Friday, August 05, 2016
Steele on Pipelines
Monday, July 11, 2016
It's All About Race!
This past Saturday Julie and I ran the Beartooth 10K and 5K, on the Beartooth Highway (US 212) in Wyoming, just across the border from Montana. The race begins at 10,500 feet elevation (just under 3200 meters) and runs uphill from there. The start is in a saddle, so from the simultaneous start the 10K headed out east (more or less) while the 5K went west...first time I've ever seen a starting line with runners facing both ways.
When the race director blew her whistle for the start, I took off "like a shot." I didn't think that was what I was doing; I thought I was jogging easily and I was well back in the pack, but after about 4 minutes of this I took my first walking break -- my first in a 10K ever, I believe -- to catch my breath. The race climbed a steep grade for 2.5K to almost 11,000 feet, then turned around and back down to the start, whereupon we continued on the 5K course, another 2.5K climb up a steep grade (passing a herd of mountain goats) again to almost 11,000 feet, and then back down. All of this was complicated by steady winds in the 20-30 mph range (30-45 kph) and plenty of switchbacks so the we got to experience both headwinds and tailwinds going both up and down. Someone who GPS'd the course claimed it was actually 6.5 miles (10.5K).
The start uphill and into the wind was brutal. In some ways, this felt like one of the hardest races I've ever run, because of that difficulty -- uphill, into the wind, at 10,500 plus feet. And keep in mind I've run races of up to 100 miles over much tougher (but lower) mountain trails. This had its own kind of toughness. I loved it. So did Julie, who "only" did the 5K.
After the race, Chaos and I did a three mile trail run down past Gardner lake (visible in the first photo). Lovely. Up high, the wind actually got much worse. Julie stayed up high by the car, and when the wind picked up she aw it blow the glasses off a tourist who had stopped. Julie and others helped her search, but without success. She also saw a motorcylist who stopped remove and set down his helmet -- it promptly blew away, but he managed to chase it down. It was really something. Numerous baseballcaps are still floating around up on the plateau, I know.
The race was well organized and the running crowd was very fun. The race director, Kristen Hollum, and her crew did an excellent job and were extremely helpful and fun to talk with. We definitely want to return to this one (we met several regulars who insisted we come back, too). We did train at altitude, but never made it above 8600 feet. Next year, I think lots more time at 10,000 and higher is called for. Besides, I love it up there.
Photos: click on 'em to expand.
Red Lodge Ales! (Julie doesn't actually drink beer, so I had hers.)
The murders in Dallas, continued.
"Murders in Dallas are payback for the epidemic of police violence against blacks." FEE
The Foundation for Economic Education, once a responsible organization promoting individual rights and free markets, now sides with the radical left. Well, these are, after all, what Robert Heinlein called the "Crazy Years."
Humans have a lamentable tendency to think in terms of collectives. It's bad enough when some attribute characteristics to groups that really pertain only to a small but unfortunately prominent subset (e.g. a white racist claims "all blacks are criminals," or a black racist claims "all whites are racists"). Attributing characteristics to a group that really pertain only to some, call this Collectivist Fallacy #1. At least it can be "kinda" defensible, since generalizations about a group can have an element of truth to them. So long as we realize they are generalizations and might not hold in any particular case, we haven't necessarily committed CF#1.
A far worse fallacy is when someone speaks as if the group in question has a single mind, Collectivist Fallacy #2. A group is a set of people, each with a mind. There's no group mind. A single mind can believe or disbelieve, a single mind can want or not want, a single mind can choose one act or another, a single mind can bear guilt or be innocent, A group cannot d any of these things, except to the extent that every individual in the group believes, wants, chooses the thing in question. Groups can't have interests, only individuals can. And groups can't bear guilt or responsibility, only individuals can. Only individuals have minds.
With this in mind, consider one of the latest travesties to come from FEE and the "libertarian" movement, Dan Sanchez, "Digital Content Master" at FEE, has written a remarkably collectivistic diatribe against American police officers, while paying lip service to anti-collectivism. For Sanchez, the murders of Dallas police officers by a fan of the Black Lies Matter Movement was "blowback.."
Here's the problem. Blowback is a negative consequence of an action, an intervention. It is a retaliation, an unintended but predictable response to the intervention. If A does something negative to B, and B responds by attacking A, that's blowback.
