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Conservative Blunders
by Richard Doyle
5 October 2002

A thoughtful conservative points out the weaknesses in many popular conservative opinions, from gender prejudice to airport controllers.


I fully understand it is unrealistic to expect 100% agreement with anyone else, except the guy in the mirror. But some people, including conservatives, seem to demand just that. E.g., try and get a non-conforming opinion into many conservative publications. Many are about as tolerant of nonconformers as the Taliban.

The young man who is not a liberal has no heart. The old man who is not a conservative has no brain. I am no exception to this maxim. As a youth, I succumbed to egalitarian pipe dreams, and now in early old age consider myself a conservative. But, that doesn’t mean I subscribe to jingoism or surrender the right of dissent. Conservatives have faults too. Not as many as liberals perhaps, but they’re there. Conservatives have even unwisely chimed in on many faddish liberal causes.

We sometimes confuse education with intelligence. To speak of “liberal intellectuals” is an oxymoron. Intelligence is a blend of education and common sense. Without both ingredients, one can’t be intellectual; educated yes, glib probably, but not intellectual. Of course not all conservatives or liberals have the same opinions of everything. So my criticisms here regard attitudes which I consider to be lacking in common sense, blunders generally held by conservatives and as well as by many liberals. They are offered to give “think tanks” something worthy to think about.

Some of the differences I have with many conservatives are their definition of “entitlements” and their support for: sales taxes, keeping Elián Gonzáles from his father, tobacco smoke pollution, semi-automatic weapons, complacency about world overpopulation, Britain’s occupation of Ireland, anti-male prejudice, the 1981 PATCO firings, religious jingoism and other miscellaneous matters. I can sense hackles rising and knees jerking at this litany, so let’s examine these issues individually.

Entitlements: The term must be properly defined. Conservatives have been too willing to accept the popular definition. They tend to disparage all entitlements because liberals expanded the altogether legitimate boundaries of the term. For example, retired government employees entered a contract to work and later draw pensions, and are therefore entitled to them. On the other hand, people who chose to spawn illegitimate children with little hope of supporting them are not justifiably “entitled” to a free ride or free babysitting from taxpayers. The same with farm subsidies, S & L and other business bailouts.

National Sales Tax: It’s patently unfair to lower income people. However, the inheritance tax might be among the least objectionable of taxes to the majority of citizens.
Semi-automatic weapons: If you get a kick out of killing animals, have at it. But you don’t need a machine gun to do it. They’re not sportsmanlike against animals, and they should not be used against humans – unless by the military or police.

Extremists: Conservatives justifiably eschew the likes of the leftist, Louis Farrakhan; but have a distorted view of “right wing” extremists Ian Paisley and David Duke. Northern Ireland’s arch-bigot is widely acclaimed despite his unconcealed hatred of Catholics, while the reformed David Duke is still shunned.

Drugs: I don’t know, but maybe drugs should be legalized. It would lessen two problems – crime and overpopulation. Cheaper drugs would negate much of the need for robbery to obtain drug money, smugglers would be out of business, and an undesirable element would snuff itself out.

The drunk driving frenzy: Of course, no one wants people driving around drunk, but the minuscule amounts of blood alcohol that now criminalize a person under many state laws could obtain from walking past a saloon.

Tobacco smoke pollution: Let’s face it, nicotine is harmful, and tobacco companies are aware they are harming the health of children and adults alike. Further, smoke – especially that from cigarettes – befouls the air and stinks up houses and clothing. Sure, you have a right to smoke, but not to offend others, any more than a punk kid with a ghetto blaster has a right to bother others with the loud cacophony that passes for music nowadays. (By the way, I’m an occasional cigar smoker.)

Population control: According to the Washington Times, the Census Bureau predicts that the U.S. population will grow from the present 273 million to a staggering 571 million by 2100. For some curious reason, conservatives fail to observe, indeed deny, the negative effects of overpopulation: famine, pollution, and misanthropy. The first two are obvious and have been examined at length. It’s not likely this article will change many minds in those areas, though such denials – while standing up to our armpits in waste and suffocating from the “greenhouse effect” – are myopic.

So, on to the last. When my grandparents were children, their families lived about 15 miles South of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Trips to town were by horse and buggy or sleigh. If (not when) they encountered travelers in the other direction, they gladly stopped to visit. Now, when people drive those roads its such a mob scene they’re likely as not to curse other drivers. It even has a name: “road rage.” Just surviving has become a rat race. Speaking of rats, experiments with them have shown extremely bad psychological effects from overcrowding. We’re even crowding wildlife off the planet.

Besides passing on genetic disorders, overcrowding is adding to the spread of infectious diseases. Overpopulated countries tend toward socialism. Liberals denounced as racist the proposition to pay prolific welfare mothers to be sterilized. It might have gotten further if it had been proposed as population control instead of as a money saving method. Please do not consider this advocacy of population sanity to be endorsement of abortion. Speaking of abortion, while it’s abominable, so is wastefulness. Therefore the medical use of aborted fetuses should be supported.

Gender prejudice: Liberals pull no punches in attacking manhood in general and men in specific areas like employment, crime/punishment and divorce. No better though are conservatives who mimic liberals in the latter two categories. Under the eager tutelage – and sometimes threats – of feminism, there is a massive, exclusive concern with women’s rights and men’s responsibilities. We viciously jail men for minor infractions while permitting women to literally get away with murder. In divorce we clamor for ever more Draconian measures to deal with “Deadbeat Dads,” without realizing that these attitudes aren’t a cure for the problem – they ARE the problem. If the courts treated men fairly in divorce, there would be very little divorce and therefore few attendant problems. First, women would no longer be “bribed” into initiating most (66% – 85% of). divorces through the assurance (95%) of child custody, family homes, and alimony/support monies. Transfer of wealth, is – after all – a socialist imperative. Second, those fathers without custody, but treated fairly, would be far less reluctant to meet fair obligations. Sure, the idea of fairness to men is shocking and radical, but the divorce/welfare/delinquency problem is so overwhelming it calls for radical measures.

I can understand liberal columnists going ga-ga over the celebrated Ms. Elizabeth Morgan and the fawning articles in such pop magazines as Glamour and People. What troubles me is that several normally sensible conservatives did likewise, e.g. Charles (Chuck) Colson, James Dobson, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Sen. John Heinz, Lt. Col. Oliver North (although he merely attended a party and said “God Bless”) and H. Ross Perot. Strange bedfellows, indeed. Then, in a monument to political pandering to public ignorance, Galahads in Congress unanimously passed and President Bush, the elder, signed a bill freeing this demonstrably prevaricating maternal child molester. Republican Rep. Tom Davis sponsored a bill to let her bring her daughter back from New Zealand without facing the consequences of her defiance of the court. It’s no wonder Judge Clarence Thomas didn’t join this bunch. He’s been victimized by such prejudice.

And wife beating! – According to numerous studies, including several by the respected researchers, Susan Steinmetz and Prof. Richard J. Gelles, there is as much or more husband beating than wife beating. And that’s just the physical kind.

The disastrous consequences of welfare, father absence and the realization that we are about to be inundated by their unhappy consequences are finally receiving major attention. On fatherhood, conservatives like Dan Quayle and Mitch Pearlstein, and organizations like Promise Keepers and the National Fatherhood Institute are taking notice, as are some liberals. Paul McNulty warns of “a catastrophe” as the new wave of fatherless kids hit the street. This is a shocking, but dead serious, statement: justice would be better served if we locked up divorce court judges rather than the young hoodlums they created.

