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

The Need to Believe in Goodness

wolf sheep clothingSome of my best friends have been assholes.

I have known they were assholes, and they were still my friends.

I have voted for politicians who were a lot worse than assholes: they were monsters.

I knew they were monsters and I voted for them because I considered the alternative worse.

One of the most dangerous mental algorithms is as follows:

I am a good person.

Good people do good things.

If I do something it is a good thing.

Therefor anything I do is good.

The specific election version is as follows:

I am a good person

Good people do good things

If I vote for someone they must be good

Therefor whoever I intend to vote for must be good.

Yeah. No.

It is quite possible that you are voting for a bad person. In fact, in the context of the current US Presidential election it is certain.

The lesser evil argument is all very nice, but here’s the problem: The candidates are evil in different ways.

Different. The most obvious is on foreign policy and Russia, where Trump wants to be friends with Russia and Clinton wants to ramp up Cold War II (and maybe go hot, given her desire for a no-fly zone in Syria after the Russians were there).

Trump has all sorts of issues with race and deportation and so on.

Evil in different ways. Bad in different ways. Different groups of people will suffer more under Trump than Clinton.

What I see, all day, are people who deny the real problems with their candidate. The real evil their candidate has done, or is likely to do, if elected. The argument is not “Well, they’re good on A, B, & C and bad on X, Y, and Z.” It is, “They’re basically good people and the other candidate is basically a bad person.”

Russ Feingold is not running for US President. Neither is Jeremy Corbyn. An argument can be made that Sanders was basically good (or, that his good substantially outweighed his bad, which is virtually always there for a career politician.)

But Sanders is not on the ballot. Democrats (and it was Democrats–independents wanted Sanders) didn’t want someone basically good to represent their party.

On the Republican side, there was basically no one good running. A case might be made that Trump was the lesser evil (spare me on Bush, the man who fixed the Florida election for his brother and is thus directly responsible for all the evil of the Bush II regime). The case can also be made that Trump is some sort of fascist (and has been, ad nauseum).

Whatever the case, both Presidential candidates are bad people. In terms of actual damage already done, one has to give the contest to Clinton (by a mile). In terms of who will be more damaging once they are President, the case is less clear.

But both are bad.

I run into this implicit algorithm all the time. I often admire Putin’s competence, or say I understand why he does what he does, and in some cases would do the same thing. I also say he’s an evil man. People freak out, they cannot hold the idea that Putin has done some really terrible things in their minds alongside the idea that he has also done some entirely reasonable things, and that he is terrifically competent.

People are not of a piece. My friends who were assholes often weren’t assholes. If you can’t understand that statement, you can’t understand human beings. My father was a fucking asshole, a monster to his family and to many other people. He also did great good in the world, which is better for him having lived, even if I spent much of my childhood wishing various other people were my father.

To actually understand the world you must be able to hold facts which appear to be contradictions (but which, in fact, aren’t) in your head. People can do both really bad things and really good things. Pure saints or pure devils are rare. Even Hitler was a person, who desperately loved his mother, for example.

Realistic appraisal of opportunities and risks requires the ability to “contain multitudes’ and to seemingly contradict oneself.

I admire Putin greatly. I also admire Genghis Khan greatly. (Don’t quote this out of context, idiots). I also think both have committed evil acts (though clearly Genghis far more so). It is possible to admire someone’s vast competence and disagree with how they use it. It is possible to say that Hitler was a great rhetorician and still disagree with what he did and believe he was evil. It is possible, conversely, to admire a public figure like FDR while saying he was absolutely in the wrong to lock up Japanese Americans.

We can say that Trump wanting friendly relations with Russia is a good thing (they have a lot of nukes), while condemning other policies. We can say that Clinton’s greater support for women’s rights (yes, she has wavered on late-term abortions) is good, while noting that she pushed for what amounts to a huge war crime in Libya.

At the end of the day we still often have to make judgments. We have to say “both these people are monsters, but I prefer A to B, because of X, Y, and Z.”

Making these judgments well requires us to be able to say, “Putin did engage in some truly heinous policies in Chechnya, but I still think that, as a Russian leader, he’s done a pretty good job in the following ways, while failing in these other ways.”

That’s the world. To understand it, you can’t allow your overwhelming need to think of yourself as a good person mean that you think anyone you support or whom you identify as good by your standards. If you do so, you live in delusion, the world in your mind so far removed from the actual world that you’re dysfunctional.

You can support bad people. You do. You can be friends with people who are sometimes assholes. You probably are (and if you aren’t, you probably have family who are, and if you somehow truly have only wonderful friends who are never assholes and a shining family full of angels, well, understand that most people don’t).

The real world sucks. But it’s the one you live in.

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Review of “Max Weber: A Skeleton Key,” by Randall Collins


As Turkey Enters Syria


  1. Look at your state – most of the time, you vote for the future, not the present.

  2. Robert Dudek

    Clinton’s evil will affect a lot of people outside the United States. There are more people outside the United States than in it, so for me there is no doubt that Trump is the lesser evil.

  3. Synoia

    All choices are like the Curate’s egg.

    Parts of it were excellent.

