Posts by BenWilson

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  • Hard News: The next bylaw will ban irony,

    Lucy, I saw your women "asking for it" angle, although it's a pretty common phrase in other contexts too. It was semi-deliberate, to show that people feeling intimidated from wearing whatever they like is a pretty slack situation. That is not, btw, an argument for the city to just take over and use police to stop all people wearing their gear. It's more to show that there was a problem, that it's not just imaginary. These patches are causing strife, or at least they are being used as excuses for strife. Perhaps the strife will continue, since it is most likely driven by underlying causes. But then again, perhaps there will be a decline.

    In many ways it's like the laws against offensive language. They are, to some extent, worth having, because offensive language is very often a precursor to violence, and is certainly used to intimidate people and whip up anger. If it gives the police an ability to immediately defuse a silly situation from going sillier, on account of something which is basically pretty silly in itself, then they are sometimes helping matters quite a lot. They can take the person using the language away, give them time to cool down, then arse about trying to prosecute something so inconsequential, or just let the person off with a warning. Assuredly it can't prevent the person from going straight back to the scene, but it might help.

    So my feeling is kind of "lets wait and see" on this one. Just as laws against offensive language haven't stop wild arguments turning into brutal and/or lethal fights, I doubt the patch ban will do much. Not enough for the human rights angle to be ignored.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The next bylaw will ban irony,

    There's some logic missing there. I doubt public safety will be improved at all.

    I agree that it's not logical and probably won't work. I'm presuming public safety is the 'argument' behind the ban, rather than just because Whanganui folk don't like the look of it.

    I don't think that banning patches will "work" for Whanganui in so far as making it any safer for the public (possibly less safe with a move to colours). Sure, you can argue that the ban may lead to less intimidation of the public, but presumably people will be equally intimidated by gatherings of people wearing colours. So what was the point?

    If there's any point at all, it would be that it would turn 'I don't think that banning patches will "work"' to 'I know that banning patches didn't "work"'. And I'm entirely open to the idea that we could be surprised. There could be a drop in gang related violence in the banned areas. That's not something to ignore (if it happens).

    Would anyone say that I wasn't 'asking for it' if I did?

    I wouldn't (but I wouldn't go drawing any comparisons using that particular phrase, either, as the situation is somewhat different.)

    Heh, that's probably wise since if you wouldn't say I wasn't asking for it, then that kind of implies you think I was. I shouldn't have used the negative. So you think it wouldn't be asking for it to wear a gang's patches in Whanganui, despite not only not being in the Black Power, but also not even being the least bit dark? I think in theory you are right, but I would not risk it.

    Mind you, I would not wear a police uniform anywhere. That gang would get real bitter if they saw me in their patches.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The next bylaw will ban irony,

    On one hand I think that banning patches won't work for Whanganui. On the other, I'm not really sure. It's kind of handy that this kind of law can be trialled on a local basis - nothing can show more clearly that it's not working than actually trying it. And who knows? Maybe, after all the outrage and bluster, the gangsters will actually just not bother wearing their patches in town, and the town could be a bit safer.

    The human rights issue is problematic, though. Banning certain clothing on account of a 'probability that people associating with this organization will cause trouble' seems like a slippery slope. On the other hand, I'm damned sure if I walked around Whanganui 2 weeks ago wearing Black Power regalia, I'd get in big trouble, and it wouldn't be from the police. There's something pretty fucked about that, too. Would anyone say that I wasn't 'asking for it' if I did?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Dead Elephant Frenzy,

    I was envious of the kids who banked with Kashin. I was set up with the boring old Post Office, myself. Ironic that Kashin lived longer than that bank.

    As for phone services, I resist calls to 'modernize', and generally prefer to use voice. I won't leave voice messages, but I do listen to the ones I receive, particularly since I get a text message every time, so I always know I've got one. I like receiving text messages but dislike writing them, purely on convenience. A 30 second phone call seems to convey as much as a 5 text message exchange, which typically takes me several minutes to key in, during which my eyes need to remain glued to the phone. Some kinds of things are best conveyed that way, like numbers and addresses. If the other person isn't there, then leaving a text seems more likely to get read than leaving a voice. Basically, whatever is most convenient is my bag.

    On the PC, I generally prefer IM over email. Similar reason - email exchanges take longer. But I prefer IM over voice too - having a proper keyboard in an ergonomic position makes all the difference. Also the trail of communication is much better than relying on memory of what people said. But for the fastest communication of all, I still don't see anything that beats voice. When you are actually trying to nut something out, it's so....natural.

    I'm sure that's why large scale in-home telecommunications started with voice rather than Morse Code, which had been around a lot longer. When I'm writing a text I often feel like a huge step backwards has been made.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Smack to the Future,

    Sacha, I have no problem with objective evidence informing policy. I just draw the line at saying it's the only evidence that could or should be taken into account. Laws should also square with our moral intuitions, which are mostly subjective evidence.

