Misanthropia: Scott’s Suggestions for a Better America

I’ve titled this post Misanthropia because I believe that I have every bit as much chance of making these improvements as I do of creating a true Utopia, i.e. none.

Still, I’m going to label each suggestion either plausible or implausible. The plausible changes will be the ones I expect never to have implemented because the Koch brothers and other multi-gazillionaires own all of our politicians and control the whole system by which they are put in place. However, I expect that I would be able to convince most of the so-called 99% that these changes would be good. The implausible are the ones I feel strongly enough about to post despite the extreme likelihood that they are so radical that I couldn’t even convince a significant percentage of the so-called 99%.

Each of the following suggestions or cluster of suggestions are meant to be taken individually. I believe each on its own could help make the U.S. a better country. That said, even were all of these suggestions implemented tomorrow, I do not expect that it would fix all of our problems. I’m not that smart.

Please also note that unlikely most of my posts, I intend to modify and mostly extend this post as new ideas occur to me or are brought to my attention other than in the replies I may receive on this thread.


I. Implausible: Consumption Tax. Replace all income tax with consumption tax. I’d leave basic necessities such as normal groceries with no tax. Then tax most goods at some intermediate rate and luxuries and vices with higher taxes.

II. Plausible: Capital Gains. Repeal the capital gains tax, to be replaced with ordinary income tax. Add more tax brackets at higher income levels. The top tax bracket in this country was over 90% for a major chunk of history. The difference was that it kicked in at a very high income level. Today, that would never pass. But, how about going back to 39% for the top tax bracket or even going as high as 50%. If the top tax bracket were to start with income in excess of $5,000,000/yr., I would think that the impact on lifestyle would not be tremendous. Some people might have to drive a top of the line Mercedes instead of a Bentley. Or, perhaps they’d only be able to buy a 50′ yacht instead of a 60′ one. Of course, closing loopholes is essential.

But wait! Isn’t that socialism and redistribution of wealth? No. This is redistribution of wealth, with nice pretty easy to understand charts. Please do click through to this before calling me a socialist, thanks.

Mind-Blowing Charts From the Senate’s Income Inequality Hearing

III. Plausible: 1040 SuperEZ. My idea of an income tax form, noting again that I’d prefer to tax consumption:

1. Enter total income from all sources here:
2. Look up your taxes in the convenient tables, as you’ve always done and enter it here:
3. Enter taxes you’ve already paid:
4. Subtract line 3 from line 2 and enter the result here:
5. If line 4 is negative indicate whether you would like the money refunded or applied to your next year’s taxes here:

What’s missing? All tax free income. Any mention of dependents. Any mortgage interest. In short, this form would leave the government concerned only about getting it’s taxes from your income, not about how you choose to spend your money or your life. Tea baggers should seriously love this. Renters would no longer subsidize home owners; those with fewer or no children would no longer subsidize the children of others. And, the simplicity of the form does not allow for loopholes of any kind. Of course, this puts all tax accountants and tax lawyers out of business. They may be forced to find jobs of greater use to society, e.g. “would you like fries with that?”

Two notes regarding this suggestion:
1. There is an implausible bit here relating to the constitutional change necessary to tax municipal bond interest. See the section on nationhood.
2. Until we have medicare for all, see the health section, we may need to still allow a deduction for medical expenses.


IV. Semi-Plausible: One Nation, Indivisible. I believe it is time to truly embrace our nationhood. We have lived as 54 different little fiefdoms for too long (includes the 50 states plus D.C., U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam). We call ourselves a nation in the pledge of allegiance. But, it’s a lie. What would this entail? Well, the two most important bits would be:

1. Have a true national election. We currently have separate elections in the fiefdoms where we elect representatives to vote for us in a national election. This is because we are a federation rather than a nation.
2. Establish the U.S. as a democracy, one person, one vote. We are not a democracy now. Texas, in particular, should be revolting. Some up north may think that they already are. But, to be serious. Right now in our once-great non-nation, it takes four Texans to equal the value of one Wyomingite.

I personally think that each of us has equal value to the nation. I think that to call a Texan a quarter of a person is insulting and discriminatory. Texas is the least represented state in the union, worse even than New York and California.

I have a ton of respect for the founders of the United States. I really do. But, like human beings everywhere, they were not infallible. They did not trust democracy. They did not believe one could last. It is time we recognize this as a mistake.

It is most definitely time to abolish the electoral college in favor of a national election where our votes are directly counted, one person, one vote.

V. Barely Plausible: Munis. Tax municipal bonds, at least federally.

For background, municipal bonds are currently most usually exempt from income tax at the local, state, and federal level. There is a calculation normally done when purchasing these called tax equivalent yield (TEY). This accounts for your own tax bracket at all levels of government where you live and tells you that, for example, a 4% yield with no NYC, NYS, or federal taxes might be equivalent to a 7% yield that is taxed, depending on your tax bracket. Those who earn less would get a lower TEY because their tax bracket is lower.

So, the way it stands today, municipal bonds are essentially a tool of the rich. This is partially because of the difference in tax bracket and partially because a wealthy individual can afford to earn a larger percentage of their income from interest on their existing wealth. The vast majority of municipal bonds never even make it to the retail market. Wealthy individuals buy a whole series of bonds and hold them to maturity. About 10% of the bonds, last I heard, actually make it to the secondary market where you or I could buy them at a stiff premium and get an even lower yield from a brokerage house.

If we can embrace our nationhood, it is barely possible that we might be able to change the way in which the federal government subsidizes municipal bonds. Currently, it does so by not taxing the interest. I would change the laws such that the federal government pay a percentage of the interest and then tax the interest as it is earned. The accounting will look similar to the federal government, or at least accomplish the same result.

Whether states and localities would then also choose to tax the interest at their levels, in the cases where the states and localities have income taxes, would be up to the states and localities themselves to decide.

The differences would be:

1. Wealthy individuals would lose their access to tax free income, making all income identical.
2. Municipal bonds would pay as well for those of us in lower tax brackets as they do for the wealthy, making them a useful investment for all of us.
3. Municipalities may even find it easier to float debt, for good and for bad, because of the increased attractiveness of the investment to a larger market.


