Darrick Banda for DA

It isn’t often that I cross political lines and endorse a Republican. I’m a pretty liberal person, and while Democrats often don’t match up with my views as well as I would like, it’s definitely the candidates with the “D” next to their names that most closely reflect my politics. However, this election is a little different. For 2012, I have an overwhelming reason to endorse Darrick Banda for DA: His opponent is Maeghan Maloney.

As many readers know, Maeghan Maloney attempted to sue me on behalf of her quack husband, Christopher Maloney. They believed I had made libelous statements by calling “Dr.” Maloney a quack. (He practices the scientifically bogus discipline of naturopathy.) However, they soon backed away from their pursuit of that claim when I brought on an excellent defense team – a defense team made up of three lawyers who were working pro-Bono because they all value the protection of basic free speech rights. Here is what one of them, Ken, had to say about Mrs. Maloney:

5. Dr. and Ms. Maloney’s demand for injunctive relief, to me, perfectly represents how unprincipled, contemptible, un-American, and freakishly censorious their entire threat scheme was. The complaint they served on Mr. Hawkins was incomplete — it cut off at the seventh page, so you can’t tell what’s in the prayer for relief — but here’s what they demand in the text of the injunctive relief cause of action:

35. . . . . Injunctive action is necessary to prevent further expansion of Defendant Hawkins’ comments. A temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction or a permanent injunction is necessary, as Defendant has refused to limit or remove postings.

36. Such injunctive action would need to apply all [sic] blogging and social media, as Defendant Hawkins has threatened he will repost all his material. It would also need to apply to all allied bloggers reposting Defendant Hawkins’ materials since several have explicitly offered to host him and maintain a copy of his blog. [Emphasis added]

That’s right — a Maine state legislator just suggested that a Maine court should issue an injunction prohibiting unnamed, unserved people — potentially including you — from re-posting what Mr. Hawkins had to say about Dr. Maloney.

And that was some of the nicer stuff he had to say.

Of course, Maloney isn’t the only reason I’m endorsing Banda. As it happens, I think Banda is more qualified for the job given his background. He has been involved with the DA’s office far more than Maloney and I believe he is a far more respected figure than she is. Moreover, this position is not one that is political in the same way a legislative job is. I think Banda recognizes that, whereas I’m not so sure Maloney does. (After all, she can’t seem to even recognize basic First Amendment rights.)

Vote Darrick Banda.

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Atheism is descriptive. Atheism is descriptive. Atheism is descriptive.

I feel like I’ve made this post about a thousand times, but there seems to be a constant need for it: Atheism is descriptive, not normative. It neither includes nor excludes any values. (It may exclude a basis for a particular value, but the value itself is not excluded.) There simply is no way it could, no more so than my belief that rocks are hard could bring me to think that ancient toolmaking methods are important things to know. I can think both of those things, but that doesn’t mean one flows from the other. If it did, then that would mean a person couldn’t logically think that because rocks are hard, ancient toolmaking is useless to know. Just the same, two people can be atheists and have mutually exclusive views on the importance of, say, religion.

Now, let me get to the inspiration for this post:

I’ve never heard of J. Michael Straczynski, but I saw this picture pop up on my Facebook feed. What ensued was an entirely dismaying discussion where a fellow atheist first contended that my argument comes down to semantics, then he said Straczynski was at most using imprecise language, and finally he made a status where he encouraged people to make statements that began, “As an atheist…” I’m convinced this person has not considered the difference between normative and descriptive positions.

Let’s look at the quote in the picture. The author is saying that as an atheist he believes life is precious, but that isn’t really true. He is an atheist and he believes life is precious, but he does not believe life is precious because he is an atheist. Indeed, the sequence here is exactly backwards. What led him to be an atheist is what led him to also believe life disappears forever after only a brief time. He may as well say, “As someone who knows the Sun is hot, I believe life is precious” or “As someone who knows rocks are hard, I believe life is precious” or “As someone who knows the scrotum of a goat makes for a delicious snack, I believe life is precious.” His second clause does not follow from his first clause.

One of the reasons this is so important is that, aside from it being absurd to say that any given value derives from atheism (on what frickin’ basis?), this is exactly the same reasoning Christians and others use when they argue that Stalin did what he did because he was an atheist. That is, they are saying there are certain values a person must either include or exclude (or both) because of atheism. When that person, so the argument goes, comes to great power, Stalin is a logical result. And they would at least have a valid premise if atheism was actually normative.

Good thing it’s only descriptive.

I think the above argument makes a pretty solid case for why Straczynski’s statement is completely incoherent, but my favorite thought experiment on this matter is this one: Imagine I have in my hand a quote. This quotes comes from someone living in Anywhere, USA. The person may be black, white, male, female, born in the US, an immigrant, tall, short, fat, skinny, beautiful, ugly, smart, dumb, polite, crass, young, old, whatever. We have no facts about this person or his/her background. Not a single thing. All we know is what is contained within the quote. It is as follows: “I am an atheist, therefore I believe…” Now try to finish that sentence.

Go ahead. Try.

Yet another Halloween note

My advice last year was not to be cheap. The year before I advised people to give out Twix. This year I want to talk about slutty sexy cats:

Sure, a lot of us appreciate this costume when we see it, but look. It isn’t anything remotely new. It’s been done millions of times; it has to go. I mean, surely there is some other organism in the animal kingdom that lends itself to the excuse to flaunt one’s self, right? For instance:

Get a modified lion’s mane, some short-shorts, and half a shirt and I think we’ve got ourselves a new costume trend.