Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Wednesday, August 25, 2004

    The first thing we do...

    ...well, I'm friends with a few lawyers, so I won't suggest we shoot them all. But I like John Silveira's comments about jury-stacking and such:

    “Make losing plaintiffs compensate the defendants, and stop allowing the lawyers to stack our juries,” Mac said.

    “Juries aren’t just there for the defendant and the plaintiff, they’re there to represent all of us. We can’t have lawyers making policy for us with handpicked juries meant just to benefit them.

    “And then there’s one more thing,” he added. “We have to make it harder for anyone to get out of jury duty. We need a true cross-section of people of juries, not just those who can’t figure out how to get out of jury duty.”

    And I'll just add to that the need for jury nullification, and we'll be set, at least as far as a judicial system goes.

    Posted by Tom, 8/25/2004 7:19:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Bush to win?

    Economic forecasting says yes, but not by much. The gambling community at seems to hold a concurrent opinion.

    Posted by Tom, 8/25/2004 7:19:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    One of those quotes...

    ...that makes you really ponder the underlying philosophical context:

    "And would you force me to buy a new rug? I never keep one I've killed a friend on; the stains make me gloomy."

    From Glory Road, the latest Heinlein I've been reading. Not his best work by a long shot, but it has its moments.

    Posted by Tom, 8/25/2004 7:18:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, August 20, 2004

    What's wrong with the church today?

    Crap like this:

    An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion (search) declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.

    Props to Rachel Lucas.

    Posted by Tom, 8/20/2004 7:13:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Moore ticks off veteran

    So what else is new? Well, it appears that Moore used this particular veteran in his propaganda piece, Fahrenheit 9/11. Check it out.

    Posted by Tom, 8/20/2004 6:51:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    The movie you see depends on your agenda

    This is a pretty interesting review of Alien vs. Predator (warning: Spoilers), but I think the guy might have been reading a bit too much into the story.

    Posted by Tom, 8/20/2004 6:49:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, August 18, 2004

    Sooner or later...

    ... you have to wonder when Microsoft's business plan will include the word "harakiri" as a primary bullet point.

    Posted by Tom, 8/18/2004 9:47:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...


    From Seattle:

    A woman whose husband killed their grandson before then killing himself has suggested a 5-day waiting period for handgun purchases should be extended to include those guns purchased from private sellers.

    Of course 2nd Amendment freaks think that's unconstitutional.

    But then those kind of people think .38 caliber pistols make great baby shower gifts.

    I think changing the law should be a no-brainer, which - given our legislature and the NRA - means that's not likely.

    Of course it's a no-brainer. If you think such a policy would do anything beneficial, you have no brain.

    Posted by Tom, 8/18/2004 6:46:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    Heinlein and religion

    I have been on the lookout for any more in Heinlein's stories that gives some indication as to his view of religious matters. Sixth Column had a very little bit, but was mostly "religion as a tool". Heinlein has mentioned religion elsewhere (Tunnel in the Sky), but has never really gotten into a detailed discussion for the reader's benefit, at least not in the stories I'd read up until now.

    Well, I just realized that I had a copy of Revolt in 2100 / Methuselah's Children laying around and hadn't read it yet. Revolt in 2100 is a story about a revolution against a theocratic dictatorship. In the midst of preparing for the revolution, we find two of the central characters discuss matters of faith:

    He grinned wryly. "Go ahead, give me your usual lecture. It'll make you feel better."

    "Now look here, Zeb, I wasn't criticizing. I suppose it's just one of the many things I've been wrong about."

    "Oh, no. It's a dirty, filthy habit that ruins my wind and stains my teeth and may eventually kill me off with lung cancer." He took a deep inhalation, let the smoke trickle out of the corners of his mouth, and look profoundly contented. "But it just happens that I like dirty, filthy habits."

    He took another puff. "But it's not a sin and my punishment for it is here and now, in the way my mouth tastes each morning. The Great Architect doesn't give a shout in Sheol about it. Catch on, old son? He isn't even watching."

    "There is no need to be sacrilegious."

    "I wasn't being so."

    "You weren't, eh? You were scoffing at one of the most fundamental -- perhaps the one fundamental -- proposition in religion: the certainty that God is watching!"

    Who told you?"

    For a moment, all I could do was to sputter. "Why, it isn't necessary. It's an axiomatic certainty. It's--"

    "I repeat,
    who told you? See here, I retract what I said. Perhaps the Almighty is watching me smoke. Perhaps it is a mortal sin and I will burn for it for eons. But who told you? Johnnie, you've reached the point where you are willing to kick the Prophet out and hang him to a tall, tall tree. Yet you are willing to assert your own religious convictions and to use them as a touchstone to judge my conduct. So I repeat: who told you? What hill were you standing on when the lightning came down from Heaven and illuminated you? Which archangel carried the message?"

