Archive for June, 2008

Random thoughts

June 26, 2008 Leave a comment

I’m happy with the D.C. gun ban ruling. Gun control is constitutional, but outright bans are not. Sounds right to me.

The death penalty case is more interesting. I don’t support the death penalty as a practical matter – our justice system isn’t perfect and you can’t take back killing someone. Morally, I don’t know. I don’t feel like wasting time thinking about when we shouldn’t allow it for other reasons. That said, it doesn’t seem so far out of proportion that we need to call it cruel and unusual. Beats me. I’m satisfied with it from a public policy perspective and I don’t really care that it doesn’t satisfy some people’s blood lust.

If we have more crap like FISA from Obama I’m moving him from “good candidate” to “lesser of two evils.” Telecom immunity is something you give away in a compromise; I can live with that. But there wasn’t a compromise, just a giveaway.

An alarm going off and your window open for a solid hour around 7 am is not cool. Asshole.

Categories: Domestic Policy

Just how dense is James Dobson?

June 25, 2008 1 comment

Very very dense.

Dobson also takes aim at Obama for suggesting in the speech that those motivated by religion should attempt to appeal to broader segments of the population by not just framing their arguments around religious precepts.

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values,” Obama said. “It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.”

Dobson said the suggestion is an attempt to lead by the “lowest common denominator of morality.”

“Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?” he asked. “What he’s trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.

“What the senator is saying there, in essence, is that ‘I can’t seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial-birth abortion, because there are people in the culture who don’t see that as a moral issue,’ ” Dobson said. “And if I can’t get everyone to agree with me, than it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. Now, that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.”

I mean, I can see disagreeing that we shouldn’t try to legislate based on religion, but Dobson apparently doesn’t even understand the concept. Obviously, Obama’s point was that it’s fine if you support a policy because of your religious beliefs, but you need to make an argument for it on universal moral grounds. It’s trivial to do that for abortion, to use Dobson’s example (it’s not trivial to make a good argument, however).

Obama calling Dobson’s political worldview undemocratic is a more interesting point. It’s not strictly undemocratic to simply try to appeal to just enough people (or representatives, if you one of those people who thinks he’s needs to correct every application of the word democracy to our government) to get your way . Hell, that seems to be the way our government works more often than not. But it’s hardly in the spirit of good democratic government to use narrow sectarian arguments to oppress a segment of the population. Not to mention the fact that it violates the concept of inalienable individual rights our country is founded upon. So not very democratic and rather totalitarian. Wonderful views the man has.

Also, I will be patiently awaiting Dobson’s speech attacking essentially the entire Christian anti-gay movement for using Leviticus as a justification for being against homosexuality. I’d bet he’s used it, too, but since I can’t find a quote, I’ll have to give him a pass for now.

Categories: 2008 elections, Religion

George Carlin

June 23, 2008 1 comment

George Carlin just passed away. Some of his standup is absolutely brilliant. His “religion is bullshit” routine is classic and his stuff on abortion is hilarious as well:

So, anyone want to place a bet on how long it is before people are spreading death-bed conversion stories about him via email?

Categories: Culture, Religion

A fantasy world

June 21, 2008 Leave a comment

That’s where Michael Novak seems to reside. Take a look:

As far as I can see, the New Atheists have been slowly executing a strategic retreat. Many seem to admit that there is not now, and can never be, a knock-down proof for atheism. Many seem also to be admitting that, no matter what their skeptical friends write, belief in God is not only here to stay, but also seems to be rooted in human nature itself. It may even provide an evolutionary advantage.

Thus, the line of defense to which they have more and more frequently retreated seems modest and open-minded. As their reply to the question, “Is there a God?” their new answer is perfect for a bumper sticker: “I don’t know, and you don’t know, either.”

Novak, of course, doesn’t support any of this. The “New Atheists” were christened as such when the media decided that a rash of atheist books being published was a novelty worth some column inches. They’ve since dropped it and these atheists have dropped into the level of obscurity they typically inhabit. You’d be hard pressed to locate some writing by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Dan Dennett backtracking on their previous claims. But hey, falling out of the media light isn’t an excuse for another column of recycled atheist bashing. So maybe we can give him a break.

This is a mistake. The New Agnostic holds that the burden of proof is not on him; the burden is on others to “prove” to him that there is an object “out there.”

