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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Thursday, February 23, 2017

BIG NEWS

A story appeared yesterday in the TIMES with this headline:

7 Earth-Size Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and European Astronomers Say


You can read the entire story here.  This is enormously exciting news, and serves to put in perspective the horrendous stories appearing daily about the current Administration.  If life can be found elsewhere in the universe, that fact will dwarf everything now happening in our corner of this “fourth rock from the sun.”   Please God let our sister planet not be inhabited by Jar Jar Binks!

AN EXISTENTIAL WARNING

All of us are familiar with the famous poem, by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

But the message it conveys, poignant and powerful as it may be, is in one way fundamentally false.  Yes, they [the Nazis] came for the Socialists, and for the Trade Unionists, and for the Jews.  They came, also, for the Homosexuals and for the Gypsies.  But they did not come for the Good Germans, the fine, upstanding Aryans with their arms outthrust in the Nazi salute and their sons enrolled in the Hitlerjugend.  For them it was all good, deeply satisfying, just what they had voted for, and it would have gone on being good if only the Nazis had not made the mistake of losing the war.

Now Donald Trump and his handlers are coming for the undocumented, they are coming for the transgendered, they are coming for the reporters, and soon they will come for the gays, for the women who dare to assert control over their own bodies, and for anyone who speaks against the government, who demonstrates against the Administration, who condemns the kleptocratic narcissist in the White House.

But they will not come for the true believers, the Trumpists, the haters, the misogynists, the homophobes, the xenophobes.  For them it is all good, deeply satisfying, just what they voted for. 
Let us not make the mistake of imagining that we are all in this together.  Irreducibly, ungetoverably, it is us against them, and every single person in America must answer the question of the old Union song:


Which side are you on?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

BELATED FRIDAY LIST

Since my life has been a little complicated lately, I neglected to add my pittance to everyone else's impressive list of activities.  My apologies.  Herewith a few items for next Friday's list:

Signed up for a small monthly donation to John L. Lewis.
Gave some more to Jon Ossoff's campaign.
Called newly elected Democratic NC Governor Roy Cooper, for whom I rang doorbells, and congratulated him on withdrawing efforts to defend NC's hideous voter suppression bill in the courts.
Called Senators Burr and Tillis to protest their support of Trump's new draconian assault on undocumented residents.

I figure we need to express our support when someone does something right.

Still struggling to get my head above water, but I have started preparing my Freud lectures.  Marx will come in the Fall.


AVE ATQUE VALE

Jim Westrich tells me that Kenneth Arrow passed away yesterday.  Arrow was 95.  Kenneth Arrow was one of the giants of modern economic theory.  I never met Arrow, so I will leave it to others to talk about him as a man, as a teacher, and as a scholar.  For me, he is and will always be the author of Social Choice and Individual Values, a 1951 monograph that was, I believe, his doctoral dissertation.  It contains his elegant proof of the so-called General Possibility [or Impossibility] Theorem, a generalization of the Paradox of Majority Rule.  Those who are interested can find a statement of the proof on my second blog, Formal Methods in Political Philosophy.  Arrow was an old New York socialist who retained, throughout his life, an unshakable progressive orientation.  I found his work to be genuinely beautiful.  It was expanded and developed by another admirable and brilliant economist, Amartya Sen, in Collective Choice and Social Welfare [1970.]


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

THE FREUD LECTURES

Here is the flier for my Freud lectures [minus the picture of the great man, which I could not figure out how to insert].




Four lectures on
The thought of Sigmund Freud
By
Professor Robert Paul Wolff
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Afro-American Studies
The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Mondays at 1 p.m. in Caldwell 213
March 27, April 3, April 10, and April 17, 2017


The lectures are open to members of the UNC – CH community and presuppose no prior knowledge of Freud’s writings or legacy.  The purpose of the lectures is to provide an introduction to the underlying methods, concepts, presuppositions, and results of Freud’s revolutionary work.  The focus of the lectures will be on Freud’s central psychological theories, not on his cultural critique.


Trigger warning:  There will not be much talk about sex.

PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

As I have several times observed, the development of modern social science can be viewed as the progressive taking seriously of spheres of human experience that were previously ignored as infra dignitate.  Economics treats of the buying and selling of goods in the marketplace, a banausic activity that no gentleman would contemplate.  Anthropology began when the practices of South Sea Islanders were accorded the respect previously reserved for the amusements of lords and ladies, and graced with the epithet “culture.”  Durkheim launched Sociology with a detailed analysis of the phenomenon of suicide.  Freud created an entire medical specialty out of such detritus of human experience as dreams, jokes, and slips of the tongue.  And modern literary critics, weary of their endless contemplation of Greek tragedy and Romantic poetry, turned their attention first to that middle class amusement, the novel, then to movies, which were rechristened “films,” and finally even to such ephemera as television and comic books.

I have always admired this ability to – as my old friend Esther Terry would say – make chicken salad from chicken shit, but alas, I lack the gift.  Thus it is that the endless contemplation of the Trump presidency, rather than inspiring me to flights of creative imagination, has had the effect of making me stupid.


In an effort to recapture the life of the mind, I have decided to offer a short series of lectures on The Thought of Sigmund Freud, to be delivered – if they agree – at UNC and preserved for eternity on YouTube.  The arrangements are still being explored, but my hope is to record the lectures in March and April.  Later in this sesquicentennial year, I plan to mount a more extended series on The Thought of Karl Marx.

MY FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME

This is, without a doubt, the biggest moment of my life.  A grad student at UNC tells me that about a month ago my Kant lectures were advertised in an online comic book!!!  Here is a link to the site.  This way beats getting a favorable review in a journal nobody reads, or being footnoted in a thick obscure book.  Now if I could only keep time, I could take a musical act on the road.

When I was a boy, Looney Tunes was pretty much my speed.  And they say there has been no progress since the invention of the mechanical spinning jenny.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A PLEA TO MY READERS

On a normal day, this blog gets between 1500 and 3000 visits.  As near as I can tell, something like 5000 or so people world-wide follow the blog.  But only several dozen people comment with any regularity.  That, I gather, is normal for the blogosphere.  I would imagine that virtually all of my readers are anti-Trump, and that a majority, but by no means all, fall on the left side of the political spectrum.

I have been talking for several weeks now about the importance of winning House seats and state legislative and gubernatorial seats all across America.  The contest that has been mentioned on this blog a number of times is the by-election in April for the 6th Georgia House seat, with Jon Ossoff as the Democratic candidate, but there are important elections this year in Virginia and New Jersey and a good many other places.

