How to Lose Friends and Arguments Quickly and Easily

It is rare I find myself in a discussion of any seriousness without someone resorting to personal attacks, ridicule and simple name-calling. I do not think the guilty parties recognize how bad this is for themselves, and their ideas.
First, when you engage in one of these activities, you are showing the entire audience-not just the person you are attacking, but everyone who will ever read those words-that you are either ignorant on the matter at hand, and unable to articulate an argument, or of such poor character that you cannot resist the temptation to attack the person, rather than their idea. You get pleasure from insulting them, but care not for advancement of truth.

This never reflects well on you, or your argument. It also plants the idea in the mind of your audience that perhaps people who believe like you all suffer from a weak and/or corrupt mind. This is not a fair observation, but it is a likely one. If you want to advance truth, you care more about effective persuasion than hurting your interlocutor.

Secondly, the personal attack represents a violent approach that, on the surface, suggests you are incapable of argumentation, and thus, must resort to violence to get your way. In other words, you are a bully. If you don’t know the difference between a bully, and someone who is simply strong, then you might be guilty of this. A bully rules through fear and force. A strong man rules through power. There is a difference between power and force.
Third, if you resort to these behaviors, you are showing yourself to lack self-discipline. If you are not in control of the words you write or speak, you are not in control of your mind, and thus you are proving yourself unworthy of participation in the conversation. It is simply verbal diarrhea. Who needs that?
These are principles every child should know by the age of reason. They may not be easy to conform to, but they should be accepted as reasonable guidelines for behavior.  Teach your children and those you influence, and if the requirements for civilized, mature conversation are out of your reach, just abstain from conversations that prove too much for you.  None of us are above falling into these errors, but we can at least hold these virtues above ourselves and strive to acquire them.

Fear of Failure is Fear of Living

It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.

I love the diversity of personalities that make up a big family, and life, for that matter. #2 is much more like his Mother than he is

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

me. This morning I mentioned off-handedly that I’d ordered something online from China. A business expense.  A look of slight alarm passed over his face. I preemptively explained that I’d done some research on this particular item, the seller, and was reasonably sure it would work out.

He replied with great gravity, “What do you think the chances are you’ll be disappointed?” Ha! What a great question! I got a good laugh at that and said, “Well, I guess I would say about 30%, although it’d be tough to justify that. I’m quite a bit more sure of being satisfied, although I would say the chances are fair that I won’t be. But I have a plan if that’s the case, so I’m not too worried about it either way”.  I then briefly explained my Plan B.

He didn’t say anything. The look on his face showed his doubt. So like his Mom! So I said, “I don’t mind risks…I’m prepared for some disappointment, but also delight in achieving something, discovering something new, or learning something, or perhaps just as satisfying, proving my judgment to be accurate. That’s pride, of course, but enjoyable.  I learn something, perhaps even more, from my mistakes”.

At that moment his Mother entered the room and, hearing at least some part of the discussion, said, “Yeah, but I don’t like risk…yours or mine”.  Okay, so risk isn’t always fun.  But this is a woman who won’t try a new dish at a restaurant for fear she won’t like it!

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Rebel, Revolutionary, Slave or…..Expat?

Readers may know that I dislike most of what the central government does, favor states’ rights and do not shy away from correcting widespread Yankee revisionist history about the origins and purposes of the Civil War War of Northern Aggression.  That having been said, I am among those who look upon that pitiful history of our country and learn the lessons it offers us.  Among them is this; neither peaceable or armed rebellion against this government has a reasonable chance of succeeding.

These are not the only considerations, of course.  We can look to Thomas Aquinas for some guidance on the question of just war.  It seems to me the motives could be just.  For example, I find many of the policies of the central government to be immoral and dangerous.  The fears of the founders have come true; the government they constructed is increasingly hostile towards the citizens it exists primarily to protect.  This is the nature of governments.  They understood it.  Either we do not, or, as I think is more likely, we do, and we simply want it to be ‘our’ government that we wield against them.  This is basically the argument of the Republicans now.  The Democrats have long since stopped pretending they didn’t want a all-power state a la Mao or Stalin.

In theory there could be a peaceable secession.  This would satisfy Thomas’ “means” question.  However, it seems to me the War Between the States already proved that our central government will not tolerate secession.  Instead of being seen as a bloodthirsty tyrant who would eagerly kill innocent women and children to protect the artificial political state voluntarily joined by the individual states, Lincoln is routinely seen as a hero.  I suppose one day Obama will be lauded similarly.  So dreaming of peaceable secession is out of the question.

We then have to ask, if we have both a legitimate cause, and acceptable means, whether the situation that would result would be better than the one we have now.  I believe most of the rebels and revolutionaries today assume that it must be.  They would be mistaken of course.  Most everyone assumed Iraq would be better off without Saddam.  Look how that turned out.  For that matter, many of my associates couldn’t wait until Clinton left office.  I wish we had him now.  Sometimes you really are better with the devil you know.

But granting for now that any new government would be less hostile, we’re left with the all important question of whether or not the endeavor has a reasonable chance of succeeding.

Many on the right see themselves as latter-day Revolutionary War patriots.  It’s a pleasant delusion.  I often times see myself as a martyr.  It’s a way to pleasure our egos while denying the reality of the situation.  Those on the right will tell me they’re fighting for

I think the other one had too much baggage. A good lesson in PR.
I think the other one had too much baggage. A good lesson in PR.

God, or for the restoration of the Republic, or for liberty, or lower taxes, or whatever.  They usually don’t really know and can’t define it well enough to sell it.  After all, the founders weren’t establishing a government pledged to recognizing the sovereignty of God and to carry out His will; they explicitly created a government which denied that all-important truth.  You know, the whole, ‘build your house on sand‘ approach.  Presumably the southern and western WASPs who would lead this rebellion and form the new government would similarly embrace “religious liberty”, also known as, the ‘freedom to drown in my own error’.

These well meaning ‘patriots’ think that a little insurrection will, I guess, cause Washington to suddenly fear the citizens and just let all the states walk away from $100 trillion in liabilities.  Presumably the remaining, oh, let’s say 35 states would happily pick up that tab, while the rebels start fresh.

John Whitehead writes, in support of the notion that things are going to change quickly:

Those tempted to write off the standoff at the Bundy Ranch as little more than a show of force by militia-minded citizens would do well to reconsider their easy dismissal of this brewing rebellion. This goes far beyond concerns about grazing rights or the tension between the state and the federal government.

Few conflicts are ever black and white, and the Bundy situation, with its abundance of gray areas, is no exception. Yet the question is not whether Cliven Bundy and his supporters are domestic terrorists, as Harry Reid claims, or patriots, or something in between. Nor is it a question of whether the Nevada rancher is illegally grazing his cattle on federal land or whether that land should rightfully belong to the government. Nor is it even a question of who’s winning the showdown because if such altercations end in bloodshed, everyone loses.

What we’re really faced with, and what we’ll see more of before long, is a growing dissatisfaction with the government and its heavy-handed tactics by people who are tired of being used and abused and are ready to say “enough is enough.” As I show in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, there’s a subtext to this incident that must not be ignored, and it is simply this: America is a pressure cooker with no steam valve, and things are about to blow.

The government has been anticipating and preparing for such an uprising for years. For example, in 2008, a U.S. Army War College report warned that the military must be prepared for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,” which could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse,” “purposeful domestic resistance,” “pervasive public health emergencies” or “loss of functioning political and legal order”—all related to dissent and protests over America’s economic and political disarray.

It’s an interesting read.  But consider the central government response to Clive Bundy, and put it in context.  This was a disagreement over $1MM in taxes, some land and cattle.  Not a big deal in their world.  It went badly for reasons I’ve already explained, and which shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign of weakness.  How would Washington respond if the new confederacy announced its intentions of separating?   I think we know how Obama would react.  It’s pretty simple to imagine how Chris Christie or Hillary/Biden would act.  With Rand Paul, who knows.

Mr. Whitehead therefore challenges you and I to answer for ourselves as to whether or not we’re rebels, revolutionaries or slaves.  I answer by saying, “Well, I plan on being an expat“.

BLM Tactical Retreat

When the Feds backed off their siege on the Nevada ranch I posted on FB the following, “Nevada rancher beats the feds….for now.”  I don’t for a second believe his tangle with the central government is over.

One of the best quotes I heard while on my, er, sabbatical, was the following; “They [the Feds], can make lots of mistakes; we can’t

Humiliation is a powerful motivator.  You can bet they will try again.
Humiliation is a powerful motivator. You can bet they will try again.

make any”.  The man who uttered this was referring to the fact that if the Feds are after you, they only need one misstep by the target to justify an arrest, indictment and conviction.  They, on the other hand, might and usually do make lots of tactical and strategic mistakes along the way, but they have the time, resources and immunity from litigation or prosecution to recover from them.  In the end, they’ll get the target, one way or another.  They have the disadvantage of the burden of proof, but they have every other advantage in the “game”.

I knew a guy who had been under investigation for 20 years, and knew it, but had remained beyond their reach because of his caution, discipline and paranoia.  It only took one single phone call and violation of his own rules and it all came crashing down. In his mind, he had been so disciplined for so long and was seemingly beyond reach that he had unconsciously dropped his guard.  He thought he was invincible.  Like a black swan event, the prospect of his arrest had become unlikely, and while at any given moment it might have been, in the long-run it was actually almost certain.   He got 21 years for selling (lots of) marijuana.

Anyway, I thought of this because of a recent article which suggested the Feds will simply retreat, review, and pursue a different angle where victory is assured.  It’s basic military (and political theory); pick the battles you can win and then use overwhelming force.  So much was wrong about the BLM decision making (and I don’t mean wrong in a moral sense (although it might be, I mean, the political execution of it), my guess is the second stringers were making the early decisions.  You can bet the big leaguers will call the shots for round two.   By Mr. Grigg:

When the ATF attacked the Branch Davidians outside Waco in February 1993, the expectation was a quick and painless victory over an eccentric religious sect and a public relations boost for the scandal-plagued agency. This is why the assault was code-named “Showtime.”

