FFrF Radio: Child Homicide; Archive: Secular Lobby

Podcast Link.
April 5, 2008When Prayer Fails: Child Homicide via Prayer

One year later, same subject, and Dan opens with the same joke. Ouch, Dan.

Theocracy Alert discusses Sen. Grassley’s inquiry into prosperity preachers and other subjects. The movie Fitna (sent to me by a friend a while back) warranted a discussion. Fitna could just as easily be about any of the three Abrahamic religions, at some period in their shared history. Religion, faith and willful ignorance in general is the problem, not just one specific religion.

Pagan Pulpit speaks to the subject of the episode, faith healing. Dan quotes James 5:13-15, and rightly points out that all prayers are supposed to be answered (several preachers have told me over the years “But sometimes the answer is no”; that’s not what the bible says) which calls the entirety of faith into question.

Shawn Francis Peters was the guest. His book When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law is his third book on the subject of religion and law. This interview delves more deeply into the issue of preventable diseases and the specific nature of the laws involved than last years interview with Rita Swan.

The activity of some of the parents involved really begs the question of why the legal obligation for children’s health care isn’t more stringently enforced in cases of religiously based neglect, than in other cases. The failure of god to deliver a miracle when it is prayed for can only be seen as a failure on the part of those doing the praying, if prayer is truly effective. A direct indictment if there ever was one.

“The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray”

Robert Green Ingersoll

2007 Archive episode.
April 7, 2007Secular Lobby in Congress

Lori Lipman Brown was the guest. She represents a resource that many people might find useful, The Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group in Washington DC that does pretty much what the name says, advances the secular nature of our government.

She discusses several issues that she was working on at the time; combating faith based initiatives, the Christian embassy at the Pentagon, etc. All disturbing examples of christians ignoring the Constitution and establishing religion within government.

Dan’s Pagan Pulpit challenges christians to document what happened on Easter Sunday, referencing their own holy works. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as Acts and 1st Corinthians. As Dan notes, Thomas Paine attempts to do this in The Age of Reason, and he was unable. I had not realized that the gospels varied this much myself, on the holiest of holy christian holidays.

FFrF Radio: Susan Jacoby & Rita Swan

Podcast Link.
March 29, 2008Special Guest: Author Susan Jacoby

The show starts with excerpts from Richard Dawkin’s television special The Root of All Evil(?)
A title Dawkins goes to great lengths to disavow every time the subject comes up. His words? “Religion is the root of a great many evils, but it’s not the root of all evil.” I think I’m quoting accurately. The program can be purchased from the FFRF online store; this was announced three weeks ago during the broadcast of Dawkins’ interview on Freethought Radio.

The Pagan pulpit deals with Bible passages that slander the unbelievers. Sticks and stones…

Susan Jacoby is a very engaging speaker. She was interviewed concerning her latest book, The Age of American Unreason. Her opinion is one that I generally find interesting, even if I don’t agree with it. The same mass media that she decries, I find very useful for informing myself. It’s all in what you watch and listen to, and how you filter it (for instance, if you think Rush Limbaugh is a news source, you’re one of the problems; if you would rather watch Dancing With the Stars instead of Dirty Jobs, you are also one of the problems) I was listening to infotainment on my Treo when I was listening to the Freethought Radio podcast while out on my walk. Yes, the dumbing down of America is disturbing. Yes, media has something to answer for in this. No, denying children access to television and their iPods is not going to remedy this situation.

[The Montessori school that my children first attended had a hang up when it came to technology. They were certain that children should not be exposed to screens. Television screens. Computer screens. It was a constant point of controversy between myself and the school. I have a word for people who are irrationally afraid of technology. I call them Luddites. This, of course, did not go over well at the school]

Her example of the attacks on Barack Obama by Clinton and others because he “speaks too good” are very telling points when it comes to the dumbing down of America (I blame the government schools) what to do about it remains an open question.

“Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.” -Abbie Hoffman

2007 Archive episode.

March 31, 2007Religious Dogma that Kills Kids

Rita Swan was the guest. Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty is her advocacy group. Over 40 states have laws on the books that give exemptions to parents and religious advisers who allow children to suffer and die because of religious belief.

Rita Swan’s story of why she is involved in this issue is worth the 40 minutes of time it takes to listen to this podcast.

