Pharyngula

Blood in the water

The blogs have talked about Bobby Jindal’s credentials as an exorcist for some time, and now, finally, after Jindal’s comical performance on national TV the other night, the mainstream media is taking notice. His dalliance with exorcism gets a write-up in the NY Times, where one of the more depressing questions I’ve run across is asked.

“That’s incredible. But is it politically problematic?”

It’s discouraging that we even need to ask this. A potential presidential candidate believes that a woman grappling with cancer and depression might have been literally possessed by a demon, and that chanting magical incantations cast the demon out. This is absolutely insane stuff. But of course, in this country it’s the people who question such ludicrous claims who are regarded as ‘close-minded’ and ‘weird’.

Discouraging as the fact that that question can even be asked might be, even worse is the answer. “Probably not”.

Check the poll results at that link. 40% of Americans in the 21st century believe that the devil sometimes possesses people. We hoped for flying cars, and all we got was voodoo and speaking in tongues. I feel a little bit cheated.

At least we can hope that maybe newspapers and television will begin to eye these claims a bit more skeptically. But don’t count on it.

Comments

  1. #1 Monado
    February 28, 2009

    That is pretty sad. And we in Canada still have Bush Lite running things. With everything else that’s going on, their big initiative is to impose minimum sentences for drug-related offences. We already know that makes it harder for judges to impose a nuanced punishment for varying circumstances.

  2. #2 www.10ch.org
    February 28, 2009

    Americans are superstitious people. There was a Pew Research Center poll a while back.

  3. #3 Reginald Selkirk
    February 28, 2009

    How unsettling. For a relaxing counter-experience, check out this other article recent article from the NYTimes:
    Scandinavian Nonbelievers, Which Is Not to Say Atheists

  4. #4 www.10ch.org
    February 28, 2009

    “At least we can hope that maybe newspapers and television will begin to eye these claims a bit more skeptically. But don’t count on it.”

    Probable reason: those newspaper-people and television-people are probably not much better than the average American.

  5. #5 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 28, 2009

    I don’t see the MSM changing until stupidsticion stops selling.

  6. #6 Jim Battle
    February 28, 2009

    Just about everybody enjoys seeing a magician perform a magic trick. Some people enjoy learning how the trick was done even more, and they can appreciate the skill of the deception.

    For other people, though, this knowledge spoils their enjoyment of it. Apparently, they have some deep need to believe the possibility that magic really does exist; the world is more exciting to them that way.

    I wonder how well these two groups correlate with religious beliefs.

  7. #7 AnthonyK
    February 28, 2009

    I would have thought that grief is causing the GOP to mis-think. Even in America, the antidote to the eloquent, informed President Obama (oh how I enjoy typing that!) is not a dumb-as-fuck creationist. Surely, let’s be charitable and allow the opposition brains; they’re starting those particular pheasants so that they can be shot down now. Isn’t the religious wackaloon community, in reality, split, disillusioned, and unpopular?
    I strongly suspect that President Obama (there I go again!) will meet a much smarter, much less religious foe than Jindal – unfortunately.

  8. #8 www.10ch.org
    February 28, 2009

    @#5 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    “I don’t see the MSM changing until stupidsticion stops selling.”

    Perhaps this will happen when people are more educated. One can only hope that education nationwide improves eventually.

    @#6 Jim Battle
    “Apparently, they have some deep need to believe the possibility that magic really does exist; the world is more exciting to them that way.”

    Almost like a need to live vicariously. If they really want to “live” in such a world, it would be better if they kept it to fiction, after all. Perhaps if they put their imagination to fiction, rather than pretended that it was in reality, then things could be better.

    @#7 AnthonyK
    “Isn’t the religious wackaloon community, in reality, split, disillusioned, and unpopular?”
    Last time I heard, it really is unpopular. However, “mere” superstition is not viewed as “wackaloon” by many. About 40% of people in the U.S. who believe in god view god as “interventionalist,” after all.

  9. #9 Marcus J. Ranum
    February 28, 2009

    Jindal/Palin in 2012! Just for the laughs!

  10. #10 bobxxxx
    February 28, 2009

    The poll asked are demons and angels active in the world. Only 14 percent completely disagreed, which is the exact same percentage of Americans who accept the idea people developed from other animals without supernatural intervention.

    Winning first prize for hopeless stupidity was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. 95 percent of them completely or mostly agreed with the demons/angels thing.

    Bobby Jindal, who wants to force biology teachers to teach magical creation, and who believes diseases are caused by demons, is a typical Republican retard.

  11. #11 (((Billy)))
    February 28, 2009

    If ‘twer a Democratic candidate for higher office, no question it would be problematical. The press would run with it 24/7 for at least a month, and then it would settle down to snarking comments at least once or twice a day until the politician disappears from the scene. For a Republican? I’m amazed it got mentioned.

  12. #12 Gingerbaker
    February 28, 2009

    Jindal admits to not only being a participant in the amateur exorcism of his girlfriend, but when push came to shove, he opted to be a coward rather than bravely confronting the demon, which was tormenting Susan so much she was writhing:

    “…Whenever I concentrated long enough to begin prayer, I felt some type of physical force distracting me. It was as if something was pushing down on my chest, making it very hard for me to breathe…I was very scared of what was happening to me and Susan. I began to think that the demon would only attack me if I tried to pray or fight back; thus, I resigned myself to leav­ing it alone in an attempt to find peace for myself.”

    No hero, that one! Too bad, because that ‘demon’ killed her with cancer a bit later on.

  13. #13 dave
    February 28, 2009

    nobody thinks this is awesome? this is better than any b-film, funnier than benny hill

  14. #14 tony
    February 28, 2009

    funnier than benny hill

    Please tell me you meant that as snark! Next you’ll be lauding the comic talents of Jerry Lewis!

  15. #15 SteveL
    February 28, 2009

    I posted this on the old Jindal thread, re-posting. Another Republican presidential wannabe:

    Alan Keyes on Obama (youtube)

  16. #16 talking snake
    February 28, 2009

    “40% of Americans in the 21st century believe that the devil sometimes possesses people.”

    Yeah, and some of them vote.

  17. #17 PlaydoPlato
    February 28, 2009

    I grew up in a cult-like Pentecostal church where speaking in tongues and casting out demons was considered normal. Even as a child, I suspected it was all BS, but of course, I knew that to give voice to my suspicions would have landed me in hot water.

    That a significant number of adult Americans today, are ok with their elected leaders believing this stuff is astounding.

  18. #18 Reginald Selkirk
    February 28, 2009

    Call to action in Boulder, CO:
    CU professor to discuss views on atheism, intelligent design

    Dr. Bradley Monton, a philosophy professor at CU Boulder, and a self-professed atheist, will be featured at Lifetree Cafe discussing his views this week on intelligent design and why he believes it is worth considering. He will speak 7 p.m. Sunday and noon and 7 p.m. Tuesday.
    Monton has been investigating the intelligent design theory for years (the theory that something or someone purposefully assembled the world as we know it).
    As a result of the research Monton has concluded that intelligent design is in fact plausible.

    Admission to the 60-minute event is free. Snacks and beverages are available. Lifetree Cafe is located in Loveland at 1515 Cascade Ave. (the east end of the Group Publishing building, at the corner of West Eisenhower and Cascade Avenue.)

    If you are in the Boulder area, please consider attending. I would love to hear a report on what “the intelligent design theory” is that Monton has been investigating, particularly since several prominent ID proponents have admitted that ID does not have a “theory.”

  19. #19 Ken Cope
    February 28, 2009

    “40% of Americans in the 21st century believe that the devil sometimes possesses people.”

    Yeah, and some of them vote.

    And a lot of them expect angels to hold the steering wheel for them while they’re distracted from driving.

  20. #20 Allen N
    February 28, 2009

    It would seem this parallels the uproar which greeted the Harry Potter books. It would seem that belief in magic is so rooted in these folks that great offense was taken when non-xian magic was depicted. As with the stir caused by the Da Vinci Code, religistas don’t seem to be able to differentiate between fiction and reality. Jindal just carries on the proud tradition.

  21. #21 Reginald Selkirk
    February 28, 2009

    Oops, RE #18: Monton is from CU-Boulder, but the talk is in Loveland, CO.

  22. #22 Roger
    February 28, 2009

    I love the “self-professed atheist” bit in the announcement. How does someone get to be an “other-professed atheist”?

  23. #23 Janine, Ignorant Slut
    February 28, 2009

    Posted by: Roger | February 28, 2009

    I love the “self-professed atheist” bit in the announcement. How does someone get to be an “other-professed atheist”?

    An “independently confirmed” atheist?

  24. #24 Scott from Oregon
    February 28, 2009

    As a natural born Anti-religionist (I had to think through full blown atheism when I was about ten) I still never cared what people “believed” for comfort.

    And then those beliefs got GW Bush elected and I realized that it was a serious problem in America.

    So the need to bash “rethuglicans” for housing such “believers” is understandable, but I have to continually shake my head at the ignorance so-called rationalists and reasonable people display everyday here on this site.

    California’s woo crowd- the crystal keepers and the rainbow coalition crowd, all gathered to channel their woo into an Obama presidency. Obama is a self-proclaimed Jesus freak who believes in ascending dead people and spirits and all the rest… The African-American community which went 98% Obama is famous for incorporating woo into its churches…

    Yaddy yaddy…

    There are Atheist Democrats, sure- lots of them. But the ignorance and delusion of the Democratic party is right up there with the Republicans.

    I mean seriously, what is “hope” but a woo-notion?

    I love the fact that y’all are fighting the intellectual battle against non-sensical thinking patterns.

    I just wish you actually would.

  25. #25 Mozglubov
    February 28, 2009

    The horrible thing is, I keep thinking that the Republican party has put forth the worst of the worst onto the political stage, but then they keep finding more people who are just as bad as (if not worse than) those that came before them. I know Jindal has been an ass before (what with the creationism crap and the exorcism stuff he pulled a while back), but that somehow led him to be proferred as a rising star within the Republican party? I just don’t get it… I can only hope Americans have a long enough memory to remember the Bush years for a long while to come.

  26. #26 Insightful Ape
    February 28, 2009

    Didn’t Ms Palin credit her political career to exorcism?

  27. #27 Reginald Selkirk
    February 28, 2009

    How does someone get to be an “other-professed atheist”?

    It’s pretty easy. You could stand up for quality science education in the public schools, or for the separation of church and state. The God-botherers will be quick to label you an atheist, even if you aren’t.

  28. #28 Philip P.
    February 28, 2009

    The standard joke about flying cars is that so many people can’t manage steering in two-dimensions, and you want to give them a third?

    And just now you write about how belief in exorcism (that even I, a Christian, laugh at) will not necessarily destroy a politician’s dreams of national office. Do you really want to give the people that would support him three-dimensions to drive through?

  29. #29 www.10ch.org
    February 28, 2009

    “Didn’t Ms Palin credit her political career to exorcism?”
    Well, one of her ministers went to Africa to go witch-hunting.

  30. #30 Mozglubov
    February 28, 2009

    @Scott at #24

    As you point out, Obama does profess to religious belief and has spoken on several occasions about the importance of his faith, as well as invited some outright religious jackasses to be figures of honour at events. All that has caused a great deal of trepidation amongst many people here, and PZ Myers himself has posted several reserved statements about his thoughts on how the Obama presidency will turn out. It’s just, when you compare a calm, collected, and eloquent man who openly acknowledges the existence and rights of people without belief to the rantings of those who think atheists are the worst of the worst and amoral, anti-American sycophants, then there is clearly one group which is likely to get our hackles up a little more frequently.

  31. #31 'Tis Himself
    February 28, 2009

    If you do something for religious reasons, you’re given a free pass. Tell people that “voices in my head talk to me” and you’re a candidate for the psych ward. Tell the same people “god talks to me” and you get a following.

  32. #32 PlaydoPlato
    February 28, 2009

    Scott @ 24

    California’s woo crowd- the crystal keepers and the rainbow coalition crowd, all gathered to channel their woo into an Obama presidency.

    From what I’ve seen here, Cali’s liberal woo crowd hasn’t been spared any criticism here.

    Obama is a self-proclaimed Jesus freak who believes in ascending dead people and spirits and all the rest…

    What kind of J-Freak would roll back anti-abortion gains, as Obama appears determined to do? Would a J-Freak give a positive shout out to non-believers as Obama did in his inauguration speech? All the real J-Freaks I know hate Obama with an all consuming passion, so if he’s a J-Freak, he’s doing it wrong.

    If you’re basing your comment on things he’s said about faith, religion, etc., here’s a hint: all politicians lie. All of them. Just compare Obama’s words regarding religion with his actions.

    The African-American community which went 98% Obama is famous for incorporating woo into its churches…

    Your point? Again, from what I’ve seen, the Pharyngula crowd is an equal opportunity eviscerator of anti-intellectual nonsense. African-Americans don’t get a pass any more than wites.

  33. #33 DrBadger
    February 28, 2009

    One thing that may be saving this country from being run by even crazier people is that, although there are a lot of nuts, there is a wide variety of nuts. If someone is too entrenched in their type of idiocy, the other nuts will shy away from that person. (i.e., a crazy Catholic who claims to have seen visions of Mary and says he carries the stigmata will not be seen as a viable candidate by evangelical protestants, and someone who speaks in tongues won’t be seen as a viable candidate by Mormons, etc.) Of course, there are too many things they agree on, so when someone who merely believes in being possessed by the devil comes around, they’re ok to vote for him.

