Wednesday, August 08, 2018
Elkhorn 52K 2018!
On Saturday, August 4, I ran and successfully completed the Elkhorn 52K Ultramarathon, in the heart of the Elkhorn Mountains, just south of Helena, Montana. It was the 14th time I've run a race at Elkhorn, and my 13th official finish (I once got off track in the 50 Miler and ran my own 38 mile course). It was also the 30th running of the Elkhorn Ultras. This is an old-school race, run in wilderness with only occasional support. This was a great day for me, as it's the first ultramarathon I've run since having a full hip replacement on 2 August 2017. Among other things, this bodes well for Le Grizz this coming October. Here's a race report.
On Friday, August 3, I left Bozeman and drove the 100 miles to the Willard Creek Trailhead in the Elkhorns, where the race begins. I planned to camp at the trailhead, so parked my trusty Element in a likely spot and hitched a ride with some other runners back to Jim and Bobbie Pomroy's Elkhorn Fitness Retreat for packet pickup and the pre-race dinner. The people I rode with were great fun to talk with -- two brothers who were running together, plus the wife of one and another brother who were there in a supporting role; we ultrarunners love our support crews. The dinner was the standard spaghetti -- I'm pretty sure left over from years past -- and I devoured several plates of it. It ages well. I talked with several old friends and met some new ones, including some canines, and we had the usual course briefing. It was mostly the usual stuff -- I know the course very well -- but one thing I noted was that the race directors, Steve and Tammy Engebrecht, had recently experienced a family tragedy, and it was tough for them to be there. But they were proceeding, and their strength and courage and moving ahead typifies ultrarunning.
I caught a ride back with a Billings runner I've known for some time, Bill J., and his wife; it was good talking with them. Back at the camp/trailhead I hung out a bit with Fran Z., Carl, and some other friends, and then turned in for the night, sleeping in the back of my vehicle. I slept well, and the 53 Mile racers served as a great alarm clock -- they start at 5:00 AM while the 52K starts at 7:00. I got up, drank coffee and ate, dressed, and chatted with other runners until the start. If it matters, besides coffee I ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich plus a quart of water for breakfast. I had some doubts going into this race, because I know my conditioning is not that great and this is the least I have ever trained for an ultra. But I wasn't untrained, had done some very challenging runs, and most importantly had 43 previous ultras under my belt. I was relying on experience more than conditioning, and would see if that was sufficient.
The race starts with a long downhill followed by a stream crossing (no, there's not a bridge, and yes, there are many stream crossings like this). I was in what I think was second-to-last place in this stretch, which seems about the right place to be to me. After the creek crossing the trail (this is all single track trail) goes left, slightly downwards to Jackson Creek. At Jackson Creek we turn and run up. After an aid station there's a relatively steep climb, then a drop into the creek bottom. and then a very loooooong wet slog up for a few miles This is incessant climbing on "trails" that seem mostly notional. I know this area very well (it's where I got a bit off course during my 38 miler a few years back). I was not feeling that great -- it was hard to get into the climb and I didn't feel strong. A couple of 23K runners passed me in this stretch (they start an hour later) and that's very early to be caught by them.
After a while the course turns and follows the contour -- no climbing -- until it drops into Casey Meadow. A few more 23K people passed me here. I dropped into Casey Meadow -- a spectacular descent -- and started the climb of Casey Peak. I dragged. My climbing was so poor I contemplated perhaps dropping to the 23K race, and a number of people blew by me, including the one 52K runner who'd been behind me, a gal from Texas. But there's never any sense in making a decision before it need be made, and I slogged on. At the high point on Casey Peak I always do pushups to celebrate the mountain. As I dropped to do my 10, a 23K runner approached and I suggested she join me. Sometimes they do, but she requested instead I do some for her, so I did 20.
