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Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Faithful readers will recall that twenty months ago I had a terrible scare.  I returned home from a Paris visit on Christmas Eve and proceeded to get very, very sick with what felt like a really bad flu.  Along the way to recovering, I was tentatively [70% chance] diagnosed with stage 4 terminal lung cancer, which - let me tell you - really puts things in perspective.  After I had had every test known to medical science, the doctors threw up their hands and said they had no idea what was wrong with me.  One very sympathetic young cardiologist recommended Ibuprofen, which actually helped.  So I got over whatever I had picked up in Heathrow Airport [an enormously expensive medical facility outside London devoted to collecting and circulating all the germs in the world] and went on living.  Among the fringe benefits of the world class medical care I received was the assurance that I was HIV negative.

Well, last Thursday, I came down with a cold -- my first illness since my [imaginary] brush with death.  After my coughing made it impossible for Susie to sleep, I started taking Musinex, which actually helped, despite the fact that I have always been prejudiced against it since I don't like the bilious yellow cartoon nasties in its TV ads.  I am still not back to taking my morning walk, but since it would appear that I am once again going to survive, I figure I had better return to blogging before you all drift away to social media and forget me.

I want to say a word or two about the problem-plagued rollout of the Affordable Care Act website, but first let me whine for a while about the lack of respect that the world shows for sufferers of the common cold.  It is a fact universally acknowledged that having a cold really sucks.  Like as not, your head is stuffed up, your entire body aches, you lose your appetite, and if - like me - you are prone to post-nasal drips, pretty soon your chest becomes congested.  Now all of this ought to earn something akin to the sort of touching concern that was shown to me even by mere acquaintances when I announced that I had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but if I say I have a bad cold, the response is a knowing nod and a manifest lack of concern.  "Oh yeah, I had that" is about as good as one gets.  The general attitude seems to be that if everyone has had what you have, then you are not deserving of any special sympathy.  Now we are all mortal, so you might expect that folks would respond to the statement that you are dying with a nod and an off-hand "yeah, I've got that," but that is not how it works.

I pledge to be more sympathetic the next time a friend says, "I've got a cold."

Which brings me quite naturally to the less than impressive roll-out of the Federal sign-up website for the insurance exchanges [those run by the states that have rational governors seem to be doing quite well.]   We all know the problems -- cursors that hang, buttons that take you nowhere when you click on them, sequences of screens that leave you high and dry five screens in.  I think we can all agree that the Department of Health and Human Services would have been well advised to outsource the whole project to, Netflix, or FaceBook.   Partisans of the President have noted with a sort of Titanic lifeboat cheerfulness that the unmanageable demand simply proves the popularity of the program.  Opponents of the ACA, once they got over their feverish attempt to crash not a website but the entire world economy, have started to crow that the flawed rollout confirms their view that Obamacare is a trainwreck.

Once again, I am going to make a prediction.  In my last post before being hit with this less than life-threatening illness, I noted that in the blogosphere, one is typically not held accountable for one's incorrect predictions, but as in that post, I hereby promise to revisit the subject if this prediction turns out to be wrong.  Quite simply, I am confident that the problems with the ACA website will turn out to be totally trivial and unimportant.  They will be fixed, more slowly than the President would like, to be sure, but they will be fixed, and a year from now, no one save the hapless programmers will remember them.  Millions upon millions of people will sign up, insurance under the ACA will indeed be cheaper than before and even cheaper than originally estimated.  And the Tea Party crazies calling for the dismantling of the federal government will add ACA health insurance to Social Security and Medicare as programs to which they have a God-given right and which must not be touched when the oppressive socialist Obama regime is finally toppled.

The smarter right wingers know this to be true, and it is what really scares them.  Despite their best efforts, they have not succeeded in rolling back either Social Security or Medicare, and in the three years before next presidential election, Obamacare will takes its place in the Pantheon of third rail social programs [if I may thoroughly scramble several already overused metaphors].

[Explanation of "third rail social program" for those of you not intimately familiar with the New York subway system:  If you stand in an IRT, IND, or BMT subway station in New York City and look over the edge of the platform, you will see two rails on which the trains run and a third rail, beyond those two and parallel to them, that supplies the electricity to the trains.  As a child, you are urgently instructed by your parents that under no circumstances are you to jump down onto the tracks to recover a hat or scarf or even -- heaven forfend -- a violin case, because if you touch the third rail, you will die.  For generations, it was part of the folk wisdom of Congress that regardless of one's ideological aversion to Big Government, one must not touch Social Security, because it was the third rail of politics -- touch it and you die.]


James Camien McGuiggan said...

Couldn't've put it better myself.

Chris said...

There are some studies on NIH.GOV and reported in the BBC about raw garlic being a preventive and cure for the common cold.

If you eat raw garlic every day, then you're less likely to get a cold at the rate other people do, and if you do get a cold, garlic seems to cut the days of suffering down significantly.

Anecdotally, when I start getting sick, I swallow a bunch of raw garlic - and although it makes the BM rather grotesque - I do find I'm over a cold in 24-48 hours of the earliest signs of symptoms.

chrismealy said...

I agree with your prediction. The Washington State exchange website is working pretty well, and it looks like next year my family will get a better plan and I'll save about $7,000. SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Not just next year, but every year. And only a few hundred of that comes from the subsidy. Obamacare is going to be very, very popular. Republicans will regret ever calling it by that name.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Good grief, Chrismealy, that is fabulous! A fortune. Fingers crossed.

David Auerbach said...

I was getting worried. Next time, call out of your sick bed, sanitize your hands and type us a message. THEN, we can sympathize.
By the way, you said: "If you stand in an IRT, IND, or BMT subway station in New York City".
I know what you're talking about (I grew up in the Bronx from 1948-1970). But young'uns won't because there is no IRT, IND or BMT anymore.
[Which ruins, or relegates to prehistory, one of the great refrains of one of those infinitely refrained camp songs: Oh, you can't get to heaven (chorous: oh, you can't get to heaven)
On the BMT. (On the BMT)
'Cause the BMT ('Cause the BMT)
Will BMT.
(Repeat in entirety)

David Auerbach said...

'crawl' not 'call'

Magpie said...

A couple of months ago, I went to see the doctor for what I thought was a really bad cold. You know, the typical flu-like symptoms.

The GP confirmed my diagnostic; but, on my way out, suggested me to take a blood test, which I did.

A week later, someone from the GP's practice rings me. It was a Sunday.

"How are you feeling?," a woman's voice asked me.

"Much better, but not yet 100%," I said.

"I was wondering if you could drop by to see the doctor, either today or tomorrow AT THE LATEST... But it's nothing serious, don't worry!".

After that bit of "reassurance", I went to see the GP next day, first thing. It turns out I actually had a bit of a pneumonia.

So, I empathize. Take care.