The Daily Show’s Best Moments on Evolution (and Valentine’s Day)

I’m a couple days late, but these videos look like a great way to celebrate Charles Darwin’s birthday. Here are their best clips on evolution. Being two days late, I should also link to their best Valentine’s Day moments. Haven’t you always associated Darwin’s birthday with Valentine’s Day?

Scientists Boycott Lousiana For Their Rejection Of Science

While Bobby Jindal is sometimes billed as a pragmatic governor, he has embraced the anti-science/anti-reason world view of the far right. I’ve previously noted that Jindal has signed legislation which would promote teaching creationism in the pubic schools. The  Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology has decided not to hold their annual meeting in Louisiana in response to this:

The repercussions that were expected from the Louisiana legislature’s passage and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signing of the creationist 2008 LA Science Education Act have begun. Louisiana taxpayers and schoolchildren are now reaping what the legislature and governor have sowed: the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, one of the nation’s leading scientific societies, is boycotting Louisiana. In a February 6, 2009, letter [pdf] to Gov. Bobby Jindal, SICB Executive Committee President Richard Satterlie told the governor that “The Executive Committee voted to hold the 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City in large part because of legislation SB 561, which you signed into law in June 2008…. Utah, in contrast [to Louisiana], passed a resolution that states that evolution is central to any science curriculum.” [See the resolution adopted by the Utah State Board of Education affirming that “The Theory of Evolution is a major unifying concept in science and appropriately included in Utah’s K-12 Science Core Curriculum.” Contrast this resolution with the recent decision by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to strip the prohibition against teaching creationism from the policy implementing the LSEA.]

The LA Coalition for Science has issued a press release [pdf] announcing SICB’s decision. [Correction: Although the LA Science Education Act was first introduced as SB 561, it was renumbered during the legislative process and signed into law as SB 733.]

(Hat tip to P.Z. Meyers.)

Must You Be Out Of Touch With Reality To Be An Economic Conservative?

The answer to the question, of course, is no but you certainly have to look beyond some right wing writings to appreciate this. Yesterday I quoted Will Wilkinson’s views on libertarians and liberals. Wilkinson belongs to the growing number of people who have liberal views on social and civil liberties issues along with free market views on the economy. This group ranges from fiscally conservative liberals to libertarians such as Wilkinson who reject the conservatism of many libertarians who have seen Republicans as their natural allies.

The current left/right divide is now primarily over social issues, civil liberties, and one’s position on the Iraq war, with economic issues no longer providing a clear delineation between left and right. The left/right continuum has increasingly become based upon two parameters: support for liberty on the left in contrast to the authoritarianism of the right and support for science, reason, and a reality-based view of the world on the left versus the reactionary opposition to modernity, science, and reason from the right. This division can be seen in Robert Stacy McCain’sresponse to Wilkinson’s views on liberal/libertarian fusionism:

Most of the Will Wilkinson types are intellectuals who are embarrassed by what Hunter S. Thompson called the “Rotarian” instincts of the Republican Party. That flag-waving God-mom-and-apple-pie stuff just doesn’t light a fire under the American intellectual class, which is not now, nor has it ever been, enamored of religion, patriotism and “family values.”

As a political impulse, the sort of libertarianism that scoffs at creationism and traditional marriage wields limited influence, because it appeals chiefly to a dissenting sect of the intelligentsia. It’s a sort of free-market heresy of progressivism, with no significant popular following nor any real prospect of gaining one, because most Ordinary Americans who strongly believe in economic freedom are deeply traditionalist. And most anti-traditionalists — the feminists, the gay militants, the “world peace” utopians — are deeply committed to the statist economic vision of the Democratic Party.

In expressing this belief in creationism, McCain already demonstrates a limited ability  to either think rationally or to coherently comment on the issues of a twenty-first century world. The degree to which he is out of touch with reality also comes from the manner in which his views of liberals comes from a Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity promoted stereotype as opposed to anything which exists in the real world.

The typical liberal is just as likely as most conservatives (and more likely than Rush Limbaugh) to be in a traditional marriage, go to work every day, and abstain from drug use. The difference between liberals and social conservatives is not as much life style as the toleration of other life styles. Many of us live a basically conservative life style but do not feel the drive seen among conservatives to use the power of the state to impose their life style and personal choices upon others.

