Saturday, June 10, 2006

My Quiz's Answer Key

I’d like to thank everybody who took the time to take the How Similar Are You To Me test. I thought the results were very interesting, in that most of my readership fell somewhere in the 70% range. But, I suppose that was to be expected, given my unique set of issue positions and my rather lonely stance that morality is all a matter of individual opinion. In case anybody was wondering why they scored as they did, I figured I’d post an “answer key.” This answer key should give a substantial insight into my ideology, and perhaps provoke an interesting debate.

Here are the answers, in question order.

1. “Abortion rights?”

I strongly support them. I believe the right to abort a fetus should be unlimited and absolute. I support no restrictions on the procedure, including ones with respect to age or “term.”

2. “Gay Marriage?”

I strongly support it. Indeed, there is not a single good argument to be made against gay marriage. The objections are all rooted in the Bible, which isn’t to be trusted on matters scientific, historical or rational.

3. “Death Penalty?”

I staunchly oppose it. The system is terminally fallible. People (a great number of them) have been exonerated while sitting on death row waiting to be executed. Even one innocent being executed would be too much.

4. “School Prayer?”

I strongly oppose it. Prayer is a meaningless and irrational activity. There is no God with which to communicate. As such, praying is just talking to yourself – an activity with no measurable benefit.

5. “Legal Euthanasia?”

I strongly support this. And, I don’t limit my support to terminally ill individuals, either. If a man stubs his toe, and he can’t live with the pain, he should be allowed to be euthanized, if he so chooses. It’s called bodily sovereignty.

6. “Gun Rights?”

I support them. However, I also support background checks, including at gun shows. The types of restrictions that I oppose relate to safety locks, licensing, weapon bans, mandatory training courses, etc.

7. “Free Trade?”

I strongly support it. I also oppose linking human rights to free trade deals. The global community should be one huge marketplace. With that, the lowest priced, highest quality goods will prevail in the end. Higher prices and lower quality will fall by the wayside.

8. “Foreign Aid?”

I oppose it in almost all cases. Countries should stand up on their own two feet, not be dependent upon other countries. Foreign aid is simply huge-scale welfare, and I oppose welfare on all scales.

9. “International Interventionism?”

I strongly oppose this. What goes on in Iraq, Kosovo, Vietnam, Rwanda, Sudan, etc. is none of the United States’ business. The US military should be used strictly for pursuing direct US interests.

10. “Leaving Iraq Immediately?”

I strongly endorse this. The Iraq War was a mistake the likes of which we haven’t seen since Vietnam. George Bush should pull all the troops out immediately. Then, he should issue a global apology for starting a war based upon false pretenses. Then, he should resign.

11. “Welfare?”

Strongly oppose. Already covered in the Foreign Aid response.

12. “Public Health Spending?”

Strongly oppose. There is no “right” to healthcare. Healthcare is a service – a service one must pay for with money. It is not the government’s role to dole out healthcare to the citizenry; it would only give the government more leverage to interfere in people’s lives.

13. “School Vouchers?”

Strongly oppose them. They undercut the public education system and rob it of needed funds. Moreover, vouchers also are often connected with religious schools, which teach misinformation.

14. “Strong Public Education System?”

Strongly support. This country depends upon having an intelligent citizenry. With strong education, bad ideas will perish and religion will be exposed. Without public education, religious schools likely would gain influence.

15. “Arctic Drilling?”

Strongly support. I have one concern with respect to oil: Ending our dependence upon the Middle East. Only when we are oil-independent will we be able to leave that whole region to its own devices. This relates directly to my isolationist position.

16. “God?”


17. “The Supernatural?”


18. “Ghosts, Haunted Houses, Possession, etc?”

No more rational than the Tooth Fairy.

19. “Objective, Generally Applicable Morality?”

It does not exist. Morality is a coherent term only when taken in the context of “to me.” Outside that individual context, it’s wholly incoherent.

20. “Morality Can Be Divorced From Opinion...”

Never. Morality IS an individual’s opinion. To say, “Action A is immoral” is really to say, “In my opinion, Action A is wrong.” Morality cannot be divorced from opinion because morality is opinion.

21. “Like George W. Bush?”

Yeah, right. Bush is quite possibly the worst US president ever. Certainly, he’s the worst of the last 100 years.

22. “Like Penn and Teller?”

Very much. I agree with them almost 90% of the time. They are unfailingly rational, logical, science-minded and irreverent.

23. “Government that governs least governs best?”


24. “I believe some things without hard evidence...”

Never. Without hard evidence, everything is doubtful. Hard evidence is the only method by which real knowledge can be attained.

25. “It is appropriate for government to protect me from myself.”

Never. We’re adults, not kindergarten children. The government must never protect us from ourselves. Similarly, the government must never enact laws that are “for our own good.” That, too, would be an element of the “nanny state,” which I so strongly oppose.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Take this quiz!

Ladies, gentlemen and avid readers of all ages, pull up a chair and sit down for a quiz like no other! This afternoon, I created an OKCupid quiz that reveals to what degree your views are similar to my views. In 25 questions, I cover politics, religion and philosophy.

I strongly encourage everybody to take it!

As of this writing, nobody has scored higher than the mid-70s, with many falling below 50%. That, of course, doesn't surprise me; the United States is noticeably lacking in atheist libertarians.

Be sure to post your scores!