  34. #34 Lotharloo
    February 28, 2009

    Jindal/Palin in 2012! Just for the laughs!

    Careful what you wish for.

  35. #35 tony
    February 28, 2009

    Speaking of Jesus freaks (and somewhat O/T) New Scientist has a little piece on spotting religious bias in publications

    Not deep, but useful in that NS is (also) a mass media publication.

  36. #36 John Kwok
    February 28, 2009

    @ Reginald (Comment # 18) -

    Monton is as much a disinterested atheist ID supporter as fellow philosopher Steve Fuller is.

    Incidentally, Monton weighed in on this opinion piece from Pennock at US News and World Report:

    http://www.usnews.com/blogs/room-for-debate/2009/2/18/creation-of-christian-soldiers-a-chilling-sidelight-of-darwin-bashing

    I challenged him privately to reply to my criticisms of him, Dembski and the rest of that mendacious ilk, and, like a typical creationist, he’s ignored me.

  37. #37 www.10ch.org
    February 28, 2009

    @#34 Lotharloo
    “Careful what you wish for.”
    Indeed, because it is entirely possible. Bush, after all, was elected only 8 years ago, and it is entirely possible that such a thing might happen again.

  38. #38 Who Am I?
    February 28, 2009

    It’s something of a given that every country’s got some loonies. I just had no idea astounding gravity of the situation in the US.

  39. #39 Lotharloo
    February 28, 2009

    I find the comments at thedailybeast very depressing; for many the exorcism seemed like normal business. There is no getting away from the fact that a significant part of American public is extremely deluded and superstitious. The reality is Palin or Jindal can actually win presidential elections, specially if Obama fucks up, or something happens during the next four years to give Republicans some momentum.

  40. #40 Who Am I?
    February 28, 2009

    Heck! I’ve omitted “as to the” after “no idea”. :-)

  41. #41 Danio
    February 28, 2009

    Just compare Obama’s words regarding religion with his actions.

    Indeed, this is the crucial point. Whatever supernatural beliefs he holds, his track record as a politician has been, unequivocally, to leave the tenets of his personal faith out of policy decisions. Clearly, all those years reading Constitutional Law had some sort of effect on him. Contrast this with someone like Jindal, or, hell, take your pick of a hundred other Republicans currently holding public office, all of whom seem to be bending over backwards to insert their personal beliefs into every single policy decision regardless of the empirical relevance of faith or ‘morality’ to the particular legislative matter at hand.

    Obama clearly isn’t everyone’s idea of perfection, and as mentioned above he hasn’t been given any free passes on Scienceblogs. But the ongoing efforts of libertarians and other self-styled iconoclasts to paint him with the same brush as someone like Jindal, e.g. are just absurd.

  42. #42 Drosera
    February 28, 2009

    This believe in demons and angels is hardly surprising. After all, most Christians are convinced that Jesus was the son of God. If you can believe such a crazy thing, you must be dumb enough to believe other crazy things. Ex falso quodlibet.

  43. #43 rb
    February 28, 2009

    I blame Flip Wilson

  44. #44 Levi in NY
    February 28, 2009

    We have flying cars already.

    They’re called airplanes. And there’s a reason why you need lots of training and a special license to fly them. I’m really glad every Tom, Dick and Harry doesn’t have a small aircraft in his garage to take to work every day, half-asleep, low on fuel and in a hurry because he’s late.

  45. #45 Drosera
    February 28, 2009

    This belief in demons and angels is hardly surprising. After all, most Christians are convinced that Jesus was the son of God. If you can believe such a crazy thing, why not believe other crazy things? Ex falso quodlibet.

  46. #46 Kristian Grönqvist
    February 28, 2009

    Just a unknowing man from Sweden: Do You burn Women too…?

  47. #47 CalGeorge
    February 28, 2009

    N.Y. Times:
    ?Satan, I command you to leave this woman.? Others exhorted all ?demons to leave in the name of Christ.??

    Fred Rogers, I command thee to leave this man Bobby Jindal!

    Hmmm. Actually, feel free to stay. You’re doing a good job of destroying Bobby’s prospects in 2012.

  48. #48 Walton
    February 28, 2009

    Obama clearly isn’t everyone’s idea of perfection, and as mentioned above he hasn’t been given any free passes on Scienceblogs. But the ongoing efforts of libertarians and other self-styled iconoclasts to paint him with the same brush as someone like Jindal, e.g. are just absurd.

    I don’t try to paint him with the same brush as Jindal; they are very different and have very different values and beliefs. Obama is a highly intelligent, educated man, and I agree with a lot of what he has said about religion and secularism. I respect the fact that, as has been pointed out here, he keeps his personal faith out of politics and does not try to use the coercive agency of the State to impose it on others.

    But does this mean Obama is better than Jindal? No. Because just as Jindal subscribes to supernaturalist woo, Obama subscribes to another form of intellectually indefensible woo – left-wing economics. Just as Jindal believes – in the face of all the evidence – that demons cause diseases, so too Obama believes, in the face of all the evidence, that bigger government will make things better rather than worse. Neither conclusion is sustainable on the basis of the available empirical evidence.

    Given the choice between Obama and Jindal, I would probably spoil the ballot or vote for the Libertarian candidate. Given the choice between Obama and Palin, I would probably hit my head against a brick wall, and then buy a plane ticket to somewhere far away.

  49. #49 Walton
    February 28, 2009

    Obama clearly isn’t everyone’s idea of perfection, and as mentioned above he hasn’t been given any free passes on Scienceblogs. But the ongoing efforts of libertarians and other self-styled iconoclasts to paint him with the same brush as someone like Jindal, e.g. are just absurd.

    I don’t try to paint him with the same brush as Jindal; they are very different and have very different values and beliefs. Obama is a highly intelligent, educated man, and I agree with a lot of what he has said about religion and secularism. I respect the fact that, as has been pointed out here, he keeps his personal faith out of politics and does not try to use the coercive agency of the State to impose it on others.

    But does this mean Obama is better than Jindal? No. Because just as Jindal subscribes to supernaturalist woo, Obama subscribes to another form of intellectually indefensible woo – left-wing economics. Just as Jindal believes – in the face of all the evidence – that demons cause diseases, so too Obama believes, in the face of all the evidence, that bigger government will make things better rather than worse. Neither conclusion is sustainable on the basis of the available empirical evidence.

    Given the choice between Obama and Jindal, I would probably spoil the ballot or vote for the Libertarian candidate. Given the choice between Obama and Palin, I would probably hit my head against a brick wall, and then buy a plane ticket to somewhere far away.

  50. #50 secularguy
    February 28, 2009

    Scott from Oregon (#24)

    «I mean seriously, what is “hope” but a woo-notion?»

    If I wish that something will happen, and let the knowledge that it is possible inspire me, how does that invoke supernaturalism?

    Seems like you’re acting the religionist’s strawman idea of an “atheist with no hope” …

  51. #51 co
    February 28, 2009

    Oh, Jesus Fucking Free-Market Christ: We’re going to get sucked into another Libertarian discussion in 3…. 2….

  52. #52 Mozglubov
    February 28, 2009

    Um, Walton, I think you are mistaken about the degree of confirmatory evidence within medical science and economics. They are not at all comparable…

  53. #53 Ken Cope
    February 28, 2009

    Obama subscribes to another form of intellectually indefensible woo – left-wing economics.

    Walton, you’ve got no business accusing anybody of intellectually indefensible woo after what got us into this steaming shitpile, the one left in the wake of crony capitalism and the ideology of Alan Greenspan. Economically, Jindal offers more of what got us here, saying, “what cliff?” and jamming on the accelerator.

  54. #54 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2009

    rb (@#43) ftw

    I loled

  55. #55 Patricia, OM
    February 28, 2009

    Take that bullshit to your own blog Walton.

  56. #56 Ken Cope
    February 28, 2009

    10 I will no longer respond to Walton
    20 goto 10

  57. #57 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2009

    15 greasemonky
    17 killfile

  58. #58 Danio
    February 28, 2009

    Given the choice between Obama and Palin, I would probably hit my head against a brick wall, and then buy a plane ticket to somewhere far away.

    We recently voted on what was, effectively, that very choice. Do you truly believe that the obvious choice for any thinking American would be to become an expat before casting a vote for Obama? Jackass.

    Conflating religion and economics is the stupidest strategy I’ve seen to date for making your case. And that is saying something.

    Scott FO and Walton–can you please, please, find an intimate little blog somewhere else to continue your big gubmit-bashing reach-arounds and leave the rest of us in peace? We’ve heard it before, we’re still not interested, and it’s unpleasant to watch you flog the same putrifying equine remains for the umpteenth time.

  59. #59 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 28, 2009

    Scott FO and Walton–can you please, please, find an intimate little blog somewhere else to continue your big gubmit-bashing reach-arounds and leave the rest of us in peace? We’ve heard it before, we’re still not interested, and it’s unpleasant to watch you flog the same putrifying equine remains for the umpteenth time.

    I’ll second this request, and also ask that you take AG with you.

  60. #60 Liberal Atheist
    February 28, 2009

    This is the stuff that will make sure our civilisation will not last for much longer.

  61. #61 Knockgoats
    February 28, 2009

    Obama believes, in the face of all the evidence, that bigger government will make things better rather than worse. Neither conclusion is sustainable on the basis of the available empirical evidence. – Walton

    This can only be described as a lie: in some cases, increasing the scope of government action demonstrably has made things better – for example, in the aftermath of the last great crash, when things kept getting worse economically until governments took action, then got better. The time of maximum government intervention in economic affairs – roughly, 1940-1970 – was also the time of the fastest sustained economic growth, and the fastest spread of affluence, in history.

    Increasing the scope of government action has also, in various countries: improved literacy rates and other measures of education, curbed disease, advanced basic science, reduced poverty and malnutrition, ended slavery, reduced gross exploitation of workers by employers, given people security in sickness and old age… Walton, repeating a lie does not make it true, and here, will just bring you thoroughly deserved contempt.

  62. #62 Rich Hudson
    February 28, 2009

    This blog just keeps getting better and better.

  63. #63 Cylux
    February 28, 2009

    I can’t see how we could get sucked into a libertarian free market discussion, given how EVERYONE knows that the market is perfect and cannot fail, and if it does appear to be failing then its clearly the fault of nefarious outside influences, or ‘elected governments’ as they’re often called. Performing such seditious actions as say, setting a national minimum wage, or enacting regulatory bodies with actual teeth to prevent and punish fraud, theft or indeed the outright rape and plunder of national resources, which of course is every company’s RIGHT!
    Some sectarian bastards also suggest that the trickle down theory is nought but ‘the dogs being allowed feed off the scraps that fall from the master’s table’ when it is surely far superior to the idiotic claims for ‘redistribution of wealth’ that they often parrot. Any claims that enacting free market reforms in countries was a ‘redistribution of wealth’ in reverse by pointing to figures that show populations of millionaires rocketing by huge numbers of at least 20 per country and those same figures showing a paltry increase of 400000 per country now living in subsidence are of course the lies of those who failed the Market. I don’t see the room for discussion, do you?

  64. #64 Nate
    February 28, 2009

    When trade and consumer spending are down, the ONLY way to boost the economy is government spending…..it’s pretty effing simple. Government spending will (HOPEfully) allow us to avoid a deflationary spiral. Giving tax cuts to the rich doesn’t guarantee any increase in GNP, whereas government SPENDING money absolutely does.

    Also, the term “big government” is so tired it’s almost meaningless….wasn’t the government biggest under W.? How about efficiency as the standard for good government, rather than size. Who cares how big it is if it does its job well and efficienctly, anyway.

  65. #65 Walton
    February 28, 2009

    We recently voted on what was, effectively, that very choice.

    No you didn’t. You voted on Obama vs. John McCain. If he had won and then died, America would have been screwed. As it is, America is still screwed, just in a slightly different way.

    McCain was and is a decent enough guy, though his judgment’s slipped massively in his old age. Palin is an airhead who’s got where she is by luck and backstabbing, not on merit. Obama is a bright and decent man (well, as decent as one can be in politics), but his ideology is wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s a world of wrong. He wants to return to the days of the nanny state. We need to stay away from that.

    The time of maximum government intervention in economic affairs – roughly, 1940-1970 – was also the time of the fastest sustained economic growth, and the fastest spread of affluence, in history.

    Statistics, please? And what about the massive “stagflation” in the 1970s? Even you can’t honestly argue that America was in a good economic state under Jimmy Carter. (Or Britain under James Callaghan.) The Thatcher-Reagan revolution was a necessary correction, and made things much better in the long run.

    The current crisis (like all crises) is the result of government activity. And we need to let the market correct itself. Let the banks and other businesses fail; that’s part of the market’s mechanism for weeding out the weak.

  66. #66 tony
    February 28, 2009

    Walton @ 48/49:

    I would probably spoil the ballot orand vote for the Libertarian candidate

    Fixed it for ya. No charge. (sorry if that offends your ‘weak’ libertarian principles)

  67. #67 Greg F.
    February 28, 2009

    The current crisis (like all crises) is the result of government activity.

