Conservatives Admit Defeat In Culture War

Some conservatives are conceding defeat in the culture wars. The Telegraph reports:

Leading evangelicals have admitted that their association with George W. Bush has not only hurt the cause of social conservatives but contributed to the failure of the key objectives of their 30-year struggle.

James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family – one of the largest Christian groups in the country – and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.

“We tried to defend the unborn child, the dignity of the family, but it was a holding action,” he said.

“We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”

Despite changing the political agenda for a generation, and helping push the Republicans to the Right, evangelicals have won only minor victories in limiting the availability of abortion. Meanwhile the number of states permitting civil partnerships between homosexuals is rising, and the campaign to restore prayer to schools after 40 years – a decision that helped create the Moral Majority – has got nowhere.

Though the struggle will go on, the confession of Mr Dobson, who started his ministry from scratch in 1977, came amid growing concern that church attendance in the United States is heading the way of Britain, where no more than ten per cent worship every week.

Steve Benen agrees with James Dobson that the right has lost (even if they are not all giving up the fight. (Has anyone ever before written the words “Steve Benen agrees with James Dobson?)

Now, in fairness, this report omitted some context. As my friend Kyle reported, Dobson actually emphasized his desire to keep the fight going, despite the religious right movement’s setbacks: “Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles, but God is in control and we are not going to give up now, right? … I have been assured by the board and by many of you that we’re not going to cow, we’re not going to be discouraged.”

That said, whether Dobson and his cohorts give up now or not, his assessment about their lack of success is nevertheless accurate. The culture war is all but over, and far-right evangelicals have precious little to show for their efforts. After about three decades of fighting, the culture warriors are hard pressed to point to any progress at all.

Anti-gay animus is not only waning, four states now allow gay marriage. Abortion is still legal and a majority of Americans are still pro-choice. School prayer isn’t even on the political world’s radar screen anymore. Pornography is not only a multi-billion industry; it’s more accessible than ever. The single fasting growing segment of the American spiritual landscape is non-believers and those with no religious identification.

James Joyner also writes that The Right  Lost The Culture War in response to this article in the Washington  Examiner.  Political editor Chris Stirewalt asked, “Has the Right surrendered in the culture war?”

I would quibble, however, with one word in Stirewalt’s question.  The right hasn’t surrendered the culture wars; we lost.

And yes, I include myself.  As regular readers know, I’m decidedly not religious and am libertarian on these matters with respect to the use of government power.  I spent the first nearly-three-decades of my life, though, immersed in Southern and military culture.  I’m still anti-abortion (although not anti-contraception) still oppose reading same-sex marriage into the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause (a subject for a separate post).

Conservative culture has been under assault from the popular culture, the schools, and the courts for quite some time now.  We’ve lost the youth and future generations are decidedly unlikely to ever become meaningfully “conservative,” short of an apocalyptic scenario.

I am not yet prepared to claim victory and consider the culture war won for liberalism. I’ve often written that history is on our side. The trend of history has been towards greater liberty and for reason over superstition. However history does not always work in straight lines. It is not possible to know what issues will reemerge in the short run. Just four years ago the right was able to capitalize on anti-gay marriage initiatives to bring out the religious right and defeat John Kerry. While the trend of history is towards greater liberty, there will always be opponents who desire to impose their will and values upon others.

SciFi Weekend Part II: Planet of the Dead


This year we are limited to a series of Doctor Who specials instead of the weekly episodes. For Easter, Planet of the Dead, seemed like filler while waiting for the final two episodes for both Russell T. Davies and David Tennant. This post does contain some spoilers but I’ll avoid giving away the entire plot for the benefit of those who have not seen it yet.

The show opened with Lady Christina de Souza, played by Michelle Ryan, stealing an antique goblet. During her escape she wound up on a double decker bus with The Doctor. The bus went through a worm hole and wound up in an alien desert filmed in Dubai. I actually enjoyed the portions at the start of the show and at the end after they managed to return to London better than the  portion on the alien planet. Like with the Christmas special, the relationship with the episode’s companion was far more interesting than the menace faced.

