Coming Soon:

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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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

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




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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA


The responses to my faux self-deprecatory celebration of my three millionth page view move me to make some comments about the movie Susie and I saw last Saturday in a free screening here at Carolina Meadows [complete with free popcorn], viz Amadeus.  I had seen the movie before, of course, and loved it, but this time around it had an unusually powerful effect on me.  Indeed, I choked up at several points.  In this comment, I am simply going to assume you have all seen it.  [Susie and I also saw Black Panther this past weekend, but that is another story entirely.]

It goes without saying that I identified with Salieri.  Mozart is presented in the movie as a sport of nature, a miracle, an alien creature.  It is impossible to identify with him.  But Salieri, especially as portrayed by F, Murray Abraham in a deservedly Oscar winning performance, is human, all too human.

The movie works precisely because Salieri is not really a mediocrity, the closing scene to the contrary notwithstanding.   He is a genuinely accomplished composer, cursed with the ability fully to recognize and appreciate Mozart’s incomprehensible genius.  He is, after all, quite capable of looking at a score and hearing the music in all its beauty.  And it is those moments in the film that made me weep.  The scene, for example, in which he looks at the original Mozart scores Constanza brings to him in an attempt to get him to lobby for a teaching gig that the profligate spendthrift Mozart needs.  Salieri genuinely loves music, and although his operas are merely competent workmanlike scores, he is ravished by the beauty he sees on Mozart’s pages and hears in his mind.  That is how I feel when I look beneath the surface of the Critique to the beautiful argument hidden within the text.  It is how I felt yesterday as I tried to show the people gathered in the room and those who will view the video the beauty of Marx’s insight into the mystifications of the capitalist marketplace.         

As I have frequently remarked, despite being a political thinker with beliefs to advance and criticisms to offer, my real pleasure comes from taking a difficult idea, making it clear to myself until it is transparent as Jack and the Beanstalk, and then showing it to a class or a reader so that others can see its beauty as I do.

Oh, the popcorn was good too.

IT'S HERE!

Okay, Alex Campbell has outdone himself, and the fourth lecture on Marx is here.  As promised, it begins with Jane Austen, the Cub Scouts, and a trip to the supermarket.

Monday, February 26, 2018

WORLD FAMOUS IN POLAND, TO QUOTE MEL BROOKS IN TO BE OR NOT TO BE.


If all goes well, tomorrow I should pass a significant milestone:  three million page views of this blog, only a million or so by me.  The Internet is a strange place indeed.

ON TO CAPITAL

In the fourth lecture, recorded today, I finally reach Capital itself and begin exploring the mystifications of capitalism.  It should be up on YouTube tomorrow.  Tell all your neighbors.  I realize that we do not live in a time ready to hear from Marx, but I have to do this.  It keeps me sane.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

I RECOMMEND

that you read this column by the always worthwhile NY TIMES columnist Frank Bruni.  It has absolutely nothing to do with politics or philosophy or economics, and it is heartbreaking.  As I read it, I thought how fortunate I am to have reached the advanced age of eighty-four still alive and in good health.  And I reflected that sooner or later [Oh Lord, let it be later] something like this will happen to me, as it does, in some form or other, to us all.  Nobody gets out of life alive, as someone once observed.

Meanwhile, I take my daily baby aspirin, go for my not quite three mile walk, and deliver YouTube'd lectures on the thought of Karl Marx while having malicious and utterly unChristian thoughts about the temporary occupant of the Oval Office.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A RESPONSE TO SOME COMMENTS


I have, I confess, been somewhat puzzled by Lindsey’s reactions to my comments on the ongoing Mueller investigation, and, perhaps not surprisingly, I have found myself in agreement with Ed Barreras, LFC, and S . Wallerstein.  But all of this, as I said, amounts to no more than speculation on our part.  I really care about only one thing:  the danger that the expressions of skepticism by Lindsey and others of the same persuasion will weaken the commitment of anti-Trump folks to fight for the defeat of Republicans in the upcoming elections.  So long as Lindsey is prepared to join me with in that fight, I am content.

Did Russian interference have an effect on the outcome of the 2016 election?  Well, considering how close things were in a handful of key states, I would say the answer is almost certainly yes.  So did the weather, so perhaps did a competing football game, so also, as far as we know, did a vagrant strain of stomach flu.  I think we can be confident that voter suppression efforts by Republicans had an effect, perhaps so large as to swamp all these other possibles.  Will we ever know?  Of course not.

