Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ultras! Le Grizz report

October has been a great running month for me: two ultras in two weeks.  On 10 October I ran the Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon (Polebridge, MT), and on 24 October the Bad Apple 12 Hour Ultra (Greenville, MI) getting in 48 miles.  In general, I felt good in both races.  And in both races, I was slower than I had hoped.  Here's a quick report on Le Grizz.  My Bad Apple report will follow in a day or two.

This was my fifteenth finish (and start) at Le Grizz.  Starting this year the race is under new management, with Cheetah Herder and race founder Pat Caffrey now serving as RD emeritus.  Julie and I had flown into Kalispell on Thursday before race day and picked up my packet on Friday.  My faithful support crewman and cyclist, Jeff Ross, also showed up that evening, sans Laura this year, as she is recovering from knee surgery and was babysitting with the dogs.  Saturday morning I took the early start, heading out in the dark with other early starters.  Given my training, which included a 20 miler at a sub-10 minute mile pace, and feeling good, I ran through the first twenty miles at a pace that would extrapolate to a 10 hour 40 minute finish.  I was doubtful that I would maintain this pace; what I wondered was how much I would fade.

Jeff cycled with me quite a lot, which made for great conversation opportunities, and he and Julie leapfrogged ahead with the car to keep me fortified with water, Hammer Gel, elk sausage, and other necessities.  Julie ran with me a bit, but couldn't stay with me as I charged up a long hill.  She managed to stay in sight and ended up doing a nice 5K.

I was pushing it.  How much would I fade?  By mile 32 I was starting to find out, having dropped to a predicted finish of 11:30.  But at 32 something happened -- almost like a switch flipping, my legs became stiff and lifeless.  I stretched a bit, which helped, but I really felt myself slowing drastically, slipping into a lot of walking.  At the 35 mile turnaround, my friend and longtime ultrarunner Rich DeSimone caught up with me.  Rich is an experienced 100-miler and paces himself extremely carefully, using a heart rate monitor.  I stuck with Rich for the remainder of the run.

We slow ran and fast hiked for the next 15 miles, talking along the way about everything from comparative culture and cultural change, to running, to economic growth, to running, to poverty, to running, to our experiences with higher education, to running, to game management (Rich is a retired mountain lion expert), to... Anna from Bozeman, running her first ultra, whom we caught a couple of miles before the last aid station at mile 45.  Anna was complaining, in a kind of entertaining fashion, about how much she hurt.  I offered her a couple of vitamin I's (ibuprofen) but she declined.

Rich and I continued on and came into the last station, Anna close behind us.  From somewhere -- from her trusty support crewman, from her pack, from thin air, i'm not sure -- she produced a bottle of whisky.  I certainly am not averse to taking someone else's painkillers, so I drained my cup of water, held it out, and she poured me a good stiff shot.  I gulped it and she had one too.  Instantly my legs felt better -- I don't think that could have been the alcohol, it could not have gone into my system so quickly.  I think I could have run pretty well for the next two miles or so, but stayed with Rich.  Frankly, at that point, running ahead for two miles is a formula for a slower finish.

Anna passed us, and Rich and I continued on for a finish in roughly 12 hours and 21 minutes.  Pat Caffrey was at the finish to greet us, and we received our finishers' medals.  Julie threw extra clothes on me and a down coat, and I grabbed some of the traditional post-race fried chicken, potatoes, and beer...and a huckleberry bear claw.  After thanking everyone, Jeff, Julie, and I headed back to our motel (the traditional and wonderful Mini Golden Inns in Hungry Horse, now an even quicker drive to the start than when the race ran along Hungry Horse Reservoir, ironically) for a shower and into Columbia Falls for more food and beer.  A great day having fun with good friends in wild and beautiful country!

I believe this was my slowest Le Grizz ever, but the Polebridge course (previously known as "government shutdown course") is certainly harder than the two Hungry Horse Reservoir courses.  I grabbed some of the traditional post-race fried chicken, potatoes, and beer, and headedA finish is a finish, and I am very happy that I now have 750 lifetime miles at Le Grizz.  I can hardly wait for the next 250.