    I did not answer at once. I could not. When I did it was with a feeling of shock and cold loneliness. "Zeb ... I think I understand you at last. You are an -- atheist. Aren't you?"

    Zeb looked at me bleakly. "Don't call me an atheist," he said slowly, "unless you are really looking for trouble."

    "Then you aren't one?" I felt a wave of relief, although I still didn't understand him.

    "No, I am not. Not that it is any of your business. My religious faith is a private matter between me and my God. What my inner beliefs are you will have to judge by my actions ... for you are not invited to question me about them. I decline to explain them nor to justify them to you. Nor to anyone ... not the Lodge Master ... nor to the Grand Inquisitor, if it comes to that."

    "But you do believe in God?"

    "I told you so, didn't I? Not that you had any business asking me."

    "Then you must believe in other things?"

    "Of course I do! I believe that a man has an obligation to be merciful to the weak ... patient with the stupid ... generous with the poor. I think he is obliged to lay down his life for his brothers, should it be required of him. But I don't propose to prove any of those things; they are beyond proof. And I don't demand that you believe as I do."

    I let out my breath. "I'm satisfied, Zeb."

    Instead of looking pleased he answered. "That's mighty kind of you, brother, mighty kind! Sorry -- I shouldn't be sarcastic. But I had no intention of asking for your approval. You goaded me -- accidentally, I'm sure -- into discussing matters that I never intend to discuss." He stopped to light up another of those stinking cigarettes and went on more quietly. "John, I suppose that I am, in my own cantankerous way, a very narrow man myself. I believe very strongly in freedom of religion -- but I think that that freedom is best expressed as freedom to keep quiet. From my point of view, a great deal of openly expressed piety is insufferable conceit."


    "Not every case -- I've known the good and the humble and the devout. But how about the man who claims to know what the Great Architect is thinking? The man who claims to be privy to His Inner Plans? It strikes me as sacrilegious conceit of the worst sort -- this character probably has never been any closer to His Trestle Board than you or I. But it makes him feel good to claim to be on chummy terms with the Almighty, it builds his ego, and lets him lay down the law to you and me. Pfui! Along comes a knothead with a loud voice, an I.Q. around 90, hair on his ears, dirty underwear, and a lot of ambition. He's too lazy to be a farmer, too stupid to be an engineer, too unreliable to be a banker -- but, brother, can he pray! After a while he has gathered around him other knotheads who don't have his vivid imagination and self-assurance but like the idea of having a direct line to Omnipotence. Then this character is no longer Nehemiah Scudder but the First Prophet."

    Zeb is the "Heinlein character", which one finds in almost all of his stories, and as such would presumably be most reflective of Heinlein's actual beliefs. Anyway, I don't know if my readers are as intrigued by all this as I am, but I find Heinlein's view fascinating. It doesn't leave much room for spreading one's faith, although I suppose St. Francis of Assisi's admonition to preach the gospel through action rather than word could work here.

    Posted by Tom, 8/12/2004 7:03:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, August 11, 2004

    Chortle, guffaw...

    U.S. Military Clears A-Team of Charges

    Posted by Tom, 8/11/2004 6:50:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, August 9, 2004

    Ah, so you're an optimist...

    John Kerry will lose this election, and he will do so decisively. The defeat will go down as perhaps the only thing this candidate has ever done decisively.

    Oh wait, this is a view from the right. Never mind.

    Still, it's kinda funny.

    Posted by Tom, 8/9/2004 7:48:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, August 5, 2004

    What monopoly?

    HP ships the first Linux notebook. Despite the disparaging remarks made on the page by grumpy ne'er-do-wells, this is only the beginning. I predict more and more Linux products coming out in the future, as Microsoft gets more and more alienated from the user population. Longhorn? Pshaw.

    Posted by Tom, 8/5/2004 6:31:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    And the winner is...

    ...George W. Bush, according to the market-style betting pool over at

    Posted by Tom, 8/5/2004 6:30:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, August 4, 2004

    Third time's the charm

    So now 3 separate juries have found in favor of Beretta on this stupid lawsuit.

    This was the third time the case had been tried. The lawsuit was filed in 1995 on behalf of the parents of Dix by lawyers from Handgun Control Inc. (since renamed as Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence). Handgun Control Inc. tried to claim Beretta was at fault for not having included a built-in lock and for not providing more warnings by having a different "loaded chamber indicator" feature than the one on the firearm.


    When a firearm owner leaves his unlocked, loaded pistol where his teenage son can find it, and when that son fails to check the firing chamber -- something he knew how to do -- to see if the gun is loaded, then pointed the pistol at a friend, disengaged the safety lever and then pulled the trigger, it should be obvious that human carelessness, not a pistol design, caused the accident.

    Please oh please let the next judge just tell them to shut up and go away.

    Posted by Tom, 8/4/2004 7:29:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...