Archive for February, 2022

Intimidated Into Inaction

Monday, February 28th, 2022

Well, since I wrote the previous about the ninnies among us refusing to think about things because it’s just too scary, it happened. Putin invaded the Ukraine. China may be involved, which inspires all sorts of dark thoughts about where this might be going.

Arguing on the Internet doesn’t help anything, people keep telling me. Then they go and argue about it on the Internet…

Well, I dunno. If we’ve just toppled out of the frying pan into the fire, we have done so because of the way people are. Blame this guy, or that guy, we’re supposed to all be the same, right? Or at least related. And the Internet, or before the Internet I guess it was just the arguing — exposes the human frailties that lead to situations like this. The “Too Frightening To Contemplate” fallacy mentioned in the previous post is one of these frailties. And, for those who were blindsided by this, it has led to the blindsiding. Oh no, World War III can’t start in my lifetime, that’s too frightening to contemplate. Well oops, what’s this?

Trump kept it from happening. At least, while he was in, it didn’t happen. Coincidence? A lot of people seem to think so, I notice…and this is based on…squat. Here’s another frailty. We see it in the endless debates about gun control, and criminal incarceration. I remember the debates about it during Reagan’s time in office, and immediately thereafter. Here and there, now and then, we discuss it but we don’t even bother with giving it a name. For lack of a better term, we could call it “malevolent intent properly intimidated into inaction” or some such thing. It applies to domestic issues as well as foreign policy: The house with a sign that says “We believe in gun control” gets burglarized before the one that says “Prayer is a good way to talk to Jesus, trespassing here will get you a meeting with Him.”

Liberals, and sweater-wearing, pearl-clutching Trump-phobes, think of bad guys and their bad deeds like random weather events, such as hurricanes. It’s odd. People who are sure the “economic sanctions” will somehow push today’s Bad Guy, Vladimir Putin, into the correct behavior, are all done with anticipating the Bad Guy’s moves once they’re done with that. They don’t really want to do this. Making a little bit of noise is fine, but they don’t want to play Chess. And so they don’t favor the idea that Bad Guys can be punished or rewarded. Seems they’re figuring, if they take the time to figure out what the Bad Guy wants, they’re making themselves as bad as him and that’s just wrong. So they don’t believe in the concept.

But history does.

Skip TrumpThis is important stuff because it all matters when it’s time to go voting. If Placeholder Joe really did net his 81 million votes, or even if he didn’t but came close, we need to discuss this a whole lot more. Because that would mean, once it became apparent that Donald Trump is scary to bad people, more Americans voted against him over that than for him. They didn’t put America first, and now we have a mess. We’ve been here before. A few times.

The ninnies will never acknowledge this, of course. It would make them culpable. Well, apart from finger pointing, we have reasons for wanting to explore this. America’s leadership, in theory at least, is something under our control. Russia’s leadership is not.

Trump at one point called Putin’s move savvy and genius, which set off the ninnies into an apoplectic fit. I find this telling. Apparently they live in a world in which you’re not supposed to appreciate an enemy’s positive attributes, even if doing so is the only way you can avoid underestimating your antagonist at some critical moment in forming your strategy. You’re supposed to hate, hate, hate, all the time, and when it’s time to assess your enemy’s battle acumen or some other type of wisdom, you should be calling him a dummy or poo poo head or something.

Well wait, aren’t I being what I call others? Shouldn’t I be presuming a greater sense of realism and practicality on the part of those who disagree with me politically?

Perhaps. But, I’ve already tried that. And I found out the hard way that these are people who will just let Putin do — whatever. They’ll pull him out of a utility closet as a prop to be used against Republicans at campaign time, they’ll make up a bunch of fiction about Trump being in cahoots or whatever…whenever Putin’s not useful for them, they’ll gloss over him again, making snarky one-liners about 1980’s history. And then Putin will actually do something and it’s surprise, surprise, surprise.

So I’ve tried respecting them; I’m ready for some disrespect now. I see them as political creatures who will anticipate things for the sake of political victory, and if there’s no prospect of political victory, anticipate nothing.

One can hardly blame them. If we acknowledge the simple truism that America’s enemies are acting in their own interests, and can therefore be motivated, and controlled on some level provided we think as pragmatically as they do…then, after evaluating what is under our control and what isn’t, we’d have no choice but to support doctrines of Peace through Strength. And then the ninnies who are professionals at the game of being a ninny, would be out of a job. Good for the country, bad for them.

Or maybe I’m wrong. But the only way to find out for sure would be to start discussing this: Can bad guys be intimidated into inaction? Or are they purely random events, like hurricanes? Would the ensuing discussion yield good points worth thinking about, on both sides? Only one way to find out that one. We should explore it. Shift the focus away from Tiger King and The COVID for just a little while.

Too Frightening to Contemplate

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

I have seen lots of lists of “logical fallacies,” both formal and informal. But I have not seen an entry for what I would call, for lack of a better name, a fallacy of “the alternative is too frightening to contemplate.” There should be one. Someone should write one if no one has written one already.

The China Bioweapon must not be a bioweapon…must not have been a lab leak…must have escaped from a “wet market” or a Canadian postage stamp. Lots of people think that even though there’s no hard evidence to substantiate it. Because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate.

All these people bossing us around telling us to wear masks and take vaccines and stay home etc….they must have our best interests and our collective health at heart. They must. Not because we have reason to think they do, but because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate.

And they must have a plan. They must be competent. Because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate. I noticed this over the weekend while Mrs. Freeberg and I were out of town, with all these recaps of the Ukraine situation. Each and every expert interviewed, and there were plenty, talked up a storm about this might happen, that might happen, Putin may be doing this, or that, or thinking this or that…everything is up in the air. Except for one thing. Those who are managing the crisis, are doing whatever it is that should be done, and they’re not doing anything that shouldn’t be done. That one you could take to the bank…because the alternative was far too frightening to contemplate. Anybody with a brain in their heads they were interested in using, had to notice these absolutely-sure conclusions were entirely dependent on observations that loaded up chock full of questions and doubts, which should have been a problem. It’s not a problem for the ABC News audience though.

The people who are vaccine hesitant must be stupid, crazy, Cuckoo for cocoa puffs, believing in “conspiracy theories,” incapable of carrying coherent thoughts around in their heads…because if they have actually been paying attention and forming logical conclusions off things they know that others don’t know, well, that’s far too frightening to contemplate.

This isn’t just a persuasive logical fallacy. it is a deeply polarizing one. I think if you lined up everybody and sorted them according to how ready they are to dismiss credible possibilities, just because the ramifications are too frightening and for no other reason, you’d find the 0% and 100% ends of that spectrum densely populated, and the halfway point very sparse. In other words, people, generally, do it or they don’t do it. People do, or else they don’t, say “I’m ready to eliminate that as a possibility, not because the evidence compels me to eliminate it, but because my fears compel me.”

We should define this fallacy and learn to spot it.

It’s really everywhere.

Especially lately with this debacle with the China bioweapon.

Yeah, it’s probably a bioweapon…I know, I know…that’s too frightening to contemplate. So it must not be so.


Sunday, February 13th, 2022

I’ve lately been thinking about leadership. That President’s Day is approaching, may at first blush look like the cause, but if you have been reading about what’s going on in the world you understand that that’s not it, P-Day is just a coincidence. A trolley has come off the tacks somewhere, and it’s costing us big-time. Just a casual glance at our “leaders” today confirms this, and it’s not a United States thing. It’s a First World thing. Somewhere, somehow, a pricey sweet vintage of Riesling has turned to vinegar. Our history is swollen thick with legends of leaders, born with their gifts and then chosen by destiny, who pulled victory from the jaws of defeat. It happened both within and outside of the military. They showed by their various words and deeds that they weren’t replaceable. They rode their horses into musket fire and cannon fire without flinching. Their opinions were not all popular; sometimes they swam against the tide. They refused to segregate their troops by skin color or to disregard the advice of females, during times when it would have been accepted and popular to do such things. They had courage and they had principles. So we know what good leaders are, and we have had some.

Nowadays they’re all buffoons. It’s more than a pattern. It’s setting in as an ironclad rule. The most lightweight stuff is floating to the top. Listing examples would be futile, and far more time consuming than listing exceptions. Somewhere we’ve lost our way.

I’m talking about what, exactly? We could start with the resume, distinguishing past employment that involves actually building something that works, from “make work” jobs, “no show” jobs, “being in the right place at the right time.” Making decisions that change the course of cause-and-effect. Getting your hands dirty. This is enough to substantiate, although not necessarily prove, that I’m calling out something tangible here, that it isn’t all in my head. We’re looking for something and not finding it. We’re finding lots of things that try hard to look like it, but the goods aren’t making it to our doorstep, as if we’re bringing empty grocery bags home from the market.

G-7I think it started when people began to associate leadership with certain mannerisms. Public school “education” got us started on this. In the 1970’s it became fashionable to “let the kids choose their own leaders,” and the kids would respond by anticipating which ones among them would be chosen by everybody else. And then this Captain of the Football Team, Class ASB President, would saunter up to the head of the class in his name-brand clothes and speak from behind the podium with great bumptiousness and confidence…desperately pretending to know what he was doing. Which would have been an act he had been performing from an early age. It was all about the swagger. Inspiring people to say “There’s just something about him I can’t explain it!”

But, nothing that came out of his mouth changed the course of anything. It was all a bunch of bromides.

Okay so that’s one thing; a real leader says things that are merely manifestations of the weighty thoughts he’s been having, a fake leader’s “weighty thoughts” consist mostly-to-entirely of how to word his speech to make himself look good. How does one distinguish? We must be looking for something apart from the default, something people are not born doing. This much we know, because we stopped finding it when we merely stopped looking for it. We didn’t engage in a drive to forcefully extirpate it. Except maybe for manhood, I suppose. Our current social climate frowns on carelessly intertwining rugged manly mannerisms with any notion of “leadership,” arguing this would potentially deny us the benefits of good leaders who are female. I think that’s correct. But, here there is a clue: If it’s something that’s been happening ever since my childhood, I remember certain things about my childhood. On television, good leaders were still manly. At school, where we selected our leaders from among ourselves, or where our teachers took it upon themselves to show what leadership should look like, they were all female or effeminate males. Looking back, it’s easy to see what was happening: Progressives were retooling our cultural framework, as they are wont to do, as they can’t stop doing.

The truth is, though, that the testosterone eruption possesses neither a superset nor subset relation to genuine leadership. But it isn’t mutually exclusive either. The progressives, once again, steered us wrong.

A real leader is engaged in cause-and-effect, and autonomously invokes if-then thinking. “If we don’t guarantee the right to vote to persons of all races, there won’t be much point to the prior guarantees we have made about banning slavery and equal representation under the law.” “If we don’t seize such-and-such a hill, or beachhead, the enemy can launch attacks and counterattacks on us without warning.” Fake leaders have thoughts about not having thoughts: “Who am I, to say marriage is between one man and one woman?” “How do we have any more right to be out here, exploring, than this Crystalline Entity that’s floating around killing people?”

Perhaps if we could thaw out someone who got frozen a century or two ago, this change in prevailing zeitgeist would become more apparent. “It’s a good thing he’s in charge, otherwise something worse would have happened…” has fallen off the table. We have a President of the United States who has done nothing good — and yet, he’s the right guy for the times. He speaks with great force, and creepy whispers, and if he knew where he was he’d be like a Terminator robot — can’t be reasoned with, won’t show pity, remorse or fear. That’s today’s “leader” for you, there’s no point discussing anything with him. There’s an impulse to just knuckle under and do what he says, like in times of old. But back then you did what the leader said because that was your best hope of coming through the battle in one piece. Nowadays, it’s more like a depressed sort of resignation. “Oh well, one year down, three to go.” And this is what we have accepted as leadership.

It isn’t just Placeholder Joe. You heard his partner in crime: “It is time for us to do what we have been doing, and that time is every day.” There it is again, the grand flourish before the nonsense, the swaggering confidence, the “pretend to have a thought in my head when I really don’t have one.” We have accepted this as a sort of new-normal in leadership. If we want to do what these people say, it’s no longer because that’s our best shot at coming out of something alive. It’s more like it’s just too much of a pain in the ass to argue with them. How did we get here?

I think we got here when we decided leadership had something to do with personality, and if someone was fit to lead us, they should be fun to watch. Maybe that was it. I’ve heard a lot of people say a lot of things about George Washington, but I’ve never heard of a contemporary say he was fun to watch. Super duper tall, commanding presence, persevered in the face of near-certain defeat, made good decisions, etc., yeah. But not fun to watch.

Obama diggingI shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the cosmetics, though. Our obsession with appearances has refocused our attention onto characteristics that aren’t just irrelevant to the search for real leadership, but deleterious to our objective of finding some of it. This part is particularly hard to define. Real leaders move a certain way. It isn’t a swagger. It’s an ease with physical labor that reflects past activities and attempts. President Obama digging a ditch with His fanny sticking way out, was a good pictorial representation of it not being there. I recall participating in a lengthy online inspection into our male movie stars, wondering what had happened over there. How come thirty year old men today don’t speak, move and act like Sean Connery back when he was thirty? What’s different? Someone came up with the bit of trivia that young Connery, the man of a zillion jobs including pugilist and milkman, had actually been routinely punched in the face and maybe we’re seeing some of that. Yes; that could be it.

The change reeks of a bad trade, a “birthright for pottage” exchange, as if we’ve given up something irreplaceable, imbued with a value that escaped our understanding when we traded it away, for sake of something left on the table, that we didn’t even get. Placeholder Joe and Kneepads Kamala make dreadful decisions, and they’re not even fun to watch. I look at a picture of the G-7, and I feel like a huge reservoir of oxygen has been sucked directly out of my bloodstream, or I’ve lost a week or two out of my life just by laying my eyes on the spectacle.