Photo: Mary McD., yerz troolie, and Kathie L. at the starting line.  A photo essay will follow.

LIVE from the debates!


I'm listening to the Republican debate.  The CNBC questioners are absolutely shameful and disgusting; they could not be nastier or more partisan.  They come across as quite stupid as well.  I'm glad that Cruz (my favorite candidate), Rubio, Carson, and Trump have let them have it.  It's also shameful that the Republican leadership ever turned management of the debates over to what Rubio correctly labels the Democrats' superpac.  I think that says a lot about where the Republican leadership stands.  The GOP leadership is more like the Democrats than it is the Republican base.

I plan on blogging about the debate tomorrow night.

Does FEE's "Immigration Expert" Understand Immigration?

Apparently not... almost not at all.

David Bier, "immigration expert" for the Niskanen Center and frequent contributor to FEE's "Anything Peaceful" series, has again argued that opposition to unrestricted immigration by "Syrian" refugees "virtually mirrors" opposition to allowing Jews to escape Germany to the U.S. during Nazi times.  This is quite mistaken and confused, as I will point out shortly.

Bier doesn't make much of an argument and spills most of his virtual ink summarizing the history of opposition to Jewish immigration in the late '30's and early 40's.  The gist of his argument is this:

"America’s security fears during World War II led to the rejection of Jews fleeing the Holocaust — and to the remorse that prompted the creation of the refugee process.

Rather than repeat the mistake we promised never to forget, we must learn to address our fears without forgetting our humanity — and this begins by welcoming refugees who want nothing but to build a life of opportunity and peace. ... Yet we have chosen to let people starve, drown, or be murdered in the name of security. Our insecurity has led to callous inhumanity."

Read his entire piece here.

My response:

The "Syrian" refugee crisis is entirely different from the Holocaust in several very important ways.

1. Jewish refugees were escaping from the Third Reich, which intended to kill them. Most "Syrian" refugees are "escaping" from Turkey and other locations other than Syria. Applications for U.S. visas don't even come from Syria -- the Syrian government expelled the U.S. embassy three years ago -- and one cannot apply for a refugee visa from one's home country. So these applicants are NOT under the thumb of ISIS or Assad. These refugees are not facing a holocaust, and many are not even Syrians (hence my use of quotation marks).  Bier seems entirely unaware of this.

2. "We have chosen to let people starve, drown, or be murdered..." is false, since no one is sailing to the U.S. only to be turned away to starve or drown. It is hyperbole designed to inflame passions, not promote rational analysis.

3. Bier claims no refugee has ever *successfully* committed an act of terrorism in the U.S.  It's unclear how he could ever prove such a bold assertion.  I think it is false, but Bier might quibble over who is really a refugee or what constitutes successful  terrorism.  It is not comforting even if true.  Muslim immigrants have certainly been convicted of terror-related jihadist crimes.  The Tsarnaev brothers, the perpetrators of the two of World Trade Center attacks, the numerous Somalis (including refugees) who have been convicted of support for Al Shabab or who have tried to join ISIS. It is sensible to be worried about jihadists.  The U.S. government's primary job (only job, really) is to *protect Americans*, not foreign refugees.  It will be criminal if they admit large numbers of unvetted refugees...especially since they will make us pay for this (point 4).

4. "Syrian" refugees brought into a Western country are settled and supported at taxpayer expense.  In Bier's ideal world, perhaps this would not happen, but in the real world, Germany plans on spending 10 billion euros on "Syrian" refugees this year.  In America, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS) gives refugees financial aid for housing, health care, buying automobiles, cash grants for spending money -- all paid for by U.S. taxpayers (or our Chinese creditors).  That alone is enough reason to oppose on libertarian grounds the admission of large numbers of refugees.

