Whiteside in Winter

Just a short stretch of the legs. Spring is coming, but it’s not here yet. 

Wisconsin Special Counsel: Election Was Crooked

D29 is more on top of this story than I have been, but the report is out now and it has some pretty substantial findings.

The topline finding in the press has been that the use of 'Zuckerbucks' to selectively influence turnout was illegal bribery. Of more importance, but much less interest to the press, is that the use of ballot dropboxes was (a) illegal, and therefore (b) unconstitutional, and also (c) sufficient to change the outcome of the election in Biden's favor.

Of still less interest has been the 100% turnout rate in nursing homes, which is a surprising and unlikely figure.

But there's also this, on the subject of the machines themselves:
The OSC was able to identify, through the reports of experts, that the failed machine recorded two anonymous and unauthorized access events from its VPN. This means, contrary to what Dominion has publicly stated, that at least some machines had access to the internet on election night. Shortly after the unauthorized access was recorded, the machine failed and was reset, wiping all voting history and forcing that election administrator to rely on unverifiable paper printouts from the failed machine. 
ESS machines were equally problematic. The central problem is that several of the machines are made with a 4G wireless modem installed, enabling them to connect to the internet through a Wi-Fi hotspot. One municipality under investigation in Wisconsin by the OSC admitted that these machines had these modems and were connected to the internet on election night. The reason given was to “transmit data” about votes to the county clerks.

The OSC learned that all machines in Green Bay were ESS machines and were connected to a secret, hidden Wi-Fi access point at the Grand Hyatt hotel, which was the location used by the City of Green Bay on the day of the 2020 Presidential election. The OSC discovered the Wi-Fi, machines, and ballots were controlled by a single individual who was not a government employee but an agent of a special interest group operating in Wisconsin. (pp. 13-14)
The report says that it is not in the Special Counsel's competence to challenge or revoke certification of the election, but they went to the trouble of including an appendix explaining how it could be done if elected officials decide to do so.

UPDATE: Rasmussen Reports notes that there is documentation of a similar operation in a ballroom in Arizona.

How did we screw up Ukraine this badly?

Substack continues to publish useful articles you won't find in respectable newspapers any more.

Samaritan's Purse

I don't know for sure if this specific report is for real, but Samaritan's Purse, a Franklin Graham organization, claims to have put together an airlifted hospital facility and gotten it to (or at least near?) Ukraine. I know this charity organization pretty well from the good work they did in my little county after we were devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. They rebuilt houses for people who had no insurance. They worked with a particularly difficult constituent of mine, one of those people who do their best to undermine any help they are offered, and were more kind and patient with her than I ended up able to be. All the agents I worked with were deeply compassionate but practical people who kept their eyes on the ball. No bureaucratic box-checking or pettiness at all, just good stewards of donated funds. Anyway, I donated and encouraged my neighbors to do the same.

Everything is free in Ukraine

I often talk about how there is socialism under my roof, and something very much like it among my closest circle, gradually shifting to outright free market behavior for strangers.  Money is a powerful tool for people who want to resolve their different needs and desires without violence.  Money is the symbol of a formal promise to return the favor.

People who all want the same thing, however, don't need a formal promise to return a favor.  Families and other intimates can get along for long periods with such unified goals that money means nothing within their boundaries.  Societies in fundamental catastrophes like wars and natural disasters approach this utopian state for a while.

It's heavenly in its way, but I'll be happier to see Ukrainians restored to a society in which they're all free to pursue different goals again, and use money to sort out their tradeoffs and preferences peacefully.

Enchiridion LI: The End


The first and most necessary topic in philosophy is the practical application of principles, as, We ought not to lie; the second is that of demonstrations as, Why it is that we ought not to lie; the third, that which gives strength and logical connection to the other two, as, Why this is a demonstration. For what is demonstration? What is a consequence? What a contradiction? What truth? What falsehood? The third point is then necessary on account of the second; and the second on account of the first. But the most necessary, and that whereon we ought to rest, is the first. But we do just the contrary. For we spend all our time on the third point and employ all our diligence about that, and entirely neglect the first. Therefore, at the same time that we lie, we are very ready to show how it is demonstrated that lying is wrong.

