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Posts Tagged ‘Conservatives’

Make them talk about evolution: Why won’t a single Republican presidential candidate admit that Darwin’s right?

In U.S. Politics on February 2, 2016 at 8:15 AM

Make them talk about evolution: Why won't a single Republican presidential candidate admit that Darwin's right

(Credit: AP/Reuters/J Pat Carter/Brian Snyder/Chuck Burton/James Lawler Duggan)

SALON

They don’t believe in science, and pander to evangelicals — as a result, the Republicans remain a party of stupid

“You say man evolved from an ape . . . but if we evolved from an ape, why is an ape still an ape and a person still a person?”

It’s a question often asked by religious critics of the theory of evolution. To answer it Brown University Professor Kenneth Miller reached back to expert-witness testimony he delivered in a Harrisburg courtroom a decade earlier. Miller was speaking at a three-day symposium celebrating the 10th anniversary of the December 2005Kitzmiller decision, which dashed evangelicals’ hopes that “intelligent design” could be taught in public schools as a counter-theory to evolution.

First, he said, man didn’t evolve from an ape, but man and the other great apes share a common ancestor.

The proof? The great apes most closely related to humans have two pairs of 24 chromosomes while humans have two pairs of 23, so if Darwin was right about common ancestry, where did the 24th chromosome go? The answer, the biology professor said, is found in the head-to-head fusion of two chromosomes, unique to human lineage and evidence that our predecessors had two pairs of 24 chromosomes.

It’s one of those findings that leaves you bedazzled with the beauty and elegance of science, if you go in for that sort of thing.

Not everyone in the standing-room-only crowd in the York College auditorium was buying it.

A man in his sixties sitting at the end of the third row stood up, asked a question, then turned to face the audience. Waving a Bible held high above his head he shouted, “All the answers you need are right here in this book! All the answers!”

The crowd began to jeer as Miller leaned toward the microphone and said the man with the Bible was doing a perfect impersonation of Captain Robert FitzRoy, the British vice-admiral who sailed Charles Darwin halfway around the world on the HMS Beagle, only to regret it. After Darwin published The Origin of Species, FitzRoy confronted him at an Oxford debate, “raising a heavy Bible above his head and imploring the audience to believe in God rather than man.”

This latter-day Admiral FitzRoy was Larry Reeser. I first encountered him (and Miller) 10 years ago in pre-trial depositions filed in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Districtcase. When Reeser was working at Dover High School during summer break, he had ripped a student’s “ascent of man” mural from a biology classroom wall and burned it. His act of pious vandalism got him name-checked in a 139-page legal opinion that prohibits the teaching of any form of biblical creationism in public school science classrooms.

“In the midst of this panoply, there arose the astonishing story of an evolution mural that was taken from a classroom and destroyed in 2002 by Larry Reeser, the head of buildings and grounds for the DASD,” Judge John E. Jones III wrote.

I covered the six-week trial in Harrisburg in 2005. It’s worth returning to because Judge Jones (a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench) wrote a magisterial opinion, which, while binding only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, serves as a deterrent to any public school official who would introduce biblical creationism into a science curriculum anywhere in the country.

More important, as the Republican presidential campaign caravan turns toward Iowa, and shortly thereafter South Carolina, the lawsuit is a window into the world of fundamentalist Christians, who dominate the primaries in both states and without whom Republicans cannot win a presidential election.

SCOPES MONKEY TRIAL REDUX

In brief, a fundamentalist majority of the Dover (population 1,999) School Board threatened to block the adoption of a biology textbook that one board member described as “laced with Darwinism”––unless the district purchased a companion set of Christian biology texts (Of Pandas and People). The board majority also required teachers to read an evolution disclaimer to all students enrolled in ninth-grade biology. School board members secretly solicited donations to purchase the Christian biology textbooks, required teachers and students to watch a video produced by a religious advocacy group opposed to Darwin’s version of evolution (there is no other), and ignored the chairwoman of the science department who warned that what teachers were required to do was illegal. It was; and the board’s conduct made them ideal defendants in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, Americans for Separation of Church and State, the National Center for Science Education, and a half dozen courageous parents and teachers in Dover.

The board had retained the Roman Catholic Thomas More Law Center to advise them at no cost in textbook selection and to defend them if they were sued. The quality of the pro bono defense provided by Thomas More attorneys suggests that board members got what they paid for. The fundamentalist majority was voted out of office after Judge Jones handed down his December 2005 decision, but not before saddling the small, rural school district with $1 million in court costs and attorneys’ fees.

The judge could have enjoined the teaching of intelligent design in Dover’s schools, assigned responsibility for legal fees, and headed for the golf course. Instead, he wrote an opinion that defined intelligent design as creationism masquerading as science, and upheld the teaching of evolution in public schools. He criticized the “breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision” and observed that it was “ironic that several of these individuals who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

He referred his findings to the U.S. attorney, because it was evident that some members of the board had committed perjury.

