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Screw Optimism and Screw “Sanity”

2017 September 29
by Ian Welsh

An older post, reborn.

I recently stumbled across a book on the link between leadership and what we call madness. From the Amazon review:

Take realism, for instance: study after study has shown that those suffering depression are better than “normal” people at assessing current threats and predicting future outcomes. Looking at Lincoln and Churchill among others, Ghaemi shows how depressive realism helped these men tackle challenges both personal and national. Or consider creativity, a quality psychiatrists have studied extensively in relation to bipolar disorder. A First-Rate Madness shows how mania inspired General Sherman and Ted Turner to design and execute their most creative-and successful-strategies.

Ghaemi’s thesis is both robust and expansive; he even explains why eminently sane men like Neville Chamberlain and George W. Bush made such poor leaders. Though sane people are better shepherds in good times, sanity can be a severe liability in moments of crisis. A lifetime without the cyclical torment of mood disorders, Ghaemi explains, can leave one ill equipped to endure dire straits. He also clarifies which kinds of insanity-like psychosis-make for despotism and ineptitude, sometimes on a grand scale.

Now, I’m not depressive, strictly speaking. I don’t stay in bed all day, and so on. But the Welsh family motto, no kidding, is this:

An optimist and a damn fool are the same thing.

Ordinary people, those whom we call “sane” in our society, are really shitty analysts. Really, really shitty analysts. Their bias to the upside is tiresome, predictable and makes them wrong, over and over and over again. They don’t know what real threats are, they constantly are confused about what is really dangerous. They think stranger pedophiles are a bigger danger to their kids than their own family members or their own driving. They think terrorism is dangerous, when almost no one dies from it; as opposed to crossing the street or eating too many Big Macs. They fear “Osama” when the men who are most likely to cause their death or impoverishment have names like Bush, Paulson, Geithner, Obama, and so on.

I walked through Calcutta’s slums, as a teenager, by myself. I know what’s actually dangerous, and what isn’t. But my parents didn’t coddle me; they didn’t think their job was to make sure I never faced any danger, no matter how minor. So when I was released as an adult, I knew how to evaluate threats. They also didn’t think my self-esteem should outrun my ability.

Of course optimism is wonderfully adaptive as long as optimists aren’t your leaders or analysts, and don’t run your nuclear power plants, or plan your economies, or make any decisions about anything which if it goes wrong can go catastrophically wrong. Optimists are happier, they live longer, they’re healthier, they “get up and go,” blah, blah, blah. Optimism is good for optimists and, hey, they’re generally more pleasant to be around, too. There are time periods when they’re even right a lot (say during the 50s). But, basically, they’re blind. One imagines conversations between cows. “Hey, they feed us every day, we get free health care, no real responsibility! The dog makes sure the wolves don’t bother us. This is great! I do wonder what happened to Thelma and Fred, when they took them away in that truck? But I’m sure it wasn’t anything bad, and if it was they must have deserved it, and anyway, that’d never happen to me, because I’m a good cow and this is the best herd in the whole world!”

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

And you can tell people what will happen, in advance, and be right, over and over and over again. And what that will do is get you marginalized. “Oh, he’s so negative! Such a downer. He should make us feel good about ourselves and our future, and if he doesn’t, we won’t listen. Let’s watch some TV!”

The stuff that makes you a good everyday person, a pal at the pub, the best husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, mother or father, does not make you a good analyst or a good leader. Choosing other sheep to lead you, to guide you, gets you what you’re getting right now–good and hard.

And the medicalization of every bad mood, as if we’re supposed to never experience negative emotions is more psychotic than the “diseases” they are intended to treat. Yes, some people are so insane that they need big time help, and being drugged, but way more people than that are being drugged.

