Monday, March 10, 2008

Another Goddamned Podcast #6:
March 6, 2008

THIS WEEK – Our “Cause,” The Coming Election, TV Woo, and Superheroes

Ex is pissed off yet again. But only at himself, not at listener Yinyang, who wants to know what our atheist "cause" might be. Not surprisingly, we can’t agree. (0:00)

Yinny’s question has a Part 2. What’s “bad for the cause” — and who are the perps? We attempt an answer, but spiral once again into politics. Will we all get behind the Science Debate? And how can the nation's freethinkers coalesce into a political movement? (16:12)

Enonomi, another goddamned listener, asks if we enjoy “woo” television shows and movies. If so, do we feel guilty about that? Are these programs and films just great fun, or do they somehow perpetuate superstition? The Herd, going around in circles as it often does, winds up back at the podcast's first topic. (31:40)

St. Patrick’s Day falls during Holy Week this year. OH NO! We toast one another with green beer while throwing this non-controversy right in the Papal face. But then we find a topic we really disagree on. Lifeguard wants to be Aquaman. Which superheroes would the other Herd members choose? And who can kick whose ass?(49:45)

Opening Music [00:00]: excerpt from "Another Goddamned Draft"
Bridge Music [15:15]: excerpt from "Waltz of the Dead"
Bridge Music [31:00]: excerpt from "Highway 45"
Bridge Music [48:30]: excerpt from "Child of the 80s"
Closing Music [1:05:55]: excerpt from "As Jazzy As I Get"
(All music: copyright 2008 by Rachel Murie)


Spanish Inquisitor said...

I finally listened to it this evening. Great show, comrades. I listened at the same computer, and with the same set of headphones, I use when I participate, and I kept interjecting into the conversation but for some reason I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Nobody seemed to be listening to me.

I agree with Evo and Philly that this election is important to vote in if only because of the potential Supreme Court appointments. I don't think the Senate has as much impact on the process as Ex felt, (advise and consent) because once the President picks a relatively competent judge, regardless of ideology, the Senate will usually rubber stamp him/her. There are exceptions (Bork) but on the whole it's not hard to find a good Judge that will easily pass Senate muster.

As for Superheros,

There's no need to fear,
Underdog is here!

Brian said...

Thanks for the link guys! I feel like I'm famous now or something.

John Evo said...

Brian, you would probably have gotten more hits if any one of us, individually, had linked you on our home blogs! But you keep dreamin'... that's what we're doing.

SI, here's why I think Ex is wrong. He accuses me of being too optimistic about things, yet I'm the pragmatist when it comes to elections.

Just like evolution, political change (short of rEVOLUTION) is incremental. So, instead of hoping to form some mighty "free thinking" coalition, just vote - EVERY TIME - for the candidate that comes closest to your values. If you and that "coalition" of yours does that, you may eventually get close to your ideal.

Sometimes none of the candidates will seem palatable. Maybe you see no difference in religion between McCain and Obama. But one of them brings a free-thinker mentality to a whole host of other issues. The more that type of person gets supported and elected, the more likely that the next guy gets even closer to the ideal.

If we toss away our votes and get yet another right wing theocrat on the Supreme Court, how difficult will THAT make everything we would hope to accomplish?

The Exterminator said...

You ARE famous. It's just that nobody knows it.

SI & Evo:
I'd like to remind you both that one of the rightest of the right-wing theocrats was Whizzer White, appointed by JFK. And one of the most civil libertarian justices on the current court is David Souter, appointed by George H.W. Bush, who didn't think that atheists should be considered American citizens. So you never can tell.

SI is right about the rubber stamp phenomenon, but that isn't the president's fault. It's the fault of the spineless Senate, which, of late, has chosen not to advise but to readily consent. Bork was a notable exception, however, and shows the possibilities. During Nixon's administration, back when the Senate had balls, two justices were rejected.

So it's not a given that a Republican president will appoint a theocrat, or that a Democratic president will appoint a champion of civil liberties. If a Democrat does win, that kind of blind faith can get us into big trouble.