Here is my plea:  Don't comment on the blog if that is your preference, but please, please, get involved locally if you happen to live in a state or district that has an election this year.  Give money, volunteer, make calls, ring doorbells, talk to friends, go to Town Halls, participate in demonstrations. whatever you find comfortable and, as they say in the trade, ego-syntonic, but DO SOMETHING.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

TRYING TO GET MY BEARINGS

The daily flood of outrages, leaks, performance theater, and sheer evil emanating from the Trump White House can be so distracting that it is easy to get caught up in the news cycle and lose sight of what is important.

Let me suggest two things we keep our eyes one, two of many deserving our attention.  The first is the apparent intention of the Administration to begin greatly expanded assaults on undocumented residents.  Unfortunately the law is on Trump's side, but wherever and whenever we can, we need to shield those being targeted and try to create safe spaces where they can hide from the ICE [The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service.]  America has a long tradition of this sort of thing, reaching back way before the internment of Japanese-Americans to the slave patrols, or "paterolers," who went into the woods after runaway slaves.  There is no need to reference Nazi Germany.  This is as American as apple pie, and we need to fight it.

The second thing is by-elections and off-year elections wherever they crop up.  Like many of you, I have donated to the campaign of Jon Ossoff to take Georgia's Sixth House District on April 18th.  There are other races coming up this year, and every one of them is vitally important.  Fantasies about Trump leaving the White House are enticing, but the real struggle is to seize as much power as we can from the Republican Party.  Despite regional concentration, gerrymandering, and voter suppression, there are enough of us to take back at least a part of the government, if we can just get our people to the polls.

Meanwhile, I have devoted two days to doing my taxes, and I am almost done.  I am simply thrilled that my pittance will be put to such good use by the government!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

FRIDAY LIST #4 A DAY LATE

Friday List #4

David Palmeter said...
Contributions to the Osoff campaign and to the DCCC.

David said...
1. Joined our Neighborhood Action Coalition.

2. Wrote to Rep. Jayapal to ask her to cosponsor House Resolution 78.

3. Drummed up support for February 23rd demonstration at the offices of Rep. Dave Reichert (R).

4. Made a contribution to Jon Ossoff's campaign.

C Rossi said...
1. Wrote to Sen. Casey agreeing with him on his vote against several of DT's nominees.
2. Wrote to Rep Meehan disagreeing with him on his position on repeal of ACA and asking him to have a live town hall meeting in the district.
3. Wrote to Sen. Toomey asking that he come to Philadelphia (he never comes here) and hold a constituents meeting and complaining about his support for DT's nominees.
4. Convened a meeting of Philadelphia Area Veterans for Peace (I'm President of the Chapter) to discuss strategy and cooperation with other local groups to protest DT's and Repub's actions and proposed legislation.
5. Contributed to Planned Parenthood; increased contribution to UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
6. Supported New Sanctuary Movement's protest against deportation of undocumented persons by ICE in Philadelphia.
Kid X said...

Signed up to give $10 a month to Bernie's "Our Revolution".

Anonymous said...
1) Made a contribution to Jon Ossoff's campaign.
2) Wrote to my senators to thank them for their votes against the past week's nominees and urge them to oppose Gorsuch.



Critton Childers said...

Welcome back to the NC and to your blog!

another small pebble: I donated to the North Carolina Democratic Party.



Blogger Tom Cathcart said...

Friday report: Gave a bit of $ to an unlikely group---the FDR Foundation at Adams House, Harvard, who, up till now has been dedicated to making a shrine out of FDR's room in Adams House, but who now are concerned about protecting immigrant students and faculty. More importantly, by far, Eloise and I had a talk with the woman who cleans our house every other week, and said, "We don't know your status or that of your helpers, we don't need to know, we don't want to know. We just want you to know that if anyone gets in trouble, we hope you'll include us as people you can reach out to for help." She played it very cool at first, not tipping her hand. Later in the day, I got a big hug.

Will said...

1) Donated to Ossoff campaign.
2) Met with Senator Shelby's state political director to discuss concerns.
3) Called local senators and representatives about particular legislation.



Friday, February 17, 2017

SIMPLE PLEASURES

This is a link to a site on which someone who claims to be an expert on the interpretation of non-verbal cues gives us detailed analyses of such things as Trump press conferences.  I have not the slightest idea whether this is at all reliable, or even serious and not a satire, but I find it enormous fun to read.  We are in for the worst time in recent American history, and we all need to find relaxation and amusement where we can.  Enjoy.

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE FRIDAY LIST

Now that my blogger nightmare is behind me, I can work up another list of everyone's doings, although it won't appear until tomorrow.  So let us hear what you have been up to.

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN

Well, here I am again.  Probably most of you think there is nothing remarkable about that fact, just the Old Philosopher bloviating again.  Little do you know.  Yesterday, at 8:47 a.m., I posted a brief report of my return to the United States.  Not a problem.  Several hours later, I undertook to post something further, and was informed by an irritating little logo that, so far as Google was concerned, I did not have any blogs.  Did I wish to create one? The logo asked. 

There followed a frenzied six hours or so of unsuccessful efforts to get Google to acknowledge that I did indeed have a blog, indeed two blogs, and had been posting almost daily for eight years.  I called the University of Massachusetts OIT help desk.  They could not help.  I called UNC.  No luck.  I checked my Southwest Airlines frequent flier miles and formulated a plan to fly out to Google headquarters south of San Francisco and throw myself on their mercy.  I tried calling every Google regional office I could find, and discovered, not surprisingly, that I could not talk to a human being.  [Since there are probably only half a billion people with blogs, I can understand their hesitation.  It would take a support force the size of Pakistan’s population to staff a human help line.]

Then, this morning, I decided to find my way to one of the UNC walk-in help offices [suitably located right next to the UNC Hospital Emergency Room], where a lovely young woman agreed to try to help.  Ten minutes later, I had recovered my blog administrative page.  I offered her flowers and candy but she declined.  So I told her that if she ever needed a letter of recommendation, she had but to ask.


Once again, we see that in this new world, the young explain to the old how things work.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

HOME AGAIN, AND A MEDITATION ON THE VIRTUES OF CAUTION

Well, we are home, and my wife seems fine.  She is upset that we cut our trip to Paris short, but I was adamant.  When your eighty-four year old wife with MS is taken to the emergency room, you come home to your own doctor, no matter how good she feels.  That is just common sense.