    If by government activity you mean deregulation of almost every banking rule to ensure that money is not being given to people with no collateral and banks can survive a massive wave of defaults, then yes, this crisis was very much aided by the government.

    But you can’t reasonably say that banks lending money to people who can’t pay it back had nothing to do with it and it was all government’s fault with a simplistic proof by assertion fallacy. It’s like saying that the gun can’t be the murder weapon because it just shoots bullets and because you say that’s true, that’s the way it is.

    And how would you prove that every single crisis is caused by the government? Every financial crisis in the 20th century was caused by out of control greed with no government involvement whatsoever. Don’t even start citing revisionist history from the ACU on this…

    And we need to let the market correct itself.

    Ah, but the market wants a nanny state so they don’t have to take their lumps. The nationalization and bailouts are the Street’s desires now that times are bad. Bush obliged because he was a puppet for their interests and Obama just inherited the quasi-nanny state doling out corporate welfare by the billions.

    At least have the decency to blame the right president.

  68. #68 Knockgoats
    February 28, 2009

    Statistics, please? And what about the massive “stagflation” in the 1970s? Even you can’t honestly argue that America was in a good economic state under Jimmy Carter. (Or Britain under James Callaghan.) The Thatcher-Reagan revolution was a necessary correction, and made things much better in the long run.

    The rapid growth and spread of affluence in the period 1940-70 is a commonplace among economic historians – I’ll find you a reference if you are really incapable of finding one for yourself. Stagflation in the 1970s was largely a result of two factors: the US attempt to fight the Vietnam War without raising taxes; and the oil shocks of 1974 and 1979 – which were politically motivated. The result of the Thatcher-Reagan counter-revolution was the massive concentration of wealth and financial deregulation that led directly and inevitably to the current crisis.

    I notice you don’t even try to acquit yourself of the charge of lying. Perhaps an apology for the lie is in order.

  69. #69 Ryogam
    February 28, 2009

    Fuck, I know I’m going to hate myself…

    To all the libertarians, What ended the Great Depression?

  70. #70 Patricia, OM
    February 28, 2009

    Here we go. >:(

  71. #71 Steve8282
    February 28, 2009

    Off Topic but did anyone See Alan Cumming (SP?) Throw down for atheism on Bill Maher last night?

    I think I have a new hero.

  72. #72 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2009

    Oh, no. Another Libertarian crap fest.

    Man, I get so tired of these Zombies of the Invisible Hand.

  73. #73 Julie Stahlhut
    February 28, 2009

    Complaining that the administration’s attempts to salvage the economy means “big government” is interfering with your economic freedom? In this economy, it’s like complaining that an orthopedic surgeon’s attempt to repair your compound-fractured legs is “big medicine” interfering with your freedom to bleed.

  74. #74 Crack Pipe Lenny
    February 28, 2009

    There is virtually no politician too stupid, racist, insane, or unqualified to be elected to office in America these days, and I don’t just mean to mayor or dogcatcher, I mean to both U.S. and state Congress as well as governorships.

    I do wonder if the narrowing of the Republican base isn’t paradoxically making this even MORE true, i.e., whether those inclined to vote like ignorant fuckheads in the past are not defiantly, aggressively intent on voting like ANGRY ignorant fuckheads now, in a last-ditch effort to right a sinking ship or at least torch it as a sinks. Guess we’ll see.

    There’s really no point in pretending that this shit doesn’t afflict the South to a markedly exaggerated degree. Look at the past 10 or 15 years alone: Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Mike Fair, Tom Coburn, James Inhofe, Mike Huckabee, Katherine Harris, and now Bobby Jindal. And that is leaving OUT Texas altogether.

    All of these people are either demonstrably racist or openly advocating some crazyfuck belief. Inhofe is a special case because there seems to be no sort or degree of nasty bullshit he’s incapable of getting behind. Harris’ IQ is roughly the same as her bra size, and this is a compliment to only one of these factors.

    The you have crooks like Bill Jefferson and whoremongers like David Vitter, but the public can be largely absolved of blame in voting for these guys because no one knew how they’d turn out. The people who vote for religious nuts not only are well aware they’re doing it, but they do it intentionally. We have a large segment of the electorate that is worthless, probably irreparably stupid, and they simply need to be shoved out of the way wherever possible.

    It would be as superfluous for me to apologize to all the smart and sane people here from those states as it would be silly to pretend that the South isn’t a depressing hotbed of deeply ingrained and often proud backwardness. And yes, I know from personal experience.

    Let this not be viewed as a statement that the rest of the country seems intent on winning any prizes for its ability to vet candidates. We’re fucked and should probably blow ourselves up with a collective howl of fury and remorse.

  75. #75 KI
    February 28, 2009

    I call a gypsy curse on those who can’t keep their economic obsessions out of every single thread. May the free market treat you freely.

  76. #76 Ryogam
    February 28, 2009

    Let’s see, stay on topic…

    I think there is a good argument to be made that exorcisms can have a beneficial effect on those mentally-ill or deluded enough to believe in demon possession, using the placebo affect. The question is, though, is this benefit outweighed by the harm to society caused by the belief that mental illnesses could be caused by demons and not natural causes? Never mind the truth or falsity of the assertion that demons exist or can control people, is it ever a good idea to buy into the delusions of the mentally ill in an attempt to cure them?

  77. #77 tony
    February 28, 2009

    Walton

    You are seriously deranged if you think the damage wrought by Thatcher’s tenure in the UK have led to anything but major fiscal and structural problems for the country. Alienation of any competing perspective and a rebirth of the ‘Little Englander’, complete with ideological opposition to governmental spending on anything – including education and health.

    The results are plain to see: the UK is vying with the US for the title of ‘fastest falling first world country’.

    And before you try to trot out any stats that might suggest otherwise – please make sure you use a long enough baseline. There is a lot of inertia in a modern nation – just look how the US has managed to survive under Chimp-in-Chief. Beaten and bloodied, and still going downhill, but there is still some hope if people and governments have the will to do so.

  78. #78 Peter Klaver
    February 28, 2009

    What worries me more than an individual like Jindal embracing exorcism is the catholic church returning to it. After abandoning that nonsense centuries ago, they are now on a retro course back to the Dark Ages:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JFRqkHbuOo

    *sigh*

  79. #79 Anonym
    February 28, 2009

    Maybe ‘Bobby’ needs another name change; how’s about ‘Gunga Din’?

  80. #80 Danio
    February 28, 2009

    No you didn’t. You voted on Obama vs. John McCain. If he had won and then died, America would have been screwed. As it is, America is still screwed, just in a slightly different way.

    Ugh, please don’t presume to instruct me on American politics. If you truly believe that the choice of Palin as VP, her high-profile campaign, McCain’s motivations for selecting her over other candidates and the fact of his relatively advanced age did NOT influence votes either for or against Obama, you are even more naďve than I suspected.

    Fuck, I know I’m going to hate myself…

    The black gates are now well and truly open. I’m not sticking around to see what crawls out.

  81. #81 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2009

    KI, catching any survivors’ shows this spring? Me, Madison Square Garden, baby. $100, though, it stings, and stinks.

  82. #82 Paul
    February 28, 2009

    Here, here!! I agree with the comments #51 down to here…this comment thread isn’t really about the unrealistic Libertarian agenda is it? So bite down, or take it to your own blog. But keep checking back, maybe PZ will post something about Libertarians and then you guys can weigh in with your vast insight.

  83. #83 pcarini
    February 28, 2009

    Crack Pipe Lenny @ #74:

    There is virtually no politician too stupid, racist, insane, or unqualified to be elected to office in America these days, and I don’t just mean to mayor or dogcatcher, I mean to both U.S. and state Congress as well as governorships.

    I don’t know, George Allen’s “macaca” comment pretty well torpedoed his campaign, this in Virginia even. It seems like they can still get away with being openly racist in some of those areas, just not on film during the election cycle. I consider this to be a small sign of progress, that even the bigots can be embarrassed by the label ‘racist’.

    For insane and unqualified, see how well it worked out for Palin. She did a remarkable job of scaring away the political and social middle.

  84. #84 ndt
    February 28, 2009

    #4Posted by: http://www.10ch.org | February 28, 2009 10:35 AM

    “At least we can hope that maybe newspapers and television will begin to eye these claims a bit more skeptically. But don’t count on it.”

    Probable reason: those newspaper-people and television-people are probably not much better than the average American.

    Even if there weren’t, their job is to pander to the average American – or more precisely, the average American in the age ranges and income brackets most desired by advertisers. The American press could be run by geniuses and it would still put out the same crap, it would just be better at packaging and selling the crap.

  85. #85 tony
    February 28, 2009

    Steve @ 82: My wife used to date him (they both went to the same schools: Monikie primary and Carnoustie High School, near Dundee). (When I say date – this *was* the seventies & eighties, and dating in high school was more of a *group* activity)

    He has always been ‘out there’ – his earliest work was very very funny (and very scottish). more here: Alan Cumming

  86. #86 KI
    February 28, 2009

    Sven@81
    Chicago and Denver are my closest shots and unless I can get a bus trip organized probably not. $100, man I hate ticketmaster.
    Bobby and Ratdog played a small theater downtown last year, and that was swell. I’ll likely have to make do with the Monthly Hoot, we play a lot of Garcia/Hunter and we’re good enough musicians to pull off “Terrapin” and “Let It Grow” and “Cryptical Envelopment” but of course one must stay sober enough to play, so that’s a bit different than the concert experience.

  87. #87 dean
    February 28, 2009

    On a scary point – I have a couple neighbors who think Jindal’s speech was great. “He explained all our problems in a very simple way” was the comment of one. I agree with the simple part, but that’s about it.

    “Let the banks and other businesses fail; that’s part of the market’s mechanism for weeding out the weak.”

    Right – because the failure of the largest banks in the country (and, probably the auto industry, if Walton were pressed) would harm only the weakest and those who deserve it.

    Walton follows the guideline for all kooks: keep saying stupid stuff, even when reality contradicts it – it can’t be a lie if he repeats it often enough.

  88. #88 ndt
    February 28, 2009

    Walton, on another thread you said that 19th Century Britain was the closest thing we’d had to libertarian state. At that very point you lost all credibility. Not because you’re wrong, but because no one in their right mind would want to live in 19th Century Britain unless they could be guaranteed to land in the .5% of the population that wasn’t working 14 hour days 6 days a week for little pay and no job protections in case of illness or injury.

  89. #89 Walton
    February 28, 2009

    MOAR WORKHOUSES PLEASE!

  90. #90 Zar
    February 28, 2009

    Dammit, I actually *liked* “The Exorcist” and all, but it has really brought demonic possession woo-woo back. I’m under the impression that when it was made, the Catholic Church was pretty embarrassed about the practice of exorcism and didn’t really like to talk about it.

  91. #91 Zar
    February 28, 2009

    Well that’s it! If Walton keeps coming by here posting his irrelevant Randtard woo-woo, I’m going to keep visiting his blog, posting bad slash fanfiction. Let’s do it, pharyngulans!

  92. #92 elbuho
    February 28, 2009

    “40% of Americans in the 21st century believe that the devil sometimes possesses people. We hoped for flying cars, and all we got was voodoo and speaking in tongues. I feel a little bit cheated.”

    I just added this to my Favorite Quotations on Facebook :)

  93. #93 E.V.
    February 28, 2009

    Dammit, I actually *liked* “The Exorcist” and all, but it has really brought demonic possession woo-woo back. I’m under the impression that when it was made, the Catholic Church was pretty embarrassed about the practice of exorcism and didn’t really like to talk about it.

    I liked it too, it was an excellently constructed fantasy. I suspended my disbelief and enjoyed the ride.
    The Catholic Church is still pretty embarrassed when it comes to exorcism. Most jesuits i know shake their heads and roll their eyes at the mention of it or any pareidolia concerning Mary or Jesus.

  94. #94 Walton
    February 28, 2009

    The comment at #89 was not me.

    (I’m flattered that someone considers me interesting enough to impersonate…)

  95. #95 Alex Deam
    February 28, 2009

    Even you can’t honestly argue that America was in a good economic state under Jimmy Carter. (Or Britain under James Callaghan.) The Thatcher-Reagan revolution was a necessary correction, and made things much better in the long run.

    So necessary that Britain suffered three recessions under the Conservative administration? Not to mention that we suffer directly now because of the policies of Reagan and Thatcher. In Britain, who introduced widespread deregulation? Thatcher. Who introduced the concept of the “Ownership society” which precipitated the housing boom? Thatcher. Who allowed building societies to merge with or become banks? Thatcher. So necessary that 300 economists wrote a letter to the Times saying her policies would make things worse? And guess what: they did. Notice how the UK suffered a recession in the early 80s as a direct result of her method of getting rid of inflation. So necessary that her policies resulted in widespread social breakdown due to the high unemployment, a breakdown that is a direct cause of the so-called “yob culture” and antisocial behaviour rife in Britain today, something which Cameron will exploit to get himself elected? So necessary that the concept of privatization is embedded in politics to such an extent that while Brown mulls nationalizing RBS, the Royal Mail looks like it will be flogged off? So necessary that the concept of a “universal service” looks set to only reside in education and health (though education is under threat with academies maybe signaling its future)?

