Coming Soon:

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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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

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





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Saturday, November 10, 2018

BUT WHEN YOU'RE WRONG, YOU'RE WRONG


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

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

Live and learn.

Now, about Broward County.

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

What an interesting discussion. The UAW also represents University of Washington grad students. Last year the union struck and won key demands around pay and health benefits.

DWE

MS said...

You may still have been correct, in the sense that Mueller may have sought to file several indictments, but Whitaker may have suppressed them. Given the requirements of secrecy, we would not know. Commentators have been pointing out that as “acting” AG, Whitaker has enormous power, not only to refuse to allow the filing of indictments, but to refuse to allow the publication of Mueller’s report once it has been completed – even to the point of keeping it secret from Congress. Then it would be up to the House to subpoena for its release.

As I noted in a comment to your post yesterday, Whitaker is a truly horrible person. In addition to the story that I linked to regarding his bullying tactics as an attorney to threaten an individual, who was accusing his client of fraud, with charges of blackmail, there is the story today that as the district attorney in Iowa, he brought politically motivated criminal charges against a gay Democratic lawmaker, accusing him of extortion over a run-of-the-mill business dispute between the lawmaker and his business partner. The frivolous prosecution, in which he was speedily acquitted by the jury, drained him both financially and emotionally.

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2018/11/09/iowa-matt-whitaker-matt-mccoy

Regarding whether the election results represent a ripple or a wave, the Democrats have won at least 29 House seats. In 2006, the Democrats picked up 31 seats in the House, which Bush described as a “drubbing.” So, the Democrats did pretty well. And the votes for some House seats are still being counted. The gender, ethnic and age diversity of the Democratic wins have significantly changed the composition of the House. Moreover, there is a chance that Democrats will retain the Senate seat in Florida, and possibly win the Senate seat in Arizona. They also picked up seven governorships and flipped six state legislative chambers. And the governorships in Florida and Georgia are still up for grabs. (I have no idea why Gillum conceded as early as he did.) In Michigan, it was a clean sweep, with four Democrats, three of them women, winning the four gubernatorial offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State). All in all, and considering the surge of Republicans who came out to vote the last minute, it was a good night for the Democrats.

MS said...

And here is an article discussing the eccentricity of the Conways’ marriage, which I previously alluded to.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/09/politics/kellyanne-conway-goerge-conway-donald-trump/index.html

s. wallerstein said...

The weirder a marriage is, the more chance it has of lasting and succeeding.

No one is normal, and marriages which strive for normality are likely to fail because they do violence to the two partners. On the other hand, a marriage (or long term couple relationship) which allows the idiosyncrasies of both partners to flourish does not do violence to anyone or anything, except to the stupid, conventional expectations of society about how two people should live their life together.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

I love debating the fine points of human nature with you.

“The weirder a marriage is, the more chance it has of lasting and succeeding.” A bit of an over-generalization, no? It brings to mind the marriage between Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy, drawn together by their shared love for literature and literary criticism. A match made in heaven, no? Well, they became such bitter enemies that in order to avoid contact with Mary, Edmund would lock himself in his home study. In response, Mary would pile stacks of paper in front of his door (whether they were drafts of his literary essays, I do not know) and set them afire. They were married a mere 8 years – some might say a pretty good run for lovers who became haters.

The Conways’ marriage may last. As the article I link to indicates, some have compared their marriage to that between Carville and Matalin. But, as the article also points out, the Conways’ marriage is even strange when compared to the Carville/Matalin relationship. I, myself, could not imagine staying married to a spouse who was not only a staunch Il Duce supporter, but who worked to buttress his administration and continuously found inventive ways to spin his lies into truths. George Conway has now become the incessant public gadfly of Il Duce’s unconstitutional policies – something that I would think would cause tumultuous arguments between him and his Il Duce’s minion wife - not a formula for a long-term, happy relationship. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff comes to mind, but perhaps the two marriages between Taylor and Burton prove me wrong.

If no one is “normal,” what does regression towards the mean when applied to the non-quantitative aspects of human behavior mean?

s. wallerstein said...

A bit of an over-generalization, I admit.

Let's say that a weird marriage where there is a certain good will between the partners and a desire to construct a successful relationship has more chance of succeeding than a normal marriage without those characteristics and even a normal marriage with those characteristics, simply because standards of normality do violence to the diversity of human nature.

We can imagine a weird marriage where both partners hate each other and that's not going to last. Most people try to make their marriage (or long term relationship) correspond to certain social norms about a "good" marriage and the more that people try to make a relationship correspond to norms that come from without that relationship the more chances that the relationship will not work.

No, I don't believe that a shared love of literature or a shared dislike of Trump or a shared interest in Marxism will make a marriage work.

Each marriage or long-term relationship has to make its own rules (not follow the rules that society or the Church or the books on marriage prescribe) in order to work.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

There is that old adage, which passes as marital advice, that opposites attract and make for more stable relationships, whereas similar personalities repel.

I have tried both, and frankly, they each proved challenging. (Please, no snide comments that, given my online persona, this is not surprising. Actually, my current second marriage has now lasted for 35 years. I have no idea how.)

s. wallerstein said...

MS,

Congratulations on your long-lasting and successful marriage! May you two share many more years together.

