The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Aspirational Versus Servant Leaders

In my post on the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I criticized her for not resigning while Obama was President, when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. A few people were mightily offended, as I had anticipated. She was a great person, and it was too soon, and so on. One person told me that every professional woman he knew was crying.

I don’t have that reverence, and neither do many others. I think it’s worth teasing out why. The best short explanation is this one.

The death of RBG has again revealed a class-based split between those who see political figures as aspirational heroes or people who make decisions that have cataclysmic consequences in their lives.

I don’t view leaders, and RBG, since she made decisions which impacted the entire country, was one, as people to emulate. Many people do. This is similar to how many professional women identify with Hillary and felt her defeats as a personal rebuke. To me, Hillary is an incompetent evil fool. She voted for Iraq, convinced Obama to invade Libya, ballsed up universal health care when her husband trusted her with it, lost two elections where she was the favorite and her only significant accomplishment, being Senator from New York is because she rode her husband’s coat-tails.

A monster and an incompetent.

RBG was better (though not as great as the hagiography), but the reason people were so upset at criticism of her is that they identified with her. They saw her as someone who they admired and wanted to be. An “aspirational model.”

What I see, however, is that right now before she died there was a 5/4 majority for reproductive rights, and when Trump appoints his fundamental Christian judge, Roe’s on the table. All Ginsburg had to do was retire when she got sick (and was old already.) She didn’t, and now something she worked hard for all her life and that is important to millions of women, may well be lost.

This may be a result of bad judgment on her part, it may be selfishness (she seems to have loved the job and thought she was indispensable), but either way she failed the people she served.

And that’s the core thing. To me leaders are servants: they are there to serve the people, to make decisions for their betterment. Every leader has a constituency, RBG sure did, and letting them down is betrayal of their duty.

It’s nice that Ginsburg had such a great career, and was an aspirational model, but that’s nothing compared to the question of how much good and evil she did as a very important person. No one denies she did a lot of good (and a fair bit of evil, ask a native American what they think of her), but it’s also true that she let people down when she failed to make sure she was replaced by someone who would uphold abortion rights and so on.

This is a widespread problem. I remember a friend practically crying about Obama winning the primary in 2008, because she had marched for civil rights, and his victory was the culmination, to her, of both her and her cohort’s (boomers) history. That he failed African Americans terribly, did almost nothing to improve their situation, was forgivable, because he was a symbol.

I don’t view leaders thru this lens. I’ve seen good men and good women leaders, and bad men and bad women leaders. Thatcher was the first great neoliberal leader: woman. Reagan the second: male. Up where I live in Ontario we had a very bad (neoliberal) lesbian, who won the leadership of her party over a man who spent his entire life working at a food bank, helping the poor. It’s nice that lesbians got to see one of them as Premier, and watch her fuck things up and make the rich, richer, but I’d have liked the guy who cared about the poor, myself, since your sexual preferences make you neither a good nor bad leader.

Leaders are servants. We give them rights so they can do things for us. They make decisions which determine whether people live or die and whether they live happy healthy lives or miserable sick lives.

Identifying with them as role-models of success is, to me, ludicrous.

Choose your leaders because you trust them to serve you and demand that they do so. When they fail, don’t say “oh, it doesn’t matter because they were such a model of success or they did some other good things.”

They serve you. They hurt or help people on a mass scale.

That’s what matters.

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Bill Bodri’s “Culture, Country, City, Company, Person, Purpose, Passion, World”


Delusion Regarding the Fall of Neoliberalism and Globalization


  1. UserFriendly

    She wanted either:
    1. to be replaced by someone as liberal as her, which only could have have happened during the short filibuster proof window in 2009. (although she had no reason to expect kennedy would die and end it).
    2. The first woman president.

    1. is somewhat defensible, 2. less so. She admitted to 1 somewhere and 2 is just an assumption.

  2. UserFriendly

    The public is already broadly in favor of at least some abortions. Just wait till the first young white girl coat hanger death gets wall to wall coverage and republicans won’t be able to win outside of Wyoming. (none of which I am happy about).

  3. She was a Zionist. Never once in her entire career did she express regret, or even concern, over the genocide of the indigenous population of Palestine.

    I think Wyoming would be a great reservation.

  4. Ian Welsh

    As I understand it Sotomayer is, in fact, to Ginsburg’s left and was the first justice appointed by Obama, in 2009. Having seen that she cold then have retired.

    Whatever excuses are made, she has put Roe vs. Wade at risk and allowed a conservative super-majority. Bad judgement? Selfishness?

    I don’t know. But people DID point this out in 2009 when she got cancer. This is not people saying what was not said then.

  5. someofparts

    I know two men who have decent politics who have made a point of telling me they watch Rachel Maddow. It baffled me at first. Then I realized that they watch her because she is lesbian and therefore cool, as they see it. This must be what it feels like when some white person tells a black socialist that they love Obama.

  6. someofparts

    Ten Bears – Zionist?!! If I had known that I would never have had a shred of esteem for her.

    If the above link does not work, just google Abby Martin in Israel

  7. John

    Sacrifice, honor, duty, civic virtue: early republic qualities that are just for the
    little people, if at all, in contemporary America. Payday politicans, hyper individualist
    narcissists, just in it for the money, everything’s a profit center are the fruits of
    neoliberalism. RBG was probably a nice lady personally but was afflicted with the feral ambition of career over community and country.

  8. Plague Species

    I’ve finally decided what I’m doing with my “vote.” I refuse to vote as a matter of principle but I also refuse for my vote merely to be waste and discarded, ALL things considered. Therefore, I am bequeathing my vote to my wife and daughter. It’s a mail-in vote, so they will be filling out the information on my behalf and using my vote to their own ends. Their ends will be to vote Dem straight down the line including voting for Biden for POTUS. It’s a legal way for both of them to vote twice thanks to mail-in voting. In return, I uphold my admonition that I will not vote for this sham of a process.

    That being said, I would rather see America go to war with Russia than with China. In fact, I would like to see Russia annihilated at this point and truth be told, the same for Israel. Both countries have been ardent criminal supporters of Donald Trump and both countries have been criminally and illegally trying to collapse America by virtue of their ardent subversive support and enabling of Donald Trump. I hold Russia and Israel as much responsible for the 200,000 murdered Americans at the hands of Donald Trump and his COVFEFE-19 viral weapon as I do the murderer himself, Donald Trump. As such, I would support an eye-for-an-eye policy where 200,000, or whatever the count will be at that time, Russians and 200,000 Israelis being murdered as the price each country must pay for their destabilization campaign against America. If that leads to nuclear war, so be it. Let’s not forget, California has a larger economy than Russia so Russia obviously is less than junior varsity based on that metric alone and Israel is nothing without the iron fist with the velvet glove that is America and its substantial backing of that illegitimate rump state.

    What prompted my decision? S Brennan, that’s what, or that’s who actually. His imploring people to vote for Trump rather than not vote at all tipped Israel’s and Russia’s hand — their sentiment and their strategy. As far as I’m concerned, S Brennan is a proxy for Russia and Israel and as far as I’m concerned, Russia and Israel are one and the same. Both are my enemy. They have shown as much. Both are enemies of America. More so than any country where Islam is the predominant religion.

    My state is neck and neck according to the polls if they can be trusted and most likely they cannot be, but either way, the use of my vote by my wife and daughter to their ends may just be the deciding vote in my state that gives Biden the electoral votes. So be it. Thank you S Brennan for making me double down and rethink my strategy. I refuse to be the foolish dupe of Russia and Israel and my hope is that in a decade, neither country is a country any more. It’s time for this shit to end once and for all.

  9. Ten Bears

    I’m not sure that’s quite Cao Cao cutting his hair ore trampling the cornfield, Plague.

    Discipline is for foot soldiers, for the little people.

  10. Ché Pasa

    It’s good to see some specificity — even if still somewhat vague — about some of the post-mortem anti-RBG rhetoric. I asked “what did she do” (specifically, to you) to deserve all this hatred. Being a “selfish old woman” simply didn’t cut it as a rationale for such fulsome denunciation.

    So it’s not really about her concurrences and dissents.

    Yes, she’s fairly and unfairly criticized for some of her opinions from the bench. As a note: Native Americans rightly criticize her for opinions she got wrong (viz: City of Sherill v Oneida Nation 2005) and praise her for opinions she got right (eg: US v Bryant 2016 and McGirt v Oklahoma 2019). Any justice of the Supreme Court is subject to the same sort of criticism as they should be. Ginsburg seemed to learn somehow from some of her faulty opinions and over time changed her point of view. That’s something quite a number of those on the Court don’t and wouldn’t do.

    But the anti-Ginsburg rhetoric seems to be driven mostly by her personal determination to stay on the Court when she should have retired due to health reasons. “Should have” — but who’s to say? She gets a say in it, of course, as does her family, staff and perhaps other members of the Court. And because of her position, so does the White House. Did she discuss what to do with President Obama? I don’t know, but I would imagine that at least her people had discussions with his people, even if only briefly.

    There are too many unknowns to make absolute judgments about what did and didn’t happen. And there are no guarantees that anyone appointed to replace her in 2009 would necessarily be all that “liberal.” Once on the Court, justices have a tendency to do as they please.

    Personally, I think she would have been better off to retire while Obama and a Democratic Senate leadership might have replaced her, but that was a brief window at best, and it didn’t happen. I’m sure it was not solely because of the Old Woman’s Selfishness.

    It seems to be expected that the emerging 6-3 Court will overturn Roe v Wade and invalidate Obamacare in its entirety — at least that’s what some media is prepping the public for. This is what the R consensus appears to demand and expect from a Court no longer split 5-4. They’re perfectly willing to let the Court do these things since they can’t do it legislatively. And as always, they don’t care what the voters and public in general think or want.

    So let’s say the Rs get what they want from the Court. Where do we go from there? Well, I go back to the epic error the Court made in December of 2000 when it lawlessly intervened in the presidential election and the majority voted to emplace GWB on the throne. That action — essentially dismissing the Constitution, the electorate and state authority over elections to vote its own choice into office — delegitimized the Court as an impartial arbiter of law and justice. It’s nothing of the kind. It’s a partisan political body, majority “conservative” since 1986. The rule of law has been vestigial ever since. Overturning Roe and Obamacare will further grease the skids toward the Court’s unfortunate demise.

    It’s past time to rethink the role and membership criteria for the Supreme Court — and maybe even think of abolishing it in favor of something else altogether. And that would be true whether or not RBG did the right thing in 2009.

  11. Joan

    As a woman, I think women who look up to HRC and other monsters are absurd.

  12. GlassHammer

    “See the position and the power first, see the deeds second, see the character third, and see the person last.”

    That is how I was taught to evaluate people with power.

    The zeitgeist of our time compels us to reverse the order shown above but we must refrain from doing so.

  13. anon

    Thank you, Ian. This post should be pinned or bookmarked at the top of your blog. You explained this mindset better than I ever could have, and this is the point I’ve tried to get across to people since Obama’s presidency and Hillary’s loss. We also saw it in the primaries when the Hillary, Kamala, and Elizabeth supporters were saying that we didn’t need Bernie, another old white man, at the helm of the party, without paying attention to the significant differences in policy that these candidates were putting forward. I agree we need more diversity, but I will always, always pick the progressive over the neoliberal, even if that progressive is an old white man.

    Unfortunately, people are tribal and they will continue to fall for identity politics even when that minority or woman is making their lives significantly worse. Identity politics is really the last remaining card that the Democratic Party has to play. If not for the neoliberal minorities and women they push to the forefront, there would not be a significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans when analyzing their actions.

