Obama and ‘faith-based’ initiatives

First, there was this awful news about Obama's support of "faith-based programs":

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans to expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and -- in a move sure to cause controversy -- support some ability to hire and fire based on faith.

Gak. If that were true, he'd be at some risk of losing my vote, and would definitely be on the road to losing my campaign support. That was Fox News, though, so I held off until I heard more…although reporting that Obama supported an agenda favored by the religious right seemed unlikely from that source, unless they also announced he was only going to fund Islamic programs (Oops, did I just start another rumor?).

Next, there was some fast damage control: that early report was wrong, and here's what Obama really said.

Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe this partnership will endanger that idea -- so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them -- or against the people you hire -- on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we'll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.

That's better. Until you think about it. He's still proposing an expansion of Bush's faith-based initiatives — he's going to be handing out billions of dollars to religious organizations. It's nice that he's specifically saying there will be restrictions, that the money can't be used in programs that discriminate, and it must be for secular purposes, but he's still propping up a religious middleman between government aid and the people, and that's a tool that will be used to proselytize indirectly, even if they don't simply flout the rules. This is a bad idea.

I'm going to take the side of Americans United, which has put out a call for Obama to shut down the government's pandering to religion with these faith-based charities.

Rather than try to correct the defects of the Bush “faith-based” initiative, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama would do better to shut it down, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Obama today announced a proposal to expand faith-based funding during a speech in Zanesville, Ohio.

“I am disappointed,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “This initiative has been a failure on all counts, and it ought to be shut down, not expanded.”

However, Lynn said he was pleased to hear Obama express support for church-state separation and say that he would bar government-funded proselytism and religious discrimination in hiring when tax dollars are involved.

“It is imperative that public funds not pay for proselytizing or subsidize discrimination in hiring,” said Lynn. “Obama has promised that he will not support publicly funded proselytism or discrimination in hiring, and that’s an important commitment.”

The Bush administration has repeatedly insisted that religious charities can discriminate on religious grounds in hiring staff when running publicly funded programs.

Lynn said he is concerned that the Obama plan apparently would allow direct tax funding of houses of worship to run social service programs. That, said Lynn, raises serious issues of entanglement between religion and government.

Americans United has led opposition to the Bush faith-based initiative since it was unveiled in 2001.

The plan Obama proposes doesn't even make sense. If religious groups have a history of altruistic support for the needy, good for them and let them continue as they have…but funneling government funds through organizations that supposedly already have "faith-based" mechanisms for raising money seems superfluous. That's the only advantage these groups have, anyway — the ability to fleece the flock to fund their work. Being religious does not give any advantage in obtaining material outcomes.

End the faith-based initiatives. The government should only be supporting programs that work — at least, in my dreams of an efficient administration, anyway.

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"Gak. If that were true, he'd be at some risk of losing my vote, and would definitely be on the road to losing my campaign support."

Er, who would you then vote for? Being as the US only has two real political parties, your only option is McCain. And I can't see that working out.

By Sivi Volk (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

How about evidence-based initiatives?

I loathe anything labeled "faith-based" but the fact of the matter is, there are eighty-some percent of Americans who believe in a god and all of them can't be repugnantklans. Obama is campaigning as politicians have campaigned for years. He needs the votes of moderate religious Democrats who, by the way, are a lot more numerous than we godless.

A third party vote basically means you've joined the McCain People's Front Crack Suicide Squad. So, don't do it.

Watch the opposition to discrimination in hiring disappear (likely in some kind of "compromise"), if it really goes through. How does it even make sense for it to be a religious organization if it can't pick and choose its employees based on religion?

That's the only advantage over Bush's egregious program, and its disadvantage is that it's supposed to be even bigger.

Really, it's understandable that Obama might want to reach out to religious voters. But this is more than mere politicking, it's exactly the pandering that we hate when the Republicans do it.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Faith-based initiatives are unnecessary at best. People can use their faith as motivation and start a 501(c) org to help the public good instead of running an organization straight out of the church. Give the grant money to universities, schools, and hospitals instead.

In a country like the US, Obama's approach is probably the best way to secularize religious organizations from the top down. Thats an interesting opportunity to consider.

Of course, that might all go straight down the toilet again under the management of anything like the current administration.

By Dutch Delight (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Oh, come on and stop being so doctrinaire. Whatever you or I think about magic sky fairies, churches do server social functions that are only loosely fantasy based. What he's proposing is essentially using the existing organizational structure to accomplish social goods. As long as it's separated from the spread of woo, seems to be to be a very small camel to swallow for the potential good.

By Spunky Hussein Tuna (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Thinking back, what PZ seems to be saying in a previous post is that Obama's religious pandering is akin to having an 800 lb enema rammed up the rear!

Remember that he has to get elected before he can do anything, so he has to pander somewhat. Once you apply his restrictions it's not much of a faith based program anymore, but still sounds like one so it can get votes. Attacking the faith based programs outright is probably not a good political move right now, even if it is a sensible one.

Thank you for commenting on this. I saw this hit fox news and lunch time. I follow a variety of liberal blogs thinking surely I would see outrage within moments. It was not to be so. Thank you Prof. Myers. I knew I couldn't be the only person a little p.o.ed. The sad thing is my brother is an atheist who strongly supports Obama but I think he drank the kool-aid on this one as he has spent our last conversation trying to convince me of its merits.

The restrictions he listed are the current restriction, not new rules he'd put into place - the problem is that no one is willing to oversee this and enforce the rules. If he said he was creating a new team of people to monitor churches and make sure they don't use tax dollars for proselytizing, I'd be cool with it. But he's not. And if he did do that, he'd lose the major vote he's trying to win over with this bullshit.

Actually, if Obama wanted to shrink faith-based programs, this is the perfect way to do it. Just smile and say religious groups can have as much money as they want so long as they understand they can't proselytize or discriminate, then watch as they all pull back their hands.

I've always been baffled by this contradictory logic: The current administration balks at funding organizations that promote family planning because they might also accidentally sorta kinda provide "forbidden" information (birth control) or services (abortion). Even when said organizations keep their budgets strictly separate, the administration says that the taint is unavoidable. Yet the same administration turns around and says that this kind of organization will have no trouble separating its religious from its non-religious budgets.

Hmm, I rather like HH's point. Some interesting educational opportunities could arise. Just wait for someone to sue an organisation for discrimination in a federally funded program...

This is a no-brainer. The First Amendment says specifically that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. The conservatives whine that liberals keep finding stuff in the Constitution and only "strict interpretation" is correct. Strict interpretation says that there'll be no faith-based initiatives.

Or is it that conservatives only insist on strict interpretation if a looser interpretation results in something they don't like? I know, you're all saying "conservatives might be hypocrites? Say it ain't so, JoJo." I hate to bring the bad news to you, but....

P.S. Once you've digested that, I have some more bad news concerning Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

Obama's making a lot of noise about this, but as far as I can tell, his policy basically does involve ending faith based initiatives, at least as anyone means them.

The reason is that most people never understood what FBIs were in the first place. Giving government money to religious charities was not something new when Clinton signed it into law, or Bush made it a talking point. Catholic Charities have been getting government funding for decades. All that was new was giving special treatment to religious organizations to basically be able to avoid various laws that other non-profits had to follow: i.e. they no longer had to keep two sets of books, have separation between religious side and the service side.

So Obama says he's going to get rid of all that special treatment. Leaving... what, exactly? As far as I can tell, that's just putting it back to status quo, and his talk of an "expansion" of funding basically means nothing more than putting more money into social services in general.

In short, it's a scam. But it's a scam run on religious people. For our side, it makes things better, not worse than the status quo.

If eighty-odd percent of Americans believe in an Invisible Supernatural Spook and that said spook wants them to help the needy, then they can damn well pony up the money for their church's contribution themselves. Why the hell do we need the federal gummint to act as middle man? Recall that a middle man takes a cut . . .

A restriction on not using the money to proselytize is more than useless, it guarantees a violation of the restriction. These people are in most cases encouraged or required to "share the good news."

Ben Franklin observed that if people like a church and give money to it and the church thrives, well and good. But if the church requires a handout from the gummint is isn't much of a church to begin with. I'll add that it would be properly scriptural for such a church to "wither on the vine."

Bush's Faith Based Initiative is properly named only if the initiative that motivates the church is to turn to the money trough with all the other hogs instead of showing their faith in their, er, faith. Obama mucking about with it will not change this or any other of the several distasteful problems with this Dim Witted FOOLISHNESS!

By Crudely Wrott (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Ugh. First the good Senator loses his spine on FISA and now this crap.

This is why I don't contribute to political campaigns. Granted, my bar may be set too high, but politicians will do anything to get elected.

It's nice that Obama is laying down some ground rules, but quite frankly this kind of government-sponsored religious welfare has to go.

BTW, is it true that under the current rules, a faith-based initiative can receive fed bucks and still discriminate based on religion?

Matt A

oh, wait, never mind. I misread one of the links and the salon article is referred to above already.

I was raised in a religion that claims it doesn't proselytize, and we were out knocking on doors all over the place. I wonder how such programs are expected to be managed and monitored.

I think it's pretty straightforward. The federalis have been adding breaks and bonuses to religious groups for ages, funneling more and more tax dollars to churches. But Obama has a plan. There are strings attached. I think his ultimate objective is to become a kind of uberbishop of American churches.

It's a shit position, having to pander to idiots in order to gain support even though it violates the law of the land. When I saw the article on BBC news this morning I was disappointed.

Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs.

There's not practical way to separate the money like this. When churches receive money for charitable causes, they can use more of their own to proselytize. For all intents and purposes, they receive government grants to promote their religion.

If it were my call Kel would win the thread with this near perfect line:

"It's a shit position, having to pander to idiots in order to gain support even though it violates the law of the land."

Yep. That just about sez all ya need to know.

By Crudely Wrott (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

It's amusing to see all the leftists contort themselves to pretend that Obama's latest idiocy doesn't matter. It shows that what they want more than relief from Bush's religiousity is socialism, which they think Obama will give them.

Obama talks a great show but when you come right down to it, his ideas are half-baked. He's terrible on economics and very dubious on religion.

I'm sure the first knee-jerk reaction of many of will be: he's better than McCain. What they really mean is that they want the anti-success (anti-business, anti-wealth) programs he'll usher in, and don't much care what it takes to get it.

My mother, a Christian, runs a faith-based initiative. Her company provides education to poor children. They've helped thousands and thousands of kids.

She wouldn't hire me because I am a gay. She probably turned down 3 out of 4 applicants because they did not agree with who SHE thought Jesus was. She won't hire gays, lesbians, atheists, Muslims, Catholics (yes--Catholics), Jews, agnostics, pagans, Hindus...Every employee has to sign a statement of faith--a statement that says, "I believe in Jesus, the trinity, sin, heaven and hell, God as the creator..." etc.

I'm glad she's helped the children, but it's angering that it has come at the expense of tax-payers dollars when it is a discriminatory group.

Funny enough, I work in Logistics so when she needed some help with setting up a transportation network for their summer camp...guess who they came to?

By Chris (in Columbus) (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Here is my post on a diary dealing with this on DailyKos, for which I was skewered mercilessly:

"I strenuously object to a single dime of my tax payments going to religiously-based organizations. This is supposed to be a secular republic, not a theocracy. The secular government agencies that are supposed to handle disasters and provide help to the poor could make a rapid return to health given the opportunity and funding. The churches can help as well, but with donations, not with our tax dollars.

It is absolutely critical that our society come to grips with reality and quit pinning our hopes for the future on prayers to one of any number of imaginary, omnipotent, supernatural beings that humans have dreamt up over the years."

This initiative is wholly unnecessary. Religious organizations have always drawn government funds, provided they set up a secular organization to receive, administer and report on the use of the funds. In other words they could not use the funds for anything related to the religious side. If they could I can guarantee that most would siphon off at least 50% for "administrative overhead." Among the rationales offered by Bush when he initiated his program was that setting up a secular organization was too much of a burden for small churches who didn't have the resources to run two separate sets of books and keep religious and charitable functions. In other words, let's give the little churches some walking around money to get them to vote for the Republicans.

