Monday, October 12, 2015

Update from FCA

"I don't always drink beer. But when I do, I drink Dos Equis."

OK, most of that isn't true, but that is a Dos Equis in my hand.  Photo taken Sunday evening, the day after Le Grizz.  I will be posting a Le Grizz report and photos later, along with a short bit on Angus Deaton's Economics Nobel (main comment, "well, at least it's someone I have heard of").  Also in the works, reporting on the upcoming Bad Apple Ultra!

I have a bust work and travel schedule ahead so I may be slow in blogging some of this.  But stay tuned!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Quick Le Grizz note

Finished number 15!  Report will follow ASAP.  My travel schedule might cause a delay in this, but I will post a short account and have a few nice photos.  Also expect comments on the soon-to-be-announced Nobel Prize in Economics.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Le Grizz! 2015

Oops!  I'm switching to my Surface Pro for some of my blogging, and seem not to have all the kinks worked out.  In updating yesterday's post about my upcoming attempt at my 15th Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon, I seem to have lost the entire thing.

That's unfortunate, as I had provided a gripping, hair-raising account of the trip here to Montana's Flathead Valley, one that would have the Nobel committee second guessing their award of the literature prize today.  Or perhaps not.  Suffice it to say we're here in Hungry Horse, tired, excited, and rarin' to go Saturday.

I also commented on the award of the prize to Svetlana Alexievich (I'm rather positive about it), as well as despot-in-chief Barry Hussein's planned visit to Roseburg to try to drum up hatred against gunowner (I predict that at best he'll mostly drum up hatred against himself, richly deserved, too).  And I took the opportunity for further speculation on possible candidates for the Nobel peace prize (all of it mercilessly mocking the committee).

Alas! all of this has been lost, off to the cyberspheric limbo where it no doubt rests with Hillary's wiped emails.  Only the FBI knows what I actually said.

Oh well, in the face of such unforeseen contingencies, we always simply keep moving forward. 

The race is Saturday.  Expect updates.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Shooting fun! and blogging update

Poor Barry Hussein... Barack Obama is an angry man.  He's angry about guns, or rather that American citizens own them.  The other day a homicidal maniac entered a gun-free zone, selected Christians, and executed them.  Barack Obama blames the NRA and anyone who defends individual rights, including the right to keep and bear arms...but not his own Christian-bashing, of course.  (There's a great deal of irony in all this, since he plans to import, at taxpayer expense, thousands of Muslim refugees whose numbers will almost certainly include members of Daesh, bloodthirsty Muslims who, given the chance, also will select Christians and other non-Muslims for execution.)  I expect the lawless, tyrannical fool in the Whitehouse will attempt to create and enforce gun controls before his term expires, most likely without any new legislation.  I don't feel like blogging much about this right now -- suffice it to say that anyone who tries to disarm the American citizen will start a civil war.

Meanwhile, last week I fired, for my first time, a handgun in .454 Casull, a round designed for stopping big game up to the one ton range.  More about this shortly.  But first, a blogging update.

I'm trying to blog a bit more often, and have a couple of subjects upcoming.  I am sure the world will be waiting breathlessly:

Nobel Prizes...  I suppose I should make predictions now.  For Economics, I predict the award will go to William Baumol and Israel Kirzner for their studies of entrepreneurship.  Why not?  Nothing would make me happier.  Last year they were at the top of the Reuters prediction list, and my theory is that these predictions tend to come true, but with a lag.  For Peace, there are so many worthy candidates.  One obvious choice is Barack Obama, for solving the Iranian nuclear problem forever.  I suppose this would be shared with Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, who is preparing his country for peaceful relations with all the world.  But it might be a little embarrassing when during his speech about how Israel will be eliminated soon, Khamenei begins shrieking "Death to America."  Even worse, they'd probably have to include John Kerry as well, and no one wants to hear him try to speak.  There are many other worthy candidates, of course -- Vladimir Putin and his Soviet Russian soldiers for liberating Crimea and bringing peace to eastern Ukraine, or the Pope, for traveling to communist countries to condemn capitalism.  But I predict that the Peace Prize will go to the Muslim refugees storming the E.U.  This makes at least as much sense as having awarded it to the E.U. itself, so I think I have a winner here.