After we boarded the airplane at Charles de Gaulle airport, we sat for an hour and a half while mechanics looked for, found, and installed a door handle to replace one on our plane that wasn't working properly.  Many of the passengers were irritated, but with my new-found wisdom, I was not.  Suppose, I thought to myself, the pilot had said, "It is just a door handle, for heaven's sake," and had taken off on time.  And suppose we had crash-landed and the inability to open a door condemned ten passengers to a fiery death.  I am old enough to consider it a miracle that I can leave Paris at 10:45 a.m. and arrive in Raleigh-Durham airport eight and a half hours later.  I can wait another ninety minutes to be certain everything on the plane works, even the coffee maker.

While I was away, I see that the Trump Administration started to unravel.  Now is the time for us to maintain maximum pressure, especially in every single by-election, from House of Representatives to local school board.  Once I have unpacked, restocked the refrigerator, and gotten my sleep turned around, I shall have some things to say about what is happening politically.

There is something spiritually refreshing about not having to make excuses for a Democratic Administration that is only fitfully admirable.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THANK YOU

My thanks to all for the good thoughts for my wife.  She is doing well, and we shall be back in Chapel Hill tomorrow, where I can devote my full attention to the unfolding disster of the Trump presidency.  I just gave sme more money to Jon Ossof's run for Congress in Georgia.  We need to start racking up some wins.

REAL LIFE

Well, life intercedes.  This will be a purely personal post.  Trump will just have to wait.  Yesterday, I had to take my wife, Susie, to our doctor here in Paris.  I managed to get a 5:15 pm appointment, and after examining Susie, the doctor sent her to the emergency room of the Val de Grace Hospital, just off Boulevard Montparnasse.  While she was in being seen, I rushed home and rearranged our plane reservations so that we could travel home tomorrow, February 15th.  It turns out to have been something of a false alarm, but I am taking no chances, so we shall cut short our stay and come home so that Susie can be seen by her doctor in Chapel Hill.

It is of course super scary to deal with any medical problem in a foreign country, but the emergency room people were friendly, helpful, and in general made the experience as pleasant as could be expected.


Oh yes, one more thing, but do not tell anyone in the United States about this:  the visit to the emergency room was free.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

ADDENDUM

David Palmeter reminds me that there are important races this year that we need to win, without waiting for 2018.  This is, I think, of great importance, because it gives us all something to work on now.  It also creates the possibility for the building of momentum.  Now is a good time to donate to any early faces that are going.  Remember, early money is like yeast [the origin of the acronym Emily's List].

INTERIM REPORT

These past three weeks have been among the most terrifying and exhilarating of my life.  I am not sure how I shall survive months, and then years, at this level of intensity and anxiety.  Today, on a cold, quiet Paris Sunday, I should like to take a few moments to reflect on the situation that confronts us.  I take little pleasure in this.  I would far rather spend my golden years thinking about Kant, or Marx, or the inherently perspectival ideological structure of the social world.  It is not for nothing that the ancient Chinese considered as a curse the imprecation “May you live in interesting times.”

Our attention, quite naturally, has been drawn to the bizarre, obscene, despicable man who now occupies the office of President of the United States, and a remarkable number of perceptive, coruscating analyses of his character and behavior have been written in recent days.  It is now received wisdom, I think we can agree, that Trump’s compulsive lying is not merely a pathological trait.  It is, instead, a technique of dominance and authoritarian assertion.  By compelling his spokespersons to endorse publicly his blatant lies, he visibly exercises his dominance over them, forcing them to humiliate themselves as a way of binding them to him.  Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway are now forever his bonded slaves, made unfit for any other employment by their subservience to his will.

We can also agree that because of his pathetic obsession with his public image, Trump is easy game for ridicule.  Saturday Night Live is performing a function both essential and delightful by its portrayal of Trump and his jackals.  We need to keep up visible opposition to him in ways that unsettle him.

It is becoming clear that Trump is, like all bullies, a coward.  For me, the most significant event of the past week was his complete capitulation to the Chinese on the subject of the One China policy.  I am sure you are all well aware of the history and significance of this capitulation.  The Chinese now view Trump as a paper tiger, an empty suit, an incompetent negotiator who can be rolled, as they say.  Several more such failures will cement public recognition of him as someone who not only did not write, but probably has not read, The Art of the Deal.

Equally compelling these past weeks has been the extraordinary, unprecedented upwelling of popular resistance to Trump and all things Republican.  I do not know how long this can be sustained, but if some way can be found, as it were, to institutionalize it, this energy has the potential to transform the public landscape of America.

With regard to the popular movement now afoot, I wish to acknowledge that as a consequence of the thoughtful and intelligent comments posted here, I have reversed my judgment that we need look to Obama to draw people into the struggle.  He remains a charismatic and effective public figure, and I welcome any contribution he chooses to make.  But his time is past, as is that of the Clintons and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment.  As was noted by one commentator [I have not gone back to check who it was], on Obama’s watch as the head of the Party, the Democrats suffered devastating losses at the State Legislature and Federal level, sinking to a minority status not seen in the past century.  This despite winning the popular vote in six out of the last seven national elections.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that our primary focus must be on beginning the long march back to majority status, with the 2018 off-year elections the first battle.  We need to throw our numbers and our support behind the fine young progressives rising to prominence on the left. 

However, it would be a bad mistake, in my opinion, to withhold our support from middle of the road Democrats in contests where the only alternative is a right wing Republican.  We need to take control of state legislatures so that we can reverse the appalling things being done at the state level.  Then we can press for progressive legislation and gubernatorial action.  Remember the wise advice given by Paul Newman to Robert Redford about the Big Con in The Sting.  When it is all over, if we win, it won’t be everything we want, but it will be all we can get, so it will have to be enough.


The Struggle Continues.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

FRIDAY LIST #3

Here is the third Friday List.  It is remarkable how it has grown.  Thank you all, those who posted a report and the many more who are doing good work but not telling the rest of us about it.  If we keep this up, we can win!

Aside from Blogging, I have been occupied with coming to Paris.  I called from Paris and got through to regional offices of both of my senators.  I laid a heavy rap on the poor schmos who answered the phones about how I was personally offended by Trump’s failure to mention the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, emphasizing that I had twenty relatives who died in Auschwitz, and said I expected the senator to speak on the floor of the Senate about that crime.  I figure if I am going to call every week for years, I need to be creative in what I complain about.  All that matters is keeping up the volume of calls.

