Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality

Summary: As the GOP prepares to shut down the government to prevent millions of people getting health care, it becomes vital to understand how they see America. The answer, obvious to anyone paying attention: badly, as through a mirror darkly. Here we look at a few examples, part of a series about this rogue force in US politics (links to other chapters are at the end).

Going Rogue
The pathfinder, taking the GOP off the reservation



  1. The GOP fact gap
  2. GOP CEOs have the fact gap
  3. Looking at the Right-wing fact gap in economics
  4. Orson Scott Card shows us GOP thinking
  5. For More Information


(1)  The GOP fact gap

Paul Krugman describes a serious and topical problem in “The Wonk Gap“, New York Times, 8 September 2013 — Excerpt:

… the widening “wonk gap” — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.

… And the point is that episodes like this {misinformation about Obamacare} have become the rule, not the exception, on the right. How many Republicans know, for example, that government employment has declined, not risen, under President Obama? Certainly Senator Rand Paul was incredulous when I pointed this out to him on TV last fall. On the contrary, he insisted, “the size of growth of government is enormous under President Obama” — which was completely untrue but was presumably what his sources had told him, knowing that it was what he wanted to hear.

For that, surely, is what the wonk gap is all about. Political conservatism and serious policy analysis can coexist, and there was a time when they did. Back in the 1980s, after all, health experts at Heritage made a good-faith effort to devise a plan for universal health coverage — and what they came up with was the system now known as Obamacare.

(2)  GOP CEOs have the fact gap

Fools and Fixers“, Paul Krugman, New York Times, 29 September 2013 — Excerpt:

Lydia DePillis has an interesting piece interviewing Paul Stebbins — a CEO who was very involved with Fix the Debt — in which Stebbins acknowledges that business is part of the problem in Washington, and proceeds to illustrate, unintentionally, just why that is. You see, if he’s any indication, big business is completely clueless about both the economics and the politics of the situation.

… {see the article for the supporting evidence and logic}

In short, this particular CEO comes across as completely out of touch with the reality of our economic and political situation. And then he wonders why politicians won’t listen to people like him.

The thing is, I suspect that he’s typical. Corporate America is led by men who may be very good at their jobs (or not, in some cases), but have no grasp at all of the real issues facing America as a whole — the special problems created by an economy stuck in a liquidity trap, the paralysis caused by the radicalization of the GOP. They can throw lots of money at Washington, and it’s effective at tilting policies on microeconomic issues their way. But they have no influence on the big decisions, because they don’t even understand what those big decisions are.

(3)  Looking at the Right-wing fact gap in economics

This problem appears to be growing worse. It quickly becomes evident in discussions with conservatives about simple facts. Economics is the most obvious. It’s a major theme in the comments on the FM website, and frequently appears in email discussions.


  • Conservatives are often incredulous when told that US exports of goods and services are rising — and have been for decades. That US manufacturing output is a stable part of the US economy, not dying (although automation has reduced the number of workers, as it did to farming).
  • My favorite example is the frequently heard Americans (especially young Americans) just won’t do real work. This appeared in one thread as a farmer complained that in the 1950s and 1960s he paid kids $4/hour to bail hay. Now he offers $12/hour and “never sees a teenage boy”. Darn lazy kids!  $4 in 1960 adjusted by the CPI is $32 today; that $12 today is equivalent to $1.52 in 1960.
  • Another example is the circulation of fake historical quotes among conservatives, almost ubiquitous. For some of the best about guns see The Founders talk to us about guns for a well-regulated militia and Hitler confiscated guns, leaving Germans helpless! Even more interesting is the fake “democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government” quote, discussed here.
  • Then their is their delusional confidence for so long in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, despite evidence neither was going well. Plus blaming Obama for the Status of Forces agreement that ejected us from Iraq, negotiated and signed by Bush.

For another perspective on this see “Conservative-purity feedback loop“, The Economist, 24 September 2013.

Ender's Game

(4)  Orson Scott Card shows us conservative thinking

This is worth reading: “Unlikely Events“, by famous science fiction author Orson Scott Card in his Civilization Watch column in The Ornery American, 9 May 2013. It’s too good to summarize. Count how many simple facts he gets wrong about the past. His confident guesses about the future range from unlikely to delusional.

Most of his errors are easy to see. One section is more subtle.

  • “Nobody knew that Communism would fall in the Soviet Union”. Robert and Virginia visited the Soviet Union in 1960 and even then could see its crumbling foundations. And many thereafter.
  • “Nobody predicted the collapse of Japan’s ‘economic miracle'”. Karel van Wolferen described how and why in The Enigma of Japanese Power (1989); many others predicted trouble on more general grounds.
  • He makes similar claims about the tech and real estate bubbles. In fact the papers were filled with warnings that these were bubbles.

All of these were not clearly seen because it was useful not to see them. The first and last examples are especially relevant. In 1976 conservatives prepared the “team B” analysis explaining that the CIA grossly underestimated the Soviet Union’s power, exactly the opposite of the truth. And warnings of the tech and housing bubbles were ignored by conservatives, confident that free-market magic made financial regulation unnecessary (both resulted in part from dismantling of New Deal-era regulations).

This is my favorite line in Card’s rant: “Does it take any particular brains to predict that if Iran is not stopped, they will use nukes against Israel?” No, it doesn’t — since the story about vows to nuke Israel is bogus, and a wide range of experts believe that a nuclear Iran will be no more disruptive than the other nuclear powers.

From simple errors Card then goes off into pure right-wing delusions. Such as this:

“Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator. … Is there any way that Barack Obama could remain president forever, the way Putin has held on to power in Russia?”

Many on the Left plan to boycott the movie “Ender’s Game”. Rather than worrying about the movie, I suggest worrying about the millions of people who share Card’s delusions and indifference to facts that contradict their views.  They have disconnected from the rest of us. Their passion, guns, and aggregate wealth make them influential. Conservatives are a vital part of America. That so many of them have become so strange is a serious problem. I do not believe it is yet clear exactly what this means, or why it is happening.

The GOP’s delusions imply that there is interesting times ahead for America.

Ending the Class War

(4)  For More Information

(a)  About American politics:

  1. Posts about politics in America
  2. Posts about the Democratic Party
  3. Posts about Obama, his administration and policies
  4. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness

(b)  Posts about the Republican Party:

  1. Whose values do Dick and Liz Cheney share? Those of America? Or those of our enemies, in the past and today?, 14 March 2010
  2. The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
  3. Will people on the right help cut Federal spending?, 19 June 2010
  4. Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan, 24 July 2010
  5. A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
  6. The key to modern American politics:  the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
  7. Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit, 16 March 2012
  8. Let’s list the GOP’s problems. They’re all easily solvable, 12 November 2012
  9. The Republican Party is like America, and can quickly recover it strength, 14 November 2012
  10. The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness, 19 February 2013
  11. RecommendedA harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party, 22 September 2013
  12. Recommended: The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics, 26 September 2013

(c)  Interesting articles about Ender’s Game and its author:

(d)  Posts discussing Ender’s Game:

(8) Trailer for Ender’s Game



39 thoughts on “Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality”

  1. Pingback: Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality - Global Dissident

  2. There is more!
    The founders believed in equality, that’s why almost nobody could vote, originally.
    We are a nation of immigrants. Except for 1925 to 1965 the most productive time in us history.
    Europe has higher taxes. Not when u factor in healthcare and property taxes.
    There is plenty of natural gas, ethanol, shale oil, hydrogen , coal, nuclear energy, whale oil, to keep living standards growing. That’s why gas has gone straight up since 1998.

  3. Obama is, by character and preference, a dictator. …

    I’m not sure that I see any flaws in Cards reasoning in this statement. People who are carried along by people their entire lives…and any examination of Mr. Obamas record both in school and once in politics will reveal a great deal of this….frequently start to believe their own press. I think Mr. Obama would much prefer to rule by decree (yes, most politician would as well!) because he doesn’t understand that there is much to be gained by doing the political “scut work” that he has largely avoided. Your claim that the republicans don’t understand the process is a valid one. I believe that it is equally applicable to the president.

    (ps: Relying on Krugman for rational discourse on matters economic is a huge mistake. His ship sailed years ago.)

    1. Perhaps the flaw inherent in Card’s reasoning — and yours, if I may be so bold — is the (all too convenient) assertion that Obama is the only president who possesses these characteristics. It would probably be a lot closer to the truth to suggest that most or perhaps even *all* of the candidates running for president at this point demonstrate these qualities to one extent or another — or at least, those whom the corporate-owned media accepts and acknowledges as *serious* candidates (for more information on the subtle and insidious ways in which the media manipulates the election process, please see the documentary “Orwell Rolls In His Grave”).

      I imagine that Card would suddenly exhibit a remarkably selective form of amnesia if one were to remind him of the following quote from the White House occupant who immediately preceded Obama. To wit:

      “If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier — so long as I’m the dictator.” (It was supposedly spoken in jest, but you really can’t get much more obvious than this.)

      There is also evidence that George W. Bush has, as you put it, been “carried along by people” throughout much of his life — both academically and professionally. It’s not a secret that Bush was a C average student at Yale (the college which his father also attended, which means he was a legacy candidate). Despite his rather lackluster undergraduate record, he nevertheless was accepted in Harvard Business School even though most graduate schools (never mind extremely prestigious and competitive schools like Harvard) will drop any student from the program if they fail to maintain at least a B average. While Bush was in the White House, one of Bush’s former professors from his time at Harvard (Dr. Yoshi Tsurumi) publicly criticized Bush’s performance as a student. It’s also not a secret that after Harvard and before entering the world of politics, possessing an MBA was apparently not enough to prevent Bush from failing at several business ventures. This in itself is not all that unusual or worthy of criticism — yet as the son of a wealthy family, he appears to have been spared the degree of legal and financial hardships which most people in a similar situation would have been forced to undergo. Even as the President, Bush described himself as “the Decider” when it was not that hard for a perceptive person to see that he was buying his own press while being manipulated from behind the scenes by people at high levels in his administration with agendas of their own.

      The upshot of all this is that most of the criticisms which have been leveled against Obama (with a few exceptions) could just as easily be leveled against Bush — unfortunately suggesting that the office itself may be developing a distressing tendency to attract this kind of person regardless of party affiliation (neither Romney nor McCain were exactly self-made men either) — and yet many of the people who are so eager to attack Obama insisted on being blind and deaf to many of these same faults in the previous president.

      1. “The upshot of all this is that most of the criticisms which have been leveled against Obama (with a few exceptions) could just as easily be leveled against Bush”

        I agree, and have said this many many times. It might be the key to understanding our situation.

      2. Bluestocking,

        Clarification of my comment — it expressed extreme agreement with you.

        I didn’t mean that you should know what I said, or how often I said it.

  4. Pingback: Conservatives show us their thinking, not…

    1. Actually, I have read FM’s so-called analysis which quotes discredited, self-annoited “experts” like Juan Cole, but by far the richest part was the section on how the remaining Jews are treated in Iran, based on quotes from non other than the remaining Jews. What exactly would you expect them to say given that this regime has publically hanged “Zionist spies” on trumped up charges and imprisons and tortures all dissidents, including former members of the leadership? The sad truth is that FM does not have a clue what is happening in Iran and is not able to even distinguish between the differents strategies and motives of the various layers of the leadership (i.e. the Supreme Religious leader, the religious conservatives, the Revoluionary Guards, the pragmatic “moderates”, etc.) Who is the dogmatic one here and who is making stuff up? I provided a link to real analysis
      of Iranian threats against Iranian leadership, but FM does not want to see or acknowledge them
      just as he ignores the massive Hezbollah (a non state terrorist entity established to do Iran’s bidding) missile inventory supplied by Iran and Iran’s key role in enabling Bashar al-Assad to continue slaughtering his own people. FM is guilty of many of the same flaws as the conservatives whom he rightfully criticizes, but he will never admit it.

      1. RP,

        Your reply would be more impressive except for the making stuff up. I will bother with just one example.

        “ignores the massive Hezbollah (a non state terrorist entity established to do Iran’s bidding) missile inventory supplied by Iran and Iran’s key role in enabling Bashar al-Assad to continue slaughtering his own people.”

        I do not ignore it. This is SOP in our world. After all, the US is the world’s #1 arms supplier, and our weapons have been used to do bad things. And US allies have slaughtered their own people with enthusiasm, with our approval. And we have run up some impressive totals in the body count game.

        Consult any history of Latin America. Or read Nick Turse’s “Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam”.

        This how geopolitics works. After WW2 there was a brief dream of a better world, but that burned in the flames of the Cold War.

        Sorry to burst your fantasies, but that is life in the real world.

      2. RP,

        BTW, you might ask if these things are good or bad. Our actions. Iran’s actions.

        We just do geopolitics here. What works, implications, etc. Priests and moralists are at the next website down the hall.

        Death will bring each of us the final answers to the big questions.

    2. You claim that you do not ignore the dark sides of Iranian policy. Would you kindly point me towards some of your posts that acknowledge such? It is fine for you to retreat to moral relativism,
      as I do agree that few things in the world are clear cut black or white, most are various shades of gray. However, it is wrong for you to claim that you do “pure geo-politics here.” You rarely if ever
      present two sides of a picture and often make sweeping, dogmatic judgments on many issues.

      1. “You rarely if ever present two sides of a picture ”

        That’s correct. Most posts here are explicitly written in opposition to the majority view, which is well-represented in the news media. And in fact I usually state the majority opinion — as in the post about Iran’s mythical threat to nuke Israel (which I do not believe you have addressed).

      2. “You claim that you do not ignore the dark sides of Iranian policy.”

        Here is one of my first posts about Iran, setting the themes followed since then (later posts discussed the collapse in fertility and increased drug use):

        “How to respond to a threatening but dying nation? … {Iran is} a dying regime, dangerous as it might strike out while it still has strength.”
        Is Iran dangerous, or a paper tiger?, 13 November 2007

        Plus the many notes about Iran’s oppression of women, one of the major drivers of their collapse in fertility (contrary to the US, which has maintained an above-replacement fertility level).

        Iran’s geopolitical actions are typical of the world of yesterday and today, not substantially different than those of the Brit’s imperial days, or Israel’s, or ours. All overthrow governments (even elected ones), sponsor proxy wars, and employ terrorism when useful. Everybody cites God as their supporter. etc, etc.

      3. RP,

        I apologize for the fragmentary reply. Am busy now.

        “It is fine for you to retreat to moral relativism”
        Please explain. I don’t see that here.

        “However, it is wrong for you to claim that you do “pure geo-politics here.”
        Perhaps I stated that unclearly. I meant that most geopolitical analysis here in terms of operational results — goals, effects — without a moral evaluation (not so with internal US politics, of course). Do you have counter-examples?

        “often make sweeping, dogmatic judgments on many issues.”
        I try to give readers clear evaluations, from which they can make their own decisions. On the other hand, a wordcloud of the FM website run last year showed my favorite modifiers — “perhaps”, “probably”, “guess”, and “suspect” — to be among the most commonly used words. I should use them even more frequently, but at some point they turn the text into limp academic prose. I believe I use them enough to convey the uncertain nature of any evaluation.

        My personal evaluation — easily wrong, of course — is that posts here are much clearer about the uncertainties of analysis than most.

        Let’s turn this around. What are the “dogmatic judgements” you see me making in this post?

        “Dogmatic: to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true.”

    3. 1. Here are comments you have just posted here reflecting moral relativism:
      “This is SOP in our world. After all, the US is the world’s #1 arms supplier, and our weapons have been used to do bad things. And US allies have slaughtered their own people with enthusiasm, with our approval. And we have run up some impressive totals in the body count game.”

      “BTW, you might ask if these things are good or bad. Our actions. Iran’s actions.” “Death will bring each of us the final answers to the big questions.”

      2. Your use of perhaps, probably, guess and suspect is typically in regard to future outcomes and
      not to evaluations of current events. As you write “I try to give readers clear evaluations, from which they can make their own decisions.” I think it is your apparent failure in many circumstances to give “clear evaluations” that has me upset. On many issues your “clear evaluations” ignore the true “gray” factors behind many issues. This means either that you are willing to sacrifice accuracy
      for clarity (a venial but dangerous sin, if done too often, because you get trapped in your own pre-conceptions) or else that you have a pre-determined agenda and are hiding it behind
      a very thin veneer of so-called objectivity (a mortal sin). IMHO, I suspect that in your case, it is the former. For example, while you are justifiably concerned by the rot resulting from recent foolish (too mild a word) US wars, you are willing to paint Iran as the “victim” of aggressive and hostile US policies without even examining the very real dangers posed by the Ayatollah regime and what might be the most appropriate policies for confronting them (while taking into account the enormous negative results of recent US actions in that region.) Accordingly, you dogmatically write about the “evil” US policies towards Iran without even attempting to give any real context and you totally
      dismiss any dangers posed by Iran. This makes it easy for you to write that “the story about vows to nuke Israel is bogus, and a wide range of experts believe that a nuclear Iran will be no more disruptive than the other nuclear powers.” All based on your experts and your evaluations.
      This leads to situations where you make dogmatic judgments as I described before in regards
      to your post “by far the richest part was the section on how the remaining Jews are treated in Iran, based on quotes from non other than the remaining Jews. What exactly would you expect them to say given that this regime has publically hanged “Zionist spies” on trumped up charges and imprisons and tortures all dissidents, including former members of the leadership?”

      1. RP,

        Thank you for explaining. I see your confusion. What you call “moral relativism” are what others call “evidence”. The observer applies the meaning. For example, the US is the world’s top arms seller — and our weapons have often been used on the buyers own people. You can apply whatever interpretation you like to that fact. I prefer to leave the moral labels to priests and other professionals.

        You don’t like some of the evidence I cite. Fine. I state it, including sources, for readers to evaluate. This contrasts with the usual practice in America of stating conclusions without evidence — as in most articles about Iran in the major media. You can stick with those if you prefer. Most Americans do, which makes us such a joy to our leaders.

        As for showing only one side, I stated my policy on that. I see no reason to repeat the mainstream beliefs trumpeted by every US media. That might give you a warm feeling, but would extend posts that are already grossly over-long. In a just world both sides of complex issues could be described in post of 500 words. I give sketches of 1,000 – 1,500 words, the length greatly reducing traffic (taking many hours to write) — and even then can do so only by focusing on fragments of the overall situation, often radically abstracting the details.

        I look forward to seeing your balanced, data-rich articles. It will be interesting to see their length.

  5. A series of rambling and self-contradictory statements about history (“Nobody” predicted the fall of the USSR, well, except ME of course!). Then immediately invokes Godwin’s Law.

    Notice how he speaks in absolutes. NOBODY. EVERYONE. Obama WILL do this, Iran WILL do that. What crystal ball is Card using? Or drug. The most pertinent question is – Will he share?

    1. Joe,

      Perhaps the question should be “will HE share?”

      Or perhaps, “we should thank Card for sharing what HE told Card”.

      Or SHE, depending on you preference of diety.

      Marxism and Christianity have given both the Left and Right the habit of speaking about the unknown and even unknowable in terms of certainty. In that sense both are peoples of The Book.

  6. Some conservatives have become “strange” while other labels have not, and the new grassroots movement is amorphous. In 2008, a sea change took place socially and demographically, and resource competition explains some of it. A brain drain also occurred and is ongoing. I don’t think there’s anything inherent within conservatism that explains the “strange-ness.”

    1. “Some conservatives have become “strange” while other labels have not”
      Agree. Every statement could include a note that this is a generalization, not to imply applying to everybody. But I believe we all understand that.

      “the new grassroots movement is amorphous.”
      Please explain; sounds interesting!

      “In 2008, a sea change took place socially and demographically, and resource competition explains some of it.”
      Agreed! That’s an important point.

      “A brain drain also occurred and is ongoing.”
      Evidence? Look at the Tea Party Movement — as well as or better educated than the average of Americans. Certainly that’s so in my experience. I suspect age is a more important factor. The boomers have grown in a twisted fashion with age. Perhaps we should have expected that seeing the hippies.

      “I don’t think there’s anything inherent within conservatism that explains the “strange-ness.””
      Agreed. That’s an important point, which I should have mentioned. Thanks for reminding us.

    2. “Amorphous” in the sense Prof. Hugh Heclo used it to describe the loose conglomeration of issue networks that precede a welfare state.

      As anti-welfare state movements, the grassroots and tea party may have get out the vote (local communities) organized, but the basis of their alliances could use some work. I might suggest pro-immigration (HI visa reform), pro-legalization (marijuana), and hard money (gold and silver) as possible alliances to revitalize conservatives.

      They’ve also got to stop bashing academe, intellectualism, and wonkishness in general. Their call for “common sense” often conflates to some sort of frontier mentality (sorry, don’t mean to be so harsh).

      Big government is here to stay. Either party will see to that. The trick is to get the bureaucrats to do what is right. Social justice is here to stay. The trick is to keep as much fairness out of the entitlement system as possible. I consider myself conservative, by the way. Well, you asked me to explain.

      1. DM,

        Thank you for the explanation!

        I suspect you are designing a new conservative movement, not closely related to the existing one. Not reflecting the beliefs and motivations of the base, and still less the objectives of the plutocrats driving the bus.

  7. I think there is a schizophrenia in “conservative” thinking – on the one hand, this is the richest country, best military, smartest, most just, best people, etcetera. Rah – Rah, anyone who makes any critique of America is a communist member of gay Al Qaeda. Yet the contradictions are enormous – the military is purely a government run institution, (did we win the Vietnam war? Did we win the Iraq war? so is the military great or not? Oh, just the people who run the military aren’t great…does that include Bush???)

    And the riches, while reflected in ever increasing GDP, do not offset stagnant income going on 40 years for the vast majority of Americans. The inability of many Americans to afford health insurance, and the one segment with the highest percentage who can afford health care are seniors on Medicare…a government program. Americans are all so marvelous (except for a few), but the majority (or was it cheating, which someone can’t be proven or prosecuted) elects a communist, fascist dictator – Obama. So are the people marvelous, or are they idiots??? (oh, and they were stupid twice…)

    I think the republican base (lower educated white males) has endured a decreasing standard of living going on 40 years. The paradigm of free trade, financial deregulation, but mostly corruption where special interests buy representatives with campaign donations, espoused by both parties has not served the vast majority of Americans well. But both parties agree far more than disagree (Bernanke was a republican…nominated by Obama. Robert Rubin was the Clinton treasury secretary, and Paulson was the Bush Treasury secretary…. funny how that works)

    My point is that the republican base is angry about what has happened to them (the democratic base has been down so long that they can’t go any lower – they have lost all hope and faith in the country). They don’t understand why they are becoming worse and worse off, so they are susceptible to the most ridiculous scapegoating. They are right to be angry, but they are irrational and they are manipulated. And the real problem is, maybe they just aren’t smart enough or honest enough to see through all the BS.

  8. Fabius, It’s been a while since posting and once again excellent analysis. From my perspective, I’ve got a family heritage that goes back to someone who almost rebelled against the first Congress because they would not pay for what they voted for (i.e. Rebellion)….they extended my great..g.g.g..ggg..ggFather’s Commitment with a Land Grant west of the Appalachia…then almost every generational War since my Family has committed to Serve for some benefits and an expansion of R Government…I in turn have served the longest of all my Elders and notice as of 1200AM the Government is in default to me for what they agreed to me starting as a Volunteer from Tennessee a few decades ago….my checks are late and I only come from a heritage of Folks that Committed to this Government and without the Government would likely only be a Sharecropper. Hope the Folks that have benefited the most from our Manifest Destiny and our first SIX FRIGATES enjoy defaulting on the Citizens that Served. Sincerely, KDOG

  9. This is one of what I personally consider to be one of the most glaringly ironic aspects of today’s conservative movement…

    In decades past, being a conservative used to mean being a fairly intelligent, cautious, prudent and level-headed individual understandably reluctant to back proposals which carried with them a high probability that a significant number of people might be hurt and/or have their rights infringed. As an example, the old-school conservative did not (and still does not) support taking military action overseas at the drop of a hat and spending millions of dollars to develop another expensive weapons system merely because someone we don’t like happened to look at us cross-eyed.

    Sadly, the old school conservatives seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur to be replaced by the neoconservatives who’ve never met a war they didn’t like, the evangelical Christian reconstructionists who seem determined to impose their beliefs on everyone else (the Constitution be damned), and the pseudo-libertarians who demonstrate an astoundingly unconservative mentality towards the rights of other people when it comes to making a buck…regardless of whether you’re talking about tar sands, “pink slime”, or the privatization of critical societal institutions such as education and criminal corrections.

    1. Bluestocking,

      Thanks, that is an important point to remember.

      In this age of wonders it is easy to forget how far from Kansas we have traveled, and regard the astonishing things in Oz as normal.

    2. No kidding, FM. If anything, no matter what these people may choose to call themselves, continuing to call these people “conservatives” is a complete farce. There’s hardly anything about these people that could even remotely be considered truly conservative anymore (another example of the degree to which they’ve become divorced from reality) because their beliefs have become so incredibly extreme in just about every conceivable sphere — economics, politics, religion, society, you name it.

      The only way in which they could still be considered conservative — especially since they’re quite willing to max out the country’s credit cards when it coes to their own pet projects, such as the latest war! — is when it comes to moral behavior. Not their own, mind you — just that of other people, and especially that of anyone they don’t like (the names and numbers of which practically seem to increase by the day). Their own behavior frequently demonstrates that they don’t consider themselves bound by the same rules that they apply to other people — as I’ve said more than once, despite the fact that today’s conservatives seemingly never pass up an opportunity to lecture other people about the incredible virtue and importance of “taking personal responsibility”, they’re often every bit as quick as anyone else to point fingers and pass the buck when their own backsides are the ones on the hot seat.

      Simply put, there’s nothing conservative about many of today’s conservatives. I’m not entirely sure exactly what I should be calling these people — well, what I should be calling them in lieu of a juvenile insult! — but the word “conservative” most definitely doesn’t apply to them.

      1. Bluestocking,

        All valid points. But a rose by any other name…

        These are just labels. Heraldry painted on our shields to distinguish friend from foe, to build our spirits and depress those of our enemies.

        The name is not the thing itself — the first rule of General Semantics.

  10. re: We *are* in Kansas anymore

    is neo-confederate / proto-fascist a better label than conservative?

    In the areas of the USA, such as Kansas, where the corrupt form of conservatism holds sway, one observes cultural collapse and economic collapse dominantly in terms of the destruction of agrarian populism, which was communal in its traditional forms. european immigrants to the midwest were communal. frontier elements were communal. that was destroyed by mechanized, industrial farming.

    agrarian populists have allied with intellectuals in the past, specifically the propressive alliance with prairie populists 100 years ago. but mostly agrarian populists have been alienated from “liberalism”, an urban ideology mainly consisting of non-spiritual values. the neo-con elites and right wing religious elements, and plutocrats, saw such rural alienation from liberalism as a ripe opportunity to exploit and pander to AND LIBERALS HAVE DONE NOTHING TO STOP IT.

    conservatives see evil/suffering in terms of the interiors of consciousness. spirit, morals. via a medieval level of development (mythic conformism). liberals see evil/suffering in terms of the exteriors. materialism, science. so, there is an abyss instead of common ground. economic collapse drives it further apart. culture becomes fragmented, communication between paradigms/ideologies stops, reason is no longer relevant, etc. (see Joe Corbett’s “Unholy Alliance” articles)

    So, what neither “side” has been capable of doing is to synthesize, or integrate, those fragmented elements at a higher, holistic level. until liberalism (exteriors/systems/structures) comes to terms with spirituality (interiors), or vice versa, no solution is possible. (a similar issue exists for fragmentation between “individualism” vs. “collectivism”)

    Ken Wilber: “Buddha Was the Ultimate Republican“, (via 2007?

    also see:

    1. re: “liberals see evil/suffering in terms of the exteriors. materialism, science.”

      clarification: and in terms of an orientation toward individual achievement at the cultural center of gravity. (as opposed to the mythic conformism/membership orientation of medieval culture, including agrarian populism)

  11. The following article hints at the Jungian shadow that lurks behind a lot of the bizarre rhetoric of the extreme Right: they project their own unacknowledged “dictatorial” psychological shadow onto Obama.
    Another analysis, from a holistic, new-age, Left perspective, of the problem of modernism and conservatism-traditionalism: “The Unholy Marriage of Authoritarian, Traditional, and Modern Levels of Development in American Culture and Society“, Joe Corbett, Beams & Strutts, 2 January 2012 — excerpt:

    … authoritarianism, narcissism, and infantilization are woven into the fabric of oppression in advanced industrialized democracies like America through a steady dose of the worship of cultural entertainment and sports heroes (idolatry); permanent military entertainment spectacles for quasi-religious patriotic redemption and deliverance of the disaffected and disempowered; daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute advertising of personal inadequacies and their consumer-product solutions (commodification of the soul); ‘energized’ scapegoating (pathologized morality) of immigrants, Muslims, gays, liberals, etc. in conservative media, and this in a country where a large percentage of the population identify themselves as conservative.

    The above is an outline of some of the contours of the basic configuration in American culture and society at the turn of the 21st century, and it also describes a psychological, cultural, and social alliance of authoritarian and conservative values with modernist material success and achievement-orientation. Although not in and of itself a ‘bad’ alliance, the proportionate imbalance of power and money the modern-industrial level of development has gained over traditional-agrarian and authoritarian-tribal levels is at the point of overt manipulation and predatory deception on the part of the elite business classes and their highly paid pundits (with Obama and his advisers as exemplary among them) over the middle and working classes, and this has distorted the overall development of the whole that has become contemporary America.


    more Joe Corbett excerpts:

    . .. the dialectic of enlightenment is when the cold hard facts of reason that initially set us free from superstition and the oppressive relations of the feudal church become the chains of another kind of blind faith and social oppression: the cunning of scientific reason and its scholastic expertise that is used by ‘professionals’ to lead us into war and organizes auschwitz and global ruin for the twisted short-term benefit of a few.

    i think the postmodern leveling of knowledge is a continuation of this dialectic aimed at liberating us from the corrupt forms of modern expertise disguised as enlightened reason. the important thing is that the dialectic not stop at this stage of development.

    post-postmodernism on the other hand carries the dialectic one step further and is not content with mere leveling, but seeks to return (at a higher level) to an enlightened reason based on visionary or holistic [values] ….

    … the rising tide of postmodernism, in the sense of the leveling of knowledge and the decline of expert opinion, is very much alive today and in fact we are literally drowning in the fragmented images of a shattered grand narrative of western progress through science and capitalist democracy.

    … this is the general systemic condition of postmodernity and the cultural logic of late capitalism where all knowledge, no matter how dubious or corrupt, is exploitable material and legitimate fodder for the public sphere. the consequent collapse of reason and decline of collective meaning and purpose are something we are all-too familiar with.

  13. FM, your hilarious claim that Robert and Virginia Heinlein visited the USSR in 1960 and predicted its collapse, and that therefore we should take seriously people like this, is pure comedy gold.

    Among the other gems Robert A. Heinlein predicted:

    * Within 10 years, intelligent life will be found on Mars. (1954)

    * Living Americans today will fight — and win — a nuclear war. (1953)

    * We’ll all be getting a little hungrier by and by (1954).

    People pay no attention to cranks like Heinlein because most of their predictions are pure delusion and ludicrous fantasy.

    1. Thomas,

      (1) Please provide a quote to support your assertion that:

      “your hilarious claim that Robert and Virginia Heinlein visited the USSR in 1960 and predicted its collapse, and that therefore we should take seriously people like this”

      That looks to me like a reading FAIL. Heinlein and his wife made simple observations and made correct deductions from them, which were proven correct by history. Those observations could have been made by anybody — and certainly we should wonder why the CIA did not notice these things.

      How Heinlein’s views about life on Mars are relevant to this specific analysis I’ll leave to our other readers to ponder.

      (2) Heinlein’s belief about the likelihood of an atomic war were shared my many actual experts of that period — even a decade later. The various close calls, including the Cuban Missile crisis validates those fears (for most of us, if not for you).

      (3) Heinlein’s fear about increasing hunger were shared by actual experts not just then, but during the next two decades (at least).

      (4) That you consider these two forecasts of Heinlein to be unusual — those showing him to be a “crank” — is interesting, but not worth pondering.

      1. Thomas,

        My point #1 was not clear on the two reasons your statement looks like a reading FAIL.

        “your hilarious claim that Robert and Virginia Heinlein visited the USSR in 1960 and predicted its collapse, and that therefore we should take seriously people like this”

        (a) I don’t state that this successful predict means that we should take Heinlein seriously, let alone as a validation of “people like this” — whatever that means (it conveys nothing specific to me: ex-Annapolis grads? sci-fiction authors? conservatives?).

        (b) The actual points I made were —

        * Heinlein’s observations were correct, and the CIA — with its vastly greater resources — should have made them as well.

        * Heinlein’s conclusions on this data were correct, and the CIA should have drawn similar ones.

        Also (not made in the post): Heinlein’s conclusions contradicted conservative dogma at the time — which remained in force for the next two decades — about the strength of the Soviet Union. Observations and conclusions made contrary to bias show a rare greatness of mind.

    2. More,

      “People pay no attention to cranks like Heinlein”

      It’s your comments like this that make me question your judgement. As my grandmother said, when you point to someone and call him a crank — four of your fingers point back to you.”

      For a more accurate evaluation, let’s turn to famous science fiction author Spider Robinson (see Wikipedia). Excerpt from “Rah, rah, R.A.H.” by Spider Robinson, published in Destinies magazine (Summer, 1980), Time Travelers Strictly Cash (Spider Robinson, 1981), New Destinies, Vol. VI (1988), and Requiem: Tributes to the Grand Master (Yoji Kondo, ed., 1992):

      Signet claims 11.5 million Heinlein books in print. Berkley claims 12 million. Del Rey figures are not available, but they have at least a dozen titles. Extend those figures worldwide … He is “merely” a good and great man, and a good and great writer, no small achievements. … He has written the definitive time-travel stories (“All You Zombies—” and “By His Bootstraps”), the definitive longevity books (Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough For Love), the definitive theocracy novel (Revolt in 2100), heroic fantasy/SF novel (Glory Road), revolution novel (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress), transplant novel (I Will Fear No Evil), alien invasion novel (The Puppet Masters), technocracy story (“The Roads Must Roll”), arms race story (“Solution Unsatisfactory”), technodisaster story (“Blowups Happen”), and about a dozen of the finest science fiction juveniles ever published.

      … {He is} a man who bitterly opposes military conscription, supports consensual sexual freedom and women’s ownership of their bellies, delights in unconventional marriage customs, champions massive expenditures for scientific research, suggests radical experiments in government; and; has written with apparent approval of anarchists, communists, socialists, technocrats, limited-franchise-republicans, emperors and empresses, capitalists, dictators, thieves, whores, charlatans and even career civil servants …

      His stories anticipated significant real-world tech innovations, such as the water bed (Wikipedia)and waldos (Wikipedia about his 1942 story, the 1945 invention).

      His stories featured strong support for trans-national organizations, somewhat contraversial at the time (and so even today on the Right). Military peace-keeping organizations operating on Earth, in the solar system, and across the Three Galaxies. World, system-wide, galactic, and trans-galatic governments of many species.

      We could go on, but any objective observer (i.e., someone not a crank) can see Heinlein as one of America’s great 20th centuries writers, and among the broadest and most imaginative in his thinking.

  14. Pingback: the echo chamber | Brain Noise

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: