Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Unforeseen Contingencies: Prophetic?

Not quite.  We're only batting 75%.  We're close, though.  This is a 50% improvement on last year's score, and sufficiently high that "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies are mildly taken aback.  What if we really do know what we're talking about?  But rather than blather, let's get to the accounting.

On 31 December 2012 we made ten (10) predictions for the coming year, plus two auxiliary "wild card" predictions.  Here are the results.

Prediction 1. Solar Storms will not shut down the American power grid to any appreciable extent. Hit for UC!

Proof: we are still able to blog, and you can read this.

Prediction 2. Assad's regime will fall and Syria will remain enmeshed in civil war. UC is half right.

Assad did not fall, but neither did he win the war.  I rather doubt it will end for a while, nor will Assad fall, unless he's very unlucky.

Prediction 3. The Democrats in the Senate will invoke the "nuclear option" and eliminate or greatly constrain the filibuster. Hit for UC!

I hate to say I told you so... boy, do I hate it!  This is very bad news.  The democrats really are hell bent on "transforming" America into a Progressive system. in which elites and experts dictate policy, unconstrained by Constitutional checks and balances and separations of powers that interfere with their "wise" choices. Too bad they don't realize that this is just another way to say "dictatorship."

Prediction 4. There will be at least one violent act of domestic terrorism against American gun owners. Miss.

I'm relieved.  Despite plenty of hatred from the left and many in the state, it appears they understand we gun owners are not to be trifled with.  The letter of the Utah Sheriffs' Association to Barack Obama promising to fight to the death against any unConstitutional gun ban he might try to impose is instructional... don't tread on armed people.  Incidentally, this letter should have been the news story of the year, but the left prefers to ignore such things so they can continue to dream that the rest of the us will grudgingly acquiesce to their schemes for utopia.

Prediction 5. The opening of the PPACA exchanges will prove to be a shambles. Hit for UC!

Whew, barely squeaked by on that one!  hahahahahahahahahaha

Prediction 6. It will become apparent that health insurance premiums will rise sharply. Hit for UC!

And it's going to get much worse.  Signups of the healthy, low risk people who are supposed to subsidize the pool will be very, very, very low.

Prediction 7. Chinese recession in 2013. Miss.

Those darned inscrutable Chinese! (Story here.)

Prediction 8. Civil disturbances in the U.S. Hit for UC!

There were indeed riots ostensibly tied to a "justice for Trayvon" theme, plus the housing voucher riot in Detroit.  Happily these remained small scale.  MSM ignored them, but that doesn't mean they weren't real.

Prediction 9. Success of Wiki weapons AR platform. Hit for UC!

It worked!  And then...

Prediction 10. A bill to ban or strictly regulate information on firearm design, software that encodes it, and 3D printer hardware and materials that will print it will be introduced into Congress. Hit for UC!

Bills to ban arms-making via printing and bills to restrict ownership of printers have indeed been proposed. But as it turns out, given the nearly infinite elasticity with which current laws are interpreted, the WikiWeapons project was shut down under existing "law."  You see, it was an "export business" and thus subject to ITAR (International Trafficking in Arms Regulations).  Of course, all the Defcad/WkikiWeapons project did was make ideas available for those to sought them.  It exported nothing.  And everyone who understands combat understands that there is no such thing as a dangerous weapon, only dangerous men... and it's their ideas and knowledge that make them dangerous.  Hence the necessity of idea control, an idea that always fails.

Wild card #1: Scientists will announce discovery of life on a planet in another star system. Miss.  

Another miss... but "we're" getting closer!

Wild card #2: Scientists will announce discovery of evidence of life on Mars. Miss.

And again, a miss.  But Rover has just found evidence of water on Mars, and scientists are hopeful that we're on the verge of discovering evidence of Martian life, and perhaps life itself.  My prediction was just a bit early, as you'll see!

So there you have it, a 75% success rate!  (Only the ten non-wild-card predictions count towards the tally.)  Even Nostradamus didn't hit this seventy percent rate (yet).  I can't claim to be a prophet -- a real prophet would have to hit 100% -- but we are way above what random guessing should do.  Quasi-prophet status, perhaps?
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So that's our final post of 2013.  May 2014 bring very good things to you, my beloved readers, to your respective countries, and to our world!

