Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

The evolution of Palin: Is the battle over evolution a struggle against science, or a proxy war with the state?

September 8th, 2008 4 comments

In the context of a review of the focus on “creationism” that Alaska governor Sarah Palin has injected in the presidential election, Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, has attempted to explain (in The Financial Times, oddly enough) to his readers in the UK the strange American politics of “intelligent design”.  While insightful, Caldwell has missed an important part of the bigger picture (which few Americans seem to have grasped).

Caldwell’s key points are below; I follow with my own views.

“The point of intelligent design is to take science down a peg. To warn enthusiasts that they risk “discrediting science itself” is a bit dense. For them, evolution is a potent symbol of the way “scientific materialism” leaves people feeling demeaned, disenfranchised, stripped of prerogatives and less free. This feeling is not groundless. Dostoyevsky and Marx said similar things. The scientific world-view poses challenges to religion only in the course of posing challenges to a whole lot besides. To take one obvious example: fewer offices permit smoking today, but it is a stretch to call this a choice. In the US, at least, there was little democratic participation in the decision. There was scientific research and then there were mandates from health boards and courts. Maybe these mandates were “all to the good”. That does not make them democratic.

“The anti-evolution activists in America’s small towns are wrong on the science – but wrong in a way that is of absolutely no consequence to them unless they choose a career in horse-breeding or molecular biochemistry. Their feelings of disenfranchisement, on the other hand, are real and consequential. Experts control an ever larger share of decisions about where roads can be built, what people can ingest, what can be taught and whether the decisions of democratic bodies pass constitutional muster. Like so much else in US public life, the battle over evolution is a class conflict disguised as a religious or moral conflict. It is comforting to look at the fight over evolution as one that pits the educated against the ignorant. It is that. But it is also a fight that pits technocrats against democrats.”

Roger Pielke Jr., a science policy analyst (who comments frequently on climate change matters) posted the above paragraphs without comment other than to praise Caldwell’s “incisive analysis”; I cross-post below verbatim my own comments to Roger:

Roger, I’d say that Caldwell has a thoughtful analysis, but it misses at least as much as it sees.

Some of what Caldwell misses is captured by Francois’ fears about a “scientist caste” that depends on public funding and is seen as part of a rigid, “dictatorship-like” social order who presume to have “ultimate authority”.

Caldwell is closest when he notes the feelings of disenfranchisement by “the anti-evolution activists in America’s small towns”, but this is NOT a “class conflict disguised as a religious or moral conflict”. Rather, it is a struggle between local parental choice over what their children are taught and state and federal governments and courts, on a battle ground created by the continued legacy role of governments in providing public education.

One simply does not see the creationist debate in private schools, and if state governments ever got out of the business of being educators (as opposed to providing support to parents to have their children educated in schools of their choice), the whole issue would disappear. As a legal matter, the legal battle is about the separation of church and state – if the state isn’t the educator, then the issue dries up. If we left school choice and education up to parents, most parents would prefer the best education. So the problem is chiefly one of parents being upset that organs of governments over which local parent have little influence – courts, legislatures and distant bureaucracies (Caldwell’s “technocrats”) – trump parental rights. This in turn is played into a larger power struggle between the rights of local government and more distant state and federal ones.

While the teaching profession itself leans Democrat, the NEA doesn’t run the courthouses or state houses, so this is hardly a “class” struggle. That does seem to be somewhat of a meme from the Right, however – that the evolution debate is about Godless communist lefties trying to dictate to small-town America. The irony, of course, is that while Republicans like to foster that resentment (as well as other resentments and fears – of ragheads, enviros, gays and French-speakers) for political gain, Republicans have consistently exacerbated the real concerns of small-town America by further federalizing education, increasing the power of federal government and doing nothing to put political power back in the hands of local citizens.

Hope from Democratic candidates on War? See "A Responsible Plan to End the War"

April 23rd, 2008 No comments

Democrats presently in Congress don’t seem to care too much about doing much to stand up to Pres. Bush on the war in Iraq, despite becoming the majority party on the back of a wave of voter revulsion over the war in November of 2006.

This lack of action has fuelled a wave of newer candidates among the Democrats – led by Marcy Burner in Washington State – who have made putting an end to the war a principal part of their campaign laid out a clearly stated  agenda to put an end to the US military role in Iraq as soon as possible.  The agenda, laid out in a declaration called “A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq”, has now been endorsed by 54 candidates for US House seats, 4 candidates for the US Senate – apparently all Democrats – along with:

  • Major General Paul Eaton (U.S. Army ret.), former Security Transition Commanding General, Iraq,
  • Brigadier General John Johns (U.S. Army ret.), specialist in counterinsurgency and nation-building,
  • Dr. Lawrence Korb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration, and
  • Capt. Larry Seaquist (U.S. Navy ret.), former commander of the U.S.S. Iowa and former Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning  The main page links to press coverage.

Christopher Hayes, the Washington editor of The Nation, summarized the Responsible Plan as follows:

Developed in collaboration with retired military officers and national security professionals, the plan attracted the support of fifteen additional Democratic Senate and House challengers in the first week after it was unveiled (see Unlike the withdrawal plans offered by both Democratic presidential candidates, the Responsible Plan opposes any residual forces as well as permanent military bases. It flatly states, “We must stop counter-productive military operations by U.S. occupation forces, and end our military presence in Iraq.” It looks toward restoring “Constitutional checks and balances and fix[ing] the ways in which our governmental, military, and civil institutions have failed us.”   

… it is an explicitly legislative road map, to be pursued by Congress with or without a President committed to withdrawal. Among other actions the plan calls for war funding to be brought into the normal budgetary process, as opposed to the ersatz emergency supplementals, which detach the cost of the war from the rest of the nation’s discretionary spending.

(emphasis added).

I am not a fan of Democrats in general, but I am strongly in favor of ending this ongoing and tremendously costly and destructive folly.  Those who prefer to vote Republican ought to consider pushing their preferred candidate to support the Responsible Plan and to make it part of a truly bipartisan agenda.

Categories: Democrats, Iraq, republicans, war Tags:

Update: Greenwald on Ron Paul and the "corruption and complicity of Democrats"

December 11th, 2007 No comments

This is an update to my earlier piece on Glenn Greenwald’s posts concerning Ron Paul (

After one of Greenwald’s readers drew his attention to my earlier piece, Greenwald stated the following in a comment thread :

“I’ll note two points more generally here relating to the broader discussion:

“(1) Criticizing some Democrats and documenting their involvement in many of the worst Bush abuses is not the same as saying that it doesn’t matter which party controls the various branches of government.

“(2) The notion that there is no meaningful difference between the parties is one that is more pronounced and tempting — understandably so — on days like this, when new evidence emerges of just how complicit key Democrats are in so many things.

“But many — I’d say most — people who react that way (again, completely understandably) on days when such stories are revealed are not going to harbor that “no-difference” belief for the next 12 months. When faced imminently with the prospect of a Giuliani administration or a Romney administration and all of the dreck that that would entail, my guess is that the perceived differences will become more pervasive.

“But whatever the results are, one has to describe the corruption and complicity of Democrats when one sees it, and one sees it with incredible frequency. That’s just true.”

While declining to expressly endorse Ron Paul, Greenwald is also careful to strongly criticize the Democratic establishment for its complicity in our corrupt government.

Categories: campaign, Democrats, Greenwald, ron paul Tags: