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Trish Wilson

I am disappointed to learn that some of those comments came from Kevin Drum. I'd like to believe he was sincere in bringing up the "food fight" nature of political discourse and women and politics, but that realization really threw me for a loop. I'm still hopeful, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm in that kind of mood today.



I'm having trouble following this Kevin Drum business. Which quotes are his and under what circumstances was the discussion held and how in the world did SS or whoever get ahold of them?


I've read your blog for a long time and enjoy it, so it is with all due respect for what you've written in the past when I say that what you said about conservatives and nature was unsurpassingly stupid and utterly unworthy of you, and I'm speaking not as a conservative (which I am), but as someone who actually knows what conservatives think. Read any serious conservative (or simply think about what you've heard them say) and what do they talk about? Tradition, education, religion, civilization, etc. and they are drearily stuffy about it, and all of which have to be taught and learned. Conservatives talk about restraint, duty, obligation, etc., all of which require people to act against their nature. What was the biggest Republican domestic initiative of the last I don't know how many years now? Welfare reform. The theory was that the welfare system as it was then encouraged self-destructive behavior and should be replaced with a system that would do the opposite. They did and it worked, to an extent. That is, nurture triumphed over (or perhaps even changed) nature. I think what you are confusing conservatives with is not that they believe nature is all-powerful, but that there is an eternal human nature that has to be dealt with as it is, not as, say Pol Pot wish it were, but this is a very different thing. Also, no matter how mistaken they may be on the matter, opponents of homosexual marriage base their arguments far more on the affects it will have on society than as to whether homosexuality is chosen or innate. As I said, I think you have a great blog, but you are way wrong on this one.


Dear Jeff the Conservative:

You sounded deeply offended by being so mischaracterized but you never did say how you felt about the gender divide and nurture/nature. Personally, I think that there is a profound difference between men and women, and part of the proof of it is in the number of sex changes these days by people who feel totally "wrong" in their given gender.

I hate sitcoms, by the way, but "I Love Lucy" and "Cheers" are masterpieces, and they pretty much sum up everything you need to know about masculine-feminine relationships, as Lance demonstrated. "Cheers" really took off, however, when Woody Harrelson came on board, playing a version of Orlando from "As You Like It," the sincere, handsome fool. And Bebe Neuwirth as the most perfect, intelligent neurotic of all time. And...

harry near indy

sfmike, i prefer the cheers run after woody harrelson and kirstie alley joined. never could take to shelley long.

and speaking of cheers, i can here ratzenberger say in a high, somewhat cheesy boston accent:

"it's a little known fact, norm, that ... "

harry near indy

i meant to say "i can hear"

hey jeff -- all this burkean talk about tradition, religion, etc has been used to suppress outsiders. besides, a large part of what passes as contemporary conservatism is just free-market-yeah-government-boo -- businessmen who would knock down and out all that you hold dear for a profit.

therefore, go back to your political theory class or think tank and stay away from the business schools -- unless you want to get a rude awakening.


Jeff, I'm glad you've been enjoying the page, but as a long time reader you know that I can't get through a post without saying something stupid.

But I think you didn't catch me here being so much stupid as lazy. I was in a hurry to get to my Cheers quote and, incidentally, take a swipe at a certain type of liberal. (I actually expected more complaints from the left side of the aisle on this one.) I didn't have time or the inclination to take on the conservative postion or to even define who I meant when I used the term, so I should just have left it out.

Your comment is a good one and raises good points and I think I should address it in a post all its own. However,just off the cuff: I think you've actually done the job of arguing that the conservative position is that it's all about nature.

Your argument posits that individuals have an ineffable nature that they must control themselves. (I agree with this, by the way.) Tradition, custom, laws, etc. are ways for society to give individuals the tools necessary to direct their own behaviors. The target for improvement is individuals not society itself or its institutions or culture.

Welfare reform is a good example. The problem as conservatives see it is that poverty is a result of individuals bringing it on themselves with bad behavior that they must be encouraged to reform. Liberals tend to see the bad behavior as resulting from the pressures of poverty. So conservatives think the problem is nature and liberals think it's cultural.