When we talk about people, I'm not sure what we mean by opposites: introvert vs. extrovert or optimist vs. pessimist or depressive vs. cheerful, etc. There are so many human traits that can be compared to one opposite. Any two people are likely to have some common traits
and some opposite ones.

I don't think that there are any rules for a successful relationship, except the rules that each couple makes for themselves.

MS said...

Florida's Secretary of State has just ordered recounts in both the gubernatorial and Senate races.

It's de'ja vu all over again.

(And s. wallerstein, thank you for your kind marital felicitations.)

MS said...

Last night on Saturday Night Live occurred one of the most moving segments that the show has ever aired. Pete Davidson, whose father was a firefighter who died on 9/11, had been taken to task during the week for a joke that he made during the prior week’s Weekend Update segment, when he made a joke about Lt. Commander Dan Crenshaw, a Republican candidate for Congress from Texas. Lt. Commander Crenshaw had lost an eye during a combat tour in Afghanistan. Last night, Pete Davidson apologized for his inappropriate joke and Lt. Commander appeared on the show to accept his apology. Then, at the end of the segment, Crenshaw made a plea for unity among Americans. You can see the segment here:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/snls-pete-davidson-apologizes-to-rep-elect-dan-crenshaws-fa

MS said...

CNN reports that at today’s armistice ceremony, Il Duce arrived separately from Macron, Merkel and Trudeau. And then this:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin also arrived separately and walked in solo, flashing Trump a brief thumbs-up as he took his place among the leaders.”

Well, whaddya know.

MS said...

The following is an amazing and poignant story of a true patriot.

https://forward.com/life/413989/social-activist-ady-barkan-dying-als/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_me

Anonymous said...

Dracula is back. Apparently, Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s unvetted and unhinged acting attorney general, once espoused John C. Calhoun’s antebellum doctrine of “state nullification”—i.e., the right of the states (each of them being deus ex machina sovereign, after all) to nullify any federal law they don’t like. The Civil War was a long time ago, and, well, things have changed—back, in Whitaker’s construal. Let bygones be bygones. You can add that to Marbury v. Madison, too. I’m not much up on Calhoun: almost all of what I know of him, I got from my first reading (40+ years ago) of Hofstadter’s chapter on him (entitled “The Marx of the Master Class”) in “The American Political Tradition,” which was published in 1948. Calhoun doesn’t sound like a very nice guy—physically smaller, I suppose, than this football player Whitaker, but just about as mean. Anyway, there is a quaint passage on Calhoun’s doctrine of nullification on p. 91 of Hofstadter’s book, which readers of this website might find amusing: “… his concepts of nullification and the concurrent voice have little more than antiquarian interest for the 20th mind….” So much for Hofstadter’s 1948 view. We’re into the post 1984 world now. Andrew Jackson is no hero of mine, but he’s quotable on Calhoun—something to the effect that if Calhoun tries to secede from my country, I’ll secede his head from his shoulders. He also listed as one of his life’s regrets his not hanging Calhoun. Anyway, for the time being, we have a real-life confederate statue as attorney general. (CNN has the footage on Whitaker.)

MS said...

Anonymous,

Yes, Whitaker, like Calhoun, is a totally reprehensible human being. A lawyer in the mold of Il Duce’s hero, Roy Cohn. Whitaker’s tenure may be short-lived, as more stories about his corrupt, bullying tactics emerge.

John C. Calhoun was a despicable person. I have a set of cassette tapes about the Civil War, narrated by George C. Scott, in which Scott narrates several of Calhoun’s speeches. He was of the view that slavery was a blessing to the colored (excuse my use of an antiquated term) race, because they were sub-human and needed to be looked after and cared for by their Christian benefactors. Upon his death in 1850, Senator Thomas Hart Benton, asked to give a eulogy, declined, stating, "He is not dead, sir — he is not dead. There may be no vitality in his body, but there is in his doctrines."[ Apparently Whitaker wants to resuscitate them.

As an aside, Kellyanne Conway is defending Sarah Sanders’ use of the videotape making it appear that Jim Acosta struck the arm of the intern who tried to grab his microphone during Il Duce’s recent news conference, saying that the tape was not altered – it was just speeded up. What is truth, indeed.

MS said...

After spending the better part of the afternoon performing the odious and thankless job of raking leaves (the annual task that I hate only second to doing my taxes), I went on the internet and read that Kellyanne Conway disagrees with her husband’s assessment that the appointment of Whitaker as “acting” Attorney General, without the advice and consent of the Senate, was unconstitutional. I have read his joint opinion piece in the NYT and, looking at the language of Article II, Sec. 2, it appears pretty clear that he is correct, to wit. the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone ... .” The Constitution does not provide for the office of the Attorney General; it has been created by statute (the Judiciary Act of 1789). And the office of acting Attorney General, which makes the holder of the office the functional equivalent of the Attorney General, is clearly not an inferior office. So, on its face, it would appear, especially if one’s jurisprudential philosophy is that of a textualist, that George Conway is correct.

