Wednesday, December 31, 2014
End of year post
"We" here at Unforeseen Contingencies subscribe to the theory that human society is in the midst of a transition to becoming a genuine civilization, Type I on the Kardashev scale. In the process, we're passing through a time of widespread social insanity, something Robert Heinlein called "the Crazy Years." How else to describe such a time? Hoodlums like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are portrayed in the mainstream media as noble martyrs and, with zero evidence, claimed to be victims of endemic white racism. "Peaceful demonstration" is defined so as to include burning buildings and assaulting police officers. The president and attorney general assure us that people who endorse strict interpretations of the Constitution are America's greatest terror threat, even while more of those "peaceful demonstrators" from the left chant "What do we want, dead cops" and assault police. When police officers are subsequently executed in cold blood, well, not much of anything happens...the AG is too busy trying to build "civil rights" cases against police officers who were confronting black criminals and happened to be, unfortunately for them, white. It's a year in which Hamas fired thousands of missiles at Israeli civilians, and then used civilian human shields in an attempt to maximize civilian casualties when Israel responded militarily to stop the attacks... and the overwhelming international outcry was against Israel. ISIS, North Korea, Ebola, Obamacare, federal efforts to smuggle illegal immigrant minors into the country, amnesty for illegal aliens, Islamic regions in Sweden patrolled by Muslim gangs where police dare not go, and more... there was much craziness in 2014.
But in my view, 2014 was a very good year for civilization and liberty. There was one particularly hopeful story, a series of events that is ongoing -- the success to date of Ukraine's Euromaidan Revolution. Against all odds, and with shamefully little international support,* Ukrainians have managed to throw off a dictator, begin battling endemic corruption, and fight off the crazy tyrant to the east. The odds hardly seem to have favored these advocates of freedom -- Viktor Yanukovych had at his disposal billions of dollars of state funds, plus the security forces, plus the support of Putin. Yet he's gone, an anti-corruption campaign is underway, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has bogged down... Ukraine is not yet dead. Given how things looked in January 2014, Ukraine seems a very hopeful place.
This is a great example of what I mean by "unforeseen contingencies," as well as a reminder of why we should be hopeful about the future of civilization. In November 2013, when Yanukovych rejected the association agreement and the Euromaidan demonstrations began, there seemed little reason for hope. But there's a tendency for good to beat evil, for non-zero-sum systems to beat zero-sum, and we've seen these tendencies asserted themselves in 2014 in Ukraine. This is not just some impersonal mechanism at work; it's the sweat, and sometimes the blood, of good people working to build a better system and better future. May we all profit from their example, and devote our own efforts to building a real civilization.
In the past I've sometimes made predictions for the coming year. I didn't do so in 2014, so no end of year scorekeeping tonight. But I hope to post predictions for 2015 tomorrow. In the meantime, С Новым годом!
* Credit where it's due: Western sanctions against Russia have been crucial, as has been the Saudi-drop in oil prices that the Saudis have helped orchestrate. May this continue.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
We're in Montana, having successfully crossed the wilds of Michigan's UP, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Except for an inch or two of new snow that fell on us in the UP, there was no snow at all. Christmas Eve a storm blew across Montana, leaving us a Christmas present of enough snow to permit a couple of hours of XC skiing today. (Photos to be added soon.)
Something I've noticed this year... there seems to be a much greater tendency for people to wish "Merry Christmas," including (and maybe especially) people working in stores and other businesses. My impression is that this has been a growing trend in the last couple of years. I hope so. I don't have anything like a random sample, I know, but I'm wondering if people aren't fed up with the multiculturalist intolerance that the leftist intelligentsia wants to cram down our throats. As I have often argued, one doesn't need to be Christian to celebrate Christmas. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, it's a wish for you to be happy and to be blessed; that's a good thing regardless of whether you share their particular theological views -- and the appropriate thing is to wish them the same.
Every year, Walter Russell Mead posts 13 reflections on Christmas, and this year is no exception. I'm looking forward to his posts. As he observes,
The meaning of Christmas is much bigger than the trite clichés that usually come up in this context; I won’t just be writing about the Importance of Giving and the Desirability of Being Nice... For Christians....Christmas is the hinge of the world’s fate, the turning point of life. It is the most important thing that ever happened, or at least the beginning of it, and we celebrate it every year because it is still happening now. Whether we know it or not, whether we appreciate it or not, we are part of the Christmas Event that has turned history upside down. There’s a reason why we date the birth of Christ as the year 1 and why traditionally the world’s history was divided into BC, before Christ, and AD, anno domini, the year of the Lord.
At a time when civilization itself is under attack, it's important to reflect on its roots. I may have something to say about this myself soon.
But meanwhile, a hungry crew is starting to wonder where dinner is, so I'm off to make gravy. Merry Christmas!
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
"Confused about Islam"
That's rich! I'm waiting for similar headlines on how Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan isn't familiar with the basics of Islam. I don't recall any equivalent headlines concerning Christianity or conservatism when maniacs assassinated abortion providers or blew up clinics, or for that matter when Hindu nationalists in India or Buddhists in Thailand commits acts of religious violence. Somehow Islam is the only doctrine (um, theology? ideology?) we need worry being confused about.
