Thursday, 29 September 2022

Grey-Pilled on Democracy - Final(?) Thoughts on L.B.J.

 Take the grey pill. You will feel like you did before, but sadder.

I have finally finished working my way through Robert Caro's 'The Years of Lyndon Johnson' on Audible.  (Talked about the first one here).

It’s a magisterial, multi-volume and DETAILED look at the life of LBJ made up of four books and five volumes; 'The Path to Power', 'The Means of Ascent' 'Master of the Senate' Parts 1 & 2, and 'The Passage of Power'. It is not over yet! Caro is yet to complete one last book which will cover Johnsons later presidency and Vietnam.

The books have pretty much annihilated any respect I might have had for the political class and initially at least, black-pilled me on Democracy. Over time though, in the long evolution of events it somewhat grey-pilled me back to something like a resigned half-hope. 

Politicians are basically narcissists we rent. If enough political force builds up in the great mass of people there is some chance they will execute on at least some of the desired things.

There is still a book to go in which it seems LBJ takes yet another turn for the worse so I suppose there is still time for more black pills (this may be why Caro is pulling a GRRM and just not finishing the book).


Caro being Caro and this series being, in part, a social and cultural history of America as seen through Lyndon Johnsons life, he has 'spared no expense'; we begin with a deep dive into the ecology of the north Texas hill country, along the way we get a breakdown of exactly how oil rights played out in Texas, a look at how the politics of beer and temperance played into Texas elections, why you never declare your count till all the counts are closed, why the Housewives of the hill country had trouble imagining meaningful uses for electricity, exactly how you steal a vote along the border, the stairs you have to walk up if you are campaigning in the Irish districts of New York, the layout of Air Force One and where the phones are, the kinds of cake recipes brought over by German immigrants to Texas, what its like to try to build a road in North Texas in the 1930s and much much more. What a wild ride it's been, like a true Jurassic Park the big dinosaurs are the personalities who stand out most in the memory.

Pappy O'Daniel, LBJs first nemesis on his initial run at the senate. A Texas populist/sentimentalist Radio Star; a man with a pale manner and little charisma except for his voice, and this is the age of Radio. A true populist, by which we mean a naked and shameless grifter overpromiser and tender of paranoic conspiracies.

For round two Lyndon faces Governor Coke R. Stevenson. Texan politicians seemingly being rolled from the D&D alignment chart - this one got 'lawful good' at least by Caros telling. Lyndon steals the election, at least he steals it more than it would be usual to steal it and more than the other guy. This leads to an actual fucking old west scene when Coke, a photographer and a Texas ranger stride down the street in the bad mans town to  investigate the electoral roll. Caro being Caro we get an entire section on this guys post-credits life in which is happily married to a hot blonde.

Luis Salas, the Mexican heavy who played a key role in stealing LBJs election to the senate. This guy is essentially a 'background villain' (or hero) of the LBJ saga but, Caro being Caro, we get a brief deep dive into the entire backstory of this Mexican thug, from his literally barefoot poverty all the way up to muscling Texas rangers and having the privilege of lying to a state court; "I made Lyndon Johnson President" 

JFK is an interesting character, but much less interesting in Caros eyes than Bobby Kennedy - basically the 'ID Monster' of the Kennedy family, the man who carried his brothers hate for him.

Jackie on the plane.

Caro being Caro and the books being long, we also get a full weight of Caro-isms; 

"Was Robert Caro struck by a desire, even a need to bloviate, to expound, to go on and on describing and even re-describing things he had already described and discussed at length? Was he consumed by the unreconcilable drive to comment and moralise on what he was seeing, yet bound by the Historians code, was technically unable to do so? Did he hide his actual opinions in the form of theoretical questions time and time again, to the extent where, if you see a question mark not bordered by quotation signs it may as well be a giant fucking glowing arrow saying 'Yes this is my fucking opinion and I am RIGHT! I am Robert Caro and I DID THE FUCKING RESEARCH! FUCK YOU DORIS KERNS GOODWIN!'? Well we will technically never know  so don't ask me.. Not throwing out accusations here just throwing out facts.


Lyndon is a car crash that just keeps on crashing, you want to look away but you can't, an unfolding saga that just keeps revealing new and hidden shallows to his personality. Its almost painful to be around him, the intense pin-prick vulnerability of a born narcissist, and the utterly awful shameful and disgusting hunger for domination, humiliation and control of the same.

The nuclear anguish of his personality makes the whole story a tragedy, a heroic tale and a mind breaking psychological investigation of an awful man, all the way from LBJ starting shit in school, then when things getting rough, lying down crying and kicking his legs saying "i'll kick you! I'll kick you!", to his bizarre, really viscerally upsetting call to Bobby Kennedy aboard Air Force One, to forcing his tubby press secretary into an amusing cape and having them both gallop away on black stallions, in an act of carefully managed humiliation, which got Johnson nothing, nothing at all, it seems he jut couldn't stop himself from doing it. He was just that much of a cunt.

Even after finishing these books I still find my self thinking "Jesus Christ Lyndon. What the fuck is wrong with you?" His fat shadow sticks to the history of which he was a part. Like a grease stain on a pan. Lyndon fucking Johnson.  Rarely has sympathy and horror been so combined and into such an addictive and driving whole.


Corruption in democracies is like gravity. (Upside - judging from recent events, corruption in tyrannies may be even worse).

To run a big successful society you need to concentrate power. If you concentrate power you create circumstances in which manipulating that power can produce overwhelming advantages. So from the moment you create a government you have planted a garden for corruption.

Two great trees growing next to each other, one of governmental authority, the other of the power of capital.

The trees lean closer and closer together, reaching out for each other, trying to wind around each other.

In the midst of this, the poor dumb fucking anti-corruption types, and the constitution writers, and occasionally, the public, come forth and try desperately to prune prune prune away the leaves and branches where they touch, or at least to shine light upon them to manage the interactions.

It is perhaps in the long run a doomed effort. The trees lean towards each other so eagerly and if, like LBJ, you are one of those people who can find a place, just a single branch or leaf, where those trees graze each other, ungoverned and un-noticed, you can extract immense, IMMENSE power and wealth from that juncture, trading the powers of government for the extraction of capital and the extracted capital for increased government influence

This is always happening or trying to happen. It is morally wearying to think about.


I should really hate Richard Russel and his Knights of his White Castle more than the libs. They were after all, in the wrong cause rather than just prosecuting the right cause badly.

But there is something just teeth-grittingly enraging about watching a morally superior tit told to paint a wall, dip their fucking head  in the paint bucket and scrape their face along the wall while screaming and crying, and then going home and having more of a cry, and being rewarded for 'fighting the good fight'..

Flail, fail and wail.

A grand procession of libs and leftys giving speech after speech, and almost insanely not actually taking time to work out which levers of power are stopping them. A cult of the saviour with no skin in the game needing a literal bad man in a vulnerable spot to achieve its stated aims.


The slow defeat of the Confederate forces, still echoing?

The gradual domination of the Yankee cultural empire? New England uber alles?

The systemic failures of liberalism leading to the necessity of Lyndon Johnson, which lead in turn to the effective trading of Civil Rights for Empire? Or maybe that was going to happen anyway?

Or Halliburton; Origins, with LBJ being the nursemaid to everyone’s favourite adjunct to global hegemony, itself only one part of the colonisation of the systems and mechanisms of American military power by vast golems of capitalism.

Or that most of our problems are the result of yesterdays solutions, and our solutions today are likely to result in problems tomorrow, that this is probably impossible to escape from is no reason not to manage the impossible praxis as well as you can.


Everyone apparently. 

Certainly Bobby Kennedy at least suspected something or other. The suggestion of LBJ being behind, or more likely, involved, with the assassination on some level, exists behind the words of the last book like an invisible ghost almost no-one is willing to directly mention.

Caro seems to be aware that the sum total of his books at least in terms of motive, present almost an egregiously damming testimony about LBJ's motive to kill Kennedy. Its almost laughably total;

- Man driven his entire life specifically to be president.
- Believes it is his divine right.
- Man has no moral core.
- Man will betray and has betrayed anyone necessary to achieve his aims.
- Man now trapped in position in which he will never become president.
- Unless Kennedy dies and dies pretty soon, in a narrowish time window.
- Man deeply corrupt and being investigated for this.
- Mans waning political power only thing keeping this investigation off.

Across every field of personal information Caro painstakingly builds a picture of an individual who, while probably too much of a personal coward to ever organise an assassination, would absolutely unquestioningly have given a silent nod if the matter were referred to obliquely, say on one of those Brown and Root hunting trips.

Dispelling the unspoken suspicion, or the potential for suspicion, seems, by his actions, to be a powerful motive for LBJ immediately following the assassination.

Caro only mentions the unmentionable once, and his use of words is.. precise.

He only says that nothing he has read or discovered in his exhaustive, near absolute, research, suggests at all that LBJ was involved - there is no evidence to suggest he was.