From that point it's a fairly quick drop down to Teepee Creek aid station. At Teepee Creek, 52K runners turn left and 23K runners turn right so it was time for a decision. I felt good enough, and running to Elk Park would at least get me a good 22 mile training run, so onward! I wolfed down handfuls of jerky and boiled potatoes dipped in salt (Yukon Golds!), thanked the wonderful volunteers, and headed out.
This next stretch is all uphill, climbing about 2200 feet over four miles, most of it in the last two miles. It's a grunt. But I started feeling stronger and better and began moving fairly steadily. I could see the Texas gal ahead of me and was gaining on her; I thought it might be a good idea to catch her and make a pact to run together -- after Elk Park you're really in the backcountry, and it would not hurt to have support. But odd events intervened.
As I began the steep part of the climb to Elk Park, I saw a dead tree atop which someone had placed a cow elk skull. I turned on my otherwise-shut-down phone to snap a picture and a passing runner (not in the race) took my photo next to it. Before I could power down again, I started getting texts from several of my students who are working on the Convention of States project; this stuff is dear to my heart so of course I replied... "how the heck I am getting texts from you I don't know. I'm in a 50K in the backcountry surrounded by mountains with no cell towers anywhere near and certainly not in line-of-sight." Go figure.
But this frittering away with cursed electronic devices was sufficient to allow Texas gal to vanish. I cranked up the hill, passing one couple who were having a bad patch. It's a quite a long climb, but I hit the high point and did 30 more pushups to celebrate. From there it's only a few hundred yards to the Elk Park aid station. At the station, I felt some hesitation about proceeding, mostly because I felt so slow. It was also disconcerting to hear that Texas gal has already left the station maybe 20 minutes before. She'd been less than 50 yards ahead of me before. I asked the station staff about proceeding, and one of them responded "You're eating and drinking, you're not hurting, no problems, you have time... it's really all a mental thing. I think you should go." Yup. I grabbed more jerky and potatoes (a crew dog offered to share my jerky, but I told him only if in return he would share his rawhide chew, which he didn't), and headed out just as the "bad patch" couple was coming in. They were doing much better and as I took off I said I'd see them ahead.
This is only 16 miles into the race, but I had no more doubts the rest of the way. Of course, once you leave Elk Park, doubts will do you no good. You're entering remote backcountry and there's no real way to get out except by completing the race, and no good way for anyone to extricate you if you can't proceed. You're committed.
It's a long (a few miles), steep (a few thousand feet) descent from Elk Park into Wilson Creek. At Wilson Creek the 53K turns left and follows a bad jeep trail for a few miles, passing Moose Creek. At some point the course departs the jeep trail for a single track climb to Tizer Creek aid station. This is an out-and-back, and it was here I finally caught the Texas gal, running towards me. I told her I'd been trying to run her down all day, and now that I'd caught up she was going the wrong way. She grinned and told me to try the whisky at the aid station. We high-fived in passing and I continued on.
At Tizer Creek an enthusiatic volunteer refilled my hydration pack (with water). And not only did they have whisky, it was nicely chilled Glenfidditch scotch. Man, did that hit the spot! More jerky and potatoes, and I turned around and headed back down to Moose Creek. The couple behind me was climbing u as I went down and doing well. (They did indeed finish successfully.)
Moose Creek is, in my opinion, the hardest part of the race. You've already done most of your mileage, and now comes the longest, steepest, most unrelenting climb. It's a sort of a road or trail or something. There are a few "cabins" along the lower parts, some swampy creek crossings (this year featuring hordes of mosquitoes), pieces of an old wrecked Model T or some similar vehicle higher up, and it is just a relentless, unceasing climb. I hoped to crack it off in an hour. It took me an hour and forty five minutes of slogging, one foot in front of the other. My friend Carl M. and another friend passed me here -- they were in the 53 miler and doing super. (The courses diverge at Wilson Creek but come back together at Tizer.)
