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Archive for June 2012

Parental Freedom of Religion vs. the Child’s Physical Integrity

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I usually agree with Brendan O’Neill but once in a while I disagree with him. This is one of those times.

His contentions are:

  1. Banning male circumcision, carried out as part of religious ritual, is an attack on the freedom of religion and on parents’ rights to initiate their children into their religion.
  2. Corollary to the above is that parents have the right to physical and mental modification of the their offspring to conform to their religious beliefs.
  3. Description of male circumcision as child abuse is an anti-semitic trope centuries old.
  4. Parents imparting their religious beliefs is not abuse and labelling it so is a “cynical tactic”
  5. There is a slippery slope. Now parents are being prevented from circumcising their male children. In the future parents will be be prevented from imparting their religious beliefs to their children and will not be allowed to raise their children in their faith.
  6. This is also excessive interference in the family life by the state.

Against this I argue:

  1. Circumcision is a permanent body modification of the male child without its consent. Male children (by definition) are incapable of consent. Violating the physical integrity of any person without consent is abuse.[1]
  2. Not every religious practice deserves respect. Sati was sanctioned in certain strains of Hinduism. I would be interested to note what O’Neill thinks of banning Sati as a prohibition on the free exercise of religion.[2]
  3. Christian Scientists believe in praying over modern medicine as a means of treatment. This has led to preventable deaths in children. Commonwealth v. Twitchell was a famous case where the Christian Scientist parents were prosecuted for the death of their child who was treated only according to Christian Science tenets. While the parents were convicted, on appeal their sentence was overturned on grounds of religious freedom.
    • Even if the practice is carried out by a community which was historically persecuted, that should have no bearing on whether such practice should continue.
      • The right thing can be done for the wrong reasons; the right thing can be done for the right reasons.
      • The current court decision does not single out any particular class of people for prosecution unlike the anti-circumcision posturing of the Middle Ages
  4. O’Neill has been framed the debate as freedom of religion vs. the State. What if parents want their son circumcised to prevent masturbation? Would he support their right to do so? If he answered no, would he change his answer if the parents have a religious objection to masturbation? (And if he answered yes to the penultimate question does he believe that parents have the right to control all manifestations of their child’s sexuality? I can imagine parents not wanting their child to engage in sexual intercourse until the child has achieved a certain level of maturity.)

I am sympathetic to O’Neill’s argument that this is a slippery slope. One needs to articulate a limiting principle which would prevent state interference in the freedom of religion while balancing the interests of the child.

  • Firstly a distinction has to be made between physical transformation/modification and a mental transformation (via education in religious beliefs). One has to recognise that while physical transformation is irreversible, mental transformation is not irreversible. People brought up in religious households can turn their back on their religion of birth. They can covert into other religions and even give up on religion altogether.
  • Therefore unlike banning circumcision, banning religious education is an overreach because such education is reversible, children on turning older can change their minds regarding religion. This is not the case with circumcision.
  • There is thus a limiting principle which can limit the state’s interference with the right of the parent to raise his/her child in the way the parents best sees fit.

I agree with O’Neill that the imparting of religious education to children cannot be classified as child abuse. If it can be so then can imparting one’s politics to one’s children be far behind? Will parents who tell their children which politician to admire and how they should vote when they grow up be considered as child abusers? Let the parents impart whatever education they want. Children will grow up and make up their minds on their own. They may even change it.

Finally O’Neill refers to the Waco Siege as an example of where charges of child abuse can lead to significant harm. But that doesn’t mean all allegations of child abuse are false. And in the case of Waco the deaths were not due to allegations of child abuse but due to bad tactics and impatience shown by the FBI. The moral of Waco is not that allegations of child abuse should not be taken seriously (otherwise one could end up with Jerry Sandusky) but that situations like Waco need to be handled with more patience and care. In fact all allegations of child abuse must be treated with care (see here, here and here). And finally incidents of circumcision are not alleged. The male child can be readily verified to be sans foreskin.

[1] Unless as a means of penal punishment?

[2] Some will say that I am conflating culture with religion, but in my defence what I am attacking is parental practice based on faith, whether informed by religion or by culture.

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 30, 2012 at 23:26

Thanks, Grauniad

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In article on a German Court outlawing religious circumcision of male children:

Holm Putzke, a professor of penology – the study of the punishment of crime – from the University of Passau, told the German news agency DPA that the ruling would set a legal precedent and would act as a warning.

