Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."




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Saturday, November 10, 2018

BUT WHEN YOU'RE WRONG, YOU'RE WRONG


I got two things wrong [among many] and honesty requires that I acknowledge as much.  First of all, I predicted that Mueller would indict someone yesterday, and he didn’t.  I remain hopeful.  Second, I called the election a blue ripple, but subsequent analysis by wiser heads reveals that it was indeed a blue wave.  The turnout was astonishing, and the scope of the Democratic victory quite reassuring.  If we can survive until 2020, we have a good chance of crushing the Trump party.

My brief post about the forthcoming panel discussion at Columbia triggered some fascinating stories about campus organizing efforts, including a comment from one of the innumerable anonymati/ae about my own campus, UMass.  I am sufficiently old school to believe that union organizing remains a valuable progressive strategy.  When I was young, the AFL-CIO was the behemoth on the landscape.  I would not then have been able to foresee that public employees, faculty, graduate students, and med techs would be the future of the labor movement.

Live and learn.

Now, about Broward County.

Friday, November 9, 2018

COMING UP


Let me begin with a story.  I kind of think it dates from some time in the middle seventies.  I was invited to take part in a panel discussion in Lexington, KY at the university there on the topic of The Political Responsibility of Intellectuals, or something of that sort.  The affair was sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities [I think] and was explicitly aimed not at an academic audience but at the general public.  My fellow panelists were a pair of rather distinguished scholars:  Sam Weber, an extremely raffiné UMass Comp Lit professor, and Berkeley’s Martin Jay, the author of a first rate book on the Frankfurt School.  I took the assignment seriously, and talked about the political responsibility of intellectuals.  Weber gave an incomprehensible talk on Heidegger’s essay on technology and Jay gave a comprehensible but utterly irrelevant talk on images of vision and mirrors in nineteenth century French writings [pretty obviously cobbled together from what he was then working on.]  As the discussion developed, Weber and Jay made numerous references to Marx and other left intellectuals, presenting themselves as dyed in the wool lefties.  Somewhat miffed at having been so thoroughly upstaged, I asked them both at one point where they, as left intellectuals, stood on the subject of faculty unionization.  They stuttered and hesitated, hemmed and hawed, and managed to avoid taking a position.  If their feet had been any more made of clay, I could have conducted a pottery workshop.

As you all know, I have been flying up to New York from North Carolina every Tuesday to co-teach a course at Columbia on Mystifications of Social Reality.  You may not have noticed that at the present time, the Columbia graduate student TAs have organized and have been trying unsuccessfully to get the university to enter into negotiations with them to bargain for a contract.  The students are associated with the UAW and have actually won their appeal to the NLRB [I hope I have this right] but the Columbia administration has dug in its heels and is refusing to bargain.  The grad students, who teach most of the sections in Columbia’s famous General Education program [which Columbia routinely touts when it is raising money from its alums], have called a strike for the week before final exams.  It turns out that one of the students in my course is a leader of the student union, and he has asked both me and my co-teacher Todd Gitlin to take part in a panel discussion on the subject two and a half weeks from now.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

I have some personal experience with the subject, because in 1977, the faculty at UMass unionized, and in 1990 the grad students did so as well.  Faculty, especially at elite universities, tend to express worries that grad student unionization would destroy the delicate and exquisitely fragile mentoring relationship between them and their doctoral students, a relationship that they like to describe as the most rewarding part of the university teaching experience.  Now, for my first 19 years at UMass I mentored grad students who were not unionized, and for the next eighteen years I mentored grad students who were.  I can report that there was not the slightest difference for me between the two experiences.  But there was quite a lot of difference for the grad students, who successfully bargained for guaranteed tuition, academic fee, and health care fee waivers, family leave time, and even --  although UMass was dirt poor  -- pay raises.

I will let you know how the panel discussion turns out.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

PUSHING MY LUCK

Having made several predictions that turned out to be correct, I will try once more.  It is now almost seven a.m.  Today after the start of the business day, or tomorrow at the latest, Mueller will get his grand jury to hand up some more indictments, and these will strike at Trump's inner circle.  Once the indictments have been handed up and delivered to a court, they exist, and even if Trump's new AG lackey tries to shut Mueller down, the indictments will stand.