5. Unlike Judaism, most contemporary variants of Islam are overtly political and incompatible with a free society; certainly that's true of Middle Eastern variants.  There's no sensible reason to import, at taxpayer expense, large numbers of people who believe sharia should be the law.

6.  Bier's suggestion, admit more "Syrian" refugees, would simply create incentives for even more such immigration, worsening the crisis.

The plight of the refugees is sad, but Bier's analysis and proposed solution are detached from facts and logic.

If Bier is an "expert," why is he unaware that that the vast majority of these refugees are not coming from Syria, and that many are Afghans, Pakistanis, and even Africans?  Why is he unaware that no one in Syria applies for a refugee visa, so that his story about them being turned down and having to drown escaping the conflict makes no sense?  Why is he unaware that these refugees are settled at taxpayer expense and treated as wards of the state?  Or does he know all this, but omits it because it conflicts with his libertoonist dogma?  Beats me... it's just clear that his argument is full of holes.

I posted this response last night, and it appeared on FEE's site.  By 9:00 AM this morning it had been removed, sent down FEE's version of the memory hole, I guess.  Another commenter, calling her/himself "Observer 98" has also left a thoughtful comment.  I reproduce it here (without permission!) since I assume FEE will soon delete it as well:

Observer98 says:

Millions of refugees from Syria are staying in Lebanon and Jordan so they can return when the fighting is over. Others are engaged in 'country shopping' to find countries with the most benefits to move to. Individuals- men of military age, mostly- looking for benefits in other countries (the majority of whom are NOT from Syria) are not refugees. Muslim immigrants, unlike Jews fleeing the Holocaust, have caused problems in their host countries, agitating for Sharia Law (multiple countries), creating no-go zones (France & UK), not to mention politically incorrect facts such as rape statistics in Sweden. A conquering Medieval political-religious totalitarian 
belief system does not blend well in modern Western countries. Cultures matter. A country should have the right to choose who enters and becomes citizens- perhaps some countries don't want to be ruled by failed Medieval cultures.

Ironically, anti-Semitism is spread by these 'refugees'. Sort of makes a mess of your point, David, if you are championing people who don't believe the Holocaust ever happened.

My response:  Very well said.  And "Cultures matter" is the single most important point in all of this.  The libertoonists and anarchists who believe that we need simply get rid of government and utopia follows are detached from reality.  Islamists, et al. are incapable of sustaining a free society.  It is beyond me why the Bier brothers, Alex Nowrasteh, Chandran Kukathas, Jeffrey Tucker, Bryan Caplan, and other FEE contributors imagine it is a good idea to import indigents who don't speak local language, believe in honor killings and blasphemy laws, and think sharia ought to be the basis of a country's legal system.  I conjecture that they sympathize with the left's hatred of the American state and are so fixated on the state as a source of evil that they have also absorbed the left's multiculturalism.  You'd suppose that if they really are libertarians that once this is pointed out to them they'd backtrack a bit.  But no.  They are libertoonist dogmatists, promoting a religious faith, and it easier to call us "callous and inhuman."   We're sinners against the faith, I guess.

Friday, October 23, 2015

BAU update

I am sitting happily at an undisclosed location in Greenville MI, waiting patiently for the start of the 2015 Bad Apple Ultra 12 Hour Run.  Starting time is 6:00 AM EDT, and the course winds through the grounds of Klackle Orchards, just outside of Greenville.  Chaos is asleep on the bed next to me, resting up.  She and Julie will run the three hour version, so they won't begin until 3:00 PM...we'll all be finishing roughly at the same time.

Since Le Grizz two weeks ago I've only run 4.5 miles total, I believe, which seemed plenty.  I was a bit sore for a week after Le Grizz, and then had a massage that made me sorer.  I also did a set of 300 swings with a 1.5 pood kettlebell, just for my back, which made me sorer yet.  Tomorrow's run should be a relief.

Hah!  In fact, I feel pretty good; if I feel strong I will try going out at a relatively brisk pace, but BAU consists of 4 mile loops that wander through orchards and fields, and if I don't feel fast I will just treat this as a long and fun training run.  It will be a fun group, I think, and we are all looking forward to it.

