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

Last Day of Fundraiser and the Role of Opinion and News

Fundraising Update: As of this writing, we’re at approximately $10,430, leaving us $570 from the final goal and tier of $11,000.

$11,000: two more articles, these on the conditions that create good and bad societies to live in; an introduction and conclusion and some commentary and connecting text as seems necessary.

Again, I want to thank everyone who has given. It means a great deal to me, and I will remember. I’ll update tomorrow or Monday on whether we make the final goal.




The Role of Opinion and News

In a properly run news outlet, news tells you what happened, and opinion tells you what it means.

I’ve seen a lot of people who distrust opinion and respect news, and that’s fine, as far as it goes, but it’s often based on the idea that one can trust news, and that’s a problem.

To give two examples, much of the news leading up to the Iraq war was wrong, or, rather lies and propaganda. But it was presented as fact, and about 70 percent of the American population wound up believing that Iraq had something to do with 9/11, and therefore supported an illegal war which may have wound up killing a million people or so (and which certainly was responsible for spawning ISIS).

More recently there was a story that Russia had offered bounties for dead American soldiers to the Taliban in Afghanistan. No proof, laughable on its face, and no proof has ever been presented. It was an intelligence agency propaganda op, and the media fell for it.

The problem with news is that people think it’s almost certainly true.

Opinion tends to be labeled opinion, so people know it isn’t fact, but interpretation. Further, it’s easier to deal with; if I read a columnist or blogger regularly, I know their biases, how they think, and what they want. I can know what their financial interests are, who their spouse is, and so on. I can take all of that into account.

As a result, opinion is overall less dangerous because the conflicts are clear, and it is presented as opinion, not fact.

News and Opinion were traditionally separated for exactly this reason — so that readers could (supposedly) know what they could trust and what they had to view carefully. But bad news is far more dangerous than bad opinion, because despite many instances where it has been false, people still tend to assume most of it is true. They don’t run the filters on it or assume someone has an axe to grind or may be operating in bad faith.

Be far more wary of “news” than opinion.





“Get Biden Elected Then We’ll Influence Him From The Left”


Open Thread


  1. Stirling S Newberry

    Jack Steinberger is dead at 99.

  2. Synoia

    More recently there was a story that Russia had offered bounties for dead American soldiers to the Taliban in Afghanistan.


  3. Hugh

    The lying to get us into the Iraq war is the reason I got into blogging. In the run up to the war I believed there were still adults in the room and that ultimately they would not allow us to be lied into a war. But I also had a friend who was Arab and a professor of linguistics and he was telling me that the case for war made no sense. Saddam was a dictator but he was also a secularist. He and al Qaeda were bitter enemies, and would never work together on anything. This got me looking back at all the WMD stuff. By the time Colin Powell presented the US evidence for WMD before the UN, I knew we were royally screwed and hoped against hope that somehow the damage could be minimized. But it wasn’t.

    Since then, I no longer assume there are adults in the room. I assume instead that the first thing those in power do, when there is or they create a crisis, is to get rid of, sideline, or discredit anyone who is likely to understand what is going on and what lies those powers that be are telling.

    I have learned a lot since about how and our politics works since then. I know a lot about how our government and those who run it lie. But the amount of lying just keeps increasing, even as they have become more and more bald-faced. Bizarrely and dishearteningly more and more people believe them the worse the lies get.

  4. Stirling S Newberry

    I worked for the adults in the room. They wanted blood.

  5. Hugh

    I can remember when they didn’t, but that was one of the charges leveled against them, that they had gone native or soft. But yes, the people they worked for and who got rid of them, they wanted blood.

  6. nihil obstet

    You can’t draw a firm line between news and opinion. That’s why you have newspapers like The Daily Worker. Before you write, before you even start collecting facts, you have a viewpoint directing you. Do you report economic figures as bad because American workers lost ground or as good because businesses were able to hold labor costs in check? An article ruminating on both would be analysis, rather than news, so you choose one.

    Journalist training appears not to understand these issues. They seem to think that opinion means taking a political side. As long as they can write “he said, she said”, they believe that they are doing news rather than opinion. And so the real news is lost — the assurance that what’s written is based on accurately reported facts with credible sources.

  7. Stirling S Newberry

    “I can remember when they didn’t”

    That was before my time.

