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]

Does not compute

A Boston woman who gave birth after a failed abortion has filed a lawsuit against two doctors and Planned Parenthood seeking the costs of raising her child

This case should not long survive in the courts, for the simple reason that the mother can easily avoid all expenses related to raising the child simply by giving the kid up for adoption. She did not want the kid in the first place, so giving it up can not be much of a problem for her, can it? Or has Massachusetts jettisoned the basic legal rule that a plaintiff has the duty to mitigate her damages before seeking to recover them in court? The story does mention that:

The state’s high court ruled in 1990 that parents can sue physicians for child-rearing expenses, but limited those claims to cases in which children require extraordinary expenses because of medical problems, medical malpractice lawyer Andrew C. Meyer Jr. said.

But in the absence of the context of this finding, I can not say that it really stands for the proposition that the plaintiff in this case can have her cake and eat it too, by reaping the psychic benefits of parenthood while sending the bill to those who made it possible, however inadvertently and unintentionally.

Bringing carbon offsets home

I have been following the Al Gore “carbon offset” controversy with great interest, and if I can get my eight bosses off my neck will try to put up a post on it. However, it just occurred to me that, based on the Gore methodology of buying carbon offsets, my carbon footprint is probably about to go negative.

The reason being, I should be acquiring a parcel of land in North Texas within the next few weeks. Said parcel consists of some meadows, but mostly of youngish post oaks and miscellaneous brush. Heaven, to this country boy, but it seems to me that, if Al Gore can get carbon credit for paying someone else to plant some trees, why shouldn’t I get carbon credit for actually owning well over a hundred acres of growing trees, each of them busily sequestrating carbon?

I should soon be in the rather unusual position of being able to (a) express my contempt for a certain quasi-religious crusade while (b) meeting and exceeding its requirements to be one of the Elect.

And all while driving my SUV back and forth across the Texas landscape! Is this a great planet, or what?

Strangling Detroit

Mickey Kaus breaks it down:

When Kuttner says “Japanese total labor costs are comparable, even with Detroit’s higher health insurance costs,” he is–as is so often the case–talking through his hat. Look at this chart. GM pays $31.35 an hour. Toyota pays $27 an hour. Not such a big difference. But–thanks in part to union work rules that prevent the thousands of little changes that boost productivity–it takes GM, on average, 34.3 hours to build a car, while it takes Toyota only 27.9 hours. ** Multiply those two numbers together and it comes out that GM spends 43% more on labor per car. And that’s before health care costs (where GM has a $1,300/vehicle disadvantage.

Of course, nothing convinces like an apples-to-apples comparison. And on that front, we find:

Is it really an accident that all the UAW-organized auto companies are in deep trouble while all the non-union Japanese “transplants” building cars in America are doing fine? Detroit’s designs are inferior for a reason, even when they’re well built. And that reason probably as more to do with the impediments to productivity imposed by the UAW–or, rather, by legalistic, Wagner-Act unionism–than with slick and unhip Detroit corporate “culture.”

(emphasis supplied)

In theory, I got no problem with unions – they could be nothing more than a free association engaged in bargaining with willing buyer for their services. The problem is, there are no unions that represent this ideal. Unions in the US are an artificial creation of the state, a relic of an earlier day when socialism was The Answer to society’s problems, and unions were seen and used as a vehicle for rolling back, reforming, and ultimately displacing free market capitalism.

It is no accident that, in the US at least, unions have been steadily losing ground for decades in industries that actually have to compete to survive. The only areas where unions are strong at all is in the government sector and, sadly, in the quasi-government sectors (such as healthcare).

While there is zero chance of any reform of the state apparatus supporting unions (which is probably a shame; there may well be a legitimate and beneficial role for non-corrupt, non-state-supported unions in some sectors, but we will never know), but I for one am glad to know that they are in broad decline, and that globalized markets mean there is little to no chance they will ever stage a resurgence in their current form. The fate of unions seem to be a rare example of civil society grinding down the state.

Prognosis for free trade

Not good. Michael Barone explains:

Almost all incumbent House Democrats voted against a free-trade measure as innocuous as the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Protectionism has become a partisan issue, with virtually all Democrats for and most Republicans against. So you can score a Democratic victory, like this year’s, as a victory for protectionism. It will certainly have consequences. Trade promotion authority lapses on June 30 next year, and the chances that the Democratic Congress will renew it are close to zero. The Doha round of world trade talks is currently stalled and unlikely to be renewed in time for an agreement to be sent to Congress. In any case, the fact that the Agriculture committees will be chaired by Tom Harkin from corn-growing Iowa and Collin Peterson from the wheat-growing Minnesota Seventh District means that the 2007 farm bill will not meet the standards of any Doha agreement that could conceivably be reached. The lapsing of trade promotion authority will doom the regional and two-country trade agreements that special trade representatives Robert Zoellick, Rob Portman, and Susan Schwab have been negotiating. We won’t be moving toward more protectionism, probably. But we’re going to miss many chances to advance free trade.

