free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

For brief orientation, see this
Welcome to CP

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03/01/2002 - 04/01/2002 04/01/2002 - 05/01/2002 05/01/2002 - 06/01/2002 06/01/2002 - 07/01/2002 09/01/2002 - 10/01/2002 11/01/2002 - 12/01/2002 12/01/2002 - 01/01/2003 01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 02/01/2003 - 03/01/2003 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003 04/01/2003 - 05/01/2003

All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Monday, March 04, 2002

--- Welcome to the Cogent Provocateur ---

CP is here to provoke, not persuade. Persuasion is a worthy enterprise, but its disciplines and those of analysis, assessment, interpretation and extrapolation are mutually antagonistic. We spot the turd in the punchbowl, you decide.

Pop controversies -- even in the "major leagues" -- tend to be badly framed, then argued inaptly but incessantly. Most articles of conventional wisdom fail a cursory desk audit:
"How do you know?" "If X were so, wouldn't Y and Z also be so?" "Did you check the math?" "Can you document that?" "Is there more than one alternative?" "How convenient that all the clues point in one direction!"
We hope you'll follow CP for angles not yet beaten flat, truer centerlines, sharper counterpoints, and prickly implications carelessly overlooked like thistles in the picnic grounds.

We proofread between the lines, sensitive to irregularities in the texture of information flow. Our kit includes tools from a host of standard disciplines, some of them underappreciated. Occasionally we'll extrapolate from nonstandard foundations, and take on the resulting greater burdens of proof and presentation.

CP takes a dim view of "crossfire" polemics, by whose conventions all White Hat elements -- true conclusions, valid inferences, authentic evidence, righteous advocates and their upstanding allies -- must have addresses on one side of Center Street, with all Black Hats -- false conclusions, fallacious reasoning, counterfeit data, reprobate spokesmen and their corrupt confederates -- lined up diametrically opposite.

Proper deductive reasoning doesn't align its premises that neatly ... nor does good drama ... and the future before us exceeds the grasp of either. Data is unsatisfactory, theories are conjectural, stakeholders are more clustered than aligned, and we're not sure what the questions are. Shouldn't we approach the big issues with humility, wariness and respect? The crossfire dynamic dictates otherwise.

Factions congeal and polarize by a process of linkage -- from champion to issue to demon to issue to champion. We end up with the Dumbbell Configuration -- opposing politicized masses at the extremes. The cynical center -- apolitical "cold dark matter" -- increasingly opts out. Arguments shrink to mere totems of group affiliation, shaken angrily at members of the opposing camp in bizarre tableaus of ritual combat.

CP thinks this is not just a major irony of the Information Age ... it's an invitation to error of systemic proportions. And CP has some ideas on how this came to be, where it's going from here, and what to do about it.

Meanwhile, the reader should avoid assuming CP opposes a given position just because we skewer arguments or debunk factoids raised in its defense.

Where is CP coming from? Raised Republican, swung conservative before it was trendy, flirted with objectivist libertarianism, radicalized in the 60's-70's, corporatized in the 70's-80's, functional Clinton Democrat, McCain sympathizer, mixed-model futurist. Views Left and Right as indispensable and complementary, like opposable thumbs. Thinks the American Left lives in the past. Thinks the American Right has gone way off the deep end.

A few housekeeping matters:
To minimize repetition, CP will catalogue stock rebuttals and foundational essays in a FAQ-ish section. ["Re argument by labeling adversary 'statist thug', see Rebuttal 13.B.2(d)", etc.]

A certain amount of verbal jousting is unavoidable ... so we'll give it a section of its own, and hope it stays there.

We favor open, attributable sources that require no sign-in or subscription (especially those without popups) . We will not knowingly infringe by promoting links to unauthorized reproductions.

Thoughtful feedback via e-mail is appreciated, but will rarely be acknowledged. Run-of-the-mill screed is best directed elsewhere. If your strongest argument adds up to "All you loony liberals are [Stalinists | Satanists | lousy tippers]", post it here.

It'll be quiet here for the next week or so. We'll be busy over at CAMP ENRON, consolidating and updating material from other forums.

This launch would be incomplete without a salute to Slate's factious, fractious forum The Fray, to Frayster compatriots Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs at QuasiPundit, and to the prolific pioneer Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit.