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Politics of the FM site: radical leftist reformer or right-wing iconoclast?

25 February 2009

Here is an answer to the most-often asked question about this site:  what is its political orientation, its bias?

Is the FM site home of a radical leftist reformer or right-wing iconoclast?

One virtue of the FM site is its clear position about the politics of 21st century America:  I stand against them.  Choosing a party today is like cattle at the stockyards choosing a pen.  They (being smarter than us) don’t bother with party identification.  They don’t cheer the “left-side” pen:  the virtue of its prisoners, the beauty of the fence, the free food.  Those in the “right-side” pen don’t wear logos or bumper-stickers, or trumpet their superior intelligence over those in the other pen.

However clear, this position confuses some people.  Here is the answer, more clearly stated — the true politics of the FM site, plainly stated:

  1. It’s a left-wing site!  and
  2. It’s a right-wing site!

(1)  It’s a left-wing site!

“You are so in the tank for the current Democratic leadership that I hope you’re breathing Nitrox.” (source)

With friends writing articles like those on the FM site, President Obama needs no enemies.   Another view:

{Y}ou are a left wing idealist. you hardly ever represent the right wing in any of your posts (source).

He must know very few leftist idealists.  These assertions are obviously wrong.  For example, some major themes on the FM website that lefties abhor:

  • A critical view of Obama and many of his policies.
  • A skeptical view of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).

For evidence, look at the FM Reference Pages on the right-side menu bar; click on Obama, his administration and policies. You will see dozens of posts, including the following:

  1. Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay, 3 March 2008 — We elect leaders with vast ambitions, but can no longer afford them.
  2. Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman?, 6 June 2008 — Weirdness from our next President.
  3. The evil of socialism approaches!, 22 October 2008 — Economic crisis and a leftist President. Can socialism be avoided, or is it our destined fate?
  4. America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?), 14 November 2008
  5. “Don’t Let Barack Obama Break Your Heart” by Tom Engelhardt, 21 November 2008
  6. Obama’s national security team: I hope you didn’t really believe in change?, 26 November 2008
  7. Obama proposes a new New Deal – like Japan, will we burn money to keep warm?, 8 December 2008
  8. Obama supporters mugged by reality (and learn not to believe in change!), 9 December 2008
  9. Lind explains why Obama’s foreign policy will fail, 14 January 2009
  10. About Obama’s coronation – wisdom from Fred, 23 January 2009
  11. Change you should not have believed in, 10 February 2009

As for the Democratic Party:

Click on Science & Nature – my articles to see dozens of posts challenging the AGW orthodoxy.

For another perspective, the FM website favorably features articles from many prominent conservatives.  Such as

(2)  It’s a right-wing site!

“It is painfully obvious this is simply a Republican party-line site.” (source)

“it’s increasingly obvious that this is just one long conservative whine about the modern world.”  (source)

No wonder conservatives lost big in the 2008 elections!  If the FM site represents their party line, their platform must call for ritual seppuku of the Grand Old Party’s machinery.

(a) Look at these articles about the 2008 Presidential Campaign.  Wasn’t McCain  the Republican candidate?  The posts about Gov Palin (Alaska – R) were even more critical, but that’s a non-partisan view.

  1. How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other, 7 February 2008 — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.
  2. Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay, 3 March 2008 — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them.
  3. McCain believes we are stupid. Is he correct?, 30 August 2008 — What does choosing Palin say about McCain?  Esp note the intense discussion in the comments.
  4. Alaska is near Russia, and Gov Palin’s other foreign policy experience, 1 September 2008
  5. Governor Palin as an archetype for our time, 9 September 2008
  6. Before we reignite the cold war, what happened in Georgia?, 12 September 2008 — Notes from Palin’s first interview.
  7. Stratfor says that our war in Pakistan grows hotter; Palin seems OK with that, 12 September 2008 — More from the ABC interview.
  8. Campaign Update – news from the front, 25 September 2008 — Includes part 1 of Couric’s interview of Palin.
  9. Gov Palin speaks about foreign policy, 26 September 2008 — Part 2 of Couric’s interview.
  10. A comment about “turkey-gate”, 23 November 2008

(b)  Articles about America – How can we reform it?. Section 4, about politics.  I guess the GOP practice self-criticism as well as any Maoist sent for re-education (in the bad old days).

