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

Why Do We Do That?

So today I stopped by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and picked up a small bottle of sake.

The teller seemed unhappy, so we chatted for a bit. I told him I’d worked at the LCBO for a couple months about 25 years ago (for the Christmas season), and he opened up a bit.

“Yes, it was a better job then. It was also a better job eight years ago, or three years ago. It just gets a bit worse every year, it seems. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still better than most jobs: we have a pension, and not a lot of jobs offer one any more, but…”

The long and short of it is that every year management tries to take away a little bit of what makes working for the LCBO a pretty good job. It’s still pretty good, but if this doesn’t reverse, one day it won’t be.

This has been going on for decades; a couple generations at least, arguably three to four generations. In the US, working class male wages peaked in real terms in 1968, the year I was born, and I have white hair.

We just keep making life worse for a huge chunk of our population; this is true in Canada, in the US, and in most of Europe.

Our rich are the richest rich in his -— ah, forget it. You’ve heard me say it many times.

And I can tell you the “reasons,” but at the heart of it, I don’t fucking get it. How rich do these assholes need to be? How many private jets and vacation homes and $50k/day hotel room stays do they need? Do they really think their pleasure is worth so much more than billions of people’s suffering? Because much of what they do hits the developing world hard.

Why are they such scum? So evil?

Why do we run a society that is just making things worse for so many people (don’t waste my time with the “extreme poverty numbers,” they’re bullshit)? Why do we have more homes than homeless; waste a third of our food and have hungry people? Why are we on track to kill about half of all known life forms on Earth?

Why are we so stupid, evil, and selfish as a species? Why is our leadership made of so many people who could only, truly, improve the world by taking a long jump of a short pier?

I mean, Bill Gates fought hard to keep vaccines under patent. He’s never been a good actor, of course, but, here, he is protecting his interests by hurting people in the middle of a global pandemic, despite having more money than he could possibly need if he lived a million lifespans.

We have a pair of huge problems as humans:

  1. We’re badly led.
  2. Enough of us support terrible leadership for it to just keep happening.

Either we fix those problems, or Earth is going to continue to be Hell for much of the human race and worse than hell for non-human life.

But, emotionally, I still just don’t get these people. The Clintons’, Bushses, Obamas’, Bidens’, Bezos’, Waltons and so on. They just hurt people, hurt people, and hurt people, over and over again. There’s something deeply wrong with them, and with us as a species that these types of people wind up leading us over and over and over again.

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Capitalism and Good Post-capitalism


The Point People Miss About Navalny’s Imprisonment


  1. Astrid

    Why did the scorpion sting the frog while they crossed the river? Because it’s a psychopath and so are these people. They don’t care if they don’t need the money, that they’re hiring millions, billions of people, that they’re ultimately dooming themselves and their progeny. They can’t help it. Psychopaths don’t have doubt and uncertainty that reside in the hearts of good men and women, that’s why they’re so effective. The crowds love that too.
    They want strength and certainty and the psychopaths give them exactly that.

    It used to be that dissonance can be so great that the spell breaks and gets swept away. But they’ve gotten really good at manufacturing consent and we’re rapidly running out of exit ramps before we hit Hell.

    I’m sorry I don’t have anything more comforting to say. I wish I could give a hug and say it’s okay, and that all that really matters is being good to ourselves and others in the time we have. That in some time frame less than a million years, an eye blink in geological time, we’ll be forgotten ashes and so will they. Life will spring back and continue, until the expanding sun bakes it out this living Earth. But this is a ridiculous thing to say when confronted by the unnecessary suffering and miseries of billions of sentient and noon sentient beings, even if it seems like all that I have to cling to.

  2. NR

    “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

    -LBJ in 1960.

    As true today as it ever was.

  3. Chicago Clubs

    The ones that aren’t Chinese Room psychopaths don’t see the rest of us as people, simple as that. We aren’t in the Rich Man Tribe, so we don’t follow the True Laws and therefore don’t need to be treated with respect and decency.

  4. Hugh

    The rich and powerful, the few, have looted us, the many, for the last 50 years. The result is massive, criminal, unsustainable wealth inequality. We call it neoliberalism, but it is really class war. And the primary weapon of class war is distraction. The few could be swept away by we the many in an afternoon. So they distract us from them by setting us against each other. They fill us with conspiracies until we start inventing our own. It used to be one of the major efforts of those of us on the left to expose the conspiracies of the loony right and of the powers that be. But what has been so disheartening is to see the left doing much the same thing now. There are no voices of reason left. Or if there are they are drowned out. Lost in the cacophony of “My conspiracy is better than your conspiracy theory,” “My made up facts are better than yours.” It is all noise, but music to the ears of our rich and elites. They know they are still safe and free to steal from us for now.

  5. nobody

    I regard billionairism as a form of compulsive hoarding disorder. Where the the stereotypical crazy cat lady may compulsively horde 70 cats they she cannot possibly take care of, people like Jeff Bezos compulsively horde billions of dollars of assets that they cannot possibly use personally or invest in ways that are economically productive much less socially useful.

    I don’t know what psychiatric treatments are given to compulsive hoarders of physical goods (or if they are effective) but something similar should be done to compulsive hoarders of assets as well.

  6. Frank

    How did they get to be so rich? If it weren’t a 24/7 obsession, nobody would make a billion dollars. Since it is rewarded by society, why would they change?

