76 thoughts on “#LawBot, or, Legal Advice in Twelve Tweets

      • They. There are at least three semi-regular bloggers at popehat, and I think there are a couple more who haven’t posted in a while. Ken White is the main poster by a pretty wide margin, though, and the twitter account is mostly just him.

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                  • There are those for whom these distinctions matter.

                    I appreciate that you like to communicate that they do not matter to you, but you should be able to appreciate that these distinctions matter to them and use the terms that they prefer to use for themselves.

                    At least in public.

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                    • — To be clear, the ancap stuff doesn’t bother me so much, past the normal cringey-ness of the egg-head libertarian set. But whatever. The problem is, he got way too cozy with the NRx crowd and #gamergate, etc.

                      I know the NRx crowd likes to draw a line between themselves and the “alt-right”, as such. And I can see the difference, inasmuch as the alt-right has actual white power skinheads who lift weights and know how to wrestle, whereas the NRx crowd are mostly crypto-queer[*] silicon valley wannabes —

                      — not to be too mean spirited, but no one likes a phony.

                      Anyway, I wonder how many of these dipshits would last ten days in the world they dream of…

                      [*] I don’t actually know that they are gay, but that’s the running theory with a lot of the rationalist-adjacent set in my Tumblr space. Make of that what you will.

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                      • I know the NRx crowd likes to draw a line between themselves and the “alt-right”, as such. And I can see the difference, inasmuch as the alt-right has actual white power skinheads who lift weights and know how to wrestle, whereas the NRx crowd are mostly crypto-queer[*] silicon valley wannabes

                        There actually *is* a difference, in that the NRx crowd is knowledgeable enough to know they actually want authoritarianism, whereas the alt-right does not seem to understand that is what they are aiming for.

                        Or, to look at it another way, the alt-right is operated by people who exist solely to manipulate rubes, and either don’t actually believe what they are promoting, or are rather stupid. And then a bunch of rubes that follow them.

                        Whereas the NRx are the people who *would* be the leaders of the alt-right, except they’re all complete assholes who are speaking what might as well be complete gibberish. And also tend to be, as you say, a little too, uh, sexually libertine for the alt-right to line up behind them. They have no rubes at all.

                        Let’s not conflate them, if only so that we can keep them apart. With a *moderate* amount of self-reflection and tolerance on the part of the alt-right, and a *moderate* amount of self-control and willingness to tolerate the obviously-ignorant on the part of the NRx, they could voltron into something dangerous, with the NRx seizing control of the alt-right.

                        Luckily, both those things are completely impossible to happen. Tolerance has been trained out of the alt-right, and self-control out of the NRx. But let’s not start lumping them together anyway.

                        *However*, unlike what I think Jaybird was implying, we shouldn’t act like being ‘NR-curious’ is better than being alt-right.

                        Most of the alt-right people are just sorta ignorant and have heard a lot of lies. The NRx people are *authoritarian assholes*, and deserve much less sympathy. As for -curious, no. Just, no. You don’t get to just dabble in that movement, anymore than you get to dabble in Nazism.

                        Seriously, give me some rube whose been carefully restricted to a diet of Fox News and thinks that Syrian refugees are being let in by Obama to kill white people over an NRx asshole who, philosophically, thinks the *enlightenment* was a bad thing and people shouldn’t have any rights at all. The first guy is just *stupid*, the second is *evil*, or at least is in favor of evil.

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                        • I have to disagree, not because your assessment is wrong, but because it’s right.

                          Everything I’ve seen about NRx and the NRx-curious is they really don’t want people to think they’re a bunch of easily-led rubes. Conflating them with people who think that a washed-up reality TV star is going to save the white race from the Elders of Zion seems like the most appropriate tribute you could pay them.

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                    • I think anarcho-capitalism is very silly, but not really much like the alt-right at all.

                      The distinction between “NRx” and “alt-right” doesn’t even seem to be the sort of thing that self-identified neoreactionaries take seriously in a consistent way.