All of us who are not personally acquainted with Donald Trump and the members of his administration are compelled to rely on third person sources of information.  [Lindsey, are you quite sure that Trump is in fact President?  Could that not be a complex lie told by Clinton forces to conceal the fact that she was actually elected and inaugurated and is even now doing the bidding of her corporate masters?  Is that the real reason for the rapid rise in the stock market, assuming that really happened?  Absurd, you say.  But are you certain Obama was really born in Hawaii?]

Well, you see the problem.  I am quite certain that the sun rises in roughly the same place every morning because I see it, but I only have it on the testimony of others that that direction is the East.  I am under the impression that I live in North Carolina but could this actually be a little bit of Texas?  How do I really know?

Friday, February 23, 2018

TINKERING

My next lecture is prepared, but I continue to tinker with it, searching for ways to present a plausible literary analysis to folks many of whom have not read the text being analysed.  The temptation, to which I fear I have somewhat succumbed, is to read out passages.  I mean, who wants to hear Wolff when they can hear Marx?  Tomorrow evening the CCRC where I live is screening Amadeus [with free popcorn.]  At least Milos Forman could play Mozart's music in the background while the plot unfolds.

THIS IS AN APPALLING COUNTRY

We are now having a national conversation about the desirability of restricting the purchase of semi-automatic assault rifles to private citizens twenty-one and older, a step considered so radical that Republican politicians willing to consider the idea are presented to us as profiles in courage.  [By the bye, John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name was actually written by aide Ted Sorenson, a fact so rich in irony The Onion could not have conceived it.]  I suppose it is beyond the reach of modern technology to design a weapon that is capable of killing only supporters of the NRA and that fires rosebuds at anyone else, but I can dream.

The protesting teenagers raise my spirits, although I do not believe they will prevail.  On the other hand, if they can inspire a national movement among the demographic least likely to vote, they could perhaps work some miracles.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ON TO CAPITAL VOLUME I


Now that I have recovered from my big trip west and have finished doing the family taxes, it is time to prepare for Lecture Four.  As I indicated at the end of Lecture Three, I must confront the conundrum of Capital Volume I, and more particularly the mystifying opening chapters.  Why did Marx write that way?  Quite naturally, I shall start with the famous opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice.  This will lead me to a story about the Cub Scouts, followed by reflections on the Altar and the Throne.  Then, as you might anticipate, I shall pay an imaginary visit to my local supermarket, all of which will enable me to explicate the opening two sentences of Chapter One of Volume I of Capital.  Everyone ready?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

BACK FROM THE COAST


I am back from a five day family gathering in Palm Springs, where my son, Tobias, has a second home.  It was a grand event, made notable by the fact that my twelve year old grandson, Samuel, undertook at lunch one day to ask me about philosophy and religion!  I am clearly entering a new phase of grandparenthood.

While I was away, Robert Mueller indicted a slew of unreachable Russians, detailing in the indictment something of the scope of official Russian meddling in the 2016 election.  Also, almost as an afterthought, he announced a guilty plea from someone so obscure as to make George Papadopoulos seem like a media star.  The talking heads are all going on about the Russian indictments.  I want to focus on the nonentity.  You will of course understand that what follows is the sheerest speculation.  Nevertheless, I would be prepared to place a small bet that at least some of my speculation is on the money.  Here are quotes from two news stories that give us what little information we have:

“Separately, Mueller’s office announced that Richard Pinedo, of Santa Paula, California, had pleaded guilty to identity fraud. Pinedo, 28, admitted to running a website that offered stolen identities to help customers get around the security measures of major online payment sites. It was not made clear whether his service had been used by the Russian operatives.”

“Though Friday's news linked Pinedo to the ever-expanding investigation into Russia's role in President Trump's election night victory, his attorney painted him as an unwitting accomplice who has been cooperative ever since he was contacted by investigators.  ‘He was obviously shocked and his response was to acknowledge his wrongdoing, take responsibility and assist the special counsel's office in their investigation,’ attorney Jeremy Lessem said in an interview with The Times.”

Nobody has ever heard of Richard Pinedo, or so the news reports say.  But I would bet that at least one person has heard of Richard Pinedo and is sweating bullets.  Let me explain.  The Trump campaign tapped a firm named Cambridge Analytica to handle its data mining operations.  Here is what Wikipedia tells us:  Cambridge Analytica (CA) is a privately held company that combines data mining and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. It was created in 2013 as an offshoot of its British parent company SCL Group to participate in American politics.”  Data mining is the new hi tech technique for micro-targeting voters in an election.  The 2008 Obama campaign brought the tactic to a new height of sophistication, and it has since then been a standard part of big league political campaigns.  Robert Mueller subpoenaed documents from Cambridge Analytica last December.  The data mining effort in the Trump campaign was headed up by Jared Kushner.