C Rossi said...
This week:

1.Wrote (email) to Senator Toomey (PA) complaining about his support of DeVos for Secretary of Education and the odious Sen Sessions for Attorney General.
2. Wrote to Senator Casey thanking him for his opposition to De Vos and Session.
3. Wrote to Congressman Meehan (R-PA 7) complaining about his support of repeal of ACA and support of presidential nominees.
4. Wrote to Senator Casey about his opposition to Obama admin allowing UN opposition to Israel's continued expansion of settlements in West Bank and to Israel's bombing of Gaza.
5. Protested in Philadelphia offices of Senator Toomey about nomination of Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch.
6. Contributed to Philadelphia Women's March on behalf of Philadelphia Area Veterans for Peace.
7. Posted in Philadelphia Veterans for Peace Facebook page the great speech by Shakespeare (?) about the case for strangers (immigrants) from the play Sir Thomas More delivered by the great English actor Ian McKellan (we had more than 200 people access the speech on the Website (https://bookhaven.stanford.edu/2015/09/mountainish-inhumanity-thomas-more-shakespeare-and-the-refugee-crisis/). A beautiful speech about "mountainish inhumanity) beautifully given by Ian Mckellen

Tom Cathcart said...
Update: Just received a copy of a VERY strongly worded letter from Red Hook ministers to our congressional delegation, protesting the administration's treatment of refugees. WAY BEYOND my wildest expectations when I introduced the subject at the Red Hook Council of Churches.

Anonymous said...
I live in Alabama and, to my great surprise, there is lots to do locally. This week I

(1) learned about and joined a grassroots progressive lobbying organization, called Alabama Arise Citizens' Policy Project, that nudges the Alabama legislature to the left (or, rather, away from the extreme right),

(2) joined my county chapter of the Green Party of Alabama, and

(3) attended my local 'huddle,' organized under the auspices of the Women's March (https://www.womensmarch.com/100/action2/).

howie b said...
Did little but my work as a public servant at the library in Brooklyn and emailed Senator Warren with my chart of the corporate structure of America under Trump: ie Trump is Chairman, Bannon CEO, the cabinet incompetent COOs, the Congress shareholders, the government the experts who know how to do their jobs better than their so called bosses, and the American people the consumers who know they are being cheated but can't fire the Donald for four more years.
Plan on joining the ACLU as have several readers of this blog

David Palmeter said...
Done nothing active. I live in DC, so I have no senators or a representative to call. Even if we in the District did not live with “taxation without representation,” there probably would be little to gain by contacting them. DC is solidly Democratic. Hillary won here with 90% of the vote to Trump’s 4%.

My wife and daughter were planning on doing the Women’s March, and I decided to join them. But our ages intervened. My wife is trying one thing after another to avoid knee replacement surgery, and she decided she just couldn’t do it. So I was planning on going with our daughter when the two of them pointed out to me that my back wouldn’t hold up, even to hanging around on the edges. I wouldn’t be able to stay on my feet that long.

So we watched the March on TV while reading periodic text messages and pictures from our daughter.

I’ve updated my credit card info for monthly contributions to OurRevolution and the DNC. And I, for the most part, preach to the choir of family and friends on Facebook and email groups. One apparent minor triumph: The spouse of a nephew (niece in-law?) was a Trump supporter, so much so that I blocked her Facebook posts. I got sick of seeing the stuff. But apparently she continues to read my postings. When I posted an article about the Women’s March reaching Antarctica, she “liked” on Facebook. Maybe she’s beginning to rue her choice.
Tom Cathcart said...
Friday report. [I assume the reason more of us are not reporting is that our efforts seem so meager. Mine too, but let's weigh in if for no other reason than to encourage each other, as Bob says.] So:
1) Spoke up at the annual meeting of our little, small-town, conservative Lutheran church in favor of studying the refugee issue. The vote was 14-13 in favor, so I'm not expecting great things to come of it, but . . . .
2) As a result of another related action, a total stranger reached out to me on-line and asked me to have coffee with him and his wife. They were delightful, both in their late 80's, with a daughter, whom I also met who's a UU minister who had spent some time at Standing Rock and gave me a list of like-minded groups in the Poughkeepsie area. 3) At the urging of this Fred, called our town supervisor and told his voicemail how I feel about protecting the undocumented people living in our little town. 4) Gave some money to DSCC and Planned Parenthood. Okay, not exactly 1848 in Paris, but I'm heartened by I. M. Flaud's report that the sheer number of people involved is making them nervous.

DML said...
1. Went to my county's initial Our Revolution meeting. Signed up for a few committees related to passing state-level progressive laws.
2. Going to a letter writing party tonight.

Also - no reason to be sheepish about what you're doing, or to deride any of it as meager. We all have lives, this is a long slog, and we need to pace ourselves. A little bit every week is pretty good.

Christopher M. said...
Thanks for this post Professor, it is encouraging!

This past week, I did these things:

1. Emailed LL Bean, Amazon, LL Bean, and DSW to say I would not buy their products until they rescind there Trump endorsements and drop Ivanka Trump products. (I got this idea from https://grabyourwallet.org/Boycott%20These%20Companies.html)

2. Called and left a message for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security asking them to do everything in their power to remove Steve Bannon from the National Security Council. (I got this idea from https://twitter.com/AugstMcLaughlin/status/827228377845100544)

That's it so far. The Women's March organizers are encouraging people to meet with friends and neighbors this week and talk about further actions. I may go to one near me. https://www.womensmarch.com/100/action2 is the site.

Kate said...
Thanks for the great suggestions. I haven't posted my actions on the previous Fridays, so I'll stretch a point and include some older items. Here goes:
This week:
1) Mailed my Senators to thank them for their votes against DeVos.

Previously:
1) Gathered and turned in signatures to help get a recall election for our city councilor (who has been indicted for corruption). Keeping fingers crossed on this -- we've turned in enough signatures to meet the requirement plus a good cushion, but we still have to satisfy the Board of Canvasser's review of all the signatures, survive all the other delaying measures (he has already sued the organizers personally and filed every court appeal he could), and win an election (if we get that far).
2) Signed an online petition opposing the Muslim ban. Not sure if these make any difference, but it's encouraging to see the large numbers of signatures.
3) Had lunch with a new colleague who happens to be Muslim. Would have done this anyway, so maybe it doesn't count, but it seems more than usually important now.

Great to see all the different ideas here. I'm aiming to have "mailed LL Bean and Amazon" on my list next week!

Critton Childers said...
I mentioned a couple of days ago that I emailed my NC senators imploring them to vote against DeVos and return her donations. I guess I don't carry a lot of weight with these senators.

David said...
1. Called Senator Cantwell's office twice to urge her to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination.

2. Called Senator Murray's office to thank her for fighting against the DeVos nomination and thank her for committing to filibuster Gorsuch's nomination.

3. Called the Washington State Attorney General's office to thank AG Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell for their work in ligating the Muslim ban.