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                        • — Are suggesting we treat political persuasion as an “identity” precisely the same way we treat race, gender, or LGBTQ status?

                          This seems like a potentially stupid argument. Do you want to have a stupid argument?

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                          • I agree that the potential is there. I also see it as potentially not-stupid.

                            Given such things as my experiences with “coming out” (though as an atheist to my Christian circle), I see a lot of overlap between various facets in the whole “identity” thing.

                            I imagine that some might see that as a potentially stupid thing to say. Am I suggesting that we treat religious affiliation as an “identity” precisely the same way we treat race, gender, or LGBTQ status?

                            There are a lot of ways to not be binary. There are a lot of ways to pigeonhole others.

                            Of course, there are also a lot of ways to be potentially stupid.

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                            • — Wait, you seem to have switched gears from NRx to religion. Is NRx a religion now?

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                              Please be careful with the term “coming out.” It has a specific context with an important symbolic function. You can toss the term around in a clumsy way, but that comes at a cost to your public image.

                              I expect you know this history, at least in broad strokes. But I shall review: to “come out” meant to reveal yourself as an (almost) universally despised minority. To “come out” ended your career. It severed your relations with your family. It pushed you well outside civil society, into a rather nightmarish situation. All that was left after that was gay subculture, and while there is much beauty and strength there, that beauty and strength was formed — I don’t have fucking words for this.

                              You’re a white-str8-cis guy. Take a seat.

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                              I was alive during Stonewall. I was a teen during AIDS. I have standing.

                              #####

                              I can maybe kinda accept that other hated minorities might use the term “coming out.” Perhaps. The thing is, the gay community still uses the term, even though today to “come out” is not nearly as traumatic as it was when I was young. So on the one hand, good. On the other, this is living memory. For transgender people, it is a searing-hot ongoing pain. We endure this trauma. You do not.

                              Can a contemporary muslim “come out”?

                              Well not in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps in the United States.

                              In the United States, can a mainstream Christian “come out” as such?

                              Don’t be silly.

                              Can an evangelical?

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                              Here I shall interrupt. I shall insist on one thing, something I’ve insisted before: bigotry is the exact opposite of being the target of bigotry.

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                              Why do evangelicals face so much hostility?

                              There are facets to this. There certainly is a sense that “country folks” or “traditional folks” are treated as rubes. There is a long-standing tension in the US between city life and country life. On the other hand, when I grew up in the 1970’s, in the suburbs, I recall a sense that country life was seen as cleaner and simpler. This was not long before Reagan took the national stage. Anyhow, our view of country folks has never been so one-sided.

                              Even today in the hip urban areas, young men grow beards and wear mock versions of working class garments. This is silly, but there is a hunger for “simple life.”

                              I say this: my problem with evangelicals is that they are fucking bigots.

                              Full stop. Full measure. They hate my bones. They want to encode this hatred in hostile laws, hostile traditions. They want me dead. They want trans kids tortured to suicide.

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                              You cannot “come out” as a bigot. The very notion is perversity.

                              If someone reveals they are “alt right” — well they have not “come out” so much as revealed their own hatred. They are rightfully despised.

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                              • “You’re a white-str8-cis guy. Take a seat.”

                                Interesting. But in keeping with the philosophy of the progressive left, which is that it’s OK to do the same things the bad people do so long as you’re really angry.

                                But hey keep yelling at Jaybird and telling him how wrong he is to think the things he does. I mean, just look at his posts; he’s definitely someone who isn’t interested in being on your side, not at all, not even a little bit.

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                              • Is NRx a religion now?

                                Let’s assume that God doesn’t exist in any interesting way.

                                What’s the difference between an ideology and a religion?

                                You can toss the term around in a clumsy way, but that comes at a cost to your public image.

                                I’m not neurotypical. As such, my “public image” is rarely at the forefront of my mind.

                                Indeed, if I cared more about my “public image”, I’d probably still be a Southern Babtist in good standing.

