The microscopic eye

By Michael J. Smith on Wednesday September 19, 2012 10:19 PM

My Obiebot friends are good algebraists. They can understand equations. For example:

(10,000 / 10,000) * (1,000/1,000) * (100/100) * (10/10) ... * (0.0001/0.00001) = 10

See? Obama is ten times better than Romney!

For those whose eyes -- like mine -- tend to glaze over at sight of an equation, no matter how trivial, let me rephrase this a different way.

Lesser-evil reasoning consists essentially in discounting all the ways in which the candidates are indistinguishable, and focusing on whatever apparent or real differences there are. So the fact that (for example) they're both mass murderers, actual or aspiring, cancels out; it appears in both the numerator and denominator. Well, onto the next thing. They're both big advocates of the police state, and education 'reform', and Israel, and immiseration -- cancels out. But aha! One of them has kinder words for the uterus than the other! Well then, there's your 0.0001/0.00001 ! A tenfold difference! And since there are no other differences, well, there's your decision made for you. Register and vote, contribute and post enthusiastic dribble on your Facebook page. It's simple algebra.

As logic goes, this is flawless. It only becomes absurd at a certain level of scale. If Ted Bundy were the Demolican candidate, and John Wayne Gacy the Republicrat... Well, a Gacy administration would certainly be better for women. But at that point, most people would throw up their hands and say 'who gives a shit?'

Please note however that even in the Gacy/Bundy case, the lesser-evil logic is still ironclad and irrefutable. There's always a lesser evil, and with instruments of sufficient refinement, capable of measuring out to enough decimal places, you can always find it.

So the interesting question for me is this: at what point in the process do people stop doing nano-arithmetic? How many decimal places is too many?

I am of course quite encouraged by the fact that for a substantial number of Americans, this point was reached a long time ago. I wonder why so few of my friends are among their number, however.

Comments (30)


because you are still politically engaged enough to even keep a blog about it, and tend to congregate with similarly diseased minds.




Consider this cheering sketch of "Obama 2.0" from Pepe Escobar.

I keep getting the feeling that there is a danger that Romney's continued presence will have a different effect on Obama. Obama may to decide that, with Romney losing momentum in the polls with his every out-of-touch public appearance, now is the time to go for a second term "mandate" and not accept the squeak/sneak past the post by a nose that has been his best hope to this point.

Obama might decide that he could steal Romney's Zionist support by green lighting a clean little Israeli airstrike or two in late October. Martin Indyk, e.g., has already said that whoever gets the big job will have to attack Iran within 6 months of election day. Why not get that out of the way when there are votes to be gathered, states to be "Blued", and an electoral mandate to be claimed?

If our friends didn't have the branding so deeply embedded in their every potential thought and impulse, they might question whether or not the Romney isn't an aspirer at all, that he's just saying these things to get elected, and that once he does, he's gonna end all the wars and give all or our ponies coverage via Medicare.

Who was it made the point that one can't use logic to refute a belief acquired irrationally? Ed Gein?

(Hold it there, MJS... I've finally detected a leitmotif on SMBIVA: there was that "Buffalo Bill" post a while back and now I see you're name-dropping Bundy and Gacy; will search the archives for citations of Richard Speck and Gille de Rais)

Merkin in Montreal:

This post prompted me to reflect on the days when I gave a shit about voting. I thought about the time when fellow comrades and I voted for Nader, which brought about 8 years of pondering whether or not a Gore presidency would have made any difference. Although, having cast that vote in Cali, we didn’t have any impact on the final result anyway. But, that didn’t stop us from pondering if President Gore would have been less awful than President Bush. To this day, I can’t say with any certitude that a Gore presidency would have made a difference for the better and the reason is that the circumstances that enabled Bush and later Obama to turn the country to its current police state might have also presented themselves during a Gore presidency. Had Gore won the election instead of Bush, his response would have been pretty much the same after the events of September 11. Ok, so he might have not invaded Iraq or he might have thrown a few bones to the environmentalists but regardless, he would have been on the same trajectory as Bush in cutting our civil liberties, hiking the military budget, and pushing an austerity program.

In the case of Gore v. Bush election, the liberals’ anger at Nader voters could be somewhat justified because not having him as president, they could make up all kinds of fantasies about his presidency and hence, justifying the lesser of the two evils. But in the case of Obama v. Romney, they’ve had 4 years of witnessing what a “more effective evil” can do to the country and the planet as a whole but they still stand by their man. Why? Because given this voting block’s priorities, none of his offenses matter anyway and that’s the naked truth: their priorities. Ask yourself why would a liberal give a shit about curtailing our civil liberties. It’s not like they may engage in some civil disobedience activity anytime soon. Why care about Obie’s kill list. It’s not like any of them would ever make it on that list. Why care about his drone wars when the bombs are not falling on them and their children. His austerity programs and his Unaffordable Health Care Act do not touch their lives.