    Name just a single time when deregulation in Britain or the US has brought benefits for the majority of the citizens of those two countries?

  96. #96 Ben
    February 28, 2009

    Claps hands for:

    >>> Scott from Oregon | February 28, 2009 11:24 AM

    …yes indeed. It sure would be nice to see an actual, complete rejection of superstition. Obama is, on many levels, just as bad as Bush. He is constitutionally bewildered, religiously infected, and possessed of the insane notion that since the government’s throwing money at pet projects didn’t prevent a recession / depression, the answer should be to… throw more money. Instead of letting actual market forces work.

    Personally, I lay the problem at the foot of political correctness. The idea of one person, one vote has always been pathological. Any time you set up a system where any two uninformed individuals can outvote an expert in an environment where experts are in very short supply, you’re doomed to decisions that at best are a consequence of random inputs, and at worst, are driven by simplistic and bankrupt ideologies such as religion, age-based line drawing, and safety over liberty.

    If we had actual qualifications to vote, and to serve, things would be quite different, in my opinion. We’ll never know, though; this country will let itself outright collapse before it does the right thing.

  97. #97 Scott from Oregon
    February 28, 2009

    “”Oh, no. Another Libertarian crap fest.

    Man, I get so tired of these Zombies of the Invisible Hand.””

    You keep opening yourself up for them by posting politically motivated opinions. If you don’t want political discussion, then why posts these opinions and why allow for public comment? We already KNOW you are a liberal with big government wank-dreams… Why insist on repeating them? The hypocrisy of your position is amazing considering the fact that you consider yourself an educator as well as a rational and reasonable person. None of these applies to your political opinions, but you insist that they do, based simply on the support you recieve from a collection of sycophants who agree with you and not on any emperical evidence you provide.

    We who live in America are subjected to the imposition of our government to a large degree, and have a stake in the direction of our governance.

    When the Congress of the United States borrows money to fulfill your liberal fantasies, it is backed exclusively by the taxing ability of the government guaranteeing that the population will PAY IT BACK.

    When money is removed from my community, money that can be used to fund libraries and sherriffs and fire protection and welfare and schools and roads… and is spent killing Vietnamese peasants or Iraqi Nationalists or buying beer in Okinawa or simply paying nearly a Billion a day in interests on the money the federal government already owes…

    and some clown gets on the internet and promotes more of this nonsense…

    …some of us take the time to remind those caught up in the hysteria of spending, that there are consequences.

    And as the US- the biggest debtor nation in the history of the world- discovers that its hubris and those of its citizens is not enough to carry it economically anymore, when the Chinese and other industrious nations stop lending us money for our big government ejaculations, the chips will all land in your lap as well as all of those who mock those trying to wake y’all the fuck up to the mathematical certainties in store for our fat and pasty arses…

    Not every person who opposes the federal government’s fuck ups and over-bloated and over-reaching powers is a libertarian.

    Some of us just want government to do the necessary things, on a local and reasonable scale, and want to rid ourselves of narcissistic “leaders” who think they know what is best for all of us.

    And that means breaking up this Democrat/Republican nonsensical paradigm.

  98. #98 E.V.
    February 28, 2009

    Okay SFO.:
    You’ve beaten this particular deceased horse ad nauseum, ad infinitum. It’s SOUP now. We get it. We UNDERSTAND your views. YOU’VE MADE THEM ABUNDANTLY CLEAR.
    Seriously.

    Quit while you’re ahead.

  99. #99 young european
    February 28, 2009

    Ben wrote:
    ?If we had actual qualifications to vote, and to serve, things would be quite different, in my opinion. We’ll never know, though; this country will let itself outright collapse before it does the right thing.?

    So, who should decide what the qualifications to vote should be, then?

  100. #100 guthrie
    February 28, 2009

    Oh dear, did someone mention the UK and the 80′s?
    I have just read this article on Friedman in the New york review of books.
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19857

    SHortest most relevant quote:
    “There was Friedman the policy entrepreneur, who spent decades campaigning on behalf of the policy known as monetarism?finally seeing the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England adopt his doctrine at the end of the 1970s, only to abandon it as unworkable a few years later.”

  101. #101 Alex Deam
    February 28, 2009

    Guthrie, thank you very much for the link to that article. Should be an interesting read. An article on Milton Friedman in the New York Review of Books. And written by Paul Krugman no less. Cheers.

    Scott, you’re arguing that you’re not a Libertarian, just someone who wants the right size Government. You say, “Some of us just want government to do the necessary things, on a local and reasonable scale, and want to rid ourselves of narcissistic “leaders” who think they know what is best for all of us.”

    Well guess what? That also includes most people on the left. It includes most liberals. Most liberals want government to do the “necessary” things, but clearly we have very different definitions of necessary. On social and militaristic issues we believe the Government has got (wrong verb tbh: it’s never been small enough so it hasn’t “got too big”, it’s always been so) too big. On economic issues, we believe the Government needs to be a bit bigger.

    So tell us: why is advocating more government intervention in the free market a bad thing? Show us this “empirical evidence” you clearly possess. At the moment you are continuing with the fallacy that “Liberal=Big Government supporter”, but as I just illustrated, we believe in the “necessary” size of government, a size that differs depending on the political issue. We don’t support big government for big government’s sake. We don’t even support “big government” for the most part. So stop knocking down that ridiculous Reagan strawman.

  102. #102 Monado
    February 28, 2009

    Maybe, instead of atheist, we could use “god-free” as opposed to “god-ridden” or possibly “god-haunted.”

  103. #103 'Tis Himself
    February 28, 2009

    Another thread derailed by looneytarians and their economic idiocies.

  104. #104 Knockgoats
    February 28, 2009

    Ben@96,
    Ah, how refreshing to see a “free market” fanatic who’s actually honest about their hatred of democracy!

  105. #105 'Tis Himself
    February 28, 2009

    Guthrie,

    As a professional economist, the most interesting quotation from the Krug review of Friedman is:

    onsider first the macroeconomic performance of the US economy. We have data on the real income?that is, income adjusted for inflation?of American families from 1947 to 2005. During the first half of that fifty-eight-year stretch, from 1947 to 1976, Milton Friedman was a voice crying in the wilderness, his ideas ignored by policymakers. But the economy, for all the inefficiencies he decried, delivered dramatic improvements in the standard of living of most Americans: median real income more than doubled. By contrast, the period since 1976 has been one of increasing acceptance of Friedman’s ideas; although there remained plenty of government intervention for him to complain about, there was no question that free-market policies became much more widespread. Yet gains in living standards have been far less robust than they were during the previous period: median real income was only about 23 percent higher in 2005 than in 1976.

    Part of the reason the second postwar generation didn’t do as well as the first was a slower overall rate of economic growth?a fact that may come as a surprise to those who assume that the trend toward free markets has yielded big economic dividends. But another important reason for the lag in most families’ living standards was a spectacular increase in economic inequality: during the first postwar generation income growth was broadly spread across the population, but since the late 1970s median income, the income of the typical family, has risen only about a third as fast as average income, which includes the soaring incomes of a small minority at the top.

    Many economists, including me, have been saying this for years. Finally people are putting aside their adoration of Friedman’s free markets and facing reality.

    Is there a place for markets? Of course. Despite what certain looneytarians might pretend, I’m a strong supporter of capitalism. I’m also a strong supporter of necessary market regulation. I firmly believe that market regulation is a necessary function of government.

  106. #106 guthrie
    February 28, 2009

    Phew, finally I make a definite contribution to a Pharyngula thread.
    tis himself- I said short quote. Those of us at least as far left as the UK lib-dems have known for years that US living standards have been falling or failing to rise for years, and that inequality has risen so much. Personally I think I have been seeing articles about it online for the last 7 or 8 years. Being able to buy a pair of sheap jeans for $10 does not compensate for a doubling of your healthcare costs.

    And as for growth rates, I have known for over a decade that growth rates were slower since the “free” market worshippers took over. Exactly why this is is still a bit of a mystery, what with not being an economist, but I suspect it is down to several things- The destruction of the older methods of promotion of the capable to positions they can do good, the diversion of investment from long term projects into short term profits, ie the financial and real estate markets, an increasingly short term approach to scientific research such that genuine breakthroughs are hampered, the fact that the developed countries have actually developed a lot and there is less development to take place.
    What I do wonder about is the real increase in productivity associated with the increase in computers in the last decade. Some activities benefit, but you need more computer people around to keep them serviced, and the hardware seems so expensive.

  107. #107 Julie Stahlhut
    February 28, 2009

    Ben wrote:

    If we had actual qualifications to vote, and to serve, things would be quite different, in my opinion.

    The context of your message suggests that (a) you are a libertarian and (b) you think that the aforementioned restrictions on voting would be a good thing.

    I’m curious. How do you reconcile (a) and (b)?

  108. #108 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 28, 2009

    Quit while you’re ahead.

    He’s ahead?

  109. #109 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    February 28, 2009

    He’s ahead?

    Shhh, if he thinks he is, he might go away.

  110. #110 'Tis Himself
    February 28, 2009

    Sorry, Guthrie, if I gave the impression that I was disagreeing with you. We don’t disagree, certainly not majorly.

    I appreciate that you gave a link to Krug’s review. It was interesting reading.

  111. #111 Alex Deam
    February 28, 2009

    Ben, this is why the US is a “constitutional republic” and not a proper democracy. Pure democracy begets mob rule.

    Guthrie, you mention the Lib Dems. Does this mean they will get at least two votes (mine and yours) next election? When I told my family I would be voting Lib Dem when I vote (I’m 19 so this will be my first time), their reaction was “they’ll never win so why bother?” And? The point is you vote for what you believe in, and for the most part they fit the bill. Besides, they could still get in at the local level. People in the UK need to get away from this false dichotomy of Labour and the Tories, using one as the anti-vote to the other. If it wasn’t for the Lib Dems, I dunno what I’d do. Someone bring back Atlee!

  112. #112 Goldmine
    February 28, 2009

    Well Ben, you’ve won my vote to get rid of your vote.

  113. #113 yawn
    February 28, 2009

    Ok, can we have a separate thread arguing whether the argument about whether PZ’s blog is sciency enough or whether some libertarians are whiny shites is the most boring. Jeebus, it’s like the trolls have abandoned the first tactic for the latter. Bof!

  114. #114 'Tis Himself
    February 28, 2009

    Someone bring back Atlee!

    Where is H.H. Asquith when you really need him?

  115. #115 Alex Deam
    February 28, 2009

    Where is H.H. Asquith when you really need him?

    Ah, he would be my number two “best” PM, behind Atlee.

  116. #116 Geoff
    February 28, 2009

    A bit off topic but check out this piece on Jindal in the Globe and Mail for a really good laugh.

    Best bits I LOL’d at:

    Although he has been lauded for being the first politician with the courage to take on Big Lava…

    This newly revealed ignorance of volcanoes may help to explain that other Republican policy that has confused many and impregnated so many more ? their promotion of abstinence-only sex education.

    Yes, they have a plan to save the people should a volcano erupt. But obviously they’re going to need virgins.

  117. #117 Tom McCool
    February 28, 2009

    i do wish that the libertarians would at least look at the record. Reagan’s economic growth arguably came from deficit spending and after the ’81 tax cuts, he raised taxes significantly and often.

  118. #118 Silver Fox
    February 28, 2009

    Bobby is loaded up and firing back.

    His Chief of Staff, Timmy Teepell, who I think has serious credentials in the evangelical community, says: ” It’s unfortunate that these Washington, D.C. liberals would rather launch baseless political attacks than to be part of an honest, bipartisan dialogue about how we need to create jobs and get our economy moving again.”

    Bobby is getting some clientele editorial support:

    THANKFUL FOR DILIGENT JINDAL
    …It seems to me no one in the media wants to say anything negative (about Obama). Are we living The Emperor’s New Clothes? ..Where is the media to report all the news about Obama – good, bad and ugly?

    GOVERNOR REPRESENTS US WELL
    Bravo, Bobby!
    I was very pleased with how Governor Jindal represented Louisiana and conservative principles in response to President Obama’s address. Natural there was an onslaught of criticism from the liberal media. Their bias clearly blinded them from seeing what Jindal was really delivering was his 2012 Presidential candidacy – not a direct response to every point Obama made in his speech.

  119. #119 Alex Deam
    February 28, 2009

    Geoff, you were more on topic than most other comments here

  120. #120 tony
    February 28, 2009

    serious credentials in the evangelical community

    What the fuck are those?

  121. #121 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 28, 2009

    serious credentials in the evangelical community

    What the fuck are those?

    And who gives a shit?

  122. #122 guthrie
    March 1, 2009

    #11- ’tis himself- no, I wasn’t annoyed or anything, just being a bit self deprecating. The problem with being interested in everything is that everywhere I go I find that specialised people are able to make more of a contribution than I. So its nice to be able to throw something useful into the mix that hasn’t been done before.
    I also appreciate that we are similar enough in our view of the last few decades, I’m just fed up with people not looking at the statistics and ignoring what actually happened.