John Evo said...

Ex, very true but kind of irrelevant. Since we don't KNOW what any President might do, we are left with voting for the one who would MOST LIKELY do the right thing. The fact that there are exceptions is no reason to vote AS IF it might happen that way. As with all unknowns - play the odds.

The Exterminator said...

As with all unknowns - play the odds.

Or refuse to play until the odds aren't stacked against you no matter how you bet. The odds are not gonna be too great if the religiosos feel entitled by the Democrats as well as by the Republicans. Your vote for a Christianity-pandering Democrat basically kisses the social conservatives right smack on their smug asses. Then, you've become part of the problem, too.

It's the Theocracy, Stupid. Vote for the Exterminator and Chappy in '08.

Venjanz said...

I have an esé question for yall, if anybody cares to answer:

What federal laws would you like to see changed? Why? Would your changes be Constitutional?

I'm just trying to get a perspective as an outsider if you guys think that any laws could be changed, constitutionally,to be more in line with atheist beliefs.


The Exterminator said...

Hey, Venjanz, I think that's a great question. We may have to tweak it slightly to narrow its focus, but I'd be very interested in discussing this with the rest of the Herd.

Thanks for suggesting it.

Ordinary Girl said...

Awesome graphic, Philly! I'm going to assume that came from Philly since he's the artistic genius around here.

PhillyChief said...

Ex, you've clearly been around the silly christians too much online because you're starting to argue like them. Two absolutely silly and beaten down arguments of yours that you still raise regardless of the fact that they're silly and have been beaten down are:
1. The President plays just a small role in who goes to the Supreme Court
2. Based on a few flukes, there's no correlation between ideology of President and that of his nominees

I find it amusing that like religious arguments, one argument contradicts the other, but nevermind that now because I'd rather concentrate on finally putting a bullet between the eyes of each of these zombie arguments so that they shall never rise the fuck up again.

First, the Senate and this implication of a recent fluke of a "rubber stamp phenomenon". I'd say that rigorous and steely spined Senate objection is the fluke, for its occurrence has been few and far between since 1789. In fact, 4 out of 5 nominees have been appointed. How's that for odds? And if you think the odds are against us, well they sure as hell will be if we do nothing to stop McCain's election.

Second, the 'who knows what you'll get' argument. Reagan gave us Scalia, Clarence Thomas came from Bush I and Alito and Roberts from Bush II. That's 4 of the catholic 5, no? How's that for 'who knows what you'll get'? Once again as far as odds, I'd say it's a safe bet what McCain will deliver.

So enough already. The potential threat in the likely Justice nominations for the next President is enough to warrant voting against McCain and you know it so you're desperately serving up these craptastic arguments to submarine that fact to put your cause, the 'let's not vote and REALLY show them' cause, forward because it's really your only obstacle. No way, pal. I'm not letting that slide.

Take a look at this article where they point out that McCain promised:
"I intend to nominate judges... of the character and quality of Justices Roberts and Alito".
Great. I've been thinking there's going to be at least one Justice this next President is going to get to appoint but that article thinks it's possible there could be 3 or 4. It also states what (I think) I said in the podcast, that a new nominee along with our current nemeses in the Court will be there for a LONG time to come:
Given the astonishing longevity of Supreme Court justices, moreover, the next President’s Supreme Court picks easily could serve for two or more decades.

So as much as I agree with you in principle, I can't cut off my nose to spite my face. nor can I allow you to continue these flawed arguments to justify doing that. You said we'll always hear that every election is important and therefore we'll never solve the problem. I disagree. IF the above is correct and the next President appoints Justices that last for at least a couple of decades and we don't get more asshats like the current catholics, then I'm with you in 2012, 2016, 2020, etc. Let's get this Supreme Court threat diffused first before making a statement, for even if the statement is successful in 2008 and we reap the benefit in 2012, we'd still be looking at the very real possibility of decades of Constitutional nightmares.

Brian said...

