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]

As good as any reason to learn Russian

I commend this fascinating article to those who have not yet come across it – A Hidden History of Evil:
Why Doesn’t Anyone Care About the Unread Soviet Archives?

The archives contain “unpublished, untranslated, top-secret Kremlin documents, mostly dating from the close of the Cold War”, yet their guardian “can’t get anyone to house them in a reputable library, publish them, or fund their translation.” Amongst numerous other tidbits, there is some very interesting stuff about Soviet dealings with François Mitterrand, Neil Kinnock, and several past and present “European Project”/EU bigwigs.

(From the excellent Michael Totten, who’s doing a fine job of holding the fort over at Instapundit)

Another Climategate Post

And now for something completely different…

George Monbiot – a deserving pinata of folks ’round these parts for quite some time – has written a reflective article in the Guardian (seen on Instapundit). Admittedly, the guy deserves some credit for being one of the first of the really hardcore global warming spruikers to unreservedly concede that the CRU leak is an enormously damaging episode for the pro-AGW folks, and not something that can be high-handedly dismissed. Which has pretty much been their exclusive stock-in-trade when dealing with those who are unintelligent enough to disagree with them up until now.

Certainly, Monbiot has been a lot more contrite than I would have expected him to be under the circumstances. However, he doesn’t get down into any real soul-searching. In his article, he continues to smear the “climate change denial industry” – rather high-handedly, too (he ran out of contrition about halfway through the article and reverted to form). He could not resist having a good sneer at those who disagree with him. It would have been a much better article if he had stopped to ask himself how much of his current beliefs are predicated on the shoddy code behind the computer models that supposedly prove the theory of AGW, or if his perspective might be different without the vacuum of opposing voices that have been squelched from Reputable Science. And he certainly failed to show any sign that he’s anywhere near the point of posing that most awful of questions to himself, namely “Could I be wrong?” – even if only to reconfirm his beliefs. No, for him it is clear that the science is still settled.

Monbiot’s reaction, I suspect, will be a model for others of his ilk to follow. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt anything much will come out of this Climategate kerfuffle in the longer term. The scientists involved in the leak will take their professional cyanide capsules, and there will be a bit of public head-hanging and self reflection from the rest of the major players, after which the “science” behind AGW will be declared “pure” again. Aided and abetted by the majority of the world’s political leaders, who have invested so much in the AGW industry that it is now surely Too Big To Fail. So bail it out and back to business, already.

A quick question

Are you optimistic about the future? Several months ago I was not, but I am now. From what I can see, governments are walking down the path of their complete moral and financial bankruptcy far more quickly than I ever imagined they would. I thought that it would take our overmighty governments several slow, demoralising decades of decline and eventual collapse to completely discredit their authority and control in the eyes of the people. However, our governments appear to be going supernova right now and I suspect they will burn themselves out over a few painful and tumultuous years – destroying a great deal of wealth in the process, no doubt. However, as worrying as that prospect is, it was always going to be that way. And in spite of that, I feel particularly upbeat about the longer term future. Those who know nothing more (and expect nothing less) than widespread government authority and control over all aspects of our lives will have their imbecile – sorry, umbilical – cords to the State cut sooner than expected, thanks to the overwhelmingly reckless (but entirely predictable) government response to the current financial crisis. I really do believe that future historians will pinpoint this crisis as marking the beginning of the end of the big-government era.

Do you agree?

Paul Marks was dead right – Obama is a Marxist

It is becoming increasing difficult for me not to concur with Paul Marks’s ahead-of-the-curve branding of MARXIST upon the much kissed behind of Barack Obama. At the very least, his political compass swings disturbingly left on economic issues – to a degree I was not aware of. Previously, I could dismiss his “spread the wealth around” comment that arose from the infamous encounter with “Joe the Plumber” as a spot of ill-chosen populist rhetoric in a campaign unusually heavy on populist rhetoric – which, by the standards of US Presidential elections, is saying something. However, the rediscovered 2001 radio interview in which Obama explicitly advocated redistribution of wealth suggests to me that Americans ought to take him at his word when he talked of spreading the wealth around in that Ohio driveway.

