Linkfest 2021-08-27: The Götterdämmerung of the Experts


Galaxy Magazine 1968: Pro and Con

This ad from a 1968 issue of Galaxy magazine is a fascinating glimpse into the controversies of the past, and an opportunity for us to reflect on current events in Afghanistan. I didn’t find a lot of surprises in the authors who signed up for either list, other than maybe T. R. Fehrenbach, who I did not know moved in these circles. But I can very much see Jerry Pournelle wanting to talk with Fehrenbach, as a fellow veteran of Korea and history buff.

House of Strauss: Nike’s End of Men

Substack is currently reminding me of the glory days of blogging in the early 2000s, when great content could come from anywhere and interesting perspectives abounded. Here, Ethan Strauss has an absolutely devastating assessment of Nike’s turn to wokeness, as reflected in how much worse their ads have gotten. If nothing else, you should go check out the selection of ads Strauss has curated for the article.

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Hanania Newsletter: Tetlock and the Taliban

In another Substack, Richard Hanania wants to know why none of the “experts” who guided American policy in Afghanistan have adopted sackcloth and ashes. The title is a reference to Philip Tetlock, whose book Expert Political Judgement [Amazon link] demonstrated that in areas like foreign policy, famous and well-respected experts are not any better at prediction than smart, well-informed outsiders.

In the snippet I placed at the head of this section, columnist Anne Lowrey decries Facts Man, who feels that his penetrating insights allow him to comment on any matter that strikes his fancy. I definitely resemble those remarks. Hanania’s point here is that the evidence we have is that in many, many fields, Facts Man and the Experts are roughly tied.

If you have a way to evaluate the judgment of Facts Man ahead of time, and Hanania proposes some ways, you would probably even suspect that Facts Man has the lead.

Data Genetics: The Beauty in Mathematics

Nick Berry’s data genetics blog looks at the Brachistochrone curve, a really fun bit of mathematics that is both useful and beautiful.


US special operations vets carry out daring mission to save Afghan allies

Because of the kind of books I read, I have a lot of social media exposure to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. There were memes of the “joking, not joking” variety floating around about this, and I’m not at all surprised to see news coverage of it.

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With Both Hands: H. Warner Munn’s King of the World’s Edge

I’ve been absolutely fascinated with pre-Columbian American history, and H. Warner Munn’s book fit right in with that.

The Long View: The Scorpion’s Gate

John J. Reilly reviewed a not-entirely-fictional account from a Middle East “expert” in 2006, if you want an early look at how we got where we are.