Picture: The prophet Isaiah, from a 1904 Bible Card.  I gather these were forerunners to baseball cards.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Our annual Christmas message...

I've just finished a rather intensive semester, followed by a grueling drive across the Great American Desert to Montana.  My route took me through Madison Wisconsin.  I happened to be listening to Michael Medved's radio program, and as I approached Madison he began interviewing two students from U. Wisconsin-Madison who are officers in some sort of atheist group at the university.  They'd managed to get an icon or somesuch devoted to the Flying Spaghetti Monster included among the holiday displays at the State Capitol.  Medved was pestering them to explain themselves, which they sort of did -- it wasn't a very enlightening discussion.  They were essentially trying to defend separation of Church and State -- on which I agree with them -- and Medved was trying to point out that displaying a nativity scene is not establishment of a state religion -- on which I also agree.  My conclusion was that if these guys win and no religious symbols are allowed to appear on state property, they've accomplished essentially nothing important.  The debate was just sufficiently non-boring to keep me awake and on the road, which was the whole point of listening.

But the "war on Christmas" kept coming up in their discussion, and that raises something interesting.  It's undeniable that Christmas is politically incorrect, at least for the more radical of the progressives.  One U.S. Post Office worker said he'd received an official memo banning the expression "Merry Christmas."  And attempts to convert "Christmas" to "generic holiday," especially in schools, are pretty well documented.  But in my drive across country I noticed something new.  It's been a very long time since I heard so many people -- checkout clerks in stores, fast food workers, strangers walking their dogs, pretty much everyone I encountered, saying "Merry Christmas!"  In addition, several Jewish friends have wished me "Merry Christmas," as did an atheist friend, several times, with no sense of irony.  As he then continued, "this has become one of the most subversive things you can say."

Great!  I hope this indicates that people are fed up with PC thought police.  Political correctness is not about avoiding offense -- it is about teaching people to self-censor so that they can be controlled.  Free thinking, free speaking people are beyond control of the State.  Those who would rule need to convince those whom they would govern to be docile and accepting of control.  Wilson and Shea made this point in their Illuminatus! trilogy -- to enslave people you have to convince them to enslave themselves.  "Can I say this? Can I think this?  Is it proper?  Am I out of line?"  So dies free thought, and freedom.

I'm rather skeptical of the "someone might be offended" argument.  Anyone offended by a friendly greeting of "Merry Christmas" is in need of psychological counseling, not protection of their feelings.  To wish someone "Merry Christmas" is to wish them happiness; it's a very positive thing.  Conversely, it would be koo-koo to imagine and take offense at all the possible theological implications of such a greeting.  I suspect very few opponents of Christmas actually do -- instead, the "offense' is pretended in order to enforce Mrs. Grundy's Law:  this you must not think, that you must not do, and make certain you scare yourself into compliance with what we say you should think and do.  G.L.A.D. was not offended by Phil Robertson's very straightforward and explicitly non-judgmental recounting of standard Christian doctrine on homosexuality and sin.  It was simply necessary for them and the MSM to throw fits in support of PC and self-censorship.  People simply cannot be allowed to express opinions contrary to the progressive-liberal-left dogma.  Note that no one accuses Robertson of pushing his beliefs on anyone, nor expressing them on his show.  It was simply an offense to even harbor such beliefs, an offense that required he be fired.

Well, "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies have no sympathy for this sort of PC-bigotry.  So for this reason, and many others, we wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Liberty-Filled New Year!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

EuroMaidan and Kyiv Post

All evening I've been following the nasty events in Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti, whereYanukovych's police thugs have been attacking the assembled crowds.  I won't blog on this now (too much grading and other work), but if anyone wishes to follow, Kyiv Post is doing a great job of live blogging the events.

You can follow here.  I've also added a Kyiv Post link to the sidebar under News.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

America as Ukraine

Ще не вмерла Україна, ні слава, ні воля*

I've not blogged for quite awhile, owing to an unusually busy and difficult semester.  That's a bit unfortunate, because so much is happening that I'd like to comment on.  Well, after mid-December we will be back in action.  (For one thing, we will be crowing because so far we are batting about 80% on our predictions for 2012!)