4. I am a union rep in my building, and while I know this doesn't really count, I'm going to mention it because it makes me feel better about the week's activities. I continue to represent educators in two active grievances.
Graham said...
1. Initiated monthly contributions to Our Revolution and CAIR

2. Emailed several progressive organizations to volunteer

3. Signed a bunch of petitions

I. M. Flaud said...

Sent some more money to one of my state senators. Signed various petitions. One defensive move: I subscribed to the Jolly Roger Telephone company service, which routes telemarketers to bots that waste their time. What has this to do with the Trump administration? Trump will likely make good on his promise to trash consumer protections--a development that really chaps my ass, incidentally.) I expect a sharp rise in scam callers. I am so disgusted by this betrayal of the consumer, that I am starting to consider hoarding money in my mattress. I closed my account with a commercial bank in 2008 and joined a credit union days before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. Never regretted it. I wonder whether there is more I can do to encourage others to do likewise.

Friday, February 10, 2017

THE FRIDAY LIST

It is Friday again and the list of things you have done this last week in the struggle is growing.  Post your report today and it will become part of the official list.

Let's go folks.

THE NINTH CIRCUIT DECISION

This is the judgment of my son, Law Professor Tobias Barrington Wolff:

"I have just finished reading the opinion of the Ninth Circuit in the dispute over the anti-Muslim Executive Order. The opinion is beautifully written and appears tightly reasoned to me. A few parts of the case involve areas of law about which I do not have particular expertise (like the due process rights of non-citizens with substantial connections to the United States) and there is some room for debate about the Ninth Circuit's decision not to modify the scope of the TRO (though there is also substantial authority for that decision). But I think overall the court got it right.

I am not joyful, however. I think it likely that Steve Bannon crafted this EO with the expectation that it would cause chaos and elicit protests and then be enjoined by the courts. At the very least, I am not prepared to treat this as a victory so much as a reassuring confirmation that our courts remain strong and independent -- which is welcome -- coupled with a continuing sober awareness of the menace now occupying the White House.

This EO was never meant to be policy. It was not designed as policy, it was not vetted as policy, and it was not rolled out as policy. This EO was intended to achieve a strategic outcome. One sinister strategic story is that Bannon seeks to use the next terror attack on the United States as an opportunity to blame our federal courts for threatening national security and thereby to undermine the rule of law. A story that is less sinister but still dangerous and ugly is that Bannon seeks to use this clash to amp up nativist sentiment and inflame their base. The most alarmist story to tell involves references to the Reichstag fire and a deliberate orchestration of an attack on America in order to usher in martial law and full-blown fascist authoritarianism -- a scenario that I am not yet ready to treat as likely, but that I cannot wholly dismiss.

Whatever the agenda underlying these recent events, it is important to understand that this was never about creating policy. We would make a serious mistake if we were to view the decision of the Ninth Circuit as a victory in the normal back and forth between courts and policymakers about the limits of the Constitution. That is not what this is.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A FEW WORDS FROM PARIS

I do not wish to reevaluate the Obama presidency, nor is it necessary for me to repeat here a selection of the hideous things Trump and his minions are trying to ram down our throats.  My attention is focused on evidence of popular opposition and information about what each of us can do to strengthen that opposition and keep it alive, at least until the mid-term elections.  That is the purpose of my Friday Lists, the third of which I shall assemble tomorrow, despite being here in Paris.

I. M. Flaud yesterday posted a fascinating report by a Mennonite Pastor of a visit to the office of Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.  Here is the report:

Just got back from a visit to Senator Pat Toomey's Johnstown office with 15 other Borough of State College & Penn State area people to talk about the immigration ban.
Here are my takeaways;
1. Everyone we spoke with was rattled. They have never experienced this much constant feedback. The phones haven't stopped since the Inauguration and they admitted they can't check voicemail because there is no pause to do so.
2. Letters are the only thing getting through at this point [Note: I've heard that postcards are better because they can impound letters for five weeks to check for contaminants]. Regional offices are a much better mail destination because the compile, sort, and send everything. DC mail is so backed up right now it takes twice as long to send things there.
3. Toomey's staff seem frustrated with Trump. They said his barrage of Executive Orders are not how government is supposed to work, and was what they hated during moments of the Obama era. One of them said, "we have a democratic system and process. Trump needs to stop behaving like a Monarch."
4. Our representatives are listening because people are raising their voices. This feels like no other political moment in recent time for them.
5. Toomey's staffers are far more empathetic than I assumed. Also far more technology illiterate (one asked me how to use twitter, and how we already knew about Toomey's published statement). They resonate that the immigration ban feels immoral and unAmerican.
6. Regional offices are not designed to handle this volume of unrest.
7. Personal stories matter. Tell the stories of people being impacted by arbitrary religious and ethnic legislation. Staffers want to know.
8. Don't stop. Do whatever small part you can do to keep raising your voice to your representatives. Not just this issue, but every way marginalized people are being (or will be) exploited under this President."

This is very good news, and judging from my inability to get through to the offices of Senators Burr and Tillis, I imagine it reflects the situation nation-wide.  Keep in mind that the people flooding and jamming the phones are almost certainly a tiny fraction of the constituency.  This battering on the doors of Senators and Representatives is clearly a cost and energy efficient way to have an effect.  We must somehow find the energy and commitment to keep it up for months, and then for years.  It is one of our best hopes of changing the direction of American politics.  Subtleties of argument and nuances of analysis are mostly irrelevant here.  Over time, the relentless barrage will have an effect, because it is like nothing people in politics have ever seen.

The silencing of Elizabeth Warren by the Senate Republicans was a gift, as was the refusal of House Republicans to support a Democratic-sponsored resolution noting that the Nazis targeted Jews in the Holocaust.  Every little bit of stupidity helps.

And now, a plea to my readers:  Please take a moment to post a comment mentioning some of the things you have been doing in the struggle.  These testimonials encourage others, stiffen their spines, reassure them that they are not alone.  Keep it up!



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A CLARIFICATION

My remarks about Obama seem to have been misunderstood, so let me explain.  I am not suggesting that Obama should set the agenda for progressives.  I am not suggesting that he run for a third term after a four year interim [unconstitutional].  I am not suggesting that Michelle Obama run for office.  Here is what concerns me:  The only realistic way to stop the horrible things the Republicans are doing and plan to do, while also beginning the long-term progressive transformation of the country, is to take back the House.  This cannot be done merely by organizing and motivating the politically active segment of the left.  There are just not enough votes.