  1. R.I.P., G.O.P. – a well-deserved end, 7 November 2008
  2. What happens to the Republican Party after the election?, 2 November 2008
  3. President Bush gets in a few last blows on America before he leaves, 13 January 2009

(c) Articles about the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars. There are over 100 of them, every one hostile to these wars.

(d)  Articles about the Bush Administration’s efforts to build support for a strike at Iran: 20 of them, and they brutally criticalize this Bush goal.

(e)  Articles about the financial crisis, many dozens of them.  If this is the Republican view, what must the Democrats be saying?

  1. Slowly a few voices are raised about the pending theft of taxpayer money, 20 September 2008
  2. The Paulson Plan will buy assets cheap, just as all good cons offer easy money to the marks, 30 September 2008
  3. A reminder – the TARP program is just theft, 24 November 2008
  4. Update: yes, the Paulson Plan was just theft, 14 February 2009

(f)  Plus several dozen articles reposted on the FM site from TomDispatch, run by that good leftist Tom Engelhardt (see here).

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38 Comments leave one →
  1. atheist permalink
    25 February 2009 1:37 am

    Interesting, Fabius. You feel rather alienated from both of the powerful parties. I can certainly identify with that.

    From what I’ve read here, I would say you often sound like a paleoconservative. (You tend to view society and the economy as having departed too far from traditional ways, you’re opposed to the policy of neverending war that the neoconservatives favor, you’re worried about immigration.)

    However, you’re also quite open-minded and focussed on realism, and that’s probably why a socialist like me hangs out here.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: The primary difference between the views expressed here and any form of conservatism is that the FM site is about adaptation to a radically different future. We are in a period of rapid change in which the past is a guide, not a state to which we can return.

    Also, you might find this relevant: Diagnosing the eagle, chapter IV – Alienation, 13 January 2008.

    From Wikipedia: Paleoconservatism (sometimes shortened to paleo or paleocon when the context is clear) is a term for an anti-communist and anti-authoritarian right-wing movement in the US that stresses tradition, civil society and anti-federalism, along with familial, religious, regional, national and Western identity. Chilton Williamson, Jr. describes paleoconservatism as “the expression of rootedness: a sense of place and of history, a sense of self derived from forebears, kin, and culture — an identity that is both collective and personal.” Paleoconservativism is not expressed as an ideology and its adherents do not necessarily subscribe to any one party line.

  2. Daskro permalink
    25 February 2009 3:14 am

    The FM site for me is about intrigue and critical thinking on issues of great importance into the future. Such a statement of purpose transcends political labels.

  3. 25 February 2009 5:13 am

    Congratulations FB

    The proof of the relevence of your efforts is in the measure of reaching that million page view milestone. I have never dissapointed to find anything but provactive and stimulating ideas during my almost daily visits. Here’s to you doing what you are doing for as long as you want too.

  4. 25 February 2009 11:01 am

    Interesting, Fabius. You feel rather alienated from both of the powerful parties. I can certainly identify with that.

  5. 25 February 2009 11:37 am

    Yes, one could say that this is a place about integrity, not ideology, truly conservative in its dedication to rigor, or truly liberal in its openness to innovation. Or, one could simply state that one has yet to see a one-winged bird flying; all those I’ve seen have had two.

  6. houswife permalink
    25 February 2009 11:49 am

    I tax FM as in full denial (rather than right) before Obama and the financial crisis surfaced. Today still 30% in denial of reality, while this 30% is the lowest you find. Robert McNamara got about this far in the “Fog of war”.

    Cast your eyes more on China, India. Don’t let dictate your agenda by known manipulators.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Is this comment supposed to make sense? Full denial of what?

