Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 in Retrospect: Unforeseen Contingencies’ Successful Predictions!

If 2016 has a theme, it is “the year of unforeseen contingencies.”  Despite having the full resources of the Unforeseen Contingencies research department at my disposal, I still found it difficult to make predictions for the year.  I’m not the only one to experience this; professional pollsters and prognosticators were humiliated with their erroneous predictions of outcomes of the Brexit vote and the U.S. elections.  I, on the other hand, still managed to repeat Unforeseen Contingencies 70% prediction rate from last year.  Let’s see.

At the start of the year “we” made ten predictions, P1 – P10 (plus an 11th wild card prediction, but we don’t count these, they are just wild speculations for fun).  Here’s how we score ourselves:

P1: Clinton would be the Democrat presidential nominee and FBI rank-and-file would complain about failures to charge her with felonies.  Hit. When James Comey failed to charge Clinton or even say she was indictable, FBI agents who had worked on the case did indeed express their outrage.  Even more, FBI agents working under federal prosecutors in New York continued to pursue the Clintons, an effort that is ongoing.  And frankly, the secret meeting between AG Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton just prior to Comey’s first press conference is one of the most heinous examples of corruption at the federal level in my lifetime, possibly the worst.  I hope these criminals are yet prosecuted, and they may well be, if we can get Jeff Sessions as AG.

P2: The GOP convention would involve an attempt by the establishment to push an establishment candidate.  Miss. It didn’t happen. 

P3: In a GOP split, the establishment would fail to support a non-GOP-establishment candidate.  Hit. The always-reprehensible Bushes, John McCain, Mitt Romney, future U.N. representative Nikki Hailey, and even Paul Ryan publicly opposed Trump.  Ryan did eventually back him, grudgingly.  Such behavior showed that the establishment is uninterested in freedom, the Constitution, and protecting America, given that the alternative was Clinton.  This is not a surprise to me; I think they generally share the left’s lust for power and contempt for American values.  They simply aren’t fanatic about the latter, as the left is.

P4: Mumbai-style attack with at least 100 casualties, plus race riots, in the U.S.  Hit, unfortunately.  In the Orlando nightclub massacre, a jihadist who pledged allegiance to Daesh killed 49 and wounded 53.  And race riots occurred in Milwaukee August 13-15, and Charlotte September 20-21, both times in response to police shootings of black thugs who were armed with handguns and threatening the police.  Let’s hope Attorney General Sessions quickly brings the Black Lies Matter movement under investigation.

P5: Grassroots activism would accelerate, and be condemned by the political class. Hit. While this one was vague, it seems an obvious hit.  We’re “a basket of deplorables,” you see, and “irredeemable,” as one leftist observer put it.  The hysteria of the leftwing intelligentsia – politicians, academics, media, and professional agitators NGO representatives following Trump’s victory are a good illustration.  As for Americans preparing themselves against the political class, 2016 was a record year for both firearm sales and applications for concealed carry permits.  It also was characterized by high levels of Tea Party activism, and advancing of the Article V Convention movement.

P6: Trump beats Clinton. HIT! The wicked witch is dead!

P7: China fires on a U.S. aircraft or vessel.  Hit.  I’m willing to call seizing a U.S. Navy vessel an attack, and that’s sufficient for me.  I greatly appreciate, by the way, that president-elect Trump accepted a congratulatory call from the President of Nationalist China, both because Free China deserves support, and because the thugs in Beijing understand the concept of playing hardball.  If one deals with a s=despotic regime, show strength, not weakness.  Despotic regimes crush weaklings.  That’s why China, Russia, Iran, Daesh, et al. have had such success in the last eight years.  America’s girly-man president Obama intimidates no one.

P8: The economies of China and Russia would worsen, and that of the U.S. will not.  Miss.  I had two of three.  Official Russian state statistics claim that Russia’s GDP declined by 0.5% this year.  (For reasons I can’t understand numerous analysts seem to simultaneously claim the Russian economy a success this year.)  And the economy of the United States did not decline, and seems to have improved somewhat.  But China also seems to have been able to avoid catastrophe and maintain growth, despite increasing debt and a weakening of the renminbi.  I expected some sort of crisis in China and was certainly wrong.

P9: Merkel’s career a shambles.  Hit. The despicable Angela Merkel has now admitted that her beloved refugees are fueling a wave of crime and terror.  She’s done more to advance the German right wing parties than they could ever have done themselves.  Well, Angela, it’s going to get worse, for both Germany and you.