The manipulation of social media undertaken by the Russians faced two problems:  First, buying FaceBook ads and such leaves a money trail, and it is a crime for foreigners to engage in activities designed to affect an American election.  The origin of the money can be hidden by identity theft.  Enter Richard Pinedo.  Second, the Russians needed extensive databases of voters in selected locales in order to micro-target their efforts.  Enter the Cambridge Analytica Trump campaign.

If I am right, someone in Cambridge Analytica, working under Jared Kushner’s direction, recruited an efficient identity thief to steal some identities – credit cards and such – for use by the Russians, and then turned over data files to the Russians for their pro-Trumpm efforts.  That person does indeed recognize the name “Richard Pinedo.”  What is more, that person, and everyone involved with him or her, is guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime.  Never mind collusion, which talking heads endlessly tell us is not a crime.  Conspiracy very definitely is.

Which raises the obvious question:  Will Jared Kushner roll over on his father-in-law, who was certainly kept apprised of everything being done by the Russians?  Or will he choose to go to jail, as his father did?

I can hardly wait to find out.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

WESTERING

I shall return next Tuesday with news of the West Coast.

AN INSOLUBLE PROBLEM


With the third lecture up on YouTube and gathering views, my mind naturally has turned to Lecture Four.  There will however be a one week hiatus, because early tomorrow I fly to the west coast for a gathering of my entire extended family:  my big sister Barbara, my two sons Patrick and Tobias, my daughter-in-law Diana, and my two grandchildren Samuel and Athena.  I return late Monday, so the next lecture on Marx will be on February 26th.  This gives me time to mull over a fundamental problem I face for which there is no natural solution.

As I indicated at the end of Lecture Three, I will now turn to Capital itself, and my first task is to answer the complex and deeply important question: Why did Marx write that way?  I have, I believe, an entirely new and important answer, in the explication of which I must engage in a literary critical analysis of the opening chapters of the book.  Not a problem, you may say.  But I have no reason to believe that either the twenty or so people in the room or the many more viewers in the Cloud have ever read Volume I of Capital.  Imagine carrying out a deep literary analysis of The Brothers Karamazov or Moby Dick for an audience that has never read the book! 

I can read passages aloud, of course, but there is a limit to how much of that people will put up with.  What to do?  I am struggling with the answer, and in a week and a half you will be able to see whether I have handled this problem.

Now I must stop blogging, because it is time for me to sign in exactly twenty-four hours before my flight with Southwest to get my number in the boarding queue.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

THEY JUST KEEP COMING!

Here it is, the third lecture on the Thought of Karl Marx.  If I can keep the masses coming back after this one, I am home free.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

TRYING NOT TO DRIVE THEM AWAY

Tomorrow's lecture will be a mad dash through Classical Political Economy, complete with equations.  If this does not drive away the masses, then they are hooked.  I guess I am a total nerd -- this is the stuff I like the best.  It is remarkably interesting, especially the Ricardo.  One of the things I have always liked about Marx is his genuine respect for Smith and Ricardo, whom he recognized as having first rate minds.  Would that modern neo-classicals exhibited a similar classiness.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

THE ONION STRIKES AGAIN

It is raining this morning, so in lieu of a walk, I surfed the web for a bit and came up with this gem from THE ONION.  I will reproduce it rather than just link to it.

WASHINGTON—Heartbroken over the resignation of boyfriend Rob Porter from the Trump administration following reports that the now-former White House staff secretary had physically and emotionally abused his ex-wives, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks told reporters Friday she wished only to find one nice guy in the executive branch’s autocratic personality cult. “Every time I think I’ve found someone who shares my values in this legion of totalitarian sociopaths, they turn out to be nowhere near as good a guy as I first thought,” said Hicks, noting that the dating pool of single, oppressive pricks is fairly small, and connecting with a draconian tyrant who is also sweet and caring is increasingly difficult. “I just know the perfect, ruthless monster for me is out there somewhere in this fanatical hive mind of unfeeling narcissists—a selfish, vicious bastard who will sweep me off my feet. I just have to find the one for me.” As of press time, White House sources reported Hicks had been seen making eyes at a male colleague rumored to have good looks, kind eyes, and the appealing personality of a serial killer.

