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Re: is down

From: Tim McNamara
Subject: Re: is down
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2003 23:29:49 -0600
User-agent: Gnus/5.1002 (Gnus v5.10.2) Emacs/21.3.50 (darwin)

David Steuber <address@hidden> writes:

> Bob Nelson <address@hidden> writes:
>> David Steuber <address@hidden> wrote:
>> > David Kastrup <address@hidden> writes:
>> >> What kind of people gleefully cause a considerable permanent
>> >> damage to a charity instead of elsewhere "just" for the hope of
>> >> monetary gains?  I hope that they are found and dealt with in
>> >> proportion to their crime and the impact it will have.
>> > The kind of people who deserve a disproportionately harsh
>> > punishment.
>> That type of attitude does not imply one of tolerance and
>> understanding.  It conveys an absolutist view of ``good'' and
>> ``evil'' and ``right'' and ``wrong''.
> OK, so I'm intolerant.  Suppose instead of breaking into a server
> and doing who knows how much damage that people then have to spend
> valuable time fixing, the miscreant instead took a sledgehammer to
> the windshield of your car.  Would you not want at least
> compensation for the damages and time to repair them?

Herein lies a rub.  Your windshield is not available for free, given
away and freely modifiable by others.  It's therefore easy to assign
a value for compensation in the case of material damage.  In the case
of damage to FSF sources and such, since it is given away freely to
anyone who wants it, there is difficulty in assigning a value for
compensatory or punitive purposes.

>> Rather than seek ``harsh punishment'' for those involved, it's more
>> constructive to become aware of the motivation that led to the
>> deed.  Perhaps GNU needs to better covey its ideals.
> I'm not sure I see this as constructive.  Suppose, hypothetically,
> that the GNU and Debian servers were broken into by people
> politically opposed to the GPL and Free software.  Understanding
> their motives will not prevent them from doing so again.

Understanding their motives could have some value and benefit none the
less.  However, simply becoming aware of the motives of criminals does
not in and of itself reduce the risk of recidivism- the usual claims
of the liberals notwithstanding.  While I'm a liberal to be sure, such
twaddle is one of the worst failings of many liberal philosophies.  On
the other hand, the "hang 'em high" mentality of many social
conservatives has also proven to be a failure- punishment does little
or nothing to correct behavior (this has been demonstrated in
behavioral research time and time again).

> For certain types of people retribution is the better course of
> action.  Not everyone out there will listen to reason and admit that
> what they did was not acceptable social behavior and undertake never
> to do that sort of thing again.
> Some people only understand force.

So, what- you're going to cut off the fingers of the miscreants so
that they can't type and therefore can't do it again?  It's a truism
that if you kill someone they will never commit a crime again.  How
do you determine which types of people are the right ones for
retribution as the appropriate response?  Or is it only the people
who have fucked up something *you* value who should be so punished?

> Also, it is possible that there are absolutes like 'good', 'evil',
> 'right', and 'wrong'.  Laws are often based on those concepts.  If
> the general case of destruction of another person's property is not
> wrong, then what is?

Concepts cannot be absolutes.  Values are always relative to the
society in which those values are expressed.

Anything we build is at risk for someone destroying it- even if that
destruction is purported to be well-meaning.  The Christians destroyed
hundreds of cultures and religions, killed hundreds of thousands of
people, brought disease and suffering to millions in the name of
saving them.  Muslims have done the same.  Other religions and
cultures ditto, although not on the massive scale of these two.  And
yet most Christians and Mulsims still think that their destruction of
indigenous faiths and cultures was beneficial.

Now, this was certainly not well-meant.  It was destruction,
senseless vandalism done simply because they could.  It made them
feel powerful, I suppose, for a little while. IMHO that's to be
pitied, while taking security steps to close up the holes they
exploited.  If they can be identified, they should be prosecuted
under whatever applicable laws are available.  But acting out
retributively just because you're angry won't help- as was said by
someone smarter than me, "an eye for an eye makes the whole world

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