But events in my old home, Ukraine, won't wait.  If you haven't followed the story, Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution threw out the corrupt pro-Russian/Soviet leadership in favor of a pro-West pro-market president and government.  Unfortunately, while liberal in the classical sense, Yuschenko was also ineffectual (there's something about having Russia's FSB/KGB attempt to assassinate you that makes you cautious, I guess).  His opponent and Putin's favorite Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovych managed to win the 2010 presidential elections.  He set about turning to Russia, reducing ties with the West, and increasing corruption and authoritarianism.  Ukraine's perpetual struggle to break the shackles of Russian domination was dealt another blow in late November of this year, when Yanukovich refused to sign a free trade agreement with the E.U. and instead gave indications he would join Russia in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).  In other words, Yanukovych turned down a chance for closer ties with the free world (this term still has meaning in East-West terms) in favor of those bastions of liberty and prosperity, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  Just think... if he plays his cards right, Putin might even "let" Ukraine join the Belarus-Russia Alliance!

Ukrainians responded by protesting in Kyiv's Maidan Nezalezhnosti, "Independence Square," and elsewhere.  In turn, Yanukovych's Berkut and other security forces responded violently.  And now, in demonstrations reminiscent of Ukraine's glorious Orange Revolution, Ukrainians** are erupting.  In Kyiv, thousands of people are blocking government buildings, essentially enforcing a real government shutdown.

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, held a vote on "no confidence" in the Azarov government, but it failed; the opposition had 41% of the Rada, but needed to break 50%. What's left?  It's now in the hands of the Ukrainian people themselves.  There will be turmoil and civil disobedience, of course.  And, I hope, further political action that will bring down the Yanukovych and install a pro-reform, pro-freedom, pro-independence leadership.  We at Unforeseen Contingencies fervently hope that the Ukrainians prevail over the Russians, and that Ukraine retains its independence and is able to advance freedom.

So far as I can tell, the U.S. government is largely neutral (neutered) in this affair.  Obama is either in Putin's thrall or sees this as a way to further wreck the West... or maybe he simply doesn't care.  Regardless, the soft power Obama was supposedly going to wield doesn't exist, and America is out of the picture.

But more interestingly for me, despite the entirely different histories, cultures, demographics, geographies, and institutional arrangements, America and Ukraine seem on strangely parallel courses.  Like Ukraine, American is now in the hands of a leader who is a lawless thug, one who spouts utter nonsense and pursues destructive policies that ruin the country and sell its people into vassalage, but build his and his political cronies' power and wealth.  Congress seems unwilling or unable to respond.  The Supreme Court is complicit.  As in Ukraine, it is left to alternative powers to try to stop the destruction.  In our case the alternative powers are not just the people but also the States -- our federal system gives us an additional check on the federal government's power, and in many respects Americans'** position is much stronger than that of Ukrainians.  Still, both countries are in dire straits, burdened with dangerous leaders who are selling out what freedom we have for their own benefit. Both are in danger of being saddled with institutions that will impoverish us and leave us beholden to governmental masters.  May heaven help us and may freedom prevail.


I'd like for that to be the end of my post.  Given the extreme threats to life and liberty that we're seeing from our federal government, I'd like it if we could minimize the discord in the libertarian and quasi-libertarian camps.  But alas!  Never failing to disappoint one's lowest expectations, Lew Rockwell and his band of pseudo-anarchist pseudo-libertarian pro-communist idiots are all in favor of the Berkut beating the heads of my friends in Ukraine for daring to protest.  You see, the EU is actually the new USSR and Vladimir Putin is Ukraine's bulwark against totalitarianism.

Yeah, right.  This is simply lunacy.  But it's par for the course.  Keep in mind that their leading light, Murray Rothbard, went to extreme lengths to defend Josef Stalin on "libertarian" grounds.  Ugh.  But if this is how Rockwell, Raimondo, and the rest of them feel, they should contact us here at Unforeseen Contingencies.  We'll be happy to arrange for them one-way tickets to their destinations of choice in the SCO... provided they promise to stay there.

* First line of Ukraine's national anthem.  The ideas in the first verse are worth contemplating:

Ukraine has not yet perished, nor her glory, nor her freedom,
Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish like dew in the sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own

**Yes, yes, I know, there are Ukrainians who favor vassalage to Russia and there are Americans who favor vassalage to a progressive authoritarian state.  But they don't count.

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