P10: Extra-terrestrial life would be discovered.  Miss, darn it.  However, on Mars NASA has discovered substantial evidence of water and organic compounds.  There’s reason to think we are close.

Thus on all but P2, P8, and P10 we predicted correctly.  On P8 we were partially correct, and P10 is always admittedly a long shot.  Thus “we” at Unforeseen Contingencies are quite pleased with our 70% score. 

Happy 2017!

Photo: The nightmare that never happened!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of the year post

Here's a last post for 2016.  According to "our" calculations, the forecasting team at Unforeseen Contingencies again scored 70% on our predictions for the year.  We also have predictions for 2017.  Expect full coverage of both stories in early 2017.

Also, for 2016, chief blogger and runner Charles N. Steele managed to complete over 1600 miles (over 2560 km) of combined running, walking, and hiking.  This is certainly a conservative number, since walks and runs of less than a mile are counted).    While 1600 was not a goal, this suggests a target of 1700 miles for 2017.  We'll give it a shot.

If we are to sum up the year, 2016 seems to have been a year of unforeseen contingencies -- the self-destruction of Hillary Clinton, the overwhelming Republican victories, and the hysteria of the American left are good examples.  The collapsing of the left in the United States and elsewhere is less surprising, but welcome.

But we'll have a recap on the year when we do our scoring of our predictions for 2016 (and 2015!) and our predictions for 2017.

Happy 2017 to all!

New Year's Resolutions

I very much like the idea of New Year’s resolutions.  The new calendar year offers a natural break, a time at the end of a year to look back and evaluate, and also to look ahead for the coming year and plan, perhaps with insights gained from reflecting on the past.  I occasionally come across complaints from those who dislike the idea, who think it “artificial,” or that the first day of the year is really “just another day.”  I don’t understand those sorts of arguments.  In this context, I don’t follow the supposed distinction between something being artificial and not.  New Year’s celebrations are of human origin, so in that sense I guess they are artificial or contrived, but do critics expect human institutions to be imposed on us, deterministically, by “nature, the laws of physics or something?  (Hah!)   Or is the first day of January “just another day,” an arbitrary break?  People who think that probably suppose a year could as easily be 142 days, or 442 days, or a day could be 2.4 rotations of the Earth on its axis.  I suppose such people are still trying to follow the ten month calendar from the French revolution, imagining themselves hard boiled realists.  Or more likely, they are simply people who don’t understand the crucial importance to being successful of goal-setting.

Perhaps there’s a problem with how some people approach resolutions.  If one makes a resolution, “I will do X in the coming year,” and then fails to develop a clear plan to accomplish X, never mind begin to execute that plan, then I suppose resolutions do seem a pointless gesture.  To make New Year’s resolutions, one should think carefully about one’s current position and what one wants for the future, consider carefully what it will take to get there, set clearly defined goals, lay out plans for how to achieve them, and then execute the steps of the plan.

In this light, I have a few resolutions for 2017.  These are resolutions that can be framed as specific goals rather than general resolutions.  I have others, but here are a few that I’ll share:

1. Finish my 17th Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon.  I am en route to 20 finishes, one of my lifetime goals.

2. Summit Granite Peak.  This is the highest point in Montana.  I’ve made the approach to climb it four times, but always been turned back by bad weather or lack of time.  This year it’s a goal.

3. Backpack the length of the Continental Divide Trail in Montana.  Last summer Julie and I met three different people doing the entire CDT from Canada to Mexico.  I have too many other interests to do that now, but I do love the idea of an extended trek though the wilds of the Rockies.

4. Complete my research project on pipeline economics.  I haven’t blogged about this, but I have a very interesting project going and am quite excited about how it is developing.

That’s four.  I have a number of others, but they are not so much for public posting – not that there’s anything sensitive, but things related to reconnecting with friends, various personal improvement steps, and the like don’t make for very interesting posting nor do they lend themselves to being checked off as accomplished.  To me, resolutions should be about things we can do to make ourselves better people, things we can do to make the world better, and things we wish to accomplish simply because we’re passionate about them.  The above four fall into that last category.

I hope everyone reading this has plans for making the coming year a success.  May we all work to make the world a happier, freer, more prosperous, more peaceful place.

Happy New Year!

Photo: 'Unforeseen Contingencies' chief blogger Charles N. Steele at work, putting up New Year's posts and drinking his final espresso of the year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Westward Ho!

Once again, it is time for Unforeseen Contingencies winter migration westward to the Rockies.   I have not been blogging much because of workload, and am unlikely to blog much over Christmas break, but will certainly try to get in our annual Christmas messages (both Gregorian and Julian), review of last year's predictions for the year, and perhaps even New Year's predictions for 2017.  2016 seems to have been a year of unforeseen contingencies, and one "prediction" is that 2017 may be even more surprising.

If I had time, I'd comment on Trump's cabinet picks (Sessions, Mattis, DeVos, Pruitt, Kelly good, less excited about some of the others, especially Tillerson.  I'd also comment on Obama's surrender to Putin, the strategic maneuvers in the Middle East by Russia and Iran, China's belligerence, Islamic terror, and our crazy left.  And climate.  And energy.  And many other things.

Regardless, we'll be back.  Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Why do "libertarians" insist on being stupid?


I try to read regularly.  Reason claims to be libertarian, but I have always supposed "libertarian" to mean "consistently promoting liberty."  Reason seems fairly consistent at promoting idiocy, and here's a fine example.  Cato Senior Fellow for Defense and Foreign Policy and Associate Professor of Something-or-Other at George Mason University's School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs Trevor Thrall warns that Donald Trump's "war on the media" is undermining the media's ability to  serve "as an effective forum for debate and deliberation."  You see, Trump calls the media biased and unfair.  He accuses the media of dishonesty.  He refuses to talk with them, preferring to go straight to his audience with tweets and such, rather than allowing the media to serve as an intermediary.  Horrors!

Dr.Thrall has a Ph.D. from MIT.  He must be intelligent.  He has to be informed on current events.  He surely can put 2 and 2 together.  So how to explain his nonsensical Reason piece?  Let's analyze.

1. What would lead anyone to think that the refusal of a president, or president-elect, to meet with the media would undermine the ability of the media to do its job in reporting?  Are journalists limited to repeating whatever the powers-that-be feed them?  Well, yes, I know, that's what they currently do (see point 2).  But an uncooperative, secretive executive doesn't actually prevent the media from doing its job.  Can't an MIT grad see this?

2. One can't undermine what doesn't exist, as one commenter observes (the comments on the Reason piece are merciless and on target).  The media is not an "institution" that promotes "debate and deliberation."  I couldn't find the link, but back in 2012 or so New York Times revealed that before publishing stories about the Obama administration, it gave the stories to said administration to "fact check."  Anyone who follows NYT, WaPo, NPR, and BBC regularly (as I do) knows they regularly promote progressivism and things farther left, and regularly attack (real) libertarianism and conservatism.  Walter Russell Mead, who is nominally lefty-liberal, acknowledges this.  For example, when was the last time that the MSM reported favorably, or even neutrally, on, say, private ownership of firearms?  Or when did they last report on the successful defensive use of firearms by a private citizen, a very common, dramatic, and newsworthy event?  Never.  I don't know of a first time.  That's systematic and intentional bias.  We could do the same with stories on environmental regulation, voter ID laws, and other issues.  Surely the MSM fairly reported on Obamacare -- and designer Jonathan Gruber's subsequent repeted statements that he designed it to be non-transparent so that he could rely on the stupidity of American voters (his words) to support it, didn't it?  Well, no. And it's well established that the MSM fed debate questions to Hillary Clinton, and also regularly obtained opposition research from the DNC to use in writing stories on Cruz and Trump.  The MSM often operates as a wing of the Democrat Party.  What are we to say of Thrall?  He must know all of this.  It's hardly secret.

3. Trump's behavior is neither new nor unusual.  Going straight to the public without the MSM to explain to us "what it all means" (as "All Things Considered" pledges to us they'll do) is perfectly sensible and traditional.  No one ever claimed FDR's "fireside chats" or Lincoln's speeches circumvented the free press.  And given the anti-Trump bias and hysteria in the MSM, this is possibly the only way we'll be able to hear what Trump is actually saying.  (I do remember the MSM lying about Romney while being completely unbiased regarding Barack Obama.)  But if Trump's sidestepping of the media really is a problem, as Professor Thrall suggests, then how is this new?  Hillary Clinton avoided press conferences for the entirety of her campaign.  Obama similarly stiffs the fawning press and is known for having a non-transparent administration.

There's nothing thoughtful about Prof. Thrall's piece.  It's either stupid or deeply dishonest.  Being charitable, I say he's being stupid.  Why he wrote this nonsense, I don't know.  I could conjecture, but I can't test them so why bother.  I do note, though, that many self-described" libertarians identify with the left and seem to think it's important to do so.