We shall see.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

WHEN YOU'RE RIGHT, YOU'RE RIGHT

One week ago, I made the following prediction, based on the assumption that the Democrats would take the House but not the Senate:

"The day after the results are in, Trump will without the slightest evidence of unease or hesitation pivot to being a non-partisan supporter of DACA guarantees, comprehensive immigration reform, infrastructure spending, guarantees for those with pre-existing conditions, and whatever else Democrats want that does not negatively affect his own financial interests.  Overtly, covertly, or implicitly, but in all events unmistakably, he will communicate it to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer that he will work cooperatively with them for the next two years so long as they squelch the Democratic lust for investigations of him or his family and allow him to summarily shut down the Mueller probe. 

This will pose a terrible dilemma for the Democrats, and I fear there is a grave danger that they will succumb, in which case they will pave the way for Trump’s re-election and the death of what remains of constitutional democracy in America."

It turns out I was exactly correct.

How should the Democrats respond to Trump's press conference today?

1.  They should make a great show of cooperating with Trump while passing a series of bills, which they send to the Senate, calling for:

   a.  Guarantees of protection for those with pre-existing conditions
   b. Infrastructure
   c. Protection for DACA recipients
   d. Comprehensive immigration reform
   e. Reuniting of children separated from their parents
   f. Protection of the Mueller investigation.

Let the Senate refuse to pass these and send them to the President.  They will become the platform of the 2020 campaign.

2.  Meanwhile,  the leadership should allow the several committees to initiate whatever oversight investigations they wish.

3.  They should leave impeachment strictly alone until Mueller issues his report.  If, in effect, he labels Trump an unindicted co-conspirator in impeachable acts, they should allow that report to simmer and bubble until they see whether Republicans decide they want to get rid of Trump.  Only when they have 2/3 of the Senate should they initiate impeachment proceedings.

Why do I say this?  Because a failed trial in the Senate would be far worse than no trial at all.  Recall what Ralph Waldo Emerson said.  "When you strike at a king, you must kill him."

Recall as well that if Trump is removed from office, we get Pence.  Far better to have a weakened, disgraced, and damaged Trump running for re-election.

SECOND THOUGHTS


I have taken my morning walk and had breakfast and I am beginning to regain my cheerful demeanor.  Matt’s cautionary comment was helpful.  It put me in mind of one of my favorite movie scenes from the great 1973 movie The Sting.  I am sure I must have alluded to it before.  Robert Redford goes looking for a legendary con man, Paul Newman, to learn how to take down Robert Shaw, who has had Redford’s buddy killed.  Redford finds Newman in a whore house over a carousel, and after Newman sobers up, he agrees to help Redford.  But he warns Redford [God bless the Internet, on which one can find anything, even a forty-five year old movie script]:  “I don't want a hothead looking to get even, coming back saying......"It ain't enough."  'Cause it's all we're gonna get.”

That is one of the great truths of life, especially of politics.  We took the House and a passel of governorships.  We ousted Scott Walker in Wisconsin and here in North Carolina we won enough state Senate seats to break the supermajority blocking the Democratic governor from vetoing the godawful bills passed by the Legislature.

I’m not going to be a hothead looking to get even, saying it ain’t enough, ‘cause it’s all we’re gonna get.


THE BLUE RIPPLE


It was not a rewarding night.  The Democrats did the bare minimum necessary to stave off disastrous defeat, but not much more.  All three rising stars – Gillum, O’Rourke, Abrams – fell short, although the book is not yet closed on Abrams.  The Republicans lost control of the House, but actually expanded their razor thin margin in the Senate.  The candidate I worked for in the NC 6th CD lost, narrowing Mark Walker’s margin slightly.  There is no doubt in my mind that Trump’s frenetic campaigning helped the Republicans overall.  I got five hours of sleep, which is three less than I need.

The next move belongs to Mueller.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

AND NOW WE WAIT

The cat woke me at 4, I went for my walk at 5, I have done my last stint of poll greeting, and now there is nothing to do but wait the five+ hours until the first results come in.  Once the outcome is clear, I will of course say that I saw it all coming, and offer some confident views about what it all means.  That, as I understand it, is the fundamental task of the blogger.

Lord, I wish I could nap in the afternoon.