Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Democratic vs Republican religion

Over at EvolutionBlog Jason has a wonderful piece on the difference between Democratic religion and its Republican counterpart. This is very well-written, I think.
Democratic religion is very different from Republican religion. Democrats instinctively see religion as a private matter. It seems obvious to them that there should be a solid wall of separation between church and state. Religious Democrats like Paul Begala and Jimmy Carter represent a reflective, intellectual sort of relligion. They don't mindlessly rail against science or cite Bible verses in public policy debates. They understand that there is a big difference between hostility to religion on the one hand, and hostility to the government endorsement and support of religion on the other.

Not so with the Republicans. For them religion is a cudgel used to distinguish those who think as they do from the vile enemies that must be destroyed. Their's is not a religion that values calm, rational argumentation. It prefers instead dogmatic statements it is deemed illegitimate to challenge. Republicans appeal to devotees of the mindless, “God said it, that settles it” sort of religion.

So why do religious voters tend to prefer Republicans? Because the mindless version of religion is far better represented in this country than the thoughtful version. The relentless Republican media machine certainly has an effect on public discourse, but in the end it is successful because it is selling a message people want to buy.

The time when vague talk of the common good could persuade religious voters to support progressive goals is long past. The sort of religion that holds sway in much of the South and the Midwest is not the sort that gets out of bed for the common good. Instead it is the sort that sees itself as a tiny island of righteousness floating in an ocean of secular evil. The sort of people who like that sort of religion are going to find Republican simple-mindedness more appealing than Democratic nuance.

The nature of religion in this country has changed dramatically over the last thirty years. Today's religious voters support Repbulicans because they like the sorts of things Republicans do when they have power. It's that simple. The most media-savvy Democrats in the world will not change that fact.

Democrats might have better luck going after the tens of millions of voters who currently don't vote out of disgust with the whole system. Instead of trying to put a religious gloss on their party's message, they would do better simply to state, forthrightly and unambiguously, that theirs is a party that values science and rationality. It's a party that believes that religion can be a wonderful thing in the lives of individuals, but is universally lousy when used as a basis for public policy. Alas, that would probably take more courage than most of today's Democratic politicians possess.

Well said, JR. Unfortunately, there are millions of people who don't want to be troubled to think. Just give them something you can fit on a bumper sticker, and they're happy. But I guess I'm a little more optimistic than Jason about the prospects for reason winning out over dogmatism. When I hear people in this bastion of patrician Old Money talking trash about the war and Republicans, I have hope. Remember, we only need sway one or two percent to throw the bastards out.

By the way, Robert Reich devotes a whole chapter to the difference between public and private morality, which is basically the difference between the parties that Jason cites above.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cool weather and elections

It was very cool here today, in the low 60s. I wore my sweatshirt almost my whole round of golf this morning. After the round, I ran into our club manager and she said, "You're wearing shorts? Brrrr!?" We finished just as it started to rain. And it's been raining, sometimes heavily, since then. Cool and rainy. Fall is coming. Damn.

It's been a wonderful summer this year, here by the shore. We've had periodic rain which has kept the foliage very green. This bodes well for the fall foliage. It means the leaves will have drunk up a lot of water and be heavy with the minerals that make the brilliant colors of autumn. The irrigation ponds at the club are full again, which is unusual for this time of year.

Although autumn means the end of summer and the coming of winter, this year it also means the possibility of throwing the conservatives out of congress in the mid-term elections. I can only hope that the results here in Connecticut augur a more widespread revolt against the appalling incompetence of the Republicans and their ill-advised war. It has has de-stabilized the Middle East, and put us even more at risk of a terrorist attack than we were before. What a bunch of idiots, honestly.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Good friends, good weather, good golf

Today was absoultely wonderful. I am semi-retired and put in about 25 -30 hours a week consulting for the company where I was fomerly CTO. This summer, I've been taking Thursdays off pretty regularly to play golf. Well, today was about as good as it gets. It was in the low 70s, dry with sun and clouds. I played with three other members that I know well. One is a doctor, one a retired schoolteacher, and the third a priest. We played a two-dollar Nassau, the schoolteacher and I played the priest and the doctor. Sort of sounds like the beginning of joke, right? "A priest and a doctor are playing golf...." We halved the Nassau, although my partner and I ended one huge dollar up because he had an extra "dot". (A "dot" is an extra point you earn for a natural birdie, a "sandy" or a "greenie") I shot 89, which is pretty good for me, and I left at least three shots our there due to bad putts. But, all in all, a great day.

