December 2005

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Respect For Life 

There are many things about the culture of the United States that I'm proud of. But, the continued imprisonment of Jack Kevorkian is a source of deep shame.

I think that The World gets it right when they say that people denied the right to die, and now (ironically) Kevorkian himself, are being "ritually tortured to death."

And, all this is done under the cover of an avowed desire to promote a "Culture of Life".

What does it make more sense to respect?: Beating hearts, or the informed choices of people about how (and whether) to proceed with their own lives?

I've posted on this before, but I won't agree that we talk about it enough until these obscene laws are repealed, and people's right to make their own choices is upheld.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Over Three Hundred Bad Arguments 

Ok, some of these "proofs" for the existence of God are unfair; but many of them are funny. And, many of them are very similar to things I've heard people say.

Friday, December 23, 2005

God Damn Them Everyone 

Apropos my post below, take a look at Christopher Hitchens' Christmas column in Slate. An excerpt:

Our Christian enthusiasts are evidently too stupid, as well as too insecure, to appreciate this. A revealing mark of their insecurity is their rage when public places are not annually given over to religious symbolism, and now, their fresh rage when palaces of private consumption do not follow suit. The Fox News campaign against Wal-Mart and other outlets—whose observance of the official feast-day is otherwise fanatical and punctilious to a degree, but a degree that falls short of unswerving orthodoxy—is one of the most sinister as well as one of the most laughable campaigns on record. If these dolts knew anything about the real Protestant tradition, they would know that it was exactly this paganism and corruption that led Oliver Cromwell—my own favorite Protestant fundamentalist—to ban the celebration of Christmas altogether.

No believer in the First Amendment could go that far. But there are millions of well-appointed buildings all across the United States, most of them tax-exempt and some of them receiving state subventions, where anyone can go at any time and celebrate miraculous births and pregnant virgins all day and all night if they so desire. These places are known as "churches," and they can also force passersby to look at the displays and billboards they erect and to give ear to the bells that they ring. In addition, they can count on numberless radio and TV stations to beam their stuff all through the ether. If this is not sufficient, then god damn them. God damn them everyone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy Holidays 

I just got back from my weekly secular humanist meeting where we're all conspiring to destroy religion by getting people and businesses to say "Merry Christmas" less frequently.

What a great plan, huh?

Too bad the really shrewd observers, like Bill O'Reilly, are catching on. But, I think it'll probably work anyway.

Gay marriages will destroy marriage, too.

I figure final victory is just around the corner. Maybe if we can get people to stop mentioning the Easter Bunny, the last traces of religion (and all other traditions, probably) will disappear forever.

Yeah, it's a good thing most people don't realize just how fragile their institutions are.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Great Moments in Life 

I went to a concert with my family Friday night (Lynyrd Skynyrd...very enjoyable).

After the opening band played, some roadies were setting up the stage for the main act. One of them had the task of cleaning up with a vacuum cleaner, and the lady sitting next to me commented about what a terrible job that must be.

Without too much hesitation I managed to come back with:

"Yeah, it really sucks!"

See You Next Wednesday 

A long time ago, I noticed that several John Landis films contained references to the phrase "See you next Wednesday" (often as a movie title). I never thought much about the source, but assumed it was some sort of inside joke.

Well, this evening, my son and I finally watched all of 2001: A Space Odyssey and saw that it contained a video transmission to an astronaut from his family ending with "See you next Wednesday." We instantly looked at each other and agreed that that was the source of the reference.

Obviously, if I had really cared, I could have easily found this information on the internet (It's in the Biography for John Landis on IMDB, has a Wikipedia entry, and there's even a seeyounextwednesday.com!).

On the other hand, there's something cool about stumbling across the answer the old-fashioned way.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cato Unbound 

Looks like the Cato Institute has begun a new and interesting web site that will invite great thinkers to address big ideas.

In the first essay, Nobel Prize winner James M. Buchanan (the father of public choice theory) recommends three amendments to the Constitution.

They all seem like good suggestions to me.

Of course, Buchanan doesn't quite rise to the challenge of trying to write the amendments themselves.

I don't think any wording would be safe from determined politicians or judges, but some wordings would certainly work better than others.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lileks Guts Vonnegut 

I just came across this screedblog entry from a couple of weeks ago.

Apparently, Kurt Vonnegut was out promoting some anti-Bush essays and made comments described in an article as follows:

Vonnegut said it was "sweet and honourable" to die for what you believe in, and rejected the idea that terrorists were motivated by twisted religious beliefs.
If all you want to do is die for what you believe in then it's OK with me. Whether I agree about its being sweet or honorable would depend a lot on what, exactly, you believe in and how dying for it serves the cause.

However, these people are not merely dying for what they believe in. They are murdering for it. They are propelling nails into children. This is not honorable, and it's really not sweet.

There's also:

Asked if he thought of terrorists as soldiers, Vonnegut, a decorated World War II veteran, said: "I regard them as very brave people, yes.”
And

Vonnegut suggested suicide bombers must feel an "amazing high". He said: "You would know death is going to be painless, so the anticipation - it must be an amazing high."
Lileks responds appropriately. I particularly enjoyed:
Vonnegut is an addled old fool whose brain has rusted in the antiestablishment default position for so long he cannot distinguish between suicide bombers and people who stage a sit-in at a Woolworth’s counter.
One unforgivable (and inconceivable) error on Lileks' part is that he ends his post as follows:

Vonnegut is described in the article as a “peace activist.”

As a wise giant said in “The Princess Bride” – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Of course, it wasn't the giant who delivered that line, but rather the Spaniard: Iñigo Montoya.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

This Penn Believes 

A commenter in one of the Volokh threads I mentioned below led me to Penn Jillette's "This I Believe" essay for NPR.

Go read and/or listen to it.

I believe Penn is awesome!

Damned Lawyers! 

This story is pretty annoying.
A coalition of lawyers who have actively and successfully sued tobacco companies says it is close to filing a class-action lawsuit against soft-drink makers for selling sugared sodas in schools. The lawyers, who have been trying to develop a case against the soft-drink makers for more than two years, say a lawsuit could be filed within the next few weeks, probably in Massachusetts, which has one of the nation's most plaintiff-friendly consumer-protection laws.
And this bit was pretty interesting:
Daynard said that while the legal theory is ready, the challenge is finding the right set of parents to sign on as plaintiffs for the class-action case. "It's taking us longer than we expected," he said.
The theory behind this suit is that soda machines in schools are are "attractive nuisance(s)" because "a soda machine is demonstrated to be a dangerous object for kids."

Not as dangerous as these lawyers!

Religious Explanations 

Eugene Volokh has some interesting posts asking readers, both religious, and irreligious, to answer some challenging questions (the religious to explain their belief in miracles, and the irreligious to explain their secular moral axioms).

As Eugene says:
I’m not expecting or intending to convert anyone in either direction — just to enlighten people about others’ world views, by asking each side to explain themselves about something that I think the other side really is curious about.

It's a cool idea. Let's see how well it works out.