FFrF Radio: Susan Jacoby & Rita Swan

Podcast Link.
March 29, 2008 - Special 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, 2007 - Religious 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.

Mary Ruwart for President

A woman I would be proud to cast a vote for.
“Libertarians have been waiting for a candidate who can change the tone of American politics,” says campaign manager R. Lee Wrights. “Dr. Ruwart is that kind of candidate. She’s a unifier and a motivator who can communicate our message of freedom and be heard.”

Running on a theme of “Healing America,” Ruwart — a Ph.D and former Assistant Professor of Surgery with a background in pharmaceutical research — proposes to withdraw US forces from Iraq, drastically reduce federal taxes and spending, and deregulate health care to increase access and quality.

“Only liberty can heal the rifts that divide and impoverish America,” says Ruwart, 57. “Freedom breeds compassion, tolerance and prosperity. Coercion breeds conflict, fear and poverty.” In Healing Our World and Short Answers to the Tough Questions, she propounds a caring, rather than combative, approach to promoting the Libertarian Party’s political agenda.

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

Podcast Link.

March 22, 2008 - Guest: 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, 2007 - Priest 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 Exogesis as the show ends. Definitely apropos.

Richard Dawkins speaks at UT

Instead of a reasonable title, like mine, the Statesman ran with the far more predictable (for Texas) rabble rousing title Atheist author draws impassioned crowd for their article. Leaving open to question just which direction the passions trended.

dawkins sold out inquirers were told to stand in line and perhaps there would be tickets. Am I the only one who sees the humor in telling a dawkins fan they should wait and have faith?

ALD Silver Will Move Up, So Get it Back From the Feds

It looks like ALD will indeed move up on March 23rd. $50 an ounce after that date, from $20 an ounce at current prices. I only wish I was in a better financial position so that I could carry more silver across the Move Up.

At least we may still be able to get our silver back from the thieves who stole it; the thieves who were wearing FBI jackets when they confiscated the silver at the Liberty Dollar head office and Sunshine mint. Read on for that info.

Monday March 17, 2008

Dear Liberty Dollar Supporters:

WOW!!! The Liberty Dollar will definitely Move Up to the $50 Silver Base rather serendipitously on Easter Sunday, March 23. With the 30 Day Moving Average at $18.40 there is no alternative. And of course the fools at the fed are meeting on Tuesday to douse more gasoline on the inflationary fire of their own making.

All of this is much like the French Revolution as the wise, good men of Paris engineered the Reign of Terror. In the beginning Mirabeau and other idiots who favored fiat paper money insisted that patriotism would lead people to keep the money. Later Cambon insisted that the assignat currency was perfect. Ultimately everything was tried to keep it together. In the end the Committee of Public Safety butchered over 1900 people in one month! Most of them were merchants who refused the damn worthless currency! The people started complaining that they couldn't buy food… because the merchants were dead! Then Napoleon came to power.

Now there are a bunch of high-minded idiots in charge of the US dollar… and we will all suffer. Not just American but the whole world. Get out of the US dollar while you still can. Sell asap and buy silver. Of course not many people will do that. It was the same with the hyperinflationary German mark before Hitler came to power.

The same hyperinflationary cycle occurred in China after World War II and Mao came to power. Click HERE to read "Inflation through History."

Our national idiots know not what they are doing or else they are traitors. It matters not unless America's rises to the occasion and Liberty lights the way out of the monetary quagmire. Without this beacon, t! he unfortunate outcome will be that the stupid masses will cry out for order and a new tyrant will come to power.

Yes, you can buy silver cheaper than the Liberty Dollar. Yes, silver will cover your ass but bullion will do nothing to solve our great country's monetary problems. We need a value based currency. That is why the Liberty Dollar was specifically designed to function on a one to one basis with the US dollar - regardless of how low the US dollar goes or how high the silver goes… the Liberty Dollar was designed to be there.