If you haven't already, let the Obama campaign know this is unacceptable. I have but I've yet to get a reply, even though I've given close the limit this spring to his campaign and planned to do the same this fall, until this initiative surfaced last night.

PZ, if you ever find yourself wavering on who to vote for, just close your eyes, click your heels and repeat the following: "it's all about the Supreme Court, it's all about the Supreme Court, it's all about the Supreme Court."

Every other issue pales in comparison to the fact that the next president will shape the face of the Supreme Court for the next 20 years.

This stupidity, he voted for the FISA bill that gave retroactive immunity to the telcos' and he won't end the occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan. Why should I vote for this dweeb? Only on reason really, that he will appoint moderate conservative judges and not reactionary loons like Alito and Roberts. I'll still probably vote for him but campaign? No my time and money go into keeping marriage equality a reality in California

Obama could talk all day about his faith, go to church every Sunday, and end every speech with those mindlessly spoken three words, but establishing a religious council in his administration is going way too far. The Hitch is probably smirking somewhere right now.

#26:what they want more than relief from Bush's religiousity is socialism

How is expanding the role of faith groups in the federal government a relief from Bush religiosity? How is terminating their place in government akin to socialism?

My take on this issue is that these initiatives can be a decent thing. I read a book by Jim Wallis, who had a lot of great ideas, including how to get faith-based initiatives to work. I think that you could secularize them and they would still work, but in this country the altruists among us are going to go for what we can get.

What Zeekster said (#11).

By Jeff Chamberlain (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Here's the sad, sad truth folks, the secular vote is pretty small, nearly non-existant to really matter in American politics. Despite the right-wing's stereotype of "godless liberals", the average Democrat is just a likely to be a church-going believer as any Republican. He has to keep his own "Christian Left" in check as well as try to snag the evangelicals who are apparently leaving the GOP. In short, Obama can afford to tell us atheists to play in the traffic while pandering to the religionists on his side of the spectrum and the middle.

Me? Since I find that both parties are run by authoritarian control freaks and greedy sellouts, I don't have a horse to back in either case. Therefore, I'm witting in my own name on the ballot this November. At least I'd be voting for someone I actually agreed with.

By Mark A. Siefert (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Here's an interesting charity that would probably fall into the category of "faith based":
http://www.metrowestfreemedicalprogram.org/
http://resources.rj.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=1118
I suspect that this is the kind of operation that Obama has in mind. Could this have been done by a secular organization? Sure. In this case, however, it wasn't. For those who don't want to follow the links, they are about a program in Massachusetts that provides free medical care at a walk-in clinic to people without health insurance. I like how they combine care with advocacy to try and change our health care policies so that this medical program will no longer be needed.

By Jeff Alexander (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

OUCH!

does Eneman use "the force" in order to administer an 800 lb. enema?

I don't know for sure what Obama's personal beliefs are, but I suspect I do. So I say pander, pander , pander! Join the Klan if it will get you votes. Obama can't change anything if he's sitting on his ass at home. If you have a problem with pandering, try thinking of it as "pretending for the greater good".

...would an 800 lb. enema administered by Darth Eneman result in the loss of many midichlorians?

Death penalty for rapists.

Faith-based initiatives.

Glorifying the military.

Nowhere to be found on FISA.

I'm feeling left out in the cold!

Brrrrrrrr!

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

The word we are looking for is "fungible." The money they get from us means that the money they get from their church-goin' donors can be used elsewhere. No matter what controls are in place, the dollars get laundered because it's fungible. FBI money directly supports the faith.

By homostoicus (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

The other problem with faith-based initiatives is that there isn't a growing pool of money; the extra they're getting is being stripped away from secular organizations that already have a track record of success. Many social workers are in the position now of taking a job with a religious organization they may not agree with and keeping their mouths shut about it or not working at all. This is a bad, bad, bad government policy.

Others have mentioned the Supreme Court. Iran's another good reason. How would you like paying about $10 bux a gallon once Hormuz is sealed off? I think concern about an attack on Iran is part of the reason ahl ("oil" to you non-Texans) is so high. A barrel would probably drop back around a hundred once an attack on Iran is out of the picture.

I am actually impressed with most of the comments here. I fully expected to see a lot of "still better than McCain" comments with a moiety of ditto heads.

Ann (#13), very well said. There's some critical thinking, people. Rich (#30), Supreme Court-appointments is very much my hot button issue. Only, which one does that mean you are voting for? MB (#26), that's a little harsh, but the sentiment is right on. Spunky Hussein Tuna (#7 - nice handle, btw), that camel smells really bad. I've no appetite for it.

I can't trust Obama on his faith position. Remember that church he attended for 20 years until it suddenly got noticed by the press? It sure makes McCain's faith seem timid. And at least McCain has some history fighting for campaign and lobby reform. If I had to vote today....

By homostoicus (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

I think this is a case where the devil is in the details. On the bad side, Obama seems to be supporting and perpetuating an incredibly stupid policy. On the other hand, depending on how he implements his ideas, he could be putting any church that wants to take federal dollars in the position of having to do all the work of establishing a 501(c) (as commenters #5 and 29 above rightly observed that anybody can do anyway) in terms of regulatory compliance, reporting income, etc., but with none of the benefits of having a crony deal with the Bush White House in the bargain.

In which case we might see churches choosing to return to the old way of doing things, letting "faith-based initiatives" die a quiet death. It's not as satisfying as having a presidential candidate stand up and shout "faith-based initiatives are bullshit" from the rooftops, but that's not going to happen anytime soon anyway.

It might also be possible to leverage a faith-based initiatives program into a broader program for giving federal funds to local social services in general, especially if Obama were to decide at some point that no such program can really limit itself to discriminating in favor of churches (just has he says churches can't discriminate in their hiring and the distribution of services).

That's the optimistic view. On the other hand, Obama *has* just reversed himself on FISA, so he might just be doing the traditional thing of turning into a humongous tool before our eyes.

McCain: "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right."

Obama: ????

You guys can fill in the question marks. I can't remember anything of note on the subject from Obama.

If anyone's worried that Obama is somehow compromising his ideals here, don't forget that Bush & Co. pretended to be Christian in order to get elected, and they have never wavered from their true ideals. Of course, those ideals involve bathing in a Scrooge McDuck type money pit.

Scrooge McDuck

So, Jams, that must be why McCain has visited with Falwell.

I've been predicting this would happen for years. Bush discovered that he could buy votes by funnelling taxpayers' dollars to religious groups. Wow! A new roof for the church! Thanks Mister President!!! And, as I predicted - rather than shut it down - the Democrats are promising to keep the money valve jammed open.

Bread and circuses.

So, Jams, that must be why McCain has visited with Falwell.

Yeah. Not to mention John Hagee.

McPander, McPander, McPander.

"So, Jams, that must be why McCain has visited with Falwell." - Tulse

Do you know what "defined by" means?

Americans have a difficult choice. They can vote the Democratic party farther into the religious fold, or they can vote the Republican party out of it. Said another way, they can slide the Republicans left, or the Democrats right. Make no mistake... when Obama says he can "cross the isle", he's talking about religion. Did you think he meant something else?

They can vote the Democratic party farther into the religious fold, or they can vote the Republican party out of it.

talk about your false dichotomies.

uh, by voting the Republican party "out of it", surely you were thinking towards the election in 2012?

because you sure aren't thinking about John "I changed my very religion to placate the fundies" McCain.

Look, Jams, I think this has been mentioned to you sometime previously, but if a candidate placates religious fundies by doing what they want, it doesn't fucking matter if they "really" aren't fundies themselves.

when Obama says he can "cross the isle", he's talking about religion. Did you think he meant something else?

actually, yes, considering that typically that phrase means the candidate is technically willing to work with the opposition party.

it has nothing to do with religion on the face of it.

McCain: "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right."

btw, IIRC, he said that during the 2000 election, where he blamed not getting the primary nod on his attacks on the religious right.

a mistake he seems bound and determined to "correct" in this election cycle.

Blah blah blah. Would anybody be complaining if Obama'd said nothing about faith-based initiatives? I doubt it. His position is better than the status quo. What more can one reasonably ask for? Baby steps, folks. The society of tomorrow appreciates your patience with regard to this matter.

Oh, come on and stop being so doctrinaire. Whatever you or I think about magic sky fairies, churches do server social functions that are only loosely fantasy based. What he's proposing is essentially using the existing organizational structure to accomplish social goods. As long as it's separated from the spread of woo, seems to be to be a very small camel to swallow for the potential good.

Loads of money went to things like alcoholics' anonymous, which include "accept your higher power" as one of the crucial steps in their doctrine. It's stealth religion.

But that's only the tip of the iceberg. Faith-based initiatives will be inherently skewed based on your dogma. Under the Bush administration's faith based initiatives, the US Taxpayers "donated" over $500 million spent on programs to TEACH ABSTINENCE AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO SAFE SEX TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF AIDS. That little bit of criminal irresponsiblity was entirely faith-based; nobody but a sexually hung up christard would cook up a dumb ass idea like trying to tell teenagers not to experiment with their bodies.

The basic problem with faith based whatever is that it will adopt the stupid parts of the faith where they conflict with common sense. Perhaps it would be clearer if the taxpayers spent $500 million on a hindu-based program that taught that AIDS really isn't a problem, since you're going to get reincarnated anyhow.

I don't know if it's still on there but if you followed the links from whitehouse.gov to the faith based initiatives site there was a PDF of where all the money has been going. A new church roof for a mega-church in texas. Missionary groups going to help the poor starving africans (no, no, surely they won't try to preach at all!) etc. Make sure you are sitting back from your keyboard so that you don't fucking vomit into it. It's that horrifying.

Jesus is such a cunt; why can't he just blinkblink up a couple tons of gold bars for his followers to do thier good works with? Or maybe he could repeat the loaves and the fishes trick? It's just so bizzare that churches are always so concerned with money money money in the here and now, isn't it? And if someone says "the lord DID provide: in the form of the US taxpayer" I will reach across the internet and bitch slap you, so don't do it.

As I read the comments on this thread, I see people trying to make excuses for our venal, corrupt, cowardly, helpless presidential candidates. Isn't it pathetic that america has not been able to offer its people a choice other than 'the lesser of two evils' for decades?

And, on the flip side, the most recent president who stands by his convictions is, unfortunately, convinced that the executive branch is more like the "monarchy branch" and openly admits he gets advice on foreign policy from his imaginary playmate. So just color us screwed; we either have cowards or nutbags, crooks or crazies, panderers or ranting loons, inflexible psychos or wishy-washy poll-whores.

I'm going to go downstairs and drink a big glass of scotch and burn my voter's card.

The problem with this whole thing is not so much the idea of giving moneys to faith-based programs. I mean it is, of course, but the point Obama is trying to make is that the moneys given will be given only to certain programs and there will be oversight. How is that oversight achieved?

There certainly could be strict regulation of these programs and serious oversight. The government doesn't currently have the money to fund these kinds of things and there likely isn't much motivation to create the kind of agency power to do this effectively. And even if that were to be enacted, there is the point of accountability. In the long run, the only final check on this kind of program is the courts. What happens if the oversight fails (which it will in some instances)?

The courts are the only recourse. The problem then becomes the usual problems of dealing with legal proceedings. It costs money to take things to the courts. The ACLU does a wonderful job (along with Americans United, Barry Lynn is phenomenal), but they have limited resources. The final issue, of course, comes down to having a reliable complainant in a civil action. When dealing with these sorts of things it can be hard to find someone who is willing and able to take it to the courts.

A perfect example is court enforced Alcoholics Anonymous attendance. There is little to no evidence that AA actually works very well. There is also little ability for other forms of treatment to take hold in broad manners because the courts can just toss someone into AA with little oversight or expectation of success. They've had this sewn up for decades.