‘Universal jurisdiction’

The idea that any country has universal jurisdiction over citizens of other countries, and can try them for actions taking place in yet a third country, would be risible if it were not deeply offensive.

One would think the Germans, of all people, would exhibit a tad more humility in these matters, but if the assertion of universal jurisdiction is not symptomotic of a colossal arrogance, I do not know what is. You would have thought we kicked this nonsense out of the Germans during the ’40s, but I guess not.

It also makes the concept of ‘representative government’ rather irrelevant – after all, the Americans who are apparently now subject to German law never voted in any German election.

It does place our new Democratic overlords in rather an awkward spot; they loathe Rumsfeld, but I suspect that even they are reluctant to bundle him off to Germany for judgement by lefty Euros and miscellaneous anti-American yahoos. After all, if a Republican official is subject to German judgement, why, so might be a Democratic official, should the Rodham-Clinton administration find it necessary to stand up to the jihadis in ways that the neo-dhimmis of Eurabia find offensive.

Prognosis (domestic)

With Democratic control of the Senate confirmed, one wonders what the next two years will bring on the domestic scene.

Its easy to say what will not happen: There will not be any form of tax relief or reform, or reform of entitlement programs. And no, I do not see expansion of such programs as reform. In short, it is hard to imagine anything happening that will advance the cause of limited government.

On the tax front, the only question will be whether the President will have the stones to veto a tax increase bill. Certainly the Senate, and in all probability the House, will be more than willing to send him one. Given this President’s indifference to the virtues of small government and his status as a lame duck with no re-election chances to blow, I think the odds are that he will sign it.

On spending, expect more of the same. The Dems’ main complaints about Republican spending have been that (a) it has not been enough (b) it has not been directed to Dem constituents and (c) it has not been accompanied by tax increases (this is what passes for fiscal responsibility in Washington these days). Will ‘compassionate conservative’ Bush veto spending bills because they redirect money to Dem causes rather than Repub? I can not imagine why.

Oh, expect knock-down drag-out fights over court nominations, especially if another Supreme goes down. In fact, I would expect any nominee to fail, unless they are a squishy statist who is willing to yammer on about how the Constitution is a living document.

Expect investigations out the wazoo, which should paralyze the executive branch (not that that would take much) and the intelligence community (hmm, bug or feature?) and produce lots of political theater, but in the end it will all signify nothing. These investigations are actually Pelosi’s best opportunity to divert and satisfy her nutty lefties (if she cares to do so). The alternative is to let them actually try to make policy (shudder).

A couple of issues to keep an eye on. The Dems have gone dark on the issue of gun control, but there is no reason to believe they do not still want it. One sign of their (over?)confidence in their position will be if they feel bold enough to come back out of the closet on this issue.

For a very early indicator of whether the Dems are serious about governance, keep an eye on who gets the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. The presumptive chair, Alcee Hastings, belongs to a very exclusive club – federal judges who were impeached and removed from office for corruption. If Pelosi gives him the job, then look for a wild ride for two years, because the inmates will truly be running the asylum.


With the election in the bag and the Democrats measuring the drapes in the House and likely the Senate, probably the most important question, which means of course the question that no one in the mainstream is thinking about, is how these election results will be perceived in the war zone.

The enemies of the West have been counting on ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ to deliver the United States to defeat. I cannot help but think that this election will give them great comfort and lead them to believe that Vietnam Syndrome has indeed taken hold. While I believe that there is less support amongst the populace for rapid ‘redeployment’ (this year’s code word for retreat) from Iraq than many believe, in the ‘perception is reality’ hall of mirrors that is domestic and international politics, the relentless pounding of this meme by the new Democratic leadership and their allies in the press will likely make it self-fulfilling.

If Bush gives the new Democratic leadership their way, then I think that the jihadis will be proven right, and they will ultimately succeed in outlasting the United States in Iraq. If they get their way, the US will withdraw under fire, the nascent Iraqi state will collapse into civil war, and we will see the spectre of helicopters evacuating the last few Americans from the Green Zone. The world-wide high-def broadcast of American defeat will do much to entrench our jihadi enemies and dishearten what is left of the West.

Very few Americans are anti-war. Most Americans are anti-losing the war. The Bush administration made the serious mistake of not fighting to win in Iraq, which in turn means the war dragged out past the (roughly) six year span that Americans will tolerate being at war. With the mainstream media still controlling the terms of discourse, and using that control to relive their glory days of bringing about American defeat in Vietnam, Americans got the sense that we were losing in Iraq. Americans hate a loser, and so they turned on the party in power.

