Friday, May 18, 2018

Seattle Penalizes Employers to Help The Homeless

If you’ve been keeping up with the national news lately, you might have heard that the Seattle city council unanimously passed an employee head tax for businesses that gross at least $20 million per year. The first proposal was annual head tax of $500 per employee, but outrage from the Seattle business community caused them to nearly halve it and settle for $275 per employee. Of course, $275 is a low-ball figure that doesn’t account for the cost of complying with the new head tax. Although the magnitude of the effect was minimized the incentive remains the same: hire less people. Low skilled, temporary, and part time workers will especially be vulnerable to the disincentive to hire because the tax doesn’t account for differences in contribution and wages. The homeless, the people who stand in most need of gainful employment aren’t helped in the least bit by this new disincentive to hire. Sure they’ll get better funded government services, but what good are these services if you can’t get back up on your own feet? A more intelligent city council would have considered the true cause of rising homelessness instead of arbitrarily deciding to punish employers for employing people, something which actually contributes to the decline of homelessness and extreme poverty.

Alternative Solutions to Homelessness


Given the precarious position homeless people hold in society, I don’t think much can be done to elevate their status through government services. The stigma attached to this “lifestyle” is perhaps the greatest obstacle to digging themselves out and receiving free services only tends to raise people's’ ire against them. Add to this the fact that their dependence on government services can only ever be tenuous because it’s always susceptible to budget shortfalls and you have a recipe for social immobility. However, there is one government service that I’m in favor of, but one which remains unexamined due to current statutes against vagrancy and loitering. Repeal laws against vagrancy and loitering and allow the homeless to homestead on public land. There are numerous recent examples of the homeless, with the aid of private charity, coming together to build communities of small houses, but because of state laws that criminalize homelessness and force them into government dependence they were destroyed.

Oakland Dismantles Tiny Houses at Homeless Village

Los Angeles is Seizing Tiny Homes from the Homeless

Tiny Houses Project At Sustainability Park raided by Cops

However, despite government imposed setbacks there have been some success stories in this regard.

Tiny Home Village for Homeless People to be 100% Solar Powered

Denver tore down their tiny-home village. They built it again, this time with permission

Fighting Homelessness in Austin, One Tiny House at a Time

The lack of affordable housing in big cities like Seattle is a major contributing factor to homelessness. Developing communities of tiny homes provides the homeless with, independence, a sense of dignity and personal space, things they can’t obtain by being herded into publicly funded shelters and treated like children. In addition to allowing them to live on public land, perhaps cities could also provide them with water and garbage collection. This would in effect make them like any other community, and go a long way in eliminating the stigma associated with their circumstances.

Incels Are A Product of Your Society

Most of the buzz around incels - involuntary celibates - after the Toronto van attack is virtue signaling and moral grandstanding by people on the left, particularly internet feminists who have taken it upon themselves to point out the obvious. Apparently the statements rape is bad and you aren't owed sex are beliefs exclusive to their camp. There has been very little in the way of substantial analysis or constructive criticism of the incel community which Alek Minassian supposedly belonged too. One of the few credible perspectives on the incel problem is that they are a natural result of how society views sex and romantic relationships. Sure incels for the most part hate women, but their misogyny is only a symptom of a much larger problem. Incels don't just hate women; they hate society as a whole and 'normies' as they call other people. Although misguided there is some truth to their concerns. A society that is obsessed with sex and stigmatizes anyone who isn't having and/or pursuing it will inevitably marginalize certain men and some women. As long as men continue to believe in the false construct of virginity, which makes no sense when applied to men, and that their self-worth depends on female validation, another words it can't come from anywhere else, we'll continue to have self-described incels. I think much of the frustration is not a need for sex or companionship, but a need to fit in. Legalizing prostitution isn't going to help incels. It might provide other benefits, but it won't stop people from becoming incels. They need to find alternative sources of pleasures, goals and hobbies that give meaning to their lives. I would venture to say that a lot of them are shut-ins that have nothing going for them or work dead end jobs that don't allow them to hone their talents. They might have mundane lives with no sources of pleasure which is why they hyper-focus on this one thing. For example, Elliot Rodger, who is regarded as a saint to incels, had a rather boring life. He lived in a place that gave him the opportunity to take up anything he wanted to do in his free time, but all he did was drive around and complain about women not approaching him. He had enough money to become anything he wanted to be, but he couldn't even manage to stay in college. Social isolation also plays a role in their frustration. Opening up to other people that aren't on their forums would help them overcome some of their hangups and come to terms with their situation. I cannot speak for incels, but from personal experience I overcame my insecurity by questioning what I really wanted. I came to the realization that my insecurity and anxiety came from a desire to fit in and meet societal expectations rather than a desire to find what actually makes me happy. Who knows? Maybe some incels will realize the same thing.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Blue Lives Matter Is Peak Statolatry

