Shouldn't Senators understand the Constitution?

By Phil Plait | October 19, 2010 12:00 pm

OK, this should be pretty obvious: the first official act of someone who is elected Senator of these United States of America is to swear to uphold the Constitution. So it stands to reason that maybe, just maybe, the person doing the swearing should understand the Constitution. Right?

Right?

Yeah. Watch this:

OK, first off: I know that picking on Christine O’Donnell, Republican candidate for the Senate in Delaware, is like shooting fish in a barrel, but easier. However, the media is screwing this up: personally, I don’t care what she believed ten years ago in college. Everyone does stupid stuff in college. It’s college. I’m far more concerned with what she believes now. And she’s emblematic for the rest of the Tea Party as well.

There are a lot of things to note in this video. The first is that multiple times she ducks Wolf Blitzer’s question about whether or not she thinks evolution is a myth, saying that her beliefs about evolution and creationism aren’t important; what’s important are local schools and what they can teach. That is utter baloney. As a Senator, she might be asked to vote on bills that are directly or indirectly involved with this issue, and her personal belief is very important indeed.

And why duck the question? Is she ashamed of being a creationist, or simply trying to avoid looking foolish on television?

Second, and more importantly, is her comment:

What I will support in Washington DC is the ability for the local school system to decide what is taught in their classroom… [I was talking about] a classroom that was not allowed to teach creationism as an equal theory as evolution. That is against their Constitutional rights and that is an overreaching [of the] arm of the government.

Wow. There is so much wrong in this one statement!

First is her thinking that creationism is on equal footing as a theory as evolution. That’s not only wrong, it’s spectacularly wrong, as wrong as saying astrology is on equal footing as astronomy. We might as well teach the Stork Theory of baby delivery in health class, and the Tooth Fairy Theory in economics.

For those who need it spelled out, it’s really quite simple: creationism is nonsense [PDF]. Evolution is a fact.

Second, the local school systems don’t generally decide what they can and cannot teach. That’s done at the state level; standards are used for each discipline taught. Many states just use the national standards, while some (cough cough Texas cough cough) make their own. But local schools use those standards as a guide on what to teach. I’ll note the situation is more complicated than this, and there are exceptions.

But it hardly matters because of the third point, which is that she has it exactly backwards: teaching creationism is a violation of the Constitution. This has been shown again and again, and is so simple it’s really stunning that this is still being argued. Creationism is religion. You can’t teach religion in public schools. That’s a violation of the First Amendment.

I guess, despite thumping the Constitution every chance she gets, she never actually got as far as the Bill of Rights. Sheril Kirshenbaum has more about O’Connell’s embarrassing lack of Constitutional knowledge* at The Intersection.

So again, Ms. O’Donnell’s past doesn’t concern me nearly as much as her present — why did she duck that question? Why does she think creationism isn’t nonsense? And what precisely is her knowledge of the Constitution, which, if she gets her way, she will swear to uphold?

This may seem like a joke — I can’t imagine people outside the US take it seriously — but it’s no joke at all. Christine O’Donnell and most of the rest of the Tea Party are antiscience in many of their beliefs, whether it’s creationism or global warming denialism or any of a number of other topics.

November 2 is approaching rapidly. When it gets here, vote.



* I suspect some people in the comments will want to get pedantic, and point out that in the debate discussed in these links, O’Donnell was trying to be clever, talking about the literal expression "separation of Church and State" not being in the First Amendment. That is true (although the expression was first used by Thomas Jefferson). However, her opponent then goes on to quote the First Amendment more or less correctly, saying "the government shall make no establishment of religion", to which O’Donnell asks, "That’s in the First Amendment?". If she was trying to be clever, she failed.

Comments (139)

  1. Jen

    Done. I didn’t have to wait for November 2. Anyone in California can sign up for Permanent Vote-By-Mail status, so I mailed out my vote last week. ^_^

  2. Thespis

    People I work with – in a medical office, no less- believe C.O’D is the savior of America and that she can do no wrong.
    I am afraid *and* flabbergasted on a daily basis.
    And they, too, either don’t realize or refuse to accept that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
    Fear. SRSLY.
    Cause I don’t want to lose my job over smacking my forehead or developing a nervous twitch when they say things like that.

  3. John Powell

    O’Donnell is down by 18% in the polls, we should be more worried by wackos that are actually posed to win, like:

    Joe Miller in Alaska,
    Sharon Angle in Nevada,
    Marco Rubio in Florida,

    ….and Ken Buck in Colorado!

    http://electoral-vote.com/

  4. Charlie

    As of yesterday, she still doesn’t know the first amendment (or in any case, what the words mean):

    http://www.dailykos.com/tv/w/002765/

  5. Yup; you should be allowed to act like a wacky college student when you are in college.

    You should not be allowed to serve public office, however, without at least a modicum of competence concerning the supreme law of the land. That amendment is first for a reason.

  6. Well, if Creationism can be taught as an equal theory, then I think the Norse creation theory, with Odin, Thor and the world tree should also be taught. And Helenistic creation theory, and Flying Spaghetti Monster creation theory, and the theory that the Universe was sneezed into existence by the Great Green Arkleseizure.

  7. Physicalist

    When you say she doesn’t know what’s in the Constitution, she really doesn’t know what’s in the Constitution:

    “When Mr. Coons offers a shorthand of the relevant section, saying, “government shall make no establishment of religion,” Ms. O’Donnell replies, “That’s in the First Amendment?””

    source: NYT

  8. FWIW, she has no clue what Marxism is, either. Raising taxes is not a ‘tenet of Marxism,’ not even the most watered-down versions that I’m aware of. You can believe me, for I AM an unapologetically bearded Marxist.

  9. Gus Snarp

    I think O’Donnell’s problem with the first amendment really does boil down to ignorance. Not knowing the 1st amendment, when she heard that the words “separation of church and state” aren’t in it, she just assumed the whole establishment clause was made up. This is a revealing look into the religious conservative mind. I expect many like her have heard that argument, and rather than understanding the nuances of constitutional interpretation, just assume that there is no establishment clause whatsoever and the rest of us are just making it up. I expect many conservatives in America really think this way.

  10. Kurtis

    And don’t forget when she says “I would argue that there are more people that support my Catholic faith than his Marxist beliefs.”
    These aren’t even remotely related!! One is a religion, the other is an economic theory. You could certainly be both, either, neither or a whole mixture of religion and economic beliefs. This just shows again the extreme Christian right seem to be stuck on some silly, and might I add potentially dangerous, political games.

  11. Chris

    She’s actually embarrassing to Catholics. I went to Catholic grade and high school. We were taught evolution. Yes were were also told about the stories in Genesis, but it was understood that they were told from a historical perspective. This is what people believed hundreds of years ago, but now we know better.

    I’ll ask the school board to teach the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

  12. Dracaena

    “I can’t imagine people outside the U.S. take it seriously.” Seriously? Speaking on behalf of myself and several others, we find it seriously frightening on several levels. That such a person has reached this point in her political career and that the U.S. media are giving her lots of airtime, not least of all. And yes, I know about Freedom of Speech and the right everybody has to their opinions. And we won’t even talk about Sharon Angle. At one point, one of the American politicos was advocating a wall along the Canadian/U.S. border and our response, at this point, tends to be, “Yes, please, when can it go up?”

  13. Michael Swanson

    Are we sliding into an idiocracy or a kakistocracy? I can’t tell.

  14. viggen

    And she’s emblematic for the rest of the Tea Party as well

    I think you’re making a blanket judgment here. You can’t be certain about other candidates representing a movement based upon an unfavorable judgment of this one woman. Fact of the matter is, she’s the candidate that has been run up the flagpole as an example of the others. If you want to say you don’t like her, I understand that, but saying she represents everybody in the movement is an over generalization– from what I’ve read, that particular movement contains a lot of different kinds of people who have a lot of different reasons for what they’re doing.

    I like a lot of what you say, Phil, but I think this reveals a confirmation bias on your part.

  15. James Barsby

    “We might as well teach the Stork Theory of baby delivery in health class, and the Tooth Fairy Theory in economics.”

    Brilliant. ;0)

    I was just listening to Brian Cox talking about how rational people can do something about irrationality, in our own special ‘disorganised’ way.

    It’s around 4 minutes in:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjEAw2_NwT0

  16. Well, to be fair, the Tooth Fairy is a pretty good example of Supply and demand.

  17. I remember her on Mahers show, she was just crazy then as now.

  18. Gus Snarp

    @viggen – So how are we supposed to judge the Tea Party? We can’t judge it based on its members, we can’t judge it based on who the keynote speakers are at Tea Party events, and we can’t even judge it on its own candidates? O’Donnell is a Tea Party candidate, Sarah Palin is apparently a big fan of O’Donnell and has spoken at a number of Tea Party rallies. If O’Donnell and Palin don’t represent the Tea Party, then who does?

  19. Bigby

    I won’t even try to defend O’Donnell. Couldn’t. But you are flat out wrong that the tea party is anti-science. The tea party advocates small government and a reduction in government spending. Period. Anyone who looks at the direction that this country is going and doesn’t agree with that is, quite frankly, stupid. The fact that individual members may be ignorant is, sorry again, nothing that the average liberal isn’t also guilty of. How many polls show a shocking lack of understanding of basic science in the American public? Think the pollsters were only talking to tea party members? Whether or not someone is supported by the tea party doesn’t speak to their knowledge of the Constitution, science, or anything else. Just their position on government interference in our lives.
    And, oh by the way, several democratic senators have openly stated that, not only do they not know what’s constitutional, they don’t care. Congress in general thinks they can pass any law they want to and they don’t worry about the constitutionality of what’s in it. Witness the health care bill being challenged on that basis in, what, like 32 states right now.

  20. MattF

    I think it’s important for more reasons than merely because the idea of teaching creationism in science classes keeps cropping up (regardless of its legitimacy). Believing that evolution is a myth tells us a lot about where you get your answers.

    Let me switch from the subject of evolution to the age of the Earth (since the two topics are often indistinguishable to creationists, and because the point still stands):

    Do you believe that this (hypothetical) rock that I found in the Grand Canyon is 150 million years old because people very knowledgeable about scientific principles have applied their best understanding to dating the sample along multiple lines of evidence, publishing their results in public for everyone — even other experts — to read, examine, and critique? Or do you believe that it’s 4400 years old because a charismatic teacher said so when he spoke to a group of non-experts in a winsome manner?

