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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ANTIQUING

My abstract discussion of bureaucracy has sparked an extremely interesting flow of lengthy comments.  I am humbled by the accounts by David and by Professor Pigden of the long years they spent engaging in the hard, slogging work of ground level politics.  Against those efforts, my writing of such tracts as In Defense of Anarchism seem like nothing so much as “shit to airy fineness spun,” as Alexander Pope apparently did not say in his Dunciad but should have.

Let me just respond to S. Wallerstein’s latest post, in which he says in part, “The people who run the Democratic Party are smarter than you and I are. … They'll always win because they're smarter and less scrupulous than you and I are, unless we start over with new alternative movements, organize other innocents and potential reborn innocents.”

Let me offer some reflections on the upper middle class weekend amusement known in Massachusetts as antiquing, which is to say driving to Cape Cod and pottering around in antique shops hoping to stumble on that once in a lifetime find, a genuine eighteenth century bow front chest too dirty and covered with spider webs to be recognized for the treasure it is.  [There is even a mystery series, the author of which I cannot recall, whose main character has an infallible nose for the authentic skittle ball teapot or lost Stubbs.]

This always struck me as a fool’s errand when I lived in Massachusetts, for a very simple reason.  I, the antiquer, was a weekend amateur who spent maybe fifteen hours a year poking about in the staged jumble of antique shops.  The proprietors were full-time professionals who sat in their shops all day, six days a week, fifty weeks a year, surrounded by objets d’art that they regularly checked, rearranged, packed up for periodic antique shows, unpacked, and repositioned in such a manner as to catch the eye of the weekend novice.  What was the likelihood that I was going to spot a valuable item that the owner of a shop had failed to appreciate?

The people who run the Democratic Party are not smarter than I am.  They are just professionals whose entire working day is devoted to seizing and maintaining control of political power.  Of course they are better at it than I am!  But let them go up against me in a departmental fight over a tenure case and I will show them what it is like to cross swords with a professional!


Nobody said this was going to be easy.  But we have one thing going for us.  They need us more than we need them.  They need us, or rather our votes, in order to prosper in their jobs, and if we can mobilize enough of us, we can outvote them, replace them, remove them, or – what is also possible – get them to recognize that their self-interest lies in supporting our candidates and pushing our policies.  But we have to stick to it, because if they get the idea that we are weekend antiquers, they will smile, nod, and go right back to what they were doing before we wandered into their shop looking for a bargain.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A CLARIFICATION

The lengthy and thoughtful comments suggest to me that I have failed to make myself clear, for which I apologize.   I was not speculating about the desirability of cooperating with the existing leaders of the Democratic Party.  I was speculating about taking the Party over.  My point about bureaucracy was that the Party, as an existing functioning bureaucracy, is a potentially valuable resource that it would be very difficult to duplicate [not impossible, just very difficult.]  If we were to create a third party, it too would be a bureaucracy, of course.  Bureaucracy is not a disease or a moral failing;  it is  way of organzing and managing large and compolex undertakings.

Perhaps an example will make my point clearer.  In many states [but not all], a network of regulations and laws make it very difficult for third parties to get on the ballot, or to exercise influence on state legislatures once they do.  This is no accident, of course.  It is a consequence of deliberate and intentional steps taken by the local Democratic and Republican Parties [steps that would, I assume, be imitated by a newly triumphant Socialist Party, were one to come into existence and win control of the state legislature.]  

If a left movement were to take control of a state Democratic Party, as has happened in some states, it would step into an existing structure that secured and magnified its power, a bureaucratic structure designed to take advantage of the rules and regulations put in place by earlier occupants of that structure.

It is not self-evident that this is a more promising path to take, but it is certainly worth considering without one's mind being clouded by hatred for those now occuping the structure.  Think of it as moving into a well-appointed and smoothly functioning house built by one's mortal enemy.  Superstition to one side, the moral failings of the previous occupant do not lurk in the shadows waiting to do one harm.  And if some of the floor plan does not suit one's purpsoes, a little renovation is not impossible.

