Friday, 8/11/17

  1. Natural law just can’t get a break
  2. Gaslighting and McCarthyism
  3. Suspending disbelief to blog
  4. AirBnB


Responding to the biotech utopianism of Stanford Law’s Henry Greely, quoted by Emma Green in the Atlantic:

Speaking to imaginary opponents, [Greely] says, “If you, coming from a Catholic background, try to convince me, coming from a non-Catholic background … that wouldn’t work for me …. I need a more intellectual argument than one ‘based on my faith’ or ‘the tablets brought down from the mountain for me say this.’ … There’s very little about our modern lives that’s natural or what a God from 3000 years ago would have expected or wanted, including all of modern medicine.”

Notice his implicit assumptions. Concerning argument in general,

  • The most likely source of argument in opposition is precisely the one we don’t have to listen to.
  • “That wouldn’t work for me” is sufficient rebuttal to an argument.

Concerning faith,

  • We already know that anyone who has faith is unreasonable; he believes because he believes because he believes. Therefore, there is no need for non-Catholics to listen to the arguments of Catholic thinkers. Even without listening we know that they will have nothing to say but “It’s based on my faith.”
  • Everything anyone says about God is a human construct. Except for Dr. Greely’s view that Catholics have it wrong about God. That’s not a human construct.
  • Truth falls out of date, like fashions in clothing. Nothing that anyone thought a long time ago could possibly have any value.

Concerning natural law,

  • We don’t need to know anything about natural law reasoning to criticize it. It’s okay to make it up.
  • Natural law means being primitive. That’s why medicine is unnatural. The natural law would tell you that if you’re sick, it’s natural to be sick, and you shouldn’t get well.
  • If very little about our modern lives conforms to natural law, then there isn’t any natural law. Presumably, if very little about the way I drive conforms to traffic law, then there isn’t any traffic law either.

What natural law theory really says

(J. Budziszewski)


[A] left-leaning person in Google leaked it to a left-leaning media outlet, knowing it would kick over the hornet’s nest of left-leaning social media, scaring lawyers inside Google, who would then advise executives that continuing to employ Damore risked Title VII litigation, which is shaped by left-leaning legal activists in such a way that employing anyone with known non-progressive views on politics or religion becomes a potential legal liability, since even having them around starts to create a hostile environment. Left-leaning activist employees then set the media up for the day-two story, going public to explain that they can’t work with someone who donated to the wrong political cause, or wrote the wrong thing on a message board; they feel unsafe. Or they call in sick. Left-leaning executives and managers start sharing that they are making internal blacklists. The Left has a word for this phenomenon where people pretend to be threatened and hurt so that they may lash out and threaten others. They call it gaslighting.

The combination of zealous activists leaking old petitions or documents to create a media-generated moral panic, with the threat of a dollop of government and legal action waiting in the wings, is precisely how the Hollywood blacklist worked. Activists at the American Legion went through old petitions that the Communist Party circulated in the 1930s, oftentimes for innocuous causes. They’d publicize the names, create a media panic, and wait for the studios to respond, and there was always the congressional committee to rely on. Freelance tattletales such as Ayn Rand would search out Disney films for the flimsiest traces of red. The choice of Silicon Valley as a particular target, much like the choice of Hollywood then, was driven by the industry’s exalted status and by the strong suspicion that its current personnel were unrepresentative, drawn from certain groups, in a way that indicated deviation from commendable values.

I’m not normally an apologist for market forces. But in the current climate, it is entrepreneurs who are drawing women into tech, despite misgivings that some women might have about the culture of software programmers. Do not believe a media mob that has just made a worker universally infamous, lied about the contents of his writing, and used their platforms to speculate that perhaps Damore didn’t know or like women, when they turn around and blame the quaking employer who unceremoniously dumped him.

(Michael Brendan Dougherty, emphasis added)


Did you hear? FBI agents working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller raided the house of Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager!

Yes. That’s . . . that’s quite a thing, there.

What does it mean? What can we tell from it? What’s a search warrant anyway?

Please try to calm down.

Okay, first. Have some skepticism about this story — and about any media story about the federal criminal justice system. Stories about federal criminal justice, even from respected publications, are often wrong in crucial ways — using legal terms they don’t understand the wrong way, drawing incorrect conclusions about routine events, and so forth.

But we can believe that about everything else?

Yes, I assume that except for criminal justice and First Amendment law, I’m confident they’re perfectly reliable.

(Popehat, We Interrupt This Grand Jury Lawsplainer For A Search Warrant Lawsplainer)

Not until I became an attorney was I fairly regularly involved in events that were “newsworthy,” so it was not until I was an attorney that I realized that popular news media can barely get the story arc more or less accurate, and apart from trivia like correctly spelling the names of the people they misunderstand, they cannot be relied on in any way to get any detail right.

If I were to turn this into a “law,” it would go something like this: the major media, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, are quite reliable in their news coverage of every topic except the ones where you know what the actual facts and terminology is.

The most recent example was Wednesday’s Potomac Watch podcast from the Wall Street Journal, wherein Paul Gigot riffs the factual setup on the GoogleMemo story and blows detail after detail from this story to which I’ve paid too much attention. (Plus side: It distracts me from preoccupation with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.) Ironically, his blown details all adopted the left-leaning mythological version of this story, though WSJ is putatively the most conservative of the major newspapers.

The net result is you walk away with false confidence that you have a clue — without which confidence nobody would dare presume to, say, blog.


AirBnB has canceled the accounts of people that it confirmed had used its platform to book lodging for a White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Got that? Cancelled the accounts. People who tested “white nationalist” on AirBnB’s background check can’t use AirBnB any more for any bookings. From what I read, the main “victims” were writers for The Daily Stormer, which I presume advances the kind of neo-Nazi views evoked by that name. It’s hard to gin up much sympathy for them.

Addressing cries of “discrimination” and threats of lawsuits, NPR interviews a law professor who restores some sense of perspective, starting with the lack of any law against viewpoint discrimination by non-government actors.

I just can’t decide whether this chapter is a big nothingburger or whether it’s establishing a dangerous precedent. Nobody likes the neo-Nazis and few like the white nationalists, but I don’t think that’s why I’m ambivalent.

But if it’s a dangerous precedent, those who will be excluded from “polite (internet) society” may have to set up parallel institutions, as the loony Texan who thought Patreon too left-leaning created the melifluously-named “Hatreon.”

Would that I were making that up. Nice job, jerk-face.

* * * * *

Fiat justitia ruat caelum

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.