    Sure, the answer may not matter much when it’s a rock, but what if it’s a question about who gets the food? Or who gets the medicine? Or what our energy policy should be? Or how we should conduct research?

    Many who call themselves creationists have, sadly, not been above snubbing those who exemplify some aspect of life with which they disagree — homosexuality, atheism, evolution, or what-have-you. This is especially true if one considers those who think of themselves as the spokespeople for creationism(*). Who’s to say you won’t be on their “snub list” tomorrow, and what they will have been granted the power to deny you?

    (*) I’m thinking of Ben Stein’s assertion that “science leads you to killing people”.

  21. Gus Snarp

    What scares me about this woman is the same thing that scares me about Palin. Unlike a lot of the Republican Party, they aren’t faking this stuff, they aren’t trying to fool and manipulate people with it, they really believe it. Not only that, but they actually do express themselves fairly well to the general populace. They’re polished television presenters, just like Ronald Reagan was. Look at the skill with which O’Donnell talks over Coons and makes her talking points heard over his clear statements of the facts. Of course Coons has the right answers and you and I and Wolf Blitzer and a room full of people at a law school know that and laugh at her, but anyone who’s the least suspicious of evolution, anyone who is just as fundamentally ignorant of the constitution as she is (and lets face it, most Americans probably are) is likely to see her sound bites as making sense, and likely to empathize with her over her intellectual opponent. O’Donnell (and Palin) is the obvious evolution of the anti-intellectualism the right has been using to attack its opponents for years. The obvious elitist and ivy league educated Bush attacked Kerry as an intellectual and an elitist. Now truly uneducated, inexperienced, and unprepared people are running against highly educated candidates, and they’ll play that elitist card every time. And as long as they get their sound bites in, even if they lose the election, they convince a still large section of the public that evolution is just a theory and school districts should be allowed to teach whatever they want. O’Donnell may not stand a chance in this race, but she is a frightening image of the future, and she is shifting the Overton window.

  22. KD_in_KC

    Three things….
    Chris: You’re right, she is embarrassing to Catholics, I’m definitely not going to mass at her church…she sounds like a fundamentalist, snake handler Christian, not a ‘let’s open up the bar in the parrish hall’ Catholic.

    Viggen: Sure, what you said ..uhuh, and the tea baggers – ‘have a lot of black, gay, muslim, (insert bashed group of people here), friends.

    Yes, she’s false, but you’ll notice that she NEVER got attention before now, what happened two years ago? Sarah Palin, it showed a nobody, with little experience, (s0rry, spending a half term as govenor of the least populous state in the country is not awesome experience) could be thrust in to the national stage. What do you have to be?

    Uber Christian? – Check
    Somewhat easy on the eyes? – Check (I can’t get how women can be for these two, degrading)
    Able to make snide remarks? – Check
    Pull out some fakey “Enjoli” ‘Bring home the bacon’ schtick and act like it’s them ‘fighten the man’? – Check
    Act like your the only intelligent woman to ever run for office and the fakers are trying to keep you down? – Check

    It’s all BS…and what’s truly sad is that people can’t open their eyes to see these people for who they really are. Opportunistic politicians that are no different than people already running or already in power. I’m not saying they don’t want to do what they feel is right, but that isn’t any different than the other politicians.

    Spewing idiot remarks and and giving blank stairs about what magazines you read or a supreme court decision you disagree with doesn’t help their case that they are ‘ready for the job’

  23. ssurell

    Why worry about it? She is going to win anyway. The way that people vote now a days (DAZE?) is, the person that they feel they can sit and have a beer with. I mean, look at W! I am having a hard time deciding even to vote in the mid-terms. The GOP/Tea Party is going to win big!

  24. Ray

    Funny how its always the Republican who is ignorant, misguided, or a meanyhead. Demorats are never called out.

    For instance, later in the same debate the Deomrat candidate couldn’t name the five freedoms laid out in the first amendment. Won’t hear that here though.

  25. Ethyachk

    Don’t worry guys. I live in DE (I know, lame), so I’ll be voting against her. I’m sure my lone vote will be enough to swing this election. Seriously though, of the people I know who are voting, 80% of them are voting for what’s-his-name. You know, the other person (dude?) running.

  26. BILL7718

    It is so frustrating that the ideas of fiscal conservatism and religious nutballery have been somehow bound together.

  27. Steve Jeffers

    She’s not a witch, she’s the scarecrow.

    If we were trying to come up with a straw man, could we do any better?

    We’d have to get really stoned and say that the Pope was, I don’t know, an ex-Nazi who covered up pedophile priests and says condoms cause AIDS.

  28. DGKnipfer

    Very, very important note to make here Phil. It is not unlawful to teach creationism in public schools. It is unlawful to teach creationism as science in public schools and for public schools to support the view of one religion as more valid than other forms of religious belief. Public schools can have classes on comparative religion.

    I know that’s not what they want to do. But every time one of the right wing blowhards screams about god getting booted out of the public square it’s good to point out to them that god’s place in public hasn’t changed. The public square is just admitting that they have to acknowledge every other religion along with Christianity. It usually shuts them up when they find out that they can have their faith displayed in school, as long as they accept the controversy that their faith is not the only faith or accepted as a science.

    Teach the controversy; just teach it in a sociology or comparative history class. :)

  29. DGKnipfer

    Why worry about it? She is going to win anyway. The way that people vote now a days (DAZE?) is, the person that they feel they can sit and have a beer with. I mean, look at W! I am having a hard time deciding even to vote in the mid-terms. The GOP/Tea Party is going to win big!

    Especially if everybody has this attitude.

  30. Terry

    @17: Who represents environmentalism in America? Who represents respect for science in America? The Tea Party doesn’t have candidates because it isn’t a political party. It’s a political movement. It has people who speak to its ideas and some of those people (case in point) are idiots, but others of those who speak to its ideals are not. What I love is the number of members of the Tea Party movement who acknowledge that they are socially conservative (which I am not) but don’t want the Tea Party to become about social issues. They want it to be about the Constitution. O’D up there doesn’t know the Constitution from a witch’s grimoire, but that doesn’t mean that EVERY person who identifies with Tea Party does.

    @20: I agree with a lot of what you say, but still you can’t stop the hating on ‘tea baggers’, which is a somewhat sickening name to apply to people who want limited government. Do you like the government telling you what to believe? Is it then okay to have the government tell you what charities you have to give to?

  31. Gus Snarp

    Terry – This whole “you can’t pin anything on us, we’re a nebulous, leaderless movement” thing gets pretty tiresome. “Tea Party” is not analogous to “environmentalism”. But even the environmentalist movement has its leaders, even if we don’t all agree with each other. I didn’t pick Al Gore to be the front man on climate change, I don’t think he’s the best choice, but he’s a leader of the movement whether I like it or not, and what he says or does affects the movement and the public’s perception of it. But the Tea Party doesn’t want to be responsible for anything that comes out of the mouths of people who run for office under its banner and are invited to speak at its major gatherings, in spite of the fact that its a heck of a lot more organized and centralized than the environmental movement. Heck, it even has “Party” in the name and it has conventions. Tea Partiers wonder why some people don’t take them seriously. You don’t get to be taken seriously until you have more ideas than “limited government”, a concept so nebulous as to be inherently meaningless in a country that by definition has a limited government. You don’t get to be taken seriously until you can tell somebody what exactly you actually stand for in terms that are at least somewhat reasonable and take responsibility for the people who carry your banner.

  32. Muzz

    Did she just say , in effect, “If you’re going to take seriously something I said on a comedy show, then I get to treat seriously something you wrote as a joke”?
    That’s awesome.

  33. Dan I.

    @ 30. Muzz

    Not only that but she’s clearly retconning her comments on the comedy show. It’s CLEAR from the videos that she is being DEAD SERIOUS on the show. She isn’t joking, she means what she says.

    I agree with her that statements she made 20 years ago shouldn’t really be held against her now. But still, she wasn’t joking then.

  34. Terry

    @Gus: That’s kind of my point. I am an environmentalist and a conservationist, but the ideals of others, like Al Gore, do not match up to my ideals. I think that conservation has been hijacked by anti-carbon while there are real and significant issues with other kinds of pollution in America and the world. That’s why its a movement, because I don’t have to agree with Al Gore to be an environmentalist. Those that call themselves tea party candidates are like those that call themselves environmentalist candidates. They have a specific set of ideals, but not necessarily an entire platform associated to it. The “Party” in its name is for historical associations and not political reasons. The conventions were self-aggrandizement affairs put on by people who wanted to claim the mantle of Tea Party and never represented a single entity. Does a Sierra Club convention represent the entire environmentalist movement?

    The point of the Tea Party is that we are a nation of limited government… that somehow has spent more in unfunded spending in the last quarter century than most governments have spend in funded spending in their modern histories. We don’t even have the excuse of a struggle for survival to pin it on, though we’ve tried to create that narrative for political reasons. We do not, by definition, have limited government anymore when spending can be made without respect to the very constitution that this post was started about.

    If a candidate ran on an environmentalist platform and then failed to do anything about environmental issues, we’d call him to task for failing to live up to those issues. Would we call to task the environmentalist movement for not making sense because “these are the kinds of people who represent it?” That’s what Fox news is trying to do with character assassination against Al Gore, because it works. That’s also what attacking the Tea Party does. People can misunderstand the movement, which has no declared leaders any more than the environmentalist movement does, because they judge it based upon the politicians that have claimed it, not based upon the average people that believe in it.

    The VAST majority of the people who represent the tea party are conservatives who are pissed off at the state of the nation and the health care bill. Some are libertarians who feel the same, but also have socially liberal ideals. They can get along because they all want one thing, the governments impact into our pocketbook to be reduced. If you think that their values and beliefs don’t matter, fine. If you want to attack them, fine. The beauty of this democratic system is that you can disrespect a healthy segment of the population and all that matters in the end is who actually comes out to vote.

  35. Silent Service

    Terry,

    Do you like the government telling you what to believe? Is it then okay to have the government tell you what charities you have to give to?

    You mean like having politicians that force abstinence only education on public schools because they’re afraid that their kids might learn something about sex? Or that Thomas Jefferson wasn’t one of the most notable Americans of the Enlightenment because it offends their Christian revisionist history? Honestly, I don’t think I can take you seriously.