The Doctor continued to show his pain from losing Rose and Donna, turning down Lady Christina’s request to join him out of fear of being hurt once again from a companion leaving him. There werewarnings to The Doctor that his “song is ending.” There was also a  possible reference to The Master returning “from the darkness.” Whatever is to come will “knock four times.”


Before the episode aired, Russell T. Davies gave an interview which include his thoughts for the future of the show:

Finally, moving back to Doctor Who, have you had to co-ordinate much with Steven Moffat when he takes over?

We talk a lot, but it’s a very clean break. He needed to know where he was picking it up from.

Anything you’d hope for?

If I was working on series five of Doctor Who, I would bring back Michelle Ryan at the drop of a hat. I think she’s absolutely glorious. But I doubt that he will – he doesn’t need to pick up old characters of mine, although he might bring back some old monsters. He’s just brilliant at creating stuff, and needs to make it absolutely his.

Is there anything you can tell us about your last episode yet?

People already know that Bernard Cribbins is back. He’s in it as a proper companion, for the full two episodes. And to have the Doctor with Wilfred at his side is one of my best decisions, ever. I’m so pleased with it – it’s just lovely.

And there’s those paparazzi shots of what looks like John Simm – is it him?

Maybe. It’s not quite as easy to guess what’s happening as you think – there’s nightmare sequences, and layers of fantasy, because the Doctor’s coming to the end of his time. It’s quite interesting to watch things being filmed, and think: ‘Oh, I can see what that would look like…’

You’ve had him save the Earth, the universe, the multiverse… how do you provide a fitting send-off for David’s Doctor?

Don’t worry. I have.

I knew I’d write David’s last episode one day, so I’ve had this tucked away. You do think: ‘How can the stakes get bigger?’ And they do. They really do. I don’t mean just in terms of spectacle, but in terms of how personal it gets for him. It’s such an honour to write for that man, and I really mean that. He’s the loveliest man. SUCH a good actor. When it comes to the last episode, there is no way I would let him down.

Finally – really finally this time – are the Daleks the best villains in the world?

Yes. Better than anything, ever. Better than Darth Vader. Better than Satan. Better than words. I love them. My greatest joy is them working again, after all these years. Everyone said we should redesign them – everyone. Literally everyone said: ‘Here’s a modern version of a Dalek.’ And it’s the one thing I dug my heels in about, purely on instinct.

It looks like a good decision now, but felt like madness at the time. I said you can beef it up, you can make it look better, but you’re not changing the design – not just the design, but the proportions, the distance between the slats, the relationship between the eye and the sucker. I literally stood there like a wall, holding back the flood. And I was right. Thank God! There was a little voice saying ‘You’re an idiot’, so the fact I listened to the voice saying ‘You’re right’ was a miracle. And when you see the kids clutching the toys, and wearing the T-shirts – they love them.

There is no doubt that Stephen Moffat will make the show his. His episodes have always stood out from the rest. Doctor Who also has a long tradition and I don’t see any problem with Moffat taking advantage of that, including bringing back some of Davies’ characters if they go along with Moffat’s overall plans.

If Bernard Cribbins is coming back, what of Donna? Cribbins did play her grandfather. It is rather sad that Donna not only had to leave The Doctor but lost all memory of her time with him. There have been rumors that there will be a resoluton to this before the end of the David Tennant era.

SciFi Weekend Part I: Born to Run (Sarah Connor Chronicles Finale)


This week marked the season finale, and possibly series finale, of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I had expected the episode, Born to Run, to provide a potential ending for the series. Instead, while it did answer some questions, it raised far more and ended with quite a cliff hanger. (Major spoilers here).

There had already been some hints, but it was now confirmed that Weaver is fighting against Skynet as opposed to tying to build it as it first appeared. When Sarah Connor was being interrogated in jail (by Joshua Malina of the The West Wing) we also found that Miles Dyson’s son was missing, which leaves another plot line for next season should the show be renewed.

The bulk of the significant occurrences happened in the last ten minutes or so. Prior to that we had one gigantic tease for those wondering if John Connor was going to ultimately have intimate relations with Cameron (Summer Glau). Cameron removed her shirt and bra, had John lie down on top of her, and had him reach into her body under her breast plate.


This could be a moment Summer Glau fans on Big Bang Theory will never forget and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there isn’t a reference to this scene on the show. (Of couse Sheldon wouldn’t get it and would talk about radiation and cyborg construction.) To the disappointment of most male fans, nothing of consequence did come of this, and later Cameron was in the full Terminator role to bust Sarah Connor out of jail. In the final minutes of the episode they went to Weaver’s office where she stated her goal of stopping Skynet. To make this more convincing she wound up saving the others from an attack.

While John and Sarah were in Weaver’s office, Cameron was going after John Henry in the basement. Instead of trying to destroy him as expected, Cameron gave John Henry her chip and he traveled through time. Weaver and John followed and wound up in an alternative future post-Judgment Day. As we found out previously from Kyle Reese, there is more than one potential future.

In this future John was not around to lead the resistance, presumably because of  jumping into the future before Judgement Day occured. John met both Kyle and Derek Reese but they had never heard of John Connor. Also present was a girl who I assume was Allison, the girl Cameron was modeled upon. Presumably somewhere around there is John Henry’s body with Cameron’s chip along with  Weaver, who has used her shape shifting abilities to go into hiding.

This would be a horrible way for the series to end. A thread throughout the series and the Terminator movies was to save John Connor to lead the resistance. Now we have a future where Skynet has its wish and there is no John Connor. If there is a third season this alternative future does open what can become an interesting storyline, presumably with John and Cameron ultimately returning to the present. It will also be interesting to see if anything happens between John and the human version of Cameron in the future.

Blog Against Theocracy 2009


This weekend is the official 2009 Blog Against Theocracy Blogswarm. Blogging against theocracy is an ongoing mission of this blog and today I’ll highlight some of the recent posts on this topic.

Yesterday I noted that opposition to a possible appointment of Caroline Kennedy to be ambassador to the Vatican due to her support for abortion rights and stem cell research, arguing that our ambassador should reflect our values, not the values of the country they are going to. As I added in the comments in response to another reader, “As a secular government founded on the principle of separation of church and state the United States government should never make such an appointment based upon religious views. Their views that abortion is sinful is irrelevant to our diplomatic appointments.”

Last week I cited Kathleen Parker’s op-ed on Disenchantment With Politics Among the Religious Right.

Views on separation of church and state influences  Liberal vs. Conservative Views on Marriage Equality,with liberals not accepting the conservative view that their religious views justify restriction on gay marriage. Here’s one of the more bizarre arguments made against marriage equality.

This post shows a sign which demonstrates Irreconcilable Differences
between some religious organizations and those who believe in reason.

The Pope’s Anti-Life Views were examined during his trip to Africa.

While there have been some signs that the culture wars might be diminishing, there are indications that they might continue, such as seeing Newt Gingrich Trying To Mobilize Religious Right. More on the culture wars here and here.

Teaching evolution versus creationism has been a major battle. For an amusing view of the mindset of the opposition see  50 Reasons to Reject Evolution.

Last month we even had an example of Conservatives Discovering Separation of Church and State.

Avoiding the Extremes in Health Care

Conservatives try to lump any government action involving health care together as “socialized medicine.” Similarly they act as if European programs all fall under this label. In reality there are a wide range of plans used around the world and a wide variety of plans discussed in the United States. At one extreme there are totally government run plans as in the United Kingdom. Canada has a single payer plan where the government has replaced private insurance as the primary payer, giving the government a tremendous amount of control over health care. Other countries have a combination of government and private insurance.