Report will follow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Democrat Debate: Spend, spend, spend!

Even more interminable than the Republican debate, and certainly more hot air.  Ugh, I finally turned it off after two and a half hours of their blather.  My impressions?

First, none of them seems to be particularly intelligent.  It's quite odd.  They also tend to be inarticulate, but that follows.  But the apparent inability of any of them to reason deeply should be disturbing... although I suspect their base doesn't notice because the base is similarly unable to reason deeply.  It's all about intentions, moralizing, and condemning opponents as inherently malicious.  After all, why else would anyone oppose "free stuff for everyone?"  Free college, free health care, free time off for mothers, free everything except, of course, free markets and freedom to own firearms.  Good grief.  The worst student I ever had in an economics class knew more economics than all of these boobs combined.

OK, a few observations on each:

Lincoln Chafee: Don Quixote! He's very sincere, honest, remarkably stupid and naïve, and has less chance of winning the Democrat nomination than I do.

James Webb: he struck me as a being a little dopey at times, but perhaps the only serious person up there.  I appreciate that he beat Anderson Cooper when Cooper repeatedly tried to shut him up.  He went so far as to make a half-assed attempt to speak up for our right to defend ourselves with firearms, which went over like a lead balloon with his fellow candidates and the audience.  He's clearly out of synch with today's Democrat party, which opposes self defense by citizens and is sympathetic to criminals.  And he even condemned the Iranian nuclear deal.  Good heavens.  Lincoln Chaffee has a better chance of getting the nomination than Webb does.

Martin O'Malley: an actor, not bad at it sometimes, but at times seems almost psychotic.  And he garbles things more than all the rest of this pack combined: "Back in the 1999's"... "Assad's invasion of Syria"... "we're made stronger by the arrival of new American immigrants"... "big banks are 65% of our GDP"... and so phonily earnest.  Good grief squared.

Bernie Sanders: a hatefilled man, an insane man.  I think he is principled, sort of, but they are bad principles.  I've read several analyses of his views, and all conclude he's a national socialist.  Clearly so -- certainly he is a socialist, and he's a virulent nationalist, opposed to international trade.  Like the original national socialists, he's rabidly green as well.  Unlike the original national socialists, he's not a militarist, but give him time.  Socialism always needs enemies to scapegoat, and when the domestic ones run out or are no longer sufficiently politically expedient...

Hillary Clinton: completely fake, completely evil, unchallenged by Cooper, and still Obama's heir apparent.  None of the others can prevail against her.  The first three have no appeal and no chance at all.  OTOH Sanders does have appeal -- to the ignorant, the destructively radical, and the crazy -- but I think he'll be sabotaged by the party leadership.  He's the Ron Paul of the Democrats, in a sense, and the party will not allow him to get the nomination.  So it's Clinton, except...

I think Obama is out to destroy her.  Obama and Clinton are not friends; the two families are hostile to each other.  The investigation of Clinton's private servers and private email accounts is being permitted to proceed, so unlike the many other scandals surrounding the Obama administration: Fast and Furious and the IRS targeting of political opponents of Obama, to name two.  Clinton may have thought she was getting a great deal in being appointed Secretary of State, but it gave Obama great power over her -- her improper and, let's face it, felonious behavior leaves her vulnerable to him.  He, or Valerie Jarret, or whoever his handlers are, simply have to be careful about how much to leak on Hillary's wrongdoing, and how much to permit it to be investigated.  Certainly many others in the Obama administration, including BO himself, have abused their positions for personal gain, compromised national security, used private email accounts and other tools to hide their behavior, etc.  To protect his legacy, or his dynasty, Obama needs to stop Hillary, but not do too much, certainly not let investigations get so out of hand that he gets caught in them.