The Moose Creek climb ends just a few hundred yards at the Elk Park aid station. At the station, devour more jerky, the last of their Pringles (I accidentally dropped them on the ground but the dirt just adds important minerals), and leave the last potatoes for 50 milers behind me. Now there are only 7 miles to go and there's no doubt I'll finish.
The rest was fairly anticlimactic. I found a couple more Pringles someone had dropped on the trail and ate them. Fran and a couple of other 50 mile gals passed me near the elk skull, and at Teepee Creek Helena's John Hallstrom (he's run every Elkhorn 50 miler -- a perfect streak!) and another guy passed me. I ate my usual meat and potatoes and ventured on. The last part is a long climb, not overly steep but steady for a mile or two. I ran really well in this section, feeling strong, and managed a sort of sprint across the finish. I bet I was doing a ten-minute-mile!
It was a really fine experience. The weather was good (perhaps low 70s), the smoke from California's fires had cleared and the air was good, later in the day we had some cloud cover, everyone on the course was fun to be with, and the Elkhorn Mountains were, as always, spectacular. To me, this is what life should be -- taking on challenges you aren't certain you can handle, being with good people, and being in beautiful places. This is living.
I owe great thanks to HURL (Helena Ultra Runners League) for putting this race on, and especially to R.D.s Tammy and Steve Engebrecht, for whom this was a particular challenge this year. I wish them and their family the best. Many thanks to all of you and your wonderful volunteers and sponsors.
Click any photo for enlarged version.
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Universal Basic Income: a Terrible Idea
Many people, including Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg, have endorsed UBI. But the "libertarian" arguments for UBI are what are intriguing. The gist of this "libertarian"argument is that the UBI would replace the rest of the welfare state. It would be less expensive to administer and be less distortionary, having fewer perverse incentive effects. And the welfare state hasn't ended poverty, so maybe this would work. (These are from Tanner's piece.) Prof. Michael Munger of Duke University proposes it as the solution to economic dislocation and -- tellingly -- compares it to Otto von Bismarck's welfare state, which Munger seems to think was a great success.
A number of people claiming to be libertarians have either endorsed UBI, e.g. Munger, or, like Tanner, suggested we contemplate it. Berryhill takes no discernable position and simply reports, concluding his piece, "what do you think?"
OK, here's what I think. This is a terrible idea, it's anti-libertarian and would have catastrophic moral and economic effects if adopted. Here's why:
1. The argument that this could replace the many welfare programs and streamline the welfare state is one of the stupidest arguments I've ever heard. "We libertarians will agree to UBI and in return you agree there won't be anything more." There is no way such a deal could be enforced, and it would not be. The welfare state would expand. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to explain how once a national UBI was put in place, future politicians could be prevented from introducing more welfare programs. And since with a UBI most people would become accustomed to the false idea that it's a proper role of govt to provide everyone with income, it's hard to imagine what arguments could be used against such expansion.
2. If we were to have a UBI, how much should it be? Like minimum wage, it "obviously" would have to be high enough to allow people to live in dignity, right? I'd suggest about $55,000 per person (roughly the US per capita GDP) should be fair, right? Why should some have so much when many others have so little? (I hasten to remind readers I believe the UBI should be zero, but once one agrees to UBI, I have no idea how to argue against making it ever bigger.)
3. The UBI would not end poverty. People are not poor because they don't have enough money -- "not enough money" is just the definition of "poor," not the cause. People are poor because they are unproductive and don't care for themselves, and in most cases, I think, this is because they won't care for themselves. But whether they cannot or will not, handouts stolen from others do not solve the problem, and only reinforce it. Teach a man to fish, and he can take care of himself. Give a man a fish, and you turn him into a hopeless dependent.
4. Relatedly, guaranteeing people an income just for existing would reward indolence. "You can spend your day taking drugs, watching TV, playing video games -- don't worry, the state is taking care of you." We'd get more helplessness, not less. What a great way to build a strong society of free, self-reliant people. Much as I despise socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, her proposal for "guaranteed jobs" makes more sense. It's a terrible proposal too, but at least it would not subsidize and reward people for being irresponsible, since they'd at least have to go through the motions of working. (Incidentally, John Stuart Mill argued that "severe and irksome labor" should be the price for accepting welfare for an able-bodied adult. How bizarre that Comrade Ocasio-Cortez should be closer to the classical liberal position than a Cato senior fellow is.)
