Archive for the 'Morality' Category

07
Nov
07

Laaaaaaaw, is a many splendored thiiiiiing… Not.

OK, forgive my musical refrain. I ran across an article today that kinda illustrated how important it is that the laws be objective, not morally motivated, and constantly revised to stay current with the changing times:

Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 people by a television channel showing a legal drama series.

And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Obviously many of these laws probably had some practical logic to them when they were made, and merely suffered from being too broad or too specific in scope. However the same is true of many of the laws on the books today. They are based on historical or social standards that are either obsolete or irrelevant today.

On the other side of the coin, there are laws placed on the books, that are simply poorly thought out. Most often emotional the result of knee-jerk reactions by over zealous lawmakers. For instance banning baggy pants? No tag in school? No hugs?!? Seriously, how is banning baggy pants supposed to reduce the crime rate of a city? (see <Dumb Laws.com> for a big list of really wacky laws… Fair warning, you may laugh yourself into oblivion 🙂 )

But on a more serious note, the law has become a means for activists to push their own agendas, as opposed to protecting the society at large, and no, the two are not the same thing. An equitable legal system does not discriminate against anyone on the bases of race, color, creed, beliefs, etc, so it is absolutely ludicrous that any one should have to face prosecution simply because of their choice of clothes. What we are seeing is an abuse of the legal system. And it really needs to stop.

Die and you’re under arrest! Britain’s most stupid laws – [Yahoo/AFP]

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07
Sep
07

The Southwest Airlines morality police…

You know it never ceases to amaze me how seem to think that immorality can be controlled by censorship. Censorship breeds ignorance. Nothing more. And if one day those who have been shielded from the  vices of life should come face to face with it,  do you think that their ignorance will provide them with the mental tools to deal with it correctly? I If were to hazard a guess, I’d say… no.

Americans are really quick to claim to our “individual freedoms”. However too often it seems like everybody thinks that the term “Individual Freedoms” extend no further than their own person. On an almost daily basis I see people trying to enforce their view of morality upon others, and in the process,  trample underfoot the very values they claim to hold dear, restricting what others can and cannot say, write or, for that matter, wear:

 23-year-old woman who boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in a short skirt for a flight to Arizona says she was led off the plane for wearing an outfit that was considered too skimpy.

“You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane,” she quoted the employee as saying.

The employee felt the outfit “revealed too much” but was placated after Ebbert made adjustments that included covering her stomach, Mainz said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now this raises so many issues in my head that it’s almost mind boggling.  Like who determines what is considered too revealing? Too revealing for who? Is there wording in the airline contract that prohibits skimpy clothing? Did this employee have any legal right to even say anything to a passenger about this? Was this employee speaking for the company or was the employee using the airline to back up their own individual moral code?

Now these are all very important moral and legal questions. But what is not so obvious are the underlying assumptions that go into a statement like “This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane.” Are we to assume that family values prohibits the exposure of ones midriff on a plane? And whose values might those be?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the parents of said hypothetical “family” be able to explain to the youth of that family the right and wrong with any given attire? What I am asking, in a kind of round about way, is this: Why do people feel the need to shift the responsibility of parenting to everyone else but the parents? Why did this lady have to endure the humiliation she did?

Notwithstanding that fact that a persons dress code is not an accurate indicator of their morals, I believe that any responsible parent should have taught thier children what is considered appropriate clothing in that particular household, and so this should not have been an issue.

And I mean no offense, but it is only those parents who have not taught their kids what is right and wrong, and how to tell the difference, or who are afraid to openly discuss these topics when they come up (say, while buckling in for a short plane ride) that will have problems with this. And that will be because they are not parenting properly, not because of how someone is or isn’t dressed.

Others should not have to bear the burden of parents who don’t really understand what being a parent means. It is not easy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But no parent should have the right to impinge on anothers’ freedoms just to make the job easier. The end result will be ignorant children, living in a confusing world, without the tools to make the right decisions when faced with crises.

Airline tells woman her outfit won’t fly – [Yahoo/AP]

03
Sep
07

Our Rights: The Overlapping Gray Areas…

I just read an interesting article that illustrates a common, but not so visited aspect of our much valued “personal freedoms”. They are not as clearly defined many like to think:

For Dwight DeGolia’s neighbors, the last straw was the fake palm trees.

The 62-year-old retiree had spent years fixing up the sliver of sloping land outside his home, adding two putting greens that were almost 30 feet long, a small creek and a gazebo.

But the 8- to 12-foot palm trees made it impossible for neighbors to ignore DeGolia’s project anymore, a passion that they said was making the neighborhood look tacky and led them to take DeGolia to court.