But then it hit me – what happened during the Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon ordered then Attorney General Eliot Richardson to fire the special prosecutor Archibald Cox. When Richardson refused and resigned, Nixon then ordered the deputy Attorney General, William Ruckelshaus, to fire Cox, who also refused and resigned. Nixon then ordered the then Solicitor General, Robert Bork, to fire Cox, which Bork did. So, at first, I thought that the situation was distinguishable because Bork was the Solicitor General when he fired Cox, and he did not require separate approval by the Senate, since he was already Solicitor General. But then I checked, and no, Nixon first elevated Bork to acting Attorney General before Bork fired Cox. That firing was never challenged in court. So, unfortunately, there is precedent for what we suspect Whitaker has been appointed to do. Bork, in fact, never became the actual Attorney General. Here’s a great trivia question for those readers who hail back to the 1960’s-1970’s – who did succeed Eliot Richardson as Attorney General? This would be a great question for Final Jeopardy – and I doubt that any of the contestants would know the correct answer.

In closing, getting back to my hateful job of raking leaves, this task is proof to me that global warming is in fact occurring. (I could use a mulching lawn mower to make the task easier, but my wife insists that I need the exercise, so she and I do it manually. Again, I have no idea how our marriage has lasted 35 years.) So I now have 14 bags of leaves sitting in my driveway for pick-up tomorrow morning. And we haven’t even finished with the front yard, nor have we started the backyard. Moreover, there are still thousands of leaves on the four trees that populate our property (in addition to one of our neighbor’s trees which overhangs our property and drops about half its leaves on our domain.) Up to about 6 years ago, all the leaves would have fallen off all of the trees by no later than Oct. 31. Now they linger until about the 3rd or 4th week of November, a phenomenon that I attribute to global warming. So we have to continue raking for days on end, until the last leaf pick-up in our township, which is the last Monday of Nov. Now, I know that poems are only written by fools like Joyce Kilmer, but could not God have created only evergreens that can survive in northern, temperate and southern climes? Do maple and elm trees do something for the environment- like create more oxygen - that evergreens and conifers cannot?

Anonymous said...

MS: If you dislike raking leaves so much, why not hire a couple of adolescents to do the work for you? Twenty to forty dollars and you can live better. You provide the rakes—so you’ll own the means of production. That will make you a capitalist. You pay the workers a fair lump sum, and that will make you a non-predatory capitalist. They mix their labor with nature and benefit thereby, and that will square well with Locke et al. And then there’s Hegel and Marx (I don’t mean the adolescents—I’m thinking of the master-slave dialectic): The workers get to transform physical reality and find themselves ennobled thereby; you’re already cultured enough, so you don’t have to worry about the long-term debasement of the master. As the MBA people have taught us to say: it’s a win-win.

LFC said...

MS,

Your reference to the ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice gives me a chance to point out, referring to our earlier discussion, that there were several diplomatic crises in the years before 1914 that did not result in war (as well as others that resulted in wars whose geographical scope remained limited, notably the Balkan Wars). Not that I want to rehash the interminably argued question of why the July 1914 crisis *did* lead to a general war (spoiler: there were a bunch of reasons, some of them contingent, some 'deep'); I just wanted to point out that crises that don't lead to war are/were not that uncommon.

Ok, back to U.S. politics.

p.s. I shd probably remember who succeeded Richardson as a.g. The name William Saxbe comes to mind, don't know if that's right. Anyway, not bothering to look it up right now.

MS said...

Anonymous,

Thank you for the suggestion. But all of the adolescents where we live are too busy on their iphones and playing video games. They hardly ever venture out into the sunlight. And I can't even pay our daughter anymore - she moved out into her own apartment last week and can't be bribed to come home - well, what used to be her home.

Are there any botanists out there who can answer my question regarding the evolutionary advantages of maple, elm, oak trees etc. over evergreens?

LFC,

Congratulations. I am very impressed. Yes, William Saxbe was Richardson's successor as Attorney General.

My favorite book about the origins of WWI is Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. Her writing style always made history fascinating.

LFC said...

MS,
I was in high school during Watergate and needless to say it left an impression, though I think I've forgotten many if not most of the details I might once have known. Don't really know why I remembered Saxbe, and I don't think I could tell you offhand anything about him beyond the fact that he succeeded Richardson.

Jim said...

MS:

Lawn advice: Don't rake leaves. Let them lay over winter. They will degrade and add much needed nitrogen to the soil, thereby bypassing the need for artificially fertilizing your lawn. The lawn will love it and you will see the benefits this upcoming summer. If you let nature do what it is meant to do, the results are always beneficial.


-- Jim

MS said...

Jim,

Thank you for the advice. What you say makes sense - after all, no one rakes the leaves in the forest.

Everyone in our subdivision rakes, or mulches, the leaves. I will have to check whether our homeowner's association requires that the leaves be removed.

MS said...

LFC,

High school!? That means there's about 8 yrs. difference in our ages.

I watched Michelle Obama's interview on ABC tonight. I had almost forgotten how personable and friendly she was. And regardless what one thought about President Obama's success as a progressive, remember how he and Michelle smiled? Their smiles were at least comforting. Watching her talk, and smile, I realized, Il Duce and his wife never smile. He scowls continuously, and she always looks unhappy - which is understandable.

Charles Pigden said...

Now here is a historical question, a genuine question to which I don't know the answer. Whatever happened to the AFL-CIO and working-class trade-unionism in the USA? Is it a change in patterns of employment leading to enterprises that are harder to unionise? Or is it union-busting activities on the part of corporations accompanied by the weakening of legal provisions protecting trade union rights on the part of right-wing legislatures? Or both? There is a similar tale to be told about New Zealand and in our case it is mostly New Right driven legislative changes that did the trick.

s. wallerstein said...

