Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Netanyahu's success and Obama's failure: Walter Russell Mead

"There is perhaps only one thing harder for the American mind to process than the fact that President Obama has been a terrible foreign policy president, and that is that Bibi Netanyahu is an extraordinarily successful Israeli Prime Minister."  -- WRM

Walter Russell Mead has an excellent article comparing Netanyahu's success at foreign policy with Obama's complete failure.  Reading it will use up your one free article from American Interest, but it's worth it.

If I may summarize, Netanyahu's realism and toughness means that everyone respects Israel, whether they like it or not, and he's been able to forge better relations with enemies -- e.g. Sunni Arab nations -- by finding common ground -- e.g. opposition to Iranian expansion and Hamas.  As a result, the Palestinian issue is fading as a crux issue for world politics, which is exactly what Israel needs and Mamoud Abbas, PLA, and Hamas don't want.

Read it for yourself, but in case you don't, here's an excerpt:

"The reason that Bibi has been more successful than Obama is that Bibi understands how the world works better than Obama does. Bibi believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased. Obama sought to build bridges to Sunni Muslims by making eloquent speeches in Cairo and Istanbul while ignoring the power political realities that Sunni states cared most about — like the rise of Iran and the Sunni cause in Syria. Bibi read the Sunnis more clearly than Obama did; the value of Israeli power to a Sunni world worried about Iran has led to something close to a revolution in Israel’s regional position. Again, Obama thought that reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood (including its Palestinian affiliate, Hamas) would help American diplomacy and Middle Eastern democracy. Bibi understood that Sunni states like Egypt and its Saudi allies wanted Hamas crushed. Thus, as Obama tried to end the Gaza war on terms acceptable to Hamas and its allies, Bibi enjoyed the backing of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a successful effort to block Obama’s efforts. Israel’s neighbors may not like Bibi, but they believe they can count on him. They may think Obama has some beautiful ideas that he cares deeply about, but they think he’s erratic, unreliable, and doesn’t understand either them or their concerns." -- WRM

Obama is a great failure.  Thankfully, we'll be rid of him as president soon (and a nascent failure will take his place), but unfortunately I expect him to remain on the international stage in some new incapacity.  May there be many more Netanyahus to hamstring him.

Russia: planning on starting a hot war?

Yes, possibly so.

A report says Russian diplomats are being told to send their families home to Russia.  (Wow, it's not like Soviet times!  Diplomats' children can go abroad, instead of being held hostage to prevent defections!)

National security specialist Tom Rogan predicted that Russia would use the Syrian "cease fire" to attack its enemies, defend Assad, and consolidate its position.  Everything Rogan predicted has come to pass, in spades.

What is Russia up to?  Certainly further weakening the United States and NATO is #1 on Putin's agenda, but "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies have no inside information.  We only remember what one of our Russian friends told us.  "You might not know what they are up to, but they are Russians, you can be sure they are up to something."

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Le Grizz 2016 ... race report

As careful readers will already have noted, yesterday, 8 October, I completed my 16th Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon in Montana's Flathead Valley.  Here are some details:

As last year, we ran the new North Fork course, under the sponsorship of the Polebridge Mercantile.  This is the old government shutdown course from 2013, running along the western boundary of Glacier National Park (GNP).  My crew this year year consisted of my lovely Julie and longtime friends Jeff Ross and Marc Pittman.  I know both of them from our undergraduate days at Montana State -- I've known them longer than anyone I'm not related to.  Both grew up in the Flathead, Marc stll lives here and Jeff makes an annual pilgrimage here with me for the race.

The race: as usual, Jeff, Julie, and I stayed in Mini Golden Inns in Hungry Horse, MT.  Marc showed up at dark thirty AM, we loaded gear in his pickup, and set out for Polebridge.  I took the early start, an option for those of us who want to get to the finish line beer and chicken sooner.  At least, I think that's what it's for.  (I discount the rumor that it's for people who are so slow that passing trees requires acceleration.)  I picked up my race number and prepared to run.