Likewise, I am beyond tired of the excessive stigmatization of anger and hatred. It is appropriate to hate some people. If you don’t hate a man who has killed tens to hundreds of thousands of people (you don’t know because he refused to count) for a war based on lies, while gutting your civil rights, you are either a saint or your values are so fucked up I don’t even know what to say. You hate some people (yes, you do, don’t deny it), why don’t you hate the people who are actually doing evil on an industrial scale and who directly threaten your prosperity and your good life? And why, exactly, aren’t you angry? Again, don’t tell me you don’t get angry (unless you’re a saint), so why aren’t you angry at the people who are destroying your future and the future of your children?

Oh, right, because most people suck at threat analysis. They don’t even know what or who is really dangerous. They don’t /want/ to believe that people who look like they’d be great to have a beer with, or Uncle Fred, or driving their beloved automobile, or the food that they eat, is what’s actually going to kill them, make them sick, or hurt the kid they profess is just the most special and important person in their life, except when it comes to making sure the kid will have a world worth living in.

So folks. Hate can be awful, it can lead to awful crimes. But you’re going to hate someone, so learn who to hate. Anger can be terrible, few people know that better than I do, as my father’s temper was the terror of my youth, but you’re going to be angry, so know when and with who to get angry with, and stop displacing your anger.

And screw hope. Screw optimism. Really, seriously. Hope is like pride, you should have exactly as much hope as the circumstances dictate, and no more.

But you can’t live that way. I know. You need your hope. You need to believe.

Okay. That’s fine. I understand. Variety is good.

But don’t insist that everyone else be like you. And understand your own weaknesses. Know what you suck at. Find the people who don’t suck at those things, figure out which ones to trust (that’s a whole other essay) and listen to them. No one is good at everything (I sure as hell am not), but a wise person knows what they are bad at.

Who is mad? The pessimist, the depressive, who accurately understands the world around him, or the hope-filled optimists who are blind to real threats, can’t predict the future worth a damn, and who select their leaders based on “wouldn’t it be great to have a beer with him?”

I don’t know, and I don’t even really care. But I do know that when I want to have good time at a party, or I need a good salesman, I look for different abilities than I do in good analysts and good leaders. That the person who runs my nuclear plants should not be Mr. Fucking Sunshine, saying “It’ll all work out for the best!”

Just, no.

And stop drugging your kids en-masse. Okay? Just stop.

Originally published August 29, 2011. Ironically I now see reasons for hope (not optimism, optimism is never appropriate in an analyst. Also, I was, errr, somewhat angry and bitter back in 2011.

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48 Responses
  1. August 9, 2011


    You know, my soon-to-be-ending seven year stay in the USA has had its ups and downs, and more ups than downs on the whole, but quite possible THE WORST thing has been the optimism mandate of American culture. Because I didn’t realize deep down *enough* that it was a cultural affectation, I ended up taking it seriously one-too-many-times, and made choices that made me in some ways a lot more miserable than I ought to have been. And, I can’t “blame” anyone, because all of the people who should have said “no” to me genuinely believed that they meant “yes” when they said it. And I believe them because that is how far deep the optimism mandate runs.

    So what you’re saying has been true for me in a very personal way. You do need some amount of optimism to, e.g., design your technological infrastructure or even get basic research done. But it can get pernicious.

    Now when anyone asks me what the main difference is between American and Canadian culture, I say that Canadians are, at least, more likely to say no when they should say no.

    (Are we the only people up tonight? Also, I think Barbara Ehrenreich is supposed to have covered some of this ground as well in “Bright-sided”.)

  2. Morocco Bama permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Jesus H. Christ, Ian. You plucked another one from between my ears. My sentiments, exactly. Elect Morocco Bama 😉 …… Nah, I don’t like to lead. Instead, I believe in inspiring and empowering so people can lead themselves…..a very tall order when this system homogenizes people to be the exact opposite of that.

  3. Morocco Bama permalink
    August 9, 2011

    One imagines conversations between cows.

    I do….and it goes something like this…


  4. August 9, 2011

    Ian, you’ve hit so many nails on the head here.

  5. August 9, 2011

    Forgot to include the famous Nietzsche quote, though you may have printed this before — can’t remember:

    “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.”