In Chile the same phenomenon has occurred. The only groups that go on strike are public sector workers, public school teachers and public healthcare workers. It is illegal for public employees to go on strike, but the law is never enforced.

We still basically have the anti-union labor legislation that was imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship. Democratic governments, elected since the end of the dictatorship in 1989, have done little to support the union movement. Most big companies outsource most of their labor needs and in fact, many workers work "off the books" or as "independent contractors", making union organization almost impossible.

When I first arrived in Chile in 1979, I participated in a teachers' strike in the North American Institute, which is run by the U.S. government, even though they claim that it is an independent non-profit entity. We were striking to get the Institute to pay equal salaries to U.S. and Chilean teachers: we U.S. teachers were paid much more even though in many cases the Chilean teachers had more education and more teaching experience. At the end of the strike, which was completely unsuccessful, most of the teachers who participated in the strike, including myself, were fired, even though that was illegal according to our lawyer. That occurs all the time in private sector strikes.

David Palmeter said...

Charles Pigden

In the US, I think it's both. Technology eliminated many blue collar jobs, e.g., today's steel worker produces several times as much steel an hour as a worker of 25 or 30 years ago. Computers have eliminated thousands of blue collar jobs in journalism--type setters, compositors etc. At the same time, the Republicans beginning with Reagan, engaged in a political and legal onslaught against unions. We've moved from being a 19th C agricultural economy to a 20th C manufacturing economy to a 21st C service economy.

MS said...

Charles,

It has been a combination of both and began in 1981, when Reagan fired 11,539 air traffic controllers who were on strike. Then the Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified the air traffic controllers’ union. Repub. administrations have favored business and corporate interests, the source of their financial support, over unions, which are generally favored by Dem. administrations. In the last 38 yrs., Repub.’s have controlled the White House for 22 yrs. They appoint conservative, business oriented members to the National Labor Relations Board, which is responsible for adjudicating claims by unions that companies have engaged in unfair labor practices interfering with their unionizing efforts. It has become harder for unions to win such charges, and therefore they have lost more union organizing elections.

In addition, businesses have moved their plants to the Southern states, where workers have a hostile view of unions. When Toyota began opening plants in the U.S., it opened its plants primarily in the South, knowing the UAW would have a difficult time unionizing Southern workers. Businesses have also been moving their operations overseas, where labor is cheaper. They use the threat to close plants and move them overseas to discourage workers from supporting efforts to unionize. They claim the expenses of health benefits and retirement pensions unions negotiate have increased costs and required increasing the sale prices of their goods, making them less competitive with foreign manufacturers whose employees are not unionized. This discourages workers from unionizing and/or negotiating favorable benefits and salaries.

Recognizing the adverse effect on unionizing in the private sector caused by foreign labor competition, some unions, e.g., the UAW, turned to organizing public sector and service sector employees. But even here, Repub. administrations in states found ways to make it difficult to unionize, primarily by passing right to work legislation. In 2015, Wis. became the 25th state to adopt right to work leg. with respect to the state’s public employees. Unions often include closed or agency shop provisions in their contracts, requiring employees to join the union and pay union dues, or to pay union dues even if they do not join the union. Right to work means a public employee does not have to join the union or pay union dues. However, when a union is certified, it becomes the collective bargaining rep. for all the employees, regardless whether they are members of the union. Consequently, the union is required to represent non-union employees in grievance/arbitration procedures, which is expensive – unions, for example, often have to retain attorneys to represent employees in arbitration procedures. Even if the employee is not a member of the union, the employee still benefits from the salary increases and benefit improvements the union negotiates. They get a free ride. Negotiating contracts is also time consuming and expensive - the union has to have an experienced staff that knows how to negotiate with businessmen. The fewer workers paying dues, the less money is available to perform its functions.

In 1977, the S. Ct. decided Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., in which several teachers who were not members of the union challenged the requirement they pay dues, arguing that since the union used the dues in part to support political causes they did not agree with, the use of their money for such purposes violated their 1st Amendment rights, i.e., it constituted compelled speech. The S. Ct. ruled the teachers were required to pay union dues, but a reduced amount to exclude the pro rata portion of the dues that went to supporting political causes. In 2018, in Janus v. AFSCME, the S. Ct., with the new justice Gorsuch appointed by Trump voting with the majority, overturned Abood. The Ct. held public employees who are not union members are entitled to the benefits of right to work legislation without such legislation being adopted. This ruling will seriously hamper public sector unions.

Anonymous said...

Here is an excellent article on how Latinx union workers helped carry Nevada for the Democrats:

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/11/12/1812295/-Culinary-union-workers-yet-again-help-propel-Democrats-to-victory-in-Nevada

DWE

statistician said...

This Blog is a big data set which can be analyzed.

After doing that anlysis—of course too complicated to present here or anywhere—its clear that “MS” is actually Prof Wolff’s pseudonym which he uses when he wants to join repeatedly at great length in the discussion, so that we get his point, while avoiding being the boss.

If you disagree, Any other suggestions for the phenomenon?

s. wallerstein said...

No.

I confess that MS is actually my pseudonym that I use when I want to argue with myself.

Charles Pigden said...

Thanks to everyone for your responses to my question. It's a depressing set of stories.

MS said...

Yes, I am the doppelganger of both Prof. Wolff and s. wallerstein.

statistician said...

