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]

What Trump will do about Ukraine

As readers may remember, I am a big fan of Denys Davydov, the Ukrainian podcaster. Almost every day since US aid to Ukraine was turned off by Congress, Denys has been slagging off President Trump. Some of the language! His claim is that Trump is behind this block and that he wills a Russian victory. A couple of months ago, I checked on a Trump speech and although he wasn’t clearcut in what he intended to do it was clear that the Trump-is-a-Putin-pawn narrative was just nonsense.

Today he posted this (helpfully re-posted by Ukraine detractors.)

Look at what he is actually bloody-well saying! “…a Country in desperate need.” “…Ukrainian Survival and Strength…” Does that sound like someone who is indifferent to Ukraine’s fate?

“Why can’t Europe equalize or match the money put in by the United States of America…”

Assuming that European aid is indeed less than America’s, well, why can’t Europe match America’s expenditure? If Europeans don’t think Ukraine is worth defending why should the US pick up the slack?

Assuming Trump gets elected this is what I think he’ll do. He will make some offer to Putin. Something along the lines of, keep Crimea, lose the Donbass. Putin will reject it and then Trump will kick the living covfefe out of the bastard.

Samizdata quote of the day – 1945 in reverse?

The result is that American public debate has shifted in a way that has taken America’s allies – and many Americans themselves – by surprise. The public takes peace for granted. “To some extent we are paying the price for our own success. In several generations now we have not had to deal with certain types of situations, or only very narrow slices of generations have had to deal with them since we’ve eliminated the draft. And so increasingly America is just in a very different place psychologically,” says Dr Haass.

In other words, Trumpism will not die with Trump, argues Mr Arnold, and betting British security on 300,000 swing voters every four years is not a viable long term policy.

“Trump is unpredictable. As military people say, hope cannot be part of the strategy. We have to understand there is a risk and we need to be ready for this risk,” says Mr Zagorodnyuk.

“And as such we need to understand what we are going to do to be self-sufficient. And it is actually possible. It is difficult but it is possible, especially with this massive technical transformation of the landscape of the world.”

Roland Oliphant

“You know what, forget it.” Another small business closes in San Francisco.

“Beloved San Francisco burger joint will close after 40 years after wheelchair user sued over obstacles that stopped him entering, with owners saying they’re too poor to build a ramp”, the Daily Mail reports.

A beloved San Francisco burger joint has closed its doors after a wheelchair user sued the restaurant over a ‘high threshold’ that prevented him from entering.

After 38 years of operation, the Great American Hamburger & Pie Co.’s Post in Richmond, California, bid farewell to its longtime customers on Thursday, with the lawsuit being the final blow.

‘Two harsh years of COVID, high food inflation, and a recent ADA compliance lawsuit have taken a toll on our small family business,’ owners George and Helen Koliavas announced the closure.

COVID, high food inflation and a ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance lawsuit: the last five years in America illustrated in three snapshots. Change the name of the disability “rights” law, and the same story could be told a thousand times for small businesses in the UK and the EU. The article continues,

A paraplegic man filed suit against the Koliavas and their landlord in January after encountering a ‘high threshold’ on two visits to the burger joint last year.

On both occasions, the threshold blocked his wheelchair from entering the restaurant, prompting him to hire an ‘accessibility expert’ to conduct an informal investigation.

According to the lawsuit, the expert found a lack of wheelchair access throughout the space.

‘It’s frustrating, and you get to a point where you say, ‘You know what, forget it,” said George.

When I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged many years ago, I could see why people admired the book, but the portrait of Mr Thompson’s America never quite gelled with me. Perhaps I needed to see America led by a man such as Joe Biden.

“Canada’s descent into tyranny is almost complete”

“Canada’s descent into tyranny is almost complete”, writes David Collins in the Telegraph.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is threatening his most tyrannical attack on freedom yet through his government’s proposed Online Harms Act (currently Bill C-63). Brought to you by the same farcically-named “Liberal” party who froze the bank accounts of the truckers who protested vaccine-mandates, the OHA is the government’s overzealous attempt to promote online safety.