For example, many, including Sanchez, argue that Islamist attacks on the West are blowback resulting from foreign policy regarding the Middle East. I think that's mostly wrong, but that's a matter for factual debate. It's not an incoherent position, at least. But contrast this with Sanchez's position on the assassinations of Dallas police officers by a black racist. That cannot be coherently considered blowback.
How could this be blowback? There's no action, no policy, no choice, against which anyone could be "blowing back." What policy choice is it? Who chose it? What the hell action is it to which Sanchez is referring? Oh sure, he rattles on about "the epidemic of police violence against American blacks." There's no such "epidemic" at all. It's a fiction. In fact, only 26% of people shot by police are black, despite the fact that about 50% of murders are committed by blacks. Should we conclude maybe police are shooting a disproportionately small number of blacks? No. Concluding that Sanchez is both a liar and an idiot would put us on safer ground. It's also the case that the vast majority of shootings by police are against armed attackers, The "epidemic" is an epidemic of sensationalized reporting of both justified and not justified shooting incidents. Read the above links if you're skeptical. "Hands up, don't shoot" was a lie. Sanchez perpetuates it.
But never mind the phony epidemic, what about "blowback?" Sanchez treats police as if "the police" is a person, an entity, a single mind, who has chosen to treat blacks (all blacks, of course) a certain way. Hence "blowback." Sanchez commits Collectivist Fallacy #2.
Just to make this clear, when Tamir Rice stupidly threatened police officers with what appeared to be a deadly weapon, and one responded by shooting the dumb bastard,* that wasn't a decision by an entity "the police." And when (unarmed) Walter Scott was stopped for a broken traffic light and then ruthlessly gunned down from behind while running away, that wasn't a policy or decision by "the police." And when a black racist decided to murder whites, and especially white police officers, at random, as a response... it wasn't "blowback." There was no policy decision that resulted in this alleged blowback. By calling this blowback, Sanchez invents a mythical entity "the police," that has a single mind, made a bad decsision, and should have decided differently. The disparate decisions by individual officers in Ohio, South Carolina, Missouri, Baltimore, and elsewhere, become, for Sanchez, a bad decision from a single mind, resulting in predictable blowback in Texas. Bizarrely, he maintains this while lecturing us on the evils of collectivist thinking. Sanchez should cease his collectivist thinking and quite ascribing guilt to abstractions like "the police" and "the state."
Keep in mind that policing in the United States is decentralized. It is organized at the local, county, and state level.There's no real federal police force, and that is as it should be. This decentralization means that it really is incoherent for Sanchez to write as if there's a national policy which has resulted in "blowback." And decentralization of policing is also a problem for those who would like a police state. One of the things that Obama, Lynch, Clinton, Sharpton, et al. (elitist supporters of the Black Lies Matter Movement) clamor for is federal oversight and control of local police, that is, for further destruction of the federal system and separation of powers, and formation of a powerful central government, in place of the current federal government. That's what libertarians like Sanchez are helping promote, another reason I think these "libertarians" who side with the left are dopes.
I'm a libertarian. I believe in individual rights as the supreme political value and end. So it pains me that there's such a dearth of intelligent analysis of the Dallas shootings by libertarians. Today's libertarians exhibit a strange sort of envy of the left. Heaven knows why, but as Gerald Russello puts it, they find it "[m]uch better to don radical-chic outrage against the police, than to support the police and the hard work of rebuilding inner-city neighborhoods where crime, sadly, remains concentrated." Russello was referring to the left, but it fits Sanchez, and FEE, perfectly.
As a libertarian, it frustrates me that I have to go to conservatives -- with whom I differ on some fundamental principles -- to find careful. thoughtful, non-collectivistic application of principles to current events (actual, factual current invents, not made up ones like "the epidemic of police violence against American blacks"). But such is the state of things in the crazy years.
Here are some really good, thoughtful and fact-based, pieces that address the assassinations of police officers in Dallas:
"The Ferguson Effect is Real" - Gerard Russello. Reviews Heather MacDonald's book "The War on Cops" and makes some cogent points in doing so. I should mention I lived in David Dinkins' crime ridden NYC. It was nasty. One acquaintance of mine took it upon himself to rid his apartment building hallways of criminals using a baseball bat and ferocious dog, because the police were ordered not to intervene. Rudy Giulani's "broken window" policing strategy made the city much safer for honest citizens, but was much hated by the left and their libertoonist useful idiots.
"How to Address the Problem of Police Shootings" - David French. This is the most thoughtful piece I've read. French takes the problem of unwarranted shootings seriously, without jumping to unwarranted ideologically driven conclusions. This is the only way we'll ever move forward.