                                You’re a white-str8-cis guy. Take a seat.

                                I consider this to be a safe space.

                                I will take your advice to take a seat accordingly.

                                I was alive during Stonewall. I was a teen during AIDS. I have standing.

                                Many of us Xers were.

                                Do you remember John Lennon’s assassination but not the body counts on the nightly news?

                                Can a contemporary muslim “come out”?

                                Well not in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps in the United States.

                                In the United States, can a mainstream Christian “come out” as such?

                                Don’t be silly.

                                Can an evangelical?

                                Can an atheist?

                                Even if he’s a cis-het white male whose pronouns are “he”, “him”, “his”?

                                =======

                                I appreciate how “bigotry is the exact opposite of being the target of bigotry” can flow seamlessly into “There certainly is a sense that ‘country folks’ or ‘traditional folks’ are treated as rubes.”

                                You know what explains this better than “They are rightfully despised”?

                                Ingroups and outgroups.

                                I appreciate how your ingroup keeps you alive while my ingroup merely keeps me employed.

                                We have different amounts at stake here.

                                It’s easy for me to look and say that you’re risking more than I am by publicly being who you are than I ever was by publicly being who I was.

                                I can easily see that.

                                But there are still many facets on the identity diamond.

                                And the fact that you remember many of the same things that I remember changes little of that thing that exists externally to either of us.

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                                • — If you treat the feelings of other with callous indifference, you should not be surprised if you are scorned. This remains true even if you are autistic (or otherwise neuro-diverse). Furthermore, keep in mind, I too am neuro-weird, as are most of my friends and partners. However, callous indifference is not a common trait among this group. In fact, I don’t think callousness is related to neuro-diversity at all.

                                  In other words, being aspie isn’t a good excuse for being a jerk.

                                  Yes, many of us grew up during AIDS. A few of us were alive for Stonewall. However, it is very different when you are yourself queer.

                                  My point is, this is a collection of life experiences which you do not share, nor do you seem to understand. This is not merely ingroup-outgroup stuff. Yeah, those terms name real stuff. Yeah, you can analyze things with those tools and gain some insights. But do not treat them as totalizing. The abstractions thus formed are flawed, inasmuch as to abstract is to erase details.

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                                  Details matter. The “poor sad evangelicals” are different from the “poor sad gays,” and for good reasons. If you wish, you can try to erase those differences. However, you do so at the cost of being wrong.

                                  Map-territory, blah blah blah.

                                  If you draw a simple map with two circles, “ingroup” and “outgroup”, you can no doubt lay it down on many territories and see patterns. Sure. Fine. But the map is simplistic.

                                  Model building is fun. Pattern matching is fun. Sure. Much insight can be gained this way.

                                  Up to a point, until it fails.

                                  And thus dialectic.

                                  In data science, we have the notion of “model interpretability.” Models that are easy for humans to understand tend to perform poorly compared with models that are harder to understand.

                                  Something like Google’s Deep Mind is utterly non-interpretable. You cannot look at the all the data in the neural net and “see” how it works. Contrast this with a decision tree.

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                                  If a model is simple enough for Scott Alexander (or you) to understand, it is unlikely to perform well on actual data.

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                                  Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build models that we can interpret. It does mean, however, that we should be humble.

                                  There is an enormous gulf between saying “that is ingroup-outgroup stuff” and saying “that is merely ingroup-outgroup stuff.”

                                  (See also: https://thingofthings.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/amateur-sociology-considered-harmful/)

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                                  At the core are values: life, love, health, human thriving. In my experience, things such as a belief in god are rather orthogonal to these things. I certainly know religious people who are on the side of human thriving (my father for example). I know atheists who are likewise (I would put Yudkowsky in this camp, actually).

                                  Feelings matter. Dignity matters.

                                  The term “coming out” emerges from a place in history, among a particular group of people. It still carries those meanings. Thus, when you toss out that term, it lands rich with all its connotations. Understanding this is part of being an effective communicator. Being sensitive to the impact your language will have is part of being a decent human being.