  6. August 9, 2011

    I’ve been writing in my journal. This is what I wrote just three days ago: “Whenever someone exhorts me to optimism, it’s a con. In my life I can think of no exceptions.”

    Now, it’s worth adding that I don’t mean the sort of “buck up; it isn’t so bad” that helps one out of a hole. Irrational pessimism is not anyone’s friend. But think of Reagan’s “Morning in America” and Obama’s “Hope.” Obama has broken the hearts of America, and is stamping on the pieces.

    Returning to the original point: this is the zeitgiest. I think the pickings are going to be pretty good for corvids.

  7. Morocco Bama permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Very important in this downgrade by the S&P is to follow all of the trails. For example, who is making big money off of this? Quite a few people in the know are, you can bet on it if you’re a gambler. Those trails need to be followed, even if they are rabbit holes. Here’s a couple things of note that should be followed up on. Listen to how nervous Chambers is in this interview. He knows more than he’s saying here, and I believe he’s being held over a barrel. Keep in mind that McGraw-Hill, of which S&P is a subsidiary, has very close elitist ties to the Bush family. This is not meant to let the Obama Admin, and the Congress, off the hook, but rather to illustrate that S&P is a tool of the aristocracy as many of us already have surmised. I’m going to say that the green light was given by the Plutocrats for the downgrade, and they are making huge profits on the downside. They are going for broke, and are hell bent on killing the goose that laid all of those golden eggs.

  8. August 9, 2011

    I wonder if Obama realizes that Reagan was peddling false hope
    and real pain?

    How deluded is Obama?

  9. August 9, 2011

    I really do want to read this book, because my first thought upon hearing the premise was ” oh, another book romanticizing mental illness as a great thing”. I’m a pessimist that way.

    Having seen a bit more about it, it seems far more nuanced than that, and I expect it will be a good read.

  10. August 9, 2011

    Some time ago I theorized that the finance bubble was fueled by amphetamines (at link). On amphetamines all of your ideas look good. (Readers suggested that it was cocaine, which is functionally the same, and maybe antidepressants helped keep stave off the crash and make it bigger).

    The glittery-eyed thing a lot of military planners have seems amphetamine induced too. I first noticed it in Caspar Weinberger, but Rumsfeld has it too.

    Then there are Bachmann and Palin. I don’t you can be that bright-eyed and chirpy all the time just with Jesus.

  11. guest permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Second time I’ve read about this book in 2 days (Hullabaloo being the first). I had a grandparent who was seriously depressed. Everyone said they coped with hard times like a trooper, but easy times made it hard to function at all. Being quite the Debbie Downer myself, I think it’s very tempting right now with the markets in shambes and riots breaking out (AS PREDICTED for years) to pick up books like that and pat ourselves on the backs. But a more likely explanation is that bad times validate the pessimists’ worldview and by extension validate the pessimist, and good times or seeming good times validate the optimists. There is a difference between being realistic, and only finding meaning in a life of struggle and strife, even unnecessary struggle and strife. The vast majority of pessimists are nearly as stupid and uncreative as the vast majority of optimists (see what a downer I am, I just shat in the pessimists’ party punch bowl, from which I myself wanted to drink? Oh well, there is plenty of schadenfreude to be had without getting drunk on it). Always remember that deep down conservatives are all pessimists and cynics too, and a world run by conservatives is not a world worth living in (Obama being a deeply cynical conservative, is no exception, regardless of the idealism of his sheeple followers)

  12. August 9, 2011

    Man, that was great. I’ll bet it felt good to put down, Ian.

    “Hey, they feed us every day, we get free health care, no real responsibility! The dog makes sure the wolves don’t bother us. This is great! I do wonder what happened to Thelma and Fred, when they took them away in that truck? But I’m sure it wasn’t anything bad, and if it was they must have deserved it, and anyway, that’d never happen to me, because I’m a good cow and this is the best herd in the whole world!”

    Truly inspired.

  13. Ian Welsh permalink
    August 9, 2011

    “And the food is a little strange. Tastes odd? But I’m sure those rumors about feeding us other cows are just conspiracy theory. I mean, no one would do that, right? Or even feeding us other animals. I mean, that would be stupid.”