But everyone outside the left hates the media.  Many of us know that "journalists" lie when it suits them, that they are biased and don't care that they are, that they work with government officials to suppress truth (go look at the FOIAed records of Eric Holder coordinating with Media Matters to "spin" their story regarding "Fast and Furious").  Those of us who pay attention know how reporters Sharyl Atkisson and James Rosen were bugged by the Obama administration, apparently because they actually tried doing serious journalism that Obama and Co. disliked.  The MSM didn't give a hoot.  But now Thrall now thinks it's crisis that Trump correctly calls the media a pack of dishonest hacks and treats them with disdain?

Thrall is an idiot, a useful idiot for the leftist intelligentsia, perhaps, but certainly an idiot.  And that this nonsense passes Reason's tests for good analysis shows how far the modern "libertarian" intellectuals have fallen.

(Happily, most of the comments are nasty.  There still seem to be plenty of libertarians capable of critical thinking.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saul Alinsky, John Stuart Mill, and the Danger of Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid

Poisoned Kool-aid, that is.

In his "Rules for Radicals" Saul Alinsky argued that the left should not engage ideological opponents in debate, but rather demonize them.  One wins by destroying one's opponents, not by refuting their arguments, in his view.  America's progressives and those further left seem to have absorbed this lesson all too well.

One of the first public instances of this approach that I can recall was in 1989 (or a year or so after), when the Wall Street Journal quoted Rep. Charlie Rangel (D, NY) as saying (I quote from memory) "The new Ku Klux Klan wears suites and ties and talks about tax cuts," referring to members of Congress as well as economists and policy analysts who were cuts.  That was a deeply dishonest and stupid argument against tax cuts; of course, it is not an argument, but simply an attempt to avoid having to deal with arguments for lower tax rates by demonizing proponents.

The use of this strategy has grown over time, but since the election of Barack Obama, the left accelerated its use.  Any criticism of Obama and his policies could be deemed racist, and was, including criticism of ARRA, criticism of PPACA (Obamacare), and criticism of the Iran nuclear deal.  Jimmy Carter disgracefully charged that critics of Obama and his policies were white people who resented being ruled by a black man (a doubly stupid statement on Carter's part, since the president's job isn't to rule us).  The Tea Party movement was deemed racist.  Opposition to climate change policy was deemed racist.  Opposition to unrestricted immigration was deemed racist.  The importation of Muslim refugees was deemed racist.  Opposition to gun control was deemed racist.  Opposition to minimum wage was deemed racist.

Pretty much anything could be deemed racist if someone on the left became incensed about it, and the racism charges became increasingly absurd.  Daily Caller did a humorous "Alphabet of Racism from A to Z," compiling a list of things that had been deemed racist" by the left. ("Best of" is available here, and at the end there are links to the entire alphabet.)

The high point (i.e. low point!)  of the absurdity lies in two common claims made but leftist SJWs (social justice warriors): 1) it is impossible for a non-white to be racist, and 2) it is impossible for a white not to be racist.  This is surely the reductio ad absurdum of the left's pursuit of the Alinsky strategy.  It's absurd for two reasons.  First, those who do this erase the definition of racism ("the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races") and substitute in its place "white," which is surely absurd.  Second, in doing so, they themselves become racists.

However, if this were simply a strategy or tactic of political struggle, I suppose it could make a kind of sense, if "win at any cost" is the goal and one thinks spouting lies to demonize opponents works.  However, it's clear that in adopting this technique, the left has actually come to believe its own lies; they've been drinking their own poisoned Kool-aid.  Meanwhile, the rest of us -- at least those of us who have been paying attention -- have become wise to their game and inured to their slander.

But the left has largely bought its own lies, and now is unable to cope.  Consider the absolutely insane reaction to the election of Donald Trump on many American college campuses, or the riots in several major cities, or the hysteria in the mainstream media (not limited to American MSM; my first source for news is the BBC's World News site, which was shamelessly in the tank for Hillary Clinton and now seems beside itself that racism is running rampant across America).  The over-the-top-reaction  -- rioting and attacking Trump voters, or needing counseling sessions involving therapy dogs, coloring books, and play-doh (at a major law school, for heaven's sakes!), or college presidents holding "healing sessions" (i.e. protests) -- these are not the reactions of normal, rational people.

These are the responses of people unable to see those of us who voted for Trump, or who didn't vote for Clinton, did so for many, many reasons that have nothing to do with racism.  They apparently really have come to believe the Alinskyite lies, and often seem almost incapable of understanding the actual arguments and motives of their political opponents.  By drinking their own Kool-aid, they've poisoned themselves.  And the irony is that rather than destroying their opponents, they seem to have put themselves on a path to self-destruction by doing so.