  7. Ché Pasa

    At least Bezos’s ex is giving away her share of his hoard. Doing it at a pretty good clip, too. She know she doesn’t need those crates and crates of dollars for herself. So. Give it away. If it can make a positive difference in many people’s lives somehow, then it’s a good thing.

    Bezos doesn’t need the money for himself, either, but he wants it, desires it deep in his being, more and ever more, to have. And hold. He does not see his acquisition of more and ever more crates of dollar bills as taking anything from anyone else. He’s not just earning it, he’s god-like causing it to come into being from nothing.

    Others of his ilk claim they are giving away or will give away nearly all their hoards before they die, and a few are doing so, sometimes in a miserly or profit-generating fashion. But when it comes to social responsibility and accountability, nah. None of them will yield to being overseen by a public or institutions they… despise.

    When the first Progressive Era put some curbs, accountability and responsibility on the plutocrats of yore, some of them actually found it to be a good thing. Many bucked and resisted, of course, but those who saw a better future for themselves in helping to make better lives for (some of) the peons, were visionaries. Not Good People necessarily, but visionaries nonetheless.

    The cycle has come around again, and I’m not seeing visionaries for a better future these days.

    The argument is made, but those with the biggest hoards aren’t listening, are they?

  8. Z


    Yeah, it’s all about racism!

    What a crock of hasbarist bullsh*t …


  9. Dan Lynch

    The heart of conservative ideology = “just desserts.” That the poor are poor because of their own shortcomings and therefore deserve to suffer, while the rich are rich because of their virtuous hard work and therefore deserve to have a better life than you and me.

    Or Ian may put it another way, that conservatives believe you get more out of people if you treat them badly.

    At any rate, just desserts is very powerful. It meshes nicely with protestant theology — the whole “it’s your choice whether you go to heaven or hell” thing. If you make the right choices, you go to heaven. If you make the wrong choices, you’re gonna burn. Free will.

    That’s what most of us in the West have been taught since forever. It’s wrong, but lotsa luck overcoming a lifetime of brainwashing.

  10. Joseph E. Kelleam

    Z just can’t help forcing out great gobs of dat joo sh!t boo sh!t. Hopefully the public library won’t stink too bad b4 they kick him out.

  11. Z

    Joseph E. Kelleam,

    You hasbarists have it hard: getting paid to post on multiple monikers to make it seem like you have a larger backing for your views than you actually do.

    If only the Palestinians knew how hard you had it …


  12. Joseph E. Kelleam

    No one ever paid me a damn cent for what I post on the web. Sorry ’bout yer truth allergy.

  13. elissa3

    Psychologists estimate that about 4% of humans can be clinically described as sociopaths/psychopaths. There are disagreements about definitions and some shadings of these two terms, but the primary feature is that such people lack the empathy “gene”. Unfortunately, such individuals seem to rise to positions of power all over the world and have do so for a long, long time in history. In any other cooperative species, which I believe is what humans essentially are, such bad actors would be ostracized, cast out from the group as elements harmful to the overall survival of the species. They would be left to die alone in their misery. This does not happen, and is, I believe, why the life span of our species will be somewhat short when compared with that of other species.

  14. Astrid

    I didn’t read NR’s comment as having to do with existence or absence of racism. More just human nature to kick down even at their own expense, rather than pursue solidarity against the psychopaths at the top.

    Truth must have a very different definition in the Hasbarist dictionary. We already know any criticism or absence of full throated support of the Zionist aparteid state is antisemitic. I guess it makes sense that words like truth, peace, and terrorist would also be rather different from the probably antisemitic Merriam Webster dictionary.

  15. RedRosa

    It’s not just the leaders or the people choosing them, it is the incentive structure built into our economic system. This pandemic has lifted the veil on the perverse incentive structures that make up our form of capitalism. Those most needed for the basic functioning of society like teachers, trash collectors, cashiers, etc, are some of of the most underpaid work while work that literally creates negative societal value like most banking, advertising, being a monopolist ceo, are paid like modern royalty. Why the majority of people cannot see this, or at least doesn’t want to see it, is beyond me…

  16. Z

    Joseph E. Kelleam,

    No one ever paid me a damn cent for what I post on the web.

    I never said that you only got paid a cent.


  17. dsrcwt

    People aren’t very good with numbers, but especially with very big numbers. They don’t really think of the implications of a billion dollars. They think of what a million dollars would give them, mostly autonomy: “I’ll retire, or pay off my mortgage”, etc. But a billion dollars isn’t about having freedom, it’s about imposing your will on others. Someone with a 100 billion, like Bezos has to spend 3 million per day, just to keep his fortune from growing. Not really humanly possible, which means you enter super-human needs. The ability to remake the world as you want it. I expect that the billionaires hated Trump so much, because despite their money and power, Mike Bloomberg or Bill Gates could never get 50k adoring fans to fill a stadium. I also think 2008 broke something in the billionaire psyche. They came so close to losing everything that they decided to take the gloves off and take over. Obama could have remade the system. They got lucky that he wasn’t the sort to take the chance. They will not leave it to luck again.

  18. Feral Finster

    Because power is to sociopaths what catnip is to cats, what cocaine is to addicts.

  19. Willy

    “Why do we do that?” has long been my question. Not so much anothers pathological tendency for hording, or the others with family-wrecking substance dependencies, or those others who want to conquer the world. But the rest of us.

