The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (6): Vengeance Is Theirs

Friday was the second anniversary of the tragic Parkland shooting. The shooting was remembered in an appropriate-enough way in the media, except for one (to me) conspicuous thing: the continued, thoughtless, fact-free demonization of Scot Peterson, the School Resource Officer universally blamed for not entering the building where the shooting took place. Almost without exception, journalism about Parkland continues to take for granted the unexamined dogmas that Peterson “failed” to enter Building 12 and “failed” to confront the shooter, that he knew where the shooter was but deliberately hid from danger, and that his malfeasance goes beyond cowardice to legally actionable neglect, and beyond civil wrong to outright criminality. Continue reading

War with Iran (21): Weapons of Mass Media Distraction

The last time the US Embassy in Baghdad was on the receiving end of rocket attacks, the mass media was too fixated on Kobe Bryant to notice. This time, they’re fixated on the coronavirus. Hardly a surprise that the same media, and same public, still regard 9/11 as an unexpected “bolt from the blue” almost twenty years after the fact. There’s always an excuse to be distracted from the wars “we’re” waging, and always a narrative ready to make it look as though every attack on us is an unprovoked “sucker punch.” Every “surprise” leads, predictably, to another war. But for now, no casualties means no worries.

“Issues in Local Government”

I like democracy. Democracy is perhaps best exemplified in local government. Hence, I like local government.

You might quibble that that’s not a valid argument, and suggest that the conclusion is a reductio, but hey, democracy is messy.

Anyway, I’m interested in local government. To that end, I’m organizing and moderating a panel discussion at Felician University that you might want to attend if you’re in the neighborhood. Sponsored by the Felician Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs. Continue reading

Quid Pro No

So they get our freedom of speech, conscience, and association, along with our money and our moral support, and, in return, we get a tweet from their half-ousted Prime Minister. Sounds like the Deal of the Century. Actually, sounds like the deal of the last century, too.

Doxastic Determination by Thesis Advisor?

Another head-scratcher from Jason Brennan’s BHL piece on meta-philosophy (timestamp: 10:16 am, February 12, 2020):

Second, what people believe tends to depend a great deal on who their advisors were. People who go to Harvard tend to come out Kantians of some sort. People who go to Arizona tend to come out Gaussian contractualists or Schmidtzean pluralists. Now, some of this is due to selection–the Kantians are more likely to apply to Harvard than, say, consequentialist ANU. Part of it, though, is that when you attend a program with people who defend X, you encounter much better arguments for X and weaker arguments for other positions. But this seems to a rather unreliable mechanism for changing your beliefs. A Guassian contractualist like Kevin would have ended up believing something else had he gone to a different program. Is it just lucky for him he attended Arizona and not Harvard? Is it just lucky for him that he had Gaus as an advisor instead of Christiano, Schmidtz, Wall, Pincione, or someone else?

Isn’t this the kind of claim that requires bona fide empirical support? I don’t see any here. I just see Brennan recording his quasi-empirical impressions of a handful of institutions, followed by a gigantic epistemic generalization about the whole profession. Forget selection versus treatment effects. A treatment effect presupposes an effect. Not obvious there is one. Continue reading

Doing It with Style: Jason Brennan on the History of Philosophy

From a recent contribution by Jason Brennan to the ongoing polemic between Michael Huemer and Kevin Vallier on the history of philosophy (as posted at BHL at 2:45 pm, February 11, 2020):

Context: Michael Huemer claims that the “great” philosophers are usually bad thinkers. They defend implausible ideas with bad arguments.

Vallier responds that the great philosophers are like architects. Their great achievement is that they build coherent systems of thought.

I’m not much convinced by Vallier’s response in part because, when I studied the history of philosophy or read papers in the field, it seems that the “greats” often have incoherent systems. A large number of published papers on the greats, and good number of the classes, take the form of “Great Thinkers says X here and Y here, but X and Y are seemingly incompatible. Let me try to figure out a way to spin X and Y to render then coherent.”

Don’t really see how the intended conclusion follows.

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The Partisan Semantics of Electoral Fraud

Louis Jacobson, Politifact, January 4, 2018:

In a statement on Jan. 3, 2018, announcing his decision to disband the commission, Trump said, “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry. Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”

PolitiFact is separately checking a different assertion by Trump, that “mostly Democrat states refused to hand over data” to the commission. In this fact-check, we’re looking at whether Trump is correct that there is “substantial evidence of voter fraud.”

This is hardly the first time Trump has made an assertion of this sort. He has repeatedly claimed the existence of massive voter fraud and election rigging, which we’ve debunked again and again and again and again and again and again and again.

Trump has not yet produced any evidence that supports these claims, and the White House did not respond to another request for this article.

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Caught with Your Pants Down: The Strange Case of Mayor John Roth of Mahwah

I’m about to recount an almost entirely inconsequential political incident, the strange case of John F. Roth, mayor of Mahwah, a small, affluent town in northeastern New Jersey. But while the incident is almost entirely inconsequential, I’d say that precisely one feature has broad significance. Let’s see if you and I agree on what it is.

About a month ago, John F. Roth, the mayor of Mahwah, went to a party at the home of a Mahwah Township employee. You’re not going to believe this, but alcohol was served at this party. Yes, alcohol. And–hold on to your hats here–but Roth actually consumed some of this alcohol. I wouldn’t lie about something like this. Having done so, he managed to get drunk. He must have realized that he was drunk, because instead of driving home–like a normal person–he decided to walk into a bedroom or guestroom of the house, take off his pants, and fall asleep on a bed. He was later discovered pants-less in that very bed. A call was placed to his wife, who arrived to retrieve him. Retrieved, I gather that he went home to sleep it off, very possibly pants-less, in his own bed. Continue reading

Cancel Culture Blues: The Strange Case of Steven Wilson

I need to stop reading stories like this, because if I do, I’m in danger of lapsing into Michael Young’s running dog reactionary views on cancel culture.* I’m still a big fan of cancellation as an idea, but if this is what “cancel culture” is going to be, then my thought is: leave me the hell out of it. But this isn’t what cancel culture has to be. We have a choice about what form it will take.

[Steven] Wilson was the chief executive of Ascend, the consortium of central Brooklyn charter schools he built, beginning with plans devised on his dining room table in 2007.

But Mr. Wilson was effectively barred from celebrating with his students.

Several weeks earlier, he had written a blog post embracing the values of a classical education; some younger members of his staff perceived it as racially traumatizing. Others found it simply tone-deaf. He was in a kind of purgatory, still employed by Ascend but taken out of its day-to-day operation.

Continue reading