    The actual joke from Punch was:

    Bishop to Curate: I fear your egg was bad.
    Curate to Bishop: No, My Lord, parts of it were excellent.

  4. different clue

    In this election, I am asking myself which candidate poses the greater danger of violent extinction. If each candidate poses an equal risk in its own way of setting off World War Nuke, then my survival chances are not enhanced by voting either way. And I might as well indulge in the purity ponyism of voting for the Beautiful Third Party of my choice.

    But if one candidate looks to be a greater threat and a deadlier menace to world survival than the other candidate, then my survival chances are improved by voting for the less deadly threat and the less menacing menace. And right now I measure relative “deadliness of threat” between the two candidates by relative eagerness to support the Neo Nazi criminal coup regime squatting in Kiev against the Russophone population of East Ukraine . . . and by relative eagerness to engineer war against Russia and lie about a Russian “threat” and Russian “aggression” in Europe . . . and by relative eagerness to support the Global Axis of Jihad –in particular the Axis of Jihad’s cannibal war of liver-eating Sunni Revanchist Suprematism in Syria and calling for a so-called “no fly zone” to be enforced by shooting down Russian planes over Syria which gets us back to a psychopathic foam-rubber Machisto desire for war against Russia. Oh, and . . . which candidate has a history of being a Free Trade Treason Traitor in favor of Free Trade Treason Agreements against America to advance the International Free Trade Conspiracy agenda against America?

    Finally, which candidate has the nastier slimier supporters? I won’t answer that in the widest general scope because I don’t want to get anybody upset. But I would note that the Clintonites do seem to be sore winners. I would also note that many of them invent false lying memes like the so-called “Bernie Bros”. I would also note that many of them, including Clintonite Embeds in positions of authority within the Democratic Party made up elaborate tissues of serial lie-parades about “violence” from Sanders supporters while perpetrating very real violence of their own. Let the record speak to how many Sanderites have been arrested for physical assault against Clintonites as against how many Clintonites have been arrested for physical assault against Sanderites. I would also note the duplicitous two-faced hypocrisy on display by Clintonites complaining about the Sanders campaign hiring a thing called Revolution Messaging and then turning around and praising the Clintonite campaign for hiring David Brock and his Correct The Record family of troll-pack armies. I notice that the same Clintonites who whine about mythical Bernie Bros insulting them on social medias and making them feel bad . . . have turned around and said nothing about their fellow Clintonites who posted Child Pornography material to some Sanders facebook pages in order to get them shut down. Those Clintonites who were in posession of that Child Pornography material ( and you have to be in possession of it yourself before you can false-flag post it to a target’s Facebook Page) deserve to die in prison for their part in the scourge of Child Pornography. And yet their fellow Clintonites will get offended when that basic moral imperative is duly noted.

    The rule-of-thumb has been offered that one can judge a candidate by the quality of herm’s supporters. Based on that , the Clinton campaign might well want to investigate the actions and attitudes of some ( hopefully not all) of its supporters. And the candidate herself might want to re-think her association with ne0-conservative (geopolitical) and neo-liberal ( pro Wall Street and pro Trade Treason Traitor agreements) in light of how many people oppose that sort of thing. And will vote against it in November.

  5. different clue

    Now . . . Europeans and others can not vote in our election. But if any of our European ( and other) friends have a feeling as to whether one of the candidates would be a deadlier threat and menace to European ( and other foreign) survival than the other of the candidates, this thread might be a fine place for such Europeans ( and other foreign friends) to offer their opinions as to which President would let them feel safer from Nuke War Extinction than the other one.

  6. Mudduck

    Actual Punch caption:

    Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones”; Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”

  7. bob mcmanus

    Randall Collins, “Microfoundations of Macrosociology”

    Politics itself is a master determinant of the property system and so
    many other routine aspects of social life, because politics consists of
    continuously organized coalitions mobilized to engage in conflicts.
    These coalitions gain their power from broadcasting the dramatics of their own conflicts in ways favorable to themselves, thereby creating particularized reputations for various individuals as powerful, villainous, or impotent. Politics, as the struggle over reputation, rests upon control of the means of reputation management.

    Politics is about seeking conflict, and seeking allies, and defining enemies. Compromises with enemies weakens, enervates, depoliticizes.

    It is very important to the Clintonites that you confess to voting for the lesser evil, that you publicly proclaim your submission, that you advertise your own political impotence. It enhances their power for the upcoming policy disputes.

  8. Hugh

    I think it helps if we look at this election in terms of class. Our ruling class is composed of the rich and elites. There can be a great deal of jockeying for position and advantage within this class –as with the current election– which gives the illusion of choice for those of us on the outside who do not belong to this class, between greater and lesser evils and even greater and lesser goods, but what we need to remember and stayed focused on is that beyond the appeals and atmospherics, the movement and motion, no one in this class has our interests at heart or is on our side.

    It is all like a big football game. There is a team with red jerseys and a team with blue jerseys. There is a lot of trash talking between players. But at the end of the day, it is all football. One team is not pro-football and the other anti-football. And no matter which team wins, it is always we who lose.