One of my colleagues suggested to me today that Obama will destroy Hillary and have Joe Biden run.  Who would Biden's running mate be?  Obama himself, according to my friend.  Nothing in the Constitution precludes this, he says.  The 22nd Amendment says no one can be elected to the Presidency twice.  The 12th Amendment  prohibits anyone from being Vice President who is ineligible to serve as President.  According to some interpreters, someone who is ineligible to be elected President could still be eligible to serve as President, and thus as Vice President.  And then, according to my friend's theory, after a few months in office, Biden will step down, and Obama will enjoy his third term.  Who ever said Obama wasn't a Constitutional scholar?!

I think this is highly unlikely, but these are, after all, the crazy years.  The weasel-wording and leaps of logic required for this interpretation of the Constitution to hold are no worse than those John Roberts used to save Obamacare.  And it is certainly akin to what Putin did with the help of his loyal lapdog Medvedev.  I don't expect it, though.  It strikes me as more likely that Obama will try to force Clinton from the race at some point and replace her with a Biden-Patrick or Biden-Warren ticket.

But all this is idle speculation.  Let's return to reality.  All of these Democrats agree on spend, spend, spend, all agree on disarming citizens, all agree with the "Black Lives Matter movement" that America is a racist nation (well, Hillary was conveniently given a bye on this question).  All are promising destruction.  America will face a sovereign debt crisis if it does not control spending very soon.  Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security will deliver less than promised, no matter what happens.  And the promotion of divisiveness for political purposes, the promotion of free stuff for the unproductive, and the threat to disarm all of us...these things threaten civil peace.  This is the Democrat political platform.

H.L. Mencken argued that American politics is the most entertaining show on earth.  It's black humor to see such crazy and often diabolical people taken seriously as candidates for President, but yes, it is very funny.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Update from FCA

"I don't always drink beer. But when I do, I drink Dos Equis."

OK, most of that isn't true, but that is a Dos Equis in my hand.  Photo taken Sunday evening, the day after Le Grizz.  I will be posting a Le Grizz report and photos later, along with a short bit on Angus Deaton's Economics Nobel (main comment, "well, at least it's someone I have heard of").  Also in the works, reporting on the upcoming Bad Apple Ultra!

I have a busy work and travel schedule ahead so I may be slow in blogging some of this.  But stay tuned. And stay thirsty, my friends.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Quick Le Grizz note

Finished number 15!  Report will follow ASAP.  My travel schedule might cause a delay in this, but I will post a short account and have a few nice photos.  Also expect comments on the soon-to-be-announced Nobel Prize in Economics.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Le Grizz! 2015

Oops!  I'm switching to my Surface Pro for some of my blogging, and seem not to have all the kinks worked out.  In updating yesterday's post about my upcoming attempt at my 15th Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon, I seem to have lost the entire thing.

That's unfortunate, as I had provided a gripping, hair-raising account of the trip here to Montana's Flathead Valley, one that would have the Nobel committee second guessing their award of the literature prize today.  Or perhaps not.  Suffice it to say we're here in Hungry Horse, tired, excited, and rarin' to go Saturday.

I also commented on the award of the prize to Svetlana Alexievich (I'm rather positive about it), as well as despot-in-chief Barry Hussein's planned visit to Roseburg to try to drum up hatred against gunowner (I predict that at best he'll mostly drum up hatred against himself, richly deserved, too).  And I took the opportunity for further speculation on possible candidates for the Nobel peace prize (all of it mercilessly mocking the committee).

Alas! all of this has been lost, off to the cyberspheric limbo where it no doubt rests with Hillary's wiped emails.  Only the FBI knows what I actually said.

Oh well, in the face of such unforeseen contingencies, we always simply keep moving forward. 