The episode of Babylon 5 named Believers took up this issue several years ago. I bring this up because the subject is not nearly as clear cut as one might think. It’s related to many other issues surrounding the subject of children, and it really amounts to “how do you protect children from their own parents without turning the state into everyones parent?” I think the route suggested by Rita Swan is probably the proper middle way approach. Hold the parents accountable for a child’s death due to medical neglect. Render unto Caesar applies to these situations; whether your child dies because of your imperfect faith, or because diseases really do exist, your failure to do you duty by your child should be your responsibility.

Dan’s Sunday Morning Blues rounds up the episode on a lighter note, and Freethinkers Almanac brings it to a close.

FFrF Radio: Steven Pinker; Archive: Priest Abuse of Children

Podcast Link.

March 22, 2008Guest: Harvard Prof. Steven Pinker

As a salute to the Easter Holiday (which roughly equates to the Vernal Equinox) Dan discusses the origin of the word Easter, which is a corruption of the name for the goddess Ishtar-Astarte who later became more widely known as the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The Vernal Equinox heralds the return of spring, so the festivals of Spring naturally include fertility gods and symbols of fertility (like eggs and rabbits) since Spring represents the re-birth of the world from the death of Winter (at least in the far northern climates) The translator of the King James version of the bible substituted the word Easter for the word passover, and so popular celebrations of the day, which were pagan in nature, entered into the bible as a christian holiday.

Theocracy Alert contrasts the posturing of Obama’s pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright with the fundamentalist pastor, John C. Hagee, who endorsed John McCain. In that light, it’s pretty hard to figure out what all the fuss is about. Why don’t politicians’ keep their religious lives personal, here’s a good reason to stop wearing religion on their sleeves; a sentiment voiced by Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freethinkers Almanac features a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke, who died this week. The end of another SF era is upon us. So long, Arthur.

Steven Pinker has been on the show previously. The Stuff of Thought is his latest book. His interviews are always thought provoking.

As an authority whose testimony has been requested by the Council on Bioethics, Steven Pinker has a personal insight into the problems with the anti-science views of the Bush White House. Most troubling is the trumping of rights with the concept of dignity; as in the dignity of human stem cells, trumping the rights of scientists to explore the possibility for cures held within these special types of cells, and the rights of patients to receive treatments involving stem cells or transplantation.

The report Human Dignity and Bioethics produced by the council is especially problematic, producing what can only be seen as a religious test when it comes to perceptions of dignity.

“Nothing with gods, nothing with fate; weighty affairs will just have to wait.” -Stephen Sondheim, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

2007 Archive episode.

March 24, 2007Priest Abuse of Children

Every copy of Freethought Today, the newspaper of FFrF, features a blotter sheet on Black collar crime, which frequently involves children. Annie Laurie Gaylor was one of the first publishers in the modern age to bring attention to the crimes of men of the cloth (although in previous generations freethought publications were known for this) because, as the leader of FFrF, she received letters from individuals who were suffering at the hands of their religious leaders. After she realized how many such stories she had in her files, she decided that it was necessary for someone to publish these stories.

Joe McGee was the guest. His chronicle, No longer Catholic, No longer Quiet was published in the March 2006 edition of Freethought Today. If you want to know the details of what Joe went through at the hands of his priest (and also his family. His father was a devout Catholic who denied his family basic needs in order to be able to tithe larger amounts to the church) you’ll have to read the article or listen to the podcast. I’m not going to paraphrase any of it here. This was a hard episode to listen to. As the father of two children myself, the stories of child abuse were almost more than I could stomach.

Mercifully, the episode ends with one of Dan’s pagan pulpits. Dan fillet’s Paul Campos’ article Why there are almost no genuine atheists, starting with the observation that he might have been more enlightened on the subject of atheism if he had bothered to talk to one before writing his article. It almost gets the bad air of priest abuse of children out of the ears. Almost.

Philip Appleman reads Exegesis as the show ends. Definitely apropos.

Apache Tears – Hardcore History 20

Dan Carlin in his latest Hardcore History talks at length about the Apaches. I don’t want to be too critical here, but if the Apache were acting like your average highwayman (OK, super average highwayman) I’m not surprised they were nearly wiped out. You be the judge, go by the site and have a listen. Or pick up a copy of the reference works he cites, listed here. He had high praise for the works of Eve Ball, you might want to start there.