  8. John Emerson

    In fast-moving areas of war, previously/unknown “sources” almost always seem to pop up, deliver their message, and then disappear. Once the dust has settled, it’s seldom that anyone goes back and checks these sources, and even if someone does, no one cares. The source did their job, the damage is done, let’s move on, look forward not back. And the next fake source will also be believed unquestioningly.

    The Times just caught in a case like this , but nothing will change.

  9. S Brennan

    And yet Ian;

    Trump would be gone in 2014 and the progressive field wide open but…because enough D-voters bought into the NeoDs nonsense [and you Ian!] that Trump was an existential threat to humanity…we will have to wait until 2028/32 for an opportunity to rid ourselves of the current NeoD order. And then…only to endure another Bush-like creature in the hope we can nominate somebody in 2032-2036.

    The stupidity of supporting / voting for Biden in 2020 can not be overstated !

    Don’t walk away from what you wrought Ian…own it!

  10. John Emerson

    Oh. cut the crap, Brennan. At this point we’re all in bad shape and no one knows what to do., you. Least of all. Quit prancing around pointing fingers at people.

  11. Hugh

    SB is a Trump supporter. And his beef with us is that even though we dislike the Democrats this did not translate into support for Trump or doing things to help Trump win. Of course, if Trump had shown even minimal leadership on or even interest in the coronavirus and its effects on the country, he would have cruised to victory. But Trump has a personality disorder and that precluded him even going through the motions of caring for anyone or taking responsibility for anything with the virus. So he lost. But he and his supporters refuse to own that loss. So they blame us.

  12. bruce wilder

    The distinction between news and opinion belonged to an era of journalism that was fading away before Ian came of age. It is a distinction that finds no difference to elucidate in our time.

    In the division of labor, journalists are intermediaries, who sell and deliver narrative meaning. They bake bread in the form of narratives and we eat that bread for the sweet taste and sugar-high of meaning.

    Humans hunger for meaning, but we resist the hard work of processing the flood of information. It is among the contradictions of human nature that we can, as individuals in specialized social groups genuinely enjoy immersing ourselves in depths of knowledge, though even in those contexts, ego, charisma, bullying and cant can take over and suffocate the possibilities of genuine understanding.

    The anachronism of distinguishing between “fact” and “opinion” in contemporary journalism harkens back to a legendary, now mythical time when journalists, like academics of yore, were in the “truth” business and their integrity was a valuable asset to be conserved and protected. Now is Facebook using the pretense of “independent” “fact-checking” as a cudgel against political views and organizing they wish to suppress and marginalize to serve the ends of the plutocracy’s oligarchs.

    The NY Times peddling lies about Iraqi WMD and 9/11 conspiracies was an intermediate step in the evolution of our decadence. It happened that way because, at the time, the NY Times had institutional reputational capital to burn thru. That flames from that pile of kindling have flickered out now.

    The flood of narrative propaganda marketed as “news and opinion” is the output of a vast industrial operation now, in which journalists and pr hacks labor as cogs in the machine, a few master manipulators and celebrity spokesmodels playing their roles and earning millions and fame doing what they do, but pretty much no one can find either an economic resource base to support the costly processes of research and verification necessary to be in anything like the “truth” business in a serious way or an audience that appreciates the “gourmet flavors” of moral ambiguity and deep understanding based on detailed knowledge and considered judgment associated with actually knowing what you are talking about.

    Ian talking about people mistakenly trusting that “news” has a factual basis is ludicrous now. The example of the “news” of Russia paying bounties on American soldiers’ lives in Afganistan is an example narrative manipulation, choosing a storyline for the emotional response it will elicit from people with little attention to spare, but who will eagerly consume it uncritically, precisely because they enjoy the emotions, like being a distant spectator to the melodrama on offer. The thing to notice is not the absence of a factual basis for the narrative, but the irrelevance of facts for either the audience or the propagandists. That irrelevance is the rule now. A complete absence of facts is hardly an exceptional circumstance when no one really cares or has the resources to ascertain and consider the facts or would be rewarded with “likes” or “views” or a favorable “demo” if they did. Is that how anyone becomes TikTok famous?

  13. bruce wilder

    Hugh: “SB is a Trump supporter.”