Ten years ago when silver was $5 per ounce, the Liberty Dollar was introduced at the $10 Silver Base. Of course some idiots argued that the Liberty Dollar was a rip off at "twice the price of silver!" Those same one ounce 1998 Silver Libertys are now selling for up to $700 on eBay!

Now, silver is flirting with $25 ounce and the Liberty Dollar is Moving Up to the $50 Silver Base… sure enough the same idiot intelligentsia still don't have a clue. God help us!

This is your last notice to get the Liberty Dollar at the $20 Silver Base. Please do what is right for yourself and our country. Please support the Liberty Dollar. Get some today! Deadline is Midnight, Saturday, March 22, 2008.

Please be aware that AlertPay on our shopping cart is total trash! You cannot spend over $100 unless you are approved and that is a very painful experience. Your BEST option is to send check, money order, or wire if over $5000 to Liberty Numismatics… or simply made out to "LIBERTY" as we have a new bank account.

Liberty Numismatics
225 N. Stockwell Road
Evansville. IN. 47715

Wire funds to:
Integra Bank
21 S.E. Third Street
Evansville. IN. 47708
ABA Routing NO: 086300025
Account NO: 7810349683

Please bear in mind that I am the only person here… calling is the last thing you want to do. All funds must be initiated before midnight and may be declined due to market conditions.

Please do not let the US Government Steal Your Property
If you have at least one paper or electronic Liberty Dollar, I encourage you to write US Attorney Thomas Ascik who is in charge of the forfeiture and auction of your property of Liberty Dollars that was seized by the FBI on November 14, 2007. If you do not want to lose your property, I strongly urge you to send the attached letter or something very similar to it to the US Attorney. There is no need to be abusive... "He is just doing his job"... but he needs to know that there are THOUSANDS of people like you that want to be kept informed by being placed on the government "service list". So please US mail your letter to US Attorney Thomas Ascik ASAP. No need to send it Certified... but if you want to add your personal note... keep it brief... as it will be a waste of your time... as he will probably not even read it... such is "our" !@#$#@! government!


Thomas Ascik, Esq.
Assistant United States Attorney
100 Otis Street
Ashville, NC 28801
Phone: 828.271.4661

Dear Mr. Ascik,

I understand that you are in charge of the forfeiture and auction of the material seized in the Liberty Dollar investigation.

Please know that I am a holder of Warehouse Receipts and/or electronic Liberty Dollars and you are in possession of my lawful property.

Please be informed that I am most definitely an interested party and hereby request that you keep me informed as to every step of the process to forfeit and auction any of the material seized as required by law regarding the Liberty Dollar investigation.

Therefore, I hereby request you add me to the government's 'service list' for all pleadings and all other developments filed regarding Liberty Dollar forfeiture action.

I further demand you return all material seized at Sunshine Mint immediately so I can redeem my Warehouse Receipts and/or electronic Liberty Dollars and enjoy my property.

Please confirm receipt of this letter.


(your name AND address)


Thank you during these difficult times. For it is only by banding together and adopting a free and independent currency that provides us with "just weights and measures" will we be able to throw off the yoke of a manipulated monetary/tax system and generate a peaceful and prosperous society.

Thanks for all your efforts in returning America to value - one Liberty Dollar at a time!

Bernard von NotHaus
Monetary Architect/Editor

* PS: If you have not read “Fiat Money Inflation in France” by Andrew Dickson White… read it! Very short, powerful, timely book of only 112 pages!

My letter is heading out as I post this.

Apache Tears - Hardcore History 20

Dan Carlin in his latest Hardcore History talks at length about the Apache Indians. 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,

[skip the HBO film of the same name, it's a lame adaptation that tries to tell a linear story, from essentially one natives point of view. There were several scenes imposed on the storyline that were meant to assuage the guilt of the white eyes, but just end up sticking out like sore thumbs.]

and I've read several accounts of Custer's Last Stand, one or two from the native perspective.