The just provided new data is enough to make my conclusion even more statistically robust.

MS said...

statistician,

Did you use the student t test or the chi squared test?

And who was the student who invented the student t test anyway?

MS said...

Charles ,

I am adding one more data point to buttress statistician’s theory.

Yes, the status of unions in the United States is depressing. But how does one explain or understand that the workers and poor, either by not voting at all or by voting against their own economic interests, empower the Republicans to exploit them? How does one explain or understand union members who profess to support workers’ rights, and then go out and vote for a maniacal billionaire who cares not the least about their welfare and despises unions? Taken together, the poor and working class in the United States vastly outnumber the Republicans and could take over the presidency and both houses of Congress if they just used their heads and did not allow the Republicans to manipulate them with wedge issues, such as abortion and gun rights The wealthy. sacrilegious Republicans convince blue color workers that human life begins at conception, so that they vote against their own economic interests in order to have Supreme Court nominees appointed who will vote against abortion rights. (By the way, isn’t that an odd spelling – I would have thought “sacriligious” would have been spelled “sacreligious.” But maybe that’s the point – there is no “religion” in sacrilege.) They convince them that if gun control legislation is passed, the U.S. government will confiscate their assault and hunting rifles and turn the country into dictatorship. So, what do they do – they go out and elect an aspiring dictator.

I know that Noam Chomsky opines that if these people were just educated to see how they are being manipulated and brainwashed, awareness of their natural self-interest would rise to the surface and fee them of their delusions. But, and I know it is indiscreet and discourteous to say this, perhaps they are just too stupid to see how they are being used, and no amount of education is going to remedy this. I try, but I find it hard to be sympathetic for people who cannot see what is obvious – that insisting that life begins at conception and abortions are immoral, at the same time that they are denied a living wage and the only tool they have with which to fight back, union organizing, is being undermined, so that the wealthy powers that be can continue to exploit them and keep those unaborted children hostage to their impoverishment. I find it hard to be sympathetic for people who vote against candidates who support gun control - the same candidates who would also support legislation that would improve their economic circumstances and nominate Supreme Court justices who would not vote in favor of union busting doctrines such as right to work legislation under the specious argument that such legislation protects free speech by preventing compelled speech – in order to insure that they can continue to keep their assault rifles to protect their impoverished lives, just in case of the unlikely event that the government would turn on them and attempts to enslave them in a communist dictatorship, when they are already enslaved in an economic system that doesn’t care about them, and which they perpetuate by not voting at all, or by not voting for candidates who could actually improve their lives.

Yes it is very depressing, but as the adage goes, God helps those who help themselves – and in the absence of a God, people have to educate themselves, take their blinders off and use the ballot box sensibly in order to help themselves.

s. wallerstein said...

MS,

We don't learn anything by calling Trump supporters "stupid". You don't need a genius IQ to realize that it's wiser to vote for candidates who support free dental care for your children.

So we're back, as far as I can see, to the brainwashing hypothesis. Chomsky, being an ultra-rational person himself, tends to see others as rational when they're not. You might find better explanations of how the masses are manipulated by the system in thinkers like Marcuse and even more so in Adorno, philosophers who combine Marx with Freud and with other psychoanalytic and social psychology findings.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

There you go again, using my initials to argue with yourself.

Yes, I know, calling people who, seduced by specious arguments, vote against their own self-interest, stupid seems uncharitable. But how else does one, in all candor – if candor is an objective - describe it? Saying they have been brain-washed is a smokescreen. Incarcerated POWs, subjected to sleep deprivation and incessant repeating of the captor’s propaganda, can become brainwashed into adopting the captor’s propaganda. A kidnapped hostage – separated for months from friends and relatives - can become susceptible to the Stockholm syndrome. But union members who are not sleep deprived or subjected to water boarding, who have access to publicly available information that debunks the specious arguments, who espouse workers’ rights, and then vote for a billionaire who has never demonstrated the least iota of solidarity with workers, because he tells them the reason they are struggling to make ends meet is because hordes of foreigners south of their country’s border are sneaking into their country to kill them and rape their daughters, are – and I don’t see any other word for it – stupid. We may not learn to understand them by using such insulting terminology, but maybe there is nothing we can learn that would rationally explain their behavior. Moreover, this phenomenon does not just apply to the current Il Duce. Workers in the U.S. have been voting for Republicans against their economic interests for decades, ever since Nixon initiated his Southern strategy. As my mother would say, stupid is as stupid does. Or, in Yiddish, Az men hot nit in kop hot men in di fis – If it’s not in the head, it’s in the feet.

Using your example, rather than voting for a candidate who supports free dental care for your family, voting instead for a candidate who tells you the candidate who is offering free dental care is also proposing gun control legislation to reduce the likelihood your children will get shot while attending school, and in so doing is threatening to take your guns away, which you may need to defend yourself against a possible seizure of your government by a left-wing military coup – what other word, putting niceties aside, can one use other than “stupid”?