The race is Saturday.  Expect updates.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Shooting fun! and blogging update

Poor Barry Hussein... Barack Obama is an angry man.  He's angry about guns, or rather that American citizens own them.  The other day a homicidal maniac entered a gun-free zone, selected Christians, and executed them.  Barack Obama blames the NRA and anyone who defends individual rights, including the right to keep and bear arms...but not his own Christian-bashing, of course.  (There's a great deal of irony in all this, since he plans to import, at taxpayer expense, thousands of Muslim refugees whose numbers will almost certainly include members of Daesh, bloodthirsty Muslims who, given the chance, also will select Christians and other non-Muslims for execution.)  I expect the lawless, tyrannical fool in the Whitehouse will attempt to create and enforce gun controls before his term expires, most likely without any new legislation.  I don't feel like blogging much about this right now -- suffice it to say that anyone who tries to disarm the American citizen will start a civil war.

Meanwhile, last week I fired, for my first time, a handgun in .454 Casull, a round designed for stopping big game up to the one ton range.  More about this shortly.  But first, a blogging update.

I'm trying to blog a bit more often, and have a couple of subjects upcoming.  I am sure the world will be waiting breathlessly:

Nobel Prizes...  I suppose I should make predictions now.  For Economics, I predict the award will go to William Baumol and Israel Kirzner for their studies of entrepreneurship.  Why not?  Nothing would make me happier.  Last year they were at the top of the Reuters prediction list, and my theory is that these predictions tend to come true, but with a lag.  For Peace, there are so many worthy candidates.  One obvious choice is Barack Obama, for solving the Iranian nuclear problem forever.  I suppose this would be shared with Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, who is preparing his country for peaceful relations with all the world.  But it might be a little embarrassing when during his speech about how Israel will be eliminated soon, Khamenei begins shrieking "Death to America."  Even worse, they'd probably have to include John Kerry as well, and no one wants to hear him try to speak.  There are many other worthy candidates, of course -- Vladimir Putin and his Soviet Russian soldiers for liberating Crimea and bringing peace to eastern Ukraine, or the Pope, for traveling to communist countries to condemn capitalism.  But I predict that the Peace Prize will go to the Muslim refugees storming the E.U.  This makes at least as much sense as having awarded it to the E.U. itself, so I think I have a winner here.

Le Grizz...  Every second Saturday of October, I return to Montana's Flathead and environs to run the Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon.  This year we return to the 2013 "Government Shutdown Course," most likely on a permanent basis.  (The new race management is Polebridge Mercantile, conveniently located at the race start and finish, along with a log saloon, for all our coffee, pastry, and beer needs!)  I think I am better trained than I've been in a few years.  Expect a race report.

OK, finally, shooting...  I was with a friend, Chris P. and we had a target set at 50 yards and fired both a fair .45 Long Colt and .454 Casull ammunition through a Ruger Super Blackhawk (for those who don't know, the .454 is a lengthened version of the .45LC, so the revolver will chamber either one of them).  At 50 yards I had no trouble hitting the target with the .454; the .45LC has a less flat trajectory and I had some trouble connecting with it.  But what I really noticed was the difference in recoil, as expected.  I dislike recoil in a rifle, but I enjoy it in a handgun -- and boy, was this fun!

Two videos illustrate.  One round with each cartridge, placed in cylinder so I wouldn't know when it would go off (a great exercise for overcoming flinch and similar problems).  On another part of the range, someone else was shooting, so in the first video my second hammer drop coincides perfectly with one of their shots, making it look like I don't budge at all!  Here's the fun:

One round, .45 Long Colt
One round, .454 Casull...bang!

Friday, October 02, 2015

More Immigration Nuttiness from FEE

FEE (the Foundation for Economic Education) has done wonderful work in the past, and still manages to do some good work on economics.  But FEE has also taken to promoting libertoonist silliness, stuff that is a caricature of libertarianism.  The subject of immigration seems to particularly draw out the libertoonism.  In this case, Professor Chandran Kukathas of the London School of Economics argues that if a country tries to exercise any control over its borders, it means controlling every person in the country and monitoring them on an ongoing basis.  In fact, it "is is not possible without controlling citizens and existing residents, who must be regulated, monitored and policed to make sure that they comply with immigration laws."  He rattles on about establishing internal passport checkpoints and explaining what happened under South Africa's apartheid system, as if our only choices are entirely open (i.e. nonexistent) borders or a totalitarian system in which each person is constantly monitored.  That's crazy.  But here it is, "Controlling Immigration Means Controlling Everyone:  cracking down on immigration means invading every aspect of natives lives."