    Why did we let the playground bully torment the sweet natured fat kid? Why is inspiring family interventions for the obviously drug-ruined so hard for us? Myself, why couldn’t I say something about my in-law’s bizarre behavior which is clearly disturbing his wife?

    Sure, he was unfairly fired from his union job. But that angst seems to have transmogrified into compulsively packing his tri-level suburban home with items from garage sales and “free” piles. He’s currently digging out his crawlspace, below the footing under his common living areas for still more storage room. I could’ve said something, like: “Why not move to a property out in the sticks where you can build as many storage barns as your heart desires?” I chose instead to subtly advise him that a home sale might be more difficult with his foundation undermined, and the house packed to the ceilings full of things (crap). He clearly needed somebody he respected to tell him he’d gone round the bend. But I didn’t want any trouble, accepted the broken and/or unneeded tools he’d given me, and went home in peace.

  20. Hugh

    Billionaires get to be billionaires and become even bigger billionaires by exploiting the tax code, underpaying and overworking their workers, and creating monopolies to destroy competition and increase the endless flow of money to themselves. Then they “protect” their loot by setting up “charitable” trusts and family foundations so they can keep control of their wealth without paying taxes on it.

    Bezos is “credited” with using the internet for commerce but what Amazon and him rich was undercutting the competition by not paying sales tax on what he sold. (It continues to abuse the tax code. I think in 2018, it paid no taxes and in 2019 it paid a 1.2% rate on its profits.) Amazon then used its size to force companies to offer their merchandise through it. It then monitored them and if any of them had a good idea or product, Amazon could use its size to crowd them out of the market they discovered. Elon Musk helped set up one of the companies that became PayPal, used big tax subsidies and Wall Street hype to make Tesla even possible. He abuses his workers and often turns out an inferior product but none of that matters because the media has anointed him a “genius” so he can get away with this kind of stuff. Gates is the poste boy for all this. His mom told him about how he could get what became MS-DOS cheap from IBM which had decided to move into other areas. Like most of these guys, he was a successful carnie. He established market share and used that to entrench his monopoly position. He used his monopoly to crush competition and sell increasingly crappy products . And with all these billions and those of other “charitable” billionaires he set up a tax-free trust that does important work like keeping patents on covid vaccines and pushing to privatize education.

    I also wanted to add the Wall Street billionaires. They like to stay largely invisible but in the increasingly financialized economy they have created, untethered from reality. they make billions literally from nothing. A good deal for them, a bad deal for us. But that’s the point, isn’t it? And the media? They are too stupid and bought to care.

  21. Willy

    Coder folklore is that you used to be able to find CP-M proprietary inside MSDOS code. At work we never had virus problems with UNIX and had few buggy issues. Microsoft products were notoriously buggy, virus ridden, and needed constant patches (otherwise known as “upgrades”). Wordperfect was far superior to Word. The concept of “FUD” is said to have come from Microsoft, as in, spreading unwarranted FUD about competing products. If anything, Gates understood power and the way it works and was relentless in his use of whatever it took to conquer the emerging PC world. He chose the path of getting that IBM contract via his mother’s United Way connections, while promoting himself as some kind of visionary, instead of actually innovating actual visionary visions.

    I tried telling this to a prof of mine once in front of the class, but she poo-poo’d me as a jealous malcontent since Bill Gates was being so generous to her brother and sister Africans, and at the end of the day that’s all that mattered to her.

    Of course hedge fund managers like Robert Mercer are even worse. Anything is legal in competitive corporate games as long as you can get away with it.

  22. NR

    Indeed, although racism is certainly a poisonous and destructive force in politics (especially in America, though that’s certainly not the only country that suffers from it), in this instance I was more pointing to the second part of LBJ’s quote: if you give people someone to look down on, they will empty their pockets for you. It could be people of a different race, of a different religion, from outside your country…. If you paint someone as the “other,” people will fixate on them, and this fixation can become so extreme that people won’t care how bad they have it so long as they believe the “other” has it worse. The rich understand this well, and have been using it as a weapon for a long time.

    It is instructive, though, how upset some people get at the mere suggestion that racism might be part of the reason why the political situation is the way it is in the western world….

  23. Jason

    Why is inspiring family interventions for the obviously drug-ruined so hard for us?

    Because the “drug-ruined” aren’t isolated units and really examining “their” issues will bring all the issues of the intervening family unit – and the other family members themselves – to the forefront as well. And they can’t handle that any more than the “addict” can’t handle being without drugs.

    The people “acting out” via “mental issues” and “addictions” are the ones reflecting back to us the insanity of the society we take for granted and operate rather well in. We’re the ones who are truly broken.

  24. Bruce

    Seriously, is it not understood that capitalism, in its essence, is about continual profits – and that’s all. Capitalism cannot slow down, it must, in order to even exist, must seek profits. This is not about evil. It’s the nature of capitalism. If Florence Nightingale was a CEO she’d need to do the same thing as Bill Gates, since without profit there can be no growth and without constant growth the “economy” will stagnate. There is no way to make capitalism human. It must be discarded.

  25. Hugh

    “This is not about evil.”


  26. Figness de la Fighood

    It’s simple: They—the rapers/pillagers/looters—of our economy do it because they can. And when “by mistake” our government enacts a law that slows the greedy down, they just get rid of those laws (e.g., The Sherman Antitrust Act, The Clayton Antitrust Act, the Glass/Steagall Act).