  14. Thomas B Golladay

    Let Roe vs Wade die. A society that condones abortion that is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman, is a society in misandrist decline.

    The sheer number of potential scientists, doctors, engineers, and etc that have been lost due to the selfish lack of regard to the social contract we all must live with, is incalculable. Adoption is and should be the only resort for those who do not want to raise children.

    Furthermore, this issue allows the Republicans to continue their hypocrisy and keeps the heartland glued to their hips. By ending Roe vs Wade, the process can begin to pry the heartland from the Republicans and pass Universal Healthcare and reimplement New Deal Policies.

  15. Thomas B Golladay

    Let Roe vs Wade die. A society that condones abortion that is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman, is a society in misandrist decline.

    The sheer number of potential scientists, doctors, engineers, and etc that have been lost due to the selfish lack of regard to the social contract we all must live with, is incalculable. Adoption is and should be the only resort for those who do not want to raise children.

    Furthermore, this issue allows the Republicans to continue their hypocrisy and keeps the heartland glued to their hips. By ending Roe vs Wade, the process can begin to pry the heartland from the Republicans and pass Universal Healthcare and reimplement New Deal Policies.

  16. js

    Needing heroes is developmentally appropriate from teen or tween years or so to maybe early to mid 20s. It’s part of trying to form a identity independent of family. But much after that point I don’t think it’s really that appropriate, idols have feet of clay and all that.

    I don’t think Roe will be overturned so much as be the abortion status quo, which is readily available in blue liberal areas, hard to get in conservative religious red areas. I do worry about the extremely, and we weren’t going to avoid it altogether maybe, but there are degrees, pro-corporate, anti-worker, anti larger society, rulings we are going to get. It will get more and more out of touch with popular opinion which is moving the other way, but because it is an undemocratic institution within the larger undemocratic institution which is the U.S. Senate and Presidency, that’s what we’ll get, decades of rulings moving further and further away from anything the population might want.

    As for public figures being servants, well at this point they are literally trying to kill us, 200k already, so with “servants” like that who needs serial killers.

  17. Stirling Newberry

    A trunchant post Mr. Welsh.

  18. kråke

    Power is about itself. It does not produce or attract…servants.

    If luck holds, and there’s preparation, you might get one or two disciplined feckos who will seize power, hold it – to disburse it. To turn what levers they have at hand towards the usual lot of…leaders.

    Anything else is pollyanna whimper-giggles.

  19. Hugh

    What is to be gained, Thomas, by treating women, not as people, but as walking uteruses?

  20. kråke

    Misandrist decline?

    Scoff-worthy. Hooey bollocks idiocy. Rubbish.

    Abortion is about wealth and who gets to use it to stop “andrists” from using the cops to enforce their own stunted, puerile and prolonged adolescence.

  21. coloradoblue

    Dear UserFriendly – Kennedy didn’t die, he retired.

  22. S Brennan

    I agree with JS above;

    I don’t think Roe vs. Wade will be overturned, whatever the Latin/legal term for “leaving things as they are” applies here; as JS said; “readily available in blue liberal areas, hard to get in conservative religious red areas”.

    And I do note amongest all the hand wringing, the Supremes in a SWEEPING 6-3 majority decision that included Roberts and was written by Justice Gorsuch:

    “…ruled that Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination on the basis of sex, applies to gay and transgender workers as well…Jason Smith, a Fort Worth employment attorney called the far-reaching ruling a pleasant surprise because it “covers everybody in the rainbow.” He had not dared hope for such a comprehensive opinion, he said.

    …In a major victory for gay and transgender workers in Texas and nationwide, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal civil rights law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Texas is among a majority of states that do not offer explicit protections for LGBTQ communities in employment, housing or public spaces, though some of the state’s biggest cities have passed some protections. And the ruling carries particular weight in a state where proposals to expand those protections have historically been dead on arrival at the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature.”

    Just a reminder folks, Barney Frank [D], remember him [?] stripped bills, that were going to fail anyway, of any employment protection for gender divergent individuals saying to the most discriminated group of US citizens “GET YOUR OWN BILL!”. Nice guy Barney, “give wealthy white gays their rights..and fuck the rest of the rainbow”. So no, rather than piss & moan, why not find out who’s on deck and extract “stare decisis ” assurances.

  23. GlassHammer

    “Power is about itself. It does not produce or attract…servants.” – kraken

    Power does produce servants… power, if it did not it could not reproduce itself.

    Like an unoccupied throne calling for its king or a holy text calling for its high priest.

  24. GlassHammer

    “Power is about itself. It does not produce or attract…servants.” Kraken

    Wish I could edit my last post.

    It should have read:


    Power does produce servants… power, if it did not it could not reproduce itself.

    Like an unoccupied throne calling for its king or a holy text calling for its high priest.”

  25. someofparts

    I agree with the people upthread who don’t think the court will overturn Roe. Roberts has made it clear he won’t do that. Besides, abortion is already unavailable for the poorest, most isolated women.

    Also, to be ultra-obvious here, if the pooh-bahs who oppose abortion offered family leave, quality daycare, medicare-for-all and the basic decencies other nations provide, there would not be the need for abortions that we have.

    We are ruled by the descendents of slave-owners and it shows.

  26. Will

    Brennan: Valid point. There’s no shortage of hypocrisy on either side of this issue.

    One thing… about packing the court or even just eliminating it.

    We have seen how examples of how the SC has screwed things up by being behind the times. And we’ve seen how they screwed things up trying to be ahead of the times. And we seen examples of how they screwed things up trying to take the nation backward or forward in time.

    When this nation does not have a coherent consensus on where we are and where we want to go, the Supreme Court always seems like a liability. It’s decisions are wrong and harmful. They’re in the way or worse. And we complain. We want to limit their power or change its makeup or even eliminate it.

    When the nation does have a consensus these doubts disappear. The SC regains its stature and we’re fat and happy. Maybe the problem isn’t the Supreme Court but instead its obvious strength to impose change and its obvious utility for those who want to use it to impose that is not popular enough to occur through the legislative channel. Now that everyone is aware of this every single appointment is a life/death battle.

    In a nation that knew what it was and where it wanted to go? A confident and untied nation? This wouldn’t be an issue.


  27. Ten Bears

    Get back to me, Thomas B Golladay, when you care about those kids after they’re born. I’d like to live in a society where cops aren’t necessary, it’s two degrees cooler and I’m thirty years younger. I’d also like to see that dog catch that car. If they overturn Roe v Wade they’ll have nothing to bitch about. Well, accept birth control …

  28. Plague Species

    The Court doesn’t have to overturn Roe v Wade. It’s already been effectively overturned. Abortion is a red herring in all of this, at least as it relates to the Court. Once Trump & Co. put a knife in preexisting conditions, a slew of people will die sooner rather than later because of it, and they will die penniless because of it. Add those deaths, murders really, to Trump’s Death March list. This is why Noor bin Laden loves Trump. He’s murdering more Americans than Uncle Osama could have ever hoped to murder. It’s as though Osama, under the sea (the Disney song), has his hand up Trump’s ass and is operating him like a puppet. Terrorists everywhere who hate America, in fact all those who hate America, couldn’t ask for anyone or anything better than Trump.

  29. Stirling Newberry

    Total off topic:

    In Star Trek: TOS Episode: City on the Edge of Forever, there is a Fallout Shelter in 1930. It wasn’t invent until the Cold War. Little things.

  30. nihil obstet

    I’ve always been taught that an independent judiciary is necessary to a free, well-run state. I’m not yet unconvinced. However, I’m not sure how to judge where an independent opinion imbued with a view of the law ends and a corrupt undemocratic declaration of what the judge thinks the law ought to be rather than what it is begins. The judicial review of laws we have now seems to me to be judges writing the laws they want.

    Corporations are people? Money is speech? I don’t see those as just decisions that I disagree with and want to see reversed. I see them as illegitimate areas of court rulings. Except in clear violation of the Constitution or in those areas where the Constitution is deliberately vague, as in the 9th and 10th amendments, the court should have no power to extend or limit legislative action.

  31. Willy

    Captain Kirk always volunteered to be front line for the tough missions. But then I also remember that was because he also always had expendable crewman #6 around to take one for the team. Today Captain Kirk bravely does twitter battle with trannies. Maybe he misses the days when Star Trek always did that fuzzy lens thing with the real ladies, along with the sweet background music.

    So I’d see the Hillarys with their “I’m With Her” tee shirts, and wonder, why not the more glass ceiling-breaking “I’m With That Bitch”? You know what I mean? I don’t think the glass ceiling can be completely broken until the next genocidal dictator is a woman. Only then shall women know they can be truly fearless and able to do whatever the hell they please.

    But then identity politics is for those who don’t have the time to delve into things much further. “She woman. See her roar. Maybe me roar too.” is about as far as it gets for some. Maybe we need to be better at making policy more interesting.

  32. Willy

    Maybe someday solyent green will be people and it’ll be allowed to vote. But only if it’s part of a large corporation, methinks.

  33. Joan

    @S Brennan, (on LGBT comment) that’s a good point.

    @Thomas B Golladay,

    Do you have any idea what a lot of kids in the foster system in the US go through? Do you yourself have a handful of adopted kids and treat them as regular human beings rather than your charity project?

    Forcing women to have babies they don’t want only applies to poor women. I’ve never been rich, but I could still max out my credit card on a flight to the nearest country that would give me an abortion (and I would).

    There are countries in Europe that are very socially conservative (the one I’m thinking of is overwhelmingly Catholic) but still allow abortion. Also, the number of women who treat abortion like a walk in the park is an extreme minority. This isn’t a flippant procedure. The one I read about basically is a vacuum cleaner and is quite painful.

    My personal policy was that I wouldn’t get an abortion if I were in a good marriage, but I would if I were unwed. I’ve had such trouble living in a city with a rent crisis that I’ve slept in my car in a Walmart parking lot before. Would you wish I had done that with a fatherless child?

    I also spent the entirety of my twenties in and out of relationships with men wherein I was looking for a husband and they were looking for casual sex. I can’t tell you how many times I had a man complain to me that he didn’t feel anything through a condom, so he didn’t want to wear one. I’m the only woman I know who hasn’t used a Plan B pill before, because I’m the only woman I know who insisted on condoms every time, or else we were only doing oral, no arguments.

    This is not to dog on men, not at all. I am married to a wonderful man, and some of the men I dated in my twenties are married now and I wish all men happiness. That said, I disagree with your views on abortion.

  34. Hugh

    The Supreme Court first met in 1790. So it has been around for 230 years. I can never remember a time when it was ahead of the country. It was a major defender of slavery into the Civil War. It fought against labor rights and civil rights not leading the country but holding it back as long as it could. In all those 230 years, there were only about 20 from Brown in 1954 to Roe in 1973 where it even tried to be somewhere where the country was. And of course since then things have once again been going backwards. Many of our education systems remain de facto segregated. Roe has been under attack for decades and continues to be more and more capriciously restricted. The Supreme Court throughout its history has been by the haves for the haves, and it still is.

    Meanwhile, not a surprise to those watching the foot dragging in Kentucky by the state’s black Republican Attorney General, none of the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor will be charged for that murder and only one will be charged with wanton endangerment for firing through a window covered by Venetian blinds in violation of departmental policy. So a bunch of cowboy cops murdering a black woman in her own home on a botched warrant… ? OK. But one of them shooting through a patio door… ? No way.

    You want to know why we need to abolish some police departments and just start over? Breonna Taylor and the Louisville police are stellar examples of why we should. When the police act like just another criminal gang, it’s time to control them or get rid of them.

  35. Ché Pasa

    And Trump seems to believe that a 6-3 Court will hand him the presidency regardless of electoral results (which he will have his DoJ vigorously protest) because of course they will.

    And they might, too, given how the 5-4 Court misbehaved in 2000.

  36. NR

    The Republicans are now openly talking about having swing states appoint electors loyal to Trump regardless of how those states vote.

    Fascism is on the march, folks.

  37. Hugh

    Ché Pasa, as Emma Goldman supposedly said, If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal. Elections have become about, not who has the most votes, but how to cheat to win.

    Trump with the US Post Office sabotage and questioning mail-in ballots, even as he votes using one, is just par for the course. Similarly, if the Democrats had any interest in the integrity of the voting process, Sanders would have been their nominee and not the guy who was running 5th and won in a state (South Carolina) the Democrats are never going to win in the general.

    Also in the decline and fall category, I can’t help mentioning Putin who royally pissed off the president of France Macron and the Europeans generally by arguing that Navalny poisoned himself to make Russia look bad. I mean who did he think he was talking to. Trump?

  38. someofparts

    K&S on Rising this morning are having interesting talk about the courts. Segment I’m listening to as I write this is stressing that a lot of massively important things besides Roe are impacted, like anti-trust and state administrative rules. They also have a piece from a Civil War historian talking about how the legislature of that time pushed back against their corrupted court.

  39. S Brennan

    Not to interrupt but, the Saker wrote a lovely eulogy for Stephen Cohen well worth reading.

    Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God
    (Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 5:9)

    Dear friends,

    It is with immense sadness that I have to report that Stephen F. Cohen passed away yesterday in his home in Manhattan at the age of 81.

    There are a few media outlets who have already reported this. Most of them discuss Stephen F. Cohen’s political ideas and his books, which is normal since he was a historian of the Soviet Union. But I won’t do that here.

    What I want to say about Cohen is something very different.

    First, he was a man of immense kindness and humility. Second, he was a man of total intellectual honesty. I can’t say that Cohen and I had the same ideas or the same reading of history, though in many cases we did, but here is what I found so beautiful in this man: unlike most of his contemporaries, Cohen was not an ideologue, he did not expect everybody to agree with him, and he himself did not vet people for ideological purity before offering them his friendship.

    Even though it is impossible to squeeze a man of such immense intellect and honesty into any one single ideological category, I would say that Stephen Cohen was a REAL liberal, in the original, and noble, meaning of this word.

    I also have to mention Stephen Cohen’s immense courage. Yes, I know, Cohen was not deported to GITMO for his ideas, he was not tortured in a CIA secret prison, and he was not rendered to some Third Word country to be tortured there on behalf of the USA. Stephen Cohen had a different kind of courage: the courage to remain true to himself and his ideals even when the world literally covered him in slanderous accusations, the courage to NOT follow his fellow liberals when they turned PSEUDO-liberals and betrayed everything true liberalism stands for. Professor Cohen also completely rejected any forms of tribalism or nationalism, which often made him the target of vicious hatred and slander, especially from his fellow US Jews (he was accused of being, what else, a Putin agent).

    Cohen had the courage to take on the entire ruling elites of this country and their messianic supremacist ideology by himself, almost completely alone.

    Last, but most certainly not least, Stephen Cohen was a true peacemaker, in the sense of the words of the Holy Gospel I quoted above. He opposed the warmongering nutcases during the Cold War, and he opposed them again when they replaced their rabid hatred of the Soviet Union with an even more rabid hatred of everything Russian.

    I won’t claim here that I always agreed with Cohen’s ideas or his reading of history, and I am quite sure that he would not agree with much of what I wrote. But one thing Cohen and I definitely did agree on: the absolute, number one, priority of not allowing a war to happen between the USA and Russia. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Stephen Cohen dedicated his entire life towards this goal.

    If the Nobel Peace Prize meant anything, and if it was at least halfway credible, I would say that Stephen Cohen deserved such a Nobel more than anybody else on this planet. Instead, he will get his reward in the Heavens.

    In Russian we have an Old Testament inspired saying: “город стоит, пока в нем есть хоть один праведник” roughly meaning “a city will stand as long as there remains even one righteous person inside“. I can’t help it but feel that the “city” of the United States has just lost such a righteous person. Yes, there are still a few righteous people left in this “city”, but we all sure lost one of our best contemporaries.

    To my immense regret, I never met Professor Cohen personally. And yet, when I heard the news of this death this morning, I felt truly heartbroken. My main consolation is that Cohen died before November and what will inevitably follow. I believe that God took him away from us to spare him the pain of seeing his country collapse under the repeated attacks of pseudo-liberal neocons.

    It is pretty obvious that in our crazy and ugly times, Professor Cohen will not get the recognition and gratitude at home he so much deserves (if only because US pseudo liberals are much too busy bawling about Justice Ginsburg’s death). And while Stephen Cohen is well-known in some Russian circles (he had many friends in Russia), he is hardly a household name for most Russian people. But I am confident that, assuming humanity survives a little longer, Professor Cohen will be recognized as the righteous person he was, both in the USA and in Russia.

    Somewhere, I also believe that we, as a society, simply don’t deserve to have such a righteous man amongst us. Cohen is now in much better company.

    Thank you, dear Steve, for your kindness and courage. I shall miss you very, very much!

    The Saker

  40. Hvd

    As for those of you who think that the Gorsuch lgbtq ruling was a victory well, you are missing the forest for the trees. He merely traded a pawn for a queen in basing his opinion on really dubious statutory construction avoiding entirely the obvious fact that the basis for the statute lay in the constitution itself. Thus any right-minded legislature can undo the work of the past. By the way he also invited faith based challenges to the statute’s enforceability in particular cases. The fact that there was no concurrence agreeing with the result but questioning his terrible statutory construction and finding that these protections were of constitutional dimension just shows the absolute pathetic nature of the so-called liberal minority.