I have more of an interest in the architecture that the natives left behind (as you might imagine from my profile) consequently I'm more interested in Pueblo Indians than I am in nomads like the Apache. Still, a line from a podcast I listened to recently keeps echoing in my head; lamenting 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 ill-advised goal of converting or killing them.

Mukasey's Paradox is Just a Sign of the Times

A dose of Common Sense (120) via Jonathan Turley and the LA Times, and Dan Carlin:
The problem for Mukasey was that if he admitted waterboarding was a crime, then it was a crime that had been authorized by the president of the United States -- an admission that would trigger calls for both a criminal investigation and impeachment. Mukasey's confirmation was facing imminent defeat over his refusal to answer the question when Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suddenly rescued him, guaranteeing that he would not have to answer it.

Once in office, Mukasey still had the nasty problem of a secret torture program that was now hiding in plain view. Asked to order a criminal investigation of the program, Mukasey refused. His rationale left many lawyers gasping: Any torture that occurred was done on the advice of counsel and therefore, while they may have been wrong, it could not have been a crime for CIA interrogators or, presumably, the president. If this sounds ludicrous, it is. Under that logic, any president can simply surround himself with extremist or collusive lawyers and instantly decriminalize any crime.

However, this is only half of Mukasey's Paradox. The other half occurred last week when Mukasey refused to allow contempt charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers to be given to a grand jury. Bolten and Miers stand accused of contempt in refusing to testify before Congress in its investigation of the firings of several U.S. attorneys in 2006. Mukasey wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that their refusal to testify could not be a crime because the president ordered them not to testify under executive privilege.
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Dan laments the failure of the balance of powers to fix the problems apparent in the Democrat leadership (Schumer and Feinstein) confirming Mukasey to the Attorney General position, even though Mukasey's answers to the waterboarding question should have been a red flag to anyone interested in seeing justice done within the current lame duck administration. But the failure of the balance of powers happened long before the confirmation hearing, long before the current administration even.

We have an imperial President. We've had one since Lincoln forced the Southern states to return to the Union. With secession removed as the ultimate threat to union, there is no real threat that can be used to bring the federal government to heel in events such as we are facing today. Illegal wars, illegal use of police power, etc, etc, ad nauseam.

But it's not just the lack of real power from the states. There also isn't any real voice for the states at the federal level. The senate was intended to be the representatives of the several states in Washington; but that representation went away when the Senators became just another set of beauty pageant winners, like the President himself. The seventeenth amendment to the Constitution makes them just another popularly elected office, subject to the same forces as the President, and aspirants for that office.

As presidential hopefuls they will bend over backwards to shield the president from criticism (so that they will one day be shielded in turn) as popularly elected officials they will pander to the media and to special interests so as to insure their reelectability. This is a theory advanced by more knowledgeable people than myself. Stumbled across this tidbit while researching this post:
the primary purpose of having state legislatures elect senators was to give the states a constituent part in the federal government, thereby appeasing the anti-federalists, protecting the states from federal encroachment, and creating and preserving the structure of federalism. Senators were seen as, and acted as, the states’ “ambassadors” to the federal government, representing the states and their interests.
[The Seventeenth Amendment] was primarily a rebellion of emerging special interests against federalism and bicameralism, which restrained the ability of the federal government to produce legislation favorable to those interests. Changing the method of electing senators changed the rules of the game for seeking favorable legislation from the federal government, fostering the massive expansion of the federal government in the twentieth century.
(from the Independent Institute)

So, the separation of powers has been subverted by the popular vote and those seeking favor from the federal government.

This yields things like what we are seeing today. Presidents that declare war without legislative approval. Presidents that write the treaties that they want without consulting the Congress. And Congress remains silent because Congress doesn't want the responsibility; Congress isn't profited by being responsible, elections frequently hinge on their being able to claim that they were not responsible.

Thusly, irresponsibility becomes something to champion, and decadence becomes something you pay extra for. Apparently, irony and paradox aren't far apart.
Even if there is no exception to the president ordering crimes, there is no crime because the president ordered it. Perfection.
So, once again, this comes down to the structure being broken on purpose, and those who profit from the current broken system not being willing to fix it. How many different ways can you say "not sustainable"?

Opulence: Decaying Decadence?

I've seen several advertising campaigns that promote the decadence of this or that luxury item over the years. Decadent jewelry, decadent chocolate; images meant to appeal to the prurient nature in us all, I guess, because I can't think of a positive reason for buying something marked by decay.

The root of decadent is decay; marked by decay, in decline, falling or sinking. Basically, when someone wants you to buy something decadent, they are asking you to waste your money on something frivolous or meaningless, something that is in transition to a lower order of things.

Opulence, on the other hand, is the word that most people confuse with decadence. To be opulent is to have the trappings of power or authority. To possess those things achieved through work and success. Opulence can be ostentatious, but it's never decadent.

So, the next time your tempted to buy rotting chocolate ice cream, just say "no thanks". Decay is not a good thing to invest in. You can spend your way into decadence (the federal government is proving this truism as I type) but decadence never turns into opulence. It just turns into more fertilizer.

FFrF Radio: Being Good Without God

Podcast Link.

March 15, 2008 - Being 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, 2007 - Paul 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 Darma and Dan performs Gods Grandeur.

Elfquest: Even Real Men Read It.

I've been a comic book junkie for as long as I can remember. If I had a nickel for each time I heard "this isn't a library" while reading comic books at the local grocers, I'd be a rich man (if I'd taken better care of the comic books I did buy, I'd also be a rich man) Id' lay down right under the rack and read as many of the books as I could before they would kick me out.

The Marvel stories were my favorites, with the occasional venture into DC and Batman (I never will understand the attraction of reading stories about an invulnerable flying alien. The wife is a Superman fan, so I can't be too critical of the guy. Don't blame me if I root for Luthor) I could never get enough of X-Men, Fantastic 4, Iron Man, etc. Stan Lee presents was pretty much all I had to see, and I was off.

I kicked the addiction at about 30 years of age, newly married and with a child on the way, but not before discovering the specialty comics shop, and the wider assortment of stories that could be found there. Stories like Elfquest.

Marvel published what came to be known as The Grand Quest story arc a few years before I stopped collecting, and I picked up the original bound collections for that series as one of the last comic purchases I ever made.

I was almost instantly hooked. Beautiful flowing artwork, engaging characters, an original storyline, what wasn't to like about it? Maybe it was the Tolkien fan in me, or maybe I just have always had a weakness for elves; whatever it was, my attraction to the stories has outlasted all of my other comic book habits, including the X-Men.

The daughter stole the collections from me for awhile, and she bugged me for years to get Kings of the Broken Wheel (which I finally did get) only to discover there was even more story that I hadn't even heard of.

Consequently I was overjoyed to hear from Richard Pini recently, that all of the past issues of Elfquest will be made available online over the course of the next year.
Welcome to the Complete Elfquest Online project. There's over 6000 pages coming throughout 2008, so if you're new to the Elfquest universe, or if you want a refresher course on the overall story timeline, go here first. Then check out a comprehensive guide to all the different Elfquest print publications. (A number of the collected print volumes are still available too.)

Check back every Friday, or better yet, join the Elfquest forum and Yahoo's Elfquest news group for news and announcements.
Original Quest #1-5 has been posted today, as well as a whole host of other storylines I've never heard of.

So I can direct the son to the website when he wants to take down the (now rare) collections and read them. Which is good, I think. Although I may have to buy hard copies of some of the stories just so I can have them on hand when the web is down...

Happy Pi day...

For those ratios that not even congress can change...
Pi, Greek letter (π), is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi = 3.1415926535... Pi Day is celebrated by math enthusiasts around the world on March 14th.
I love math. The Pi day page. Ummmm, pi.

Common Sense 120 - the Environment again.