"The Attacks in Dallas Won't be the Last" - Jack Dunphy. Dunphy points out that a fraction of the American population actually celebrates the murders of the Dallas police officers, and encourages more...so more will occur. Thugs like Barack Obama and Black Lies Matter promote, for their own political purposes, the lie that there's an "epidemic of police violence against American blacks." Add Dan Sanchez and FEE to that despicable crowd.
*Footnote: After thinking about it, I wish to expand on my characterization of Rice. Generally speaking, anyone who pulls a gun on police -- or on private citizens -- should expect to be shot. I have no sympathy for Rice. "But wait, it wasn't a real gun." Yes, but it was an Airsoft replica indistinguishable except by close examination -- handling it, basically. And the orange barrel cap that distinguishes Airsoft replicas was removed. There would be no way for police, or anyone else, to distinguish between that and a real gun. Rice knew this. "But what about his family -- don't you care how they must feel?" No, I don't. Had they reacted differently, I would have, but they self-righteously called for the heads of the police and pretended their delinquent was a victim, even though he threatened police. They also sued and received money stolen from taxpayers. I have no sympathy for them. I do have sympathy for the police officers whom Rice threatened, who were forced to use deadly force to defend themselves, and then had their lives disrupted by the BLMM, the Rice family, the MSM, and similar scoundrels.
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Comey and Clinton - One More Point
I have not heard anyone else mention this, but Comey's announcement reminded me greatly of the John Roberts and the SCOTUS decision in NFIB v. Sebelius. The (losing) minority opinion, written by Justice Scalia, read as if it had been written as the (winning) majority opinion. The actual majority opinion upholding PPACA (Obamacare) was written by Roberts. And the legal reasoning in it made no sense, not even to the other four justices on the winning side. Many observers suggested Roberts had been pressured by the executive branch to switch his vote at the last minute and concocted his nonsensical argument to rationalize the decision. I think this myself.
Similarly, Comey detailed at length all the evidence needed to convict Hillary Clinton...and then proceeded to give a nonsensical legal argument to rationalize his position. With a thoroughly partisan press, and absence of serious opposition, and an ignorant and gullible public, almost any nonsensical rationalization will do.
Postcript 10 July: Hard to believe, but FEE has published a defense of Comey's refusal to prosecute Clinton, or perhaps more precisely, an attack on libertarians who see this as a travesty of justice. The author, John Hasnas, is purportedly a professor of law and business at Georgetown University; he teaches ethics. Hasnas manages to raise exactly zero legal points and n facts of the case; it's simply that the state is not to be trusted so isn't it wonderful that it failed to prosecute an unusually powerful and well-connected person. That's it. From his argument, I think we can safely conclude that we should not be studying law and ethics at Georgetown, at least not with him.
At least FEE also published a piece that cites at length the relevant law and compares with the evidence presented by Comey, and concludes Clinton was not prosecuted simply because she's powerful and well-connected. The author, Sean J. Rosenthal, is a real attorney, which explains the difference.
The American Catastrophe: Clinton, Comey, and Corruption
America's catastrophe continues. James Comey's bizarre statement yesterday is proof of the open corruption practiced at the highest levels of our government. While detailing instance after instance of Hillary Clinton breaking the law, Comey claimed to reasonable prosecutor would ever bring charges in such a case, because there was no evidence that Clinton intended to break the law. However, 1) gross negligence, not intent, is sufficient for conviction, according to the law, and as Comey clearly stated, Clinton must have known she was handling classified material improperly, and 2) in fact, intent is easy to demonstrate: Clinton kept her server secret and tried destroying emails and other communications that are required to be part of the public record and were subject to investigation. A few months back the Washington Post outlined roughly ten of the most serious potential charges against Clinton. Frankly, it's hard to see how she could possibly have defended against them had she been charged, Comey's refusal to bring charges means he's in violation of his oath of office. Whether he was bribed, threatened, scared, or simply didn't want to face the furor that would ensue if Clinton were charged, he's corrupted himself.
But only a few days earlier, Clinton's husband -- also a target of the investigation because of his role in the Clinton Foundation' selling of American foreign policy -- held a secret meeting with Attorney General Lynch. Subsequently Hillary Clinton suggested that if elected she might keep Lynch as AG, and Lynch declared that she would leave the decision whether or not to prosecute to Comey. If one don't think this sounds deeply corrupt, one is either remarkably stupid or, more likely, prostituting one's judgement for partisan reasons.
