Archive for Politics
I do my best not to write emotionally charged posts that make sweeping generalizations. Every now and then, however, I find myself traveling a path of agitation that only a cathartic chastising of the greater social media community can cure. This is one of those every now and thens.
Let me start by saying that this post does not apply to all people who displayed the surprisingly ugly logo on their respective social media profiles. In fact, the pink equals signs that were accompanied by photos of the person standing in front of the Supreme Court, talking to their respective legislators, or even attending a rally were more than tolerable; they were invited. What isn’t invited is the picture being posted by everyone else.
Most of the people posting the logo are just engaging in a peculiar sort of moral masturbation to make themselves feel good. I’m not saying they don’t believe in ‘marriage equality,’ but they don’t work toward it. If you have never attended a rally, donated to a campaign, written an article, written a letter to your congressman, or done anything else to actually contribute to the movement, then your display of a logo is nothing more than annoying. It is something that you’re doing to serve your own emotional needs rather than to serve the actual cause.
The increasingly troubling aspect of this phenomena is that it perpetuates a blind adherence to a concept that people don’t really understand. Many of these logo fiends have an infantile emotional understanding of the what ‘gay marriage’ even is or the arguments for/against it. They don’t understand the research which has been done regarding sexuality, nor can they provide defensible reasons for what they believe. This state of mind makes these people no better than those on the opposite side. If “love is love is love” is an acceptable argument in favor of gay marriage, then “killing is killing is killing” is an acceptable argument against abortion.
In short, if you’re one of these people who hopped on the bandwagon and couldn’t argue your way out of a paper bag, shut the fuck up; I’m tired of hearing you jack off your moral superiority load over everyone’s collective faces. If you’re one of those people who actually have been discriminated against, have contributed to the cause in tangible ways, have personal tales to tell, or even know what you’re talking about, then I invite you to speak more loudly. I like hearing what you have to say because it’s meaningful, and it doesn’t wreak of self-gratification.
Recently, I have found myself hesitating to comment on prominent new stories, political events, etc… You may have noticed that I haven’t written anything about the sequester or the GOP’s ‘rebranding.’ The reason for this is because I’ve noticed that internet commentary across the board is becoming more and more shallow. There are legions of bloggers out there posting emotionally charged poorly thought out opinions. These opinions fuel e-shouting (new term I just coined) matches generally characterized by many capital letters. I do my best to avoid adding fuel to the fire because I try to actually take a reasoned look at issues and events. The trouble I find is that this is much easier to do in an in person discussion. Over the internet, people read all kinds of emotional content into what you’re writing when that content isn’t actually there.
Then, I remembered the mission of Shattering The Lens. The whole purpose of this place is to provide a mechanism to get people to stop emotionally translating things so they can develop an understanding of reality. Recognizing that mission, I have decided to write a post commenting on the Steubenville trial and verdict.
I think the people that are up in arms about this particular case are channeling their larger frustrations about the U.S. justice system’s completely inadequate handling of abuse and sexual assault cases in general. The system we have in this country makes things very difficult for victims. It often does not allow for non-victims to file charges, has very odd evidence burdens, and does not provide adequate safety or stabilization measures for victims. That being said, it doesn’t mean that the students in this case should receive a harsher punishment. People need to think about what the purpose of punishment really is. What are we trying to accomplish when we punish criminals?
If the purpose is truly just proportional retribution, then the rapists should probably be raped as well and have video of it spread across the internet. When I put it like that, your reaction may change slightly. The reality is that, when it comes to juvenile crime, severe punishment in adult facilities does not have a rehabilitating effect on juvenile offenders. Quite the opposite, adult incarceration facilities breed repeat juvenile offenders. The adage “violence only breeds more violence” is particularly applicable in this case. Because juveniles are going through some of their most formative years, it’s more likely that they will head down a worse path if put in an environment where they are in closer proximity to more serious and capable offenders.
That being said, it’s important to note that these individuals shouldn’t be without reproach. What they did was blatantly wrong, and they need to be punished for it, but that punishment needs to occur in a way which will encourage these two to actually learn from their actions and work toward becoming better people. We must realize that these two will eventually be released back into society, and it would be a grave error to transform them into guaranteed criminals. The punishment is inappropriate not because it is too light but because it does not include a rehabilitative component. It would have been a fascinating precedent to sentence these two to 300 hours of volunteer service at an abused women’s shelter. It would have given them a stark look at the possible results of their actions.
It is further important to actually address the victim in this case. Why isn’t anybody talking about her in a real way? All we hear are dark quips like, “She’s the one who really got a life sentence.” All irony aside, I suspect that the girl is probably being subjected to some bootleg counseling from a hack that is relying on a model of human psychology that’s at least three decades out of date. She is part of a community where behavior like this probably occurs regularly. In fact, I’d wager that this is not an isolated incident. Similar occurrences have probably occurred to other girls in that community, and we are just not aware of it. The tragedy is that the girl will remain an assault victim for the rest of her life. The greater tragedy is that she is probably in a community which will make it difficult for her to seek the help she needs to rid herself of that life sentence.