Afterwards, I sat in the bar for a couple of hours talking with one of our foursome, who happens to be an Episcopal priest at a local parish. He's an absolutely wonderful guy that I've come to know over this year. All you intolerant born-again types could take a lesson from Fr. Tony. Be thoughtful, humble and rational. Practice what you preach and don't be so damned full of yourself.

Here's to ye, lad.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back at ya...

Thanks to ConnecticutBlog for linking here. It's a great resource for Connecticusians (pronounced "ConnecticKewshins". I made that up. It's better than "Nutmeggers" don't you think?).

Lamont gaining

This article on Yahoo confirms what people have been predicting. Lamont is gaining on Lieberman just as he did in the primary. Again, it seems to be "news" that people are fed up with the Cheney/Bush administration and won't countenance sycophants like Lieberman.

Last night, I spend an interesting hour or so talking politics after my weekly golf league. I don't know everyone's politics in the group, but it was amazing how many people, regardless of their opinion of Lamont or Lieberman are four-square against the war in Iraq. There was general consensus amongst a group I would have expected to be conservative that the war will continue to tarnish and degrade the reputation of our country in the world and that it was a colossal mistake, born of an appalling but typically chauvinistic, myopic and uninformed view of other cultures by the right-wing flag-wavers. Oh yes, said Rumsfeld, we will be welcomed with chocolates and flowers thrown at our feet.

Yo, what are those homeboys smokin'? I want some!

The attack on science

One of the primary things that got me back into politics is the right-wing's assault on science. The most visible and clearly drawn offensive by the right on science has to do with their denial of evolution. I'm thankful that the creationists are in retreat for the moment, due to a stunning court decision in Dover, PA and recent elections in Kansas where the right-wing state school board was thrown out. It kind of gives you hope when, even in a bastion of religious conservatism like Kansas, a majority of people realized they had become the nation's laughingstock and voted for reason again.

You'll note that one of my links is to EvolutionBlog, which is written by Jason Rosenhouse, a math professor at James Madison University. Science needs more people like Jason, who are patient and diligent enough to put up clear and accessible counters to the senseless and disingenuous tactics of the creationists. They're a pretty slimy lot, in my estimation, that engage in little more than rhetorical misdirection, although their creativity for ingeniously specious arguments is remarkable. I'm amazed at how much patience he has with listening to their drivel and calmly pointing out what unrefined bullshit it is. Pardon my French. Anyway, give it a peek if you have the chance.

But creationism, although it generates a lot of noise, is a less direct and present threat to our quality of life and planet (IMHO) than other of the current regime's attacks on science and scientists. Global warming, for instance, is another case of incredible denial on the part of the administration and the right in general. The manner in which they loose the propaganda and talk-show dogs to defame honest scientists is really deplorable. But I'm flaming now, aren't I? Sorry, I didn't sleep too well last night. Must have been the meat loaf after golf.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Reich book

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm reading Robert Reich's book "Reason - Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America". Here are a couple of quotes I've found so far that I like.

On why radical conservatives obsess about pre-marital sex and the "decline" of marriage.
"Radcons embrace a simple, facile solution to a problem - one size fits all, when of course it doesn't".
This really resonates with me. The right always seems to want yes/no, black/white absolute answers to everything. They see unquestioning belief as a virtue while viewing subtlety and nuance as moral laxity.
"To believe that the best and only way to prevent poor single women from having babies is to instruct young people not to have sex before marriage is like thinking the best way to prevent your house from leaking is to stop the rain."

I love that one. Yes, our roof is leaking, so let's outlaw rain. Great analogy.

This whole business of trying to outlaw sex outside marriage brings me to the anti-abortionists. My take on this is that they care less about unborn children than preventing women from having and (heaven forfend) enjoying sex. Basically, I think they believe that the child is the "punishment" for having sex outside their narrow boundaries of what's proper. Great way to see your child, huh?

More to come...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Some good stuff

From a really good post at DailyKos, here are some great idea nuggets for Dems from adguy. I really like the one about dividing the nation to strengthen their power.

The Republicans have brazenly stated that they will sell terror as their political strategy for the November elections. Makes sense. They're all about selling things. Like their influence. And our government. And the future of our children. And now, our national security.

So while they're busy selling terror, we're busy solving the problems that breed terror.