But the evidence about God is not to be sought “out there.” It does not reside among other classifiable, sensory objects in this universe. The question about God is essentially a question about one’s own personal identity. Do you yourself, Mr. Agnostic, find evidence within your own inner life (in a way that can be replicated by others) that your identity is not fully known until you admit that you participate in a life much larger than your own, drawing you toward becoming more fully developed and greater than you are? In a Light more powerful than the light of your own conscience? The question is about you.

Now, let’s evaluate his argument that God is not like other things people claim exist and why we are to give up normal standards of evidence in the debate about him.

Oh wait, he didn’t make that argument. He just made an assertion. I so wish I was allowed to do that when arguing about politics.

Those who discover such evidence can claim to know that God exists within them, not simply to believe it. They hold that to find this evidence is the norm, not the exception; it is the default position of human beings. That is why the emergence of the religious impulse is to be expected in every generation. That is why a personal tie with God keeps being rediscovered in every era in human history, in virtually every culture.

It’s odd, since these people are obviously wrong. Yes, people claim to have that feeling and “know” they’re correct. But what they claim to “know” is contradicted by what other people claim to “know.” Such a feeling isn’t a reliable indicator of truth. Nor can you explain why some people lack such a feeling. Well, unless you’re going to resort to empty slogans like “God works in mysterious ways” or “He’s testing the person”). On the other hand, the benefits of religion from an evolutionary and societal standpoint give you decent reasons why religion is common. We would expect cultural influences to play a role in their existence and we wouldn’t expect absolutely everyone to have the feeling.

The column goes on, but it’s not that interesting. I like reason and I think a lot, ergo, God exists. Not impressive.

Categories: Religion

Crazy people in the Pentagon

June 19, 2008 1 comment

While I’m just copying news from Pharyngula, Ken Ham, who runs Answers in Genesis, spoke at a Pentagon prayer breakfast.

Ken Ham believes the planet is less than 6000 years old and that the story of Noah’s Ark actually happened. And they’re letting him near the Pentagon.

I believe our governor said something about not needing people who believe the Earth is 4000 years old in our legislature. I think this applies to the Pentagon, as well.

UPDATE: Aww, someone with admin access to the AIG blog clicked on the link to this post, but didn’t stay to chat. I had so much fun with the last creationist visitor, too.

Categories: Bush, Religion

Credulity is fun

June 19, 2008 1 comment

This is completely insane. A psychic told an “educational assistant” that a student with a name starting with ‘V’ was being abused by young male. That forced the school to inform the authorities, who started investigating the claim. All because of a scam artist and a gullible mark.

The idea that anyone involved in educating children is gullible enough to believe something like this is mind-boggling. There’s a reason ads for psychics say “for entertainment purposes only” – it’s complete bullshit. And of course, the psychic made the vague prediction of a child with a ‘V’ name and picked an unidentified male in his 20s as the accuser. Just in case she wasn’t casting a wide enough net with her smear.

And if the psychic had accused the mother or a teacher? The potential for harm here is enormous. It’s bad enough that they’re being dragged through an investigation as it is, but if the mother or a teacher was the target? Smeared because of a con-artist claiming nonexistent supernatural powers. I’d be pretty pissed.

Categories: Skepticism

Hey, I like that guy

June 17, 2008 Leave a comment

Thought I’d share this quote from Obama, via Steve Benen:

“I tend to be eclectic. I do think we’re in a different time in 2008 than we were in 1992. The thing I think people should feel confident in is that I’m going to make these judgments not based on some fierce ideological pre-disposition but based on what makes sense. I’m a big believer in evidence. I’m a big believer in fact. You know, if somebody shows me we can do something better through a market mechanism, I’m happy to do it. I have no vested interest in expanding government or setting up a program just for the sake of setting one up. It’s too much work.

“On the health-care front, for example, if I actually believed that just providing a tax cut to everybody would solve the problem of lack of health insurance and cure health-care inflation, I’d say great, that’s a nice way to do it. It prevents a lot of headaches. But I’ve seen no evidence that the kinds of policies John McCain puts forward would actually work.

On the other hand, I read that Obama’s a radical Muslim who wants to do…something. It’s not clear what, but it’s very bad. Be afraid, people!

Categories: 2008 elections