Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Blog Freedom

A Marquette University student has been suspended for the rest of the 2005-06 academic year after a committee of professors, administrators and students determined that he violated professional conduct codes by posting negative comments about unnamed students and professors on a blog. Read a news article about it here.

This is an outrageous action by Marquette. If anything, higher education should promote the marketplace of ideas. It is all the more outrageous because it occurred outside of the school's domain. With the rationale for this decision, students could be suspended for merely speaking critically about their instructors or classmates. Nothing could be more inappropriate for an educational environment.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

"If you dig deep enough, everyone has a reason to be miserable at Christmas." -- Jim Carrey

Politically Correct Seasons Greetings by the Lawyers of America via the LBN Alert:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. And a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great,(not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "AMERICA" in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or sexual preference of the wishee.- DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTABILITY - By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. Warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

I hope you all managed to survive this year's celebration of the birth of capitalism. Enjoy your eleven month reprieve.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I Heart Humbugary

It's the end of December, that time of the year when non-Christians are subjected to public displays of religious affection (or affliction) so grotesque they belong in a Mel Gibson film; the time in which we are looked upon like hethanistic monsters for not celebrating the birth of the Great Dictator; the time in which separation of church and state is tossed away as public grounds and resources are used to endorse and establish a state religion.

In the spirit of religious irreverence, I am happy to present Christopher Hitchens' latest diatribe on Christmas. An excerpt:

A revealing mark of [the Christian's] 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.

It is indeed the most horrible time of the year, but if we stick together and remember that it will be over in three days, we'll make it through.

Spreading Theocracy One Country at a Time

The elections have come and gone, and so has secularism in Iraq.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Stretching newfound democratic muscle upon their first chance to elect a full-term government, Iraqis overwhelmingly threw their support behind religious parties defined along sectarian lines and ethnicity. A bloc of Shiite religious parties close to Iran has, according to results released Tuesday, attracted the largest percentage of voters . . . With more than three-quarters of the country giving a vote of confidence to Islamist parties, last Thursday's vote raises the prospect of Iraq being more overtly religious than ever before. The ideological orientation of the two leading vote-getters means Washington may have to work with a government of leaders who have resented the US presence here and demanded some kind of timetable for a troop withdrawal.

Initially I was against the invasion of Iraq. The WMD threat was obviously nonsense to anyone who cared to do a little bit of research and control of the nation did not appear to have much tactical advantage, especially given that Afghanistan was and is unstable. Invasion of Iraq was a stupid decision that would be a waste of lives and resources.

Once we were committed and had destroyed the nation's infastructure, it was incumbent upon the United States to rebuild it, or end up with another Afghanistan. A hard reality of history, one my liberal colleagues may not swallow, is that time will forgive any atrocity. The Roman Empire, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Alexander the Great, as destructive as they were, are now remembered with a great deal of respect because they were able to make positive, long-term changes in the lands that they conquered. Most recently, the legitimacy of the operation in Iraq has been sold to the people of the United States on the grounds that it would improve the region. As faulty as the domino theory is, setting up a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and in a country with major oil resources, was not the worst idea and as a long term strategy it was preferable to continuing the sanctions.

If these preliminary results are correct (and they appear to be) then the mission in Iraq is now a complete failure. We have brought democracy to the country and the people have chosen to make their government a theocracy. Theocracy and democracy cannot coexist peacefully, either within or between nations. The authority of a democracy resides in the people. The authority of a theocracy resides in the religious hierarchy. The men and women who initiated and led this campaign in Iraq mistakenly believed that if the people of Iraq were left to make up their own minds that they would chose a system that is a-religious and thus like the US model. That did not happen.

Now the Bush Administration's hope of being like Alexander the Great or Napoleon have been squashed. Had we cut and run after toppling Saddam Hussein, Iraq would likely have disintegrated and fell into a theocractic state. We stayed and let democracy play itself out and got the same result. Let that be a lesson to those who carelessly champion freedom above all else. Freedom is a burden and it will quickly be given up in favor of security, whether it is real or an illusion.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Season of Miracles

For once there is some positive news to report:

The court decision is in: Intelligent design is not a science.

The Senators who should be leading the Democratic party are finally raising their voices and getting attention.

If the Democrats are willing to use their newfound spine, Snoopgate could finally be the offense that gets President Bush impeached.

And finally, in the spirit of the season, beware of drunk and rioting Santas! Read more about them here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Save a Flag, Burn the Constitution

While Bill Clinton was in the White House I was one of his defenders, if for no other reason than that the impeachment proceedings of 1998 were an abuse of power by the Republican leadership. While I stand by my defense of Bill Clinton during these proceedings, his presidency was a mixed bag. On one hand he was the only president in the past thirty years to deliver a balanced budget, he took steps for gay rights, and he made great strides toward peace in the middle east. On the other hand the Clinton administration was also the presidency of the Waco disaster, the Rwanda massacre, and the 1996 Telecommunications Act. I say this to demonstrate that I am not among the rabid Clinton-haters, but I do have a critical outlook on the politics of Democrats and Republicans.

Starting next year, Democratic presidential candidates will begin their bids for the 2008 ticket. Among them is Hillary Clinton. While I am not a Hillary hater, I do not support her bid for presidency. If people thought John Kerry was a flip flopper, Hillary Clinton is a double-flip cartwheeler. And this week she made an excellent demonstration of that.

In June, Hillary Clinton made a statement that noted that she supported legislation that banned flag burning but did not support a constitutional amendment. This week she followed through on that stance by co-sponsoring a bill that would criminalize flag desecration.

By sponsoring this bill she is arguing that, on principle, the federal government should have the ability to forbid certain forms of speech, even if it is not a threat to national security and does not constitute legal precedents for obscenity. As a federal law all states would be bound to follow this legislation, so the only distinction between the bill Senator Clinton is co-sponsoring and a constitutional amendment is that the former is doomed to failure, as the Supreme Court has already ruled such amendments unconstitutional. Only changing the document itself will make such a law legal but the principle underneath is still the same.

The only reasonable explanations for Clinton's decision are that she realizes the futility of the law and will sign onto it to pander to conservatives and centrist in order to make herself more appealing for a presidential run. After two unsuccessful presidential campaigns built on the same strategy, will the Democrats have finally learned their lesson? Let's hope so. Otherwise we may be faced with another four years of this.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Gifts for the Holiday

Free Thinkers website has a helpful and satirical guide for buying gifts this holiday season. After all, we are supposed to remember the reason for the season, right? Here are a couple of actual items from Divine Interventions:

The Virgin Mary Dildo

Now here are some gifts that keep on giving and they would make wonderful supplements for a nativity scene in the living room. Enjoy the holiday season.