  123. #123 Walton
    March 1, 2009

    If a homeowner takes out a mortgage that s/he can’t pay back, simply because credit is widely available, then that is his or her own fault, and he or she should be foreclosed and be chucked out on the street. Why should the government look after people who are too stupid to manage their own financial affairs properly? Instead of blaming the financial industry, why not blame the people who took out toxic mortgages in the first place? The government is not here to sort out people’s lives for them. It’s here to protect them from force or fraud, to arbitrate contracts and to maintain vital common infrastructure.

    And giving banks bailouts is just lemon socialism – it subsidises failure and insulates the banks from the corrective effect of the market. If they want to fuck about with their own money, that’s fine – but they shouldn’t come whining to the government when they fail.

    As to the assessment of the last few decades: Reagan’s term in office saw a significant net gain in employment figures and a significant real growth in the economy. It did also see a significant growth in income disparity between rich and poor, I’ll grant you that: but that doesn’t mean the poor were getting poorer. It just means the rich were getting richer at a faster rate. Contrary to left-wing beliefs, it is possible to create wealth for oneself without exploiting others. “Relative” poverty is not real poverty. A person who was considered “rich” in the US in 1800 would have had a standard of living below those who are considered “poor” in the US today. The fact that someone is living significantly below the average wage does not mean that, in historical and objective terms, he or she is living in “poverty”. Poverty is only a problem when it is absolute poverty (i.e. a person can’t afford the basic necessities of life). I think you’ll find that absolute poverty in the West is rather rare, and that it has gone down in the last few decades. I think you’ll also find that the average person’s standard of living has gone up significantly in the last few decades – due to the cheap consumer goods and technological innovations generated by free-market capitalism.

    Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free. If a person, through investing his labour and capital, builds a business manufacturing an innovative new product that people want to buy, then he should get rich from it, and he should be entitled to keep that money for himself (subject to his contractual obligations to pay his workers and suppliers, etc.). To take money from him by coercive force and redistribute it to the unsuccessful simply penalises success and rewards failure.

    Maybe I’m a cold, uncaring bastard. You wouldn’t be the first to tell me so. But I prefer to think of myself as rational and dispassionate (mostly).

  124. #124 Walton
    March 1, 2009

    Ah, how refreshing to see a “free market” fanatic who’s actually honest about their hatred of democracy!

    I can’t speak for Ben, but speaking for myself, I have no problem with democracy; it seems to be the least bad way of selecting leaders. However, only the most deluded person could see democracy as a panacea.

    Ultimately, we cannot help but acknowledge that individuals are capable of extreme levels of stupidity and ignorance. In a free society, where individuals are left to make decisions for themselves, some of them will undoubtedly make stupid decisions. This is bad; but what is worse is for a mob of stupid individuals to impose their stupidity on everyone, through the coercive agency of the State. All types of government – dictatorial, oligarchic, democratic – allow this to happen, and therefore all are inherently dangerous.

    The only viable option, therefore, is to have a constitutional system which protects individual rights even against the overwhelming will of the majority, and to ensure that governments, however they are selected, cannot exceed their proper powers. This is a core principle of the US Constitution, and I imagine that, to some extent, most of you would agree with it: for example, even if 99% of the population wanted to burn homosexuals at the stake, you would still say (rightly) that the rights and liberties of homosexuals ought to be protected against the will of the majority. So few of you are true advocates of democracy in its purest form.

    What I don’t understand, then, is this: if you don’t trust the democratic majority to make decisions about who you can marry, or whether you can have an abortion, or what religion you should follow, why do you trust them to make decisions about the economy and how your money should be spent? Just as the law ought to protect your right to privacy and autonomy even against the will of the majority, so it ought also to protect your right to property and to keep your own money even against the will of the majority.

  125. #125 Alex Deam
    March 1, 2009

    A person who was considered “rich” in the US in 1800 would have had a standard of living below those who are considered “poor” in the US today.

    I’m so calling you out on this bullshit. Remember, 1800 in America was a time when people owned slaves. And how many rich people back then didn’t have a home? This is such a pile of crap Walton.

  126. #126 Kristian Grönqvist
    March 1, 2009

    From a interested reader i Sweden: Are there a lot of Waltons in America? And do they never read Newspapers from Europe…

  127. #127 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 1, 2009

    Kristian, Walton is English. He’s just a college student trying to get his head together. Still a work in progress. There are some libertarians in America, but they are thankfully a small, but loud, minority.

  128. #128 mclaren
    March 1, 2009

    Yeah, but wouldn’t it be awesome to have Jindal as president? Then if we had an economic crisis, Bobby Jindal could fling holy water at the stock market and shout, “The power of Christ compels you!” And if we had, like, an international crisis, he could dress up like a shaman and stick pins in a doll of Russia or China. Wouldn’t that be great?

    And just think of the slogan: JINDAL 2012 — FOR THAT VOODOO / THAT YOU DO / SO WELL!

  129. #129 newbie atheist
    March 1, 2009

    BEATING A DEMON
    Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare

    Jindal wrote up the excorcism event in 1994
    ( http://www.newoxfordreview.org/article.jsp?did=1294-jindal )
    and the whole piece costs to get a look at it, but there is a large excerpt on the Christian Broadcasting site
    http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/547231.aspx

    And this guy is a Rhodes Scholar!?

  130. #130 Knockgoats
    March 1, 2009

    What I don’t understand, then, is this: if you don’t trust the democratic majority to make decisions about who you can marry, or whether you can have an abortion, or what religion you should follow, why do you trust them to make decisions about the economy and how your money should be spent? Just as the law ought to protect your right to privacy and autonomy even against the will of the majority, so it ought also to protect your right to property and to keep your own money even against the will of the majority. – Walton

    Why? There simply isn’t an argument there Walton.
    There are some thing a majority should not be allowed to do in a democracy because allowing them to do so would allow them to abolish democracy – hence would be inconsistent. Laws restricting freedom of belief clearly come into this category. In most cases, including laws on property, this does not apply. There are restrictive laws I don’t agree with – such as many of those on intellectual property or possession of drugs – but I don’t contest the right of a democratic majority to pass and enforce them. (I would actually take this view on marriage laws too – I consider it grossly unjust that same-sex couples cannot marry, but forbidding them to do so is not anti-democratic). What is anti-democratic about your views is that you arrogate to yourself the right to say that a democratic majority has no right to pass and enforce laws that would not threaten democracy itself but that you, Walton, happen to disapprove of.

    You are in any case inconsistent and opportunistic in your claims: you want the state to run external defence, enforce contracts, and even fund children’s education – yet all these require money. So in these cases, you approve of the “theft” of individuals’ money – or taxation, as most people call it. Face it Walton: the only consistent “libertarianism” involves the complete abolition of the state – but without substituting other collective means of regulating individuals’ exercise of power over one another (as anarchists propose), that would simply mean gangster rule, as we see in Somalia.

    But I predict you will ignore all these points, as you have before, and restate your tedious nonsense again, and again, and again… It really seems to be obsessive behaviour that you have a compulsion to repeat, even though you must know by now that you’re not convincing anyone. I’d ask you to contemplate (no need to comment about it here) whether you might actually be suffering from OCD.

  131. #131 Alex Deam
    March 1, 2009

    …and stick pins in a doll of Russia or China.

    Wow do doll makers need some new ideas! Glad to see that they’re providing all the dolls any budding young neo-con needs. But I guess they still haven’t found the WMD doll?

  132. #132 Ben
    March 1, 2009

    young european @99:

    So, who should decide what the qualifications
    to vote should be, then?

    Ah, a simplistic question for a simplistic system. Fair enough.

    Well, let’s just ask a few questions to stir you up.

    Do you think, in a country that bases its laws upon a written constitution, that it would be too much to ask that as a qualification, both the legislators and the voters be able to tell you what is in the document? Today, most people could not do so, and that definitely includes our legislators.

    Do you think, in a country that explicitly forbids ex post facto law at both the state and local level, that legislators ought to be able to tell you what such a thing is? Before answering, consider that recent (last half century or so) law has crossed this line repeatedly and unequivocally.

    Do you think, in a country where the constitution explicitly protects the security of “persons, houses, papers, and effects”, that people involved in the system should understand that the papers and letters of a few centuries ago are the dead-on equivalent of today’s files, emails and the digital storage they reside upon? US telecommunications laws carried this through to telephone conversations approximately until the abortion of FISA was foisted upon us by idiots; now the government has decided that email isn’t protected. Do you smell a lack of comprehension here? If not, was your nose shot off in the war?

    The obvious answer is this: Just as driving pretty much determines its own not particularly onerous sets of requirements for testing (can you park? do you signal turns? do you know what the signs mean? can you stay within your lane? do you understand the basic rules of the road? etc.), voting and legislating do the same thing.

    If you’re going to exercise some fraction of control over your fellow humans, it is my contention that you should be determined to have some idea of what the heck you are doing. Such a regime doesn’t tell you how to vote, or what legislation to propose. What it does, instead, is ensures that you understand the environment upon which you are trying to have an effect.

    I marvel at the people who will, on the one hand, *insist* that we have *qualified* meat inspectors because otherwise, we might get some tainted meat; but will not consider that we should have *qualified* legislators and voters.

    Alex Deem @ 111:

    Ben, this is why the US is a “constitutional
    republic” and not a proper democracy.

    First of all, at the time, this was the difference between the educated rich folk who could afford public service, and the rank and file citizen who was concerned with their farm or candle-making operation. There was a difference in quality. That’s no longer particularly relevant, and in addition, both the country and the issues facing it are significantly more complex and the paths mistakes can lead us down significantly more dangerous both to us, and to the world at large.

    Secondly, think this through:

    The unqualified public votes to elect someone they like. This in no way ensures that the elected person is in and of themselves, qualified. Repeat X # states. This process eventually results in 545 individuals, 9 of whom are not elected at all, but instead are hand-selected by the same unqualified people who were picked by the unqualified voters. At this point, lawmaking commences. Visions of Animal House should already be flitting through your mind.

    The objective results, among others:

    An entirely unjustified war on Iraq

    A ridiculous and self-destructive, if vaguely justified, war on Afghanistan

    The complete inversion of the commerce clause

    Blatantly ex post facto laws

    The watering down (to be kind) of seven out of ten of the bill of rights by means that vary from the bewildered, to sophist, to outright evil intent; I could go on for pages on this specific matter, but I’ll spare you.

    The right to remain silent is now the right to be tortured until you say what they want to hear.

    The right to a lawyer is now the right to indefinitely sit in a cell, held incommunicado.

    The failure of hugely inefficient, spend-crazy government to preside over a healthy economy is in the process of being addressed by a veritable orgy of accelerated money-throwing.

    …in short, there is ample evidence that the legislators, the supreme court, and the executive are flat out incompetent. They have failed to preserve and protect the constitution; they have failed to obey it; and they frustrate its manifest intent on approximately a daily basis.

    I submit to you that the mere act of transferring responsibility to 536 unqualified individuals that the unqualified masses liked enough to cast a vote for has, in actual fact, resulted only in what I would characterize as an unrighteous mess.

    This is why I suggest that part of the solution is to qualify the people who are exercising power over the rest of us. No need to change anything else; just ensure they know the legal raw territory they are being asked to create a usable landscape out of.

    goldmine @112:

    Well Ben, you’ve won my vote to get rid of your vote.

    …and you, sir, win the prize for not understanding a word that I wrote. If unintentionally, then you should work on your reading comprehension. If intentionally, then shame on you.

    What I proposed is a qualifying procedure. The route through such a procedure is no more or less than knowledge.

    So you would not get a “vote” on my vote, nor I upon yours; you get to say I must have such knowledge, and that I must prove it, but that’s all you get. And in return, I am assured that the same would apply to you, and both of us are assured that this applies to anyone who would stand for a legislative, executive, or judicial office.

    The only people this would disenfranchise are those who are (a) too lazy to learn civil basics, or (b) too uneducated to acquire such learning, or (c) too stupid to comprehend the information involved.

    I submit that in all three cases, we don’t want such people exercising power over the rest of us. In both (a) and (b), the individual has the power to solve the problem and contribute to the system. In the case of (c)… you wouldn’t pay an idiot who is absolutely 100% insulated from any recourse install plumbing in your house, would you? Why would you therefore be supportive of allowing an unqualified legislator doing the same to your legal plumbing?

    The federal government would not let me run a radio until I had passed a test assuring them that I knew how one worked, how to create a proper antenna and ground same, what kinds of interference I might create and where responsibility lies if in fact I should do so. I don’t find this an onerous or unjust requirement. I think that since I could, if operating without knowing the territory, as it were, do considerable harm to the landscape of radio communications, that qualifying me before I am allowed to transmit is a good thing.

    So why not consider the idea of qualifying legislators and voters in a positive light? Do you actually enjoy the thought of Dan Quayle making law? Did you find it pleasing to have Senator Stevens running the committee responsible for the “series of tubes” he thinks the Internet consists of? Do you enjoy the ritualized, prayer-filled shenanigans of the entire group every time they get down to lawmaking, despite the obvious intent of the constitution that religion not be an aspect of governance? Again, I could go on, but it is very, very depressing.

    It is absolutely clear that moving the focus from the public to the 536 doesn’t solve the problem of lack of qualification. Have you ever sat down and actually watched c-span? Perhaps simply an episode or two of The Daily Show?