No, it doesn't.  That's remarkably stupid.  It's unbelievably stupid.  How could anyone ever argue such a crazy thing?  Apparently even Professor Kukathas realized this for a moment, because at one point he claims he is not drawing an equivalence between apartheid and controlling borders -- but then he goes ahead and does just that.  I commented (see below) but how is one to take seriously an argument that stopping perhaps one million refugees from swarming across a border into one's country is equivalent to monitoring every citizen internally, in every aspect of their lives?  The illogic of Professor Kukathas' piece is mind-boggling.  And the consequences of the mass immigration Europe is now "enjoying" will be highly destructive for liberty.

Steele's comment:

Apparently FEE's objective with the pieces it publishes on immigration is to ensure that each one is more absurd than the previous ones -- a tough challenge, but Kukthas' piece rises to the occasion.

Kukathas equates controlling immigration with establishing internal checkpoints where everyone must prove their identities.  That's absurd.  He's arguing that Hungary building a fence or wall on its borders to keep tens of thousands of people from invading the country indiscriminately is the same as South Africa establishing internal checkpoints where every individual was sorted by race.  It's impossible to take such a crazy position seriously.

No members of Daesh (ISIS) should ever be admitted into a Western country.   Nor should members of Al Qaeda.  And as the Germans are starting to learn, it verges on suicide to allow close to one million people into the country when they have no local language skills, little human capital, and adhere to a religious viewpoint that is completely incompatible with liberal Western values such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, rights for women, etc.  The problem is compounded when the country is a welfare state; Germany expects to spend 10 billion euros feeding, clothing, and housing the refugees this year. 

But Kukathas insists we must accept this; the only alternative is internal South African-style apartheid. That's crazy.  Simply block borders and screen immigrants before admitting them.

It's hard to believe arguments for entirely open borders can get more absurd than Kukathas,' but I look forward to FEE's next attempt.  If nothing else, we're getting some good laughs.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Inevitability of Nuclear War, Part 2

Over a year ago I posted a piece "The Inevitability of Nuclear War, part 1."  The gist was this: For the current leadership of Russia, nuclear warfare is not at all unthinkable.  Vladimir Putin and members of the Russian state  security and military apparatus regularly refer to the possibility of using nuclear weapons, the Russian military has been developing doctrine to guide the use of tactical nuclear weapons, the Russian military conducts training that includes simulated use of tactical nuclear weapons, and Russia has been working to upgrade its nuclear forces.  This is not the end-of-the-world MAD (mutual assured destruction) scenario of all out use of strategic nuclear weapons, it's limited use of nukes.  Russia has conducted wargames, at least twice, that include simulated strikes on Warsaw with nuclear weapons.  My observation -- if Putin is allowed to continue his expansionist policies unchecked, his strength will increase, and at some Russia will go so far that the West's choices will be confrontation or surrender.  For countries of Eastern and central Europe, this would constitute an existential threat.  The chances of a conflict that would include nuclear weapons is very high.