For myself, I have a passing interest in the subject. I’ve read Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, and I’ve read several accounts of Custer’s Last Stand, one or two from the native perspective.

If you are lazy, don’t think you can just watch the HBO film, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee and get the cliff notes version of the book. The movie is a lame adaptation of the book that tries to make a linear narrative out of the varying stories contained in the book, told from what is essentially one native’s point of view. There were several scenes imposed on the storyline that were meant to assuage the guilt of the white eyes, but they just end up sticking out like sore thumbs.

I have more of an interest in the architecture that the natives left behind (as you might imagine) consequently I’m more interested in relics of the Pueblo cultures than I am in nomads like the Apache. Still, a line from a podcast I listened to recently keeps echoing in my head, a lamentation that we had the misfortune to stumble across the last vestiges of a stone age culture, at a time when Western society was ill equipped to do anything other than destroy it. So much insight into our shared history could have been gained if we had only taken the time to study the American natives, instead of pursuing the genocidal goal of converting or killing them.

FFrF Radio: Being Good Without God

Podcast Link.

March 15, 2008Being good without God

A lengthy Theocracy Alert this week, with W. acting like the average buffoon that he has come to represent, warning about re-introduction of the fairness doctrine (amongst other things) which Annie Laurie Gaylor lamented loosing. Dan Barker at least made a stab at illustrating the reason that the fairness doctrine is nothing of the kind, dictating to someone what they can do with their property is hardly fair. I daresay that their station would not want to give equal time to Republican views, which would also be required under the fairness doctrine.

John C. Hagee of the Cornerstone church in San Antonio has endorsed McCain. Another good reason not to vote for McCain. Barak Obama was also caught pandering to the evangelicals, resulting in a re-airing of JFK’s moving speech on religion.

Dan’s Pagan pulpit highlights the reason that torture and violence are acceptable to the devout, reciting several passages from the Bible.

The major portion of the show was devoted to the discussion of morality in the absence of religion. Dan again outlines his minimize harm philosophy, which is good as far as it goes. I prefer the Golden Rule, as I state below (the previous episode, this week last year, also dealt with the subject of morality) I’ve also written a letter to a local representative on the subject of morality and religion entitled It’s called Philosophy.

Freethinkers Almanac honored Albert Einstein, who was born on Pi day.

The world is my country, to do good is my religion.

Thomas Paine

2007 Archive episode.

March 17, 2007Paul D. Boyer, Nobel Laureate & Atheist

Pete Stark came out and admitted he had no belief in god. This takes great courage, because Pete Stark is a congressman who represents a portion of California, and a majority of Americans have stated unequivocally that they would not vote for an atheist. Thank you, Mr. Stark.

Paul D. Boyer had some pointed things to say about Intelligent Design; things like people who believe that aren’t very intelligent. I liked him almost immediately. Here’s the link to his article in Freethought Today.

This episode marks the first time I heard a response to the weekly “Ask an Atheist” blurb, in which Dan and Laurie give out an e-mail address and phone number, so that the curious out there can ask questions that they might have about atheism.

Not surprisingly, a good portion of the mail they get is pretty vitriolic. They read several of them. They also read a legitimate question, probably the most common. “How can an Atheist be Moral?”

Contrary to popular belief, the Golden Rule isn’t a christian creation. I consider it one of the highest moral principles around. Their answer was different, arranged around the concept of harm, but it boils down pretty much the same way. I’ve heard this question many times myself, and the idea that you need religion to be moral is such a foreign concept to me that I almost never have a good answer when the question is asked.

Freethinkers Almanac this episode also featured Albert Einstein.

Philip Appleman reads Karma Dharma and Dan performs God’s Grandeur.

Common Sense 120 – the Environment again.

Common Sense 120 gets two posts. Mukasey’s Paradox deals with the first half of the show. This one is about the second half. Dan Carlin continues to talk about global warming, even though polls have shown that Global Warming now world’s most boring topic.

Seriously, I’ve gotten back into my forum addiction of late, and they’ve been beating the dead horse of environmentalism over at Dan Carlin’s forum for quite awhile now.

The news article that inspired show 120’s second half (the source of which Dan won’t reveal) sounds like it was written by the average socialist turned environmentalist. Anyone who can use the phrase culture of growth as a negative is someone whose opinions can be discarded. Sorry, that’s how I feel.