5. Suppose we do get a UBI. Recall that Cato-ites and many other contemporary libertarians (including Munger) also promote open borders. If we tax productive people so we can pay unproductive people to hang around, what kind of people will we attract? A UBI combined with open immigration would be fiscal suicide. (I note that UBI advocates like to cite Milton Friedman and his negative income tax idea in support. I never hear them favorably noting his point that free immigration is utterly incompatible with the welfare state.) Of course, once one accepts the UBI logic, there's no apparent reason why the UBI shouldn't be truly universal and apply to everyone in the world. Why should something so "arbitrary" as national borders matter?
6. Why aren't libertarians championing abolition of the welfare state, instead of trying to make it better? As long as we have a welfare state, we'll have a massive government that controls people by manipulating their livelihoods. To be blunt, if you are in favor of the welfare state, you are not a libertarian. These two things aren't compatible.
Berryhill notes that Chris Hughes (of Facebook), Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk are promoting UBI and helping finance the California experiment. Musk is practically a recipient of a personal UBI himself, given his government subsidies. But if these billionaires want to spend their own money on this, that's fine. I do not want to be taxed to pay for their "bright" idea. The UBI is a terrible idea that is devoid of principle and ignores morality, incentives, and economics.
Monday, July 16, 2018
Trump, Putin, and what is *really* going on
I carefully went over the entire transcript of the press conference. There's nothing objectionable at all. The vast majority of things people are complaining about are complete misrepresentations of what was said. Quite a few of the critics seem to have wanted Trump to do something like condemn Putin and threaten him, or maybe just turn and punch him. Instead, both Trump and Putin said they completely disagreed on a number of issues, and Trump denied -- understandably -- the utterly unfounded "collusion" charges. It's shameful that this stupidity was even brought up, when it is obvious that the FBI leadership attempted to sway the election and then bring down the winner, and that the "collusion" claim is an artifact of this effort. As for Russian meddling in the "election" (actually in the campaign, which is not the same thing), Putin shrewdly asked why it is that law enforcement rather than the judiciary gets to make the final conclusion on what happened. Good point.
I don't trust the Russians, and I hate Putin, but all the current Russophobia is fake. The current Russophobes tend to be the same people who, when Russia invaded Crimea, pretended not to know who the "little green men" might be, and when Russia then invaded eastern Ukraine, accepted the general refusal of Obama and other western leaders to provide weapons to Ukraine. These are same people who were silent when Barack Obama canceled missile defense for Eastern Europe, and when he told Dmitry Medved to relay to Putin that he (Obama) would talk tough about Russia during the election campaign but afterwards be cooperative. These are the same people who said nothing when Obama allowed Russia to effectively invade Syria and then claimed Russia eliminated Syria's chemical weapons, a claim that turned out to be a lie. And when Obama's Iranian deal "went through" (somehow neither the U.S. nor Iran actually ratified it) Russia immediately began sending anti-aircraft systems to Iran, and allowed stepped-up Iranian involvement in Syria. Few of Trump's critics cared about all that. These current Russophobes actually don't care at all about Russia. They simply want to get Trump and their claims that he's soft on Putin and maybe even Putin's agent make no sense at all.
Contrast what has happened under President Trump.
- Sanctions have been increased on Russia, Russian diplomats expelled from the U.S., and a Russian consulate shut down.
- One quarter of Syria's air force has been destroyed by the United States, mostly in a reprisal for Syrian chemical weapon attacks... while under Russia's "protection."
- U.S. forces killed 200-300 Russians in one battle in Syria.
- Trump authorized provision of deadly weapons to Ukraine.