    Being subjective does not put them in the 'entirely irrational' basket. It just means that sometimes more than just science is needed to show why a law is right or wrong. It takes a lot of arguing around the consistency of the underlying principles. Consistency is something people like in their morals. But, in a great many cases, principles are seen to be lacking because they don't square up with basic examples, and exceptions are made, or alternative principles are proposed.

    Many intuitions are so widely agreed upon that you stop noticing them and think they are facts. Except, of course, when they come into conflict with other intuitions. Then we find that people don't actually weigh these things up the same way as each other.

    This debate is a classic example, where basically the idea of hurting children is generally perceived as a wrong, but the idea of 'correcting' them can be seen as a counterbalancing 'right' that could, at least, reduce the level of wrongness, and at most, by the more extreme smacking advocates, it could turn wrong into right, on that balance. Different people weigh up the harm from the hurting and the good from the correction differently.

    When I say 'weigh up the harm', there are 2 prongs to that. Firstly the question of actual damage, which is highly amenable to objective evidence. Then there's 'how important is that damage?', which is mostly subjective.

    People also weigh up the efficacy of the alternatives differently. In that case I'm fairly willing to agree that science has a lot to say, and many people are just lazy or irrational or whimsical about it. Trained professionals seem to be able to handle kids without smacking them, which suggests it's a skill that can be learned. Since it would reduce a wrong, the hurting of children, it would be a bloody good thing for more people to learn. Government could and should lead the charge on such an education program. Which is no excuse for people not to also try to educate themselves, and each other.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Smack to the Future,

    errata: read "If 88% of people think they were not harmed by going to school, then that is probably true." as "If 88% of people think they were not harmed by going to school, then that is probably true, for them ."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Smack to the Future,

    It’s poorly worded because it’s loaded, and it is vague. (You as much as admitted to the latter, when you started speaking of your “feeling” as to what the no voters were saying.)

    I admitted to no such thing. Even if the question were crystal clear, I could only speculate about people's reasons for answering in a particular way. I say "I feel" when I'm speculating.

    I did not say that. I did, however, refute your appeal to popularity when you claimed “if 88% of people think they weren't harmed by smacking, then maybe that's actually more true than an entire legion of experts”. Something like that isn’t “more true” because lots of people think it.

    It can be if the subject in question is their feeling of harm. It's not an appeal to popularity. I'm actually saying "no other person can weigh up subjective harm better than the person experiencing it". Quite careful not to say that because 88% of people smacking is OK that makes it true, which is indeed an appeal to popularity. I'm saying that if 88% of people think it didn't harm them then that is most likely true in the case of those 88%, whatever any expert wants to tell them about their inability to recognize harm in themselves. I'm also careful to say IF in that claim because I am not claiming that 88% of people do actually think that. It's more a case of "Don't tell people what's harming them, and ignore their own experiences of the harm. That's totally arrogant, and a misuse of science".

    However, that has no relevance to the smacking debate as the subject of the “smacks” are not consenting adults. So we assess harm as best we can with science.

    Again, the anal sex point was entirely to show that harm is subjective to a great extent. If you want a better analogy, I should probably refer to a whole lot of things children are forced to do, which they don't consent to, feel miserable and bitter about, and then, upon reflection as adults, decide didn't harm them at all. Going to school for example. Now I'm sure in quite a few cases, going to school was considerably harmful to some children. They might have got bashed up on a daily basis by some bully. They might have been made to feel inferior and inadequate by all their teachers. But at the end of the day, few people argue that children should not be made to go to school, because they can see that the benefit outweighs the harm in the majority of cases. The case most people are most familiar with is their own case. If 88% of people think they were not harmed by going to school, then that is probably true.

    So? You were still wrong when you responded: “That always was illegal man. Because it would not be considered "reasonable" by either a judge or a jury.” It was not always illegal.

    I'll give you that. It's only illegal at the discretion of what a jury considers reasonable. I don't know the exact details of this case you are referring to, the extent that a bullwhip was actually used (there's a big difference between flaying someone half to death and rapping them over the knuckles with the handle). Can't find references to it anywhere, could you link to the details?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Smack to the Future,

    I'm still struggling to see how "Should children have the same legal protections from assault as adults do?" is a lot vaguer.

    Than the referendum question? Because it makes no specific mention of what protections are being referred to. It's a much wider net than smacking. Also, it's not clear whether a yes answer even means less protections, or more. At least with the referendum question it was asking whether something should be a crime.

    This supposedly identical question is not identical in either form or content. A yes answer to one would not necessarily follow from a yes answer to the other, and a no would not follow from a no. Which is probably the simplest definition of propositional equivalence there is - two statements are equivalent if they entail each other. Which means they are true or false in all the same conditions.

    So I'm fairly sure there would be significant variance in the answers to these non-identical questions. Nothing about that proves that the referendum was vague, or begging the question.

    Perhaps a better example would have been the simple removal of the word "good". That might have got different numbers, and the propositions with the word and without are very, very similar. But still not exactly the same. If you leave out good, then you allow bad parental correction. Which would indeed turn some no-voters off, since it could plausibly imply excessive smacking, smacking to get kids to do things they shouldn't have to, etc.

    I believe it was part of Sue Bradford's proposal that a public education programme would go along with the law change.