In Dan’s defense, he doesn’t buy into this article either. In fact, the tough question is really about global warming supplanting the real environmental concerns of the average citizen. Cleaner water, cleaner air. Out of control consumption. Let’s deal with the problems we can handle, hope that we won’t have to give up our freedom in order to save the planet. Which is what the promoters of combating global warming are really asking for.

Some examples of the arguments I’ve been in lately.

Anyway, just becasue all of these things are true, I don’t understand why this means we shouldn’t begin changes in our society to lower GHG emmissions. Not only do these contribute to climate change, but they also affect health, air quality, and visibility.

Because there isn’t any way to do it with current technologies without top down command and control type scenarios. If you take all the cars off the roadway and force everybody onto buses, the impact on pollution would not be that significant. Studies have show (in Austin, anyway) that it’s not vehicle exhaust that causes the majority of pollution these days, it’s businesses (that gets back to the EPA and the disconnection that was put in place to keep people from being able to sue polluters directly) which are given license to do so. These studies don’t stop the EPA from requiring expensive vehicle inspections, all the same. There is already too much command and control, and it’s not working.

If new technologies emerge (and if gas prices continue to climb, they will) that produce cleaner burning fuels, or transportation options that are superior (read as more convenient) for the individual, then the GHG problem becomes a moot issue. Any attempt to reduce GHG (as the study shows) with current technologies will not yield a net benefit. The developing nations are always excluded from these plans, and the majority of new emissions are going to come from those countries.

We are at a crossroads, just as civilization was at a crossroads in the late 1800’s, when whale oil drove industry, and consumption projections showed that there weren’t enough whales to provide the oil to sustain growth. Some people ran around screaming about the end of the world, proposing scenarios of doom and gloom for the world’s future. Other people went out and developed crude oil as a replacement.

Put me in the latter camp this time around as well.


One of the threads dealt with a news piece over at Fox News. I would have disregarded it, but it’s by an author that I respect that I first ran across at CATO.

And then you get these sorts of responses:

Scientific American has an excellent article entitled “The Physics of Climate Change” published about a year ago.

One way of viewing the AGW debate is to treat the problem of cost like buying insurance. If we’re incorrect about AGW and all the carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere doesn’t act as a blanket the way the laws of physics have demonstrated it does, we’ve bought insurance we haven’t used. If however, CO2 and other greenhouse gases block reflected infrared light, as is almost certainly happening, we’ll be very relieved to have stated mitigation earlier. Ounces and prevention, you know.

…except that we can never afford the cost of the insurance required. That is the point Lott is actually echoing (rather than the title of the thread) which is the main argument in Goklany’s paper. That even if global warming is occurring (which isn’t proven) and even if humans are causing AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming, which also isn’t proven) that we can’t know for certain that a fractional rise in temperature isn’t a good thing (and we don’t) and that we can’t make the kind of impact that the laymen thinks we can simply by passing laws and sacrificing comfort. That negating human impact on the climate is a pipe dream.

No one is talking about stopping innovation and not having cleaner air, water, whatever. There are too many armchair environmentalists out there who are willing to pay extra for the knowledge that they aren’t hurting the environment. Innovation in these areas will occur anyway. What Lott and Goklany are saying (and I agree with) is that let’s get the best return on investment, let’s only pay for the insurance we need, rather than bankrupt society trying to return the world to a natural state that never existed in the first place, which is the goal of the hardcore environmentalists.

Lott at CATO: http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=3996
Indur Goklany’s policy paper What to Do about Climate Change, also at CATO. These are the pieces that need to be argued against, if you are going to argue. …and businesses are innovating all the time trying to catch that elusive environmentalist dollar.

REI, anybody? How about Whole Foods? What about the fact that you can’t find a carpet, flooring or paint manufacturer these days who doesn’t push their recycled low-VOC minimal environmental impact products? Businesses follow the dollar, and the average dollar is green.

Plants indeed use carbon dioxide, but the flaw to your point is deforestation.

Here are some study findings contradicting that doom and gloom argument.

Demand for wood may lead to forest growth, not decline, study says

Increased demand for forest products was a cause of increased forest cover in India during the last three decades, according to a joint study by researchers at Brown and Harvard University in the May 2003 Quarterly Journal of Economics. The finding contradicts the idea that economic development inevitably leads to deforestation.

