Wednesday, May 17, 2017

To the West!

Once again, it's migration season!  Our annual spring trek to Montana begins tomorrow, as Yours Truly and (almost) the entire staff of Unforeseen Contingencies depart for the Great American West.  While we might blog a bit along the way, it's more likely you'll next hear from us from our secret location near Bozeman.

Incidentally, there were heavy snowstorms in Bozeman and elsewhere in Montana today.  Meanwhile, here in [redacted] we're suffering through heat and humidity, which is bringing out hordes of hideous biting and stinging bugs. Montana!  We cannot get there soon enough!

Photo: Bridger Ridge from Baldy, Bridger Peak in foreground, then Saddle.  We expect to be up there soon.

Disinformation and Counterintelligence

Wow!  The breaking news regarding Trump, Comey, et al. gets crazier and crazier.  Unfortunately, almost all of the breaking news is leaks from unidentified sources.  I had been planning on linking to several pieces that would suggest I incorrectly regarded Comey as a traitor and coward; one was by Andrew Mccarthy, a former federal prosecutor who knows Comey well.  McCarthy agreed Comey had to go but interpreted his behavior differently: politically naive and perhaps a little arrogant.  McCarthy also pointed out there's no obstruction of justice issue with respect to the investigation of Russian "hacking of the election,"  (One cannot hack an election; that's sloppy language for something else and misleads, intentionally, I think.)  The investigation was a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation, hence obstruction of justice isn't an issue.

But now, with claims surfacing that Trump might have interfered with a criminal investigation of Michael Flynn, the issue might be different.  (Same link as above.) Plus, there's now a claim that Paul Ryan secretly said he thought Putin paid Trump.  Good grief.

Leaks -- whatever is happening, this strikes me as a war of various people inside the U.S. government (and perhaps others, such as Russia) selectively leaking material.  What is and what isn't true can't be reasonably judged by outsiders, certainly not at this point, and developments come so fast there's not much point in trying to comment.  Trump is almost certainly target of an orchestrated campaign, but he brings much of this chaos upon his own head.  He needs better advisors than Reince Priebus (ugh) and now.  And he needs to silince his Twitter account immediately.

However, Vladimir Putin has just described the U.S. as being seized by "political schizophrenia," an apt turn of phrase.  Putin may be intentionally playing a role in it... or maybe not.  But Americans are increasingly divided between poles of belief in freedom and limited government vs. new left totalitarianism and socialism, and politics will be increasingly bipolar so long as that lasts.

Incidentally, if anyone wonders why nearly everyone in Washington DC hates Trump, here's an example: he would make them irrelevant.  (The linked WaPo article refers to leaked [of course!] documents showing Trump and Secretary of Education DeVos would cut over $10 billion from the education bureaucracy and promote school choice and vouchers.  Heaven forbid that citizens actually be allowed to make their own choices re schooling.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

James Comey: Good riddance, to a coward and traitor

Finally Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are doing something about the terrible corruption that permeated the Obama administration.  It's not much, but it's a start.  James Comey participated in the coverup of Hilliary Clinton's criminal behavior.  A few egregious examples:

1. In his 5th of July statement on the investigation of Hilliary Clinton he laid out a very strong case against her.  He then refused to prosecute, inventing a standard that does not exist in the relevant law (intent, when the Espionage Act requires only gross negligence), ignoring the obvious evidence of intent, and then concluding that "no reasonable prosecutor" would prosecute.  I cannot imagine an average citizen having such evidence against them in a felony investigation and being let go without prosecution.  Comey violated his oath of office, in an unusually serious case, and should have been impeached or otherwise removed from office at that point.  I suppose he did this out of fear, not inherent corruption, but a man who takes the oath and the position Comey took ought to be prepared to die doing what is right.  He's a coward and a traitor.

2. During his recent testimony to Congress Comey was asked about a report in NYT that the FBI had an email obtained from alleged Russian hacks of the DNC which discussed a promise from Loretta Lynch that she'd stop the investigation of Hilliary Clinton.  Asked when he learned about this email, and who sent it to whom, he refused to answer, saying he could not answer in an open hearing because the answer would be classified material.  That is, he was aware of AG Lynch's statement.  

So, law enforcement officers decide how to apply the law in order to protect and promote one political candidate?

Comey ought to be prosecuted for violating his oath of office.  There are more important targets -- Hilliary Clinton and Barack Obama foremost, but also Loretta Lynch... and Susan Rice... and Lois Lerner... and Eric Holder... and plenty more.