  27. Plague Species

    I suggest more of them, the billionaires and multi millionaires that is, purchase Teslas, or more Teslas, and test them in self-driving mode. Mass cremations. Musk an involuntary Eichman proficiently and dutifully administering the Final Solution under the aegis of progress and in fact it would be progress, just not the progress the propagandists purport.

    Varner sure was living the life. It’s good to be the anesthesiologist. Until you hit a tree with it showing it off to your drunk friend. Cry me a river. Teslas as crematoriums for the rich. Perfect. It couldn’t be more fitting.

  28. nihil obstet

    Human society has always needed some psychopaths and sociopaths. A surgeon doing a difficult and dangerous operation will more likely succeed if they are not anxious about slipping up and injuring the patient. The narcissism and self confidence that lack of empathy conveys is an advantage. On this blog we have noted the downside of Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of ruthlessness.

    This has probably featured in human evolution, and we’re probably not going to exclude what we call psychos and socios from society, based on less empathy than most of us have. Many people follow and admire such persons as part of the same evolutionary success. We need to work on a morality for us all that will win the adherence of the ‘paths. They want to be admired and successful and have a different set of traits to reach that goal. Can we turn those traits to our advantage?

  29. different clue

    During the Square Deal, New Deal, Fair Deal we evolved a system of Ordered Capitalism Under Law, part of which involved substantial ownership of goods-and-service-producing entities by our Democratic Representative Republic ( TVA, CVA, BPA, National Forests, National Grazing Lands, etc.)

    And it worked. It worked so well that the Richie Richopaths could not get as rich as they liked.
    And so they engineered the repeal of all the Square New Fair Deal laws and rules. And they couldn’t get as rich as they liked until they got all those laws and rules removed . . . together with progressive and inheritance and estate taxes removed too.

    So restoring the whole Iron Cats Cradle of Square New Fair Deal laws and rules and practices to re-restrain the Richie Richopaths would work again as before . . . . if imposed for real by a commanding majority of non-rich people conquering the government and making it their ( our) government.

    Now . . . . if we decide to abolish capitalism altogether, then we can go round and round about what to replace it with. Assyrian-Babylonian Slave State Bureaucratism? Or Czarism? Or Gulag Socialism? Or something else that hasn’t been thought up yet?

    In the meantime, I will work/vote for earnest seekers of Renew The Deal and see where that gets me.

  30. Ian Welsh

    I’m not convinced the best surgeons are sociopaths and psychopaths. In my experience, they often do care (though some don’t). Surgery is a hyper-focus situation, as I understand it: the entire world goes away. It’s why surgeons really like surgery, as a rule. It’s essentially guaranteed flow.

  31. No One

    At the end of Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits” (1981), the Boy has slipped through time and the universe; and captured by The Evil One — who was carbonized, and exploded into chunks of evil coal; and finally wakes up in his bed because his parents’ suburban British house is on fire.

    The Fire Brigade appears; turns out the fire started in a toaster oven. The Boy watches his parents open it; inside is a chunk of carbonized Evil One. “Don’t touch it!” the Boy shouts. “It’s evil!” His Mum and Dad look at each other, look at the carbon Chunk — and both reach in to touch it. Then they explode.

    Die Moral: Humans seem to have a tremendous capacity to make decisions which are manifestly not in their best interests. Particularly in the West, we vote for persons who will do us real, abiding harm. We tolerate circumstances that our grandparents and great-grandparents would have instinctively responded with anger and action. A majority of people shrug and say, “well, that’s just how things are”, when an appropriate response would be hundreds of thousands of people in the streets.

    Instead, many just reach in and touch the Evil, knowing full well what it will do to us. And I do not understand.

  32. mago

    “The Long Goodbye”. The movie Altman directed based on Raymond Chandler’s novel featuring private dick Philip Marlowe played by Eliot Gould whose last line of the movie was: “cream and scum rise to the top”. Así es.
    These ricos pissing down the rope and acting like they ain’t never gonna die and their actions carry no consequences are indeed in for that proverbial rude awakening.
    I hope Ian’s sake was nicely paired with other sensory enhancement.

  33. Trinity

    “Human society has always needed some psychopaths and sociopaths.”

    Psycho-splainer in da house! lol. You must keep up with the Kardashians.

    Surgeons who practice their craft are also confident, especially if they keep up with changes in their speciality. And being arrogant (as many surgeons are, life or death is in their hands, dontchaknow) doesn’t mean they are sociopaths, it means (wait for it) they are arrogant.

    Every psychopath I’ve met was anything but arrogant. Quite the opposite, in fact. They want to be adored, worshiped even, they are quite charming. They will say arrogant things, they are very, very good at self promotion, but they don’t act arrogantly around other people. Why would they? You are nothing to them, and they definitely don’t care what you think. They are charming in order to extract something from you, be it information, a compliment, a promise, money, your life, or your girlfriend. The only time the mask slips is around people they control and therefore they are able to prevent any “leaks” about their truth. They know they are “bad”. They know they are different.

    True sociopaths are experts at mimicking human emotions. Some actors are sociopaths, for good reasons. Many actors are not sociopaths. All sociopaths are actors, some better than others. Ye shall only ever know them by the outcomes of what they do.