Common Sense 120 get's 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 beatin' 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: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9125

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.

From Brown University:
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.
Not buying the doom and gloom. Not even vaguely.

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 'in' 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.

Today's Beef: Daylight "Savings" Time

An oldie that never gets old, Because it happens again every year. The hour that never occurs. Can we stop the insanity, please?

Every time I have to change my clocks (whether it's to fall back or spring forward) the blood pressure goes up a few points just contemplating Daylight Savings Time.

I've tried just ignoring it in the past, and that didn't work out too well. Missed appointments, extremely early arrivals, whatever. Not really a solution. I've tried going to bed earlier in advance of the change, setting the clocks ahead early, also not very effective. You name it, I'll bet you I've tried it. No matter what, this gov't mandated time change always turns into a nightmare.

I just can't wrap my head around how this 'saves' anything, and why this is a benefit. Farmers hate it. Merchants supposedly benefit, and traffic fatalities are said to be reduced. But these benefits argue more for just changing the hour permanently, rather than a seasonal change.

I can clearly see how DST is a benefit to government worshipers everywhere. I can't think of a better way to demonstrate the power and authority of government; that even the sun can be commanded by congress. Now that is a showcase of control on a grand scale.

Don't laugh. I've had this argument several times. Inevitably the person who thinks DST is a good idea will exclaim "Do you really want the sun to come up at 5:30 in the morning in the summer?" I've got news for you people, it still does come up at 5:30 in the morning, we just call it 6:30.

I have a compromise to offer. Let's split the difference and call it 6:00; give up this whole notion that we can somehow save daylight by passing laws and changing clocks. My biorhythms (or circadian rhythm) will thank you for it.

What glorious power is given to congress. They can dictate what time the sun comes up, and the sun will listen. Maybe they should tackle that Pi thing, try dictating that it will be 3.2 or something...

FFrF Radio: Richard Dawkins!

Podcast Link.

March 8, 2008 - Special 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, 2007 - Media 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]

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.

Mandated Health Insurance: Promise or Threat?

That's the truth behind both Democrat proposals to fix the US health care system.

If the problem in the US today is a growing number of people who are uninsured; the solution is of course, mandate that they buy insurance. Both Hillary's and Obama's plans will include a mandate for health insurance coverage. This hasn't proven to work in the states that have tried it, why would we want to try it at the national level?

Never mind that the insurance is too expensive, which is why a good portion of us are going uninsured today. Never mind that someone will have to pay for those who can't afford the insurance themselves; pay for it to the tune (if this is like other government programs) of twice as much more in taxes than it would have cost to buy it privately in the first place.

Never mind that some of us don't want full coverage insurance, don't want someone telling you when you need to see the doctor, which doctor you need to see, and which doctors you can't see.

This is how we got into this mess in the first place . . .

  • Government has inflated health care costs through the hundreds of billions it spends on Medicare -- remember, the government has no incentive to spend this money wisely, because it isn't the government's money -- it's your money!
  • Government tax policies have provided incentives for businesses to provide their employees with Cadillac "Oil Change" health insurance policies
  • These "Oil Change" policies have further driven up the cost of both health care, and insurance, on top of the inflationary effects of Medicare

No wonder health care costs so much. No wonder health insurance is so expensive.

  • If you expand the pool of money available for health care
  • And create a system where the customer incurs costs that others will have to pay (either the insurance company or the government), then . . .
  • The inevitable result will be overuse of health care services, skyrocketing prices, and constant attempts by insurance companies to deny benefits
Overuse of health care services? Is that really possible? It's not only possible, it's exactly what is happening.
read more | digg story

It's happening in all the countries that have single payer systems, which is why they have waiting lines for services. It's happening here with people on full coverage insurance, because someone else foots the bill. I've watched it happen when I had insurance, and I know how I spend money on health care when I don't have insurance. I don't, unless I have to.

