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]

Nukes – a prediction

I remember, on either September 11 or 12, 2001, in a conversation about the war, I predicted that we would not get out of the current unpleasantness without nuclear weapons being used.

While the strength of my belief in this prediction has wavered a bit over the years, it has now hardened into near certainty.

Read it and weep.

Additional thoughts:

There is no chance whatsoever that the Americans will end the Iranian nuclear threat by preemptive military action. The threshold for certainty and “imminence” has been set too high, the political consequences for waging “preventive” or “preemptive” war have been made too dire, for American politiicans by the last five years of relentless dishonesty and fecklessness in the American media and political scenes.

The Iranian mullahs will get their nukes, (and sooner than the ten years generally bandied about in the media). Once they have them, they will be immune from diplomatic and military pressure. The odds that they won’t use one, either directly or by proxy? Nil.

There remain two interesting questions: Who will they nuke, and what will we do about it?

I doubt they’ll hit Israel, for all their bluster, because Israel is the one country that is certain to launch a massive counterstrike. There are lots of easier targets for them. There probably won’t be any need to nuke Europe – the descent of that continent into dhimmitude will most likely be satisfactorily accelerated by the mere presence of nukes in Iran. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mullahs chose Baghdad or possibly the Iraqi oil port as their first target, to get the Americans out of their face and off their borders.

No one but the Americans will be in a position to respond to the Iranian nuclear attack. Whether we respond in a meaningful way depends on whether whoever happens to be the leader of the US on that day will have the fortitude to nuke them back. The odds of that are rather small, I fear, and once the mullahs have used a nuke with impunity, they will do it again and again. Why not? Is there any reason whatsoever to believe that their behavior of the last 30 years will change for the better once they obtain the combination of more leverage and immunity from real consequence provided by nuclear weapons?

Public opinion poll, illustrated

George W. Bush in free fall.

Nudge with cursor as necessary.

Pesky facts

Popular Mechanics takes look at the myths that sprung up after Hurrican Katrina hit New Orleans. Some of their findings will be of no surprise to samizdatistas, I’m sure, including:

Folks in Tornado Alley and along the San Andreas fault don’t get federally backed insurance, so why should taxpayers subsidize coastal homes, many of them vacation properties? Before we start rebuilding “bigger and better,” Congress should reform the flood insurance program. A good start: Structure premiums so the program is actuarially sound and clamps down on repetitive claims.

Three major policy changes could help make our energy system more resilient in the face of disasters. 1) Loosen restrictions on refinery construction to encourage new refineries in more diverse locations. 2) Expand port facilities for Liquefied Natural Gas to help supplement domestic supply. 3) Relax the current ban on offshore natural gas drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Others point to a civil society that is capable of functioning with relatively low levels of government supervision:

In reality, although looting and other property crimes were widespread after the flooding on Monday, Aug. 29, almost none of the stories about violent crime turned out to be true. Col. Thomas Beron, the National Guard commander of Task Force Orleans, arrived at the Superdome on Aug. 29 and took command of 400 soldiers. He told PM that when the Dome’s main power failed around 5 am, “it became a hot, humid, miserable place. There was some pushing, people were irritable. There was one attempted rape that the New Orleans police stopped.”

When Nagin issued his voluntary evacuation order, a contraflow plan that turned inbound interstate lanes into outbound lanes enabled 1.2 million people to leave New Orleans out of a metro population of 1.5 million. “The Corps estimated we would need 72 hours [to evacuate that many people],” says Brian Wolshon, an LSU civil engineer. “Instead, it took 38 hours.”

Disasters such as this pose a challenge for minarchists and anarchists, because they present situations where government can apparently make a difference for the better. The article looks at the government response, and although it has suggestions for improvement, is somewhat favorable.

Interesting stuff.

Quail hunting

Various precincts of the respectable press and the blogosphere having gotten wrapped around the axle regarding Vice President Cheney’s hunting accident, I thought a little background on quail hunting in Texas (by an actual Texas quail hunter!) might be in order.

It is not uncommon for a quail hunter to get “peppered”, due to the tendency of quail to fly somewhat erratically at relatively low levels. Unlike ducks and dove, which come in high, and pheasant, which take off vertically, quail often fly at head level. Not to mention that quail often live in brushy country where visibility can get a little short, and people tend to hunt them with open chokes which spread the pattern out. Serious injuries are rare, due to the small pellet size, open chokes, and (often) smaller gauge guns used by quail hunters.

I myself have just barely avoided shooting an actual pickup (bright red, thank you, about 20 yards away) while quail hunting, and have had a member of my party peppered (not by me, thank the gods). It was a pretty typical incident – a few stray pellets in the neck, no harm done. It is, in short, easy even for a very conscientious shooter to have an accident.

That said, based on the rumor and speculation in the press, it sounds like what happened to Mr. Whittington was a little more than your typical peppering. The length of his hospital stay alone points to more of a direct blast than a few stray pellets.