Hey guys, sorry to change topics, but I was lying awake at four in the morning thinking about some of the arguments I heard in the podcast (I had to get up in the middle of the night to take a piss and something about the sight of a toilet reminded me of your performance). Not to worry though, thinking about your podcast quickly lulled me back to sleep.

I only had time to listen to the first part of your podcast and then you all started yammering on about some election thingie that's apparently going on down there. So what I was thinking about was the argument that a person who believed in god was, by definition, irrational. I'm wondering if there are some descions that fall between the rational and irrational categories. For instance, an otherwise completely rational person might decide to accept on faith that there is some sort of benevolent and intelligent force or power "out there". This thought is not rational, but it is not irrational either because it does not go against any evidence. It is more like an intuition or a hunch, the type of belief that I suppose could be considered non-rational or emotive.

It is not like an obviously false belief such as the idea that the bible is infallible. There is no way to prove or disprove the idea of god. As an analogy it is the difference between a mother who believes by hope alone that her child is still alive after he has disappeared and been given up for dead, compared to a mother who still believes her child is alive even after the cops have found the body.

The Exterminator said...

You've been around the silly Christians too long to realize that I'm not gonna let you get away with putting words in my mouth.

I said neither 1. nor 2.

What I did say -- rather than 1. -- is that the Senate's role in the process should not be underestimated.

What I did say -- rather than 2. -- is that one can't always tell, based on the president's political ideology, what the legal ideology, if any, of his Supreme Court appointees will be.

Those are non-contradictory points.

As far as your succinct history of Supreme Court appointments goes, are you taking into account those persons who were considered but never nominated because the president knew they wouldn't get past the Senate?

Now, obviously, you and I know that McCain is going to try to appoint a so-called conservative justice, and that whichever Democrat is elected is going to try to appoint a so-called liberal justice. But political correlation does not always equal legal correlation.

I take no end of delight in pointing to the important flag-burning case of 1989 (Texas v. Johnson), in which the so-called conservatives Kennedy and Scalia(!) felt that desecration of the flag was Constitutionally protected free speech and the so-called liberal Stevens thought that it wasn't.

So all I'm really saying is that voting for one particular candidate over another simply on the basis of some pipe-dream ideal Supreme Court appointment is not a very astute criterion.

Anyway, regardless of who gets elected, Roe v. Wade WILL be overturned shortly. This probably won't be a bad thing in the long run because it's a terribly reasoned opinion, which only vaguely defines what a pregnant woman's rights are. Some of its main points are predicated on medical information which is now outdated. It doesn't take into account the argument that some of us would have liked to see, that religion unconstitutionally plays a large part in anti-abortion laws. And it doesn't reference gender discrimation, which many felt at the time might have been a more valid argument than the phantom "right to privacy."

So, no, I'm not getting myself into an uproar over the next Supreme Court Justice. I'd like to see someone get in who believes that the Constitution is a "living" document rather than one that's locked into conditions that existed in 1787. But I'm not sure a Democratic president -- particularly one of these two religious zealots who are throwing their faith around left and right -- will be nominating someone I feel optimistic about, particularly on First Amendment issues.

So does that make my position clear to you?

The Exterminator said...


I'm wondering if there are some descions that fall between the rational and irrational categories.

You mean somewhere between A and not-A? I don't think so. If something isn't rational, then ... um ... it isn't rational. You're trying to read the word "irrational" as a synonym for "crazy." But that's not necessarily what we meant. Speaking only for myself, when I say "irrational," I mean, simply, "not rational." I don't necessarily mean "frothing at the mouth and spouting utter nonsense."

There is no way to prove or disprove the idea of god.

Well, obviously there's no way to disprove the existence of a god -- or of anything, for that matter. But there are plenty of ways to prove the existence of something, not the least of which is to produce it for inspection.

PhillyChief said...


Dodge anyway you want, you've certainly sought to undermine the only obstacle to your plan by trying to make people think that the Senate plays a large role in the Justice nominations and that you can't base the ideology of the Justice a President appoints on the ideology of that President. I will agree that in theory, yes, the Senate can play a huge role but in practice they've shown they rarely do.