  41. Donald

    I don’t know much about RBG, so won’t comment on that, but I completely agree with what you say about leaders. This ties in with the vote shaming phenomenon—the underlying idea is that ordinary people are duty bound to vote for Democrats and to give them our undying support, while they owe us nothing. We aren’t even supposed to criticize them.

    I do lesser evil voting, but this vote shaming ideology is part of why the Democrats know they can safely stomp on the left while going after rich donors and suburban Republican voters. They can then retire to their 15 million dollar mansions.

  42. mago

    Not totally off topic the way this comment thread wanders, but I wonder who’s going to lament Andre’s passing in Turkey?

  43. atcooper

    The pro adoption crowd has never been able to point me to a society that manages it well. Orphanages are prisons.

    Would it help if we moved to herbal abortifacients like indigenous folks have had? So that zygotes are avoided all together?

  44. Plague Species

    Trump himself is the perfect aborifacient. Just the sight of him coupled with his voice causes most women to shed their uterine lining. They”ll have to lock him up as a baby killer if they are truly anti-abortion. Just as he’s Al Qaeda times a million, he’s an abortion doctor times a million. He is death, the destroyer of worlds.

  45. Plague Species

    How did Cohen die? Novichok?

  46. different clue

    Interestingly enough, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was decent enough to give Professor Cohen some Air Time on his show at a time when the MSM had dropped the Acoustic MuffleCone of Silence over Professor Cohen completely.

  47. Dev Chatterjee

    In this age of stunted and broken dreams, the answer might be the Aspirational Servant Leader.

  48. Since this thread is meandering …

    I read somewhere a few years back that China holds enough American debt that should they choose to do so every middle-class Chinese family could own an American houseboy. There’s an economy of scale out of balance in that as there are more middle-class Chinese than Americans so it’s not exactly so, though I would argue so for not Moscow Mitch Putin’s Bitch but the Chao houseboy..

    Moot I think, in the generally accepted vernacular. Not so long ago I pointed out that while geedubya bush may have been (at the time) the Worst President Ever the Cheney Administration accomplished everything it set out to. Trump has been a big distraction, the McConnell Administration accomplished everything it set out to.

    That it coincides with Putin, Xi and binLaden’s agendas is purely coincidence. I’m sure.

  49. S Brennan

    “Tucker Carlson was decent enough to give Professor Cohen some Air Time on his show [after] MSM had dropped the Cone of Silence [on Cohen]” – Different Clue

    Exactly DC, the “liberal” media is the antithesis of liberal thought and practice, they have brainwashed “liberals” into believing they are genuinely liberal when in fact “liberals” have become proto-fascists in thought and practice. The few genuine liberal people remaining are dismissed with ad hominems and shamed into silence Putin’s-Puppet, Racist et al…or as in Assange’s case, they are disappeared into the vast Gulag Archipelago of the Davos gang.

  50. km

    The only use for sacred cows is steak.

  51. bruce wilder

    I thought it was interesting that @EvelKneidel whose remark Ian quoted with approval characterized the diverging views of Ginsberg — aspirational role model or servant-performance — as “revealing a class-based split”.

    Is that because the professional and professional-managerial classes have ambition for place and rank, but instinctively resist being held responsible for social performance?

    Interfluidity — one the most profoundly thoughtful econ blogs — had a post about how American industry has become predatory while hiding the predation from many of the professionals who indirectly perpetrate it. Then, applies that insight to politics as an “industry”.

  52. Hugh

    I have to wonder how hard it really is to see the financialization and predatory nature of American industry and how much it is as Upton Sinclair pointed out, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

  53. Willy

    What’s worse, the conservative fool or the liberal fool who follows it?

    I’m still trying to figure out the worst thing I could get away with doing to Hillary, if I ever happened to run into her in some parking lot.

  54. bruce wilder

    It is true there are a lot of people on payroll, Hugh.

    But, it is also true that most people suffer more from what is generally done to them than they benefit from being an arguably “innocent” part of the machinery of predation. The trouble is — without some social frameworks for political organizing and deliberation — it is hard for an individual to see how the whole functions or to act in concert with others to change the architecture. The individual can be ethical and generous within the ambit of her personal and professional life, and still be a cog in an inhumane machine without personal discretion over how it works or the whole outcome it produces. Worse for political possibilities for reform, the individual may be placed in such a way that she is able to excel ethically — personally and professionally — even while the system as a whole generates horrific outcomes far from her personal observation.

    You can tell yourself a story about how, say, financialization and “free trade” drove the 2007-8 financial crisis or the economic decline of the formerly industrial midwest and still not be able to make the connection to how Obama was the worst President evah.

    You might be daily stepping over homeless people, and not understand how the problem could be resolved. I have a good-hearted friend, who asked me, “what can be done? Do we owe everyone who comes to Southern California a living and a home? Do people have a “right” to live here, even though there are no places for them to live and no means to earn a living?” I do not share the view implied by his question, but I can understand how he gets there.

  55. Willy

    bruce, is your friend aware that the trend line has fallen downwards this far, this fast, with no upturn in sight, and what the causes have been?

  56. bruce wilder

    Willy, I am aware that the society is being eaten from the bottom. Most of my friends, even or especially ones whose upper middle-class prosperity has been dented as is the case with that friend, are resistant to seeing that they, too, are on the menu. Good tippers, not necessarily supportive of a living wage.

  57. Thomas B Golladay

    This is why the cops went for Breonna Taylor. She was listed in the warrant and a suspect in a multi-year investigation. It was a knock and announce warrant, had it been no-knock, she likely would have lived as she really would have been in bed and not in the hall. Breonna went into the hall not knowing that Walker was going to open fire behind her and she was regrettably killed in the crossfire. This fits the crime scene report and the phone records.

    Kenneth Walker killed Breonna by his actions and should be charged and punished and will be once the heat dies down. Equally though, Breonna was guilty as sin and a drug runner involved with a violent gang.

  58. Hugh

    Thank you, Thomas, for that wonderful example of lying about and blaming the victim –all to defend a bunch of unprofessional, cowboy cops. Or is this about Breonna Taylor being guilty of being African-American while the murderous clowns who murdered her were white?

  59. S Brennan


    They did announce themselves as police, they did knock, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend did shoot/discharge his weapon at/towards the cops first [he’s on record of “accidentally shooting first”] and still…a cop was charged with shooting up the place. As far as I can tell, the government has acted responsibly. I am not sure what else the cops are supposed to do serving a warrant. Having been in dark places where people are shooting at you I ask, WTF would you have done differently that would have “saved the day”? I mean really Hugh, are you so sure of your shooting skills that you would’ve carefully placed a single shot at an armed suspect at close quarters? I’d like to think the best of myself but…I can’t be as sure of myself as you are of yourself and…I bet dollars to donuts I have more experience to work from than you do.

    Whatever you think of TB Golladayt’s off topic rant, it’s not quite clear to me how that amounts to “blaming the victim”, it’s just off topic trope meant to incite DNCers like you on this thread.

  60. UserFriendly

    Dear coloradoblue,

    Tedd, not Anthony.

  61. Hugh

    I think you are singularly misinformed. The warrant was botched. The officer who got the warrant Joshua Jaynes made factually wrong assertions for it, and as far as I know is still on leave pending an investigation into the warrant. Taylor had previously dated a guy who was a drug dealer. Jaynes maintained that Taylor’s home was a residence for this dealer. The police never bothered to verify that in fact this dealer lived there. He didn’t. Nor that her dating this guy had been in the past and that Taylor was living with somebody else. It is kind of a big deal for the police to go to a judge for a warrant, when the basis for it is slim and none.

    And the officer charged with wanton endangerment was so charged for running around to the side of Taylor’s home and firing through a venetianed patio door with no line of sight (in violation of departmental policy) as well as the apartments of Taylor’s neighbors.

    As for announcing themselves, most of the neighbors as in those closest said the police didn’t. And it is my understanding, that even the one guy who did originally said they hadn’t. And only agreed they had after being interviewed by the police multiple times. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

    I do not know why there is a presumption that police were acting professionally just because they were on duty. Circus clowns would have been more professional than these guys. What I have seen is that police need to be held to strict standards. Allow them a lot of leeway and all you get is sloppy policing. As here police even expected Taylor not to know they were coming (on a bad warrant) and yet also telepathically to know they were police. If Ky AG Cameron was not so in bed with Trump and McConnell, these officers would have been charged for the results of what was a stupendously arrogant and bad piece of policing. But Cameron is a political whore so we got what we got.

  62. Plague Species

    Yes, Hugh, the warrant was crap. That’s not on the officers who executed the warrant. They didn’t create the warrant. The focus should be on those who created the crap warrant. You know, the chiefs. Hankinson, one of the officers who executed the warrant and the only one charged in this case with reckless endangerment, is a textbook case of what’s wrong, or part of what’s wrong, with policing. He has a history. A history that has been largely unaddressed and ignored. He clearly is not good cop material, so it means recruiting failed because it let this scumbag slip through and once in, the system only serves to protect him rather than holding him to account and rather than the system reevaluating its decision to hire him.

    No knock search warrants are an infringement of basic civil liberties and should be banned nationwide everywhere.

    This case is not the case to use as a platform and cudgel against systemic police racism. The officers didn’t shoot because Breonna was black. They shot because they were shot at. Yes, Hankinson is a nutjob and was shooting at anything and everything even though he was not directly shot at, hence the reckless endangerment charges.

    Another angle to this case that is not being discussed is why any of these search warrants were issued in the first place. The true reason. When you dig, you see the Louisville cops are in cahoots with the wealthy real estate developers who are seeking to reclaim the neighborhood where Breonna’s former boyfriend, the scumbag drug dealer in question with a record of drug dealing, resided. The cops were, and still are until this is resolved, the heavy enforcers for the real estate developers in their regentrification aspirations. This is why Trump loves cops so much. Cops are real estate developers’ best friends. Their own personal goon squads and it’s all perfectly legal. Make it illegal.

  63. bruce wilder

    I am with Plague Species on this one: this is on the bosses, this is policy.

  64. S Brennan


    The “no knock warrant” bit started from the attorney representing Breonna Taylor’s family. The attorney representing Breonna Taylor’s family has a vested interest in the matter. Did you hear them announce, me neither the vast majority people do not hear well when they are asleep. Sounds a lot like another riot-for-political-profit case where “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” turned out to be a pack of lies.

    I am against no knock warrants, they are dangerous. But the warrant in this case was served as a “knock and announce” warrant. To your assertion that many in the building didn’t hear the police announce themselves…so what; the person that was closest and awake did…that is what you would expect at that late hour.

    Again, I am against no knock warrants, they are dangerous. But outside of speculative/politically-motivated reporting, that has nothing to do with this case.

    Again, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend did shoot/discharge his weapon at/towards the cops first and still…a cop was charged with shooting up the place. As far as I can tell, the government [in the aftermath] has acted responsibly in this case.

    As for the issuance of the warrant that might be a different matter.

    Unlike others here, I am not as well versed on using warrants to clear apartment blocks of tenants…I’ve never heard of that before, call me skeptical. Back in the day, arsonists were used for that sort thing, using cops to serve separate warrants to each tenant seems a lot harder than striking a match to gasoline. I guess I’m not keeping up with the latest trends, but in fairness to old fashioned methodologies, arson not only cleared the building of tenants, it got insurance to pay for the rehab.

  65. different clue


    I assume “get away with” means ” keep it legal”. Since she is part of the verballectual elite-servant class, she could really be hurt with the right words. Since she is a liar, you wouldn’t owe her any truth.

    So you could tell her . . . ” remember 2016? I wanted Sanders but you Democrats wouldn’t let me have my Sanders so I wouldn’t let you Democrats have your you. I voted Trump beCAUSE of YOU.” See how that grabs her.

  66. Hugh

    The police threw Taylor’s boyfriend straightaway into jail for weeks and it took a prosecutor a couple of minutes to get an indictment against him for attempted murder. It took more than 6 months to get even the weak action we have seen with regard to one of the police. That discrepancy says a lot more about bias than responsibility.

    Again only one person said that they heard the police announce themselves, after twice saying the opposite. A dozen others said that they did not hear the police announce themselves. As the woman said who lived next to Taylor said the walls of the apartments were thin and if there was any announcement to be heard she would have heard it. As for Taylor and her boyfriend Walker, they did hear a ruckus (Walker even called 911) but thought it was part of a home invasion.

    None of the police were rookies. They should have known how to announce themselves as police –and clearly did not/could not be bothered to do so. I am tired of police behaving unprofessionally, putting themselves into situations where they can execute people, people who are innocent, people who are mentally ill, heck, even those who might be guilty of something. Contact with an officer should not be a capital offense. Maximum force should not be the default. If any of this is too difficult for officers they should quit or be fired.

  67. nihil obstet

    So the police acted professionally in the Breonna Taylor incident and the result was a dead resident. Let’s rethink professional policing. Taylor apparently was not a saint. Neither am I. I reject the standard that says that an extrajudicial execution is justified if you can comb through the victim’s life and show that she wasn’t a member of the local Junior League.

    What the hell is going on with all these SWAT type approaches to people? A developer-backed clear-out makes more sense than anything I can come up with. If it’s that dangerous to go arrest somebody, maybe we shouldn’t be trying to arrest them. What’s more important, arresting an alleged drug dealer or avoiding a gun down? The level of brutality we’re seeing is the hallmark of a fascist state.

    No amount of training and policy change will affect the police until we adopt a standard of public service instead of public control.

  68. Plague Species

    I agree, Hugh, how the case has been handled after the shooting is disgraceful. Holding Walker for weeks and even contemplating prosecuting him is adding egregious insult to injury. This is another problem with policing. No matter the reason, if a cop gets shot, their fury is prodigious. All benefit of the doubt is lost in the process and it is automatically assumed the person who shot the cop is guilty. Sometimes that person is, maybe even many times, but not this time. This has to change. Cops should be subjected to the same justice ordinary citizens receive. They don’t, or they shouldn’t, get special, favorable treatment because they’re cops.

    I still stand with what I said above and now there is additionally this to add to it.

  69. different clue

    If the leadership elite of Louisville decide their police department has become a “problem”, I can think of one way to solve it.

    Contract with the relevant sheriffs’ departments to provide security and safety to Louisville and use the police budget money to pay the sheriffs departments instead. RIF ( ” Reduction In Force”) every member of the police department and of course abolish the pro-violence police union. And make it a condition of the contract that no “riffed” police officer be hired by any of the contracted-with sheriffs’ departments for the lifetime of the contracts.

    To paraphrase Joseph Stalin from another context . . . . if a police department is giving you problems, kill that police department. No police department, no problem.

    This might be something for a ” Liberate Louisville” city-wide Third Party to try running on.

  70. Plague Species

    So the police acted professionally in the Breonna Taylor incident and the result was a dead resident.

    I didn’t say anything about “acting professionally.” That’s a mischaracterization. The officers who executed the warrant were not the officers who created the warrant. The warrant is one problematic part of this and how this case was handled after the fact is also another problematic part of this. Both problematic components underscore a system that needs to be replaced at this point because reforms don’t work. They’re just feel good political tokenism.

    The officers did their job that night. Yes, per at least one witness they did knock and announce but considering Breonna and Walker were in the back bedroom, they didn’t hear them knock and announce. Knocking once or twice and announcing you are the police in the middle of the early morning is hardly giving fair warning. They then broke down the door after battering it with the ram to the point it takes the door off the hinges. This battering doesn’t always work on the first try. It can take several tries or more to get the door off its hinges. This is what brought Walker out of the bedroom with his gun at the ready as any gun-toting conservative would have done in protecting their abode from malicious intruders.

    The officers, per the warrant, were under the impression that a former convicted felon may have been present at this location and that this location was one of several that was used in drug operations. As we have come to find out, there is not substantiated solid proof such a claim was true. This is part of the problem with the warrant aside from these types of warrants being inherently egregious violations of basic civil rights.

    Now, admittedly, Hankinson is a cowboy cop. He’s hopped up as the record shows. His fellow officers had to tell him to calm the fuck down, in fact. So, once they break down the door and one of them gets shot, Hankinson, all hopped up on adrenaline and maybe perhaps some type of stimulant, goes batshit nuts and starts shooting up the apartment complex. Mattingly and the other officer also return fire but from within the premises, not from the side of it as Hankinson was wantonly doing.

    These officers were just randomly assigned at the last minute to execute this warrant. They were not part of the process and therefore were not properly prepared. That’s not professional by any means but they did, not Hankinson but the other two, what any of us would have done in the same situation if we came under fire executing this search warrant when you consider ALL of the facts as I have just discussed.

    Those who created the warrant need to be held to account and prosecuted if it is determined they purposely lied on the warrant. As well, any ties they may have with real estate developers needs be investigated and the developers and the officers involved need to be prosecuted for using public funds for private means without authorization.

  71. Sir, you are correct.

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