So, why do we celebrate birthdays? And what's the deal with the law of birthdays? Well, of course, the date of one's birth matters for things such as when one is allowed to drive, and get married, and disavow contracts, and be tried as an adult, and BTW start school. If you're not automatically a certain age, I understand, you can't start kindergarten or first grade--you have to wait under the next year--or be certified by the school psychologist as "mature enough" to enter with the cohort roughly the same age as you. Hence, the sitcom episodes about "being held back" and "being nearly a year older than the rest of the kids in the class." This is rough when one is young and can't go to school with one's friends. It used to be done routinely when I was in elementary school. I gather it is not done so routinely now.
Once young people turn 18, they're adults, and their grades, medical records and in some cases insurance become their concern.
Ah, the magic of being a certain age--on a particular day and year. On the day before, you are not legally permitted to drive or drink or go to war and kill (legally) because your country wants you to do so. And on that day, you are.
Here's a post from the Volokh Conspiracy on the law of birthdays.
Oh, dear. Here's another one. Willie Geist brings us Jesus in a frying pan--in the grease left after cooking up a cheeseburger, to be precise. Check here. In the grease? Now, I find this just a little bit inappropriate, but that's just me.
The BBC reports that a Burundi court has sentenced one person to life in prison, eight others to jail terms, and acquitted three others in cases over the murders of 12 persons suffering from albinism. The motive for the murders is believed to have been the desire to market body parts for use in witchcraft. Some individuals in Burundi believe that the body parts of persons suffering from albinism can be used successfully to cast spells. Read more here. See also this prior post.
Here. In addition, check out Lucy's attempt to explain Penn & Teller and David Copperfield to Mr. Deity.
I really like the Mr. Deity series. Let's ignore the minor blips, such as the mispronunciation of St. Augustine (it's St. Augustin, as in the metal) and, the mistaken reference to the Immaculate Conception in "Mr. Deity and the Really Cheap Meal." In Roman Catholic doctrine that event refers to the birth of the Virgin to St. Anne, so that Mary would be without sin and thus could give birth to Jesus. It is not a reference to the conception of Jesus.
Via his blog Res Ipsa Loquitur, Jonathan Turley discusses a recent ruling by a Michigan appellate court in the case of the Reverend Edward Pickney.
Rev. Pickney was apparently annoyed with Judge Alfred Butzbaugh over the way that the judge had handled that Judge Butzbaugh had his case (Rev. Pickney was convicted in an election fraud case and given five years probation). As part of his probation Rev. Pickney was to "refrain from “defamatory and demeaning” communications."
Well, of course things went from bad to worse. Rev. Pickney did not refrain. Instead, he wrote an article in which he included the following:
Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and over take thee; cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist.
At a probation revocation hearing, another judge (Judge Butzbaugh having recused himself) took testimony from a United Methodist Church minister who explained that the "demon" paragraph was undoubtedly derived from Deuteronomy. The minister went on to explain that "Deuteronomy described a covenant between God and men and that the curses are visited upon men by God." Enough, said the judge. Probation revoked.
Reverend Pickney appealed. The appellate court examined the conditions of his probation, which included a prohibition on "engaging in defamatory and demeaning communications. The condition was a blanket prohibition on such behavior; defendant was prohibited from making defamatory or demeaning communications about any person, including coworkers, neighbors, and congregants. Such a blanket prohibition is not directly related to defendant’s rehabilitation of the election law crimes he committed, which impugned the integrity of the electoral process, or to the public’s protection from a repetition of the crimes. Crandon, supra at 128.37[.] Prohibiting defendant from engaging in any defamatory or demeaning communications is not primarily directed at preventing defendant from engaging in subsequent crimes that impugn the electoral process. Moreover, a prohibition on defamatory and demeaning communications could be narrowly tailored so that it relates directly to the election law crimes committed by defendant. For example, defendant could be prohibited from engaging in any defamatory or demeaning communications regarding Yarbrough and the other city commissioners." Here's the opinion in full.
Restrictions on speech reversed. The judge will have to put up with having demons called out upon him.
Here's more from the Michigan Messenger in an article dated July 16. The local prosecutor told the Messenger, "In retrospect, after reading all the briefs and case law I just felt that there was too much intermeshing of First Amendment and religious content. I wasn’t convinced myself that this constituted a threat. That would be possible only if you believe that Rev. Pinkney has some great power over God and the Divine One and he clearly doesn’t. Under these circumstances the argument that the defense made that it is hyperbole is probably accurate."
Here's a link to the Michigan ACLU's statement on the case. It says in part,
“The Court of Appeals opinion reaffirms the basic American value that citizens cannot be imprisoned for criticizing government officials or expressing their religious beliefs,” said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director. “To our knowledge, this case marks the first time in modern history that a preacher has been thrown in prison for predicting what God might do.”
The ACLU statement also has links to the Michigan Court of Appeals decision, and to various briefs filed in the case.
In today's New York Times Magazine, a story about Radovan Karadzic, who used the alias Dragan Dabic, attempting to hide from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. During his period in hiding, Mr. Karadzic professed interest in alternative energy fields and alternative medicine and attained a certain celebrity, probably not a good idea for someone who wanted to avoid the attention of war crimes tribunals and investigative journalists. Read more here in Jack Hitt's article.
Two days after an Oregon jury found a father guilty of a misdemeanor for failing to seek medical treatment in the death of his fifteen month old daughter, a Wisconsin father goes on trial on similar and more serious charges. Dale Neumann faces trial for reckless homicide in the death of his daughter Madeline (Kara) Neumann. He and his wife Leilani failed to seek conventional medical treatment for Kara, relying instead on faith healing. Leilani was convicted of the charges earlier this year and could be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Readers might be interested in podcasts and downloads from The Skeptic Zone, The Podcast From Australia for Science and Reason. The Skeptic Zone folks have interviewed Jamy Ian Swiss (July 24, 2009), Simon Singh (July 3, 2009), Richard Wiseman (March 6, 2009), and James "The Amazing" Randi (December 5, 2008), among other extremely interesting people. Podcasts also include discussions of psychics, pseudoscience, and other fascinating issues.