Cities and neighborhood associations have struggled for years with how to handle situations in which eccentric people with a penchant for lawn decoration get into fights with nearby homeowners.

The battles often feature issues that are far from straightforward, such as whose property rights are more important — the woman who fancies dozens of cupid statues on her front lawn, or the next door neighbor who has to look at it? – [Yahoo/AP]

I thought I’d talk about this because it’s one of those areas that I think that American culture just doesn’t give enough attention to. The first and most important thing to remember is that, human beings are, at the same time, social, and very, very different.

Regardless of our intentions, so long as we have to interact with others whose beliefs, backgrounds, upbringing, etc., may be worlds apart from our own, we may do things to offend. Unfortunately, this can happen, even when we are exercising our “personal freedoms”.

Any good American will say that we all believe that our personal freedoms should be protected, and must remain inviolate. And in theory, this is good and admirable. Except for one, very large, problem. The idea of isolating and protecting an individuals personal rights is not always a realistic (nor universally practical) goal, since, in any social community, the areas of each of our individual rights overlap. Massively.

And unfortunately, being the litigation happy people that we are, we forget some of the lessons our parents taught us when we were growing up. You know, the ones about compromise? Sharing? We have become so selfish, that we will fight, tooth and nail, to the death, to do what we want to do, claiming justification under the flag of our “Individual Rights”.

We tend to completely ignore the fact that the person we may be in contention with, may have an equally valid right to say, do, or express whatever it is they feel the need to do at the time. Now I honestly believe that, with freedom, comes great responsibility. And, unfortunately, equally great sacrifice.

Everybody wants to have their freedom. But nobody wants to bear the responsibility, or have to be the one to sacrifice something. I believe that the idea of individual freedoms isn’t about each if us getting what we want. It is about trying to make sure that everyone, not just you, has a chance to get what they want.

We have to learn to compromise, be considerate of others. Try and resolve our differences. Be willing to listen. Be willing to compromise. Everyone should be willing to sacrifice something. Perhaps a little more this time, maybe a little less next time. It will change from case to case. And there are not perfect solutions.

But the willingness to compromise should be there, if we really all truly believe in the concept of individual rights. No ones rights should exist to exclusivity of all others. And until we learn that lesson, I think we will all just be going through the motions, and paying lip service to the concept of “Individual rights”. It will be a catchy phrase, nothing more.

And I don’t think we really want that as a nation. But that’s just my opinion.

Yard art is in eye of beholder and court – [Yahoo/AP]

31
Aug
07

A minor “Hit and Run” with tragic consequences…

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which some people will go to avoid bearing the responsibility of their actions, as displayed by the ff article submitted by a friend:

A woman, fleeing the scene of a wreck that she was involved in, crashed her car into a tree Thursday night, killing her child, police said.

The woman, who was not identified, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. But the boy, believed to be between 5 and 7 years old, died at the scene, said Atlanta police Officer James Polite.

Police said that minutes before the collision, the woman – who has not yet been named – was involved in a minor wreck on Jonesboro Road and Cleveland Avenue in Southeast Atlanta. – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

You know, even though we don’t know the details of the original accident that caused this woman to decide to flee, and eventually careen out of control, it is easy to see the trail of bad decisions that got her there. First, a “Hit and run” is just plain irresponsible.

We may never know why she decided to run that day, but regardless of who is at fault, if you are involved in a traffic collision, to drive away from the scene without ascertaining the condition and well being of anyone else in the collision is just not acceptable.

But to then decide to drive your vehicle so fast that you lose control of it going round a curve with your young son in the car is just plain negligent. Plain and simple. I firmly believe that the most honest measure of our character can be seen in how we react when we are faced with difficult situations. And to be quite frank, I think this lady was of very poor character. And she paid for her bad decisions with the life of her young son.

Some people seem to think that responsibility is something that can be shucked when it is inconvenient. In fact, the opposite is true. It is at the times when it is the most inconvenient that being responsible is of the greatest value. Is is sad that such a small inconvenience had to cost so much. Had this woman understood that, her son might still be alive today…

Woman kills her child after fleeing minor wreck – [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

21
Aug
07

Killers: Life, death, and the gray paradox in between…

Given that earlier today, I posted my opinion on what I think the criteria of a true “killer” is, I find it ironic that I should run across an article dealing with the ethics of the death penalty for a person who meets the legally circumscribed definition of a “Killer”:

“The European Union notes with great regret the upcoming execution in the State of Texas,” the Portuguese presidency of the 27-nation bloc said in a statement.

Texas is expected to hit the 400 mark on Wednesday — putting it far ahead of any other U.S. state — with the execution of Johnny Ray Conner for the 1998 shooting of a grocery store clerk.

