Tag: conservative

What’s In A Label?

May 19, 2010 | By | 5 Replies More
What’s In A Label?

Conservative.

Liberal.

We act as if we know what these labels mean. Conservatives are traditionalists, fiscally opposed to anything that smacks of gambling, private, often religious, and pedantic on what they consider “appropriate” in either government or personal conduct.

Liberals, on the other hand, are often taken for progressive, willing to spend social capital to repair perceived problems, tolerant, agnostic if not atheist, and overly-concerned with a definition of justice that ought to be all-encompassing rather than what they perceive as sinecure for the privileged.

Well. Over on Facebook I posted a brief quote (my own) to boil down the actual underlying distinctions.

Conservatives are those who don’t like what other people are doing, Liberals are those who don’t like what other people are doing to other people.

It was meant to be taken as humorous. But I’m not being entirely flip here. When you look at it, and try to define the common factor in much that passes for conservative posteuring—of any country, any background, anywhere—it always comes down to one group trying to stop another group from Doing Things We Don’t Approve.

I heard a news report this morning (on NPR—I unabashedly don’t pay attention to any other news source, I find them all utterly biased) from Pakistan about the university scene there, and one bit caught my attention—at a campus in Punjabi, conservative students who find men and women sitting too close together interfere and move them apart. At a game of Truth or Dare, conservative students pulled participants out and beat them.

How does this apply here? Well, here’s a clip from P.Z. Meyers’ Pharyngula to illustrate:
Rising Sun School in Maryland has the standard default take-it-for-granted attitude that Christianity is just fine — there’s the usual well-funded and usually teacher-promoted evangelical groups, like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — and when one student tried to form a club for non-religious students…well, you can guess what happened.

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The conservative rewriting of U.S. history

April 3, 2010 | By | 8 Replies More
The conservative rewriting of U.S. history

McClatchy has published a video and a written summary of conservatives’ recent efforts to rewrite history.

This evidence-free approach to history is surreal. How can this possibly be happening? It is apparent that these rewrites of history are evidence of the confirmation bias running at full throttle. I recently came across this vivid description of this phenomenon in a book called A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives (2006), by Cordelia Fine:

Reasoning is the vain brain’s of . . . powerful protectorate. This might seem a little odd. Isn’t reasoning supposed to be the compass that guides us toward the truth, not saves us from it? It seems not–particularly when our ego is under attack. In fact, the best we can say for our gift of thinking in these circumstances is that we do at least recognize that conclusions cannot be drawn out of thin air: we need a bit of evidence to support our case. The problem is that we behave like a smart lawyer searching for evidence to bolster his client’s case, rather than a jury searching for the truth. As we’ve seen, memory is often the overzealous secretary who assists in this process by hiding or destroying files that harbor unwanted information. Only when enough of the objectionable stuff has been shredded dare we take a look. Evidence that supports your case is quickly accepted, and the legal assistants are sent out to find more of the same. However, evidence that threatens reason’s most important client–you–is subjected to grueling cross-examination. Accuracy, validity, and plausibility all come under attack on the witness stand. The case is soon won. A victory for justice and truth, you think, conveniently ignoring the fact that yours was the only lawyer in the courtroom.

(Page 13)

Fine adds this additional description toward the end of her book:

Evidence that fits with our beliefs is quickly waved through the mental border control. Counter-evidence, on the other hand, must submit to close interrogation and even then will probably not be allowed in. As a result, people can wind up holding their beliefs even more strongly after seeing counter-evidence. It’s as if we think, “Well, if that’s the best that the other side can come up with then I really must be right.” This phenomenon, called “belief polarization,” may help to explain why attempting to disillusion people of their perverse misconceptions is so often futile.

(Page 108)

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Conservative Rewrites the Bible

October 11, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
Conservative Rewrites the Bible

We’ve featured Andy, son of Phyllis Schafly and his anti-reason heavily monitored blog site, Conservapedia before. His latest project is to create an edited version of the Bible better suited to American Reactionary philosophy.

Yes, he is removing all those Liberal parts where the inerrant Word of God must be wrong.

Mark C. Chu-Carroll (Good Math blog) wrote The Conservative Rewrite of the Bible where he gives specific examples of what is being edited and why. Like removing any mention of “government”, and merging all the names of God to avoid confusion. Even God, in his 10 Commandments, says to forsake all those other Gods over which he has no control and only worship him.

Schlafly represents this as a new, better translation. But he is using the KJV as his primary source. The English translation with the most known inconsistencies from original source material is his best version from which to start. Well, might as well. After all, he will be “fixing” God’s Word.

Even conservative Christians that I know think that this is a crazy project.

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Traditional Marriage

September 25, 2009 | By | 10 Replies More
Traditional Marriage

We often hear religious conservatives arguing that we need to preserve “traditional marriage.” What do they mean by “traditional marriage”?

At Daylight Atheism, Ebonmuse delves into the details of one conservative version of “marriage,” and it’s not about “1950s, smiling-wife-and-picket-fence families.” It is not a partnership of equals. In fact, it appears to be a relationship based on power, where abuse of that power has no ill-consequences for the abuser.

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Anti-abortion = anti-contraception?

July 31, 2009 | By | 11 Replies More
Anti-abortion = anti-contraception?

One of the first posts I wrote at this site was an in-depth look at a “pregnancy resource center” which, to my dismay excelled at spreading untruths about abortion and did its best to discourage the use of effective birth control. What a strange thing, I thought, to discourage methods that would prevent accidental pregnancy which would, in turn, lower the abortion rate. Maybe fighting effective birth control (i.e., methods that don’t exclusive rely on just say no) would be good for repeat business at the “pregnancy resource center,” but it is terrible for the unwitting clients of these highly dysfunction centers.

Along comes this Alternet post by Christina Page, “Why the Anti-Choice Movement Is on the Verge of Civil War.” This is a fascinating look at the anti-choice movement’s big schism:

The question now is: ‘are you pro-life and pro-contraception, therefore trying to reduce the need for abortions, or are you pro-life and against contraception and you hope that people’s lives improve just by hoping it, wishing it so.'”

And consider this–I think that Page’s logic is impeccable:

It may come as a shock to most pro-life Americans, but there’s not one pro-life group in the United States that supports contraception. Rather, many lead campaigns against contraception. As [anti-abortion yet pro-contraception] Congressman [Tim] Ryan explained, “I think the pro-life groups are finding themselves further and further removed from the mainstream; they’re on the fringe of this debate.” Considering that the average woman spends 23 years of her life trying not to get pregnant, the anti-contraception approach depends on a scourge of sexless marriages or a lot of wishful thinking.

Where does this lead? If you aren’t for preventing accidental pregnancies, you can’t truly be anti-abortion. Yet that is the situation with all major anti-abortion groups. For example, none of them support Ryan’s legislation that would increase funding to make birth control available, promote effective sex-ed and provide financial incentives for adoption. Yet no pro-life group supports his efforts. Many groups staunchly oppose the use of real birth control (e.g., this one). On the other hand, most pro-life individuals support his efforts. Not surprising, in that 80% of pro-life individuals (90% of Catholics!) support the availability of effective birth control. Page presents many other eye-popping stats in her article.

The bottom line?

The greatest opportunity to reduce the need for abortion is to focus the 95% of unintended pregnancies that are highly preventable. The plan is simple: address the lack of and incorrect use of contraception.

This is a solution that virtually all individuals agree on. But all we get from “pro-life” groups is defiance. Therefore, pro-life groups (such as Democrats for Life) are wholly unaccountable to their constituents.

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Republican Scientists are rare

July 10, 2009 | By | Reply More
Republican Scientists are rare

PEW has issued new research findings showing that relatively few scientists are political conservatives. Only 6% of scientists identify themselves as Republicans:

Most scientists identify as Democrats (55%), while 32% identify as independents and just 6% say they are Republicans. When the leanings of independents are considered, fully 81% identify as Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, compared with 12% who either identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP.

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Supreme Court Justice John Roberts: “doctrinaire conservative”

May 18, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Supreme Court Justice John Roberts:  “doctrinaire conservative”

The New Yorker has published a detailed article on the track record of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. The conclusion is that he is a “doctrinaire conservative.” Here’s an excerpt:

His jurisprudence, as Chief Justice, Roberts said, would be characterized by “modesty and humility.” After four years on the Court, however, Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia, who has embodied judicial conservatism during a generation of service on the Supreme Court, Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.

But isn’t Roberts simply following the law?