This is awful. The elite in power are now openly ignoring laws with impunity, and empowering and enriching themselves as they do. We mere citizens could never do this, and we're facing increasing threats against our liberty from government.
But there's more. Republican majority leader Paul Ryan feigned outrage and suggested Hillary Clinton should lose her access to classified information... until elected, of course. He even suggested that if Director of Intelligence James Clapper doesn't do this, Congress might even try to do it itself. (Why does private citizen Clinton even have such access?)
What?! Right now, the House ought to be impeaching Lynch, Comey, and, for that matter, Obama. Begging Clapper to do something? That's not Clapper's job. Ryan isn't following his oath of office, either. There's no real Republican opposition, save for a few principled men like Ted Cruz. Cruz directly challenged Comey's integrity and suggested that the FBI may be corrupted in all of this.
What about Libertarian opposition? The LP candidates, Johnson and Weld, were recently interviewed by CNN and had nothing but nice things to say about Obama and Clinton (but were quick to condemn Trump). Now Johnson has endorsed Comey's position; no issue for him in all of this.
Ugh. Little as I like Trump, he makes more sense than almost anyone else purporting to be a leader. He tweets: "Crooked Hillary Clinton is 'guilty as hell' but the system is totally rigged and corrupt! Where are the 33,000 missing e-mails?"
Some of the best, most thoughtful and logical analysis of this catastrophe is coming from the writers of National Review. I highly recommend the following pieces in particular:
"Our Political Masters Show Their Hand" - Ben Shapiro. This outlines chronologically the corrupt events. Must reading.
"FBI Rewrites Federal Law to Let Hillary Off the Hook" - Andrew McCarthy. Brief and clear legal analysis by former prosecutor McCarthy on why Comey's position is wrong.
"FBI Director Comey Is Wrong: The Case for Prosecuting Hillary Clinton Is Strong" - Shannen W. Coffin. More legal analysis from another former DoJ attorney.
"Hillary's Banana Republic" - David French. Thoughtful analysis of the nasty episode and what it implies.
"FBI Recommendation on Clinton Betrays the Founding Fathers’ Legacy" - Tyler Arnold. Finally, from Libertarian Republic, a very good analysis that notes Comey admitted he might prosecute a different person under these sorts of circumstances. Damning.
Read these. Then think about what all this means for the rule of law and for freedom. And start thinking about how we are going to stop this kind of criminality.
Monday, July 04, 2016
Happy American Independence Day.
Two hundred forty years ago Britain’s American colonies declared their independence, and became the united States of America. The Declaration of Independence made clear their reasons for doing so and stated the foundation on which their subsequent governments were to be founded: the unalienable inherent rights of every individual. As the Declaration makes clear, these rights belong to each individual, they are prior to and superior to the power of any government. Governments are only just when they respect and defend the rights of the people, and just government governs only with the consent of the people.
These are modern, Enlightenment ideas. They were foreign to premoderns such as Aristotle, who never imagined the principle that each individual has a right to exist for his or her own sake. And they are certainly foreign to the anti-Enlightenment post-moderns – the progressives and the radical left – who are overtly and explicitly hostile to individual rights that constrain government. America’s current political class is comprised of the leadership of both political parties, the federal bureaucracy, most of the mainstream media, and much of academia, especially in the humanities, plus various others. This political class largely rejects inherent, unalienable individual rights and inherent limits on government power. This isn’t a partisan point; plenty of Republicans – Trump, McConnell, any Bush, and many others – follow a fundamentally progressive political philosophy. Today those who believe in the ideas of the Declaration are largely outside of the political class.
This Fourth of July post is for those of us who do believe in the principles of the Declaration. (And by “us” I mean people everywhere, regardless of nationality or citizenship, who believe in individual liberty.) The most famous lines of the Declaration are these:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Very famous words, and – at least among most Americans – not controversial. But I wonder how many really think about the meaning or take them seriously. A bit later we read:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
"A duty? And isn't this potentially calling for violence?" Yes, of course. This is the most serious of matters. We hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does, it is the fault of those who would oppress. Resisting tyranny is a duty. If you genuinely believe that, if it’s a principle you live by, then you are prepared to fight for liberty against those who would take it away, right? There are many people aghast at an American presidential election that may well offer us only a choice between two corrupt tyrant-wannabees. Many more are shocked at political leaders who – in America and other countries – who not only refuse to protect us against Muslims who wish to impose sharia on us, but blame us. Well, we cannot rely on the political class to defend liberty. The principles behind the Declaration are not part of their worldview, and they have little interest in defending them. And that means we have to do it. When I ask if you are prepared, I mean: are you prepared to resist and reverse the growth of tyranny, by any means necessary… choosing the means you think most effective, but by any means necessary? And are you working at it, so that this isn’t just Walter Mittyism in that you’re actually willing to submit at the first sign of a real threat from whomever has the temerity to try to oppress you and your family, friends, and neighbors? I hope the answer is yes.
