On Manichean Worldviews and Effecting Change

Aside from the rise of concerted trolling (which Barry Ritholtz discusses in a post today), it has been hard not to notice what amounts to an increase in collective pissiness among the NC commentariat. One might ascribe it to a multitude of influences: elevated stress produced by a lousy economy, the utter distastefulness of the Presidential campaign, the offhanded corruption among our ruling classes and their minions, the nagging worry that another big shoe might be about to drop (Iran? Europe?).

I’m not about to tell you all to take Soma. But there are a couple of forms of argument that are destructive to the community here, as well as being just plain fallacious. I’m coming back to this issue because I see the group that comes to converse at NC as an effort to make sense of and find some routes, even if small ones, for taking action against an increasingly oppressive economic and political climate.

I’ll discuss an obvious destructive tactic and a more insidious type. Barry and his readers highlighted one I’ve seen in spades of late, which is “tu quoque” or “you too”. The narrow version is “both sides do it,” usually with the added zinger “and where are you in calling out the other side?”. First, this is simple bad faith argumentation. Parents don’t tolerate “everyone does it” from their children, and it is even less acceptable for supposed adults to try that line. Second, almost without exception, we (or the person mentioned in the post) actually have gone after the opposition on whatever the issue in question is. And since this is a blog, not a PhD dissertation, I do not provide footnotes on what I’ve said that might be tangentially relevant to a post. The Web and this blog have search functions. I recommend that readers using them before making accusations.

But for some reason, this “tu quoque” form is great for hijacking threads. It seems to elicit more reader agita than any other canned strategy. So I strongly urge readers, when you see a commentor trying this approach, to say “Bad faith argumentation, don’t feed the trolls” or “tu quoque, don’t feed the trolls” or Lambert’s automated response to trolls, “Thank you for sharing your concerns. Your comment is very important to me. Please do not hesitate to comment again.” AND STAY AWAY.

The more insidious type of fallacious argument, and this comes more from established readers than from the probable trolls, is black/white, or Manichean, thinking. Anyone who has studied propaganda will tell you that purveyors of that dark art work hard to eliminate nuance, and force “with us or against us” choices on people when the options are almost without exception more complex.

A fresh example is the reactions to the post yesterday about Sheila Bair’s new book. A surprising number of readers took the position that (basically) because she was one of the senior people in the regulatory apparatus when the bailouts were undertaken, she had to be a bad guy. No consideration of the fact that she had been out of DC since 2002 (and had last been in what was supposed to be a work/life friendly position in Treasury, meaning not part of big policy decisions) and came to the FDIC in 2006. She immediately, and over considerable opposition, fought for higher capital levels for banks and bigger reserves for the FDIC even as all the other regulators insisted she was punishing healthy banks. The FDIC was a secondary regulator, remember, and she still did what she could to curb Turbo Timmie’s “give the banks everything they want and 50% more stance” such as selling Wachovia to Wells (with no FDIC assistance) as opposed to the subsidized sale to Citi (meaning, as we discussed at the time, yet another stealth bailout). I also have to note (checking my archives) that there was a lot of misreporting at the time, with the subsidized Citi deal being depicted as Bair’s initiative. It now comes out it was cooked up by Geithner and Citi, approved by the OCC, and foisted on the FDIC (remember, the FDIC was not Wachovia’s primary regulator, there weren’t a lot of plausible acquirers and Wachovia was going down fast).

But there is also a subtler, and ultimately more important issue: no one in a position of power is going to be pristine, which is the standard some readers wanted to apply to Bair and others. Having influence means making compromises. And even in situations like the Holocaust, it is not as easy to draw bright lines as one might think. One particularly good discussion came in 2001, in an article by Omer Bartov in a review of a book describing how Bulgaria came to be the one Nazi state that refused to turn its Jews over to Germany for extermination:

But the lesson is not quite so simple or so edifying. For we also learn from such instances that the difference between virtue and vice is far less radical than we would like to believe. Sometimes the most effective kind of goodness – I mean the practical kind, the kind that can actually save lives and not merely alleviate the consciences of the protagonists – is carried out by those who have already compromised themselves with evil, those who are members of the very organizations that set the ball rolling towards the abyss. Hence a strange and frustrating contraction: that absolute goodness is often absolutely ineffective, while compromised, splintered, and ambiguous goodness, one that is touched and stained by evil, is the only kind that may set limits to mass murder. And while absolute evil is indeed defined by its consistent one-dimensionality, this more mundane sort of wickedness, the most prevalent sort, contains within it also seeds of goodness that may be stimulated and encouraged by the example of the few dwellers of these nether regions who have come to recognize their own moral potential. As the great cosmological myth of the Kabbalah has it, the shreds of light that remain from the original divine universe may be collected only from the spheres of evil in which they now reside.

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  1. OMF

    While it can be tempting to suspect coordinated malicious actions when comment threads are frequently derailed, ultimately your suspicion that the general readership is falling off the wagon is probably correct. People are often not at their best when posting online.

    The name of the game when it comes to the financial crisis should be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. Endless cynicism and suspicion gets us nowhere—and I should know since I have found myself infected by it due to events over the last 5 years (I speak to you now in an increasingly rare unsoured state).

    Peronsally, I think things are bad enough(see what I mean) that expecting a perfect resolution or flawless actors at all stages, is not so much unreasonable as it is simply counter-productive. You have to _work_ towards an outcome; but sometimes you need to shovel piles of dung in order to get there.

    1. Murky

      Adhering to a standard of ‘constructive criticism’ does limit ad hominem comments, and sure, it’s better to target the argument rather than the person.

      A better standard still, methinks, is ‘informed discussion’, which does not target either the person or his arguments. By first reviewing the main facts and viewpoints, conclusions tend to be less personalized or opinionated.

      I read Naked Capitalism daily, because there is so much content of excellent quality. But I rarely post, mostly because shoot-from-the-hip opinions often trump well-informed discussion here. Replies to the Sheila Bair article are a perfect example. Many people who posted did not know the facts about Sheila Bair, and had her pegged as a bankster friendly stooge. So completely wrong!

      So the current discussion is not just about clearing out trolls. It’s also about the readiness of people to voice opinions before they have a basic command of the facts. At least Yves is shaking down a few major trolls, and that should restore some balance of informed discussion.

      Last point: I have a copy of Yves book Econned. Available to better informed readers of NK. Reply post for detail.

      1. Murky

        Perplexing… I can’t even give away Yves’ book, Econned. I was sure someone here would want to explore her book. Has excellent content. Explains what’s wrong with the financial services industry. Still available at no charge to a good citizen of NakedCapitalism. Post reply.

        1. gw

          I’ve been looking for Yves book at my library-but not available. If for some reason someone else has not taken you up on your generous offer, please consider me.

          1. Murky

            Consolation for you GW. Public libraries have interlibrary borrowing privileges and can undoubtably obtain the book for you. I’ve obtained some very esoteric and rare literature through interlibrary loan. It works.

          1. Murky

            Bhikshuni, I searched your posts at Naked Capitalism, and you are indeed a good citizen! You get the book. GW replied first and would have gotten the book, but his two letter name is unsearchable on this site. That’s probably because a guest poster by the name of George Washington gets referred to as GW constantly, and then there GW Bush. Sorry GW, bad choice of moniker.

            One last detail Bhikshuni, there is no name affiliated with the address you provide. Will the book get to you with no name attached?

        2. YouDon'tSay?

          Yves’ book has spawned a movement. What better can be said? Why read the book when one can read the actual facts/experiences on the ground from those who are actually living it in real time? THIS is where it’s at my friend!

          1. different clue

            Well, if one buys the book (as well as reads it), then she earns that much more money for the work she already did writing the book.

          2. Murky


            You ask, why read Yves’ book? Because it is extraordinarily informative. It explains many things you will not read here about the financial services industry. That’s because the book is systematic and has a depth beyond short articles and short comments.

            YouDon’tSay says: “THIS is where it’s at my friend!”

            Nah. I don’t think so. I still prefer academic quality literature over rant posting. I just read a few dozen of your posts, just to make sense of your views. And I’m stumped. My best guest is that you like to be very vocal with your opinions. You enjoy the fray. And that’s okay! But it’s not my style at all. I prefer academic quality discussion, where people actually have some expertise about the matters of which they speak. I do find some quality of discussion in the comments section of this site, but just as frequently the discussion degenerates to rant, politicized opinions, and trolling. So I don’t jump in the sand box if that’s okay with you. I’ll stick to lurking as a reader.

  2. Nell

    There is an increasing sense of frustration and fear on comment boards across the internet. We are all scared of the future and have little faith in those who make the decisions that govern the outcomes of our lives. With good reason.
    It is a mistake to take out this frustration out on each other. Rather than working towards solutions that may one day morph into a political movement, we end up fractured and impotent. Next time you want to take a swipe at someone, take a deep breath, enjoy a sip of coffee, and ask yourself – can I say anything constructive that will change this persons mind – or should I move the conversation on by raising a new topic?

    1. El Snarko

      Fantastic point Nell!! I don’t mean to jump in a the top but you make a point I have been thinking a lot about these past two months. SInce I’m in the process of “cleaning up” an unfinished masters I have had to take a couple of communication courses over the summer and fall. The current one deals heavily with propaganda, although I had no idea what would be in it. I am having a merry old time sipping coffee or cocoa and brandy watching the telly with a score card based on Hugh Rank;s simple model. Amazing fun! But I have noticed the anger and beneath it the fear more and more.

      Last night I worked a phone bank for Obama, and finally after months and about 800 calls I found the intelligent Romeny raver I had always feared. As I listened to him and tried to engage him ( a campaigning no-no!! to be sure, but I like it) I realized how he was panicked because his internal OS did not compute the status quo any longer. Since mine never did (because I never assumed I knew it all),I can take a lot of uncertainty as natural. However for many its yelling and prozac time.

      Why is this the case? Let me assign us some homework. Noone has attempted this yet. Not the pols, not the punditocracy, not the blogosphere. So here goes:What precisely (more or less:) ) does a desired end state look like? Your answer must address more or less health care reform, more or less privitization, more or less international intervention, and more or less infrastructure development. This must be inlight of: Continued climate change, more or less tax revenue, continuing demographic trends, and either the maintenance or a lessening of the income differential between the US/West and the rest of the world. A’s willbe rare, I am certain.

      1. Leviathan

        Perhaps this fellow just didn’t share your worldview and his priorities are not the same as yours.

        Maybe he is not sipping coffee, reading Foucault and polishing up a Masters (and don’t get bent out of shape, I completed a Phd AND a Masters, so it really is the pot calling the kettle black). Maybe he lost a job, a house, a marriage, a dream. And maybe he thinks the Republicans will come closer to restoring his dream than the Dems. That doesn’t make him wrong. It makes him human.

      2. Nell

        Cool – some homework. As a disclaimer I did one of those online questionnaires to establish where you sit on the political specture and I came out somewhere left of Gandhi.
        Health care: free on point of access, funded by the state.
        Privatization: less than currently, but I have no beef with a proper functioning market. Industries that tend towards monopolies should be nationalized or broken up.
        International intervention: – difficult one, hard to standby and do nothing in the face of human suffering, but intervention in our age is rarely altruistic. Maybe offer help to ordinary people (ie asylum and refuge) and maybe offer mediation services for those in conflict.
        Infrastructure development – right now – lots and lots. Large swathes of infrastructure is out of date and not optimally functioning. The plus side is lots of people want work and this would increase long-term wealth prospects as well as providing jobs.
        Demographic trends – I can see the need to cut back on population growth especially as I support income equality. Invariably income equality goes with rising life expectancy – so more people living longer added to more people, may put too many demands on our ecosystem. But, I’m not into enforcing reduction. I would prefer to empower women (educate and employ) which evidence suggests reduces the number of children that women are prepared to have.
        Climate change – I go with the scientific consensus – and would gear infrastructure development in line with reducing environmental impact and coping with fallout from climate change (rising sea levels, change in weather patterns etc).

        1. robb rogers

          And for your homework assignment, this is THE topic that guides my life, my teaching (public school).
          I too have taken, perhaps that same political placement survey, and also came out to the left of Gandhi.

          privitization, more or less international intervention, and more or less infrastructure development. This must be inlight of: Continued climate change, more or less tax revenue, continuing demographic trends, and either the maintenance or a lessening of the income differential

          Before responding to your required topics of Healthcare, privatization, etc., I must first suggest that Kirkpatrick Sale’s concept of HUMAN SCALE is key to my vision of a humane future.

          Democracy requires small, loosely-linked groups. All 13 original colonies in 1776, for example, had a total population of 2.5 million.

          Further, people must have TIME (and energy) to spend learning and informing themselves of the issues necessary for large-group decisions –a la Athens, during its Golden Age of democracy, when 4,000 spent all day in the amphitheater debating and making laws and other pertinent decisions.

          The dominiance of capitalism in the consumption of our entire lives has long since subverted the possibility of effective democracy –the opposite of the authoritarianism and hierarchic social/economic structures that permiate our contemporary lives. It’s been so for most of “civilization’s” existence. THIS STRUCTURE IS THE HEART OF OUR PROBLEMS, economic (income differential), political (power and influence disparity), healthcare (institutional, not personal), anthropogenic climate change (propaganda, political ideology, corporate media).

          We need to reconstruct, not just elements of our political/social world, but the structure of our culture. We need to move to loosely-linked rural regional communities, each capable of meeting the needs in all of your categories. Our mindfulness of our “place” in this world needs to be continuously conscious that Mother Nature is a network of living systems that we live within.

      3. Aquifer

        And after you answer those questions, the next step, ISTM, is how do you propose to get there …. Wish lists are great, to do lists are better ….