    Trump, Clinton, and Sanders all belong to the same club, and guess what, we’re not members. So yes, there can be some back and forth between them, but when push comes to shove they are always going to choose the club over us. That is why Sanders without a second thought betrayed his supporters and endorsed Clinton. That is why it doesn’t make a bit of difference between Trump and Clinton. They are both members of the same club and class, and they are never going to choose or fight for us. We’re screwed either way. They are both shit sandwiches, and a choice between shit sandwiches is no choice at all.

    We live in Emma Goldman’s world: “If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.” The first step in changing that rule is to reject the false choices that world gives us. And that means rejecting not just Hill and Bill and the Donald, but also the Bernies as well. More of the same is killing us. So stop choosing more of the same whether it comes in a red jersey or a blue. Stop trying to play their game when they won’t even let you on the field.

  9. highrpm

    i’m foggy. please explain how not participating in the upcoming election accomplishes what.

  10. V. Arnold

    Oh good; you deleted the bile laced okanogan rant. She needs to crawl back into her hole over at Corrente…

  11. V. Arnold

    With the two most vile candidates in memory and the endemic/systemic corruption; I couldn’t possibly vote.
    The third party is yet a fantasy within the present realities.
    Goodness and evil are creations of human’s religions and do not exist outside of those fabrications.
    It is very much like accusing humans of committing an “un-natural act”; impossible; everything humans do is within their nature…

  12. mc

    Ditto on the rant. I had to call a hazmat team for my computer.

  13. Peter*


    It’s hard to know if you are a Boycott Elections Movement supporter or just promoting an argument to keep people from voting for Trump. Did you vote in the last presidential election?

    I support the BEM but am not promoting it this time because one of its main goals, the dismantling of the Parties, is being advanced on one side by Trump’s supporters and on the other the Clintonites are showing everyone just how degenerate that party has always been.

    Whether people vote or not they are seeing clearly and learning hard lessons about the political parasites who rule over them and watching the worst of the right wing scurry like rats to the Clintonite camp can’t be ignored for what it represents.

  14. Hugh

    I am inviting progressives to get their head out of their ass. If you want a progressive alternative, create one. Don’t expect a corrupt political system made to loot you provide you with one. This is the sixth election since 2006, about the time I came online. I have seen progressives make the same mistakes over and over, fall into the same traps, and fail to learn anything from their experiences. Progressives need focus and discipline, and they need to stop depending on others. They need to start doing for themselves. But so far they are too busy chasing illusions and the cause du jour. Then they wonder why no one takes them seriously. This election is irrelevant to me. It is just another lost opportunity where progressives could have started building an alternative but instead squandered it either doing nothing or backing a deadend “sheepdog” candidate like Sanders. Now it has devolved into comparing shit sandwiches. Pathetic doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  15. Some Guy

    This post follows nicely from the last one.

    As you noted in the last post, Weber differentiated between instrumental rationality and value rationality.

    Fortunately, I don’t need to vote in the U.S. election, but were I required to do so, I think that value rationality would prevent me from voting for either mainstream candidate on offer. Regardless of the weighing of the pros and cons, I would feel that the act itself of supporting either was too wrong to commit to and I would vote 3rd party, even if I felt this vote was not optimal from an instrumental or consequentialist point of view.

    I could rationalize this with a ‘shadow of the future’ argument (circa: Axelrod) to ‘load up the consequences’ as it were – saying that I was making the case to the 1% that they need to do better or I wasn’t going to play any more and that this would work out for the best in the end – but that wouldn’t be honest – the truth is that I couldn’t ‘pull the trigger’ for either, in the same way that people pressed to murder someone for the greater good might refuse to do so, even when convinced of the merits of the case (e.g. trolley problem)

  16. different clue

    (Off thread, but interesting as it bears on Clinton-related affairs).

    I have been reading random articles on Reddit and stumbled across this one. Its about some very recent very big releases of closely held NSA information. Here is the link.

    Here is a tiny cutpaste bit from the article.

    “In addition to WikiLeaks, for years Appelbaum worked for Tor, an organization focused on providing its customers anonymity on the Internet. But last May, he stepped down as a result of “serious, public allegations of sexual mistreatment” made by unnamed victims, according to a statement put out by Tor. Appelbaum has denied the charges.

    Shortly thereafter, he turned his attention to Hillary Clinton. At a screening of a documentary about Assange in Cannes, France, Appelbaum accused her of having a grudge against him and Assange, and that if she were elected president, she would make their lives difficult. “It’s a situation that will possibly get worse” if she is elected to the White House, he said, according to Yahoo News.”

    If the digerati and the cyberati come to believe this is true, they may take action against the Clintons and Clinton-connected things. That action might be limited to voting. That action might go beyond voting.

  17. different clue

    I am but a recently-arrived third-tier newbie-commenter and I realize that suggesting there might be a real-world political specimen value in Okanegon’s comment would be brazenly effronterous of me, but I will humbly suggest that very thing.

    Okanegon’s comment read like a heartfelt cry-of-the-heart to me. Perhaps it is just Clintonite boilerplate and if I got outside more I would know that. But either way, it is reflective of how millions upon millions upon millions of Americans think about this election and the choices. These millions and millions of people do not see or grasp the issues raised here, and dismiss the whole premise of the post as being mere Trumpadoodle propaganda. Are such people reachable?
    Does the effort deserve to be made, given the stakes?