                                  Long story short, if you try to broadly apply the term “coming out,” up-to-and-including to those groups who hate LGBTQ people, well, then a lot of LGBTQ people will think you are an insensitive asshole.

                                  Which, are you?

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                                  • Details matter. The “poor sad evangelicals” are different from the “poor sad gays,” and for good reasons. If you wish, you can try to erase those differences. However, you do so at the cost of being wrong.

                                    You misunderstand the analogy.
                                    I didn’t come out as an evangelical.
                                    I came out as an atheist in a heavily evangelical sub-culture. You know the kid who was handing out tracts at the beach? That was me.

                                    It was that society to which I said “I am an atheist.” It was those friends who turned their backs on me (though there were a couple that were quite loving).

                                    It’s *THAT* society that I can’t go back to because of who I am.

                                    Feelings matter. Dignity matters.

                                    Does accuracy?

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                                    • — I was still working on the central topic of the alt-right, the NRx, and so forth.

                                      Regarding atheists — bigotry is not essential to being an atheist. Certainly there have been problems with sexism in various online secularist communities (e.g. #elevatorgate), but that’s situational.

                                      After all, I’m an atheist.

                                      In any case, yeah, I can see how “coming out” as an atheist in a evangelical community would suck. A few times I was in a situation like that, but when it happened, I could just keep my mouth shut, or I could even mouth Christian platitudes. In other words, I could pass as Christian.

                                      Blessed are the peacemakers, motherfuckers.

                                      My daddy was a preacher man, you know. I got this stuff.

                                      That said, I didn’t live in an evangelical area. Yeah, that would pretty awful —

                                      — but probably not as bad as being trans. As a trans woman I face so much direct, in-my-face hatred, so much violence, so much legal bullshit, just so much so much.

                                      Plus it’s not just me. It’s my sisters also. It’s a whole nightmarish thing —

                                      — which is caused by the hard right wing.

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                                      Honestly, if an atheist starts glomming onto the “coming out” language, I’m not going to care that much. I think it is a bit silly. I doubt they understand the full measure of being queer.

                                      So whatever. That is not what I’m objecting to. I’m objecting to trying to apply these “identity tools” to the bigots themselves. This was the original topic. Let’s stick to that.

                                      You cannot “come out” as a bigot. You can only reveal your bigotry.

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                                    • Does accuracy?

                                      This is easy. Of course accuracy matters. One should strive to tell the truth, to give good information, to understand reality as it is, to communicate this understanding. Obviously.

                                      However, back to map-territory. Many maps can fit the same territory, particularly as we strive to understand complex social stuff. When you find a map you like, the fact that you like that map rather than another tells us something about you. Likewise, the degree that you insist on that map, on talking from that frame, on laying that “truth” on others, without concern about how this might hurt them — this also tells us something about you.

                                      We can abstract at any level. We can take any frame and “go meta,” stepping out. We can “go meta” on going meta. On and on.

                                      But love differs from hate. Sickness differs from health. Kindness differs from cruelty.

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                      • Anarcho-capitalism is taking libertarianism to its most extreme end point. Most libertarians believe that voluntary interactions in the markets will solve problems better than interactions through politics and government. They still want the government around to do somethings. The anarcho-capitalists decided that government isn’t needed at all and the market can do everything.

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                        • Yeah, I’m familiar with anarcho-capitalism. I can never quite decide whether it demonstrates more confusion about anarchism or about capitalism.

                          More standard libertarianism is not remotely my cup of tea, but it’s not basically loopy.

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                      • The distinction between “NRx” and “alt-right” doesn’t even seem to be the sort of thing that self-identified neoreactionaries take seriously in a consistent way.

                        It’s pretty easy to tell them apart with a single question: Ask them if we should dismantle the constitution and, after careful consideration and a nationwide competition in intelligence and knowledge, install a dictator.