  36. Gus Snarp

    @Terry – The Tea Party is nothing without those people and that money. Take away the major speakers, candidates, and donors and no one would be paying any attention to the Tea Party. The Sierra Club doesn’t have a rally with “Environmentalist” banners, they have “Sierra Club” banners. There are organizations that call themselves state and local Tea Party chapters, and they are the ones having these gatherings. If you are one of these Tea Partiers who claims none of these people represent them, then you need to abandon the Tea Party, because it is owned and operated by those people.

  37. Miko

    “The first is that multiple times she ducks Wolf Blitzer’s question about whether or not she thinks evolution is a myth, saying that her beliefs about evolution and creationism aren’t important; what’s important are local schools and what they can teach. That is utter baloney. As a Senator, she might be asked to vote on bills that are directly or indirectly involved with this issue, and her personal belief is very important indeed.”

    Really? And by the same standard I imagine that you think that whether Walker was gay is an important factor in analyzing his Prop 8 decision?

    No, as much as it pains me to say it, she’s right: as long as her views on what local schools can teach aren’t influenced by it, her personal beliefs are irrelevant. (Of course, in her case I doubt that it’s true that her views aren’t influenced by it.)

  38. Gus Snarp

    @Dan I. I would agree that the things she said 20 years ago shouldn’t be held against her, if she disavows them. She’s not willing to say whether she still believes those things, so we have no recourse but to assume that she does still believe them.

  39. Bob in Easton

    Doesn’t say much for a FDU degree does it now. The idea that you can get a degree from a so-called “prestigious” university and not know what the 1st amendment says is pretty damning.

  40. Eight

    If they ever mandate that creationism should be taught alongside evolution, they better be very clear about which theism (and about which planet/world/dimension) should be taught.

    Otherwise I might think they want me to teach the Epic of Gilgamesh and compare it to Noah’s ark and Mithraic cult, or take all of the varied African creation stories to put into perspective of the present, or teach the origins of the first dragons on the island of Avalon and use C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy as a textbook, because all of those are my favorite creation stories so far.

    I hope that being forced to define “creationism” as “Judeo-Catholic creationism” or “Semetic creationism” or “pre-Arthurian creationism” or anything else will raise some red flags that all this is religion (and/or fiction) and not science.

  41. Lascas

    Hilarious, thank god im not from USA.

  42. JJ (the other one)

    The Tea Party ‘movement’ may have once been about a limitation of government power / taxation.

    Today the visible face of the movement is made up of ignorant reactionaries that tend to either be Republicans or be funded by Republicans. I’ve also noticed that people who disagree with this opinion tend to use the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy to defend the movement.

  43. At least, of course, Marx wasn’t a creationist. Marx believed in evolution and in the society’s evolution.

    She wants just your votes. That’s why she is dangerous for a free and open mind society. With the power of Republicans (or “god” :-p) USA return at the age of Salem Witchcraft Trials. Maybe “god” isn’t with you at these times (I refer to the phrase: “God bless America”) .

    One Question for american people: Why USA sent to Greece so many Republicans – Creationists? The embassy in Greece have so many of these snakes.

    I like USA but I don’t like these creationist snakes.

    Maybe the logic be with you.

    Sorry about my bad english

  44. AJ in CA

    [ begin pedantic, self-righteous rant ]

    IMHO, the bit about her being emblematic of the Tea Party is plain wrong. The Tea Party is, at its heart, an economic movement – they think lowered taxation, lowered government spending, and privatization is the American Way. When you look at the people who get riled up about religious issues (ie gay marriage, abortion) they tend to be Christian Conservatives (who, oddly enough, are sometimes more likely to favor government-administrated health care, for instance, albeit mostly if it’s somehow “faith based”.)

    Obviously, people are all different, and lumping folks into groups is notoriously difficult to do accurately. It just bugs me when people don’t accurately represent the beliefs of a certain group of people, just because they disagree with them.

    And yes, I also throw a fit when people refer to Liberal Democrats as “Marxists,” or Neoconservatives as “fundamentalists”. Is it so hard to look up the platform of a political movement/party? Personally, I couldn’t care less, as I don’t identify with any label, but c’mon, accuracy is never a bad thing.

    And for the record, I think the Tea Partiers are dead friggin’ wrong. For instance, I’d like to see a single-payer health care system that’s very much more “socialist” then the dreaded “Obamacare,” which is essentially the same thing that the Republicans were proposing years ago (but now it’s apparently Socialist because the Dems passed it).
    You still won’t catch me making teabag jokes, though. Hmph.

    [ /end pedantic, self-righteous rant ]

  45. AJ in CA

    @ JJ (the other one): I suppose you have a point – someone’s sneaking some sugar into that porridge :) I think the Republicans have evolved (heh) from supporting the TPs, to being threatened by them, to just plain co-opting them and taking ‘em over from the inside. That’d certainly explain folks like O’Donnell.

  46. AJ in CA

    @Gus Snarp: As for what they ostensibly stand for, exactly, this is a pretty good start:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_movement#Tea_Party_agenda_.22Contract_from_America.22

    Again, not an endorsement by any means, but I think that about sums it up.
    The scary bits for me are the climate change stuff (I think carbon trading has lots of room for corporate shenanigans and is not necessarily a great idea, but at least it’s something) and the “appointing a committee to audit government agencies for Constitutionality”.
    I’m as big a fan of the Constitution as the next guy, but the document is made to be nice and concise. The founders had no intention of creating an exhaustive list of every single thing that the federal government should ever be responsible for. I guess we should axe the FAA, Air Force and NASA while we’re at it, no way is aeronautics mentioned in the Constitution…

    I really need to find a political forum to rant on. My sincere apologies, Phil :)

  47. Bill

    Can you state the five freedoms stated in the First Amendment? Coons can’t either. The separation of church and state does not appear anywhere in The U.S. Constitution.

    http://michellemalkin.com/2010/10/19/chris-coons-cant-name-the-five-freedoms-in-the-first-amendment/

    Freedom of (not from) Religion
    Freedom of the press
    Freedom of speech
    Freedom to assemble
    Freedom to Petition

    Amendment 1:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  48. zamia

    19. Bigby – the Tea Party is anti-science. How else to you explain actions by Tea Partyers:

    1. The Maine Republican platform was written by teapartyers and contains a plank to investigate climate scientists for fraud.

    2. The AG of Va, an infamous tea-party backed Kook named Cuccinelli, IS investigating a climate scientist, Michael Mann, formerly at UVa, for ‘civil fraud’. He’s requesting emails to and from 39 scientists specifically as well as all documents of Dr. Mann. The ‘scientific’ justification is execrable but so are his legal arguments. The judge in the first round threw out his request to investigate on several grounds. But, undaunted Kook went back in court.

    3. Christine O’Donnell is undoubtedly not the only Tea Party nominee who wants to push creationism (a gross misinterpretation of the Bible) in the public schools.

    The whole Republican party in recent times has a tendency to be anti-science. Somebody wrote a book entitled ‘The Republican war against science’.

  49. truthspeaker

    Bigby Says:
    October 19th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I won’t even try to defend O’Donnell. Couldn’t. But you are flat out wrong that the tea party is anti-science. The tea party advocates small government and a reduction in government spending. Period. Anyone who looks at the direction that this country is going and doesn’t agree with that is, quite frankly, stupid.

    I don’t agree with that and I’m not stupid. I would like to see more government spending in some areas.

    And, oh by the way, several democratic senators have openly stated that, not only do they not know what’s constitutional, they don’t care.

    Cite, please?

  50. Perhaps she understands the Constitution just fine, but _just doesn’t care_ about it. I notice that on the 30th of last month you wrote (about a NASA authorization bill) “…most of this bill is just fine, and hits the right notes.” Since the very existence of NASA is illegal under the US Constitution, which doesn’t give the Federal government the power to create such an agency, I can only conclude that you either don’t understand the Constitution or just don’t care either.

  51. BJN

    I’m a Beardist Marxist.

    Strict “original intent” constitutionalists are intellectually the same as biblical literalists.

  52. Utakata

    The Tea Party are nothing but black shirts wrapped in the American flag and psuedo-libertarian ideology, Bigby @ 19. They may believe in “small government,” but is likely half the story. That is, with their fanatical leanings of anti-immigrant, homophobic and religious underpinnings, they most likely believe in a small but highly centralized government that will interfere with evey aspect of a citizens’ lives who doesn’t agree with them. It’s fascism done on the stupid cheap. Christine O’Donnell’s behavior is only adding to that impression IMO.

  53. TBRP

    Ken Hagler @46

    The very existance of the Air Force would be illegal under such a minimalist interpretation of the Constitution as well. I guess the DoD, FBI, and CIA will have to go too.

  54. RL

    It doesn’t fit your narrative but Coons couldn’t identify the “five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.” Coons named the separation of church and state, but couldn’t identify the others: the freedoms of speech, press, to assemble and petition. But then again, I’m not surprised you left that out, too.

  55. AJ in CA

    @Ken Hagler: Exactly what part of the Constitution prohibits the creation of NASA?

  56. Bill (47): Please read the footnote I helpfully provided when I wrote this post.

  57. Lavocat

    Phil, look what you’ve gone and done!

  58. It’s a popular conservative line that the separation of church and state isn’t in the Constitution. I know they mean those words explicitly are not in there.

    However, we have the Supreme Court for Judicial Review. The Supreme Court has said that’s what the Constitution means so that is what the Constitution means. So I think it is fair to say the people who make that argument do not understand the concept of Judicial Review which is a pretty basic concept in Constitutional Law.

  59. AJ in CA

    @Utakata: Old as George Orwell’s essay is (1944) his words still ring true:

    “It will be seen that, as used, the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.”

    http://orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc

  60. Brasidas

    As a European, I can’t see what is the problem with teabaggers gaining ground. As far as I can see, it can only be a good thing if the US is run by ignorant no-nothings – that would make it far easier to compete with.

    Hopefully the US will fall behind in military technology (if pointed sticks were good enough for soldiers in the bible, they’re good enough for the marines), will have an increasing uneducated, sick underclass that will absorb massive amounts of resources, and will spend more and more on subsidies for products no-one wants.

    I suspect the Indians and Chinese are looking forward with pleasure to the future.

  61. Brian D

    @Bill #47:

    Please demonstrate how freedom *of* religion can exist without necessarily providing freedom *from* religion. Remember that religions often make conflicting absolute rules of how people should live, and usually contain guidelines for dealing with those not of your religion.

    This may be easier for you than noticing that “no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” has two components, only the latter of which can be described as “freedom of” (the former is pretty clearly “freedom from”). See also hale-bopp@#58.

    This presumes you’ve read Phil’s footnote and ignored it, by the way. Watch the video in the Intersection post following the one Phil linked to, specifically the closing segment starting at 7:05. O’Donnell isn’t saying a “gotcha”. It’s far more of a “In what respect, Charlie?”.

  62. Steve G

    The NRO has a clarification where she manages to add an additional blunder:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/battle10/250293/exclusive-o-donnell-clarifies-first-amendment-remarks-katrina-trinko

    O’Donnell stressed that preventing schools from the possibility of teaching intelligent design would violate the First Amendment clause that Congress could not prohibit “the free exercise thereof” of religion. “He [Coons] forgot to quote [that] part,” she said.

    As you can see in the OP, the debate was explicitly about “creationism.” So in a move, she’s implied that creationism and intelligent design are interchangeable and explicitly admitted (asserted, even) that ID is religion.

  63. Lawrence

    I also like that the Tea Party is all about limited government & lower taxes – but when you ask them how you’re going to reduce a multi-trillion dollar deficit (especially if you don’t at least do something about the Bush Tax cuts), they are amazingly silent.

    When the time comes (and it may already be well past) that we have to make massive cuts in government spending, including all the entitlement programs and the military, it will be very interesting to see what side they end up on.

    I’m very embarrassed to be an American.

  64. J

    Holy Crap! Coons is a Marxist?

    And now we’ll have a Marxist in the Senate!

  65. Larry

    That these teabagger dolts are considered serious candidates is a red flag that the very future of the United States is in serious jeopardy. Being ignorant of the defining document of this country is one thing. That can be fixed. Being proud of being ignorant and being unwilling to learn is on a whole nother level.

  66. Chris Winter

    Thomas Materson wrote: “You can believe me, for I AM an unapologetically bearded Marxist.”

    No Marxist should have to apologize for wearing a beard. Engels didn’t. Karl Marx certainly didn’t. Vladimir Lenin… Well, he may have “hirsutely challenged.” :P

    Note: I’m not disparaging your philosophical stance, just riffing off the fact that you inadvertently applied the adverb to the wrong word. :D

  67. Pete

    Well said Phil.

    All those years at the ‘dope paid off.

  68. @Ray (24) – You have a valid point and I’m glad you made it. There are few politicians today who can accurately quote The Constitution and The Amendments.

    However, I must say that not remembering the five freedoms doesn’t come close to being as bad as having no idea about the issue of separation of Church and State and the First Amendment. Not to me, anyway.

    The issue here is about utter ignorance and ignoring of facts. Ms. O’Donnell many of the vocal TBers (hmmm – an antivax reference?) are of that ilk. It’s terribly sad.

    Wasn’t it Junior who said, “A mind is a terrible thing to lose”?

    (This is close to being as uncivil as I ever am. However, I have a hard time ignoring willful ignorance.)

  69. Chris Winter

    Miko wrote (#37): “No, as much as it pains me to say it, she’s right: as long as her views on what local schools can teach aren’t influenced by it, her personal beliefs are irrelevant.”

    I would agree with this if her personal beliefs were the only thing at issue. But her personal knowledge is at issue too.

    If a candidate thinks some practice is unconstitutional when it isn’t (or vice versa), that’s a serious concern because it could lead to the deciding vote being cast the wrong way on some bill.

    “(Of course, in her case I doubt that it’s true that her views aren’t influenced by it.)”

    Yes, that too.

  70. Dr. Farnsworth put it best in “A Clockwork Origin”…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35TbGjt-weA

  71. Chris Winter

    AJ in CA wrote (#44): “The Tea Party is, at its heart, an economic movement – they think lowered taxation, lowered government spending, and privatization is the American Way.”

    Pretty much true, I think. Though I wonder how many of the candidates that claim to be Tea Party Candidates really subscribe to all three. Take Joe Miller, who just had a reporter who asked an uncomfortable question handcuffed by his private security guards. I expect if he were elected he’d be pushing for intrusive government policies. Some others would be for intrusion of a different variety.

    And then there are the monied interests behind the Tea Party. But that’s probably a discussion for another blog.

  72. Chris Winter

    Barber of Civility (#68): “Wasn’t it Junior who said, “A mind is a terrible thing to lose”?”

    I think you mean Dan Quayle: “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind, or not to have a mind is being very wasteful.”

    He garbled the motto of the United Negro College Fund: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

  73. TBRP: You’re right about the illegality of most of those. The Department of “Defense” would be okay if reduced to a shadow of its current state–the people who wrote the Constitution were okay with a navy, but didn’t like standing armies _at all_.

    AJ in CA: Article 1, Section 8 lists the powers of Congress. Look it up and you’ll see that creating NASA isn’t among them. (Of course the Constitution could have been amended to allow it, but since space travel didn’t become possible until the Constitution was dead and buried there wouldn’t have been much point.)

  74. She got ONE thing right:

    “What I believe is irrelevant. ”

    I don’t know how the audience, or even the people at the table, kept from laughing in her face.

  75. Messier Tidy Upper

    See a longer 8 minute version version with extra FAIL here :
    (The same event? / Different one? Not sure.)

    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/10/wow-i-mean-just-wow.html

    Good (or not!) bits at the 7:03, 2:37, 3:35 marks. ;-)

    As I said in the last AGW thread how can they have a witchhunt against climatologist scientists yet have this “witchcraft dabbler” & complete fruitcake nominated for high office?

    I may be a bit conservative in my views and no fan of Obama either but .. Sheesh! :roll:

    Is this really the *best* person the Tea Party / Republicans can put forward?!

    Surely she – & Palin – won’t actually win. The thought of her and Palin in power is chilling. On the bright side I really don’t think they will.

    Then again, having an opponent who claims he was inspired in his political decisions by a Marxist teacher isn’t great and reassuring. Lenin and Stalin were, quite simply, mass murdering totalitarian monsters and their system demonstrably failed spectacularly and caused incomprehensible amounts of human suffering and misery. :-(

    Yes , I know the Democrat there isn’t a full on Leninist / Stalinist Marxist but still ..yikes.

  76. Matthew

    COD is nothing to worry about – in fact she would be a tremendous boon to the Democrats if she and others like her were elected.

  77. ND

    Here’s a Reuters article on this. It has a video of the debate as well:

    http://blogs.reuters.com/frontrow/2010/10/19/odonnell-has-question-on-u-s-constitution-where-does-it-say-separation-of-church-and-state/

    You can see when the audience laughs. She also laughs and I’m dying to know what she is laughing about!

    Coons should have emphasized that creationism should not be taught in a science class because it’s not science. And also should have mentioned that the Dover trial showed that that ID was indeed creationism. And also that it was creationists passing laws to wedge in creationism into the science class.

    Others can correct me on this but some creationists in one state tried to pass a law redefining science to include the supernatural.

  78. Monkey

    Wolf: Can you please answer the question?

    COD: blah blah blah

    Wolf: I will not ask another question not allow this to finish until you answer my direct question with a direct answer.

    COD: I believe creationism to be taught in schools is the proper course of action..

    Wolf: What creationism? There are creation stories from all cultuers…Daoists in asia to your little story…which ones should we allow?

    OD: Im catholic, so….

    Wolf: Snap! So it DOES matter what you want or what you believe….you want YOUR creation story taught, and nobody elses!

    *Crowd laughs at COD and shake Wolfs hand*

    ….if only…

  79. TBRP

    Ken @73

    I’m glad you’ve given your endorsement for a shadow of the current DoD to exist. I guess we’ll have to go to you to interpret what the Constitution really means when Congress wants to make a new agency. If only we had some group established in the Constitution who has the legal authority to interpret it, then you wouldn’t be kept so busy!

  80. Benji

    Phil, very relevant to your post is this little jewel (or piece of garbage) that may have escaped your attention :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V0puVHC304&feature=player_embedded

    That’s how much she knows the constitution.

  81. Every country has to have a specialty, Japan is nori, China is porcelain, Poland is really cool 30,000 year old pottery relics. Our specialty in the U.S. is stupid people who want to bomb you but don’t know why and they can’t find your country on a map. That’s our specialty.

  82. Nigel Depledge

    Thomas Masterson (8) said:

    FWIW, she has no clue what Marxism is, either. Raising taxes is not a ‘tenet of Marxism,’ not even the most watered-down versions that I’m aware of. You can believe me, for I AM an unapologetically bearded Marxist.

    IIUC, Marxism holds that the state should own everything – land, companies, factories, houses etc. Therefore, all profits from anything belong to the state. Therefore, there will be no taxes at all, since all revenue is state-owned revenue in the first place.

  83. Nigel Depledge

    Viggen (14) said:

    I think you’re making a blanket judgment here. You can’t be certain about other candidates representing a movement based upon an unfavorable judgment of this one woman. Fact of the matter is, she’s the candidate that has been run up the flagpole as an example of the others. If you want to say you don’t like her, I understand that, but saying she represents everybody in the movement is an over generalization– from what I’ve read, that particular movement contains a lot of different kinds of people who have a lot of different reasons for what they’re doing.

    I like a lot of what you say, Phil, but I think this reveals a confirmation bias on your part.

    OK, so how many republican candidates support doing something about AGW?

    How many republican candidates support teaching evolution and banning creationism from the classroom (of state-funded schools)?

  84. Thurisaz

    Phil: “…This may seem like a joke — I can’t imagine people outside the US take it seriously — but it’s no joke at all…”

    There was a time when I (a German) would have thought that to be a joke indeed. That was before 1. I learned that far too many US citizens want back to the dark ages at any cost and 2. more and more of my fellow Germans follow suit (though they are still a rather unimportant minority here so far).

    You don’t deal with a problem today, prepare to find that it has grown tomorrow. We all better learn this, and learn it fast. :(

  85. Treczoks

    “I can’t imagine people outside the U.S. take it seriously.”
    We outside the US watch this issue closely, and with growing astonishment (and amusement). I can not imagine one mainstream party politician here to issue such nonsense as she did – it would be political suicide. Of course, we do have fundamentalists in politics, too (PBC: Partei Bibeltreueer Christen = party of christians true to the bible), but they are worth 0.0something%.

