Most people on Facebook don’t know that I’m an atheist. It leads to some interesting observations.


I watched the entire Tea-Party / Republican debate (Link to video of the debate). I wish I had taken notes so I could write-up the dumbest statements made by each candidate. It was a lot of jingoistic nonsense, self-contradictory positions, infighting, and delusional stuff about radically cutting taxes. It has renewed my disgust of Republicans, much more than I had expected it would.

I think one of the lows was hearing a candidate say that tax-incentives (for example, to encourage alternative energies like solar and wind, which would help the US gain energy independence) were really just “corporate tax loopholes” and tax loopholes needed to be closed (you know, because everybody hates corporate tax loopholes), then he went on to talk about the importance of US energy independence. Presumably, the candidate thinks that US oil can provide all the energy the country needs and it will last forever.

The reality is that the US has proven oil reserves of 21 billion barrels (source) and “Services under the U.S. Department of the Interior estimate the total volume of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in the United States to be roughly 134 billion barrels.” (source). U.S. oil consumption is 21 million barrels per day (source), which works out to 7.6 billion barrels of oil consumed per year. In other words: if the US uses only US produced oil, we’ll be out of proven reserves in 3 years, which is before that candidate is even done with their first term! Assuming we could tap into all the presumably undiscovered oil (and it will take more than 3 years to bring it on line), we’ll be out of oil in 17 years.

Herman Cain’s dumbest statement was his 9/9/9 plan. He wants a 9% Federal Sales Tax, 9% Federal income (flat) tax, and 9% corporate tax. In other words: raise taxes on the poor, reduce taxes on the rich, reduce taxes on corporations, and dramatically cut the tax money coming into the federal government. It would radically reduce income tax to much lower levels than it’s been anytime in the last 80 years.

Michelle Bachmann complained about HPV vaccines and the next day made statements about the HPV vaccine causing mental retardation. She also championed the fact that she fought against raising the debt ceiling (that’s retarded), saying that congress gave Obama a $2.5 trillion dollar blank check (apparently, she doesn’t understand that “$2.5 trillion” and “blank check” are mutually exclusive).

Bin Laden Documents

I stumbled on this today – back in November 2001, a journalist tracked down some computers used by Al-Queda in Afghanistan. In this 2004 article, he includes excerpts of documents on the computer. It’s interesting to see Bin Laden instructing Mullah Omar, when talking to the media, to talk about grievances against Israel and Iraqi sanctions. But, the private correspondence includes a wider variety of “enemies”. For example, I didn’t know how much Bin Laden hated the UN:

April 11, 2001
From: Osama bin Laden
To: Mullah Omar

… I pray to God—after having granted you success in destroying the dead, deaf, and mute false gods—that He will grant you success in destroying the living false gods, the ones that talk and listen. God knows that those [gods] pose more danger to Islam and monotheism than the dead false gods. Among the most important such false gods in our time is the United Nations, which has become a new religion that is worshipped to the exclusion of God. The prophets of this religion are present in the UN General Assembly … The UN imposes all sorts of penalties on all those who contradict its religion. It issues documents and statements that openly contradict Islamic belief, such as the International Declaration for Human Rights, considering all religions are equal, and considering that the destruction of the statues constitutes a crime …

(The statues he refers to in the last sentence seems to be the Buddha statues in Afghanistan that were destroyed by the Taliban in March, 2001.)

Fun Fact About Taxes

The top income tax bracket in the United States is currently 35%.

Make a guess over how many years, within the past 80 years, the tax rate was below 35% and how many years it was more than twice the current rate.

Since 1932, there were only 5 years when the top income tax bracket has been below 35%. (Those years were 1988-1992, when the numbers ranged between 28% and 31%.)
Since 1932, there were 45 years when the top income tax bracket was double or more the current rate. (Between 1936 and 1980, the top income tax bracket ranged between 70% and 94%.)
(Source for tax information)

Another fun fact: The US debt, as a percentage of GDP, was lowest in 1980 (when Reagan first took office) than any other time in the last 80 years. Under Reagan and Bush Sr., the US debt to GDP ratio doubled, reversing a 35 year trend of declining national debt.


When the tax rate of the highest tax bracket is compared to the GDP-to-debt ratio, the trend is clear: in periods where the tax percentages were highest, the national debt decreased, and in periods where taxes were lowest (i.e. mostly under Republican presidents, but also under Obama) the national debt increased.

