Just a Little Common Sense

For a life based on reason, ethics, literature and art.

Archive for August 2010

Denver: Highway-Memorials Ruled Unconstitutional

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The Deseret News has an article on an interesting case this week: An Atheist group in Denver filed a lawsuit to remove memorial-crosses from the highway, and they won.

DENVER — The white, roadside crosses that currently memorialize the deaths of 14 Utah Highway Patrol troopers are unconstitutional, government endorsements of religion on public lands, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

“We hold that these memorials have the impermissible effect of conveying to the reasonable observer the message that the state prefers or otherwise endorses a certain religion,” the court wrote in siding with the Texas-based American Atheists, Inc.

In 2005, the atheist group sued the Utah Highway Patrol and the Utah Highway Patrol Association, a private entity aimed at supporting troopers and their families, to get the crosses taken off state lands.

On Wednesday, 10th Circuit judges David M. Ebel, Harris L. Hartz and Deanell Reece Tacha ruled the white crosses violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

August 19, 2010 at 10:37

Iran: Over 70 People Executed in Mashad

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The following report was published yesterday, August 15th 2010, by the Human Rights House Of Iran, RAHANA.

RAHANA – It has been reported that some of these individuals arrested in relation to drug trafficking, had been handed down sentences that did NOT include the death penalty and had only been fined. Despite these sentences, they were executed suddenly and without prior notice based on a judicial order.

picture courtesy of iranian.com

Archive picture

According to reports by Iran Green Voice, the reason behind this sudden decision to execute has not been provided by the judiciary, however, there is speculation that the order was executed by Intelligence and Security Institutions. Previously, based on a similar case in the city of Mashhad at the start of the 1st term of Ahmadinejad’s presidency when ties between high-ranking security officials and a drug trafficking group were exposed, more than 60 people (mainly citizens of Torbat-e Jam and Taibad) associated with that case file were also suddenly executed. At that time, a number of the relatives of the security forces in question were also executed.

It is worth mentioning that based on received reports, this last round of executions included names of individuals under the age of 18.

Ahmad Eghbal, political activist arrested on December 21st, 2009 and released after 170 days in prison on June 10th, 2010, on approximately 48,000 USD bail made the following statement in court during his defense: “During my three-month incarceration at ward 6/1 at Vakil Abad prison, based on confirmed information I heard from the prison officials and crew, more than 50 individuals were transferred to ward 6/1 and later executed. However, at one point when 31 individuals were executed, the Justice Department and Information Ministry in Khorasan informed a news paper in Khorasan that only 5 international drug traffickers had been executed.”

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to execute its citizens despite international protests against such actions. The reported number of executions in prisons across Iran is still extremely high.

via freedomessenger.com

It is not even an exceptional story. The Iranian regime does stuff like this on a daily basis – just go to freedomessenger.com or the Rahana homepage to get a taste. And do keep in mind that these are only the fraction of the stories that the agencies and activists of Iran judge newsworthy enough to be translated into english. These are only the spectacular cases. What absolutely astonishes me is the utter disregard the regime shows for its international reputation. They just do not seem to care at all. The only thing that astonishes me even more it the complete lack of action from the west. There is not even a word of condemnation, and Iran’s seat in the UN Human Rights Council remains unchallenged.

Stories like this one do not even make the news over here. There we have a regime that didn’t even bother trying to cover up the rigging of its election, which is bad enough in itself, and a few days ago they executed over 70 people – few of them under the age of 18, most of them without even a justification, all of them without proper trial – and the rest of the world just looks on and does nothing.
And no, I’m not one of those calling for an invasion. But I do ask that we display the minimum of concern and put some political pressure on the regime. We cannot let them go on spitting in the face of the very idea of Human Rights like that. Condemn the actions that are taking place, ask for justification, acknowledge the reports of human rights organizations. I urge everyone to raise awareness of the situation. Spread the word, write to your political representative and news stations and ask them to take a stand.