Certainly AA works for some people. But they won't share their numbers as to how many people actually are helped and there's an assumption that only a few will be helped and that's just the nature of the illness. But the courts send people to AA. What happens if an alcoholic can't except the faith-based assumptions of AA? Well, they have no recourse. Unfortunately, alcoholics can be very unreliable complainants. Thus AA stays the only game in town in large parts of the country. And this is an obvious civil liberties violation.

It's best to avoid any of these kinds of entanglements from the beginning. Obama should know this.

You cannot rationally evaluate Obama's plan without reading his fact sheet:

http://i.usatoday.net/news/mmemmottpdf/obama-faith-fact-sheet-july-1-20…

Note that it's called "President's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships", and the fact sheet says "Barack Obama believes that our problems require an "all hands on deck" approach, and the government should enlist effective faith-based and community groups to help solve them."

The fact is that Obama is a Christian and believes all that nonsense. But he's also a community organizer and grassroots/bottom-up oriented. I could be mistaken, but I think he sincerely believes that this is a good and effective approach. It's fraught with all the obvious dangers, and Obama may be living in fantasyland to think that he can pull this off without it being abused ... but it's already being grossly abused under Bush and will continue to be under McCain, especially if he gets the opportunity to appoint yet another member of Opus Dei to the Supreme Court.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Isn't it pathetic that america has not been able to offer its people a choice other than 'the lesser of two evils' for decades?

It's fun to blame 300-million member group nouns, but I don't see you running for office. And, "the lesser of two evils" is a tautology -- an intellectually dishonest one, as "the better of two choices" is equivalent.

I'm going to go downstairs and drink a big glass of scotch and burn my voter's card.

Truly a man of action.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Time for an unreality check:

1) How much money has the Bush administration actually provided to faith-based initiatives?

"Billions has been promised - $8 billion in the first year alone. We were $7,969,000,000 short of that promise. This was halfway through the next year. There should have been $16 billion. All we had managed to get in the federal budget for the Compassion Capital Fund was $30 million."

As best as I can tell, it was mostly a vote-getting sham. Wikipedia on OFBCI talks about several $B going to faith-based organizations, but if so, it's pretty hard to find when rummaging around OFBCI or the COmpassion Capital Fund, which generally distributed roughly $40-$50m/year. it is nontrivial to figure out how much new money is actually going where ... which may be the goal.

Quote above is p.211 from Tempting Faith - Inside Political Seduction by David Kuo, who was Deputy Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives ... until he couldn't stand it any more.

Another quote, p.228:
"This approach allowed the White House to make grand announcements and then do nothing to implement them with impunity."

And, about the day he quit, he describes his exit meeting with Andy Card, ending with, p. 243:

"And finally sir, this thought. I don't know if you are aware of this, but your staff frequently refers to the faith-based initiative as the 'f*#$ing faith-based initiative.' That doesn't help."

Anyone who wants to talk about how this stuff does or doesn't work in the Bush Administration really needs to read this, plus look up John DiIulio. Atheists will have to get past some of the language, but Kuo's book is very educational.

=====
Hence, I offer another reason (beyond separation of church and state)why special Federal grants and such are probably a really bad idea.

I've seen a few churches actually perform useful, secular community services that nobody else was willing to do, usually because they could mobilize a little money, their physical facilities, and mostly, a lot of volunteer labor. I'd say their cost/performance was pretty good, and a kneejerk reaction that says such don't exist is out of touch with reality. I'd guess that both church and secular organizations are normally distributed like many other things - there are good ones, average ones, and bad ones.

Hence, in theory, I'd be perfectly happy if churches competed with other organizations for grant money, under the rules Obama describes.

BUT, I always recall the old saw:

"In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they aren't."

And Kuo's book, esp. p214-215 makes it clear that most organizations would never manage to get such grants, and that "Many of the grant-winning organizations that rose to the top of this process were politically friendly to the administration....
It was obvious that the ratings were a farce..."

I.e., I'd bet the effective organizations, who might actually help some people, would often lose out, having time and effort messing around with this.

In any case, for this type of activity, which is effective or not on a local basis, how can it make any sense to:

a) Tax people across the US, collecting a pot of money sent to Washington, DC.

b) Then, in Washington, put organizations through the hoops to get back a fraction of the total money paid in.

This totally violates the principle of subsidiarity, i.e., that one ought to do things at the lowest level of government able to do it. While many efforts may be appropriate for the Federal government, it's hard to understand why this is one of them, even if everything were honestly run.

For one thing, I would bet anything that state and local government people have much better calibration of which local institutions actually do useful work, or not, than someone hired in Washington to evaluate masses of paper proposals.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

they can slide the Republicans left

Only by punishing their radical rightism by voting them out en masse.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Isn't it pathetic that america has not been able to offer its people a choice other than 'the lesser of two evils' for decades?

spiral!

spiral!

:p

If anyone's worried that Obama is somehow compromising his ideals here

These have been his ideals for a long time. See his "call to renewal" speech, http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060628-call_to_renewal/index.php, which he gave two years ago and which has been discussed at length here, and recently in the "news" because of James Dobson's attack on it.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

spiral!

spiral!

:p

Indeed. As I noted at length in that previous thread, that is such a stupid argument ... I'm not surprised to see Ranum taking it up.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

actually, it just reminded me of the argument, and I should immediately clarify that I don't see Marcus extending the tautology in the same way as whathisname (already forgotten) did.

Really, I wouldn't want to attach that particular idiocy to anyone in particular without them actually attempting to lay claim to it directly themselves, and wouldn't want to attach it to Marcus in this case.

guilty of using the tautology? yes.
Guilty of extending it into a "slope" argument? Naw.

It was just such a remarkably ridiculous argument, that forevermore when I see "lesser of two evils" I will end up recalling it.

You guys can fill in the question marks. I can't remember anything of note on the subject from Obama.

How convenient, and dishonest. Present a specific statement by one person, and then say you can't remember the other person ever echoing it, shifting the burden onto others to rebut your unsupported position. But in fact Obama has spoken out against pandering many times, for instance on the gas tax nonsense. Beyond that, I'm not going to waste my time searching for something to fill in your ridiculous "????".

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

I don't see Marcus extending the tautology in the same way as whathisname (already forgotten) did.

I agree that Phaedrus's "spiral downward" argument was particularly demented, but I don't think Ranum's "not been able ... for decades" isn't really all that different. The fundamental foolishness is in the "lesser of two evils" formulation, especially when we have managed to choose what is clearly the greater of two evils ... with some help from those who make the wrong-headed argument.

Speaking of tautogies: "america has not been able to offer its people ..." is an odd formulation ... which seems to rest on the same sort of passivity and victimhood that leads people to mistake not voting for action. People on this blog should be able to understand that "america" is a dynamic ecology, not some external agent separate from "its people".

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

It's not being grossly abused by Bush. It's part of their plan. That's the whole point. You can say that a violation is an abuse, I suppose, but that's not really the case with any of Bush's faith-based policies. It's a concerted and specific plan to hamstring the Federal Government.

Claiming that it could be a good idea, when there are fundamental problems involved in the whole enterprise is an exercise in willful ignorance, straight-up ignorance or straight-out dishonesty.

These things do not work out well when held under the microscope of honest Constitutional scrutiny.

This may be a political ploy on Obama's part, sure. But what is the cost and/or gain of such a move?

I'll work my ass off to get this guy elected, in fact, I already am. But some modicum of criticism should be allowed in the process.

Otherwise, what's the point of reasoned discourse and the whole democratic experiment?

Oh, and speaking out against "pandering" doesn't (and hasn't) stopped politicians from doing it.

I can tell you that I think it's bad to eat a Big Mac, for all sorts of reasons, that doesn't mean I haven't done it recently (although I usually go for the Jr. Cheeseburger deal).

On the other hand, Obama *has* just reversed himself on FISA

That's misleading. Obama has consistently opposed immunity. The only thing he reversed himself on is his pledge to filibuster a bill that contains immunity; he has said that he will try to remove it, but that if he can't (and he has no chance of doing so) he will vote for it anyway. That's distressing, and the "security" language that he used to justify his stance is disturbingly familiar, but it's also a political calculation, as a filibuster is sure to fail and Obama is constantly fighting the "weak on security"/"traitor"/"muslim" memes, and must "act tough". It won't do any good for Obama to be pure if he isn't elected, and insisting on it too much starts to look downright autistic -- mistaking one's own beliefs for those of the population at large.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

"Barack Obama believes that our problems require an "all hands on deck" approach, and the government should enlist effective faith-based and community groups to help solve them."

Where exactly is the line drawn in terms of "effective"?

What happens when we add more bureaucratic nonsense to a policy? If we claim that faith-based policies are effective (something we don't know, as these policies in his plan aren't really listed in detail) what then do we expect from the oversight of these policies? There are specific rules that the Constitution mandates when dealing with religion. Why add more bureaucracy in terms of oversight? Why not just spend the funds in a more direct manner? Why not just let the various agencies use the same auditing procedures they use for everything else in government without having to audit a separate organization? That strikes me as a rats nest.

If you are of the opinion that the government can't audit itself effectively (which isn't unreasonable) why add yet another level of accountability with added rules?

Aside from the church/state issues, it strikes me as being even more impractical to add another level of accountability.

Churches have enough leeway to do what they do anyway and enforcing those rules (501(c)3 and such) isn't very easy.

More hoops to jump through doesn't make government's job any easier or more efficient.

It's not being grossly abused by Bush. It's part of their plan.

False dichotomy. And I didn't say it is being grossly abused by Bush, I said it's being grossly abused -- the religious organizations are violating the 1st amendment, with much aid from the Bush admin.

But some modicum of criticism should be allowed in the process.

Who's disallowing it? I believe I said something about Obama believing nonsense, putting forth something fraught with danger, and possibly living in fantasyland. But it's important to understand what's actually being proposed, what it would replace, and whether Obama actually believes in this or is pandering.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Those are all good questions, phat. You might want to call the Obama campaign and ask them (my limited experience is that they actually want to hear from people).

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

The cat's out of the bag on this issue in terms of whatever mandate he is able to claim when he gets elected (and I hope he gets elected). But mandates are based on rhetoric not white-papers. If he decides to not follow up on this particular policy promise he should expect a lot of blow-back. I suspect he's prepared for that if he isn't actually that invested in the whole thing. If he is invested, well, I for one will be a little pissed, as will quite a few other people.

This whole election is a very big experiment, I'm afraid.

I'll be in Denver, cheering him on. Maybe I'll get to talk to him about this.

This stupidity, he voted for the FISA bill that gave retroactive immunity to the telcos'

There hasn't been a vote in the Senate. (Do you even know that there are two houses of Congress?)

and he won't end the occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan.

How do you know? Did God whisper it in your ear?

It's not because "america" gives "its people" poor choices that we end up in such a mess, it's because so many people make bad choices, largely a consequence of intellectual laziness.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

This whole election is a very big experiment, I'm afraid.

Having run the Bush experiment for 8 years, I'm not afraid to run a not-McCain "experiment". The concern about Obama being just another politician is premature. Once he's in office, we can all be terribly disappointed that he's just another politician rather than something better. But right now, we're faced with a choice between "possibly disappointing" and "sure to be a disaster". (And people who don't think McCain would be a disaster are ignoring his record and who he has surrounded himself with and is beholden to.)

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

This stupidity, he voted for the FISA bill that gave retroactive immunity to the telcos'

I would really like to ask all those who claim this: how did McCain vote? What about Hillary? What was the vote count?

People are so easily manipulated by propaganda ...

Remember that church he attended for 20 years until it suddenly got noticed by the press? It sure makes McCain's faith seem timid.