The European Union, which on Tuesday called the death penalty “cruel and inhumane,” is opposed to all capital punishment and has called for its worldwide abolition.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the use of the death penalty serves as a deterrent against violent crime,” the statement said, adding that its irreversibility meant that miscarriages of justice could not be redressed. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

What I find most interesting about this article, is the EUs objection to the death penalty on the grounds that it:

  1. Has not proven to be a deterrent against violent crime.
  2. Is cruel and inhumane.

Oh really? I might actually have bought reason one, if the sole purpose of the death penalty was to be a deterrent to violent crime. But most of the people whom I think would think deserve the death penalty are people who could watch someone getting brutally massacred right before their eyes without batting an eye, and proceed to enjoy a steak dinner like nothing happened and then sleep like a baby that night. IMHO The death penalty is not a deterrent. It’s cleanup.

That’s not to say that the death penalty couldn’t be a good deterrent for the more normal types of killers. It’s just that nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them unless they actually see it happen, up close and personal. Humans are visual creatures. If you really want to make an impression on them, you have to show them. How many people you know have actually ever seen an execution occur? I’m willing to bet few to none. So how exactly is it intended to be a deterrent?

And point 2 is laughable at best. Is life in prison supposed to be less cruel than death? Sure you’ll be alive, but it won’t exactly be a picnic either. Many who get life ending up serving a reduced sentence anyway due to bing killed in prison. And inhumane? There are such things as humane executions. Is death by lethal injection inhumane? I don’t think so. If I had to go, what better way than to just fall asleep an never wake up again. Quick and painless. I don’t think it gets any more humane than that.

Now obviously, I have no intrinsic objections to the death penalty. There are some people who will never be able to function in a socially constructive way, and can never be rehabilitated. And I think these people only pose a continuing threat to the well being of everyone else, and can safely (in my opinion anyway) be removed from society. But there are problems.

The biggest problem, is the only valid objection I saw in the article. The fact that the death penalty is irreversible, and if there is a mistake there is no way to rectify it. I can’t argue that, because our legal system has many flaws. Innocent people are found guilty and the guilty walk free. On the basis of that alone, we ought to abolish the death penalty. Not because it’s not a good solution for eliminating incurably violent criminals from society, but because the system too flawed to accurately determine who really deserves that penalty.

The legal system, for all of it’s massive and highly detailed rules and regulations, is still run and decided by living, breathing, human people. Each person has different belief system, different ideas of right and wrong, and different thresholds and tolerances for things. And few cases feature objective and irrefutable evidence like a video camera or an audio tape that tells the whole story in an accurate and objective manner. The judge and jury often has to make assumptions and decisions based on assumptions. It’s just isn’t morally or ethically responsible to base anyones death on human assumptions and feelings.

But even if the system could determine with 100 percent accuracy who should get the chair, we can’t kid ourselves about what we are doing. There is a paradox to this way of thinking. We are, in effect murdering a person in cold blood. Yes, we are doing it to save the lives of others that we know could be killed if the killer is allowed to continue to live. But we are being killers ourselves, simply because do not have, and cannot come up with, a better solution. Imagine that. We have no imagination…

EU urges Texas to halt executions before 400 mark – [Yahoo/Reuters]

21
Aug
07

Apologetic Felons…

Yet another case of a contrite robber… With double to fun…

During the first robbery, on Aug. 13, the robber apologized to the clerk, saying, “Sorry, I have to do this,” and taking $600, police said.

A week later, he returned and ordered a clerk to empty the cash register. Then he thanked the clerk and again said he was sorry before fleeing. – [Yahoo/AP]

Stories like these make me think about what really makes a person a criminal. Sure robbing someone at gunpoint is wrong, but does that automatically make you a bad person? This guy was obviously quite conflicted. Does robbing a bank out of necessity make you a “robber”? Or a “criminal”.

I know it does in eyes of the law, but the law is blind. Why would you ever let a blind lady with and old fashioned scale drive your car? So I generally look at things from a more moralistic view. But I don’t really subscribe to the idea of intention based morality, so can’t argue that this guy really didn’t want to hurt anyone, and is therefore not a “robber”. But I think it bears a little deeper examination.

To use another more well defined (on the surface at least) example, what makes a person a killer. When someone says: “Be careful with that guy, he’s a killer!” what exactly does that mean? People kill for lots of different reasons. You can’t very well lump the scared house wife that kills the rapist who broke into her house with her husbands snub nose .38 in the same category as the guy who shoots another because he “looked at me funny”.