Let me give you some figures.  These are rough estimates only, but that is sufficient.  In 2016, there were more or less 220 million eligible voters.  Roughly 134 million, or 60%, voted.  In 2018, if the customary behavior of American voters continues, only 88-90 million votes will be cast.  Of the 44-46 million people who voted in 2016 but will not vote in 2018, fewer than half are Democrats, which is to say maybe 20 million [Republicans, who are on average older and Whiter and richer, are more likely to vote.]  The secret to taking back the House is somehow to motivate enough of those 20 million to stop Tweeting or Yelping, get up off their Barcaloungers, and schlep on over to the local voting site to cast their ballots. 

Now it is, I think, a pretty safe bet that not many of those who are marching and demonstrating and protesting and contacting their Representatives are among those 20 million low-energy voters.  And since the American electoral system is ordinal, not cardinal, there is no way for the intensity of their preference to be recorded.  The vote of an airhead who never gives a moment’s thought to politics counts for exactly as much as the vote of a dedicated marcher, blogger, donater, and protester.  So somehow we need to get a significant number of millions of men and women to do what they are not ordinarily inclined to do and vote in an off-year election.

This is where Obama comes in.  He has an unparalleled ability to fire up Democratic voters and get them to the polls.  If, as I suspect, large numbers of Trump voters will be bummed out by his behavior as President by the time 2018 rolls around and hence not inclined to drag themselves to the polls, we might have a really good shot at pulling off what is called a Wave Election.


That, and only that, is what I had in mind when I speculated about the possibility that Obama might throw his weight into the struggle.  Suppose all of this happens.  How much will it actually accomplish?  That depends in large measure in the character and political leaning of the candidates who are recruited to run for House seats [and also State Legislative seats], and this is where the energy and commitment of progressives plays a major role.  If we recruit and get nominated genuine progressives, then in a wave election they will transform the House.  Will Obama work to find and motivate genuine progressives?  No, that is not where his heart lies.  But we can!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

THE NEXT TWO YEARS

The 2018 off-year elections are our best chance to fundamentally change the political landscape.  A major surge in Democratic Party turnout could take back the House and a number of state houses, and perhaps even flip the Senate.  In presidential elections, roughly 60%, +/- 3%, of eligible voters vote.  In off-year elections, roughly 40%, +/- 2%, vote.  If the Republican voters are unmotivated or disappointed in Trump or simply follow their usual pattern of behavior, while Democratic voters are unusually motivated, it does not take a mathematical genius to calculate the possibilities.  All of this assumes that no one’s mind is actually changed, just that many more normally Democratic voters bother to vote.  My reason for touting Obama as a useful motivator has nothing at all to do with my judgment of his policies or performance as President and everything to do with my evaluation of his capacity for bringing millions of low-energy voters to the polls.  Nor do I think that if he plays that role he will also somehow co-opt or influence the policy preferences of those who vote. 

I agree with everyone [including myself] who praises the grassroots coast-to-coast movement now being born in America.  This must be kept going, it must be enlarged, it must be developed, and it must put the wind in the sails of progressive candidates and leaders at the local, state, and national levels.  What is more, all of these movements [for they are many, not one] must look beyond 2018, even beyond 2020.  We must define long-term goals that seem unattainable now but may be well within our reach in four, six, or eight years [when I will be 91, sigh].


That being said, I remain convinced that Obama, if he can be recruited, is our best GOTV machine in 2018.  We can succeed without him, but with him our chances are better.  Remember, in the short run, we do not even need to change people’s minds.  We just have to make them get off their asses and vote.

Monday, February 6, 2017

WHERE WE ARE

Well, I have had a night’s sleep here in Paris and taken my morning walk [Jean Gabin and Yves Montand were not at their usual station in the row of Batobuses – I think they have gone south for the winter] so it is time to offer my reflections on the state of play after just over two weeks of the Trump presidency.

One thing is now clear.  Trump is a feckless, incompetent authoritarian would-be dictator, guided and manipulated by a quite competent, determined neo-Nazi.  Bannon seeks to destroy the relatively stable post-World War II international order and replace it with a Russo-American hegemony by the preemptive use of major military force.  This, in my opinion, would be dramatically worse than the existing American hegemony, which is terrible enough.  Domestically, he and the Republicans seek to undo every hard-won gain liberals have made in the last three quarters of a century.  Those who, quite understandably, were impatient with the caution and hesitation of Obama can now take a close look at what real implacable unrelenting bigotry looks like.  It is too early to tell whether the Courts will save America, but I agree with the thrust of Tom Cathcart’s suggestion that the elevation of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court might have the effect of pushing Chief Justice Roberts to the left.  Remember that Gorsuch will replace Scalia, leaving Kennedy as the swing vote.  It is the next appointment that brings devastation with it.  That is why Ruth Marcus wrote a plea to Kennedy not to retire.

What hope is there in the current situation?  Clearly, the answer is the unprecedented and apparently unrelenting mass mobilization of opposition to Trump.  The outpouring of people into the streets and airports is astonishing and greatly encouraging.  These demonstrations are stiffening the spines of elected representatives and giving us hope for a wave election in 2018 that will take back the House and perhaps even the Senate.  There is evidence that Trump cares excessively about polls and other public demonstrations of his popularity or lack thereof.  The demonstrations at Mar-a-Lago, for example, enrage him.  Keep it up.  Every evidence of opposition to Trump has value politically.

However, the demonstrations could badly use a leader, a focal point, someone in whom tens of millions of people can put their trust and behind whom they can rally.  I think it is clear that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown or Keith Ellison is not that person, admirable as each ne is.  Like it or not, the only person in the United States currently with that sort of mobilizing star power is Barack Obama.  For that reason, I was very much cheered by his statement, issued through a spokesperson just nine days after the Inauguration, calling into question Trump’s attack on immigrants and Muslims.  Do not be misled.  Cautious, precise, restrained as the statement was, the issuing of it by the outgoing president so soon after the Inauguration was an extraordinary event.  I think it is quite possible that in the weeks and months ahead, Obama will slowly emerge as the titular leader of the revolt.  If that happens, I think we can win the House, perhaps win the Senate, win state houses and state legislatures, and mount a real progressive movement that will eventually go well beyond what Obama himself might endorse.


Well, Paris seems to have restored some of my natural optimism [even though it is cold and rainy here.]  Do not despair.  This is a fight we can win, and the winning of it will do more than restore the Status quo ante, it will definitively move us in a progressive direction.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

J'ARRIVE

Susie and I arrived this morning more than an hour early [strong tailwind], wiped out, as old folks get after missing a night of sleep.  Paris was cold and rainy, but it felt like home.  Later on, I had an espresso [decaf] at the bar in our favorite cafĂ©.  A waiter I befriended when last we were here greeted me, and asked after Susie [who was catching up on sleep in the apartment.]  I felt like a regular.