        I gather that Obama is on your to do list – methinks perhaps that is where much disagreement lies, not so much in where we want to go, but in how to get there …

        Here’s a simple suggestion – maybe it would help if we could pull out the popcorn and soda and watch a real debate. If we could all agree that folks are served best when they have a broad spectrum of choices – if O IS the way to go, he shouldn’t fear a good debate ….


      4. psychohistorian

        The structural solution to all the problems you list, IMO is to end the class system of global inherited rich by ending ongoing inheritance and restore most of human wealth to the commons.

        IMO, Mitt Romney is a good example of misspent inheritance.

  3. Foppe

    unrelated but related, Felix Salmon did something similar to Bair today, by suggesting that her entire book is purely about “settling scores”, while proving his own blindness by saying “heck of a job Basel Committee technocrats”. Ouch.

    1. YouDon'tSay?

      On the other hand, you’re not being paranoid if people are actually out to get you. Just sayin’, unbridled cynicism, at least in small doses, does have a healthy place in most dialogues.

    2. Leviathan

      Perhaps there is a NYC viewpoint and Sheila does not share it?

      Maybe Felix has been bicycling the streets of Manhattan too long, and his experience of the rest of America is too shallow to appreciate the extent to which he is being coopted by latte sipping Hamptons worshippers. I like Felix but I find his perspective very limited by his life experience.

  4. Rik

    Shades of grey. The art is to find the lightest shade, while there are numerous things that do obscure your vision.

  5. digi_owl

    Sadly Google does not provide a reliable way to focus on date ranges or even sort by date in their search results.

    1. Maureen

      The search engine that will replace Google will sort chronologically. Also, let’s hope that LinkedIn and others like it can be tagged and sorted separately. The chronological search is among Lexis’s best features. It, of course, comes at a price.

  6. jim beene

    The frustration is the difference in time for learning and how quickly the destruction of hard leaned lessions. Think of voting rights for females, civil rights, and control of boom and bust cycles.

  7. LeeAnne

    Changing the subject with followers has to be looked upon with suspicion as well. Its not snarky to be sure, but it does have the effect of trivializing the root comment and undermining the blog in general; a little too clever by half IMO.

  8. Siggy

    Nice piece. There’s much to be upset about. My irratation derives from the pandemic of financial fraud and political corruption that exists today.

    You’ve written about much of it and the comments have been both supportive and wildly off the mark. The range and character of the comments strike me as being symptomatic of the disease. The cure, I fear, will only be achieved after we have a nice disastrous depression. Maybe then a few people will see the reality of the fraud and the range of the corruption that exists.

  9. Middle Seaman

    Nuances are difficult to convey in blog posts. We may yet develop a wider spectrum of blog posting that allows for immediate reaction as well as expansive and more thorough posts and eventually comprehensive and methodical posts. Since I read only a handful of blogs, some of the above may already exist.

    Never liked the long reactory comments threads. They digress, deviate and distort the issues and furthermore bore me to tears; so I skip them.

    Let’s face it, comments are bound to lack information, be biased, distort and otherwise be irresponsible. That’s who we are.

    NC is a must read for me. As someone who publishes and writes a lot (scientific), as far as my judgment goes, Yves does way more than an admirable job. We should all respect NC and try to mimic Yves writing. (Good luck)

    1. YouDon'tSay?

      I’m just the opposite. I often skim the blog posts and concentrate on the comments. And I like the biases and distortions. That’s how you get to how people really feel about the issues at hand. If all the current goings on have taught us anything, it’s that homo sapiens are for the most part a very irrational lot, especially under stress, and the key to getting to understand them and their issues is to examine their biases and distortions.

      1. Valissa

        Me too! In some ways blog comments are a form of storytelling and over time you get information about people’s worldviews and beliefs encoded in their stories.
        When you look at the stories (about what is going on in the world today) told by various media, many are geared to promote anger and/or fear and people respond to this in different ways.

        1. Glenn Condell

          Me three.

          You have to soak yourself in the the contrasts and conflicts to make your own verdict robust and self-consistent. You must engage, even if it is silently, otherwise you are implicitly avoiding.

          I have for years questioned everything I read or hear in the MSM, but that doesn’t mean the radar switches off when I visit oases like this. The comments here ensure that possibility is remote in any case.

    2. Nell

      I disagree with your stance that most comments lack information. There is a blog in the UK – GolemIX – where I have found a number of informative comments (sometimes more informative than the blog). They often point to sources and the commentors are helpful in clarifying points. I can’t remember exactly but I think I got to naked capitalism, steve keen and michael hudson via links from commentors on GolemIX.
      Saying that every so often the comment section gets hijacked and tempers get frayed.

      1. Ned Ludd

        Are you referring to Golem XIV? I don’t read this blog myself, but I was trying to find a link to the blog you mentioned to see if it was interesting.

          1. Mark P.

            Yeah, GOLEM XIV can be worthwhile and a few specific posters in the comment threads there seem informed in the way that, say, Rockman and a couple of others are at THE OIL DRUM.

          2. Glenn Condell

            Golem is great. He is an Irish documentary filmmaker called David Malone, who has written a book called Debt Generation which Charles Ferguson among others enjoyed:


            His interests are far wider (and more interesting) than finance but like me and millions of others he has turned himself into something of a econ maven with 5 years of heavy reading on the issues. Plus he seems to have some high level contacts in banking and government. He ingests all this and then comes up with some original takes on the whys and wherefores, with a very good nose for bullshit.

            And yes, some of his commenters are first class too. Small community, but well worth the odd visit.

            I would like while I’m at it to plug the From Alpha to Omega podcast from a countryman of Malone’s called Tom O’Brien, who has recently begun interviewing some interesting people, such as Randy Wray, Dimitry Orlov, Steve Keen and NC’s own Philip Pilkington. Tom is another non-specialist coming to grips with finance; he asks goodquestons havong actually read his subject’s work and is possessed of a gentle Oirish humour:


  10. Clive

    What I’ve never been able to get my head around is, why the comments on FT Alphaville are (in general) polite, courteous and thought provoking while the comments here on NC do on occasions resemble the elementary school yard if not the kindergarten.

    It’s the same subject matter, the same sort of audience and the same potential for a wide disparity of opinions. But NC’s comments can be a scary and intimidating place sometimes. A compare-and-contrast is a very useful exercise and I recommend all regular commentators pay a visit to FT Alphaville to get an idea of what I mean.

    As for why there is a disparity, I am fairly convinced by Yves’s suspicions that orchestrated PRs are in effect trolling for ca$h here. But that does not explain all of the bad vibe we sometimes seem to feel round here.

    Perhaps it is a case of…

    “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves”

    1. YouDon'tSay?

      Or perhaps it’s just a case of audience demographics. I know that I find FT to be rather stuffy and yes, upperclass. An “insider” publication. Hardly the social milieu for some real rough and tumble give and take, American style. And I’ve found the lessons learned on elementary school yards to be the most lasting and meaningful in my 55 years on terra firma. One thing’s for sure: my MBA was hardly the crowning achievement I might have hoped for.

      1. Clive

        I entirely agree with you YouDon’tSay?

        It’s different strokes for different folks. FT Alphaville is a Mayfair club (actually it’s on the wrong side of the river Thames for that, but it’s close enough for the metaphor to stretch) but NC is — how do I put this without causing offense — ah-hem, maybe a little closer to Brooklyn.

        If people here prefer Coney Island and eschew any moves to make it a tad more upscale then fine. Such a rough-and-ready take-us-as-you-find-us ready-for-a-fight environment may put people off though — and anything which limits participation is I think a real shame.

        And I guess it is all relative; NC’s comments are a bastion of civilisation compared to Zero Hedge’s. At least Yves doesn’t run “Why you Need to Buy Guns and Ammo Now” features…

        1. ForReal?

          And I guess it is all relative; NC’s comments are a bastion of civilisation compared to Zero Hedge’s. At least Yves doesn’t run “Why you Need to Buy Guns and Ammo Now” features…

          Exactly. I used to read ZeroHedge from time to time as well. But damn, talk about some uncloseted rage!

    2. Nell

      Can you characterize FTAlphaville as posting on the same subject material as NC? My impression (and I prepared to be proved wrong) is that peices and posts on FTAlphaville pretty much follow economic orthodoxy and its more an argument between fresh and salwater versions of neoclassical economics than a challenge to orthodoxy. That is they haven’t got much to get heated about. At least here there is exposure to non-orthodox viewpoints.

      1. JustAnObserver

        I’m not sure that the long-running series of FT Alphaville posts by Izabella Kaminska on end-of-scarcity economics and its effect on “money”, in its various guises counts as “orthodox”. It seems to have much more in common with MMT or, even, David Graeber’s take on the subject.

      2. avg John

        Ahem, from the viewpoint of the, shall we say, “other side of the tracks”, it seems like some want to tweek the system and processes but preserve the status quo, while others find no redeeming value in it whatsoever and wish to eliminate it altogether.

        However, it seems most NC readers have a sense that the system is broken, a looming crisis exists that requires our urgent attention, and therefore the common ground necessary for raising our collective voices to insist on change.

        But how do you bring the broader population together, regardless of which side of the track they hail from, or their educational level or financial status to demand that at least something be done to address the needs of the general citizenry and the responsiveness of our government. I know it’s a little, ahem, should we say “quaint”, but weren’t we taught as kids about government “of the people, by the people and for the people”?

        Will it be a slow evolutionary series of changes that restores responsiveness and integrity to our systems and government, or will there be a complete meltdown, with ensuing chaos and upheaval, resulting in a new social order, with government and institutions that bears little resemblance to that which is in place today?

        Or to put it another way, change is inevitable, but how much faith do you have that it will be managed? I think they call that the impossibility of accounting for a “black duck” event. One thing for sure, we are all in this together, and we might as well understand that perceptions, values and opinions are going to be widely divergent, but we should be willing to respect other’s viewpoints and limit all of the sniping.

        1. Aquifer

          I think your post nails it – one side calls ’em “black ducks” and the other “black swans” but a reading of the Ugly Duckling might bring all the fowl together in cleaning up what is really foul, or something rotten in the state of ….

          Seriously – methinks we spend far too much time in splitting hairs, making distinctions without a difference and generally pretending that we would be ever so much better off if we could just categorize, file and enumerate in that grand Enlightenment tradition even as we reluctantly and regretfully admit that it is a messy world. And so we spend our time “waiting for things to be more conducive to meaningful activity” or for “the masses to be educated” or whatever excuse we have for not getting our hands dirty, figuratively or otherwise …

          E.g. Bair jumped in to public service – good for her; she found herself in situations she might not have anticipated and acted by her best lights, so if we are to fault her, on what grounds? As an elite – hence “inherently faulty”, as a bureaucrat, hence an “enabler of the system”, as an insider, hence “inherently corrupt”? How about if we tried out the idea, just for kicks, mind you, that maybe she might, just might, be one of “us”, simply a homo sapiens, whatever that is, hence inherently prone to being less than perfect ….

          All life is politics in one form or another and all politics are personal. Once we stop pretending that it is, or should be, otherwise, methinks we can proceed, maybe, just maybe, to make some progress ….

        2. Will Nadauld

          I read NC daily. I love the honesty that Yves brings to the topics she discusses. I could not be further removed from Wall Street or the markets in my day to day life. Lifetime student almost done bachelors degree construction worker. Yves and a few of the the regular contributors and commenters have given me a priceless education over the last two years. NC is about as unbiased as you can find anywhere. You should know that I discuss the blog and topics at work alot. The guys I work with are very concerned about the economy, the direction of our country, and all the fraud they are learning about through nc. They know things are rotten and love to hear details. Thanks and keep up the good work.

      3. Fíréan

        FT Alphaville is, as the very name states, part of the (FT) Financial Times, owned by the Pearson Group (global media company, Penguin books etc., etc..) and hence subject to their “rules”. Replies posted to FT Alphaville blog can get censored, and the live blog often does.

        NakedCapitalism is not, to the best of my knowledge, connected to any mainstream media parent company and not dependent to any degree upon income from advertisers.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, the advertising income is important to me, but I don’t sell it and none of it is placed based on the content of the site per se. My blog is sold to advertisers along with other blogs (in a package called a “vertical”) to reach a certain reader demographic. Plus there is tons of churn in the ads, no one advertiser is particularly meaningful. I have no idea who is advertising until I click on a post and see what ad is running.

  11. Iolaus

    My shrink used to say that whenever you looked at a situation in life as having only one of two possible outcomes, you were being neurotic. There’s a lot of it going around these days.

    1. Up the Ante

      Ahh yes, the existential ‘worker’, the shrink, describing his/her moment, ambivalent/unrelated, uncommitted, “only one of two possible outcomes, you were being neurotic. ”

      Shrink: Am I a Fraud?

      Observer: You must decide.

      Shrink: I sense several possible outcomes.

      Observer: You’re fired.

  12. banger

    What you describe on this blog is a tendency that is culture-wide. Trolling and Manichean views are less here than in a lot of other places. Here’s the “real” problem: people do not realize that they are each part of the culture and each of us carry it with us and each of us contribute to the collective unconscious and, evern more, the collective unconscious deeply effects us. Politicians and leaders reflect, ultimately, our values. Greed, selfishness, narcissism and so on are a deep part of what affects each of our major institutions (this is a global issue) because we have bought into the culture of narcissism. We don’t even know what virtue is or really personify it very well if we really looked in the mirror.

    All this starts with each of us–we have to look at what we do and how we think and how convenient it is to see life as a comic book struggle of good vs. evil–but that’s not how it is, really. When you get to know people from all over the world in all kinds of subcultures you get a sense of humanity shining through in each situation whether it is a market in Mogadishu or a church picnic in rural North Carolina. Doesn’t mean that radical Muslims are right or Christian fundies are right or anything like that–people believe what they have to believe to get through their day and make sense of the world from their point of view. Doesn’t mean we don’t call them out–we have to, it’s our duty not just to ourselves and the POV we represent but for the sake of helping those that have to live within such a limited intellectual framework.

    Compassion seems to have become a dirty word on all sides of all arguments. In my long experience of life, without compassion there can be no wisdom or no real happiness.

    1. Aquifer

      sounds like James’ pragmatic definition of “truth” – as what works to make sense of our lives and our universe. Am a big fan of James, at least as i understand him …

    2. darms

      Politicians and leaders reflect, ultimately, our values.

      Since most of the politicians I support tend to lose, those in office tend to seldom, if ever, support let alone represent my values.And as to improve the quality of comments I kinda tend to favour Scalzi’s “loving mallet of correction” or Hayden’s “disemvoweling”. And yes, I’m a daily reader here and have been for years, I like the quality & density of info in both the posts & in most of the comments. Thanks, Yves, for such a worthy place in which to hang out in these bleak times…

  13. Watt4Bob

    I’ve been partaking of Prof Wolff’s online video class on Marxian Analysis, in which he explains that in reaction to the flattening of real wages, the working class withdrew from political engagement starting in the 1970’s.


    It was in part this dis-engagement that left an opening for the FIRE lobbyists purchase our government out from under us.

    I point this out by way of explaining the efficacy of Trolls.

    Our powerless, because dis-engaged electorate is now in the early stages of awaking to the reality of our collective nightmare, and is still vulnerable, at this early point in our efforts to re-engage to being side-tracked by trolling.

    Our weakness in this sense could be thought of in terms of momentum, and the trolls are here because at this point, their puny efforts are often sufficient to disrupt our discussions, and thus stall our efforts to organize.

    Once we have gained sufficient momentum that trolls are no longer effective, we should fully expect escalation to actual infiltration, as is the case with #QW$.

    We’ve been this way before, and we’re going to have to re-learn the tactics of organizing and resistance.

    1. taunger

      thanks for the link to the class page! I’m a long time Marxist/philosopher/organizer that recently graduated from a “progressive” law school and have been dying to get some real higher level thinking back into my life. Law, that is not.

  14. Warren Celli

    Yves said; “The more insidious type of fallacious argument, and this comes more from established readers than from the probable trolls, is black/white, or Manichean, thinking.”

    When you label others thinking as black and white thinking you are engaging in black and white thinking and creating another “with us or against us” grouping that you profess to disdain. You color ‘them’ as lacking in the ability to perceive shades of gray when in reality many of ‘them’ have long agonized over the shades of gray and arrived at a different viewpoint than the one that your ‘us’ perception provides you with.

    Many believe, through countless considerations of many shades of gray, that the system is not subject to repair from remedial measures within. It is like trying to repair a house that is so infested with termites that it is being eaten away far faster than it can possibly be repaired, and all of the lumber in the house, although some of it may look serviceable, is now infested with termites and so suspect that it is unusable. Better to abandon the house and expend one’s energies to rebuild a new house with new materials designed with termite protection.

    People in a position of power must be pristine. And those that have given past service to evil must only be used in rare and extenuating circumstances and only after FULLY renouncing their past associations with evil. I see none of that with Sheila Baird. She is still infested with good old fashioned Vanilla Greed for Profit Evilism thinking.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. G.G. Allin

      First of all, it is not true that accusing someone else of Manichean thinking is to engage in such thinking oneself. If you accuse someone of not being nuanced in their views, that is not to say that you yourself are doing the same.

      Secondly, you are doing precisely that by dismissing Bair’s argument (while not taking into consideration what Yves said–a double ad hominem fallacy!).

      In short, I think your post was pretty weak.

      1. Warren Celli

        G.G. Allin said; “First of all, it is not true that accusing someone else of Manichean thinking is to engage in such thinking oneself. If you accuse someone of not being nuanced in their views, that is not to say that you yourself are doing the same.”

        Duh? You are accusing ‘them’ of not being nuanced in their views, without knowledge of, or any awareness of, or any examination of, what shades of gray or nuanced considerations they may have indeed gone through in ‘their’ thinking. You label ‘them’ as black and white , non nuanced thinkers, without knowledge of their thinking. It is a form of demonization. Sounds like pretty black and white and non nuanced thinking to me, and tinged with chilling of FREE SPEECH to boot!

        G.G. Allin further said; “Secondly, you are doing precisely that by dismissing Bair’s argument (while not taking into consideration what Yves said–a double ad hominem fallacy!).”

        You really need to reread my post, I think your thinking is colored with aggregate generational corruption.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    2. Watt4Bob

      Thank you for sharing your concerns. Your comment is very important to all of us. Please do not hesitate to comment again

        1. Up the Ante

          Warren, I get the impression that some have ceded Sun Tzu’s ‘not giving the initiative to the enemy’, and no I am not referring to you, lol.

      1. patrick

        I really hope were not using the “thank you for sharing….” Anti-troll device to discredit commentators whose views we disagree with.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Kind of like using the charge that someone is “Manichean” in a Manichean way in order to stifle speech!

          Sometimes these ‘anti-troll’ prophylactics are really anti-truth prophylactics in disguise.

          Although I don’t know how to take the above comment because the other comments by that poster don’t appear consistent with shutting down thoughtful comments.

          But there is a lot of mindfucking on the internet right now.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          If you don’t get that Warren is continuing to engage in the sort of behavior this post has discussed as helpful to propagandists, I can’t help you. Lambert has made his effort in that direction.

          This is about behaviors, not substantive positions. Big difference.

          1. Warren Celli

            Yves said; “If you don’t get that Warren is continuing to engage in the sort of behavior this post has discussed as helpful to propagandists, I can’t help you. Lambert has made his effort in that direction.

            This is about behaviors, not substantive positions. Big difference.”

            Yves, I have always been aware that we sometimes have vastly differing viewpoints. I will not apologize for mine. But until today I did not realize that you feel I am “helpful to propagandists” and apparently that Lambert shares your viewpoint.

            I have never been one to stay where I have been so clearly made to feel so unwelcome, so demonized, and my behavior so openly characterized as distasteful.

            In that spirit I bid you, Lambert and NC farewell.

            And to all of those kindred spirits who have given me the benefit of their viewpoints, a look into their unique personalities, and great variety of insights, I say thank you. You are all awesome!

            Patricia and MLTPB, thanks for your good comments, under the circumstances I will not respond.

            Peace to you all.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          2. Jed1571


            I’m afraid you’ve hurt Warren’s feelings to the point that he ignored the actual content of your reply.

            It’s true that he, more than any other regular NC commenter, looks at virtually everything in this black-white (well, truthfully more like black/blacker-white) manner, but the substance of his posts will be sorely missed around these parts.

            I’m sorry I’m late to the game, but if you are reading this Warren then I urge you to reconsider taking such offense to Yves’ remarks. She is correct and I don’t think it was meant to offend (I could be wrong…) I rarely post comments and generally read NC on a 1 day delay so that I can absorb the arguments that take place in the comments.

            Au Revoir

          3. Aquifer


            If you are still around – I would not have thought you to have such a thin skin, bowing out just when it was getting interesting ….

            I have seen that concept of “being of use to TPTB” used in a number of venues, at various levels of sophistication, both directed at me – “a vote for Stein is a vote for Romney” – and by me – “advocating not voting is carrying water for TPTB” (at the simplest levels)… Not entirely a fair tactic i suppose, more like a tit for tat …

            As for feeling unwelcome, shucks if one only stays where one feels welcome, one probably is not stretching oneself, though i do know what you mean – I generally don’t invite myself anywhere, except ironically, onto blogs such as this. For me, the worst punishment is not to be battled, or even insulted, but to be ignored!

            I have tangled with folks here, including Yves – I figure that if/when I become insufferable, i will be tossed – but ’til then I’ll stick around, good place to try things out, see what folks think – get feedback …

            That is why i have always been uncomfortable with the idea of trolling for trolls – as i have said, the owner of a blog has a right to toss anyone for any or no reason – but labeling has always bothered me, as i have been labeled, unfairly IME, a number of times myself. OTOH, sometimes it is useful to find out what others think, not only of your ideas, but of yourself – assuming the assessment is honestly presented –

            “Truth” is often arrived at in the process of exchange, in fact, methinks, that may be the only way it is arrived at ..

            But hey, do what you have to do …

        1. Watt4Bob

          I’m really not too concerned about temperment, I’m more concerned with honest discussion of the content of the post.

          Trollish behavior intentionally disrupts the discussion and complicates communication.

          Trolls encourage us to remain confused, if we are confused, and become confused if we’re not, which, if you think about it, is in direct opposition to the intent of this blog.

    3. patricia

      Warren: First, while we don’t know what is behind the written comment, usually phrases/words/attitude reveal an underlying approach. If misunderstood, the commenter may need to expand. Which is ok, and how it works.

      Second, to believe that the system has become too corrupt to continue, and must be dismantled, doesn’t mean that one has to indulge black/white thinking. One needs to continue to exist, after all, and maintain the usual daily actions inside society. How to work inside and/or outside given structures, how to approach/discuss more useful structures and how to prepare for them ahead of time–these issues require nuance, patience, attention.

      Lastly, people in power are very seldom pristine. I’ve seen it twice, in places of small power. Your demand is an idealism that is reduced to black/white thinking when turned into daily requirement. That is the way of constant disappointment, rage, and bitterness.

      It is vital to have ideals and principles. It is nearly as important to understand that they are goals we reach towards and seldom fully grab hold of. It is also important to recognize, as Yves states, that in our messy lives/selves, excellence/accuracy/effectiveness appear in both unexpected and expected places, and frequently enough to keep one in wonder.

      You have honorable standards and some good analysis. But remember that while they never lose themselves, they form/reform, appear/disappear/reappear along with everything else in this moving/variable world. And one will not recognize them except through an attitude of nimbleness, ongoing curiosity, and willingness to be surprised.

      Good luck!

      1. Warren Celli

        Patricia said; “Warren: First, while we don’t know what is behind the written comment, usually phrases/words/attitude reveal an underlying approach. If misunderstood, the commenter may need to expand. Which is ok, and how it works.”

        I agree. But let’s do that by asking the individual commenter about their ‘suspect’ underlying approach and ‘questionable’ language when it arises rather than to cast doubt on all by after the fact labeling some unnamed in the “established readers” as engaging in;

        “The more insidious type of fallacious argument, and this comes more from established readers than from the probable trolls, is black/white, or Manichean, thinking.”

        It smacks of McCarthyism doubt planting where everyone becomes a black or white commie suspect and so all are stifled and very careful about their FREE SPEECH.

        Patricia further said; “Second, to believe that the system has become too corrupt to continue, and must be dismantled, doesn’t mean that one has to indulge black/white thinking. One needs to continue to exist, after all, and maintain the usual daily actions inside society. How to work inside and/or outside given structures, how to approach/discuss more useful structures and how to prepare for them ahead of time–these issues require nuance, patience, attention.”

        Here again I agree Patricia, but that will not be achieved by creating doubt in the group and stifling those who choose to work outside of the system. That approach lacks “nuance, patience, (and) attention”, to use your words, and prevents examination of methodologies that might possibly provide an alternative response and prevent the kind of outside the system response that we see now taking place in Madrid.

        Patricia further said; “Lastly, people in power are very seldom pristine. I’ve seen it twice, in places of small power. Your demand is an idealism that is reduced to black/white thinking when turned into daily requirement. That is the way of constant disappointment, rage, and bitterness.

        It is vital to have ideals and principles. It is nearly as important to understand that they are goals we reach towards and seldom fully grab hold of. It is also important to recognize, as Yves states, that in our messy lives/selves, excellence/accuracy/effectiveness appear in both unexpected and expected places, and frequently enough to keep one in wonder.”

        Here I disagree with you strongly Patricia. People in power must be held to “pristine” standards, that they are not is our present problem and why we are now, to again use your words, in “constant disappointment, rage, and bitterness”. It is not that I do not believe in redemption, I do. It is a more a matter of not using those who I believe to be proven criminals who are most complicit in the murderous acts of our hijacked nation. Read j.smiths comments below.

        Patricia further said; “You have honorable standards and some good analysis. But remember that while they never lose themselves, they form/reform, appear/disappear/reappear along with everything else in this moving/variable world. And one will not recognize them except through an attitude of nimbleness, ongoing curiosity, and willingness to be surprised.”

        Yes Patricia, I am keenly aware that this is about the evolutionary, always dynamic, ebb and flow of perception and human morality. We are presently in a deep trough of soiled morality and “nimbleness, ongoing curiosity, and willingness to be surprised” are essential to climb out of it, but most essential is skepticism — especially of those who have already so deeply failed their civic appointments.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. patricia

          Yes, I am aware that you know much of what I wrote. It’s good to write it out, though, yes?

          We need to re-establish standards and principles. I think we need to go about it a little differently than you suggest, knowing our natures. We ought to discuss how to set in place better rules/processes/structures to limit (in an exterior fashion) human power-hunger. The Constitution and Bill of Rights did that in many ways, but we have dismissed much of it, and it also needs to be updated. We need to scale down, for one thing, as MLTPB suggests below.

          And yes, we certainly must search for the most ethical people that we can find. In order to do that, it might be useful to have frank national discussions to establish, in a formal fashion, a philosophy of societal ethics. This is something that religion once did (for good/ill) but as it has waned, or turned into a caricature, that place for regular discussion of these issues has gone missing. If we had some agreed-upon ethics, we would have more concrete ways to evaluate the “pristineness” of an individual. For instance, the idea of politicians being servants of society needs to be returned to common assumption.

          I’ve been entertaining the idea that for positions of particular civic/governmental power, we citizens might evaluate/select a pool of eligible persons, and then use a lottery to place each individual.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Patricia, very good points. I especially like the part about ongoing curiosity and willingness to be surprised.