Thank you Grauniad. Without your clarification I would have thought penology as the study of penises.

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 30, 2012 at 01:13

Posted in Uncategorized

Why Do People Spew Their Opinions on Twitter If They Do Not Like Being Challenged?

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It all started with @nickgillespie

  1. nickgillespie
    RT @HBO: Don’t miss tonight’s new Real Time with @billmaher with guests Kirk Douglas @Mruff221 @nickgillespie @maddow Mort Zuckerman

    Fri, Jun 22 2012 14:46:28
  2. Atleast I think it was this tweet. Twitter either did not retain the threading information or maybe @gbtru initiated a new thread instead of replying.
  3. GBTRU
    @nickgillespie are you a republican or democrat?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 00:04:50
  4. GBTRU
    @PolvolterDnkymn ahhh the smell of a free nation.

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 12:16:52
  5. GBTRU
    @PolvolterDnkymn Your welcome!! Enjoy your weekend. Check my twitter feed for one of your republican reps, and his actions. You’ll enjoy!

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 13:28:47
  6. Now that I was invited to check @gbtru’s twitter feed I proceeded to do so

    The first tweet to get my attention was:

  7. blakehounshell
    RT @markknoller: Obama gets thunderous cheers & applause as he slams Romney for outsourcing jobs in China & India.

    Fri, Jun 22 2012 13:46:24
  8. This was an RT by @gbtru
  9. I responded:
  10. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU David Duke gets thunderous cheers & appluase as he slams rest of America for outsourcing jobs to blacks and jews

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 13:36:36
  11. For more context:
  12. There was another interesting tweet:
  13. GBTRU
    @DailyCaller The Bush admin started the program, like rendition, and Obama admin ended it. #remeberPatTillman #executiveprivilege

    Fri, Jun 22 2012 05:09:50
  14. This was in response to Republicans in the House taking the Obama Administration to task over Fast and Furious
  15. GBTRU
    #fastandfurious what about the billions unaccounted for from Iraq from the first contractors.

    Fri, Jun 22 2012 23:14:47
  16. Since @gbtru raised the issue of the “War on Terror” such as rendition, I of course brought up the Obama administration’s stellar prosecution of said war
  17. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU How about classifying all military aged males in AfPak as enemy combatants?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 13:38:54
  18. Some context:
  19. Now the fun started:
  20. GBTRU
    @PolvolterDnkymn your either a troll or a coward behind some aggregate website.

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 13:53:49
  21. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU Where do you get the “aggregate website” from? And troll? Just for disagreeing with you? How the word has been debased :(

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 13:55:39
  22. GBTRU
    @PolvolterDnkymn Well looking at your page, you mass tweets but no followers, or following. Kinda transparent. #moveonkindlycoward

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 13:58:18
  23. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU So I need to follow a large # of people and be followed by a large # of people?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:00:15
  24. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU By that logic @barackobama is a troll compared to @ladygaga

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:02:06
  25. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU I do note that you are unable to attack me on the merits. And I am a troll?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:03:33
  26. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU So what is wrong with Indian and Chinese doing work that used to be done in the US? Do they not deserve jobs?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:04:17
  27. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU How is denying due process to Gitmo detainees different from classifying all military aged males in AfPak as enemy combatants?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:06:10
  28. Meanwhile there were some slytweets too:
  29. GBTRU
    When debating Politics and policy you get cowards who hide behind fake accounts. #twitterproblems

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 13:59:46
  30. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU Ever heard of Publius and the Federalist Papers?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:06:31
  31. GBTRU
    @PolvolterDnkymn You seem versed, use your real account coward!! Then we can chat.

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:11:41
  32. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU Why do you need to know who I am? How does that affect the logic of my arguments?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:12:31
  33. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU Explain to a #coward the difference between denying due process to Gitmo detainess & declaring all military aged males as the enemy.

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:23:30
  34. Was not really sure what the point of this digression was. The linked article was an odious comparison of Jerry Sandusky with Obama (stating that Obama’s executive decision to stop deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought over as children by their parents, subject to age and some other conditions was an abuse of such children for electoral benefits equivalent to Sandusky’s rape of children). As a believe in the Four Freedoms: Freedom of movement of (1) People (2) Goods (3) Capital and (4) Services, I responded
  35. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU I agree with you that the comparison of Obama with Sandusky is odious. My take on immigration: Open Borders (only stop criminals)

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 14:55:18
  36. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU May I bother you for an explanation? Dunce because I agree with you?