VI. Plausible: Medicare for all. I know this seems implausible at first. However, that is just because as painful as health insurance is today, people don’t realize how bad it will be and how soon. I won’t have to convince anyone; the health insurance companies are doing that for me. The basic problem is that the health insurance companies are for-profit corporations.

They are legally bound by a requirement to maximize shareholder profit.

What this means is that they absolutely must charge as much as possible for the insurance and pay out as little as possible. They are very very good at this. If you have tried to find out why a claim was denied, you know that their first line of defense against actually paying what they are obligated to pay is to simply never answer the phone. How many minutes or hours will you stay on the line to fight for a $75 claim? They’re betting you’ll give up. They win that bet a lot.

Would medicare really be better? Would I want my health insurance managed as well as the post office?

Yes and hell yes!

First, despite the fact that the federal government has in recent times made it very difficult for the post office to operate, we should recognize that it is still operating beautifully, albeit with inadequate funding and no freedom to raise their prices at will or as needed without seeking approval.

That said, it’s still about half the price to send a package via USPS versus UPS and FedEx. And, no one else is even willing to get into the business of carrying first class mail, especially for less than half a buck to anywhere in the country. This is one of the great bargains of our time!

But, back to medicare. Right now, medicare has huge problems precisely because they are only insuring that least profitable segment of the population that the insurance companies flat out refuse to insure. Were we to have the option to select medicare prior to the age of 65, I think that many of us would do so. In fact, I think the reason the insurance companies fight it so vehemently is because they can’t compete with medicare. Medicare is simply too fucking good!

Consider this, ask this of a doctor you’ve been going to for years and trust and can speak to candidly. “Off the record, have you ever been unable to recommend a test or procedure for me because an insurance company would not cover it?” I bet that if your doctor feels he or she can be honest with you, the answer will be yes. Then tell me how much you love private insurance. I know my doctor has told me that he dropped a certain insurance company I had been on because they wouldn’t let him provide good care to me.

What changes can we expect from medicare for all?

1. Our corporations will be more able to compete in the world market against companies from the civilized nations of the world where health care is paid for by the government because it won’t be the job of the corporation anymore. I have no idea why GM was not actively lobbying for this in the 1950s.
2. We will have a system run by somewhat competent bureaucrats instead of by very competent thieves. Make no mistake about it. The people making decisions at our for-profit health insurance corporations are indeed very competent. But, their job is NOT to provide you with care.
3. Medicare, as a program, will become more solvent. The problem today is that they charge a low premium while providing care for the segment of the population who needs the most care.
4. We can get some efficiency by having just a single federal health insurance program instead of three. Medicare would subsume medicaid and the VA.
5. Members of congress will be on medicare. That is guaranteed to improve the program even if they buy supplemental insurance. Note that I have no objection to supplemental insurance. It would be up to the company to make it worth the money. They’d have to provide care instead of denying it for that to be the case.

Laws and Regulations:

VII. Plausible: Glass-Steagal. Reinstate the Glass-Steagal Act, i.e. overturn Graham-Leech-Bliley. Having banks that are insured by FDIC playing casino with their money is just unacceptable. Had it just been the casinos (brokerage houses) that had gone belly-up, we could have considered letting them fail. After all, the government had no insurance on that part of the business. But, the government was obligated via insurance to keep the banks afloat. Separating these two types of institutions just makes good business sense.

VIII. Plausible: Limit 12 to a customer Huh? Well, it used to be that banks could only borrow up to 12 times their net worth. That’s like putting 8.33% down on a house. Or, given that Glass-Steagal no longer applies, putting 8.33% down at the casino. So, the bank bets $833,333, for example. And, the government foots the bill for the rest of your $10,000,000 bet. It’s a good deal for the banks.

But, it wasn’t good enough. They wanted 40. And, they got it. That’s now like putting down 2.5% at the casino. The bank’s $10,000,000 bet now only costs them $250,000 of their own money.

But, what if they lose the $10,000,000? Well, they’re FDIC insured, right?

The name of the game is privatizing the profit while socializing the risk.

IX. Plausible: Credit Default Swaps. This is going to take a bit of explaining. A credit default swap (CDS) functions as if it were insurance. If the payment stream stops paying, one can go to the company that sold the CDS and they will pay the missing money. The similarity ends there.

CDSs are traded over the counter and with no regulation. If you were stupid enough, which you likely aren’t, I could sell you a CDS that would “insure” a trillion dollar revenue stream for whatever is deemed a reasonable price. Most likely, since I don’t actually have a trillion dollars, I would just abscond with your money and flee. JP Morgan Chase sold 45 trillion dollars worth of these things. And no one had any checks in place to make sure that they actually had the money to cover the bets. This is the difference with insurance. Insurance companies are regulated to ensure that they have the money they may be required to pay out, or at least some significant percentage of it.

Here’s the catch. Buying a CDS allowed the bank with the risky asset to avoid mark to market each day. And, more importantly, it allowed them to account for the entire revenue stream immediately. The could count 10 years’ worth of profits as if they had already received them. Neat trick. It makes this year’s accounting look fantastic. Bonuses for everyone! Never mind what may happen next year … or even next quarter.

The fix for this is to regulate the hell out of these things. Make them fit the same requirement as real insurance. This will be easier if they are not traded over the counter. But, either way, they should be regulated. If they’re going to be used like insurance and allow the same changes in accounting as insurance, they must be regulated just like insurance. (Thanks bobbo for noting this missing paragraph.)

Note that they are currently explicitly excluded from regulation by a bipartisan bill from the Clinton era. Wall St. is very good at making sure they buy politicians from both parties. So, all of their wettest dreams of deregulation pass with huge bipartisan support, like Graham-Leech-Bliley did.

X. Plausible: Citizens United. Create a constitutional amendment overturning the horrific Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. Ensure that corporations are never considered people and their money is never equated with speech.

XI. Plausible: Campaign Finance. Make all elections publicly financed. Ensure that not only are candidates prevented from taking and spending campaign contributions, that they are not even allowed to campaign using their own money. Those who get enough signatures to run for any particular office all get identical pots of money with which to run their campaigns. No other funds may be used.