    At best, I suppose, we could excuse that assertion as “opinion” as opposed to “fact”. SB has testified repeatedly to what and who he actually supports. His line on that is consistent. For Hugh to disrepect that with no basis is to reduce the discussion in comments to the level of an 8-year-old in the schoolyard who cannot come up with anything better than, “so’s your mother!”

    Hugh is a fool. I get that. Could he rudely prove it a little less often? Maybe drag the discussion down to his level of stupid less frequently? Please..

  14. Ché Pasa

    Well, the news business in the US and much of the rest of the world has always been mostly about propaganda and marketing. When we think of some former golden era of press and media integrity, unfortunately we’re misremembering an era that never happened.

    Archives of newspapers, magazines, newsreels and other news media exist and many are easily accessible back as far as the 18th century, and at no time was most news media not ultimately propagandistic and intended to sell ideas, beliefs and products to the public. Often, newspapers (especially) simply made shit up, on the theory that wild stories about this or that would sell papers — and they did.

    Some were more rigorous about reporting facts than others, but which facts were reported had to be filtered through editors and publishers and sometimes owners (just like now) with a distinct political point of view. What was considered “news” depended on how it fit the narrative framework of the particular outlet.

    Skepticism, then and now, has always been a virtue when it comes to the news, because there is no uniform standard, and truthfully there can’t be one, which applies to every outlet all the time.

    What is reported and how it is reported… it all depends…

    Not much different than with opinion journalism. Opinions in media were and are often bought and paid for and they can and do change depending on who’s paying for them, and these days, depending on what branding the opinionator is trying to market for him or her self. And those brands can and do change, sometimes in a twinkling.

    This is one reason why critical thinking is so important, and it’s a reason why it is so rarely taught any more.

    If we don’t know how or why to sort wheat from chaff — or even that we can — in the news media, we can be much more easily controlled, much more likely to believe whatever we’re told, but even when critical thinking was part of the public schools curricula in the United States, propaganda and marketing were paramount purposes of the news media.

    Sadly, it can be harder than ever to sort out the crap and hold on to kernels of truth in today’s cacophony of yada, yada.

  15. Stirling S Newberry


    Japan bombs Pearl Harbor.


    Empire of Japan sends signals.

    Conspiracy Theory:

    Could creatures from Moon be responsible?

  16. GlassHammer

    If news is a toxic medium then we should expose ousrselves to it less.
    Afterall, it is easier to get a handle on information with a bit of distance and a bit of indifference.

  17. bruce wilder

    Preaching “critical thinking” against a flood of stimulative propaganda is a bit like preaching “financial literacy” against the floodtide of fraudulent debt offers. It cannot solve the problem, but it does facilitate blaming the victims for being stupid.

    The absence of institutions of thrift able to offer banking facilities and low-interest credit and the destruction of high-wage jobs — these are structural problems and problems of resource allocation, attributable to political choices.

    The “truth” business, too, is an expensive operation to organize and defend. Some cheap “critical thinking” distributed in grade school is no adequate prophylactic against Roger Ailes or his disciple, Rachel Maddow. But, it also does not get anyone, say, the medical research and scientific integrity to defend against the machinations of a Pfizer in pursuit of vaccine billions.

  18. Stirling S Newberry

    No, that why it “news”: you have to respond to it now. Dante’s Commedia has time, COVID-19 requires urgency. The problem is that “news” on your video is not really news – it is somewhere between opinion and whack-job-conspiracy-bullshit.

  19. John Emerson

    Could someone clue me in as to Brennan’s actual political opinion? His post just now didn’t give much evidence, and it seems that I’ll be hearing a lot from him

  20. bruce wilder

    the conspiracy theory was: FDR deliberately and knowingly let Pearl Harbour happen to get the country into WWII.

    twenty-three years later, in an act of moral mirroring, LBJ manufactured the Gulf of Tonkin incident. and no one in 1964 suggested a conspiracy, though the incident was both implausible on its face and completely false.

    so go figure

  21. bruce wilder

    @ John Emerson

    Does it matter?

  22. StewartM

    Trump would be gone in 2014

    Don’t you mean 2024?

    \ and the progressive field wide open but…

    Wishful thinking on your part. There are plenty of *young* corporatist/neoliberal Dems to run too.

    because enough D-voters bought into the NeoDs nonsense [and you Ian!] that Trump was an existential threat to humanity

    Because, this time, they were probably right. A Trump win this year would very likely mean no more free elections. (There’d be elections, sure, but Hitler had elections; elections don’t matter if you can either control who’s running or what who’s running can do or who can and can’t vote). Or elections that did not matter, as Trump was already blowing off SCOTUS or other court decisions with impunity and diverting funds to whatever he wanted.