Here’s the thing: every decision the fundamentalist Christians on the Dover School Board made, in public or behind closed doors, was rational. To adopt a biology textbook “laced with Darwinism” was to expose children to a “theory” that contradicted biblical teaching that God created man in his image at exactly the same time he created “fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings”––all beings exactly as they exist today.

For a biblical literalist, allowing a teacher to expose a child to Darwin’s scientific findings is to risk consigning that child to hell. Exploring the diverse speciation of finches on the Galapagos Islands might be acceptable; teaching that man shares a common ancestor with chimps, orangutans, and bonobos is a threat to a belief system grounded in a literal reading of the Book of Genesis.

Underlying the venality, thuggishness, and dishonesty of the fundamentalist majority on Dover’s school board and the constituents who supported them was a genuine fear that science education would undermine the faith of their children. Like the janitor who burned the mural, they cannot change. And they are 36 percent of the Republican Party nationwide, according to the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals will account for 60 percent of Republican voters in the Iowa Caucuses, says Pew. They will make up from 50 to 70 percent of South Carolina’s Republican primary voters, according to political scientist and pollster Larry Sabato.

UNEVOLVED CANDIDATES (Cont’d here)

Seen on the Internet Too – 8-5-2015

In U.S. Politics on August 5, 2015 at 7:35 PM

THEY WANT ANOTHER SHUTDOWN

In U.S. Politics on July 31, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Erick Erickson (Credit: Fox News)

SALON

Republicans know how bad a government shutdown over abortion would be, but Ted Cruz and Erick Erickson DGAF

The big news in conservative media land over the past couple of weeks has been a series of undercover “sting” videos released by a shady antiabortion rights activist group claiming to show that Planned Parenthood sells tissues procured from aborted fetuses. As is nearly always the case with videos such as these, they’re edited to make them look far worse than they actually are. Planned Parenthood maintains that any money it receives for procuring those tissues – which have long been used in medical research – is just reimbursement for the costs associated with the procedures. None of the videos that have been released actually show Planned Parenthood doing anything illegal, but they do show representatives of the organization speaking somewhat cavalierly about a grim topic. Many of the people promoting these videos are hoping that the emotional reaction they elicit will stoke a public and political backlash against the nation’s leading provider of reproductive health services.

Conservatives in the media and some hard-line Republicans in Congress believe they’ve come up with a plan for dealing with Planned Parenthood: shut down the government again.

“Shut down the government. Now,” demands Erick Erickson. “The budget and appropriations fights are forthcoming,” he writes. “If Barack Obama is willing to risk a government shutdown because he demands our tax dollars continue funding an organization that kills our children and sells their organs, we should have that fight.” This line of reasoning appeals to legislators like Sen. Ted Cruz – auteur of the last shutdown crisis – who is agitating for Planned Parenthood funding to be stripped as part of the upcoming appropriations battle. “I would support any and all legislative efforts to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cruz says. He has sympathetic ears among some of the more conservative members of the House.

This plan isn’t quite so appealing to the Republican leadership in Congress. Republicans went into the 2014 elections promising voters that they’d be effective stewards of power and competent agents of governance. They haven’t lived up to those promises yet (a partial shutdown was narrowly averted just two months into their reign) and picking a fight over government funding, even when it’s related to a controversial issue like abortion, promises to make them look even worse. They shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act – which was quite unpopular at the time – and they paid for it in the polls. So while the GOP leadership is certainly sympathetic to the complaints of the base over Planned Parenthood, they’re not willing to resort to extreme measures and risk serious political blowback.

This is now a familiar dynamic of the relationship between Republicans in Congress and activist conservatives. When it comes time to make new appropriations and keep the government’s lights on, hard-line conservatives in the media and elsewhere insist that Republicans go nuclear and threaten a government shutdown in pursuit of their preferred policy outcome, whether it be defunding Obamacare, defunding President Obama’s executive actions on deportations, or stripping Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. And they make these demands even though the chances winning these fights are slim to nonexistent – Democrats still retain filibuster authority in the Senate, and even if legislation were to get through, Obama would veto it.

Twice now, on Obamacare and immigration, the Republicans have either completely caved or partially caved to these demands. Both times it blew up in their faces. At this point they are painfully aware that government shutdowns don’t work as a matter of policy or politics. So if they believe they have a political advantage when it comes to Planned Parenthood, then really it makes more sense to not pursue a shutdown strategy that would strip that advantage away.

But once again the Republicans in Congress find themselves in a position in which the simple act of governing is made difficult by the extreme positions of their influential hard-right flank. The Republican leadership opposes abortions rights and does not support Planned Parenthood, but if they’re not willing to drive off the edge of the political cliff to cut funding to the group, then in the eyes of people like Erick Erickson they’re no better than pro-choice Democrats. “Friends,” he writes, “if Republicans in Congress will not stop giving tax payer dollars to the American Joseph Mengele, we should show the party violence in the polling booth.” Reactions like these scare Republicans in Congress. The question is whether they will (once again) be pressured into another shutdown fight they won’t win.