Of course, this is electoral kryptonite in the USA, and the Obama campaign’s denials came hard and fast. Quoting from a CBS News article:

“This is a fake news controversy drummed up by the all too common alliance of Fox News, the Drudge Report and John McCain,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

“In this seven year old interview, Senator Obama did not say that the courts should get into the business of redistributing wealth at all.”

That is technically correct, but Burton is lying by omission. It is indeed true that Obama did not say in the interview that the courts should get into the business of redistributing wealth. However, what Burton neglects to mention is that he said they should not because they wouldn’t be any good at it and that going through the legislature would be much more effective. He also went on to say that the civil rights movement’s greatest tragedy was that it failed to massively redistribute wealth to the victims of racial discrimination in the USA. This 2001 recording of Obama advocating a redistributionist policy has convinced me that Obama’s “spread the wealth around” remark to Joe the Plumber was a genuine insight into his inner beliefs – beliefs that he would not dare expose to the American public who, by and large, fundamentally oppose them. In 2001, Obama stated that the legislature would be a better tool for redistributing the wealth of others to black people. Then, he was in his mid to late 30s, an age when most people’s political views have solidified. In 2008, one wonders if he now believes the executive would be even more efficacious? It is not such a stretch.

As for the Obama camp’s deeply duplicitous claim that the 2001 interview was deliberately misinterpreted by the Right, well, why break the habit of a campaign and start being honest? I am not denying that the McCain campaign has, on several occasions, twisted the truth out of all recognition over a number of issues. But at least they don’t cloak themselves in self-righteous, holier-than-thou fervour while doing so. If I had a vote in this election, the constant and largely unchallenged spectacle of Obama and his camp trumpeting their integrity – whilst they dissemble and weasel their way to November 4th – would be as good as any motivation for me to pull the lever for McCain.

(2001 Obama interview and CBS article both sourced from Drudge)

Samizdata quote of the day

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take everything you have

– Barry Goldwater

I stumbled across this evergreen Goldwater remark on Gmail, where it is also quote of the day. A somewhat surprising choice for them, considering Google’s rather obvious political biases.

An amoral solution to Russia’s existential crisis

A few days ago, the venerable Glenn Reynolds linked to an article published in the Asia Times titled Americans Play Monopoly, Russians Chess. The article, written by pseudonymous columnist Spengler, is something of an interesting read, as it offers up a comprehensively explained and intriguing motive for the former superpower’s recent machinations in Georgia.

Many Western commentators ascribe the recent Russian belligerence to a newly acquired military ability able to act upon the yearning of its current leadership which is trying to recapture the glory days of Soviet power. A good dollop of credible force applied carefully should make Russia’s tiny neighbours wake up to the fact that they are kissing the wrong butt. Spengler contends that the truth is rather less vainglorious; Russia’s recent adventures represent moves in a long-term game in which the country’s very survival is at stake.

After all, it is – as any moderately informed individual knows – facing what present-day figures predict to be a near total demographic collapse in the coming years. Russia is, says Spengler, exercising a grand strategy to eventually absorb the Russians and other ethnic populations living in the nations in its so-called “near abroad”, declaring them all Russian and thus halting the country’s disastrous population decline. This will also ensure the minority status of the Muslim population in Russia (the only ones who are breeding) and, lo and behold, win the survival of the nation in the eyes of those pulling the levers in the Kremlin. It is an insightful alternative analysis of what is driving the crisis in Georgia – not groundbreakingly so, as I am certain a number of Samizdata contributors and commenters could have provided us with much the same explanation – but nevertheless well worth consideration. → Continue reading: An amoral solution to Russia’s existential crisis

Unintended consequences

The downfall of Eliot Spitzer has recently been celebrated on this blog, and rightly so. However, I believe the major casualty of the affair will prove to be Hillary Clinton, rather than Spitzer. This juicy scandal will deliver the Democratic nomination to Obama. You could almost – almost – feel sorry for Clinton; the press was only just starting to crack the shiny Obama veneer, when this had to go and happen. Who will pay any attention to Rezko and co. with this circus unfolding over the next few weeks? It will suck the oxygen right out of Hillary’s campaign at the critical juncture – just when it was catching fire.

Not that Obama as the Democratic candidate will necessarily be a bad thing for the Republicans; the more I see and read of him, his views and his actions, the more I am convinced that Obama08 is John McCain’s smoothest path to the White House.