Here's a better article than WaPo mustered on the Islam-inspired terrorist attack in Pakistan, from Albawaba. It's much shorter and notes the significance of ISI's support for the Pakistani Taliban, a crucial fact WaPo neglects -- news seems to be crowded out by pathos and propaganda in the American MSM these days.
Meanwhile, back at Unforeseen Contingencies headquarters, we are about to head West for Christmas. More blogging ahead!
Monday, December 08, 2014
Why Unforeseen Contingencies loves Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo
First, the two cases are completely unrelated, except that racists Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Al Sharpton, and their lackeys have lumped them together as examples of inappropriate police tactics, and the stupid fools who follow them are in tizzies over these completely legitimate uses of force by the police. The events are unrelated, and neither has anything to do with abuse of force or selective use of force against blacks. Furthermore, both officers did exactly what they should have done, and should be commended for acting appropriately under difficult circumstances. All of this is easily established.
1. In the case of Officer Darren Wilson, it's clear that Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery in which he assaulted a shopkeeper. When Wilson stopped Brown and his accomplice, Brown assaulted Wilson, injuring him, and attempted to seize his firearm, putting Wilson's life in jeopardy. Brown broke off the assault, but then resumed it. The only sensible alternative for Wilson was to employ deadly force. It took half a dozen rounds, but happily Wilson successfully stopped the deranged predator. It's sad Brown fell to such depths and engaged in such terrible behavior, but given that he did, it's good he was stopped. It cannot be said that he didn't deserve the fate that befell him. Stealing cigars does not warrant being shot. Attempted murder is another matter. Officer Wilson behaved appropriately and should be commended for his actions.
2. In the case of officer Daniel Pantaleo, it's clear that Eric Garner was resisting arrest; had he not done so, events would have developed very differently. Once police officers attempted to cuff him, his resistance made it necessary to take physical control of him. Officer Pantaleo took Garner to the ground in a headlock, not a chokehold. A headlock grabs the head and neck so that one can make the body follow and direct it where one wants. A chokehold shuts off either the carotid arteries or windpipe and makes the target pass out. Pantaleo employed a headlock, not a chokehold. To emphasize this, note that martial arts that employ chokeholds also employ nonverbal signals -- tapping out -- because when you're in a chokehold you can't say "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." Here's a very interesting analysis by an M.D. of what caused Garner to die, and it absolves Pantaleo. Here's another that throws additional light on the matter, including the hypocrisy and racism of those who are outraged. (The arrest of Garner was supervised by a sergeant who is a black female.) Pantaleo's actions were appropriate.
Yes, the charges against Garner stemmed from the victimless crime of selling untaxed cigarettes on the street. This should not be a crime. Perhaps the anti-tobacco left ought to accept the blame for Garner's death and for setting the police upon him. But have my own two cents to add. I lived in NYC during the unfortunate reign of the corrupt and incompetent mayor David Dinkins. Crime rates were high and the streets were unpleasant places, where belligerent "salesmen" (and women) interfered with passersby. They did not necessarily violate one's rights, but they were willing to threaten such. The streets were a mess. Hawking on a public thoroughfare is not appropriate and yes, it does not bother me that people are not allowed to harass passersby.
Regardless, during my first year in New York I happened to witness an arrest. A street thug had robbed a citizen, who quickly found a police officer who began pursuing the thug. The thief was cornered in a doorway and stood with his back to the officer and hands in front at the level of his belt. The officer began screaming at the criminal to make his hands visible. I was about 15 feet to the side of the criminal, in a spot where I couldn't quickly get away. My eyes were glued to the crooks hands, watching to see if he was about to draw a handgun and begin spraying rounds -- something that would have been very bad for me, for the officer, and for many other people. I don't know what he was doing -- he was up to something -- but no handgun materialized. A couple of other officers ran up and as a group they mobbed the guy and took him down, no "dangerous chokehold" employed, just a leg grab. The crook's head slammed the pavement with a remarkable crack. Contrast that with I saw a few months later of two guys whom I saw the police stalk and grab from behind. Both had headlocks applied, while other cops grabbed and cuffed them. Having seen the headlock vs. non-headlock arrest, I'd prefer the headlock. Better yet, I don't give police officers any legitimate reason to arrest me.
Eric Garner did not deserve to die, but no one killed him, and no one employed deadly force against him. Completely appropriate police techniques were employed, and only because he resisted arrest. These did not kill him; his own obesity and terrible physical condition -- for which he was responsible -- killed him. It's unfortunate, but not criminal. On the other hand, Michael Brown was a violent criminal bent on mayhem. I haven't a shred of sympathy for him. And I have even less sympathy for the savages demonstrating and rioting on behalf of him and the phony charges that America is a racist nation.
But more importantly, Officers Wilson and Pantaleo do not deserve to be demonized. Both acted completely appropriately and should be commended for their actions.
It's probably considered a bit odd that I, a libertarian, would be writing in defense of the police. But facts matter, and what we're witnessing is the demonization of all police everywhere on the basis of a disinformation campaign. Yes, the police are out of control far too often, but that does not justify fabricating stories in order to lynch policemen who behaved properly. Furthermore, I'm skeptical of the claim that the police in America are in general dangerous and unnecessarily violent. That's nit my experience. In every instance I have had a criminal after me, the police have been responsive, supportive, and helpful. And I've taken multiple defensive shooting courses taught by law enforcement officers. So yes, when police do their jobs -- our jobs, for us -- they defend our liberty and we should support them.