The Sarah Palin era is over: What the end of her Fox News contract really means

In U.S. Politics on June 25, 2015 at 5:49 AM
The Sarah Palin era is over: What the end of her Fox News contract really means

Sarah Palin, Roger Ailes (Credit: AP/Rebecca Cook/Reed Saxon)

SALON

The one-time superstar is out at Fox News, and barely an afterthought as it is. What a difference five years make

In 2010, Fox News announced with great fanfare that it had hired Sarah Palin as a contributor. On Wednesday morning, Politico’s Mike Allen informed his readers that her days with the network were through — and that she’d actually severed ties with Fox nearly a month ago. The former conservative superstar had found her tenure at the leading conservative news outlet quietly smothered with a pillow.

What a difference five years make.

The reasons for the split are easy enough to divine. Fox News must have decided that it wasn’t worth paying Sarah Palin a very large sum of money (her first contract was worth $1 million a year) to ramble on incoherently, especially when Sarah Palin isn’t what she used to be. The network’s core viewership is ultra-loyal — the only thing that makes a stalwart Fox News viewer disappear is death — and unlikely to switch to CNN just because Palin isn’t around as much as she used to be. Any way you look at it, Fox News needs Palin far less than Palin needs Fox News. (Casual observers could be forgiven for having forgotten that Palin was even on Fox anymore.)

It wasn’t that way at the beginning. When Palin first signed on with the network in 2010, she was a far more potent force, thanks to her post-2008 celebrity and her successful second act as the face of the Tea Party. Her every utterance was national news, especially since she kept dropping hints that she might run for president in 2012.

As we all know, Palin didn’t run in that election, and her value to Fox News chief Roger Ailes cratered the second she announced the news. Just like his boss, Rupert Murdoch, money is only part of the reason that Ailes is in the game. He also sees himself as a crucial GOP power broker and gatekeeper. Despite his lousy track record at picking winners, Republican hopefuls still want to be near Ailes; at one point in the 2012 cycle, a large portion of the eventual GOP field was on the Fox News payroll.

So when Palin took herself out of contention, a large part of her attractiveness to Ailes evaporated. To make matters worse, she enraged him by breaking the news on Mark Levin’s radio show, not Fox News.

Things got so bad after that that Palin was reduced to publicly complaining when her appearances got canceled. Relations haven’t improved much since then, even after Fox News signed a new contract with Palin in 2013. Her most memorable appearance in the years since was when she went on Megyn Kelly’s show and delivered a monologue about everything and nothing, which was incomprehensible even by her paltry standards.

Given all of that, it’s no shocker that Palin found herself slipping down the Fox News hierarchy. What’s more, the political landscape has shifted in fundamental ways since her heyday. Nobody’s thinking too much about the Tea Party these days. In a world where the continual murder of black people and the omnipresence of the surveillance state are the dominant themes of our discourse; where gay marriage is on the cusp of nationwide victory and the South is finally getting embarrassed about the Confederate flag; where the only woman people are really thinking about for 2016 is Hillary Clinton, what is the point of Sarah Palin anymore? Even Fox News itself seems to be moving away from those days, at least superficially. Its big star now is Megyn Kelly, who is positioning herself as an independent-minded heir to Barbara Walters.

It’s all very end-of-an-era, isn’t it? You almost want to thank Fox News for allowing everyone to begin to move on completely from Sarah Palin, and hastening her consignment to the dustbin of history, where she belongs.

H/t: DB

S.E. Cupp on nude photos: Don’t own things other people want if you don’t want to have them stolen!

In Politics News on September 3, 2014 at 1:35 PM
S.E. Cupp on nude photos: Don't own things other people want if you don't want to have them stolen!

Jennifer Lawrence, S.E. Cupp (Credit: AP/Arthur Mola/Chris Pizzello)

This is interesting in light of a recent conversation with a TFC regular on this issue…The debate continues…

Salon

Conservative columnist S.E. Cupp has weighed in on the recent theft of famous women’s photos by writing a passionate pro-thievery column for the New York Daily News. In this helpful column, she instructs people to not own things that other people may want, lest someone steal them. (This is real talk. Everyone is too scared to tell you this real talk. Everyone except S.E. Cupp.) Because, sure, stealing is illegal and all, but when people really, really, really want your things, they are just going to take them.

But it’s a little hard to understand just how into stealing Cupp is when she uses the word “hacker” instead of “burglar,” so I fixed that for her. And also, this idea of the iCloud — where you store things that are yours and not other people’s — is a little abstract for some, so I’ve just gone ahead and replaced it with the word “home,” since your home is also a place where you store things that are yours and not other people’s.

