Chad Perrin: SOB

28 November 2006

the trend of anti-liberty Republicans continues

Filed under: Liberty — apotheon @ 11:20

Newt Gingrich wants to restrict freedom of speech. He says we may need a “different set of rules” to prevent terrorists from being able to recruit. His primary target for curtailment of free speech seems to be the Internet. Amongst the FUD he’s peddling to try to generate support for the violation of the First Amendment is some scare-mongering about the possibility that we could “lose a city” to terrorists.

There’s some question that he might run for President in 2008, but he says he won’t make a decision about that until 2007. Let’s not elect this guy to anything, please — anything at all, let alone the Presidency.

With that kind of approach to securing our freedoms (burning the village to save it), I’ve gotta wonder if some of these guys might not just be intentionally trying to sink the entire Republican Party.

Akismet is the not the solution to my spam problem

Filed under: Geek,Metalog — apotheon @ 05:37

I still have a general distrust of automated spam filtering tools, like Akismet for WordPress. The reason for this is, simply, that I worry about false positives. It’s simply too easy still for an automated filter to filter out something that isn’t actually spam. What I’ve been using instead of Akismet, or any similar automated filters, is a two-tiered approach.

The first is a requirement to preview your post before submitting it, which is also useful in helping induce people to edit their own words before posting since editing a post once it’s posted is something only I can do here. This serves a secondary purpose in that it allows for an opportunity to make sure silly typos don’t get posted in your name while still preventing people from coming along later to change what they’ve posted after others have read and responded to it, at least without contacting me to let me know the very good reason you might want something edited.

The second is moderation. Once someone has signed in, posted with that user account, and had that post approved by me, future posts do not go into moderation. This means that anonymous posts always go into moderation but, even after I started allowing anonymous comments, most comments were made with a user account. My desire to avoid false positives on spam filtering in any way keeps me from going back to a policy of only allowing registered users to comment, regardless.

I’ve tried out Akismet for a while. I just turned it off today, because it wasn’t actually doing anything useful for me. I found that Akismet dumps everything into what is effectively a moderation queue, with a few changes from the standard moderation queue. First, it deletes everything that’s fifteen days old, which is great for laziness but not so great for eyeballing the list for false positives (and I did find a false positive today). Second, it seems to be incapable of letting me see more than the first 150 items in the list, so if I let it go for too long without checking there may be some false positives that I will never catch. Third, it doesn’t provide me with any email notifications to remind me to check for false positives. Fourth, it has a spiffy marketing name, Akismet.

Aside from those four differences, it does nothing for me that moderation does not. In fact, there are things the WordPress built-in moderation queue does that the Akismet plugin doesn’t, like providing more categories to which I can assign something than “not spam” and “delete”. The interface for the moderation queue is just generally preferable, for me at least — and if I decide I don’t want email notification, I can just turn it off.

Since, after all that, I’ve come to the conclusion Akismet does nothing for me, I’m back to using the standard moderation queue as of today. Hopefully no incoming legitimate comments got thrown out with the bathwater.

22 November 2006

the anti-pro-abortion argument

Filed under: Cognition,Liberty — apotheon @ 08:30

The argument in favor of what is commonly known as the “pro-choice” side of the abortion debate that I have encountered more often than all other arguments put together is, in fact, more accurately something of a “pro-abortion” argument. It does not specifically encourage abortion per se, but it does specifically encourage the notion that the option of aborting a pregnancy is a fundamental characteristic of a woman’s individual rights. The argument goes something like this:

During a pregnancy, what grows inside a woman’s body is a part of her body. We all have a right to do with our bodies whatever we desire. As such, our rights as human beings extend to abortions.

The particulars may vary from case to case. For instance, one might define the growth of a new life as being part of the mother’s body only until medical “viability” (when it can be kept alive outside the body if need be), or until the cells that make up the growing blob begin to differentiate from one another, or until it has a measurable blood type of its own, or until it suits some textbook definition of a human body, or any of a number of other criteria. In general, however, until that (generally kind of arbitrary) cut-off point is reached, the argument is as presented above: the undefined thing inside the womb is “part of the mother’s body”. Just as a woman has a right to get a wart removed by a dermatologist, the argument goes, she has the right to get the potential child removed by someone in the ob/gyn clinic.

Guess what: the “part of the body” argument is crap and nonsense, unless you are ready to accept that the bacteria living in your mouth and intestines, viruses you contract from infected sex partners, and parasites from undercooked pork are also “part of your body”. One does not amputate a bacteria, just as one does not amputate a fetus. The dividing line between mother and child during pregnancy is, in fact, DNA. The mother’s DNA differs from that of the child: by the same token, the mother and the child are not one, even if the child is dependent upon the mother for continued life.

This is not to say I’m a so-called “pro-lifer”. On the contrary, blanket bans on abortions (even with exceptions for the mother’s health) are anathema, as far as I’m concerned. There does need to be some criteria by which we can judge whether an abortion is allowable, but “when it is no longer part of the mother” ain’t it, no matter how you define that distinction. I do not seek to demolish the “part of the mother” pro-abortion argument to weaken the case for keeping abortion legal. Far from it. I seek to eliminate that specious argument specifically because its obstinate popularity harms the argument for what I believe to be right, the legality of abortions, by virtue of the fact that it is recognizably wrong to someone who bothers to examine its merits (or lack thereof) and has the capacity to recognize a fallacious argument when (s)he encounters it.

Ultimately, laws regarding abortions should be chosen the same way all laws should be chosen: by deriving them from a fundamental, self consistent system of ethics based on a bare minimum of axiomatic principles. The ultimate result of such a means of deriving laws related to abortions, so far as I’ve determined thus far, consists simply of a need, if a person is to be judged a criminal in choosing abortion, to prove one of the following:

  1. the person willfully acted to end a life that should reasonably be believed to be an ethical being
  2. the person acted to end a life that should reasonably be believed to be an ethical being out of depraved indifference

There’s also the possible outcome of finding that the person is not actually responsible, in an ethical sense, for acting to end the life of a presumed ethical being because the acting individual is not qualified to make such a decision or, for that matter, to recognize the fact that (s)he is not qualified to make such a decision. This is the “insanity defense”, basically, though it applies to unavoidable ignorance and the fact that the accused may not be an ethical being him/her self.

It should be noted that I use the term “ethical being”, a shorthand version of the term “ethically significant being”, in a very specific manner here, with a very specific meaning. I refer to a being that is capable of ethical reasoning, and thus to make ethical decisions responsibly. This capability need not be measured in necessary experience. The mere fact of having the raw intellectual capacity for ethical reasoning, regardless of the knowledge required to apply such capacity, is sufficient to qualify one as an ethical being. It is the potential at the current state of physical capability to achieve ethical reasoning after the necessary experiences of social life that defines one as an ethical being.

Any argument, even if it agrees in results and goals with the ethical argument, that is based on patently false presumptions like “it’s part of the mother” is counterproductive. It makes those who know what the hell they’re talking about look bad by association, and make the job of getting the point across just that much more difficult. If you are inclined to making such half-baked assertions in defense of the notion that you should not be legally prevented from getting an abortion, please, don’t “help”.

The problem with the ethical approach I have outlined as a valid argument in favor of keeping abortion legal is, of course, that we don’t know at which point the life in the womb becomes an ethical being. We (where “we” means “experts”) can make educated guesses, and certainly we should not be giving abortions after that point, but before the point where an educated guess simply cannot be reasonably sure of the ethical reasoning capability of a fetus, we cannot be certain of the criminal character of an abortion.

Because of this fact, a burden of proof in the accusation of guilt is not met, and no violation of law should be deemed to have occurred. Period. If you can’t prove that the person should reasonably have believed that a murder was being committed, the act wasn’t murder. It boils down to the presumption of innocence, and it’s ultimately that simple — innocence not of a violation of law, but innocence of an unethical decision. Law should follow ethics; ethicality does not follow law.

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