    On another note: I see this “Tea Party Movement” as a big chance for the US. Not as a political power, but as a way to make the republicans unelectable for a vast majority.

  86. Gunnar

    @# 75, Messier Tidy Upper

    I am far from a fan of Marxism, but I doubt that Marx and Engles would have approved of the atrocious and tyrannical methods used by Lenin and Stalin to establish and implement their version of the Marxist ideals. I suspect that Marx and Engles would have been appalled at such cruelty and disdain for human rights and dignity.

  87. Bee

    Could somebody tell me the Stork theory of baby delivery? I’m afraid my parents were too educated to explain what storks have to do with pregnancy. (Or maybe too busy. I recall when my mother was pregnant with my little brother I got a very explicit picture book explaining where the bump comes from.) I’ve always wondered where this connection between storks and babies came from.

  88. MattF (20) said:

    “Believing that evolution [or an old earth, etc] is a myth tells us a lot about where you get your answers… Sure, the answer may not matter much when it’s a rock, but what if it’s a question about who gets the food? Or who gets the medicine? Or what our energy policy should be? Or how we should conduct research?”

    You said this far more articulately than I could, and I agree with you very strongly. If a candidate states something I *know* to be untrue (such as a young earth, or I.D., vaccines doing more harm than good, global warming isn’t taking place, etc.)… things for which the best conclusion, derived by the people most knowledgeable on the subject, is not in question… that what am I to assume about the candidate?

    I see two possibilities (are there others?):

    1) Either they are truly ignorant, to a huge degree, about the way the world they live in functions… and as such, are dangerous people to put in a position of power within it.

    -or-

    2) They are willing to outright lie and deceive their constituencies* about what their true beliefs are, in which case I have little confidence in anything else they say.

    In either case, denial of established reality is a very good reason to keep those people *out* of a position of power… even if I *do* agree with some of their stated beliefs.

    I’m not sure which of these two possibilities C.O’D falls under… or Palin, or many many other members of the Tea Party movement (or Republicans, or Democrats, etc.). But it doesn’t matter if what I want to end up with is a functional government that responds to the observed world around them.

    (*The third possibility, ‘they are making these statements for politically expedient reasons to get elected, really falls under case #2 for me… after all, if they are willing to lie to *any* of their constituents, why should I assume that it’s not *me* they are lying to?)

  89. Jeremy Haugen

    Some of the comments above really make me worry. It seems that they are saying, “If you don’t agree with me, you are a wacko and I don’t have to listen to you… na na na na na… I can’t hear what you are saying!!!”

    Neither political party can fix the mess, because they made the mess together. Isn’t it time to elect people who actually believe in what they are saying rather than say what it takes to get elected?

    Vote democrat, vote republican… either way you’ll get the same results.

  90. Nigel Depledge

    Bigby (19) said:

    I won’t even try to defend O’Donnell. Couldn’t. But you are flat out wrong that the tea party is anti-science. The tea party advocates small government and a reduction in government spending.

    If that’s true, then how come so many republican cadidates deny AGW being a real phenomenon?

    If this is true, how come so few (if any) republican cadidates / senators / congresspersons etc. speak out against creationism?

    Period. Anyone who looks at the direction that this country is going and doesn’t agree with that is, quite frankly, stupid.

    Right, so you don’t consider a national health service to be a worthwhile thing? What about people who cannot afford health insurance? Do you think that the people who do the crappy low-paid jobs should just be left in the gutter to die when they get sick? If so, then who else is gonna do those crappy low-paid jobs? Illegal immigrants?

    There are, in fact, several capitalist models that can be made to work, with varying degrees of government regulation on various industries.

    However, less regulation will always lead to the Tragedy of the Commons. Companies exist to make money – without regulation, they will focus on that goal and that goal alone. Regulation is what gives us medicines that work and are – to the best of anyone’s ability to determine – safe. Regulation is what gives us national parks and (vaguely) clean air to breathe (except in LA). And so on and so forth.

    The fact that individual members may be ignorant is, sorry again, nothing that the average liberal isn’t also guilty of.

    And yet, strangely, most of the people you dub “liberals” acknowledge their ignorance and accept the advice of people who do know better. The Bush administration tried to use policy to dictate reality, tried to stifle publication of scientific findings that showed its policies to be wrong, and so on. Bush even publicly supported ID. How blatantly ignorant is that?

    How many polls show a shocking lack of understanding of basic science in the American public? Think the pollsters were only talking to tea party members?

    It’s not a question of whether ignorance exists, nor where it exists. It’s a question of what you do about it. The republicans mostly seem to wear their ignorance with pride and hope that reality will bow down before them. The other side seem mostly to accept where their ignorance lies and take advice from experts.

    Whether or not someone is supported by the tea party doesn’t speak to their knowledge of the Constitution, science, or anything else. Just their position on government interference in our lives.

    But without government interference in your life, where would you be? Either a subject-state of the Japanese Empire or of the USSR, I expect. Or maybe part of Mexico (don’t forget that the US originally acquired Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California from Mexico by conquest – what if they decided they wanted it all back, especially once oil was discovered?).

    Without government interference in your life how would you prevent the tyrrany of the majority? Or do you, being a part of the majority on most issues, favour the tyrrany of the majority?

    Without government interference, would the US have any universities at all, never mind world-class ones?

    And so on and on.

  91. Nigel Depledge

    DGKnipfer (28) said:

    Very, very important note to make here Phil. It is not unlawful to teach creationism in public schools. It is unlawful to teach creationism as science in public schools and for public schools to support the view of one religion as more valid than other forms of religious belief. Public schools can have classes on comparative religion.

    You almost make a very good point here.

    What is illegal is to teach creationism as fact, in a state-funded school in the USA. In a comparative religion class, you have to teach it as “some people believe X, others believe Y”. Teaching creationism as a fact, however, oversteps those bounds.

    Interestingly, it is legal to teach creationism as fact in a state-funded school in the UK, provided that the school is a “faith” school and that the creationism is taught in RE and that the National Curriculum is taught in all classes other than RE and that the RE curriculum meets the approval of the church inspectors for that specific faith.

    But there’s nothing to stop them from timetabling 5 times as much RE as science, and there is no government oversight of the RE curriculum.

  92. Gammidgy

    Some of us in the UK take these matters very seriously. The US exports its creationist nonsense and we’d like it to stop. (See http://www.secularism.org.uk/creationist-threat-to-scottish-s.html) If you guys can ensure US schoolkids grow up to be more scientifically literate than their parents, we’d be awfully grateful.

    (Before I get flamed by the patriots, this deal works both ways. We’re really sorry about Wakefield, OK?)

  93. Nigel Depledge

    Terry (34) said:

    I think that conservation has been hijacked by anti-carbon while there are real and significant issues with other kinds of pollution in America and the world.

    OK, name one other kind of pollution that is going to have even half the impact on our way of life that global warming seems likely to have.

    In fact, I’m not sure I’d ever agree that CO2 and methane are “pollutants” in the classic sense of the word, since they are a part of natural cycles anyway. It’s just that, by digging up billions of tons of fossil carbon, we’ve knocked those cycles off balance.

  94. Nigel Depledge

    I just realised that some of my previous comments come over as a bit confusing about who’s standing for what w.r.t. the tea party versus the two political parties.

    In the past I’ve seen commentary where republicans fight for limits on government intervention, so probably had a bit of conflation in my head about who’s actually standing for what right now.

  95. MarcusBailius

    Wow.
    I’m British, living in Britain, and I am slightly amazed that I have a better understanding of the US Constitution than Christine O’Donnell!
    I’m also surprised that if she’s catholic, her local bishop (considering her prominence in public life) hasn’t taken her aside and explained that the official position in the Catholic Church, is rather a long way from creationism.
    Considering the other meaning of the phrase “tea baggers”, perhaps it’s not surprising she and other tea party members are so good at spouting complete b*ll*cks…!

  96. Scott B

    Each party only cares about the Constitution as far as it matches their policy ideas. There’s no reason for anyone, including politicians to actually understand the Constitution anymore. Federal government has expanded its powers far beyond the bounds of the Constitution already.

  97. @Thomas Masterson,

    I think one of the problems is that Christine O’Donnell thinks that anything counter to her views is Marxism. Therefore, if you don’t support her view 100% then you’re most likely a dirty, rotten Marxist. Given that she’s behind in the polls, I guess the majority of voters are Marxists!

  98. stogoe

    It is so frustrating that the ideas of fiscal conservatism and religious nutballery have been somehow bound together.

    You’d have a point, except that most who say they want ‘fiscal conservatism’ actually prefer ‘vastly expanded federal spending on my pet projects and screw everyone but me out of any money whatsoever’.

  99. owlbear1

    @ScottB “Federal government has expanded its powers far beyond the bounds of the Constitution already”

    Scott, why do you think they built provisions for changing the Constitution?

    Here read this:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Notice it?

    I’ll highlight it for you.

    …,in Order to form a more perfect Union,….

    See that?

    It doesn’t say, “We the people of the United States have created a perfect Union and it should stay just the way it is now!”

    And the claim that, “it isn’t the way the Founders’ intended”, really misses the Founders’ intent.

    Ever noticed that?

  100. I actually think that the phrase “Judeo-Christian Creationism” is a lie. The “Judeo” is thrown in there to make Jewish people (such as myself) feel at ease, but I don’t doubt for a second that, if they had the power, they would have public schools teach that Jesus was the messiah, there was such a thing as original sin, etc. In other words, they would teach my kids (who happen to be Jewish) religious beliefs as “fact” that are completely counter to their religious beliefs.

    Personally, though I’m Jewish and, yes even a bit religious, I don’t want my religious beliefs (or anyone else’s) taught to my child in science class. They aren’t scientific theories by any stretch of the imagination and should stay out of there. If the parents want to teach their kids, after school, that two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom combine to form water because God puts them together with Divine Tweezers, that’s fine by me.*

    The only place that religion belongs in a public school is a comparitive religion or philosophy class. And then it wouldn’t be taught as “Religion A is the One True Religion and is right when they say….” Instead it would be “Religion A believes this while Religion B believes that.”

    *Side Note: This brought to mind the image of a great big bearded man with a jeweler’s eyepiece on, sticking out his tongue, with tweezers in his hands, trying to get the hydrogen and oxygen molecules to stick. For some reason (lack of sleep, perhaps), I find this really funny. It’s times like this I wish I could draw.

  101. MattF

    Brian Davis: You said this far more articulately than I could,

    Thank you. There’s a reason I trust science so much: As a method of inquiry, it is practically the only one that takes active steps to ensure that its understanding is consistent with reality.

    I would like to see my politicians held to the same level of responsibility. Frankly, when the 2008 Presidential front-runners canceled their science debate to hold a “Compassion Forum” (or whatever feel-good moniker they gave it), I was sorely disappointed — not because I don’t want compassionate politicians (I do), but because I want humble politicians who can recognize when they are wrong when faced with facts they didn’t know, and who change their minds to fit the facts.

    Brian Davis: I see two possibilities (are there others?)

    Only one immediately occurs to me: insanity. Maybe they’re not dishonest or ignorant — they’re simply insane. Of course, I have no desire to elect an insane person to a position of power, either.

    Techy Dad: If the parents want to teach their kids, after school, that two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom combine to form water because God puts them together with Divine Tweezers, that’s fine by me.

    Oh, yeah, sure. Believe whatever you want. Just understand when you have to be consistent with reality.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t even mind so much if creationists held to a line that was closer to “We believe these things to be true — we don’t know how, and we know science disagrees, but we believe it nevertheless”. That, at least, would show a proper understanding of the facts of the matter, even if it refuses to acknowledge their pertinence and validity; it’s still scary, but it’s not as scary as their current stance, which amounts to saying, “We know we’re correct and just as factually valid, and all real science agrees with us”.

  102. Lee

    You know, it’s pretty sad when the only decent movement for those of us who are fiscally conservative and either socially liberal (Or don’t really give a darn either way) are stuck with the media setting up people like this as the figureheads. Tea Party’s own fault I suppose for allowing these types in, but honestly, if you asked, the majority of TPs wouldn’t give a flying flip about these people’s social views because the thing that matters at the moment is the monetary issues. Personally, I’m beyond caring all that much, because I think it’s all coming crashing down before too long anyway. Vote left, and they won’t stop spending your money and spy on you quietly, vote right, and they’ll spy on you openly and try and hide the fact that they’re spending your money.

    As for 63. Lawrence – You seem bitter dude. Join the club. I do think that a lot of TPs know exactly how they’d reduce spending. Cut back on all the entitlement programs. Can’t say I disagree with them. I don’t want free health care, or even mandatory insurance, and this is from someone who’s never had health insurance up until the past few years. I’ve had a lot of medical bills, still paying some of them off. Hey, at least I’m not a deadbeat leaving the hospitals to pick up the slack for me. Social security? Ask people under 40 how many actually think they’ll ever get anything worthwhile from SS…cut it now and end that sham once and for all. DoD, could stand to trim back a good bit. I’ve been in the army, it was great, and we also spend way too much on it.

    Problem is, none of this is going to happen. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it, but it’s something people can run on and get votes because we all know this is unsustainable, but nobody wants to take the hit to fix it. So it’ll go on and on and on. Phil can rant on and on and throw all TPs under the bus with this moron, and the right will lump everyone with people like Pelosi and their former king Byrd (And are these people honestly better mascots than O’Donnell?) and none of it matters. The only effect is on the speed of the trip down the slide.

  103. Gus Snarp

    I want to clarify something about this Marxist professor business. I won’t begin to try to argue about the varying definitions of Marxism/Communism/Socialism, or the fact that what the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba, etc. practice(d) is nothing remotely like what Marx promoted, but I do want to note that Marxism as an approach to the academic study of economics, history, and other fields has absolutely nothing to do with wanting a Marxism as a government/economic system. Marx contributed new and useful ways of looking at old problems, including the now widely accepted notion of economic cycles. A professor being a Marxist is more likely to refer to his or her approach to scholarship than his or her politics or any revolutionary fervor. I had professors who taught Marxist approaches, I found it very valuable, and I am not a Marxist, though I am bearded.

  104. Terry

    @35:”You mean like having politicians that force abstinence only education on public schools because they’re afraid that their kids might learn something about sex? Or that Thomas Jefferson wasn’t one of the most notable Americans of the Enlightenment because it offends their Christian revisionist history? Honestly, I don’t think I can take you seriously.”

    Yes, I exactly mean having politicians try to force abstinence only education from a moral or religious standpoint. That would be wrong. I didn’t support that move or vote for the recent president that pushed for it to happen. Thomas Jefferson is a personal hero of mine, except for the whole owning slaves thing. I think you mistake me for someone who adheres to a political party as if the political spectrum is a coin toss. I am not a Republican, a Democrat, a conservative, or progressive. I believe in tolerance, evolution, and liberalism.

    I believe that if you give government an inch, it will take that inch, another inch and another 63,358 besides. I believe that, like global warming, our current financial situation in the US is unsustainable without change. I believe that environmental solutions will not be widely explored until they are cheaper or on parity with other, wasteful, energy production or usage methods, meaning that the work of environmentalists should focus on pushing the limits of technology, as many do, rather than telling people that they are evil for doing what is best for their families at that time. I believe that marxism has been shown to be a flawed economic system, as has unrestrained capitalism and unrestrained socialism. I dislike socialism because it removes the concepts of personal responsibility for your actions and I don’t believe that is the right direction for our nation. When you prop up companies, individuals, industries, etc you have to take away rights. As a parent, I learned that I had to be there to protect my daughters when they were learning to walk, but that hovering over them every time they took a step only slowed them down. There must be a safety net, but it needs to not be a total burden. I am not a syncophant, most of all.

    I’m sorry that you can’t take me seriously. In that case, just ignore me. It’s your right.

    @Gus (36): I’m not a member of the tea party movement. I sympathize with their financial beliefs because they closely match my own. Like Thomas Paine I make a distinction between government and society. I believe that from time to time we have to renegotiate the contract with government, which is what democracy is about. Like Jefferson, and Locke, I believe that limited government is necessary to preserve the people. I also believe that a strong, central government is necessary to maintain a strongly industrialized nation. Like Marx, I believe that a strongly industrialized nation is a strongly disenfranchized nation. That is the triangle of tensions I worry about, and I believe that we need to balance that triangle to have long, fulfilled lives for our citizenry. I believe we’ve gone too far to one side.

    CO’D can do whatever she wants and be as much of an idiot as she wants, but the Tea Party movement shouldn’t be discouraged for believing in limiting government any more than social movements should be discouraged from trying to grow the government. We need that tension to get our people informed. The danger is when one side grows too powerful for the other to counter. Then the Overton window has shifted and its tough to move it back to center. Or worse, what I think is happening in this country, is that the window gets broken into two so that the two major polemics can no longer see out each others windows.

    @88: Rivers catching fire meets my definition. Ground water pollution is another. Loss of biodiversity. On a related note, deforestation to put up strip malls is also making me angry. Global warming is a significant concern, don’t get me wrong. I understand that a more significant amount of energy in the environment equals a more significant amount of chaos in that system. I’m constantly reevaluating my views on GW as well, but frankly, even if we just STOPPED burning fossil fuels today, we couldn’t undo the damage while there are a lot of other damages that we can prevent. It would be better, imho, to put money into mitigating GW (combatting the rise in disease, combatting heat related deaths with education and medical assistance, shoring up coastal regions from hurricanes and flooding, etc) and money into making non-carbon energy sources cheaper than carbon energy sources (unless you think that economics is not a viable science and economists don’t know what they are talking about), while focusing the fight against environmental damages on all the other ways the biosphere is being threatened.

    Another note. Someone up there brought up illegal immigration. Another reason I don’t fully support the Tea Party is that I can’t get behind the whole anti-immigrant thing. I don’t like illegal immigration, but we aren’t ever going to get the political will to deport them all. We’ll have to give them something like amnesty and then reform the immigration process to make it easier.

    And for those that are embarrassed to be Americans, I feel sorry for you. I’m not embarrassed by our political system. It’s what makes us great. Perhaps you

  105. Terry

    My comment above got cut off: I was going to say perhaps you are right to be saddened by the lack of understanding in our political discourse, but embarrassed, absolutely not.

  106. Chris Winter

    Michael Swanson wrote: “Are we sliding into an idiocracy or a kakistocracy? I can’t tell.”

    The band Spicewood Seven has an album “Kakistocracy.” There’s no song by that name on it, but it’s got some interesting tunes.

  107. The Tea Partiers always seem to go on and on about “those career politicians in Washington” and the “special interests” that put them there, but why don’t they ever fess up to the real reason why the same people stay so long?

    Based on the number of eligible voters in the country, the last presidential election brought barely 60% of these people to the polls. And that was for one of the most contentious elections in recent memory. Mid-term and congressional races bring strikingly lower percentages of voters to the polls. Local elections sometimes scrape by with 20% or less of the voting population!

    Could there be a more apathetic population in the western world? For a people that wave flags so much, and go on and on about “freedom” and “democracy,” we’re the biggest bunch of hypocrites in the freaking world. We even try to pass term limit laws, just so our apathy can be dealt with automatically.

    You get what you deserve, folks!

  108. Darth Robo

    —-“Interestingly, it is legal to teach creationism as fact in a state-funded school in the UK, provided that the school is a “faith” school and that the creationism is taught in RE and that the National Curriculum is taught in all classes other than RE and that the RE curriculum meets the approval of the church inspectors for that specific faith.

    But there’s nothing to stop them from timetabling 5 times as much RE as science, and there is no government oversight of the RE curriculum.”

    Very true. The unfortunate thing about the UK is that we don’t have separation of Church & State like the US. There are around fifty creationist schools in the UK, and most of the rest are faith schools. The good thing is that the non-fundie schools do stick to the science curriculum, and the Government have agreed with the scientific community that ID/Creationism is not science. This doesn’t guarantee the creationism stays out of public schools however.

    There’s a new ID “science based” organisation springing up in Scotland who support creationism in schools. That’s bad news for us, but good news for the US, as since church & state separation is not an issue over here, it means they will gladly say ID = Goddidit; exactly what the DI doesn’t want (or need).

  109. Kuhnigget, low voter turnout doesn’t necessarily mean apathy. For example, in that last presidential election I didn’t vote for any of the candidates because none of them would represent me at all. (I did vote for various ballot measures, as those are a big deal here in California.) I know some who refuse to vote at all as a matter of principle but are still very knowledgeable and concerned about politics.