Upon all occasions we ought to have these maxims ready at hand:

Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny,
Wherever your decrees have fixed my lot.
I follow cheerfully; and, did I not,
Wicked and wretched, I must follow still.

Who’er yields properly to Fate is deemed
Wise among men, and knows the laws of Heaven.

And this third:

“O Crito, if it thus pleases the gods, thus let it be.”

“Anytus and Melitus may kill me indeed; but hurt me they cannot.”

The references to all the quotes are at the original, for those who wish to look them up. The one that mentions Crito is Socrates' talk with him, as recorded by Plato.

This is the final chapter of the Enchiridion. It is advice to philosophers, to whit, not to do what philosophers are so prone to do: to get after the language or the technical questions to the point that they never settle on answers to the real issues. The 20th Century was by far the worst in human history on this point; many very brilliant people followed Wittgenstein into these fascinating questions to the point that they came to regard much of philosophy, and certainly the whole project of metaphysics, as a mistake. How could we possibly enquire into first philosophy (as Descartes called it) when there were so many difficult problems of language, and so many technical questions? 

So too the issue of knowledge: Gettier found a clever story to tell that called Aristotle's definition of knowledge ("justified true belief") into question. Now we have people chasing after whether knowledge is possible to define, or for that matter whether knowledge is possible at all. 

Even for those who manage to get past those language games, there is the issue of living one's philosophy. If it is true that it is virtuous to be brave, then be brave. It is pointless to have a good account of why courage is a virtue if you deliver it behind scarless skin that never dares the sun, with soft hands that never strive with foes nor even work, with a timid voice that only speaks truth in the absence of enemies. 

You know why it is wrong to lie; you can say why. Therefore, do not lie. Be brave. Work always on moderation, which is hardest of all -- at least for me it always has been. Do right. Live well. That is all of ethics, and much of philosophy.

Music for Atonement

For some of you this may be because you don’t like Honky Tonk sounds. Others do like them, and will find meaning in the lyrics. 

Ash Wednesday

Fast days can be difficult, but I agree they are worthwhile. Likely we would all benefit from more fasts, spiritually as well as physically. 

More Canadian Nazis

This time it’s Trudeau’s deputy. In fairness she probably had no idea what that said or meant; but if we were being fair, they’d have admitted that the only one guy with a Nazi flag at the trucker rally wore a mask at an anti-COVID-mandate outdoor rally, only showed up one time, was not representative of the movement, and was probably a paid government agent whose job was to be photographed with the flag so Trudeau could reference it every five minutes. 

As Col. Kurt likes to say, these are the new rules. They wrote them. 

Deep Thinking

Victoria Coates was on the Trump administration’s National Security Council. She has a mild criticism

PSA on Captured Tanks, Equipment


Local victory

My county is so Republican that winning the primary virtually assures a candidate of winning the office in November.  Today was our primary election, and I'm wildly pleased with the county results.  The County Judge who's been giving me fits since I took office 3 years ago was voted out and replaced with a guy I persuaded to run.  Since I was elected, we've managed to oust the worst Commissioner, the awful County Attorney, and now the County Judge.  Their replacements are excellent.  Things are definitely looking up.  I'm not running again this year, but I'm pretty happy with the guy who won the primary today for my seat.  I actually liked both candidates who were competing for my position, but this was the one I voted for.

The Commissioners Court will be a very different place next year.  It strikes me as a good legacy.


At a local government meeting the other night -- I'll spare the details to keep people out of trouble -- someone was describing the particular powers of a particular office, which under the right circumstances are extraordinary. The governor can't step in and overrule this local officer, the speaker pointed out, "and if we had a President of the United States, he couldn't either." 

The room was appreciative of the nuance.

I gather there was a State of the Union address tonight, but it never occurred to me to watch it. That's the first time I think I've ever missed one. I don't care anymore. 

