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]


Anyone care to put some their predicted over/under for the Hez/Israeli truce on the record? Personally, I think I will go with six days.

Hez has already announced its intention to violate the ceasefire by refusing to disarm.

I find it interesting that Hez and the Lebanese government are already conspiring to violate the requirement that Hez disarm, as apparently all Hez will be required to do is refrain from displaying its weapons (with, of course, the knowledge and tacit consent of the French and the UN responsible for policing the cease-fire).

The longer this goes on, the more it is apparent that the Lebanese government is the creature of Hez, and the more justified the Israeli attacks on non-Hez assets appear to be. While I was willing to view the Lebanese generally as victims of Hez in July, by mid-August they look a lot more like co-conspirators.

With the fundamental condition of the ceasefire – the eviction and disarmament of Hez – already withering on the vine, I would say that Olmert blinked, gave Hez not only the hudna it needed to survive but a strategic victory over Israeli arms, and has guaranteed that the Israeli soldiers who died in this offensive died for nothing.

A brutal takedown

…of the Bush administration’s war on terror by Bill Quick. I find very little to disagree with.

A few excerpts, below the break, for those who need to be convinced to Read the Whole Thing.

Mr. Quick reflects my frustration that we have not been serious with fighting this war. I am not quite sure I can agree with him that we are worse off for having pursued this war because we have done so in a weak-kneed, half-assed way, but we certainly have not done what we could to exterminate the Islamofascist threat, and we are rapidly approaching the day when we will be worse off because it will be a nuclear-armed Islamofascist threat.

I vividly remember on the afternoon of 9/11, I told one of my law partners that I had no doubt that we would see nuclear weapons used before this thing was done. Sadly, five years on, I see no reason to withdraw that prediction.

As succinct and comprehensible a statement as I have seen of why military intervention in Iraq (and elsewhere) is essential to exterminating militant Islamofascism:

[T]he most effective strategy, in fact, the only proven effective strategy, available for waging and winning the war against Islamist fundamentalist terrorism: It would be necessary for us to destroy the regimes that sponsored, armed, trained, supported, protected, and used these Islamist terror organizations. Just as the seemingly ubiquitous communist “revolutionary fronts” all over the world seemed to dry up overnight with the destruction of their sponsor, the Soviet communist regime, removing the regimes in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Korea, and elsewhere that similarly succored a host of Islamist terror organizations would both give us a clear-cut, straightforward strategy, and also give us the standards by which victory would be measured: the destruction of those regimes would signal victory.

His verdict on Bush:

The first administration of the first century of the American Third Millennium will, in my estimation, be remembered as one of the biggest failures of that century. Bush’s great failure was, not invading Iraq, but not weathering the adversity that followed through acts of real leadership, and then pressing on with the necessary military destruction of the other regimes he, himself, named as most dangerous five years ago.

Dog bites man

Tri-Cities Police Waste No Time Finding Stolen Doughnut Truck

New acquisition

One of the pleasures of living in Texas is the vigorous gun culture – I have never lived anywhere else where people talked as openly in any setting about guns and shooting. We are also blessed with a reasonably sane concealed carry permit (you can qualify in one day of training) and self-defense laws.

Having availed myself (along with my wife) of said permit, we are currently acquiring some hardware. Since my wife has what can be a longish walk to her car from her office, near a neighborhood that isn’t as savory as I would want, we outfitted her first with a dandy little 9. She already has a solid piece of German metal (my wedding present to her; romantic, no?), but it was a little too solid to lug around.

Personally, I’m a .45 guy – I like a pistol that says “puts big holes in people”. My current hogleg could hardly be less portable, and there is a surprising dearth of truly portable .45s. Thank goodness Kahr finally came out with companion for the wife’s piece.

Live by the sword…

die by the sword.

If your community is built around a terrorist organization, and relies upon that organization for infrastructure and funding, you should not be too surprised when that infrastructure gets ripped out by irate victims of said terrorist organization.

And before anyone starts whining about ‘disproportionate force’ being used by the Israelis, I would encourage them to reflect on what force used in self-defense is supposed to be proportionate to. If someone attacks you with a knife, are you only allowed to use a knife to defend yourself, or can you pull your firearm and put them down with that? No one would say that a firearm is a ‘disproportionate’ response to a knife.

And that is because force is only disproportionate if it is (far) in excess of what is reasonably necessary to bring the aggression to a halt. A solid case can be made that, far from being disporportionate, the Israeli response has fallen far short of what they are entitled, and perhaps even obligated (to their citizenry) to exert.