    We sit around and marvel at their chutzpah because we cannot, will never, understand it. We can’t, because we are human and they are not. As for the “human evolution” argument, that’s a laugh riot all by itself, given their (clearly) scorched earth mentality. Hello? If they can’t have it, they’ll blow it up to prevent you having it. You obviously have never witnessed the devastation they leave behind everywhere they go, especially the aftermath of their presence within a family unit if they are ever exposed. Their outsized effects on society at large are now well documented, although I’m positive more revelations are coming. There always are, and they usually go from very bad to much, much worse. The worst things are also the most hidden.

    Besides, as I’ve said many times, they aren’t human. You can make a case for narcissists, who have a conscience but just ignore it. But sociopaths do not have a conscience, are therefore not human, they are something else entirely, but definitely not “evolved” humans, given they aren’t human in the first place. Throwbacks, maybe. No such branch on an evolutionary tree would survive for long all by itself. Who would do the work? Our biggest problem now is they are running in a pack.

    They do have followers. Someone in a meeting last week was gushing over Musk. (No one else agreed with her, thankfully.) The Grateful Dead have followers, too. So what? There are cats on YouTube that have admirers. Not sure how that is a sign of “evolutionary success”.

  34. tatere

    “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

  35. Hugh

    tatere, I always like to quote the book, not the movie on that:

    “Tom, don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell.”

  36. someofparts

    The perspective in the linked post is that Americans lack civilizing influences because we lack public goods.

  37. BobbyK

    His mom told him about how he could get what became MS-DOS cheap from IBM which had decided to move into other areas.

    Heard a story from a college professor back in the late 90’s. Don’t know if it’s true and I’m much too lazy to do the necessary leg work.

    Apparently a group of programmers created MS DOS in the early 70’s and sold/allowed IBM to use it on their early computers. IBM liked it and asked them to make some improvements, this being the mid 70’s they were much more interested in getting stoned so IBM turned to Gates. The rest is history. I do not know if this is true, and as I said, much to lazy to do the leg work.

  38. Z


    If you paint someone as the “other,” people will fixate on them, and this fixation can become so extreme that people won’t care how bad they have it so long as they believe the “other” has it worse. The rich understand this well, and have been using it as a weapon for a long time.

    The “fixation” that you are describing there is not generally due to an egotistically based need to feel better than anyone else, instead it is due to the fear that they’ll fall down to that person’s station.

    We live in a country of hundreds of millions of people so there’s always an anecdote available to “prove” some point no matter how dumbass it is but the idea that U.S. citizens are willing to live in terrible economic conditions as long as they feel slightly better than someone else is absurd as a generality.

    The notion that white folks living in tents under a freeway overpass right now and going to the bathroom in a jar are going to hand over the money they have to someone who passes by and points out that a black family living in a tent under the overpass up the road have a bigger rip in their tent than them and their bathroom jar is cracked and leaking is completely absurd, idiotic, moronic but thanks anyway for reducing everything down to LBJ’s dumbest quote ever in a time when racism was much more established and prevalent than it is today and then capping it off with it is “(a)s true today as it ever was.”

    It is instructive, though, how upset some people get at the mere suggestion that racism might be part of the reason why the political situation is the way it is in the western world….

    What’s it instructive of? No need to whisper.


  39. nihil obstet

    When I say we need psychopaths, I don’t mean “let’s celebrate Ted Bundy.” I’m reacting to the notion that we can identify psychopaths and take proactive, punitive measures against them. There is, as I understand it, a right hefty niche in the psychology profession for testing for psychopathy. The tests base their process and results on the level of empathy that a subject has. I don’t think empathy is the sole driver for any person to act for the common good. In some circumstances, it can be a distraction. However, the psychopaths identified in the tests are limited in what they will be allowed to do.

    Rather than shaping people to fit the human nature that we assume in our society, I want to work on developing a society that humans can happily and productively fit into. A person who flunks the empathy test may be a good surgeon, motivated by the work itself or the admiration received. Raise our children to be kind, without basing it totally on feeling others’ pain. Look at our culture of deadliness rather than trying to determine who is too mentally messed up to buy an assault rifle.

  40. Plague Species

    There is no such thing as Americans. America is the most diverse country in the world, or one of the most if not the most. The subcultures are too numerous to count on both hands and both feet. America of 1776 is not America of 1886 is not America of 1986 is not America of 2021.

  41. Jan Wiklund

    We should stop speaking about evil people. The rich don’t have to be worse as persons than you and me, they just need to want to going on doing business. This will automatically turn the world for the worse, if just the right conditions are there.

    And the conditions are that there are markets in production factors like labour, land and capital, not only in consumer products. In that case inequality automatically get worse and worse. Karl Marx, Karl Polanyi, Thomas Piketty and Bas van Bavel – to mention just a few – have demonstrated that again and again.

    A huge effort, not only by working people organizing in trade unions, but also by colonial people and a few concerned upper class people like FDR and JM Keynes, reversed the pattern for a time. But if the effort is not kept up, the pattern will recur. Inevitablyy. Until the markets in production factors are not there any more.

  42. Willy

    Human society has always needed some psychopaths and sociopaths. A surgeon doing a difficult and dangerous operation will more likely succeed if they are not anxious about slipping up and injuring the patient.

    Nonsense. As Ian states, it can be equally argued that a surgeon doing a difficult and dangerous operation will more likely succeed if they are anxious about slipping up and injuring the patient.