There are solutions to the health car problem in the US; solutions that even include something for the government to do. Maybe they should try a few of those and see if they work before imitating something that doesn't?

More info on the particulars of Ron Paul's health care bill:

Congressman Paul's bill would incentivize cost reductions by expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Ron Paul's bill would . . .

  • Enable your employer to deposit up to $8,000 per year into your HSA tax free
  • The interest you will earn from this account will also be tax free, but . . .
  • The more you spend out of your HSA the less you will earn in interest, while . . .
  • The less you spend, the MORE you will earn
  • The tax credit refund doesn't change the economizing incentives created by HSAs because the tax refund will only come at the end of the year -- every dime you spend today out of your HSA is a dime that won't earn interest during that year
The tax credit would also incentivize a major switch from "Cadillac" insurance plans that pay for "health care oil changes," to major medical policies that would only cover expensive procedures. After all, why should you pay a premium price to an insurance company to cover things you could pay for yourself, cheaper? The resulting lower insurance premiums would mean that . . .
  • The cost of employing people would plummet, creating new jobs
  • You would save money on your health insurance premiums, allowing you to maintain a larger balance in your HSA
  • Your doctor would save on administrative costs, by not having to fill out insurance forms for every little procedure
In addition, insurance premiums would also be eligible for the tax credit so that . . .
  • Everyone would be able to afford insurance
  • There would no longer be any tax advantage to carrying health insurance through an employer
  • People would do better by having their employer pay the money that formerly went to company owned insurance policies directly into each employee's Health Savings Account (tax free) so workers could purchase their own insurance
  • Changing jobs would no longer cause people to lose coverage
A nationwide switch to major medical policies would bring a nationwide reduction in health insurance costs, as well as the costs of administrative overhead, part of which could be passed on to consumers as health care providers compete for customers.
  • The more you make health care providers compete by charging lower prices (as with Lasik eye surgery) the larger your HSA will grow through compounding interest
  • The larger your HSA grows, the larger the deductible on your major medical policy can be
  • The larger the deductible on your major medical policy is, the less your premiums will be
  • The less you spend on insurance the more you can save in your HSA, at compounding interest
Imagine having a big pile of cash to cover your health care expenses as you age, independent of insurance companies or Medicare rules. Imagine having health care that becomes better and less expensive because of competition. These benefits can be yours if you demand that Congress give them to you.
read more | digg story

Ask Congress to pass Ron Paul's health care bill. You can do so here.

Contesting Control

Got back from the polls a few hours ago. I voted Democrat this primary season, and I probably will vote Democrat in the primary as long as I live in Travis County. Pretending that a Republican stands a chance here (unless the Democrat is a complete idiot and doesn't pay off his supporters) is to engage in wishful thinking.

So I voted in the Democrat primary, in an attempt to unseat as many incumbents as I could (not that it was very effective, it turns out) and because I would really like to see Obama face off against McCain. I think that might be a debate (if they finally do a debate this season) that would be worth watching. Especially if Ron Paul shows up as a third party candidate.

But what about voting for Ron Paul, aren't I a supporter? The way I see it, there was more to be gained in throwing a vote behind Obama in an effort to shut out Hillary, than there was in voting for Ron Paul (sorry Dr. Paul) The wife won't vote Democrat, so she cast the Republican vote this time. But Ron Paul is never going to win. He's never going to win because the average voter knows he's never going to win, and the average voter only votes for winners (just ask them, they'll tell you) It's not because he's too honest, which is an excuse I've heard a number of times. It's not because he's too much on the fringe (the opinion of Jeff Ward, and many, many others) aligned with anarchists, whatever. The majority of the American population votes for who they think will win. A self fulfilling prophecy if I've ever heard one.

If we want to see a change in this country stemming from the ballot box, we're going to have to convince the majority of voters that change is possible. In the meantime, there's always Downsize DC.