The Democrats are now trying to stage a coup against Trump.  Trump and the Republicans had better ger serious and start going after these criminals, because if the Dems get away with what they've been doing and then return to power, they won't hesitate to ruthlessly destroy their opponents.

So good riddance to Comey.  And now, start doing serious application of the law.  Prosecute Clinton/Obama criminality.

Monday, May 08, 2017

North Korea: thoughts

What's going on in North Korea?  The Chosun Ilbo notes that China's Global Times recently had a piece suggesting that China need not become involved militarily if the United States strikes North Korea's nuclear facilities.  I can't find the piece, but I did find another, a collection of four viewpoints, all of which refer to growing hostility between P.R. China and DPRK.   In the first someone (an online commenter, it appears) suggests that China ought to be prepared for war with North Korea, should hostilities break out.

Even more noteworthy is that China has cut gasoline shipments to North Korea leading to sharp price increases and rationing.  China could shut down the North Korean economy if it wished.

What to make of the apparent shift in Chinese position on North Korea? It would be interesting to know what was discussed at that Trump-Xi meeting, and it would be interesting to what intelligence analysts actually know about North Korea.  Some defense experts have been suggesting that North Korea already may have placed nuclear weapons in orbit, in its two KMS satellites.  James Woolsey and Vincent Pry argue that these could be used for an EMP attack on the United States.  In a Townhall interview, Pry recommends the U.S. shoot down North Korea's satellites, the sooner the better.  (That interview is the most interesting and important link in the blog post.  Read it, if nothing else.)  Pry also thinks DPRK might already have working nuclear armed ICBMs.

What to make of all this?  This is the kind of issue in which citizens are at an enormous informational disadvantage.  I conjecture that Trump, and Xi, and Mattis, and Tillerson, know things about North Korea that are changing the calculus, and that they regard Kim Jong un's regime as more dangerous than previously, enough so that they are willing to contemplate pre-emptive war, perhaps through strikes on nuclear and missile facilities, perhaps through shutting down of the DPRK economy.

The trick would be to avoid a crazed retaliation against Seoul and an all-out war on the Korean peninsula.  I hope they can figure out how to pull off such a trick.  At the very least, though, I think the U.S. should knock out North Korea's satellites ASAP, and not permit any to orbit in the future.

Military technology is getting cheaper and more powerful.  We are getting close to the point where the world cannot tolerate belligerent rogue states such as North Korea, Iran, and the like.  We're on the verge of transitioning to a Type I civilization, a dangerous moment.  We get through this period, or we destroy our civilization, and perhaps ourselves with it.  When the world includes people like Kim Jong un, it's doubtful we can transition without bloodshed, and certainly not without muscle.

Picture: Simulated nuclear strike on Washington D.C., from a recent North Korean propaganda video.

Monday, May 01, 2017

May 1st: International Victims of Socialism Day

May Day: International Victims of Communism Day, as law professor Ilya Somin calls it.  I prefer the more accurate term "Victims of Socialism" Day, since the socialist systems Marx claimed would advance the world to the next stage of history, communism, proved entirely unable to advance to anything other than generate chaos and destruction.

And there's no need to let socialists like the Fabians or Comrade Sanders or Comrade Maduro off the hook when they pretend not to be communist.  Nor should we forget that Hitler's National Socialism was explicitly socialist; the Nazi writers were explicitly hostile to capitalism.  Mussolini began his socialist career as a Marxist; his Fascism simply substitutes the mythical Italian "organic state" for the equally mythical "international proletariat."  Socialism is all about empowering social engineers to remake society according to their own visions, and necessarily becomes tyrannical and brutal.  It must have conformity, and hence always has victims.

So today, 1 May, "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies observe a moment for meditation on the victims of Marxism and other forms of socialism, and renew our vows to fight it to the death -- socialism's death, that is.

Here are a couple of pieces on the subject worth reading.

Helen Raleigh recounts the brutality heaped upon her relatives and others by Mao's "Cultural Revolution."

D.W. MacKenzie explains why socialists' quests for "social justice" necessarily lead to conflict, violence and totalitarianism.

Mass murderer Che Guevera desereves special attention today.  Alvaro Vargas Llosa's piece, "The Killing Machine," gives this sociopath the scrutiny he deserves.  (As an aside, the CIA's role in the killing of Che is one of the best returns on our tax dollars ever!)

Socialism is slavery, its advocates are ignorant and despicable, and the socialist project deserves only scorn and contempt.  Comrade Bernie, are you listening?