Also yes Ex, the 4 out of 5 have taken into account nominees who the President withdrew as well as the nominees who simply refused the offer and 5 that lapsed due to the Senate simply not taking any action. Except for a few examples like the Senate being hostile to Johnson and Jackson and somewhat to Grant, they pretty much rubber stamp what the President wants. According to that link I gave, they put forward the idea that it's the misgivings of the President's supporters (ie - their party) and not the Senate that influence his nominations.

So all I'm really saying is that voting for one particular candidate over another simply on the basis of some pipe-dream ideal Supreme Court appointment is not a very astute criterion.

What we have is one candidate pledged to make appointments that will fuck us vs candidates we don't know for sure will. How is the choice a pipe dream then?

something about the sight of a toilet reminded me of your performance


an otherwise completely rational person might decide to accept on faith that there is some sort of benevolent and intelligent force or power "out there". This thought is not rational, but it is not irrational either because it does not go against any evidence.

I beg to differ. If you accept experience as evidence, then what experience have you had where it was warranted to believe something existed when there was no proof for it existing? Making a decision that is contrary to what evidence and experience suggests is irrational. I see no difference between nonrational and irrational and if you look up nonrational you get irrational as a definition. I would also say what we call intuition or hunches are not as 'from out of the blue' as we think. Those feelings we get are based on observations and experience, regardless if we're clearly aware of them or not.

John Evo said...

Brian, I think you are getting at the point I attempted to make during the podcast.

After reading both what Ex and Philly have to say, I'll defer to that point of view (That if you aren't being rational then you are, de facto, irrational).

Rather than get into a long comment on rational vs. irrational I'll simply submit that there are people (many actually) who live by reason and rationality and STILL maintain that the nature of the great questions of the unknown (and, thus, still beyond the bounds of scientific probe) suggests to them a power or force that others would call "god".

They don't worship it, make choices based on it, or even have much to say about it at all outside of a philosophical discussion. I think about folks like Thomas Paine and other deists of the 18th century.

I personally think it's a needless point of view. There are many things we KNOW that we DON'T KNOW - that doesn't tell me that there is any point to the speculation that there is some unknown "original force". But I don't view those who hold it as "irrational".

The Exterminator said...

Dodge anyway you want, you've certainly sought to undermine the only obstacle to your plan ...

Well, you caught me. My plan was to have every potential justice promise that he or she will do everything possible to uphold the Constitution without bending it to fit any political agenda.

Curses! Foiled again!

John Evo said...

My plan was to have every potential justice promise that he or she will do everything possible to uphold the Constitution

You have to excuse us. We foolishly thought your plan was to have all freethinkers withhold support from both Dems and Reps unless they refrained from any appeal to religious voters and, instead, made statements to the effect that, in regards to religion, they believe in the separation of church and state. We thought you'd go as far as allowing the GOP to stay in office indefinitely if the democrats didn't succumb to your demands. We mistakenly assumed you think there is a literal equivalency between the way the two parties currently approach theism and government.

Our bad!

The Exterminator said...

Well, the plan I mentioned before was only in regards to Supreme Court appointments. You've succinctly outlined the rest of my plan -- although, as usual, you've mischaracterized it.

I won't be allowing the GOP to stay in power. That's not really up to me. First of all, you're giving me an either-or, and I don't accept that premise. But even within the context of your either-or: If the Democrats are so dependent on my one withheld vote, or on the tens of thousands of votes that I'd like to see withheld, then they ought to walk outside their fucking churches and start paying attention to the non-theocratic members of their constituencies.

If the Democrats' refusal to do that winds up serving the Republicans' cause, don't blame me. Blame them.

John Evo said...

Well OF COURSE I mischaracterized you, Ex (as usual). That's what my whole comment was admitting to.

Seriously... all sarcasm aside. I think you make a very poor argument for why citizens should abstain from voting for either Democrats or Republicans. I think Philly did a terrific job deconstructing the argument.

I'm not saying that you have any special powers to control the fate of the Democrats. But if 1,000 of you and like-minds had voted for Al Gore instead of Ralph Nader... well, who knows? But that's really a different issue than "is your plan a good idea or a poor idea"?

