People Should Stop Pontificating

My mother has a funny quote: “Opinions are like armpits. Everybody has two, and they usually stink.”

I can’t argue with that. Over the past few years I’ve lived in the DC area and become more involved in public policy debates, philosophical discussions, and politics, I’ve seen this ring true dozens and dozens of time over. Everybody has an opinion. And, with few exceptions, these opinions are generally awful.

I don’t mean they’re awful in that I disagree with them. I don’t mean they’re awful in that they come to the wrong conclusions. I mean that they’re awful because of shoddy reasoning, faulty premises, and often just kneejerk, instinctive responses rather than anything genuinely intelligent. You can be a smart person whom I respect even if we fundamentally disagree on certain points. But I won’t respect you if your logic is rubbish, you resort to fallacies, and you demand others do the research for you.

Why am I saying this? I guess it’s because I’ve been looking at myself in the mirror lately. I have a few posts in my drafts folder about a few high octane topics. One – which I will still likely publish soon – is over the whole “climate march” BS and the “Flood Wall Street” nonsense that went on last week. Let me be clear: I think climate change is happening. I don’t think it is anything to be worried about, and I most certainly do not want the government trying to “fix” it. But do I really have the grounds to be pontificating about climate change, on my personal blog? At most, I think what I can do is point out the absurdities and contradictions in the arguments and actions of the climate protestors, note the evidence we really have, and then just point out the potential consequences of undoing capitalism and trying to embrace some form of eco-socialism (which I personally think would be disastrous.)

But then that raises another question: even if we are not an expert in field X, does that preclude us from giving our opinions on field X? Must we refrain all the time?

I used to look at it as “Well, you can offer your opinion, but it will be weighted less than an expert in field X.” That seemed to make sense. But now, I’m starting to think that people outside a field might, in some circumstances, actually have a more valuable or intelligent viewpoint. But only in some cases. One case was when, for a group political blog, I wrote about an article where a college professor recommended that we get rid of the United States Air Force and roll it’s operations into the Army and Navy. I added on to that with some musing about whether or not we still needed the Marine Corps. Cue tons of angry commentators who said that I had obviously never been in the military and had no idea what I was talking about, but they had been in the Corps for years and knew exactly why the Corps was a necessity in this day and age. Yet, despite this, none of them presented a cogent argument for why it needed to be around. I look at the Corps, and what I see these days is a second Army, albeit one with more aviation assets and supposedly tied to the Navy. It looks redundant, and there is no reason that it’s “unique” features (namely, fast assault) can’t be rolled into the Army and redone there. (Wrong culture was one reason given; okay, then, change the Army culture.) Basically, their arguments were emotional appeals to tradition and patriotism, not logic.

I think that’s a problem when looking from the inside on any issue. You need people who are looking from the outside, who don’t necessarily have “expertise,” both to bring you back down to earth and to bring up things you may not have thought of. How many times have experts been so caught up in the weeds of their profession that they’ve missed the pasture, the river, and the neighboring forest? It happens all the time when I start programming, then I realize that nobody else knows how the heck I’m doing something, so I have to go back and make it easier for them to use. I also see it with scientists, who say “The data is saying X, ergo we must do Y” but they completely ignore A-W and probably Z, then get all pissy when people who aren’t scientists say “No, we shouldn’t.” “But you’re not scientists, you don’t understand!” Well, actually, we do, we just understand a broader context.

But overall, I’m not so confident that people should be voicing their opinions all the time. I’m not calling for restrictions on the First Amendment here; this has nothing to do with laws and regulation. I’m just talking about individual practices. Many look at Twitter and Facebook as “democratizing” the Internet, and think this is a good thing; what I see these days is that a lot of rather stupid, lowbrow people whose ill-thought opinions were restricted to themselves and a few others in their close social circles now have a platform to fling them out there into the world. Worse, a lot of these people have found others who are like them, and have banded together to promote this kind of content. Look at the calls for anti-elitism, anti-intellectualism, and populism. Not necessarily good things. The lowest common denominator now drives our discourse. Rather than actually research the topic at hand, be humble about what you’re putting forward (i.e., open to being proven wrong), and then present an argument based on the evidence, it’s all kneejerk opinionating with very little to back it up but more and more decibels. I mean hell if you can’t even be bothered to look up the basic facts of the subject at hand, you shouldn’t really be talking, just as a courtesy to everyone else.