The typical rules of gun safety simply do not apply in their usual way when hunting upland game. To verify, to the same degree as with a rifle or pistol, that there is nothing at all in your line of fire before shooting would preclude wingshooting at quail, grouse, and other birds, where you are swinging your gun through a low-flying bird at high speed. For that reason, safety is assured to a large degree by having a disciplined shooting line – everyone stays more or less in line, and everyone knows where their zone of fire is.

The story is that Whittington came up behind Cheney, or that Cheney shot Whittington when he was behind him. Someone can come up behind another hunter and still be in his designated zone of fire, and everyone in the party has a responsibility to stay clear of each other and not show up where unexpected. Its possible but by no means certain that Vice President Cheney was only negligent, and that there was some contributory negligence by Mr. Whittington.

Here in Texas its just good manners to say that it is your fault if you get involved an accident like this (as Mr. Whittington has apparently done). That said, the crashing silence from the Vice President is a little disturbing. Not to blow this accident out of proportion (as the partisan press is busily doing), but he needs to stand up and take responsibility like a man.

The current complaint from the press that they were left out of the loop tells us a lot more about their self-regard, and about how well they have trained the Bush White House to treat them as enemies and tell them nothing, than it does about anything else. Still, the VP needs to hold a press conference, say his mea culpas, mix in some good words for Mr. Whittington, utter a few nostrums about gun safety, and generally be a gentleman (in the older sense of the word) about this.

UPDATE: Cheney finally takes the podium. Looks like the mea culpa I would expect of him.

Facts and analysis

Both of which are generally lacking in the public discourse, on the war in Iraq.

First, Mr. Scott accurately captures the view of Iraq held by the quagmiristas:

I can only imagine the perception that many Americans have of Iraq; some nation in the Middle East where jihadists multiply, the Iraqi security forces resemble the keystone cops, U.S. forces are helpless against roadside bombs, and the situation is so dire that only disengagement can solve the problem.

Sound familiar? It contrasts rather markedly with the data, which Mr. Scott summarizes to paint a picture of an Iraqi insurgency that peaked in the months before last year’s Presidential election (and Kerry still couldn’t beat Bush!), and is now transitioning from decline to defeat. Interesting stuff, and food for thought.

Its a damned shame you never see anything approaching this level of factual detail and context in the media, and even in most specialty press, accounts of the Iraqi war.

Who you gonna believe?

Somebody with a political axe to grind, or someone who has literally bet their life:

When it comes to the future of Iraq, there is a deep disconnect between those who have firsthand knowledge of the situation — Iraqis and U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq — and those whose impressions are shaped by doomsday press coverage and the imperatives of domestic politics.

The ones with a political axe to grind (and the uninformed who follow their lead) think Iraq is a lost cause or a mistake:

A large majority of the American public is convinced that the liberation of Iraq was a mistake, while a smaller but growing number thinks that we are losing and that we need to pull out soon. Those sentiments are echoed by finger-in-the-wind politicians, including many — such as John Kerry, Harry Reid, John Edwards, John Murtha and Bill Clinton — who supported the invasion.

Those with firsthand knowledge and a stake in the matter believe the contrary:

American soldiers are also much more optimistic than American civilians. The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64% of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33% and 27%, respectively. Even more impressive than the Pew poll is the evidence of how our service members are voting with their feet. Although both the Army and the Marine Corps are having trouble attracting fresh recruits — no surprise, given the state of public opinion regarding Iraq — reenlistment rates continue to exceed expectations. Veterans are expressing their confidence in the war effort by signing up to continue fighting.

I have long believed that, whatever its flaws, the Iraqi campaign is on the road to strategic success. Figuring out who is winning requires that you ask a deceptively simple question: which side is making better progress toward their strategic objectives?

I think the answer is very clear – the US and its allies are making progress toward their strategic objectives, and their Islamist/Baathist enemies are not.

We have removed three potential WMD players (Iraq, Pakistan, Libya) from the scene as a direct or second-order consequence of the Iraqi campaign. We have removed one of the major terror-supporting states (the Saddamite regime) from the picture. We are introducing by far the most democratically accountable government into the Mideast (other than Israel), and are destabilizing the long-term prospects for neighboring dictators who, coincidentally, sponsor terror to one degree or another. We have forced the Islamists to fight in the Mideast, and as a consequence are eroding their support as they do what they do, which is attack civilians. We have badly disrupted international terrorist networks.

As for the Islamists, well, what ground have they gained toward their stated goals of a pan-Arab caliphate, the eradication of Israel, the acquisition of WMDs, or the destabilization of the West?

I don’t see any real gains on their side, and I see real progress on ours. Sure, progress has come at a cost, but only the most naive (or those with ulterior motives) would believe that we could neuter the Islamist threat without any missteps or losses.

Those on the front lines think we are winning a fight worth fighting. It is those in the perfumed salons who don’t think we are winning, and who don’t think the game is worth the candle. I know who I believe.