Part 2: The Middle East

Since writing Part 1, I've assembled quite a collection of material on Iran's nuclear program, Iranian intentions, and how the rest of the Middle East regards this.  With the completion of Obama's deal with the Iranians, much of this now seems to me beside the point.  The deal to end sanctions on Iran is the greatest foreign policy catastrophe of my lifetime.  It might well prove to be the greatest such disaster in human history, because it holds the seeds of nuclear war on a massive scale.  Rather than make a lengthy argument, consider this.  The treaty with Iran (a treaty that most of Congress decided to pretend is not a treaty for reasons of political expediency) ends sanctions and releases up to $150 billion in frozen assets to the Iranian government.  It also provides that Iran can challenge and effectively block any inspection of nuclear sites, and even that Iran conduct its own inspections on sensitive military sites.  It provides a grandfather clause that protects investments in the unlikely event sanctions are ever re-imposed; in other words, Iran is guaranteed its economic trade remains intact.  The predicted time frame for Iran to develop sufficient material for a fission bomb is less than the time frame for getting inspections, international dithering over noncompliance, and eventual "snapback" of sanctions.  The deal is preposterous.  Good grief, it evens provides that the United States will protect the Iranian nuclear program from Israel!  It sets Iran free of any serious restriction on its nuclear programs and provides Iran capital for nuclear development, as well as for funding Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran's military adventure in Yemen, its ballistic missile program and other trouble-making.

That's an interesting point: Iran has a ballistic missile program, it is not part of the deal and now faces no restrictions.  What is the purpose?  Iran appears to be developing ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and space launched re-entry vehicles, devices specially designed for delivering nuclear warheads.

There's only one reasonable conclusion: Iran is being set free to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to Western Europe and the United States.  That's certainly the conclusion that Iran's neighbors -- namely Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt -- are drawing.  Hence Saudi Arabia is considering options to acquire nuclear weapons, either developing themselves, or buying them. This 2013 BBC article refers to a Saudi policy document in which they state they would accept a nuclear free Middle east, but failing that, would either purchase or develop one, say from Pakistan or North Korea.  Egypt has now begun a nuclear program and Turkey has one that clearly includes a weapons component.

Here are the fundamental points:

My conclusion -- an Iran with nuclear weapons almost certainly results in nuclear war.  MAD works with people who do not want to die; it does not work with those who worship Armageddon and celebrate martyrdom dream of genocide.  And even if the mere possession of nuclear weapons somehow suddenly brought the mullahs to their senses, their neighbors -- the Israelis, Turks, and Arabs -- see the Islamic republic as an existential threat.  If Israel ever faces an imminent existential threat, it will use every power it has to survive, including nuclear weapons.  It's hard to believe the Turks, Saudis, Egyptians, and anyone else who manages to get weapons would behave differently.  The situation is even worse if Daesh (ISIS) ever gets its hands on nuclear weapons.  In a Middle East where multiple sides have nuclear weapons, "false flag" strikes would be a dangerous possibility.  It's hard to understand how such a situation -- multiple players that regard each other as existential threats -- could be a stable equilibrium, the way the nuclear standoff between the US and USSR was.  Stability seems even more far-fetched when some of the players have worldview best described as death cults.

The USSR Russia (oops) has now established an air base with fighter planes in Syria, and the Russians are providing Iran with advanced anti-aircraft systems, and bringing their own to Syria.  Any Israeli airstrike on Iran will now have to contend with Russia's air force.  Conventional responses to an Iranian nuclear breakthrough just became much more difficult.  The likelihood of a nuclear response, with missiles, just increased.  But even prior to this, one analyst suggested that an Israeli nuclear first strike on Iran was a not-unlikely possibility.  Read it, it is a very important and chilling piece.

Nuclear war is not literally inevitable, but the world is on course for it.  Every politician who supported this Iranian deal, or who has not done all they could to block it, ought to be seen as, at best, completely irresponsible.  The people who created this deal, especially Barack Obama and John Kerry, are traitors to America and enemies of civilization.  Assuming that things are not already out of hand by January 2017, the next president needs to immediately and unilaterally take action to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, by any means necessary.  Any candidate unwilling to do this is unfit for the office.  Additionally, it will be necessary to kick the Russians out of the Middle East, if they are still there, a longer term project perhaps, to deal ruthlessly with Daesh and similar groups, and to begin working on building a genuine international non-proliferation regime.  

Obama has nearly destroyed non-proliferation as a policy; we now have a proliferation regime.  It is imperative that the next president reverse this.  And if it must be done with violence, so be it.  Those who preach the hatred of Western Civilization and the glory of holy Armageddon must never have nuclear weapons.

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