The positions aren't written in stone however nor are they mutually exclusive. Which is why welfare reform was a bipartisan effort and yet Bill Clinton's doing more than Newt Gingrich's. Republicans in Congress in the 90s would have reformed welfare the way the Republican leadership now wants to reform Social Security, by ending it. I don't believe those Republicans are actually conservative, but that's another debate. But the rhetoric of "self reliance" and "individidual responsibility" is conservative and again the emphasis there is on individuals changing their own behavior, that is, taming their own natures, not on attacking poverty on the systemic or cultural level.

Thanks for continuing to visit. I can't promise I won't say something stupid again. But I when I do i hope you'll jump in again to correct me.

mac macgillicuddy

I know I'll regret getting involved, but I'm moved to write down here that, before I read Jeff's comment, I was planning to write my own, similar, observation -- albeit with different conclusions....The conservative movement we are currently enduring (and hoping to oust, or at least somewhat dampen, come 2006) does seem to believe that homosexuality is a result of nature - but for some reason they have targeted this "travesty" of nature and disdained it even more than fallen-humanity's poverty by-product. Their utter impatience with people who can't or "won't" rise above their natures and become either celebates or, heaven help us reach this goal -- cured -- is ironic in light of, as you point out, the fundamental belief that everyone has to overcome their faults. Perhaps they should all become more like Jerry Falwell. Ironic, I say, because this current current of conservatism seems to behave as though everything is everybody's own fault -- except when it comes to themselves, when everything is somebody else's fault.

But I've said too much already, and I'm tired.


Lance: I have to apologize about that "stupid" crack. When I was writing it seemed arch (I love arch!) and slightly satiric, but when I saw it on the commments section, I thought, "You know what, maybe arch isn't as easy as I think it is. Maybe I'll read a little Dorothy Parker first next time." So, sorry about that; it was rude. As far as the good points other people make, please remember the only point I was making is that conservatives do not believe in nature exclusively, although they do believe in an internal human nature. In light of the great amount of work done on the biological roots of human nature (remember that Stalin persecuted Darwinist and promoted Lysenkoism), I don't think too many poeple would disagree with this right now.

SF Mike: Deeply offended, no. Deeply irritated, yes. Agree with you on Cheers, sorry to say I never "got" I Love Lucy. As far as the male/female divide is concerned, I have only daughters and could tell you quite a bit! There is so much to say about this topic, let me just say that individual personalities, of which sex is just one facet, differ more than poeple do as a member of any classification, and so people should be judged by the content of their character, as the phrase goes, at least in the public sphere. When it comes to your personal life, however...

Harry near Indy: I disagree with you for the most part. You are certainly right that tradition, history,etc., can be used to keep people out, and has been, but it also provides a ticket of admission for people who can master it,in the US at least. It depends on what the traditions are that people are being taught. In the US, if you can master the beliefs and traditions that are in our society, you can make a place for yourself, and your children and grandchildren can do better, which is why most of us are reading this on our computer terminals and not lying on the floors of our mud huts. Yes, free markets are a part of conservatism, but if I were the Burkean you describe me as, you should know that I would not be in the least surprised by the greed and selfishness of the wealthy. And finally, from your mouth to G-d's ears: I wish that I had a think tank or political philosophy class to go back to. Unfortunately, I've been in the business world for several decades now, where, Burke aside, I assure you I have been a witness to what you describe.

Lance: I think your take on the conservatives is incomplete. True, they saw the problem as being behavioral (Nature), but that was because the welfare recipients were caught in a counterproductive system (Nurture) that rewarded this behavior. The question, in fact, probably the real question we're probably discussing here is, does the change in Nurture change the Nature, or is the Nature unchanging and reacts to different Nurtures in a way that is predictable and unchanging? Is it possible for Nature to change? And even if it seems to change, is it really changing in a way that is only exposing a different aspect of it that is only appearing because of the change in Nurture, while the Nature itself remains unchanging? As a great philosopher once said, Ay Caramba.

Mac Macgillicudy: What you say about a certain kind of religious conservative is true enough, but is based on their religious convictions. Most conservatives are indifferent to homosexuality as a private behavior, but are antithetical to it as it is seen as pushing itself as an equally valuable alternative given equal or even privilieged public status. Personally, I could care less, except as it is a part of, along with a much larger heterosexual component, the increasing sexualization of childhood, which really, really bothers me. But like you, Mac, I grow tired...

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