72-year-old woman tasered

Via Andrew Sullivan. Fucking unbelievable.

I must have missed the part where this burly cop felt threatened by the elderly woman, which caused him to resort to potentially lethal force.

There are two stories here:  (1) tasers; (2) cops.

1. Tasers

Here in Canada, the death of Robert Dziekanski — after being tasered repeatedly in the Vancouver airport — has received considerable public attention. Here at i, Pundit, we have written about it three times (one, two, three).

A public inquiry into Dziekanski’s death proposed 19 recommendations concerning the use of tasers. Both the B.C. police and the B.C. detachment of the (federal) RCMP have agreed to abide by all 19 recommendations.

Coincidentally, the very same week, the Taser company announced a new semi-automatic model:

The X3’s main selling feature is its ability to fire three pairs of electrified probes in quick succession without reloading — giving an officer with a taser the chance to simultaneously zap up to three suspects. Older models, which have only one pair of probes, must be reloaded after each shot.

And no one will ever fire at the same individual three times in quick succession. We can trust the police not to do that, right?

2. Cops

Actually, tasers are problematic precisely because of how police officers are using them.

Tasers are supposed to deliver something less than deadly force:  nonetheless, not infrequently, their use has been associated with deaths.

I could accept the risk if police officers used them in situations where, otherwise, they might resort to firing their guns. Tasers are less likely to kill than bullets are, so it’s a good trade-off. But that isn’t how cops use them.

In other news this week, Andrew Sullivan calls attention to the cops in Mobile, Alabama, who tasered a mentally disabled deaf man who took too long in a public washroom. Perhaps the fact that the unfortunate victim is black was also a factor, but that’s mere speculation.

In both instances — the mentally disabled deaf man and the 72-year-old woman — the police used tasers in order to enforce compliance. Not because they were threatened in any way. Not because there was any threat to the general public, or even to the victim him-/herself.

In the case of the 72-year-old woman, it could easily have resulted in her death. It looks to me like cops can’t be trusted with tasers.

Intimations of “God”

As promised, here are my thoughts on a hypothesis propounded by Robert Wright, briefly excerpted in a previous post.

  1. Ultimately, Wright’s argument is bound to disappoint theists and anti-theists alike.

    Most believers are committed to a particular scripture and a particular understanding of God. As Wright comments, “They don’t want to just hear that some conception of a god might be defensible, or that a personal god is defensible as some sort of approximation of the truth.”

    Meanwhile, anti-theists are dismissive of all arguments for God’s existence. They see no direct evidence of God’s existence, and no need to appeal to God as an explanation for any phenomenon — including the moral order.

    Thus Wright’s book is likely to annoy many people and satisfy few.

  2. But Wright’s argument may have some appeal to a certain class of believers — people like me.

    I have come to the conclusion that the traditional “proofs” for God’s existence are anything but. For example, the resurrection of Christ. It might have sufficed as a proof in the first century, when you could investigate the event for yourself by talking to the various eyewitnesses — Peter, John, James, Paul, etc. But 2000 years later, the resurrection is merely an article of faith rather than a compelling demonstration of the truth of the Gospel.

    Meanwhile, the theory of evolution, substantiated by a solid body of evidence, and subsequently corroborated by discovery of how DNA works — these scientific insights have provided an alternative explanation for the world that we inhabit. The ancient proof from nature — “The heavens declare the glory of God / the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1) — is no longer the only explanation on offer.

    What evidence, then, can we still appeal to — those of us who accept the conclusions of science, yet stubbornly persist in our belief in God? In my view, we are left with intimations of God’s existence rather than proofs.

    Wright is offering exactly that — an intimation of God’s existence — when he describes God as the source of the moral order. Wright interprets human history as a long arc toward a higher morality. To give some examples of my own choosing (I’m not sure what examples Wright would offer) :

    • “an eye for an eye” has been supplanted by, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44);
    • a love that was circumscribed — reserved for fellow tribesmen — has been superseded by the ideal of the “brotherhood” of all humankind;
    • a reflexive human tendency to organize people into castes, with kings and landowners at the apex, and common labourers near the bottom, and women as slaves to the slaves — has yielded to our democratic norms:  i.e., that every person is entitled to one vote, and women can rise to any office in the nation.
    • the arbitrary and absolute power of despots has been called to account by an international recognition of human rights:  “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”; “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”; “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”, etc.