        As for the question with respect to pristine leaders, I can see the merits of both sides, as it’s less clear-cut, or Manichean, for me. So, I wonder if we can get out of this box. Could it be that if the society is smaller, the leaders less powerful, that we can search and find more pristine leaders (as much as anyone can be pristine) and yet at the same time, afford to have leaders less prisitne? Robb Rogers mentioned above that the scale of our society is too big today when compared with that of Socrates’ period. That does resonate a lot with me, a Neo-Neanderthalist, who envisions small rural societies of simple farmers or hunter-gatherers.

        Lastly, the back and forth about whether it is Manichean to judge another as Manichean, that reminds of Russell’s Barber paradox and Epimenides’ ‘All Cretans are liars.’ I think it perhaps points to the limitations of our language. Maybe we should all just laugh and smile like Mahakasyapa did when the Buddha held up a lotus flower. ‘What can be said, I have said onto you; What can not be said, I have given to Mahakasyapa.’

        A insults B.

        B says, ‘I have not been insulted.’

        I think B has been insulted.

        Another B, in a parallel universe, feels nothing and therefore, says nothing.

        1. Aquifer

          A shoots B, B says “I have not been shot”, I believe B and do nothing, after all, in another universe B has not been shot …

          Me thinks it might be very hard, and perhaps downright unprofessional, for some to follow such a course …., but hey, i have not been able to become sufficiently “detached” …

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I think even in this example, you discard words.

            If B is bleeding and screaming ‘I have not been shot,’ you help him with action, and ignore his words.

            It would be wrong to rely on words and say ‘I will help,’ but do nothing.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Aquifer, I am trying to write that we should ignore words. Maybe I could do with better writing.

            Going back to my example, let’s say A insults B with words.

            1) If B feels insulted, B should say ‘I am insulted.’

            2) If B doesn’t feel insulted, B says nothing.

            The point I tried to make and will try to do a better job this time, is, if B never felt the insult, B would not say ‘I am not insulted.’ What I am saying is, when B says ‘I am not insulted,’ he in fact feels insultd (probably justifiably, or perhaps not, we don’t know for sure, with respect to that).

            So, if 2) is the case, then it can not be expressed with words. B expresses that with…silence.

          3. Aquifer


            Forgive my denseness – as I have long suspected that your level of discourse is above my level of comprehension, my attempts at response are no doubt ill advised, but i must confess that, taken at face value, which is mostly all i can do in this format wherein all we have are words, I find the idea that we should ignore them puzzling and amusing by turns …

        2. lambert strether

          The idea that classifying on-thread behavior as Manichean is itself Manichean on-thread behavior is fun, or not, because of the possibilities for infinite recursion. The game can go on until all resources are sucked into the black hole….

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It’s a sad fact of our meager existence.

            We are Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens at all.

            Even to say, I have no rules, is problematic.

            One can never think, much less say, I am virtuous. The observation instantly invokes the observation effect and makes you not virtuous.

    4. Aquifer

      “People in a position of power must be pristine. And those that have given past service to evil must only be used in rare and extenuating circumstances and only after FULLY renouncing their past associations with evil.”

      Considering that no one is pristine (though Beard might suggest that there was one such) then no one should be put in a position of power – is that your point? And precisely what is a “position of power” – the power to have a blog, say?

      As for past “service to evil” – who should be in a position of power to make such a determination, only someone pristine? Is that you, Warren?

      “People in power must be held to ‘pristine’ standards, ..”

      Hmm, that’s a slightly different standard now isn’t it? What is to be “pristine”, the person or the standard? If the persons are, indeed, “pristine” then there is no need for another to hold them to an external standard. If they are not, then who decides on the standards, or for that matter on who is “pristine”?

      Sounds like an inquisition to me – toss her in the water, if she floats, she’s guilty, if she sinks, oh well …

  15. brazza

    First thanks for enriching my lexicon. “Manichaean as used in contemporary popular discourse refers to someone who sees the world as a struggle between Good and Evil”.

    Secondly, as a student of community dynamics, I find your arguments, and especially the manner in which you seek to bring to light and moderate the (often unconscious) urges governing debate fascinating.

    Thirdly, the example you give (Nazi Bulgaria), to argue that often the greatest good may come from individuals within compromised structures and institutions, is cause for deep self-examination. I am one who finds current systems unredeemable; perhaps as a reaction to the frustration of not seeing any sign of a comprehensive plausible solutions, to a sense of intellectual insufficiency to ideate any myself, perhaps impatient with incremental change … I have watched my approach wonder towards self-complaced sardonic nihilism. “Just put a match to it all already, would ya?”

    One of the many sources of interest in NC is to seek an answer to the following question: “Why does Eve, with her decidedly stoic leanings, bother … ? Why is she battling windmills left and right?” I haven’t answered it fully, but I sense that the final sentence of the final quote of your article … sheds some light: “As the great cosmological myth of the Kabbalah has it, the shreds of light that remain from the original divine universe may be collected only from the spheres of evil in which they now reside.”

  16. Paul Tioxon

    The sharp moral divide between good and evil has resulted in terrible wars, such as the Civil War. From the outset, slavery was at the core over the divide. There was not much room for compromise, although various concession were made to the Southern plantation holders up until war, the accommodations did not last. The preservation of the Union was fought for, in addition the abolition of slavery. A house divided against itself could and did not stand. It was torn apart by bloody killing and rebuilt. Creative destruction is not a term remotely associated with political struggles. And the profound effect of taking absolute moral stands changed the way of thinking of 4 men outlined in “The Metaphysical Club” by L. Menand. Those men developed the only philosophical contribution America has made to the world, pragmatism.

    “From a book review in American Scientist”:

    What James, Peirce, Holmes and Dewey accomplished was to gain wider acceptance for what Menand regards as a distinctly modern “idea about ideas”: that ideas themselves are socially produced devices—”like forks and knives and microchips”—for coping with experience, and thus are not primarily individually housed, internal constructions of some fixed, external reality. “The belief that ideas should never become ideologies—either justifying the status quo, or dictating some transcendent imperative for renouncing it—was the essence of what they taught,” explains Menand. Agassiz and the extreme abolitionists had exemplified this old way of thinking, as Menand shows. Agassiz’s deployment of scientific ideas to undermine the Lincoln administration’s efforts to protect liberated slaves in 1863 serves Menand as an emblem for the attitude toward ideas that “a new kind of skepticism” renounced. The new outlook taught by James, Peirce, Holmes and Dewey could help people deal with “a heterogeneous, industrialized, mass-market society . . . in which older human bonds of custom and community seemed to have been attenuated, and to have been replaced by impersonal networks of obligation and authority.” This attitude “permits the continual state of upheaval that capitalism thrives on,” and could “free thought from thralldom to official ideologies of the church, or the state or even the academy.”


    Manichean mythos, of an eternally battling set of good and evil figures, vs the modern way of thinking, tentative, pragmatic, not in blind service to tradition or received wisdom is a healthy, adaptive move in the right direction. But critics of this pragmatism have also pointed out that the modern Civil Rights Movement could not have been fueled with anything other moral certainty, that again, an American evil needed to be abolished. And furthermore, this time, once and for all. Of course the strategy and tactics were different from Robert E Lee and Gen Sherman the second time around.

    1. pws

      We have two problems right now. They are separate but not entirely unrelated. This first problem is ideological. The prevailing ideology of the Right is the childish “inverted Manicheanism” of Ayn Rand’s sick religion, Objectivism. For not only is this ideology wrong and destructive, it also has contempt for ideas like compromise and pragmatism. An illustration:


      The other problem is the open corruption of everybody who matters in every major Western government in the world. This is not ideological, and indeed for most of these people ideology is just something you espouse to fool the Rubes. Their only “ideology” involves their Swiss bank account numbers and how much graft is being put into them by the moneyed interests.

      Everybody in important positions in government (or close enough to everyone with a few brave exceptions) is making decisions because they are on the take and doing what their corrupt paymasters demand. The sole reason this gives the Ayn Rand ideology the advantage is because the Ayn Rand ideology actually advocates for ceding more power to the Capitalist paymasters, so there isn’t a huge moral problem (according to Objectivist morality, which is an inverse of normal morality) with, say, Paul Ryan taking money from rich people to advance rich people’s interests, since presumably he’d be advocating for the rich people’s interests even if they weren’t paying him.

      (It is possible for a Randian follower to be corrupt according to the tenets of Randianism, but in their upside-down world that would be if Paul Ryan voted for some sensible regulations or valuable social programs because for some reason the Koch Brothers decided they wanted it. I suppose it might happen sometime, but it will be fairly unusual.)

      1. Nell

        “Everybody in important positions in government (or close enough to everyone with a few brave exceptions) is making decisions because they are on the take and doing what their corrupt paymasters demand.”
        A comforting thought as it makes them bad and you good (for exposing the corruption). But the sad fact is that the world, whether its the upper echelons of power, or the helpless oppressed is a mixture of people who range from altruistic to sadistic sociopaths, incompetent to experts in their field, and so on. If you want social change it is better to focus on ideas and systems than individuals. For example, what is it about the system of government that allows for the promotion of people who work in the interests of one small group to the detriment of the population at large? One might argue, in this case, that campaign funds buy political favours – so your target should be campaign funding policy not the person who benefits (get rid of him/her, another one just takes there place).

        1. Aquifer

          The two are often entwined – in order to change the policy yopu may have to change the folks who make the policy …

        2. pws

          Corruption means, among other things, “Not enforcing laws on the books because the people you would be enforcing them against are politically connected.” Specifically, that these people have more power over political authorities than anyone else, and can tell them how to rule and how to enforce.

          Now, we actually have to strains of political corruption at work in the United States. Ideology driven, “We’ll put people in charge of the SEC who don’t believe in the SECs mission and will seek to undermine it from within” and payoff driven, “I’m willing to not enforce laws because the people I’d be enforcing them against will give me a payoff if I don’t.”

          Make as many new laws as you please, but if the law enforcers (Eric Holder, the SEC, Eric Schneiderman’s Mortgage Task Force, etc..) still refuse to do their jobs, what good are those laws?

          Probably a really key example of corruption right now is the Supreme Court. They are far too cozy with the people they should be judging, consequently we get an absurdity like Citizen’s United. Let’s say we manage to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, what do we do when a test case comes before the Supreme court and they say the Amendment was not legally ratified or has unclear language and nullify it? You cannot have a functioning state at a certain level of corruption. Ask the last Chinese Emperor, or the members of the Supreme Soviet.

          1. pws

            I’ve often thought it would be useful, to come up with what the real ideologies of our two government factions are. Discard the rube bait and the ridiculous culture war stuff about whether Obama was born in Hawaii or not, and come up with the real places where they actually have differing opinions. For example, one important difference is that the Democrats seem to be a party of fiscal sobriety and the Republicans a party of fiscal profligacy.

            However, because of corruption, that message doesn’t get out. Democrats pretend to be in favor of traditional Democratic programs, Republicans pretend to be flinty deficit cutters, but the Democrats work at dismantling the programs that the pre-Third Way version of the party created in order to create government surpluses, and the Republicans run up deficits like drunken sailors on crack when they get control of the government.

            If you like one or the other of these positions (and Republican spending is mostly good if you are named Kellogg, Brown, Root or head up some similarly favored firm) then it would be nice for some honesty to tell who was who.

      2. Paul Tioxon

        From the book:”Class and Power in The New Deal” by Domhoff and Weber….

        “Class and Power in the New Deal provides a new perspective on the origins and implementation of the three most important policies that emerged during the New Deal — the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Social Security Act. It reveals how Northern corporate moderates, representing some of the largest fortunes and biggest companies of that era, proposed all three major initiatives and explores why there were no viable alternatives put forward by the opposition.

        More generally, this book analyzes the seeming paradox of policy support and political opposition. The authors seek to demonstrate the superiority of class dominance theory over other perspectives — historical institutionalism, Marxism, and protest-disruption theory — in explaining the origins and development of these three policy initiatives. Domhoff and Webber draw on extensive new archival research to develop a fresh interpretation of this seminal period of American government and social policy development.”

        If you recall yr 1040 tax returns, there has always been the peculiar case of Railroad Retirement included as a specific class, outside of the Social Security System.


        The reason is, the Railroad Retirement pension system pre-dates and serves as the model for SS. And furthermore, the rich plutocrats promoted the social welfare programs, based upon actual social science studies. The social sciences, as I Wallerstein demonstrates in his 4th installment of “THE MODERN WORLD SYSTEM: CENTRIST LIBERALISM TRIUMPHANT”, were developed as a social movement to accommodate society with the capitalist system. The robber barons needed the elite proles in the form of railroad men, to staff the new transportation system. They needed their loyalty in addition to their skill. And the buy in for the worker included retirement after a long life of grueling labor 6-7 days a week, 12 hours or more a day. In the aftermath of The Civil War, slavery was not an option. Not on simplistic moral grounds, but because free men just would not stand for it. The work conditions had to improve and social benefits were to be promulgated to the rest of the laboring populace, under the terms in the best interests of the plutocrats, that would take retirement and health care off the books of the emerging corporate America and put them on the balance sheet of the public via government programs. It served as a safety valve for social disruptions of work stoppages and other violent rioting.

        SO yes, the predecessors of the Koch brothers saw it in their interest to pass sweeping and costly social programs for unemployment, disability, retirement and health care. Now, a cheapskate slumlord mentality of ill prepared millionaires in waiting think they know the solutions to all of their get rich and stay rich quick scams.

        It is how the social order is possible. It is also why people who vote can see a sliver of meaning in choosing who they choose. Despite the arch radical conclusion, that we live in a corrupt unsustainable exploitative political economy, the replacement system is not readily apparent. Until radical proposals can point to successfully operating the replacement alternatives, who will walk out of the comfort and safety of what works in favor of pie in the sky political redemption.