    Lacking an ability to care means that one cares nothing about ruining others. I’d go further, since many psychopaths and sociopaths have stated a clear delight in ruining others, which jibes with the idea of an unconstrained power impulse. For them, getting caught is the big sin. Getting caught is not wrong or bad or socially evil, but always “stupid”.

  43. NR

    The notion that white folks living in tents under a freeway overpass right now and going to the bathroom in a jar are going to hand over the money they have to someone who passes by and points out that a black family living in a tent under the overpass up the road have a bigger rip in their tent than them and their bathroom jar is cracked and leaking is completely absurd, idiotic, moronic

    Yeah, that idea is completely absurd, idiotic, moronic, you’re right…. Except for that fact that white people in America have been doing just that for decades.

    White people wield tremendous political power in America. Not only are they the majority, but they also have even more power than their numbers warrant because of the Senate and the Electoral College. And yet, over and over again, they vote for politicians who actively work to make their lives worse because they hate and fear the “other.” Black people. Muslims. Immigrants. You name it.

    Take, for example, the state of Kentucky. It’s 90% white. Mostly working-class. And while there are some white people there who are doing well, it’s one of the poorest states in the country, and there are parts of it that you could easily mistake for some third-world country if you didn’t know better. They could easily send politicians to Washington who would work to make their lives better if they wanted to. And yet they have continually elected Mitch McConnell to the Senate for the past 30+ years despite the fact that not only has he done nothing to help them, he has actively worked to make their lives worse and cares about nothing except making his rich friends even richer.

    This kind of thing plays itself out all over white America, especially poor, rural white America. And trying to deny or downplay racism’s role in that only serves to help perpetuate it.

  44. Z

    Fine, Ian. I understand.

    I, by the way, have never complained about being moderated on your blog.


  45. Mark Pontin

    NR: ‘there are parts of it (the U.S.) that you could easily mistake for some third-world country if you didn’t know better.’

    If I didn’t know better?

    I’ve lived in the U.S. for several decades, am from elsewhere, and parts of the U.S. have always looked like a third-world country to me. Should I not believe my lying eyes?

    The average white American has no more power than the average black one, though — granted — less likelihood of being harassed, beaten, or shot by some sociopath with a room-temperature level IQ wearing a police uniform.

  46. Mark Level

    different clue, Astrid and No One (among others) are thinking along the same lines that I do. I was born in 1959 and I now see that I live in a much meaner, angrier and more cruel society than I once did. We can focus on people at the top, but they get their support to be in that position from somebody, or lots of somebodies.

    A lot of this, in my take, is based on the fact that any “Left” in this country has been quashed and killed by the Repuke-Light Neoliberal Dems. We now have a hard-right, insane, racist ReThug party (see Marjorie Taylor Greene’s plan for an “Anglo-Saxon” based “America First” caucus to exterminate the minorities, which at least “Z” on this site would evidently like to join if it hadn’t been short-circuited).

    Then you have the expansion of the PMC/ Professional Managerial Class “liberals” that really accelerated with the Clintons and the DNC in the 1990s, assisted by the corporate media which had consolidated.– “pro-business” (gut Glass-Steagel, etc.), anti-gay (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), “anti-crime” as code for anti-poor and anti-minorities. And yes, the white poor are also swept up in the violent carcerial/ prison measures that the likes of Joe Biden promoted in the last century, though of course not to the same extent as non-whites. The Dem voters are comfortable, professional, educated people (PMC, sometimes only aspirationally) who do not see the poor or their misery– & when they do, want the poor & homeless driven off the streets into prisons so they don’t have to think about it. Hillary eloquently shared these privileged people’s view in 2016– “America is Already Great.” (I’ve got mine and you don’t matter.)

    The Dems are just an adjunct of the R’s and helped push the country far right, by always capitulating and only softening the R hate-ideas a bit, making them “kinder and gentler” (yes, I know Poppy who coined this meaningless slogan was an R.) But the corporate suits always win, the military always grows and the environment degenerates at increased rates. And the malaise and anger grows and grows.

    . . . I considered myself fairly worldly-wise when Obama came into office (hell, I was even stupid enough to vote for him the first time) with his glib lies about “hope and change.” Well, we saw how illusory that was. The money is always shoveled upward. People who come in looking like insurgents (AOC anyone?) quickly get eaten by the system and abandon any genuinely radical or humane instincts they may have had, as part of the local/state/D.C. political BORG. (AOC raised a ton of grass-roots $$$ then shared it out to pro-corporate, anti-women (“pro-life”) DCC garbage who openly share their contempt for her performative leftism.)

    What’s truly sad, however, is how the Voters eat it up and vote for these sociopath a$$holes over and over. Under OBomber I saw online “liberals” who opposed Bush’s criminal invasion of Iraq support “the surge” by Obama– suddenly they were “our” bombs blowing up those brown people thousands of miles away, “our troops”, etc. “Don’t look back” at torture, Bush meant well right? Barack and Michelle certainly think so, they love Bushie Jr. and worked very hard to rehabilitate his filthy reputation. When it’s “our” Dem Empire, the war crimes are a bit subtler and can easily be ignored or papered over. Look how Biden promised to stop funding the Saudi genocide in Yemen, but oops, we are back to supporting their “defensive” measures.

