Thursday, October 30, 2014

Update

This is not an easy semester.  Little time for blogging, but here's a quick note...

1. Jean Tirole was awarded the Nobel in Economics.  I mostly know Tirole from the masterful Game Theory he co-authored with Drew Fudenberg, the primary text I used in preparing for my field exam in game theory during my Ph.D. program at NYU.  I've read a little of his other work, but not much.  Just a good technical economist, in my view.  I'm unsurprised Kirzner didn't receive the award, but just having him identified as a frontrunner is a great thing.

2. Sweden recognized the State of Palestine.  In my opinion, it's time for Israel to bite the bullet and recognize a Palestinian state as well... and then give it 24 hours to start rooting out the terrorist groups in its territory, starting with Hamas, or face a declaration of all out war.  As far as I can tell, all of the main Palestinian political players, including Mahmoud Abbas and his PA, are exterminationists, willing to perpetrate a final solution should they get a chance.  I also think we're entering a world where this is becoming increasingly politically correct.  This morning I heard a BBC interviewer challenge an Israeli official who was talking about the the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehuda Glick, saying "but isn't it the case that Israelis have been giving serious provocation" and then explaining that the "serious provocation" is suggesting that Jews should should be able to go to Temple Mount.  Cynical as I am, even I was shocked -- the BBC World News bunch is as PC as they come.  The freedom of any other racial, religious, or ethnic group to move about would never be challenged, I think. But it appears Jews -- especially Israeli Jews -- are becoming international pariahs, at least in Europe and parts of the United States (e.g. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).  No wonder Caroline Glick thinks it's time for Israel to say to hell with it and bomb Iran.  I don't know if she's right militarily, but it makes a kind of sense.  By appeasing Palestinian exterminationists and getting tough with Israel, Europe and Obama make war increasingly likely, not peace.

3. I think one must be insane to think that unrestricted travel from countries undergoing ebola epidemics is acceptable.  I cannot find it now, but the dean of a medical school in Pennsylvania recently had an op-ed in WaPo pointing out that anyone in West Africa who has been exposed to ebola ought to be doing all they can to get to the United States, where the disease is not a nearly-certain death sentence, and that for this reason we ought to be limiting travel.  But no.  President-who-would-be-king Obama assures us that completely unrestricted travel is necessary to fight the disease, and that health care workers who return to the U.S. after treating ebola patients need not be treated differently than anyone else... just before his Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, announced quarantine for all U.S. troops who have been sent to sent Ebola.  I'm particularly irked by nurse Kaci Hickox, who courageously went to Sierra Leone to treat ebola patients, and now -- having exposed herself to the deadly disease -- self-righteously thinks she ought to be able to possibly expose everyone else.  To hell with her.  The stupid bastard Craig Spencer M.D. did the same thing and now people who had contact with him are being monitored and at least one business closed as a result.  Spencer ought to be prosecuted for what he's done, not hailed as a hero.

But these are what Heinlein called "the Crazy Years."  You can even find libertarians suggesting there's no real problem in having people with ebola travel freely and mingle with the general public, but mandatory quarantine, that's utterly unthinkable and unacceptable and is no different from establishing internment camps.  Good grief.  (Note my three responses in the comments, and that so far while Tucker has responded he refuses to deal with any serious questions at all.)

Sigh.

I will have both a Le Grizz report and part two of my nuclear weapon piece up... soon, I hope.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Another one in the bucket"

That's how RD Pat Caffrey described my 14th finish at Le Grizz.  This was my slowest finish to date, and also the wettest, with multiple rainstorms, some pretty darned hard, plus several hellacious hailstorms.  But a finish is a finish, so it was a good if difficult day.

Report to follow.

Friday, October 10, 2014

the Peace Prize

I'm pleasantly surprised by the announcement of this year's Nobel Peace prize.  First, it is going to actual human beings, and second, the winners really seem genuinely deserving.  Both Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai have campaigned against systematic oppression and exploitation of fairly helpless people, both at great personal risk.  It's nice that Alfred Nobel's wishes are being fulfilled for a change.