Given the near inevitabilty that this particular election will be about whether we elect John McCain or Barack Obama, it's extremely clear to me that there's a huge difference and that it will really mean a lot, both to Americans in general and free-thinkers in particular.

With those stakes, your plan (as correctly characterized by you) is not a good one in my opinion and I'd encourage all free-thinkers to resist the temptation of going along with it.

I'll give you the last word, because we've been round and round on this for months now. I didn't add anything new on this comment and I seriously doubt you will with your retort, but have it.

The Exterminator said...

I'll give you the last word, because we've been round and round on this for months now. I didn't add anything new on this comment and I seriously doubt you will with your retort, but have it.

Last word = "zzz."

Tyrion said...

I disagreed with Ex's (and whoever agreed with him) stance that its okay to not vote or to throw away the vote by writing in some random name.

I do agree that none of the candidates are good for atheists. They are all trying "prove" that they are more religious than the next.

But my view is that... we are better off voting for the lesser of the evils than not voting. Hell, I have no clue who the lesser is (other than McCain definitely isn't it). Throwing your vote away definitely doesn't help atheists. And none of these clowns will likely help us... but we might be able to pick the person that will hurt us the least. I know thats not a very positive way to look at it... but its really the only choice we have left.

And, Ellen Johnson's change of heart confuses me. She put the message that we all need to get out and vote. Show America that we atheists do exist. Then a month? later she says that don't vote because there is no atheist-friendly candidate. Well, as far as I can tell... there wasn't one in the whole election to begin with. I just don't understand the switch.

The Exterminator said...

I've never advocated not voting. I've said that we should not vote for any candidate that will continue to ram his or her god down our throats. But I think you should definitely vote -- just not for theocratic Democrats or theocratic Republicans. There are plenty of other options available in the voting booth.

I know that many atheists like you believe it's important to vote for the lesser of evils. Not me. We'll never be able to effect a real change in the theocratic tendency of our government if we keep sanctioning "fuck you"s from both political parties. I think we should punish those political parties. If the Democrats are more likely to be hurt by our voting for "none of the above" in this election, that's tough shit. Perhaps the losing party will make an effort to reach more freethinkers in the next election. That's how all other interest groups in this country use their political influence to gain even more clout. But we atheists are too "good" for that. So 100 years from now, when America has formally become a Christian nation, we can continue to rant and rave rationally on the Internet.

Or we can insist on being heard immediately! Blogs spread information faster than lightning. If there were a real movement for all atheists to withhold their votes from the godpushers, and if that movement were spread around Blogworld as a meme, we could actually make a difference today.

Vote for Exterminator and Chaplain. In Your Head, You Know We're Right.

It's the Theocracy, Stupid!

PhillyChief said...

Well if you've read through this whole comment list Tyrion, you know where I stand, which sounds like where you are at. Like the South Park episode, I think it's generally a choice between a giant douche and a shit sandwich, always a choice of a lesser evil. I can't think of a politician in my lifetime who I found to be truly inspiring. I have learned, however, how one individual can seriously fuck things up and have the ramifications of that possibly go on for long after his time in office. Best way to do that is with fucking up the Judicial system, namely the Supreme Court since they're there for life.

Tyrion said...

Ex, I see your point. As Dan Carlin (he runs a political podcast as well as a history podcast) says, the two major political parties are like Hertz and Avis. That even though they may stand for different issues, when you take a long look at it you get screwed either way. They each want to take our rights away, they just fight about which ones. There doesn't seem to be much of a difference between them. I'd love for a third party to gain ground in this country to break up the duopoly. And I would love to vote for such a party, but right now there are no other viable candidates. Other candidates exist, but a vote for them doesn't get you anywhere. They are still going to lose. Sure, if we all voted for the same one... we could make a political statement. But thats not going to happen. That being said, I'd go lesser of three evils.

Philly, I watched that episode for the first time last week... and it, and what you said are a close approximation of how I feel on the issue.