That being one of the most striking and effective examples ... the Willie Hortonization of Rev. Wright. The anti-black racism injected into the mischaracterization of those 30 seconds of video, let alone Wright's entire 20 year history and the message of that church -- which was an excellent example of the sorts of positive work that Obama is aiming for -- is quite astounding and nearly impenetrable -- which is why Obama had no choice but to leave the church.
e mis

It's hard enough to penetrate the Willie Hortonization mischaracterization

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

We certainly know what McCain has to offer and what he has to offer is not good. There's plenty of evidence to believe that. There is plenty of evidence to believe that Obama will not be McCain. That seems obvious. When he says things that may seem counter to our assumptions it's not unreasonable to be a little bit worried.

On balance, Obama is the obvious choice. But we have a responsibility to hold his feet to the fire.

This is why I spend a lot of time dealing with local politicians. I can have much more influence on their thinking and their actions have a more direct influence on my life. I hope that anyone who is now newly engaged in the political process because of Obama learns this.

I can't pick up the phone and talk to Obama about anything. I can call my mayor or city council members, most of the time.

phat

Effectiveness is only justification for the "faith-based initiatives". These organizations already have the infrasructure and committed volunteers to deliver aid to the needy. It makes sense to support them when the circumstances are right.

Who would you rather go to for help: a government bureaucrat on a 9-to-5 job, or a committed volunteer doing it for Jesus (or whatever), or personal fulfilment.

Any humanist charitable organization should of course be eligible for funding as well.

But there should be strict rules against proselytizing (e.g. you'll get your soup when you accept Jesus), for equal treatment, and against seeking donations from the receipients.

It shows that what they want more than relief from Bush's religiousity is socialism, which they think Obama will give them....

I'm sure the first knee-jerk reaction of many of will be: he's better than McCain. What they really mean is that they want the anti-success (anti-business, anti-wealth) programs he'll usher in, and don't much care what it takes to get it.

It was kind of MB to let us know these things about ourselves.

One reason to prefer Obama is that those most strongly opposed to him are such loons.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Though provoking Digg submission:

I'm not sure why everyone seems so shocked at Obama's proposal on faith-based funding.

Did people expect him to tell the religious organizations who are currently receiving this money that he is just going to cut them off? How would that win him any support from anyone? It would only play into the hands of the Republican smear machine and make Obama look anti-Christian.

I actually like the approach he took. He's completely dismantling the existing faith-based plan that Bush has and replacing it with something more comprehensive and fair. The religious organizations will still get funding IF they have programs that actually help people in their community. The money can NOT be used to push religious beliefs and hiring/firing based on religious views in NOT allowed (despite what it said earlier in an incorrect news article that first came out).

In addition, Obama's new plan also includes non-secular Community Groups that provide help to the people in their communities if they show they have a viable program.

Unlike Bush's existing plan, money isn't going to be automatically given to big evangelical leaders who preach hate-filled rhetoric against liberals, gays, and anyone else they don't like. Maybe this will help tone down their rhetoric now, since they will have to have a genuine program that helps people to qualify for the money. This isn't "controlling the churches" or "telling them what to say", but it's certainly not going to reward them with free money just because they spew Republican talking points either.

Obama's plan sounds much more fair and equitable than the Bush plan, which amounted to nothing more than bribery.

A partial defence of Senator Obama. He said:

"I'm not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular non-profits. And I'm not saying that they're somehow better at lifting people up. What I'm saying is that we all have to work together - Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike - to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

He does seem to be saying that charities with a religious base will be treated the same as secular ones (and all religions equally) when receiving money for providing social services. Arguably it doesn't privilege religion (although leaving "faith-based" in the name of the programme does).

Incidentally, a few explicit irreligious soup runs would probably be a jolly good thing: people fed, godless morality shown, everyone a winner.

By Matt Heath (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

But we have a responsibility to hold his feet to the fire.

Again, I haven't said otherwise. But you spoke of an experiment and fear, and I tried to put that into context, the context that is so often ignored in criticisms of Obama -- the context of picking the better of two choices. A lot of people -- not you -- take the criticisms of Obama as reasons not to support him, not to vote for him, even to vote for McCain.

This is why I spend a lot of time dealing with local politicians. I can have much more influence on their thinking and their actions have a more direct influence on my life. I hope that anyone who is now newly engaged in the political process because of Obama learns this.

It's something that Obama himself has stressed. He has said that he will disappoint, especially if we don't create a movement. He ran a 50 state campaign in the primary and is continuing to do so -- he's spending money that won't help elect him, but will help elect downticket progressives. His campaign, his funding, his background is grassroots. This very plan that we are discussing is in part about "neighborhood", "community", and "local". Under Bush/Rove, the intent was to shovel money into the religious right as part of Rove's plan for a one-party system. That obviously wouldn't work for Obama. This program is indeed an experiment and possibly a dangerous one, but it could also result in the reduction of the influence of the religious right as the face of the religious. That won't sit well with those who think that the moderate religious are as bad as the fundies and wish that religion would just go away, but it isn't going away just yet.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Did people expect him to tell the religious organizations who are currently receiving this money that he is just going to cut them off? How would that win him any support from anyone? It would only play into the hands of the Republican smear machine and make Obama look anti-Christian.

I think a lot of non-believers would like Obama to give a speech in which he speaks out against silly sky god goathead superstitions. They seem to think that it's enough that they would vote for him if he did.

I think your characterization of Obama's plan is right on paper; the question is whether it will be in practice.

the Bush plan, which amounted to nothing more than bribery.

Indeed, and would be no better under McCain.

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

In short my opinion on why all of these culture of poverty and desperation programs suck is: they knowingly or unwittingly are designed to perpetuate the status quo. Individuals may be helped and move upward but the feeder system remains basically untouched.

If you are serious about solving a problem or accomplishing something do the costly and hard R&D and implement an integrated solution vis-a-vis root problems. In interim, sufficiently fund secular business rational stop-gaps to support the people who need immediate attention (but do not call them in themselves solutions) and naturally fund things like efficient emergency handling secular organizations.

I consider things like food kitchens indicative of our lack of will to really solve problems, and things like McCain's $300M battery prize, both like prayer -- illusions of doing something when you are not.

We need politicians that can strip away all the feel good "solutions" that placate us into accepting the status quo, and lead us to a better nation and world. Now that is change I can live with!!

By ConcernedJoe (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

We need politicians that can strip away all the feel good "solutions" that placate us into accepting the status quo, and lead us to a better nation and world. Now that is change I can live with!!

Are you running for office, or waiting for superduperman to show up on the ballot?

By truth machine (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Hi truth machine -

To your question(s):

- my personality not up to running for office. I'd suck at the mechanics and hobnobbing, and it would probably drive me early grave as I'd take it all too personally and ruminate too much on things like right and wrong. That is just my make up - "a man has to no his limitations" -- and I do not hold that against me. I'd be a FAILURE for several reasons!

- having said above I must add that I've been active in several organizations and have put leather to the pavement and elbow grease to the work, and given money, toward causes and objectives that I feel a superduperman and society might appreciate and need.

- nothing wrong with my objective I feel

- and I have no shame and feel totally authorized to state it as an otherwise active contributing citizen

But I get your general point and good to have you around TM. Take care.

By ConcernedJoe (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

no = know , and other typos not corrected

and obviously one of my limitations is writing correctly!!

:-)

By ConcernedJoe (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

OK, all Obama supporters who are rushing to his defense on this: what would he have to say or do, or who would he have to pander to, to lose your support? What if he started talking about restricting abortion rights? What about tax cuts for the wealthy? If he suddenly came out in favor of staying in Iraq, would he lose your support? How about if he ordered a person to be buried alive?

(For the record, I'm an Obama supporter who is not so happy about this.)

To all Obama-fans, my condolences on the sad loss of your illusions. :-(
To all those planning to swallow the lesser of two weevils - if I had a vote, I'd join you in any state which might possibly go either way; elsewhere I'd look at the increasing size and convulsive wriggling of the lesser weevil, and see if anything less unappetising was on the menu.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Gee, all this endless dissection of what candidates say right now in the middle of the general election is so counter productive. As if one would expect that this would have any influence on what these two individuals would actually do once they would actually take office.
Are people that naïve ?

Can't people tell the difference between Obama and McCain and extract from all of this all this irrelevant information which is only used for electoral purposes ?

You really can't have two more different personalities, two more different concepts about what needs to be done to attack the problems we are facing, and people get swamped in such level of details, it's sickening.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

negentropyeater - you are right I guess as in it is what it is -- but that does not obviate my wish that we had a candidate that could join and present a rational progressive argument and actually do it with such truth and skill that honest rational people would vote for that candidate; you know a candidate with enough moral fiber and skill to pull it off the honest way as opposed to taking the easy way out.

Obama probably has the skills re: oratory - weaker but not hopeless on thought out premises -- but his handlers don't even come close having been numbed by their legacy involvements. So goes the political machine. I think Obama is doing all he can given the toolbox he's been assigned. But still kind of sad. However Obama vs McCain is a no-brainer - grant that for sure.

By ConcernedJoe (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

As an atheist, I'm generally opposed to any taxpayer-funded faith-based programs. However, I am fine with this proposal of his to expand it (within the limitations he outlined). The reason I'm for it is because, well, to be honest, if we want some groups to give a little on some issues, we (as another group) will need to give a little, too. For instance, if we agree to this, maybe they'll be okay with something we prefer (but they oppose). It's all about compromise. *shrug*

Gee, all this endless dissection of what candidates say right now in the middle of the general election is so counter productive.

So what you're suggesting is that we should wait until after the election is over to dissect their positions?

I'm just a little curious; if we follow that line of thinking, and don't bother analyzing their positions during the candidacy phase, how exactly are we supposed to choose between them?

What I find most interesting here, is that discriminatory hiring practices by churches are okay as long as you don't use tax dollars to do it. NO they aren't okay, no matter whose money is being used.
This only means, (in my mind), that the larger issue of discriminatory hiring practices by churches goes on because the American people are too stupid to understand that it matters not whose money is funding it, it's still wrong, they just can't keep their mind on more than one thing at a time.
Yes it's wrong to federally fund them, and yes it's wrong that it's tolerated in America, no matter who funds it.

By rarus.vir (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

That's misleading. Obama has consistently opposed immunity. The only thing he reversed himself on is his pledge to filibuster a bill that contains immunity; he has said that he will try to remove it, but that if he can't (and he has no chance of doing so) he will vote for it anyway. That's distressing, and the "security" language that he used to justify his stance is disturbingly familiar, but it's also a political calculation, as a filibuster is sure to fail and Obama is constantly fighting the "weak on security"/"traitor"/"muslim" memes, and must "act tough". It won't do any good for Obama to be pure if he isn't elected, and insisting on it too much starts to look downright autistic -- mistaking one's own beliefs for those of the population at large.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em? In this context I think that qualifies as a reversal. If he's running on the theme of principled change, then it seems to me that this would be a great opportunity to talk about how national security doesn't require turning a blind eye towards civil liberties. McCain's folks will beat on him no matter which way he goes, so why invite the liberals to beat on him as well? I don't understand it.

I don't expect Obama to be pure, and as I think I've indicated I'm only mildly worried about the faith-based initiatives thing at this point. Given Obama's background my suspicion is that he'll work to turn it into a broader program of supporting local service organizations, religious or not, with federal dollars, and I wouldn't mind that too much.

As for the generic problem of having to choose the lesser of two evils...the US Constitution is constructed on the assumption that everybody ambitious enough to win at politics, including the population at large, is "evil" for many practical purposes -- hence the elaborate system of checks and balances. I assume that Obama is ruthless and calculating, and I'm going to take anything he says with many grains of salt, just as I would for any other politician.

Doesn't mean I'm not going to bitch and moan, though. The bitching and moaning of the people forms the backdrop against which the political game is played. :-)

I agree that this is a definite "yuck". The supposed safeguards are total BS; money, as we all know, is fungible. The best I can say is that, unlike the FISA cave, at least this isn't a flipflop- we've known all along that he'd be for this kind of thing.