XII. Plausible: Congressional Salary. Tie the salaries of elected officials to some multiple of the median household income in their district. This would have an effect similar to putting them on commission to improve the nation.


XIII. Implausible: National Education Standards. All of the civilized nations of the world have national education standards. I probably won’t convince anyone that this is a good idea. But, come on, look around. Our education system is so substandard that we no longer produce technical staff. We’re rapidly falling behind the rest of the world in just about every science or mathematics related field. Sorry religious wrong, your ideas are causing us to race forward into the 11th century. For those of us who do not wish to see a repeat of the dark ages, we are forced to fight you on the issue of teaching religion in public schools at the expense of science. Not only does your curriculum guarantee us last place in the educated world, but it is a clear and obvious violation of the first amendment’s establishment clause for any of us still capable of reading.

Church and State:

XIV. Plausible: Gay Marriage. The ability to marry the person one loves is so clearly and obviously part of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that I really can’t imagine how any sane person can oppose this. I have no idea why the immoral minority cares about this so much. Are they worried that they may be forced into gay marriages? Please tell me exactly how a same sex married couple is going to weaken my quarter of a century long marriage. I fail to understand this. I also fail to understand why someone would care about the sexual orientation of someone with whom they were not trying to have sex. But, that’s just me.

Further, gay marriage, as written up by Mother Jones, would be a $3 billion a year industry. People spend a lot on marriage. Gays and lesbians would spend no less. Here’s free business.


The only reason to oppose same sex marriage comes from religious beliefs. That alone should be the answer. We live in a secular country founded on secular beliefs by secular human beings. Stopping you from legislating from your religious beliefs is NOT an attack on religion. You are perfectly free to follow your religion. What you are not free to do is force others into your beliefs. Banning same sex marriage is an obvious step toward theocracy.

People: Human rights are not a popularity contest. Every so often, we update our rights to grant them to more and more people. This is progress. We used to ban interracial marriage. Then we became more civilized and allowed interracial marriages recognizing the banning of them for the discrimination that it was. Same sex marriage is no different. We shouldn’t be voting on this because it’s not about majority rule. It’s about that other side of democracy, protection of the minority from the majority.

If you don’t like same sex marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex.

XV. Semi-Plausible: Reproductive Rights: Similarly, the only reason to oppose reproductive rights is one’s religious convictions. We don’t legislate from religion here. Or, at least we must stop doing so. This is not Iran. We do not want this to become a Christian Iran, right? Raise your hand if you want to see rape victims stoned to death for being raped within city limits. Raise your hand if you want to see people stoned to death for working on the sabbath. Raise your hand if you want to see people killed for wearing a garment made of a mix of linen and wool. This is what a religious dictatorship looks like. This is what Dominionism would create. These are the punishments for these “crimes” as laid out in the Bible. Sure sounds just like Sharia Law, no? Why oppose one but not the other?

Further, on abortion and contraception here are some facts probably unknown to most Christians. If these don’t change your mind about contraception, then your brain has fossilized into stone on this subject. For those who are still capable of thought and opposed to women’s rights, this should change your mind. If not, please please please explain how you can continue to hold on to the religious wrong’s viewpoint after reading this.

1. Birth control existed long before Jesus. As early as 700 BC, silphium was widely used throughout the ancient world as birth control. It was highly valued largely because of this and was a main stable of trade and was even depicted on coins, in one case with a woman touching the plant and pointing to her reproductive area. It was also an effective abortifacient. It is unthinkable that Jesus was unaware of this plant and its use.


2. Abortion predates Jesus by even longer. Abortion dates at least as far back as 1550 BC and is referenced in Egyptian papyrus. This also predates Moses, according to Jewish calculations. Moses also had nothing to say about abortion. Again, it is unthinkable that Jesus was unaware of abortion by medicinal means and by medical procedure. Both of these were commonplace at the time.


3. There is not a single mention anywhere in the Bible of abortion or contraception. There is not a single admonition against the use of either. Any attempt to claim that the Bible opposes either is a misinterpretation based on current male desire to rule over women. This is misogynistic and dishonest. If you still oppose contraception and abortion, you are really just saying you hate women.

Jesus was fine with both abortion and contraception.

If you still oppose abortion and contraception even knowing this, you are not only attempting to impose your theocracy on others, you are getting your own religion wrong. I don’t care how many idiot misogynistic preachers have told you differently, do your own search. Find a reference to abortion or contraception in the Bible. Find anywhere where either concept is mentioned by name.

Humorous note: If I actually believed there were a God and heaven and all, it would be amusing to off myself and hang out just outside the pearly gates for about 50 years or so (I bet a decent God would give me a dispensation for that long, not to get inside, of course) and watch as today’s right wing nutjob preachers walk up to the gates and get told by Pete to take the elevator over there to the sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-basement for bearing false witness against Jesus Christ himself in their claims regarding abortion and contraception. I’d love to watch their faces. Too bad the whole thing is a fantasy.

XVI. Implausible: E. Pluribus Unum: We might have to translate this to English before returning to our original motto. It means, “out of many, one.” It is a unifying message that includes everyone in the nation, not just those who believe in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god. Today’s motto, “In God We Trust,” is highly exclusionary. Buddhists, Hindus, non-theists of all types, native Americans, and maybe even Muslims who prefer the name Allah are all excluded. We used to be proud of our melting pot heritage. McCarthyism is widely recognized as a bad era in this country’s history. Most of us do not think of the good old days of the witch hunts and blackballing and actions of the house unamerican activities commission and all of that.

And yet, three things remain in our country to remind us of this era, the changing of our motto from “E. Pluribus Unum” to “In God We Trust”, the addition of this godvertisement on our money, and the words “under God” in our pledge of allegiance.

Let’s undo the last vestiges of McCarthyism.

XVII. Implausible: Wall of Separation: This should be a slam dunk. It should be the most plausible suggestion in the list. Unfortunately, the religious wrong are being told lies by too many people and will not believe this. So, please look it up for yourself. Therefore, I state strongly that we should go back to judging constitutionality of laws based on this wall of separation, as the supreme court did for over a century leading up to the McCarthy era.