The proposed legislation supposedly achieves this by requiring operators of social media services to adequately mitigate the risk that their users will be exposed to harmful content through measures such as publishing standards of online conduct, providing blocking tools and ways to flag and label harmful content. The OHA would create a Digital Safety Commission to administer and enforce its rules along with a Digital Safety Office to support social media users and advocate for online safety. These agencies can investigate complaints, summon people to testify in hearings and to produce records. Costs of all this will be paid by unspecified charges on social media platforms, presumably contemplating Canada’s planned Digital Services Tax on big tech platforms.

Most controversially, the OHA’s provisions on posting hateful content would require amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code as well as its Human Rights Act. While the victims of online “hate” may be comforted by tough new penalties, the changes are radical, particularly a new hate crime offence which can lead to life imprisonment. Worryingly, the criminal provisions of the OHA would give judges the ability to put people under house arrest because they might commit a hate crime in the future. The potential criminal could also be made to wear an electronic tag if the Attorney General requests it.

Emphasis added. The phrase “Canada’s descent into tyranny” comes across as hyperbole until you get to the bit about putting people under house arrest because they might commit a crime in future.

Sadly, this was not a namecheck

Matt Taibbi: “America enters the samizdat era”

It is a sobering description of how the world went from this:

Ten years ago PBS did a feature that quoted a Russian radio personality calling Samizdat the “precursor to the Internet.” Sadly this is no longer accurate. Even a decade ago Internet platforms were mechanical wonders brimming with anarchic energy whose ability to transport ideas to millions virally and across borders made episodes like the Arab Spring possible. Governments rightly trembled before the destabilizing potential of tools like Twitter, whose founders as recently as 2012 defiantly insisted they would remain “neutral” on content control, seeing themselves as the “free speech wing of the free speech party.”

to this:

The Internet, in other words, was being transformed from a system for exchanging forbidden or dissenting ideas, like Samizdat, to a system for imposing top-down control over information and narrative, a GozIzdat. Worse, while the Soviets had to rely on primitive surveillance technologies, like the mandatory registration of typewriters, the Internet offered breathtaking new surveillance capability, allowing authorities to detect thoughtcrime by algorithm and instantaneously disenfranchise those on the wrong side of the information paradigm, stripping them of the ability to raise money or conduct business or communicate at all.

(Hat tip: Instapundit. Like us at Samizdata, Glenn Reynolds has watched this change happen over the time he has been blogging.)

Samizdata quote of the day – US election year edition

“Power doesn’t often age gracefully. It clings and expires in a labored rush, devoured by another generation, hungry for its time in the sun. Washington can’t long remain a country for old men: Democrats will either replace Mr. Biden in a putsch at their convention in August, or voters are likely to do so in November.”

Alex Castellanos, Wall Street Journal ($).

As an added point, it is worth reminding ourselves that Mr V. Putin of Russia is not getting younger, either, although he appears to remember what day it is – at least for now.

How to spread prejudice

Once again the media’s efforts to avoid mentioning that a criminal is a member of a group they wish to protect have ended up stirring people up against that group. Here are two examples of the Streisand Effect as applied to criminals that I came across in the last two days:

The first example was reported the Telegraph about its rival the Guardian: “Guardian writer boycotts newspaper for failing to tell readers ‘cat killer’ murderer was transgender”.

A writer for the Guardian has boycotted the newspaper for failing to tell its readers that a cat killer who murdered a stranger was transgender.

Scarlet Blake, a 26-year-old trans woman, was found guilty last week of murdering Jorge Martin Carreno in July 2021 on his way home from a night out, four months after Blake’s Netflix-inspired killing of a cat.

Louise Tickle, an award-winning journalist who has written for the Guardian for more than 20 years, has accused the newspaper of “deceiving its readers” for using the word “woman” in its headline and omitting the fact Blake was transgender in an article covering the case.