At 6:30 AM Pat Caffrey touched off the Official Le Grizz 12 Gauge Starting Device, and we were off! in the pitch dark.  I've been having some troubling hip pain, and it bugged me early on, a somewhat unsettling omen.  I feared I had an increasingly painful day ahead of me.  I ran with several different people: Tim Marchant, who, like me was after his 16th finish, David, an ultrarunner from WI who was on the flight with us, Beth, a writer from Brooklyn NY, and Rebecca, a ranger from GNP, and, of course, Jeff Ross on his bike.  We watched the sunrise, watched whitetails run from us, heard the bugling of either a bow hunter or a bull elk with laryngitis.  Running like this is fun.  You're not running fast, it's easy to talk, and the scenery is beautiful once there's daylight.  It began to drizzle at 8:30, half an hour before the Weather Underground predicted time of 9:00, and rarely stopped for the rest of the day... except when it was raining.  Marc and Julie drove the pickup, and met us about every 5 miles with water and Perpetuem.

The first part of the run heads south from Polebridge for about 10 miles and then back, thengoes north for 15 miles and back.  Jeff rode with me for about 15, and then Marc took over and said he would run with me for the next 4.5 miles to Polebridge.  He hadn't done a run longer than 2 miles for months but felt he could handle it.  He did.

At Polebridge, my crew all went to the Merc for pastries and coffee while I continued north.  Oddly, my hip was getting better, not worse, and I was feeling remarkably good.  As I climbed up the big hill from Polebridge, I heard some crashing in the trees over the edge of the road, either a moose or bear I guessed.  I looked over, saw a patch of black fur and thought "moose," but a could of steps later had a clear shot and saw a very large black bear running straight away from me.  I had a really excellent view of him at maybe 40 yards.  Black bears don't alarm me at all, I was just very excited to see it, and called to a couple of runners behind me "bear" and motioned for them to run up to see.  They looked startled,almost as if they would turn and run the other direction.  I told them it was running off, and that there was nothing to worry about.

After that, well... there was more running, and running, and walking, and running.  Two miles before the turnaround at Trail Creek, Marc decided he would run another two with me and have Julie pick him up at the turnaround.  Thanks to miscommunication, Julie thought she was to wait, which gave Marc an additional four miles.  So what the heck, after a one mile break he ran more with me, and ended up with around twenty miles.  Yes, we are signing him up to race next year.  Jeff will really have his hands full.

As the run went on, I felt increasingly good and pain-free, although increasingly tired for some reason.  I had a strong finish over the last miles and managed a fairly good "sprint" across the finish line for number 16.

Support crews have the hardest work on race day; they are the most valuable people on the course.  So this morning I took my support crew to breakfast at the always excellent Buffalo Cafe in Whitefish.  And this afternoon, Julie and I did a short trip into GNP.  Spectacular!

That's it.  Another excellent day at Le Grizz!  As triathlete Sally Edwards once observed, "if you're not having fun,you're not living."  Running Le Grizz is living.

Photos soon.
Post script: Back in Michigan, Chaos (who couldn't accompany us) completed her first 5K color run with her friend Ian.  Another race report will follow!

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Le sixteenth finish!

I'm happy to report that I successfully completed my 16th Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon!  We ran in wet, cool conditions, a fair amount of drizzle and some real rain, but nothing terrible like the deluges of two years ago.  I beat my last year's time by 7 or 8 minutes.  I had first class support from Julie, from Jeff Ross, and from Marc Pittman, who not only provided his 1 ton pickup as a support vehicle but also ran 20 miles with me, despite having not run more than a few miles a week over the past year.  We're signing Marc up for next years run, whether he likes it or not!

Race report will follow later, including an account of my bear sighting.

Friday, October 07, 2016

A FARCical Nobel Peace Prize

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Price is often a farce, as in the case of the awards to EU and Barack Obama. But today's award to Colombia's president Juan Manuel Santos is both farcical and very disturbing. It's farcical because Santos' proposed agreement was, fortunately, narrowly voted down by the Colombian people. The proposed deal would have given FARC in effect a guaranteed representation in Congress, as well as immunity for horrendous crimes.

Former president Alvaro Uribe, an opponent of the deal, argued for a revised proposal that would provide:

All of that seems eminently reasonable.  FARC, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, began as a Marxist guerilla group and, appropriately enough, evolved into a narco-gang, a major producer of cocaine and other drugs.  In addition to wholesale terrorism and murder, FARC engaged in kidnapping for profit, employed conscripted child soldiers, and used torture and sex abuse.