When Jefferson wrote the letter containing the reference to the “wall of separation between church and state”, he was reassuring Christians that the first amendment would protect them from other Christians!

Huh??!!? What? Yup. It’s true. The letter was a letter from then-president and author of the constitution Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists reassuring them that they would be able to continue to worship as they wished. The Danbury Baptists were, as their name implies, religious Christians. They were worried that they might be denied their right to worship as they saw fit. They were worried that other Christians would take this right away from them.

Jefferson was reassuring Christians that the first amendment would protect them from other Christians.

Full text of the letter at the Library of Congress website: http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html

This is huge. Think about the way you worship and wish to continue to do so. Do you engage in cannibalism communion? Do you worship idols/graven images at alters with images of saints and the Virgin Mary? Do you believe in the cross as the symbol for Christianity or think that it is inappropriate to use the weapon of Christ’s death as a symbol? Do you believe you must be born again in Jesus? Do you think contraception is allowed or forbidden? Do you drink alcohol or think that it is against your religion?

All of the above questions can be answered either yes or no by someone who is a devout Christian. Depending on the sect of Christianity, these answers will differ. This is huge. Do you want to be told either that you must or must not engage in Communion? Do you want to be told that you must worship at an alter or may not worship at an altar with a graven image? Do you want to be told that the cross is forbidden as a symbol o Christianity and that all crosses must be taken down?

In short, do you really want a Christian theocracy when you think about the fact that Christianity has many different sets of beliefs because it has evolved over the centuries? Which Christian sect will win? Will it be yours? Well, given the high number of Christian sects from which to choose, it is unlikely that yours will be selected as The One True Flavor of Christianity. So, I ask again, do you really want to legislate from belief? Will that belief be yours or someone else’s?

Christians: Where does your own breed of Christianity fall on the List of Christian Denominations by Number of Members? Will yours be the one? If not, I’d suggest very very strongly that you not advocate becoming a Christian nation. If you are in the lead on this popularity contest, consider how you would feel killing or jailing another Christian for following Christianity in The Wrong Way.

Elections (added 2/19/2012)

XVIII. Plausible: No Parties. Our two party system is fundamentally flawed. Neither party is even remotely democratic about how they select our candidates. When done, they present us with two people. Generally, both suck. We’re then forced to choose one of these awful candidates because choosing someone else is a waste of a vote as only these two parties generally have a change.

This is a horrible system.

The correct number of parties is zero. Imagine being able to vote for a human being.

No longer would we have partisan politics for there would be no blocks of elected officials all voting one way all of the time because they have to vote the way their party wants them to, especially on the Republican side. They seem much more effective at keeping all their ducks in a row. One might expect that these well lined up ducks would have an amazing ability to get shit done. Nope. All they’re good at is stopping shit from getting done.

Combine this with publicly funded campaigns and we can all vote for whatever candidate seems best.

XIX. Plausible: Approval Voting One of the real problems we have in elections is that we usually can’t vote for some decent candidate from another party because we would be wasting our vote. If we used approval voting, we would simply check off all candidates of whom we approve. So, we could vote for many candidates equally. The candidate with the most approval votes wins. This even makes sense because this would not necessarily be everyone’s first choice, but would be the candidate that the most people thought was OK. We might even get more moderate candidates this way since those who piss off one side or the other too badly are not going to get as many OK votes.

Also, please note that there is some overlap between my main headers. Included in this section could also be my electoral college and campaign finance. But, since I wrote those earlier, I’ll leave them where they are.

26 Responses to Misanthropia: Scott’s Suggestions for a Better America

  1. BTW, to the 99%ers, why not pick a few of these with which everyone agrees and make them your demands? As yet, the movement really isn’t asking for anything of which I’m aware. If you demand nothing, you will receive it … in abundance.

    I think you’ve got a lot of power in this movement right now. I suggest using it to make some real changes.

    • bobbo, the evangelical anti-theist says:

      You didn’t state what your change to CDS was. I’d say as with a few of your other issues: stop trying to regulate what should be illegal.

      Same with automated computer trading?–or better simply tax stock transfers at whatever level makes good common sense.

      Good start for a book.===Get at it.

  2. Note: Updated earlier this morning to include a zero party system and approval voting. Updates are at the end of the original post.

    • bobbo, the evangelical anti-theist says:

      As you add to your treatise, I know you will be adding links where appropriate? I had never heard of approval voting before and had to look it up. I thought you weren’t correctly identifying cumulative voting, but I was wrong.


      I have always favored Instant Runoff Voting which I thought was cumulative voting. I’m not in the mood right now to read all three again to see where my confusion is. Whats good about Instant RunOff is it allows the electorate to vote their hearts for Ron Paul but not throw their vote to their least favored candidate by allowing a second vote for the Dumbo Candidate.


      • Good point. I was very remiss in links in this post. Perhaps I’ll go back at some point and add a few where appropriate. Thanks for adding the ones on approval and cumulative voting. Here’s another good system.


        I still like approval voting best, myself. Likely that is because I heard a really good lecture on it from someone with strong and well-thought out opinions on the subject. The problem with range voting or the very similar instant runoff voting is that you still end up with the issue of not wanting to waste your top vote on a candidate you believe has no real chance. So, you still end up trapped in a less bad version of our current system of not wanting to waste your vote.

        I hadn’t heard of cumulative voting before. But, it seems to still have a bit of that issue as well.

        Regardless of my personal preference for approval voting, I would still support any of these alternatives over our current system. All are good. I just think approval is a bit better than the others.

      • bobbo, the evangelical anti-theist says:

        Its your choice, but I would take no offense at these housekeeping emails/posts to be deleted in your discretion. I would as they don’t go to the substance of your content. Contra: it does show your openness to input.

        Substance or Process or Both == or something else?

      • I don’t know. The artificially raise my comment count, for what nothing that’s worth. I’ll leave em.