This is the revised version of that Guardian story. It now includes a brief mention of the fact that Blake is transgender.

The second example comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and refers to the murder of Laken Riley:

Being in the UK, I cannot see the actual article due to GDPR regulations (why do we still have those?), but the tweet from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that links to its report says “A 26-year-old Athens man has been charged with murder in the death of a nursing student on the University of Georgia campus.”

The AJC’s description of the man charged with Laken Riley’s murder, Jose Antonio Ibarra, as an “Athens man” when he is actually a Venezuelan illegal immigrant prompted Elon Musk himself to tweet, “Why did you lie to the people by calling an illegal from Venezuela an “Athens man”?”

Hint to the Guardian and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: when you try to hide something about the perpetrator of a crime and the truth comes out, people do not approach your next report of a similar crime with an open mind. They very reasonably tend to assume that you are hiding the same thing you hid before. Not only does this do the exact opposite of your intention – cause readers to overestimate the prevalence of the group you tried to protect among criminals of that type rather than underestimate it as you tried to make them do – it also means that they lose trust in everything else you tell them.

The condition of New York’s subway system is not the price of freedom, it is the price of voting for left wing Democrats

“I hate this framing because the “freedom” vs “order” tradeoff is not real. Russia has a higher homicide rate than the US. life there is shorter and more violent. if you’re choosing between freedom and order autocracy will get you neither”

Seva Gunitsky is referring to Jon Stewart telling Tucker Carlson that the reason why the US ‘can’t have clean functioning subways or cheap grocery prices like they do in Moscow is “the literal price of freedom”‘.

I am sure Jon Stewart would decline with horror an offer to work as one of Putin’s worldwide army of propagandists. But Putin does not need to make the offer when Stewart and many others are spreading his message for free.

Many working people who currently have no choice but to endure the aggressive begging, foul smells, and frequent violence in the subway systems in New York and other U.S. cities run by progressive democrats would count freedom (a political abstraction that they are constantly being told is an outdated white patriarchal construct) as an acceptable price to exchange for getting to go to work in something more like the gleaming Moscow Metro.

Sure, they would eventually realise that they made a poor bargain. A Professor Gunitsky says, the cleanliness and order of the Moscow subway is like one room of a generally filthy house that is obsessively kept clean in order to impress visitors. → Continue reading: The condition of New York’s subway system is not the price of freedom, it is the price of voting for left wing Democrats

Senior election official admits vote-rigging

The Guardian reports that

A senior official in Pakistan has admitted to election rigging amid protests breaking out across the country over claims that its general election results were unfair.

The confessional statement throws further questions over the legitimacy of the 8 February elections, which were marred by controversies and allegations of rigging in Pakistan.

Commissioner Rawalpindi Liaqat Ali Chatta told reporters that authorities in Rawalpindi, Punjab province, changed the results of independent candidates – referring to candidates backed by the former prime minister Imran Khan’s party – who were leading with a margin of more than 70,000 votes.

Chatta said there was so much “pressure” on him that he contemplated suicide, but that he then decided to make a public confession. “I take responsibility for the wrong in Rawalpindi. I should be punished for my crimes and other people involved in this crime should be punished.”

He also accused the chief election commissioner and the chief justice of Pakistan for their roles in the rigging. Chatta was arrested by police after the statement.

For those unfamiliar with Imran Khan, the currently jailed former prime minister and leader of the party against which Mr Chatta says the vote-rigging was directed, in the 1970s, 80s and 90s he had fans worldwide as one of the best all-rounders in cricket history. During this period he was “known as a hedonistic bachelor and a playboy who was active on the London nightclub circuit” as Wikipedia puts it. Then he went home to Pakistan and binned his previous liberalism like a used condom. He encouraged the strict enforcement of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and has pushed for insulting Muhammad to be made a crime all over the world. He is a hypocrite and a jerk. But those things do not change the fact that there is a strong prima facie case that his party should rightfully form Pakistan’s next government. His being in jail on an obviously trumped-up charge strengthens not weakens that argument.