I think it really helps make her strong stand for theft much clearer! (Again: I’ve replaced “hacker” with ”burglar” and “iCloud” and “computer” with “home” here, to help make her point even more lucid.) Here we go:

After stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Ariana Grande were quite literally exposed on Sunday by burglars who broke into their homes and then publicly posted hundreds of nude photos from their private photo albums, a pseudo-intellectual debate of sorts emerged (where else?) online over who is to blame for such an outrageous injustice.

This elaborate blame game shifts responsibility from an obvious fact: It just isn’t wise to keep nude photos of yourself in your home if you don’t want them made public.

No, I’m not excusing the burglars, who of course ought to pay for their crimes. Nor am I trying to stifle the right of women to express themselves sexually. I am simply stating what, to most of rational America, is already obvious.

And there’s this!

Yet these defenders of the [celebrities whose private photos were stolen] are downright indignant that you would dare to suggest a simple solution, as if posing for nude pictures is not only the right of every celebrity (who looks as good as Kate Upton does) but nothing short of a feminist statement.

Megan Gibson of Time: “If your reaction to the burglarizing of celebrities’ photos is to blame them for taking nude photos,” she threatens, “you’re pointing the finger at the wrong person.”

The right person, according to her? The burglars. As I mentioned, reasonable people have already decided that what the burglars did is illegal. I’ve not read anywhere in the vast repository that is the Internet a single instance of the burglars being defended. So, thank you for correctly identifying the culprit that everyone else has already identified.

And this!

Comedian Ricky Gervais found himself at the business-end of these indignant defenders of celebrity and feminism (celebinism? feminebrity?) when he tweeted: “Celebrities, make it harder for burglars to get nude pics of you from your home by not putting nude pics of yourself in your home.”

He has since deleted the tweet and assured that he thinks the burglars are “100% to blame” in order to appease this class of professionally offended outragists.

And here’s Cupp at her most pro-theft! (She also thinks women’s bodies are kind of like flashy cars!)

[O]wning things that are valuable, like flashy cars, expensive jewelry or photos of naked celebrities, does actually make you more susceptible to theft. This is not victim-blaming but a fact, and people who own these things know this.

Just as it is rational and reasonable to suggest protecting your credit cards and expensive things from fraud and theft, it is rational and reasonable to suggest the same of your nude photos.

And let’s bring it home!

Rational people actually do suggest you don’t store credit cards in your home, just as rational people like Gervais suggest you don’t keep nude photos  in your home, where stealing them is easier.

I’m very sorry we don’t live in a world where celebrity nude photos are unstealable. But until we have homes that are 100% impenetrable, doesn’t it only make sense to say that if you don’t want your nude photos stolen, don’t take nude photos and store them in homes that can be burglarized?

Apparently the truth is misogynistic.

Surprise: New Study Pinpoints The Root Of Right Wing Ideology

In Right Wing Ideology on July 31, 2014 at 7:54 AM

republican_fear

 

Addicting Info

In spite of all their talk about God and faith, it seems that republicans are actually living in fear most of the time. That seems contrary to their constant rhetoric about an almighty and all powerful God who is supposedly their protector and benefactor.

On the other hand, a large compilation of research indicates that conservatives could probably really benefit from intensive counselling services, which could help them learn to cope with the underlying cause of their extreme ideology, fear. Of course they probably distrust counselors and think they will try to fill their heads with ‘liberal ideas’, so the odds of any of them getting help are pretty slim. For those of us who are not conservative, maybe understanding how the right wing thinks can help us figure out how to relate to them better.

Almost everyone has a negativity bias. It’s a phenomenon which makes people more receptive to recalling negative events, as opposed to recalling positive ones. As it turns out, conservatives have a greater negativity bias than other people, according to new research from John R. Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Hibbing works with a team of researchers at the University Of Nebraska’s Political Physiology Lab, the only lab of its kind in the United States, to date. His latest paper was published in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal, in a paper titled”Differences In Negativity Bias Underlie Variations In Political Ideology.

While Hibbings points out that conservatives are more tuned in to  ‘perceived threats,’ his work reveals much of what we already knew about right wing ideology being entirely fear based.

In an earlier study by Hibbings group, both liberal and conservative participants were shown a group of images which included three that were ‘threatening,’ mixed in with 30 which were neutral. That study revealed that conservatives had a much stronger physiological reaction to the negative images.

Hibbings latest paper summarizes results from a broad range of studies, including those that involved self assessment and reporting by liberal and conservative research participants, a wide range of research into differences in physiological reactions and those that measured psychological responses. Finally, Hibbings relates the compiled research to the underlying negativity bias that drives conservative ideology. Using 26 separate studies to support his conclusions, Hibbings work has been well received by the overwhelming majority of scientists whose work was cited in his most recent paper.

As Hibbings paper illustrates, there really has been a great deal of research into the psychology of political positions in recent years. The research gives us a greater understanding of what motivates people to think and act the way they do.