Was there really a point to this blog post? I don’t know. It is awfully rambling. I guess what I’m trying to say is:

  • I don’t publish things immediately because I like to stop, think about them, and come back to them later…which other people usually do not;
  • There are an awful lot of people out there who really have no idea what on Earth they are talking about but pontificate as if they are serious philosophers;
  • Social media has turned me from a somewhat egalitarian “voice of the people” dude into an almost aristocratic conservative who thinks the peasants should really shut up now because they have no idea what they’re doing;
  • I am not above being one of the idiotic peasants.

So, basically, can everyone just shut the hell up for a little while? You’re all idiots. Myself included.

Blog Maintenance

For the first time on this blog, I am now using an SEO plugin. One of the cool things it does is redirect links to media attachments to their parent post/page. I’ve actually noticed people coming to view attachments on some of my older posts, which is kinda weird.

This also means I will be putting some sort of share plugin back in as well. I’ve avoided it for some time because I was convinced that “begging” for shares wasn’t the best thing in the world. Now I realize that was stupid.

I’m also on the lookout for a new theme for this blog. I like “required” (the current setup) but the stuff coming out of the marketplace for the Ghost platform fascinates me. There’s a few themes like that for WordPress I want to at least take a look at.

Another thing I want to try is using Scrivener as a WordPress blogging client. So far, there’s no direct “post to WordPress” function, just a Markdown export which can be translated into HTML. I must admit, I’m not terribly keen on Markdown, even though I have friends who rave about it. I just don’t see the point, especially for longer form works (which, as one of said friends is a novelist, is applicable.) I just do CTRL+I or whatever to get what I want. But I’ll leave that for later. I have managed to figure out how to make Scrivener work “in the cloud” using Dropbox, which is really, really neat.

I must admit, this post is completely non-SEO, and is largely something of filler.

From @Superbus » Richie Incognito And The Male Disease

» Richie Incognito And The Male Disease The Superbus’s Thoughtpad.

I forget the guy’s name, but I’ll never forget the time my home town of Seymour effectively beat a kid to Florida.

The Seymour High School football team1, in my freshman year of 19952, got in a lot of trouble because the parent of one kid reported the hazing that her son – someone I knew, but wasn’t very good friends with – went through and wanted answers. What kind of hazing? How about softball-sized welts on his back from being whipped, while tied up, by weightlifting belts that reportedly were made wet to make them hurt more. Basically, imagine being hit by the leather part of a championship wrestling belt after it’s been sitting in water for an hour and you have an idea. That’s the kind of thing a plantation owner would do to a belligerent slave.

However, this woman and her family made one key mistake: they didn’t get anyone else on board. Other people who took that barbaric abuse didn’t back him up, and other players, upper classmen, called him out. Things only got worse from there, as the entire school, and eventually the entire town of Seymour turned against him and his family. I don’t remember specifics, but he got abused far more, and far worse, as time went on. Eventually, the family moved to Florida, and though I don’t know them personally, it’s patently obvious that they moved because their son was being abused to the point of cruelty, not just by the jocks who turned on him, but by a town that abandoned the snitch, the heretic, and the one who could have hurt the season of a team two years off a conference championship. I mean, God Damnit, we have to beat Torrington! We have to beat Torrington!!!

When I think of the barbarity of what Richie Incognito is guilty of, I think back to that 15 year old kid who was abandoned by adults because he was deemed soft by the kangaroo court of a small town who takes its football way too seriously.