    Senior commenter Hugh believes that all the Trump and Clinton operatives as well as the candidates themselves are mere sports-team-equivalent co-participants in the same game. I don’t see this myself, and I see too much visible counter-evidence to indicate that the OverClass and its servants resent Trump for discomforting their ongoingly comfortable Train Ride to Wherever. If neither candidate would be more Nuke War dangerous than the other if President, then Hugh’s theory is correct and well-applied to this situation. If one candidate poses a seriously greater risk of World War Nuke than the other, then Hugh’s theory is misapplied in this instance. I believe the Big Two candidates should be inspected very carefully to assess the relative war danger they do or don’t pose. The sentimental application of Hugh’s theory ( and cynical bitterness is a sentiment) is contra-indicated in this situation.

    But that’s easy for me to say. Since I am not on the Left, I don’t have to care what self-identified on-the-Left people think of my level of leftyness. And since I. Am. NOT! a Progressive, I don’t have to defend myself in a game of “more Progressive than Thou” or ” Progressive enough? Are not! Am too! Are not!” etc.

    So . . . given how deeply invested at the basic psychology and personal identity level the Americans on these threads are in these political identities . . . either Against Trump or Against Clinton or Against The System or Whatever . . . I again express my hope that various foreigners who are invested in their own survival but are emotionally detached from the identity-velcro magnetic forces of Trump or Clinton or The System Sucks might offer their dispassionate views as to which of the Big Two Candidates would make a more deadly dangerous president to THEIR survival. And if any Foreign Friends feel neither President would be more dangerous than the other, they can say that too and they can say why, if they wish.

  18. V. Arnold

    different clue
    August 24, 2016

    Unfortunately, I have had experience with her elsewhere; she viciously ad hom attacked me and the site owner agreed with me.
    So, if I may suggest, you would be giving substance where there is little to none.
    It would seem she has “issues”…

  19. different clue

    @V. Arnold,

    I did not know that. I don’t get out much.

    But the vicious ah hominem-izing of which you speak is a hallmark of many many many Clinton supporters. You can see it over and over and over again and again and again on pro-Clinton blogsites and in pro-Clinton comments on ClintoSkeptical blogsites. ( If someone cares to argue with me on that point, I am prepared to get down to cases and bring comments back here to illustrate my point. Including comments from past threads of this very blog.)

    Since I did not know what you told me just above about your unfortunate interaction with commenter Okanogen, I could only judge herm’s comment in its own terms. And I did not see anything in Okanogen’s comment any more nasty or ad hominemful, then what I have seen in numerous other Clinton supporter comments. So I continue to believe that Okanogen’s comment could be viewed as an educationally valuable window into the mind of millions upon millions upon millions of Clinton supporters.

  20. Tom

    Turkey has just entered Syria with Russian and Syrian permission and is engaging both IS and SDF forces.

    SDF’s stabbing Assad in the back in Hasakah City finally undid Assad’s tolerance for them.

    Bear in mind though, there is no change in Turkish Policy, or Russia’s but common interests finally enabled this operation to go forward.

  21. It’s actions, not personalities, which are good or bad because only actions have consequences. You are quite right that all of us, including you and me and including all politicians, are capable of both good and evil. You have to take a view on their underlying philosophy and strength of character. If they don’t have one, or one you are comfortable with, they are more likely to do bad things from your point of view.

    Ultimately of course all value judgements are subjective. The advantage of democracy is that the people define those value judgements in the way they vote. They tell the politicians what they are concerned about and what they believe in and then, separately, it is up to the politicians use their immense creative problem-solving abilities (I’ll leave you to rate the sarcasm!) to satisfy (or moderate) those concerns and aspirations.

    It is not for politicians to question the values of the people, though very often the people will desire a number of contradictory values, such as when they simultaneously want lower taxes and higher public expenditure. In these and other technical instances politicians must exercise leadership in the best long-term interests of the people (the people generally take a short-term view) and take the risk of losing support; something that most are clearly not capable of. It is one of the great advantages of the American system that Presidents can serve only two terms and therefore become freer to take a longer term view. In the EU we are stuck with what we have got, which just makes them even worse!

    Some time ago I wrote a piece on the nature of freedom and may well have referred to it here before. But in case anyone interested didn’t see it you can find it at

  22. V. Arnold

    different clue
    August 24, 2016

    I’m not in the least surprised re: Hillary supporter’s ad homania.
    Hillary’s supporters are mis-guided; they believe her detractors are sexist pigs; au contraire; her detractors are rational, educated and informed of history; and, most assuredly consist of both women and men.
    Link below you may find interesting. It fits in beautifully with “a need to believe”, as stated by our host.

    Hell is sure to follow if putting a woman in the president’s chair is the only metric…

  23. Billikin

    “If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.”

    Well, they are doing that, aren’t they?

  24. Ché Pasa

    Remember the dicta:: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.” Emma Goldman. (h/t Hugh for the reminder.)

    It’s as true in this country — where voting has been prohibited/illegal for various categories of citizens over the years — as it was in the Former Soviet Union.

