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 Guardian’s modified limited hangout on its failure to cover Biden’s mental decline

“Ladies and gentlemen, President Putin!” Apart from introducing the president of Ukraine as the president of Russia and referring to Kamala Harris as “vice-president Trump”, Joe Biden got through the NATO summit just fine.

The Democrats have got themselves into a bit of a pickle, haven’t they? It is not as if there were no warning signs. Why, the Guardian’s Washington Correspondent, David Smith, compiled a long list of them called “Warning signs: a history of Joe Biden’s verbal slips” only a week ago.

Only a week ago. That is the problem. The first item on the list of warning signs dates from March 2021. The Guardian‘s article attempts to explain why it took so long:

Biden’s team came down hard on reporters who questioned whether the oldest president in American history – now 81 – was still fully capable of doing the job. Journalists also wanted to avoid the accusation of ageism or that they were helping to elect Trump.

“It is simply astounding for the entire country, including its most seasoned reporters, to be as shocked as everyone was by the ugly and painful reality of Biden’s debate performance,” Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times, wrote on the Semafor website this week.

While it was a “super hard story to report”, she said it could have been done. Instead, Abramson said, the American press failed in its duty to hold those in power accountable. Here are some of the dots that, with the benefit of hindsight, could have been joined sooner:

Or you could have read a proper newspaper like the New York Post or the Daily Mail and learned about them at the time. The Guardian‘s selection of “gaffes” is skewed towards things that, although they happen to Biden more frequently than average, could happen to anyone, such as Biden’s literal stumbles and his accidental substitutions of one word for another. The only really damaging items in the list compiled by David Smith are Biden calling out “Jackie, are you here?” to the recently deceased Jackie Walorski, and one of several claims he has made that his son died in Iraq. None of the charming anecdotes that he habitually makes up out of whole cloth were included. The New York Post was flagging this habit of his back in 2021. Nor does the Guardian‘s list include any of Biden’s frequent descents into meaningless gabble. Remember how he came out with “I’ll lead an effective strategy to mobilise trunalimunumaprzure” at a campaign stop in Luzerne County, PA, back in October 2020? Of course you do, because you read a proper newspaper, such as Canada’s National Telegraph, from where I got the link. The article by Gerry Kaur, includes a line saying that we need to talk about the “massive problem” of Joe Biden’s “lowering cognitive agility”. It was published on November 3rd, 2020. The Democrats, their friends in the media, and the left in general could have started that conversation four years ago and been in a much better position now, but they preferred to suppress the story. The trouble with hiding the truth from other people is that you end up hiding it from yourself as well.

Justin Bronk on Ukraine

Here is an information-dense video with far more than the usual talking points on Ukraine. It is not just about what is going on. It is useful understanding that helps with how to reason about what is going on.

Topics covered include:

  • Manpower and production;
  • training on Western weapon systems;
  • survivability of tanks;
  • effects of long range weapons;
  • possible trajectories of the war over the next year or so;
  • the USA’s self-interest in the war.

It provides good context for the usual talk of things like F16 deployments and map changes.

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.

Discussion point: Russia’s destruction of the Trypillya thermal power plant

“Key power plant near Kyiv destroyed by Russian strikes”, the BBC reported yesterday.

There are several different English spellings of the name of the power plant and the place where it is situated. I have seen Trypillya, Trypillia, Trypilska and Tripilska. However one spells it, the thermal power plant was the largest electricity provider for three regions including Kyiv.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: this is a heavy blow to Ukraine. What happens next? Given that it has worked well for them, we must assume that the Russians will repeat the same tactic. But two can can play at that game – if they are allowed to.

Another reason why I would not advise Ukraine to negotiate

“Jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny dead, says prison service”, reports the BBC.

August 2023 – Navalny’s sentence is increased to nine years after a conviction on new charges of embezzlement and contempt of court. An additional 19 years at a “special regime” facility are added on charges of extremism.

December 2023 – After going missing for two weeks, the opposition leader is located in a penal colony in the North Arctic.

February 2024 – Alexei Navalny dies in prison.

That is how Vladimir Putin treats his own people. It is a safe prediction that he will be as or more cruel to those Ukrainians who fall into his power. If he gets the chance, I would not put it past him to do as his exemplar Stalin did to the captured Poles at Katyn.

I have seen some strange commentary from both the left and the right regarding Tucker Carlson’s visit to Russia to interview Putin. For instance Mehdi Hasan and James Lindsay both seemed to think there was something wrong with Carlson observing that the Moscow subway is clean, orderly and free of aggressive drug addicts. The historian and journalist William Dalrymple reposted a tweet from Edward Luce of the Financial Times that blasted Carlton for interviewing Putin, but I remember Dalrymple gushing over the valuable insights gained by those who interviewed Osama Bin Laden:

Writers such as Robert Fisk and the former CNN journalist Peter Bergen, both of whom have interviewed Osama bin Laden, and scholars such as Gilles Kepel, Malise Ruthven and John L Esposito, have proved to be more reliable guides to what is going on in al-Qaeda than any number of Downing Streets dossiers or CIA briefing papers.

To that list should now be added the name of The Observer’s Middle East expert, Jason Burke. His new study, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror is possibly the most reliable and perceptive guide yet published to the rise of militant Islam, the threat it poses and the best way to tackle it.

The more we know about how Putin thinks, the better the chances of defeating him and saving many lives, both Ukrainian and Russian.

Why the Ukraine War is not actually a stalemate

A useful perspective for people who just read headlines.