  110. Calli Arcale

    TechyDad @ 101:

    I actually think that the phrase “Judeo-Christian Creationism” is a lie. The “Judeo” is thrown in there to make Jewish people (such as myself) feel at ease, but I don’t doubt for a second that, if they had the power, they would have public schools teach that Jesus was the messiah, there was such a thing as original sin, etc. In other words, they would teach my kids (who happen to be Jewish) religious beliefs as “fact” that are completely counter to their religious beliefs.

    Well, it’s not so much a lie as a demonstration of how incredibly narrow their world-view is. Creationism is based on the book of Genesis. Genesis is Jewish scripture, and holy writ to both Jews and Christians. So far, the term “Judeo-Christian” makes some sense. But where it breaks down is in the interpretation. I won’t speak for you, but Jews in my community don’t tend to believe in young-Earth Creationism, and in fact, the Bible doesn’t actually spell out Young-Earth Creationism. (Which makes O’Donnell’s ridiculous pedantry about the words “separation of church and state” not being in the Constitution quite hypocritical.) YEC is *deduced* from Genesis and a set of assumptions, and is largely the product of European Christian scholars. That’s the point at which the phrase “Judeo-Christian Creationism” becomes seriously wrong.

    And I think you’re quite right that if they had their way, they’d be teaching Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior — or right up to that point, anyway. I bet they teach the Gospels in world history class, perhaps making a token effort to not actually *say* Jesus is the Son of God, but otherwise treating the books as history books. And that would be the start of a very terrible thing, because although I am a Christian and do believe the Gospels are true, there is no external evidence of that, and the minute we allow one faith to use special pleading to get any part of its Scripture taught as fact without extensive corroboration, the floodgates are open. It would end badly for all concerned.

    Personally, though I’m Jewish and, yes even a bit religious, I don’t want my religious beliefs (or anyone else’s) taught to my child in science class.

    Amen to that. I want my kids taught SCIENCE in science class. If I want to teach them that God’s playing an immense practical joke on all of us and the world is really only 6,000 years old, that’s my problem, not the schools.

  111. @ Ken Hagler:

    in that last presidential election I didn’t vote for any of the candidates because none of them would represent me at all.

    And that helps to get rid of the poor representatives how, exactly?

    My point was, if people don’t like their representatives in Congress, there are constitutional provisions that allow for their removal, including running for office yourself.

    EDIT: yes, that last comment was somewhat facetious. Unless you’ve got backing from the monied interests that really run this country, you haven’t got a snowball’s chance.

  112. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 111. Ken Hagler & Kuhnigget : In Australia we have compulsory voting. Well, everyone has to get their name crossed off at the ballot box anywhay even if all they do is walk out afterwards or spoil their paper. Still, while there are some who get fined for not voting checking their names off at the polling station it does cuase a high turn out.

    @92. Gammidgy Says:

    Some of us in the UK take these matters very seriously. The US exports its creationist nonsense and we’d like it to stop.

    Sadly Australia isn’t immune either. As I was browsing the newsagent earlier today looking for the latest astronomy magazines I saw a Creationist rag for sale. When I was delivering hay bales & stuff for work I regularly had to deliver to a “Creation ministries Australia” property. Creationists and Christian fundamentalists are a very small minority here and most people view them with utter scorn and contempt – but they are over here too.

    We have had several small but extreme Christian “morality” parties incl. Stephen Fielding’s “Family First” and at the last elections – state and federal – had a “Climate Skeptics Party” campaigning for office. Plus a Liberal ( which is the conservative party over here confusingly enough for y’all) party leadership tussle last year where Malcolm Turnbull, a leader who wanted to act against AGW was overthrown and replaced by one who famously called climate change “c**p” aided by a party kingmaker who thinks AGW is a communist plot. :-(

    There’s idiots everywhere on this planet I’m afraid. :-(

    Worse yet there are politicians keen to pander to them everywhere too. :-(

    Depressing. :-(

  113. Gimlet

    On the original topic of the post, and directly addressing the footnote, I think Prof. Ann Althouse gets it: http://althouse.blogspot.com/2010/10/odonnell-and-coons-on-separation-of.html

    Given that O’Donnell isn’t a lawyer, and given most people couldn’t tell me what the 16th and 17th Amendments even address (let alone the exact words) without resorting to Wikipedia, I’m not super troubled by this. I do expect my Senators to apply the Constitution to prospective legislation; and I expect them to go to the document itself, rather than rely on memory, and to also get advice from their staff attorneys. Coons is a lawyer, and I’d expect the same from him.

  114. Calli Arcale

    Random observation just occurred to me. Most “evangelicals” are Protestants, including the fundamentalists who are pushing Creationism in the schools and “Christian values” (whatever that means) in government. Protestantism is usually traced to Martin Luther and the Reformation (rightly or wrongly; in truth, it was quite a bit more than just him; the time was ripe for such a thing).

    The irony is that not only is Protestantism usually traced to Martin Luther, but so is the separation of church and state, in his doctrine of two kingdoms and his idea of the “liberty of conscience.” Faith cannot be coerced, heresy cannot be repelled by force. But even now, five hundred years later, people have trouble with the concept and want to legislate morality, go to war with Islam, and teach the doctrine of certain Christian sects as if it were science.

  115. Messier Tidy Upper

    @101. TechyDad Says:

    I actually think that the phrase “Judeo-Christian Creationism” is a lie. The “Judeo” is thrown in there to make Jewish people (such as myself) feel at ease, but I don’t doubt for a second that, if they had the power, they would have public schools teach that Jesus was the messiah, there was such a thing as original sin, etc. In other words, they would teach my kids (who happen to be Jewish) religious beliefs as “fact” that are completely counter to their religious beliefs.

    Agreed. I think that is spot on, sadly. :-(

    Just as the only reason I think they support Israel is because it plays a key role in “endtimes” Bible prophecy as opposed to supporting Israel because, hey, its the right thing to do & the Jewish state deserves to exist in peace as a homeland for the most persecuted religious group in history.

    If the parents want to teach their kids, after school, that two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom combine to form water because God puts them together with Divine Tweezers, that’s fine by me.* …

    *Side Note: This brought to mind the image of a great big bearded man with a jeweler’s eyepiece on, sticking out his tongue, with tweezers in his hands, trying to get the hydrogen and oxygen molecules to stick. For some reason (lack of sleep, perhaps), I find this really funny. It’s times like this I wish I could draw.

    LOL. Nice image! That cheers me up some & I could use that right now – Thanks. ;-)

  116. AJ in CA

    @Calli Arcale: I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if in doing a meta-analysis of the human genome, scientists found an encoded message that said something to the effect of

    “Bwahahaha! Gotcha! You were taking it all so seriously, too. Hairless primates! Hahahaha!
    Whew. Seriously, thanks for being a good sport about it all.
    P.S.: Stop pooping where you eat. Even lemurs know that much.
    –The Big Guy ” :D

  117. mike burkhart

    Phil how can you expect canidates runing for office to know the Constiution when most of the American people don’t know what the Consitution is or what it says .And even a large number of politcal activeists think it should be run thro a paper shreder and they should dictate what rights everybody should have . Thats why we have politcal corectnes form both the left and right.The United States is in big trouble.

  118. Mike Mullen

    As an outsider I have to ask where does this notion that the Republicans are ‘fiscal conservatives’ come from? As far as I can see the last few Republican administrations have spent money like it was going out of fashion. BTW if anyone want a glimpse at what ‘smaller government’ means in practice I suggest they look at the ‘spending review’ just carried out by the UK government.

  119. Naomi

    Isn’t the official position of the Vatican that evolution is true? So she’s a bad Catholic, too. Heh.

    Ugh, I don’t know what’s sadder – the fact that a senate candidate doesn’t know the constitution, or the fact that I, an Australian who’s NEVER STUDIED AMERICAN POLITICS, seems to know it better than she does.

  120. Ryan

    Video doesn’t have anything to do with the title of the story. :-/

  121. ND

    I think I know why she was laughing when the crowd was laughing. Being made fun of academics is political points with her base. Being ridiculed is good since it reinforces that she’s not part of the establishment. Her base is not going to look too hard through her red herring usage of the literal wording of the 1st amendment.

  122. Jack

    In my part of the world the term we would use to describe this young lady is, ‘As ignorant as pig sh*t.’

    You guys worry us looking in from outside sometimes.

  123. Mike Mullen wrote:

    “As an outsider I have to ask where does this notion that the Republicans are ‘fiscal conservatives’ come from? As far as I can see the last few Republican administrations have spent money like it was going out of fashion.”

    The same place as the notion that Democrats care about civil liberties. It’s just a meaningless way to differentiate which team they’re on, and gets dropped the moment they’re in power. It’s just like two football teams wearing different colored uniforms–it provides a way for their fans to tell who to root for, but in the end they’re all playing football.

    Interesting historical note: the early tea party protests, before it became a movement, were in the last year of the Bush administration and were almost all Democrats and Libertarians, with a handful of genuine conservatives (as opposed to Republicans) who were upset about the blatant corruption of the huge bailouts to very wealthy and politically connected industries. As soon as Obama entered office the Democrats disappeared, having suddenly discovered that those bailouts were actually vitally necessary to prevent the total destruction of life as we know it, and the Republicans (who had previously been convinced that the bailouts were vitally necessary to prevent the total destruction of life as we know it) moved in to protest the blatant corruption of huge bailouts to very wealthy and politically connected industries.

  124. Jeffersonian

    @116
    Yes, but only insofar as Luther knew he was a thorn in the side of Holy Roman hegemony. Otherwise you can bet he’d have been against the separation of C/S. He had plenty of allies – enough that the church knew they had to accommodate “germany” in the end. In his time, allies were church leaders, as was the “state”. Makes it hard to find similarities today.

    @101
    Evangelicals steal from the Torah when it suits them (and historically the whole canonizing of the Pentateuch by the Catholics had an anti-semitic basis) and deny it when they find passages they don’t agree with. Most American evangelicals don’t even know what “judeo” means.

  125. Nigel Depledge

    Scott B (96) said:

    . . . Federal government has expanded its powers far beyond the bounds of the Constitution already.

    You don’t mention why you think this is relevant.

    Neither do you mention whether you think it is a good thing or a bad thing, nor why anyone else should agree with you (or, indeed, care what you say).