Friday, February 9, 2018

MARX, MATH, AND WIFE BEATERS


My preparations for Monday’s lecture are now complete, with 24” x 36” show-and-tell sheets on which – gasp – little equations are displayed.  [This is where I lose my burgeoning audience.]  I thought, therefore, that I would take a few moments to comment on the White House scandal involving Chief of Staff John Kelly’s second in command and right hand man Rob Porter.  Porter is a tall, handsome upper class guy, a graduate of Harvard, a Rhodes Scholar, a former aide to Senator Orrin Hatch, a Mormon, the current lover of White House Chief of Communications Hope Hicks and, it turns out, a serial wife beater.  [You can’t make this stuff up.]  I do not care about Porter, who has now joined the lengthening trail of White House staff who have quit or been fired.  What interests me is Kelly, and more particularly the talking head commentary on Kelly, which strikes me as exhibiting an important misunderstanding.

Kelly initially responded to the public revelation that Porter’s two former wives had both accused him of serious physical and emotional abuse by defending Porter as a man of honor and integrity.  He stuck to this praise even after a photo was released showing a really ugly black eye that Porter had given one of his wives.  Kelly only backed off a tad after the public outcry became politically embarrassing, at which point he released a statement condemning spousal abuse.
Beetling around, the TV commentariat quickly surfaced a clip in which Kelly was heard musing sadly last Fall that when he was growing up, “Women were sacred and looked upon with great honor.”  This was taken to be in conflict with his defense of Porter, and so the talking heads wondered whether working in the White House had caused Kelly to lose his way.

Such comments, I suggest, reveal a deep and actually rather important misunderstanding of the way many men think and feel about women.  There is in fact no contradiction at all between Kelly’s extolling of women as sacred and his embrace of a serial wife beater.  For reasons that I explored at length in my videotaped lectures on the thought of Sigmund Freud and will therefore not repeat here, little boys and girls handle their ambivalent erotic feelings about their mothers and fathers by a process of splitting.  They separate off the love from the hate and split the image of the parent in two, feeling the love toward the positive image of the parent and the hatred toward the negative image, thus allowing them to preserve both feelings intact and uncompromised.  If you want familiar examples of this very common psychodynamic process, look at fairy tales:  the sainted [but dead] mother whom the little girl reveres and the wicked stepmother whom the same little girl hates; the safely dead father of Jack and the hated ogre who lives at the top of the beanstalk and can be killed with impunity, enabling Jack to live happily with his mother.

Men who put women on pedestals and worship them as sacred are quite likely at the same time to view other women as whores who need to be beaten up.  The very same wife who is revered in public, sincerely so, may in private when the man gets angry become the object, also sincerely, of his hatred and violence.
I do not think for a moment that Kelly has been changed by his White House stint.  Nor do I think he is a hypocrite.  My guess is that he really thinks he reveres women as saints and equally really believes that a fine man like Rob Porter must have good reason to beat his wives.

I would suggest to Hope Hicks that she think twice about her choice of lovers.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A PASSING THOUGHT


Sixty-two years ago, an American political scientist named Samuel Lubell published a little book called The Future of American Politics that I believe has some lessons for us today.  Briefly, Lubell argued that it was a mistake to think that located somewhere in the middle of the road between loyal Democrats and loyal Republicans were a sizeable number of middle-of-the road voters who were open to persuasion and were more rational, more open minded, than the lockstep party voters on the left and the right.  Lubell argued that almost all of the voters he interviewed had fixed views on a number of hot button political issues [different then than now, of course] about which they were not very dissuadable at all.  The two major political parties had staked out positions on most of these issues, sometimes but by no mean always in internally consistent ways.  Some voters agreed with one party or the other on the great majority of these issues, and hence always voted for that party.  But some voters held views that aligned them on some issues with one party and on other issues with the other party.  Hence they tended to move back and forth from supporting one party or the other depending on exactly which issues were in the forefront of debate at a given time.  These so-called swing voters were not more persuadable or open to argument than any others, and they did not change their minds of issues any more often.  It just happened that their individual collection of issue commitments did not comfortably align with either party.  Nor were they more moderate, whatever that meant.

I thought of Lubell as I was yet again musing on the November elections and on what would be a good strategy for the Democratic Party.  There has been a good deal of foolishness about the unwisdom of staking out “extreme” positions, such as single payer health care or higher taxes on the wealthy, most of it issuing from what is now the Clinton wing of the party. 