Brown University

When I was growing up, we burned our garbage in an ash can in the back yard. The city would come by once a month to collect the ashes and metal, and dump it in a big hole just outside of town. We would go out there with our .22 rifles on occasion and shoot rats. No one ever checked their gas mileage (other than to guess when they’d need to fill up again) and emission controls were unheard of, as were seat belts.

I was a poster child of environmentalism not long after that. Recycling cans and bottles, recycling paper (which has largely proven to be a wasted effort. Paper recycling has a negative impact on the environment) I was chewed out by more than one person at my first office for being too militant about recycling.

Then the government got involved, and the socialists (or statists if you prefer) saw an inroad for their recently discredited political movement, and shifted their focus to pushing for environmental concerns, needing more government to fix the environmental problems.

Global Warming is a socialist’s wet dream, because there is no way to fix it without handing all control over to the state, and relying on the elite to tell us what we can and can’t do. Carbon footprints and consumption monitoring. I’ve refused to call myself an environmentalist since then.

If the only choice I have is between my choice and no choice, I’ll take my choice and the possible end of the world as we know it, for a thousand, Alex.

Editor’s note, 2019. I am one insufferable smartass when I think I’m right. Quips and jargon all over the place. Also? The crafting of this post exposes my earlier lack of understanding for how context relates meaning and why I need to construct longer narratives to explain concepts that aren’t included in short little soundbites. The kind of soundbites that my early writing is littered with. I have no idea what was in the various threads that I was writing rebuttals for now, and I don’t care enough to go dig up what they were because I was so seriously wrong in my arguments at the time.

…and I was completely wrong about AGW and climate change. Another Bowl of Crow that I’m working through.


The greening effect of historically unprecedented levels of CO2 does answer the objection about deforestation in more solid and in some ways frightening detail than the study that says demand for paper will spur on more tree planting. Trees growing faster raises some disturbing problems for trees and the people who live around them, as well as making reforestation something that can happen at a faster rate. I still reject the doom and gloom, but the margin for rejecting it is getting smaller.

FFrF Radio: Richard Dawkins!

Podcast Link. March 8, 2008Special Guest: Richard Dawkins

Do I really need to say anything else about this episode to make you want to listen to it? Come on, Richard Dawkins is the guest. I’d listen to the guy ordering lunch, much less talking about The God Delusion and his other books.

OK, how about he’ll be in Austin on the 19th of March? How’s that for inspiration? I’m just wishing I could get in to hear him speak. Not holding my breath.

The interview was a long discussion (which actually seems short) of problems with creationism, including mention of the Omphalogical argument and Dawkin’s own Climbing Mount Improbable.

Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.

Mark Twain

2007 Archive episode. March 10, 2007Media Covers FFRF & Freethought

This episode is pretty much what the title says it is. The media reporting on the lawsuit discussed in the previous week, and other items of interest.

The edge printing on the new George Washington “gold” dollars was missing on several hundred coins, the so-called godless dollars (“in god we trust” is printed on the edge) rated a mention on the program because of a previous failed lawsuit to remove the motto from the coinage. Some discussion of the (very recent) addition of “in god we trust” to US money.

This isn’t a major concern of mine. My major concern is the real value of money, not what it says on the surface; consequently, I would prefer to trade Liberty Dollars that say “trust in god”, because I trust in silver much more than I will ever trust in god, rather than trade USD that have no value. (Editor’s note: I was such a self-satisfied idiot)

Julia Sweeney rated a brief segment, as did Sam Harris. His piece asks some very pointed questions about the future of our society if we continue to rely on faith to the extent that we currently do.

Dan’s Pagan Pulpit segment deals with the subject of the lack of a factual basis for a real historical Jesus. A more in depth exploration of this subject can be found in the film The God Who Wasn’t There. I caught the sensationalized History Channel special on the finding of Jesus’ ossuary, co-hosted by James Cameron and the Naked Archaeologist. I’m trying to forgive Cameron for this lame film appearance, but I won’t be spending another moment watching anything the Naked Archaeologist does.

The show ended with a Philip Appleman poem. He’s a good poet, but I think they need to get someone else to read his work.

FFrF Radio: Growing Unaffiliated & Fraudulent Prayer Studies

Podcast Link.

March 1, 2008Religiously Unaffiliated Grow to 16%!

The Beware of Dogma billboard won an addy for design. Which gives me an excuse to post the image again. Too cool.