    Too often, the above ideals are honoured in the breach rather than in the observance. Nonetheless, Wright is correct to recognize a remarkable trajectory from a dimmer understanding of morality to relative moral illumination.

    Wright then intuits “God” behind this remarkable display of moral progress:

William Shatner performs the poetry that is Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin outdid herself in the incoherence of her farewell speech. But it gets even better when William Shatner turns the speech into a beatnik poetry reading.

Here’s the relevant paragraph of the speech, as transcribed by Huffington Post:

And getting up here I say it is the best road trip in America soaring through nature’s finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun. And then the extremes. In the winter time it’s the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty, the cold though, doesn’t it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs? And then in the summertime such extreme summertime about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago, than just some months from now, with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here, Mother Nature wins. It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future. …

Classic! If they should happen to pull the video from youtube — in the USA, you can view Shatner’s rendering on TPMtv.

God, conceived as the source of moral order

Robert Wright puts forward a familiar argument, but with a fresh twist.

In a book with a provocative title — The Evolution of God — Wright proposes that we conceive of God as “the source of the moral order”. (I will be quoting from the book’s afterword, which you can access here).

When he speaks of the “moral order”, Wright isn’t referring to static assertions of good and evil:  e.g., “Pedophilia is wrong”. Wright is thinking in terms of the direction of human history:  history’s trajectory toward an ever-higher conception of morality.

We humans have made progress in our conception of morality as we have meditated on God as the ultimate source of the moral order:

To quit thinking about God now would be to abandon a path that has been successful on its own terms—not a path of scientific inquiry that has brought scientific progress, but a path of moral inquiry that has brought moral progress.

Wright then puts forward an argument that struck me as refreshingly unfamiliar:

Some people can lead morally exemplary lives without the idea of God. Others need God—and not necessarily because they can lead a virtuous life only if they fear hell and long for heaven; often it’s because they can most readily lead a virtuous life if they think of moral truth as having some living embodiment. They need to feel that if they’re bad they’ll be disappointing some one and if they’re good they’ll be pleasing some one—and this one is the one whom, above all others, it is good to please and bad to disappoint.

This is hardly a surprising need. After all, the human moral equipment evolved in the context of human society, as a tool for navigating a social landscape; our moral sentiments are naturally activated with respect to other beings; we are “designed” by natural selection to be good out of obligation to others, for fear of the disapproval of others, in pursuit of the esteem of others. And for many people, carrying these human relations to the superhuman level works well. They are better people, and often happier people, thinking of a God who is aware of their daily struggle and offers solace or affirmation or reprimand; they can best stay aligned with the moral axis of the universe by thanking God, asking God to help them stay righteous, seeking forgiveness from God for their lapses. It’s nice that some people can be paragons of virtue without this kind of help, but in a way it’s surprising; the natural human condition is to ground your moral life in the existence of other beings, and the more ubiquitous the beings, the firmer the ground.

In other words:  given the constraints on human nature, believers in God are interacting with the moral order as productively as possible by conceiving its source in a particular way, however imperfect that way is.

(emphasis added)

To explain the last statement:  Wright is acknowledging that our conception of God is very far from adequate; but thinking about God, even very imperfectly, has resulted in laudable moral progress.

Wright’s argument is multi-layered, and I haven’t done it justice in those brief excerpts. Read the afterword in its entirety :  I commend it to you.

I’ll share some thoughts of my own in response to Wright’s argument at my earliest opportunity — perhaps tomorrow.

Sometimes, the death penalty may be warranted

The death penalty was abolished in Canada in 1976. Even in the ten years before that date, capital punishment was used only for the killing of on-duty police officers and prison guards.

Mostly, I agree with the policy. There have been many cases of wrongful conviction in Canada, which is a strong argument against the death penalty.

But sometimes, in cases where the guilt of the accused is established beyond a reasonable doubt, I could be persuaded to support the death penalty. This week, I feel that way about a local case which is making national news.

Four people were found dead in a car in the Rideau canal. Three of them were sisters, aged 19, 17, and 13.

Their parents and an 18-year-old brother are accused of murdering them.

The father, Mohammad Shafia, had two wives. The fourth murder victim, Rona Mohammad, was one of Mr. Shafia’s wives.

