Monday, November 30, 2009

CBS is Liberal. You Must be Kidding.

CBS' Cordes falsely suggests health care bills will not reduce deficits after 10 years
CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes forwarded the Republican suggestion that the House and Senate health care reform bills are a "trillion-dollar scam" because the bills "impos[e] new taxes years before the tax credits would kick in to help Americans buy insurance," and thus would only reduce the deficit in the first decade after enactment. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that both bills would also reduce the deficit beyond the first 10 years.
Good for Nancy I hope she enjoys all the gifts she'll be getting from right-wing conservatives.

The Moral Relativity of Conservatives

Radical Christianist Rick Warren thinks that zygotes are full fledged human beings. He does not think gay people are, Rick Warren Refuses To Condemn Proposed Ugandan Law To Execute Gays
Newsweek tried to get Warren's reaction to the anti-gay work of Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has come to his Saddleback Church multiple times. (Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa in general terms, saying the Ugandan minister does not represent him or his church.) Warren wouldn't reject the idea:

But Warren won't go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: "The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations." On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: "As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides." Warren did say he believed that abortion was "a holocaust." He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.

Ssempa has also burned condoms "in the name of Jesus," helping roll back a highly successful anti-AIDS campaign in Uganda.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Too Bad Hacked e-mails Have Not Stopped Global Warming

Too Bad Hacked e-mails Have Not Stopped Global Warming
A group of climate scientists released "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" on Tuesday, saying that global ice-sheets are melting at an increased rate, Arctic sea ice is disappearing much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than forecast.

Meantime, controversy continues over thousands of e-mails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. Climate change skeptics say excerpts from the e-mails show climate scientists are trying to dupe the public.

The diagnosis, a year in the making, comes two weeks before United Nations-led climate change talks begin in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to 10 years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
Not all of the media, just most decided that President Obama's recent Asia tour was a failure. Manufactured failure: press coverage of Obama in Asia. One of the momentous things Obama was able to accomplish that Bush ( in two terms) could not was to get China to support an IAEA censure of Iran.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

One Old Habit That is Hurting America

Is Belief in God Hurting America?

From Dostoyevsky to right-wing commentator Ann Coulter we are warned of the perils of godlessness. "If there is no God," Dostoyevsky wrote, "everything is permitted." Coulter routinely attributes our nation's most intractable troubles to the moral vacuum of atheism.

But a growing body of research in what one sociologist describes as the "emerging field of secularity" is challenging long-held assumptions about the relationship of religion and effective governance.

In a paper posted recently on the online journal Evolutionary Psychology, independent researcher Gregory S. Paul reports a strong correlation within First World democracies between socioeconomic well-being and secularity. In short, prosperity is highest in societies where religion is practiced least.

Using existing data, Paul combined 25 indicators of societal and economic stability — things like crime, suicide, drug use, incarceration, unemployment, income, abortion and public corruption — to score each country using what he calls the "successful societies scale." He also scored countries on their degree of religiosity, as determined by such measures as church attendance, belief in a creator deity and acceptance of Bible literalism.

Comparing the two scores, he found, with little exception, that the least religious countries enjoyed the most prosperity. Of particular note, the U.S. holds the distinction of most religious and least prosperous among the 17 countries included in the study, ranking last in 14 of the 25 socioeconomic measures.

Paul is quick to point out that his study reveals correlation, not causation. Which came first — prosperity or secularity — is unclear, but Paul ventures a guess. While it's possible that good governance and socioeconomic health are byproducts of a secular society, more likely, he speculates, people are inclined to drop their attachment to religion once they feel distanced from the insecurities and burdens of life.

"Popular religion," Paul proposes, "is a coping mechanism for the anxieties of a dysfunctional social and economic environment." Paul, who was criticized, mostly on statistical grounds, for a similar study published in 2005, says his new findings lend support to the belief that mass acceptance of popular religion is determined more by environmental influences and less by selective, evolutionary forces, as scholars and philosophers have long debated.

In other words, we're not hardwired for religion.

Paul also believes his study helps refute the controversial notion that the moral foundation of religious doctrine is a requisite for any high-functioning society - what he dubs the "moral-creator hypothesis."

Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College whose research looks at the link between religion and societal health within the developed world, agrees with that assertion. "The important thing we're seeing here is that progressive, highly functional societies can answer their problems within a framework of secularity. That's a big deal, and we should be blasting that message out loud," he contends.

Zuckerman says the findings are consistent with his own data, collected for his 2008 book Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment — a portrait of secular society in Denmark and Sweden — and his forthcoming Faith No More: How and Why People Reject Religion.

Scandinavian countries, in particular, have achieved high levels of economic strength and social stability, and yet the influence of religion there is in steep decline, perhaps the lowest in recoded history. Coincidence or not, those countries also rank among the world's happiest populations. In The Netherlands' Erasmus University Rotterdam's annual World Database of Happiness the same Northern European countries that score low in religiosity rank high in reported levels of happiness. (The U.S ranked 27th).

What's their secret? Zuckerman believe it lies in the historically strong sense of community — perhaps a survival response to long, harsh winters - that transcends religious life in these northern climates. Social well-being, economic strength (and happiness) are products of community interaction, not faith, Zuckerman conjectures.

If that's true — and other researchers, such as influential Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, are touting the idea that mass religion's greatest value lies in the web of personal interaction it weaves — then societies that reject religion may suffer if strong secular institutions are not in place to maintain community bonds and foster positive civic associations. Social interactions both inside and outside church structure, Bloom recently wrote, is far more beneficial than "a belief in constant surveillance by a higher power."

Indeed, researchers in a variety of other studies are targeting the positive effects of church-based social interaction. One study published earlier this year in the Journal of Happiness Studies concluded that the quality and depth of personal relationships has a far greater effect on children's happiness than does religious practice itself — church attendance, prayer, meditation. In many American communities, organized religion is the principal conduit to those kinds of close relationships, as well as to civic action and problem-solving.

Zuckerman warns against hasty emulation of the Danes and Swedes. "We can't just say that secularity is good for society and religion is bad," he warns. "And nor can we say the opposite. The connections are very complex."

Paul is less compromising, characterizing organized religion, particularly the conservative Christian brand widely practiced in the U.S., as societal anathema, conspiring against real progress.

In his paper, Paul writes of an "antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith" derived from fear that greater prosperity will loosen the grip of religion. That antagonism, though subtle, is evident in the debate over health care, he argues, noting the intense opposition of such groups as the Christian Coalition to universal coverage and other progressive, European-style fixes.

"These groups have a lot to lose in these kinds of debates. When you adopt progressive policy reforms," Paul says, "in the long run, religion is bound to be road kill."

Paul, 54, lives in Baltimore and is not affiliated with any university or think tank. He is largely self-taught. He has published three respected books on paleontology, claiming naming rights to a handful of species, and he earns a living as an artist and illustrator of prehistoric creatures. He migrated to the field of secular studies to wage a kind of scholarly assault on the right-wing fundamentalists who challenge both the evolutionary assumptions of paleontology and, it follows, his livelihood.

He isn't shy about promoting progressive policy reforms and is quick to blame the Christian right for a range of societal dysfunctions. (A recent study published in the journal Reproductive Health found that states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs have higher rates of teenagers giving birth).

Yet in spite of his findings, and his secularist agenda, Paul stops short of proposing measures to suppress the role and influence of religion in America. Why? It's already happening, he insists. Although we remain largely a nation of believers, our faith and commitment are slipping. Religious affiliation, church attendance and belief in God are all in slow decline in the U.S. A recent Gallup poll found that two-thirds of adults believe the influence of religion in American life is waning, up from 50 percent just four years ago.

As these trends continue, he believes, policymaking will more effectively address the true needs of society, rather than the dogma of religious idealism. "People need to know that society without religion is not a bad thing," Paul says. "And we're seeing this in other countries. We don't need religion to have a thriving, prosperous nation."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gross Immoral Lies are the Only Contribution Conservatives Make to Health Care Debate

Former Insurance Company Executive: Health Insurers Stand Between Patients And Their Doctors
One of the most common right-wing memes used by opponents of health care reform is that progressive solutions to America’s health care problems place “Washington bureaucrats firmly between you and your doctor.” Again and again, conservatives have deployed this meme to demagogue the health care debate.

However, the reality is there already is someone standing between you and your doctor: health insurance companies. Single mother Ellen Hayden knows this from experience. After losing her mother at the age of 7 from breast cancer, Hayden has done everything she can to get regular mammograms. Following an abnormal mammogram, her doctor recommended that she have an MRI. After the scan, her insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, refused to pay for the procedure and is also refusing to pay for a follow-up second MRI her doctor has suggested.

Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive who now works at the University of New Hampshire, told Sea Coast Online that this is Hayden’s case is an example of “insurance people” getting between patients and their doctors:

“It’s understandable that this is an emotional issue because most patients believe that ‘nothing is going to stand between me and what I want to get done,’” said Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive and director of the N.H. Institute of Health Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire. [...]

“We have this notion in our political debate and popular culture that we can’t have reform because that means that government bureaucrats will make decisions but we already have insurance people playing that role,” said Helms

Helms went on to say that one of the major obstacles to attaining proper reform is the way insurance companies often “write their own rules for the road.”

Conservatives Lack the Moral Backbone to Lead

There generally is no sense to the conservative concept of morality. They're much like monkeys that read and memorize a distorted mirror image of morals and then repeat these distortions to the point of nausea, 30 GOP Senators Vote to Defend Gang Rape

It is stunning that 30 Republican members of the United States Senate would vote to protect a corporation, in this case Halliburton/KBR, over a woman who was gang raped. The details from Think Progress:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Offering Ms. Jones legal relief was Senator Al Franken of Minnesota who offered an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

Seems simple enough. And yet, to GOP Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama allowing victims of sexual assault a day in court is tantamount to a "political attack" at Halliburton. That 29 others, all men, chose to join him in opposing the Franken amendment is simply mind-boggling.

Here are those who vote to protect a corporation over a victim of rape:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

In the debate, Senator Sessions maintained that Franken's amendment overreached into the private sector and suggested that it violated the due process clause of the Constitution.

To which, Senator Franken fired back quoting the Constitution. "Article 1 Section 8 of our Constitution gives Congress the right to spend money for the welfare of our citizens. Because of this, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote, 'Congress may attach conditions on the receipt of federal funds and has repeatedly employed that power to further broad policy objectives,'" Franken said. "That is why Congress could pass laws cutting off highway funds to states that didn't raise their drinking age to 21. That's why this whole bill [the Defense Appropriations bill] is full of limitations on contractors -- what bonuses they can give and what kind of health care they can offer. The spending power is a broad power and my amendment is well within it."

God I love it when Senator Franken quotes the Constitution. Not every Republican was so clueless. Ten voted for the Franken amendment including the GOP's female contingent of Senators (Snowe, Collins, Hutchinson and Murkowski).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is America Falling Apart at the Foundations

Is America Falling Apart at the Foundations

The following is an edited excerpt from the Amped Status report, "The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society."

The economic elite have launched an attack on the U.S. public and society is unraveling at an increased rate. You may have missed it in the mainstream news media, but statistical societal indicators are reading red across the board. Let’s look at the top 15 statistics that prove we are under attack.

1) The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The U.S. already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top 1 percent, the gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of the U.S. population has grown to a record high.

2) As the stock market went over the 10,000 mark and just surged to a 13-month high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefited the most from the government bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $30 billion in annual bonuses this year, “up 60 percent from last year.” Bloomberg reported: “Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, and it is also benefiting by only paying 1 percent in taxes.

3) The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth."

As the looting is occurring at the top, the U.S. middle class is just beginning to collapse.

4) Workers between the ages of 55 to 60, who have worked for 20 to 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.

5) Home foreclosure filings "hit a record high in the third quarter (of 2009)… They were the worst three months of all time… 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter" in this three-month period; “3.4 million homes are expected to enter foreclosure by year’s end, with some experts estimating that next year will be even worse.”

........................................How to we get to this point, Who's to Blame for the Deficit Numbers?

The revised deficit numbers reported by the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget today show a lower deficit than previously estimated for 2009, with higher deficits for 2010 and beyond. Political opportunists will be busy looking for chances to score points over these numbers—pinning the dismal fiscal picture on the Obama administration.

The real story is, however, fairly obvious. The policies of the Bush administration, which included tax cuts during a time of war and a floundering economy, are clearly the primary source of the current deficits. The Obama administration policies that are beginning to give the economy a needed jumpstart—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in particular—place a distant third in contributing to the 2009 and 2010 deficit numbers. The deficit picture for the years beyond still needs to be painted.

To come to these conclusions, we calculated the relative importance of the several factors contributing to the 2009 and 2010 deficits by looking at the impact in those years of various policies. A detailed description of our approach is at the end of this column. Below is the percentage share of the major contributing factors to the total deterioration from the surpluses projected in 2000 to the current deficits according to our analysis. The policies of President George W. Bush make up the largest share, followed by the current economic downturn, and then President Barack Obama’s policies. ( Chart at the link)

Conservatism is a pox on democracy

What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? by Philip E. Agre

Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves "conservatives" have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

//1 The Main Arguments of Conservatism

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy. In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

Conservatism in every place and time is founded on deception. The deceptions of conservatism today are especially sophisticated, simply because culture today is sufficiently democratic that the myths of earlier times will no longer suffice.

Before analyzing current-day conservatism's machinery of deception, let us outline the main arguments of conservatism. Although these arguments have changed little through history, they might seem unfamiliar to many people today, indeed even to people who claim to be conservatives. That unfamiliarity is a very recent phenomenon. Yet it is only through the classical arguments and their fallacies that we can begin to analyze how conservatism operates now.

1. Institutions

According to the first type of argument, found for example in Burke, social institutions are a kind of capital. A properly ordered society will be blessed with large quantities of this capital. This capital has very particular properties. It is a sprawling tangle of social arrangements and patterns of thought, passed down through generations as part of the culture. It is generally tacit in nature and cannot be rationally analyzed. It is fragile and must be conserved, because a society that lacks it will collapse into anarchy and tyranny. Innovation is bad, therefore, and prejudice is good. Although the institutions can tolerate incremental reforms around the edges, systematic questioning is a threat to social order. In particular, rational thought is evil. Nothing can be worse for the conservative than rational thought, because people who think rationally might decide to try replacing inherited institutions with new ones, something that a conservative regards as impossible. This is where the word "conservative" comes from: the supposed importance of conserving established institutions.

This argument is not wholly false. Institutions are in fact sprawling tangles of social arrangements and patterns of thought, passed down through generations as part of the culture. And people who think they can reengineer the whole of human society overnight are generally mistaken. The people of ancien regime France were oppressed by the conservative order of their time, but indeed their revolution did not work, and would probably not have worked even if conservatives from elsewhere were not militarily attacking them. After all, the conservative order had gone to insane lengths to deprive them of the education, practical experience, and patterns of thought that would be required to operate a democracy. They could not invent those things overnight.

Even so, the argument about conserving institutions is mostly untrue. Most institutions are less fragile and more dynamic than conservatives claim. Large amounts of institutional innovation happen in every generation. If people lack a rational analysis of institutions, that is mostly a product of conservatism rather than an argument for it. And although conservatism has historically claimed to conserve institutions, history makes clear that conservatism is only interested in conserving particular kinds of institutions: the institutions that reinforce conservative power. Conservatism rarely tries to conserve institutions such as Social Security and welfare that decrease the common people's dependency on the aristocracy and the social authorities that serve it. To the contrary, they represent those institutions in various twisted ways as dangerous to to the social order generally or to their beneficiaries in particular.

2. Hierarchy

The opposite of conservatism is democracy, and contempt for democracy is a constant thread in the history of conservative argument. Instead, conservatism has argued that society ought to be organized in a hierarchy of orders and classes and controlled by its uppermost hierarchical stratum, the aristocracy. Many of these arguments against egalitarianism are ancient, and most of them are routinely heard on the radio. One tends to hear the arguments in bits and pieces, for example the emphatic if vague claim that people are different. Of course, most of these arguments, if considered rationally, actually argue for meritocracy rather than for aristocracy. Meritocracy is a democratic principle. George Bush, however, was apparently scarred for life by having been one of the last students admitted to Yale under its old aristocratic admissions system, and having to attend classes with students admitted under the meritocratic system who considered themselves to be smarter than him. Although he has lately claimed to oppose the system of legacy admissions from which he benefitted, that is a tactic, part of a package deal to eliminate affirmative action, thereby allowing conservative social hierarchies to be reaffirmed in other ways.

American culture still being comparatively healthy, overt arguments for aristocracy (for example, that the children of aristocrats learn by osmosis the profound arts of government and thereby acquire a wisdom that mere experts cannot match) are still relatively unusual. Instead, conservatism must proceed through complicated indirection, and the next few sections of this article will explain in some detail how this works. The issue is not that rich people are bad, or that hierarchical types of organization have no place in a democracy. Nor are the descendents of aristocrats necessarily bad people if they do not try to perpetuate conservative types of domination over society. The issue is both narrow and enormous: no aristocracy should be allowed to trick the rest of society into deferring to it.

3. Freedom

But isn't conservatism about freedom? Of course everyone wants freedom, and so conservatism has no choice but to promise freedom to its subjects. In reality conservatism has meant complicated things by "freedom", and the reality of conservatism in practice has scarcely corresponded even to the contorted definitions in conservative texts.

To start with, conservatism constantly shifts in its degree of authoritarianism. Conservative rhetors, in the Wall Street Journal for example, have no difficulty claiming to be the party of freedom in one breath and attacking civil liberties in the next.

The real situation with conservatism and freedom is best understood in historical context. Conservatism constantly changes, always adapting itself to provide the minimum amount of freedom that is required to hold together a dominant coalition in the society. In Burke's day, for example, this meant an alliance between traditional social authorities and the rising business class. Although the business class has always defined its agenda in terms of something it calls "freedom", in reality conservatism from the 18th century onward has simply implied a shift from one kind of government intervention in the economy to another, quite different kind, together with a continuation of medieval models of cultural domination.

This is a central conservative argument: freedom is impossible unless the common people internalize aristocratic domination. Indeed, many conservative theorists to the present day have argued that freedom is not possible at all. Without the internalized domination of conservatism, it is argued, social order would require the external domination of state terror. In a sense this argument is correct: historically conservatives have routinely resorted to terror when internalized domination has not worked. What is unthinkable by design here is the possibility that people might organize their lives in a democratic fashion.

This alliance between traditional social authorities and the business class is artificial. The market continually undermines the institutions of cultural domination. It does this partly through its constant revolutionizing of institutions generally and partly by encouraging a culture of entrepreneurial initiative. As a result, the alliance must be continually reinvented, all the while pretending that its reinventions simply reinstate an eternal order.

Conservatism promotes (and so does liberalism, misguidedly) the idea that liberalism is about activist government where conservatism is not. This is absurd. It is unrelated to the history of conservative government. Conservatism promotes activist government that acts in the interests of the aristocracy. This has been true for thousands of years. What is distinctive about liberalism is not that it promotes activist government but that it promotes government that acts in the interests of the majority. Democratic government, however, is not simply majoritarian. It is, rather, one institutional expression of a democratic type of culture that is still very much in the process of being invented.

//2 How Conservatism Works

Conservative social orders have often described themselves as civilized, and so one reads in the Wall Street Journal that "the enemies of civilization hate bow ties". But what conservatism calls civilization is little but the domination of an aristocracy. Every aspect of social life is subordinated to this goal. That is not civilization.

The reality is quite the opposite. To impose its order on society, conservatism must destroy civilization. In particular conservatism must destroy conscience, democracy, reason, and language.

* The Destruction of Conscience

Liberalism is a movement of conscience. Liberals speak endlessly of conscience. Yet conservative rhetors have taken to acting as if they owned the language of conscience. They even routinely assert that liberals disparage conscience. The magnitude of the falsehood here is so great that decent people have been set back on their heels.

