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]

Collectivism with a grudge

The always-solid Belmont Club, pondering the newly segregated Sarajevo, captures my unease with multiculturalism:

Maybe the real threat to multiculturalism are the demagogues who see identity politics as the road to power, even if that process involves the destruction of the larger polity. Under the color of multiculturalism, the ship of separatism steams majestically on.

Although I think it might be better phrased as “the real threat to tolerance“.

I can’t recall anyone claiming to push multiculturalism who wasn’t, at the end of the day, really pushing some kind of identity politics. Inevitably, identity politics is nothing more than collectivism with a grudge. I think its no coincidence that the cities I’ve lived in where race relations were the most civil (Richmond, Virginia and San Angelo, Texas) had very little in the way of vocal multiculturalism/identity politics/race hustlers, while the cities that had the worst race relations (Boston and Dallas) tended to be well populated with the breed. It reminds me of the way cities with the strictest gun control have the highest crime.

In my experience, genuinely civil multi-cultural communities tend to be somewhat segregated. The key, I think, is mutual respect, not to be confused with the naive and purblind cultural relativism of the multicultural pious.

Polygamy update

Its always so gratifying when you can say “I told you so”, especially when you have an appellate court backing you up.

As I noted a month ago, it seemed to me there were serious questions about the State of Texas taking custody of all 460-odd children living at the YFZ Ranch, a fundamentalist polygamy sect located in Eldorado, Texas, just south of my home in San Angelo.

Background (shamefully omitted from my first post): The YFZ (Yearning For Zion) Ranch was founded by the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints) a few years ago. The FLDS split off from mainstream Mormons back when the Mormons officially gave up polygamy. They have run into trouble with the law at some of their other locations, and their current “Prophet”, one Warren Jeffs, is actually serving time as an accessory to (statutory) rape in connection with an underage marriage in his church. Their Eldorado ranch was raided after an anonymous call, since determined to have been a hoax, in which a “16 year old girl” (actually a woman in her thirties with no connection to the FLDS) claimed to have been beaten and raped there.

The Texas Court of Appeals heard an appeal relating to the seizure of children at the ranch, and threw the state out on its ear. Basically, the Court of Appeals found that the state had presented no evidence that met the statutory requirements for summarily seizing children from their parents, namely, that the children were in imminent physical danger and that there was no alternative to seizing them.

The appeal related only to 38 children, and so its not entirely clear yet exactly what its effect will be on the other 400-odd children (the number jumps around as some are found to be adults, and others are born). The language of the opinion is pretty sweeping, though. The state presented exactly the same case with respect to all of the children, and the Court of Appeals even indulged in a bit of obiter dicta, noting (even though none of the children in the appeal were pubescent girls) that the state had not even presented evidence that the pubescent girls at the ranch were in imminent physical danger.

The local court was in the process of grinding through the “60 day hearings” (so called because the state has to come back and make a full case 60 days after the emergency seizures). An attorney I know who is involved in the case told me the 60 day hearings had been cancelled. At this point, I see little alternative for the state other than returning the children to the ranch, but the state has obviously been planning to shut down the YFZ Ranch for some time, and I don’t expect it to just give up and go home. Careers are on the line, after all.

Certainly the FLDS is a distasteful lot, but this seems a pretty clear case of state overreach. The core of the state’s case can be fairly summarized as a claim that being raised in the FLDS is per se abuse. The Court of Appeals declined to start down that dangerous road, and should be applauded for it.

More questions than answers

I live about twenty miles from the polygamist ranch near Eldorado, Texas, and my office is about three blocks from the courthouse where the child welfare case(s) are being handled. A few observations, from up close:

The Schleicher County sheriff seems to have been in firm control of the law enforcement activities at the ranch, and there really is no federal presence or role at all. This probably has a lot to do with the lack of any kind of violence or armed stand-off, in contrast to the Branch Davidian, um, incident, where the feds disregarded the local sheriff’s advice and went in heavy.

I am perfectly willing to believe that there were all sorts of sexual abuse of teenage girls – illegal marriages, statutory (and perhaps even forcible) rape, etc. If the current allegations pan out, I think that the men involved in what amounts to a sex slavery ring should be jailed, and I am even willing to grant that the state should have the authority to take custody of children who have been subjected to this kind of abuse. For the moment, let us leave avoid the well-ploughed ground about the appropriate age of consent for sex.

That said, this case increasingly looks to me a like a serious overreach by the state, and one that practically begs us to conclude that the state was motivated to take down this community, even when doing so required it to go beyond what was necessary to ensure the welfare of the children.

(Warning: Actual statutory language and legal analysis follows below the fold) → Continue reading: More questions than answers

A new Canterbury tale

While I’m linking to what is probably common knowledge here at Samizdata, let me throw in a link to Iowahawk’s new Canterbury Tale for Bishop Rowan. In the unlikely event you haven’t seen this already, you really, really owe it to yourself to click through.

Just a little taste:

41 Sayth the libertine, “’tis well and goode

42 But sharia goes now where nae it should;

43 I liketh bigge buttes and I cannot lye,

44 You othere faelows can’t denye,

45 But the council closed my wenching pub,

46 To please the Imams, aye thaere’s the rub.”

Pointless waste of time

I had run across some of David Wong’s work in the past and really enjoyed it, so I was delighted to find his home base at Pointless Waste of Time. He is one smart, funny guy. Browse around, but I particularly recommend the classics “Inside the Monkeysphere,” “The Ultimate War Simulation”, and “The God Fuse”.

The first two I had run across before, so they’ve gotten some exposure, but I was glad to find their home, as they are definitely worth re-reading.

The iron laws

Whilst roaming the interweb and dozing through meetings, I have collected the Iron Laws of Human Behavior:

1. You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish.

2. The less you know about something, the easier it looks.

3. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

No particular claim to originality of thought is made, but I rarely get through either a political or a business discussion without seeing one or more of them in action. I will caution the reader that noting the application of an Iron Law out loud in a business setting is not without its risks.

Additional nominations and/or corollaries are hereby solicited.

I’m shocked, shocked

…to discover that carbon management and carbon credits are scams.

As for the carbon offsets so beloved of our elite Gulfstream Greens:

Companies and individuals rushing to go green have been spending millions on “carbon credit” projects that yield few if any environmental benefits.

A Financial Times investigation has uncovered widespread failings in the new markets for greenhouse gases, suggesting some organisations are paying for emissions reductions that do not take place.

Others are meanwhile making big profits from carbon trading for very small expenditure and in some cases for clean-ups that they would have made anyway.

Net effect of most carbon offsets: zero, or close to it. The Gulfstream Green crowd’s carbon footprints are just as big as before, in other words, although by writing a check they have given themselves permission to ignore this fact.

And from the statist/authoritarian wing, we have cap and trade, which many proponents like to claim is a market solution. As if a market in an artificial intangible permit issued by government and valued only because of government regulatory scheme is anything other than gussied up rent-seeking.

This system sets an overall cap on carbon emissions, creates a fixed set of carbon credits which add up to this cap level, and then allows companies to trade credits with each other. There really is no upside to this system, though proponents will argue that it does have a firm cap on carbon emissions. The downsides are that industries will cheat, price volatility will be really high, counties will cheat and the system privileges insiders:

By creating tradable financial assets worth tens of billions of dollars for governments to distribute among their industries and plants and then monitor, a global cap-and-trade program also introduces powerful incentives to cheat by corrupt and radical governments. Corrupt governments will almost certainly distribute permits in ways that favor their business supporters and understate their actual energy use and emissions.

And, of course, the final ‘solution’ to global warming is the carbon tax, which, like any tax, will grind down productivity, transfer wealth from producers to parasites, burden the development of truly poor areas, and (absent a trade war or true Global Total State) be applied only on a local basis and thus be ineffective to reduce carbon output in any meaningful way. Does anyone think that the worlds biggest carbon producer, China, will cripple its economy with this tax?

The three proposed solutions for the carbon problem are ineffective, corrupting, and damaging. Only someone in the grips of green religious mania, or with a profitable angle dialed in, could possibly be in favor of any of them.

Double standard (update)

The Iranians have just committed yet another violation of the Geneva Conventions: publicly displaying the British sailors they captured last week.

This makes the third violation of the Geneva Conventions by Iran: threatening to try soldiers in uniform for espionage, interrogation of captured soldiers, and now public display of captured soldiers.

As noted earlier, the Geneva Conventions appear to be a one-way street, applicable only to the US and its allies. If anyone can find any expressions of outrage directed at Iran for violating the Geneva Conventions from the “usual suspects” who have been so concerned with US compliance with same, do please post them in the comments.

[Note: first sentence updated after the illegal broadcast of the soldiers was made.]

Double standard (yawn)

The invaluable Belmont Club points out the double standards of the "anti-war" side.

Captain Ed notes that Iran has blatantly announced it is going to violate the Geneva Conventions, but no one in the press or the human rights community seems to notice Iran announced tonight that the 15 British sailors captured off the coast of Iraq would get indicted as spies. … Referring to them as “insurgents”, the site concluded: “If it is proven that they deliberately entered Iranian territory, they will be charged with espionage. If that is proven, they can expect a very serious penalty since according to Iranian law, espionage is one of the most serious offences.”

Of course, an essential element of the “espionage” under the Geneva Conventions is being out of uniform, and the British sailors seized by the Iranians were in uniform, so the sailors are of course not guilty of espionage. Belmont Club observes:

As currently interpreted the Geneva Conventions only apply to individuals bent on destroying America. Individuals who blow up elementary schools, kidnap children, attack churches and mosques, kill invalids in wheelchairs, plan attacks on skyscrapers in New York, behead journalists, detonate car bombs with children to camouflage their crime, or board jetliners with explosive shoes – all while wearing mufti or even women’s clothing – these are all considered “freedom fighters” of the most principled kind. They and they alone enjoy the protections of the Geneva Convention.

A note to those who howl so loudly about Guantanamo, and are silent about Iran and its allies: When your principles are so flexible, and always to the detriment of one side, do not be surprised when people wonder if you are truly “anti-war” or just “on the other side”.

Prius vs. Hummer

Quick, which has a smaller total impact on the environment?

Well, you know if the answer was the Prius, I wouldn’t be posting this. Dog bites man, and all that.

It turns out that, factoring in all costs, that the Hummer is more Gaia-friendly than the Prius. The punch line? Its not even close.

When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and build a Toyota Prius, the flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer – the Prius’s arch nemesis.

More proof, if any was needed, that much of the modern environmental movement is about being seen to care, rather than actually accomplishing anything.

Truthy science

In what amounts to a shocking admission that the “science” supporting anthropogogenic global warming is anything but settled and supported by data, we find that post-modernist thinking has been drafted into the service of stopping climate change.

It turns out that AGW is what is called “post-normal science“, meaning that old-fashioned ideas like data and testable hypotheses have to be left on the wayside as we march in lockstep toward the Greater Truth demanded by The Times We Live In.

In other words, its our old friend Fake but Accurate, hanging out with the usual crowd. Don’t look at the man behind the curtain, and all that.

Camille returns

I have always had a soft spot for Camille Paglia. I am not sure how much I agree with her (on a number of issues, not at all), but I always find her entertaining and stimulating. You do not often find lefty gender academics with a taste for guns and (American) football.

Her last bout as a columnist for Salon came to an end several years ago when she took time off to write a book, but she is back, and as acerbic and idiosyncratic as ever. A few tidbits:

On Hillary Clinton:

Does Hillary Clinton have a stable or coherent sense of self? Or is everything factitious, mimed and scripted (like her flipping butch and femme masks) for expediency?

On capitalism and leftism:

Last year, Global Exchange, a San Francisco human rights group, pressured Hershey to disclose the sources of its cocoa beans and to take further steps to ensure proper working conditions.

This kind of outreach to expose and remedy injustice represents the finest spirit of leftism, a practical, compassionate activism – not the pretentious postmodernist jargon and sanctimonious attitudinizing that still pass for leftism among too many college faculty. Capitalism, which spawned modern individualism as well as the emancipated woman who can support herself, is essentially Darwinian. It expands any society’s sum total of wealth and radically raises the standard of living, but it leaves the poor and weak without a safety net. Capitalism needs the ethical counter-voice of leftism to keep it honest. But leftists must be honest in turn about what we owe to capitalism – without which Western women would have no professional jobs to go to but would be stuck doing laundry by hand and stooping over pots on the hearth fire all day long.

Prickly and provoking, its good to have her back.