- Trump has pressed hard for NATO to strengthen its forces, he has pushed for a stronger U.S. military, and he has surrounded himself with tough advisors like Bolton, Mattis, and Pompeo.
- Trump has pushed for development of U.S. LNG shipments to Eastern Europe, and has opposed the German-Russian Nordstream 2 plan for gas pipelines from Russia to Germany that would bypass Ukraine, and strengthen Russia's ability to dominate Germany via energy.
And all this is crucially important. For the first time, Putin is dealing with a western leader who isn't an unprincipled pantywaist. For all his nice talk, Trump has been willing to get tough with Russia, including killing a few hundred Russian contractors. There's one other tough leader Putin recently faced -- Benjamin Netanyahu, who happens to have a very strong relationship with the Trump administration. It's hard to overestimate how important this is. Everything I read from the Middle East suggests that Putin has agreed to sell out his Iranian ally. In Moscow, Netanyahu drew a line, insisting Syria will not become an Iranian base. Since then, Russia has acquiesced to Israeli air raids on Iranian and Hezbollah targets, and Iran is being crowded out of Syria. This undercutting of Iran is crucial for non-proliferation and reducing risk of nuclear war. Russian cooperation -- or acquiescence -- is crucial for this.
Trump's masterful foreign policy has energized the Saudis, who under MBS' guidance are reforming internally, explicitly weakening the Wahhabist Islamist influence, and deepening their connections with the Israelis. The criminal regimes of the PA and Hamas are tottering, and with pressure from the Saudis, Egyptians, and Emirates, it's conceivable there could actually be some sort of peace deal. The Iranian regime is likewise tottering.
How is it that people cannot see all this? Instead, they are outraged that Trump didn't get into a spitting match with Putin at the press conference. If you're playing hardball -- as Trump is -- there's no room for stupid gestures.
I've seen two good non-TDS analyses of Trump-Putin, and I highly recommend them.
The first is from American Thinker's Gary Gindler. He argues that Trump dislikes Putin and is boxing him into a corner. I think Gindler is right. I've always said Putin has a very weak hand but plays it well against feckless Western leaders. Trump is not feckless.
Not as serious but quite fun is Toni Williams' piece on Victory Girls Blog. She suggests Trump and Putin were in part trolling the press. That's certainly true. I particularly liked that Putin kept everyone waiting - a technique he regularly uses to dominate those waiting for him -- and that Trump beat him at the game.
But I especially liked Williams' comment that "Putin and Trump should have refused to come into the room until a few reporters with an IQ above that of hamburger showed up." Of course, if they did that, we'd still be waiting for the press conference.
Photo: Trump grabs Putin's ball.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Needed: More Cowboys, fewer Social Justice Warriors
1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in their work.
3) Always finish what they start.
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Are tough, but fair.
6) Keep the promises they make.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.
What's all this about? U. Wyoming has a new slogan "The World Needs More Cowboys." SJWs are incensed, poor babies.
Victory Girls Blog covers the story.
Wednesday, July 04, 2018
Fourth of July and more good news for Liberty!
I particularly enjoyed reading this because Tim Pearce is one of my former students at [redacted]. He took several courses with me, and I served as the advisor on his senior thesis, an excellent analysis of the negative consequences of federal ESA "protection" of sage grouse in New Mexico, "protection" that turns out to be harmful for sage grouse, ranchers, and liberty... although it does at least promote the sinecures and power of federal bureaucrats.
Great work, Tim, and thank you, Judge Navarro, for upholding the rule of law!
Tuesday, July 03, 2018
American Independence Day: Freedom is for Everyone
Unlike any nation-state before it, America was founded on philosophical principles. Most notably, America was founded on the principle of the inherent rights of every individual. In the American conception, the individual human being is primary -- not the state, nor the collective, nor the king or any other government official. The state exists only as means to serve the legitimate common ends of the people -- the preservation of their rights, their liberty. Government officials have their positions not to govern, not to rule, but to serve. We are sovereign individuals, superior to the government.