The Guardian article was light on detail about how Commissioner Chatta (also spelled Chattha and Chatha, and I think the Guardian article is mistaken when it says his first name is Rawalpindi – it looks as if they have mixed up his name with his job title) says that the vote-rigging in which he participated was done. This article from Arab News gives more detail. It quotes him as saying,

“The wrongful act I have committed in this election [is that] we have made people, who had lost [the election], win 13 MNA (member of the National Assembly) seats from Rawalpindi. We have turned up to 70,000[-vote] lead of individuals into their defeat,” Chattha said.

“Even today, our people are putting fake stamps [on ballot papers]. I apologize to all my returning officers who were working under my supervision, who were crying when I was asking them to commit this wrongful act, and they were not willing to do it.”

I toyed with the idea of just posting about Pakistan, and leaving it up to the commenters to make the obvious parallels with the United States, but decided that would be a cop-out. → Continue reading: Senior election official admits vote-rigging

Suppressing inconvenient facts requires skill and hard work

Are you ever tempted to give the mainstream media the benefit of the doubt? After all, in many areas of life cockup is more probable than conspiracy. I can sympathise with a journalist who is told to get 500 words out about an unfamiliar subject in twenty minutes and then gets it wrong or omits important details. One must also bear in mind that many Guardian journalists, for instance, still get their news from the Guardian. Similar naivety famously led the Independent and many other newspapers worldwide to claim on the day that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted that the three men he shot were black. As pointed out by Glenn Greenwald in that tweet, all these people had “reporting on current events” in their job description, but had evidently never even glanced at the TV footage of a trial watched by millions. However they were almost certainly deceived rather than deceiving. They would not have chosen to look so stupid.

See, I am capable of sympathy. Then along comes something to remind me that though many in the MSM are merely gullible and lazy, many others put a lot of conscious, careful effort into what they do.

Here is a Guardian report by Gloria Oladipo about a church shooting in the US: “Shooter at Joel Osteen church bought weapon legally despite history of mental illness”

→ Continue reading: Suppressing inconvenient facts requires skill and hard work

Robert Reich’s article about Claudine Gay’s resignation is dishonest even by Guardian standards. Sorry, make that US academic standards.

In the days when Comment really was Free at the Guardian, an article as dishonest as this would have received short shrift from the commenters below the line. Because since then the Guardian has decided to protect its writers from hearing what their readers think of them, the author, President Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, probably believes he made his case well. Here is the article: “Powerful donors managed to push out Harvard’s Claudine Gay. But at what cost?”

In the fifth paragraph, Mr Reich writes,

I don’t know enough to address the charges of plagiarism against her, but it’s worth noting that all of them apparently came from the same source, via the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online journal.

He doesn’t know? Could he not have found out? It’s been all over the news, and not just from the Washington Free Beacon, though it was their scoop. (The first two links are to the NYT and the BBC respectively.) It’s not as if Reich would have had to spend months on research and do a paper with Harvard citations and everything. As well as being a former Secretary of Labour, Robert Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California at Berkeley. One might have expected an academic at a famous American university to be concerned enough by a claim of plagiarism against a distinguished colleague to put some effort into potentially clearing her name rather than weakly throwing his hands in the air and saying, “I dunno”. Unless, of course, he did not wish to know.

A little while later Reich does it again. He writes,

Stefanik then asked the presidents whether calls for intifada against Jews on campus violated the codes of conduct or harassment policies at their universities.

This is deceptive. The answers from the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania that caused such deep outrage were not said in response to Elise Stefanik asking them about whether calls for intifada against Jews violated the codes of conducts or harassment policies at their universities. They were said in response to Elise Stefanik asking them whether calls for genocide against Jews violated the codes of conduct or harassment policies at their universities. Watch the video. The relevant exchange is right at the start. Rep. Stefanik says, “And, Dr Gay, at Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment, yes or no?”. Dr Gay replies, “It can be, depending on the context.”