The election will hearten our enemies in Iraq, and we can expect redoubled conflict in that country as they seek to entrench their gains in the American mindspace. The Democratic Congress will seize on this development to push for what they have promised, which happens to be exactly what our enemies want; namely, precipitous American withdrawal. If they get what they want, then the jihadis will have won this campaign, and I think we can look forward to a reinvigorated Islamo-fascist movement worldwide, with all the bloodshed and suffering that entails.

Not to worry, though. The minimum wage will be increased, redistribution of wealth will be accelerated, and many words will be hurled at the real threat, global warming. And isn’t that what really matters?

Inherently incredible

By now, we have surely all heard about the Lancet’s new claim that over 600,000 Iraqis are dead as a result of the US invasion of that country. Lets put that number in perspective.

It exceeds by 25% the war dead (450,000), military and civilian, suffered by Great Britain in all of World War II, including the Blitz, the African campaign, the Pacific campaign, and of course the European campaign.

It exceeds by 25% the war dead (460,000), military and civilian, suffered by Italy in all of World War II.

It exceeds the war dead(562,000), military and civilian, suffered by France in in all of World War II, including the initial battles with the Germans, the Occupation, and the reconquest by the Allies.

The death rate claimed for Iraq (around 2.6%) is approximately the same as that experienced in a number of the countries occupied by the Nazis where the Holocaust was implemented, and approaches that experienced by the Japanese in World War II (around 3.6%), which includes both the horrendous death tolls inflicted on the Japanese military during the island warfare, the virtual extermination of the Japanese navy and air force, and of course the firebombing and ultimately the nuclear bombing of Japanese cities.

Keep in mind the fact that the WWII numbers encompass a six year period, whereas the current war in Iraq dates back just over three years.

Does it seem remotely possible to you that the Iraqi war has been harder on Iraq than WWII was on a number of its major combatants, and in half the time? And doesn’t it strike you as a remarkable coincidence that the Lancet releases its studies on deaths in Iraq in the month before major US elections?

The Church of Global Warming

How can you tell who someone’s god is? You look to see whose name they invoke as the cause of all things, good or bad. By that standard, the god of the devout Left is Global Warming; here is the Psalm of Al, from which the faithful constantly quote (King James Version):

  1. Great storms ravage our cities, and the wise man saith: Global Warming hath done this.
  2. Drought keepeth all storms at bay, and the wise man saith: This also hath Global Warming done.
  3. Global Warming maketh the oceans rise; it maketh deep snow to fall;
  4. Flood and fire, feast and famine, typhoon and tornado, hail and lightning, all things good and bad that come from sky or sea, Global Warming hath made them all.
  5. And when our homes are beneath the waves, we shall know that Global Warming in its wrath hath seen our sins.
  6. For our vehicles that glut themselves on oil, for the trees we cut and land we clear,
  7. For the cooling and heating of our houses, for the plowing and harvesting of our fields, we are punished.
  8. Whenever we burn carbon and release it into the air, we shall know that Global Warming seeth it, and is wroth.
  9. O man! Thou hast flouted the great god of the sky, and by three degrees of temperature we shall be burned,
  10. For Global Warming is a jealous god, and small and annoying is man.

Orson Scott Card, via Tim Blair.

Not to gloat

…or anything, but I think have some reason to feel smug about my over/under on the Israeli/Hez ceasefire.

On day six of the ceasefire, we get:

Israeli commandos raided a Hezbollah stronghold deep in Lebanon on Saturday, engaging in a fierce gunbattle, and the Lebanese government threatened to halt further troop deployments in protest as the 6-day-old U.N.-brokered cease-fire was put to a critical test.

Meditation on Castro

…by Mr. Lileks. A taste:

There was no such thing as Castroism, after all. Only Castro. In the end it all dies with you.

Eventually it will come down to this, my friend: history will note that the people in the American jails at the tip of this island ate better than the average Cuban.

Lets hope he dies Real Soon Now, and that Bush manages through some miracle not to miss the opportunity to lift the embargo, so the succession struggle gets swamped in a tide of US dollars.

Security Kabuki

The reliably entertaining, if not reliably sane, Ann Coulter pens a column this week with a pretty high libertarian quotient:

Last week marked the first official admission that everything government airport screeners have been doing until now is completely pointless — unless you’re an airport security guard with a thing for women’s undergarments, in which case it’s been highly effective.

As we now know, all the ingredients necessary to blow up an airplane can be carried in small liquid containers. Airport security has not even been looking for small liquid containers. Judging from my personal experience, they seem to have been focusing on finding explosive devices inside women’s brassieres.

After five years of submissively complying with bag checks, shoe checks and underwire bra checks, Americans have now been informed that the hell we’ve been going through at the airports (but which the president and members of Congress do not go through because they refuse to fly commercial air) has been a useless Kabuki theater.

Hard to argue with any of that. Her views on ethnic profiling (you get one guess whether she is pro or con) are likely to be more controversial.