March is Women’s History Month. In honor of that, there was a brief discussion of the linkage between the women’s rights movement and freethought, as well as a discussion of Women Without Superstition the Collected Writings of Women Freethinkers of Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor. The dogmatic suppression of women’s rights by religious organizations is one amongst many reasons I’m no longer religious myself.

The guest this week, Greg Smith of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, discusses the results of the latest U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which shows that there is a net decline in religious affiliation within the US, especially amongst the young.

The frightening thing about looking at the map is the band of greater than 50% fundamentalist belief directly above Texas. I’m hoping that’s shrinking rather than growing, but cancers tend to grow unless treated or removed; so is fundamentalism cancerous, or benign?

This is the first of three reports that will be based on the survey data.

“Heaven for climate, Hell for company”Mark Twain

2007 Archive episode.

March 3, 2007Supreme Court Post-Mortem, and Fraudulent Prayer Studies

This episode dealt largely with the visit by CBS news to the studio the previous week, and the supreme court hearing of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, which has pretty much run it’s course now. Since the faith based initiatives remain in place, the challenge was obviously not successful. Here’s hoping the next president does the right thing and ends the practice of giving money to religious groups to proselytize to those most in need of something more than empty words.

The track record for bureaucracies ending once established, leads me to believe that this will not be the case. Who knows, maybe Hillary or Obama will use the direct link to the fundamentalists to weaken their message. Every cloud should have a silver lining.

Dan ended the segment by reading this article in the Times:

Government by Law, Not Faith

Published: February 28, 2007

The Supreme Court hears arguments today in a case that could have a broad impact on whether the courthouse door remains open to ordinary Americans who believe that the government is undermining the separation of church and state.

The question before the court is whether a group seeking to preserve the separation of church and state can mount a First Amendment challenge to the Bush administration’s “faith based” initiatives. The arguments turn on a technical question of whether taxpayers have standing, or the right to initiate this kind of suit, but the real-world implications are serious. If the court rules that the group does not have standing, it will be much harder to stop government from giving unconstitutional aid to religion.

Soon after taking office, President Bush established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and faith-based offices in departments like Justice and Education. They were intended to increase the federal grant money going to religious organizations, and they seem to have been highly effective. The plaintiffs cited figures showing that from 2003 to 2005, the number of federal grants to religious groups increased 38 percent. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and several of its members sued. They say that because the faith-based initiatives favor religious applicants for grants over secular applicants, they violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government support for religion.

These are profound issues, but because the administration challenged the right of the foundation and its members to sue, the courts must decide whether the plaintiffs have the right to sue in this case before they can consider the constitutionality of the faith-based programs. An appeals court has ruled, correctly, that the plaintiffs have standing.

In many cases, taxpayers are not in fact allowed to sue to challenge government actions, but the Supreme Court has long held that they have standing to allege violations of the Establishment Clause. Without this sort of broad standing, many entanglements between church and state would never make it to court.

The Bush administration is pushing an incorrect view of standing as it tries to stop the courts from reaching the First Amendment issue. Taxpayers can challenge the financing of religious activity, the administration claims, only when a Congressional statute expressly authorizes the spending. There is no statute behind the faith-based initiative.

In his decision for the appeals court, Judge Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, convincingly explained why this argument is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s precedents on the Establishment Clause.

Procedural issues like standing can have an enormous impact on the administration of justice if they close the courthouse door on people with valid legal claims. The Supreme Court has made it clear that taxpayers may challenge government assistance to religion. The justices should affirm Judge Posner’s ruling so the courts can move on to the important question: Do the Bush administration’s faith-based policies violate the Constitution?

Which I think warrants reprinting here because the question it asks remains valid, especially in light of the capitulation of the Supreme Court on the subject.

The guest, Dr. Bruce Flamm was on to discuss his debunking of prayer studies, specifically a prayer study conducted in the US and Korea, and detailed in this article in Skeptical Inquirer. Another interesting guest with another seemingly unbelievable story to tell. Unfortunately, it seems to be true. Those of us who rely on good science and proper peer review of findings should be outraged that these types of bogus studies are even published; much less published and never corrected.

Health Care Solutions

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”

Robert Heinlein

Solutions time again.