What to do?  Well, let me offer one thought, based on some elementary numerical calculations.  There are roughly 711,000 people in each Congressional District.  Let us assume [to make the numbers easy to manage] that there are 420,000 eligible voters in a District.  The number actually varies widely, but never mind.  Experience shows that ordinarily in off years only about 1/3 of eligible citizens vote.

Now, imagine this is a bright red 60-40 district.  In other words, this is a district with 252,000 voters who will vote Republican if they vote, and 168,000 voters who will vote Democratic if they vote.  In an off year, 140,000 people will vote, of whom, in all likelihood, 84,000 will vote Republican and 56,000 will vote Democratic, a formidable 28,000 vote margin.

The Democratic Party has a choice.  It can tack to the right, hoping to persuade 14,000 Republicans to vote Democratic, a strategy that rests on the false assumption that there are a large number of “moderate” Republicans who are more than ordinarily open to persuasion and reason;  Or, it can try to up its reliable Democratic voter turnout from 33% to 50%, which will give them 84,000 votes – a dead heat in a bright red district.

The second option makes a great deal more sense, especially since the more the Party sticks to its progressive stance, the larger the number of its regular supporters are likely to turn out.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

MORE MARX!!

Here it is, Lecture 2 in my series on the thought of Karl Marx.  Be the first among your friends to watch it.  Guaranteed to give you pangs of nostalgia for the good old days.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

COMPENSATIONS

Let me tell again a story I have told here before, five years ago [which is, I believe, in the world of social media more than several lifetimes.]  Here it is:  I had a brief encounter with Hannah Arendt in the late 60's, during my time as a Columbia University philosophy professor.  I gave a lecture on John Stuart Mill at a session of a faculty seminar series at Columbia, and Arendt, whom I knew casually, attended.  My lecture was taken from an essay I had published as my contribution to a little volume called A Critique of Pure Tolerance authored by Herbert Marcuse, Barrington Moore, Jr., and myself, in which I beat up on old J. S. pretty bad.  At the end of the lecture, Arendt came up to say hello.  She was clearly not too thrilled with my talk, but she asked, politely, what I was working on.  I replied that I was hard at work on a book on Kant's ethics.  When I said this she brightened visibly, smiled, and said, "Ah, yes.  It is so much better to spend time with Kant!"


Much of my day is spent staying current with the appalling doings of Trump and his henchmen, but part of each day is devoted to my lectures.  If I may echo Arendt [although not in a way she would have approved], it is so much better to spend time with Marx.

Monday, February 5, 2018

LECTURE PREP

Having completed my preparation for this afternoon's lecture, I spent a few minutes watching a thirty year old video of Noam Chomsky being interviewed at the University of Washington about language.  I am not sure that was a good idea.  Talk about setting a high standard for yourself!

THIS IS GETTING TO BE A HABIT

Later today I will give my twenty-fifth YouTube lecture:  ten on Ideological Critique, nine on Kant's First Critique, four on the thought of Sigmund Freud, and now my second on Marx.  I am running out of stories!  [not really]

Sunday, February 4, 2018

TROUBLING

Josh Marshall on TPM posted this bit two days ago.  It is, in a way, the most disturbing thing I have read.  Note his extreme cation in reporting it:

“I’d say we need to know more about. Quickly.
From a South Korean paperflagged on Twitter by The Washington Post’s Tokyo Bureau Chief …
Indeed, White House National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matthew Pottinger was reported as saying in a recent closed-door meeting with US experts on Korean Peninsula issues that a limited strike on the North “might help in the midterm elections.”
The Post’s Anna Fifield identifies the paper Hankyoreh as “left-wing” and that it is the only paper currently reporting it. I don’t know more about the source. But this sounds like something we need to know more about very quickly. The report suggests Trump may see such a move not simply in the context of the standard efforts to help in a midterm election but to ward offer facing the prospect of impeachment or actual investigations under a Democratic congress.

Late Update: Some follow-on commentary on this report (noted here among other places) suggests that the translation may make it sound more concrete than it does in the original. More like, “we’ve heard” in a generic sense that it “was reported.” So this sounds more like scuttlebutt, what people are hearing that a confirmed report. Still, given the stakes and what else we are hearing, maximum scrutiny is warranted.”

