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Friday, October 20, 2017


While I make final preparations for our trip tomorrow to Paris, I should like to make one or two comments about the flap over Trump’s call to the widow and family of La David Johnson, killed in Niger.  First, a piece of totally unsolicited advice for Representative Fredericka Wilson, who was in the car when the call came and heard it on speaker phone:  Stop talking!  Thanks to General Kelly, Trump has won this little battle in the court of public opinion.  The sooner you stop talking, the sooner the story goes away.  Don’t defend yourself, don’t explain, just stop talking.  Kelly has given Trump a get-out-of-jail-free card, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Trump wants to talk about you [and the NFL] to distract attention from his real problem, which is Mueller.  Don’t let him.

Second, and more important let me recur to something I have said before.  The citizen army with which America fought WW II is no more, thanks to the Viet Nam War, which almost destroyed the Army.  When the decision was made to raise the pay, improve the career opportunities, and move to an all-volunteer army, America became a full-fledged imperial power, capable of perpetual overseas military adventures without the danger of popular protest or opposition.  The exaggerated quasi-religious respect shown to “the fallen” is compensation for and acknowledgement of the fact that almost no men and women will ever serve in the military and almost no families [or indeed neighborhoods] will lose men and women in war.  The Viet Nam era campus anti-war protests were fueled by the threat of the draft [which also produced grade inflation.]  Without that threat, the campuses are silent.  The Congress has ceded war powers to the Executive, which treats the military quite rationally as an instrument of empire.

If Rachel Maddow’s suspicions are correct, these deaths were a direct consequence of the President’s decision to add Chad to the list of countries barred by his immigration ban, an incomprehensible decision that is quite probably a sheer mistake resulting from a hollowed out State Department and a complete lack of ordinary planning.

Move on.


s. wallerstein said...

Having been a student in that era, I agree with you that the fear of the draft fueled the Viet Nam era anti-war protests on campuses.

However, I wonder if the lack of campus protest against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and who knows where else is only due to the fact that middle class students no longer fear the draft. We, the students of the Viet Nam era, were genuinely shocked and outraged when we saw that the President, then LBJ, was lying to us and that we (the USA) was carrying out a needless, imperialist war of aggression, producing many civilian deaths. I get the impression that people are no longer outraged by the President lying (be he Bush, Obama or Trump) or by the USA waging imperial wars: they've gotten used to it and hence, they no longer protest. People are more blasé today about such things, I believe.

In support of that, I note that students in Europe and Latin America, who protested against the Viet Nam war in mass, do not protest against current U.S. imperialist aggressions. They never feared being drafted.

Have a good trip.

Enam el Brux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
s. wallerstein said...


If you mean to imply that students in Europe and Latin America protest against U.S. foreign policy aping U.S. students and that they do not do that for their own reasons and because of their own ideals, you are simply mistaken. Students in Europe and Latin America did not protest against the war in Viet Nam out of solidarity with the U.S., as you seem to claim, but out of solidarity with the people of Viet Nam, among other reasons.

David Zimmerman said...

I was a draft resister who refused induction in 1968 and was subsequently indicted for doing so, but I'll pass up the opportunity to comment on Professor Wolff's demeaning suggestion that the campus anti-war movement was primarily [?], importantly [?], exclusively [?] motivated by fear of the draft and service in Vietnam, to comment on the first point he makes in this post.

Surely it made sense for Representative Wilson to continue the conversation by setting the record straight about her actual comments at the dedication of the FBI building in 2015, and thereby correcting Retired General, and current political hack, Kelly's hideously distorted report of what she said there. True enough, this whole flap is indeed a distraction from the issues that really matter, among them the Mueller investigation, as Professor Wolff says. However, such vile lies as Kelly spewed must be corrected.

levinebar said...

Friday, Trump signed an emergency order permitting the call up of 1,000 retired military pilots to active duty. As the "all volunteer" model fails, the Pentagon responds not by making service more attractive (where is its faith in "market forces"?) but by conscription from the minority pool who have already served and gotten out.

David Auerbach said...

Actually, it seems to be turning out the other way. Kelly is the one who should have shut up. Turns out he's a four-star liar. I think it is good that the consoling myth of "adults in the room" is shredding rapidly.

levinebar said...

Kelly offers Trump welcome distraction from:
-the Mueller investigation
-questions of why we have troops in Niger
-the ongoing Emoluments case

for this, he earns Trump's gratitude. Wilson also offers distraction from Trump's failings; she would do better to put the spotlight back on Mueller's work.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

HELP. I am in Paris [it is I, Robert Paul Wolff] but Google no longer recognizes that I have a blog, so I cannot post anything but these comments. See you in two and a half weeks. Rats!

s. wallerstein said...

Hello Professor Wolff,

It would be a good idea for you to say what you say above in threads where more people comment. I'm almost completely computer illiterate, but I'm sure that some of your readers can help you. If for some reason, you cannot comment in other threads, I can do it for you, but not now, perhaps this afternoon (Chile time, one hour ahead of New York time). I assume that you have access to your regular email.

Enam el Brux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LFC said...

Prof. Wolff, as I recall, has reported something similar happening to him once before. On that occasion, he wrote that the problem was solved by a tech person at a Univ of N. Carolina computer center. As a token of his gratitude to the person who solved the problem, he sent her -- if I'm recalling correctly the posts in which he recounted this story -- a note of thanks and a Starbucks gift card. So maybe this is a recurrence of whatever the problem was on that previous occasion.