    Please don’t deny the problem exists. That just makes you look uninformed and/or stupid. Either of which turns your comments into background noise of the approximate quality of a reality TV show.

  133. #133 Knockgoats
    March 1, 2009

    I submit that in all three cases, we don’t want such people exercising power over the rest of us – Ben

    I certainly don’t want elitist scumbags like you exercising any power. The solution to the problems you raise (those which really are problems) is better education, not the destruction of democracy.

  134. #134 Knockgoats
    March 1, 2009

    So, who should decide what the qualifications to vote should be, then? – young european

    Ben’s answer is quite clear: Ben should.

    I submit that in all three cases, we don’t want such people exercising power over the rest of us – Ben

    I don’t want free-market fanatics like you exercising any power; but I’m prepared to allow you to if you win a fair election. I’m not prepared to allow your sort, or anyone else, to fix elections as you propose (and don’t pretend this wouldn’t have such effect – for a start, those excluded would be mostly poor, and mostly black – oddly enough, not the demographic who put the warmongers and torturers in power for eight years – thus tilting elections to the right). Does it even occur to you that people are going to resent being disenfranchised? That some are going to (quite justifiably) resort to violence in response? That once you start down the road of imposing qualifications for voting, or standing for office, there will always be “good reasons” to tighten the qualifications? The solution to the problems you raise (those which really are problems) is better education and a fairer electoral system, not the destruction of democracy.

  135. #135 Alex Deam
    March 1, 2009

    Ben, I agree with the main sentiment of your comment. As Churchill said, “”Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” There are flaws in democracy, and I think some of those can (potentially) be solved due to the internet age we now live in.

    However, I must say that there is a world of difference between requiring legislators and requiring voters to “qualify” for the vote. You make a convincing argument for the election of legislators, and it is something I have been thinking about for a while. I also believe that major judges (e.g. supreme court in the US) should be elected, rather than chosen by the government, much as Tony Benn does over here (though the UK has much bigger problems with our so-called “democracy” in this country).

    But why should voters have to “qualify” so they can vote? This to me sounds very elitist, and would disqualify people for what seems to me, to be similar reasons that disqualified people in the past. Remember the Jim Crow laws? Remember the suffragettes? Remember the style of democracy in Ancient Greece, where only wealthy, white men could vote? Voting, in my opinion, is about a belief system (I’m defending a belief system on Pharyngula why?!). People believe that such and such a candidate is best for the job. The candidate is “their” leader.

    However, I am mostly with having some kind of “test” to qualify legislators (and the executive) at a high level (certainly not at the local level). It certainly should mainly be focussed on science. For instance, evolution is, for some crazy reason, a political viewpoint. Frankly this is ridiculous. So this qualification could contain questions that get a candidate to demonstrate that they understand the theory of evolution before they even try and get intelligent design put into schools. Stem cell research would be another area that could be used. Energy, global warming etc etc. Philosophy and statistics would be other areas perhaps. But it is obvious that such a test would need to continually evolve, as the political debates evolve. And this is where this idea hits a brick wall I just can’t steer it round. Namely, who designs this test? How do we decide this group of people? Democratically? Wasn’t the whole point of the test to avoid the inherent problems in democracy? Or just dub a group of scientists or eggheads to write the test? In fact, who the hell would mark the damn thing? Such an objective test may be beyond our means.

    Do you think, in a country where the constitution explicitly protects the security of “persons, houses, papers, and effects”, that people involved in the system should understand that the papers and letters of a few centuries ago are the dead-on equivalent of today’s files, emails and the digital storage they reside upon? US telecommunications laws carried this through to telephone conversations approximately until the abortion of FISA was foisted upon us by idiots; now the government has decided that email isn’t protected. Do you smell a lack of comprehension here? If not, was your nose shot off in the war?

    Most people at this blog are probably opposed to the Bush laws on communication (and the UK ones too). I know I am.

    The unqualified public votes to elect someone they like. This in no way ensures that the elected person is in and of themselves, qualified. Repeat X # states. This process eventually results in 545 individuals, 9 of whom are not elected at all, but instead are hand-selected by the same unqualified people who were picked by the unqualified voters. At this point, lawmaking commences. Visions of Animal House should already be flitting through your mind.

    The objective results, among others:

    An entirely unjustified war on Iraq

    A ridiculous and self-destructive, if vaguely justified, war on Afghanistan

    The complete inversion of the commerce clause

    Blatantly ex post facto laws

    The watering down (to be kind) of seven out of ten of the bill of rights by means that vary from the bewildered, to sophist, to outright evil intent; I could go on for pages on this specific matter, but I’ll spare you.

    The right to remain silent is now the right to be tortured until you say what they want to hear.

    The right to a lawyer is now the right to indefinitely sit in a cell, held incommunicado.

    The failure of hugely inefficient, spend-crazy government to preside over a healthy economy is in the process of being addressed by a veritable orgy of accelerated money-throwing.

    …in short, there is ample evidence that the legislators, the supreme court, and the executive are flat out incompetent. They have failed to preserve and protect the constitution; they have failed to obey it; and they frustrate its manifest intent on approximately a daily basis.

    But if Obama does what he should do, then people in the Bush administration will be charged with crimes against the constitution (or whatever you guys call it) and war crimes. If he doesn’t, then that isn’t a failure of democracy. Your idea won’t solve that problem. That is, as you say, a failure of the executive and the judiciary to protect the constitution. How would your idea stop that happening again? Bush didn’t have people tortured because he was uneducated. He had them tortured because it’s his ideology, because he thought he was right. Even the smartest man can succumb to sociopathy. It to me is an inherent characteristic of a constitutional republic that th chief executive can subvert the constitution for a term without much comeuppance in the short term. These could only be relatively “minor” subversions, as let’s face it, Bush could’ve done worse, but then the people would (I hope) rise up if the subversion got “too big”.

    Let’s get one thing straight: while a lot of people in the Republic party are idiots (e.g. Bobby Jindal), the sub-group neo-cons aren’t “inherently” stupid. They are just wrong.

  136. #136 Doug the Primate
    March 1, 2009

    Walton (and someone else I forget), stagflation did not occur in the 1970s. The outside span dates were 1979-1984, chiefly 1980-1983 — precisely the period of trickle down, supply side voodoo economics of Reagan / Thatcher infatuation with tax policies to favour the rich and penalize the poor. I thought at the time that even if trickle down were theoretically correct, it were a moral disgrace.

    BTW, you are aware, I presume, that Maggie Thatcher’s grad degree in physical chemistry was based on a method she developed to increase the air : milk ratio in ice cream so that British dairies could increase their profits while short-changing their customers. Can you say, “moral disgrace”? Try it, slowly.

    The political right is morally wrong!

  137. #137 'Tis Himself
    March 1, 2009

    I also believe that major judges (e.g. supreme court in the US) should be elected, rather than chosen by the government, much as Tony Benn does over here (though the UK has much bigger problems with our so-called “democracy” in this country).

    There are several problems with electing judges:

    • * Getting elected is expensive. Judges would have to appeal to supporters to get the money to become or remain judges. In the 1980s a court case between two major oil companies ended in a mistrial when it was shown that the elected judge had received campaign contributions from one of the lawyers involved in the case.
      * If a judge makes an unpopular ruling then his chances of reelection go down. Recently in Connecticut a murderer’s conviction was reversed on appeal due to procedural problems with his trial. There was a strong outcry, editorials in the paper, etc., because nobody believes this guy is innocent. However, lawyers pretty well agree that the trial was prima facie unfair. If the appeals judge was up for reelection, she’d have problems.
      * Instead of a vigorous debate about the crucial legal issues of the day, judicial campaigns are largely bloodless and uninformative. Bar associations hand out ratings such as “Very Well Qualified” that do little besides remind you of those “Terrific!” stickers your teacher put on your homework in grade school. Candidates refuse to discuss anything substantive. One major reason for this is that prospective judges fear prejudicing possible cases. If a judge is anti-death penalty, prosecutors are going to ask the judge’s superiors not to assign him any capital cases, while defense attorneys will try to steer cases into his court.
      * In the US federal judges are appointed by the President and serve for life, like nobility or herpes. The idea?first advanced by Alexander Hamilton?is that job security would insulate judges from political pressure and enable them to worry only about making correct rulings, popular or not. Judges are tasked with, among other things, protecting the rights of individuals and minorities; the correct decision isn’t always popular, and a judge should neither lose his or her job for ruling correctly nor rule incorrectly to keep it.
  138. #138 Alex Deam
    March 1, 2009

    Instead of a vigorous debate about the crucial legal issues of the day, judicial campaigns are largely bloodless and uninformative. Bar associations hand out ratings such as “Very Well Qualified” that do little besides remind you of those “Terrific!” stickers your teacher put on your homework in grade school.

    The way this is phrased suggests that there is somewhere in the world that has tried this concept already. Is this the case? If it’s been tried, and hasn’t really worked then never mind. The US system of law will have to do, and this is good enough I guess. And at least from October, the UK is finally getting a (proper) Supreme Court, as we finally take our first step on the path to separation of powers.

    Anyway, thanks for the critique of this idea, it gives me something more to ponder. The question really is, so far in mankind’s history, the US represent the best form of governance utilized so far, but can it be perfected?

  139. #139 Knockgoats
    March 1, 2009

    The question really is, so far in mankind’s history, the US represent the best form of governance utilized so far – Alex Deam

    Says who? For a start, it has a grossly unfair electoral system (as does the UK), both main parties are subordinate to big business (and effectively exclude any others from politics), and the President has far more power than any one individual should hold. Notice how the revered Constitution failed to prevent Bush instituting torture, imprisonment without trial, and a high degree of surveillance, in just eight years. Without the crash of September 2008, the neocons and theocrats might well have been in a position to continue the erosion of democratic freedoms.

  140. #140 Alex Deam
    March 1, 2009

    Knockgoats, you missed off the end of the sentence where I said, “The question really is, so far in mankind’s history, the US represent the best form of governance utilized so far, but can it be perfected?

    I’m not saying that the US system is perfect, I’m saying it’s the best so far. The least worst if you will. I suppose you have in mind a form of government better than the US system?

  141. #141 Ichthyic
    March 1, 2009

    I’m saying it’s the best so far

    and you have some objective way of supporting that statement?

    quality of life?

    nope.

    average income?

    nope.

    best health care?

    nope.

    best education?

    nope.

    so what criterion will you use to determine that the US form of representative democracy is the best?

    How closely does the US even follow the description of a representative democracy?

    Should the Supreme Court be deciding federal elections in a representative democracy?

    How can one even say a “system” is best, when it is so loosely applied to begin with?

  142. #142 'Tis Himself
    March 1, 2009

    Alex Deam #138

    The way this is phrased suggests that there is somewhere in the world that has tried this concept already. Is this the case?

    Judges are elected in over 20 states in the US. In some states, like Texas, all judges are elected. In others only certain types of judges are elected. In Connecticut, where I live, probate judges are elected but all other judges are appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature. US federal judges are appointed by the president and ratified by the senate.

    Later this year Washington state will have an election to decide if judges should remain elected officials or become appointed.

  143. #143 Ben
    March 1, 2009

    Alex Deem @ #135:

    But why should voters have to “qualify” so they can vote?

    In a nutshell, because they have real input to the system and this input can have real effects. Would you want an unqualified person wiring your home, understanding that mistakes can have real consequences to you? If not, why would you want an unqualified person selecting those who are going to make the rules and regulations that will govern your life, your privacy, your security, your taxes, your inclusion on the no-fly list, etc.?

    I have a question for you, now: Why is it OK to let someone who knows nothing about how the government is authorized to operate, exert control on how it operates; but not OK to let someone who knows little about a crane choose, maintain, or operate the machine? Arguably, someone with a crane can only endanger a few people at a time; an elected official, however, can endanger the entire country. So again, why is it OK to give the vote to just anyone?

    This to me sounds very elitist, and would disqualify people for what seems to me, to be similar reasons that disqualified people in the past.

    I thought I was clear on this. I’ll try again.

    My suggestion is that voter qualification consist of knowing the basic civics that the system receives its authorization to operate from; primarily, the constitution.

    A sample question:

    “What does the 4th amendment say”?

    Not what does it mean, just what does it say. Not looking for interpretation here, just the knowledge of what the document says. Then interpretation can be expected to follow, and whatever that is, is up to the individual. But you can’t expect the latter without the former. And that’s just what we have going on right now: Laws crafted in complete ignorance of the constitution.

    Learning what the constitution says requires (a) being able to read, which is a free service provided by the state, or (b) having someone (sibling, parent, friend, Kindle) read it to you, and also having access to a copy of the constitution, which is also a free service provided by many levels of government (see your local library for your free reading, or grab a copy off the net either at home, or at the library, or order a copy from any decent bookstore. Heck, I have a copy on my iPod.)

    I see no one – literally zero people – who are capable of learning to read or understand when being read to, being disenfranchised by my suggestion unless they so choose.

    This suggestion isn’t about inherent characteristics; not about blackness, not about femaleness, not about class or position. It is about very basic civics knowledge. And not knowledge that is difficult to come by, either.