    So:
    Why is this relevant?
    Can you support that it is actually true (or do you expect us to take your word for it)?
    Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
    Why has this expansion of federal powers occurred?
    Within the context of why it has occurred, why do you think it is a good / bad thing (according to your answer to the relevant previous question)?

  126. Nigel Depledge

    Ken Hagler (111) said:

    Kuhnigget, low voter turnout doesn’t necessarily mean apathy. For example, in that last presidential election I didn’t vote for any of the candidates because none of them would represent me at all. (I did vote for various ballot measures, as those are a big deal here in California.) I know some who refuse to vote at all as a matter of principle but are still very knowledgeable and concerned about politics.

    This strategy is self-defeating.

    If you refuse to turn up at all, the electoral system interprets that as apathy. If you wish to express that no candidate represents you, you should turn up and mark your ballot paper as an abstention.

  127. Scott B

    @Nigel Depledge:

    I’m simply pointing out to a liberal leaning blog how it’s hypocritical to use the Constitutional argument against conservatives while many liberal policies also show a lack of care for the Constitution.

    You can take my word or not. I tend to read the Constitution as literally as possible and believe the idea was for any changes to be made through the amendment process. The 10th Amendment states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” To me that clearly means that any powers not specifically determined to be federal responsibilities should be left up to the states or more local governments.

    Just a few areas where I believe the federal government has overstepped their bounds:

    1. Drug Policy – Notice how it was believed an amendment was needed for prohibition but not for modern regulation. I overall think this is a bad thing that’s lead to wasted tax dollars any millions of innocent people put into prison that are not truly dangers to society.

    2. Education – Where in the Constitution is the power given? The federal government should technically have no say on individual state policies and should be using no tax dollars to influence those policies. Overall, I think a federal education policy is a good thing. Doesn’t make it more Constitutional though.

    3. Healthcare – Another are that the federal government was not specifically given power over. I’m not even sure how the commerce clause can be bastardized to fit this one. I think a federal policy that removed or at least highly regulated insurance provides would be a net good for the country. The current bill is not though. Again, Constitutionality is not a right/wrong choice though.

    4. Our treatment of “illegal combatants” – The arguments conservatives use that the government is not bound by the Constitution when dealing with foreigners is a bunch of bull. The Constitution is a set of limitation on the power of the federal government in their interactions with all other governments and people regardless of their citizenship. This will be a blight on the trustworthiness of our government for years to come.

    The expantion of powers has occurred due to a number of factors. It basically comes down to the amendment process requires an extremely high amount of agreement amongst the states to pass anything. Yet, people, whether they be conservative or liberal, want to pass through whatever they think is right regardless of what the Constitution says. So politicians happily oblige and politically motivated judges support those changes through complicated inurpretations of the Constitution. In short, as with all problems in our government, it boils down to the will of the people since they are the base of power in a democratic system.

    From a overall viewpoint, ignoring our Constitution is a bad thing. While I might think some policies that should be unconstitutional are net benefits to the people, the Constitution was set up as a strict compromise between the states and federal government in an effort to maximize the liberty of the people. It sets up a nice framework for government which maximizes the longevity and stability of the government while at the cost of efficiency. Requiring a 3/4 majority of states approval to expand the powers of the federal government sets a high bar that ensures that only the most obvious and agreed to changes are made. Without this high bar, our republic becomes something closer to a democracy which is more controlled by the tyranny of the majority. Not even a majority is required. All you need is a bigger minority than other minorities. This will allow power to be more consolidated at a federal level which will lead to more corruption. The combination of more corruption and each indivudual having less say in their laws will lead to people shunning their responsibility, blaming problems on the government on not on themselves and other people. This only allows corruption to expand further which even smaller groups of people needed to push through their agenda. This will eventually lead to the federal government dominating peoples’ lives without their say and more quickly lead to the collapse of the government.

  128. DebMor

    When you take the time to lambaste current Senators for their complete disregard of the Constitution, then start ranting about candidates, OK?

    Or , let me guess, as long as they vote for unconstitutional giveaways, then the Constitution isnt in the forefront of your concerns?

  129. Eight

    @101, @112, @117, @127
    Uh oh, looks like I opened a can of worms. When I was applying labels I was referring to the origin of the creation myth being taught – a myth shared in multiple religions – not the political/religious motivation behind those pushing for creationism. Maybe “Abrahamic creationism” would have been a better term than “Judeo-Christian creationism” since the later leaves out Islam (for some reason I couldn’t think of a term referring to all three plus the more ancient middle eastern lore it is based on all at once – sorry).

    If you couldn’t tell from the rest of my comment, I think of creation myth (of any origin) within the same standards. These are also the same standards I apply to the Greek epics or Mark Twain’s novels or modern science fiction. They all have a place and should be understood and analyzed within context.

    Would you agree that a definition of “creationism” is the teaching of a historical text out of context and interpreting it literally in place of modern discoveries? This could happen with any creation myth or historical text, except that most of the world accepts the discoveries of modern science as fact (because it’s been proven. And scientists are willing to admit when a theory is still just a theory and could be disproved at any time). At this point in time we’ve only got one (general) type of creationism based on the creation myth shared by Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I suppose a better term would have been “Abrahamic creationism” (my fault for not wracking my brain long enough to come up with the right terminology).

    I can’t remember Jesus ever being mentioned as a part of creationism, so I’m a little confused how you’d assume the two are automatically related (sure it’s the super-conservative Christians who are touting creationism all over the place and I wouldn’t doubt if someone has tried to associate the two). I guess I figured* a creationism class would cover lore up to the “Great Flood” that killed all the unicorns and dinosaurs**: http://robotchicken.wikia.com/wiki/Noah%27s_Rejects
    Anything more than that is blatantly religious and has nothing to do with their beliefs about creation.**

    * I’m sorry for being the only one to assume that creationists would be even marginally rational and even attempt to “stick to the facts” without going on to teach the whole bible literally – that would just be silly.

    ** If you can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic. It is frustrating to see any text taken out of context, and especially so when creation myths are interpreted literally.

    Except maybe for Calvino’s Cosmicomics.**

  130. @ Eight:

    I can’t remember Jesus ever being mentioned as a part of creationism

    At the “Creation Science” Institute (or whatever) in Bumfahrt, Tennessee (or wherever) there’s a very impressive painting of Jesus cuddling a cute lil’ raptor.

  131. Gunnar

    @Calli #116

    “The irony is that not only is Protestantism usually traced to Martin Luther, but so is the separation of church and state, in his doctrine of two kingdoms and his idea of the “liberty of conscience.”

    Yet, despite Martin Luther’s supposed advocacy of seperation of church and state, Lutheranism is (or at least was) the official state religion of all the Skandinavian countries, and citizens of those countries who don’t formally declare membership in another religion are required to pay an annual Church Tax (Kirkeskat) to finance it and pay the salaries of Lutheran priests and other State Church officials. This is despite the fact that only a very tiny percentage of Lutherans in these countries actually attend church on anything resembling a regular basis (or even take religion seriously). The monarchs who are the titular heads of these countries are (or at least used to be) required to be members of the Lutheran Church.

  132. gia

    Why do you keep saying that her past doesn’t worry you? I find it very unpleasant that so many people, including the goose, pardon, O’Donnell herself believe that having dabbled in paganism should be something shameful and worrying. What is even more unpleasant, no, downright offensive, is that both her, and apparently you, think that Wicca=Satanism. This statement is as far away from the truth as it could be. There’s nothing wrong in being a Wiccan, or at least it’s not any more wronger than being a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, etc. The fact that O’Donnell herself thinks that there IS something wrong with that, that the media keeps perpetuating this narrow-minded, bigoted lie is very disturbing. That said, the woman is ignorant about her own past, she’s ignorant about religion (in which she purports she believes in, so at the very least she could educate herself about that) it’s not surprising she would be ignorant about secular law as well. Frankly, it’s always embarrassing to hear her speak – every time she opens her mouth drivel comes out. Not to mention her remarks about Marxism. I am willing to bet everything I own that she has never in her life read a single line written by Karl Marx. It’s the same thing as claiming that there’s something wrong with being a Wiccan – thinking that there’s something wrong with accepting some of Marx’ ideas, for which she obviously knows nothing about, just like 99% of her fellow conservatives, be it Republicans or Teabaggers. That said, I’ve had the impression that plenty if Democrats haven’t read Marx either. He’s just used as a word to scare people, an abstract boogeyman in the political closet.

  133. @ Gia:

    Not to speak for the good doctor, but I don’t think that’s what he was getting at at all. He brings up the whole past issue because that is what the media glommed onto and made such a big deal about. What O’Donnell did or believed back then is not as important as what she believes or does now. As Dr. Plait correctly observed, her college days, and whether she practiced witchcraft or satanism or Pilsbury Doughboyism just doesn’t matter.

    Rag on O’Donnell all you want for her “witchcraft” statements, but I doubt you’d find such statements on Phil’s blog….unless they were included among a post about religious nuttiness in general.

  134. gia

    @kuhnigget:

    I, personally, find it odd that he needs to repeat so many times that he doesn’t care what she believed in when in college. It’s just, the whole witchcraft thing should be a complete non-issue, pagans are no more wackier than any other person who has some kind of religion. Frankly, I’ve found those I know to be even more pleasant to talk to because they dislike to proselytize and respect other people’s views, unlike some Christians and other religious folk.

    True, you may be right that he wasn’t implying that one thing was worse than the other, but it’s the vibe I got. It’s also true that I might be biased after watching the media (and O’Donell herself) blowing the witchcraft thing out of proportion like it’s some kind of a huge scandal that she, *gasp* , might have been interested in something different than Christianity. And to be honest, I personally think that given the kind of drivel she spouts based on her current beliefs her experimentation back then is the least of her problems.

  135. And to be honest, I personally think that given the kind of drivel she spouts based on her current beliefs her experimentation back then is the least of her problems.

    To put it mildly.

  136. Dan

    I’d care more about one potential senator’s opinions on creation if everyone else in Washington didn’t publicly claim to be fervent believers in an invisible, all-powerful god.

    +- 1 more religious idiot in DC? No big deal… That they accept a magical omnipotent god exists is more worrying then any particular facet of that belief…

    Or maybe our leaders are all cynical liars who are just pretending to believe to get votes. Which might be a bigger problem really…

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