    Voting in the kind of managed democracy we have is more symbolic/notational than functional.

    We are not given policy choices, only personalities to choose from at the presidential level. Whatever a candidate says regarding policy during a campaign is not a promise. What the candidate does in office (cf Obama, Barak; Bush, George II, for recent examples) has little or nothing to do with what the candidate said on the trail.

    This year’s presidential campaign is less orderly than some in the past, but neither candidate is likely to stray far outside the parameters set for the government by those who long ago bought and paid for it. Exploitation and disposal of the “lesser people” will continue no matter who is placed in the Oval Office. That’s a given. If those who own the government want more war, there will be more war, no matter who is in the Oval Office. Who is targeted may be different depending on who sits in the Big Chair, but maybe not.

    And so on.

    In the end, we, the Rabble, don’t really have a choice in matters of the greatest importance to our and the planet’s future, and that is built in to our system of elections and government. Unless that’s changed, nothing of importance will change.

    A step toward changing it is withdrawal of consent. Not voting is a form of withdrawal of consent. It’s not immediately effective — because the people who matter don’t care whether you vote or not, and they would just as soon you didn’t. But it is an important way of saying to one another that we don’t approve this bullshit.

    A further means of changing it is to establish what amounts to parallel or shadow forms of governance that don’t have to follow the conventional ways or the constitution (which is a big part of the electoral and governance problem in this country). Figure out what works and do it.

    On a small scale it’s possible in some places, not everywhere. But given the way nearly all our institutions are failing or already failed, having something to replace them is going to be crucial.

    Goodness will arise and fade away. There’s no certainty of permanence. But we have to have something better sooner rather than later, and no one is going to do it for us. We have to do it for ourselves in spite of the looming hazards and the metastasizing monstrousness of our political class.

  25. Mel

    “It’s actions, not personalities, which are good or bad because only actions have consequences.”

    The problem the voters have is that they’re obliged to vote for campaigns, but after the election it’s an administration that they’ll live under. And we know from the current administration that it need have no connection with its campaigns save a name. The voters have to use goodness as a proxy for a campaign that will carry out its plans afterward.

  26. Peter*

    Your statement that, the people who matter don’t care if you vote, seems to miss the obvious things ‘they’ do to get people out to vote especially during presidential elections. There will be about a billion dollars spent on advertising, our primary form of social engineering, to encourage voting in this election and while they don’t usually care who you vote for this time almost all of the people who matter are directly and publicly aligned with HRC.

    There is no other game to join or promote in the Homeland, identity politics has destroyed what resistance there was on the left and the Occupy Movement that offered real radical ideas about a different form of government was destroyed with military force when it couldn’t be coopted. Any resistance to the Beast such as BLM is being systematically attacked and with the atomization of all of the old resistance platforms there is little to build any movement on so Trump’s populism is the only meager tool available to at least do some damage to the PRB.

  27. Ché Pasa

    Peter*, you really need to pay better attention to what is going on. Advertising is done to sell a product, to shape perceptions and to build brand loyalty. Advertising is NOT done to drive higher turn out in elections. In fact, if you pay attention, you’ll find that both parties are experts at driving down and suppressing turn out. Not only do they not care if you vote, they’d often prefer it if you didn’t.

    They have both been complicit in restricting the franchise, restricting voting rights and the ability to vote.

    If by some chance the Rabble vote the wrong way, they are more than capable of “adjusting”the results to be more pleasing to the people who matter.

    At this point, there is no sign at all that Trump will be allowed to win or serve as president no matter what the (reduced) electorate decides. As for his populism, it’s a con-game pure and simple.

    The only way to change this system is to go against it, not to fall for one or the other bogus offerings.
    Going against it, given the challenges and frequent resorts to official violence against any sign of serious resistance requires some subtlety. FTR, Occupy is not gone by any means, but has changed and adapted. Just because it doesn’t Take the Square as it once did doesn’t mean it has been destroyed. BLM is still going strong despite all the efforts at sabotage and co-optation.

    There’s a whole world of alternatives out there.


  28. Peter*

    I’d like to hear about any of these alternatives, that can actually develop power, that you refer to but if they include any so called progressives, which are little more than slightly left leaning liberals, I don’t think I would join them. Any group that has consistently distanced themselves from the liberal center such as BLM I do and will continue to listen to.

    One thing that this election spectacle has clearly shown is how low the Clintonite P/L’s will limbo to further their agenda and it’s quite ugly. Any calls now to join with these backstabbers for any cause or faux progress should be firmly rejected, they are all untrustworthy.

  29. capelin

    bob mcmanus wrote:

    “Politics is about seeking conflict, and seeking allies, and defining enemies. Compromises with enemies weakens, enervates, depoliticizes.

    It is very important to the Clintonites that you confess to voting for the lesser evil, that you publicly proclaim your submission, that you advertise your own political impotence. It enhances their power for the upcoming policy disputes.”

    every u.s. election, “progressives” vote for the a supposedly lesser evil, and convince themselves that’s not what they are really doing, or that they had no other option.

    in terms of voting;

    if your metric is philisophically/less-evil based, then the green party is the obvious choice.

    if your metric is practical/benefit based, than the green party is the obvious choice.

    because neither of the mainstream parties are ever, ever, ever going to make things better. the sooner america gets an alternative up to speed, the better.

    quit being distracted by hope and change and colour and gender and shiny trinkets; deal with your baggage and get to work.

  30. tony


    All complex societies have elites. The people that built European social democracies were led by members of the elites, FDR and Kennnedy were elites, as were Robespierre and Napolean. It is very rare for a non-elite to gain great amount of power. A certain Austian painter is the only exception I can think of. Usually you have to ally with friendly elites against hostile ones.

    If you can manage a socialist revolution, great, but that is not going to happen this year, so these battles matter.

  31. Hugh

    tony, elitism is defined by a system of privilege and wealth, usually hereditary, justified by but without any real connection to the social good it produces.

    All modern societies are complex. All are kleptocracies. All have elites which are integral to the looting, which characterizes kleptocracy.

    Modern societies may need experts and expertise, but they also need people to take care of the sick and disabled, produce goods, drive the buses and take out the trash. What they do not need is the system of privilege which is elitism.

    The idea that because societies have often been a certain way or had certain institutions, they must always have such ways and institutions can be used to justify anything from slavery to human sacrifice. But, in fact, societies can and do change. It is just that neither Trump nor Clinton nor Sanders represent real change. They are all safely ensconced in the system that is killing and immiserating the rest of us.

    Kleptocracies are maintained by class war, and I have always said the primary weapon of the rich and elites in this war is distraction, that is steering attention away from them, their crimes and depredations. This election is a perfect example: getting us to waste time supporting sheepdogs and comparing shit sandwiches.

    No matter how many times the whole lesser evil/do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good argument gets debunked it never stays dead. It just, as here, gets recast and repeated.

  32. realitychecker

    Seems to me that when you have all these conflicting factors to weigh and consider, the rational thing to do is decide what is most fundamentally important to you as a choice criterion.

    To me, that most fundamental factor for any society that wants to be characterized as free and equitable, has got to be the rule of law and consistency of accountability under that rule of law. As to that criterion, Bush and the neocons were terrible, but Obama and Clinton have arguably been, and much more blatantly so, far worse.

    How Trump would be as to that criterion, one can only speculate. But as to Clinton, there is no need to speculate. She would certainly be awful, and might actually bring the rule of law close to extinction as an American societal ideal.

    Which is why I know that I would never cast a vote for Clinton, and, if I decide to vote at all in this election, it would have to be the first vote I ever cast for any Republican, and I would be enraged to be forced to do so.

    Is it only lawyers like myself that have such an appreciation for the importance of the rule of law? Sometimes, it sure seems so.

  33. different clue

    The problem, @realitychecker, is that only SOME lawyers, such as yourself and hopefully some other lawyers whom you know, that have an appreciatiion for the importance of the rule of law. There are other lawyers, such as the Clintons (and all Nixon’s men); who have an appreciation for the rule of lawlessness. And they hope to achieve their lawlessness through the application of masterful shysterness . . . the ability to bend the law till it cracks but doesn’t quite break.

    Many nonlawyers also have an appreciation for the rule of law. You can see some of them at Naked Capitalism. You can see others of them at Sic Semper Tyrannis.

  34. @ different clue @ hugh

    “If one candidate poses a seriously greater risk of World War Nuke than the other, then Hugh’s theory is misapplied in this instance. I believe the Big Two candidates should be inspected very carefully to assess the relative war danger they do or don’t pose. The sentimental application of Hugh’s theory ( and cynical bitterness is a sentiment) is contra-indicated in this situation.”

    I’m a fan of hugh, but I basically agree with what you (different clue) wrote. And the risk of a nuclear exchange with Clinton vs. Trump, are IMNSHO, not even close.

    It’s quite likely that Clinton is bluffing when she talks about a no-fly zone over Syria.

    Unfortunately, the likelihood that she isn’t bluffing does not approach 0%.

    Shooting down a Russian plane is exactly the sort of idiotic, seminal event that could lead us down a path of a tactical nuclear exchange with Russia. That would make city-trading scenarios far more plausible, which would mean that some of the people reading this would be facing an existential threat from Clinton, which they might have avoided by voting for Trump.

    Also, I’ll speculate that some of her neocon buddies would LOVE the idea of shooting down a Russian plane. That’s because, like lots of bad boys, they want to know how far they can go, and don’t seriously expect any downside worse than a tactical nuclear exchange. If they’re like John McCain is or was, they can’t even imagine that. The McCains of this world expect Russia to limp away, humiliated. (The success of the Russian air campaign in Syria may have sobered up some of our elites drunk with hubris. Or, does John McCain STILL think that Russia is a “gas station masquerading as a country”?)

  35. @ different clue

    \”( If someone cares to argue with me on that point, I am prepared to get down to cases and bring comments back here to illustrate my point. Including comments from past threads of this very blog.)\”

    Don\’t want to argue, but would be curious to view examples of pro-Hillary smear merchants.

    I\’m also curious as to how somebody like okanogen could get to moderate correntewire (where I\’ve posted many diaries, one of which was mangled by okianogen, who has also censored many of my comments. One such comment was a humorous one – a picture of Hilary \’smoking\’ an exploded cigar, which I posted in a diary that was supposed to congratulate Hillary for being the first woman to win nomination of a major party as President. See

  36. Hugh

    I love the need that people have to find substantial differences between shit sandwiches. Shit is shit. You are just as likely to end up in the shit with Trump as with Clinton only the path and the verbiage might differ –doesn’t matter if we are talking Supreme Court Justices, regional wars, nuclear wars, or economic policies.

    Clinton “re-introduces” herself every few months, but it always ends up being the same old shit. Trump “clarifies” and “explains” himself on much the same schedule so that even on core issues like immigration it is unclear now what or which position is his. So if you can’t trust either of these two on where they say they stand, how can you know, on any issue, where they really stand? Hint: you can’t. So why do you keep trying? It’s a sucker’s game either way but it is one they both want you to play.

    OT metamars, I did not know about okanogen’s connection to corrente and so to lambert strether and via lambert to Naked Capitalism. It’s a small world and not always in a good way. It makes me wonder if there wasn’t some blog infighting going on that I was unaware of. As for Yves and lambert, I think they have done a lot of good things at Naked Capitalism, but they have real limitations as illustrated by their support of Bernie Sanders and their uncritical acceptance of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

  37. @ hugh

    I generally vote 3rd party. I’ve only voted for a Democrat for President, once (Obama, 08). I’ve never voted for a Republican, at all. I have no particular need, that I’m aware of, to “find substantial differences” between major party candidates. (If I do, I’ve hidden it very well, even from myself….)

    In this particular election, however, there’s a major difference staring me in the face. In a sense, it found me.

    I generally don’t believe in lesser of two evil voting strategy, and have had my suspicions confirmed by Buena de Mesquita, a leading political game theorist. See “THE JESUS CHRIST OF POLITICAL GAME THEORY ON THE STUPIDITY OF LESSER EVILIST VOTING” @

    I can’t speak for Buena de Mesquita, but I suspect that he would also reject your sandwich analogy as over-simplified, and would, indeed, want to know the details of those sandwiches before declaring both of them so evil that both represent wasted votes.

    Certainly, if Obama declares a no fly zone over parts of Syria, and if that leads to a tactical nuclear exchange shortly before election day, more Americans will focus on likely differences between Trump and Clinton when it comes to foreign policy. And I would expect de Mesquita to be one such American. Being faced with personal, nuclear annihilation via being in the wrong city in a city trading scenario will bring such a focus of attention to many.

    Also, as far as I’m aware, Trump’s been pretty consistent with regard to desiring both peaceful coexistence with Russia, as well as teaming up with them, to destroy ISIS. While he’s obviously been inconsistent on a number of things, relations with the Russians isn’t one of them.

  38. realitychecker

    @different clue

    You are quite right that most lawyers are also soulless liars who regard the rule of law as a joke and a farce and something to get around if they can, and then applaud themselves for having done so successfully. (I will spare you the many examples available.) That is why I stopped practicing long ago, I got so tired of dealing with liars and rule-breakers. And it is demeaning, IMO, to have to keep proving to a judge that one’s learned opponent and fellow Officer of the Court is perjuring himself in the matter at bar.

    Still, a decent law school does attempt to impress its students with the necessity for and sanctity of the rule of law, and the few who remain ethical after graduation do understand that this is a necessary foundation for a good society. I fear that modern ‘civics classes’ for the non-lawyers do not adequately convey that same message. I cannot otherwise explain the complete lack of concern for the rule of law that I am witnessing almost everywhere.

    We as a society have confused the concept of the “best liars” with the concept of the “most deserving winners.” That mistake can only lead to hellish consequences.

    Personally, anyone who lies to me is deemed to be doing so in the hopes of being able to take advantage of me somehow to my detriment and to their profit; otherwise, why not take the simpler road of being honest? Therefore, an identified liar becomes my identified enemy forever, and there is no reprieve. Would that all would adopt that code, we might actually get somewhere.

  39. Peter*


    Fixating on the fantasy of a Nuke exchange between the US/Russia seems to be a diversion from the reality of what is actually coming with the ascension of the Red Queen and her friends, liberal and conservative. This meme also seems to paint Putin and his friends as being unsound of mind and self destructive which I doubt they are. When Putin annexed Crimea the US/NATO didn’t threaten Russia with Nukes or even conventional military action and when Turkey shot down a Russian bomber Putin’s response was muted and economic not military.

    If Obama and Putin can’t reach a deal to end the civil war part of the Syria conflict Clinton with political and military support will rain hellfire down on Assad and his minions and there is little that Putin can do to resist that intervention without self destruction. The latest report from the UN Chemical Weapons group verifying that Assad used chlorine weapons on the Syrian population supplies the legal justification for direct intervention and Assad has nothing to give up this time to deflect the coming retribution.

  40. Hugh

    There is no such thing as a “tactical nuclear exchange”. I think it is dangerous to underestimate the stupidity of both candidates. But both are fundamentally Establishment billionaire and/or multi-millionaire elitists. As such, Clinton is much more likely to follow the status quo/neocon view of Russia, which is to view it in a Cold War (not hot war) fashion.

    I too do not understand the romanticization of Putin. He is a dictator, and I do not have much use for dictators. On the other hand, the foreign policy establishment has no problem dealing with a really loathesome dictatorship like Saudi Arabia. Indeed, after a couple of decades even the NYT had a story in the last day or two which finally got around to recognizing that the Saudis (not to mention the Gulf states) are big funders of terrorism. I do not expect this awareness to last. So I also don’t understand their fixation on Putin (except mental laziness and the need for a convenient target to obscure their foreign policy failures).

  41. Ché Pasa

    So who will be our Cromwell? Who will rid us of the devil’s taint of corruption, unfailingly bad judgment, and insistence on governing contrary to the people’s will and the public interest? Who is pure enough, angry enough, determined enough and powerful enough to overthrow the villainy on the Potomac?


    Trump? Hardly. To even suggest as much is to laugh.

    Of course, in Clinton (he or she, it matters not as both are The Devil Incarnate according to the Wisdom of the Internet) all of the evils have hatched out of the mud.

    Newt tried to be a Cromwell, positing Bill Clinton as some resurrection of Charles I, and the tussle between them a replay of the English Civil War, but it didn’t end well for him. He was neither pure enough himself, nor powerful enough to overcome the Clinton mystique. Disgraced, Newt tucked tail and ran.

    Who then?

    Ryan? The Former Boy Wonder? Probably not. He’s not much of a battler, and if Clinton herself winds up in the big chair but the Rs keep control of the House, we can expect to see much “working with” for common ends — and impeachment, just because it will keep the Rabble entertained and out of the way while the Important Work of State is taking place.

    Who will be our Cromwell?

  42. different clue


    Off the top of my head, and based on memory, articles I have read at Naked Capitalism describe how a groovy hip cool with it digital journalist came up wit the term Bernie Bros. The Clintonites then ran with the term Bernie Bros to accuse Sanders supporters of being young male mysoginists of the pro-Obama sort. Since I don’t have my own computer and only have computer screen time during breaks at work or on occasional visits to the public library computers, I don’t have the time to go back and read the hundreds of thousands of words added to Naked Capitalism every week in order to find the particular words about the grewwwvy kewwwwl journalist who invented the term Bernie Bros and then regretted inventing it after seeing how the Clintonites weaponised it and disseminated it to their millions of low sloping foreheads in the field. I can only promise you that I did read the words there on Naked Capitalism.

    Also, I was careful to not use the phrase “smear merchants” because I was not sure I could back this up if challenged. So instead I used the words “David Brock and his Correct The Record family of troll-pack armies.” I believe that phrase and the meaning behind it could indeed be backed up. Much of their work is disrupting the activity of Sanders supportes on their own webspaces. So I would regard David Brock’s work as being more a matter of applied vandalism than the merchandising of smears. Deeper research would reveal the core of the story. I will have to leave such deeper research to those with their own computers and endless hours of screen time.

  43. different clue


    On closer re-reading of your comment, I think you were referring to the very first comment I wrote in this thread. I do owe you an answer. My time here at the public library is running short. ( So many blogs, so little time . . . ) If I fail to bring you the answer you are entitled to in the next couple of days, you have every right to remind me as forcefully as you consider needed, and request that I bring that answer.

  44. different clue

    @ Hugh,

    Trump shit doesn’t have any Polonium 210 in it. I would go ahead and use it on my garden. Clinton shit is loaded with Polonium 210. I would NOT use Clinton shit on my garden. Do you see the difference?

    If you can’t see the difference, then all I can say is:

    There are none so blind as those who will not see.
    There are none so dumm as those who will not think.
    There are none so lost as those who will not read a map.

  45. different clue


    I think I can explain the spreading disregard for rule of law. The 99% have seen that lower class people are subject to the Rule of Law while Upper Class people are let off scot free for crime after crime after crime. ” Only the Little People obey laws” to paraphrase Leona Helmsley. So the 99% have come to see that there is no Law, just Rule and have come to treat the concept of Rule of Law with the same dismissal that they have seen their OverClass Governators treat it with. The difference being that the 99% dismiss the concept of Rule of Law with weary resignation to the fact that there isn’t any Law, just Rule. Whereas the OverClass view the Rule of Law with cynical and knowing Insider’s Contempt as being manipulable to their Selective and Exclusive social class benefit. THEY are the ones who have turned Rule of Law into a cotton candy facade of Law wrapped around a crowbar of Rule.

  46. realitychecker

    @ different clue

    I agree with you, the elites were the first to show they held the rule of law in contempt. I remember the day Ford pardoned Nixon; I was only 23 at the time, but I immediately said that the regular folks would see that the powerful could ignore the law without consequence, and they would respond by likewise ignoring it to greater and greater degree.

    Of course, that view has had many opportunities for reinforcement since that time, and I have watched the process closely with sadness and regret, but not with surprise.

  47. @ hugh

    “There is no such thing as a “tactical nuclear exchange”.”

    In the view of wikipedia, there is indeed such a thing as a tactical nuclear weapon:

    By “tactical nuclear exchange”, I simply meant that both sides would use tactical nuclear weapons on each other.

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