There is obviously a big difference. Here’s what I think. A killer, or criminal, is a person who’s first solution for everything is to resort to criminal activity. They are unwilling or unable to see alternatives. It’s kind of like Abraham Maslows’ famous saying: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”

I think a killer kills because to them it is the best solution they have for many of their problems. A felon steals or robs because to them, it is the only solution they know to implement successfully. If you look at it this way, then these people are all suffering from one problem. Either an absolutely uncompromising level of ignorance, or a debilitatingly severe lack of imagination… Are you bored yet? 🙂

Man sorry but robs store anyway- twice – [Yahoo/AP]

07
Aug
07

Constitutional violation solves nothing…

Today I came across an article about a California judge who appears to be able to recognize when an unconstitutional law is being passed, and has the foresight to veto them. This is an unusual development from The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, where local police, activists and Lawmakers seem to have an impressive track record of passing unreasonably draconian, even unconstitutional laws in the name of “The Public Interest”:

A federal judge ruled on Monday a California law to label violent video games and bar their sale to minors was unconstitutional, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to say he would appeal the ruling.

Of course you will.

California passed a law in 2005 regulating video games with strong support from Schwarzenegger, the former star of many violent action films. Legislators argued violent video games could bring psychological harm and spark aggressive behavior in minors.

Can anyone say “Anecdotal Evidence”?

The Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association promptly sued to block the law, arguing their games were protected under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Uh Huh. “Free speech”? That’s your reason? It would probably be mine, but the ESA and VSDA? Yeah… I don’t think so. Now cash flow… That I’d buy…

Judge Ronald Whyte, who had previously granted a preliminary injunction against the law, issued a permanent order that also cited conclusions from judges facing similar laws in other states.

“At this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children,” he wrote in his decision. “In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, Internet sites or other speech-related exposures.” – [Reuters]

Thank you. Sanity at last. Now I’m not saying the law didn’t have any value to it. The part where developers are required to label them is just common sense. We need to know what kind of content is in the games we give to our kids. But banning them? Who are they kidding? So it’s OK to let my kids watch “Saw” on video, but heaven forbid they play “ManHunt“? Come on!

OK Look. I understand that as a parent, you may be willing to do anything and everything in your power to keep your kids safe. And I agree. Anyone who doesn’t feel this way can’t really be called a parent. The problem arises when you decide that it is OK to violate the rights of others in order to achieve this.

That is a double standard don’t you think? Nobody should violate your (and, by extension, your childrens’) rights, but it’s OK to violate others? Sounds like a double standard to me. If you, as a parent, decide raise your kids on video games, you also have to take the responsibility of talking to them about what exactly they are looking at. The same applies to movies, and even music.

It seems like some parents will bend over backwards to get a movie, album, video game, etc. Off the shelves. The outrage is always fierce and unrelenting. But here’s my question. Why can’t you just talk to your kids about these things? When they leave the house they see these things everywhere. Our culture is permeated with them. We, as adults, have become so desensitized that sometimes we don’t even see it, but it is there.

If your kids don’t learn, early on, about what they are see everyday, and what is right and what is wrong, then how do you expect them to tell the difference? Banning games won’t help you one whit. Denying them TV, radios, computers and video games for the entire tenure of your custody of them won’t save you either. Unless you live in a very, very, isolated community. Instead I see people embark on epic but fruitless crusades against violence in the media, gun control, school practices, regulation, etc. As I have stated in a previous post, I think these are little more than very poor crutches.

The gang member running around with the gun in their waistband was/is someones kid. Just like yours. What kind of lessons do you think he/she learned growing up? Do you think they would be in the gang if they learned from childhood that doing so could easily reduce your life expectancy by 50%? Do you think they would even pick up a gun if they thought there were other, better solutions? It’s hardly the gun we should be worried about. It’s the fact that the kid doesn’t know any better. Why is that?

What they need is education and guidance. And as parents we need to give it to them. No one else can, will, or even should do it for you. Do whatever it takes. And I don’t mean waste time protesting about pointless things. Work less hours, and spend more time with your kids. Engage in more group activities. Have one parent actually stay at home. It doesn’t matter who. Move into a smaller house/apt/condo to make ends meet if you have to. You may physically have less, but I believe the quality of your kids lives will be richer. It’s not always possible, but I submit that they are worthwhile sacrifices.

This is what I believe it means to be a parent. If you really want to protect your kids, I think this is the best place to start. It is no good to provide all of our kids materialistic needs if you fail to teach them about morals, ethics, good bad, right wrong, the light, the dark, all the gray areas in between, and about life in general. I honestly believe this is where we are failing as a country.

Forget about the TV, radio, music, video games, etc. Play with your kids. Talk to your kids. Teach them something positive. That way when you let them loose, you will hopefully be able to worry less about whatever it is they encounter on the street. Yeah. I sound like a bad public service announcement. But there it is.

Judge blocks California’s violent video game law – [Reuters]




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