  14. Rob Grigjanis permalink
    August 9, 2011

    It is appropriate to hate some people.

    There was an LGM post about the Deep Green Resistance movement recently. What amazed me in the comments was the dismissal, contempt and hatred directed at these people, who

    a) Seem to have a fairly sound grasp of our current state
    b) Pose almost no threat to the status quo
    c) Haven’t actually, as far as I know, killed anyone.

    “Buttercup is acting up and talking about breaking the fences down. She’s crazy. Someone should tell her to shut up, or kill her.”

    I rarely see that level of hostility directed at the people who are actually destroying lives.

  15. August 9, 2011

    One of your better essays, Ian … and that says a lot. No one that I read gets to the zeitgeist as good as you.

    Sane in this country has been defined … by the plutocrats … as being acquiescent towards the plutocrats’ rule …. anything else would be “uncivilized”. It’s reflected in the unspoken … but insidiously promoted … nonsense that politeness trumps morality. And whatever one needs to reach that state of stupor … such as being doped up on hope or pharmaceuticals … is encouraged.


  16. Compound F permalink
    August 9, 2011

    a perfect companion to Stirling’s torching of the left.

  17. John B. permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Besides, everyone knows there is no sanity clause…

  18. August 9, 2011

    Sane in this country has been defined … by the plutocrats … as being acquiescent towards the plutocrats’ rule

    That is something I think doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough.

    It’s reflected in the unspoken … but insidiously promoted … nonsense that politeness trumps morality

    I seem to remember John Ralston Saul going on a bit about the cult of politeness.

  19. StewartM permalink
    August 9, 2011

    I remember the criticism of Carter (who was, in truth, far from perfect but who saw some things correctly) for him not being uplifting enough and the cardigan sweater bit and talking about “limits”. And the praise heaped on Reagan because he was “so optimistic” and “renewed America’s hope”.

    Gah. I hated it then, and I still hate it now. Using your drug metaphor, the Reagan presidency consisted of taking you off the medicine that was unpleasant (but might lead to a cure) and giving you gobs of pain medication which made you euphoric but goofy. Except if you were poor–which I was at the start of his presidency–your economic prospects went south immediately. For the poor then Reagan was all bad. But the press rarely cares about the poor, so it went largely unreported.

    I never forgot what it was like to be poor under Reagan, even after I was poor no longer. Unfortunately, too many of America’s middle class bought the false hope of “you can be rich too!” and believed all the predictions of wealth that would come out of their 401ks and IRAs. A pre-recession poll said that some 30 % of college students thought they’d be millionaires (when << 1 % will be)–though I wonder now how many would answer seeing that many can't even land jobs. The middle class angst you see now is the result of the austerity which Reagan first enacted on America's poor which has now creeped upwards to the middle class.

    The lesson I learned (other than to despise blind optimists) is this: you have far, far, far more in common with the waitress who brings you your meal, or the guy who pumps your gas, or the guy changing your oil, than you do with your CEO or with with any of the rich. I've always maintained that if we were truly concerned about the welfare of the economy as a whole, we should junk all the indicators that largely depend on how the rich are doing (like the markets) and instead focus on one indicator–how well the bottom 20 % of society is doing. If they do well, we all do well. If they do poorly, it's only a matter of time before we start hurting too.


  20. Diana Prince permalink
    August 9, 2011

    “I really do want to read this book, because my first thought upon hearing the premise was ” oh, another book romanticizing mental illness as a great thing”. I’m a pessimist that way.”
    Another book you might find interesting is “Touched by Fire” by Kay Jamison. I had similar concerns when I first heard about it. However, it is a very interesting and nuanced exploration of manic depression and creative genius and does not minimize/romanticize mental illness at all.

  21. Diana Prince permalink
    August 9, 2011

    “Likewise I am beyond tired of the excessive stigmatization of anger and hatred. It is appropriate to hate some people. ”
    Word. When people ask me why this stuff pisses me off so much, I just think – why doesn’t it piss you off???