Yes, the Norwegians could not help themselves and had to introduce some nonsensical political correctness, emphasizing that they had picked a Hindu and Muslim to share the prize, as if religion, race, etc. is an important criterion, instead of actual accomplishments -- but these are, so far as I can tell, two really good and courageous people who indeed have real accomplishments -- even if it is mostly just standing up publicly against bad guys.  So -- for a change -- good on the committee.  And congratulations to Ms. Yousafzai and Mr. Satyarthi.

And who knows, maybe a joint prize really will help reduce Pakistani-Indian hostility at the margin.  I hope so.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Nobel Predictions...

The Nobel Peace Prize and Nobel Economics Prize (the "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel" for those uppity people who insist it's not a "real" Nobel Prize) will be announced within the next week.  Both of these are of interest to "us" at Unforeseen Contingencies.  Here's our wish list and a prediction or two.

1. Economics.  Thompson Reuters Sciencewatch has placed Israel Kirzner on its short list for the prize in economics for his work on entrepreneurship.  If the prize is to be awarded for making genuinely insightful and valuable breakthroughs then Kirzner certainly deserves it.  His work has been unfortunately ignored by much of the profession, even though it directly addresses many issues that seem puzzles when one is limited to accepted mainstream theory.  Sciencewatch puts a Kirzner-Baumol prize as one of three likely outcomes, and "we" at UC would welcome that also because entrepreneurship deserves a great deal more attention in economics, because Baumol is also a deserving candidate, and this would be an NYU sweep of the prize.  (Yours truly wrote his doctoral dissertation at NYU with Dr. Kirzner as advisor.)  If "we" were selecting the prize winners, Kirzner-Baumol would win.

Alas, our prediction is otherwise.  I have no real insight on what might happen, but I would guess that if Baumol wins the prize it will be for other things, such as his cost-disease theory.  So I will go out on a limb and predict Baumol as a lone winner.

2. The Peace Prize.  This one is usually good for a laugh, at least of late.  The U.N. Climate Committee?  The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons? Barack Obama?  The E.U.?   Good grief!  Even The Onion couldn't match this.  In predicting this one, picking almost anyone or anything at random seems a reasonable strategy here, although one wonders if genuinely deserving candidates shouldn't be eliminated from the pool.  If there were any justice to this prize, this would be a good year for the committee to strip past prizes from undeserving candidates, beginning with the E.U. for its greed, cowardice, and plain treachery in abandoning Ukrainians and appeasing Putin as he wages war on Ukraine and imposes tyranny at home.  There's "European values" for you.  But given that the prize must be awarded, Unforeseen Contingencies would award it to the protesters of Euromaidan (especially the "Heavenly Hundred") and the volunteer brigades who are fighting the Russian Army in eastern Ukraine.  They are doing more for peace and freedom than anyone else in Europe.  The IDF is a close second.

But given the track record of the committee, I predict another wild card winner.  I suggested ISIS as a possible candidate in one of my classes (what better way to whimper "please don't hurt us" than to award them a Peace Prize?)  One of my students (thanks James!) suggested Vladimir Putin as an even more likely candidate, which strikes me as very much in keeping with past picks such as Yassir Arafat.  Hence Unforeseen Contingencies predicts ISIS, or Putin, or a shared prize between them.

And the winners are...


Update & Le Grizz 2014

Quick note -- I've been overwhelmed with an unusual workload (some of it seems better described as 'make-work' load) of late.  I will complete part 2 of "Inevitability" and resume regular blogging at some point (and maybe re-do the ramble in part 1!)

Meanwhile, as always, early October brings several events of special interest here.  First, there's the 33rd running of the Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon, on Saturday, 11 October 2014.  Your less-than-faithful blogger will be there, attempting his 14th completion of the race.  Race Director Pat Caffrey, a Montana ultrarunning and mountaineering legend, has announced his retirement.  While he has found team to take over direction of the race, this will likely be the last running on the traditional course along the west shore of Hungry Horse Reservoir, hence it is being billed as "The Last Le Grizz."  I'll be posting a report or two from the race, hopefully with pictures.