      • bobbo, the evangelical anti-theist says:

        Scott: you say “The problem with range voting or the very similar instant runoff voting is that you still end up with the issue of not wanting to waste your top vote on a candidate you believe has no real chance.” /// NO. Not as I understand it–just the opposite which is why I like it. If your wild card candidate, say Ralph Nader in past years, you vote for him. Then AlGore, but Not for Bush. Todays rule is that a vote for Ralph Nader acts to get Bush Elected. But if no one candidate gets over 50% of the vote on first go, THEN your vote for Ralph Nader gets added to Your Vote for Al Gore and Al Gore wins the election.

        You get to vote your heart and not screw yourself over at the same time. I’d have to read the other systems to see if they get there or if I have misunderstood Instant Recall voting–which I did initially recall was called cumulative voting.

        Its all in the details.

  3. bobbo,

    We’re too deeply nested for a longish reply. So, back to the main thread, even though I’m replying to you.

    We’re both right. Range voting is an enormous improvement over our current system. However, there is still a higher value to the number 1 vote than the number 2 vote or the number 3 vote. So, the problem is dramatically reduced, but still exists to some small degree. Approval voting removes it altogether.

    Here’s a decent sales pitch on approval over range/instant-runnoff voting.


    As I said though, either is an enormous improvement. Approval is also simpler to implement though, as noted on this link. No hardware or software changes are needed. No changes to vote counting procedures. And, the results are easier to understand.

  4. Cerberus says:

    Monotheistic names for the supposed “god” or so-called “supreme being”

    In Judaism, there’s at least 72 names in reference to god,
    And you probably already have enough knowledge on the Christian references, of course,
    In Islam, Mohammed declared that god had 99 names,
    The Native Americans had the (great spirit) a term utilized to signify god by Christian missionaries in early America, whether the (Natives wanted it or not, as we know how nice early Christians were,
    Anyway, the Hindu Scripture (Mahabharata) has about a thousand names for Vishnu, or god.

    So, in summary I think the Hebrews, Muslims, Hindus, and some Native Americans tribes whom believe in the so-called “great spirit” or “god” won’t be insulted at all, since at least the three, Judaism, Christianity, and the Islamic religions are related, or one in the same, as all three reflect one god.
    But, I do agree with you in relation to the (McCarthy) era as being the disgusting era it obviously was, and has definitely left a scar on our nation.
    Well. Thanks for letting me stop by,
    And have a good day Scott.


    • Cerberus,

      Certainly you are correct that members of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion, singular in my mind, will not be offended by the godvertisements on our money, in our courthouses, and in our pledge. Well, actually, secular moderates from any flavor of this religion should be as they should recognize the unconstitutionality regardless of the fact that it is their religion.

      However, I do think that Hindus and especially Native Americans might be offended. In the case of Hindus, they do not have a single god. You picked Vishnu. I would have thought that their most powerful god was Shiva. Regardless, I certainly wouldn’t want to ignore Ganesh; he’s so cute with that elephant head!

      And, of course, Buddhists, at least those who follow a sect that closely resembles the philosophy of the original Buddha, an early atheist, would be offended at this invocation of the supernatural. Or, maybe they would just try to become one with those who believe differently. I’m not positive. It is absolutely against their belief though.

  5. bobbo, the evangelical anti-theist says:

    Where is having one name for god make it onto Scotts List?

    Scott–maybe number or letter your proposals so people could definitely link their comment to your list?

    Cerberus says: “……as all three reflect one god.” /// Is Satan not a god in all ways except being under gods thumb? Who knows in how many universes their roles are not reversed? All the other roots and contesting early Christian faiths are a continuing interest of mine. How silly we hoomans are. An idea cannot be proven to exist, completely implausible in its own conception, PROVEN to be wrong every time it contests with science, and yet so many will cut and dice as to argue what kind of dance the angels do on the head of a pin.

    Of course “In God we Trust” is a violation of First Amendment Freedom from Religion, but reasonable people save their powder for the more important violations on their unending and always growing list. Currently, No 1 on the list: anti-contraceptives move by the Pukes in Congress right now. All springs from the woman hating Judeo-Christian religion. And yes, our entire culture/outlook has been corrupted by this piece of misogyny.

    How can Jebus experience being human if he never had a back alley BJ?

    • Excellent idea on numbering. I used Roman numerals due to having used Arabic (actually Indian) numerals in many of the sections. I had originally given them short names that I thought might serve. But, that is clearly failing.

      If you’re going to count the gods in Christianity, the number will be high indeed, especially for Catholics. Even for those who take the shamrock interpretation of the trinity, which to my knowledge is nowhere in the New Testament, there is not just Satan who seems to have equal power with God since neither is capable of getting rid of the other. There are also a whole cadre of lesser deities including saints, angels, seraphim, cherubim, incubi, succubi, and the most bizarre of all, Holy Mary Mother of God.

      Many of these, particularly saints, angels, and the Blessed Virgin, may be prayed to by name for particular favors and interventions. (Consider: Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, something’s lost and must be found. or Hail Mary full of grace, let me win this stock car race. The latter is humor. The former is real.) When the prior pope got shot, it was some angel who steered the bullet from his heart. Presumably, if God had cared enough about the pope, he would have intervened and steered the bullet away from the pope altogether.

      As for Jeebus and the BJ, he traveled with a whore, Mary Magdelene. What makes you think he never got a BJ? For that matter, 13 men hanging around together everywhere they went, perhaps Jeebus was gay. Perhaps he was giving the back alley BJs. It’s not as if the homophobes in congress don’t occasionally end up tapping out signals in the men’s room. Just ’cause Jeebus hated gays doesn’t mean he wasn’t one.

  6. Cerberus says:

    Hello Scott, bobbo,
    How are you?

    Scott … I agree, there should be recognition on the part of secular moderates in the unconstitutionality of having religion in our government institutions, but when we have so many reckless theistic trolls in our government, to include the presidency, using religion for their own personal gain, and trying to promote their own version of (sharia law), in effect, wiping their asses with the constitution, what is one to do?
    Hopefully America wakes up and smells what their shoving … and it sure as hell isn’t sugar.