        There are alternatives.

        This has been seen quite clearly by analysts over a century ago. The alternatives are operating right now, but are not widely seen as viable for one misguided reason or another. But I have not seen anyone of the bloggers actually doing anything that is a real, operating alternative to what can be a replacement. The de-commodification of life’s necessity can be seen in the hospitals and universities, that are almost uniquely, not for profit. Additionally, former money making engines, railroads and trolley car lines, have been turned into public transit systems. It is not as if there are not clear alternatives that have not been presented here on NC either, see move yr money into credit unions. The first use of the term socialism was by the promoter of cooperatives. It was not a state sponsored institution, but rather, a limited equity corporate form of business that exists to provide the goods and services that people need, not the corporate juggernaut of endless capital accumulation for investors with the attendant veil of political power and rapacious growth at any cost.

        1. Watt4Bob

          “SO yes, the predecessors of the Koch brothers saw it in their interest to pass sweeping and costly social programs for unemployment, disability, retirement and health care. Now, a cheapskate slumlord mentality of ill prepared millionaires in waiting think they know the solutions to all of their get rich and stay rich quick scams.”

          Boy you hit that nail square on the head!

        2. Nathanael

          Bingo, Paul Tioxin. Bingo. You have described what I have been struggling to describe in so many comments.

    2. ZygmuntFraud

      About a day ago, I was thinking of the rise and falls of ideas, customs, habits, notions of ethics as in “the history of ideas”. It dawned upon me that those ideas that can be expressed in public (verbally, graphically, by a tract/post, painting, sculpture, music) in Polite company, could be part of Culture, or emerged culture (as in the truth about the iceberg). The submerged culture, sub-culture which includes underground cultuture, is then all ideas that can’t be expressed in polite company. Example: “I think the Nazis were right.” is sub-culture, but was allowable in Nazi Germany.
      The point of this is that the sub-culture will come up (the “gross” ideas) in private, but seldom in public. Reading many things by many people over decades or more might be a way to “get a feeling” for all the underground culture …

  17. Capo Regime

    Great post. Manichean world views are quite prevalent in America and some have argued (Gray and Judt for example) that such views define American culture. No getting away from it when you have a blog with comments and your operating concept at core is disintermediation. Can it be attenuated–sure. Will you get nuanced comments on a blog (even a high brow blog like this) probably not with the frequency you would like. Another culprit driving the pissiness of posts is that NC has become successful and thus highly probably that paid trolls or mere defenders of status qou or some interest will pop in with greater frequency. Rest assured that several organizations monitor the blog and inject comments to test the waters and responses. The price of success in the blog world. Choices presently seem to be active management of blog comments section or doing away with comments. I suppose making comments a feature only available to say paid subscribers may be helpful though biasing.

  18. pws

    A big part of the problem is confusion over the concept of compromise engendered by it’s disingenuous use by the Obama administration. Obama is a strong believer in neoliberalism, and in fact the only reason why he hasn’t been more successful on that front is pure, bloody-minded Republican obstructionism. (Which they are doing for the wrong reason, but which has had the effect of preventing Obama from getting his cuts in social programs. An ugly win is still a win, as some football fans I know like to say.)

    However, Obama’s corrupt attempts to give away the store to his corrupt cronies is usually positioned as compromise for political purposes. That makes compromise, which normally means, “Get the best deal you can get, and continue to work toward good goals,” change to, “give in to everything the worst people in America want, and provide no hope that anything is going to get better anyway.”

    Sheila Bair probably had a “come to Jesus” moment after working with this monstrous, corrupt administration for a few years, which is why she’s writing books and spending more time with her family. It’s unfortunate, though, that you can’t shake the Devil’s hand and then say you were only kidding. Someday she may establish herself as a strong critic of neoliberalism, as Paul Craig Roberts has managed to do, but right now people are suspicious of her association with an openly corrupt administration.

    I believe the book is worth reading, but I’m not surprised at the negativity.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is a VERY astute point. There is a difference between compromise when you have made it really clear you are not going to be placated (as in seasoned negotiators say a good negotiation leaves everyone unhappy because they didn’t get what they wanted) versus this Third Way “oh we all have to get along nicely, no raised voices or tough tactics”. As Bob Fitch pointed out, the upper echelons have never given anything to the poor or working classes without them making a real show of force.

      So we do need to look hard as what people mean when they use the word “compromise” as in the actions behind the words. “Compromise” for Obama means “not trying at all to do what my base wants as cover for doing what I really wanted to do anyhow.”

      1. pws

        Stirling Newberry puts it this way:

        “The President who Obama most resembles is Herbert Hoover, another one of those chief magistrates of government who became inflexible and iron willed. His idea of compromise is that he cuts out what he thinks is a compromise, and then relentlessly grind on it. ”


        Notice that Obama is here called inflexible and iron willed, which runs counter to the perception of him on the Left.

  19. monday1929

    As someone with Manichean tendencies, and great appreciation for this site and Yves, I will take her words under consideration.
    Increasing polarization is a characteristic of Major, secular Bear Markets. Things really will be getting Much worse before they get better. We will need level headed, optimistic people to re-build from the ruins. None of these people will be pristine, none of us is either.

  20. Paul Niemi

    I always like the links. And I like reading about the latest rent-seeking behavior of the silk undershorts set: they are not used to the exposure and can’t like it. The page is clean, not infested with scripts, and generally I don’t feel like I need protective goggles and a seatbelt to read the comments. I would assume the trolling is spurred by the upcoming election and will mostly go away afterwards. Keep doing what you are doing.

  21. kevinearick

    Albert einstein, like ben franklin before him, was an insecure thieving patent office boy politician. the us navy is like the spoiled rich kid on the block, who has to have the latest and greatest toy, to rub in the faces of all the other kids. china is trying to present a threat with a used soviet flattop. you have your mythology, and the war that can only result. then labor will end it, like it always does.

    where do think technology originates, from a bunch of spoiled brats in capital and middle class?

  22. douglass truth

    seems like a good time to recommend a book for communicators of all kinds: http://tinyurl.com/9h9htv9
    “Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.” by Joe Romm, a leading climate change blogger. Great stuff, especially for knowing when someone is blowing smoke.

  23. jsmith


    Although, I do understand your wanting a more – at times – nuanced discussion regarding certain topics I do feel that in addressing this question one must understand where the heavily propagandized Western – especially American – citizens stand.

    Over the last 4 decades during the imposition of the neoliberal paradigm, the “nuanced argument” has been the weapon of choice for TPTB and lead to such phenomena as moral relativistism and other techniques whereby the elite have literally battered an unsuspecting populace with a propaganda so honed and intricate that to this day some still don’t see what is happening around them.

    Everything sounds just so logical and well thought out.

    Everything has a panel-tested catch phrase.

    Every issue is made to seem overly complex or simple – depending upon the designs of the elite – and when needed “experts” are trotted out to explain away any difficulties that are raised from time to time.

    After decades of evidence that the seemingly “nuanced” and “logical” words of the elite belie the wholesale murder of innocent people and theft of their resources, those savvy/intelligent enough to see what is happening begin to realize that anyone speaking “elite-ese” must either be in on the scam or an unwitting dupe.

    However, an unwitting accomplice is STILL an accomplice.

    Yes, a court ulitmately decides their guilt but they are still arrested and then must answer to people’s suspicions about their activities.

    Thus it is not that hard to see why in this day and age – after the terrible and unconscionable crimes that have committed – people begin to lose faith in ANYONE connected to said power structure and why shouldn’t they?

    If someone is a seemingly intelligent person – e.g., Blair – and has given people reason to believe that they understand the scam and all of its weapons – e.g., rhetorical – then how are people supposed to trust them if they don’t step outside of their designated roles in the power structure?

    How are people supposed to listen to them when they are still speaking the language of criminality?

    In the face of no justice, no redress and no restitution, how are people NOT supposed to think that anyone connected with the system – reminder: a system that handsomely rewards all of our “heroes” like Blair et al. – is in on the scam?

    Blogs like yours Yves – in the face of a fraudulent economy, a fraudulent electoral system and rampant criminality – are some of the few vehicles left for people who have seen through the scam and recognize its implications. One of the few vehicles left to express their sentiments that after decades of being lied to and stolen from they are coming to the conclusion that if you’re not wholeheartedly against a system that has been wantonly murdering and stealing – how much worse can you get than that? – then you ARE part of the problem.

    What you’re witnessing, Yves, is the product of DECADES of abuse and not the off-the-cuff musings of some p@ssed off extremists.

    And if the propaganda wasn’t so very effective at keeping otherwise intelligent and nuanced people at bay the screams for justice/vengeance would be even louder.

    1. jsmith

      Just adding to reiterate:

      At this juncture in our history we are indeed talking about the murder of millions of innocent people.

      At this juncture in our history we are indeed talking about the financial ruin of millions of innocent people.

      I could go on.

      Yet, we are continuously forced to engaged in supposedly “reasoned debate” about said criminality.

      I’m sure there’ll be “reasoned debate” about the next nuclear “incident” when that wipes out millions more, too right?

      I mean, right now we’re having yet a ANOTHER “reasoned debate” about savagely attacking and murdering thousands/millions of more innocent people in Iran, arent’ we?

      People have the long overdue right to be outraged beyond the confines of reasoned debate.

      And if you’re not outraged, ask yourself – after decades of witnessing what has come to pass – what if anything it would it take for you to finally get outraged?

      1. Warren Celli

        Great comment. Especially this, which is woth repeating…

        “After decades of evidence that the seemingly “nuanced” and “logical” words of the elite belie the wholesale murder of innocent people and theft of their resources, those savvy/intelligent enough to see what is happening begin to realize that anyone speaking “elite-ese” must either be in on the scam or an unwitting dupe.

        However, an unwitting accomplice is STILL an accomplice.”

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. ZygmuntFraud

          As a thought experiment, how could super-intelligent Martians write “Encyclopedia Earth” of the Martians? What would the Martians look at, listen to, test? Where would they go? In philosophy, there’s the “tabula rasa” concept; that means starting from a blank slate. The Martians start with a /tabula rasa/ . How can they find the truth about earth and humans?

          1. Warren Celli

            Do the super-intelligent Martians write for the sociopathic Xtrevilist elite Martians or do they write for the oppressed masses of Martians?

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          2. ZygmuntFraud

            I looked up “tabula rasa” on Wikipedia. There was a debate between the influence of nature and nurture on how babies grow up. Those who thought nurture (not nature) determined the character of a grown-up imagined an infant was born with his/her mind as a malleable “blank slate”.
            I agree with Celli that the thought experiment isn’t well-thought out without knowing “Martian ethics”. I don’t mean to bait or badger Celli. I don’t understand, for example, how Pol Pot and his associates in Cambodia could have caused the suffering they did and still sleep at night.

    2. Foppe

      May I recommend you pick up Isabelle Stengers’s Capitalist Sorcery: Breaking the Spell? It engages fairly interestingly with the question of what to think of minions/accomplices and their roles in sustaining the system..

    3. rps

      “After decades of evidence that the seemingly “nuanced” and “logical” words of the elite belie the wholesale murder of innocent people and theft of their resources…..

      At this juncture in our history we are indeed talking about the murder of millions of innocent people…..”

      jsmith, that has been the Native Americans argument since the “oppressed” Europeans came to the shores of america to become the Oppressors.

      We must look further than a couple of decades, and into the origins of USA. This country’s history is built upon the violent genocide of the indigenous populace, Native Americans. Why? To violently oppress, subjugate, and murder without cause for resources and land ownership and godly power over “others” lives and labor.

      Manifest Destiny is the operational blueprint of the citizens, president, and congress. The system has always been rotten to the “core.”

      It is the theory and practice of private propertied ownership that is built upon coveting and stealing of “others” resources. Simply, we must deconstruct our psychological conditioning to understand the machinations underpinning discriminatory “ideologies” as the norm of societal and cultural supremacy. “Others” is defined as an “agreed” prejudice based upon inherently genetic criteria (race, gender, class, sexism…). How does a woman escape her genetic code or a black man, an arab, hispanic woman, etc? The artificial constructs of discrimination are physical and psychological barriers to prevent groups of humanity from ascendency into the propertied wealth class structure.

      It’s the laddered power structure that ensures the continuity of the gluttonous propertied wealth class that must be dismantled. Think the catholic church as the world’s largest landowner and the pope who wears red prada shoes living in a fortified castle protecting the church’s ill-gotten “treasures.” Here we see the typical theological conditioning of the followers to materially sacrifice and give to the church to be rewarded in “heaven” when they are long dead. Question, why isn’t the pope also wearing rags and living in a cave to be rewarded in the after-life? Greatest property ownership scam for 2000 years.

      1. rps

        Discrimination creates many manmade boundaries other than the “inferior” genetic criteria such as: religious and cultural practices,sexual preference, etc… humankind who challenge the conditioned practices and “norms” of a society

      2. jsmith

        Surely, but let’s start NOW with TODAY’S criminals and crimes before we start ameliorating the debate by cramming it into a context that – surprise – makes today’s crimes look down right paltry, agreed?

        From a post I wrote yesterday:

        “The reason I’m so vehement in my response to you is that this is one of the most pernicious and effective forms of propaganda existent today – the upping of the moral relativism “ante” until no one can do or say anything as a problem that is so large that it is seemingly unsolvable is presented and people are cowered into ineffective dormancy – intellectual and otherwise.”

        An easy example:

        Israel is an apartheid genocidal country stealing the land from its rightful inhabitants.

        Hasbarist answer:

        Well, didn’t the early American settlers do the same thing on a larger scale?