Even supposedly intelligent, well-educated people can be stupid. I once had to argue an appeal of a case that had been dismissed on a motion for summary judgment. The defendant, a law firm, argued the lawsuit had been filed outside the 2-year statute of limitations for a legal malpractice case. I argued it was not a legal malpractice case. I had alleged breach of fiduciary duty, which has a 3 yr. statute of limitations, and the lawsuit had been filed less than 3 years after the conduct constituting the breach had occurred. I pointed out that nowhere in the complaint were the words “legal malpractice” used. The single count expressly alleged breach of fiduciary duty. During the oral argument on the appeal, the chief judge of the three-judge panel kept glaring at me while I was making my 15 minute argument. (Out of an abundance of caution, I always used the maximum time available to make sure I was getting my points across – you can’t tell from an appellate judge’s demeanor whether s/he is leaning in your favor or finds your argument frivolous.) Suddenly, he angrily shouted at me, “You know, this isn’t rocket science!” as if I was wasting his time over an obviously wrongly decided decision. I bit my tongue – one never argues with an appellate judge, doing so can turn a potentially favorable reversal into an affirmance. I politely responded, yes, your Honor, I agree, but I was only doing my job, as I angrily thought to myself, “Yes, I agree that it’s not rocket science, so why the f....k did the trial judge get such a simple concept so obviously wrong!” Biting my tongue resulted in a reversal.

In evaluating the self-defeating voting habits of blue collar workers, I see no need to be polite – a lack of candor will only confirm them in their belief in the wisdom of their stupidity.

statistician said...

“MS”/RPW’s way of responding to my revealing hsi “doppelganger” status is revealingly consistent with his other offerings. Asking whether I used this or that relatively trivial, standard statistical technique and concluding by challenging me to identify some student or other, fits precisely with his frequent, immodest claims to superior intelligence and erudition. I urge him to get help for his condition. (Since my knowledge of human psychology is slight, I'll not presume to name it.)

MS said...

statistician,

I was not challenging your statistical knowledge by asking who the author of the student t test was. I would genuinely like to know. My comment was perhaps a misguided attempt at humor.

And yes, I have been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, with symptoms of bi-polar disorder and kleptomaniac tendencies. And your flippant mocking of my constellation of serious mental conditions has caused me profound emotional pain and anguish.

s. wallerstein said...

MS,

John Stuart Mill says "not all conservatives are stupid, but most stupid people are conservative". However, Mill, like Chomsky, was an ultra-rationalist.

Adorno and Marcuse who both personally witnessed Nazism take over their native Germany saw the rise of fascism as more complex. By the way, Marcuse was studying philosophy with Heidegger of all people when Nazism rose to power and he had to flee to the U.S.

Adorno's study, the Authoritarian Personality, is an empirical study of the relation between anti-semitism and certain personality traits, well worth reading. Some of Adorno's writing are almost impossible to read for someone who doesn't know Hegel (like myself), but the Authoritarian Personality is no more difficult than any other work of academic social psychology and was done at the University of California at Berkeley along with U.S. academics, who probably tempered Adorno's tendency to ultra-abstraction.

w. s. gosset said...

"MS"

I shall say no more.

MS said...

William Sealy Gosset

Thank you!

And my feeble attempts at humor have brought you back from the dead!

(My therapist also tells me that I suffer from grandiose delusions of a Lazarus complex.)

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

Thank you for the Adorno reference. I have just requested a library loan of The Authoritarian Personality from the University of Michigan Graduate Library.

I know I am not nearly the intellectual equal of John Stuart Mill, and perhaps I do not qualify as an ultra-rationalist, but since he thought it legitimate to appraise some people as being stupid, am I not entitled to the same privilege?

s. wallerstein said...

Here's a recent short article from the London Review of Books, which analyzes Trumpism in the light of Adorno's work:

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/09/18/eli-zaretsky/the-mass-psychology-of-trumpism/

Charles Pigden said...

With reference to to MS's remarks I don't think the problem is *just* stupidity. I recommend Bob Altemeyer's research on the authoritarian personality, summed up in his book, 'The Authoritarians ' and in John Dean's popularisation 'Conservatives without Conscience'. More up-to-date than Adorno and I suspect less contaminated by Freudian nonsense.

s. wallerstein said...

Charles Pidgen,

The Authoritarian Personality is not armchair psychoanalysis. They correlate 9 personality traits, none of which seems especially Freudian, for example, conventionalism, authoritarian submission and authoritarian aggression, measured through questionnaires and
personal interviews, with anti-semitic opinions (which at the time the study appeared, 1950, seemed the best indicator of fascism).

I don't doubt that later studies, such as the one you recommend, have made valuable criticisms of the shortcomings of the original study, but surely the vision of someone as brilliant as Adorno is worth reading, as are later criticisms.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

I read the article by Eli Zaretsky that you provided the link to. It was interesting and informative in some respects. However, I believe that the phenomenon of authoritarianism in general, and Trump’s appeal in particular, which Zaretsky discusses at length, is so complex that it is difficult to develop a single defining theory that explains it. I read Erich Fromm’s Flight From Freedom many years ago, and I may remember this incorrectly, but I recall the main theme that he was expounding is that people attracted to totalitarian leaders are, as he puts it, fleeing from freedom – they cannot deal with the demands that democracy puts on them to act independently and think for themselves. They cede authority and decision making to a father (or mother) figure who makes decisions for them, and convinces them that s/he is looking out for their best interests and all they have to do, rather than thinking for themselves, is let their father/mother figure make those decisions for them. I suppose that that is what I meant when I referred to such people as “stupid” – that they believe they have been exploited and misused by the conventional powers that be, and that, by contrast, the demagogue father/mother figure truly does have their best interests at heart, and uses wedge issues to demonstrate this, when the demagogue really does not care about them and in fact advances policies that hurt them more than the policies of the conventional powers whom they reject. I refer to the mentality that allows them to be exploited in this manner as stupidity.