BRIEF REMARK

A brief remark prompted by Ed Barreras’ concerns about frat boy comments.  Verbal aggression, speaking generally, is a good thing, especially as an alternative to physical aggression.  The general rule about verbal aggression – satire, snark, ridicule, obscenity – is:  punch up, not down.  When satirists ridicule politicians, that is punching up.  It may be outrageous, excessive, shocking, utterly unwarranted, but it is fair, because the victim can simply return the favor.  When nerds make fun of frat boys, more power to them [although I will admit that I went beyond the bounds of fair criticism when I filled a desk drawer with water and dumped it out the window on some drunk Final Club members at Harvard in ’52.]  Let us have more Jonathan Swifts and Alexander Popes, if we can find them.  As for Paul Ryan, he richly deserves all the abuse we can heap on him.  And no, I do not think there are any admirable Ayn Rand lovers, at least none that are older than fifteen.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

COMING UP

On Monday, I shall lecture about some of the early writings of Marx:  the Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts, so-called, and the Manifesto of the Communist Party, with a quotation from The German Ideology to lead off.  Then next week will start the extended formal analysis of the tradition of classical Political Economy, leading up to Capital itself.  Once that material has been covered, I shall plunge into the text of Capital.   This is getting exciting.

MEANSPIRITED THOUGHTS ON SUPER BOWL EVE

Some of you, no doubt, are familiar with the Grey Panthers, a group formed in 1970 to combat forced retirement which has gone on to bring progressive senior citizens together in support of a wide range of domestic and foreign policy issues.  Last Monday, after I returned home from delivering my first Marx lecture, Susie and I went to a meeting of the Carolina Meadows Democratic Club.  Carolina Meadows has 600 residents in Independent Living and roughly 150 in Assisted Living.  The CM Democratic Club claims 423 members [before Susie and I joined], and assuming not every Democrat here has taken the trouble to join, we Democrats would seem to be 2/3 or more of the CM residents.

The meeting very definitely had a Grey Panther feel.  There was a sea of grey hair, and plenty of canes, walkers, and hearing aids.  Thanks to some very imaginative gerrymandering, Carolina Meadows lies in Mark Walker’s bright red Congressional District, so there is not much hope, even in a wave year, of unseating him.  That leaves state house and senate seats and other local contests, which I shall do my best to assist.  But this is only February, so it will be a while before my agita can be translated into useful political action.  Meanwhile, I am left to stew and fret and anguish about the daily assaults on the elements of democratic political institutions.  Which brings me to my mean spiritedness.

I have hated the powerful, reactionary men and women who dominate our politics all of my adult life.  My contempt for them is a settled component of my personality, as familiar and unalterable as my facial tics.  I do not give either of them much thought because I have lived with them for more than seventy years.  But I have developed a new, and therefore especially vivid, detestation for the young princelings and princesses of the Trump entourage. The jeunesses dorées, as they were called in the ancien régime, of Trump world:  Ivanka Trump, Donald Jr., Jared Kushner – and Hope Hicks.  Privileged, smug, greedy, self-satisfied, ignorant, malevolent, possessed of a boundless and utterly unwarranted self-assurance, they preen and parade before us.  It would gravely underestimate their self-delusion to say of them that they had been born on third base and thought they had hit triples.

Donald Jr. and Jared are already in Bob Mueller’s crosshairs, and now Hope Hicks is about to have her turn.  It warms my heart [this is the mean-spirited part] to think that she may find herself indicted for conspiracy or lying to an FBI agent or Grand Jury or even, deo volente, for participation in a money-laundering scheme.  I desperately want them all to be brought low, for the smugness to be wiped from their faces, to see a hunted look in those lifeless eyes.  I would confess to schadenfreude if I felt the slightest schaden about my freude


It is cold outside, even here in North Carolina.  The prospect of their downfall enables me to sleep at night.

Friday, February 2, 2018

IDLE OBSERVATION

Lenin is said to have referred to Western sympathizers with communism as useful idiots, and the term has come to mean someone who is not bright enough to understand the significance of what he is doing but who can be put to good use by clever strategists.  Carter Page may not be a useful idiot of Putin, but there seems to be no doubt that he is an idiot.  Is this really the person in whose defense the Republicans want to cut their historic ties with the FBI and the Intelligence community?  It seems a feckless choice.  But then, perhaps any useful idiot in a media storm.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

IN CASE YOU WANTED TO KNOW

For reasons that are beyond me, the count of visits to this blog has suddenly jumped from about 1200 a day to 5000.  Brian Leiter does not seem to be the explanation, but in case anyone is looking for the first of my new series of videotaped lectures on Marx, you can find it here.  I am now hard at work on the second lecture, which will feature extended quotations from Marx himself, and therefore will be far superior to the first lecture, which had me talking for an hour.