Thought of the day

The United States has the greatest protections for free speech, press, and religion in the world – on paper. Aside from a litany of court decisions and various state and federal laws that attack all of these things, the mere existence of the anti-constitutional rogue NSA means that the United States is one of the least free developed nations in history.

Revenge justice is no justice at all

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to lurk at the website reddit. It’s a good site for finding a lot different links to a huge variety of content. From long form articles to short news pieces to funny pictures that will show up on your Facebook newsfeed two days later, reddit offers a lot. Unfortunately, it is also subject to being a hivemind. It isn’t like, say, Freethought Blogs, but it does sometimes have a few of the same problems. The only thing that saves it from being unbearable is the sheer number of users (which is around 175 million according to Wiki) from around the globe. Still, though. It has it problems. Let’s take reddit’s overwhelming attitude towards revenge justice, for example. Comments on this recent article drive home my point; from the article:

In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, an Iranian man convicted of blinding another man in an acid attack has been blinded in one eye, marking the first time Iran has carried out such a punishment.

The convicted acid attacker, who has not been identified, was rendered unconscious in Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj on Tuesday as medics gouged out his left eye, according to the state-owned Hamshahri newspaper.

What this attacker did was horrendous and deserves a severe punishment, but he did not deserve to lose his own eye. The entire reason we find his actions so horrible is that they were barbaric. Doing the same thing to him was only less barbaric in method, not intent.

Of course, this is Iran. The overwhelming majority of redditors are from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. (with a sizable portion from many other western nations). Surely the majority will condemn this sort of stone age thinking, right? Think again:

I don’t have a problem with this punishment. What this guy did to these women is unforgivable. An example must be made to all. To be blinded in such a humane way in a medical setting isn’t something the victim was afforded, flesh melting off her face.

and

That’s a tough one.

Part of me feels like everybody deserves a basic level of ‘human rights’ protections no matter what.

But another part of me feels that there are some acts that are so barbaric and animalistic that a person who willfully commits them could only be considered sub-human, and doesn’t deserve the same human rights enjoyed by everyone else.

and

This guy threw acid into 12 women’s faces because he didn’t like the way they dressed. This guy obviously didn’t care about their human rights, he ruined their lives.

I think this punishment isn’t NEARLY harsh enough.

And perhaps worst of all, here is one of the most popular comments:

I know I will be down voted; but I can’t feel sorry for the attacker in anyway shape or form, nor do I fault Iran. They threw acid on a person’s face, and this is the consequence as depicted by the law of Iran. I am sorry but truthfully just stuffing somebody in jail doesn’t deter a lot of people.

Jail to some damaged people is nothing more than a time out. Furthermore I have said this before, stuffing jails with the worse possible offenders of society doesn’t create an environment of punishment or rehabilitation, it becomes a monster creation factory. Just check out the number of violent gangs in prisons. They carry out murders the same way, they rape the same way, they continue to sell contraband the same way.

Yes I am all about being ethical, but there is nothing ethical about putting a person in a cell, feeding them and keeping them alive while the person they have destroyed must suffer through life. The acid attacker deemed their actions and the consequences were worth the price.

Whenever a person starts a sentence with “Yes I am all about being ethical, but…”, you can be sure it’s off the rails.

What we have here are instances of people allowing emotion to trump ethics. Comments which say some people don’t deserve human rights or comments which advocate for the lifelong suffering of others are philosophically incoherent. Indeed, let’s go further – the mindset is disgusting. Once we begin to differentiate human rights based upon human actions, we no longer have any concept of human rights in the first place. This really shouldn’t be that hard. Whatever one wishes to say is the source of human rights, whether it be a god or providence or consciousness or nature, they are necessarily premised upon the notion that they apply to all. The moment we say they apply to some but not others, we’ve made a distinction based on something which is inherently not inherent. That is, our basic human nature is inherent. It exists by definition; we are humans, therefore it is our nature to act as such. The same can be said of any other animal. That inherent base doesn’t change because someone did something awful. To think it did would be like thinking a father who disowns his deadbeat son really no longer has a son. “You’re a drug addict and a moocher! You’re no son of mine! Therefore we are no longer genetically related!” Please.

I had originally titled this post “Vigilante justice is no justice at all”, but the quoted story didn’t technically fit the definition of “vigilante justice” since it was carried out by a government. However, it certainly fits the spirit of the definition. And reddit definitely loves its vigilante justice. That’s because, on some level, the justice is often equal to the ‘crime’ (which often times is just an example of someone being a jerk). It doesn’t matter that both actions were wrong. For reddit (and, really, half the Internet), two wrongs do make a right.

Thought of the day

Apparently Congress is having a little trouble passing a bill to fund Homeland Security. I say good. Don’t fund it. And while we’re at it, let’s not fund the DEA, the TSA, and the NSA. These organizations are dangerous (the DEA especially), useless (the TSA especially), and/or outright antagonistic to liberty (the NSA especially).

Can we admit that “deflategate” was utter nonsense?

During the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, some of the footballs used by the Patriots were said to be deflated below league limits of 12.5 psi. Indeed, we were told that 11 of the 12 balls were 2 psi too low. Why, that must mean the Patriots were cheating! And then, of all things, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had the gall to deny they did anything wrong. Why, that’s even worse. They cheated and were caught, yet they refuse to fess up? Hang ‘em!