SOME WISDOM FROM MAX WEBER

I should like to spend a little time on this Monday morning reflecting on the current political situation with the aid of Max Weber, arguably the greatest sociologist who has ever lived.  In his magnum opus, Economy and Society [Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft], Weber presents the classic analysis of the phenomenon that was then coming to characterize German society and has since become the dominant phenomenon of the modern era, bureaucracy.  I think we can gain some insight into, and perspective on, the current struggle for control of the Democratic Party by thinking about the Party not as a conspiracy or as a movement or as a betrayal or as a cop out, but quite simply as a bureaucracy.  This will take me a while, so settle down.

Bureaucracies are social organizations consisting of defined roles with associated functions and duties determined by objective rules – that is to say, by rules that are to a considerable extent independent of the individuals who occupy the roles at any moment.  In contrast with some other systems of social organization, in a bureaucracy the roles define the individuals who occupy them, not the other way around.  The roles have rights, powers, duties, and titles associated with them, which the individual takes when he or she assumes the role and puts off when he or she steps out of the role.  Sometimes, but not always, occupants of roles wear special clothing or carry special symbols to identify them as role-bearers.

Modern armies are bureaucracies.  Corporations are bureaucracies.  The Catholic Church is a bureaucracy.  Universities are bureaucracies.  Charities are bureaucracies.  The Boy Scouts of America is a bureaucracy.  And political parties are bureaucracies.

For the individuals who occupy the roles defined by the rules of the bureaucracy, their occupation of those roles is a job.  It is the way they earn their living, and with very few exceptions, the individuals need those jobs to live.  They are not independently wealthy amateurs who agree to perform the functions of the role out of love or ideological commitment or on a lark.  Modern political parties depend on these bureaucratic role-occupiers for their regular, continuous functioning.

Think about it.  Suppose someone is the Registrar of Voters in a county in which such positions are political appointments or else partisan elective offices.  That person goes to work every day, five days a week, all year round, registering voters, certifying election results, maintaining files, writing periodic reports, and doing all the other bureaucratic tasks specified by the rules that define the office.  If this is a political position, the Party counts on him or her to show up and perform these tasks, whether it is an exciting October day weeks before a crucial election or a lazy March day when nobody in town is paying attention to anything but the performance of the local college basketball team in the NCAA tournament.

Such jobs do not pay a great deal, so politically engagé upper middle class doctors and lawyers and college professors may have no interest in competing for them.  Sixty thousand a year does not seem like much to them, even though it is a bit more than the median household income for an American family, but you can bet that it means a good deal to the Registrar of Voters.  That job is his or her meal ticket.

The Registrar probably got her job [let us assume the Registrar is a woman] by going to local Party meetings several times a week for years, volunteering during elections, ringing doorbells, serving as one of those folks who check you in when you go to vote.  For her, the job is not a sacrifice she is making out of deep ideological conviction [though of course she may have that, as anyone might].  It is a paycheck and a title she is proud of, a positon that gives her status in the community, and maybe, if she sticks with it and is seen to be doing a good job, a step up a ladder to an even better job with a bigger paycheck.  There is nothing reprehensible about this.  Quite to the contrary.  It is the norm in a society dominated by large bureaucratic organizations.  Her behavior, viewed objectively and functionally, is little different from the behavior of an Army Captain bucking for Major or an Intern trying to get a Residency or a Law Associate angling for a Partnership or an Assistant Professor trying to get tenure.

Political professionals, or pols as they are sometimes called disparagingly, rely on the party’s coffers for their jobs.  Not surprisingly, they tend to view with favor big donors who, in return for preferment or maybe just access, provide large donations that keep the organization going.  They may welcome enthusiastic small donors, but long experience has taught then that small donors are fair weather friends [or maybe foul weather friends, as the case may be.]  Their enthusiasm waxes and wanes, because for them – but not for the party professionals – politics is a sometime thing.  A protest candidate like Bernie Sanders may fund an entire run for a presidential nomination with donations averaging $27, but those $27 donations have a way of drying up when the election is over, and for someone whose full-time employment depends on party funds, that is a very nerve-wracking way to live.  I think of Immanuel Kant, who until 1770, when he was awarded a professorship at the University of Königsberg, earned his living as a privatdozent, being paid by those students who chose to attend his lectures.

These facts may be offensive to those of us for whom politics is a grand calling, but they are a way of life for the people for whom politics is their daily bread.  Do we need such people?  Well, in a country of three hundred thirty million souls, with fifty states and innumerable counties and municipalities, the answer is yes.  These are the folks whose daily work determines whether voter suppression laws are passed or blocked.  They are the people who decide whether Creationism is taught alongside Evolution in the local high schools.  They are the people who decide whether laws are passed making it hard to form a labor union.

But, someone protests, Why couldn’t we dispense with pols, with paid professional pollsters and fund raisers and ward captains and media massagers and the crowd of people who make a living out of what ought to be a civic duty?  We could, of course, if we could count on civic-minded or ideologically driven volunteers to do all the work that the working stiffs in the political parties now do.  But as Oscar Wilde famously observed, “The trouble with socialism is that it takes too many evenings.”  Which is to say, in a large, modern bureaucratic society, even one like America which exhibits a remarkably high level of ground level volunteer activity, it is going to require an organized political party staffed by paid men and women and funded in a regular and reliable fashion to have a continuing and sustainable effect on the public life of the nation.

So, we have a choice to make, and like all serious and important choices, it is neither easy nor unambiguously clear:  Do we on the left try to take over the existing Democratic Party, with its vast and well-established cadre of local, state, and national professionals?  Or do we wash our hands of the Democratic Party and try to build a new party pretty much from scratch?

Let us be clear:  That is the choice.  If you are not willing to do the work of building a new party, hoping to rely instead on what Mao in another context called a Permanent Revolution, then you are on a fool’s errand.  You may succeed in getting your candidate nominated for the Presidency, but you will not win back the 1000 state legislative seats lost to the Republicans during the Obama years, and you will not therefore re-establish the right to vote, or to have an abortion, or even to use the bathroom of your gender, in all the locations where those rights have been effectively taken away.


Now, on rare occasions, new parties have succeeded in the United States.  Rarely, but they have.  My personal judgment is that we have a better chance of advancing our goals by trying a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party, but I do not know that for a fact, and I respect those like Chris who have clearly made a different judgment.  All I ask is that we recognize the bureaucratic reality of modern American politics and make our decision with that recognition before us. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THE MORNING AFTER

Two elections were held yesterday.  In Delaware, a by-election filled a State Senate seat that had been held by a Democrat who was elected Lt. Governor.  The Democrats needed to keep the seat to maintain control of the State Senate.  An unprecedented outpouring of volunteers from Delaware and surrounding states resulted in a decisive victory.  Meanwhile, Tom Perez narrowly defeated Keith Ellison for the position of Democratic National Committee chair.  The party officials voting also turned down a proposal to ban big money contributions.

I was enormously cheered by the Delaware vote.  This was the first chance to see whether the post-election outpouring of energy and enthusiasm on the left could be converted into focused political action, and the result suggests that the answer is Yes.

I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the DNC vote.  Perez was the Establishment choice [where Establishment here means the choice of Obama, Biden, and probably the Clintons as well.]  The DNC is the cozy home of the Democratic Establishment.  That Keith Ellison did as well as he did is dramatic evidence that the Democratic Establishment has lost its grip on the party.

Now, let me be honest.  I was rooting for Ellison without knowing much about him.  On substantive policy, he and Perez appear to have differed only on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Ellison opposes and Perez supports.  I have not read the TPP and really am not at all competent to explain why one should support or oppose it.  Perez is described as quite progressive, and for all I know, he is.  I was more dismayed – but again, not surprised – by the refusal to turn down big money.  This is worth a few words of explanation, although after Bernie’s great run for the nomination, it should not require much.

The norm in America is for the people – the great unwashed, as they used to be called – to pay no attention at all to politics save during national elections, while small numbers of professionals who control the local and national party machinery go about their business, funded mainly by rich people who seek to buy influence.  This arrangement is comfortable, predictable, and safe for all involved.  The paid jobs that the professionals hold and defend are not really great jobs, as things go in America these days.  A professional politician, for the most part, does not make as much as a tenured professor, and certainly not as much as a medical specialist or a corporate lawyer.  But it is a job, and for the men and women who have it, it is a living.