I spent some time on the plane trying to achieve a measure of perspective on the past two horrific but exhilarating weeks.  I think there is some good news to go along with a great deal of terrifying news.  Tomorrow, after I have had a night’s sleep, I shall try to write an extended post discussing all of this.  Suffice it to say, in anticipation, that the very best news is the scope and geographic spread of the on-going wave of protests against the Trump administration.  Keep it up!

Friday, February 3, 2017

FRIDAY LIST 2

Critton Childers said...
ACLU is prepared for a fight to the SCOTUS.
I just donated on their website. Another small pebble.

Robert Paul Wolff
Donated to ACLU
Donated to John Lewis fund
Called Senator Burr, asked him to vote against Sessions

DML:  said...
We do need a plan. I recently moved to Alabama. The Democratic Party is in shambles here. Many of the Republicans in my various districts ran unopposed. Republican Robert Aderholt ran unopposed in the 4th congressional district. Republican Alan Harper ran unopposed in the 61st state house district. Republican Gerald Allen had Democratic opposition in the 21st state senate district, but won with 62 percent of the vote. Senator Shelby's reelection was contested by a Democratic marijuana legalization activist; Shelby won with nearly 64 percent of the vote. We are also home to the egregious Jeff Sessions.

There is some effort to make the Democratic Party more competitive here. I went to a Tuscaloosa County Democratic Party meeting yesterday. Some fifty people showed up--a good enthusiastic crowd. They are already registering voters--in part for the upcoming municipal and school board elections, but also for the 2018 midterms, when the entire state legislature will be up. They are building voter databases and working to recruit and train women to run as Democratic candidates. They obviously need to find some good people to run. Now they are either failing to field anyone, or fielding someone laughable. 
Howard said...
The official thing I did was to email Chuck Schumer to congratulate him on finally standing up to the Republicans, to congratulate him that he finally gets it and us
In small and unofficial ways, I oommiserated with a friend from a Muslim country, assuring her we'll fight to make America a country soon enough that will welcome her openly; and I also told off a malicious troll on a psychology today blog that advocating for Trump must be like walking around with a kick me sign on your back in high school.
The small things helped me more than anything, but I imagine and hope they made a small difference
DML said...
Went to a Muslim Travel Ban protest at the White House
Wrote three letters to my Senator about the Ban and the ACA at a neighborhood letter writing party (it was fun!)
Got a neighborhood group together to go to a Our Revolution meeting for our county. Meeting is tomorrow.
Signed a petition on the Travel Ban
Jordan Said
-Donated to the ACLU
-Tried numerous times to call my representative (Todd Young, R-IN) about DeVos, the travel ban; most of them failures to get through.
-Engaged in long and (I think) productive conversations with a conservative, Trump-voting family member who is uneasy about the ban and might be coming around

Will said...
1) Set up a recurring monthly donation to the ACLU.
2) Marched with several hundred other people to ask the president of the University of Alabama to come out forcefully in defense of students affected by the executive order; also signed a letter with some thousand others to that effect. We received a perfunctory response.
3) Attended a follow up meeting to plan next steps.
4) Attended a Tuscaloosa Democratic Party meeting about voter registration.
5) Signed up for Facebook; started a blog.
6) Volunteered to speak at an anti-Trump rally being held on Tax Day, April 15th.
7) Submitted a form registering my interest in starting a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America in Tuscaloosa, and scheduled a follow up call with the DSA.
Ed Barreras said...

1) Signed a bunch of petitions
2) Donated to ACLU
3) Engaged in constructive, civil online discussion
4) Went to a secluded spot on a hill above the city, hurled stones and howled into the night



David said...

1. Called Sen. Patty Murray to encourage her to keep up the fight against Betsy DeVos.
2. Donated to Planned Parenthood.
3. Donated to the Northwest Immigrant Rights project.


Chris said...
1. Donated to Keith Ellison
2. Called DNC for Keith Ellison to be appointed
3. Called my senators and house members asking them to come out against the trump refugee ban
4. Asked me senators to go against Betsy DeVos appointment
5. Signed a UGA petition to stand up against discrimination of foreign students on campus


FRIDAY LIST FOR 2/3/17

The Friday List is open.  Make comments stating what you have done in the last week to combat Trump and the Republicans, and I will post it before I leave for Paris.

My own list is rather feeble.

Donate money to John Lewis.
tried repeatedly to call Senators Tillis and Burr.  Left a message once with Burr's office, otherwise could not get through.
Blogged obsessively.

OFF TO PARIS

Tomorrow, Susan and I will fly to Paris for a long planned three week stay.  I confess to feeling that I am abandoning ship, but the truth is that I will be as clued in there as here about the horrible things that are happening, and with the exception of showing up to events in person, I can do there everything I can do here [international calls are free with my phone service.]  n a moment I will launch this week’s Friday List.  My own contributions are meager, principally because despite attempts, I have been unable to get through to the offices of either of my senators.  I take that as a good sign.

A GUEST POST

My sister's son, Professor Joshua Searle-White, teaches at a college in Meadville, PA.  Yesterday he published this guest column in the local paper.  I think you will find it interesting.