    Clearly, our consent is their power. We clearly can’t achieve any meaningful political change at this time via electoral parties. Both parties have been shoveling the $$$ up the ladder for 5 decades (as Ian directly stated above) & the idea that this could end (much less be reversed in the name of balance, or (don’t make them laugh) “fairness”) is anathema to the political class. No genuine 3rd party will be allowed to emerge, given media collusion with the ruling class. Websites like this one are plentiful but are still like “a voice in the wilderness.” Maybe this country is just too divided, materialistic and dumb to ever improve. In any case, it won’t be improved at this time via the electoral system.

    At least Sleepy Joe Biden is demented enough to sometimes tell us the truth. “Nothing will fundamentally change”. “Shoot the bad guy in the leg, not the head,” that’s enough, right? As long as people keep voting for their own particular corporate/military whores (while the public does rightly hold congress and the political class in general in deep contempt, with single-digit approval ratings) it will continue on and on ad nauseum until the seas rise and we are mostly swept away or die off in future pandemics.

    What’d Bill Burroughs say in his 1986 Thanksgiving prayer? “Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.” Indeed, we are an exceptional people.

  47. z

    Mark Level,

    see Marjorie Taylor Greene’s plan for an “Anglo-Saxon” based “America First” caucus to exterminate the minorities, which at least “Z” on this site would evidently like to join if it hadn’t been short-circuited

    That’s a cheap shot lie.


  48. Z

    The people with true power in this country are the ones who arrange the choices we have to vote for, not the individual voter who has one measly vote that is extremely unlikely to have any effect on the outcome of an election regardless of whatever her/his color is.


  49. Z


    Take, for example, the state of Kentucky. It’s 90% white. Mostly working-class. And while there are some white people there who are doing well, it’s one of the poorest states in the country, and there are parts of it that you could easily mistake for some third-world country if you didn’t know better. They could easily send politicians to Washington who would work to make their lives better if they wanted to. And yet they have continually elected Mitch McConnell to the Senate for the past 30+ years despite the fact that not only has he done nothing to help them, he has actively worked to make their lives worse and cares about nothing except making his rich friends even richer.

    Interesting that you would choose that as an example because there was a black politician, Charles Booker, who was running in the KY democratic party primary for that seat but Sly Charley Schumer (D-Wall Street) pointed the DSCC money cannon at and went all in on Amy McGrath even though she had little chance of beating McConnell because she offered little difference to him. She even bragged about how well she got along with the Trumpers. Booker was much more progressive, but despite a late surge McGrath held him off in the primary and won, thanks to Sly Charley Schumer (D-Wall Street), and then McConnell romped McGrath and now has the seat for another six years and Schumer has Let Them Eat Shit Mitch to blame for his “inability” to get pro-worker legislation through the Senate which just happens to be exactly what Sly Chuckey’s Wall Street sponsors want.

    But that’s all due to the racism of the white voters in KY according to you even though Schumer slanted the democratic party primary by directing so much money at McGrath and boxed out the black candidate who had a much better chance of winning.


  50. NR


    And here you are talking about one single election when there is a decades-long history of white voters in Kentucky voting for politicians who actively work to make their lives worse.

    The lengths some people will go to to deny racism is certainly something.

  51. Z


    The lengths the hasbara-bots will go to deny or downplay members of their tribe’s role for this vicious world that they have had such a large part in creating …

    Wall Street has had the greatest influence in corrupting the economy of this country and f*ing over the U.S. worker and there is no group of people who have played a bigger role in that than certain members of your tribe.


  52. NR


    I don’t know what “tribe” you imagine I belong to, but it’s clear that talking to you is pointless. Bye.

  53. Z


    I don’t know what “tribe” you imagine I belong to

    Yeah, you do. You know exactly what I’m talking about: the tribe you’re constantly trying to divert attention from with your bullsh*t sophistry about how “(w)hite people wield tremendous political power in America” as if we have a White People Party that votes en masse as a block and most white people aren’t just simply individuals who hold the power of one measly vote that has an extremely small chance of ever effecting the outcome of an election while Sly Charley (D-Wall Street) heavily places his thumb on the scales of the choices that voters have to vote out his pal McConnell.

    Why don’t we look inside ourselves, huh, to solve racism instead of looking at the group of elites in your tribe who collude to rig the financial markets that have “tremendous power” in our economy and effect all of our lives and livelihoods. But no, it’s the racism – as if that can be eradicated – that’s the larger cause. Bullsh*t!

    You get this sh*t all the time in the NYZ Times, that filthy rag, the Grey Jezebel herself, “our” country’s Paper of Propaganda that is constantly trying to divide the country up and divert attention away from the elites in their tribe who have played the largest part in why this country is falling to pieces.


  54. Joseph E. Kelleam

    Come off it, Z. You don’t even believe a word of the filth you post. You’re just a crazy psycho who wants to poison the whole world to death. Go jag off to yer giant-nose cartoons and leave us actual humans alone.

  55. Astrid

    I don’t know what Z may or may not be, but Joseph E. Kelleam is definitely a Hasbarist troll. Keep it up and maybe Bibi will name a West Bank settlement named after you.

  56. Z

    Joseph E. Kelleam,

    You’re just a crazy psycho who wants to poison the whole world to death. Go jag off to yer giant-nose cartoons and leave us actual humans alone.

    Says the hasbara-bot who continually pops up to defend a country that is systematically “paring down” the Palestinian population …

    First NR implies that I’m a racist, then Mark Level says that I want to “exterminate the minorities”, and now Joseph E. Kelleam accuses me of wanting to “poison the whole world to death”.