Reportedly, the parents disapproved of the boy that 19-year-old Zainab Shafia was dating. For this, they murdered her. That’s outrageous enough:  but what possible motive did the family have for murdering her two younger sisters and Ms. Mohammad?

The family originally lived in Afghanistan, where “honour killings” of “rebellious” girls is a repugnant cultural norm. But this case is extraordinary even by the standards of fundamentalist Islam.

As my colleague Les Perreaux, who has been to Afghanistan, wrote me last night, while killing a rebellious teenage daughter might fit with that view of justice, while killing the “other” wife might be understandable if hardly defensible, surely wiping out the lot of them, including the 13-year-old, is a stretch, even for the Afghan mind. “I can’t say I ever even heard of a mass family honour killing, even in Afghanistan,” Les wrote.

As I’ve already mentioned, three family members are accused of the crime. But is there any doubt that the father bears primary responsibility?

Mr. Shafia, a well-to-do businessman, was authoritarian and violent; Rona [his wife] feared for her life, her brother said.

Rona was unable to bear children — hence the need for Mr. Shafia to acquire a second wife. Polygamy is legal in Afghanistan. Here in Canada, where it is neither legal nor socially acceptable, the family passed off Mr. Shafia’s childless first wife as a cousin.

When it became apparent to Rona that she was an unsatisfactory wife, she asked for a divorce. Mr. Shafia refused to grant it.

His second wife is a veritable baby-making machine:  she has provided Mr. Shafia with seven children.

I am a strong believer in women’s equality. It seems to me that you can divide the world’s cultures into two camps:  those which respect women, and those which repress women.

Perhaps the single most telling test of a nation’s civilization is how women are treated.

Mr. Shafia’s cultural commitment is clear. It was once said of Herod the Great, “better to be his pig (Greek hus ) than his son (Greek huios )”. Likewise, better to be Mr. Shafia’s dog than his daughter.

Better his whore than his wife.

I could be persuaded to support the death penalty for this man, assuming that the evidence against him is overwhelmingly clear. Many details of the case have yet to be revealed. We don’t even know the cause of death:  although the four bodies were found in a car, submerged in the Rideau canal, autopsy results have not yet been released.

Earlier this week, Kingston Police Chief Stephen Tanner held a press conference to announce that Mr. Shafia, his second wife and his son were being charged with murder. He opened the press conference with a moment of silence to honour victims of domestic violence.

Amen to that.

Beta males get less sex

Have you ever heard of a pick-up technique, the “neg”? Evidently the technique is well-known to pick-up “artists” :

For those who don’t know, the neg is a comment lobbed at a woman that knocks her off her pedestal. It is not an insult… well, actually, it kind of is (semantics). Who are we kidding? But it’s a playful insult, and some women secretly like being insulted. […]

Negs: turning your back to her, pointing out a flaw in her clothes, her hair, something, anything. “Hey your nose wiggles when you talk”. “Your lipstick is weird”. […]

Correcting body language is a great neg. I don’t like when people cross their arms, it’s a sign of anger, so when girls do it I tell them to uncross them. They always do, it’s a very alpha neg… and compliance test… […]

Black becomes white, up becomes down, cute becomes ugly – that 9 you would covertly beggar yourself for is suddenly seeking your smile, your good graces.

The writer is conflating two different results here. First, the “neg” is a put-down, which, in theory, causes the “girl” to seek the guy’s approval.

alpha maleSecond, the neg is an alpha behaviour which, the pick-up artist hopes, elicits the girl’s compliance. Now she is bending to your will; you have become the Master of your mutual destiny.

The whole, neanderthal scenario bugs me. Assuming that it actually works:  but presumably it does, at least frequently enough for this to be a well-known pick-up technique.

The scenario bugs me for the woman’s sake. She is being manipulated, denigrated, used (although she herself may be seeking casual sex) and ultimately discarded.

beta maleAnd it bugs me for my sake, since I am a beta male. The implication is, beta males get less sex precisely because they’re too nice:  too respectful.

The writer continues:

… the dreaded neg question — isn’t this proof that pickup is purest evil, that it is wrong […] to help the piles of beta males left behind by the sexual revolution?

There it is, explictly:  beta males aren’t getting any. Or at least, they aren’t getting their fair share. So says the neg champion.

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