This Week's Reader December 14, 2008  

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Halo Around the Moon

Lick Observatory Moonrise

Civil Rights
Assisted Suicide
The film follows Craig Ewert, a 59 year old British professor who suffered from motor neurone disease (MND), a disease that attacks the neurons and cripples the person, causing them to have to live on a ventilator. Mr. Ewert decided to travel to a Swiss facility in order to take a lethal cocktail to end his life, after making peace with his family, and he allowed the process to be filmed for this broadcast. It is a crime to assist a suicide in the UK, which necessitated the trip to Switzerland.

Celebrate, Respect Human Rights
On Dec. 10, 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — a far-reaching, “living” document that applies to all people of the world. Today, the UN and nations around the world are celebrating the declaration’s 60th anniversary, while also acknowledging that a lot of work still needs to be done to protect and further human rights.

Jon Stewart smacks down Mike Huckabee on gay marriage
..."I'll tell you this: Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have for religion? We protect religion -- and talk about a lifestyle choice -- that is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay. At what age did you choose not to be gay?"

Torture in video-games -- a moral dilemma
Games writer and MUD inventor Richard Bartle was startled to discover that a new World of Warcraft mission includes the option of torturing a captive for information, using "some kind of cow poke." When he wrote critically about this, he was deluged with Warcraft-lovers who wanted him to, you know, chill out, it's only a game, you know. His thoughtful response raises a lot of difficult and meaty questions about fantasy play.

Editorial: FCC Commisioner wants DRM, ISP filtering, new job

Five commissioners head the Federal Communications Commission. Most of its decisions remain arcane and of interest only to specialists, but this year alone, the Commission has taken assertive steps against certain P2P throttling techniques and in favor of white space devices in high-profile cases have a direct impact on your end-user Internet experience. So, when one of the five commissioners gives a speech (PDF) in which DRM is praised as "very effective," ISP filtering is portrayed as a Great Leap Forward, and a government partnership with the RIAA to "educate" schoolkids is promoted, it matters. Fortunately, however, it won't matter for too much longer.

Fighting for peace
Myself, I've always been conflicted about military service. Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, one of the many 'rules' was NO MILITARY SERVICE. If you joined the military, you were turning you back on "God" and putting your faith in 'Man'. No matter what country you were in. They were really big on the whole "you'll find Catholics killing Catholics and Protestants killing Protestants, but you'll never hear of JWs killing JWs"! I've always had a strong respect for those that choose to fight for the freedoms I enjoyed. I was hyper-aware, you might say, because I wasn't allowed that choice.

Well, I Swear!
I’ve wavered back and forth on the subject of swearing over the years. They’re only words, a fact I boldly, tediously proclaimed in my supposedly transgressive youth and sometimes need to remind myself now in middle age. I swear less than I used to. Not as little as my wife would prefer, of course, but still, like so many other youthful passions, less than in my salad days. I was admonished as a child that the use of profanity bespoke an impoverished vocabulary, a claim I knew to be false at the time. My vocabulary in school exceeded that of some of my teachers – yes, that sounds like terrible braggadocio, but it’s sadly true. Even then I knew that cursing, properly used, added power to one’s expressive range.

A Glimpse of the Garden
But despite its superficial advantage in motivating the flock, belief in hellfire more than loses out due to its horrendously evil implications. Carlton Pearson has glimpsed a better way - rejecting the moral absurdity of a God who permits innocent humans to suffer indescribably, then casts them into eternal damnation. He ought to take the next step and ask himself: why believe in a God that permits people, like those people in Rwanda, to suffer so terribly even during this life?

Chicks Drink. Blame Feminism.
The one thing Morris does almost get right is the role that sex plays in all of this. This will come as a shock to pearl-clutching journalists, but most women like sex. But despite all the other panicky articles about “hook-up culture” and how slutty chicks are these days, women are still judged more harshly than men for having multiple partners or short-term sexual affairs. So I suspect there are, in fact, a decent number of women who drink specifically to lower their inhibitions, and let themselves enjoy sex with a non-boyfriend.

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