While they work to keep you captive to fear, we work to free you from the causes of fear.

While they're dreaming up ways to exploit threats to our security, we're busy working on ways to eliminate those threats.

While they see themselves as successful at fighting terrorism, we see having more terrorists now than ever before as the definition of failure.

While they seek to divide us in order to strengthen their power, we seek to unite us in order to strengthen our nation.

While they're telling you that only their ideas will keep you safe, we say that more ideas--not fewer--are needed to secure our safety.

While they say our enemies have changed and so should we, we say accommodating our enemies is not the American way.

And while they say that those who voice opposition to their policies are aiding our enemies, we say that those who seek to vilify dissent give our enemies just what they desire.

You see, we Democrats don't think of Americans as being fearful. Americans are too smart, too hard-working, too committed to our constitution and the liberty it bestows on us to be fearful. In fact, when we faced one of the most evil and powerful regimes ever to exist, it was a Democrat who reminded us that, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." And we came through with flying colors.

So you have a choice this November: Return to our traditional American ideals, or remain headed down the dark road to a lesser America.

Common ground

Every once in a while, we can get together on something. Here's an example. It shows that when some typically horrid Bush policy really adversely affects people, they can and will oppose it, even if they're Republicans.

That people will still stand up for their own economic and health interests is a hopeful sign. Maybe enough people will stand up for their own interests and reality to dislodge the conservative stranglehold that feeds on fear and the subsequent trampling of individual rights in order to "keep us safe".

You can't make up stuff like this...

All the more funny because it's true.
Christian sex products. Need I say more? Enjoy...

Friday, August 18, 2006

A pleasant walk

Just a quick post to say what a particularly nice walk I had this morning back to my house from the mailbox after getting the newspaper. This because the headline on the New London Day's front page announced that a federal judge had ruled W's warrantless domestic wiretaps illegal, and has ordered the NSA to ceast and desist. Here's hoping the ruling sticks.

Books I'm reading or have read recently

Conservatives without Conscience - by John W. Dean

Yes, that John Dean of Watergate fame. This is a very convincing explanation of the right-wing personality type. Ultra-short version: they're followers. I saw Mr. Dean on CSPAN talking about his book at a book-tour event, I'm guessing. I was fascinated by his analysis of authoritarianism in modern conservatism. Conservatism has come a very long way from Goldwater and even Nixon. Google "John Dean conservative conscience" and you should find a link to an NPR interview on WBUR a month or so back, which is very entertaining. One thought that Dean brings out early in the book that I find very compelling is that if it were 1776, the neocons and right-wingers would all be on the side of King George. Revolution is anathema to the authoritarian mind set.

Although the right-wingers are notoriously immune to facts, truth and reason, I can only hope that there are a couple of percent of the voters that can still think, see what's going on and switch their vote. This is a good book with very insightful message and, I think, a lever to apply.

What's the Matter with Kansas? - by Thomas Frank

This is less a theoretical explanation of how conservatives have managed to get such a stranglehold on our government than it is a practical or empirical look at the strategies and techniques. Frank analyzes how the Right has been able to take a place like Kansas, once famous for fringe left-wing and crackpot political movements, and make it into a place where low-income people vote to cut the taxes of millionaires at the expense of their children's education. F'ing amazing, isn't it? All the Republicans have to do is trot out the same-sex marriage, or evolution, or abortion boogeyman, and these folks flock to the polls like lemmings to elect people that send their jobs offsore, close their factories, and make cannon fodder of their sons and daughters in Iraq. It really ties in quite nicely with Dean's authoritarian theory, I think.

Reason - by Robert Reich - Just started it, opinions later. My wife just finished it and liked it a lot.

I can highly recommend both of the first two titles. Throwing some light on the "whys" of the conservative take-over of the country is the first step toward reversing it. I dearly hope so, anyway!!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Damn, we're a political bellweather

I'm very happy to have been part of the upset of Joe Lieberman by Ned Lamont, even if it's only that I registered as a Democrat and voted. It's been fun to see our little corner of New England talked about so much. Now, of course, the spin begins, but more on that later.

In this election, I was fascinated to see how bloggers right here in my backyard, like CTBob could make such a difference. I've been studying blogs, especially vlogs (video blogs) for a while and they are a real phenomenon in grass roots politics and New Media. Lots of folks in Old Media world and Old Politics are seriously not getting it.