  22. Mad Hemingway permalink
    August 9, 2011

    The way to stop Obama from gutting SSI, Medicare, and Medicaid is simple.

    Push the GOP to impeach him.

    This will get him off track real quick and give someone else a chance at the Dem primary.

    It will also make the GOP & Tea Party even more unpopular.

  23. jcapan permalink
    August 9, 2011

    Great post though I’d call it cynicism, not pessimism. And while I agree wholeheartedly about the necessary attributes of leadership, I have heard it said that Stalin wasn’t exactly Mr. shits and giggles.

    I’d say sprinkle a few hopemongers in a roomful of malcontents, all of them, dare I say it, intelligent and we might get somewhere.

  24. Ian Welsh permalink
    August 9, 2011

    It’s not cynicism. People keep saying that, and they’re just wrong. Sorry. It’s realism, and people don’t understand the difference.

  25. jcapan permalink
    August 10, 2011

    My bad, I see Raven is the only one who mentioned the P-word, while you were merely mocking blind optimism. But I maintain that cynicism is bred out of realism. How the innocent come to any other conclusions from their experiences is beyond me.

  26. August 10, 2011

    But a more likely explanation is that bad times validate the pessimists’ worldview and by extension validate the pessimist, and good times or seeming good times validate the optimists. There is a difference between being realistic, and only finding meaning in a life of struggle and strife, even unnecessary struggle and strife.

    Well said, guest.

    As for all the -isms, which I guess we can get caught up in from now till kingdom come, I, too, don’t think realism or pessimism are cynicism. MO and I had a go-round about this a few months ago. I think cynicism is a destructive force, whereas pessimism can be a spur to positive change. I think pessimists are idealists at heart. They have high expectations, they try to live up to those expectations, and they’re naturally dismayed to see that so many of their fellows don’t. That’s not cynicism. The cynic doesn’t bother to have high expectations because he believes people are all chumps anyway.

  27. August 10, 2011

    @Diana Prince

    Thanks, I will check it out.

  28. Ian Welsh permalink
    August 10, 2011

    Times are good when pessimists are in charge, but the fact that they make most things not blow up leads to poeple thinking you don’t need them. The 50s and 60s were run by people whose most powerful experiences were the great Depresssion and WWII, they made sure things didn’t go wrong, worried about things going wrong constantly, and made sure they were wrong. So the optimists chucked them out of power and spent the next 40 years running the country into the ground.

  29. Ian Welsh permalink
    August 10, 2011

    Also, remember, the psych lit isn’t about “can you forsee societal collapse”, it is about evaluating probabilities in everyday life. Depressives are right about that stuff far more than “normal” people, let alone optimists.

  30. Morocco Bama permalink
    August 10, 2011

    MO and I had a go-round about this a few months ago.

    Lisa, I’ve been searching in vain for the link to the blog that helped validate and further clarify my thoughts and view on it. I’m still trying…..I’ll find it yet…it can run, but it can’t hide….that’s me being optimistic….shoot me now….PLEASE!

  31. Morocco Bama permalink
    August 10, 2011

    I found it, Lisa….HOORAY!! I love this blog.

    An Excerpt:

    What cynicism means today, and why cynics need a sanctuary.

    Telling the truth can get you into hot water. As much as the world needs its
    cynics, it still doesn’t REALIZE that it needs them. Cynics today are
    habitually castigated by politicians, corporate chieftains and other
    productive citizens with tidy lawns; they know that we’re on to them, so they
    lump us with the lowest of the low. We’re generally cast as the heavies in
    the black hats, counterproductive miscreants who broil babies when we’re not spray-painting obscenities on public monuments. We’re portrayed as masters of chicanery and intrigue, untrusting and untrustworthy. Since we’re neither leaders nor followers, we’re expected to get out of the way — and the
    tidy-lawn folks get furious when we don’t. Nobody loves a cynic, except maybe another cynic.

    Even the dictionary definition of a cynic makes us look like scoundrels:

    “a faultfinding captious critic; esp. one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest.”

    Aside from casting us in a negative light, Webster & Co. miss the point by
    half a mile. Where’s the hint of lost ideals, the rueful humor, the wounded
    childlike soul that lurks behind the cynic’s sarcasm?

    What a sadly maligned and misunderstood tribe we are! Cynicism, after all,
    springs not from cruelty or viciousness, but from precisely the opposite: a
    fatal love of virtue. If we were mere realists, we’d have no need for
    cynicism; the world would never disappoint us because we’d expect so little
    of it. But the best cynics are still idealists under their scarred hides. We
    wanted the world to be a better place, and we can’t shrug off the
    disappointment when it lets us down. Our cynicism gives us the painful power to behold life shorn of its sustaining illusions. Thus my own definition of a cynic:

    “an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have been removed, snapped in two and stomped into the ground, immediately improving his vision.”

  32. jcapan permalink
    August 10, 2011


    Great link. I’ll not cast my lot in among mere pessimists.

  33. August 10, 2011

    MO, well, that’s certainly the classic, Ancient Greek definition of it, I’ll give you that.

    (And love this: “Where’s the hint of lost ideals, the rueful humor, the wounded childlike soul that lurks behind the cynic’s sarcasm?” I will quote you.)

  34. Morocco Bama permalink
    August 10, 2011

    I will quote you

    Just to be clear, those aren’t my words, they’re the words of the blog author….and like you, yes, I love it.

    I knew you would like it, jcapan.

  35. rumor permalink
    August 10, 2011

    An optimist believes in what people can do at their best; a pessimest what they can do at their worst. A realist grasps what people usually end up doing, which is the latter; but a cynic… a cynic laments the gulf between the two.

  36. someofparts permalink
    August 11, 2011

    It’s like you live in my house or something.

    My household is just settling out from under major upheaval because bi-polar landlord lost it two weeks ago and got carted off. We tenants are left to catch up on the unpaid bills. Besides the landlord who turns out to have been on heavy medication for bi-polar stuff, seems that the young tenant is too depressive to deal with taking part of the responsibility for keeping track of bills.

    So this business of medicating people that really may not need it is on my mind today in a big way. For the moment I just feel heartsick and confused. If what I’m hearing is right, the worst of it is not just that folks who don’t need it are medicated in the first place. It also sounds like any attempt to withdraw from the meds accelerates the problem they were prescribed to counteract in the first place.

    Thanks too for the observations about threat analysis. I understand exactly what you mean about learning that you can figure out for yourself what is dangerous and what isn’t. So true.

    One moment of dark dark comedy in all of this was a poll that my vanished bi-polar landlord got from the Obama campaign folks. It was an upbeat little mailout reminding him to contribute and asking what was more important to him, the war in Afghanistan or the national debt. Crossed my mind to send it in with a scribbled note – Already been driven mad by the mess your policies have perpetuated. Currently institutionalized.

  37. September 29, 2017

    Wasn’t that long ago.

  38. September 29, 2017

    That why TV ratings pick the most obnoxious of shows, the pick the fake danger – we can see what is behind, not what is in front with clarity.

  39. tsisageya permalink
    September 29, 2017

    Right. I don’t belong here. What bullshit you speak. You’re right, Ian. I hate your writing. I still look, sometimes, but you’re really full of crap. That’s me, in the end. You’re right. Bye now.

    Meditate on that.

  40. September 29, 2017

    I’m personally in favour of optimism but only of the despairing kind.

  41. bruce wilder permalink
    September 29, 2017

    Yeah, teevee apparently loves the fake danger above all else.

    Ratings are so low, engagement with mass media so fractured, agnatology and the memory hole so advanced, I do not draw conclusions about the mass audience.

    I used to be appalled that so few of friends and acquaintances could sustain a realistic moral assessment of leading politicians. I would cite the role of the younger Bush and his cabinet in the Iraq War or Obama in preventing prosecution of Wall Street crime, and heads would nod and all would be forgotten and forgiven days (or sometimes minutes) later.