Oh, but Obama is a socialist for wanting tax rates higher than 35%, even though 35% is historically very, very low. And the “Taxed Enough Already” party appeared now, in this period of US history??

Remember the Japanese earthquake and U.S. poll that was conducted shortly afterward asking if natural disasters are a punishment from God? (Some even claiming that the earthquake/tsunami were a punishment for Japan’s atheism.)

The poll released today by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, was conducted a week after a March 11 earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.

Nearly six in 10 evangelicals believe God can use natural disasters to send messages — nearly twice the number of Catholics (31%) or mainline Protestants (34%). Evangelicals (53%) are also more than twice as likely as the one in five Catholics or mainline Protestants to believe God punishes nations for the sins of some citizens.
Source: USA Today

Well, Japan does have high levels of atheism:

And a new article says:

In the five months since the tsunami struck Japan, people have returned $78 million in missing cash and valuables that they found amid the rubble, police said… The National Police Agency says nearly all the valuables found in the three hardest hit prefectures, have been returned to their owners… “Polite” and “disciplined” were words often used to describe the Japanese population in the absence of widespread looting. (Source)

Maybe God hates Japan because atheists because they are just so darn honest, even when nobody’s looking. (And religious people still claim that atheists are supposed to be some kind of wild amoral animals.)

According to a new poll, the Tea Party has lower approval ratings than Atheists. It’s well known that an atheist can’t win the US presidency, so I guess this means that the tea-party candidates might as well throw in the towel right now.

One of their more surprising findings, Campbell concedes, (and one drawing national attention) is that the tea party drew a lower approval rating than Muslims and atheists. That put the tea party below 23 other entries–including Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Republicans and Democrats–that the professors included on their survey of “a representative sample of 3,000 Americans.”

Libertarian Smackdown

I rather like this article. My only thought was that he could give more examples about ways that Libertarianism fails, because it fails in a lot of different domains. http://www.raikoth.net/libertarian.html

I think the quote is even more biting considering that this is the same Pope who helped shuffle priests around when they were caught abusing children:

Hans Küng, a former friend of Ratzinger’s, says: ‘No one in the whole of the Catholic Church knew as much about abuse cases as this Pope.’

In Germany in the early Eighties, Father Peter Hullermann was moved to a diocese run by Ratzinger. Hullermann had already been accused of raping three boys. Ratzinger didn’t go to the police. Instead, Hullermann was referred for ‘counselling’.

In the U.S. in 1985, a group of American bishops wrote to Ratzinger begging him to defrock a priest called Father Stephen Kiesle, who had tied up and molested two young boys in a rectory.

Ratzinger refused for years, explaining that he was thinking of the ‘good of the universal Church’ and of the ‘detriment that granting the dispensation can provoke among the community of Christ’s faithful, particularly considering the young age’ of the priest involved. He was 38.

Kiesle went on to rape many more children.

In 1996, the Archbishop of Milwaukee appealed to Ratzinger to defrock Father Lawrence C. Murphy, who had raped and tortured up to 200 deaf and mute children at a Catholic boarding school. His rapes often began in the confessional. Ratzinger never replied.

Eight months later, there was a secret canonical ‘trial’. But Murphy wrote to Ratzinger saying he was ill, so it was cancelled. Ratzinger advised him to take a ‘spiritual retreat’. Murphy died years later, unpunished.

These are only the cases that have leaked out. Who knows what remains in the closed files?

In 2001, Ratzinger wrote to every bishop in the world, telling them allegations of abuse must be dealt with ‘in absolute secrecy … completely suppressed by perpetual silence’.

Christine O’Donnell: Don’t ask me about my views about homosexuality, I’m not running for office. (Even though she wrote about it in her book, and promotion of her book is the reason she’s doing this interview.)

Michelle Bachmann: Don’t ask me about my views about homosexuality, I’m running for president.

So, which is it Tea Party? Only ask you about your views on homosexuality if you are running for office or only if you’re not running for office? I suppose the silver lining here is that both of them understand that their views on homosexuality are a liability and they’re better off avoiding the issue on camera.

In politics, they say, “Don’t answer the question that was asked. Answer the question you wish they asked.”