The next few days will also bring the announcements of the Nobel Prizes for Peace and Economics.  Frankly, Leon Walras was correct that contributions to economics are contributions to peace, but we have to make do with the present system.  I will post my Nobel predictions here and also provide commentary on the actual announcements.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The inevitability of nuclear war, part 1

Nuclear war is inevitable, and we will see it occur in the next ten years.

Inevitable? How can that be?  Nuclear war can only occur if someone with the ability to engage in it decides to do so, and no one has.

That's a good point, and I agree -- in fact nuclear war is not genuinely a certainty, no one with nuclear weapons has decided to use them, and hence it's not something to which I assign probability of one.  It is not inevitable. OTOH, I do assign conditional probability of one to it: given the current direction of the world, nuclear war is inevitable.  Unforeseen contingencies, things we cannot quantify in our probability calculus because we have no idea what they are, could always change this, and I am hoping they will. But let's consider current trends.  Here's one.

In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin pursues open warfare.  It's clear to any observer who is not intentionally ignorant that Russian regular forces have invaded, as "we" predicted in April.  As evidence, consider captured Russian soldiers, dead Russian soldiers, T-72BM tanks, AK-100s, Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries... yes, I know, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assures us these are all simply items purchased from army surplus stores by pro-Russian Ukrainians, to defend themselves from a CIA-NeoNazi coup in Kyiv... but "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies assure you, dear reader, that this is a lie.  For one thing, if such stores existed, you can count on it that "we" would have been stocking up ourselves.

No, it's all a lie -- the Russian army invaded Ukraine some time ago, and the invasion is now overt, even though the Kremlin continues to deny any involvement.  Putin needs to crush Ukraine's move towards western civilization -- he and his regime cannot survive if it turns out that Eastern Slavic countries are capable of flourishing as free, liberal, democratic societies.  Putin and his cronies comprise the worst in the KGB and Russian organized crime.  Putin is a thief who has stolen billions of dollars, a serial killer who has had many people killed. (See, for example, Masha Gessen's biography of Putin.)  If he and his siloviki ever face justice according to western values, it is their end.  Hence, they correctly understand themselves to be in a life-or-death struggle against the West.  Given this, they cannot be too ruthless in making certain that individual rights and the rule of law never take hold in Russia.  Hence, they must never take hold in any stepping stone, such as Ukraine or Georgia. This is, for Putin and co., a moral imperative.

On the other hand, genuine moral imperatives apparently do not exist for most western leaders.  Germany's hapless boob, Angela Merkel, repeatedly lectures Vladimir Vladimirovich, but to no avail.  She makes increasingly tough demands to him -- all of which are every bit as influential as my demand that Congress balance the budget (without raising taxes!) and Barack Obama and Joe Biden both resign.  (While we are it, Angela and I ought to get together and demand a new trial for Sacco and Vanzetti as well.)

Even worse, Barack Hussein appears to be so captivated by golf that he has no time for anything else. Perhaps that's a blessing in disguise, since the more golf he plays the less time he has to inflict damage on America.  Regardless, Obama has no more idea how to respond to Russian aggression than he does with respect to ISIS aggression.  After all, his go-to strategy, blaming Republicans and condemning the Tea Party and Israel, doesn't make much sense here.

OK, fine, but all my smart-alecky commentary aside, what's this about nuclear war?  Well, here's why it is inevitable, ceteris paribus.  Putin has already started looking beyond Ukraine to Estonia and Kazakhstan.  He has threatened Ukraine with nuclear attack, and Russian intelligentsia are calling for genocide against "inferior races" such as Poles and Ukrainians.  Nuclear war is thinkable for him.    Worse, it migt be a good strategy.  Andrei Piontkivsky maintains that Putin contemplates, and could win, a limited nuclear war.  Piontkivsky and others suggest that Russia might hit Estonia's capital,Tallinn, with a tactical nuclear weapon, confident that the West would fail to respond.  America is NATO, after all, and what percentage of Americans would even be able to recognize Tallinn as the name of a city, much less explain why we should risk anything at all over its destruction?  Nuking a NATO member with impunity would end NATO, humiliate the United States, and bring the old Soviet Empire back into Russia's fold.

Preposterous?  Well, yes it is. Tallinn is upwind of Kaliningrad.

But Warsaw isn't.

Back in 2009 Russia prepared for this contingency, running a wargame that included a simulated nuclear attack on the Polish capital.  They did it again in 2013.  Poland is a new NATO member, one that is a thorn in his side, and one the West would be unlikely to defend.  So given everything that is occurring, why wouldn't we expect a limited nuclear war?  Putin has practiced it and hence contemplated it. Putin must be entirely ruthless to survive, so a nuclear strike is not unthinkable.  And a limited nuclear strike will be darned useful, if he's pressured enough.  Well, can the West not pressure him?  I suppose so, but at this point, Putin will only take that as capitulation to his aggression (which perhaps he does not see as aggression, but that's irrelevant) which will induce him to be even more aggressive.  It's a simple matter of incentives.  And at some point, it will all go too far.  There's no natural stopping point for aggression.  So given the way things are going, either the West surrenders or a Russian nuclear attack is inevitable..or... the only real way to stop Putin is to hit Russia hard now -- I think, at this point, that the extreme sanctions I proposed earlier will still work.  Freeze all Russian financial assets in the West. Cancel all Russian visas to the West, except for those of anti-Putin dissidents.  Close all western ports to all Russian shipping and goods.  The Russian economy depends on trade with the civilized world.  Cut it off entirely, until Russia becomes civilized, with civilized leaders.

I see little probability that any leader in the West will have a resolute response to Putin.  Western leaders are mired in the the moral uncertainty of multiculturalism.  They cannot be resolute, because they are all so devoid of principle and full of self-doubt... and as Putin apparently thinks, they are also focused entirely on short run material gain.  There is no leader in the West today who would demand that Khruschev remove his missiles, or demand that Gorbachev tear down his wall.  And in a world of moral cowards, evil will expand. Given that, nuclear war is inevitable.

                                                                         To be continued...

Photo: 31 kiloton atom bomb explodes in Nevada, 1951.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Слава Україні!

Слава Україні! Героям слава!  Glory to Ukraine!  Glory to the heroes!

I do not have time for a serious post yet, but I wish everyone who loves liberty a Happy Ukrainian Independence Day!  May the Ukrainians crush the Russian threat and be free and independent.  May the Russian people learn that it's possible to live as a free person, that tsars, commissars, and the like are impediments to life, not necessities.  May we all learn this, and live by the Ukrainian peoples' example.

Here's an excellent bit by Olena Goncharova in today's Kyiv Post, "23 Things to Treasure on Ukraine's Independence Day."

Friday, August 08, 2014

Quick note to our friends in ISIS, Hamas, and their supporters

To Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, and all their associates, supporters, friends, and sympathizers (Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, Sheldon Richman, Justin Raimondo, Barack Hussein, et al.)

"O Muslim devil and damned devil's kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil shits, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother.

"You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!

"So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding pigs for the Christians. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!"

This is one of my favorite political statements, after the Declaration of Independence and the Oath of the Montana Vigilantes.  Sound principles, courage, and eloquence, all in one neat statement.  (This one is also a bit crude, I admit.)  Thie text is the response of Ukraine's Zaporizhian Cossacks to the Sultan of Turkey when he demanded they put down their arms and swear allegiance to him.  The accompanying picture is one version of Ilya Repin's depiction of the writing of the letter.

There should be no doubt that at some point those who defend civilization will have to take the same stance and kill ISIS.  They will have to kill Hamas.  They -- OK, we -- cannot coexist with savages who believe they have a holy duty to destroy liberty and modernity and impose their savage values on us. ISIS beheads Christian children and displays their heads in public as decorations.  Hamas tunnels under kindergartens and prepares to murder thousands of children. These are homicidal maniacs riven by crazy theology.  Currently the leadership of the civilized world is paralyzed by leftwing political correctness and sees political Islam as a perfectly reasonable reaction to Western civilization.  But the left's ideology is idiotic and unsustainable; it won't last.  And neither with political Islam.  In the end, ISIS and Hamas will be destroyed, because no one  with even a vestige of sanity wants to live under the systems they'd impose.

So"kiss our arse" and "screw your own mother," stupid Islamist mohammedans and friends.  The future belongs to the rational.



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