I find the awarding of the Nobel to Santos disturbing for two reasons.  First, it constitutes interference in the very serious internal politics of Colombia.  As always, for the Norwegian prize committee this is simply a chance for moral posturing, a costless opportunity for them to proclaim their own imagined moral superiority, but for Colombians, getting the internal politics right is a life-and-death matter.  The Nobel committee should stay out.  Award the prize where at least it will do little harm.  But second, and more importantly, I think it shows the degraded nature of contemporary morals.  Marxism is not a peaceful philosophy and is incompatible with the principles of a liberal society.  A compromise between the peaceful principles of liberalism and violently illiberal philosophies is not peace.  In fact, that which brings real peace might sometimes be a war that crushes the enemies of peace.  As I pointed out in my commentary on the EU Peace Nobel, if one really were serious about an award for promoting peace, it ought to go to the United States, which ended two world wars started by other people (mostly Europeans) and also blocked the USSR from starting a third.  No country has done more to prevent totalitarianism from reigning than the United States.

But let's go farther.  The real peacemakers are the various branches of the United States military.  I want a Nobel Peace prize for them.  Until they receive it, the nicest thing I can say about the Nobel Peace Prize is that it is largely a sick joke.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Arrival in the Flathead, and Nobel Predictions

A contingent of Unforeseen Contingencies representatives (including yours truly) has arrived in Montana's Flathead Valley, and a variety of support crew/fellow adventurers will be assembling, all for my 16th attempt at the Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon.  It is currently rainy with temps in the mid-40s Fahrenheit.  We expect the same for Saturday (race day).  I will post a report.

But meanwhile, the entire world breathlessly awaits Friday's announcement of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.  Who will it be?  My prediction from last year, the "Syrian" refugees, still seems likely, but so too the Black Lies Matter Movement, the group that's done so much to reduce tensions between the police and various black communities, and has brought peace to inner cities.  But I think neither will win.  There's an even stronger contender this year -- Hillary Clinton. One can look at her triumphs -- peace in Libya and Syria, a successful diplomatic mission in Benghazi, a "reset" with Russia that has ended all possibility of conflict -- but those are small things, compared to what the Nobel Committee must be considering: she's a Democrat, Running for President of the United States.  Merely being elected was enough for Barack Obama to garner a peace prize, so to outdo themselves the committee will give it to Clinton simply for running.  And with Donald Trump as her opponent, I'm sure the committee will have no trouble writing a glowing justification for the award.

On Monday, the prize for Economics will be announced.  This at least affords some possibility of returning to reality.  Last year I "predicted" Kirzner and Baumol for their work on entrepreneurship.  This is more a wish than a prediction, but I will continue to go with it.  Economist Don Boudreaux has just posted an excellent piece on another extremely deserving economist, Harold Demsetz.  I fully agree with Boudreaux's points, and so I'll add Demsetz to my list.  It would make a kind of sense to add Demsetz anyway, because of his work on property rights.

And so, dear reader, stay tuned, for Nobel commentary and a race report will be coming.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Off to Le Grizz!

The Second Saturday of October is upon us, the most sacred of personal holidays on the calendar of the entire staff of Unforeseen Contingencies.  Yes, 8 October will be the annual running of the Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon, starting and finishing at Polebridge, Montana.  Chief blogger and ultrarunner Charles N. Steele will be attempting his 16th finish, accompanied by his usual (OK, they are pretty unusual) crew of support crew members.

It's typically the case that the Nobel Prizes in Peace (haha) and Economics are awarded while we are traveling.  I will try to give report on these and the race while we're on the road.

Next report will be from the Flathead.  Stay tuned!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Free Betty Shelby ... NOW!

Betty Shelby, the police officer charged with first degree manslaughter for shooting Terence Crutcher, should be freed immediately, with all charges dropped.  This was a perfectly legitimate case of self defense.  Crutcher, who had a lengthy criminal record, behaved in a crazy and threatening manner, failed to respond to legitimate commands of police officers to cease, and in returning to his car and reaching inside was effectively making a death threat against Shelby and the others.

Here's an interesting video that explains.  Watch it, and try the viewer exercise on every run of the simulation.  It is eye-opening ad sobering.  Free Betty Shelby!

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