Well, it took much too long, but Huffpost finally posted some ammo you can use to rebut the noise about the embarrassing, but absurdly overblown email theft story that has become the right wing's latest shiny object. (At least until last night's speech on Afghanistan by President Obama.) 

To people who believe liberalism is fascism, evolution is a myth, and Obama was born in Kenya, the two emails, taken out of context and combined up with a complete lack of understanding about how science–and peer science–works, are a magical gift of deliverance from the Sky Fairy.  But as with most of what they believe, it's been ginned up by the professional denier community into something of ACORN proportions.  And yet, in the end, as with that story, it's mostly much about mostly nothing:

"Even if every bit of mud slung at these scientists were true, the body of scientific work supporting the theory of human-caused climate change—which spans hundreds of thousands of scientific papers written by tens of thousands of scientists in dozens of different scientific disciplines—is too vast to be budged by the flaws in the works of the three or four scientists being subject to the fiercest attacks."

The slide show in this piece, by Katherine Goldstein is just the sort  of brief explainer approach I've been wanting to aim for in this blog (when some tools I've been helping out with are finally programmed).


Kevin Grandia blogs: "Stolen climate science emails just ain't the conspiracy some want it to be."


The rise of Christian fundamentalism in the U.S., and it's rejection of evolution and most things modern is both a resurgence of Protestant Reformationism, as well as an apparent affirmation of another trendline in history.  It's been bothering me for awhile now, so I finally dug something up that not disturbs me as profoundly.  Thought I'd share it.

The historians, Will and Ariel Durant saw the decline of a civilization as a result of ongoing strife between religion and secular intellectualism, which ultimately topples the shaky institutions of convention and morality:

"Hence a certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the character of a "conflict between science and religion." Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and-after some hesitation- the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile among the oppressed another myth arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after centuries of chaos builds another civilization."

From: The Story of Civilization, V.1., 71

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." Will Durant

"The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority." Will Durant

If is just not hard to see this very same trend happening again, here in America. It may not be noticeable yet to most people, but we have only seen the first wave of "born again" Christian Presidents. Bush was the first. We are going to see far worse, and probably soon. Be afraid.

In March of his year, the Seattle Times ran this story about the battle over "Progressivism vs. Liberalism.

With "liberal" out, what's left? Progressive

Mary Helms, 54, whose family raises peanuts and cotton in Dothan, Ala., said she knew what a liberal was: "Someone who doesn't have very good morals."

And a progressive? "I don't really know anyone who says he's a progressive," Helms said. So she has nothing against them.

As the quote suggests, the article is a good overview of the issue, if not a very scientific survey of the popular usage (and implications) of the labels.

I have always thought it was a mistake to abandon the word 'liberal," merely because conservatives relentlessly trashed it for decades.  What, they're suddenly not going to do that with a new label? Of course they are.  Already, Rush Limbaugh refers to "Progressive liberals."  So sure, perhaps "progressive" is less tainted now, but once the left starts using it routinely, the right will attack it just as routinely as they hammer away on liberal now..

Some feel "liberal" was always too heavily skewed toward issues of personal liberty, and not towards applying government in the interests of forward progress. I am sympathetic to that argument to a point, but not completely convinced. And even if it has some merit, I don't know that it's enough rationale to overpower the emotional connection that generations of liberals have had with the word.  Like my parents and grandparents before me, I've always been proud to be a "liberal," and was never thrilled about giving it up merely because the enemy used their massive media and social clout to tarnish it. And I don't care much that "Teddy" was a progressive, ok?

For me, liberal is a perfectly useful word, and the long tradition of liberal thought and liberal figures  requires a lot less explaining than the shorter (and much fuzzier) tradition of "progressives."

If it really helps the cause to junk it, fine. I am just not convinced it does that yet, and I get a little annoyed that there has been this faceless, nameless advocacy effort over the past 10-15 years to make "progressive" the new plug-and-play word for liberal. It's not very liberal to have an unknown elite making that decision.

I voiced this very concern back in April when I strongly advocated that #p2 be an umbrella  social media hashtag with no particular group or mission aligned with it. It would simply represent the progressive/liberal movement as a whole, acting as a clear channel–or hailing frequency–where any important message or news item could make it into a liberal's social mindspace. 

While that mission is still vital, I felt at the time that the Progressive community might end up going back to its liberal roots, rendering the tag obsolete or quaint. And since progresivism is often seen as a subordinate idea to classic liberalism, #L2, or something like it,  might have had a longer half-life.  Sadly, a lowercase  "L" is just not very forceful in a Twitter feed, and many people would type it instead of the uppercase variant. So for that reason alone, I opted to drop the whole argument. I probably shouldn't have. Stuff happens.

Anyway, the discussion will no doubt go on, probably for generations. It would be nice if something happened to force us to use one or the other in a uniform way.  As it stands, we seesaw back and forth from one to another, often a dozen times in a single conversation.  We have enough fights on our hands just trying to package our messages effectively. We just don't need to be sparring over the labels we slap on them.

If you know of writings on this subject, please post as a comment below, and I will include it in a future reading list.