That is not to say that they’re ALL a bunch of rich and well to do people. Instead, I’m saying that none of these programs have made a dent in their lives and that’s why they can afford to focus on their priorities such as uterus policy, court appointments, gay marriage, etc. Some may view them as well meaning but ignorant. I however see them as exactly what they are: self-centered righteous beings that sadly, make up the bulk of humanity.

As an old Farsi saying goes, “the knife hasn’t hit the bone yet” and I assure you, if it ever does, they too will start rethinking their priorities.

Brian M:

to a degree, Merkin, I think your comment reflects your own privelege (there...I used a fashionable concept!). To a gay male, these minor issues are a lot more important than your dismissal suggests. Or, perhaps, to a religious minority, or even a woman.

The theocratic insanity behind much of the current Republican resurgence is pretty terrifying to some of us. And its even impacting Canada, now.


Brian -- Set your mind at ease. The Rs don't mean what they say, any more than the Ds do. And as for theocracy -- surely you don't imagine that the corporate elites who own and run Amurrica want to put *God* in charge, rather than themselves?


Brian, I think her point was more about how we can get momentarily get swept up in gratefulness about those issues particular to ourselves ...and in that moment, be overwhelmingly wooed with gratefulness ...versus her attacking any particular group who have grievances...

I'll go even further to say that I was bewildered and thoroughly angered as to the lack of support for biological females amidst such loud support for biological males who identify as more feminine than male in Cali in the last seven or so years ... when biological females have gotten such a shitty end of the stick to have had polls stating that a majority would rather have biological males raising children, despite being 'gay' ...than poverty ridden biological females who bore those children ...

just spilling some thoughts out, Brian,'s not at all an attack is just another 'experience' ....

Having commented on that, I really do believe that droning of communities the largest danger we are facing now ...and it's horrifying, ...the SILENCE as to THAT evil.


"The droning of communities" is inspired. I particularly detest the droning of the "business community".

It's weird and annoying how we use this word in the US. The black community, the Jewish community... why don't we say "the female community", I wonder?


I meant it as in those physical groupings of various people of various genders, living in various locations, as in those communities being droned in those seven plus countries ... and those likely soon to come physical groupings of dronees in the UZ which the climate of agreement is being increasingly tested for:


Brian M,

The privileged and powerful generally have no problem whatsover with gay rights, as long as those rights --- and the fight for them --- don't threaten the class structure. This is particularly true with gay marriage. Elites are just fine with it --- conservative zillionaires even funded its passage here in NY State --- because it doesn't threaten their privileges one iota.

I do, however, think that areas where gay people are gaining economic and workplace rights are, of course, a threat, as is any form of empowerment of the non-rich, non-privileged.

My own "position" on marriage: civil unions for whoever wants them, and leave "marriage" to the superstitious.

I can think of few things that reek of wealth, decadence and privilege than self-righteously writing about how you don't vote on a blog. People have been beaten and killed to, in part, participate in the political process. No, this observation does not require us to treat the vote as sacrosanct. Yes, voting is a token, symbolic, meaningless, cynical gesture. I know. The fact still remains that we have enough privilege to spurn a symbolic act that others take seriously enough to die for.

Sidenote: I don't even care what my friends are doing once a November morning every couple of years.


US Presidential elections are as real as televised wrestling, a bruising contest that is fake. Good cop, bad cop. Two sides of a Mobius strip.

I'm not disappointed by (CIA asset) B.H. Obama, it was obvious he was picked as the Empire's front man back in 2007.

Rmoney has to perform this poorly for Obama to get four more years.


If I had a mere fraction of the wealth and privilege MJS is presumed to have by the trolls, generations of chomskyzinns could live the life of leisure.

Blogging about not voting is hardly a diss to the people who died for the right. That for which they died had been corrupted by money and power. That's not their fault. And they died for the right to vote, not to compel others to do so.


I kinda wonder who these people were that 'died for the right to vote'. It's a perennial trope but I can't offhand think of anybody who falls into that category. People died to end slavery, they died trying to organize unions, they died even to pay less in taxes, but to vote?