One point that Zaretsky made that I found interesting was that he referred to Huey Long as a demagogue and distinguished him from President Roosevelt, whom he does not regard as a demagogue. So I wondered, what does distinguish a demagogue politician like Long from a politician like Roosevelt? To those who worshiped Roosevelt, he was also a father figure – when he died, masses of people mourned as if they had lost a father. But he was not an authoritarian father figure. Long was a fiery orator, but I do not believe his philosophy was authoritarian. Hitler, also a great orator, was authoritarian. And Roosevelt, was likewise an outstanding, persuasive orator. How did their styles of oratory differ? And Trump, who I do not regard as a great orator, is still able to persuade a not insignificant segment of the American population that he has their best interests at heart and inspires their loyalty. Zaretsky hypothesizes that, as I understand his point, part of his appeal lies in the fact that his narcissism reflects the narcissism of his supporters, and it is this shared narcissism that creates their bond. This sounds like overly intellectual theorizing. The phenomenon may be too complex to encapsulate in any one theory.

s. wallerstein said...

MS,

I read Fromm's book many years ago and I don't recall the details of it.

However, according to Zaretsky, Adorno does not see demagogues like Long as father figures, but as "just like the masses". The masses identify with them because they are as childish as they are. That fits Trump well.

FDR, on the other hand, would be a father figure just like Washington (example given by Zaretsky), that is, someone more mature, more adult, and more rational (I suppose since Zaretsky does not explain) than the masses.

Trump then is a child who embodies the masses's repressed fantasies (about harassing women, about insulting Macron, about being an unscrupulous mafia-type businessperson, etc.).

I agree with you that Trumpism is so complex that any one explanation falls short. In fact, one would need to write a novel to explain any one Trump supporter, his or her childhood, their fantasies, their current social and economic situation, their sex life, etc..

Still, it seems useful to try to examine Trumpism from as many angles and perspectives as possible. No one perspective is THE CORRECT one.

MS said...

I just came across an expression, used by a commenter to a question on Quora, that I had never heard before: “a load of old cobblers.” The expression, referring to an opinion, asserts that it is nonsense.

Curious about the expression’s origin, I did a search on Google, and came up with this:

The origin is in rhyming slang for cobbler's awl. An awl is a pointed tool for making holes in things; it is an essential part of a shoemaker's (cobbler's) kit. The rhyming linked cobbler"s awls with balls, ie slang for testicles. Cobblers then came to be used in the same way as balls. A load of old cobblers is an extension of the saying.

So now, whenever I read about some new nonsense that Il Duce has spewed, I can say, “Cobblers!” – which seems appropriate, given his penchant for groin related comments. (The expression that the Quora commenter used added the adjective “old,” which also seems appropriate, given Il Duce’s age – therefore, “Old Cobblers!”)

TheDudeDiogenes said...

This calls to mind the essay from Kant, which I recently re-read (thanks to this post), "What is Enlightenment?"

Two quotations from the essay especially stick out to me, in relation to your comment:

1. "It is so convenient to be immature! If I have a book to have understanding in place of me, a spiritual adviser to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me. (p. 1)"

2. "Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred it its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding! (p. 1)"

TheDudeDiogenes said...

Apropos of nothing in particular, I found this recent blog post about the midterms, and opposing Trump, to be quite insightful and helpful.

MS said...

2 stories in today’s news sparked my interest and I had an irresistible impulse (the significance of this terminology will be made clearer below) to post a comment about them.

The 1st story relates to a prior comment I made re the fact humans are descended from primates might explain our warlike tendencies. There was some discussion whether humans are innately warlike, a proposition Noam Chomsky rejects. The story relates that in Agra, India, the population of monkeys has skyrocketed and they have become very aggressive, attacking tourists. The instance of aggression reported in the story is shocking – and arguably provides support for the proposition that, if humans are not inherently warlike, they may, by virtue of their primate DNA, be inherently aggressive.

http://www.newser.com/story/267290/monkey-snatches-newborn-from-mothers-arms-kills-him.html

The 2nd story reports that a defense attorney in Ireland, whose client was charged with rape, showed the jury the lacy panties that the accuser was wearing, claiming she enticed the accused and the sex was consensual. The defendant was acquitted. A female member of the Irish Parliament brought a pair of her panties into the august chamber, making the point that panties cannot grant consent.

http://www.newser.com/story/267298/irish-lawmakers-protest-pulling-thong-from-sleeve.html?utm_source=part&utm_medium=uol&utm_campaign=rss_top

Why did this story spark my interest? In 1959, the movie Anatomy of a Murder was released. The movie was directed by Otto Preminger and starred James Stewart as a laidback lawyer from the Mich. Upper Peninsula who defends an army lieutenant (played by Ben Gazzara), charged with the murder of a man his wife (Lee Remick) claims raped her. A sophisticated prosecutor from the Attorney General’s office (George C. Scott) is called in to assist the local prosecutor against the wily hick country lawyer. If you have not seen the movie, I strongly recommend it. It is James Stewart at his best, and Scott is superb in one of his earliest movies. The movie was based on the book written by Mich. S. Ct. Justice John Voelker, under the penname Robert Traver, and is based on a case he had as a defense attorney. Stewart decides to defend Gazzara by invoking a then rarely used defense of “irresistible impulse,” i.e., temporary insanity, caused by the outrage of learning his wife had been raped. During the trial, Scott strives to prevent any mention of the rape, arguing it is irrelevant as a defense. An issue arises regarding the location of Remick’s missing panties, which she claims her assailant ripped off. The panties are finally located, and shown in the courtroom. In 1959, this was scandalous – the mere mention of the word was considered indiscreet. Preminger was roundly criticized in some circle for showing panties in a movie. (Yes, times have radically changed.) There is one wonderful scene where Scott, while conducting a cross-examination, keeps standing in front of Stewart so Stewart cannot see the witness. Stewart objects, and Scott unctuously apologizes. Stewart shouts, “If you do that one more time, I’m going to kick you from here into Lake Michigan!” I will not reveal any more of the plot – download it from Netflix. (It has an ambiguous ending.)

A bit of trivia. The trial judge is played by Joseph Welch, the lawyer who had the courage to stand up to Joe McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings and helped bring him down by asking, after McCarthy accused one of the young attorneys on Welch’s staff of being a Communist, “Have you no decency sir, at long last, have you no decency?” That single question was sufficient to discredit McCarthy. As I pointed out in a previous comment, things have also changed in this regard – it has become eminently clear that Il Duce has no decency, and everybody can see it. But it has not been sufficient to turn his stalwart supporters against him. As I asked in that previous comment – have we become inured to indecency–like we are no longer embarrassed by the showing of a woman’s panties in a movie?

Michael S said...

Little-me's predictions for 2020:

Republicans: Trump gets properly challenged in the primaries; the other candidate(s) push him all the way (though this will be in part the chosen narrative); and in so doing further energise his base.

Democrats: this time, they will nominate someone non-centrist; due to the fear over losing again to Trump with a centrist; the nightmares of 2016; and the energy being at the fringes (partly in response to the above-predicted right-wing centre-of-energy).

And the Democratic candidate will lose. On the evidence of the mid-terms (and just plausible reasoning about human psychology), centrism is the electorally more reliable strategy, to combat Trump - which very much overwhelmingly is the priority; not wishful thinking about the lovely shiny lefty projects that we might all spend our days dreaming about being enacted by Bernie Ocasio-Cortez.

All this dependent upon Trump surviving until 2020 - which is highly likely, since impeachment is not going to happen.

(And for an example of lefty wishful thinking...) Thus the only hope, on this scenario, is an actual blue wave in 2020, in congress, and impeachment swiftly thereafter.

Michael S said...

P.S. RE Adorno - he's about as sophisticated as it comes (indeed, too sophisticated for his own good, sometimes); and so avoiding 'freudian nonsense' is no reason to avoid Adorno. Marcuse is closer to the target of that sort of epithet (as an aside, I can't myself see how anyone can criticize Hegel for his obscurity but give Marcuse a pass, but anyway). And, personally, even though I've read some of Hegel, I still find Adorno very often very difficult indeed.

MS said...

Michael S,

I agree with you that the only realistic way to defeat Trump in 2020 is for the Democrats to nominate a centrist, with a more progressive liberal as candidate for Vice President. The candidate whom I would prefer – although I know a lot of liberals/progressives regard him as too old and/or too conventional – is Joe Biden. He does not have the baggage that Hillary Clinton had. He also has blue collar roots from growing up in Pennsylvania, and he speaks in a way that working class people can understand and identify with. Had Biden’s son not died from cancer, and he had run, I believe he would have gotten the nomination and would have defeated Trump. My choice for VP would be Elizabeth Warren. I believe such a ticket could beat Trump (assuming he is the Rep. candidate, which seems likely). I do not believe that Warren, or Harris, or Booker, or Gillbrand, or Klobluchar at the top of the ticket can defeat Trump. Alternatively, Sherrod Brown is also beginning to look like a promising candidate for Pres. I just hope, as I have commented previously, that progressive liberals who are not enamored of Biden do not do what they did in 2016, assuring Trump of re-election. We have to do whatever is feasible to get rid of Il Duce – even if it means voting for the lesser of two evils – and I hardly regard Biden as evil.

Trump may be impeached by the House; but he will not be convicted in the Senate – unless, unless, there is such damning evidence in Mueller’s report that the Repub.’s cannot turn a blind eye to it. However, I am not convinced that Mueller’s report is going to have such evidence. It is being reported that his staff is presently in the process of writing the report. Given that they are already preparing the report, without having yet indicted Roger Stone, I do not believe Mueller has the goods on Trump. I am, hopefully, mistaken. However, there is still the problem that Whitaker has the authority to suppress the report. The House Judiciary Committee would then have to subpoena it, which the Repub.’s would resist in court. It could take years for that issue to be resolved. Plus, with Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on the Court, a favorable outcome for the Democrats appears unlikely.

MS said...


Another example demonstrating the toxic effect that Trump is having on the morals of this country.

https://people.com/human-interest/homeless-man-gofundme-couple-scam/?xid=

What evidence do I have that the two are causally connected? Just my gut instincts, but why should I be held to a higher epistemic standard than Trump and his supporters?