  7. atheist permalink
    25 February 2009 2:52 pm

    Oh, and of course muchos kudos on the 1 million pageviews. There’s so much hypocrisy about ‘bipartisanship’ from our crappy pundit class, that it’s nice to see someone actually trying to do it.

  8. David permalink
    25 February 2009 2:56 pm

    Right on! I definitely appreciate this site and the way FM goes right to the ugly but massively important issues coming up on the horizon, bypassing the usual BS that’s on comparable blogs.

    My only comment: In my mind, Democrats are not the same as left-wing (which to me is socialist: redistribute for the greater good because everyone benefits that way, even the rich), Republicans not the same as right wing (which to me is conservative minimalist-government spend-only-on-defense-and-stay-out-of-the-way-otherwise, more or less libertarian).
    .
    .
    Fabius Maxmius replies: Agreed, the political parties do not exactly correspond to ideological spectrum. But it seems close IMO. For example, see how energetically National Review supported President Bush Jr, despite his non-conservative policies (large deficits, foreign wars, big government, open borders). I suspect we’ll see the same with Obama. Left-liberal support for his Bush-like war policies is just the first in what might be a long list of apostasies they forgive.

    • David permalink
      25 February 2009 3:52 pm

      > Left-liberal support for his Bush-like war policies is just the first in what might be a long list of apostasies they forgive.

      I sure hope not …

    • Arms Merchant permalink
      27 February 2009 7:58 am

      I liked Levin’s taxonomy of the parties in his recent article on Sarah Palin (source): The economic elites and cultural populists tend to vote Republican, while the economic populists and cultural elites tend toward the Democrats.

      Obviously, FM doesn’t fit in these simplistic (but largely accurate, and evidently historically “successful” in the sense that they win elections) categories.

  9. Duncan Kinder permalink
    25 February 2009 3:08 pm

    It is simplistic to plot Fabius on a linear “left-right” progression. We need a “Y” as well as an “X” axis to characterize him. And certainly imaginary numbers are called for.

    Accordingly, Fabius is a radical iconoclastic reformer off on a tangent.

  10. boqueronman permalink
    25 February 2009 3:15 pm

    Thanks for putting your finger on the problem at this site. The content is a lot like this imagined dialogue.

    FM: “Look, folks, it’s dark in this cave.” Readers: “Well, did you bring a flashlight to help us find the way out?” FM: “Yes, there are two. But none of them have brains… er, I mean batteries.” Readers: “Well, then, what do we do?” FM: “I suggest, we all got together and complain to the flashlights that they should actually light up. Meanwhile I’ll help by just being inscrutable… and cool.” The End.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps you should spend less time in imaginary dialogs and more time reading this site before writing such stuff.

    At the end of the post is a section “For more info on the FM site”, the first link of which is America – how can we reform it? On that page is section #6: Some solutions, ways to reform America. There you will see these:

    1. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
    2. Obama might be the shaman that America needs, 17 July 2008
    3. Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
    4. Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
    5. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008
    6. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008
    7. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008
    8. What happens next? Advice for the new President, part one., 17 October 2008
    9. What to do? Advice for the new President, part two., 18 October 2008

  11. Tom permalink
    25 February 2009 3:34 pm

    Party affiliations and declarations of leanings are temporarily dead. Frankly, who can tell the difference these days anyways? Most people view their politics like religion, they pick and choose what they want to find credible and valuable.

    Congratulations on a well travelled blog. I’ve been stopping by regularly and always enjoy the content.

    • atheist permalink
      25 February 2009 4:04 pm

      No, Tom. Ideology isn’t dead. I’ll grant you that it’s confused, but then that confusion has happened before.

      It is a popular conceit in much of the US media that ideology has become obsolete, in favor of ‘realism’. The people who believe this doubless gain some sort of emotional benefit from the belief. However it seems to me that they are fooling themselves.