We know that conservatives respond strongly to negative stimuli. We know that they are motivated by fear, or what researchers describe as ‘perceived threats’. We know that conservatives are often deeply insecure. Hibbings research also suggests that conservatives view themselves as part of a small group, and that they perceive those outside of the group as a threat to the well being of the group itself. That knowledge goes a long way toward explaining conservatives attitudes toward immigration as well as their hatred of minorities, non Christians and others who fall outside of their elite circle. Going one step further, it seems that there is a belief that everyone outside of the group is a threat to the group itself.

One thing we still don’t know is whether conservatives are born with these tendencies or whether they learn them throughout life. Is it nature or nurture? One thing is for sure, those at the top of the right wing food chain know very well how to exploit their base through fear and negativity. The extreme right wing operates very much like a religious cult. The main job of the cult leaders is to keep the members fearful and distrusting of everyone outside of the group, thus ensuring that they can continue to control the message.

I tend to believe that the right wing media is the cause of the underlying psychology that researchers observe in conservative personalities. Logically speaking, how many people would be afraid of absurd conspiracy theories likeAgenda 21 or Obamacare death panels or FEMA camps, if the right wing media didn’t disseminate so many lies? The same goes for just about any of things that conservatives fear, from immigrant children to any form of sane gun control, the conservative media keeps these people afraid at all times.

It may be true that certain people are more disposed to tuning into fear mongering right wing media outlets than others, but nearly everyone has seen a ‘normal’ friend or family member get sucked in by the exploitative tactics of the right wing. Filmmaker Jen Senko has a new documentary coming out this fall called “The Brainwashing of My Dad.” The film details how her very normal father, who she describes as a Kennedy democrat, got pulled in by the hate and fear mongering of right wing radio. Over time the constant exposure changed her father, as it has many other people who held entirely different views prior to being exposed to round the clock right wing propaganda.

It’s easy to think of republicans as political adversaries or even as enemies. Research like this serves to remind us that there are a great number of people in the US who are living in constant fear. There is also a small number of unscrupulous people who have infiltrated US politics and media. Those people are more than happy to exploit others, feeding their fears and whipping them into a propaganda induced panic attack daily, for personal and political gain.

Hibbings paper shines a new light on the political divide. The average conservative voter is a victim of right wing manipulation and exploitation. Instead of viewing conservatives as our enemies, we need to look for new ways to reach out to them. As hard as it may seem to do, we have to acknowledge their fears and be open to discussing them, before we can hope to gain any new ground.

KRUGMAN UNDRESSES THE GOP

In Paul Krugman on July 25, 2014 at 12:24 PM
Paul Krugman: California proves the GOP's "extremist ideology ... is nonsense"

Paul Krugman | (Credit: Reuters/Chip East)

Salon

The New York Times columnist explains how California’s success puts conservative dogma to shame

In his latest column for the New York Times, award-winning economist and best-selling author Paul Krugman argues that California’s recent success — and Kansas’ ongoing failure — is yet more proof that conservative anti-tax dogma “is nonsense.”

After citing Justice Brandeis’ famous claim that America’s states are laboratories for democracy, Krugman turns to compare and contrast California and Kansas, noting that while the former state has seen economic growth and a successful implementation of Obamacare, the latter has had a stagnant economy and a ballooning deficit.

Not incidentally, these states decided to take opposite approaches to economic policy, with California embracing “a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage” while Kansas “went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent” only to see paltry growth and a darkening fiscal picture.

“If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers,” Krugman writes. “Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent; at this point, California’s share of national employment, which was hit hard by the bursting of the state’s enormous housing bubble, is back to pre-recession levels.”

Does Krugman expect the California example to change conservatives’ minds? Hardly. “Has there been any soul-searching among the prophets of California doom, asking why they were so wrong?” he asks. “Not that I’m aware of. Instead, I’ve been seeing many attempts to devalue the good news from California by pointing out that the state’s job growth still lags that of Texas, which is true, and claiming that this difference is driven by differential tax rates, which isn’t.”

Krugman then explains why Texas and California diverge — and how it’s not for the reasons right-wingers think:

For the big difference between the two states, aside from the size of the oil and gas sector, isn’t tax rates. it’s housing prices. Despite the bursting of the bubble, home values in California are still double the national average, while in Texas they’re 30 percent below that average. So a lot more people are moving to Texas even though wages and productivity are lower than they are in California.

And while some of this difference in housing prices reflects geography and population density — Houston is still spreading out, while Los Angeles, hemmed in by mountains, has reached its natural limits — it also reflects California’s highly restrictive land-use policies, mostly imposed by local governments rather than the state. As Harvard’s Edward Glaeser has pointed out, there is some truth to the claim that states like Texas are growing fast thanks to their anti-regulation attitude, “but the usual argument focuses on the wrong regulations.” And taxes aren’t important at all.