Here’s Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration, again: …what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.
And here’s former slave Frederick Douglass: Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
And here is the great libertarian, John Stuart Mill: War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling that thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
Take liberty seriously, and remember its price: eternal vigilance.
Every Fourth of July I reread the Declaration of Independence and reflect on it. I encourage all of my readers to do the same. And to all friends of liberty everywhere, happy American Independence Day.
Photo: Unforeseen Contingencies chief editor Steele enjoying some Fourth of July fireworks.
Friday, July 01, 2016
Arm yourself. Gun control is for helpless victims.
Back in Action!
Post are coming, though, starting with an excellent video message.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Can free people make bad choices?
Reason has just published a debate on this issue, contrasting "Virtuous Libertarianism" vs. "Libertine Libertarianism." The gist is the following. Two political scientists, William Ruger and Jason Sorens, argue that some libertarians -- they term them "libertine libertarians" -- believe that "so long as an act is consensual and respects at least one truth—the inviolability of the person's fundamental right to choose how to use his or her person and property—not only should the law not get involved, but there is also no ground for moral criticism of the act. Values are essentially subjective in more than a descriptive sense but in a normative sense as well." Ruger and Sorens further contend that this is an error, and propose instead "virtue libertarianism," which recognizes that values aren't subjective.
In the debate, economist Deirdre McCloskey concurs, and economist Steven Horwitz and Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward dissent.
A colleague was sufficiently impressed that he emailed this debate to me and maybe twenty or so other professors, including Ruger himself. Here's my response, which I also cc'd to Drs. McCloskey and Horwitz, both of whom I know.
I explicitly did NOT say we can’t make a moral judgment about a woman with multiple sex partners, or a couple who chooses not to stay together. I suggested that such judgments are more complicated that R&S would have it. IOW: I object to their attempt to monopolize the high ground on what constitutes a right understanding of virtue.
So I’m not at all convinced I demonstrate the reality of their sorta straw libertarian."
To which I replied:
As for Mangu-Ward's point that Ruger and Sorens are overly concerned with a particular subset of human choices, well, what would one expect? The debate will necessarily be concerned with a subset of choices, i.e. those that don't involve initiation of force or fraud.
Ruger and Sorens are, of course, right. But there's no need to invent a new category of libertarianism, Nothing in libertarianism denies that there can be objective ethical standards. Neither does libertarianism hold that the only ethical question is whether rights are violated or not, i.e. whether or not a use of force is proper or not. There are many ethical questions, questions of what behavior is right and what's wrong, that do not deal with violence or rights. Bad choices, unethical choices, do not necessarily violate rights, but certainly they remain bad, and there's no reason for libertarians to defend them; a libertarian should simply defend one's right to make bad choices.
I'll also note that free people might make bad choices that undermine a free society. They might become so self-indulgent, irresponsible, uncivil, and so devoted to tricking or otherwise taking advantage of each other that they destroy their society -- all without violating rights. There's no state solution for this. Contra progressives and many conservatives, the state cannot make people be moral. But that doesn't mean we don't know what moral behavior is. Mangu-Ward contends that "a list of virtues suited to a free society—and perhaps more importantly, our ability to identify those virtues in the wild—is historically contingent and tricky to pin down."
No, it's not. Being self-indulgent, irresponsible, uncivil, and devoted to taking advantage of others is neither historically contingent not hard to pin down.
Liberty is a necessary condition for a successful society and happy people, but not a sufficient condition, because people -- including free ones -- can make bad, immoral choices.
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Good! This saves us the trouble of having to delete it. The EU is an idea whose time never was, an idiotic scheme to empower bureaucrats in Brussels. The EU's main achievements are the Greek bankruptcy and PIIGS, subsidizing endless streams of unemployable Islamist immigrants, subsidizing incompetent French farmers with the Common Agricultural Policy, thumb-twiddling while Putin invaded Ukraine and continues threatening Eastern Europe, and a Nobel prize. All of these are things that should fill the EU with shame.
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