    You said,
    In the case of Hindus, they don’t have a single god. —
    And yes, I picked Vishnu, but was incorrect in my assessment. Sorry about that.
    You also started,
    You thought their most powerful god was Shiva. —
    I think you may have been incorrect in your own assessment too. I’m not exactly sure though.
    According to Wikipedia,
    In Hinduism, (Ishvara) is the (supreme controller) or god.
    And the three gods are of the Hindu Trinity.
    They are as follows,
    (Brahma), the Creator, (Vishnu) the maintainer or preserver, and (Shiva) the destroyer or transformer, often addressed as (Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwara.)

    And according to Wikipedia, and my own dictionary, Buddhism is a religion.

    Bobbo stated,
    Is Satan not a god in all ways except being under gods thumb? —
    According to Judaism Lucifer simply doesn’t exist.
    However, there’s an angel that tests you.
    My question
    Why the test?
    Maybe their god doesn’t know everything? Seems rather clear to me.
    And it was the Greece that had Hades god of the underworld and the Romans borrowed from the Greeks and gave Hades the name Lucifer and hell his domain.
    And I believe you, there are no gods whatsoever.
    My assessment on this,
    Religion has always been a reflection of our own archaic culture, which is authority driven.

    Well. Hope you both have a good one

    • Thanks for the lesson on Hinduism. I sit corrected, sort of. I still maintain that calling one of their many gods God with a capital G may be offensive to some Hindus. I’ll have to ask around.

      As for Buddhism, certainly it is religion. Though, in it’s original form it is a godless religion and is even free of all supernatural powers. IMHO, that sounds more like a philosophy than a religion. But, certainly it is defined as a religion. Some flavors of Buddhism have picked up some supernatural-ness. Though, I’m not aware of any actual gods in any of the flavors. I may be mistaken.

      Also, with respect to Judaism, I think there may be one or two mentions of Satan. Clearly he plays no major part in the religion though. Hell, Judaism doesn’t even have a Hell. I’m not even sure it’s 100% clear about the existence of an afterlife. Most modern Jews probably believe there is one. I’m not sure what is said about it in the Torah.

      (google break)

      Re: Satan and Judaism.

      A few references in Judaism, but very few. Certainly he’s not the major deity of the Christian religion in the Jewish religion.


      Re: Afterlife in Judaism

      Holy crap! (literally)

      No wonder I was always a bit confused about this despite having been raised Jewish and having gone to 5 years of Hebrew school. Judaism is indeed mostly concerned with this world, not the world to come. The world to come is an important part of many subflavors of Judaism but is not mentioned anywhere in the Hebrew Bible.




  7. bobbo, the evangelical anti-theist says:

    Ha, ha. You are a very bad Jew Scott.

    Reminds me of only a few years ago when a Caucasian co-worker had the name of “Naomi” so I asked her how she got a Japanese name. She looked at me weirdly and said “Its from the Bible!” I laughed and said I grew up in Japan where every other girl I knew was named Naomi. I didn’t go into getting sent home from Bible School in grade school for asking where all the water came from for Noah’s Flood===so I missed whoever Naomi was. I must have looked it up back then, but I have forgotten once again who she was. Somebodies sister or wife given that no female but the two Mary’s have a significant role?

    We heathen are so ignorant!

    • “Ha, ha. You are a very bad Jew Scott.”

      No shit!! Obviously, I should be stoned to death … and not in a fun way.

      There are many women with significant roles in the Bible. Some good, some bad, some innocuous.

      Sarah, Rachel, Leah, Eve, Delilah, and Hagar all come to mind from the Old Testament. I don’t remember where Jezebel comes in. I can’t think of any others from the New Testament than the two Marys.

      Google can make an apparent bible scholar out of anyone. Check out the Skeptics Annotated Bible for amusement.


  8. Cerberus says:

    I. I still maintain that calling of their many gods with a capital G may be offensive to some Hindus.
    No need to ask around, I’ve done that, and have even researched it further but I think we’re both correct on this issue, as noted.
    (It seems that Hinduism’s a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid set of beliefs such as the Juaic-Christ-Islamic religion. )
    Hinduism’s seems to be formed of divers traditions and doesn’t have a single founder.
    But, much like the JudaicChrist-Islamic religion, singular, everyone has their own interpretation of what it means, but more rigid than Hinduism, though.

    II. Buddhism,
    You’re correct on this one Scott.
    (Scholars are hesitant on unqualified historical facts regarding Buddhas life.
    According to author Michael Carrithers, Gautama indeed existed and his disciples preserved the memory of his life and teachings as well as they could because writing was uncommon in India at the time Gautama lived.
    So everything known about him was carefully memorized and passed on orally until written down, at about first century BCE.)

    III. But, I also maintain that native Americans that believe in one singular deity, or great spirit, won’t really be that offended, while others that only believe in the spirits of their ancestors would be offended.

    IV. Scott … I don’t think stoning you to death’s the answer.
    I hope neither of you are angry about this, as I was just trying to make a point.

    V. Jezebel,
    (In the Hebrew book of kings as the daughter of Ethbael, king of Tyre and wife of Ahab, king of north Israel.

    VI. Google can make an apparent Bible scholar out of anyone.
    Scott, in regards to Lucifer, that was from memory alone.
    I know some native Americans, Jewish,and Hindu people. And like any other people you have the good side, and the bad. When I was 9, I knew a Jewish girl who would share with me some concepts and thoughts from her own Hebrew Bible, as I couldn’t read it, and at the time I was a Christian,and just wanting some information because I was having doubts.
    I miss her and her family, and probably will never see them again.

    VII. We heathen are so ignorant!!
    Bobbo, I would never call you ignorant.
    You don’t even seem to be an ignorant person in my book. Besides, if I were to call you ignorant, then I’d have to put myself in that definition as well.

    Sorry friends, hope I haven’t made a mess of things.
    Maybe I’ve shown my own ignorance.

    • II. I was unaware of the writing issue related to Siddhartha Gautama. Thanks for the info.

      IV. The suggestion of stoning me to death was made by me as a comment on the contents of the Bible. Though, technically it’s somewhat unclear about whether the Bible says I should be stoned to death. Jews who come to their families and say “let us worship other gods” should be stoned to death. The closest family member beginning the process to set an example. However, it is not clear what should be done about one who says “let us worship no gods at all.”

