Archive for April, 2010


A Humanistic Approach to Crime

I recommend Mark Kleiman’s book, When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment.

Kleiman is a liberal, but it would be best to characterize this book as centrist, or perhaps radical centrist, as it departs from liberal orthodoxies even as it challenges conservative orthodoxies.

The United States imprisons people at a greater rate than any other country, which is kind of amazing in the “land of the free.” Yet there really is a lot of crime in this country–even if you exclude victimless drug offenses–so something has to be done.

Kleiman’s main point is to propose changes to the system of probation, to make it more effective and thereby a legitimate alternative to incarceration. In most states, the probation system is poorly thought out, and doesn’t effectively deter people from further offenses that get them thrown into prison. Kleiman talks about a program in Hawaii that makes probationers know more clearly when their next offense will lead to prison, and this certainty has a deterrent effect–leading to less imprisonment.
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Supreme Court and Secularism

NPR web site has an article about the religious makeup of the Supreme Court. It mentions that of the nine Supreme Court Justices, six are Catholic, two are Jewish, and one has said he will probably retire. So depending on who Obama chooses to replace him, it is possible that the Supreme Court might have no Protestant Justices.

More than a problem of religious diversity, to me, is the problem that not all of the Justices feel the need for a secularist approach. I don’t mind a Justice being religious, as long as he is a secularist on the Bench. As a secularist, they would agree that religion not be banned or outlawed from all Justices, but just that no religious argument would be given consideration when deciding a case. We do not have secularist Justices and so, to me, we do not have real justice.

Shall we set up a pool as to when the first Atheist/Humanist/Naturalist Supreme Court Justice might be picked?

David Kimball


If You Think The ACLU Is Unpopular…

The Mississippi ACLU has rejected a gift from Humanists to pay for a prom open to gays and lesbians.

To avoid further controversy, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi has rejected a $20,000 gift intended to underwrite an alternate prom replacing one canceled by a local school district after a lesbian student demanded that she be allowed to attend with her girlfriend.

The gift, to sponsor one of several privately sponsored alternate events, came from the American Humanist Association, an advocacy group whose mission is to promote “good without God.”

“Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’ ” Jennifer Carr, the fund-raiser for the A.C.L.U of Mississippi, wrote in an e-mail message to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the humanist group.