By the way, it seems that OKCupid forces you to register after you've answered the questions but before you see your final score. No worries - you can make the information up! They don't even verify the email address.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Week in Review Special Edition: Haditha

Generally speaking, “Week in Review” will cover a few stories – at least two. This time, I’m preoccupied with one news item, summed up in a single word we’ve all unfortunately come to know: Haditha. Not only does the story enrage me, but this is exacerbated by the raving right-wingers at FOX News (such as Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson) who actually defend the butchery of innocent civilians. For anybody not up to speed on this story—a scandal that makes Abu Ghraib look innocent in comparison—I will provide a snippet of news coverage.

A US military investigation is expected to conclude that a unit of marines killed 24 civilians, among them women and children, in retaliation for the death of a comrade, reports published in America yesterday said.

If confirmed when the official findings are published next week, the incident would be the worst war crime committed by US forces in Iraq.

Though on a smaller scale, it will inevitably spark comparisons with the massacre of up to 500 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968. Citing Congressional, military and Pentagon officials, the reports in US newspapers said investigators had unearthed a catalogue of abuses so serious it is likely an as yet unspecified number of marines will be charged with murder.

John Kline, the Republican Congressmen for Minnesota who is a retired marine colonel, was briefed on the findings. "This was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians," he told the New York Times. "This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity."

A new investigation is also to be launched to determine if any of the men's superior officers tried to cover up the killings after it was first reported that the deaths were the result of a roadside bomb or a crossfire.

Source: Here

OK, before I start on this issue, I must admit that these are only allegations at this point. But, from all indications, this unfortunately isn’t a fairy tale invented by the left-wing media. People with inside knowledge are bracing for the worst; the facts are incredibly damning. The rest of this post will assume the gist of the story is true.

If there’s any bright spot in this breaking story, it’s that murder charges are being considered. For years and years, Saddam Hussein was referred to as the Butcher of Baghdad. Now, it is with great shame I give that nickname to every marine involved in this atrocity. The mindless slaughter of unarmed civilians is an act of cruel butchery, no different from the crimes for which David Berkowitz and Richard Ramirez rot in jail today. I reject the excuse that the marines in question were burned out on combat and simply “snapped.” A perfectly sane and compassionate individual doesn’t “snap” and mow down a row of pleading human beings. These marines must have had psychopathic tendencies, which apparently were simmering just below the surface. By the way, the same goes for those who would engage in torture, as was done at Abu Ghraib.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I staunchly oppose the death penalty, as well as all forms of punitive torture. I will not throw away my principles to make an exception in this case. With that said, assuming this story is true, this is about as close as I’ll ever come to endorsing use of capital punishment. Savages, cloaked in the American flag and masked in combat fatigues, saw fit to exterminate two-dozen pleading, crying civilians. Even as I type it, my blood boils in anger. No longer can we, as a country, condemn the insurgent butchers who behead innocent people. Innocents aren’t cherished by our side either; we just snuff them out via different means.

But these thugs are going to face serious criminal penalties, right? Doesn’t that distinguish us from them? That remains to be seen. We don’t have such a great record with respect to punishing those who commit wartime atrocities. Just look at the Vietnam War for prime examples. Following will be quotes from one of my college papers.

The most well known instance of American brutality might be March 16, 1968’s infamous My Lai Massacre. The following factual information comes from "My Lai Massacre,” a WGBH Educational Foundation Web site. The soldiers involved, from Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division, were in bad shape after losing many soldiers in brutal battles with an elusive enemy. Clearly, Lt. William Calley was uniquely disturbed.

Calley ordered his men to enter the village firing, though there had been no report of opposing fire. According to eyewitness reports offered after the event, several old men were bayoneted, praying women and children were shot in the back of the head, and at least one girl was raped, and then killed. For his part, Calley was said to have rounded up a group of the villagers, ordered them into a ditch, and mowed them down in a fury of machine gun fire.

By the time the firing ended permanently, more than 300 civilians were dead. The story broke in late 1969 but only one member of the unit was convicted for the My Lai slaughter--Calley. Unfortunately, the lieutenant was paroled after serving merely three-and-a-half years under house arrest. This kind of grossly irresponsible leniency on a mass murderer is sadly repeated over and over again, as more stories of Vietnam brutality break.

Continuing further on in the paper…

The other specific person to be singled out here is Sergeant Roy E. “the Bummer” Bumgarner. His case might be even more disturbing than that of Doyle since “the Bummer” clearly had a passion for killing and an unquenchable thirst for spilled blood. “According to a former commander, ‘the Bummer’ was rumored to have ‘personally killed over 1,500 people’ during a forty-two week stretch in Vietnam." His methods of achieving such an “honorable” body count included this gem:

According to investigation documents, Bumgarner and a subordinate rounded up three civilians found working in a rice paddy, marched them to a secluded area and murdered them. "The Bummer" then arranged the bodies on the ground with their heads together and a grenade was exploded next to them in an attempt to cover-up their crime. Assorted weapons were then planted near the mutilated corpses to make them appear to have been enemy troops.

The massive institutional irresponsibility of the government and particularly the military during this era shines through in all its ugliness when Bumgarner’s fate is explored. His punishment for crimes such as those was a manslaughter conviction that got him a rank demotion and a $582.00 fine over six months. Of course, after his wrist slapping, he re-enlisted in the armed forces and returned to Vietnam, just as he wished to.

As I wrote earlier, I’m glad to see that murder charges already are being mentioned. Without question, the alleged offense warrants them. The US’ oft-repeated claim of moral authority rests on justice being served in this case.

Then again, that moral authority might forever have been lost when we started a war based upon false pretenses. In any event, I don’t feel much like waving a flag anymore.