I’ve done a bit of blogging on the subject of US Health Care problems recently, and I could go on. One of the CATO daily podcasts last week (State Health Insurance Mandates Raise Prices) highlighted problems with health care created by government intervention in insurance markets. Just another in a long list of government interferences in the marketplace that negatively impact the system; which they then tell you they can fix by interfering in the system to a greater extent. Another podcast, McCain and Obama on Health Care, points out that at least the discussion on health care will be about the right subject, cost, if the presidential race is between McCain and Obama.

Hillary’s insistence on 100% insurance coverage is the wrong answer to an unasked question. Forcing people who don’t want insurance to pay for it is not a solution that any self respecting American should embrace. Massachusetts went that way already, and it is failing. Do we want to copy that failed practice at the federal level? Americans want to not have to worry about being bankrupted by an unexpected long term illness. That’s a cost issue, plan and simple

There have been solutions that I’ve found compelling in the past. One of them, from Downsize DC, I’ve blogged on before. (Editor’s note; that article was a cut and paste job which contained a single intro sentence that I wrote. I’ll let Downsize DC speak for themselves now)

Here’s another solution:

Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill that would solve these problems, immediately. His “Comprehensive Health Care Reform Act” (H.R. 3343) would . . .

  • Give you a 100% refund from your taxes of every dollar you spend on medical care, including insurance premiums.
  • Make it easier for your employer to deposit the money it now gives to the health insurance companies into a Health Saving Account that would belong to you
  • This money would come to you tax free — you could use it to fund your health care and your insurance premiums
  • This means your health insurance would belong to you, not your employer
    You would have the money to pay small medical expenses with your Health Savings Account, which would allow you to reduce your insurance premiums by buying a Major Medical Plan, instead of a Cadillac Plan
  • You would also earn interest on the money in your Health Savings Account, tax free — you would get this interest instead of the insurance companies getting it (collecting interest on premiums is how the insurance companies make their money — these profits could be yours instead)
  • Plus, you would become your doctor’s customer, instead of the government or your insurance company being your doctor’s customer
  • This would place the consumer in charge, creating competition that would lower prices and improve quality

Of course, neither the insurance companies nor the health care lobbyists want these changes, so you will have to fight for them.

DownsizeDC – Ron Paul’s health care bill

It’s ludicrous to think that the people who brought you 53.3 trillion dollars in unfunded Medicare and Social security debt can fix the health care problem by getting more involved in health care (especially when they are responsible for funding nearly half of our current health care expenditures) the most logical solution is to give the individual back the control of his health care, and let self-interest drive down the costs.

Editor’s note, 2019. What this period in my life reveals is the hazard of limiting your information intake to things that you agree with. Not getting news from people you disagree with is a recipe for disaster. The mistake embedded in all these libertarian/free market approaches to healthcare is that they couch it all in terms of insurance. Insurance is not the vehicle that should be affording access to public health needs. Those should be mandated and funded directly. If you want to pay for more than that for your own comfort, knock yourself out.

Common Sense 119 – A Delegate Conspiracy and the Establishment Clause

Podcast link. [Broken]

Excellent first half of the show, Exposing the Super Delegates. How many Democrat voters realize how their party is structured?

I’ve talked to dozens of people over the years who have whined (yes, I mean you, whiner) about the theft of the 2000 elections by George W. Bush, because the popular vote wasn’t for Bush, it went to Gore.

Never mind that the election was a statistical tie (as was the 2004 election) in most locations around the country. Never mind that the legislatures of most states (including Florida) are empowered to choose who their electors should vote for in the event of no clear victor in a national election. Never mind that the method of selection for national representatives (other than the Senate) is left up to the states to determine, and that includes the President. I’m no friend of election in the first place, so maybe I’m biased. Still, one has to wonder what limitations on majority rule can be maintained when everything becomes a popularity contest, a beauty pageant, first and foremost.

Several people have made a point to tell me that the thing that most needs fixing in our government is the electoral college, because of this outrage. How outraged will they be when their own party takes the popular vote and renders it meaningless by using the super delegates to select Hillary Clinton to compete against John McCain instead of Barack Obama?

Think it can’t happen? Then you don’t understand your own party. From the Wikipedia:

Superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention include all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, various additional elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, as well as “all former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”

The 2008 Democratic National Convention will have approximately 796 superdelegates. Delegates from state caucuses and primaries will number 3,253, resulting in a total number of delegate votes of 4,049. A candidate needs a majority of that total, or 2,025, to win the nomination. Superdelegates account for approximately one fifth (19.6%) of all votes at the convention.

