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.

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.

read more | digg story

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.

The action item can be found here; and dugg here.

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.

2008 Democratic Debates

I’d just like to point out that I didn’t blog on the subject of the Democratic debates, even though they were in Austin, and even though I watched some of the program, and I didn’t blog on it for several very good reasons.

First off, that wasn’t a debate. It was a town hall meeting. I’ll talk about these things when we actually see a debate again. Secondly, Barack Obama cleaned the floor with Hillary Clinton from my perspective, and there was little need to talk about it during the viewing. Third, I still don’t like Hillary Clinton as a politician. I don’t trust her after her husband’s presidency and I don’t like political dynasties of any stripe. The trend is downward when you get on that course. So it was just a chance to see Obama shine one more time, not that I’m planning on voting for him in the general, mind you.

The best coverage on the non-debate could be found on KLBJ AM; specifically the lampooning they got on Jeff Ward’s show. You can still get Thursday’s and Friday’s episodes on i-Tunes for a bit longer. Thursday’s show featured an interview with Kinky Friedman. Friday’s postmortem ended with an hour long tribute to this stunning endorsement of Obama:

Can we not all just agree that, not only were the wrong Kennedy’s assassinated, but that the wrong person climbed out of the Chappaquiddick that cold night in 1969? The video at least asks that question.


Mea culpa review 2017. I just experienced another moment of existential pain in leaving that joke on this post. Oh, My. God. I think to myself, and I’m not even religious to start with, how crass can I get? In addition to leaving that atrocious joke in the entry, I took out the thought bubble below and instead listed the beliefs I held at the time. Beliefs I had for my hatred of Hillary Clinton. It’s not that I thought about anything that deeply then other than World of Warcraft and finding a new purpose in life, but I did have my reasons and I still don’t like her.

However. I started to delete the following thought I had imposed in the middle of the article, but then I realized I needed to save this most of all. I needed to preserve it as an example of just how blind the average person can be to their own biases.

Hillary’s mouth opens, fast forward till it closes. Listen to Barack Obama talk. Repeat process. The ‘debate’ was a remarkably one sided victory for Obama when viewed that way

This. This is misogyny in a nutshell, and I would have told you at the time that I didn’t hate Hillary Clinton because she was a woman. That is how subtle this crap is in our heads. Just more food for thought and one more post in the errata label series.

Whack a Weasel Candidates

So, what’s going on with presidential politics these days? The Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney drops out, McCain becomes the favorite. The highly touted Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani are virtually no shows.

[Dan Carlin picked Giuliani as the Republican winner in Common Sense 109. At least his candidate actually was in the race. Bush didn’t even voice an opinion on candidates, a nearly unprecedented event, and consequently no one from his presidency stepped forward to run. So no Condi vs. Hillary in 2008. Ah, well. ]

McCain is probably the only Republican running that could loose to Hillary.

Obama and Clinton can’t play nice in the sandbox, and the Democrat voters can’t decide which one of them they really want to support. My money is still on Hillary, but I’m hoping I’m wrong. Like the Republican field, half of the Democrat candidates have dropped out already.

Hillary is probably the only Democrat running that could loose to McCain.

It’s like a game of Whack a Mole, or Whack a Weasel.

[another nod to Dan Carlin (110, 111) for giving the candidates their proper mascot. Weasels is what they are, when they change their opinions about any policy issue depending on what audience they are in front of; and 9/10’s of the candidates do this without blushing]

The candidate’s head pops up, and they get smacked down again. Except we’ll probably still end up having to choose between weasels when it comes to the major parties. I’m not sure how two such unpopular people could ever get this far in a beauty contest like the presidential election.

Here’s hoping that the rumors about Ron Paul are correct. At least I’ll still have someone to vote for then.

Voting Irregularities & Anarchist Newspeak

Voting Irregularities, as in ‘Errors’ Transposing Votes and Diebold Machines Removed Votes From Obama and Paul a link sent to me by a fellow Ron Paul supporter, outlining outright vote counting misconduct, and touching on the already well understood failings of the Diebold voting machines.

This is a major issue, unless of course you’re an Anarchist who just wants government to go away.

Newspeak (the language of engsoc in 1984) is a language that is crafted in such a way as to make it impossible to think wrong thoughts, because the words will no longer exist to express them. Anarchists are engaged in crafting their own version of Newspeak these days, redefining words like Power and Government to meet specific goals.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:

power and liberty are opposites; wherever the former appears, the latter disappears.