Still he's a whole lot better than the only realistic alternative. Never been a big fan- I was an Edwards supporter, and moved to Obama only after Hillary's campaign developed a severe case of craniorectal inversion. Maybe in my lifetime the Democratic Party will offer me somebody I can choose as something more than the lesser of two evils- but probably not. My pittance of campaign contributions this campaign season will go not to Obama but toward helping elect genuinely progressive Democrats to Congress- that'll be a long, long process but it's the only real way forward.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I have no trouble voting for Obama, but I'm having a LOT more trouble enjoying it, save in the negative sense.

By Sioux Laris (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Well, Steve... it seems like you should think about this while bemoaning our political system: Put not your trust in the things of this world. They don't work. Death awaits us all, and no politician is going to fix that. In fact, no scientist is going to fix that either, not even PZ Meyers. Yep, the mystery deepens and I guess we just all have to choose the true seers, the ones who have true insight, the sages who understand how the world works. Today I think that priestly class are called scientists, but I wonder if they really are any better than lame vascillating politicians or confused biblical literalists. I mean really, who do you trust?

Peace bro.

Good grief the overwrought rhetoric in here is getting a bit thick.

After working for a few politicians, I'm no longer cynical about politicians. I'm cynical about voters.

And good grief: "What I find most interesting here, is that discriminatory hiring practices by churches are okay as long as you don't use tax dollars to do it. NO they aren't okay, no matter whose money is being used."

Why stop there? I don't much like your discriminatory dating practices. After all, what you do with your own time and money aren't your own concern, they're for everyone else to get to vote on!

This says two things about Fundagelical voters:
1) They do not truly value separation of chruch and state
2) They can be bought

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I really want to vote for Obama, I do, but his unwillingness to separate himself from the evangelicals is making it very hard to stomach.

Put not your trust in the things of this world. They don't work.

...except for when they do. You appear to have difficulty distinguishing between 'imperfect' and 'useless.' This would explain why you "wonder if [scientsts] really are any better than lame vascillating politicians or confused biblical literalists," of course.

Well, John... I think you should take your meds.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

#99

I'm just a little curious; if we follow that line of thinking, and don't bother analyzing their positions during the candidacy phase, how exactly are we supposed to choose between them?

Don't you actually know enough ? Don't you see that all this spinning just serves electoral purposes and doesn't tell you anything about what these individuals will actually do once they take office ?
Did all this analysis of George Bush actually predict what he was going to do ? If people had looked at the objective criterias only and forgotten all these useless electoral promisses and irrelevant electoral talk, then they wouldn't have made the mistake to elect him.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

The federal government has long used "faith based" groups as providers of social services. Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities have a long history of doing an excellent job of providing good social welfare services. In Chicago, Jewish charities received government funds to work with indigent and needy in ways that state run social service organizations could not - and not in particularly religious ways. Faith based organizations have done good, and done it well. Evangelicals complained because they weren't allowed, or didn't think they were allowed, to "compete" for the social service sector's financial resources.

Is it really a mistake to harness the good will and energy of people who want to serve other people?

Yes, those who serve should serve, not proselytize, and that is what is promised by the candidate.

To assume that this is posturing on the part of the candidate is, I think, to misunderstand who he is. He is a member of a church that takes social service seriously - and takes Christianity seriously. Even if you don't share his views, even if you believe they are wrong or wrong headed, give Obama credit for having views of his own, and being willing to work on the implications of those views in a pluralistic society.

By Carl Isaacson (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

He is a member of a church that... takes Christianity seriously. Carl Isaacson

You say that like it's a point in his favour! I'd be far more enthusiastic about him if I thought he was an atheist who realises he has to pretend to believe this stuff in order to get elected.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

While no one person can represent 100% of the people 100% and 100% of the time I think Obama's campaign team are pretty sharp. They defuse issues that might have long lasting bite before they ever get a chance to grow teeth. Then they offer up a finger to a nibble in 'cost / benefit' situations like this current one. The benefit to his image little old ladies of the 'bible belt' far outweighs the indignation we collectively feel around here and other such places.

The placating qualities (for the simple) appear to be generalities that (in my opinion) do not negate the more pointed comments he has made in the past concerning his views on church & state separation. It's a nasty game... and it think he's playing to win.

I can't remember where I heard it but one of my favorite phrases concerning 'faith based initiatives' is...

"Remember, 9/11 was a 'faith-based' initiative."

Steve:

That's it... that's all you've got? Take my meds?

As for the argument in play, Carl Issacson makes some very salient points. In fact, to NOT harness the goodwill of others because of their faith is a form of bigotry, surely. Unless, of course, you believe that there is no goodwill whatsoever coming from those who have faith in a creator, and/or a redeemer (other than the self). I mean, why not? I would suggest it is because folks in the scientific community, well at least those in this scientific community, hate in the same way that biblical literalists hate. In short, hate is hardly confined to believers. I just wonder if this is Obama's reasoning... political expediency is less appealing.

Can you translate that from gibberish into English?

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Obama is just buying votes. C'mon he is running for president for Cthulu's sake. This is normal and expected.

He might even be smart to go for the Evangelical vote. His base on the "left", which used to be called the normal American center is secure. They aren't going to vote for Darth McCain no matter what.

What is rarely said is that fundies, Evangelicals, and Pentocostals differ among themselves a lot. Many Evangelicals, and some Pentocostals and fundies don't have a problem with evolution and the brighter of all three groups aren't happy with Bushco's legacy of food shortages and higher prices, $4.50 gallon gas, piles of dead bodies in Iraq for no good reason, and huge deficits, a killed in action dollar, massive deficits, and a wrecked, failing economy.

This was one of Bush's dumber political moves. The hardcore, braindead fundie cultists have no choice but Bush and he could have reached out to normal people while basically pretending to pay attention to them and actually ignoring them and pursuing some common sense policies. Instead he let them own him and created a huge mess.

I'm an independent voter, but I had been leaning pretty heavily toward Obama. I saw this news yesterday and it pissed me off. It's partly that he's pandering, but what really gets me is that he invokes the separation of church and state while advocating a system that will give my tax money to religious organizations. That takes a real set of balls.

I'll obviously make my final decision in November, and I'm looking forward to the debates, but if Obama keeps up with this nonsense, he will lose my vote.

Unless, of course, you believe that there is no goodwill whatsoever coming from those who have faith in a creator, and/or a redeemer (other than the self).

The mainstream protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Mormons make up the majority of the population and reflect our norms whatever they are. By definition the average American holds the average American attitudes.

The hardcore fundie Death Cultists seek to overthrow the US government, set up a theocracy, and head on back to the Dark Ages. They are motivated by a hatred and fear of modern science and civilization and the US democracy. They are really xian Nihilists and they are just plain flat out evil.

OK, can someone explain to me (because I am slow) how "the lesser of two evils" is any different from "the better of two alternatives"? If there were 3 evils or alternatives, I could see how that'd make a difference, but when the menu is shit or feces, it really doesn't matter what you choose.

Sure, if enough people broke from the 2 party system, then we could have a 3 party system and we'd have shit, feces, and crap on the menu. The pattern is pretty obvious. I used to vote libertarian, back when I was young and had hope.

Indeed. As I noted at length in that previous thread, that is such a stupid argument ... I'm not surprised to see Ranum taking it up.

Carry much grudge? Not cool.

Obama's options:

1. Overcome the biases against him by reaching out the (not-surprisingly-racist) faithful

2. Let John McCain win

I still wish he wouldn't pander like this, but I do understand why. I actually heard, for the first time, someone in my small Southern town say something good about Obama after this news. Most of what I've heard has been the same tired rumors and race-baiting. At least this got a positive reaction out of the white-and-old demographic.

I have a serious question... really. Why do people write xian rather than Christian? I am clueless about this, forgive me. Can someone explain it, the social/historical reasons for it. Thanks.

Also, Steve... you are a fascinating individual. I mean you almost developed an idea and responded. But alas, it proved too much for you.

Let's all punish Obama for the pandering, not vote, let McCain get elected, I'm quite certain it'll be much better !

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Jesus is such a cunt

Well, it turns out that even after years of reading Pharyngula, I can still be shocked. Who knew? Somewhere George Carlin is snickering... oh, but then again, probably not.

truth machine (@70):

People on this blog should be able to understand that "america" is a dynamic ecology, not some external agent separate from "its people".

I'm beginning to get frightened at how often I've agreed with you recently! ;^)

The sort of false dichotomy between "America" and "the people" is one of my pet peeves. The conservativeright-wing nutjob version of this same idea is to make a distinction between "the Government" and "the people." I tell you three times: America is the Government is the people. If you're thinking of yourself as one of "the people" and you're kvetching about "America" or "the Government," it's time to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. You're always one or the other!

BTW, to everyone who's disappointed that Obama seems to be "just another politician," two comments: First, what did you expect? He's said he wants to work for a new kind of politics, but he's never claimed that he wasn't a politician. The idea that this country will ever be led by people who aren't politicians is purest fantasy. Second: People who think "politician" is an insult baffle me. Do you not think crafting, negotiating, and executing public policy that fairly represents the will (and meets the needs) of a whole community is a worthwhile endeavor? Do you not think it's difficult (esp. when the "whole community" is a tidly little group of 300 million ethnically, culturally, and philosophically diverse "rugged individuals")? Given the crap politicians take from the public, it's a minor miracle we ever get anyone to run for anything (and speaking as someone who's involved in the recruitment of local candidates, I can tell you it's not easy).

Nick (@122):

I'd be far more enthusiastic about him if I thought he was an atheist who realises he has to pretend to believe this stuff in order to get elected.

I think he's been entirely sincere in his public statements (including in his books) about his personal religiosity... but if you read those statements carefully, he sounds more like a seeker who still harbors some skepticism than he does a True Believer™. Given his background as a community organizer, I suspect his interest in churches has much more to do with their work as street-level workers for economic justice and support than with any deep involvement in Christian mysticism. Keep in mind that in the inner cities, church-run shelters and soup kitchens are an important part of the social-support infrastructure... and notwithstanding the fundie nutjobs, most of them provide their services on a purely nonsectarian basis (as an aside, my daughter has volunteered in a church-run soup kitchen, so I'm not talking entirely out of my ass about this).

Would I prefer that we, the people, fund social services instead of depending on charities? You betcha! Failing that, would I prefer that all social-support charities were purely secular? Absotively! But do I want the corner soup kitchen put out of business just because the name over the door is "St. Anne's"? Not 'til we're ready to replace it with something better.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I am clueless about this, forgive me. - john j

There, fixed it for you.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Nick,

Still just looking for an answer... not just an attack... Just doing this thing called inquiry. You know, learning. I guess I don't have the right stuff for learning, the appropriate vocabulary or the correct faith. I've been branded.

Wow, the hypocrisy in this joint is mind-numbing.

I'll try again. Why Xian instead of Christian?

I'll obviously make my final decision in November, and I'm looking forward to the debates, but if Obama keeps up with this nonsense, he will lose my vote.

Are you prepared to make a case that McCain would be better for secularism? (And like it or not, a vote for anybody but Obama, or a non-vote, can only have the effect of helping McCain. I hate that fact myself, but it IS a fact.) While I suspect that McCain is actually not a believer himself, that will only make him pander all the harder to the death-cultists who are already suspicious of him. (Not to mention all the other respects in which McCain would be a disastrous President.)

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

It's an old Christian convention. Don't blame us atheists.

When writing the name "Christ," it is quite common to abbreviate it to X or x, representing the first letter (chi) of the Greek XPICTOC khristos. For example, "xmas" is a common abbreviation of "Christmas." "Xian" just means "Christian."According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of the abbreviation "xian" or "xtian" for "Christian" dates back at least as far as 1634. Before that, it was more usual to take the first two letters of XPICTOC, and write "xpian" for "Christian." Priests would record Christenings using the shorthand "xpen" or "xpn."

I'll try again. Why Xian instead of Christian?

I don't "know" this (in the sense of having looked it up or having had it explained to me), but the answer seems obvious: The X stands for the cross, which is a symbol for Christ. Have you never seen "Christmas" rendered as "Xmas"?

I hate to say something you'll no doubt take as an attack, but did it ever occur to you to apply a little analysis to the problem before asking?