Jane Fonda & The Seven Deadly Words; Texas ban struck down

I've had this post in the draft queue since the day (Feb. 14th) Jane said cunt on network television. Maybe I just wanted to be able to type the word cunt (more than once) and not have the wife throw bricks at me. Or maybe I just have my suspicions about why her slip of the tongue (rimshot here, please) still goes unpunished.

True, the word cunt is only the horrendous insult that English speaking American women think it is, in America. Everywhere else, it doesn't even strictly apply to women. In Britain it could just be the stupid guy next to you.

Strictly speaking, it's just a low brow word for the female genitalia. But it does rate the list of deadly words on the FCC list. The seven deadly words that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and maybe even bring us, God help us, peace without honor; um, and a bourbon. George Carlin at his best.

The reason Jane's language malfunction is going unpunished, the only reason that makes sense, is that the FCC knows that they will not win this battle; no matter what they say, they will be made to look like the paternalistic jerks that they are. Jane was on with the author of The Vagina Monologues, and I wouldn't put it past the two of them to have cooked this up (much like Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction was completely staged) as a publicity stunt to do exactly what Jane Fonda's apology says she wants to do; change the way that the word is perceived by the average American.

Good luck with that.

An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex. -Aldous Huxley

Speaking of paternalistic jerks getting what's coming to them (rimshot again, please) the Texas legislature and the court system have been told that they need to stay out of bedrooms and stop trying to count or control who purchases and uses sexual aids in the state.

From Slate:
On Feb. 13, sex-toy retailers in Texas rejoiced when a federal appeals court ruled—just in time for Valentine's Day—that a Texas prohibition against the sale of dildos and pocket pussies violated the 14th Amendment.
According to the Texas (ahem) penal code, it is forbidden to sell or to advertise an artificial penis or vagina "primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." The statute makes an exception for instances in which the purchase meets a "medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative, or law enforcement" need. Even so, in Reliable Consultants v. Ronnie Earle, the normally conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban on the grounds that it violated the right of ordinary citizens "to engage in private intimate conduct in the home without government intrusion."
One of only four states banning sexual doodads (the other three are Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama), Texas is not about to take this insult lying down. Last week, state Attorney General Greg Abbott petitioned the appellate court to reconsider the matter
Sexual aids. Really, it's a dildo law, I might as well say dildo just as blatantly as I said cunt a few minutes ago (third time, I better start looking over my shoulder) Texas' dildo law has been overturned. Women can finally ask for and purchase a dildo by name without running the risk of being punished for it. Salesmen can now market a device for it's real use, rather than having to resort to euphemisms about glow and vitality, without having to face fines and/or jail time.

After all, it was only 1952 when Hysteria was taken off the list of medically treatable diseases. Don't know what Hysteria is? Then you probably need to read The Technology of Orgasm by Rachel Maines. Doctors treated their patients with "pelvic massages" to produce "hysterical paroxysm" as a cure for the disease. Vibrators were invented in the 1880's to assist them with this treatment.

I guess, like all medicine, it's only bad when you start treating the problem yourself...

Republic of Lakotah?

From RepublicOfLakotah.com:

We as the freedom loving Lakotah People are the predecessor sovereign of Dakota Territory as evidenced by the Treaties with the United States Government, including, but not limited to, the Treaty of 1851 and the Treaty of 1868 at Fort Laramie.

Lakotah, formally and unilaterally withdraws from all agreements and treaties imposed by the United States Government on the Lakotah People.

Lakotah , and the population therein, have waited for at least 155 years for the United States of America to adhere to the provisions of the above referenced treaties. The continuing violations of these treaties’ terms have resulted in the near annihilation of our people physically, spiritually, and culturally. Lakotah rejects United States Termination By Appropriation policy from 1871 to the present.
The video presentation is also on YouTube,

Youtube video http://republicoflakotah.com/

I wonder what the response will be?

FFrF Radio: Growing Unaffiliated & Fraudulent Prayer Studies

Podcast Link.

March 1, 2008 - Religiously 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, 2007 - Supreme 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.