A Grandmaster of Sarcasm

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There is a new member in my top-ten humorous websites: 27bslash6. It consists mainly of David Thorne’s correspondence. Usually he receives a request, a bill or whatever else people mail to him, and he’ll respond with a mix of absolutely acid sarcasm and completely random made-up anecdotes that have nothing to do with whatever is being asked from him. He posts those exchanges on his website, and some of them are absolutely hilarious.
There is, for example, an exchange with his son’s school chaplain, asking to grant his son the permission to attend a bible-play outside the school grounds. On that permission slip is a picture of a little easter-bunny carrying a giant egg, beneath it is a drawing of Jesus carrying his cross. Handily, the “yes” box is already ticked.
Here is what Dave’s reply looks like:

From: David Thorne
Date: Wednesday 10 March 2010 7.12pm
To: Darryl Robinson
Subject: Permission Slip

Dear Darryl,
I have received your permission slip featuring what I can only assume is a levitating rabbit about to drop an egg on Jesus.
Thank you for pre-ticking the permission box as this has saved me not only from having to make a choice, but also from having to make my own forty five degree downward stroke followed by a twenty percent longer forty five degree upward stroke. Without your guidance, I may have drawn a picture of a cactus wearing a hat by mistake.
As I trust my offspring’s ability to separate fact from fantasy, I am happy for him to participate in your indoctrination process on the proviso that all references to ‘Jesus’ are replaced with the term ‘Purportedly Magic Jew.’

Regards, David.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

August 13, 2010 at 04:37

Six Wasted Hours

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I just spent six hours(!) sitting on my window-sill, watching the street for the arrival of a Telekom technician, who was supposed to fix my phone and internet today. (For now, I am still accessing the net via an unsecured wireless network from across the street, which gives me connection for some three minutes a time, before it breaks down and I have to re-connect to gain connection for another three minutes)
In case you’re wondering why I spent the time sitting at the window: That’s because my phone is not the only thing around here that’s broken – my doorbell is, too.
Brilliant as they are, the Telekom wouldn’t be more specific about the time of arrival than “between 8am and 4pm”. About 30 minutes ago, after six hours of waiting, I received a text-message telling me that “the appointment could not be realized today”. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

August 11, 2010 at 15:11

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

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Hitchens talks about death, and I haven’t yet heard anybody talk about this topic in a way that resonated so strongly with me.

Even undergoing chemo-therapy that already cost him 7 pounds and most of his hair, Hitchens is as strong as ever. There is no denial, but no fatalism either. He knew about the possible consequences of his lifestyle from the very beginning – it was a risk he took consciously. Of course he isn’t exactly happy when contemplating that he might not live to see his children married, or that the plans he made for the next decade probably just won’t happen. “But”, he writes, “I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity. […] To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?”

Under the following link you’ll find a video of Hitchens getting interviewed by CNN’s Aderson Cooper.

He is not resigned, but at the same time he remains realistic. He knows that his chances are slim, but he also knows that there is no point in whining and self-pitying. I think it’s an admirable serenity. Here is a man who has come to terms with his mortality a long time ago. “I knowingly [burned] the candle at both ends”, he says, “finding that it often gives a lovely light.”

Written by Phil

August 6, 2010 at 19:05

Posted in Humanism, Opinions

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Update on Stuff in General

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I just finished doing a short interview with Hemley Gonzales, founder of the Facebook-group STOP the Missionaries of Charity, and currently one of Mother Teresa’s loudest critics. As Mother Teresa’s 100th birthday is coming up on August 26th, I was planning to write an article in German about her, and try to get it published and circulated as far as I could.
The whole project has been greatly retarded by my dying computer. Originally I planned to have it finished sometime last week. Unfortunately, my computer keeps breaking down, shutting down without warning, and just generally misbehaving in various ways all of which are greatly annoying. Also my internet connection is broken, the technician is due to fix this on the 11th of this month, which was the earliest appointment they could offer me when I called them up almost three weeks ago. The appointment is now confirmed, and the technician will arive “between 8 am and 4 pm.” Oh, wow. I wonder if he’ll be on time.

Anyhow. The interview with Hemley is done, and while it sure as heck isn’t a masterpiece of journalism due to my advanced state of exhaustion, lack of experience and general incompetence, and was interrupted thrice by my connection breaking down, I have enough information to make a nice introduction for the article. I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going.

Written by Phil

August 5, 2010 at 01:51

Posted in Unrelated

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