Source: Hundreds rally in Dauphin Island to 'Back the Blue,' and the Billas


As an outside observer who doesn’t feel loyalty to a group of violent psychopaths who call themselves government officials, it looks like a cult ritual. The thin blue line or blue lives matter movement is perhaps the pinnacle of state worship. Their blind faith and devotion to one particular class of government bureaucrats makes their socialist counterparts on the left look reasonable in comparison.

Community members, kids and town officials all joined to make signs, don shirts with a thin blue line and show appreciation for those who risk their lives to keep people safe. Organizer Lillian Ryan wanted the community and police to come together. “They are our lifeline, they are our protection.”

The premise of police being here to protect me is bullshit on all counts. The number one job of police is to generate revenue for other government parasites. The only person responsible for your protection, on a daily basis, is you. The truth is that unless you’re an informant or a witness to a crime, the police are not obligated to protect you. They don’t have to find the guy that stole your wallet, or find the people that broke into your house, or ‘even enforce restraining orders. They will however protect you from the evils of jaywalking and untaxed businesses. A ‘back the blue’ rally makes about as much sense as a back the IRS rally.

She said now more than ever, the community needs to stand up in support of law enforcement.

The community needs to stop being weak minded and realize that they’re responsible for their own protection. Dauphin Island only has 1,500 permanent residents and I’d assume most of them are gun owners since it’s part of Alabama. They could very easily organize citizen patrols to monitor what little crime happens there. And the island is only 15 miles long with only one main road so it’s not like they have a lot of territory to cover. An app could be created to report crimes and calculate statistics of the location of certain crimes and the time of say when they are mostly likely to occur to make the patrols more efficient. The sooner humanity outgrows it's infantile dependence on the state the sooner we'll realize that we're not as helpless as they want us to believe.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Anti-Sex Trafficking Law Increases Sex Trafficking


Source: Pimps Are Preying on Sex Workers Pushed Off the Web Because of FOSTA-SESTA

In another instance of the law of unintended consequences, the passage of legislation intended to crack down on human trafficking and sexual exploitation has only made it worse. Congress passed the Fight Sex Trafficking Online Act in March to shut down websites where people discussed prostitution and the sex trade. Instead of hindering sex trafficking, the new law has shut down online communities that supported sex workers and allowed them to escape exploitative and abusive procurers. These communities helped sex workers find food and shelter, warned them about potentially violent clients and educated them about their constitutional rights. These platforms are essential to a demographic that’s prone to homelessness and more likely to be victimized than the general population. Shutting them down removes their only source of protection.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Society is Partially Responsible For 'Incel Rebellion'


As tragic as the Toronto van attack was, I can’t help but feel that the perpetrator was not the sole conduit for this violence. I’m usually one to lay responsibility at the perpetrators feet, but I think this incident and the motive behind it was a little different from your usual hit and run murder sprees. The perpetrator, 25 year old Alek Minassian, was a self-described incel: an involuntary celibate for those unfamiliar with Reddit lingo. His frustration, his rage stemmed from the simple fact that he had not had sex yet. Whatever else he had going on in his life he threw away over a lack of sex. Now maybe he didn’t have much. Maybe he had other issues that caused him to crack, but you have to ask yourself what would cause him to place so much value on this one thing that he thought he was a failure without it. I’m not just talking about Alek Minassian, but all self-described ‘incels’ who’d be willing to throw their whole lives away for temporary pleasure. I don’t think they arrived at this conclusion by themselves. I don’t think Alek Minassian and other incels came to value sex over every other pleasure imaginable. Some people will say it’s just evolution, but I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Sex might be the only metric of success for lower animals like dogs and rodents, but humans are a lot more complex. Our needs extend beyond basic physiological functions and with fertility rates declining below replacement level, reproduction isn’t really that relevant anymore. I thinks it’s a socio-cultural problem. Society has put this thing on a pedestal and attached more significance than what it’s really worth. It has created a stigma for those who go without it and attached all kinds of unwarranted assumptions about their character. If society didn’t stigmatize ‘virginity’, a construct it made up whole cloth,would these men feel the same frustration and anxiety that they do now? If society tolerated ‘virgins’ or was at least indifferent to them, would they feel the same pain? Or would they feel more free to be open about who they truly are? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think a lack of sexual intimacy is the only problem that incels have. I do think these people have serious character flaws and it’s reflected in the way they handle their problems. Maybe some of them also have personality disorders, although as a non-physiatrist I can’t confirm this. But they wouldn’t hyperfocus on this one thing if it weren’t for the prodding of society to ‘get laid’ and your a weirdo if you don’t.

For everyone with hangups over being a ‘virgin’ just know that:
  1. There’s no such thing as male virginity. It is a social construct with no medical or scientific validity
  2. Your self-worth does not depend on female validation. Celibacy is nothing to be ashamed of; find what makes you happy instead of always trying to fit in.
  3. Your sex drive has other outlets for expression besides the physical one. Our ideas and intuitions come from the same creative energy.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Should Psychologists Be Involved In Capital Punishment?


The question of whether it is ethically permissible for forensic psychologists to conduct evaluations of defendants in capital offense cases pertains to standard 1.02 of the APA code of ethics. Standard 1.02, which regulates conflicts between legal authority and professional ethics, obliges psychologists to inform the authorities in question about the conflict, their commitment to the APA code of ethics, and try to resolve the conflict in compliance with the general principles of the ethics code (Fisher, 2017). Furthermore, standard 1.02 prohibits psychologists from participating in any state sanctioned activities that may be used to rationalize human rights violations (2017). This last dictum was added to standard 1.02 in 2010 following the conclusion of an investigation into coordination between some APA staff members and DOD psychologists who provided guidance on torture techniques (Fisher, 2017). This amendment of standard 1.02 has brought other controversial psychologist roles into contention. In particular, some have called into question whether clinical psychologists should be involved in evaluating defendants who could face the death penalty. Fisher argues that the deeply flawed death penalty procedures and the inherent fallibility of psychological tests exacerbates the inequities in capital punishment that sometimes puts innocent people on death row (Fisher, 2013). To the contrary, Brodsky, Neal and Jones argue that the involvement of forensic psychologists helps prevent human rights violations by reducing the arbitrariness of death penalty proceedings and adding an assessment that ‘may divert defendants from the criminal justice process to the mental health system (Brodsky, Neal, and Jones, 2013, p.64).

Capital punishment could be considered a human rights violation because the flawed criminal justice processes sometimes puts innocent people on death row. Since 1973, at least 102 inmates sentenced to death have been subsequently exonerated (Fisher, 2013). Furthermore, defendants who are racial minorities and have low socioeconomic status tend to receive the death penalty more frequently than white, middle class defendants who commit the same crime, suggesting that capital punishment procedures are highly skewed by racial and class biases (Fisher, 2013). Both discrimination and punishment of innocent people constitute grave human rights violations that psychologist should not participate in. The psychological evaluation of defendants is undermined by the fact that most test results for cognitive disability and other mental disorders are probabilistic in nature - they only establish the likelihood that the defendant has one or mental disorders that impair competency based on the similarity of their scores to those already diagnosed with the disorder in question (Fisher, 2013). For instance, IQ scores and adaptive skills are used to assess mental retardation, a condition which makes a death sentence constitutionally unviable. The U.S. Supreme Court prohibited death sentences for defendants with mental retardation in Atkins v. Virginia, but failed to define the term (Fisher, 2013). In psychiatry, it is diagnosed as an intellectual disability and requires, along with current below average intelligence and a lack of adaptive skills necessary for independent living, a documented history of the two deficits prior to 18 years of age (Fisher, 2013). This would generally be difficult if not impossible for defendants from low socioeconomic backgrounds because children raised in poverty are usually never evaluated for intellectual or developmental disabilities and their academic and medical records tend to be sparse compared to children in higher socioeconomic brackets (Fisher, 2013).

Capital punishment in and of itself is not a human rights violation. It could be reasonably argued that defendants forfeit their human rights by violating the human rights of their victims (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Furthermore, there are numerous legal mechanisms in place that can be used to correct errors in capital offense cases such as direct appellate review, federal habeas corpus petitions, and the consideration of mitigating factors during the sentencing phase (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Clinical psychologists, for their own part as expert witnesses, provide information to judges and jurors that could counteract their prejudices and help save innocent people from being sent to death row. For instance, psychologists can provide information about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony based on how human memory changes over time (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). This would engender a healthy skepticism towards the credibility of eyewitness testimony (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Psychologists also take on a neutral role when they become involved in capital offense cases (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). They are usually retained by a neutral court, but when they are retained by the prosecution or defendant, they only provide information about the defendant’s mental state without making conclusions about the sentencing (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). For these reasons, psychologist’s participation in death penalty cases should be seen not as an activity that justifies human rights violations, but as one that protects human rights. For instance, competency assessments can provide evidence of psychopathology or intellectual disability that could save some defendants from execution and get them the proper treatment they need (Brodsky, Neal and Jones, 2013). Brodsky, Neal, and Jones only object to the use of psychotherapy to restore convicted defendants’ competency for execution, but otherwise regard their involvement as something that should not be out right prohibited (2013).

A provision which prohibits psychologists from conducting competency for execution assessments may be objected to on the grounds that it does not directly implicate the psychologist in the execution. One argument for it being unethical is that the only purpose of these assessments is to aid the state in determining whether to kill the convicted (Bonnie, 1990). However, as Bonnie notes, a psychologist’s role in the competency for execution assessment is not clearly distinguishable from their other roles in the criminal justice process such as in evaluating whether prisoners should be placed in a mental health facility or whether they are fit for parole (1990). Furthermore, there is no qualitative difference between their sentencing evaluations in death penalty cases and their sentencing evaluations in non-death penalty cases (Bonnie, 1990).

Rather than outright prohibiting psychologists from participating in capital offense cases, the APA should allow individual psychologists to use their own discretion in deciding whether their involvement would be contrary to the general principles. Yes, the legal proceedings for death penalty cases are deeply flawed and prone to racial and class bias, but there are numerous legal safeguards, such as appellate review and federal habeas corpus petitions, to protect innocent and incompetent defendants, and the psychologist’s role here is to provide an objective framework for evaluating whether defendants are competent to stand trial and/or be executed. Therefore, the psychologist’s role in death penalty cases is one that helps protect human rights not one that justifies their violation

References

Bonnie, R. J. (1990). Dilemmas in administering the death penalty: Conscientious abstention, professional ethics, and the needs of the legal system. Law And Human Behavior, 14(1), 67-90. doi:10.1007/BF01055790

Brodsky, S. L., Neal, T. S., & Jones, M. A. (2013). A reasoned argument against banning psychologists' involvement in death penalty cases. Ethics & Behavior, 23(1), 62-66. doi:10.1080/10508422.2013.757954

Fisher, C. B. (2013). Human rights and psychologists' involvement in assessments related to death penalty cases. Ethics & Behavior, 23(1), 58-61. doi:10.1080/10508422.2013.749761

Fisher, C. B. (2017). Standards for resolving ethical issues. In Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists (4th ed., pp. 205-224). Los Angeles: SAGE.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Utah Highway Patrol Stole $500,000 From Innocent Man


Source: Fox 13 Salt Lake City, Utah Property Protection Act

In 2016, Utah Highway Patrol pulled over Kyle Savely for tailgating another vehicle. For some reason, UHP called out a drug dog that “alerted” them, but it turned out to be a false positive. Although there were no drugs in Mr. Savely’s vehicle, but they did find a bag with $500,000 and stole it under using the rationalization that it could possibly be linked to a crime. Utah Highway Patrol handed the money over to the federal government because supposedly there was an active DEA investigation. In reality, they handed the cash over to the feds so they could keep 80% of the funds and avoid having to provide clear and convincing evidence that it was subject to forfeiture under the Utah Property Protection Act of 2000. Even if Utah Highway Patrol had clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Savely’s cash was criminal proceeds they would not be allowed to keep since the Utah Property Protection Act mandates that all revenue from asset forfeiture be contributed to the Utah Uniform School Fund. Mr. Savely was also acquitted of the minor traffic violation they detained him for and the DEA investigation turned up empty handed, to no one’s surprise. So it looks like they pulled him over on a specious pretext to steal his money.

'The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber.....The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves the government, are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.'

-Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority VI