Fortunately it is not necessary to hold these irrational views to be a supporter of the free market. Of course McCain might view this differently as, despite their rhetoric, the economic policies backed by the right often have little to do free market principles. Republicans have given us wage and price controls under Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force, The K-Street Project, and the Bush deficit. As Wilkinson noted, “the great success of the GOP over the last eight years has been to destroy the reputation of free markets and limited government by deploying its rhetoric and then doing the opposite.”

The other difference between free market liberals and the flat-earthers of the right is a willingness to consider facts as opposed to making decisions based upon a perverse combination of extremist ideology and hyper-partisanship. While the extremists might see the free market as something which exists in a pure state of nature with perfect regulation by Adam Smith’s invisible hand, most people realize that markets work because of a certain degree of necessary regulation. While many of us would philosophically prefer to see a minimum amount of government involvement in the economy, we also recognize that there are certain functions which the market does not handle well, and that there are certain times when more drastic action is necessary to avert disaster.

McCain also sees a combination of liberal and libertarian beliefs as having little prospect for electoral success. A discussion of which views are right and which views can win elections are two different things, but McCain is also wrong here. There is a growing number of people under variety of labels who fit this description. In the past they were sometimes called liberal Republicans until the Republicans drove them out of the party. More recently they were called Starbucks Republicans or South Park Republicans until they began to vote Democratic.

Obama’s victory was an example of the emergence of socially liberal and economically conservative or pragmatic voters as we had a significant impact in both the Democratic primaries and the general election. All of us affluentwine and latte drinking liberals who enjoy and understand the virtues of the free market are still around despite all the opposition from both the Clintonistas and Palinistas. Our views may or may not win in future elections, but we have become a force to counter both the views of the big-government elements of the left and the authoritarian right.

In a two party system there is a wide range of voters supporting a major party candidate, but many of us were attracted to Obama based upon the combination of his social views along with the Chicago school influences on his economic beliefs. Of course rabid right wingers who repeat the Limbaugh/Hannity line that Obama is a far leftist or even a socialist are too out of touch with reality to see this.

In their desperate fight against modernity and thier clutching to beliefs such as creationism they are missing how America is changing. The current economic crisis might accelerate such changes as the country increasingly becomes divided between the productive cities dominated by educated liberals and the Republicans become a primarily regional party of the south and Mormon belt dominated by those who are intellectually unprepared to live in the modern world.

Update: McCain responds here. I would normally respond to his post, but a discussion such as this was well beyond anything his world view could handle. He has nothing of substance to say in response to any of the actual points.  It is just another example of how many on the far right are not able to handle the issues of the twenty-first century and  lack of understanding of respecting the rights of others. This probably explains why the attacks on liberals from this element of the right are nothing but repetitions of Limbaugh/Hannity stereotypes. They have no ability to even understand the beliefs of others. Instead, as seen a previous time when McCain replied to one of my posts, his world view is limited to trying to figure out what God wants and then imposing this view upon others. Such a limited world view hardly leaves one capable  of giving a coherent response to this post.

Some Republicans Support Stimulus Bill After They Voted Against It

Yesterday I noted that Arlen Specter let the fact slip out that many Republicans were actually in favor of the stimulus package but voted against it out of party unity. Some members of the House are also being careless in drifting away from the party line as they are now expressing support for the spending. McClatchy reports:

Rep. John Mica was gushing after the House of Representatives voted Friday to pass the big stimulus plan.

“I applaud President Obama’s recognition that high-speed rail should be part of America’s future,” the Florida Republican beamed in a press release.

Yet Mica had just joined every other GOP House member in voting against the $787.2 billion economic recovery plan.

Republicans echoed their party line over and over during the debate: “This bill is loaded with wasteful deficit spending on the majority’s favorite government programs,” as Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., put it.

But Mica wasn’t alone in touting what he saw as the bill’s virtues. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also had nice things to say in a press release…

Yet later in the day Young — who recently told McClatchy that he would’ve included earmarks, or local projects, in the bill if it had been permitted — issued another statement blasting the overall measure.

So does Young support the bill, oppose it, or just wish he could have included some earmarks? While Young’s views are not clear, Rush Limbaugh, despite his many other faults, at least does make himself perfectly clear. Limbaugh wants Obama to fail and wants America to suffer. David Vitter also joins many conservatives in believing that the best chance for the Republicans to return to office is to hope for more misery for Americans:

According to Vitter, the GOP is basically betting the farm that the stimulus package is going to fail, and the party wants Democrats to go down with it. “Our next goal is to make President Obama and liberal Democrats in Congress own it completely,” he said. Instead of coming up with serious measures to save the economy, the party intends to devote its time to an “we told you so” agenda that will include GOP-only hearings on the bill’s impact in the coming months to highlight the bill’s purportedly wasteful elements and shortcomings.