4 inconvenient facts conservatives conveniently ignore

In Conservatives on June 6, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Bowe Berghdal (Credit: Reuters)

Salon

With conservative commentators dogpiling President Obama for bringing home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, many are scratching their heads in confusion. After all, didn’t conservatives used to pride themselves on their devotion to making sure that every POW possible was returned home safely? Isn’t the POW/MIA flag a favorite to hang right under the American flag in many red states? Wasn’t it one of the few issues they had where they actually seemed righteous and generous, instead of stingy bordering on malicious?

The sudden rewriting of everything we’ve known the right to stand for may seem odd, but, in fact, rewriting history is standard operating procedure on the right. Here are just some of the stranger examples.

1. The religious right started because of segregation, not abortion. 

As Randall Balmer, a Darthmouth professor writing in Politico, explained in a recent article, the organized religious right started as a movement to protect white-only schools from federally mandated desegregation. As Balmer explains, there were many other attempts to rally evangelical Christians to become a conservative movement to support Republicans—“pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion”—but none took. Under the guidance of Jerry Falwell, however, it was discovered that evangelical leaders would rally to keep black students out of private schools set up specifically so white kids didn’t have to go to desegregated public schools.  Even though it was actually the Nixon administration that kickstarted the process of the IRS stripping tax-exempt status from “whites only” school, Falwell and his buddies blamed Jimmy Carter and used the issue to start rallying support for Ronald Reagan’s challenge. It was only after the evangelical right was organized that they started expanding into other issues, like abortion.

2. NRA used to support gun control. 

The NRA is a gun industry lobby that likes to present itself as a “rights” group. With that level of deceit, no wonder many people, especially on the right, assume that the group has always existed to lobby against any restriction on access to firearms, or that gun control is a relatively new phenomenon only invented by pansy liberals in the past few decades. In reality, the government has been controlling access to guns for a long, long time. While there have been limits on gun ownership throughout the country’s history—often for sexist and racist reasons, such as bans on black people owning guns—the first modern federal gun control law passed in 1934, to stop the proliferation of automatic sub-machine guns that were popular with organized criminals. Prior to that, many states passed laws regulating guns, laws conservatives would reject today, such as waiting periods and requiring gun sellers to share information with police. The NRA actually helped write these laws.

And why not? The NRA was started as a marksman and sporting club, so there was no real reason to oppose gun control laws, until recent decades when it morphed into a lobby to protect the profits of gun manufacturers. Even as late as 1963, the NRA supported gun control laws. It was only as the culture wars began to build and the conservative movement developed that the NRA turned into the organization it is now, feeding paranoia and faux-patriotism to gullible conservatives in order to convince them to buy more guns.

3. Conservatives have always been the voting bloc to stop civil rights. 

A lot of pundits and other charlatans like to deflect discussion of modern racism by claiming that Democrats were the ones who tried to stop the Civil Rights Act and Republicans were the ones who tried to pass it. Considering that it was a liberal Democrat—Lyndon B. Johnson—who signed the CRA, it’s clear that it was much more complicated than that. Yes, it’s true that some Democrats opposed the CRA and plenty of Republicans supported it. But the party lines were not drawn the same back then. Back then, both parties had a mix of liberals and conservatives, and since then, the parties have realigned, with all the conservatives—who voted against the CRA—stampeding to the Republican party and all the liberals—who voted for the CRA—running to the Democrats.

As  Harry Enten, writing for the Guardian, notes, party was a poor predictor of a politician’s vote for the CRA in 1964. A far better predictor was state of origin. In the House, 90 percent of politicians from former Union states voted for it and only 8 percent of politicians from the South did. In the Senate, 92 percent of lawmakers from the Union states voted for the CRA, but only 5 percent—1 out of 22—of Southern senators did so. In other words, the votes against it came primarily from what we now consider the immovable “red” states—a permanent bloc of Republicans. And it was anger over the CRA that switched those previously Democratic states to Republican voters. The only states that voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964, besides Arizona,were Southern states.

Indeed, the best way to understand what happened in 1964 is that the CRA kicked off a process where the Republicans started to gather up all the conservative voters and Democrats expelled the racist vote but picked up all the liberals. Focusing on race instead of ideological leaning is a fundamentally dishonest tactic, when any honest assessment of the situation shows that the real divide was between conservatives and liberals, which remains the divide that governs our country today, even as the parties have rebranded themselves.

4. They were for Common Core before they were against it.

The most recent and possibly silliest about-face of the modern conservative movement has to be the turnaround on Common Core, a program initiated by the National Governors Association to standardize and elevate educational standards across the country. Originally, conservatives were indifferent to outright supportive of the program—many Republican governors considered themselves fans—and pretty much all the criticism came from people on the left, who were concerned that it would be used as cover for attacks on teacher’s unions and would favor “teach the test”-style memorization over actual education.