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

PZ:

Yes, I thought it might be from the Greek. Well that was painless enough, thank you. Now I have one more question. Does anyone out there think that the hateful nature of some/many of the Pharyngula bloggers (toward Christianity) resembles the hate of those on the evangelical right? Isn't the one hate, the utter disdain for Christianity, of the same "spiritual matter" as the other hate (the evangelical disdain for scientific fundamentalists)? I think these hatreds are related. I think they both are hatreds born of misplaced zeal. But I'm not sure of this, it just feels this way everytime I visit this joint. What say you PZ Meyers?

ooops! 8^|

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

john j,
My point was that made more politely by Bill@128. I honestly wasn't sure whether you really were clueless about "xian" - in which case, why not try thinking, or googling (we have this wonderful new-fangled sciency thing called the internet now, you may have heard of it) - or whether you just wanted something to moan about, as seems to be the case from your 125.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Bill:

Analysis? No, never thought of it. I'm an idiot.

Come on people!

And guess what Bill, your analysis is wrong. The X does not stand for the Cross, it stands for the Greek letter used in Christ's name (as I suspected). I thought, my analysis was, that the small "x" in xian was favored at this blogsite as a way of avoiding writing Christ. But I wasn't sure about my analysis, that's why I asked. In fact, that's something that I believe about myself. That I don't have all the answers, hence, I asked. I questioned my analysis. What a friggin' concept! Question, wonder, have a little humility now and then. Sadly, humility is one thing that is terribly lacking on this site. But, let me calm down and once again thank whoever it was that took the time to answer my very simple question. And to you Bill, have a very nice day.

(Not to mention all the other respects in which McCain would be a disastrous President.)

Oh but no, serious ? McCain said he doesn't believe the US is going to fall in a recession because it is a "great country" ! And he is going to learn about the economy by reading Greenspan's book.
So, we have nothing to worry about.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Well, john j, clearly we could all learn a great deal about humility from you.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Nick,

I hear you bro, but don't you worry that you've become incapable of hearing anything as it is? I mean, don't you worry that you've become so partisan and so preoccupied with proving everyone else wrong that you've become unable to relate to real, live, disagreeing human beings (the exact criticism often aimed at fundies on this site). I mean, what separates you from a true believer on the other side, other than your creation story?

I swear to you I simply wanted to learn about xian... I had my questions. It just looks like I can't come to this "objective" website to find the answers. I'll go to google. I mean why try to actually relate to a human being anyway?

Google? That's the best we can do in 2008?

What I say is that if you feel that way, maybe you should stop visiting this "joint". It is entirely voluntary, you know, and that guy with the gun aimed at your dog's head really doesn't care if you read Pharyngula...he just hates dogs.

(And like it or not, a vote for anybody but Obama, or a non-vote, can only have the effect of helping McCain. I hate that fact myself, but it IS a fact.)

I have to take issue with this. In no way is that the only effect of not voting for Obama (even assuming that the vote initially somehow belonged to Obama to begin with, which I wouldn't). For one thing, a non-Obama-vote stops Obama thinking he has as much of a mandate and is a legitimate form of protest against all the God talk he has engaged in. The nonreligious, by and large, let Democrats take them completely for granted, and I think discouraging that would be positive.

If you really like Obama and are willing to hold your nose on the religion bit, whatever. But if secularism is your most important, or one of your most important, issues, there is little reason to vote for Democrats because they will not actually do much to help you at all. The allegedly better-for-secularism candidate wants to give more taxpayer money to religious organizations. All this does for me is reaffirm the fact that Democrats aren't actually very good for secularism at all, and they're not going to automatically get my support just because I'm an atheist and they aren't the same as the religious right I've been exposed to for years now.

As for your second question, john j, you'll have to rephrase it, as it doesn't currently make sense: there's no such thing as a "scientific fundamentalist". It's science, or more generally rationality religious fundies hate.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

No, you won't learn humility from me, that's for sure. But are you really interested in it anyway? Be honest, do you even care to be humble, meek, small, quiet... all those things that are just so outdated, so yesterday?

Seriously, is humility something you care to acquire? I ask that of you? I do not have it, but I think that I should try to acquire it. Do you value it? I'm serious. Is it valued by you or others on this website? It clearly is an aim of those whom I revere. I wonder if it is the aim of those in this community. Of you Nick?

I swear to you I simply wanted to learn about xian

Now, now - no need to start swearing. We've all restrained ourselves so far.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I think that I should try to acquire it [humility]. - john j

Whatever floats your boat, john j. Unfortunately I don't know any professional dominatrices (I'm assuming you're het), so I'm afraid I can't help you.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

"Scientific fundamentalist", eh? He's veering toward the laughably ridiculous charge of "scientism". Dan Dennett has the best put-down for that:

Here's how it works: When you can't stand the implications of some scientific discipline X, but can't think of any solid objections, you brand them instances of the sin of Xism and then you don't have to take them seriously! What next? A review that warns about the pernicious "meteorologism" that keeps scolding us about global warming, or the "economism" that has the effrontery to inform us that the gap between rich and poor is growing?

PZ:

That's the answer? Leave. Okay. But what will you have taught me as I go? What is the point of all of this, this site, your publications, your media? Is it just to win the war? Is it just to spill the intellectual blood of your enemies in hopes of overcoming the evil ones?

Could be... and how would any of that be any different from anything that has come before? How are you any different from the venture capitalist out to win more money, or the Catholic missionary out to win more souls?

Wondering...Peace bro.

Does anyone out there think that the hateful nature of some/many of the Pharyngula bloggers (toward Christianity) resembles the hate of those on the evangelical right?

No. It is a reaction to the christofascists drive to seize power and destroy the USA.

If they would just stay in their trailer parks, waving their rattlesnakes around while telling each other lies about how the earth is 6,000 years old and being voluntarily poor, stupid, and ignorant.....NO ONE WOULD CARE ABOUT THEM.

In fact while they did that, no one did care. Out of sight, out of mind. These days they want to drag everyone else down to their level and most people still want to live in a free, prosperous, democracy.

But what will you have taught me as I go?

Depends. Did you bother to read any of the posts on science?

nicole,

I don't know the way you reason, but it doesn't appear to me to be very rational at all.
If secularism is indeed one of your most important issues (let's say there are 4 or 5 other ones), then you compare both candidates on theese issues.

Then if on secularism, they both do nothing that is good for you, it just cancels the issue, then you have to compare on the other issues that are still important.
Why do you suddenly decide, oh, Obama does nothing for you on secularism, therefore, he doesn't get your vote. You are kind of suggesting that it's the only issue that is relevant for you isn't it ?

Also, are you really certain that on the issue of secularism Obama and McCain are going to be equal ? Isn't it clear that despite the fact that Obama is saying some things that might give the impression that he will be giving support to faith based initiatives, he is for instance going to be in favour of gay marriage, abortion, he will choose supreme court judges that will be more in favour of separation of church and state, he will be more tolerant of non believers than McCain will ever be ?

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Martin:

Posts on science? You mean they have those here? I thought they were all political posts, all aimed at converting me to a particular perspective. Sorry, I got confused. You mean there are pure, non-judgmental, crystalline posts of truth somewhere on this site? Just regular old science perfection laying around here somewhere? Must be in a different string, not this one entitled "Obama and Faith Based Initiatives." Now there's a science blog if I ever saw one.

#110:

Don't you actually know enough ? Don't you see that all this spinning just serves electoral purposes and doesn't tell you anything about what these individuals will actually do once they take office ?

How am I to know when I "know enough"? I can make a decision based on what I know at this point, sure - it's still an easy one to make right now.

I got to this point, however, by gathering and analyzing information about the two candidates, and yes, that includes the things they have said while campaigning. I take those things with a grain of salt, sure, but I take them nonetheless; they are data points to be considered.

Yesterday, Barack Obama said something which makes me like him a little less. Tomorrow, John McCain may say something which makes me like him a little more. It's extremely unlikely that my intended vote will change before November, but it's not impossible. I consider my duty to continue evaluating the candidates right up to the moment I enter the voting booth.

There is literally no way for me to tell what either person will do once they are in office. Obama could turn out to be a total disaster, McCain could be an amazing success. All I can do is gather all the data I can, do the best job of analyzing their records and stated intentions (both!), and make the best choice I know how.

Deciding I "know enough" four months before Election Day strikes me as lazy and stupid, frankly, no matter how cut-and-dried the choice may appear to me today.

john j,

I am forced to conclude that you are dishonest. A selection of the science posts are listed under the heading "A Taste of Pharyngula", where it is impossible to believe you didn't see them. Doesn't your religion have something to say about "bearing false witness"?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

My point is not that Obama and McCain are going to be equal--on any issue. But I feel like many, many secularists are all too willing to be ignored and betrayed by Democratic politicians, and keep coming back for more because they feel they have no other option. If you keep voting for them even when they screw you on your important issues, they will just keep doing it. I may be part of a tiny minority, but I don't like giving my support to a party that does nothing to deserve it just because at one time they actually were less religion-obsessed than the Republicans.

PZ:

I'm outta here, but it's not without some regret. I hoped to hear from you concerning the point of all this (143). I, of course, have my own idea of what it is all for, but I hoped to hear from you directly. Perhaps it is somewhere out there in one of your public attempts to destroy faith... I'll go and look. That is it, right? You are out to destroy faith, correct? Or perhaps you are just out to spread the word of truth? Or more benignly, "expose lies". Whatever it is, I hardly think you can claim your ejaculations to be random (as you do on this site). Nope, your jacking off for a reason; you just don't have the gumption to say it in black and white. Instead you remain steadfastly hidden behind the absurd idea that science is "nuetral," an objective exercise, the outcome of rational thought. I mean do people here really think they are being rational? Simply drawing "objective" conclusions based on the facts? Are you really willing to say you don't have an agenda, one ground in some sense of superiority, some sense of righteousness? Really?

BT Murtagh,

why not extend the whole thing a little longer, why not gather a little more information ? Don't you see that this is all a political game that only serves one purpose to make sure that you are even more confused about your choice and that less people actually will decide to vote. Why do you think that particpation is so low ? For a country that prides itself for its democratic process, its particpation rate has been ridiculously low (between 50% and 56%, to be compared with another old democracy democracy which elects its president, France which has particpation rates between 80% and 85% !). People get so confused, so many reasons to dislike a candidate and not to vote for him, so many reasons to take an irrational decision, oh there's something I don't like about him, so I'm not going to vote for him.

The electoral process in the USA is completely counter productive and favours irrational decisions from electors and conservative decision taking.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

And guess what Bill, your analysis is wrong. The X does not stand for the Cross, it stands for the Greek letter used in Christ's name (as I suspected).

Did you not notice my careful caveats about the extent of my knowledge in the original post? Or my immediate acknowledgement following PZ's explanation? Probably not, as apparently you'd rather say "neener, neener, neener!" than engage in actual conversation. And BTW, does it not occur to you that your parenthetical "as I suspected" brings into question the sincerity of your original request?

As it happens, I'm not so sure I was wrong: Usages such as this often have multiple lineages, so there's potential for PZ's and my explanations to both be correct. I have personally known Christians who used X as a sign for the cross, and in fact X (along with T and Y) was one of the several cross shapes used in actual crucifixions (though, obviously, it's not the traditional shape in depictions of Jesus' crucifixion).

But my whole point wasn't about the right answer to your question; it was about what the mode of your questioning said about your purpose here. You didn't say "do y'all write 'xian' because...?" in a way that suggested you'd thought about it and were looking for confirmation or correction; instead, you just kept repeating the bald question in a way that, absent the nonverbal cues of face-to-face conversation, took on a vaguely passive-aggressive Andy-Rooney-style whine. The way you pounced on me, and your admission that you had an answer in the back of your head all along, lends credence to the notion that your motives in asking weren't pure.

This is a pretty contentious forum, and some of our most beloved regulars hold views contrary to the majority, but if you're here just to tweak us for no good reason, are you really surprised that PZ suggested you might be better off hanging out elsewhere?