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 15:03:08
  37. GBTRU
    @PolvolterDnkymn move on, dont you have someone else to fuck with? LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!!

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 15:06:47
  38. PolvolterDnkymn
    @GBTRU You seem to think I am fucking with you, but I am only asked you a few questions. I am only replying to your replies to me.

    Sat, Jun 23 2012 15:08:30


So dear readers why do people spew their opinions on twitter if they, like @gbtru, hate being challenged?


Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 29, 2012 at 03:14

Posted in Flame Wars, Storify

Tagged with

Spot the Difference

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  1. In 2012:
  2. In 1990:
  3. Context:

    Helms ran for reelection in a nationally publicized and rancorous campaign against the former mayor of Charlotte, Harvey Gantt, in his “bid to become the nation’s only black Senator” and “the first black elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction”. In the primary, Helms had two opponents, George Wimbish (as in 1984) and another; Helms won with 84.3% of the vote.

    Helms aired a late-running television commercial that showed a white man’s hands ripping up a rejection notice from a company that gave the job to a “less qualified minority”; some critics claimed the ad utilized subliminal racist themes. The advertisement was produced by Alex Castellanos, whom Helms would employ until his company was dropped in April 1996 after running an unusually hard-hitting ad.

  4. Answer:

    The Indians and Chinese are not asking for any special treatment. They are only asking to be treated equally (This is not to say that affirmative action is all bad; after all, blacks were treated horrendously in the past).

    Why does President Obama not think of Indians and Chinese as worthy of equal treatment?

  5. Take it away Prof. Landsburg

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 28, 2012 at 00:18

The Longest Pregnancy = 18 years

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  1. In 1992:
  2. In 2010:

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 27, 2012 at 15:58

Posted in Storify

Tagged with

Defending Dhoble?

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  1. This was written in response to 
  2. A cliff notes version is:

    1. There are some archaic laws e.g. Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956, Bombay Shops and Establishment Act, 1948 (by archaic one doesn’t necessarily mean that the objectives behind these Acts are anachronistic but that the provisions, language and modes of enforcement are). BSEA §33(3) states:

    No such woman shall be required or allowed to work in any establishment after 8.30 p.m.

    2. Vasant Dhoble, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (Social Service Branch) (basically the vice department, tasked with upholding laws governing public morals) zealously enforces laws and rules.

    3. According to daddy_san:

        a. Dhoble “was just doing his job.”
        b. “India needs … more people who just do their fucking job and do it well. Like ACP Dhoble.”
        c. Criticising Dhoble for his past misdemeanour is like playing the ball and not the man (I think by this daddy_san is implying that Dhoble be criticised for what he is doing wrong now, which is presumably nothing, and not for his past mistakes)
        d. It is the fault of the law and it is the law that must be changed.

  3. Certain actions Dhoble has taken recently:

    1. Closing down an eatery in Bombay because it stayed open past the deadline (as prescribed by the BSEA). While doing this Dhoble, armed with a hockey stick assaulted the manager.

  4. 2. Closed down a bar “Masala Curry” on the charges of it being a front for prostitution along with arresting the hosts, some men and women. 
  5. A little digression regarding the action on “Masala Curry”. Two women who were arrested sued Dhoble for wrongful detention and defamation (they were accused of prostitution). The HC declined to intervene on the grounds of maturity since the matter was being inquired to by a magistrate
  6. The magistrate meanwhile released the women from a reform home to their relatives but did not clear them of the prostitution charges. 
  7. The basis for suspicion of prostitution are:

    1. The women entered for free (what they have not heard about Ladies’ Night?)
    2. The women were not forthcoming about their family background and occupations (what did the magistrate expect? Women going to bars is still frowned upon by society, the women understandably wanted to protect their families from embarrassment)
    3. The party was not a “birthday party” as advertised
    4. There were no producers/directors at the party as claimed (the women claimed they were aspiring actresses who went to the party for networking purposes)

    The important point to note here is that there is no mention of any evidence of any transaction specifically motivated by sex. On such evidence people are accused of prostitution.

