The Flynn case keeps making me angrier

Flynn's new counsel is tearing the prosecutors up with demands for copies of exculpatory documents.  They should be terrified of this woman.

They live for this

Give a dog something to do that he's all in for.  You can get amazing photos.


The Durham inquiry into the Russiagate conspiracy turns into a formal criminal investigation -- of the investigators of the Russiagate conspiracy.

My faith in the Department of Justice is not so very great that I have high hopes here, but I certainly long to see justice done in this matter. Good hunting, but be transparent and open with the people, and let the chips fall where they may.

Toto Reference from the DB

Headline: "U.S. General blessed the rains down in AFRICOM."

Ironically, the actual AFRICOM headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany. They probably have rain there too.

Betting against mistakes

I'm liking this guy Matt Levine, who writes for Bloomberg:
Neumann, the founder of WeWork, will walk away from this corporate bonfire with a billion dollars and a bunch of fancy houses. His great-grandchildren will be prominent philanthropists with their names on museums and universities, the strange origin of their fortunes long forgotten. Neumann did a certain sort of capitalism—one with some cachet at HBS!—as well as anyone has ever done it. It is one thing to build a successful company that creates a lot of value and take some of that value for yourself; Neumann created a company that destroyed value at a blistering pace and nonetheless extracted a billion dollars for himself. He lit $10 billion of SoftBank’s money on fire and then went back to them and demanded a 10% commission. What an absolute legend.
As a friend I spent time with last week at a small reunion used to say, "Hey, when did I fall off the fast track?"

The Codevilla Tapes

Some of you will be interested in this.

Mountain Dining

Stopped for dinner at a little Mexican place last night. Apparently I wasn’t the only “Beorn” to think of it.

I’m guessing he’s been a regular visitor. Big sleek fellow with a very glossy coat. Not unfriendly.

Impeachment Replays

William Mattox, of the James Madison Institute, has an interesting idea.

An acquittal should allow a president to run for a third term.

Not a bad one, either.

Eric Hines

Remind me again what these cities have in common?

Again, h/t Instapundit:  top honors for rat infestation go to Chicago, then L.A., with New York, San Francisco, etc., bringing up the rear.

Alliances as a means, not an end

Loyalty and faithfulness to commitments are good things, but nations aren't people. George Washington warned us that
“habitual hatred or a habitual fondness” turns a nation into “a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”
That's not to say that a nation should lead other nations on, then disappoint them, only that it should think carefully about what it commits to.  In other words, exhibit a little impulse control.

But what did you MEAN by that?

And they say BoJo is rash:
Which brings me back to Alexander and his knot. For the plan of Boris Johnson is not just the bold one. It is the only answer that can stop the courts, MPs, and others from doing for the rest of our natural lives what they would very happily do. Which is to continue to stand before the 2016 result and insist either that it cannot be acted upon or that it should not be acted upon. The media version of this is to pretend that it is not clear what the British people meant when they voted to leave the EU. Somehow it would have been completely plain if we had asked to remain.

Two good ones from Instapundit

Ad Hominem as a Cognitive Bias

Ad hominem is one of the more common informal fallacies, but I have decided that it is also a significant cognitive bias. A cognitive bias is a mode of thought that speeds analysis but tends to lead to errors. A famous one is the availability heuristic, the tendency to make judgments on available information rather than seeking fuller information. For example, I might decide to adopt a new diet because I've seen it depicted favorably in television shows and news programs. Those positive depictions are available without further work. However, further study might show that the new diet was much more questionably beneficial, or even harmful.

Another famous one is the confirmation bias, in which I am inclined to approve information that supports what I already believe to be the case (and to discount evidence that suggests I might be wrong). This one is a very powerful bias that affects everyone, no matter how careful a thinker they may be. It is very difficult to correct for it.