But wait:

First, at a press conference last Thursday in Phoenix, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino spilled the beans that the PSI of the 12 Patriots footballs were never recorded by referee Walt Anderson. Blandino said that balls were measured, and if they were under the low threshold of 12.5, they were simply pumped up with some air. So instantly, the report by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that said 11 of the 12 footballs were a full 2 PSI under the threshold was essentially debunked. How could Mortensen have that information if nobody could have that information? (The answer, of course, is that a source who desperately wanted such misinformation out there gave him the “scoop.”)

Got that? The initial report was garbage.

Secondly, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the morning of the Super Bowl that just one of the 11 footballs was 2 PSI under the limit, while the other 10 were “just a tick” under the 12.5 threshold.

Goodness gracious, how shocking. It’s almost like this makes perfect sense. Under the scenario put forth by the people who are purely jealous of the success of the New England Patriots, we were told to believe that Tom Brady had given instructions to deflate 12 balls, yet whoever did it messed up and only deflated 11. Because that’s what the best quarterback in the history of the game wants, right? “Yeah, I want you to do this very specific thing because it makes a huge difference. If you happen to entirely mess up 1 football, I’m sure that wouldn’t make a massive difference. Even though I’ve just contended that it does make a difference.”

No, what’s more likely here is that a whole host of footballs were ball parked to 12.5 psi and someone messed up on one of them. Why? Because the exact psi isn’t overwhelmingly important and Tom Brady doesn’t give specific instructions other than to keep them as low as they’re allowed.

Here’s the reality. The Patriots had 12 balls inflated pretty close to the required 12.5 psi. For whatever reason, one of them was a bit off. The refs, of course, claim they checked them out before the game, but let’s be realistic. One ref likely squeezed a few footballs and called it good. No one took out a pressure gauge and checked everything over. Furthermore, the Pats 12 backup balls didn’t seem to have any issues. Moreover, no one measured the psi of the Colts’ balls, as far as we know. This entire “investigation” has been as garbage as the accusations. And as if all that wasn’t enough, let’s look at history. When the Pats were “spying” on other teams (just like every other team does), they were caught and fessed up pretty quickly. Belichick and the organization took their fines and moved on. I don’t for a second believe they wouldn’t have owned up to doing something as minor as messing with the psi of a few footballs.

Picture of the day

Maine

Thought of the day

Deflate that.

What’s the ethical argument against incest?

A recent news article has been going around about a father-daughter incestuous relationship:

An 18-year-old woman from the Great Lakes region told New York magazine she planned to marry her formerly estranged, biological father and move to New Jersey, where she said there is no legal prohibition against adult incest.

“We plan to move to New Jersey where we can be safe under the law, since adult incest isn’t illegal there, and once I’m there I’ll tell everyone,” the woman, whose name was not published, told the magazine for its “What’s It Like” column, which explores unusual and taboo topics.

It turns out the two had been estranged since the girl was 5. Other articles I’ve read portrayed the two as having no contact until she was 17, but this one says they had minor (non-sexual) interactions from when the girl was 5 to 15. This article also indicates they’ve been dating since she was 16, but it doesn’t say the age of the father; another source indicates he was about 34. At any rate, whatever the specifics here, it’s pretty clear their relationship isn’t okay. There’s a power dynamic at play that makes it wrong. Moreover, most people would simply point out that incest is wrong. I’m wondering, though, why we consider that latter point a good enough argument.

We tend to reject incestuous relationships for two primary reasons. First, they often are not consensual. Second, they can result in genetic abnormalities in offspring. But hang on. Those aren’t arguments against incest in and of itself – those are arguments against non-consensual sex and incestuous reproduction. What if we have two sisters or two brothers? At best we may have a power dynamic at play. What if they’re twins? Or they were estranged their entire lives and only met as adults? What’s the argument then?

There tends to be an “ick” factor when we talk about incest, but that isn’t an ethical argument. It’s a feeling, and no matter how strong it may be, it isn’t a very good basis to reject an idea. Indeed, it’s actually the same reason same-sex marriage still isn’t a thing everywhere.

The article that got me thinking about this topic isn’t a good case study for talking about what makes incest in and of itself wrong, so I don’t particularly want to discuss it. It was merely a jumping-off point: What makes incest wrong? Is it that incest has higher odds of leading to genetic abnormalities? Again, that’s an argument against incestuous reproduction, not incest itself. But let’s pretend that argument does address incest itself. It also addresses people with Huntington’s disease. A person with that disease will die a painful death around middle age while also having a 50% chance of passing it onto his/her children. Those are far greater odds than any incestuous relationship produces. Who is ready to lobby for laws barring people with Huntington’s disease from sexual activity that has any chance of producing children? I’m not.

Let’s be clear, then: The genetic argument against incest is out. It’s not even on point, and even it was, it’s an argument against a lot of other types of reproduction. Moreover, it entirely fails to address relationships where children aren’t possible/would be aborted.

I’m not about to go lobby for new laws regarding incest, but it strikes me that there isn’t a good ethical argument against incest in and of itself. If, at the end of the day, we’re talking about two consenting adults who don’t have an asymmetrical power dynamic at hand, there just isn’t an argument to be had. Society would certainly ostracize anyone who made it public that their relationship was incestuous, and I can’t imagine a healthy relationship would be at all easy as a result, but the same has historically been true of interracial and homosexual relationships.

EDIT: Given some other discussions I’ve had around the Interwebs, I’ve once again had it reaffirmed that some people are genuinely too dumb to have conversations above the most remedial, superficial levels.

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