Such are the opening words to an amazing, utterly amazing blog post on the recent brouhaha with the Miami Dolphins, and more general issues regarding the contemporary man.

There are a lot of things floating out there; one of them is that we are engaging in a “wussification” of men across the board. I think that’s happening in public schools, especially at the elementary and junior high levels, but in general I think there’s also a lot of macho man BS going on. I see it all the time, where men are expected not to be thoughtful and kind but just turn to violence or other forms of barbarity in order to get ahead.

I see it in society all the time. There’s a dark layer of barbarism lying underneath modern culture, undergirding it in some respects, and it bothers me. We’re above this stuff, or at least we should be. I was done with bullying in the sixth grade, but I see it all the time as an adult–at work, at my house, on the street, in politics, in the media, in churches, in schools. It’s ridiculous.

Anyways, I encourage you to read the entire blog post and leave Chris a comment. It’s an extremely well-written piece and he deserves a few more blog hits than he normally gets.

Comment Archive: Response to Matt Zwolinski on Rothbard

I hate doing posts like this, but the comment section on Bleeding Heart Libertarians is again acting up. So to preserve my comment in case of an error, here is my comment on Matt Zwolinski’s blog post on Murray Rothbard:

Hmm.

Inasmuch as Rothbard actually made people question the state itself, and thus give them the alternative framework to “the state must do everything,” I can give him credit. But I think in the end Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism may have damaged the liberty movement more than it helped. One of the reasons people don’t take libertarianism seriously is because we have a ton of people running around saying we should just abolish government entirely. People don’t generally take those radical approaches that easily, not unless there is mass starvation and violence going on.

Also, the paleo strategy was really, really bad. That alone should make one question Rothbard’s judgement, if he was a “happy warrior,” and if someone would want to hang out with him. By all accounts he was kind of nutty, and if he’s writing newsletters blaming blacks for all of society’s ills, then he’s kind of not a charming and delightful person, but just a racist with a veneer of geniality.

I agree with Brennan. Rothbard is a hack, and his disciple Rockwell (and that other guy, Hoppe) has continued tainting libertarianism with some pretty despicable ideas. I’m not sure I would give him three cheers, let alone seven. Maybe one. And it would be lukewarm.

I will agree with you on that there shouldn’t be a war between BHL and LvMI types. Except for when the LvMI types express some abhorrent views on race and sexuality, but other than that, you are correct. There is a lot of common ground. (Although praxeology befuddles me a bit…)

This isn’t the first time BHL’s comment section has cocked up. For some reason their Disqus install periodically develops amnesia. I literally saw the comment number change before my eyes from 1 to 0 and back to 1 again.

Hopefully we’ll be back to me regularly posting short quips about how I’m going to be back to posting about non-political and non-theological topics but then post incessantly about politics and theology.

On blogging (and writing)

Scoville Blogs Again | George Scoville.

The above post is from my good friend and mentor George Scoville, without whom I would not be fighting the good fight in our nation’s capitol. George supported me when I was an intern at the Cato Institute, and helped me get into social media and really learn communications and advocacy.

Anyways, he’s just restarted his blog, gave it a makeover (and he didn’t call me, sniff), and also gave a little bit of a mission statement. He noted how he’s siloed all his blogging into various different outlets, believing that a blog “should have an explicit mission — some kind of statement of purpose, to help keep you focused” but that now he is “eschewing” (love the use of that word) that logic and just going with whatever.

I heartily approve, and I was already thinking about this over the past couple of days. I really wanted this blog to be a writing blog, not about politics or theology or that sort of thing but to track my progress as a writer. As you can see, my progress has been dismal. I could blame a lot of external things for that, but the long and the short of it is that I feel I never have time and let myself get distracted. I need to fix that and I intend to do so over the coming months. Part of it was trying out a new program called Scrivener; it’s not bad but I feel that it was more of an impediment than anything as instead of wanting to eagerly jump in the work I just felt “Aw, jeez, I still gotta test that thing out” and it created a psychological block.

Also, I like pontificating on topics.