Denys schools Vivek

I like Vivek Ramaswamy. He says a lot of things that need to be said. But on Ukraine he is absolutely clueless. Actually, it’s a bit worse than that; he has negative knowledge. Denys Davydov explains:

Update Well, I did try to get it to start at the good bit but without success. The fun starts at ≈ 14:27.

Update II And now it’s working as intended! Grrr!

Samizdata quote of the day – Do we want Ukraine to Win?

Its in many ways the crucial question that needs to be answered honestly now. Do we want Ukraine to win the war and liberate all its territory? or Do we want Ukraine to be forced to accept a deal which hands over parts of the country to Putin? The rhetoric of western leaders is the former, though to be frank the policy looks more and more like the latter. We armed Ukraine this year specifically not to give it range, air superiority, etc. We forced it to launch direct assaults on defended Russian lines. Zaluzhnyi is saying that cannot continue. Either Ukraine is armed properly to win a modern war, or the technological imperatives will necessitate the continuation of this attritional war we have seen.

Western leaders must therefore answer that question now, and act accordingly.

– Phillips OBrien

The lever wasn’t long enough

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world”, the great mathematician Archimedes is supposed to have said.

Maybe it was their company name that led Anglo-Dutch consumer packaged goods company Unilever to briefly decide that their real mission was not making shampoo, soap, washing power and assorted packaged food products but to take it upon themselves to move the world. The world moved all right, away from these irritating people who were trying to shove it around.

“Unilever to tone down social purpose after ‘virtue-signalling’ backlash”, reports the Telegraph.

Unilever will no longer seek to “force-fit” all of its brands with a social purpose, its new chief executive said, following a backlash over the company’s “virtue-signalling”.

Hein Schumacher, who took over from Alan Jope in July, said for some of its brands, giving them a social or environmental purpose “simply won’t be relevant or it will be an unwelcome distraction”.

He added: “I believe that a social and environmental purpose is not something that we should force-fit on every brand.”

It marks a change in position from Mr Jope, who placed social purpose at the centre of his strategy for Unilever. In 2019, he pledged to sell off brands that “are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hair shiny, your skin soft, your clothes whiter or your food tastier”.

Can anyone tell me if this pledge was fulfilled, and if so which brands were sold to other companies? I like the sound of products whose makers feel that there is nothing more important than manufacturing them to perform their functions well.

The stance prompted a backlash from the City, amid growing frustration at blue chip companies for prioritising fashionable causes over profits.

Terry Smith, one of Britain’s best-known investors, has criticised Unilever for becoming “obsessed” with its public image and accused the company of “virtue signalling” rather than focusing on financial performance.

He said in January last year: “A company which feels it has to define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise has, in our view, clearly lost the plot.”

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Schumacher said Unilever was not “giving up on purpose-led brands” altogether. He said for some brands such as Dove, giving them a social or environmental purpose was “logical”, as it made them more attractive for shoppers. Dove uses the idea of “real beauty” in its marketing campaigns, featuring women with different body types.

The Unilever chief said Ben & Jerry’s was another of its brands which has a “clear purpose”.

The ice cream brand is known for adopting stances on political issues, championing causes including protecting the environment and defending LGTBQ+ and refugee rights.

However, Unilever has clashed with Ben & Jerry’s over its activism in the past. Mr Jope told the ice cream company in July last year it should steer clear of “straying into geopolitics” after the brand attempted to boycott the Palestinian occupied territories. Unilever later sold Ben & Jerry’s Israeli operations.

Ben & Jerry’s has not spoken publicly about the Israel-Hamas conflict since the war broke out.

Mr Schumacher said on Thursday: “They’ve been vocal indeed before because of the social mission that Ben and Jerry’s definitely has. On the conflict, I just have no comment at the moment. It’s not a topic of discussion.”

Tellingly, the Telegraph article adds that the “social mission” to boycott the Palestinian occupied territories did not apply to occupied territories nearer home where Unilever’s profits were at stake:

Mr Schumacher has also come under pressure to address Unilever’s decision to keep selling its products in Russia since taking over as chief executive.

The Telegraph revealed earlier this year that Ukrainian veterans had written directly to Mr Schumacher, urging him to quit Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. They warned Unilever staff risked being conscripted into the war.

Schumacher’s response was to emit words:

On Thursday, Mr Schumacher said Unilever would continue to look at its options, adding: “It is clear that the containment actions that we have taken minimise Unilever’s economic contribution to the Russian state.”

An appraisal of the Ukrainian offensive

Yet another interesting chat by Perun.

People expected Zaluzhnyi to be channelling Heinz Guderian, whereas he is actually channelling John Monash.

Lin Biao welcomes Prigozhin to the club

From the Wikipedia entry for Lin Biao:

Lin became instrumental in creating the foundations for Mao Zedong’s cult of personality in the early 1960s, and was rewarded for his service in the Cultural Revolution by being named Mao’s designated successor as the sole Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, from 1966 until his death.

Lin died on 13 September 1971, when a Hawker Siddeley Trident he was aboard crashed in Öndörkhaan in Mongolia. The exact events of this “Lin Biao incident” have been a source of speculation ever since. The Chinese government’s official explanation is that Lin and his family attempted to flee following a botched coup against Mao.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead after Russia plane crash – BBC

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list of a jet which crashed killing all on board, Russia’s civil aviation authority has said.

Earlier, Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone reported that the private plane, which belonged to the 62-year-old, was shot down by air defences.

Grey Zone posted later on Wednesday that Prigozhin died “as a result of actions of traitors of Russia”.

Prigozhin led a failed mutiny against the Russian armed forces in June.

How Putin fooled the Western Left… & influenced some US Republicans

Well worth watching…