With the assumption claim that, since Caro found out about a whole bunch of LBJs other crimes , that’s a good indication that there is no evidence, because there never was. 

Though Caro doesn't actually directly say; "I don't think he did it" or "I don't think he was involved". Or the more-typical mildy-weasilly Caro-ism when Caro wants to suggest something, the negative reversal statement; "Could there, somewhere or somehow have been any method by which Johnson could have or would have done the thing? The record must state; no."


(As revealed by the 'Years of Lyndon Johnson' Series.

1# To convince everyone that it is in fact the government.
2# As a cage and harness for narcissists and dark-triad types.
3# As a field of combat over patronage.
4# As a field of combat over values.
5# To "solve problems".

I realise this may sound cynical to many. I actually find it genuinely (slightly) hopeful. In fact it isn't cynical at all, it only seems so if compared to an a-historic child’s view of history in which order and safety are natural and inevitable, decency in leaders common enough to be reliable, where its normal for humans to agree over values and where the decisions made through the power of government produce morally simple and good results.

Since none of these things are the case, the true purposes of government, and their ordering, are fundamentally correct

Anarchy is a common force in human affairs, and while there are many forms of anarchy, it is tiring and nothing can be built, and the order that emerges directly from anarchy is often simply a matter of will alone, in which case it is often worse than the order which preceded. The first duty of every government is to convince people that it is in fact the Government. From this all order flows.

Evil is not necessarily common in man, but amongst those that seek power and status, specifically those that seek them deeply and more intently and with more success than others, and who invariably therefore end up with power and status, personal failings are common, really the norm. Many have moderate to severe personality disorders. Varieties of narcissism are almost a baseline, then varying forms of BPD, and then the really difficult dark triad group, who are not that common per-se, but who, if they are any good, inevitably cluster deeply around any forms of political power. Those who wield power will almost always be the broken amongst us, and therefore the means of wielding power must act as a cage and harness for these personality types.

Humans inherently disagree over values and methods. I mean its absolutely inevitable over time, the urge to faction is not formed solely from the structure of events but is inherent, to some degree, in the way humans think and act in groups. Therefore it is something to be managed. Therefore any functional government must act as a field of combat or praxis between these inevitably different value systems.

Finally, any meaningful decision made over a great enough scale using political power will have highly complex results, some of which seem to go against the stated or actual values of the person making the decision. Few, perhaps no decisions made at a great enough scale can be purely and absolutely good and in a democracy almost no decision can be made unless it is defended as being purely and absolutely good, in mood and rhetoric if not in fact and detail, therefore, firstly, in assigning political power to individuals we are in fact creating scapegoats; people to carry the complex weight and negative results of decisions we insisted they make for us, and secondly we are choosing liars, for if anyone says consistently to the great mass of the public "this choice is complex and will require sacrifice and no-one is coming away clean" then we will not vote for them, therefore we require of our leaders that they lie to us and punish them when these lies are revealed, or when they lie in ways unexpected or undesired.

If you consider these very deep and very real challenges to the excise of human political power over a large scale, any one of which can tank a system if unregarded or misunderstood, its actually pretty impressive that large scale political structures can exist and persist over time at all, when you consider the depth and complexity of the interlocking problems which prevent it.


  1. I began a comment comparing the purposes of gov. section here to some stuff from ethnographic research on feasting cultures, transegalitarian hunter-gatherers, and aggrandizing personalities but it spiraled into a disgusting multicomment mess so I shoved it into a post:

    Anyways, the grey pill is sort of comforting at this point, honestly.

    1. That was a good post! Writing a whole post in reply to a post, reminds me of the old times!

  2. A damn fine review. Got to start reading a few more of these massive biographies.

  3. Have you read the Robert Moses one? One of the most important books ever written - everybody should read it.

    1. I think you mean "The Power Broker"? I keep meaning to read this. They released a chapter from it, "One Mile" and someone told me to give it a go a couple years back (it's very easy to find online). I thought it was fascinating but I still haven't gotten a chance to read the whole thing! Sounds like his LBJ bio is pretty good as well!

    2. I have not and I am kinda wiped on scumbag biographies atm. Think I will be reading trash for a while to recover.

  4. I just love voting. Nothing like getting in a booth with a little paper slip. All I'm gonna say on the topic.

  5. Now I really want you to read The Devil's Chessboard and JFK And The Unspeakable. Fully ready for conspiracy Patrick.

    The saving grace of democracy imo is that people at heart do have a basic degree of common sense which emerges at odd moments to constrain the twin powers of capital and the state.