    I’m guessing the next hasbara-bot will accuse me of plotting intergalactic genocide …


  57. Astrid


    I suggest you consider the possibility that people can exchange ideas without ill intent. I have no idea how you can read what NR said to accuse you of racism. NR is just making a general and uncontroversial remark that race has frequently been used by the elites of this country to divide people who should be joining in solidarity to fight that elite. Religion and other belief system have been used previously as wedges. Our elites are busily concocting new ones about trans-rights (to be clear, I think trans people should be able to live the life they want to live and be accorded respect as living beings like everyone else, but I don’t think CIS people should constantly be apologizing for some purported past history of binary oppression) to stir the pot.

    Humans are tribal creatures who hate much more strongly than they love and empathize. That’s probably a useful adaptation as hunter gatherers, but now it’s counter productive and being exploited by our psychopath elites. Recognizing this is a step in the right direction to dealing with and doing away with it.

  58. Z


    – I suggest that you consider the possibility that it is extremely condescending to suggest that someone doesn’t understand the concept that “people can exchange ideas without ill intent”.

    – I’ve dealt with this voice of NR many times in the past on this board. The person behind it posts under multiple monikers and is hasbara IMO.

    – What I was referring to is this:

    It is instructive, though, how upset some people get at the mere suggestion that racism might be part of the reason why the political situation is the way it is in the western world….

    – Love alone probably isn’t going to solve everything. It may, we certainly haven’t identified all the energy forces on earth and beyond and how to tap them. Maybe some being or force will come down … or emerge … on earth and bath us all in love and it will be so powerful and encompassing that it will heal us all but I’m not counting on it. And I think that often love is a naive emotion or leads to naivete in that the people who have it in them believe they can transmit it to others or that they can lead them to it in some form … or a higher moral plain … by example, frequently by trusting them. Look at Corbyn and Bernie. They were much better human beings than a lot of the folks they trusted and their naivete in believing they could overcome the selfishness of their enemies probably resulted in many better people than their enemies being damaged.

    I also think it is instructional to note the faction that essentially took down both of them and also very important not to assume that every person who shares a commonality with that faction has the same darkness and selfishness in their heart and that, in fact, many of those folks are fighting the hardest against them and are on our side.


  59. Astrid


    Maybe my Hasbara-meter is not so finetuned but I don’t detect NR’s comments as something akin to race baiting. I don’t necessarily fully cosign on those sentiments but they are common and founded on a reasonable understanding of human society. I guess I just don’t understand the bitterness against someone whose opinions seem pretty reasonable, not trollish, and not particularly pro-Israel. I also haven’t noticed of his voice coming into multiple avatars. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but considering the low stakes of arguing online in a low trafficked corner of the internet, why bother being paranoid when you don’t need to be?

    Of course, anytime I offer suggestions online or offline these days, I put myself at risk of coming across as condescending and terrible (and maybe I am). Believe me, some of the worst pushback comes when I advise against the planting of certain plants known to be invasive (bamboo) or unsuited (roses in full shade) to family members. I don’t feel bad at all that they are suffering consequences of their hubris.

    At least online, I am not putting my job, marriage, or any possibility of a normal social life in jeopardy! Still, I find in my own life that sometimes it’s a kindness when someone cares enough about me to tell me what they think of me. That’s a risky move, especially for people acculturated to be polite and follow certain social norms. Even when I don’t agree with their assessment, I do mentally note it (yes, even Hugh’s opinions, before he really dove off the deep end) and am usually grateful for it.

    Now, I’d like to think that for a lifetime member of the PMC, I’m a bit more open minded than most of my cohorts to people of different backgrounds, and I appreciate their pluses and minuses. But dude, I’ve come across plenty of casual racism, directed everywhere by everyone. It’s part of the human condition and can be harnessed by psychopaths. I would say the current hysteria against racism and sexist is itself a wedge very much like race and sex and nationality and religion. And it’s definitely being used by the psychopaths at the top to distract is while they continue looting.

  60. different clue


    Considering how long Japan, mid-to-north China, Korea, etc. have been growing and using the invasive running bamboos, I wonder if they have developed ways to keep them from running to places where it is desired they not run.

    If such methods exist, and if we could use them, bamboo could be a very useful plant on so many levels in the Western garden and the Western microfarm.

  61. Astrid

    Running bamboo is cultivated in groves that might be several acres in size. Cultivation in Asia is also quite intense, so there will be someone to harvest bamboo shoots and culms and keep it under control. Bamboo is an amazing material that you can make paper, furniture, buildings, charcoal, utensils, and more from. If you have the acreage and a plan to use it, it’s a great material for uncertain times.

    The problem with bamboo in Western gardens is that they are rarely cultivated in a large grove or with much thought to continuous harvest and control. But if you like something smaller and decorative and live in zone 7 or warmer area, clumping bamboos spread very slowly and are suitable for small gardens.

    The problem with a lot of people like what they like and don’t want to research their decisions. And many older men used to authority don’t like to have a younger female (or older female or same age females) tell them that they’re wrong, on anything, no matter how trivial or well supported by facts. Finally, if they already paid for “professional landscape architect”, what the hell am I doing other than singing its praises or politely keeping my mouth shut?

    He didn’t learn his lesson. I did. We continue to have a good relationship because I make sure to judiciously praise his decisions and say politely optimistic things about his wildly overhyped offsprings.

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