Much is made about the high cost of elections, but in fact, in a nation as large and rich as America, the amounts spent are really not terribly impressive.  In 2016, in all federal elective races, the candidates and their surrogates spent about 6.8 billion dollars – somewhat more, but not much more, than Americans spend in a year on pet grooming.  Bernie demonstrated that if you could get enough people energized about a campaign, you could fund it quite nicely with small donations. 

Suppose, for example, that a real national movement gets started, of the sort that now seems to be coming into existence on the left.  And suppose you can get thirty million people to donate ten dollars a month regularly.  That is somewhat less than the price of a movie ticket [if you aren’t a senior citizen living in a backwater like Chapel Hill], and does not include the concession stand purchases, which is where most cinemas make their money.   That is $3.8 billion a year, much more than is needed to pay for a vibrant grassroots political campaign.  Is it at all realistic to imagine that many people donating regularly?  Well, scores of millions of Americans make just such regular donations to churches, synagogues, and mosques, and the total well exceeds one hundred billion dollars a year.

The refusal of the DNC to reject big money donations has nothing to do with need, and everything to do with maintaining the comfortable, cozy relationship between professionals and rich, manageable donors.

What should we do?  Chris and Jerry Fresia disagree.  Here is what they say:

Chris said...”And Obama-Clinton backed Perez just won DNC chair over Sanders backed Ellison, after voting to continue to allow corporate lobbyist donations into the DNC.  This party is a fucking joke, and backing them in any fashion is only a roundabout way of ensuring more Trumpism. Sorry, I'm washing my hands of the Democratic Party for good.”

Jerry Fresia said...”I lean toward Chris' contempt for corporate Democrats; however, until or unless there are structural changes which transform our two party system into a multi-party system, I think efforts to take-over the Democratic party - perhaps through leftist primary challenges - ought to be considered.”

I sympathize with Chris, but I think that Jerry is strategically correct.  Let me explain why.  The Democratic Party is a well-established bureaucratic organization entrenched at the local level and integrated with the local laws and ordinances governing elections, primaries, campaigns, and the like, laws and ordinances that in many cases they have themselves written.  This bureaucracy is an enormously valuable resource, into which many different and competing interests can be poured.  It would take the efforts of millions of people over many decades to duplicate such a bureaucracy.  To turn away from it rather than to try to seize it and bend it to one’s purposes must, I think, be a last resort.

During Obama’s eight years as President, the Democratic Party lost a thousand state legislative seats.  The result has been a flood of state legislation suppressing the vote, attacking abortion rights, targeting the LGBT community, undermining what remains of the union movement, attacking the public schools, and in general turning large parts of America into a vast moral and political wasteland.

The election of Donald Trump seems to have produced a convulsive reaction on the left quite unlike any I have seen in my lifetime.  If the Delaware by-election should prove a harbinger and not an anomaly, we may be able to win back House seats, state legislative seats, governorships, and – along the way – control of the national Democratic Party.

I am willing to commit my energies and money to that effort, at least for the next several years, in order to see what can be accomplished.  If we fail, there will be time enough for me to join Chris.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

The Trump cabal has begun rounding up undocumented Americans for summary deportation.  With characteristic bullying bravado, Trump characterized this effort as “military,” a description he was then forced to walk back.  But be not misled – it is military in its spirit and inspiration, and I have no doubt the effort will be expanded, to the cheers of his supporters.  This morning, during my walk, I began to speculate on ways that I might seek to protect targets of this round-up were the opportunity to present itself.

There is, of course, historical precedent for such an effort in this country, namely the Underground Railroad that helped runaway slaves make their way to territories where they would be free.  America is a large and varied country.  There are cities, and in some cases entire states, prepared to serve as sanctuaries for prospective deportees.  It may become necessary – indeed it may already be happening – for networks of citizens to form who can help the undocumented to move from areas of maximum danger to areas of relative safety.

I invite anyone reading this blog who is aware of such efforts to contact me by email, which is relatively a good deal more private than a blog, to let me know whether there is anything I can do to assist such efforts.

Yes, I am aware that the Obama Administration deported upwards of two and a half million undocumented persons.  I did not support that action, and I hold no brief for Obama.  So let us not become distracted by the keeping of scores.  Our country is under siege, and such democracy as we have is at peril.


THE LISTS

The Friday Lists just get longer and longer.  I think it is working out as a good idea, a way for us to create a community, to seek approval for what are otherwise rather lonely acts, to encourage others who may be reading this but not yet phoning in, as it were.

Keep it up.  We have a very long way to go.

FRIDAY LIST 5

David said...
1.  I just returned from a march to, and demonstration at, the office of Congressman Dave Reichert (R-in hiding). At least a thousand people attended, many with the creative signs we've come to expect from this new era of protest. My favorite chant: "Where's Dave? Dave's not here!"

Dave Reichert has been in office since 2004, but this year his district went for Clinton. His refusal to meet with constituents at a town hall is bringing him some much-deserved bad publicity, and with a decent challenger next time, 2018 will mark the end of career in the House.

2. Called the office of Rep. Jayapal to thank her for her work on behalf of immigrants.

3. Attended a meeting of our Neighborhood Action Coalition.

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.
Howie wrote, Joined the ACLU.  Felt good.
Me: 
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.
 Tom Cathcart said...
Called Rep. Faso's (R) office and asked when his Town Hall would be. The phone-answerer told me that he would be having a "Tele-Town Hall." I asked her to convey my stong disappointment that Rep. Faso would not be meeting with his constituents. A few days later, an org. called Citizens of the Hudson Valley emailed that they would be holding their own Town Hall (tonight) with or without Faso. I emailed a talk show on the local NPR station with the time and place, and they read it on the air. It also engendered five minutes of discussion. Hope to get back from NYC in time to go.

Gave some money to Osoff (GA) and Campoverdi (CA) and Stand Up America.

Moved the ball about two yards down the field in my effort to get our church to take a stand on the refugees. It's now second and eight.
Anonymous Howard said...
Joined the ACLU
Blogger I. M. Flaud said...
Joined the Not My Presidents Day protest on Central Park West, near Trump International Hotel on February 20th, where I found that chanting such things as "we need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!" was not only ego-syntonic, but therapeutic. Contributed to two candidates and one Daily Kos action through Act Blue. Also opened a Twitter account to follow breaking news from journalists covering our descent into autocracy (35% of the population want this--Prof Wolff's question, "What side are you on?" is urgent and serious), rogue federal agency accounts, as well as luminaries like Corey Robin, Sam Wang, etc.  I also sent even more money to my senator's re-election campaign, but didn't mention it for Friday
Blogger DML said...
Attended a local Our Revolution meeting (basically my little suburban town and the adjacent one). We made a plan for upcoming (tomorrow and Monday) health care rallies, and how to connect with other local "Indivisible" groups to pursue larger actions. Side note: between these two suburban communities there are maybe 30,000 people, and I know of at least four different groups that have formed in the last month.
February 24, 2017 at 10:15 AM
Charles Perkins said...
Lurker here!

1. I called my Congressional Representative (Patrick McHenry) and complained about his weekly newsletter's description of Obamacare. (Trying to find different ways to voice the same concern.)
2. The call worked well, so I resolved to reply to his weekly letter with a phone call every week. It won't be hard to find something that ticks me off.
3. Started reading _The Dialectic of Sex_ by Shulamith Firestone in my free time. Will see if I can voice some angry second-wave feminist concerns in class discussion.
4. Convinced my mother (a family nurse practitioner) to call Congress and complain about the plan to repeal Obamacare, too. They wanted me to get off the phone, but they said they would pass her message on to the Congressman.
David said...
1. Joined about a thousand people in a demonstration outside the office of Rep. Dave Reichert (R). Reichert is refusing to hold town hall meetings with his constituents.

2. Called the office of Rep. Jayapal to thank her for her work on behalf of immigrants.

3. Attended a meeting of our Neighborhood Action Coalition.

I increased my monthly donation to the ACLU and did quite a few online petitions.

I was planning on attending "Little Marco's" town hall here in Tampa, but he slithered out of it like the snake in the grass that he is...

Continued my accelerated pace of reading to help understand (I'm not sure it's working, lol!)
DeleteCritton Childers said...
=Sent message "Don't Let Congress Strip Family Planning Funding!" to the following recipients: Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).
=Signed White House petition "Remove Steve Bannon from National Security Council"
=Donated again to North Carolina Democratic Part



Christopher M. said...
* On Wednesday, there was a rally downtown calling on our city to divest from Wells Fargo. I didn't make it to the rally, but I did call one of my city councilmembers to voice my support for the idea.

* Left a message with the North Dakota governor urging him to veto bills that criminalize protest.

* Gave to Stephanie Hansen's campaign (Democrat for State Senate in Delaware)

* Gave to Jon Ossoff's campaign

* Contacted Elizabeth Warren (via https://www.warren.senate.gov/?p=email_senator) thanking her for introducing the Presidential Conflicts of Interest bill

* Emailed Disney's CEO (robert.a.iger@disney.com) asking him to make a public statement against the Muslim ban.

* Signed up for the email list at https://www.sisterdistrict.com/volunteer


A RESPONSE TO A COMMENT, AND ONCE AGAIN HEGEL

James offers a long and thoughtful comment on Arendt and her relationship to the Frankfurt School, in the course of which he inquires into my antipathy to Hegel.  I have written about this before.  My antipathy is not the outcome of a deep and sustained engagement with Hegel's writings.  It is a visceral dislike, prompted more than anything else by Hegel's tendency to make simple ideas needlessly complicated, as though their value was somehow measured by their obscurity.  I, on  the other hand, have spent my entire life struggling to make difficult ideas as transparent and comprehensible as possible.

Inasmuch as I have devoted much of my career to a study of the thought of Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx, no one, I trust, will accuse me of a penchant for the superficially elementary!  But, as my books show, I strive always to render the deepest ideas of these great thinkers so clearly that my readers or students can contemplate the beauty of those ideas and feel their power immediately.  Hegel's work has always seemed to me to be the antithesis of this ideal.

However, this is a matter of taste, and, as the Romans wisely claimed, de gustibus non est disputandum.

CORRECTION

Several readers have challenged my inclusion of Hannah Arendt in the group known as the Frankfort School.  They are right.  I was wrong.  I did not misspeak.  That would imply that I knew the truth but somehow did not manage to utter words that communicated that knowledge.  I was just wrong.

My apologies.

Friday, February 24, 2017

FRIDAY LIST 5

David said...
1.  I just returned from a march to, and demonstration at, the office of Congressman Dave Reichert (R-in hiding). At least a thousand people attended, many with the creative signs we've come to expect from this new era of protest. My favorite chant: "Where's Dave? Dave's not here!"

Dave Reichert has been in office since 2004, but this year his district went for Clinton. His refusal to meet with constituents at a town hall is bringing him some much-deserved bad publicity, and with a decent challenger next time, 2018 will mark the end of career in the House.

2. Called the office of Rep. Jayapal to thank her for her work on behalf of immigrants.

3. Attended a meeting of our Neighborhood Action Coalition.

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.
Howie wrote, Joined the ACLU.  Felt good.
Me: 
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.

 Tom Cathcart said...
Called Rep. Faso's (R) office and asked when his Town Hall would be. The phone-answerer told me that he would be having a "Tele-Town Hall." I asked her to convey my stong disappointment that Rep. Faso would not be meeting with his constituents. A few days later, an org. called Citizens of the Hudson Valley emailed that they would be holding their own Town Hall (tonight) with or without Faso. I emailed a talk show on the local NPR station with the time and place, and they read it on the air. It also engendered five minutes of discussion. Hope to get back from NYC in time to go.

Gave some money to Osoff (GA) and Campoverdi (CA) and Stand Up America.

Moved the ball about two yards down the field in my effort to get our church to take a stand on the refugees. It's now second and eight.

Anonymous Howard said...
Joined the ACLU

Blogger I. M. Flaud said...
Joined the Not My Presidents Day protest on Central Park West, near Trump International Hotel on February 20th, where I found that chanting such things as "we need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!" was not only ego-syntonic, but therapeutic. Contributed to two candidates and one Daily Kos action through Act Blue. Also opened a Twitter account to follow breaking news from journalists covering our descent into autocracy (35% of the population want this--Prof Wolff's question, "What side are you on?" is urgent and serious), rogue federal agency accounts, as well as luminaries like Corey Robin, Sam Wang, etc.  I also sent even more money to my senator's re-election campaign, but didn't mention it for Friday

Blogger DML said...
Attended a local Our Revolution meeting (basically my little suburban town and the adjacent one). We made a plan for upcoming (tomorrow and Monday) health care rallies, and how to connect with other local "Indivisible" groups to pursue larger actions. Side note: between these two suburban communities there are maybe 30,000 people, and I know of at least four different groups that have formed in the last month.