    Now, you may argue that a citizen has no responsibility to know how the system is authorized to work, and yet should have the right to enforce their opinion on it via voting anyway, but I simply do not agree.

    Honestly, I think characterizing a requirement for civics at a level you could achieve in one (or two, if you’re slow) week(s) of high school study as a disenfranchising force is disingenuous.

    That is, as you say, a failure of the executive and the judiciary to protect the constitution. How would your idea stop that happening again?

    Oh, I don’t suggest it would stop it; just that it would act to reduce the problem. If, for instance, each legislator understands that ex post facto laws are forbidden to both the states and the feds, and they all have a basic understanding of what ex post facto is, then there’s a new hurdle in place to get such a law passed.

    Right now, I would bet you good money that I could walk up to 10 random congresscritters, ask them point blank the most basic questions about the ex post facto issue, and perhaps one or two of them might be able to respond accurately and on point.

    Doesn’t mean such laws can’t be crafted, or voted upon, or even passed; it just means that the legislators would understand that there is no constitutional authorization for what they are attempting to do.

    Might give us a better reason to throw their figurative tea in the bay, though, if they did so despite knowing they were explicitly forbidden from doing so. Right now, they’re perfectly happy to cite expediency as an overwhelming force for making law because they literally don’t understand what that oath they took means, and what the constitution part of it actually instructs them to do; I think it is patently obvious that is not exactly how things are supposed to work.

    ———–

    knockgoats: You’re just spewing vitriol and unfounded assertions, liberally (no pun intended) seasoned with strawmen. Consequently I’m very comfortable ignoring your posts thus far. Perhaps you’ll see fit to actually address points I made in a rational manner, free of ad hominem, in which case I’ll respond politely.

  144. #144 sav
    March 1, 2009

    The “close-minded” reaction is one I often hear from believers about atheism. You mentioned it in this post, so I actually decided to look up the term to see its full meaning. Dictionary.com lists it as this: “Intolerant of the beliefs and opinions of others; stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas.”

    So the next time believers call atheists close-minded, just recite this meaning to them and then tell them that the term doesn’t apply because their ideas aren’t “new.”

  145. #145 tony
    March 1, 2009

    Ben

    instituting a requiremetn for ‘civics 101′ might well be reasonable – but how would you police and enforce it? How would you ascertain that a given person actually has the basic knowledge desired? How would you ensure the criteria d o not get modified by amendment, out of fairness of course, to further restrict to those who can pass the two week civics class, then to those who can demonstrate deeper knowledge of constitutional law – that is important, right?

    The main problem with your approach is parallel to the problems faced by the ‘poll tax’ in the UK during eighties. It was imposed in Scotland, unilaterally, and grandly hailed as ‘a good thing’ by the high and mighty. No more problems with registration, etc. It was all clear and straightforward. Except that it wasn’t. The problems were sufficiently large (with large swathes of people removed from electoral rolls incorrectly) that the subsequent years saw huge demonstrations on behalf of it’s repeal by English voters – pretty much unheard of regarding ‘Scottish’ legislation. Unable to ‘solve the problems’ and phase the tax into the UK as a whole, the Govt was forced to back down and rescind the tax.

    You should focus more on simply ensuring everyone is educated to the best of their ability. Not on restricting voting rights to some ‘deserved’ minority.

  146. #146 Paul Murray
    March 2, 2009

    @#94 (I’m flattered that someone considers me interesting enough to impersonate…)

    Walton, number 89 was parody, not impersonation. And it wasn’t flattery, either.

  147. #147 Rick R
    March 2, 2009

    tony- “You should focus more on simply ensuring everyone is educated to the best of their ability. Not on restricting voting rights to some ‘deserved’ minority.”

    That’s the answer right there.

  148. #148 dean
    March 2, 2009

    I wonder if Ben and Walton would be so kind as to describe how much it hurt to have 99.99% of their brain matter removed when they became Libertarians? What a pair of morons.

  149. #149 Knockgoats
    March 2, 2009

    knockgoats: You’re just spewing vitriol and unfounded assertions, liberally (no pun intended) seasoned with strawmen. Consequently I’m very comfortable ignoring your posts thus far. Perhaps you’ll see fit to actually address points I made in a rational manner, free of ad hominem, in which case I’ll respond politely. – Ben

    Translation: I’ve got no good answer to your arguments.

  150. #150 Knockgoats
    March 2, 2009

    I’m not saying that the US system is perfect, I’m saying it’s the best so far. The least worst if you will. I suppose you have in mind a form of government better than the US system? – Alex Deam

    I know what you’re saying. I’m disagreeing with you. Is that actually impossible for you to imagine? Yes, most west European countries, Australia and New Zealand all have far more democratic electoral systems; and perhaps in part as a consequence, most of those have far more egalitarian socio-economic systems.

  151. #151 Knockgoats
    March 2, 2009

    By the way, Ben, it’s unwise to use terminology when you don’t understand it. Calling you an “elitist scumbag” or a “free-market fanatic” is an insult, not an ad hominem. It would be the latter if I said “You’re an elitist scumbag/free-market fanatic, therefore your arguments are unsound.” I didn’t: I provided objections to your arguments which you evidently cannot meet, as you haven’t tried.

  152. #152 JeffreyD
    March 2, 2009

    Having just waded through another tedious gutter of libertarian drivel I have come to two conclusions.

    1) Time to killfile Walton as I hate seeing a young mind wasted. I kept out hope for him, but it was wasted.

    2) Encourage Walton to become a practicing xtian again as that is marginally less repulsive than being a libertarian, and a lot less delusional.

    Ciao

  153. #153 Knockgoats
    March 2, 2009

    Encourage Walton to become a practicing xtian again as that is marginally less repulsive than being a libertarian, and a lot less delusional. – JeffreyD

    Maybe we could nudge him into some third form of irrational conviction instead, for variety’s sake? How about Maharishi Mahesh Walton, guru of the fifth eye? Or Comrade Walton, founder member of the Working Peoples’ Marxist-Leninist Permanent Revolutionary Socialist Party? Or Walton Y, masculinist separatist (I’ve a feeling we might already have something to work on with this possiblity)?

  154. #154 Walton
    March 2, 2009

    Encourage Walton to become a practicing xtian again as that is marginally less repulsive than being a libertarian, and a lot less delusional.

    Wow… this certainly isn’t a comment I particularly expected on a blog dedicated to atheism, science and reason, and where Christianity is criticised on a daily basis. I am surprised. (I suspect your view will be in the minority on this one.)

  155. #155 Walton
    March 2, 2009

    Maybe we could nudge him into some third form of irrational conviction instead, for variety’s sake?

    As opposed to your convictions, which must, of course, be 100% rational and perfect in every way?

    Libertarians and socialists are both rational people, by and large (though I don’t doubt that there are some on both sides who are not). We just have different normative goals, and so reach different plans of action on the same empirical facts. Free-market capitalism is extremely good at innovation, rapid wealth creation, and providing opportunity; however, it is rather bad at creating socio-economic equality, and a capitalist society will always have high income disparity. If you believe the latter to be a serious problem, then you’re quite right to advocate socialism. Conversely, if you believe – as I do – that the most important thing is to create wealth and raise general standards of living, and that equality of outcome is undesirable because people themselves are unequal in their abilities, then there is no option but to support capitalism.

    This is very different from religious and scientific issues, which deal with purported states of fact; “there is a God” and “organisms evolve over time” being assertions of fact which must be substantiated with empirical evidence. I think we can both agree that creationists, Biblical inerrantists and fundamentalists are deluded – because they make factual assertions that are simply not empirically defensible. This is not the case with libertarians.

  156. #156 Knockgoats
    March 2, 2009

    Biblical inerrantists and fundamentalists are deluded – because they make factual assertions that are simply not empirically defensible. This is not the case with libertarians. – Walton

    But it is, Walton, it is: like your recent assertion that governments never achieve anything. Like the many “libertarians” who deny AGW because it conflicts with their beliefs. These claims are as empirically indefensible as anything the inerrantists say.

  157. #157 Walton
    March 2, 2009

    … like your recent assertion that governments never achieve anything.

    I didn’t quite say that (or if I did, I didn’t intend to). What I meant was that, in general, most government action makes things worse not better. (Admittedly, this is often hard to prove empirically because one can’t collect accurate statistics on what would have happened if not for a given government programme. But there are nevertheless plenty of clear examples, from the “War on Drugs” to the “War on Poverty”, of failed government interventions – and plenty of clear examples, from the Ford Model T to the personal computer, of the successes of free market capitalism.)

    Like the many “libertarians” who deny AGW because it conflicts with their beliefs.

    This is not an essential component of libertarianism. I freely admit that I don’t know enough about climate science to have a meaningful opinion about AGW.

    It isn’t surprising that libertarians, in general, are more inclined than most people to evaluate AGW claims sceptically; but this doesn’t mean that, faced with the same facts as everyone else, a libertarian is necessarily going to ignore the evidence. (Some, of course, will do so, but there are people like that in every ideological camp.) I do not “deny” AGW; I’m instinctively inclined to be sceptical of the media hype, but I don’t presume that I know more than professional climate scientists, and so I keep an open mind.

    And the kind of bias to which you refer works the other way as well: I’ve known plenty of leftists who are as ignorant of climate science as I am, but who are enthusiastic believers in AGW because it confirms their core underlying belief (i.e. that corporations are evil, and must be stopped from committing the heinous crimes of creating wealth and selling things to people).

  158. #158 Tulse
    March 2, 2009

    I do not “deny” AGW; I’m instinctively inclined to be sceptical of the media hype, but I don’t presume that I know more than professional climate scientists, and so I keep an open mind.

    Absolutely. I feel exactly the same way about evolution — there are of course arguments on both sides, but I don’t presume that I know more than professional biologists, and so I keep an open mind.

    And vaccinations — there’s a lot of media hype around this issue, but I don’t presume that I know more than professional medical doctors, and so I keep an open mind.

    And the shape of the earth — while some may argue for round and others for flat, I don’t presume to know more than professional geologists, and so I keep an open mind.

    I just think it’s extremely important to keep an open mind and remain undecided on all scientific issues.

  159. #159 Alex Deam
    March 2, 2009

    In response to many people and issues:

    I know what you’re saying. I’m disagreeing with you. Is that actually impossible for you to imagine? Yes, most west European countries, Australia and New Zealand all have far more democratic electoral systems; and perhaps in part as a consequence, most of those have far more egalitarian socio-economic systems.

    It’s not that hard to understand of course. But in your last comment to me you gave a number of criticisms of the US system, but that didn’t critique my argument. My argument was that it may have faults, but it’s still the best. You then said, “it has these faults”. I know that, and to disagree with me, you have to give a countries who have/had a better system than the US, which you’ve now done.

    I can certainly see an argument for France and Germany for example having as good a system as the US, but then they all have basically the same system anyway to me. As for Australia and New Zealand, are you serious? You believe that countries that have, as their head of state, an unelected monarch, to be a better system?

    and you have some objective way of supporting that statement?

    quality of life?

    nope.

    average income?

    nope.

    best health care?

    nope.

    best education?

    nope.

    so what criterion will you use to determine that the US form of representative democracy is the best?

    Firstly, none of those qualities have anything to do with whether a system of governance is fair or not. Those qualities are the result of the actions or inactions of those in power, not because the US is a constitutional republic. Per your argument then, since the UK has a better health care system then that makes us potentially have a better system? Or Cuba, which supposedly has better health care and education? Does that make sense? No of course not, no-one in their right mind would conclude that Cuba has a better system than the US. But that’s what your argument implies.

    So how do we “objectively” decide whether a system is better or not? Well, in my opinion, the “betterness” of a system is a moral issue, to do with how fair and free it is. Now science hasn’t found any empirical evidence for objective morality, and it won’t in all likelihood. Philosophically though, we can believe in a certain morality. If you seriously don’t get your morals and your concept of right and wrong from somewhere (because no single moral has been shown to be objective) then you’re just a nihilist.

    All of the above critiques though, don’t actually criticize my argument. As I’ve said to Knockgoats, I am well aware the US system has faults, but if you don’t think it’s best give examples that are better. The argument that “it has a low quality of life” (I assume in relation to the rest of the west) or “Bush got elected and look what he did” doesn’t hold because I accept those faults, but these are faults inherent in democracy. There is nothing, literally nothing in any of the systems of governance in the west that could stop another Reaganite, neocon, or Sarah Palin-type getting into power in one of these countries. This is a flaw in democracy, and it doesn’t matter how much you put into a constitution to try and stop it, it’s always possible. I thought we learned this in 1933?

    Should the Supreme Court be deciding federal elections in a representative democracy?

    Well, there has to be allowances for this kind of thing. It is quite right that you should be able to challenge the result of an election you stood in in a court of law. Why shouldn’t you? Now I am sure you are just talking about the Bush v Gore case. But again, couldn’t that result have happened in other countries too? Yes, the Supreme Court has judges who make some decisions based on ideology, but how can you stop that? I proposed electing judges, but Tis Himself suggests this doesn’t work. So how would you stop this then?

    Judges are elected in over 20 states in the US. In some states, like Texas, all judges are elected. In others only certain types of judges are elected. In Connecticut, where I live, probate judges are elected but all other judges are appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature. US federal judges are appointed by the president and ratified by the senate.