Then President Obama endorsed it in 2012. Immediately, the right decided that Common Core was a sinister conspiracy to shove liberal ideology down children’s throats (never mind that many educational experts on the left are against it). Liberals make measured criticisms of Common Core, saying it might squelch imagination and writing skills. Conservatives, on the other hand, have taken to accusing the Obama administration of using Common Core to steal children away and teach them to have sex and get divorced so they’ll vote for Democrats. A calm, rational discussion of the program is basically impossible, because the entire debate has been taken over by right-wing nuts who have forgotten that, a mere two years ago, they were cool with a program they now compare to Nazi indoctrination.

5 things conservatives lie about shamelessly

In Conservative Lies on April 5, 2014 at 9:24 PM
5 things conservatives lie about shamelessly

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. (Credit: Wikipedia)

Most of us are not surprised by the following list, it’s just good to know it’s out there for all to see…

Salon

The right still somehow insists that climate change isn’t real and that the ACA will euthanize old people

Mark Twain once famously said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Twain wasn’t praising lies with this comment, of course, but modern-day conservatives seem to think he was dishing out advice instead of damning the practice of dishonesty. Conservatives have figured out a neat little rhetorical trick: One lie is easy for your opponents to debunk. Tell one lie after another, however, and your opponent’s debunkings will never catch up. By the time the liberal opposition has debunked one lie, there’s a dozen more to take its place.

Science educator Eugenie Scott deemed the technique the “Gish Gallop,” named for a notoriously sleazy creationist named Duane Gish. The Urban Dictionary defines the Gish Gallop as a technique that “involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it.” Often users of the Gish Gallop know their arguments are nonsense or made in bad faith, but don’t particularly care because they are so dead set on advancing their agenda. Unfortunately, the strategy is so effective that it’s been expanding rapidly in right-wing circles. Here are just a few of the most disturbing examples of the Gish Gallop in action.

1. Creationism. It’s no surprise creationists inspired the coining of the term Gish Gallop, as they have perfected the art of making up nonsense faster than scientists can refute it. The list of false or irrelevant claims made by creationists, as chronicled by Talk Origins, numbers in the dozens, perhaps even hundreds, and more are always being spun out. Trying to argue with a creationist, therefore, turns into a hellish game of Whack-A-Mole. Debunk the lie that the speed of light is not constant, and you’ll find he’s already arguing that humans co-existed with dinosaurs. Argue that it’s unconstitutional to put the story of Adam and Eve in the science classroom, and find he’s pretending he was never asking for that and instead wants to “teach the controversy.”



“Teaching the controversy” is a classic Gish Gallop apology. The conservative wants to make it seem like he’s supporting open-minded debate, but instead he just wants an opportunity to dump a bunch of lies on students with the knowledge that they’ll never have the time and attention to carefully parse every debunking.

2. Climate change denialism.This strategy worked so well for creationism it makes perfect sense that it would be imported to the world of climate change denialism. Climate change denialists have many changing excuses for why they reject the science showing that human-caused greenhouse gases are changing the climate, but what all these reasons have in common is they are utter nonsense in service of a predetermined opposition to taking any action to prevent further damage.

Skeptical Science, a website devoted to debunking right-wing lies on this topic, has compiled a dizzying list of 176 common claims by climate denialists and links to why they are false.  Some of these lies directly contradict each other. For instance, it can’t both be true that climate change is “natural” and that it’s not happening at all. No matter, since the point of these lies is not to create a real discussion about the issue, but to confuse the issue so much it’s impossible to get any real momentum behind efforts to stop global warming.

3. The Affordable Care Act. It’s not just science where conservatives have discovered the value in telling lies so fast you simply wear your opposition out. When it comes to healthcare reform, the lying has been relentless. There are the big lies, such as calling Obamacare “socialism,” which implies a single-payer system, when in fact, it’s about connecting the uninsured with private companies and giving consumers of healthcare a basic set of rights. In a sense, even the name “Obamacare” is a lie, as the bill was, per the President’s explicit wishes, written by Congress.

But there are also the small lies: The ACA funds abortionUnder the ACA, old people will be forcibly euthanized.  Obamacare somehow covers undocumented immigrants.  Congress exempted itself from Obamacare (one of the lies that doesn’t even make sense, as it’s not a program you could really get exempted from). Healthcare will add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

The strategy of just lying and lying and lying some more about the ACA has gotten to the point where Fox News is just broadcasting lies accusing the Obama administration of lying. When it was reported that the administration was going to hit its projections for the number of enrollments through healthcare.gov, a subculture of “enrollment truthers”  immediately sprang up to spread a variety of often conflicting lies to deny that these numbers are even real. It started soft, with some conservatives suggesting that some enrollments shouldn’t count or arguing, without a shred of evidence, that huge numbers of new enrollees won’t pay their premiums. Now the lying is blowing up to the shameless level, with “cooking the books” being a common false accusation or, as with Jesse Watters on Fox, straight up accusing the White House of making the number up. Perhaps soon there will be demands to see all these new enrollees’ birth certificates.