COLUMN: A Soviet experience for America?
By Joshua Searle-White
 Feb 2, 2017
 In the fall of 1980, as a college student, I traveled to study for a semester in the Soviet Union. I lived in a dorm room with two Russians, went to a Soviet University and learned as much as I could.
Much of the experience was positive. I loved the ice cream and champagne cafes scattered around the city — what a great idea! The Peter the Great-era architecture was beautiful. I met some interesting people, including my roommates, who, even though they were required to keep tabs on me and report on my actions to the KGB, taught me some excellent Russian slang.
Yet it was also a difficult place to be. The Soviet Union was a totalitarian state, after all. The weight of its political system felt oppressive even to those of us who were there for a short time.
Here are few of the features of Soviet life that weighed on me:
The government lied. All the time. It lied about everything from participation rates in elections to how many people came to rallies to support them to what they would accomplish in the next five-year plan. The people knew, of course, that they were being lied to. But because there was nothing they could do about it, they developed a pervasive mistrust of their government and, indeed of anyone in authority.
The government enriched itself at the expense of the working class. As I walked around Leningrad I often saw the Zil and Chaika limousines favored by the Communist Party bigwigs zooming by while the rest of the citizens stood in long lines for basic necessities. The gap of wealth and prestige between the elite and the workers (even though the USSR was supposed to be a “workers’ state”) was huge. As a result, the workers learned that it was OK to cheat. As one friend put it, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”
The government muzzled the press. They had their own news outlets and would not let anyone challenge their version of the truth. In fact, the main newspaper was called “Truth” (Pravda)! The other main newspaper was “Izvestia” (“News”), and the standard joke among the people was that there was no pravda in Izvestia and no izvestia in Pravda.
The government demanded obedience and slavish patriotism from its citizens. Everyone, from government functionaries down to the Russians I lived with, felt pressure to line up in lockstep behind their leadership and parrot whatever was being said at the top. Anyone who spoke against the party line was seen as unpatriotic. And we know what happened to dissidents.
The government loved blame. When they were forced to admit that something had gone wrong, like a bad economic outcome or a plane crash, they always managed to find someone to point fingers at. The Americans, the Jews, dissidents, NATO — anyone would do. They taught their citizens that the way to deal with difficulty is to evade responsibility and look for an enemy to blame their problems on.
The government would not tolerate diversity — especially religious diversity. The Jews I met while I was there risked their jobs just by talking with me. Muslims and Christians were met with similar suspicion, as was anyone who looked or sounded different (except for Europeans, who were seen as safe).
The government fanatically controlled travel and borders. The Soviet leadership’s primary motivation was fear. That’s understandable, since they had been invaded more than once in their history. But their attempts to control who came in and out of the country bordered on the paranoid. They wouldn’t let in anyone they thought was potentially a threat. They restricted the movements of those of us they did let in. Even I, an American college student who posed no threat at all, couldn’t travel more than 40 kilometers from the center of the city I was living in.
I remember my time in Leningrad fondly. I met many warm, interesting and intelligent people there, and I find Russia’s language and long history fascinating. But I would never, ever, ever want to live there or, for that matter, in any totalitarian society. I am so grateful that my country, the United States of America, would never be like that. We would never tolerate the limits on free speech, free expression and freedom to build our own future that were so pervasive in the Soviet Union. We are better than that, aren’t we?

Joshua Searle-White is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Allegheny College. He can be reached at jsearle@allegheny.edu.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A SUGGESTION FOR BERKELEY STUDENTS

Many of you saw reports of this event:

“Violent protests on the University of California, Berkeley’s campus forced school officials to cancel a Wednesday night appearance by right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Like many on the left, I am made uncomfortable about blocking a speaker from appearing on a college campus, regardless of his or her views [this is entirely separate from honoring such a speaker, for example by an honorary degree or an invitation to speak at an official college function like a commencement.]  I have an alternative suggestion.  Permit the speaker to speak, but either refuse to attend, or attend and sit in stony silence while he or she speaks.

My favorite solution is to mob the site, filling every available seat, and then just sit.  No boos, no catcalls, no demands for equal time.  Just sit.  Let the person speak for as long as he or she wishes, but just sit.  Trust me, this would be unnerving.  My guess is that someone like Yiannopoulos would start out bold and brazen, making deliberately inflammatory statements to evoke some response, and then begin to falter as the minutes go by and he gets no response at all.  Try it some time.  After a while, when it turns out that he is getting the silent treatment, he will make a series of abusive statements and then crawl away.


Suppose there are a few supporters in the audience.  Fine, let them cheer and applaud, to stony silence from everyone else.  This is what is often called “shunning,” and the psychological effects can be quite forceful.

The freedom to speak does not carry with it a right to be responded to, or even listened to.

LET US ALL TAKE A DEEP BREATH

OK, folks, I think the situation we are in is making us all a little crazy.  I am as ready to speculate on the physical condition of Trump and Bannon as anyone, but unfortunately none of us is in a position to turn that speculation into actionable intelligence [sorry, I have been binge watching Covert Affairs.]  Let me make a suggestion:  Let us try to keep the speculation, however enjoyable, separate from discussion of steps we can take to weaken or defeat Trump and the Republicans, and let us keep that in turn separate from broader analyses of the domestic or international situation.

I think it is now pretty clear [but obviously not at all certain] that Bannon has at least for the moment won any internal White House struggles taking place for Trump’s ear and mind [such as it is.]  The Muslim ban, the aggressive telephone calls with U. S. allies, the efforts to seize control of elements of the administrative bureaucracy, the shutting out of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other regular participants in security and military decision making, even the premature and disastrous Special Forces raid – none of this feels like the doing of Reince Priebus.  And the deliberate omission of any mention of the Jews in the statement commemorating the Holocaust certainly does not sound like something that an Orthodox Jew like son-in-law Kushner would push.

I cannot see any way for us and our millions of fellow agitators to influence those internal struggles, at least not directly.  But the pressure we have been putting on our elected “representatives” does seem to be stiffening the spines of the Democrats and giving pause to a few Republicans.  From which I draw the conclusion that right now, today, we should be calling Senators to push against the confirmation of DeVos, Sessions, and others.  Any victory, however small, is worth the effort, but I have another motive.  I want to see how Trump reacts the first time he is told “no” by Congress.  It is at least possible that he will violently overreact, and that could have a usefully destabilizing effect.


The longer game – much longer – is to do whatever we can to encourage viable candidates to stand for seats in state legislatures and the House, even in solidly Republican districts.  I think a year and more of Trump may create the possibility of a “wave” election driving from office otherwise safe Republicans, and should that happen, we need to have candidates willing to announce and run.  In short, we need a Howard Dean “fifty state strategy.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ADVANCED AUTOMECHANICS

I will write more about the present political situation later, but now I wish to report on an automotive crisis successfully handled earlier today.

My wife, Susan, drives a little 2011 bright red Toyota Yaris, which after six years has slightly more than 5000 miles on it.  In the past two days, three distinct warning lights have appeared on the dashboard.  I looked in the manual, and the instructions were that this could be dangerous and the car should be checked immediately.  Well, when it comes to cars, I do as I am told, so this morning we took it in to the dealership where she bought it and turned it over, with fear and trepidation, to the service department.  The minimum charges is $125, cheap for a life-threatening emergency.

They have just called.  After an extensive check of the vehicle they did indeed find two problems, which they have corrected.  What were they?

1.  The gas cap was loose.
2.  The tire pressure was low.

Thank God for advanced technology.

BAD NEWS

Things are getting very bad very fast.  Reactionary Republicans are rushing to undo not merely the last eight years social progress but the last fifty years and more of social progress.  We are in for the fight of our lives, and demonstrations by themselves, however  invigorating, will not do.  We need to plan now to take back the House, and if possible, the Senate.