But the real point to be made here is about having a mission for your blog. I hear that from a lot of people. Have an angle, have a focus. That’s the only way people will pay attention to you. But I beg to differ. Sure, if you’re running a specific blog for a specific thing, fine. Or if you’re doing something professional. But if you’re writing a blog because you’re like George and I, because you need to write, then just write. As long as your style and interests come through, as long as you’re not boring, people will read.

Enough with the focused angle stuff. Not everything is marketing. Just do it. That’s what I do. And judging from the increased comment count on my recent posts, I’m doing something right.

Eh. Must be Disqus.

Tweaking

NOT twerking. Not at all.

But I find this blog is not a “one and done” sort of thing. Maybe because it’s my personal blog, I find rolling updates to be more appropriate. If I find I don’t like a color, I change it. If I find I don’t like a font, I change it. If I find I don’t like my theme….

Well that will take more consideration.

My pithy statement on Manning

I am in full favor of morphologial freedom. I support everyone’s right to self-ownership, which includes the power to change one’s gender. I do not take issue with transgendered or transsexual Americans. I am not a conservative, and do not buy conservative arguments that one cannot change that. If we are to respect people as individuals, then that must include the power over one’s morphology.

That being said, in regards to Bradley Manning now declaring he is a woman and to be called Chelsea, just as he’s being sentenced to prison…aren’t you supposed to become a bitch while in prison, not before?

Meet the New Quantum Matrix Scribe

Well, as you can clearly see, I have a new website theme up and running. And, if you’ve viewing on a smartphone or a tablet, you now get a special mobile theme. It might not be the prettiest thing, but it is functional.

Lately, I’ve wanted to update my blog design. The Twenty Eleven theme was functional, and with the dark color scheme and blue banner, I actually thought it looked quite cool, but it felt kind of…I’m not sure. Pedestrian? Goth? I had one viewer complain of white on black text. While I disagree that’s a serious visibility issue (plenty of people like light text on dark background) I did want to shake things up. So I adopted this theme (“Required”), popped on some Open Sans for legibility, and went to town.

That’s what you get when you develop some web development skills. You start thinking you can make your blog all pretty and whatnot…

I have more content coming for this, including a few new pages (!!!) and of course more blog posts, and hopefully more fiction as well. I’m not sure how much I want to comment on my personal life on this blog–this is not my Livejournal*, after all–but I have had many reasons to become far more optimistic and hopeful towards the future in the last few months. I have made many friends, and more importantly, I think I’ve actually found a niche. I’m developing skills I will use for a long time, and I don’t just mean the technical ones. My life is also acquiring a bit more stability, and I think, while time management will continue to vex me, I will be able to handle more things thrown my way from now on.

I’ll still be tweaking this site–if enough people complain about the color scheme I’ll change that, and the Facebook button on the side doesn’t work because it’s supposed to link to a Facebook page, which setting up is problematic–but for now, I’m pretty pleased.

Welcome to the new QMS. Same as the old QMS, really, just with a better design.

*No you may not read my Livejournal. That thing is locked down for a reason.

WordPress Themes

I’m not entirely happy with the Twenty Eleven theme anymore. Having worked in web development for a few months now and created some responsive websites for people, I’ve seen the different options out there and I think I can do better. Though at the moment I don’t really see any themes I like, which makes me think I should go build my own. That would be a mistake, probably.

All I know at this point is that I want to use United Nations blue as the background color and mayhaps Idlewild for the headline font, if I can figure out a way to do it. Probably end up using Lato, though, for everything. Lato & Calibri.

Man, I am wasting too much time on this. I need to get back to writing.

Amazon Affiliate Links

I’ve started using Amazon affiliate links for the books I have in the ebook widget on the sidebar. It’s a new thing that I’ve decided to try out, and it seems to be pretty cool.

I mean, hey, if I’m going to show you what I’m reading, the best thing I can do is give you a direct opportunity to buy the book, and maybe get some money for it.