        Desired response:

        You’re right, I guess Israel’s crimes aren’t that big of a deal then.


        You’re right, I guess we’ll just have to wait around for the wholesale change of the Western world before we do anything about it.

        Again, your sentiments I agree with but we all must recognize that “analysis paralysis”/moral relativism is a propaganistic weapon and tool used by the elite to assuage outrage and nip activism in the bud.

        1. psychohistorian

          And I believe that the wholesale change that the Western world needs to make is in the concept of inheritance and its associated result that the global inherited rich of the past few centuries decide who lives/dies/ gets elected/ gets funded/ etc.

          How about if we limit inheritance and create a social commons with the resulting capital?

          Think about the change in social incentives if humanity consciously had its basic needs met but still maintained motivation for working/contributing.

          1. enouf

            Not a bad concept to comtemplate at all (this is my pragmatic side showing – hope it doesn’t scare anyone).


      3. Aquifer

        “How does a woman escape her genetic code …’

        Shucks, maybe surgery and hormones?

        Yhis question assumes that there is some reason she should want to … tch, tch, tch

        Would you care to revisit that whole section?

        (In the new spirit of the times, i am trying to point out that maybe, just maybe, mind you, such phrasing might be, how shall i say, likely to arouse something less than benign reactions among those possessing those genes … of course it might be more efficacious, in the interest of keeping discussion on that refined, detached, abstract, “rational” level that some would seem to prefer, to do no more than tch, tch, or ignore it, but that would require large doses of Xanax and i hate to fatten Big Pharma’s pocket ….)

        1. ZygmuntFraud

          Perhaps “How does a woman escape her genetic code [determinism] ? ” was intended as a purely rhetorical question.
          I’m thinking that the person Aquifer replied to was hinting at attributes of the human body (sex, color of skin, eye shape, hair colour, build, nose shape, height) often serve to “classify” people into “races” , 2 genders, “ethnic groups”. The “Classification” can be used (I think almost entirely without much merit) to label people intelligent, worthy, civilized, important and so on [the “basis” of discrimination and racism ].

          1. Aquifer

            See, that’s the problem, IMO, those “simply rhetorical questions” are often windows into an underlying worldview or set of assumptions that have to be pried open. Unexamined assumptions, ISTM, are like cluster bombs – exploding long after fired and injuring countless souls when stumbled upon …

            Seems to me the more important question this raises is why would a woman want to escape her genes?

            Sorry, undoubtedly considered a digression from the theme – but it seems to me that a definition of terms should be the foundatiuon of any discussion – define your terms and go from there. It is indeed tedious, what seems like an endless series of “What do you mean by that?” but if there is mo agreement on terms, any agreement on ideas, ISTM, is illusory at best …

  24. john c. halasz

    Slightly off topic, but, yes, the Bulgarians did protect their own Jewish population from the Nazis, with whom they otherwise were allied, but they actively collaborated, for their own nationalist reasons, with the Nazi deportation of the Jews of Salonika.

  25. Jesse

    “Increasing polarization is a characteristic of Major, secular Bear Markets. Things really will be getting Much worse before they get better. We will need level headed, optimistic people to re-build from the ruins. None of these people will be pristine, none of us is either.” Monday1929

    Quite so. The rise of extremism goes hand in hand with hysterical rhetoric and thinking on both sides of the extreme. Hatred and fear crowd love out of the heart, and so the person become imbalanced.

    The far left is as bad as the far right, and often closer to each other than they would care to admit.

    But that does not justify it, it does not make it acceptable. But the far right is on a mission now, and so they are much more visible, feeling justified in their current excesses. But you know if the far left was ascendant, they would have their own set of victims and bullying targets.

    It is this growing hysteria, which I had seen coming long ago, that caused me to drop the idea of comments on my own blog after several experiences moderating chatboards.

    And it will get worse, before it gets better.

  26. Stratos

    I think readers are more emotionally frayed because whoever wins in November, we the people, are on the chopping block. The totalitarian state (complete with ubiqitous spy drones in US airspace) will probably begin in earnest in 2013. Who knows how long that state of affairs will last — a decade? Several decades? A century?

    I’m not too surprised by the actions of the One Percent and their lackeys.
    I am absolutly dismayed by the quiesence of the American population. General passivity coupled with harsh, meanspirited ‘kiss up, kick down’ attitudes and actions by large sectors of the polity is quite distressing.

          1. enouf

            omgoodness, i forgot the ‘o’ in bourgeoisie?

            dangnabbit — i really think a 2-5 minute edit time (or so) should be allowed; just think about it, thanks – and sorry for all the posts.


    1. Aquifer

      ” … whoever wins in November, we the people, are on the chopping block”

      To simply state it that way treats it like a law of nature eliminating the thought of resistance or any alternative instead of the self fulfilling prophecy such a statement is ….

      Once you tweak it to “If the duopoly wins in Nov. ….” the observation not only more matches the truth, but suggests the possibility there may be options ….

      Words ARE important – they are what we use to communicate ideas not only to others but to ourselves …

      1. ZygmuntFraud

        I agree with you, Aquifer, about the importance of words and good writing. If Ann is a lazy writer and Bob reads Ann’s lazy writing, it could take two hours for Bob to understand what Ann wrote. And if Ann overnight changes to a careful writer, and edits and re-writes her first draft as “draft 2”, guys like Bob could understand “draft 2” in just one hour.
        Ann and Bob can be switched in the above.

        1. Aquifer

          Perhaps just as, if not more, importantly, Ann might understand her own thoughts better. Have you ever had the experience when you have spoken your own thoughts aloud, you found yourself thinking “Why did i say that? Is that what i really think?” and then you embark on a journey of self discovery …

          (I have always preferred verbal conversation – it seems to me so much gets lost between the lines, and whole worlds drop right through those cracks between paragraphs …)

          1. ZygmuntFraud

            My logic powers are often faulty. I know this because I’ve written computer code in the C programming language for about a decade, and my programs often have bugs. Mostly, I’m left to debug my programs by myself. Sometimes, bugs are easy to catch and correct, but other times it takes considerable effort to diagnose the problem. So now, I do a small increment in the C code, and then test thoroughly [repeat].

            Outside of programming, when I study something, I try to guesstimate how well I understand it. So, yes, I often find my first understanding of complex things to be very narrow: a limited vista in a fog. Then my eyes adapt and on returning to the subject, can sometimes say: “I can see more clearly now.”

            In conversation, assuming the other person and me are both attentive, engaged, honest, and making a genuine effort at mutual understanding, yes, it can be most interesting. Usually though, these memorable conversations are not about highly technical subjects, but rather about the “human comedy” (or tragedy), and our parts in it …

      2. enouf

        Hello Aquifer;

        Re: Word Usage (and definitions too)

        Have you considered all the implications that a comment like this, made by another in this thread, implies?

        ” …the upper echelons have never given anything to the poor or working classes without them making a real show of force. …”

        a) the ceding of authority via usage of classes (upper)
        b) the inherent belief that some are above/better than others
        c) the religiousity of secular humanism needed to arrive at the “given” part of that sentence

        Just that single sentence shows such a negation of the ideas of Individual Rights, Self-Governance, Ownership/Property of Self.. i.e., “Liberty”. (not self-aggrandizement, not self-adulation)

        Do you see any way to offer those unsuspecting ‘accomplices’ (hat tip to jchase, i believe) a viable alternate option without being seemingly ‘manichean’, or worse, trollish in the comments?

        What about the “real show of force” bit?

        To me, that implies that force is needed to effect change, and i cannot agree with that, can you? Even if ‘show of force’ isn’t physical violence, it most certainly implies “threat” and “coercion”, if not also “extortion” … would you not agree that all those are bad behaviours? …or am i being too manichean again?


        1. Aquifer

          I guess before I would expound on “implications” i would want a few definitions, e.g. of “class” – have had some interesting conversations around that one. The implications would vary, ISTM, depending on the definition …

          Not so sure that it negates the idea of “individual” – doesn’t the idea that it does fall into this “Manichean” mindset? Why can’t we be “individuals” AND part of a class as well – contemporaneously or sequentially as the circumstances require? Does being a Homo sapiens mean i can’t be an individual?

          Am a bit confused = offer “accomplices” an alternative to what?

          Again – show of force

          1. Aquifer

            Apparently typing “show of force” was forceful enouf to get the “submit comment” button to prematurely submit … who says these machines don’t have feelings … Oops, forgive my “Squirrel!” moment. In any case, to continue:)

            Likewise – “show of force” could be interpreted as encompassing a number of things – I would want to know what the speaker meant … I could say, e.g. that i am in favor of “a show of force” at the polls and still have to refine it – i.e wanting large numbers of people to go to the polls and pull a particular level in a voting machine as opposed to wanting a lot of people to blow up the polling place … to answer briefly – i have said i am in favor of ballots not bullets

            I know it looks like I am avoiding your questions – but in the context of this discussion re words and definitions, I am trying to illustrate it ….

  27. Joe Renter

    I have been coming to this site for the last four years now and it really has been an education. I find both the post and comments stimulating. I am one who as Mark Twain said, never let school get in the way of my education. I work in construction (self employed).
    One thing I have to relearn often is that having an open mind to ideas and points of view is not an easy thing for me (us?). I think now is the time when we must be aware that the changes that are happing around the world are testing our response to what it means to be a part of humanity.
    We need a new way of thinking in so many areas of our exsistense. It is quite overhelming and surly creats stress to millions.
    I would sum it up (have to go to work) that there positive forces seen and unseen that are trying to help hummanity work through this transitional period.
    If you really want to work for change we all need to find common cause with all people that live on this rock. We are our brothers keeper.
    I recomend looking at Share Inernational’s site for some outside of the box ideas. http://www.share-international.org/

  28. Lambert Strether

    “If men [er, people] were angels, no government would be necessary….”

    * * *

    To my mind, the best thing about the Federalist papers is the recognition that humans are flawed, fundamentally, and the great project is how to set up a political system where flawed human beings don’t tyrannize over each other (it worked for awhile….). I’d argue further that the recognition and the project came not in spite, but because, of their intimate knowledge of slaveholders and slavery. Now of course, we have debts and rent, so it would be interesting to see how the discourse changes…

    1. psychohistorian

      I agree and if you read the history, that is why the original motto of the US was E Pluribus Unum and NOT In Gawd We Trust.

      Nationalize the Fed!

      Secularize the US Government!

      1. enouf

        Yes, .. except “secularize”?! c’mon .. i mean please! You could not find a more secular humanist religiousity that ever existed! In modern western culture, Man thinks he is god, and thinks he created the universe — and those self-annointed and appointed ‘gods’ believe themselves rulers of the all ‘others’.

        Please stop absorbing the MSM spin ; the Right-wing is NOT Christian in any way, shape or form (nor is the left-wing) – none of the people whom propogate those platform views are the disciples of Christ (though i’m not empowered to judge one’s righteousness, i do not see any ‘fruits’ worthy of bearing from their works, do you? All i see is gangrene). Hijacking occurs in even more insidious ways than the 9/11 archetype.

        Abolishment is the only way – IMHO


  29. Susan the other

    Yves, loved your last paragraph. Pure poetry. Now I’m trying to remember what I said about Sheila Bair yesterday, having not read her book but still commenting because I like what I see as her high level of integrity. I’m sure I said some blah blah that didn’t really cohere. Which brings me to a better point: If I am angry about something I always organize my thoughts and comments better. Don’t know why. I assume anger and frustration at the mess we are in is the best mental tool many of us have for organizing our thoughts in this almost totally ad-hoc world. But anyway, I take your point.

  30. Walter Wit Man

    So I’m now on moderation for discussing these subjects? Is anyone else being moderated like I am?

    1. Walter Wit Man

      I just find it very interesting that censorship of history is so prevalent, even today. We like to fool ourselves into thinking we have a free exchange of ideas when there are certain subjects that we are prevented from discussing.

      I have training as a historian and I come at this subject (WWII history) in good faith. In fact, I once fully bought into the idea that America was good and Hitler and the NAZIs were pure evil. I don’t feel a single bit of hatred toward any race or religion and if anything I bought into the idea that Jews were a special people who were specially harmed.

      All I want is to discuss the truth, as best I can discern it.

      Why are some people so afraid of the truth? If the “truth” is so evident then why the need to censor? I mean they are literally putting people in jail for discussing these subjects. That should tell you something. Most people with the truth on their side don’t feel the need to imprison questions about the truth. When I feel like I’ve stumbled on the truth I want to examine that truth and submit it to questioning!

    2. craazyman

      Probably not. If I were a betting man, I’d bet the answer is “no”.

      But in a world where Brian Wilson and Al Jardine can be fired from the Beach Boys, anything can happen.

      This whole post may be an exercise in Utopian thinking.

      That’s why I patrol the boards and hand out citations and fines when I see rampant solipsistic self-aggrandizement, inexcusably flawed logical reasoning, petty pettifoggery and egregiously haughty haranguing. There’s no good excuse for losing control of your mind. And it’s a public nuisance.

      Respectfully yurs,
      Lootenant Delerious T. Tremens
      Noouspheric Thought Police Patrol
      Squad Car 88
      At yur Service

      1. Fiesty

        Thankyou craazy. We need a watchdog around here.

        Whenever I get feeling like any of those big words you used, I get out my tally stick and get Master to play fetch with me.

        That helps.

        Loyally yurs,


      2. ZygmuntFraud

        Dr Delirium, can I pretend I’m in a Hanoi coffee shop like one of the nicse ones I found with goggle “coffee shop hanoi”?

        thanx Sir!