The ad hominem bias, another heuristic bias, which I am proposing works like this: it is easier to understand a known individual's bad qualities than to understand a complex situation in which they are involved. If a bad quality attributed to the known individual can reasonably be inferred to be the cause of a bad but complex situation, the ad hominem heuristic occurs when you make that easy move.

The ad hominem cognitive bias is similar to the availability heuristic in that it works on information that is already available, partly in order to avoid the difficulty of understanding the complex situation. However, it is also similar to confirmation bias in that you believe the bad attribution you yourself are making just because you already believe the person is bad. It is more complicated than the other two, however, in that -- because this is your own attribution, and you therefore believe it -- the new, probably false belief gets filed as further evidence of the bad quality of the person you dislike or hate. The ad hominem heuristic thus contains a feedback loop in which it strengthens itself the more often it occurs; and since it is a cognitive bias and thus likely to lead to error, that means you tend to drift further and further away from what is really true.

In extreme cases, all the problems in your world can end up seeming to be the fault of this one pernicious individual. If only he (or she) could be removed, the improvement would be systemic and massive. This kind of belief can justify many sorts of extreme conclusions, or even violence against the hated individual.

Perhaps it has a name already.

Poor Target Selection

Granted that this man wasn't carrying either his machine-gun or his sniper rifle at the time, but what thief looks at this guy and thinks to himself, "Oh, yeah, of all the people in the city today this is the one I'm going to pick out to rob"?

Mexico Loses a Gun Battle to a Cartel

Speaking of wars and rumors of wars, there's a conflict closer to home that may become a pressing problem.
The eight-hour battle ended when government forces, outgunned and surrounded, without reinforcements or a way to retreat, received an order directly from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to release their prisoner and surrender.
"Ordered to lay down arms and surrender" is never good, but ordered to surrender to a criminal organization noted for mutilation and beheading?

Bill McRaven Calls For a New President

Retired Admiral Bill McRaven, formerly commander of JSOC and later SOCOM, has penned a piece calling for the replacement of President Trump "the sooner, the better." I'm one of the kind of people he's trying to motivate, and he's speaking in language I understand. The argument has an unusual structure, one rarely seen in American politics.

The piece is fifteen paragraphs long. The first ten paragraphs are purely about honor, as are his last three. He lays out numerous examples framed around two specific recent events of men and women of honor showing honor to and for each other. Honor is indispensable to society and to politics, so this kind of argument is not out of place. Without honor, there is only power, and the direct exercise of power is expensive. Showing respect for each other and each other's interests lowers the cost of running a political system, and indeed a society. It allows us to accept that others may assume positions of power and authority, because we believe they will respect us enough not to use that power irresponsibly; and because a concern with being seen as worthy of honor by us will mean they behave honorably and respectably. They are and ought to be motivated by 'a decent respect for the opinions of mankind,' as the Declaration of Independence puts it. It is not for no reason that the Founders, who were concerned not only with 'lives and fortunes' but also 'sacred honor' built so successful a system of governance.

It is also unsurprising that a man whose life is built around honor would find Donald Trump especially objectionable. Trump is not concerned with the proprieties of honor at all. He uses the language and forms of honor to reward and punish, but without regard to whether the rewards or especially the punishments are merited. It is proper to regard him as ridiculous in this way -- just last week Jim Mattis drew a connection between the insults Trump had directed at him and those directed as Meryl Streep to declare himself 'the Meryl Streep of generals' -- but it is not completely our of line to feel this misuse of honor represents a dagger at the throat of basic social connections. McRaven's closing argument, in his last three paragraphs, suggest that our ability to maintain the military power that holds the order of the world together is fundamentally threatened by Donald Trump. His arguments as to why a disdain for promises and alliances and respect for the interests of allies are perfectly reasonable.

So thirteen of the fifteen paragraphs are places where McRaven and I share a basic worldview about the role of honor and its place in the world. It's really only parts of two paragraphs where we come apart, but those two are enough to call the whole thrust of his argument into question for me. They are these:
It is easy to destroy an organization if you have no appreciation for what makes that organization great. We are not the most powerful nation in the world because of our aircraft carriers, our economy, or our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, the protectors of the less fortunate.

