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Thursday, November 28, 2013


Bob Shore made the following comment:  "I am more than a little mystified by the total lack of comment [in  ed.] the latest blogs regarding the momentous news items, one of course being the extremely important Geneva agreement between P5 + 1 and Iran, and the other the extraordinary statement of Pope Francis regarding the alarming growth of inequality between rich and poor. Surely both these events are far more deserving of comment at this time than squirrels or the differences between Baroque and modern string instrument bows."  [For some mysterious reason, the comment is listed as having been made by Unknown, but since Bob signed his name, I figure it is all right to respond to him directly.]

Bob is of course right that the recent agreement with Iran and the statement by the Pope are both vastly more important than my light-hearted comments about the animals I see on my walks and the nature of the bows used by violinists in a French docudrama about Bach.  Good grief.  How could they not be more important?  The weather on Thanksgiving is more important than either of those topics!  So why do I spend time commenting on unimportant things when important things are happening?

First of all, a reminder.  A blog is a web log, which is to say, a personal log of thoughts and experiences launched into cyberspace rather than entered by hand in a leather bound book.  I do not pretend to be running an Internet newspaper, or even an Internet journal of opinion.  I write about what I see on my morning walks because it amuses me to do so, and I hope that it will amuse someone else as well.  I write at length about the thought of Marx and Kant and Hume and Plato and Kierkegaard and Weber and Durkheim because I know something about those things and enjoy setting forth my understanding of them as clearly and precisely as I can.  I write about American politics because I care deeply about what happens in this country and hope, after a long lifetime of engagement, to be able to say something that others will find useful or interesting. 

I try, by and large, not to write about even very important matters about which I am really ignorant, Middle Eastern politics being a case in point.  On several occasions I have linked to or reproduced the superb and deeply knowledgeable discourses on these topics by my old friend William Polk, whose lifetime of practical experience and study make him supremely qualified to talk about the subject.

I have actually been meditating on making a comment on the Pope's recent discourse on inequality, which I find interesting and suggestive.  Whether it will prove important remains to be seen.  I had thought to talk about its relationship to Latin American Catholic social gospel or liberation theology from which the Pope's comments seem to emanate, but the truth is that although I am vaguely aware of those subjects, I really do not know much about them, certainly not enough to say anything very useful.

I have already commented in this space about the absurdity of obsessing about the possibility that Iran will "get the bomb" and "turn the Middle East into a nuclear zone" without ever mentioning that it is Israel that has a full-blown nuclear weapons arsenal and the delivery systems to accompany it.  But although I have said that, I am in fact not knowledgeable at all about the complexities of Middle Eastern affairs, and beyond a simple observation or two, I do not have useful things to add to the public discussion.

One of my reasons for keying some of my discussions to books I have recently read, on biology or evolutionary genetics or even the use of information technology in political campaigns, is to indicate in that way the limitations of my command of the subject.  When I am writing about something I really know a great deal about, like Karl Marx's economic theories, I feel no need to refer to the writings of other commentators because I am confident that my opinions will stand on their own feet.

So I shall go on reporting my wildlife sightings [and learning from knowledgeable readers the proper term for groupings of crows] and my experiences with the viola. I think a blog is the proper venue for such musings.


Michael Llenos said...

Dr. Wolff,

Please continue to do what you have been doing all along. There are many people who find your blog extremely facinating to read including myself. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Happy Hanukkah!

JHW said...


I am usually in tune with your views on policy matters, but your comparison of Israel's alleged possession of nuclear weapons to Iran's hypothetical development of nuclear weapons strikes me as misguided. In Israel's 60 year history, they have been involved in seven wars, faced constant and violent opposition from multiple sources, and have fought to defend their country and it's 7 million residents from hostile neighbors. No doubt one reason other rogue countries and groups have held back from a full invasion of the country is because of Israel alleged nuclear weapons that might be used against them. The putative Israeli nuclear weapon buildup has been a necessary requirement for the safety and stability of the nation and the region, since they are under constant threat from the countries that surround them on all sides. Iran has been among the largest threats to the region in the past few years, not only because of their determination to obtain nuclear weapons, but because of their sponsoring of terrorist organizations. Iran has been giving hundreds of millions a year to support Hezbollah, providing various types of weapons including rockets, mines, arms, explosives, anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. It is the responsibility of the rest of the world to act in preventing Iran from obtaining the materials and knowledge necessary to produce this type of weapon of mass killing. Failure to stop them will result in a dramatic exchange of nuclear weapons and effect a dramatic concomitant destabilizing effect on the region.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I agree with much of what you say, but I am mystified by your use of the words "alleged" and putative." I have never actually seen a nuclear weapon of any sort, needless to say, but it would never occur to me to refer to America's nuclear weapons, or Britain's, or Russia,s or Pakistan's, or India's as "alleged" or putative." What are those terms intended to convey?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you, Michael. Are you aware that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will again occur on the same day in 79,000 years? That factoid strikes me as truly awesome.

Michael Llenos said...

Your welcome, Dr. Wolff. I didn't know that. I thought it might happen later on, but I didn't know it was going to take 79,000 years. That's even rarer, by far, than a blood moon. And several blood moons will be appearing in 2014, that being rare as well. For some reason I believe the Jewish calendar will stay the same forever. But I believe the Gregorian calendar will be changed for something else. Especially if there is a world wide crisis or a comet strike that we couldn't forsee. But hopefully Starfleet (meaning its realistic equivalent) will rapture you and me up into space so we wont have to endure whatever may come. I thought the Chinese built arks in the movie 2012 were okay, and I do want to see Crowe in the new 2014 film about Noah. But I would love to leave the planet all together in style, if I would have to leave it in the first place.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JHW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JHW said...


I appreciate your reply to my comment. I only use the terms 'alleged' and 'putative' because Israel has never officially acknowledged its construction or possession of nuclear weapons. In contrast, all other nuclear nations - with the possible exception of South Africa - advertise their nuclear status and thereby maintain the capacity to issue explicit nuclear threats. This sui generis posture of nuclear ambiguity is underpinned by an important array of historical, political and ethical determinants.

formerly a wage slave said...

Yes! It is not your duty to comment on everything; it's a blog-- not Wikipedia or something with the pretensions of the New York Times.....Yet, your comment on JFK was a welcome bit of fresh air which I immensely enjoyed....

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It is good site for information about hypothetical development of nuclear weapons strikes me as misguided.