    3. kevinearick

      Don’t take it personally; all algos cut off the tails. just come back after they have “learned” and see what happens…

  31. steelhead23

    Dear Yves, While I agree that some recent discussions here on NC have been coarse, this ain’t no ZeroHedge – yet. To be honest with you, I found the piece on McCardle a tad coarse. She may be an articulate spokesperson for the Kochs masquerading as a pragmatist – but I wanted to better understand how a bright and articulate moderate could become an ardent Koch-aphile and got nothing on her conversion from the article (other than that it happened). So, if you are going to publish hit-pieces, which is certainly your call, you should expect to encounter a few trolls.

  32. MIWill

    Also, commenting whilst upon the beers sometimes doesn’t work out (cui).

    Or, so I’ve read about anyway. cough

  33. LillithMc

    Thanks, Yves, for your comment on Sheila Bair. Very few on the inside who had integrity functioned as well as Bair. Has the corrupt system managed to eliminate them? Comments sections everywhere seem degraded with the same lack of intelligence we see on the lame-stream media. In contrast some of the comments on NC have been brilliant as well a much of the blog. Thanks for all you do. Also I look forward to your animal photo everyday.

  34. Walter Wit Man

    I was prevented from discussing Omer Bartov’s scholarship in another comment so let’s test out the parameters of what we’re allowed to discuss.

    He’s written a simplistic and moralistic book; the thesis is that the common German soldier was filled with hate and evil.

    On the subject of the ‘Holocaust’ (TM), Bartov has written a much more detailed and fact-based account of the treatment of ‘people of a certain faith’ in Eastern Europe.


    But after reading that I am not satisfied that he is offering a nuanced historical accounting. It’s more detailed than his popular book demeaning the German soldier but still sticks to the basic theme that Germany was uniquely evil.

    But he even admits that the J’s in Poland were persecuted by the Polish government, the Soviet Union, and Ukranian nationalists, before they were mistreated by the Germans! The Germans were but one group that similarly mistreated them but of course Bartov focuses his emotional energy on the Germans. The numbers of allegedly killed are suspicious as some of these villages appear to be wiped clean of J’s first by the Poles, then the Soviets, then the Germans, etc., so that the villages have been cleared (or counted) many times it appears. Then he admits that many ‘survivors’ ended up in Palestine or North America.

    Why don’t these establishment historians look at population figures that call into question the traditional story of the “Holocaust?” Why don’t they focus more on the Soviets!!?? The Soviets are accused of running the same genocidal programs as the NAZIs but the Soviets covered up German documents and evidence all these years and we are just supposed to take their word for what happened when Germany controlled these areas?

    Really? This is the history the establishment is presenting? It’s incomplete, biased, and clearly appealing to emotion rather than facts.

    1. Synopticist

      Maybe you should read Omar Bartovs ‘Hitler’s Army’ again Walter. There’s nothing simplistic or moralsitic about it. It describes a cumulative process of brutalization through propoganda, fear, extreme discipline, military DEmechanisation and extraordinary phsical hardship, which produced a vicious murderousness amongst German soldiers on the eastern front that was NOT matched by their behaviour in western Europe.

      Furthermore, while Jews were mistreated and discriminated against by Poles and Soviets, they weren’t massacred in an industrial fashion by anyone other than the Nazi Germans.

      Omar Bartov and scores of other historians have been through the figures for Jewish dead with a fine tooth comb, using every source going, and all of them are broadly in agreement with the numbers killed.

      I suggest it’s YOUR interpretation which is biased, incomplete and emotionally driven, not that of the consensus of professional historians.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        According to you, the book shows “a vicious murderousness amongst German soldiers.” That does appear to be the main thesis of the book; the unique evilness of the German soldier on the Eastern front.

        It does this by cherry-picking letters and using these letters to characterize all German soldiers on the Eastern front. Don’t you agree that there is limited value in “scholarship” that tries to ascribe broad (negative) character traits to a whole group of people? Especially by using such dubious methodology and source material? Do you really believe the German soldier on the Eastern front was more “evil” than the millions of other soldiers that killed during the world wars? Would you have a problem with “scholarship” that ascribed broad negative character traits to Jews, for instance? How is this different? That’s the irony, that on the one hand we are meant to have sympathy for perceived bigotry against Jews but bigoted ideas about Germans are used to convince us.

        There may be a “consensus” amongst Western authoritarian scholars, but this is damning against your claims. The “scholarship” is a mess. The stories have shifted like crazy and walked back and much of it has been admittedly altered! There shouldn’t be a consensus; there needs to be new research.

        They are basically still using the same propaganda they used at the end of the war. You’ve seen that, right? Where they marched the German citizens past fake lampshades made with Jewish skin and fake soap made from humans and held other propaganda demonstrations? The U.S. Army even made propaganda films and made claims they now walk back, like which camps were death camps. The U.S. now claims not to have ‘liberated’ any death camps–all the death camps were in Soviet liberated territory. And the Soviets buried information for decades! And the allies have hidden the reality of their crimes like the soldiers the Soviets murdered and Eisenhower’s death camps.

        Re the ‘scholarship’ . . .

        They literally imprisoned a scholar in Germany who pointed out the Soviets were lying when they claimed 4 million died at Auschwitz. Then the establishment scholars, like the curator of Auschwitz that David Cole interviews, admit the very same thing years later! Now it’s revised down to 1 million. The Soviets intentionally lied and covered up the documents they had for decades.

        As David Cole points out, this number could not be ‘revised’ any more than the ‘establishment authoritarian’ historians have already revised.

        This history has not been impartially reviewed. Period.

    2. Walter Wit Man

      The reason for my oblique references to “Jews” is because I thought the word may have triggered my previous comment moderation.

      Realize it sounds weird now but was simply trying not to offend.

      1. Synopticist

        The myth that needed puncturing was “The German army in Russia was a normal, largelly honourable force that acted like armies do in every war, and it was the Nazis, not the army, that was trully terrible”
        That was not true. They were particularly brutal and murderous, by any standards of 20th century, western warfare. Bartovs book describes how and why this happenned.
        His use of letters, diaries and post-war accounts illustrates how individual soldiers had internalised the Nazi view of the conflict.

        I’m not going to respond any further to your delusiional, idiotic, dangerous and offensive views on the holocaust, other than to repeat that serious, well resourced and unbiased historians have studied it in great depth for decades, and that Soviet achive material released after the end of the cold war confirms and deepens the historical consensus.

    3. brazza

      Have you considered the slight detail that you may have wondered off the point? Using a quote to support an argument isn’t an endorsement of the book’s historic validity. You are arguing about the finger pointing at the star …

      1. Walter Wit Man

        I zeroed in on the point for a second, then wandered off in a meaningful way.

        The point was that Bulgaria was unique in its treatment of Jews during WWII. I have a basic question in that I thought Germany promoted removal of Jews to Palestine up until a certain point until they opposed this so aren’t Bulgaria’s actions consistent with that policy change? I now doubt establishment historians and think they have the burden of proving these claims.

        I’m wandering off in that I’m looking into the details of what this ‘expert’ scholar, Bartov, has alleged happened in Eastern Europe during WWII.

        Synopsicist and Bartov claim that the Soviets, Poles, and Ukranian partisans treated Jews better than the Germans did–that the Germans were uniquely evil. But here is what Bartov himself admits in the piece I quote above, about the Buczacz region that had a strong Jewish precence:

        In accordance with the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact that divided Poland between Nazi Germany and the USSR, Buczacz came under Soviet rule in September 1939. At the time the town had approximately 10,000 Jewish, 5,000 Ukrainian, and 2,000 Polish inhabitants. Most Jewish institutions were suppressed by the Soviets, and many Jewish refugees fleeing the Germans and seeking shelter in Buczacz were deported into the interior of the Soviet Union. With the German attack on June 22, 1941, hundreds of the town’s young male Jews were conscripted into the Red Army. . . .

        When the Red Army marched into Buczacz on March 23, [1944] some 800 surviving Jews came out of hiding in the area, most of whom were only to be murdered when the Germans temporarily recaptured the city. When Buczacz was finally liberated on July 21, fewer than 100 Jews were left. The remaining 400 former Jewish residents of Buczacz who spent the war in the USSR returned to their home town only briefly and went on to live in Israel or North America.

        How many of these Jews ended up in the Red Army and how many ended up in camps in the interior of the Soviet Union? Maybe the vast majority of Jews died being conscripted into the Red Army or sent to work camps? How reliable are Bartov’s figures? His oral histories? Do the Soviet numbers really ‘confirm’ what we already know? I obviously haven’t read all of Bartov’s sources but the facts are presented in a sketchy way. The figures are too precise for oral histories about number of resistance fighters in the woods, for instance, and why aren’t we seeing the original German or Soviet documents?

        I’m also dubious of people like Synopsicist who claim there is a consensus on something that has been a snow job from the beginning.

        1. Hans Suter

          I find it disgusting that your reasoning omitts entirely the suffering and death experienced by the victims.

  35. Jim

    It might be worthwhile for a moment to step back and take a broader philosophical look at what we might be collectively experiencing today.

    We may be in a transition from a political regime built on the assumption that we do not know for sure into a political regime built on the assumption that we do know for sure—or a move from a regime of uncertainty to a regime of certainty with all of its catastrophic consequences (i.e. think Italy and Germany in the 1930s).

    In the new regime of certainty there is no middle ground, there are no metaphors, there is only a passionate knowing born of an intoxication with certainty and the simultaneous creation of collaborating bureaucratic structures in both the public and private spheres which will carry out its edicts.

    Our old democratic society seemed to understand that each of us was limited in our goodness and in our knowledge and consequently we constructed a political regime that, because of our limited goodness, had to appeal to our self-interest and, because of our limited knowledge, had to be committed to procedural rules (i.e separation of powers, majority rule, minority rights etc.) which illuminated that we are equal in our ignorance and that their are no final answers or final solutions).

    Under the old regime of uncertainty we had to live with the anxiety which comes from not knowing for sure while under our new emerging regime of certainty we are beginning to live with the intuitive terror that there are no limits.

    1. Susan the other

      I think this is a good description of what began to happen in an orchestrated manner in the 70s. The old democracy, up until then, was chaotic. We’ve sacrificed the old rough-and-tumble democracy for a sense of certainty that the American Way of Life would continue for us and we would export it to other people. Whether they wanted it or not. We’ve been manufacturing consent for a good 80 years. Our downfall came when we lost credibility with each other. And when we thought we could make finance political without making politics financial. And when everything stopped working.

      1. psychohistorian

        I would argue that up to the 70’s the US didn’t need to go to war to further it empire but by the 70’s war was necessary to put fear into the “lower class” so that empire could continue.

    2. lambert strether

      We’re in the midst of a change in the Constitutional order, for sure. Bobbitt (in short form) labels this as a change from the nation state to the market state (think charters as a model for all government functions) but then misconstrues the nature of the market state.

      1. ZygmuntFraud

        On constitional matters, I’d like to mention that Thursday 27th’s Democracy Now had:
        – a Premiere of a Bill Moyer production “The United States of ALEC” ALEC means ? , but it’s an acronym , and

        – A 15 to 20 minute segment of Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom, and further discussion in studio with Amy Goodman hosting an attorney familiar with the Assange legal imbroglio.

      2. Aquifer

        The Market Model of Life – wherein we know the price of everything and the value of nothing, as they say.

        At the risk of being an anachronism, i shall resist and advise resistance to that model as long as i have breath …

  36. ebear

    “One might ascribe it to a multitude of influences: elevated stress produced by a lousy economy, the utter distastefulness of the Presidential campaign, the offhanded corruption among our ruling classes and their minions, the nagging worry that another big shoe might be about to drop (Iran? Europe?)”

    How about, out of work and nothing on TV?

    Seriously though, you should go back and read your McLuhan. What’s happening here (and elsewhere in Blogistan) is no mystery. The dynamic is described in his tetrad formula:


    What you’re seeing here is familiar to anyone versed in Usenet or the its prehistoric form, the Bulletin Boards. Difficulty of access sets a limit to the level of participation, thus filtering for those parties most intent on sharing their views (whatever they might be). As access becomes easier, you get a broadening base accompanied by a watering down where the content becomes increasingly more mundane, and the tendency to highjack or piggyback likewise increases. Eventually the original participants wander off in search of a better medium, or splinter off and close the door behind them to focus on their speciality.

    In a dynamic world, nothing holds sway for ever. Entropy is forever at work, and as things in general speed up, so too does obsolescence of the particular.

    Facebook, anyone?

    1. Aquifer

      so ebear, do you think that Yves, to maintain the quality of her site, should tell some of us to take a hike?

      Shucks, that’s OK – I’ve been tossed out of other places before – one DOES have to have standards, after all, or the joint becomes a dive …

      1. ebear

        “so ebear, do you think that Yves, to maintain the quality of her site, should tell some of us to take a hike?”

        No, she should just shut it down for a while. About a month ought to do it.

    2. avg John

      Are we talking about the worthless 47 % that don’t even pay taxes, or the 99 % not represented by government, or just average, working-class, functionally illiterate boobs here?

      Would it be too much to ask, for the “enlightened ones”, in their infinite mercy and supreme sense of justice, to share a few crumbs of insight and wisdom for the wretched and unwashed masses.

  37. Cyrus Rex

    NC is one of the very few blog sites where I ever bother to read the comments section and even here many of the responses are frequently divisive if not entirely irrelevant. It is true, to be sure, that we are rapidly being segregated into a black and white (not racial but belief) structure which prevents rational commentary from taking place in the public sphere — not to mention in the blogsphere. I have no effective answer to this problem since it is the desired end product of the corporate/political establishment. They really do not want us to communicate across the blind boundaries of social and political Chinese walls they have constructed for us.

    I do have two suggestions which might assist in coming to an understanding of how things came to be this way. The first is what is probably the best history ever written of the twentieth century, Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope. This incredible tome makes is quite clear how the current situation in financial and corporate dominance and military solutions to non-existant military problems are long-standing policy prescriptions of the ruling elite; and that the only change in emphasis from liberal to reactionary was the fall of the Berlin Wall (actually this is my interpretation since the book was published in 1966 and Quigley died in 1977, but see for yourself where it leads).