Enchiridion L


Whatever rules you have adopted, abide by them as laws, and as if you would be impious to transgress them; and do not regard what anyone says of you, for this, after all, is no concern of yours. How long, then, will you delay to demand of yourself the noblest improvements, and in no instance to transgress the judgments of reason? You have received the philosophic principles with which you ought to be conversant; and you have been conversant with them. For what other master, then, do you wait as an excuse for this delay in self-reformation? You are no longer a boy but a grown man. If, therefore, you will be negligent and slothful, and always add procrastination to procrastination, purpose to purpose, and fix day after day in which you will attend to yourself, you will insensibly continue to accomplish nothing and, living and dying, remain of vulgar mind. This instant, then, think yourself worthy of living as a man grown up and a proficient. Let whatever appears to be the best be to you an inviolable law. And if any instance of pain or pleasure, glory or disgrace, be set before you, remember that now is the combat, now the Olympiad comes on, nor can it be put off; and that by one failure and defeat honor may be lost or—won. Thus Socrates became perfect, improving himself by everything, following reason alone. And though you are not yet a Socrates, you ought, however, to live as one seeking to be a Socrates.

 This is excellent advice.

The Orthosphere on St. Anslem

In general the Orthosphere is a good site that is worth reading, and this post is also. I simply wish to correct a point about which they are mistaken.
The actual existence of God is implicit in, and so necessitated by, the very concept of God. This is what Aquinas is getting at in his argument that the actual existence of God is essential to his nature.
That is not at all what St. Thomas Aquinas was 'getting at' in that argument, an which is less his than Avicenna's; what you get in Aquinas is a summary of what is fully spelled out in Avicenna's Metaphysics, which is the thirteenth book of his Healing.* 

What these philosophers meant is to elaborate a point of Aristotle's, which defines goodness in terms of desire. Aristotle says that the good is what is desirable, and for the most part that differs based on what the thing is doing the desiring. Rain may be very desirable from the perspective of the grass, and therefore it is good for the grass; it may be less good for the sailors at sea, because it is less desirable. If we want to talk about The Good per se, then, we would need to find something that is desirable for all things. Everything, Aristotle suggests, desires existence: both grass and sailors, squirrels and trees all seek to preserve their existence and to extend it through reproduction. In the Metaphysics, the great spirits that drive the stars seek to imitate the perfection of the Unmoved Mover, which they are able to do only by rough imitation: they travel in circles (as the Greeks believed they did, based on empirical observation) because the circle has a kind of infinity in its eternal surface that never ends. 

Avicenna goes on to point out that existence is, then, goodness per se: "to exist" and "to be good" are thus phrases that differ only in emphasis. (Aquinas gives his summary of this part in ST I 5a1.) Of these two concepts, being has priority (next article in Aquinas); and thus the idea of goodness derives from existence. 

But God's existence is necessary -- and here is where Avicenna greatly outpaces Aquinas' summary. Avicenna demonstrates with two long form arguments that the universe would not exist if it were not for the existence of another being that exists necessarily: and, having proven that such a being must exist, he also proves through another set of arguments that there can be only one of them. Thus, the Orthosphere is wrong to suggest that Aquinas is merely suggesting that necessity is 'contained in the concept' of God. The proof Aquinas is citing is a proof of the logical necessity of exactly one being whose existence is necessary. It is not contained in the concept, but separately established.

Aquinas' summary of this is in ST I 2a3. He gives summaries of five arguments for God's existence. The first one is from Aristotle's Metaphysics, the argument for unmoved movers. He then gives summaries of both of Avicenna's arguments.
The second way [to prove God's existence] is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.
God's existence is necessary, then; and his goodness is then both not only also necessary, but of a kind that is just as different from ours as our possible and temporary existence is different from God's necessary and eternal one. 

His fourth and fifth proofs are also Aristotelian -- he explicitly cites Aristotle for the fourth one. His invocations of Anslem are generally critical, though as he was criticizing a canonized saint while he was yet a living man he had to couch his criticisms in respectful terms. Still, Anslem was not what he was 'getting at' in his work.