Old joke:

Parent: Eat your spinach. Children are starving in China.
Child: Name one.


no taxation without etc. ...

the trope refers to the revolutionary war dead.

now you can reply that those soldiers couldn't vote and i can say that they died so that white male property holders could vote and that fits in with the notion that THEY DIED so that WE COULD VOTE, the franchise having been extended subsequently.

then someone can point out that the extension of the franchise to black people, de facto, consumed the lives of the civil rights martyrs.

and then someone else could point out that the civil war led to the constitutional amendments that provided the franchise for former slaves and that that war gobbled up a whole bunch of lives including the lives of some who probably thought about the franchise.

then someone will recall the death of some suffragette.

then you will be back to demolish us all with some reinterpretation that none of us simpler folk has thought of (could think of).

why does "could" contain an "l". i know you know, mr. smith.


Footage of a woman dying to gain the right to vote. A contemporary woman was not too keen on sacrificing herself at the altar of this "deity":

Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the conventional ground that she is not equal to it. I see neither physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have the equal right to vote with man. But that can not possibly blind me to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has failed. If she would not make things worse, she certainly could not make them better. To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers. Since woman’s greatest misfortune has been that she was looked upon as either angel or devil, her true salvation lies in being placed on earth; namely, in being considered human, and therefore subject to all human follies and mistakes. Are we, then, to believe that two errors will make a right? Are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena? The most ardent suffragists would hardly maintain such a folly.


There's some doubt as to whether Emily Davison had intended to get herself killed:

She was willing to risk fatal injury, plainly enough, as were others:

And that's what counts. Most martyrs, after all, would rather have lived - if for no other reason than to see the vindication of their cause.

A bit of soundless footage of the funeral of Emily Davison:

Jeepers, Justin:
I'm not sure it really matters that people died for, or believed they were dying for, what they thought would be a privilege, per se.

If the lesson we've learned is that it is a phony privilege, we could say that they died for this important lesson, which is a privilege as long as "a community" is able to apply that lesson.

To forgo the privilege of stating these things clearly would be having them died in vain.

"...would mean their having died in vain."



I hate to tell you this but drones are already being used domestically -

''A North Dakota court has preliminarily upheld the first-ever use of an unmanned drone to assist in the arrest of an American citizen.

A judge denied a request to dismiss charges Wednesday against Rodney Brossart, a man arrested last year after a 16-hour standoff with police at his Lakota, N.D., ranch. Brossart's lawyer argued that law enforcement's "warrantless use of [an] unmanned military-like surveillance aircraft" and "outrageous governmental conduct" warranted dismissal of the case, according to court documents obtained by U.S. News.

... John Villasenor, of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, says the legality of domestic drone use likely stems from two Supreme Court cases that allow police to use "public, navigable airspace" for evidence gathering.''

Voting legitimizes the system - good reason not to engage in it, unless...


Thanx gang
Some thoughtful comments

I vote for the right to die for the wrong of preference voting


To what extent is today's sun belt more of a police state
then high Jim crow Dixie ?


fair number of mfgrs. and types - [PDF]

I'd say people lose interest as what they vote for fails to be realized while, other hand, corruption becomes more evident.


the above link provides voter turnout 1960-2008. While not dramatic, the post-1968 decline is evident - too bad it's not a longer series.
Having mentioned corruption -

''... research suggests that the extent of legal corruption and state capture in the United States is very high when compared with most countries in the world, and higher than any other industrialized OECD country. Thus, contrary to popular notions, both developing and rich countries face corruption challenges, although their form may differ.''

[Dan Kaufmann is well respected among those who pay attention to state capture]

To what extent is today's sun belt more of a police state than high Jim crow Dixie?
The two phenomena seem so different to me that it's hard to know how you'd reduce each to a scalar value and decide which was worse.

Of course in the Jim Crow days you had a specific set of more or less open institutions which operated against a particular subgroup of the population. Those institutions were eradicated and the subgroup in question was relieved from the burdens they had imposed, which was certainly a net improvement relative to the population in general.

But of course at the same time -- or rather, shortly after -- the population in general underwent intensifying immiseration and loss of liberty, which of course continues apace today. So where does that leave us?

Nobody would wish for Jim Crow back, any more than we would wish for the Romanovs or the Bourbons back. But deriving from this fact a grand narrative of improvement seems dubious to me.


Juan, yeah they have been increasingly used in the UZ, the highly populated city use though, such as New Orleans seemed like a somewhat new inuring attempt.

I'm sure that sadistic 50 plus member congressional drone caucus is working on arming them.

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