As to F Lengyel's comment above, I'd point out that not everyone who has a Google account has set up (or whatever the right verb is) Google +. I have a Google account but not a G+ page. Since not everyone with a Google account has set up G+, it follows that the statement your Blogger account is not linked to your Google account -- or else the link to your profile would take the user to G+ is incorrect. Indeed, since Google owns Blogger I would think that everyone's Blogger account is linked to his or her Google account, whether or not the person has set up a G+ page.

Enam el Brux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Enam el Brux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LFC said...

Sorry you took it that way. Not my intent, which was simply to point out something that you already know evidently but possibly not everyone else does.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wolff's lecture on "What Good is Liberal Education" can now be viewed online by going to wwwyoutubecom/watch?v=i7Vxwh1H3dc

Enjoy the video!

levinebar said...

the address can't be read without inserting two dots. Thus:

Unknown said...

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm missing this blog very much. I check 3 or 4 times a day just in case Prof. Wolff has solved the blogging riddle.

Had he done so, I'm sure he would have noted the lead story in today's NY Times about Korea and Japan both looking at the possibility of developing nuclear weapons. If they do, nuclear limitation and some time in the far-off future, nuclear elimination, will be a lost cause.

The story mentions Australia. If both Koreas, China, and Japan have nukes, should they? I'm sure a growing number will say so.

Were this to start, it's hard to see the end. Brazil is the only one of the so-called "BRIC" countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) without nukes. Brazil is the largest country on South America and it has a desire to play a larger role on the world scene. The country certainly has the capability of producing nuclear weapons. They don't do so now because of the non-proliferation treaty. Others have said they won't, the US and Russia are pledged to reducing, so Brazil abstains. But what will it do if nukes spread in Asia? And if Brazil gets them, will Argentina be far behind? I'll leave it to S. Wallerstein to give his assessment of what Chile might do.

The causes of this mess go way back to the end of WWII. But what we lawyers like to call the "proximate cause" is, I believe, the remarks of that a$$hole in the White House while still a candidate leading reasonable Korean and Japanese officials to wonder if the US would really have their back if the North started something.

s. wallerstein said...

There were stories in the 70's that both Brasil and Argentina, then military dictatorships, were developing nuclear weapons. I assume that when democracy was restored, in the 1980's, both countries gave up trying to develop them, but who knows?

Chile's armed forces are still basically Pinochetistas, in spite of their lip service to
political correctness, and would begin to develop their own nuclear arms if Brasil and Argentina did, if they aren't secretly doing it already.

I also miss this blog. Maybe we can conspire to start a huge argument about something, which will motivate Professor Wolff to reply and to do that, he'll need to fix the blog, which probably isn't all that hard.

Any ideas for a good, controversial (but not ridiculous) topic for an argument?

levinebar said...

"Is deliberate killing not "murder" if your State has declared war?"
"If your State hasn't declared war?"
"If you're not part of the uniformed military service?"
"If you arm and send an autonomous drone into battle, but don't actually pull a trigger?"

s. wallerstein said...


Good topics, but I don't think that they are likely to motivate Professor Wolff to reply.

There's no hurry. Let's try to find a topic that will capture his interest.

Jerry Brown said...

David Palmeter- I am also missing the blog. Mr. Wallerstein- I like your idea and will say something controversial in the spirit of that.

Well, I have been thinking for ten minutes now and am embarrassed to say that I have not come up with anything. Which is pathetic.

Fifteen minutes now and there are many outrageous things I could say but will not ever say because I don't believe them myself.

OK. Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America. And Wolff eats too many snails. One thing is worse than the other.

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s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Brown,

I haven't been able to come up with a good controversial topic myself. Professor Wolff is a hard guy to pin down: he would have been good as a guerrilla warfare strategist.

I guess that we're going to have to appeal to the fact that we miss his blog and that Manafort's indictment seems to call for a comment on his part. There are historical moments when a political leader cannot take long vacations.

Jerry Brown said...

S. Wallerstein, I have never quite figured out what this blog is about. So I am not sure what controversial things I can say come under its umbrella? Apparently, I am quite capable in the controversy area at least in economics though. So I will go with that, thinking that while the cat is away the mice will play kind of thing.

So even this is difficult it seems, because most of this stuff is really boring. So here is my controversial statement- The money we use today has value because the government has people with guns that demand that we pay the government with the money the government creates. Boring stuff because everyone knows money is valuable anyways.

Currently, I am arguing about this with the author of a blog called "Philosophy of Money" which is a pretentious title in my opinion given what I have read of it so far. But if you wish to read it yourself it is here-

I am sorry I could not come up with something better.

Unknown said...

Tonights election results so far are very positive. The Democrats held the governorship in Virginia and have flipped New Jersey in the only two gubernatorial elections this year.

More amazing, the Democrats have flipped at least 10 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, probably the most gerrymandered place in the country. The Republicans went into the election holding 66 of the 100 seats--despite the fact that the Democrats have carried the state in the last 3 presidential elections and that all five state-wide offices (Gov, Lt. Gov, AG, and 2 US senators) are held by Democrats. Among the 10 winners, one is the only openly trans-gender candidate to run.

Elizabeth Guzman, a young immigrant from Peru, who was supported by Bernie Sanders and the recipient of my small monthly donation, is leading in her race with more than 96% reporting.

Now, if the Democrats can pick up 7 more House of Delegates seats, they'll be in the driver's seat for Federal redistricting after the 2020 census.

s. wallerstein said...

David Palmeter,

Great news!