While most Democratic politicians support such a mixed approach, it seems that the bulk of economically liberal bloggers are supporting a single payer plan. Therefore I was a surprised to see Ezra Klein’s op-ed in The Los Angles Times in which he described problems of single payer plans and supported a more mixed approach:

Britain and Canada control costs in a very specific fashion: The government sets a budget for how much will be spent on healthcare that year, and the system figures out how to spend that much and no more. One of the ways the British and Canadians save money is to punt elective surgeries to a lower priority level. A 2001 survey by the policy journal “Health Affairs” found that 38% of Britons and 27% of Canadians reported waiting four months or more for elective surgery. Among Americans, that number was only 5%. Score one of us!

Well, sort of. American healthcare controls costs in another way. Rather than deciding as a society how much will be spent in the coming year and then figuring out how best to spend it, we abdicate collective responsibility and let individuals fend for themselves. So although Britain and Canada have decided that no one will go without, even if some must occasionally wait, the U.S. has decided that most of those who can’t afford care simply won’t get it…

Moreover, surveys conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have found that most countries don’t have waiting lines or the uninsured. Not Germany or France or Japan or Sweden, all of which have more of a mix of public and private options. But Canada is next door, and Britain speaks our language, so we tend to spend a lot of time comparing our system with these systems and not a lot of time thinking through the full range of options.

In light of the “Health Affairs” data, smugness about our speedy access to care seems a bit peculiar. If someone can’t afford care, we record their waiting time as zero. You don’t wait for what you can’t have. But a more accurate accounting would record that wait as infinite, or it would record when the patient eventually ends up in the emergency room because the original ailment went untreated. Research like this raises a simple question: Would you rather wait four months for a surgery or be unable to get it altogether?

Just last week, House Republicans expressed their preference for the latter. Their long-awaited budget document was admirably specific about changes to Medicare. They call for “a new Medicare program” in which enrollees are given a check “equal to 100% of the Medicare benefit,” which they can then take to the private market to purchase their own care.

This proposal has a purpose beyond dismantling a popular government entitlement program. Currently, Medicare does not abide by a budget. It is not run like the Canadian or British healthcare systems. Instead, it pays whatever is deemed “reasonable and necessary.” Because of that, costs are shooting through the roof: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare spending will more than triple by 2050.

The Republican plan gives Medicare a budget. Costs grow only as fast as the check grows. And because the check grows more slowly than health spending does, the program saves money. But this is, in effect, almost precisely the strategy of Britain and Canada: It is the government imposing an arbitrary budget on its healthcare spending.

The difference is that the British and Canadian governments try to apportion that health spending so that the whole population gets care. That can mean, alongside other cost-saving measures, longer waits for services. The Republican budget simply would give individuals a fixed check. That will mean that patients who exceed that sum and don’t have money of their own go without needed care.

So Americans will continue to brag that no one waits, and Canadians and Britons will continue to brag that no one goes without. And somewhere, the French and the Germans and the Japanese and the Swiss and many others will wonder why we insist on choosing between such awful extremes.

First Puppy Selected


What is perhaps the most eagerly awaited appointment from Barack Obama has finally been settled. The identity of the first puppy leaked out:

The little guy is a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog given to the Obama girls as a gift by that Portuguese water dog-lovin’ senator himself, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. The girls named it Bo — and let it be noted that you learned that here first. Malia and Sasha chose the name, because their cousins have a cat named Bo and because first lady Michelle Obama’s father was nicknamed Diddley, a source said. (Get it? Bo . . . Diddley?)

Bo’s a handsome little guy. Well suited for formal occasions at the White House, he’s got tuxedo-black fur, with a white chest, white paws and a rakish white goatee.

Clearly, the identity of the dog was information too big to contain. A mysterious Web site called published a picture of a Portie yesterday morning, complete with a Q and A with the dog, which it said was originally named Charlie. The celebrity gossip Web site http://TMZ.comlinked to the picture. So much for the big White House unveiling.

Bo seems to be a common pet name. I personally know of two pets named Bo. One was a cat owned by a friend of my wife while we were dating named after Bo Brady on Days Of Our  Lives. I also have a friend with a pair of dogs named Bo and Brady after former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler and former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady.

I do not anticipate any difficulties in obtaining Senate confirmation for this key appointment. Bo does not appear to have any unpaid taxes or nanny problems.