      Ideology is simply a person’s views on how society functions, and ought to function, and it extends into our view of science, the emotional world, the past and the future. As such it is no more possible for people to get rid of ideology than it is for them to get rid of their own point of view.

  12. underscore permalink
    25 February 2009 3:50 pm

    Congrats.

    “it’s increasingly obvious that this is just one long conservative whine about the modern world.”

    Definitely one of the funnier lines your posts have elicited, as if conservatism could be erased by the progressive march of history, or the insidious cancer of liberalism would be ended by a return to traditional values.

    In any event, if you are making partisans of the parties on the left and right mad, you are either and honest thinker or a curmudgeon, either of which is preferable to having your beliefs circumscribed by prepackaged talking points and cartoon animals.

  13. seneca permalink
    25 February 2009 4:05 pm

    Devil’s advocate. Contrarian. Socratic gadfly. Joker? FM’s a bit of each, and won’t permit himself to be stuck with any conventional political label.

    However, he does betray a sentimental attachment to the traditional values of patriotism, civic duty, intelligence. Hence his nom de plume — and its allusion to Roman virtue (and presumably, a hierachy of merit.)

    He definitely resists a materialist explanation of events, calls it escapist, yet he seems to see that “capitalism” as a system has brought itself to its knees.

    We agree on one great principle: doubt conventional wisdom.

  14. milton permalink
    25 February 2009 7:53 pm

    This site appears to possess honesty and independence. In this age of near universal partisanship, such sites are rare. Whether or not the site owner possesses superior insight into any particular issue is irrelevant.

    FM is tuned into many of the significant issues of our day, and reports on these issues honestly and courageously. We can ask no more.

  15. 25 February 2009 10:47 pm

    FM, you seem pretty enamored of Krugman lately, which is okay, he’s interesting at least.

    Right now, what’s happening, though, is Obama seems to be falling out of the nationalization camp. Obama’s plan looks a bit more ‘Japan in the 90′s’ — more incremental and less bold. I presume you’re still on the Krugman side that favors nationalization?
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) Every economist I know considers Krugman a top-tier economist who well-deserved the Nobel Prize. His years as an attack dog for the Democratic Party have IMO darkened his reputation, but the economic crisis has brought him back to doing what he does so well: explaining economic theory to the general public.

    (2) The Obama Administration is continuing the Bush team’s Wall Street friendly policies, probably because they believe the consensus forecast of economists: the downturn will end in the 2nd half of this year, and slow growth resumes next year. I doubt it.

    (3) The “stress test” for banks is not just a bad joke, it is IMO the first major policy error by the Obama team. It could have “discovered” the weakness of the banks and build political support for fast action. Instead the optimistic assumptions will disguise the major banks’ weak condition, until it is revealed by continued deterioration.

    See page 4 of the FDIC description of the “test.”

    Failure to deal NOW with the financials, clearing the desk of policy makers to prepare for the next crisis, risks their becoming overwhelmed by events. The danger is a collapse of their OODA loops and hence their ability to adapt to events. This is a common cause of battlefield defeat, and happened to the Hoover Administration in 1930.

    For another analysis confirming my view see “Wait And See” by Simon Johnson (was Chief Economist of the IMF, now MIT professor), The Baseline Analysis, 25 February 2009.

    My guess is that Team Obama is hoping to “keep their options open”, one of the classic modes of failure for decision-makers facing difficult choices. Time relentlessly closes options.

  16. D Rose permalink
    25 February 2009 11:01 pm

    FM: “I stand against them. Choosing a party today is like cattle at the stockyards choosing a pen. They (being smarter than us) don’t bother with party identification. They don’t cheer the “left-side” pen: the virtue of its prisoners, the beauty of the fence, the free food. Those in the “right-side” pen don’t wear logos or bumper-stickers, or trumpet their superior intelligence over those in the other pen.”