Who pays?

That is to ask, who actually foots the bill for business taxes? It is much easier for a politician to raise taxes on businesses, which do not vote and are constantly portrayed as the villains by our virulently ignorant press, than on individuals. But we learn, from todays (subscription-only) Wall Street Journal Political Diary, that it is not so simple::

A new study by American Enterprise Institute scholars Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur shows that the corporate income tax is for the most part paid by workers in the form of lower wages. They found manufacturing wages were negatively associated with high corporate tax rates in a study of 72 nations.

Taxes have to come from somewhere. Businesses will pass costs on to those with the least bargaining power. Businesses have to choose between holding down wages, charging customers more (hard to do, in a competitive market), paying capital less (very hard to do, in the brutally competitive capital markets), and cutting capital re-investment (not smart if you want to be in business in three years). In the absence of an extremely tight labor market, keeping wages down is the path of least resistance.

An old joke

but still a good one:

Three white collar prisoners are hanging around the yard comparing notes:

Former Exxon executive: They say I charged too much for oil. I’m in for price gouging.

Former Microsoft executive: They say I charged too little for software. I’m in for unfair competition.

Former Samsung executive: They say I charged the same price as everyone else for computer chips. I’m in for price fixing.

Speed, er, saves

Speed limits, especially highway speed limits, are one of those things that bring out the inner libertarian in many Americans. Which is to say, when Americans get on the open road, they tend to drive as fast as they damn well please. Even on crowded urban freeways, the speed limit is routinely ignored. It is universally assumed that the occasional ticket is just a cost of doing business, and that speed limit enforcement isn’t about public safety but about revenue generation.

On the flip side, few things will get a nanny stater on his high horse faster than automotive travel. In some ways, the 55 mph speed limit (signed into law by Richard Nixon, no friend of limited government, but widely associated with Jimmy Carter, the very model of a modern nanny stater) stands as a high watermark of government bossiness. Aside from claims about gas savings (about which more later), 55 mph is universally lauded by Our Betters as saving lives.

Except, it does no such thing. When the 55 mph federal mandate was being repealed:

Ralph Nader claimed that “history will never forgive Congress for this assault on the sanctity of human life.” Judith Stone, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, predicted to Katie Couric on NBC’s “Today Show” that there would be “6,400 added highway fatalities a year and millions of more injuries.” Federico Pena, the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of Transportation, declared: “Allowing speed limits to rise above 55 simply means that more Americans will die and be injured on our highways.”

So were St. Ralph and his cohort of busybodies correct? The envelope, please:

We now have 10 years of evidence proving that the only “assault” was on the sanctity of the truth. The nearby table shows that the death, injury and crash rates have fallen sharply since 1995. Per mile traveled, there were about 5,000 fewer deaths and almost one million fewer injuries in 2005 than in the mid-1990s. This is all the more remarkable given that a dozen years ago Americans lacked today’s distraction of driving while also talking on their cell phones.

Of the 31 states that have raised their speed limits to more than 70 mph, 29 saw a decline in the death and injury rate and only two – the Dakotas – have seen fatalities increase. Two studies, by the National Motorists Association and by the Cato Institute, have compared crash data in states that raised their speed limits with those that didn’t and found no increase in deaths in the higher speed states.

So what about conservation? Everyone opposed to driving fast parrots the bare fact that driving 55 mph is more efficient, but oddly no one seems to mention what percentage we could reduce our total energy use if everyone did so. Given that most driving is done off the freeways, one suspects that the global impact of 55 mph is not great. While there is no doubt that driving slower uses less gas, driving slower is not cost free:

Americans have also arrived at their destinations sooner, worth an estimated $30 billion a year in time saved, according to the Cato study.

So do not forget to offset any savings with the cost of achieving them.

Efficiency is good, no doubt about that. Efficiency is generally not achieved via government mandate, but by the to and fro of the market. All things being equal, a more efficient gizmo, automotive or otherwise, is more attractive the consumer.

So what is the case for 55 mph? Like so many nanny state initiatives, it is rooted not so much in safety (impact: minimal) or efficiency (net global impact: minimal), but in a puritanical desire to control.

Warning labels

In the Nanny State, you can never have too many warning labels, so they might as well be scientifically based:

Warning: This Product Warps Space and Time in Its Vicinity.

Caution: The Mass of This Product Contains the Energy Equivalent of 85 Million Tons of TNT per Net Ounce of Weight.