Keeping women presentable on International Women’s Day

As you may or may not know, today is International Women’s Day (IWD) – it falls annually on March the 8th. This anniversary is not especially remarked upon in the Western world, yet it is a widely noted event in many of the countries that were closely allied to, had ideologically similar political ideologies to, or constituted the Soviet Union. I am living in China at the moment, and was first reminded of the advent of this year’s IWD by my Vietnamese girlfriend, and then by the Chinese state press. Otherwise, it would have passed me by completely.

I have to say I find it a little amusing that two countries I have spent a fair bit of time in of late – Vietnam and China – so noisily celebrate IWD, considering that women in both countries face considerable and ingrained discrimination, despite the official socialist repudiation of gender inequality. Still, the show must go on and my girlfriend came home from work on the 8th with a gift; the same one that all the women in her company (a large Chinese software firm) received to commemorate IWD. And what was her present? A gift pack of anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner. A lot of women work at this company, so obtaining all that haircare product would have been a substantial purchase. There must have been a conversation in the HR department a few weeks ago that went something like: “I think this Head & Shoulders pack is suitable. I mean, we’re all for equal rights for women, but can we at least ensure that they are not leaving bits of their scalp about the place if they must work with us? Yes, I know, it’s a shame that the deal on the girdles fell through, but there’s always next year…”

The new face of South Africa

Glenn Reynolds links to an interesting-sounding book about South Africa’s poor whites, a group completely obscured – globally, by the international perception of the apartheid society and locally, by post-apartheid positive discrimination efforts to raise the country’s recently oppressed blacks out of poverty. It made me recall a piece I saw some time ago on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s international current affairs programme, Foreign Correspondent, that also examined the lot of disadvantaged white South Africans. It contained a very interesting interview of the ANC government minister Essop Pahad. I have reproduced the business end of the discussion below (the emphasis in bold is my own):
→ Continue reading: The new face of South Africa

Marks on Mitt

First he has no chance whatever of being elected President of the United States of America.

He is a rich kid, yes so is George Bush as well – but George Bush gives a good imitation of looking and sounding like an ordinary Texan, Mitt Romney looks and sounds like what he is.

Americans will accept a Democrat who was born rich – they have more of a problem with a Republican who was born rich.

Paul Marks, taking no prisoners

Howard’s end

Unsurprisingly, John Howard and his conservative coalition lost Saturday’s federal election in Australia heavily. It also looks like Howard will lose his seat – a sitting Prime Minister has only ever lost his seat once in Australian political history. On a personal level, his passing is somewhat of a melancholy event for me. I first started taking a strong interest in politics from the age of about 13. Howard was elected when I was 15, so for many years he has been a political figure of very close scrutiny and interest for me. Thus, the “end of an era” aspect is a little sad, and I think that despite the kind of doublespeak people in his former position often need to talk in order to Keep Everyone Happy – or at least keep the minimum amount of balls in the air – he is quite a decent and humane man. He genuinely had the “common touch”; not in the charming, polished, stage-managed way that impresses the media and the elite. He was less of a “gather a media entourage and head to the nearest working class pub to have a sham beer’n’bellylaugh with some rough men in singlets” type – ringing up a late night radio station talk show after he’d clearly had a few too many beverages was more his style. His uncontrived ordinariness, often verging on folksy, is a rare commodity amongst politicians of his seniority – and it is something I will miss.

Having said all of that, we should not get too sentimental about his defeat. John Howard and his party are no friends of ours. Many of his party’s major reforms, whilst bearing objectives which most in the small-government camp would consider a step in the right direction, were implemented with a liberally (pardon the pun) spread layer of added regulation. Consider the tax code which, after eleven years of ongoing “reforms”, stands as an epic bureaucratic tome defying compliance. Or the recent industrial relations changes, which somehow made a fiendishly complicated system even more so.

Certainly, Howard can accurately claim that Australia became richer and more economically stable whilst he was in office. Nevertheless, he and his team should be remembered as big-government conservatives, and we liberals must not forget that Australia is more prosperous today in spite of his government’s efforts, rather than because of them. My only regret is that his successor is likely to be even more meddlesome.

The Evil Empire

No, not that Evil Empire – the other one!

Thanks to Nick M for providing the link; it was too good to leave languishing in this comments thread.

UPDATE: have I been had? I think it likely! Read comments for more details…