This has been done before, as Dan pointed out. The truly pointless candidacy of Walter Mondale can be wholly laid at the feet of the super delegates.

What I want to know is how will Bill spin it afterwards? After he uses party muscle (and bribery; er, contributions to super delegates) to get what he wants?

I don’t think it will happen, though (sorry Dan) The representative for the district I reside in, Lloyd Doggett, is a long time leader of the Texas Democrat party, and he announced Texas’ intention to throw the Clintons under the bus by publicly declaring his support for Barack Obama before the recent debates here in Austin.

So I guess I’ll have to revise my prediction of a Clinton victory.

The second half of the show dealt with smaller government. Smaller government as in most government power being in the hands of local and state governments (as the founders intended) rather than in the hands of large federal bureaucracies (as the US government is currently structured) This is a trend that is occurring now, with California and several other states being willing to go head to head with the feds over things like pollution controls and the drug war.

What we are seeing is not new, this is the way that an out of control Washington D.C. is reigned in. The states simply ignore what the federal government tells them to do, or actively thwarts it (as in the case of Medical Marijuana) It was known as the Principles of ’98 (1798, to be exact) the first time it was tried, and Jefferson was it’s architect. My only question is, why this has taken so long to take root?

In a general sense I have no problem with this. I fly the Gadsden flag for a reason. It hearkens back to the times before the Constitution, when individual land owners within the several states decided to act to secure their rights as free men. Individual freedom first and foremost. State power should be subservient to this. Which is where I draw the line.

The bill of rights for the US Constitution should continue to (and currently do) apply to all governments constituted within the federal boundaries of the United States. Which means there will be no establishment of religion (as Dan calls it, a “god-abama”) or various other governmental permutations that would violate the basic rights of the individuals who reside in those areas. If different states really want to secede (like Vermont for example) more power to them. If they want to stay members of the United States, they need to conform to the requirements of the constitution.

I’ve often wondered why we don’t invite other countries into the US as states, rather than drafting these ridiculously convoluted trade treaties. I can understand why other countries might decline, considering the vampiric nature of our current government; but if we could get back to the kind of government we started with, before the cause of individual rights was lost in the political subterfuge of states rights and slavery, what population wouldn’t want to join?

March 2nd addition – I completely missed the solution to Dan’s God-abama conundrum. The solution goes like this:

If you’re homeschooling, teach whatever you like. I’m betting parents that homeschool aren’t going to teach ID [intelligent design] Even if they do, the percentage will be so low as to be insignificant.

Private schools will not teach ID, because they survive on the prestige of their alumni. If the alumni are flipping burgers because they can’t fathom critical thinking (all that is required to understand the evolution vs. ID argument) chances are the school won’t be in business too long.

Government schools are the only chance for ID to take hold, and that is why it must be resisted without compromise in that arena. If there were no government schools, there would be no widespread issue concerning what science is or isn’t, because the blindly religious would maintain their own failing schools or home school, and the rest of the population would rally around verifiable results.

I’ve often thought that the way to get what we want out of the schools, if we have to pay for them with taxes, is to issue vouchers to the parents directly and let them hire the teachers and maintain the schools. We hand the job of crafting tests and developing standards that verify real educational results to the businesses that demand an educated workforce. And then let the market determine the outcome.

But that wasn’t the question asked at the beginning of this thread. The question was about ID in relation to Dan’s assertion that we could let the religious have segments of the US as their own playgrounds so that they would leave the rest of us alone.

And in that framework the answer is NO to ID.

A market solution is the only counter to Dan’s original conundrum. And it only occurred to me today, even though I’ve frequented http://www.schoolandstate.org for a few years now.

Separating school and state is the only workable solution short of standing on the establishment clause and allowing the states to secede, because schooling is the major point of contention between the religious and the secular.

March 4, 2019. So much crazy here. I wish I had access to the original audio for the Common Sense episode this was about. Sortition was a thing I was into. I remember that. Sortition is itself not a problem so long as the incapable are barred from serving. This measure should also be taken on the subject of election. President Trump proves this. Election itself is not a problem so long as everyone within the country is mobilized to vote and required to vote. This removes the popularity contest that is the problem with the current system. Everyone voting means that popularity of the candidates is irrelevant. Issues will rule the day again. But sortition works in a pinch, too.