    Later this year Washington state will have an election to decide if judges should remain elected officials or become appointed.

    Ah, interesting, I shall have to look into this more thoroughly. Anyway, my main issue with the whole judges thing, is that, doesn’t the President selecting and Senate (why not the HoR too?) ratifying it violate the concept of separation of powers?

    Why is it OK to let someone who knows nothing about how the government is authorized to operate, exert control on how it operates; but not OK to let someone who knows little about a crane choose, maintain, or operate the machine? Arguably, someone with a crane can only endanger a few people at a time; an elected official, however, can endanger the entire country. So again, why is it OK to give the vote to just anyone?

    For one thing, a voter selects who will decide how to operate the government. A crane-operator decides how to operate the crane. So the voter is actually one step removed from the decision process compared to the crane operator. Your argument actually becomes an argument to not let stupid operate cranes, or stupid people run the country. If there were elections for crane operators though…

    Besides, the concept of a “natural right”, although something you disagree with on this issue, is far easier to apply to voting than crane operating.

    A sample question:

    “What does the 4th amendment say”?

    Not what does it mean, just what does it say. Not looking for interpretation here, just the knowledge of what the document says. Then interpretation can be expected to follow, and whatever that is, is up to the individual. But you can’t expect the latter without the former. And that’s just what we have going on right now: Laws crafted in complete ignorance of the constitution.

    Learning what the constitution says requires (a) being able to read, which is a free service provided by the state, or (b) having someone (sibling, parent, friend, Kindle) read it to you, and also having access to a copy of the constitution, which is also a free service provided by many levels of government (see your local library for your free reading, or grab a copy off the net either at home, or at the library, or order a copy from any decent bookstore. Heck, I have a copy on my iPod.)

    You want voters to have to learn the constitution, and be able to recite it ad verbum? This seems a little harsh.

    In any case, a recital test is a poor one, I can see the Bobby Jindal’s of this world learning the words but not their meaning, or even learning their meaning but not believing in it. It would be a pointless test because of this.

    Honestly, I think characterizing a requirement for civics at a level you could achieve in one (or two, if you’re slow) week(s) of high school study as a disenfranchising force is disingenuous.

    Most people wouldn’t have the time or ability to learn the Constitution (or civics) in two weeks, let alone two. Your proposal would most likely disqualify me (if I were an American).

    Anyway, why have a test for voters, when you already propose a test for those they vote for too? If those they can vote for have passed some test, then does it really matter whether a “stupid” person is voting for candidate A who passed a test, or candidate B or also passed the test? Either way, the “stupid” person’s choice hasn’t had a detrimental effect, because the “votee” has already proven he has the qualities to lead.

    The main problem with your approach is parallel to the problems faced by the ‘poll tax’ in the UK during eighties. It was imposed in Scotland, unilaterally, and grandly hailed as ‘a good thing’ by the high and mighty. No more problems with registration, etc. It was all clear and straightforward. Except that it wasn’t. The problems were sufficiently large (with large swathes of people removed from electoral rolls incorrectly) that the subsequent years saw huge demonstrations on behalf of it’s repeal by English voters – pretty much unheard of regarding ‘Scottish’ legislation. Unable to ‘solve the problems’ and phase the tax into the UK as a whole, the Govt was forced to back down and rescind the tax.

    I thought they also protested because it was instituted in England too. According to wikipedia, a Labour MP from Liverpool was jailed for refusing to pay. And I also thought the main reason people hated it was that it was a regressive tax, which are unfair. And who are these “high and mighty” that saw the tax as a good thing? Other than Thatcherites, wasn’t everyone pretty much opposed to the tax?

    But it is, Walton, it is: like your recent assertion that governments never achieve anything. Like the many “libertarians” who deny AGW because it conflicts with their beliefs. These claims are as empirically indefensible as anything the inerrantists say.

    Actually Knockgoats, Walton is right here, for once. While many libertarians deny science like AGW, the definition of libertarian does not contain “denies AGW”. There are libertarians who don’t. And Christians are most definitely worse than libertarians: maybe statistically we could show libertarians to be wrong, but it is a lot harder than showing a Christian that they are wrong (though getting them to admit it is another matter). This holds for most political belief systems, except ones like fascism, which are not just intellectually wrong, but also abhorrent.

    Conversely, if you believe – as I do – that the most important thing is to create wealth and raise general standards of living, and that equality of outcome is undesirable because people themselves are unequal in their abilities, then there is no option but to support capitalism.

    False: there is nothing about socialism that inherently shows it can’t generate wealth or raise standards of living. Please get out of this Palinist thinking of “spread the wealth” – that’s not what socialism is at all.

    But there are nevertheless plenty of clear examples, from the “War on Drugs” to the “War on Poverty”, of failed government interventions – and plenty of clear examples, from the Ford Model T to the personal computer, of the successes of free market capitalism.

    And yet another reason why the free market’s invisible hand is inefficient. The world’s ended up with Windows FFS!

    Besides, you can’t say that the computer isn’t also a success story for government intervention. For starters, the technology really got going during WW2, with computers such as Colossus cracking codes. Then you’ve had (along with the likes of Microsoft and IBM) academic institutions providing key input into its success. And don’t forget the Internet and the World Wide Web, both inventions with massive government input.

    Besides, naming times when government has failed, or when the free market succeeded doesn’t mean that the government will aways fail, or the free market will always succeed.

    I’m instinctively inclined to be sceptical of the media hype, but I don’t presume that I know more than professional climate scientists, and so I keep an open mind.

    But here the media hype is justified. What you should do, is compare the media’s reaction to what the reaction actually is in the scientific community. Somewhere like the real climate website is a good place perhaps?

    There’s no reason to oppose a scientific consensus, unless you’ve been educated to the same level as the scientists. Now, while the media is telling us all about AGW, so are the scientists. It’s when the media and the scientists’ reactions don’t math up that you should be worried. Like with the MMR scare.

  160. #160 Feynmaniac
    March 2, 2009

    Alex Deam ,

    I can certainly see an argument for France and Germany for example having as good a system as the US, but then they all have basically the same system anyway to me.

    It’s not the same for people in the US with health insurance.

    As for Australia and New Zealand, are you serious? You believe that countries that have, as their head of state, an unelected monarch, to be a better system?

    I live in Canada. It does piss me off that we have the Queen as our head of state. In this one instance the US is better. However, the Queen’s role is purely symbolic. She has no real power whatsoever. When you factor better public education, longer life spans, less inequality, and universal health care with this symbolic head of state Canada looks better.

  161. #161 Feynmaniac
    March 2, 2009

    Damnit, that should be:

    It’s not the same for people in the US without health insurance.

  162. #162 Tulse
    March 2, 2009

    Canada has a hereditary, appointed-for-life, non-partisan head-of-state who in part adjudicates in government conflicts.

    The US has a partisanly-selected, appointed-for-life Supreme Court which in part adjudicates in government conflicts.

    It looks like a toss-up to me, although being a citizen of both countries I know which system seems to work better in practical terms (and it’s not the one where partisanly-selected judges get to decide who is head of government).

  163. #163 'Tis Himself
    March 2, 2009

    Free-market capitalism is extremely good at innovation, rapid wealth creation, and providing opportunity; however, it is rather bad at creating socio-economic equality, and a capitalist society will always have high income disparity. If you believe the latter to be a serious problem, then you’re quite right to advocate socialism.

    Walton, you’re not only an economic illiterate, you’re a political illiterate. There are more choices than libertarian and socialist. I leave it as an exercise for the student to actually name other choices.

  164. #164 Alex Deam
    March 2, 2009

    It’s not the same for people in the US without health insurance.

    When you factor better public education, longer life spans, less inequality, and universal health care with this symbolic head of state Canada looks better.

    Feynmaniac, when I said system, I am talking about their political system, as in elections, democracy, constitutions, judges, separation of powers, heads of state etc etc. What am I talking about has nothing to with health care. As has been said above, in terms of health care, education, standard of living and so on, the US is not as good as some countries, but that has nothing to do with this argument. We’re not discussing which country would it be best to live in.

    However, the Queen’s role is purely symbolic. She has no real power whatsoever.

    Not true. That’s how it (so far) has worked in practice, but she does have power. It’s called Royal Prerogative. Sure, she never uses it, but there’s nothing stopping (say) King Charles III refusing to give royal assent to some act on GM crops, which he is vehemently against (enough to bounce up and down and jab his finger). Charles has already said he wants to take a more active role (least in the UK). If a monarch did use their Royal Prerogative unjustly, I suspect there would be some sort of constitutional crisis in the respective country. If democracy can let someone like Bush in, then Windsor family planning can let any kind of ignoramus in.

    Canada has a hereditary, appointed-for-life, non-partisan head-of-state who in part adjudicates in government conflicts.

    The US has a partisanly-selected, appointed-for-life Supreme Court which in part adjudicates in government conflicts.

    It looks like a toss-up to me, although being a citizen of both countries I know which system seems to work better in practical terms (and it’s not the one where partisanly-selected judges get to decide who is head of government).

    Technically, there is nothing to stop Canada’s judges being partisanly-selected. According to Wikipedia, the judiciary appointments “are made by the Governor General on the recommendation of the federal cabinet”. And there is nothing to stop the Governor General from being partisan, since they are appointed by the Monarch (while meant to be non-partisan, there is nothing to stop them being partisan) on the advice of the prime minister (definitely partisan). And of course, the federal cabinet is most definitely partisan.

    Personally, I think the US have it the better way round anyway. The President selects a candidate, and then it is up to the Senate (maybe partisan, but not as much as a federal cabinet) to appoint or not. Canada has it backwards, which means they have one person (the Governor General) selecting at the end.

    Just because a system works now, doesn’t mean it will work in future. And just because it works, isn’t a reason to sacrifice people’s liberties. Where’s your vote on who should be Governor General, or for that matter head of state? In fact, where’s your chance to be the head of state?

    And as for “partisanly-selected judges get to decide who is head of government”, do you have a method selection that isn’t partisan, and works? And however you select them, judges are, just like everyone else, prone to ideology.

    And of course, in the case of some electoral failure, it should be judges that “select the winner” (not exactly what they did, but that’s what it comes down to). You should have the right to protest the result of an election you think has been declared/conducted unfairly in a court of law. After all, don’t elections have to follow a strict legal framework?

    Besides, I don’t see Canada being much better: the apparently “non-partisan” monarch gets to choose your head of government, anyway. Maybe she’s (or the Governor General) done a good job so far, but she might not in future.

  165. #165 Knockgoats
    March 3, 2009

    I can certainly see an argument for France and Germany for example having as good a system as the US, but then they all have basically the same system anyway to me. As for Australia and New Zealand, are you serious? You believe that countries that have, as their head of state, an unelected monarch, to be a better system? Alan Deam

    No, France and Germany do not have “basically the same system” as the USA, although France is close in some respects. France I would not in any case include among those countries with a better system than the USA; Germany certainly, with a much fairer electoral system, and no individual having the excessive power the US President holds. Others in Europe I would include are the Scandinavian countries, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Portugal – all of which, IIRC, have some form of proportional representation rather than the grossly unfair “first-past-the-post” systems of the USA, UK and (for parliamentary elections) France. I don’t approve of hereditary heads of state, but neither in any west European country (other than Liechtenstein and Monaco) nor in Australia and New Zealand do they have more than residual powers; it seems likely Australians will do away with the monarchy soon – and certainly they are free to do so by referendum.

  166. #166 Knockgoats
    March 3, 2009

    The current crisis (like all crises) is the result of government activity. And we need to let the market correct itself. Let the banks and other businesses fail; that’s part of the market’s mechanism for weeding out the weak. – Walton

    Have you ever heard of systemic risk Walton? It means that if certain large institutions fail (the current example is AIG), the global financial system will be seriously damaged or even go down with them – stop working altogether. Back to barter, Walton. Millions of deaths within weeks among the vulnerable as food, fuel and medicine supply chains disintegrate. You’re not just callous Walton – you’re insane. In the effects your nostrums would have, if not your intentions, you resemble Pol Pot.

  167. #167 Tulse
    March 3, 2009

    I don’t see Canada being much better: the apparently “non-partisan” monarch gets to choose your head of government, anyway. Maybe she’s (or the Governor General) done a good job so far, but she might not in future.

    The GG doesn’t really “choose” the Prime Minister — the head of government is the leader of the party who forms a majority in Parliament. In cases where there is a minority, the GG usually asks the leader of the party with the plurality to attempt to form a government. However, even though a party leader may need the approval of the GG to become Prime Minister, they cannot retain leadership without the confidence of the House of Commons. So if the GG appointed someone who could not maintain confidence, their government would fall.

    And this also marks one of the very important differences between US-style and parliamentary government — the possibility of no-confidence votes, and thus to bring a government down at times other than established election years. Given recent US history, that seems to me to be a huge improvement over the US system.

  168. #168 Miriam
    March 18, 2009

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Miriam

    http://www.craigslistposter.info

  169. #169 hery
    January 25, 2010

    All of these people are either demonstrably racist or openly advocating some crazyfuck belief. Inhofe is a special case because there seems to be no sort or degree of nasty bullshit he’s incapable of getting behind

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