Handle with Extreme Care: This Product Contains Minute Electrically Charged Particles Moving at Velocities in Excess of Five Hundred Million Miles per Hour.

Note: The Most Fundamental Particles in This Product Are Held Together by a ‘Gluing’ Force About Which Little Is Currently Known and Whose Adhesive Power Can Therefore Not Be Permanently Guaranteed.

Samizdata quote of the day

I think if you searched 435 randomly selected American homes, and 435 Congressional offices, you just might find more evidence of crime in the latter…

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit.

Inconvenient facts

Some inconvenient facts surfaced in yesterday’s Pennsylvania primaries. I will let the good folks from the Wall Street Journal’s Political Diary (available by subscription only) tell the tale.

Over a dozen Pennsylvania legislators lost party primaries yesterday in the biggest bloodbath in 40 years. Among the casualties were the top two GOP leaders in the state senate. “We have had a dramatic earthquake in Pennsylvania,” concluded Senate President Bob Jubilirer, who lost his bid for a ninth four-year term in a landslide. Because of the public mood, he says, his election “frankly just was not winnable.”

“The pay raise was the fuse that lit this whole explosion we are beginning to see,” former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel told reporters. Indeed, as an act of legislative chutzpah the pay raise had few equals. Last July, the GOP-controlled legislature, in cahoots with Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, raised legislative salaries by between 16% and 54% without public debate, notice or review. They passed the raise in a 2 a.m. vote and evaded a constitutional ban on midterm pay raises by pocketing much of the increase immediately as “unvouchered expenses.”

Voters furious with the “Harrisburg Hogs” forced the legislature to repeal the raise with only a single dissenting vote. In the resulting turmoil, 61 challengers filed to run against incumbents in their party primaries — the highest number in a quarter century.

The incumbents fought back. Mr. Jubilirer and his allies raised nearly $1.5 million to defend his seat, versus the $200,000 that challenger John Eichelberger was able to collect. Similarly, Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill outspent his challenger, Mike Folmer, by some ten to one. It didn’t help. Both leaders wound up winning only 36% of the vote, a crushing defeat.

So for whom are these facts inconvenient? Proponents of campaign finance reform, that’s who. State controls on campaign finance are premised (or at least sold) on the idea that money distorts elections, that without state controls elections will be bought by the candidate with the most money, that the gentle hand of the state is needed to ensure a level playing field and a fair outcome.

Yet here we see well-connected machine politicians, who raised between 8 and 10 times as much as their opponents, turned out. Not the outcome one would expect from the campaign finance reformers, is it?

Damn bottom-up facts. So inconvenient to grand top-down theories.

Proud to be a customer

of Lew Rothman and JR Cigars. Don’t ask me how I found this, but what’s not to like about the following?

Tobacco Crusader Waxman `Outed’ As Closet Smoker

SELMA, NC (AP): Lew Rothman, flamboyant president of the popular J.R. Cigar mail order tobacco house, today announced that Congressman Henry Waxman (D,CA) has been a steady customer for years.

“He usually buys a box of cigars about once a month,” Rothman said in a telephone interview yesterday. “But he’s a real cheapskate. Always buys the ten-dollar-a-box factory seconds, the real stinkeroos. And he never pays on time.”

Waxman, as chair of the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, had conducted a highly publicized campaign against the tobacco industry last year, which included televised grilling of industry executives. Thomas Bliley (R,PA), a pipe smoker, replaced Waxman as chairman of the committee in the current Congress.

Rothman says that he made the announcement now because “I’ve had it with that dried-out little creep. He owes me six hundred dollars in unpaid bills, and wants me to write it off. Called me at my home about it. At eleven at night. Woke up LaVonda [Rothman’s wife] and the kids.”

Rothman stated that Waxman “…said to make [the unpaid balance] a campaign contribution. Like I’d give a nickel to see that humorless little goniff re-elected. I’ll send a bushel of Avo pyramids to whoever beats him.”

Rothman continued, “I tried to be nice to that little hypocrite, because he is a customer and a Congressman. I even sat still while he put on that monkey trial in Washington. But this is too much. The nerve of the guy!”

Reliable sources at other mail-order cigar retailers confirmed that Waxman had been “a regular buyer, if not a particularly desirable one.”

Congressman Bliley declined to make a statement for the record, but was overheard to say, “Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”

Congressman Waxman could not be reached for comment.

From the Trenton Courier-Ledger, April 1, 1995, p. 5 col. 1