Le Grizz...  Every second Saturday of October, I return to Montana's Flathead and environs to run the Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon.  This year we return to the 2013 "Government Shutdown Course," most likely on a permanent basis.  (The new race management is Polebridge Mercantile, conveniently located at the race start and finish, along with a log saloon, for all our coffee, pastry, and beer needs!)  I think I am better trained than I've been in a few years.  Expect a race report.

OK, finally, shooting...  I was with a friend, Chris P. and we had a target set at 50 yards and fired both a fair .45 Long Colt and .454 Casull ammunition through a Ruger Super Blackhawk (for those who don't know, the .454 is a lengthened version of the .45LC, so the revolver will chamber either one of them).  At 50 yards I had no trouble hitting the target with the .454; the .45LC has a less flat trajectory and I had some trouble connecting with it.  But what I really noticed was the difference in recoil, as expected.  I dislike recoil in a rifle, but I enjoy it in a handgun -- and boy, was this fun!

Two videos illustrate.  One round with each cartridge, placed in cylinder so I wouldn't know when it would go off (a great exercise for overcoming flinch and similar problems).  On another part of the range, someone else was shooting, so in the first video my second hammer drop coincides perfectly with one of their shots, making it look like I don't budge at all!  Here's the fun:

One round, .45 Long Colt
One round, .454 Casull...bang!

Friday, October 02, 2015

More Immigration Nuttiness from FEE

FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education) has done wonderful work in the past, and still manages to do some good work on economics.  But FEE has also taken to promoting libertoonist silliness, stuff that is a caricature of libertarianism.  The subject of immigration seems to particularly draw out the libertoonism.  In this case, Professor Chandran Kukathas of the London School of Economics argues that if a country tries to exercise any control over its borders, it means controlling every person in the country and monitoring them on an ongoing basis.  In fact, it "is is not possible without controlling citizens and existing residents, who must be regulated, monitored and policed to make sure that they comply with immigration laws."  He rattles on about establishing internal passport checkpoints and explaining what happened under South Africa's apartheid system, as if our only choices are entirely open (i.e. nonexistent) borders or a totalitarian system in which each person is constantly monitored.  That's crazy.  But here it is, "Controlling Immigration Means Controlling Everyone:  cracking down on immigration means invading every aspect of natives lives."

No, it doesn't.  That's remarkably stupid.  It's unbelievably stupid.  How could anyone ever argue such a crazy thing?  Apparently even Professor Kukathas realized this for a moment, because at one point he claims he is not drawing an equivalence between apartheid and controlling borders -- but then he goes ahead and does just that.  I commented (see below) but how is one to take seriously an argument that stopping perhaps one million refugees from swarming across a border into one's country is equivalent to monitoring every citizen internally, in every aspect of their lives?  The illogic of Professor Kukathas' piece is mind-boggling.  And the consequences of the mass immigration Europe is now "enjoying" will be highly destructive for liberty.

Steele's comment:

Apparently FEE's objective with the pieces it publishes on immigration is to ensure that each one is more absurd than the previous ones -- a tough challenge, but Kukthas' piece rises to the occasion.

Kukathas equates controlling immigration with establishing internal checkpoints where everyone must prove their identities.  That's absurd.  He's arguing that Hungary building a fence or wall on its borders to keep tens of thousands of people from invading the country indiscriminately is the same as South Africa establishing internal checkpoints where every individual was sorted by race.  It's impossible to take such a crazy position seriously.

No members of Daesh (ISIS) should ever be admitted into a Western country.   Nor should members of Al Qaeda.  And as the Germans are starting to learn, it verges on suicide to allow close to one million people into the country when they have no local language skills, little human capital, and adhere to a religious viewpoint that is completely incompatible with liberal Western values such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, rights for women, etc.  The problem is compounded when the country is a welfare state; Germany expects to spend 10 billion euros feeding, clothing, and housing the refugees this year. 

But Kukathas insists we must accept this; the only alternative is internal South African-style apartheid. That's crazy.  Simply block borders and screen immigrants before admitting them.