    Great statement. I’ve posted this as my “quote of the day”:

  17. P Harris permalink
    25 February 2009 11:34 pm

    I had always assumed you to be an anarcho-monarchist, like myself. Congratulations – well deserved – on your page views

  18. menidas permalink
    26 February 2009 2:55 am

    Gosh, Now I know why I always come back to this site…incisive political commentary. It is an unfortunate sign of our times that all sources of information have to be viewed and considered via a political lens to determine if you are a friend or foe or whether your ideas have merit. This site is wonderful for presenting ideas and letting each person to decide for themselves. Thanks FM for all of the effort, your rising popularity is well deserved.

  19. Peter Evans permalink
    26 February 2009 6:27 am

    Congratulations on the milestone. You have earned the interest and traffic with all the excellent information presented. I most enjoy your amazing logic and command of the English language. I love your responses to the comments which I sometimes read before the comment for your wit and sense of humor. I learn much here everyday. Keep up your good work.

  20. 26 February 2009 1:00 pm

    Huge Congrats are due you, FM, for agreeing in some important ways with most political activists, yet also disagreeing in some other important ways. Plus neither descending into nor allowing many personal insults, yet allowing some ridicule of (possibly?) ridiculous ideas.

    Your combination of insightful analysis and quotes/ references to others is excellent; your readers often make good supportive / contrary points (NO echo chamber!); your comment response is the best on the web (that I’ve found).

    Now that Obama & Dems are in, you might spend more time on suggested policies that you think are definitely positive, even if sub-optimal, but also among the most politically possible.

    One site improvement would be the ability to move to the next or previous full post (with comments), from inside a comment. This would allow me to enter this comment and then read the latest comments on the prior post, without a stop at your home.

  21. 26 February 2009 1:20 pm

    Hhmm…FM, is there just “one” or is there like “two” of you? Just wonderin’.

  22. AMac permalink
    26 February 2009 3:53 pm

    Fabius Maximus, I expect two things in return for my subscription fee.

    (1) Fact-based commentary on important current trends that is internally-consistent, thought-provoking, and rare (i.e. that I haven’t read eleswhere).

    (2) Links to articles and posts by others that meet the same criteria.

    That you’ve reached the million mark suggests that others view your work as I do. Congratulations.

    I won’t be demanding a refund. Yet!

  23. Erasmus permalink
    26 February 2009 5:50 pm

    Yes, FM, thanks for the blog and congratulations.
    Re: “I most enjoy your amazing logic and command of the English language.”

    I am more delighted than amazed. FM is clearly a pro where writing is concerned. But on reading that comment the thought arose:

    FM’s style reminds me of military drill. I remember when we did officer-only drills there was a heightened sense of relaxation, precision, solidarity and esprit de corps, the combination of which expressed the essence of military force, which is penetrating, clarifying, effective and beyond thought. Action. Result.

    The wide range of topics and views listed in exhaustive detail above, as is his wont, further exemplifies something else I very much appreciate even as I also find it frustrating. There is no destination in drill; it is a process, albeit one of fundamental value in the military context with real-world after-effects in action, on and off the field. Similarly I find myself never able to ‘grock’ where FM is coming from or pointing to, albeit the process is often one that is crisp, clear and confident etc.

    This is a mark of inscrutability in the traditional Asian esoteric sense. Mark of a true warrior, as is said.

    Keep up the good work!

  24. 26 February 2009 6:08 pm

    Well when you guys finally figure out what the word/label for the views expressed on FM are, make some note of it so I can say I’m one of them. I stumbled into this website quite by accident when someone with whom I regularly argue posted links to here I agreed quite vehemently with. Since, I have not yet seen anything here I didn’t identify with.

    I call myself Libertarian, for lack of a better word, but much of Libertarianism is bunk as well. (resistance to eminent domain when used properly, for instance)

    I need a word. Maybe this: South Park Republican. Let me know if you figure it out. Paleoconservative is definitely not right.

  25. 27 February 2009 1:50 am

    It’s funny, but just by trying to be as objective as possible — by trying to portray reality in all its complexity as FM so assiduously strives to do–partisans on both sides will tend to project their own beliefs/fears onto the result, as so many clearly do. In the echo chamber/shouting match that the internet has become, we need more voices like this one.