Power is, in fact, the only way to secure liberty. Individual will, inalienable rights, individual’s power. Not recognizing power unless it’s power relegated to state authority is redefining what power is.

Government exists, and will always exist, because self-government is still government. Unless, of course, you are an anarchist; in which case, state and government are interchangeable concepts, and all government must be abolished (and yet somehow this won’t result in chaos, even though governing oneself would presumably also be a no-no) as the evil that it is.

Another Quote:

Libertarians engaging in a political campaign to have someone elected have from my point of view given up their claim on liberty; they are no longer striving for liberty as number one, but are working to give someone power to liberate them.

More Newspeak. The elections will take place whether libertarians participate in them or not (what about the LP? They exist only to participate politically. I guess none of them are libertarian at all in this anarchist’s opinion) Taking part in politics is the only way to secure one’s liberty (politics, after all, being nothing more than the art and science of government) and any candidate with a proven track record like Ron Paul’s is going to be an improvement over any of the other candidates who might get the nomination.

There is this mistaken belief amongst many of the Voluntaryists and Anarchists out there that the state will simply cease to exist once enough of the population refuses to participate. I have no idea why they hold this belief. It’s quite apparent through simple observation that the average world state requires nothing of it’s citizens except tribute…

…which it will take by force, whether force is required or not. Given that, I’ll work to limit government in any way that I can personally, including supporting a candidate in a party that I do not claim as my own.

It’s better than the alternative. Doing nothing.

FFrF Radio: Values Voters Summit Dissected

Podcast link.
November 3, 2007Dissecting “Values Voters” Summit

This episode hit a cord with me. I’ve long thought that we allow the Religious Reich to hijack that bus at our own risk. We all have values, and I resent the implication that only religious people have them.

Here’s a link to a column on Obama by Michelle Goldberg (a 2006 interviewee) on the same subject…


2006 Archive episode.
November 4, 2006Church Referendum Electioneering

This episode was largely about the Wisconsin Gay Marriage ban, which passed. So there isn’t much to recommend there.

Why the Democrats are NOT a Viable Opposition to the Administration

Watch the three minute video, then read on.

Ralph Nader: “Things Are a Lot Worse than We Thought!” – Published on Oct 11, 2007

If they refuse to act because they believe this is true, then it is pointless to support any sitting democrat. But if you look at it from the opposite perspective, Bush is on a mission from God. Do you really think he’ll let those godless Democrats get in his way?

Anyway.

On Digg this video has lead to a series of observations about the meaning of Nader’s comments, and flames against Nader for ruining the election, not once but twice, by being a candidate and costing the Democrats the election (never mind that the same can be said of the Libertarian candidates as well from the Republican side of the duopoly, and that the only solution to this problem is to negate the possibility of free and fair elections in the US) and the usual mindless support for the next successor to the duopoly’s undisturbed rule of the US since Lincoln brought the Republicans to power in 1860.

Comments like this one:

“At least Obama’s staying the fuck out of Iran and has taken nuclear weapons off the table”

This is obviously his first election experience. Nothing the candidate says has any bearing on what the elected President does. Go back and review the election promises of every candidate who became President, and you’ll understand.

I realize that this is not popularly understood, but the President is one man. There are thousands of people who work at the Federal level, who were there before the President gets elected, and will be there after he leaves. They set policy, which the elected President is expected to endorse, to some degree.

All of the modern Presidents (since at least Hoover) have had the majority of their agendas set for them by the conditions of the government and the world at the time they take office. It will take a maverick to change the course even in the slightest degree. There’s only one maverick running as a candidate at the moment, and he’s a Republican.

Three Generations of “America to the Rescue”

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, referencing the predicament in Iraq.

THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART 
BILLIONS AND BILLIONS 
Season 12 Ep 110 08/22/07 

The best line from the clip?

“Oh billions of dollars… Is there no dispute you can’t settle?”

The picture of Cheney as Secretary of Defense staring over Jon’s shoulder as he discusses the wisdom of not invading Iraq during Gulf War I, using Cheney’s own words at the time (“it would be a morass”) also priceless.


Mea culpa review 2017. For the record, Comedy Central‘s handling of the transition from Jon Stewart to the current (extremely capable if simply not so widely appealing) Trevor Noah leaves a ton of things to be desired. One of the most obvious things is not being able to find the old shows featuring Jon simply for purposes of reference and historical documentation. After about an hour of searching, I discovered the title had been changed. Finally. Watch through to the next clip which is an excellent interview with an incredibly young-looking Barack Obama.