                        The alt-right will call you a traitor. The NRx will…well, they’re be suspicious of *who* you’d pick as dictator, but that will be their complaint.

                        Note that the alt-right *actually isn’t* against a dictatorship, assuming it’s the right kind. In fact, they seem to think the presidency is one, or maybe should be one if a Republican is in it.

                        But *they* have, mostly, been programmed with ‘Constitution is awesome’ memes and won’t like the idea of revoking that.

                        The NRx is when people try to justify racist authoritarianism with crackpot philosophical ideas, hate the very ideals that American is founded on, and think that most people are idiots, including most of the sort of people that make up the alt-right.

                        The alt-right is when people try to justify racist authoritarianism with `MURICA, FUCK YEAH!, love the ideals (Or at least think they do.) that America was founded on, and think American is being destroyed by high-class elitists, including most of the sort of people who make up the NRx.

                        We’re pretty lucky those last clauses are there.

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                        • I tend to agree with this.

                          If you ask NRx and Alt-Right “would you like America to install its own Lee Kuan Yew?”, the NRx would say “OH YES PLEASE!” and the Alt-Right would ask “who? Sounds foreign.”

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                          • Well, yeah, but using a name is sorta cheating. I mean,you could also just *ask* them if they’re neo-reactionaries. NRx will say yes, the alt-right will say ‘Huh?’.

                            I was trying to point out an actual ‘philosophical difference’:

                            One group openly wants to, or at least would have no problem at all, dismantling the constitution,

                            And the other group *thinks* they worship it. Despite the fact they support an authoritarian structure that can’t exist within the constitution, and often having very little understanding of it outside the magic words ‘second amendment’, and have in fact supported and proposed a lot of things, and supported people that propose a lot of things, that go directly against it.(1)

                            1) I don’t mean ‘things that I, as a liberal, think the constitution means’, or even disagreeing with *recent* interpretations of the constitution like ‘requiring gay marriage’. I mean stuff that isn’t even near constitutional, like Donald Trumps insane musing that, since he’s going to win the election anyway, they(2) should just make him president. Or the idea that he’s going to lock up Hillary Clinton his first day in office.

                            2) This raises the interesting question of who the hell Trump thinks would be in charge of this?

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                            • It’s like if this guy says “I love Tupac!”

                              NAME THREE OF HIS FREAKING SONGS.

                              If you know who Lee Kuan Yew is and you say you are NRx? I will believe that you are NRx.

                              You say you are NRx and you don’t know who Lee Kuan Yew is?

                              I’ma gonna need to see some further credentials.

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                            • DavidTC: Despite the fact they support an authoritarian structure

                              There’s no such thing as an authoritarian structure. Authoritarianism is about policy, not structure. A dictatorship with liberal policies is not authoritarian; a democracy with illiberal policies is. A lot of people make the mistake of conflating democracy with liberalism and non-democratic systems of government with authoritarianism, but in principle these are orthogonal axes. In practice, democracy may be more likely to lead to liberal policy on average, but confounders make this less obvious than one might think from a naive look at the historical evidence.

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                              • There’s no such thing as an authoritarian structure. Authoritarianism is about policy, not structure. A dictatorship with liberal policies is not authoritarian; a democracy with illiberal policies is.

                                You seem to have selected ‘how the leaders are chosen’ as the only form of structure.

                                Authoritarianism *does* require a specific structure of government, it requires a very strong executive without any sort of meaningful limits. This is often a single person with no laws that can be enforced against them, but can be an entire regime that has actually changed the laws to allow it to do whatever it wants.

                                How the executive is selected is no matter. Although under any sort of true authoritarianism, the executive will soon start selecting *itself*, because nothing can stop that from happening.

                                And also…you’re sorta wrong. I agree it is *possible* to have a dictatorship without authoritarianism (For example, it might break the ’emotion’ rule(1)), but but while you can have all sorts of repressive democracies, none of them would be *authoritarianism*.