      Deuteronomy 13:7-11

      7 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying: ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; 8 of the gods of the peoples that are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; 9 thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him; 10 but thou shalt surely kill him; thy hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 11 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to draw thee away from the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

      See? It’s unclear what to do with atheists in the family. First, the condition is about drawing others away from God. So, an ordinary atheist who does not try to convince anyone might be fine. Further, though at the end it is about drawing away, earlier it specifies serving other gods. Atheists serve no gods. Still I think a fundamentalist Hebrew interpretation would likely include stoning to death any antitheist who attempts to turn friends or family members away from God.

      That’s one of the funny things about Judaism. Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism likely predates atheism. So, the concept and provisions regarding it may simply not exist in the Old Testament.

      VI. Regarding Lucifer. I was assuming Lucifer, Satan, and Beelzebub to be different names for the same literal character. Loki, the Dark Side of the Force, and other evil mythological entities are not. So, I was only bringing up the few references to Satan in the Old Testament.

      As an aside, Duct Tape is the Force; it has a dark side and a light side and it binds the universe together.

  9. Cerberus says:

    Scott said:
    Unlike Christianity, & Islam, Judaism likely predates atheism?

    Wikipedia says:

    Although the term atheism originated in the 6th century posed on ancient Greek Atheos “godless, denying the gods, ungodly” and open admission to positive atheism in modern times wasn’t made earlier than in the late 18th century, atheistic ideas and beliefs, as well as their political influence, have a more expansive history.

    The spontaneous proposition that there may be no deities at all is logically as old as the beginnings of monotheism or henotheism. Philosophical atheist thought appears in Europe and Asia from the sixth or fifth century BCE.

    And as you know, monotheism covers the concepts of the Judaic – Christ – Islamic religion, right?
    It further states:
    Philosophical atheist thought appears in Europe and Asia from the 6th or 5th century BCE.

    Joseph Blenkinsopp writes that a common view among modern scholars is that the Genesis story of Abraham wasn’t transmitted by oral traditions, but originated from literacy circles of 6th and 5th centuries BCE.

    At its core, the Tanakh’s an account of the Israelites relationship with god from their earliest history until building of the second temple about 535 BCE.
    Abraham’s hailed as the first Hebrew and father of the Jewish people.
    As a reward for his act of faith in one god, he was promised that Isaac, his second son, would inherit the land of Israel (then called Canaan).
    Later, Jacob and his children were enslaved in Egypt, and god commanded Moses to lead the Exodus from Egypt.
    At mount Sinai they received the Torah – the 5 books of Moses.
    Those books, together with the Nevl’lm and Ketuvim are known as Torah Shebikhtav as opposed to the oral Torah, which refers to the Mishmash and the Talmud.

    And if you really think about it, (monotheism) is nothing more than another form of (polytheism), you know, mythology?
    At least that’s always been my assessment.
    Anyways, think about it and ask yourself the question:
    Why? Why would an invincible god, a perfectible god, an all knowing god, an all seeing god, an omnipotent god, an omnibus god, an omnipresent god, would ever have any need with other gods to do his bidding?
    In other words, those supposed (Angeles), or other gods he has?
    Again. If this so-called god is so powerful, then why the need for any other gods to do his bidding?
    If he truly was so powerful, then he’d simply have no need for them at all.
    Huh. No power there at all.
    That’s one of the questions I’ve asked myself, and others when I was a Christian.

    Scott, you stated:
    Our morals don’t come from a book.
    That’s a correct assessment, however, you must also realize that religion does, and is a process and strategy of teaching people at an early age in order to make the religion solid in a child’s mind.
    And it was because of this very fact is what took me a while to lose my religion.
    You see, to me it’s a process in reprogramming oneself to counteract the indoctrination from the cult.

    So you can do the little dance around this issue all you want too, but it still doesn’t change the very fact you’re a born atheist, that religion was absent from you, that the concepts of religion are taught and not hard-wired into the systems of your own brain, that again, you were taught this religious concept the same as your own parents were, after all, you did study in a school for 5 years to learn about Judaism, did you not?

    Sorry if this seems a little long, but I’m just trying to make a point.
    Be good Scott

    • Hi Cerberus,

      I hope you don’t mind that I edited your reply to add the link to wikipedia, as well as to add the last sentence of the quote, which is important given the discussion of timing of the birth of Judaism versus the birth of atheism in Europe. Let me know if you want me to change it back to your exact wording.

      I still left out the pygmies, not because I have anything but respect for them, especially knowing that they managed to avoid the supernatural completely, but because they would not have had contact with the originators of the religions we are discussing to share their non-theistic views.

      Also, you never need to apologize to me for being verbose. There are few who can spew more verbiage than me. I know of at least one and am sure that there are others. But, no apologies are ever necessary on that count on this blog.

      I’ll be back later, probably this evening, to reply to this.

    • Hi Cerberus,

      Everything I’m reading puts the history of the Jewish religion far before the 6th or 5th century BCE, which wikipedia states as the starting time for philosophical atheism. Further, I’m surprised to hear that wikipedia puts the time frame for atheism that far back. I thought it started with Epicurus or perhaps a bit earlier with Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).

      However, my findings on the start of the Jewish religion also always reference the biblical account. Would you happen to have a link to a historical and non-religious account of when the Jewish religion began?

      You state that the second temple was built in 535 BCE.

      Presumably, the first built and destroyed some time before that. Wouldn’t this put Judaism as solidly before Epicurus and probably even a bit before Buddha (whose effects were unlikely to be felt in the middle east in biblical times anyway)?

      To be a bit clearer, my point was that the authors of the Old Testament were not likely to have experience with non-belief, only other beliefs. This has its effects on the Jewish religion which places less importance on belief and more on simple obedience of the laws.

      BTW, I usually say that our morals didn’t come from the bible. Though I would also agree with the statement that they didn’t come from a book. But, I don’t see any statement of the kind on this particular thread. Perhaps you’re referencing something I said elsewhere?