Barter economics at its purest.

Start with one (1) paper clip, and see where it takes you.

Galloway’s desserts

Well, one hopes this means George Galloway will never sully our shores again.

Although, really, how low does a man have to sink to be contemptible, to a US Senator?


Regular readers may recall that I supported Bush for President as the “least bad” alternative. Certainly his domestic agenda was nothing for a libertarian to crow about, but on most issues his opposition was at least as bad.

Bush is certainly doing what he can these days to put the “bad” in least bad.

One of the areas where this libertarian could confidently point to Bush as better was on tax policy. He cut taxes, and his Democratic opposition was all about raising them. Unfortunately, the Bush administration is now floating tax “reform” that includes limitation of the mortgage deduction, a great way to raise revenue and disrupt the economy by assuring a hard landing from our current mortgage-fuleded credit bubble.

While the usual Democratic lament when faced with the Republican budget agenda has been some combination of “they aren’t spending enough” (the Dems wanted to spend more on the brobdingnagian presription drug benefit) and “they aren’t raising taxes to pay for this”, the Republican spending spree has gotten so far out of control that the normally rock-solid claim that the Dems would spend more is getting harder to make.

And finally, we come to his nomination of crony Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Now, the reasons for disappointment in this pick are multiple.

First, Bush blinked on the diversity/affirmative action front. You may recall that his first pick to replace Sandra Day O’Connor was a man, John Roberts, a nice thumb-in-the-eye for the diversity crowd. However, Roberts was shifted over to fill Rehnquist’s seat, and Bush explicitly told his crew to find a woman to replace O’Connor, pandering to the worst kind of identity politics.

And he apparently did so based on his confidence that she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision creating a right to abortion in the US. Now, as a matter of Constitution law, Roe is a terrible decision, and should be overturned pronto. However, there is every reason to believe that Bush has sold a seat on the Supreme Court, for a single vote on a single issue, to a woman who will be reliably statist and anti-Constitutional.

Harriet Miers is from Dallas, and the word here is that she is a pretty squishy liberal who found God (conveniently, just about the time that being an evangelical became a real entre into the Dallas power structure, but lets give her the benefit of the doubt on that). There is no reason whatsoever to believe that she won’t join the anti-individual rights wing of the Court, and some pretty good indications that she will. From what I hear from people who have reason to know, she is a very conventional thinker whose strengths have always been political, not intellectual, and who has never shown a shred of political courage in her life.

She is likely to be very much in the mold of Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter, in other words, with the occasional anti-gay and anti-abortion vote thrown in.

Another opportunity blown. Humbug.

Pledge of allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the curve
Of supply and demand in equilibrium
And to the principle for which it stands
Market pricing, with low transaction costs
Yields utility and profit for all

– Commenter thoreau, at Hit and Run.


Odd, how the meaning of a term changes over time. To people over a certain age (which age is likely less than my own), “gaming” refers to gambling, wagering, betting, etc. To the younger set, gaming refers to video and computer games.

Which games are likely to drive a larger market than the movie industry, real soon now. Numbers are notoriously hard to come by, given Hollywood’s penchant for lying, cheating and stealing, but already the gaming industry is probably roughly on par with the movie industry, in terms of revenue.

I have had a pet theory, based as they usually are entirely on projection, that what really drives home computer sales is computer games. The vast majority of home computer users will run no software that is even remotely as demanding as a computer game, and certainly nothing that requires a dedicated sound and video card. If all I did was email/word processing/spreadsheets, I would still be using my third computer ago. Speaking from personal experience, and in the fond hope that my wife does not read this, I know what has motivated me, on at least three occasions, to announce that our current computer was junk and urgently needed replacement.

I will leave to others to expound on the social and spiritual significance of the emerging “Gamer Nation.” With the new laptop in hand, and Warhammer loaded, updated, and ready to rock and roll*, I have better things to do.

*enter birthday, play movie.

Strange world

Its enough to make you believe in parallel universes colliding, or something:

Doctors fear that the identity of a mysterious mute pianist found wandering on an English beach in April might never be known, a British newspaper reported on Monday.


The so-called “Piano Man”, a tall blonde-haired stranger thought to be in his 20s or early 30s, was found on April 7 on the beach at Minster, on the south coast of England, soaking wet but fully dressed in a black suit and tie, with no clue as to his origin.

He has not spoken since and has not responded to written appeals while being kept under observation in the psychiatric hospital.

But he has fascinated social workers, the British media and the general public over his one means of communication: playing classical piano music.

When given a pencil and paper by hospital staff, he drew a grand piano — and then, when shown a piano at the hospital chapel, he impressed his carers with a remarkable virtuoso performance.

There are no leads.

Now, I am an imaginative guy, and I work with a major inner city hospital where all kinds of strange shit comes down, but I have a hard time coming up with any scenario at all that would explain this one.