    Remember what happened to Germany’s communists who though Hitler winning was a good idea, as “after Hitler, it will be us?” Not good.

  23. Trinity

    I get 99% of my “news” from blogs.

    And I try to read across points of view by regularly following blogs that present different perspective. This helps in sorting truth from fiction, but it isn’t perfect. And it is time consuming.

    As one example, a far, far to the right site that I follow has a theme on disaster prep, and I only read the headlines, which can be mildly entertaining. But they always have an article or two about weather-related disasters, usually pulled from an actual news site. AFAIK, you have to search for these.

    I do miss newspapers being part of my daily routine. I lived in a rural area, Joe Bageant country, with a county weekly paper, and a regional (multiple rural counties) daily newspaper associated with the AP. They did a pretty good job, seemed mostly unbiased about national stuff, but more biased on local stuff (ha ha).

    They carried Molly Ivin’s column before she died, and I give her credit for waking me up from my slumber, esp. regarding Shrub. A quote of hers published by NPR:

    “First of all, there’s no such thing as objectivity. Everybody in journalism knows it and I think we hoist ourselves on our own petard constantly by pretending we’re objective, when there is no such thing. How you see the world depends on where you stand and who you are, there’s nothing any of us can do about that. So my solution has been to let my readers know where I stand, and they can take that with a grain of salt or a pound of salt, depending on their preferences.”

    Thank goodness for this blog, and for all of you who comment here. A little slice of sanity in an insane world. Stay safe, everyone. Your voice is needed.

  24. StewartM

    I’ll credit the “Russians are paying bounties” story as being true. But what of it? In the Soviet era, we declared those bastardly Russkies to be the enemy of all that’s profitable right and good, and openly, proudly, boastfully, sent weaponry and aid to the Afghans to kill Russian soldiers. Aren’t those guys human too? Didn’t they have famlies and wives and sweethearts and friends? And if captured, these Soviet soldiers didn’t get a good reception from these ‘freedom fighters’–no better than ISIL.

    People forget that the government the Soviets were supporting *wasn’t* a puppet state. It had popular support. It in fact outlasted the fall of the Soviet Union. It in fact instituted policies that would be considered progressive—universal education for both genders:

    Karmal and his Soviet handlers reaffirmed and expanded the efforts of Daoud and Taraki regimes before them to promote greater equality for Afghan women. The communists “officially sanctioned a wider public role for women, whose status improved.” By 1985, 65% of the students at Kabul University were women, and Afghan women worked in most government agencies, social organizations, factories, the national airline, and the health care sector. By the time the communists lost power, “women accounted for 70 percent of teachers, 50 percent of government workers, and 40 percent of medical doctors.” Women worked as police officers, members of the military, and journalists. Afghan women increasingly appeared unveiled in public, as their counterparts in Soviet Central Asia had done decades previously. Communist reforms intruded into Afghan family life when the communists banned the purchase and sale of young girls as wives, and provoked rage by demanding that fathers allow their daughters to learn to read. The regime’s family courts were “mostly presided over by female judges” and protected women’s rights in marriage and divorce and to equitable child custody and support.

    And it was precisely policies like these, in fact, that gained the ire of the most reactionary elements in Afghan society: *Those guys*, not surprisingly, are the guys we supported. Moreover, as later events would show, they had no love for the US or the West, and were happy to turn their ire towards us later.

    I’m also perfectly happy to accept that RUSSIA(!!) interfered in our elections, insofar has promoting propaganda that was misleading, inflammatory, and at times outright false. But this is no different than the stuff the Repugs had been doing all my life. This was just as another example of the Republican Party outsourcing ‘jobs’ once done domestically to someone abroad who would do it better and cheaper. No surprise there. And besides, once again, we intervened in Russian politics in the 1990s and bragged about it.

  25. Ché Pasa

    Here’s an example of the need to think critically:

    the conspiracy theory was: FDR deliberately and knowingly let Pearl Harbour happen to get the country into WWII.

    twenty-three years later, in an act of moral mirroring, LBJ manufactured the Gulf of Tonkin incident. and no one in 1964 suggested a conspiracy, though the incident was both implausible on its face and completely false.

    so go figure

    From our brilliant correspondent, bruce wilder.