In short, the discourse surrounding the Steubenville case is very typical of high profile news stories like this. On the one side, all the raging feminists come out of the woodwork because they see an opportunity to talk about how sexist the U.S. justice system is. On the other side, you have people still saying that it’s the victim’s fault, and she never should’ve let herself get that drunk. Neither side is actually addressing the real issues. They are just talking about completely irrelevant things which don’t really matter in the grand scheme of the situation. The dilemma that the court was faced with was to issue a sentence which not only provided adequate retribution for the crime but also had a rehabilitative component which would send a message of moral education to the criminals, victim, and community. It failed on both accounts, but it did not fail for any of the reasons people are spewing on about. A year after a tragic event, the parties involved are essentially in the same positions where they began.
For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Thomson, she is the author of the very popular and influential work “A Defense of Abortion” in which she argues, quite effectively for many, in favor of a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Lately, I have found that many non-academics and philosopher types are becoming aware of Thomson’s argument, which has been dubbed the violinist argument, and incorporating it into their own canon of pro-choice literary reserves. Unfortunately, of all such people I have encountered, very few have actually read Thomson’s work or taken the time to understand the argument, let alone logic in general. Rather, they have heard a summarized version of the argument. In reality, Thomson’s argument should not be convincing to anyone who can think critically or analyze arguments. My recent irritation has led me to write this post detailing precisely why the argument is not even really an argument. This is not to say that a woman should not have the right choose, but rather that I feel it is necessary to clear up the uninformed discourse which pervades this issue.
In “A Defense of Abortion” (the full text of which is linked below) Thomson attempts to eliminate the problem with calling the fetus a life. In short, her argument contends that it is possible to have the right to violate somebody’s right to life. The pro-life argument follows as such:
1. It is wrong to take an innocent human’s life.
2. The fetus is an innocent human.
3. Therefore, it is wrong to take the fetus’s life.
Most people find contention with the second step, arguing that the fetus is not a human life. Most everyone will agree that it is wrong to take an innocent human’s life for obvious reasons (social contract, value of human life, respecting human dignity, whatever philosophical justification you choose to adopt). Thomson, however, gives her analogy of a violinist and argues that it would be OK to let the violinist die in this case. The trouble, though, is that she never argues it would be OK, she just says it would, without providing any justification for it and hoping people will agree with her on emotional appeal, which a good number of people do. Her argument is as follows.
1. You wake up, and the Society of Music Lovers has kidnapped you. You have been hooked up to a violinist with a deadly kidney disease so that your kidneys can filter poison from him because you are the only person in the world who can save the violinist.
2. You are informed that the violinist’s right to life outweighs your rights, and therefore, you cannot disconnect the violinist until his ailment is cured, however long that may take.
3. Your reaction to this command is that it is absurd.
4. Therefore, there is a problem with the pro life argument which says that the baby’s right to life outweighs the mother’s right to her own body.
Well, this may sound like a convincing train of thought. However, a very brief examination will reveal that it is really not an argument at all. Thomson has simply provided an analogy which makes pregnancy look like a ridiculous burden. I’m surprised she needed an analogy to do that in the first place. The problem with her argument lies primarily in part 3 and the link between 3 and 4. First, the reaction may not necessarily be one of visceral opposition. I, for one, would recognize the situation I have been placed in and accept that, regardless of my suffering, killing an innocent person would be a far more egregious moral crime, and I would not disconnect the violinist. Continually, Thomson never provides a link which merits the “Therefore” in part 4 of her argument. Just because your reaction to the situation is a negative one, why does that entail that the moral obligation to keep the violinist alive does not exist? This logic would mean that peoples’ emotional reactions to moral questions determine the right thing to do. In this case, we would have to legitimize terrorist actions. It is further surprising to me that a philosopher would so blatantly use emotional appeal to support an argument and that the academic community would so readily hop on the bandwagon.
In short, the argument is not an argument. Thomson’s article is weak and should not have been published. Most importantly, people should stop trying to convince me to be pro-choice using Thomson’s argument without actually having read her work, let alone having understood the argument. There are far better arguments for a woman’s right to choose, and it is tragic and severely irritating to see people clinging to the violinist to vehemently.
For the full text of “A Defense of Abortion”
Imagine there is a nail sitting upright on the floor. You step on it, and your foot gets punctured. The result is a lot of pain, and possibly an infection. I want to take a second to ask who should be blamed for this situation. Do we blame the nail? Obviously not, as the nail’s purpose is to exist and be a nail. It did not actively seek to cause your foot pain. It was just being a nail. It is your responsibility not to step on the nail.