Charles Perkins said...
Lurker here!

1. I called my Congressional Representative (Patrick McHenry) and complained about his weekly newsletter's description of Obamacare. (Trying to find different ways to voice the same concern.)
2. The call worked well, so I resolved to reply to his weekly letter with a phone call every week. It won't be hard to find something that ticks me off.
3. Started reading _The Dialectic of Sex_ by Shulamith Firestone in my free time. Will see if I can voice some angry second-wave feminist concerns in class discussion.
4. Convinced my mother (a family nurse practitioner) to call Congress and complain about the plan to repeal Obamacare, too. They wanted me to get off the phone, but they said they would pass her message on to the Congressman.

 Delete


GOOD GRIEF, WE MAY BE WINNING

This is the best news I have seen in a while.

AN IMPORTANT INSIGHT INTO THE MIND OF TRUMP AND HIS FOLLOWERS

Yesterday, Josh Marshall at TPM posted this comment, which I think is very insightful and important.  I recommend that you take a few moments to read it.  Here is the gist of it:


“The demand that Mexico pay for a wall has never really been about money. As wasteful and needless as the wall is, its cost would be manageable in the context of the total US national budget. The point of the demand is humiliation. It is comparable to the way authoritarian regimes (like China, for instance) sometimes charge the family of an executed criminal for the bullets used to execute their loved one. It's not the money; it's degradation.”

BELATED ENLIGHTENMENT

Faithful readers of this blog will know of my antipathy to Hegel.  Nevertheless, I believe in giving even the devil his due, so I will confess that this morning during my walk, as I was delivering in my head the opening of my first Freud lecture, I found myself reflecting that only now do I truly understand why I have chosen to give YouTube lectures on Freud and Marx.  The owl of Minerva does indeed spread its wings only with the falling of the dusk, as Hegel observed.

Here, in brief, is the reason [I shall open my lectures with this explanation.]  The great members of the Frankfurt School – Adorno, Horkheimer, Arendt, Marcuse, Fromm, Benjamin, and the rest – did their most important work struggling to make sense of the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism.  In this undertaking, they brought to bear both the insights into structural features of capitalist society afforded by Marx and the deep understanding of the non-rational sources of individual human behavior provided by Freud.  The effort to wed Marx and Freud produced such classic works as Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization [with its brilliant concept, surplus repression] and One-Dimensional Man, Adorno and Horkheimer’s The Authoritarian Personality, and Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism.


We now confront the sickening reality that fascism is come to America.  Each of us is tasked to do whatever he or she can to resist this home-grown twenty-first century variant of the defining evil of the twentieth century.  My forthcoming lectures on Freud, and the lecture series I shall record on Marx in the fall, are my tiny contribution to what must be a national effort.  Lord knows, they will not by any stretch of the imagination be important contributions to that effort, but perhaps they will amuse and entertain some folks after a long day of protesting and political work.

TIME FOR THE FRIDAY LIST

OK, folks, time to report in on this week's activities.  I will collect up a few stragglers from the past week and add whatever you tell me.  Let's hear from a few lurkers.  [Is that the right term?  It sounds rather derogatory, but of course I do not mean it that way.]

I have started preparing my Freud lectures, which will follow very closely my Freud tutorial.  The first Kant lecture has now passed 30,000 views, so unless there is one Kant fan out there with obsessive compulsive disorder, it has had an unexpectedly wide audience.  The ninth lecture has hit 1800, which is 6% of the first, quite a fall-off, but also six times as many people as studied Kant with me in my entire career.  The miracle of the cloud.

This week was marked for me by the abrupt and inexplicable loss of access to the administrative page of this blog, only to be restored the next day by a gifted young woman in the UNC walk-in tech help office.  I sent her a Thank You card with a  Starbuck's gift card inside.  As I said in my card, for her it was just another day at the office, but for me it was a life saver.

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.