While Vitter seemed to think this was a brilliant new political tactic, voters might be less enthusiastic than Federalist Society members about politicians who spend the next 18 months rooting for the economy to get worse, just to prove a point. But, in Vitter’s world, that’s the price you apparently have to pay for sticking to your principles, call girls be damned.

As I’ve noted previously, it is hard to take any claims by the Republicans that they voted against this out of opposition to deficits after the deficit they ran up when in power. Apparently to Republicans deficits to fight an unnecessary war, or to give tax breaks to the ultra-wealthy, is not as bad as deficits to improve the infrastructure or stimulate the economy.

Beyond the Republican spending record, First Read placed both the partisanship and the previous GOP lack of concerns for increasing the deficit into perspective:

With zero House Republicans voting for the stimulus — and with just three Senate Republicans expected to vote for it later this afternoon — it’s worth noting that 28 House Democrats and 12 Senate Democrats voted for the final passage of Bush’s big tax cut in 2001. (And remember, too, that Bush had barely won the presidential election the year before.) The size of that 2001 tax-cut package? $1.35 trillion.

Republican Partisanship On The Stimulus

I’ve noted in several recent posts, such as here, that the Republicans are primarily concerned with opposing whatever Obama does for partisan political reasons. Arlen Specter confirms this:

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who broke with his party to support President Obama’s stimulus package last week, said before the final vote Friday that more of his colleagues would have joined were they not afraid of the political consequences.

“When I came back to the cloak room after coming to the agreement a week ago today,” said Specter, “one of my colleagues said, ‘Arlen, I’m proud of you.’ My Republican colleague said, ‘Arlen, I’m proud of you.’ I said, ‘Are you going to vote with me?’ And he said, ‘No, I might have a primary.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know very well I’m going to have a primary.'”

Specter, along with centrist Maine Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, joined with Democrats last week to move the stimulus bill forward. Specter said he doubted there would be any more Republican votes than those three Friday night.

“I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation,” he said.

Specter was asked, How many of your colleagues?

“I think a sizable number,” he said. “I think a good part of the caucus agrees with the person I quoted, but I wouldn’t want to begin to speculate on numbers.”

Despite all their talk, Republicans have no real devotion to fiscal responsibility or reducing spending. Republicans certainly didn’t complain when Bush ran up a huge deficit and squandering the surplus. Bush paid for an unnecessary war on credit. If we must increase debt, I’d far rather see it be done to improve the infrastructure and (hopefully) stimulate the economy and get us out of this recession.

As I noted earlier, this is not only about the stimulus package. Republicans hope that Obama fails regardless of the issue. Some are saying that Obama wasted his breath trying to work with the Republicans. In some ways I think Obama outsmarted the Republicans on this. While he certainly wanted more Republican support in Congress, obtaining support from Republican members of Congress is not the primary reason for making attempts at bipartisanship. Obama’s victory came with the support of many independents and people who have voted Republican in the past.

By taking the high road, Obama solidifies his support among these voters, while if he tried to replicate the Bush strategy of governing with 50% plus one he might have driven some of these voters away. By showing no interest in bipartisan governing, the Republicans have greatly reduced their chances of ever getting back the voters who left them in 2006 and 2008.

Here’s a simple thought experiment. If there was a magic button which a politician could push (without anyone knowing it) which would lead to a worsening of the economic situation for a couple of years resulting in political harm to Obama, does anyone really think that more than a handful of Republicans would resist pushing that button? If there was a button which would cause the economy to quickly recover, but also lead to increased political popularity for Obama, does anyone doubt that the Republicans would be coming up with a bunch of scare stories to try to keep anyone from pushing that button?

How Not To Appear Moderate

This is not the way to help your image:

A prominent Buffalo area businessman who founded the BridgesTV network to improve the image of Muslims in the U.S. has been arrested and charged with murdering his estranged wife – by beheading her at his company’s office in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Thursday.

Police have charged the husband, Muzzammil Hassan, 44, with second-degree murder in the death of Aasiya Z. Hassan, 37.

In its logo, BridgesTV boasts of “connecting people through understanding” via its dish network available in several states. Its Web site quotes comments about the company by Jay Leno, Brian Williams and others, plus a screen shot of a CNBC interview with Hassan conducted by Maria Bartiromo.

Posted in In The News. Tags: . No Comments »