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Nicole, I deeply sympathize with that position, I really do. Supporting Democratic candidates often sticks in my craw, as well, for a lot of reasons that go well beyond secularism. But our rigged two-party racket guarantees that in Presidential elections we really don't have an alternative. I feel that I have to act responsibly within that reality no matter how much I loathe it. If ever I waver, I just have to remind myself how many votes Nader got in Florida in 2000, and what resulted from that.

By Steve LaBonne (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Nick:

Oh, I see. You are just trying to get me to understand the beauty of science while debating me in the "Obama" string. I see, that's productive. And wait, when I first arrive at Pharyngula which posts are introduced to me first, the "Taste of Pharyngula" posts? No not actually. In fact, speaking of dishonest, go to the home page of Pharyngula and see what the reader is first introduced to: Oh, that's right, a blog on the news media, a blog on creationism a blog on the smoking ban. The smoking ban? Come on man, why are you acting like this is a science site? Because you think we are all stupid? Of course there is science on the site, but this is a warriors site, a place where the war is being fought, a place where my mind is like territory and you want it. Shit, you must be crazy, or just very, very patronizing. Come on Nick, you really believe that if I just go to the "pure and perfect" science blogs the scales will fall from my eyes. What a joke.

Nope, your in deep, just like the missionaries before you. You are after souls and minds like the rest of them, like the rest of us. This science will save us bullshit is so sadly transparent that about the only ones buying it these days are the young kids who have it stuffed down there throats in public and private schools. And can you blame them really? It's what we want them to know after all. It's the truth. Right?

I'm amazed everyone seems so shocked. Obama is a religious guy. He attends church regularly. For fifty years the government has given money to religious organizations to implement social policies. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld those plans as not violative of the distinction between church and state. If he's promising oversight, that's a good thing. What else could possibly be expected of him?

Bill, no I did not notice your caveats. I did, however, notice your attack. Go back and read the posts. I was not attacking, you were. Sorry. It's right there. Or maybe you weren't attacking when you said, "have you ever thought of trying analysis." Sorry bro, you need to own that, but you won't. Yes, I have now abandoned all pretense to "rational discourse," but it is only because I realize that doesn't exist here for those who might question the foundation of this edifice. Do you disagree? I mean, do you really WELCOME those who challenge your scientific assumptions? Seriously, do you welcome them or smell them out? Your original comment tells me you smell them out like sharks smell out blood. And that's okay, unless of course you claim objectivity (as this site does, as the very discipline of science does). No, you may have smelled me out, but I had done nothing egregious except HOLD A DIFFERENT BELIEF. A DIFERENT UNDERSTANDING. That was enough for the attack to begin.

john j,
This is PZ Myers' blog. He posts what he wants on it. The regulars are here because we enjoy some or all of the particular mix he provides. Personally, I read the science posts, the atheist ones, many of the political ones, and some of the others (quite a few are too US-centric to mean much to a Brit). If you don't like it, go away. If that's too complicated for you to understand, then yes, I think you're stupid.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Nick:

You've done well. You've managed to totally avoid each and every point I addressed. Bravo. I will leave (as I've been told to do three times already).

Remember Nick, YOU told to go and read the science blogs because there I would learn something. Hope so, because I've learned nothing here, zilch. Well, that's not true, I've learned that this is a place, like any other, where people want me to believe in their brand. PZ's brand is clear. I just wish that brand came with even a hint of honesty, just a hint of integrity.

Sorry I ruined your piss on the priests party. I'll try and stick to the "science" blogs next time.

...a place where my mind is like territory and you want it.

John J's mind? Do not want.

john j:

You'll never catch me failing to "own" my own words.

Or maybe you weren't attacking when you said, "have you ever thought of trying analysis."

I was trying to politely (as noticed by 3rd-party observers) suggest to you that there might be reasons you were getting some push-back on that question. I insist that polite critique ? attack; YMMV.

I realize [rational discourse] doesn't exist here for those who might question the foundation of this edifice. Do you disagree?

I absolutely disagree. As I told you before, some of our most beloved (not to mention recognized by formal awards) regulars disagree in one way or another with what you seem to mean by "the foundation of this edifice." And some of them talk pretty tough, too. The only prerequisite for getting along in this forum is that you must argue honestly! If you're going to passive-aggressively push questions you actually already believe you have the answer to, and then respond to every critical comment as if it were a vicious attack... well, you're not going to fit in very well.

Somehow, we'll all just have to figure out how to "own" that.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

john j's post @ #159 brought to you by the words "smell" and "out." Please patronize them in the future.

You've done well. You've managed to totally avoid each and every point I addressed. - john j

Ah, you noticed. That's because none of them were of the slightest interest. You have appeared from the first to be under the strange misapprehension that people here are answerable to you.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

negentropyeater, I have every intention of gathering more information - that's what I said. Your notion that doing so will only make me more confused presumes both that I'm confused about my choice now, and that I'm incapable of organizing and evaluating new information as it arrives. Neither of those premises is correct.

I also have seen no evidence whatever to support your notion that the only or even primary reason that voter turnout is typically relatively low in the US is because voters are too thoroughly informed on the candidates and their stated positions. I'd like to see the data which shows French voters are markedly less informed than US voters, for example - my experience, having participated in elections in both America and Europe, is that Europeans tend to be far more politically knowledgable than Americans.

Finally, even if your rather bizarre hypothesis were the case, I don't see much advantage in having more but less knowledgable voters. Given my druthers I'd prefer the inverse, fewer but better informed voters. It's no big advantage to increase turnout if the additional voters are choosing solely on the basis of who they'd rather have a beer with (especially when the one they pick is a dry-alcoholic teetotaller).

Wow, what a concern troll. "You're never going to make friends like ME if you're ANGRY like that all the time! Sheesh. Hysterical atheists."

Also, john j, don't give yourself credit for "ruining" anything. That'd take an agent much more effective than yourself. You're not a party pooper, you're just that weird guy whining loudly in the corner about how nobody at the party is cool enough for you.

Bill:

Honesty? Bro, are you kidding me? Here is my original question:

<>

Here is Nick Gotts reply, a regular (apparently) mind you:

<>

In short, he was trying to be funny, and oh yeah, nasty. Does that bother me, no. What bothers me is that YOU, Bill, sit there at try and tell me I was not being honest while you dismiss Gott's blog as somehow, what, friendly? Sorry. Like a shark, you and he smelled out my disbelief and attacked. All your pollyanish bullshit about how honest everyone is here has got to stop. It's making me feel a little sick to my stomach. I had no idea why people used xian, and then you tell me I'm acting dishonestly. No what you mean to say is, "John J, what you believe is stupid." If you fail to see this then you have clearly been drinking the cool aid. Are you saying that you have Christian mystics on this site arguing their position and they are treated with respect? Monks from Athos arguing away in harmony? YOu are so clueless as to what this site is for that, frankly, it scares me. Honesty? Come on. Either you are the most dishonest man I've ever spoken to or simply the dullest, as in dumb. Sorry, but your last blog was ridiculous. Just READ THE BLOG. How dare you tell me that I was being dishonest? Again, what you mean to say is, "in disagreement with..."

john j:

How you could get this bizarrely sweeping characterization...

Either you are the most dishonest man I've ever spoken to or simply the dullest, as in dumb.

...from the brief, narrowly focused exchange we've had here is entirely beyond me. I do have to thank you, though: The utter incomprehensibility of your screed will make it much easier for me to break my bad habit of trying to respond to everything.

Buh-bye, now.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I will leave (as I've been told to do three times already). - john j @161

How dare you tell me that I was being dishonest? - john j @168

Well, it seems to be becoming a habit.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

John the Death Cult troll lying:

I'm outta here, but it's not without some regret. I hoped to hear from you concerning the point of all this (143).

Well you are stupid, crazy, and dishonest. The classic boring definition of a creationist.

PZ says at the top of the blog that he is a godless liberal and a scientist. And makes no secret whatsoever that he is an atheist who doesn't much care for religion. At least once a day or more he points this out.

Accusing PZ of being an atheist is as smart as calling my dog a dog.

...You have appeared from the first to be under the strange misapprehension that people here are answerable to you....

No, Nick, just under the impression that this blog was actually about reading what other people write and responding. Sorry. What an idiot I am. I get it now, I write, you dismiss, I leave and you return to masturbating with all of your little reason buddies. What a perfect world you've created for yourself. One big circle jerk. Sorry for watching. No really, I'm sorry I came. It wasn't good for me. In fact, it has been downright disappointing.

The real world remains out here, beyond your sad little circle jerk my friend. Come and join us.

Let's see... billions of dollars going to religious organisations who think that the unbelivers are going to hell and that the unbelievers are causing some of the believers to get sent to hell, not to mention who knows how many countless phoney fleece flockers are mixed in there amongst the fleeces flocks waiting to get their hands on some free cash dollars.

Yeah, I'm sure there won't be any funny stuff going on there!! Yeah...

Accusing PZ of being an atheist is as smart as calling my dog a dog. - raven

I must admit, I tend to call my dog "you unmitigated dog" when she barks too much, or eats something disgusting on a walk. Then I remember we had her mitigated soon after we acquired her.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

No really, I'm sorry I came.

I'm not. It's been quite amusing.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

John the nutcase rambling:

You are after souls and minds like the rest of them, like the rest of us. This science will save us bullshit is so sadly transparent that about the only ones buying it these days

No one wants your soul or mind. NO ONE. You are obviously very stupid and crazy and they are worthless. The first responders got it right. You really need to go back to the clinic and have your medications adjusted. They aren't working.

The only ones buying science these days are the vast majority of the world who desperately want our 21st century science and technology based standard of living. Out of 6.7 billion people, the number who want to live in the Dark Ages or worse is very low. You are free to live in a cave with a prescience neolithic lifestyle. Given your obvious competence, you will be dead soon after.

PS John J. is just some nut trolling to kill a few hours. I doubt he believes or cares what he is saying, just looking for people to jerk around for passive aggressive amusement.

BT Murtagh,

good for you if you are not confused and you are still able to see the big bigture and are able to judge candidates on objective criterias and extract all the propaganda, the electoral pandering and the spin masters work.

If you want, I wasn't refering to you, but to the average American (irrational) voter. It's quite obvious that this super lengthy electoral process is what drives the participation down. By the time the election is over (almost one full year for God's sake, it's completely nuts), and all the spin masters and all the electoral pandering, and all the nitty little details on absolutely the most irrelevant things about the candidates have been revealed, so many people will have completely forgotten the big picture and will be incapable of making a choice. They'll be so fed up with all of this, they won't vote. And chances are, a big fraction of them will be amongst the more defavorised and less educated folks and all those who feel none of the candidates represents them.
People who think that not voting is their best option or that it'll be interpreted as a form of protest, and don't realise that actually, nobody will give a fucking shit about it, and that others will decide for them.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

John J,

I have read through this thread, and see you have made an number of claims that are simply not supported by the evidence. For example you have claimed PZ does not produce posts that are only about science. Now it could be you really did think that was true. However it should not be clear to you it is not. Will you withdraw that claim, and apologise to PZ and those who pointed out your error ? Or will you carry on ? Only you have a choice, and that choice is to decide if you want to be considered honest or not. If you want to be considered a liar, do nothing. If you want to have people here think you are not a liar, then own up to your mistake.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

BT Murtagh,

and don't confuse better informed voters who receive fewer information over a shorter period of time, with poorly informed voters who receive a vast amount of information over a long period of time where this information is mixed with a huge amount of disinformation.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Damn. I go out to get some pancakes and I miss the fireworks.

John J, surely you must realize and appreciate that this is not stricly a science blog, but a science, philosophy, politcal, religious, personal and humor blog, as clearly stated under the Pharyngula site name.

You pose some questions, and since I have long ago abandoned the virtue of humility, I will address some of them.

You are correct that zealotry runs across the gamut of personal opinions, and that is manifestly evident here as well as it is in the world in which we live.