  8. Back from the digression.

    My problem with daddy_san’s article is as follows

  9. Daddy_san’s position is that Dhoble was just doing his and doing it well. Unfortunately his job is enforcing bad laws and instead of directing their ire at Dhoble, people would be better served by targeting archaic laws (such as closing times) and thus attacking him for his past deeds (I’ll address this later) is like playing the man and not playing the ball. 
  10. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san 1. “Play the ball” – Considering that you made an issue of the man’s character why complain when past misdeeds are dredged up?
  11. Daddy_san explicitly brings up character of Dhoble. He states that “India needs …more people who just do their fucking job and do it well. Like ACP Dhoble.” Nobody would disagree with the contention that India needs more people who do their job and do it well and I assume that he would also want people of good (not impeachable maybe) character. But does Dhoble do his job well? Does he have a good character?
  12. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san People around him have a habit of dying in suspicious circumstances, crucial files re: Dawood are lost, suspended for bribery
  13. 1. In March 1983, a man died under his custody. Dhoble was ultimately acquited by the Supreme Court of killing the man but the SC ordered a police inquiry into the death (the inquiry is still pending).

    2. He was arrested for bribery in 1989. He was suspended on June 8, 1989  and resumed duty on March 27, 1991. (Note: There was no criminal case, so unsure if he was cleared or if he was given a slap on the wrist)

    3. He was involved in the shooting of a peanut vendor, allegedly involved in the mafia, in a “fake encounter”. Matter still pending before the SC

    4. He lost 12 dossiers on the Dawood Ibrahim gang when he was in the Crime Intelligence Unit. He was let off with a warning.

    If Dhoble is is doing his job he is doing it pretty badly.

  14. The second issue I have with daddy_san is his contention that Dhoble should not be blamed because he is just doing his job which is enforcing laws, bad laws in this case. He seems to be making the point that there should be no discretion on the part of the enforcers of the law, because if they are given any discretion they would bend the law for their own benefit (If this interpretation is wrong, I am happy to be corrected). Atleast one commenter agreed with him.

    It’s not a cop’s duty to interpret the law and decide if it’s ass. … In fact, if we ask cops to bring in value judgments before enforcing a law, we’d be asking for another kind of moral policing.

  15. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san 2. Bad laws: Agreed. But laws aren’t written with 20/20 sight, in certain situations discretion is needed 2 enforce law equitably
  16. Let us review what Dhoble did. The video above shows that Dhoble assaulted an eatery manager while armed with a hockey stick. Yes the law required the eatery to be closed by a certain time. Under the law (an ass in this case) the eatery should have been closed down and the owner and manager punished for the violation. Did the law explicitly state that the manager must not be manhandled? No it didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that Dhoble should manhandle suspects without good reason. He should have exercised his discretion and shut the place down without assaulting people. In fact he could have even allowed the eatery to close down once all the patrons were done. How much more time would that have taken? 30 minutes more? Would allowing those 30 minutes cause a disaster of cataclysmic proportions? The eatery would still be punished for violating the regulations.

    Regarding the Masala curry case, discretion would have been useful. Dhoble did not know for sure that there was prostitution going on. He was given a tip which led to the raid. A raid conducted in a blaze of publicity. Knowing the tendencies of indian society the women would be considered as prostitutes by their neighbours,  whether they were really prostitutes or not, before any trial. Would discretion have been useful? Yes. What if the prostitution case fails?

  17. PolvolterDnkymn
    @daddy_san Dhoble has shown that he does not have any discretion or judgement. He is a robot enforcing the law.
  18. Some laws are written specifying the boundaries of legal behaviour. Does a slight overstepping of the boundary justify punishment? Taken speeding laws. The law prescribes a maximum speed of 100 km/hr. If a driver goes at 101 km/hr should s/he be punished? What if the driver was travelling at 100.5 km/hr? However clearly laws are written they cannot be written with perfect foresight. There is always space for discretion.