    First: is the story that FDR had advance knowledge of and let the attack on Pearl Harbor happen (for whatever reason or just cussedness) true?

    Possibly. Partially. Also quite possibly not. Compare and contrast with 9/11. You can see the similarities and the many differences, but one of the things that stands out is that the possibility/probability of an attack from Japan and from shadowy forces in the Arab world (who happened to be resident in the US) was high in 1941 and 2001, and this was known by the intelligence services (such as they were) of the state. And nothing substantive was done about it. The state (President on down) was effectively paralyzed. Mal-intent may have been part of the paralysis, but so many other factors were at play. If you think critically about it, you realize it was no One Thing (or Personality) that was responsible for the “letting the attack happen.” FDR quite possibly did not act appropriately on information he had, but at the same time, he didn’t tell US forces in Hawaii to stand down and let the attack happen — even though what happened was the near equivalent. Thus there is no easy answer. And the question is why this happens — over and over and over again.

    On the other hand: Did LBJ manufacture the bogus Gulf of Tonkin Incident? The answer is almost certainly no. He was presented with information that turned out to be false. Before he knew it was false, he presented it to the public and Congress and took advantage of it in the way the military wanted him to, with disastrous results — both for the US and for Southeast Asia, though obviously Southeast Asia suffered much more. In essence, LBJ panicked and drove Congress into a panic which unleashed the military — which is what its leaders wanted — to do as they wilt in Vietnam (ultimately Cambodia and Laos too) and further enabled the Three Letter Agencies to engage in their preferred wet work and drug running to boot. It was a huge error which once made he could not backtrack from, nor could his successor.

    We should be asking why our government is so unable to recognize and correct errors, especially the kind that leave so much blood on the field.

  26. Hugh

    SB has been cheerleading Trump and attacking Democrats daily for the last year. Now suddenly, we are supposed to forget all his stacks and stacks and stacks of ranting. Why? because bruce wilder finds it inconvenient.

    Maybe he identifies with SB. Much as SB kneejerk defends Trump, bruce kneejerk defends Russia and Putin. You would think they must be getting paid to hang out on this small but influential progressive blog and spout their anti-progressive bilge. SB is a pretty straightforward Trumper nutcase. Bruce is more controlled until any mention of Russia comes up. Then it is Putin is the great man of the age and any criticism of him or his country gets thrown into the Russia, Russia, Russia dustbin.

  27. anon y'mouse

    saying that the Dems are equally at fault for our problems today, and have been nearly as bad as tRUMP is not “defending” tRUMP.

    it is trying to have clear-headed analysis. something sorely lacking in many of the comments on this blog lately.

  28. Stirling S Newberry

    “the conspiracy theory was: FDR deliberately and knowingly let Pearl Harbour happen to get the country into WWII.”

    We were already in WWII in all but name – but it was an important name. FDR did not think that it would be Pearl Harbor and he underestimated the determination of the IJN carrier forces. Others did want to see and cover over clear signs. It still is not clear whether the US Carriers were deliberately sent to sea.

  29. anon y'mouse

    not to “hog the blog”, but as for “critical thinking”, part of that is probably tacitly learned. some of us had early experiences that made it clear the trusting authorities was probably not for the best for us, and sometimes not for them either.

    i had a teacher in grade school who had a whole teaching unit on advertising and how it worked on the emotions and manipulated through identification (something Ian hits on all of the time). that, and my formative years, has put me in good stead. sadly, it doesn’t help much with sifting Absolute Truth (if there is one) from fiction, but it does make you skeptical enough to not buy whatever anyone is saying and try to dig deeper.

    our system-culture is now so problematic that this becomes an onerous tax on time. one most people do not have, even if they had the inclination to be anti-authoritarian skeptics. like voting, there just isn’t enough in it for them to bother and i somewhat don’t blame them.

  30. bruce wilder

    Che Pasa thinks I am brilliant! How sweet.

    I am all in favor of “critical thinking”. It would not take much more than basic skepticism to poke some pretty big holes in the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in real time in 1964. It made no sense for Vietnam to attack warships of the U.S. Navy with pea shooters.

    But, somehow the experience of WWII and its prequels primed the public to accept uncritically LBJ’s call to action and primed LBJ himself to think he was doing the right thing in some sense best known to himself and his advisers.

    Drowning in details — and believe me, I can debate Kimmel on Oahu with the best — or cooking bureaucratic conspiracy theories for a deep state that surely existed by 1964 but was not so deeply mad as ours today — is not critical thinking.

    We should be asking why government is so prone to error. Collective or social, organized action is not easy, apparently. A key vulnerability is the need for responsible leadership both controlling and controlled by responsible followership. Prescriptively, it is a matter of progressively developing better institutions, able to investigate and verify. But, put that aside. Leaders in a position to dominate are vulnerable to corruption and never more so when the people they lead are ignorant, stubborn bloody-minded fools more easily persuaded by a fairy tale than complex truth.

    I think LBJ was afraid a Nixon would ask, “who lost Indochina?” The calculus from that overwhelmed the instinct — if LBJ even had such — to act prudently from realistic assesssment of facts. That LBJ knew an electoral majority could be persuaded by Nixonian tales led to making up his own to control that same credulous populace. As Ian sometimes points out, the people do not get what they need, but they often perversely get what they seem to want and it can be ugly.

  31. Willy

    It’s a mighty low bar we leaderless, directionless protest voters set. But apparently not low enough.

    Rationalizing, defending, and championing, a lying, authoritarian anti-democratic, grifting con-artist sociopathicly incompetent sideshow freak show still didn’t keep the neoliberal Biden at bay. He still won anyways. Did we earn any respect from the moderates?

    Maybe the bar wasn’t set low enough. Maybe next time we’ll back an orange jumpsuit wearing death row serial child killer who campaigns via zoom. Yeah, that’ll show em.

    Meanwhile the lockstep marching Anti Science League keeps trolling us with obvious bullshit, all in the name of Infallible Prosperity Jesus. And their earthly Lord and Master, our so-called protest vote, is “earning” hundreds of millions from their kind. What a mess.

  32. Hugh

    “saying that the Dems are equally at fault for our problems today, and have been nearly as bad as tRUMP is not “defending” tRUMP.”

    I have no problem beating up on the Democrats, but Trump has been President the last four years, and when I see some comment on Republican and Democratic failures where Trump rates half a line followed by four paragraphs railing against the Democrats, yeah, for me, that is a de facto defense of Trump and the Republicans.

    And just because the Democrats hate progressives doesn’t mean they are always as bad as the Republicans. Pelosi passed a second large covid relief package in the House 7 months ago. McConnell sat on his turkey white _ss for 8 1/2 months blocking any action to extend covid relief until about two weeks ago. And as Bernie Sanders has said, this current relief bill is mostly a sham. Most of its money comes from stripping out remaining funds from the original relief bills and it is deliberately made short term so that Republicans can have a third relief bill fight with Biden in a couple of months. And even this was not enough. The most recent hang up came because the Republicans wanted to deny to Biden the power they had given to Trump to make loans to business through the Fed.

    So sure, you can say both Democrats and Republicans play political games, but the difference here is that the Democratic games would still have helped tens of millions of Americans while the Republican ones thrust those same tens of millions of Americans into poverty and desperation. As here, bad does not mean equally or nearly as bad. The Republicans have been flat out evil in this. The Democrats, arrogant and out of touch.

  33. Ché Pasa

    It’s always a question of what matters to whom, isn’t it, Hugh? Power — naked and aggressive — is what ultimately matters to Rs, and little else. Dems are always willing to cede power to the Rs in exchange for certain small benefits for the more and more restive rabble. Rs demand power over that rabble and everyone else in a more or less straight out gangster way, and even when the Dems concede, it’s not enough. Ever.

    In other words, rational politics has collapsed. Rs and Ds are playing different games by different rules on behalf, however, of the same oligarchs that own both parties. One faction of the oligarchy wants the rabble tamed, the other says, “Yay, let’s you and him fight. Entertain me!”

    Who’s winning?

    Well, not us. That’s for sure.

  34. bruce wilder

    Hugh lives in the subjunctive.

  35. Hugh

    It is like being on a sinking ship with two crews, one’s evil and the other is made up of the lesser evil. The ship will sink if either crew is left in control, just faster with the evil crew. That’s why progressives need to work on how to confront the lesser evil Democrats. They either get onboard with us or we split from them. And to do this we have to be the adults in the room, and this means not only presenting a clear vision and program but dropping the old shoe box of conspiracy theories and goofy ideas which too many on our side still love to believe in.

  36. Z


    Shut it down at $10,999!


  37. anon y'mouse

    Hugh then goes and proves the point about why there is so much focus on the Dems—we all know what the Repubs want. the Dems pretend they want what we want, and then pretend that their hands are utterly tied and that they can’t do anything but concede to the wishes of the Repubs. it’s a cover story, but it works on most people (including Hugh) thus far.

    what is worse? the evil father bashing the childrens’ heads in, or the mother who won’t take the children and leave even though she has the ability to, and instead makes excuses for the abusive father and for herself for not leaving him and ensuring the children’s safety?

    if you grew up in a family like this, you would blame the mother. she has some control over whether the children face abuse, but never exercises it. the abusive father possibly cannot help what he is–a psychopath. blaming him is almost irrelevant. if he wasn’t bashing the children, he would find some other outlet and do the same thing.

    blame lies with the obstructionist, negligent mother. and in the Dems case, they are all the more culpable because they do not suffer from the psychological maladies that being in an abusive relationship cause in the mother to prevent her from seeing that the door is open. they are WILLING PARTICIPANTS in the abuse, to the benefit of their donors.

    culpability lies with our “mother”, the Dems for not putting up any resistance, for blocking all resistance and for telling the children that there is no alternative. that is why we focus on them. the Repubs are hopeless, and no arguing with them is going to help. why waste the time or energy?

  38. Stirling S Newberry

    A non y mouse
    Anony mouse
    An onymou see
    Ano nym ous se
    So many ways to say exactly the same, wrong, thing.

  39. Z

    Why expend the energy to write two essays for a buck?


  40. Willy

    So lets just keep bashing mother until she gives up and abandons the family. Yeah, that’ll work.

    I just saw an interview with a D rep who said that one of his peers was gifted a brand new Tesla, perfectly legal, by some donor. Imagine working in an environment where you’re the only one who has enough ethicality to actually do your job with integrity, refusing to play along to get rich. While your peers are ridiculing you for playing the martyr, your constituents are hammering you for not being enough of a martyr. Be enough to turn me misanthropic.

    Why not work on getting constituents regardless of party to focus on the problem?

  41. Hugh

    I am advocating actually doing something to change the relationship between progressives and Democrats. Yet even after four years of Trump’s insanity and his responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, there are still many progressives who prefer calling not even Trump and the Republicans but the Democrats names so that they can justify to themselves their doing nothing.

  42. bruce wilder

    Willy: While your peers are ridiculing you for playing the martyr, your constituents are hammering you for not being enough of a martyr. Be enough to turn me misanthropic.

    I think this applies not just to politicians, but also to many journalists and pundits. Think of Generals retiring from the Pentagon to join the Private Sector behemoths of the Military-Industrial Complex. Or, any number of journalists and opinion writers, who must trim their sails to navigate a paying career. Or, academics in many fields where, for example, being friendly say with Big Pharma is a pre-requisite to research funding or being selected for professional-society and public-regulatory committee work.

    Corruption of this sort is increasingly out of control in the U.S., the decay a by-product of increasing inequality of income and precarity in what used to be the middle-class.

    Politician’s salaries have long been under scrutiny by the public — this was true way before income inequality skyrocketed, and a Congress critter has a comfortable salary by middle-class standards, but not nearly enough to hob nob with today’s movers and shakers, belong to their prestige Country Club, or live in their neighborhoods and send her kids to the their private school.

    It is easy to see the highly corrosive potential, even before realizing that the extent to which structural changes in institutions compound the problem. The death of newspaper-based, local classified advertising, followed by concentration of ad revenue in Google and Facebook has interacted with increased corporate concentration, centralized strategic control of different media platforms and the networking effects of concentrated social media (Twitter, et cetera).

    Systems within systems are dysfunctional. It is probably beyond the intellectual capacity of any individual to comprehend the problem, let alone propose a path of effective reform. People will try — Matt Stoller with “Big” is trying hard to get something started and that is just one example.

    Ordinary people with little time or training are likely to fall back on simplistic slogans, with no realistic program or policy attached. Idealists on the Left will go with “get the money out of politics” reforms the very purity and simplicity of which makes any program derived from concept of the slogan both too impractical to work and too vulnerable to circumvention or constitutional challenge. On the Right, anger and frustration tend to fuel a “burn it down” sentiment. The futility of “drain the swamp” in the mouth of a swamp creature attracts not support but laughter and cynicism.

    On this comment board, we tend to get hung up on the false dichotomies of “lesser evil” arguments. Even though everyone agrees that the Dems are awful and untrustworthy and generally useless (to us) tools of the plutocracy, we still get into arguments over whether Reps are “worse” (or whether “Reps are worse” is a redemptive defense of Dems that needs to be aired or simply a distraction to obscure how blameworthy Dems are), even while the political system that comprehends both Parties and corporate Media as they are, keeps up the looting and drifting.

    Meanwhile, in the larger political world, a political re-alignment is underway, aided by long overdue generational change on the Democratic side of the aisle. I would like to encourage the commentariat here to pay more attention to how that is unfolding. Not as an object of “hope” (because I, personally, do not see the likes of Josh Hawley as a plausible savior) but just because it is what is happening. Inevitably, we here will take opposing rooting interests as things move further along, but for the moment, it is just interesting to note the Republican “populist” play alongside the Democratic determination to forego any strategic choice at odds with pleasing their Wall Street donors and thus go down with a rapidly sinking ship. First up, keeping an 80 year old Speaker. Followed in short order by the elevation of the one candidate who did worst in the Primaries to the Presidency in the midst of a pandemic and unfolding Great Depression, as the Democratic Party’s base shrinks geographically and in terms of class and demographically, not to mention the dominance once again (well-played Dems!) of Republican Legislatures in post-2020 redistricting.

  43. someofparts

    Speaking of generational change –

    Especially check out his post on ‘LatinX-plaining the election’. This is one of the people I am bookmarking to help me understand our changing demographics.

    His post on the French notion of religious freedom is also good. When I put it together with the picture of our Hispanic electorate that he paints, it makes me worry that our governments won’t be able to resist incursions and power grabs by organized religion.

    S Brennan – Be of good cheer. No way it’s gonna take until 2028. D’s will lose the House in 22 and the Presidency by a landslide in 24. Saw a headline yesterday that tagged Pelosi as an octogenarian. Everybody should do that every time she is mentioned – octogenarian, octogenarian, octogenarian – until she is tied to it as inescapably as Ahab was tied to that whale.

    Speaking of high levels of discourse, do yourself a favor and check out the South Park episode on Smug Alert. Here’s the wiki link that gives the synopsis –!

    Looks like there is no way to watch the full episode without paying for it, but there are plenty of free clips of some of the best parts.

    At his Twitter feed, Josh Hawley has a video of his speech on the floor of the Senate in support of the measures he and Bernie are pushing. I know better than to trust this guy. I know better than to think I will like the majority of the policies he supports. Even so, I kid you not, by the time he finished talking I was in tears. I’m still not over being surprised by this.

    I plan to keep watching this guy and, for that matter, all the R’s who are trying to figure out how to become the party of the working class. Is it possible to craft an electoral bloc made up of Bernie-adjacent and Trump-adjacent voters? What would that even look like? And yet, if anyone could do that in sufficient numbers they would be unstoppable.

    Also, does anyone else here think Biden will remain in office until the end of his term? I think the plan all along has been to wait until his election is secure and then, as soon as decorum and optimum message timing allow, have him resign for medical reasons. Kamala will have a better chance of winning in 24 if she enters as an incumbent with a track record depending, of course, on what that record turns out to be.

    When it comes to distrusting civic leadership and their media, being raised in an apartheid American community did it for me. The world where my childhood took place turns out to have been a fabrication. Apartheid was forced on my parents and our neighbors by statute but it was supported by custom as well. Fear was the driving force behind it, fear of crossing the color line in some way that would make a guy a social outcast and run off all of his customers. In that setting, men who liked those arrangements were vocal about it while men like my dad who cringed at it kept quiet if they had kids to feed.

  44. paintedjaguar

    “Generational Change”? Spare me that nonsense, please. The Dem old guard is just being replaced by Neera Tandens, Pete Buttigiegs and Rachel Maddows. The triumph of IdPol is change in only the most cosmetic of ways.

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