But, if we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states?
The problem with the first paragraph is the assumption that our power comes from "ideals of universal freedom and equality." It is true that many Americans believe that these are universal ideals. But ideals like 'equality' are not universally held, and the appeal to these things as if they were universals is a category error, as this essay explains in detail.

Category errors are very serious philosophical mistakes. McRaven is not a philosopher, and as the essay notes this error is extremely common among those we tend to name as our 'foreign policy elites.' Nevertheless this is an error of thought with severe consequences. It is one that has drawn us into wars, and could again, to fight for values that aren't even held by the people we think we are defending. The most prominent of the Kurdish fighting organizations, for example, are Communists. Communists don't believe in 'universal freedom,' and while they profess a view of 'equality,' they don't mean anything like what Americans do by the term. The idea is not that everyone is endowed equally with basic liberties, but that society should control everything in order to ensure something like an equal distribution of goods (or at least an equitable one, since those with greater needs might receive more; though in practice, the 'equities' somehow always align with closeness to the political elite). Such a state is in most respects aims at the opposite of our traditional notion of 'equality,' and is completely opposed to our ideal of freedom.

Which brings us to the second paragraph. The problem here is not an opposition to oppression, which is noble. It is the list of conflicts. American honor might compel us to do something to defend allies like the Kurds, but it cannot compel us to fight in South Sudan. Most Americans could probably identify that Sudan is a nation in Africa, but I'll bet you that the percentage who can tell you where the Rohingyas live is vanishingly small. Honor bonds are mutual relationships, not one-way duties of provision. The Kurds have one with us because they fought with us against a common enemy, and bore a lot of the burden of the fighting while we mostly provided fire and air support. Where no deep relationship with us exists, honor does not and cannot compel us to fight someone else's war. We might choose to do it, and think it worthy of honor that we chose to bear a burden we did not have to bear. Honor cannot compel us to do it. If they want an honor bond of the sort that would compel us to do it, well, formal alliances are negotiated formally, and usually between nations rather than between a nation and disfavored ethnic groups.

Meanwhile McRaven has omitted a significant honor concern that touches on this project of removing the president 'the sooner, the better.' The class of public servants, to include military servicemembers, is honor-bound to uphold the will of the American people. This will is expressed formally and permanently in the Constitution, and less formally and permanently in the elected government of the day. The current impeachment hearing (if it is that) was kicked off by a letter to Congress from an unnamed intelligence officer who has chosen to remain in the shadows rather than testify even incognito. The intelligence community has no constitutional standing even to exist, but it is legally bound to the Executive Branch, whose elected leader is a President of the United States. The State Department, similarly, is now a merely statuatory authority that is in open revolt against the Constitutional authority. The New York Times just ran an article openly praising "the deep state" for its attempt to resist and remove the elected leader of their branch of government.

McRaven must know that having military officials throw their weight behind the removal of the Constitutionally-named Commander in Chief would set an alarming precedent with echoes to ancient Rome. There is no guarantee that allowing the unelected bureaucracy or military replace the elected and Constitutional leadership would happen only once. It certainly cannot be said to be consistent with the honor owed to the Constitution or the constitutional structure to advocate for the bureaucrats to be allowed to override the election.

Now Congress has constitutional authority to remove the President if it chooses to do so, but it is supposed to be for 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' not because the President lacks honor. He does, I agree. That is a big problem, I agree. But the cost of removing a President outside the constitutional norms, at the behest of an unelected bureaucracy and even unnamed intelligence officers, is too high to be borne. There will be an election in a year and a week. If the American people want rid of him, they will have the chance to do it themselves.

A Better Riposte for Gabbard

When Hilary! accused her of being a Russian asset would have been: "That's just what a Chinese asset would say."

I don't really believe Hilary is a Chinese asset, of course. She's always worked for herself.

Home Again

Back from the road. There were three of the most beautiful days I can recall. The sunset of the last one looked like this, no filters nor edits.

That’s Stone Mountain in the background. All my life I’ve heard the old rhyme, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” Well, not this time brothers and sisters. That cloud formation indicates a weather change, and by Saturday Tex’s storm had blown in with a soaking like I’ve only rarely seen. Fortunately some old biker comrades had met me there, and we holed up with a bottle of Drambuie. It passed and Sunday was beautiful again.

I’m only home for a week or so, then I’ll be headed to DC in early November. Should see the best of the mountain color by then.

Fight Club 20th Anniversary Rules Addenda

Some additional rules now that we're all 20 years older.

Oklahoma Drivers

Kids these days -- can't even drive a wagon properly. What DO they teach them in school?

Well, thankfully, it seems no one was hurt.

Civic health, the sequel

It may not surprise any of you to learn that there is a strong current of paranoia in public life.  I'm not really referring to the run-of-the-mill concern that people are exercising power in shady ways and not being straight with us, since I call that more of a universal concern than a current, and in any event if it's a flaw I'm among the most flawed of citizens.

Posting late at night in discussions with my local fellow citizens, however--I'm still getting used to calling them my "constituents"--is sure to reveal some startling assumptions and suspicions.  Last night a fellow was arguing with me in a reasonably friendly tone, but exposing some pointed differences between us.  Suddenly he posted an inexplicable GIF showing someone high-fiving someone else.  Then he posted in some agitation that he hadn't meant to post that GIF, didn't understand why it was under his name, and couldn't delete it.  No problem, I said, I can delete it for you, and I think it's an example of something I've often seen happen before.  Facebook has little icons at the bottom of comment boxes, including a GIF button, and it's easy to swipe it by accident; it's equally easy to swipe one of the default options it brings up, and presto, you've posted a random GIF.  But there's also a little "..." icon you should be able to press and get an "edit or delete" button.

No, he said, you didn't delete it.  I can still see it on my screen.  (I suppose it just hadn't refreshed yet or something.)  And I can't delete it.  And besides, I didn't post it in the first place.  And I think you know what happened.  Clever.  (He repeated "clever" a few times in subsequent agitated posts.)

Hee-wacketa-wacketa.  Even if I were that much of a jerk, I said, posting something under someone else's name is beyond my technical expertise.  At this point I started disengaging, because there's no percentage in arguing with that kind of thing.  Half an hour later he was still thinking up nightmare scenarios about how I had a hacker troll on my payroll.  I wonder where you get one of those?  I can barely get my iCloud password to work from one week to the next.

As midnight approached, I was engaging with another, more stable neighbor who wanted to know why I thought sewage plants and non-point-source stormwater polluted with fertilizer, etc., were of more concern than the brine discharge from a desalination plant.  I looked up some stuff on the internet and tried to quantify some of the wastewater and stormwater volumes from the nearby city we were discussing, adding some explanation of how relatively clean brine discharge is compared to what I considered rather inadequately treated municipal discharges.  Well, the first guy interjected, that response is "supercharged with facts," but fallacious, as he planned to demonstrate at a later date.  That's me, Texan ("Supercharged with Facts") 99.  I'm thinking of making it my campaign slogan if I'm ever crazy enough to run for re-election.  My interlocutor said he was sure I hadn't written that response myself and wanted to know who my advisor was.

Don't we all wish we had an omniscient advisor we could get to craft an answer to a moderately technical argument at midnight on the internet?  I guess I do, but it's called my head, my education, and Google.  It's not dark magic.  I suppose this guy thinks I have minions to do my nefarious bidding at all hours of the night, write up little white papers for me.

In the end I complimented him on his public engagement and asked him to consider coming to Commissioners Court meetings.  I really hope he will.  If he keeps a lid on the paranoid stuff, he'll at least liven things up with some data.