    Now, we have the Russiagate “scandal” — an endless parade of groundless accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 general election. This is political dementia and breakdown in critical thinking that I would not have thought possible as late as 2011, despite my experience related above.

    I do think it is symptomatic of disengagement from politics. Most people have only loose and often bizarre ideas about what politics is about. I saw someone say that what “outrages” so many about Trump is his crudity, not his cruelty. He is a traitor to his class . . . in manners.

  42. September 29, 2017

    groundless accusations of Russian interference?

  43. Tomonthebeach permalink
    September 30, 2017

    Ian seems to have adopted the family motto of Hunter Thompson. Thompson was right about so many things, but in the end, it killed him. I prefer my motto; “Expect disappointment, but always hope for success.” It allows you to be depressive and optimistic at the same time. It also hopefully insulates you from suicidality.

    Ian’s justification of hate strikes me as binary thinking, which is the psychological well from which all shitty analysis springs. Hate, like all binary thinking, boils down to a search for confirmation of one’s beliefs about the world, and rejection of evidence to the contrary as flawed or deception. If one does not leave open the possibility that you might be wrong, inevitably, you will be.

    After sitting through the last episode of Ken Burns’ latest masterpiece on a war that changed my life (emphasize life, because it didn’t kill me), I was periodically tempted to hate Kennedy, Johnson, McNamara, Westmoreland, Nixon, and Kissinger. They were all seriously flawed human beings, who killed millions based on binary notions, and who perseverated in the face of overwhelming evidence that those binary notions were wrong. By the end of Burns’ opus, my estimation of Eisenhower elevated, while my estimation of LBJ plummeted down almost to where I hold Nixon and Kissinger. I always thought LBJ was a ruthless SOB, but I thought he cared about people. He tapes wised me up. All of those men were despicable liars who deceived themselves as much as they did me and the entire nation they led.

    So here we are still mired in eternal war, still being led by binary thinkers who are congenital liars, and who continue to get people killed all over the world. Once in awhile, we do get a leader who is fiduciary if not noble. It is a joy to work for such people, and I have been fortunate to do so. Democracy, alas, seem to produce presidents who represent the population mean and the population’s meanness. That can get you down; but look on the bright side. Sometimes they inadvertently do something good.

  44. bruce wilder permalink
    September 30, 2017

    . . . groundless accusations of Russian interference?

    I have yet to see facts or evidence; have you?

  45. Hugh permalink
    September 30, 2017

    Oops, I put this in a previous thread although it belongs here:

    I have no problem investigating foreign interference in our politics. How about startng with Israel?

  46. September 30, 2017

    I’m looking at it. Though I am willing to credit the Retards, incompetent cucks, for paying for the service.

    I’d just as soon not dignify its existence Hugh, but yeah.

  47. Dan permalink
    September 30, 2017

    @Ian, I recognized this about you in your writing right away, and now here’s the confirmation. Most writers/thinkers whose work feels intuitively valid and familiar to me seems to come from this personality type. I don’t really like the validation we’re getting by events either; I wish we were wrong, diagnosable, treatable. At some point someone will suggest that as a program, I’m sure.

    @Mandos — Maybe Canadians are better at saying no at the right times, but they always have the chance to fail to do it when it really counts. As a lifelong resident of several regions of the US and one of its territories (and now Canada), I share your (and others’) dim view of American bullshit optimism. It’s a huge irritant and blinder. But it’s a feature of neoliberalism that no doubt arises from some old Calvinist/Protestant feature of the WASP mind in North America, Britain, and northern Europe. It still animates the rightist in all these places. Canada has it too, and a form of “it can’t happen here” exceptionalism. Maybe especially in the western provinces.

  48. October 2, 2017

    Anyone who describes that George W. Bush, a dry drunk with breath-taking daddy issues who saw himself as the head of a religious crusade, as \”Eminently Sane\” does not have a great grasp of the facts.

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