin is in the grips of delusional wishful thinking.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Since the country [UK] seems to be heading back very rapidly to the 1970s it is worth asking: just what is keeping people in Britain, especially young people?”

Ross Clark. He’s clocked the fact that far from net immigration being an issue, the challenge over the next few years is persuading anyone with a pulse to stay in the UK, if the prospect is of high taxes, weak growth, and all the rest of it.

Who are you and what have you done with the real Boris Johnson?

“Boris Johnson pulls out of Conservative leadership race”, the BBC reported a few minutes ago. Yes, there has been time for several thousand people to make the joke about this being the first time Boris has pulled out of anything.

Turning to media news, “David Tennant returns to Doctor Who after 12 years as Jodie Whittaker regenerates”.

I watched a bit of the show. It was certainly full of dramatic twists and turns, but it was all so loud and fast-moving that I lost the will to try and keep up. Dr Who was also rather confusing.

I think Rishi Sunak will be the Master tomorrow.

Of course, he has experience in the job.

The innocence of Derek Chauvin

Two years ago, a post of mine looked at why people were falling for the BLM narrative about Floyd and Chauvin – not just the usual suspects who’d already fallen for the ones about Zimmerman and Wilson, but people like this guy, eloquently aware that Floyd was simply…

“a violent misogynist, a brutal man who met a predictably brutal end”

…yet swallowing the idea of police guilt in his death. (Before or after reading this post – or instead, if this post seems too long – by all means (re)read my old one.)

Now that poor (literally) Chauvin’s appeal seems to be overcoming his lack of funds for a lawyer, and the Minnesota Supreme Court’s refusal of a public defender, it’s time to remind people why it is folly to look at a picture of prone Floyd dying while under police restraint and confabulate belief in BLM’s narrative about it. My old post told people to read the story forwards, not backwards. This one tells people to know the background before studying the foreground. The usual suspects will continue telling the usual lies, but after two-and-a-half years of experiencing what believing BLM brings, maybe more people are prepared to review things they fell for back then.

Two superficially-contradictory statements are key to grasping what happened:

→ Continue reading: The innocence of Derek Chauvin