    Once it became the government bill of death and got passed, the government I think didn't want to know anything more about it because it would keep reminding the public about it with an election coming up, so that it just was a law with no accompanying programme.

    It's rather sad that things went that way, and in that order. It could have started with a public education programme about discipline without smacking, which in itself might have had some really good positive effect. Then a law tightening up on abuse would have looked really progressive. Similar to years of campaigning about the damage caused by passive smoking paving the way for the indoor smoking ban. It could have been a win for Labour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Smack to the Future,

    The point of the hypothetical alternate question isn’t for you to posit the likely result. It is to highlight one aspect of the actual question that was problematic.

    The fact that it's childishly easy to answer in a way that squares with the likely moral intuitions of the masses suggests it's not that problematic at all.

    They would be saying that the idea that a smack could be something that is “good husbandly correction” is absurd.

    Yup, that's what makes it so easy to answer. Good husbandly correction does not include smacks, so it's no defense, and thus a simple assault. There could be other good husbandly correction. Like "having a talk about it".

    You said in your answer to do it would be a crime.

    Most people would want it that way, I think. Whether it was a crime or not. That's what the question's asking. Seriously dude, what's hard about this?

    That’s either a pointless statement, or you’re appealing to the criminality of the matter as a support of your position on the criminality of the matter in question.

    You're tying yourself in knots and then saying it did it. I just said that people would not only want it to be a crime, but would probably realize that it already is. One is not the supporting premise of the other.

    Because surveys don’t make decisions.

    But they could. We could have had the MMP referendum off a survey. I'm not fundamentally opposed to this idea. It would need to be a government run survey, though.

    Harm is not as amenable to science as you seem to think.

    Nor you, apparently:

    Me: “The question of whether there is some detrimental effect from being smacked as a child is not a moral question. It is a scientific question…”

    Ben: “Right”

    Harm is a balance of detrimental effects and positive effects. How does science weigh up the positive value of every lesson from every smack? Sure there might be better ways to that positive effect but that doesn't take away the possible positive effect from a smack. For instance, a smack might have prevented the death of a child because they remembered not to run across the road without looking. Does science have some lovely way of calculating the value of that saved life?

    1) you realise your focus on the idea of science as where you get your morals from is a straw man, don‘t you? Neither myself nor James W said that.

    You did not, I agree. You said laws should come from science, or be 100% informed by science with no question of morality. I disagree.

    (2) To paraphrase you: I'd say there a sense that anal sex is as harmful as the people who engage in it think it is. That doesn’t apply to the smacking issue, as the children aren’t asked if they consent to getting smacked, are they?

    I was clarifying the idea of the non-scientific side of harm. To include consent, another moral notion, is only to play further into my hands.

    I specifically choose the “bullwhip” example because it refers to a notorious case whereby the jury did consider it was reasonable. Thus, it wasn’t illegal.

    At least in that case. Each case is new, with new jurors. Justice can be a bit like that, unfortunately.

    Why is it so poor? No analogy is perfect, but they’re useful for making points, esp. in informal arguments. Confer your own use of an analogy when discussing a scientific assessment of harm. (I don’t think that analogy holds up, but note that I bothered to say why.)

    It's really poor because if you want to create a statement that elucidates how confusing the referendum question was, you don't do it by making up an example that is even less confusing.

    It wouldn’t have to be widely popular, just something that people considered to be a private matter, not something the Law or the Government should be poking its nose into.

    To get any kind of majority in a referendum it would need to score at least half of the votes. That currently includes both men and women, so it would be widely unpopular. In times past, when only men could vote, it would have been more popular, I'm sure. Your example would be better set in the 19th century. It scarcely needed a CIR to block women's rights back then - the elected representatives were doing the job just fine.

    So by analogy you’re saying in the smacking debate we would start with children. Easy sell. Do they get a say in referenda?

    Children don't vote, no. I don't have a strategy by which you could convince the population smacking should always be a crime, because, dude, I don't even agree with the statement. That's your challenge.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Smack to the Future,

    I did, but here it is again:

    Aha...I missed that post.

    Yeah, probably it would get a different result. But it is also a different question. As in, it does not have the same parse at all. It does not amount to the same question. It's a lot vaguer.

    Still think this is a great way to make laws?

    I detect the horrendous begging of a question here. The answer to that is "No". I never thought it was a great way to make laws so I don't continue to. But I think it's a pretty important part of democracy. The right of citizenry to target an actual issue and demand that the position of citizens be formally counted is one of those safety valves for when the leadership is simply not doing what a large majority of people think they should be doing. Of course the citizens could be completely wrong about that, and find that popular opinion isn't actually in their favor.

    But for a fraction of the cost and kerfuffle of a referendum, some polling company could have found out for us.

    The kerfuffle is all part of it.

    OK, but harm is clearly not defined only how you feel about something at the time. There's a scientific element to harm which isn't hard to see.

    I don't deny it. I just don't think it's the whole story. Where morals are concerned it's actually very little of the story. That's why there isn't a science of morality.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8314 posts Report Reply

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