I, personally, try to refrain from such zealotry where it approaches and becomes hatred. However, the vast majority of postere here do not hate Christianity and Christians, as you seem to accuse, but are highly intolerant of the ignorance and irrationality of most fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, and fearful of the theocratic desires of the small, but well organized and well funded groups who wish to subject their interpretations through the force of government.

On the other hand, it seems that most evangelical fundamentalists have no problem with ignorance and irrationality, from either their flock, or their supposed "opponents". Rather, their beef is merely with non-conformity and unacceptance.

You say "Put not your trust in the things of this world. They don't work."
That is an example of ignorance and irrationality. My family, my business, and my life actually work quite well.
Like Albert Einstein, when asked if he believed in immortality, I say "No. And one life is enough for me."

You ask "Who do you trust?"
Well, it's not really a matter of who I trust, it's more a matter of which makes more sense. In weighing the credibility of those like Sagan, Einstein, Jefferson, Borh, Kaku, Spinoza, Tesla, Edison, and Myers versus the incredibility of those like Dobson, Graham, Ham, Hovind, Wildmon, Phelps, Comfort, Santorum, Huckabee, Kennedy, Robertson, Fallwell, Hinn, Olsteen, Jos Smith, and the rest of the preachers, yeah - I'll give it to the scientists for more cred.

You say- "Hate is hardly confined to believers." This is true.

You say - "The hypocrisy in this joint is mind-numbing."
Overall, I would say that the amount hypocrisy here is refreshingly small. On the other hand, the hypocricy at answers in genesis, Ray Comfort's blog, and virtually any apologetics blog is overwhelming. Or do you think that God hates gays so much that he starts forest fires in California to punish them? Or does he just hate Smokey the Bear? Or does he just hate bears? (#1 threat in America)

You say "I mean why try to actually relate to a human being anyway?"
Maybe you could learn something.

Well thats enough, as Groucho Marx said, "You don't have to leave in a huff. You can leave in a minute and a huff."

By Benjamin Franklin (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

PZ I'm with you on this one. Obama should listen to Barry Lynn and scrap the program. He should instead ask Congress to return to the pre-1996 day when faith groups could apply for government funds, but they had to set up a separate 501(c)(3) to administer the funds. If he would simply do this he could accomplish his goal AND safeguard the Constitution.

BAC

Benjamin Franklin@182 - But john j only came here in order that he could leave in a huff. Some of us were just kind enough to pump up his huff for him.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Barry just wants to funnel public money to his Monkey God:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=68156

ELECTION 2008
Is Obama devotee of monkey-god idol?
Hindus present campaign with 2-foot version of good-luck charm candidate reportedly carriesPosted: June 27, 2008, 2:31 pm Eastern© 2008 WorldNetDaily A group of Hindus in India have presented Sen. Barack Obama's campaign with a two-foot Hindu monkey-god idol after hearing the candidate carries a smaller version of the Lord Hanuman good-luck charm with him as he vies for the presidency.Earlier this week, according to reports in India, Obama representative Carolyn Sauvage-Mar accepted the gold-plated statue, promising to pass it on to the candidate after is it sanctified through ritual Hindu prayers.

'talk about your false dichotomies.' - Ichthyic

This still passes as an argument for you? Which dichotomy is false? Why is it false? Try to pull it together enough to say something resembling a substantive argument. Maybe if you jot out some points we can help you put them into complete sentences.

'Look, Jams, I think this has been mentioned to you sometime previously, but if a candidate placates religious fundies by doing what they want, it doesn't fucking matter if they "really" aren't fundies themselves.' - Ichthyic

Why write my name, then argue against a point you pulled out of your own ass? If you don't understand my original point, I'm happy to rephrase it. Would that help you with your problem?

John J almost gets it up there.

In fact, speaking of dishonest, go to the home page of Pharyngula and see what the reader is first introduced to: Oh, that's right, a blog on the news media, a blog on creationism a blog on the smoking ban. The smoking ban? Come on man, why are you acting like this is a science site? Because you think we are all stupid?

Yes, John J, I think you are very stupid. Does everyone realize what his problem is? He doesn't understand the conventions of a blog! The organizing principle of the blog page is simply that the newest item is on top. Entries are not organized by topic. They are not prioritized by importance. Sometime you'll come here and the first thing you'll see is a science post. Sometimes it'll be a cartoon.John J doesn't understand this, so there he is, thrashing about angrily, blaming everyone else for his ignorance.

John,

WELCOME TO THE INTERNET FUCKTARD.

Go back to your am talk radio.

And funding faith based secular services will also allow the churches to spend more of there non-government money on prostlyiezation. Boo, hiss!

Nick & Bill, my my! Such gentlemanly behavior, I'm impressed.
PZ, I have kept a running score on a note pad of john j(ackass)'s Twerping. He has a perfect score of 10.
Sheesh, I go out for some twirling, and come back and it's Twerping time.

I always miss the good trolls!

What a perfect world you've created for yourself. One big circle jerk. Sorry for watching. No really, I'm sorry I came. It wasn't good for me.

I will not make a joke about how he managed to come if it wasn't good for him.

I will not make a joke about how he managed to come if it wasn't good for him.

(repeat on blackboard 100x)

Carlie@191 Hmm, yes, there is a strange consistency in his language there that reaches beyond the words supposed to be aimed at someone else! Where's Brenda when we need her?

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

No, Brenda, NO! Just kidding ;-)

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

It was rather amusing to watch. You didn't even give enough of a shit to get impertinent.
Never having had children myself, I sometimes don't catch on to bluster for it's own sake.

Sayeth John Boy
Bravo. I will leave (as I've been told to do three times already).

Ah. So you are a self-admitted liar.

So leave already, and do let the door smack you in the ass.

By AdobeDragon (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I think, we are stuck with the 'lesser of two evils' in this country; thus even if Obama is not perfect, the alternative is sooooo much worse.
Now that is not the reason to throw up your arms, and complain that nothing can be done.
Instead, DO WHAT YOU CAN to improve the situation, at whatever level you can.
- Vote and contribute to better candidates(try www.dailykos.com for info,www.actblue.com for contributing to 'better' Democrats)
- Join and contribute to the ACLU, Americans United, so that the courts may stop the most obvious nonsense.
- Speak out, wherever you live, send letter to the editor, write your representatives, senators etc., often. (They still might not vote the way you want, you cannot rival AT&Ts or Comcast's campaign contributions, but at least, you spoke out; and a copy of your letter in the opinion section of your local paper might indicate to your representative, that following your position is at least a popular thing).--
Remember, that you care about issues, not any particular candidate, and it is important that you & public opinion exert visible pressure on the officeholder to do the right thing.

Once Obama is in office, one cannot sit back and relax. The same pressures from lobbyists and well-funded interest groups still are at work, throughout government at all levels.
And the mainstream media which had been and still are so content being court stenographers the last few years, will suddenly find a critical attitude to any positive thing a democratic administration might undertake.

Well, let's get Obama elected first, and worry over the details like rescinding that hideous faith-based charity later. It's still pragmatic politicks - he does need the votes to get elected in the first place, ya know.

Thing is, the alternative would make any correction like that a vanishingly remote likelihood.

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

Right on, A

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

I'll do another one. I'd rather be #200.

Seriously, folks. Isn't it TOTALLY OBVIOUS that you should vote Libertarian from now on? I'm reading everyone's gripes about both (sic.) candidates, and it's clear that the solution is available. You want the government to get out of religion? Vote for a libertarian. And don't tell me that it's wasting your vote because it's not a real party, etc. If all the people who say they won't vote Libertarian because they'd be throwing away their votes just went ahead and voted Libertarian, then maybe they could actually get something accomplished.

Seriously, folks. Isn't it TOTALLY OBVIOUS that you should vote Libertarian from now on?

The only (political) thing that terrifies me even more than the prospect of another Republican administration is the thought of an actual Libertarian winning office!

If all the people who say they won't vote Libertarian because they'd be throwing away their votes just went ahead and voted Libertarian, then maybe...

...they'd get 0.01% of the vote instead of 0.001%.1

1Made up for comic effect; actual statistics may vary; void in Colorado.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

you have such wonderful faith in non-faith-based social support organizations, it is refreshing. I wish I had your resolve, but alas no, all I have are the stacks of reports and studies, the collected works of Charles Dickens and George Orwell and of course all those nasty non-faith-based images of Stalin and Chairman Mao's social constructs, and quite frankly, I just can't share your trust in all that. I hope you don't mind, but I'll take the bed at the Sisters of Mercy, if its all the same to you.

Gee, all this endless dissection of what candidates say right now in the middle of the general election is so counter productive. As if one would expect that this would have any influence on what these two individuals would actually do once they would actually take office.
Are people that naïve ?

Can't people tell the difference between Obama and McCain and extract from all of this all this irrelevant information which is only used for electoral purposes ?

You really can't have two more different personalities, two more different concepts about what needs to be done to attack the problems we are facing, and people get swamped in such level of details, it's sickening.

The problem is is that politicians gain their mandate based on their rhetoric during any given campaign. This isn't minutiae. It's what he's using to get votes and it's promises being made.

If he has some other, secret plan, well, he's going to break this promise. How is that, on its face, not a problem?

And seriously, has it been determined that this is what he needs to do to win? If that's the case, he is showing himself to not be living up to his claims of a "new politics". How is that also not, on its face, problematic.

These criticisms are completely reasonable and anybody who doesn't expect them to happen hasn't been paying much attention to politics for quite some time.

I find it interesting that people are claiming that his use of "old politics" tactics is a plus.

Funny.

This just in: According to this article, Obama is also against abortions in the case of mental health issues of the woman involved (which would, of course, mean that exception that even most anti-choice people allow for cases of rape is moot). His quote: "Now, I don't think that "mental distress" qualifies as the health of the mother."

Is he really a secret plot by the Republicans to take over no matter what? It's starting to remind me of the election in Springfield where the choices were Kang and Kodos.

OK, all Obama supporters who are rushing to his defense on this: what would he have to say or do, or who would he have to pander to, to lose your support?

He would have to be worse than McCain. Duh.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

elsewhere I'd look at the increasing size and convulsive wriggling of the lesser weevil, and see if anything less unappetising was on the menu.

There is a basic conceptual failure behind all this "lesser of two evils" talk: With a menu, choice equates to outcome; with an election, not so. Voting for a third party candidate (a non-evil one, as if there were such a thing) is like scribbling "impeccable, sumptuous feast: $1" on the menu and telling the waiter you want to order that.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

...or maybr it's like seeing the menu has two choices: solid shit or liquid shit, and asking the waiter for some actual food.

There is a basic conceptual failure behind all this "lesser of two evils" talk: With a menu, choice equates to outcome; with an election, not so. - truth machine

True. But I specified that I'd vote Obama (if I had a vote) in any state where the winner was in any doubt. So only if very confident it would make no difference to what I eventually had to eat, would I scribble on the menu.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

Seriously, folks. Isn't it TOTALLY OBVIOUS that you should vote Libertarian from now on? - aleph1=c

What, just to change a bunch of Jesus-worshipping loons for a bunch of market-worshipping loons? "The Market giveth, and the Market taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Market."

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 04 Jul 2008 #permalink

I say, go for it!

Then smack down on them hard when they do use federal fonds to prozelytise and discriminate. You just know they will, of course.

Give them a bit of rope. Enough to hang them by. Just make sure you're there to pull the noose tight when they kindly position themselves over the trapdoor.

...or maybr it's like seeing the menu has two choices: solid shit or liquid shit, and asking the waiter for some actual food.

No, it's not at all like that, moron. The key point is that the waiter will in fact only bring what's on the menu, so asking for anything else achieves nothing.

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 16 Jul 2008 #permalink

P.S. This idea that voting is like asking is downright religious. You might as well write on the ballot "Please God, magically install in the White House a President who will bring about world peace and give everyone a pony."

By truth machine, OM (not verified) on 16 Jul 2008 #permalink