Genocide. Not intifada. Genocide. My apologies for being so repetitive, but the difference between “intifada” and “genocide” matters rather a lot.

Weirdly, one of Reich’s subsequent paragraph gets this right:

They should have answered unambiguously and unequivocally that calls for genocide of any group are intolerable.

What happened to make Reich change from claiming the equivocal answers from the three university presidents came in response to a question about “calls for intifada against Jews” in one paragraph to correctly saying that the issue was “calls for genocide against Jews” three paragraphs later? One might expect a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley would see the importance of accurately quoting someone. Unless, of course, the professor of public policy wanted the public to be confused.

Related post: “Why you can be a free speech absolutist and still think the presidents of Harvard, MIT and UPenn should resign in disgrace.”

Too late, Ms Starbird. Trust, once lost, is not so easily regained.

I hear the faint chink of the penny dropping at Guardian. This profile of misinformation specialist – read that job description as you will – Kate Starbird is predictably fawning, but they seem distinctly anxious to get across the idea that she and other misinformation specialists are no longer going to behave in the way they did in the last few years: ‘Stakes are really high’: misinformation researcher changes tack for 2024 US election

A key researcher in the fight against election misinformation – who herself became the subject of an intensive misinformation campaign – has said her field gets accused of “bias” precisely because it’s now mainly rightwingers who spread the worst lies.

Kate Starbird, co-founder of the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, added that she feared that the entirely false story of rigged elections has now “sunk in” for many Americans on the right. “The idea that they’re already going to the polls with the belief that they’re being cheated means they’ll misinterpret everything they see through that lens,” she said.

Starbird’s group partnered with Stanford Internet Observatory on the Election Integrity Partnership ahead of the 2020 elections – a campaign during which a flood of misinformation swirled around the internet, with daily claims of unproven voter fraud.

Starbird and her team helped document that flood, and in return congressional Republicans and conservative attorneys attacked her research, alleging it amounted to censorship and violated the first amendment.

Starbird, a misinformation researcher, herself became the subject of an ongoing misinformation campaign – but said she would not let that deter her from her research. Her team wasn’t the only target of the conservative campaign against misinformation research, she noted: researchers across the country have received subpoenas, letters and criticism, all attempting to frame misinformation research as partisan and as censorship.

Jim Jordan, chair of the House judiciary committee, served as the ringleader of this effort in Congress, using his power to investigate groups and researchers that work to counter misinformation, particularly as it related to elections and Covid-19. One practice that especially upset Jordan and his colleagues was when researchers would flag misleading information to social media companies, who would sometimes respond by amending factchecks or taking down false posts entirely.

That is censorship. One can argue that it is justified censorship, but it is censorship.

Nor is it just Congress attacking anti-misinformation work. A federal lawsuit from the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana alleges that the Biden administration violated the first amendment by colluding with social media companies to censor and suppress speech.

The Guardian’s writer, Rachel Leingang, has phrased that last sentence so that it could easily be read as saying the whole of the phrase “the Biden administration violated the first amendment by colluding with social media companies to censor and suppress speech” has the status of a mere allegation, a question yet to be decided. I hope Ms Leingang will forgive me if I clear up that potential ambiguity. The U.S. courts may or may not rule that the Biden Administration violated the First Amendment by colluding with social media companies to censor and suppress speech, but there is no doubt whatsoever that the censorship happened.

A new lawsuit from the state of Texas and two rightwing media companies takes aim at the Global Engagement Center, a state department agency that focuses on how foreign powers spread information.

The pressure campaign has chilled misinformation research just ahead of the pivotal 2024 presidential election, as some academics switch what they focus on and others figure out ways to better explain their work to a mixed audience. One thing they will probably no longer do is flag posts to social media companies, as the practice remains an issue in several ongoing court cases.

Hear that? They’ve changed now. Censorship was so 2020. They aren’t going to do that any more. Probably.