4. Contraception mandate.The ACA-based requirement that insurance plans cover contraception without a copay has generated a Gish Gallop so large it deserves its own category. Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check chronicled 12 of the biggest lies generated by the right-wing noise machine in just the past couple of years since the mandate was even announced. It is not “free” birth control, nor is it “paid for” by employers. The birth control coverage is paid for by the employees, with benefits they earn by working. The mandate doesn’t cover “abortifacients,” only contraception. No, birth control doesn’t work by killing fertilized eggs, but by preventing fertilization. It’s simply false that the prescriptions in question can all be replaced with a $9-a-month prescription from Walmart, as many women’s prescriptions run into the hundreds and even thousands a year. No, it’s not true that the contraception mandate is about funding women’s “lifestyle”, because statistics show that having sex for fun instead of procreation is a universal human behavior and not a marginal or unusual behavior as the term “lifestyle” implies.

5. Gun safety. The gun lobby is dishonest to its core. Groups like the NRA like to paint themselves like they are human rights organizations, but in fact, they are an industry lobby whose only real goal is to protect the profit margins of gun manufacturers, regardless of the costs to human health and safety. Because their very existence is based on a lie, is it any surprise that gun industry advocates are experts at the Gish Gallop, ready to spring into action at the sign of any school shooting or report on gun violence and dump so many lies on the public that gun safety advocates can never even begin to address them all?

A small sampling of the many, many lies spouted by gun industry advocates: That guns prevent murder, when in fact more guns correlates strongly with more murders. That gun control doesn’t workThat gun control is unpopular.  That any move to make gun ownership safer is a move to take away your guns. That a gun in the home makes you safer when it actually puts your family at more risk. That guns protect against domestic violence, when the truth is that owning a gun makes abuse worse, not better. Even the standard line “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a distracting bit of dishonesty, since most gun deaths aren’t murders but suicides.

How do you fight the Gish Gallop, when trying to debunk each and every lie is so overwhelming? There are a few tactics that help, including creating websites and pamphlets where all the lies can be aggregated in one place, for swift debunking. (Bingo cards and drinking games are a humorous version of this strategy.) A critical strategy is to avoid lengthy Lincoln-Douglas-style debates that allow conservatives to lie-dump rapidly during their speaking period, leaving you so busy trying to clean up their mess you have no time for positive points of your own. Better is a looser style of debate where you can interrupt and correct the lies as they come. I’ve also found some luck with setting an explicit “no lies” rule that will be strictly enforced. The first lie receives a warning, and the second lie means that the debate is immediately terminated. This helps prevent you from having to debunk and instead makes the price of participation a strict adherence to facts.

 

Gallup Poll Finds Democrats More Compassionate; Republicans More Psychopathic

In Gallup Polls on January 29, 2014 at 8:24 PM

According to Gallup, these are not the traits of a Conservatives…

No doubt most Progressives already knew this, but a Gallup poll makes it official…

The Huffington Post

Gallup headlined on 28 January 2014, “Democrats and Republicans Differ on Top Priorities,” and reported that the biggest difference between supporters of the two Parties concerned “The environment,” where 71% of Democrats said it’s important to them, versus only 32% of Republicans who did: a whopping difference of 39%, between the two Parties, considered that issue to be important. The second-biggest difference was on “The distribution of income and wealth”: 72% of Democrats, versus only 38% of Republicans – a 34% difference. Third came “Poverty and homelessness”: 82% of Democrats, versus 53% of Republicans – a 29% difference. Fourth came “Education”: 91% of Democrats, versus 70% of Republicans – a 21% difference.

Here were the four issues on the conservative end, the four issues where Republicans scored the largest amount higher (more concerned) than Democrats: First, “The military and national defense”: 76% of Republicans, versus 61% of Democrats – a 15% difference – considered that issue to be important. Second, “Taxes”: 69% of Republicans, versus 56% of Democrats – a 13% difference. Third, “Terrorism”: 77% of Republicans, versus 68% of Democrats – a 9% difference. Fourth, “Government surveillance of U.S. citizens”: 45% of Republicans, versus 37% of Democrats – an 8% difference (but if the President had been a Republican, Democrats might have been more concerned about that issue than Republicans would have been).

Clearly, selfish fears swept concerns on the Republican side, whereas concerns for others (and especially the weak) swept concerns on the Democratic side.

One can therefore reasonably infer from this survey that the main difference between Democrats and Republicans is the difference between compassion versus psychopathy.

If these findings are accurate, then one will expect that in political primary elections, where candidates make their appeals to members of their own Party, Democratic candidates will compete with one another mainly on the basis of their proposals for improving things for everyone but especially for the most vulnerable; whereas Republican candidates will compete with one another mainly on the basis of their proposals for improving things for their individual voters. And, in the general election, one will expect that the Democratic nominee will have been chosen on the basis of his concern for everyone, while the Republican nominee will have been chosen on the basis of his concern for Republicans.

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