Conservatism continually twists the language of conscience into its opposite. It has no choice: conservatism is unjust, and cannot survive except by pretending to be the opposite of what it is.

Conservative arguments are often arbitrary in nature. Consider, for example, the controversy over Elian Gonzalez. Conservatism claims that the universe is ordered by absolutes. This would certainly make life easier if it was true. The difficulty is that the absolutes constantly conflict with one another. When the absolutes do not conflict, there is rarely any controversy. But when absolutes do conflict, conservatism is forced into sophistry. In the case of Elian Gonzalez, two absolutes conflicted: keeping families together and not making people return to tyrannies. In a democratic society, the decision would be made through rational debate. Conservatism, however, required picking one of the two absolutes arbitrarily (based perhaps on tactical politics in Florida) and simply accusing anyone who disagreed of flouting absolutes and thereby nihilistically denying the fundamental order of the universe. This happens every day. Arbitrariness replaces reason with authority. When arbitrariness becomes established in the culture, democracy decays and it becomes possible for aristocracies to dominate people's minds.

Another example of conservative twisting of the language of conscience is the argument, in the context of the attacks of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, that holding our side to things like the Geneva Convention implies an equivalence between ourselves and our enemies. This is a logical fallacy. The fallacy is something like: they kill so they are bad, but we are good so it is okay for us to kill. The argument that everything we do is okay so long as it is not as bad as the most extreme evil in the world is a rejection of nearly all of civilization. It is precisely the destruction of conscience.

Or take the notion of "political correctness". It is true that movements of conscience have piled demands onto people faster than the culture can absorb them. That is an unfortunate side-effect of social progress. Conservatism, however, twists language to make the inconvenience of conscience sound like a kind of oppression. The campaign against political correctness is thus a search-and-destroy campaign against all vestiges of conscience in society. The flamboyant nastiness of rhetors such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter represents the destruction of conscience as a type of liberation. They are like cultists, continually egging on their audiences to destroy their own minds by punching through one layer after another of their consciences.

Once I wrote on the Internet that bears in zoos are miserable and should be let go. In response to this, I received an e-mail viciously mocking me as an animal rights wacko. This is an example of the destruction of conscience. Any human being with a halfways functioning conscience will be capable of rationally debating the notion that unhappy bears in zoos should be let go. Of course, rational people might have other opinions. They might claim that the bears are not actually miserable, or that they would be just as miserable in the forest. Conservatism, though, has stereotyped concern for animals by associating it with its most extreme fringe. This sort of mockery of conscience has become systematic and commonplace.

* The Destruction of Democracy

For thousands of years, conservatism was universally understood as being in opposition to democracy. Having lost much of its ability to attack democracy openly, conservatism has tried in recent years to redefine the word "democracy" while engaging in deception to make the substance of democracy unthinkable.

Conservative rhetors, for example, have been using the word "government" in a way that does not distinguish between legitimate democracy and totalitarianism.

Then there is the notion that politicians who offer health care reforms, for example, are claiming to be better people than the rest of us. This is a particularly toxic distortion. Offering reforms is a basic part of democracy, something that every citizen can do.

Even more toxic is the notion that those who criticize the president are claiming to be better people than he is. This is authoritarianism.

Some conservative rhetors have taken to literally demonizing the very notion of a democratic opposition. Rush Limbaugh has argued at length that Tom Daschle resembles Satan simply because he opposes George Bush's policies. Ever since then, Limbaugh has regularly identified Daschle as "el diablo". This is the emotional heart of conservatism: the notion that the conservative order is ordained by God and that anyone and anything that opposes the conservative order is infinitely evil.

* The Destruction of Reason

Conservatism has opposed rational thought for thousands of years. What most people know nowadays as conservatism is basically a public relations campaign aimed at persuading them to lay down their capacity for rational thought.

Conservatism frequently attempts to destroy rational thought, for example, by using language in ways that stand just out of reach of rational debate or rebuttal.