Hammer and Sickle. Death and Hunger.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

North Korea celebrates Earth Day... failing to develop.  Poverty is natural.

Photo credit: NASA

Friday, April 07, 2017

Thoughts on Shayrat strike

One of my colleagues who is, like me, a libertarian, today asked my view of Trump's decision to strike Syria's Shayrat airbase.  He's quite skeptical of it, while I favor it, and he challenged me on several points.  First, he asked me whether I think it is Constitutional.  Frankly, I do not know, but my best guess is that it isn't (and I said so).  But if so, I also think it sets no new precedent and is far less serious than violations committed by Obama and Bush 43.

My argument in favor is consequentialist.  I think that, on net, the strike makes the world a safer place, for the following reasons.

1. The attack was on the military hardware used by Assad to launch chemical weapons attacks.  For Assad, the cost of using chemical weapons just increased enormously, and his capacity to use them has been reduced.  Human casualties seem minimal.

2.  Under Obama, America was a paper tiger, and the Russians, Iranians, North Koreans, and Chinese acted accordingly.  I suspect they'll now be more least the Russians and Chinese.  There may be some staring down, but America has a winning hand in that game, so long as Trump is willing to play it.

3. The BS about Trump being a Russian patsy is now obviously BS to any sane person.

4.  The dishonesty and incompetence of Obama, Clinton, Kerry, Rice, and the rest of those fools is exposed.

5.  America's reputation in the Arab and Muslim world has been boosted.

My friend's primary argument is that interventions unleash unintended and unanticipated consequences, and that there's danger in this.  That's no doubt true, but it's also the case that there's danger in doing nothing.  I think a world in which Assad can use sarin against civilians with impunity is a world in which Ali Khamenei and the Majlis, Kim Jong-un, and Vladimir Putin believe they can also do as they wish with impunity.  I also note that the Tomahawking was measured and appropriate.  It was directed against (and apparently largely disabled) the base from which the sarin attack was launched.  I can't think of any reason not to like that the Syrian Air Force lost 15 aircraft, as one report suggested.  At the same time, it's not an invasion, a commitment to further war or regime change, or anything else.  It's simply depriving a criminal of his weapons.  It's hard to imagine a more appropriately measured, limited response.  (Thanks, Mad Dog!)

The Russians are now in a huff, but so what.  I think there's very little they can do, and it's unclear why they'd gain from doing anything other than posturing.  But if they go farther and provoke a fight with the United States (something I gather my friend fears), well, they were eventually going to do it anyway then.  There's nothing in the Shayrat strike that would change Russia's calculus.

I don't know that I convinced my friend, but at least I've convinced myself.  This is how it all looks to me.

Interestingly enough, only a few hours before the missile strikes, Hillary Clinton said the U.S. ought to engage in airstrikes against Assad.  And as numerous observers have pointed out, Donald Trump has just enforced Barack Obama's red line.  Trump defending Obama's legacy, now that's an unforeseen contingency!

Photo: a Tomahawk lifts off from U.S.S. Ross. Go get 'em!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Three Quick Observations and a comment

1.  It's just been announced that the United States Navy has fired 50 or so cruise missiles at Syrian Air Force bases.  Good!  Obama's "red line" was a lie, and his idle posturing encouraged continued bloodshed in Syria, emboldened that Russians to intervene on Assad's behalf, and enabled Assad's recent use of sarin.  No more idle posturing, and let tyrants around the world take note.

2.  The Senate Republicans have ended the filibuster rule that required 60 votes for cloture; Gorsuch will be approved and join SCOTUS.  The Democrats brought this upon themelves; I hope Gorsuch is joined by more Constitutionalists before long, and I hope the Democrat Party never recovers.

3.  It's clear that Barack Obama and his administration used the national security apparatus to engage in political espionage against the Trump campaign, and very possibly against others.  I hope very much that before this is done, Susan Rice, Evelyn Farkas, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton, and Obama himself are behind bars where they belong.  Put Lois Lerner in with them.

Re the the allegations that Trump is somehow in Putin's control, it's hard to understand how this could be.  For all his comments and semi-defenses of Putin as a strong leader (comments which I find outrageous), Trump's policies have been much less Putin-friendly than Obama's.  Advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, proposing a buildup of the U.S. military and increased NATO strength, adding Macedonia to NATO, and now attacking Assad... One would suppose that people would finally catch on that Trump's blathering is no more meaningful than Obama's; it's action that matters, and so far, Putin shouldn't see much to like in Trump.

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