The Davidians, however, refused to follow the script. When the ATF stormtroopers arrived at the sect’s sanctuary at Mt. Carmel, David Koresh – who had known of the impending assault, and released an ATF informant rather than holding him as a hostage — attempted to de-escalate the confrontation, only to be answered by a murderous volley of gunfire. Rather than allowing themselves to be shackled or slaughtered, the Davidians stood their ground, killing four of the assailants in a morally unassailable exercise of self-defense and forcing the ATF to retreat.

Because the Regime cannot countenance resistance, the FBI laid siege to the Davidians for 51 days before the final assault that left of scores of Davidians dead from fire, asphyxiation, and gunfire.

In 1973, a band of Sioux activists at Wounded Knee held off the FBI and the US military for 71 days, demanding respect for their rights under treaty law, accountability for the corruption of federally installed tribal dictator Dickie Wilson, and investigation of unsolved murders. The Feds replied with the largest domestic military deployment since the last confrontation at Wounded Knee in December 1890, an undisguised slaughter carried out by the vengeful Seventh Cavalry that amounted to an American Babi Yar.

In response to the 1973 protests, Armed FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, SWAT teams, and teams of Wilson’s paramilitary “GOON Squad” formed an iron ring around the village of Wounded Knee. Colonel Vic Jackson, head of the Pentagon’s Civil Disorder Management School, was called upon by the FBI to implement the notorious “Operation Garden Plot” martial law blueprint. The FBI’s plan called for the Army would invade and “pacify” the village before the FBI went in to “arrest” whoever might survive the onslaught. Armored Personnel Carriers were on hand to deal with what were described as “bunkers” (and were, in fact, root cellars). Phantom F-4 jets flew low-altitude reconnaissance runs over the town.

At one point…

Here’s the rest of it.

Update:  Ms. Kwiatowski has an interesting take on things.

Chaos, Complexity, Uncertainty and Control

I have found the study of chaos and uncertainty to be fascinating, especially as it regards human behavior, perception and decision making.  Chaos and complexity, or even the perception of them, have profound influence on the way we think and the decisions we make.  As I reflect on my life and judgments, I see how chaos can help to radically refine previously held assumptions and quickly narrow priorities.  It can also bewilder and paralyze.  Complexity can be equally difficult to consider.  I know that some of my worst decisions resulted in a failure to adequately contemplate every conceivable outcome from a decision.  In fact, that’s probably impossible to do, which ought to require an increased abundance of prudence in decision making, particularly where the risks and costs of failure are both high, or even if it is only the latter.  That rare event with catastrophic events shouldn’t be discounted.

It is interesting to me also, from a societal standpoint, how groups of people respond to these things.  Beyond chaos and complexity is the uncertainty of future (or even present) realities.  What we believe to be true about ourselves and others is usually wrong.  We tend to overstate our own strengths and others’ weaknesses.  This inability to accurately evaluate reality should frighten us and greatly undermine our confidence in making decisions.

After a few years on ‘sabbatical’, dealing with a rather closed society well-suited to extensive study and observation, and a great deal of ‘free’ time to reflect, I have reached some conclusions about how people deal with uncertainty and how much many humans seem to need a great deal of control (interior and exterior).  For all of our society’s talk of freedom and liberty, especially our individualistic culture, it seems that we are not well suited to it.  That is, we claim to like it, perhaps it is pleasurable, but it is not really consistent with our good.  More on that later.

Here’s a fascinating article if you are, like one FB friend described me, a ‘nerd’:

Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am insensitive to the fate of the 239 persons aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, and to their families and friends, let me assure you that I empathize as much as others with the suffering inflicted upon these people. But there is something more significant about the presumed deaths of these 239 persons.

For a month, the mainstream media, government officials, and seemingly millions of other individuals, have been obsessed with finding not only the plane, but the explanation for its disappearance. Why such a highly energized interest? Is it the destiny of the 239 persons aboard the flight? During the same time period that this flight has been missing, some 682 military veterans committed suicide, a figure more than two-and-one-half times the numbers aboard this airliner. There have been prior plane crashes that claimed more victims, but without the preoccupation attending this one. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and other natural events have taken more lives but, being “natural” occurrences, are understood to be part of the uncertainties that attend life on our turbulent spaceship. Wars have led to the deaths of millions of equally innocent men, women, and children, but most of us have internalized the insane proposition that wars are essential features of “civilization.” We are supposed to have wars, they are what make us “exceptional!”

The explanation for our obsession with Flight 370 can be found, I suspect, deep within our individual and collective psyches. You may recall The Twilight Zone episode in which an airliner full of passengers finds itself trapped in some fourth-dimension above New York City. The pilots try desperately to land the plane, only to discover that the city below them has no present existence, being as it was decades earlier. We are asked to imagine ourselves in such a dire situation, and to listen for the endless sounds of engines as those aboard this plane seek to overcome their apparent fate.

You can read the rest here.