                                Because one of the *other* rules of authoritarianism, besides the very strong executive, is ‘limited political choice’, with all other choices being either completely outlawed or tolerated only if they fall within very specific parameters. I.e.,you cannot truly have democratic-based authoritarianism. (You can have a *pretend* democracy where they just pretend to count the vote, of course.)

                                Now, it is possible to argue that it is possible to take true electoral choice away from people by restricting all sorts of other civil liberties, while *still* having completely fair elections. What is often called an ‘illiberal democracy’

                                So maybe alternatives are legitimately running for office, and don’t get arrested for no reason, and the ballots will be counted fairly…but the state-run media refuses acknowledge the candidates, or makes them out to be baby-eaters. (Fairly doing an election seems like a weird restriction for an unbound executive branch to follow, but whatever. Usually they tell lies and then pretend those ‘facts’ explain the outcome they rigged, not actually rely on the lies.)

                                But that’s sorta arguing that we can’t have democracy without other civil liberties like press, which is a reasonable point , but, uh, that just proves that authoritarianism that seems to be democratic-based *isn’t* actually a democracy.

                                1) Just to be complete, there are is one more rule of authoritarianism, in that it has to be based on emotion, often anger aimed at outside or inside threats.

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              • @veronica-d

                “Didn’t Clarkhat go off to do his own thing on his own site? ”

                Yes. Status 451.com

                I actually enjoyed him on Popehat. His posts generated lots of comments and some thinking…always good.

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          • I haven’t really followed this discussion, but Clark is (or now, I guess, was) one of the reasons I do not/did not read Popehat regularly. Mr. Randazza–while better in my opinion than Clark–is a current reason, although he doesn’t seem to have written as much lately, at least last I checked.

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              • Probably mostly because of what Burt states below: Mr. Randazza’s “rhetorical grenades,” the “head full of steam,” his being “kind of a jerk about it sometimes,” and his true believer-ism.

                I don’t know anything about his clients, so I don’t hold their disreputability against them.

                To be honest, I’ve read only a few posts by him, and the one about Trump not being libel-proof was pretty good. But for some reason his tone really puts me off, even if I’m inclined to agree with him substantively. Maybe I’m missing out by not reading more of his posts.

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            • Marco Randazza is a hero of sorts to me. Not a first-order hero (I’m on record with who those are), but a person who presents a positive example.

              You’ve got to look past the dis-reputability of his clients and the rhetorical grenades he sometimes throws when he’s worked up a head of steam in his posts. Beyond that, I see a lawyer who found a legal concept of core importance to our culture, picked up the banner, and built a career advancing that banner down the battlefield of our society. We’re all better off for his efforts.

              If he’s kind of a jerk about it sometimes, well, that attribute seems to occur coincident to attaining True Believer status.

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  1. Oh and the “law” does not define anyone without a vagina as male. For example, the Social Security Administration, the State Department, and a number of state governments allow a change of gender status without genital surgery. I changed my gender status at both the state and federal levels before I had any bottom surgery.

    I would expect a law bot to be smarter about such things.

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  2. At a more general level, these are fun, but it’s pretty clearly the result of somebody who deliberately set out to “mess up the robot”.

    If someone deliberately set out to “mess up the human attorney”, they would probably succeed in doing so, it just would look different.

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  3. I got about halfway through and thought, “This was really funny when he was actually undermining its ‘legal ability’ but sort of silly when it is just non-functioning.” Then the gender thing happened. Awesome.

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    • Depends on the computer. When AIs are being interviewed by the NYTimes, I’d say we do have something to be worried about… (I think they did have to scare up a “real live qualified human” to pretend…)

      This is also to say: Finance is easier than Law. For that matter, so is making an honest profit selling “made to order” pornography.

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  4. Maybe it’s more subtle than we think. Maybe lawbot being terrible is the whole point. People with meritless cases will become frustrated trying to deal with lawbot and give up on the idea, saving a lot of time and trouble for all concerned.

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