    Keep up the great work, FM.

  26. 2 March 2009 9:16 pm

    Congrats FM you are simply one of the best info-blogs on the net. And I applaud you for joining those of us who find solace in no political party, but instead look to history, data (and that pesky thing called our constitution).

  27. 12 March 2009 5:31 pm

    To me, FM is the prototypical definition of a post-partisan. On any issue, he gathers the best ideas from all sides and challenges the reader to overcome ideological consideration, namely to reach his own conclusions rather than simply toeing the party line.

    FM is Google News with a brain, a post-partisan concept that deserves more attention in American politics. Respect yo!

  28. Edmund permalink
    9 August 2012 1:16 am

    Not a partisan site. Certainly not a Republican site, because at this point that involves wholesale reality denial. Simply wrong on global warming, and disingenuous when drawing parallels between the corporate support available for the two sides. A glaring error that does much to undermine your generally noble and thoughtful efforts against disinformation.

    But that doesn’t matter too much, because there’s no way the relevant actors will act in concert until global warming becomes a truly enormous problem – which it will, in the absence of currently unpredictable mitigating phenomena.

    • 9 August 2012 1:42 am

      (1) “Simply wrong on global warming, and disingenuous when drawing parallels between the corporate support available for the two sides.”

      Can you provide any support for those bold statements? For example — this post gives data from some very expensive NOAA and NASA satellites, with analysis from two prestigious scientists who have run the program for 23 years. What’s the basis for your objection?

      These posts are almost entirely excerpts from authoritative sources. Most of the rebuttals to these posts have been of the “boldly making stuff up” and “boldly repeating things heard somewhere” form. Combined with slander of the scientists (Rule #8: to warmistas, scientists are not be unquestioned — unless they disagree with AGW, then they’re kooks).

      Let’s see if you can do better!

      (2) “disingenuous when drawing parallels between the corporate support available for the two sides.”

      (a) Please give an example of me “drawing parallels between…”

      (b) That’s a generic slander, little more than mental blinkers. Try again. The scientists involved in this post rely almost exclusively on government and university funding.

      (3) “until global warming becomes a truly enormous problem – which it will, in the absence of currently unpredictable mitigating phenomena.”

      I can bring a horse to water, but cannot make him think.

    • 9 August 2012 5:12 am

      My reply assumed this was to today’s post about climate science (note to self: read comment headers before replying). Please see these posts about climate science, and share your rebuttal.

  29. 4 January 2013 2:13 am

    What’s up, I read your new stuff on a regular basis. Your story-telling style is witty, keep it up!

  30. 14 May 2013 5:33 am

    “some major themes on the FM website that lefties abhor: A critical view of Obama and many of his policies…”

    Wrong: E.g., http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/15/the-progressive-movement-is-a-pr-front-for-rich-democrats/ and http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1849351104/counterpunchmaga

    Democrats and democrats are increasingly disillusioned. I voted for O v RMoney because the latter was even worse. Better neoliberal corporatism than outright fascism.

    • 14 May 2013 5:43 am

      I do not understand your rebuttal. You cite an article written now — in Obama’s second term — to refute an observation about attitudes written FIVE years ago, after his first inaugural.

      That makes sense to you, or did you not notice any of the dates?

      Yes, after five years of Obama some Democrats, some on the Left, have changed their views. A pity it took them so long to see the obvious.

    • 14 May 2013 5:47 am

      “I voted for O v RMoney because the latter was even worse. Better neoliberal corporatism than outright fascism.”

      I agree. The difference between bad and worse is much sharper than between good and better.

      But meaningful reform will require sharper vision and more political involvement than Americans display today. My guess — emphasis on guess — is that we are waiting for strong leadership. We can only guess at what form it will take, but I suspect we will follow. Eagerly. Blindly.

      Loki’s speech in Germany (in The Avengers film) is the best statement of our situation.

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