    The second is to read the final book by Joe Bageant, Rainbow Pie. This book, more than any I have ever read, explains the distinct divergence of opinion and life-style between urban liberals and rural conservative working class folks. Most importantly, it makes it clear that what liberals see as “poor folk” voting against interest is not necessarily what it appears to be. It also does a wonderful job of demonstrating that people can hold completely divergent opposing political and social views and still be good people. In this, if perhaps in nothing else, lies hope.

    The great weakness resonsible for most of the current “sickness” which is destroying a once almost healthy society (it has never been all that pristine) is the artificially induced “hatred” of the “other” — those whose views we do not share. This sickness is equally advanced and equally destructive on both sides of the political divide. Unfortunately, it is not likely to be overcome any time soon, and there lies our doom.

    1. Glenn Condell

      ‘It is true, to be sure, that we are rapidly being segregated into a black and white (not racial but belief) structure which prevents rational commentary from taking place in the public sphere — not to mention in the blogsphere. I have no effective answer to this problem since it is the desired end product of the corporate/political establishment. They really do not want us to communicate across the blind boundaries of social and political Chinese walls they have constructed for us.’

      Well said Cyrus. It is just too easy for apparently free and frank discussions on the net to be hijacked. Simply ask: can they? If they can, then ask: would they? A no-brainer.

      Is there any secure way that citizens can collectively register preferences (political, economic, social) on the net in real time? All the web talk in the world doesn’t amount to hill of beans if it can’t be collated and utilised.

      I had a think about this nearly ten years ago on a friend’s blog, arriving at a federally-supported voter opinion website, transparently open source and accessible via a dedicated citizen login and password. The idea being that ‘public opinion’ hitherto measured and to a degree controlled by private media and market research outfits could be reeadily gauged in real time, unfiltered through a prism of vested interests. It is about halfway down this page under ‘Plebiscite.com’:


      Like victims of shipwreck we are all floating around in water we cannot drink. The political promise of the internet seems to have died as its potential to divide has been far better exploited than its flipside power to unite. We cannot break through without it, but on the other hand it could be controlled and therefore used to defeat us. Not to mention the risk of our putting all our eggs in a basket that needs massive energy and rare earth minerals ad infinitum.

      Thanks also for the Quigley rec – will chase that up. I have just read Soros’s NY Rev piece on Europe and though very sensible and informative I was left with the nagging feeling that it let the Eurocrats off the hook for knavery, putting it all down to foolishness. George is not exactly a disinterested observer.

      As for Joe Bageant, there is a nice interview with him on KMO’s C-realm podcast:


      1. Cyrus Rex

        Glenn, as far as I know Carroll Quigley is the only historian to have written admiringly about the ruling elite beginning with John Ruskin and the Cecil Rhodes connections in his first book, The Anglo-American Establishment. He was both an admirer and a critic of this elite cabal and a true insider in the system. He is reputed to have been the only historian ever given unfettered access to the Rockefeller archives and was Bill Clinton’s history professor at Georgetown.

        However, the last portion of his Tragedy and Hope tome (it’s over 1400 pages of fine print) suffers somewhat as it tends to be overly optimistic about the future of U.S. policy. Published in 1966 before the Reagan revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union. The important material deals with the repetative mismanagement of the economic and political systems by those given charge; and, more importantly, that what we are now witnessing is simply a larger and more bungled repetition of what has gone before.

        This time there may be no salvagable resolution as the hole may well have been dug too deeply and those in charge too thoroughly imbued with their own created mythology of how the system actually works. This is, of course, a masterful and delusional fiction which we are all asked to buy into without question or comment. Quigley’s bio is in Wikipedia. The course he taught at Georgetown mirrored his second book, The Evolution of Civilizations — also excellent!

        1. Glenn Condell

          Thanks Cyrus

          ‘the last portion of his Tragedy and Hope tome (it’s over 1400 pages of fine print) suffers somewhat as it tends to be overly optimistic about the future of U.S. policy.’

          I had the same sensation when reading Richard Feynman on the centrality of doubt in scientific progress. He makes lots of sense to begin with:

          ”Looking back at the worst times, it always seems that they were times in which there were people who believed with absolute faith and dogmatism in something. And they were so serious in this matter that they insisted that the rest of the world would agree with them. And then they would do things that were directly inconsistent with their own beliefs in order to maintain that what they said was true… It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress and great value of a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress that is the the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom, to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed, and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations… The writers of the Constitution knew of the value of doubt… The fact that you are not sure means that it is possible that there is another way some day. That openness of possibility is an opportunity. Doubt and discussion are essential to progress.’

          But then says:

          ”The United States government, in that respect, is new, it’s modern, and it is scientific.’

          Even the best of us can be blinded by the present when thinking about the future.

        2. Fiver

          Apparently Clinton day-dreamed through the entire course – planning his ascent to wealth, fame and power via his remarkable ability to hurl volley upon volley of pure bullshit out of all five sides of his mouth.

  38. Siggy

    I’m not sure that I apprehend what it is to be manichean. What I do observe here and elsewhere is a general distress of the population. It is a distress of fearing an unknown resolution of a very bad and corrupt political economy. The corruption ranges across the world and is most notable here in the US.

    The comments that are presented here are often strident and self serving. The problems discussed are often multifaceted and not amenable to easy resolution. My view of the world is that unless and until we have a correction of the frauds, we are headed for an even greater degree of distress.

  39. Paul Walker

    Note to bots and do(l)ts: Direct your automated responses to another channel. Nothing insightful in pressing #1/enter and kicking out an automated response, except in a perverse sense of dedicating time, money and energy demonstrating ineffectualness in the pure.

  40. Trestle Rider

    I refuse to believe the phrases liberal or conservative convey any information about a person.

    I refuse to believe that the labels republican or democrat convey any useful information.

    I refuse to believe there are only two sides to any question.

    I will attempt to see the idealism and good points from most any point of view, and they are there.

    Some of my biggiest enemies are those who demonize half the population, as if that was ever an acceptable thing to do.

    I refuse to believe there is an ideal trancendent governmental solution to anything. Instead, there are only temporary useful tactics that must be adjusted periodically.

    I believe man’s natural state is to enslave himself.

    I believe we all do want the same things, and we all agree in the basic ways to achieve them, the rest is just where to place the emphasis. Read any presidential acceptance speech from the last 60 years. Disagree with anything much? It does not matter the political party.

    I believe the time has come for the legacy political parties to fade away. Instead of false groupings to waste time with, there are only issues to form positions on.

    I believe there are ways to characterize most issues fairly and not disparage any group’s concerns.

  41. MRW

    Nice post, Yves. Especially liked the closing quote. If our society would understand the underlying humanity of it, the melodrama (non-perjorative meaning) we cling to as virtuous acts would give way to the far richer, layered, and sophisticated world of tragedy (again, non-perjorative meaning).

    Melodrama judges the world as us vs them, good vs evil, white vs black, and the protagonist has never taken part in his own demise: someone else is always to blame.

    Tragedy, on the other hand, can only flourish in a mature and sophisticated society where a protagonist understands upon self-refelction the part he or she played in what happened to him.

    (Whoops…gotta run…another time.)

  42. psychohistorian

    I start from the premise that the only chance I have with effecting others is with the example of how I live my life.

    It gets real complicated after that because of the disparity on how each of us sees the world. I try and keep folks focused on the the global inherited rich while others attack their view of the “beast”.

    I hope in spite of our differences we can agree that we need a government to help us manage our social interactions and one of the purposes of that government must be to build and maintain safety net sort of programs for the common good. The common good must be paid for by those that have benefited by the social system we live under. All who benefit from the system must work/contribute to the degree they are able, within socially accepted/upgraded norms.

    Lots of folks have lots of ides to make our world a better place. The first step is to collectively stop the merry-go-round destroying our world…..change for the better cannot come until we stop going the wrong direction.

  43. John Cawley

    Thanks Yves for the thoughtful article.

    So funny/sad. so human.

    I first read the gold bugs before the crash and then become more discriminating, leading to authors who predicted the crash. I currently enjoy Jesse’s curating and pithy commentary at http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/ I typically arrive at NC from the café. Yes, Golem XIV is informative. http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/ My deepest study is with Eric Janszen at http://www.itulip.com where I’m a paid subscriber, but really struggle to understand the material.

    In seeing the mendacity, duplicity, frat-house bullying, subtle and raw power plays in the various govt and finance institutions, my instincts were (and to some extent still are) to CREATE bad guys versus good guys, to SEE in black and white. The more primitive part of my brain/psyche craves scapegoats. And so, I identified a parade of them over the years, to accompany the parade of shocking stories we’ve all been witness to. The more I have read, the more I realize that it is complex. My righteous indignation can keep me stuck in primitive thinking. More and more I see the limits of our current thinking, current “scientific” methods, current methods of discourse.

    I’m typically a quiet reader rather than poster because by the time I’ve organized my thoughts, they have usually already been expressed. I agree with other posters that comment forums are often a repository for venting. This has healthy and unhealthy implications. Healthy in that we can get it out in pixels and hopefully not take it out on loved ones. Unhealthy in the possibility of self-delusion.

    I’m optimistic. While I’m currently hypnotized by observing the current crises, I suspect that outcomes we prefer will come from sources as richly complex, nuanced, layered, and paradoxical as the rich weave of causes of the crisis.

    As my grasp of the “crisis” matures, I’m hoping my humanity grows apace.

    1. Glenn Condell

      Sounds to me like you’re alright on the humanity front. Nice to see someone else admitting they struggle with the concepts at times and also noting the tendency we have to look for bad guys instead of the systems that permit them.

      If you only read Yves Eric Jesse and Golem you are better informed than most.

      1. Nathanael

        Trouble is, the more I’ve studied psychology, the more I think there actually *are* “bad guys”.

        I don’t think it’s their *fault*.

        But some people are born with psychopathy, and the intelligent psychopaths will tend to rise to the top unless we very carefully design a system to weed them out. And then they will make a big fat mess and hurt all of us.

  44. Mcmike

    I blame the popup ads.

    Actually, and regretably, i have yet to see a discussion board avoid the entropy of a society that learned how to argue from Rush Limbaugh

  45. Brick

    I think Tu quoque arguments tend to appeal to peoples sense of fairness and come to the fore when fairness seems to be in short supply.
    Manichean thinking I think reflects modern day life. You almost need to shout and act with ultimate conviction before anybody listens.

    Comments that catch my eye are those that
    1) Relate a personal experience, often without a technical element.
    2) Those that make me laugh.
    3) Those that draw attention to different data and opinions, providing they are at least semi reliable sources and not too biased.
    4) Those that delve even deeper into the subject, to show other facets or how the data may be flawed.
    5) Those that challenge my own perceptions.
    6) Those where interactions are polite, and drawing people in. Questions rather than statements are a good example.

    I notice that part of the title is effecting change and I perceive that decision makers personal integrity tends to go out of the window to achieve their objectives. For instance I get the impression from the excerpts of Sheila’s book she considered some decision makers to be under handed, economical with the truth, and deceitful in obtaining their objectives. Are some blog commenters inability to compromise and come to a consensus just a reflection of the attitudes of our decision makers?

  46. enouf

    I stopped reading the comments (which i rarely do), once i got to a certain sub-thread – too much ‘overcomplication’, and yet, we all believe financial matters and contracts need to be so? … anyways,…..

    IMHO, it really comes down to one axiom;

    [i] Do unto others, as…
    (if you don’t know the rest, stop reading this)

    the above axiom prerequisites are existentially atleast;
    a) not a psychopath
    b) not a sociopath
    c) a willingness to put oneself in another’s ‘shoes’

    that said;

    This post/thread is so sad; the excommunication of Mr. Warren Celli saddens me deeply, for various reasons.

    WeTheOnes are all ‘judgemental’, each reality is unique, yet we all share common emotional bonds (and, i believe, a spirituality — one cannot deny stardust anymore than one can deny their own consciousness).

    One makes judgements on a tick-tock basis, …everything one does – whether one decides to not act ‘judgementally’ after processing the information their senses absorb, or whether one processes that information in some way as to elicit a response — after all, without responsiveness, consciousness would cease, no?

    This above is the issue i have with the aforementioned ‘if A insults, does B feel insulted… [and if so, how does B respond to that perceived insult] ‘ nonsense.

    I would love for this place (NC) to be more philosophically-based, but i would never suggest, nor demand it; rather, a fork of this site might do some justice-for-all. I believe that at the core, there are more rudimentary factors that need to be addressed, and ‘complication-for-deceptive-purposes’ is but just one massive one that permeates all of our culture …and yet, one wouldn’t deny that certain ‘things’ are right and wrong, such as Murder, Rape, Incest, Child Abuse, Theft … Why do we each know those things innately? (or, do you believe we do not?). Are these things (morals) to be so Manichaen? Do absolute morals exist? If so why? If not, why not? .. sigh

    We, collectively, as a species are at a seriously critical juncture, and i think most would concur – especially with the advanced weapon[ry] technology that seems to consume…more and more of the resources many proclaim are designed to keep the Individual free from oppression — talk about hypocrisy!

    I love you

  47. Andrew Watts

    I think that sort of dogmatic thinking has it’s place in these discussions. Particularly when people in general are going to suffer undue hardship. When these political and economic decisions adversely affect their everyday lives that dogma transforms itself into a moral imperative. As opposed to the moral idealists’ inclination to equate good intentions with positive action. Or the nihilism of the moral cynic.

    I’m pretty sure I’m missing a good opportunity to quote Reinhold Niebuhr and his essay on the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.

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