It's hard to believe arguments for entirely open borders can get more absurd than Kukathas,' but I look forward to FEE's next attempt.  If nothing else, we're getting some good laughs.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Inevitability of Nuclear War, Part 2

Over a year ago I posted a piece "The Inevitability of Nuclear War, part 1."  The gist was this: For the current leadership of Russia, nuclear warfare is not at all unthinkable.  Vladimir Putin and members of the Russian state  security and military apparatus regularly refer to the possibility of using nuclear weapons, the Russian military has been developing doctrine to guide the use of tactical nuclear weapons, the Russian military conducts training that includes simulated use of tactical nuclear weapons, and Russia has been working to upgrade its nuclear forces.  This is not the end-of-the-world MAD (mutual assured destruction) scenario of all out use of strategic nuclear weapons, it's limited use of nukes.  Russia has conducted wargames, at least twice, that include simulated strikes on Warsaw with nuclear weapons.  My observation -- if Putin is allowed to continue his expansionist policies unchecked, his strength will increase, and at some Russia will go so far that the West's choices will be confrontation or surrender.  For countries of Eastern and central Europe, this would constitute an existential threat.  The chances of a conflict that would include nuclear weapons is very high.

Part 2: The Middle East

Since writing Part 1, I've assembled quite a collection of material on Iran's nuclear program, Iranian intentions, and how the rest of the Middle East regards this.  With the completion of Obama's deal with the Iranians, much of this now seems to me beside the point.  The deal to end sanctions on Iran is the greatest foreign policy catastrophe of my lifetime.  It might well prove to be the greatest such disaster in human history, because it holds the seeds of nuclear war on a massive scale.  Rather than make a lengthy argument, consider this.  The treaty with Iran (a treaty that most of Congress decided to pretend is not a treaty for reasons of political expediency) ends sanctions and releases up to $150 billion in frozen assets to the Iranian government.  It also provides that Iran can challenge and effectively block any inspection of nuclear sites, and even that Iran conduct its own inspections on sensitive military sites.  It provides a grandfather clause that protects investments in the unlikely event sanctions are ever re-imposed; in other words, Iran is guaranteed its economic trade remains intact.  The predicted time frame for Iran to develop sufficient material for a fission bomb is less than the time frame for getting inspections, international dithering over noncompliance, and eventual "snapback" of sanctions.  The deal is preposterous.  Good grief, it evens provides that the United States will protect the Iranian nuclear program from Israel!  It sets Iran free of any serious restriction on its nuclear programs and provides Iran capital for nuclear development, as well as for funding Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran's military adventure in Yemen, its ballistic missile program and other trouble-making.

That's an interesting point: Iran has a ballistic missile program, it is not part of the deal and now faces no restrictions.  What is the purpose?  Iran appears to be developing ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and space launched re-entry vehicles, devices specially designed for delivering nuclear warheads.

There's only one reasonable conclusion: Iran is being set free to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to Western Europe and the United States.  That's certainly the conclusion that Iran's neighbors -- namely Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt -- are drawing.  Hence Saudi Arabia is considering options to acquire nuclear weapons, either developing themselves, or buying them. This 2013 BBC article refers to a Saudi policy document in which they state they would accept a nuclear free Middle east, but failing that, would either purchase or develop one, say from Pakistan or North Korea.  Egypt has now begun a nuclear program and Turkey has one that clearly includes a weapons component.

Here are the fundamental points:

My conclusion -- an Iran with nuclear weapons almost certainly results in nuclear war.  MAD works with people who do not want to die; it does not work with those who worship Armageddon and celebrate martyrdom dream of genocide.  And even if the mere possession of nuclear weapons somehow suddenly brought the mullahs to their senses, their neighbors -- the Israelis, Turks, and Arabs -- see the Islamic republic as an existential threat.  If Israel ever faces an imminent existential threat, it will use every power it has to survive, including nuclear weapons.  It's hard to believe the Turks, Saudis, Egyptians, and anyone else who manages to get weapons would behave differently.  The situation is even worse if Daesh (ISIS) ever gets its hands on nuclear weapons.  In a Middle East where multiple sides have nuclear weapons, "false flag" strikes would be a dangerous possibility.  It's hard to understand how such a situation -- multiple players that regard each other as existential threats -- could be a stable equilibrium, the way the nuclear standoff between the US and USSR was.  Stability seems even more far-fetched when some of the players have worldview best described as death cults.

The USSR Russia (oops) has now established an air base with fighter planes in Syria, and the Russians are providing Iran with advanced anti-aircraft systems, and bringing their own to Syria.  Any Israeli airstrike on Iran will now have to contend with Russia's air force.  Conventional responses to an Iranian nuclear breakthrough just became much more difficult.  The likelihood of a nuclear response, with missiles, just increased.  But even prior to this, one analyst suggested that an Israeli nuclear first strike on Iran was a not-unlikely possibility.  Read it, it is a very important and chilling piece.

Nuclear war is not literally inevitable, but the world is on course for it.  Every politician who supported this Iranian deal, or who has not done all they could to block it, ought to be seen as, at best, completely irresponsible.  The people who created this deal, especially Barack Obama and John Kerry, are traitors to America and enemies of civilization.  Assuming that things are not already out of hand by January 2017, the next president needs to immediately and unilaterally take action to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, by any means necessary.  Any candidate unwilling to do this is unfit for the office.  Additionally, it will be necessary to kick the Russians out of the Middle East, if they are still there, a longer term project perhaps, to deal ruthlessly with Daesh and similar groups, and to begin working on building a genuine international non-proliferation regime.  

Obama has nearly destroyed non-proliferation as a policy; we now have a proliferation regime.  It is imperative that the next president reverse this.  And if it must be done with violence, so be it.  Those who preach the hatred of Western Civilization and the glory of holy Armageddon must never have nuclear weapons.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Race rears its head

Let's talk about race -- no, not that practical joke nature played on human beans, I mean the real sense of race -- running!

I had promised to give reports on a few races from this past summer...Running Lungs 5K and Elkhorn 50K.  Here is the Running Lungs report. Elkhorn was successful, but that story will wait.

Running Lungs: back in June, I highlighted this race, a fundraiser put on by my friend Linda Wortman to raise funds for lung cancer research.  My report... on race day, Julie, Chaos and I got up early.  As is my SOP before a 5K, I stretched and drank black coffee and water -- consuming nothing nothing else --a nd did a short warmup run with Chaos.  The three of us then drove in Bozeman to the race start.  The 10K start was 15 minutes before the 5K, and we arrived in plenty of time to watch it.  I said hi to Linda and her husband Jerry, who was working like a maniac behind the scenes to help make everything go smoothly.  We watched the 10 K start, and then, with the 5K start imminent, I took Chaos back to the car.  There's no way to run an all-out 5K with Chaos roped to my waist.  After locking Chaos in the car (she has a comfortable bed and water, and it was coll day, windows open, I started back to the finish line.  And then I heard it -- a plaintive, longing, cry: "how can you be doing this?  Why am I left out."  I turned and looked, and...well, good question.  So Chaos and I roped up and returned to the starting line.

"Bang" went the starting gun... OK, so it wasn't a gun, it was more of a starting shout, but we started out.  Chaos and I stayed back so as not to interfere with people trying to run fast, and tended to run to the side off the trail.  Julie was a bit behind us.  We had a fair number of people ahead of us, but most of the fast runners had entered the 10K, so as the field sorted out Chaos and I found ourselves in the upper 50% (certainly not front of the pack, though).  As we ran, we began picking off the occasional runner and slowly moving through the pack, and the race was starting to look like a race for us.

Chaos absolutely loves running with a group, and this isn't the first race we have run together.  Chaos also loves meeting new dogs, and the second and third miles of Running Lungs goes along Bozeman's Peet's Hill trail, where dogs off leash are welcome.  Hence our run included a few stops to meet with the occasional dog...not my choice, but rope teams move as a team.  I think this added a bit to our overall time.

Out finish through Lindley Park was really strong.  Chaos realized we were near the finish and took off.  When she stops dawdling with smelling this and that, greeting human and canine passersby, etc., and sets herself to it, she's extremely fast.  We covered the last quarter mile at breakneck speed.

Results?  Well, I was #1 in my age group.  Chaos was #1 dog (and yes, there were others).  Julie was a ways behind us, but she finished #1 in her age group.  Three victories!  More importantly, a successful fundraiser and great fun.

The field of runners was interesting.  There were a some elite runners, including Nikki Kimball, a world class ultra runner.  We spent a good bit of time talking with Nikki and her dog (who did not run) post race.  But there was also a substantial turnout from people who rarely if ever race, who were there just because of the cause, to help raise funds.  The post-race festivities were fun, and it was a very successful endeavor all around.  Julie, Chaos, and I look forward to next year's run.

Linda Wortman

Me, Linda, Julie, and Chaos

Linda and Jerry

Top Dog!

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