If America had never been founded, or if the American Revolution had been crushed by the British, history would have been very different. The existence and success of America created an environment where freedom could grow elsewhere, and in many respects individual liberty has become the world norm -- even when watered down as nebulous "human rights." The modern world of liberal "democracy" and of market trading and economic growth was made possible by the success of the American Revolution and America. America's philosophical principles were only partially understood and absorbed, but even a flawed implementation has built modern civilization. America is, in an Invisible Hand sense, the architect of world civilization. For that reason, everyone, everywhere, ought to celebrate American Independence Day. It isn't just about Americans breaking free from control by a European power, it's about people breaking away from an old and awful idea that people exist to serve the rulers. It's about freedom of the individual -- and freedom for the individual means freedom for everyone.
It was never the case that everyone believed in freedom. There are those who wish to dominate, to control, to rule. But this has been so out-of-fashion and so discredited, at least in the West, that few have been willing to openly declare their hostility to freedom. This is an interesting Fourth of July, because some on the left are now openly declaring their hostility. New York Times just ran a front page "news article" declaring hostility to free speech. ACLU helps sue bakers to compel obedience. Conservative and libertarian speakers are banned from college campuses, or harassed and shut down. Jennifer Rubin (yes, she's a fellow-traveller) writes in WaPo that Sarah Sanders should be harassed for life because of things she's said. NRA members, Trump voters, and like "deplorables" are condemned as murderers and terrorists and Nazis, who are to be driven from society. Antifa shut down an annual civic parade in Portland, Oregon because Republicans were going to be in it, as usual. In short, a segment of American society is now explicitly condemning liberty and demanding conformity.
The ones preaching violence are largely on the left (and so far it's mostly preaching, thankfully). These are the radical left and their progressive followers. They're abetted by patrician conservatives on the right -- the George Wills, the Jennifer Rubins, the Bill Kristols, the Jeff Flakes, the David Brooksies (that's plural for Brooks). None of these believe in individual liberty. All of them -- the radical left, the progressives, the patricians -- are driven by visions of how things ought to be, and they intend to make us conform. (Well, maybe not the patricians; they don't intend to make anything happen. They seem to be political eunuchs.) But for all of these, if they had ideas of how to actually make the world better, they'd do it -- they'd be entrepreneurs, but they aren't. They are tyrant wannabes.
They'll lose -- at least this round. (It's an eternal struggle, of course.) They'll lose because their only hand to play is emotional outrage, and this loses when things aren't outrageous. They haven't the character to govern and they are showing it. These are a class "whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant..." and "unfit to be the ruler of a free people," much like King George. They condemn themselves, and will fail.
What we need today is not better refutations of the enemies of liberty. We all need better understanding of the principles of liberty. A good place to start is with the Declaration of Independence. I read it in its entirety every Fourth of July. I recommend you, too, do this.
And from all of us at Unforeseen Contingencies, Happy American Independence Day, to everyone everywhere. Cherish and promote freedom!
Monday, July 02, 2018
One more good #WalkAway article
A man adjusts his video camera and sits back. The walls behind him are a tasteful grey-blue. He’s a gay, affluent, native New Yorker, and he’s coming out of the second closet of his life. For Ricky Roberts, the moment came after the Orlando nightclub shootings.
“Trump said he was going to protect gay men, and he did, [with] the travel ban. Hillary was telling Americans not to ‘pick on all Muslims because of this,’” and that did not feel like protection, Roberts says. “I swear to God, wanted to throw my shoe through the TV.
“At that point I was like, I can’t do it anymore. I really can’t.
“You know, listen, I’m a gay guy from New York City, but before that, I’m an American, I’m a patriot. I’m now an uncle.”
His assessment of the Democrats: “From immigration to everything, they are just a disaster.
“They’re anti-American, anti-common sense, rational—anything good, they’re against it.”