Father absence occurs in two major and often overlapping communities: divorced households and welfare households. Conservatives already well understand that our generous welfare state practically mandates father absence, so I will address the other community. Throughout western civilization, every married man is no more than a guest in his own home, evictable at the merest whim of a wife with perhaps no better reason than that she may have tired of him. Operating from a number of motives, government functionaries from divorce court judges to social “workers” are displacing and replacing fathers. As a result of this Deification of women and mothers, half our marriages are ending in divorce.

Most observers have failed to understand the cause of father absence, assuming it to be voluntary when it is largely involuntary. In divorce courts men are spending more money than they can afford in usually vain attempts to assume the very responsibilities that simplistic people deplore them for shirking. They are attempting to assume them in the only effective way there is – by obtaining child custody. The conservative blind spot is illustrated by Judge Robert Bork’s pronouncement from the bench that divorced fathers wanting to see their children were “a damn nuisance.”

The problem is even worse in ghettos, because discrimination against black men is double that against white men. Before the welfare state replaced them, black fathers were every bit as responsible as white fathers. At the rate we’re going, the ghetto model may become society’s model.

The cure to the problem of father absence and its enormous social consequences is to balance rights and responsibilities equally and justly between the sexes. When and if that happens, most of our social problems will disappear. It’s worth a try. Everything else has failed and will continue to fail.

The entire subject of gender issues is far too complex to adequately treat here, though some publications do (Among the best are Prof. Amneus’ Garbage Generation and The Case For Father Custody, and the Men’s Defense Association newsletter The Liberator).
Courts are too ready to impose harsh penalties, even death, on males accused of crime without ensuring guilt. Illinois Governor George Ryan announced a moratorium on the death penalties because so many men on death row were proven to be innocent. One cure would be to enact the same penalties for knowingly making false accusations as are imposed for the crimes accused of. Several states are considering that, and China does so with rape charges.

Contrast the politicized treatment accorded to Michigan political prisoner Wil Heatherington to that of President Clinton, both accused of rape. The former was accused by a philandering, divorcing wife with a huge incentive to lie. The President by a patently decent woman with no such incentive. While Mr. Clinton walked, feminist-pandering conservatives – a rabidly misancric judge and a cowardly governor – condemned Mr. Hetherington to 15 – 30 years in the state penetentiary, of which he has already served 18.

Most liberals and conservatives have totally erroneous understandings of gender problems and their solutions, liberals suffering from political correctness, and conservatives from indiscriminate chivalry – causing a huge philosophic blind spot. Having more common sense however, conservatives may be in a better position to comprehend and correct these problems.

Further information on this subject may be had from the Men’s Defense Association website at www.mensdefense.org/.

Elián Gonzáles: Anti-Castroism has displaced a more important social consideration – the family. America is superior to Cuba in most ways, but not in domestic relations. In Cuba, Elián’s future fatherhood is more likely to be honored. It was shameful to use a 6-year old as a political football, and play mind games with him. Imagine the outcry if the father had nearly drowned the boy spiriting him away from the mother!

To her credit, Attorney General Janet Reno outshined many normally wiser conservatives on this issue. Even the general populace agrees on the matter. This situation well exemplifies why conservatives have trouble winning elections. To appeal to voters’ common sense, conservatives must undertake a fundamental re-examination of social realities and gender politics.

Ireland: Centuries ago Britain invaded its weaker neighbor and planted a cancer there that festers to this day. The IRA and INLA, and anyone else with a gun has every right to kick them out. We did the same thing, fer Chrissake, in the Revolutionary War. Sure, Britain fought on our side in more recent wars (but in fact, we bailed them out). Sure, Ireland didn’t always jump in on our side – but she probably would have if England, our ally, hadn’t been occupying her. In 1986 the Reagan administration shamefully created an amendment to the U.S./U.K. extradition treaty that erased the political exemption clause, just to return Joe Doherty, a political prisoner wanted by Britain.

The danger here, and this ought to alarm conservatives, is that Ireland was leftist country, and could become so again. The free world has lost Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, and arguably Russia and China due to its tolerance of despots. Other countries are on the way. To their credit, socialists know how to exploit oppression. They’re doing it lustily in Ireland, while conservative ostriches stick their heads in the sand. The occupation is not only morally wrong, but it costs NATO a potential ally and robs it of the equivalent of a British division. But try and get these facts past the anglophiles at conservative publications.
Kurdistan: Turkey’s occupation of Kurdistan seems as brutal and wrong as England’s occupation of Ireland. Yet many conservatives find it advantageous to approve, and for the same reason (alliances).

PATCO – Ronald Reagan’s “triumph”: Admittedly I may be prejudiced about the PATCO “massacre” of August l98l. I was a fired controller (later reinstated). I wasn’t in favor of the strike, indeed tried unsuccessfully to persuade the “Young Turks” to cool it. But, the administration was just as wrong as they, perhaps more so. Due to the controller’s incompetence at public relations, the public never heard their main complaint. The image portrayed was that of well paid government servants wanting more money. The actual issue, which the public never knew, was survivability in the job. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report and the l967 Corson Report, commissioned by the FAA mind you, showed that 90% of controllers never reach normal retirement (they go out on disability, resign, are fired or promoted out of the job), while 90% of airline pilots do reach that status.

Actually, pay increases were justified. Very few controllers are paid as well as the public was led to believe back then. Even the well-paid ones earn only a fraction of what an airline captain does, with much more responsibility. Many earn about as much as a stewardess.
I can empathize with PATCO strike proponents. When you hire on at age 2l, you think you can lick the world, and so make a one-sided commitment not to strike. But, as tempus fugit, moving ever-increasing volumes of traffic and seeing co-workers drop by the wayside, you realize your limitations. Vainly PATCO tried to explain to FAA bureaucrats that the human mind simply isn’t sharp enough to control air traffic at the ages mandated by present retirement provisions. They stonewalled us. It strains credibility to think that 11,500 fine, highly trained people would sacrifice their careers for no good reason. Their firing was a horrendous gamble with the lives of the flying public, and many pilots and passengers have since paid the price. I can attest to a significant deterioration in the quality of control since the ill-advised lockout. Air traffic controllers, like doctors and nurses, should not strike; but they should be well taken care of; they’re not.

A reasonable social subsidy: The “Headstart” program is generally opposed by conservatives. This seems mean-spirited. Granted, healthy, young adults should go through life unsubsidized; but objectively it doesn’t seem fair to children that some are born to poor, lazy parents while others are born to wealthy, dynamic ones. Parents generally have earned their station in life, but children haven’t. Other than taxing inheritances, the headstart program seems the best way to mitigate this unfairness.

Government salaries: Opposition to decent salaries for high government officials, also teachers and policemen, baffles me. That you get what you pay for is common knowledge (and boy are we getting it!). Why shouldn’t a Supreme Court judge earn as much as a fair to middling NFL quarterback?

The missing children scare: This is almost as big a bogeyman as “wife beating.” Most of these children are runaways. Of the remainder, most are taken by parents not likely to harm them – often fathers with no other recourse.

“Judeo-Christian” values: Pontification about this strikes me as pompous. One might think no other religions had value. The morals of some Oriental faith followers (militant Islamists not included) are superior to those of many Christians. The important thing is behavior, not the religion to which one subscribes.

Alternative fuels: We must look to a future when organic fuels are exhausted. Alternative fuels should be given stronger support.

“Black”: Both liberals and conservatives refer to persons with, say, 25% African blood as “Black.” Why?

Solicitations: One other complaint I have about conservatives is that they over-solicit for funds. Almost every day I get 2 or 3 terribly important sounding emergency appeals by mail or phone for funds from various conservatives and conservative causes. Its gotten to the point I just throw most mail away unopened, and hang up on the callers. Two central solicitations a year might draw more money to conservatives and their causes than the present avalanche does.

Now that my fellow conservatives have been appraised of their sins and oversights, I trust they will take appropriate steps to remedy them.

Email Richard Doyle