The great libertarian and economist John Stuart Mill argued that ideas should not be suppressed, that the surest way to determine truth is to let ideas compete in the marketplace for ideas, that is, let people freely contest their positions.  Argue.  Debate. Reason.  This is the opposite of Alinsky.  And in fact, if the objective is truth, there's no other method.  Hence freedom of thought and freedom of expression are crucially important if we are to pursue truth.  Mill's argument is completely at odds with today's political correctness, especially as practiced on college campuses today.  But in following Alinsky instead of Mill, the left not only hasn't won in the battle of ideas, it has increasingly rendered itself incapable of competing.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Trump and Energy Policy: What to Expect?

Heartland Institute has published a blog entry by me on what the election of Donald Trump might mean for energy policy.  The entire staff of Unforeseen Contingencies agrees that the original post on Heartland's site is worth reading, in our unbiased opinion.  But the bottom line is this...with a bit of extra on Clinton.

Under Trump energy production is likely to increase, i.e. much less likely to become a bottleneck for the economy.  In particular, natural gas production should thrive, which is important from the standpoint of alleviating the economic stagnation that has hurt so many in this country, lower income Americans in particular.  It also is crucially important from the standpoint of the environment.  Since Clinton proposed effectively banning hydraulic fracturing, this would have ended the shale gas revolution.  She also favored enormous subsidies to billionaire Tom Steyer and other cronies to install half a billion wasteful solar panels.

We are extremely fortunate to have dodged that deadly bullet.  It's worth noting here that the World Bank's Synthesis Report on Climate finds that economic development is the primary tool for dealing with climate change.  Imposing enormous costs by imposing "green" energy solves neither economic nor environmental problems.  (Spain's green energy program doubled the price of energy, increased unemployment because of the increase in expenses for business, and still managed to increased the production of greenhouse gases.)

On energy, at least, the election of Donald Trump is a wonderful thing.  Read the Heartland piece.

Trump and America's Anti-Democracy Movement

So far, the effects of electing Donald Trump to the presidency seem quite promising.  Jeff Sessions is an excellent choice for Attorney General -- for the first time in years we'll have an Attorney General who actually is interested in enforcing the law, instead of ignoring it and pursuing the left's culture war.  By all evidence, Sessions is an honest, principled man, and not a crooked ideologue like Loretta Lynch or the Eric Holder.

So far as I can tell, Representative Pompeo is also a good man and a good choice for CIA director, and likewise General Flynn for National Security Advisor.  New York Time is upset about this last pick -- after all,  Flynn openly criticizes Islamism and warns that Islamist groups are dangerous...can't get any more disturbing than that!  (The NYT editorial is funny -- they are entirely disturbed that Republicans chanted "lock her up" at the GOP convention, concerning a candidate who is still under criminal investigation, much more disturbing to them than said candidates supporters rioting, attacking Trump supporters, and threatening assassination of the President-Elect and those who voted for him.)

If Trump keeps picking cabinet and staff like this, there's a chance he could be a really great president.  He needs sound-minded, principled people who understand the philosophy on which the United States were founded -- that of individual rights and strictly limited government -- and will fight to preserve and advance these principles.  I certainly hope he's successful.  "We" at Unforeseen Contingencies have always given a new president the benefit of the doubt, even when he's not our guy, and wished him well.  This is a concept beyond the grasp of today's malevolent left, which cannot tolerate and must destroy anyone so "deplorable" as to dissent from leftist dogma.

That's one of the other useful effects of electing Donald Trump and a Republican Congress and Republican governors and state legislatures across the land.  The Democrats and those left of them are revealing themselves to everyone as scarily mad.  The rioting and the venom from the Democrats' mainstream media and the hysteria on college campuses are confirming to everyone outside the club that progressives and those left of them are America's anti-democracy movement.  This will not help the left.

The Saturday after the election Julie and I stopped at a Gander Mountain sporting goods store; the firearm section was doing very brisk business. They had put extra staff on expecting Hillary to have won and sales to boom, and nearly cancelled the extra staff.  Yet sales were booming.  I spoke with one of the salesmen who told me buyers say they are worried about the left... rioters, violence against Trump voters, and the like. No fooling.  And Democrats aren't disassociating themselves from all this.  They are, then, the anti-democratic party of hate and violence?  Yes, it appears so.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day/Veterans' Day

A short video from Hillsdale College on the military oath of office and what it means.  Please watch.  We should all swear an oath to defend liberty, and more importantly, we should live it.

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