      As for religion getting its morals from a book, I agree. However, I would state that very very few people, at least here in the U.S., get their morals from the Bible even if they are religious. Few people in the U.S. would stone someone to death for working on the sabbath as one blatant example. To find people actually getting their morals from a book, one might need to look to a true theocracy, such as Saudi Arabia. And, please understand that a theocracy based on the Bible would be almost equally cruel to a theocracy based on the Qur’an.

      To those who think they believe in Dominionism, you had better read your Bibles very carefully to decide whether that is really what you want. If so, please move to a nation that is already a theocracy. Please leave the land of the free and the home of the brave in beautiful secular peace.

      Lastly, I strongly disagree that I am a born atheist. I became an atheist in my mid thirties. Prior to that I was solidly agnostic from my early teens and probably began having doubts around the age of 8 or 9, which was around the start of my 5 years of Hebrew school. Finding out that my rabbi would say things like Shabbat (the sabbath) is a high holiday and every bit as important as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur but that my own family did not treat it as such began to give me those earliest of doubts. Had my family been orthodox, I might have become a rabbi. Who knows? I’m a very whole hog or none kind of person. The Torah either is or is not the law. I can’t be half-hearted about it.

      I don’t believe people are born into any religion.

      I believe, as you do, that people are indoctrinated from a very early age. I think it sticks in most people and fails to stick in some. I think many people change their religions during their lives to something fairly similar to the one into which they were indoctrinated, such as someone from one Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion changing to another. Some even change to something radically different like Buddhism, Hinduism, or Wiccan. A few even drop the concept of belief/faith altogether and become nontheists of one form or another.

      But, I don’t think anyone is genetically an atheist or a member of any religion. And, I only have one friend whose parents actively raised her as an atheist.

  10. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    While my loose tangent is almost irrelevant to this fine discussion, My Ego requires me to carry on.

    Its a tautology, but a true one I think, that if you “know” Jesus/the Lord, then you will believe in him. He reveals himself to some but not to most. Sad that. It would take more than mere revelation to convince me that god existed though. That could be a mere brain fart. Much more evidence and confirmation/discussion/exposure would be required. So, when I joke that I am an ignorant heathen, I am only confirming that god has not made himself known to me.

    That idea, of actually knowing god, being in his presence, always raises issues for me. How could Satan reject god? Makes me think there is something about god or the bible that isn’t telling all there is? For my own self, I can’t conceive of a god that is “worthy of worship.” Thats not what one free and thinking entity does to/for/with/in regards to another no matter what characteristics either has. “Being intelligent” means you want some disagreement/some dialogue. Some fun?

    No–the whole notion of a god while flawed stands totally separate from every/any human conception of him being a him to begin with, being judgmental, having rewards and punishments, “loving us” and so forth. All too anthropomorphic from a time when humans had little to do but herd sheep.

    And that is why I am “anti-theist.” Even if God did exist, I would contest against his “rule.” Other issues are open for discussion. “I am what I am!”

    One thing about the Jews–didn’t their religion start before their book was written? by 100’s of years? Someone learned to write? Lots of people wrote different and even conflicting things, and somebody/group decided what was in and what was out? Just like always? Humans are a varied and contesting lot?

    Most likely hoomans begain with appreciating nature. The big forces: wind, lightning, food, water, birth, death, dark, light, rain, fire, flood. Its right there and what we contested against from birth to death. Easy to think that Naturalism, Nature Spirits, Many Gods were with us from our very roots, perhaps even informing our genetic code? STILL==my 21st Century Anti-Theism moves me to “wish” or at least be willing to accept that even at those early times, at all times, “someone” thought for himself? Accepted his experience in a non-guided/mystical way. Early existentialists if you will? You know, the contrarians of the tribe.

    Maybe not. Too few today to argue they “must have” existed earlier. Is kinda fun to imagine “your own intellect” with nothing to do but eke out a bare existence in whatever environment you found yourself. What was “the feeling” of learning to harness fire? The VERY SAME feeling of diagnosing and replacing the power supply of my computer??? Very much the same I think.

    I became an atheist so early I don’t recall any feelings associated with it at all. I think it was too much of something else: recognition most people I knew where fucking nuts. Religion was just one more random aspect of it.

    Yea, verily.

  11. Ah bobbo. I misunderstood your ignorant atheist remark. I too am ignorant of any and all gods. I know of a whole bunch that man has created. And yet, not one has ever made himself or herself or itself known to me.

    A god worthy of worship? I can imagine one. But, said god would not want either worship or blind obedience.

    When I was a reformed agnostic, I always said that I didn’t know whether a god existed but that if one did, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion had it all wrong. If there were a god, or especially God, we would be judged on things far more important than whether we believe or how well we sing praise to His/Her name.

    But, I’ve since learned that such agnosticism on my part was hypocritical. So, I rooted out the hypocrisy and was left with atheism.

    After all, I gave no credence to fire-breathing dragons and winged horses, despite the massive quantities of literature about both. So, why were gods any different?

    As for the Jewish religion vs. the Old Testament, the oldest copy of the O.T., the Dead Sea Scrolls, were dated to about 200BC. So, there was either a long oral tradition before then, older version of the book yet to be found or not preserved, or it was all made up just 200 years before Christ.

    I’d bet on a long oral tradition that gradually included more and more of history and newer mythology. Since the O.T. contains some historical accounts and prophesies (read telling of history as if it were anticipated since the prophesied times seemed to stop abruptly at just about the date of the first print version), I would prophesy that no version of the bible will ever be found with prophesies that came true after the date of the book.

    So, for example, the O.T. might say that God foretold that Hebrews would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years and then God would pull the Hebrews out from slavery with great wealth. But, we will likely never find a print version of that predating the time of the Pharoes’ enslavement and release of the Hebrews.

    As for your observation regarding Satan knowing and rejecting God, good point. The same could be said of the Hebrews having just witnessed God’s glory destroying the Egyptian army after the Hebrews had walked through the parted waters of the Red Sea and then after waiting a mere 40 days for Moses on Mount Sinai to lose faith in God. Really guys? What is this? Short Attention Span Theater? You watched God perform miracles and then create the golden calf? Makes me wonder whether you witnessed anything at all.

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