    Laws are also legislated at a discrete point in time when a particular set of circumstances are in existence. Nobody knows how the future evolves. Are those circumstances which existed when the law was passed still in existence? Circumstances change all the time and applying the law without any discretion could lead to unjust results. Take the example of the law prohibiting women from working in shops after 8:30 pm. The law was written in 1948 when the prevailing attitude towards women was radically different from what it is now (as a side note: I am sure there is an urban bias in this statement of mine, I have lived in urban areas all my life). Now that women are working independently to support themselves and their families how does a enforcing a law which restricts their employment be just? (As another aside this line of reasoning takes me very close to the living constitution model but I think that constitutions are a contract between the state and the citizens constraining the power of the state. If it must be construed in a way so as to increase that power in derogation to the rights of the citizens then it must be done explicitly via amendment rather than by unelected judges; but this is a discussion for a whole another day)

    My basic point is that there is an inherent uncertainty around a law and its enforcement and that this uncertainty should be construed to the benefit of the people, something like the rule of lenity. But Dhoble’s actions show that every uncertainty is construed so as to hurt the citizen. His interpretation is extraordinarily crabbed with no thought given to whether he could be mistaken or whether the required result could be obtained without thuggishness or embarrassment to the people targeted, people who may not necessarily be guilty and are in fact not guilty until proven so in a trial.

    In conclusion India does not need bad laws and India definitely does not need Dhobles.

  19. On a side note I would like to address the “Nuremberg defence” (Befehl ist Befehl) argument raised by some as a criticism of Dhoble.
  20. greatbong
    @daddy_san Not to invoke Goodwin’s Law, but this following orders was the No 1 rationale at Nuremberg. Didnt save their sorry necks though.
  21. greatbong
    @daddy_san In Germany, they didnt consider “concentration camps” as the ultimate taboo. Just as dragging innocent women as whores isnt
  22. greatbong
    @daddy_san If you havent seen “Judgment at Nuremberg” I urge you to do so. Your entire argument is refuted there.
  23. While I do get the thrust of @greatbong’s argument (after all it is similar to mine) where I part company with it is that the Nuremberg defence was denied because certain orders are so repugnant that it is the moral duty of one not to carry out the order. According to the Nuremberg Principle IV — “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order … does not relieve him from responsibility … provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him“.

    Sending people to their deaths in extermination camps is orders of magnitude more repugnant than enforcing a bad law governing shop closing times badly. The law may be bad but reasonable people may differ as to its badness and how repugnant it is but it does not rise to the level of murder (let alone genocide), though given Dhoble’s track record I am not so sure …

    Interestingly after WW I Germany’s Supreme Court Supreme Court allowed the Nuremberg defence (well technically defence of superior orders, since WWII hadn’t yet taken place) in the trial of Lt. Karl Neumann in the sinking of the hospital ship Dover Castle and in other war crimes trials. The allies were dissatisfied by this verdict which led them to remove the Nuremberg defence before the Nuremberg trials

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 27, 2012 at 03:58

Posted in Storify

Tagged with , , , ,

And the Winner is …

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#BigSister with a plurality of 11 votes. Not the result @quizderek was hoping for. Other results: @ipoonampandey = 8 @kamaalrkhan = 8, @sardesairajdeep = 7, @sagarikaghose = 5, @quizderek = 4 etc.

Full list can be seen here. (Storify seems not to be able to export stories of more than 38 elements to blogs)

  1. quizderek
    No football so pure time pass…of all the well-known people you follow on Twitter,who tweets the most self praise? #justasking
  2. prithwi3001
    @bhupendrachaube @quizderek if the question is modified, who praises his/her party leader the most, the answer is pretty clear..isn’t it?
  3. Rajat_Sharma_
    @quizderek U do retweet a lot of good things tweeted about u and Didi. On my timeline answer wd be Mr O Brien. :)
  4. smathur21
    @quizderek got to be you,praising Didi and TMC all the time. Nothing wrong…spokespersons are paid to blow their own trumpet.
  5. sumanta48
    You..”@quizderek: No football so pure time pass…of all the well-known people you follow on Twitter,who tweets the most self praise?
  6. versatilebaba
    @quizderek – u and Shashi Tharoor do a lot of self praising . Rest on top is the idiotic girl @iPoonampandey
  7. Sharanyashetty6
    @quizderek rajdeep sardesai hands down he and his praise abt himself (via praisin his channel)
  8. shilpakalhan1
    @quizderek naam le kutte.. u r talking abt @sardesairajdeep didi ka bhai.. tu kisi kaam ka naahii
  9. prithwi3001
    @quizderek poonam pandey..not sure if you would know her..self proclaimed celebrity..stripper actually!

Written by Polevaulter Donkeyman

June 26, 2012 at 03:45

Posted in Storify, Uncategorized

Tagged with