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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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Wednesday, October 4, 2017


On this lovely fall day in North Carolina, there is a good deal to engage our attention.  I shall leave it to others with stronger stomachs to comment on the bizarre sight of the President of the United States tossing rolls of kitchen toweling to people struggling to get drinkable water and refrigeration for medications.  Others may have words for that ugliness; I do not.

Consider the Secretary of State, fourth in line to the Presidency after Michael Pence and Paul Ryan [weep for democracy if your eyes are not dry.]  He called the President a “f#$%ing moron” in the hearing of others in government, he contradicted the President openly on matters of global life and death, such as the confrontation with North Korea, he publicly differed with the President on the multi-nation agreement with Iran about its nuclear weapons program.  But what brought him to the brink of resignation last summer was the President’s speech at a Boy Scout convention, because apparently what Rex Tillerson cares about more than North Korea, more than Iran, more than nuclear war itself, is the f&%#ing BOY SCOUTS!

Which brings to mind several stories about my uneventful membership in that colonialist institution.  Yes, I was a Boy Scout.  I earned eleven merit badges, enough to make me a Life Scout [my recollection, which may be faulty, is that it took twenty-five to make Eagle Scout.] 

First story:  during the time that I was a Boy Scout, I was also a violin pupil studying, sort of, with Mrs. Irma Zacharias.  Mrs. Zacharias was a tiny, plump, terrifying woman, originally from New Orleans.  She lived in a big pre-war apartment at 71st Street and Broadway in Manhattan with her spinster daughter, Dorothea, who gave piano lessons and was rumored to have had a fling, as a young woman, with Ira Gershwin, George’s brother.  Mrs. Zacharias’ brother, Admiral Zacharias, commanded the U. S. fleet in the Pacific during WW II, and her son, Gerald, was a Professor of Mathematics at MIT, where he spearheaded the rewriting of the secondary school math curriculum called the New Math.  I was an indifferent pupil at best, and was usually in Mrs. Zacharias’ bad graces, but things came to a head when I showed up for a weekly lesson manifestly unprepared.  When she asked why I had not practiced, I explained I had been busy with Boy Scout activities.  She was speechless with outrage and never forgave me.

Second Story:  From age nine to eleven, I spent each summer at eight week sleep away Camp Taconic in the Berkshires.  The next year, I gave Boy Scout Camp a try for two two-week stints.  It was a disaster.  The low point came after they had taught us the Scout Law, which I remember to this day:  “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”  I refused on principle to say “reverent” and almost got thrown out of the camp.

Signs of aging:  For as long as we have been married, which is coming up to be thirty years, Susie and I have been bird feeders.  In Pelham, we had a large back yard with a stand-alone feeder that drew twenty-seven different species of birds, including such lovely species as Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, Blue Birds, and even a flock of wild turkeys that showed up from time to time and paraded around before moving off into the woods. On two occasions Black Bears appeared, knocked down the bird feeder and stand with one swipe of a paw, and ate the suet.  In Meadowmont, we had a large porch and several hanging feeders that drew mostly Goldfinches, House Finches, and the occasional wandering Cardinal.  Here in Carolina Meadows, where we have no porch at all, we have managed to attach several feeders to windows with suction cups, so that we can feed the Goldfinches and the hummingbirds.  Long experience has taught us that hulled Sunflower hearts are the food of choice for local birds.  In the old days, I would go off to Amherst Farmer Supply, buy a fifty pound bag, heave it onto my shoulder and carry it to the trunk of my car.  After fifteen years or so, when I was in my late sixties, I took to buying twenty-five pound bags.  This morning I went to the Wild Bird Center for some Sunflower hearts and found the 14.5 lb bag rather heavy as I took it to my car.  I suppose in my nineties I shall be reduced to offering them bread crumbs, not too big.

Finally, a word of praise to the mayor of San Juan, who has been abused by our President for failing to praise his inadequate response to the hurricane that may end life in Puerto Rico as she has known it.

As Keith Olberman says at the end of each of his indispensable tri-weekly commentaries, “Resist!  Remove!  Peace.”


s. wallerstein said...

Since Mark Rudd appears on the poster of your talk at Columbia, I thought that you might be interested in what Mark is up to these days.

Here's a very recent interview with him (just published last night).

He's grown up, without selling out. He more or less agrees with you that the left has to take control of the Democratic Party. He gives a good critique of the failures of SDS and the Weatherpeople in the 60's and early 70's and he comes out in favor of non-violent struggle and political organizing.

Howie said...

Trump was fairly and squarely hired as chief boss by the American people, so Tillerson won't buck the chain of command. The boss is the boss, that's contemporary American authoritarianism for you. You don't like the boss, get another job. That's how all the f**in Republicans feel. Also, that they can handle the hand Trump dealt them and play it to a winning hand. Their loyalty and their gamesmanship that's what's flushing us down the toilet.
Trump? He ain't so bad, we can handle him

Matt said...

Since this post is about "this and that", I'll note this new entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that might be of some local interest:

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