The problem with Occupy Wall Street is that it takes the wrong approach to viewing Wall Street. Wall Street should not be viewed as an active entity with volition. That perspective divests the individual and the consumer of all responsibility. Instead, Wall Street, and its turning gears, should be viewed as just that, turning gears. Wall Street is a machine that operates on the profit motive, with people working to make profits. It is inevitable that these people will do what it takes to make money and gain power. It is our responsibility as consumers, citizens, and political participants to be wise in the decisions we make.
Take a look at predatory lending for example. For those of you who don’t know, the practice is fairly straightforward. I, as the banker, will give you a loan for a home that you obviously cannot afford, knowing that you will default. Once you default, I will take the home (which is worth the amount of the loan) and whatever money you have managed to pay thus far. Therefore, I will make money in the end. This is one operation of the machine that is Wall Street. Now, the Occupy Wall Street folks will tell you that this is an unscrupulous practice which needs to be regulated and stopped by the government. I do not share the same view. My argument is that you, the consumer, should not try and buy the $750,000 dollar that they obviously will never be able to pay off. Instead, settle for a rent to own 2 bedroom. The same can be said about car loans. Do not try to purchase the $70,000 BMW. Buy a used Civic instead that you can pay off in 2 years time.
A good number of Americans live under the fallacy that having a college degree makes you deserving of having a career which pays at least $80,000 per year. I’m sorry, but if your GPA was 2.7, and your chief extracurricular activity was smoking marijuana, you have no right to expect a luxurious life. Youth in this country exist in a bubble of excess spending and poor financial management. If you already have student loans to pay off, what are you doing maxing out your credit cards, ruining your history, and accumulating debt? It is not difficult to get a job, nor is it difficult to make enough money to live a decent life. This is especially true if you live in places like Cleveland, Baltimore, Atlanta, or any of the plain states. The only thing is that the first job you get may not be the dream multi-million dollar executive salary position you want. And, because you watched too many romantic comedies, you thought it was alright to get married and have a child by the age of 23. You really think you can support a family on your $35k per year entry level job?
Hard work is rewarded in this country and in this economy. The problem is that it is not rewarded instantly, and it is not rewarded simply. You have to be good at politiking, and you need initiative. You need to be experienced, talented, and highly qualified to land the top level executive positions. Chances are, however, you’re not going to get to that point until at least your late thirties. If you need to get a job busing tables, then that’s what you have to do. It is nothing to be ashamed of. The reality is that a full time minimum wage worker makes roughly $1000 per month. Go from minimum wage to $10 per hour, and you make $1600 per month. Just five more dollars per hour, and that becomes $2400, which is enough to live comfortably if you live within your means. Blue collar vocational positions also pay very well. A mechanic at a Lexus dealership can make upwards of $25 per hour.
The problem is not Wall Street. They are just doing their jobs, and they are doing them very well. The problem is that American society breeds a culture of false entitlement and frivolity. Students spend their time partying instead of building their resumes, getting experience, and getting good grades which will allow them to have successful futures. I’m not saying that all enjoyment should cease in lieu of hard work and industriousness. Rather, it is more appropriate to lead a balanced life. There is a time for play, and there is a time for work. Unfortunately, for too many, work time turns into play time, and then all time turns into play time. Companies will always hire people who work harder and have more impressive resumes over people who do not. This is just a fact.
The most beautiful thing about this approach of individual fiscal responsibility is that it is the best way to end unethical practices on Wall Street! We sometimes forget that free market forces still matter somewhat in this country. The “unscrupulous Wall Street tycoons” that the people in the park settlements are all riled up about prey upon irresponsible Americans who do not understand how to responsibly use their money. Predatory loans became fashionable because a lot of people were getting them. If Americans take the time to better understand how money works and how to use it better, then predatory economic practices will stop because there will be no market for them. If nobody bothers to get a ridiculous loan for a Maserati they can’t afford, then these loans will inevitably stop existing. The interest rates will decrease as well. As a population of consumers, it is our job to make it more profitable for the financial institutions to be ethical. It is not easy to be responsible, but it is the real way to fix this economy.
After all, the nail will always be there. You are the one who needs to watch where you step.
On September 30, 2011, the United States conducted an unprecedented armed attack to kill people who they believed to be instrumental Al-Qaeda operatives. The chief target of the armed drone assault was Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric.
Al-Awlaki, among others targeted and killed in teh attack, were US citizens. The US government conducted this assault, as far as the public is aware, without consultation or approval from the Yemeni government. This attack in an unprecedent violation of national sovereignty, the likes of which even the US has not carried out in recent years. The killings of these individuals demonstrates a complete disregard for national sovereignty, along with the indication that US citizenship no longer guarantees constitutional protections.
This is a deeply concerning series of events, and I would like your thoughts on whether or not the US’s actions were legitimate.