There is an incredible amount of existing legal precedent (thousands of cases have been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and many thousands of additional cases have been decided by the numerous federal courts of appeals and federal district courts. Careful readings of these cases demonstrate that considerable numbers of these legal holdings conflict in both minor and major ways with one another. This ever-growing sometimes convoluted body of decided cases is the backdrop the work of judges, and they are charged to follow precedent, except when they choose not to, and–this is a critical point–their breaks from precedent (e.g., Brown v. Board of Education) constitute some of the Court’s best moments. This backdrop makes for a strange formula for jurisprudential “rigor.” So let’s not pretend that judges are simply sitting on the bench to “follow the law” as though they were solving binomial equations. There is immense opportunity to insert one’s own personal biases in a legal opinion, thanks to the many paths offered by precedent combined with human ingenuity. Recent examples of legal analysis by Jay Bybee (now JUDGE Bybee) would suggest that there is no limitation at all–that legal reasoning is merely a political power exercised by a person wearing a robe.

Lest someone think that this is a hatchet piece on Roberts, I need to point out that I am sympathetic with a few of Roberts “conservative” themes. As one example, I am highly suspicious of judicial remedies for “racial” discrimination where those remedies impose widespread societal changes based on “race.” We should be moving away from a belief in “race,” not further legitimizing it. My personal bias is that we need to get to the point where we can all proudly say that we are all human beings or even that “We are all Africans.”

No one denies that Roberts is affable or that he is a lawyer who knows “the law” inside and out. Based on the convoluted set of existing law, though, combined with the immense discretion available to judges (under the cloak of “follow the law”), lawyers and judges can almost always find principles and cases to support almost any position they care to take. Throughout the history of jurisprudence, then, recurring questions are how should a judge choose among competing precedent and how should a judge apply that precedent? The point was illustrated well by Barack Obama, who as a Senator cast a vote opposing the appointment of Roberts:

In his Senate speech on that vote, Obama praised Roberts’s intellect and integrity and said that he would trust his judgment in about ninety-five per cent of the cases before the Supreme Court. “In those five per cent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision,” Obama said. “In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions . . . the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.” Obama did not trust Roberts’s heart.

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The storms are still gathering . . . but these are better

April 17, 2009 | By | Reply More
The storms are still gathering . . . but these are better

In response to one of Hank’s posts from a week or so ago, Erich posted the Internet commercial put out by NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, which is, in my mind, almost a parody of itself. The ridiculous assumptions they put forth – that THEIR freedoms are at-risk, that schools are teaching gay marriage, that they are losing something if gay men and women are allowed to marry – would be laughable if not for the fact that a portion of our population will watch it and nod vigorously in agreement.

I think these “storms” say it better:

On YouTube, you’ll actually find many of these parodies – thank goodness so many jumped on board to point out the utter absurdity of that horrible ad.

[If you’re viewing this post from the home page, click on the title for 2 additional parodies.]

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The Jindal Rebuttal

February 25, 2009 | By | 6 Replies More
The Jindal Rebuttal

I’ve mentioned the Louisiana Gov before, as he signed a Discovery Institute plan to allow creationism in biology classrooms into law. It shouldn’t have surprised me that Bobby Jindal was the chosen figurehead to rebut the first public Obama address to Congress. After all, he is young and dark with at least one foreigner for a parent. It seems a natural, from a certain game-playing point of view.

But the talking points have all been heard before. His speech may well have been finalized weeks ago. The allegations of “pork” about the massive stimulus bill are what irk me. The examples cited are so silly, I wonder how anyone believes them. The sum of all the line items to which so-called conservatives object add up to a fraction of the bill.

One line item he cited was a small fraction of a billion to upgrade aging government vehicles to newer, more fuel efficient models: Pure pork to the failing American Auto makers? It’s significantly less than what they are asking for as an encore direct handout.

There were mentions of some classic pork projects, like energy research and environmental studies. No one really needs to know how to prevent the collapse of our lifestyle, civilization, or species. Do they?

One allegation that puzzles me every time a conservative says it is that this stimulus bill builds a bigger government. How? One of the issues with it is that no bureaucracy was set up to monitor spending. No new agencies are being created, nor are existing ones being expanded. Exactly how is this spending measure making government bigger?

The biggest buildup of Big Brother government agencies was enacted by the previous administration. Why didn’t they object for the last 7 years? Homeland security is a bureaucracy established to coordinate the bureaucracies sitting on top of the agencies that actually do things having to do with internal and external security.

His parable of volunteer Katrina rescue boats was well aimed. They had to violate insurance regulations as if the flooding of a city was a non-typical circumstance. But it is a poor illustration of Big Brother governance. That the Dubya appointed management of FEMA failed, and his backup, Dubya himself, failed and that the manpower established to deal with such events was engaged on a foreign mission for which the Army was inadequate is hardly proof that government itself is a bad organization to organize rescue efforts.

But it does prove that we should be more careful in electing and appointing those in charge.

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