18 January, 2021

The Death Of Expertise

  1. We can all stipulate: the expert isn’t always right.
  2. But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, it shouldn’t engender insecurity or anxiety to think that an expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours. (Because, likely, it is.)
  3. Experts come in many flavors. Education enables it, but practitioners in a field acquire expertise through experience; usually the combination of the two is the mark of a true expert in a field. But if you have neither education nor experience, you might want to consider exactly what it is you’re bringing to the argument.
  4. In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.
  5. And yes, your political opinions have value. Of course they do: you’re a member of a democracy and what you want is as important as what any other voter wants. As a layman, however, your political analysis, has far less value, and probably isn’t — indeed, almost certainly isn’t — as good as you think it is.

A New Sense of Direction - MLK, 1968


There is a striking aspect to the violence of riots that has stimulated little comment and even less analysis. In all the riots together the property damage reached colossal proportions, exceeding a billion dollars. Yet the physical injury inflicted by Negroes upon white people was inconsequential in comparison. The bruising edge of the weapon of violence in Negro hands was employed almost exclusively against property, not persons. The inner rage of Negroes is not yet expressed in anti-humanism.

Mass civil disobedience as a new stage of struggle can transmute the deep anger of the ghetto into a creative force. To dislocate the functioning of a city without destroying it can be more effective than a riot because it can be both longer lasting and more costly to the larger society, but not wantonly destructive. It is a device of social action that is more difficult for the government to quell by superior force. The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win, and their participants know it. Hence riots are not revolutionary but reactionary because they invite defeat. They offer an emotional catharsis, but they must be followed by a sense of futility. Civil disobedience in its mass application has the prospect of success. It is militant and defiant, but not destructive.

America Is Intolerably Intolerant


When you think of the sheer vindictiveness of what happened to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, it takes your breath away. On the very night of his greatest career triumph, a reporter dug up his old tweets (composed when he was a young teenager), reported on the most offensive insults, and immediately and irrevocably transformed his online legacy. Now he’s not just “Kyler Murray, gifted quarterback and humble Heisman winner,” but also the man who was forced to apologize for his alleged homophobia. And for what purpose? Which cause did the reporter advance? Where was the cultural gain in Murray’s pain?

17 January, 2021

A Final Assessment of the Trump Presidency, and the Path Forward


 The various cultural fears I alluded to earlier have been used as an excuse for his entire term in office to ignore the economic recklessness playing out both in deed and word, and yet having ceded the high ground to the leftist argument for size of government, spending, and budget math, we will now face the cultural ramifications of abandoning basic first things. I want to be clear — I am not merely worried that the Left will now call us hypocrites regarding spending; I am worried because it is true. And it is not true because we said one thing and did another.

Faced with a big-spending Republican president who said he wanted negative interest rates, trillions of dollars of deficits, and unlimited budget increases in each category, the GOP House and Senate, either afraid of a mean tweet, a MAGA primary opponent, or perhaps genuinely converted by the intellectual force of the Trumpian argument, capitulated. I cannot imagine what it will take to establish credibility.

16 January, 2021

Her Title: Cryptologic Technician. Her Occupation: Warrior.


But for a cancer diagnosis — and the Pentagon bureaucracy — Chief Kent would not even have been in Syria.

After so many hard missions and becoming a mother, she had decided to become a clinical psychologist and treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

That meant becoming a Navy officer and spending six years studying and training. She was scheduled to go to the Navy’s Officer Development School in Rhode Island last June, and to begin her classes for her Ph.D. in the fall.

But she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2016. She told her husband, then on a deployment, only after the surgery was successful.[...]

Chief Kent spoke a half-dozen Arabic dialects and four other languages. She was one of the first women to complete the rigorous course required for other troops to accompany Navy SEALs on raids. She could run a 3:30 marathon, do a dozen full-arm-hang pull-ups and march for miles with a 50-pound rucksack.

She did this while raising two boys, now ages 3 and 18 months, and, for a time, battling cancer.

She used her five overseas combat deployments to master the collection of human intelligence, gaining the trust of tribal leaders, merchants, and local government officials who confided in her, often at great risk to themselves.

That is the kind of mission she had been on Jan. 16, when a bomber killed her and three other Americans at a restaurant in Manbij, Syria. The Islamic State claimed credit for the attack. She became the first female service member to die in Syria since American forces arrived in 2015.

More than 1,000 people attended Chief Kent’s memorial service on Friday at the United States Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Md., where she was posthumously promoted to senior chief petty officer and awarded five medals and citations. The awards described her Special Operations work and also said she had been the noncommissioned officer in charge at the N.S.A.’s operations directorate for four years.

15 January, 2021

Dominion retraction and apology


American Thinker and contributors Andrea Widburg, R.D. Wedge, Brian Tomlinson, and Peggy Ryan have published pieces on www.AmericanThinker.com that falsely accuse US Dominion Inc., Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., and Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (collectively “Dominion”) of conspiring to steal the November 2020 election from Donald Trump. These pieces rely on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories about Dominion’s supposed ties to Venezuela, fraud on Dominion’s machines that resulted in massive vote switching or weighted votes, and other claims falsely stating that there is credible evidence that Dominion acted fraudulently.

These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact. Industry experts and public officials alike have confirmed that Dominion conducted itself appropriately and that there is simply no evidence to support these claims.

It was wrong for us to publish these false statements. We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees. We also apologize to our readers for abandoning 9 journalistic principles and misrepresenting Dominion’s track record and its limited role in tabulating votes for the November 2020 election. We regret this grave error. 

14 January, 2021

Charles' Rules of Argument


  1. Entering into arguments is not necessarily good: they're tiring and you often don't convince anyone.
  2. Arguments make people defensive. Do not expect your interlocutor to change their mind during the argument. They will only change it later if at all.
  3. In groups, your argument is actually normally aimed at onlookers more than your interlocutor.
  4. Once you have stated your position and corrected any factual misunderstandings, there is nothing further you can do. Anyone who still disagrees with you cannot be convinced by you arguing with them.

13 January, 2021

The Bitcoin Dream Is Dead


 Bitcoin’s transformation from putative currency to speculative asset, in other words, was effectively built into the system from the start. It’s where Bitcoin was headed all along. (Cryptocurrencies have emerged in Bitcoin’s wake that are better designed to function as currencies, but paradoxically they’re nowhere near as popular as Bitcoin.) Even though it may have been designed as a payment system and a medium of exchange, Bitcoin’s real appeal was, inevitably, going to be as what economists call a “store of value,” a kind of digital analogue to gold. Like gold, Bitcoin is valuable to the extent that people think it’s valuable: You buy it because you think someone else will pay more for it in the future. And like gold, its value can’t be inflated away by a central bank.

09 January, 2021

The rookie GOP congressman describes Capitol Hill chaos, says that some Republicans who knew better voted against election certification out of physical fear, and explains how serving in Iraq and Afghanistan made him want to "end the endless wars."


I mean, we saw a number of senators and a handful of members of Congress change their perspectives. And I guess that's good, but it's not ideal. But what to me was the most bewildering was folks giving speeches that were written that morning as if we weren't in a body that had windows broken in just a few hours earlier, law enforcement drawing weapons. As if a woman hadn't been shot and killed 100 feet from where they stood, right? There was still dried blood out there. And they were giving the exact same speeches, the exact same arguments, telling what they thought their people wanted to hear rather than telling them what they needed to hear.

08 January, 2021

Donald Trump and Us


Way back in 1990, Trump gave an interview to Playboy magazine. The Soviet Union was in uncertain condition, and democratic protesters were getting bolder. Trump said, “Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.”

His interviewer asked, “You mean ‘firm hand’ as in China?”

Trump answered, “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it.”

Think on that for a moment: “almost blew it.”

“Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”


During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said of Vladimir Putin, “I think that he is a strong leader, he’s a powerful leader.”

He’s a powerful leader, yes. (I’m not sure how strong it is to jail, maim, and kill your critics. Some would construe all that as a sign of weakness.)

• About three weeks ago, on December 19, Trump tweeted, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”


Two days ago, he tweeted, “I hope the Democrats, and even more importantly, the weak and ineffective RINO section of the Republican Party, are looking at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.”

Uh-huh. The threat of mob violence, a true hallmark of “conservatism,” right?

Hitler Was Incompetent and Lazy—and His Nazi Government Was an Absolute Clown Show | Opinion


We tend to assume that when something awful happens there must have been some great controlling intelligence behind it. It's understandable: how could things have gone so wrong, we think, if there wasn't an evil genius pulling the strings? The downside of this is that we tend to assume that if we can't immediately spot an evil genius, then we can all chill out a bit because everything will be fine.

But history suggests that's a mistake, and it's one that we make over and over again. Many of the worst man-made events that ever occurred were not the product of evil geniuses. Instead they were the product of a parade of idiots and lunatics, incoherently flailing their way through events, helped along the way by overconfident people who thought they could control them.

Dustin_Echoes_UNSC on crossing barriers


She (and everyone who enabled her) crossed every barrier laid out to impede them. They knew they were breaking the law, but laws only hold weight when they're enforced. So for each barrier they crossed, each person who stepped aside and allowed them to continue, they became more emboldened. Maybe those who enabled the mob didn't see it as much of a threat. Maybe they secretly agreed with them, or maybe they got some personal gain from letting them continue. Regardless of why, she and the mob were as surprised as the rest of us to find themselves wandering the seat of our nation's power, almost entirely unopposed.

Then they came across yet another barricade. Behind that barricade was a secret service agent, weapon drawn in an alamo position, presumably tasked with protecting the leaders within the building - almost the entire line of succession to our republic. He, like all the others before him, was ordering them not to cross the barricade. It's difficult to imagine a more clear and present danger to find yourself in as an American citizen - staring down the barrel of a secret service agent while trespassing in the Capitol. (It has been pointed out that it was a plain-clothsed Capitol Police officer, ostensibly acting in the same role as a secret service agent but for the Legislators. Original left for clarity). Surely she, a 14 year veteran of the Air Force can be expected to know the danger she was in. But the frenzy, the empowerment , and the reinforcement they got by crossing all of the lines behind them led her to believe that even this was a line she could cross. It wasn't until she was shot that anyone else in the mob even stopped to consider the danger they were in.

Had she not been killed, they would have continued to do whatever they could get away with.

If that isn't the personification of Trump and the MAGA cult, I don't know what is.

Edit: I wanted to add some additional context since this blew up, in case my attempt at being brief muddied the point I was hoping to make:

Never before in our history has a President been so emboldened to circumvent the law in such a brazen manor. The events of this week are not simply the delusions of a senile old man. For the past 5 years, and likely much of his life, Trump has gotten away with doing whatever suits his fancy. Our nation, and it's leadership have enabled him throughout his tenure, whether by blind loyalty or for personal gain. He has been let off from an impeachment, with no lasting consequence. Didn't even have to testify. He has been allowed to lie to the American people, again and again from the highest office in the land, but that barrier carried no weight either. He suppressed the vote, tampered with the postal service, used the office for personal and professional gain, and destroyed the citizenry's faith in our electoral system. So far, all barriers crossed with little to no resistance. We cannot expect Trump to simply stop pulling the levers of power of his own volition. Even when he eventually moves on, the blueprint for his scheme is publicly available, and someone else will fill the power vacuum. Likely, someone with more subtlety, and common sense. Someone much more difficult to oppose, or indict.

A bigger threat to our democracy we haven't seen since the civil war. But, pretending this issue just goes away with Trump... to treat his agenda, his methods as an outlier now that they've seen popular support is foolishness. If we as a nation don't establish his treason, sedition, and attempted coup d'etat as the barricade that can never be crossed, if he and his enablers escape this mess without repercussion, we have only ourselves to blame when he or the next demagogue like him crosses that line.

And, watching the rioters being escorted peacefully down the steps of our Capitol, I fear we'll make the same mistake. 

07 January, 2021

Madness on Capitol Hill


“This is not America,” a woman said to a small group, her voice shaking. She was crying, hysterical. “They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots.”

Bring the Insurrectionists to Justice


True conservatives tend to have a particular understanding of the fragility of things. They understand that every human institution is, in its way, built on sand. It’s all so frail. They see how thin the veil is between civilization and chaos, and understand that we have to go through every day, each in our way, trying to make the veil thicker. And so we value the things in the phrase that others use to disparage us, “law and order.” Yes, always, the rule of law, and order so that the people of a great nation can move freely on the streets and do their work and pursue their lives.

04 January, 2021

Liz Cheney: Objecting to Electoral College Votes Sets ‘Exceptionally Dangerous Precedent’


[T]here is substantial reason for concern about the precedent Congressional objections will set here. By objecting to electoral slates, members are unavoidably asserting that Congress has the authority to overturn elections and overrule state and federal courts. Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress. This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans. Democrats have long attempted, unconstitutionally, to federalize every element of our nation—including elections. Republicans should not embrace Democrats’ unconstitutional position on these issues.

The recent proposal for a new “Commission” is even more problematic. It is not reasonable to anticipate that any commission so formed could wrap up its work in 10 days; indeed, the subsequent debate at both the state and federal level would likely require months. Did those proposing a new commission realize that they were in essence proposing to delay the inaugural? Did they mean to set up a new future precedent where the inaugural is delayed and we have an “Acting President?” For how long? Who decides when that process is over? Will that require another Act of Congress? Could the Acting President veto any such future Congressional action? If Congress has authority to create such a commission now, are state elections, recounts and state law legal challenges just “make-work” until Congress gets around to investigating and deciding who should be President? Members who support the new commission proposal may need to answer each of these questions. And in particular, Members should be prepared to answer how such a commission would be justified by the actual text of our founding documents. 

03 January, 2021

How Volcanos Work


VOlcanoes are fed by magma, which is usually generated in the mantle. THat magma is more buoyant than the crust above so rises up through the crust. THe highly pressured magma forces opn fractures to aid that travel. EVentually it reaches a deth where it is neutrally buoyant, so it hangs around in what you were probably taught was a magma chamber. WHat we've come to realise over the last 30 years or so is that it's really not much of a chamber; the magma is stored in a network of cracks and openings, and as it sits there it starts eroding the host rock around it through melting, as well as crystallising and forming crystal mushes within those spaces. So the magma reservoir is really a semi-porous network which is part filled by liquid melt, and part filled by solid material.

(the full comment is really interesting)

All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory


Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld are the 10 living former U.S. secretaries of defense.

As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the U.S. armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.

American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.