 More here and here, for the interested.

* Usually "The Healing," because Arabic is one of those languages that prefixes nouns with a definite article, as French does "la" or "le," and Spanish does "el" or "la." Just as "La France" is really "France" in English, though, the definite article is not really always necessary or appropriate in translation.

Enchiridion XLIX


When anyone shows himself vain on being able to understand and interpret the works of Chrysippus, say to yourself: “Unless Chrysippus had written obscurely, this person would have had nothing to be vain of. But what do I desire? To understand nature, and follow her. I ask, then, who interprets her; and hearing that Chrysippus does, I have recourse to him. I do not understand his writings. I seek, therefore, one to interpret them.” So far there is nothing to value myself upon. And when I find an interpreter, what remains is to make use of his instructions. This alone is the valuable thing. But if I admire merely the interpretation, what do I become more than a grammarian, instead of a philosopher, except, indeed, that instead of Homer I interpret Chrysippus? When anyone, therefore, desires me to read Chrysippus to him, I rather blush when I cannot exhibit actions that are harmonious and consonant with his discourse.

You will never meet anyone who understands the works of Chrysippus, as they were lost. It is understood that they were respected and influential in his day, and clearly were in Epictetus', but no one now remembers what he said. 

Enchiridion XLVIII


The condition and characteristic of a vulgar person is that he never looks for either help or harm from himself, but only from externals. The condition and characteristic of a philosopher is that he looks to himself for all help or harm. The marks of a proficient are that he censures no one, praises no one, blames no one, accuses no one; says nothing concerning himself as being anybody or knowing anything. When he is in any instance hindered or restrained, he accuses himself; and if he is praised, he smiles to himself at the person who praises him; and if he is censured, he makes no defense. But he goes about with the caution of a convalescent, careful of interference with anything that is doing well but not yet quite secure. He restrains desire; he transfers his aversion to those things only which thwart the proper use of our own will; he employs his energies moderately in all directions; if he appears stupid or ignorant, he does not care; and, in a word, he keeps watch over himself as over an enemy and one in ambush.

Indeed on this model only one's self is one's proper enemy. The semblances outside cannot hurt you, not really; but you can hurt yourself, and badly, by doing wrong. If any of you actually read that novel I wrote, you'll recognize this principle: death cannot hurt you, but you can be hurt by life. Those parts that hurt you are the things you do that you shouldn't have done. 

Yet Epictetus' instruction here is in tension with an earlier description, from chapter V: "When, therefore, we are hindered or disturbed, or grieved, let us never impute it to others, but to ourselves—that is, to our own views. It is the action of an uninstructed person to reproach others for his own misfortunes; of one entering upon instruction, to reproach himself; and one perfectly instructed, to reproach neither others nor himself." 

The tension is resolved if we accept this as degrees of mastery. It is the mark of a proficient to accuse himself if he is hindered or restrained; but the master reproaches no one, neither himself nor anyone else. The master takes the ride: he forgives everything, and he forgives others as he forgives himself. In this way the Stoic satisfies the most powerful commandments of a religion he did not share. 

When they're just lying to us again

In the annals of meta, prepared to be shocked by the news that status pages for the big internet hubs sometimes are less than candid about the true state of their service, doggedly proclaiming that All Is Well.  Now there is a Status Page Status Page that cheekily compares the official pronouncements with the reported user experience, thus threatening morale and inciting insurgency.  Presumably the Attorney General, the CDC, and Justin Trudeau are already on the case.  Fact-checking is all very well if top men do it, but this kind of thing is the Wild West, dog-eat-dog capitalism.

Missing links

I play for team eukaryote myself, and have never thought of transitioning to prokaryote.  It would seem like abandoning complexity and specialization, and is the simple and undifferentiated life worth living?  I don't even have any friends who lack a nucleus or organelles, or who identify as unicellular (pronouns one/one).  Also, we are all detectable without a microscope.

The startling news from the world of biology is that this yawning divide, thought to have been complete billions of years ago, is not as nonbinary as we thought.