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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Thursday, November 8, 2018

PUSHING MY LUCK

Having made several predictions that turned out to be correct, I will try once more.  It is now almost seven a.m.  Today after the start of the business day, or tomorrow at the latest, Mueller will get his grand jury to hand up some more indictments, and these will strike at Trump's inner circle.  Once the indictments have been handed up and delivered to a court, they exist, and even if Trump's new AG lackey tries to shut Mueller down, the indictments will stand.

We shall see.

27 comments:

David Palmeter said...

I think you're right.

marcel proust said...

From your lips to God's ears.

Anonymous said...

Folks may be interested in this interview with Chomsky:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/noam-chomsky-calls-trump-and-republican-allies-criminally-insane/?fbclid=IwAR0OQWXAyYbzRUz9VlTxGSbjy0-Z8-rQot-RJuzgZaAwp7KsQz0qGQvXM-I

I recall hearing Chomsky referred to once as the last genuine intellectual. I don't know about that, but his intellectual power and breadth, and his originality, are breathtaking.

MS said...

You may be right about new indictments. It has already been reported that Roger Stone is expecting to be indicted. This may sound beyond the realm of possibility, but I would not put it past Il Duce to attempt this. A prosecutor can, with the permission of the court, withdraw an indictment. Trump’s new AG could fire Mueller, appoint a new special prosecutor who is willing to move to have the indictments withdrawn. The trial court may refuse to grant the request, but how do you prosecute a case when the prosecutor is unwilling to do so and the AG is unwilling to replace the reluctant prosecutor? We may be facing a constitutional crisis of unprecedented dimensions.

Tom Cathcart said...

Isn’t it true that Whitaker has to authorize the handing up of indictments? If so, let’s hope that Rosenstein already authorized them in anticipation of this moment. In any event, if Mueller is fired, the new House could subpoena him and ask him under oath. Or—-miracle of miracles—-refusing to hand up indictments may be too much for even a few Republicans.

Tom Cathcart said...

PS. Everyone planning to go to one of the 900 MoveOn demonstrations at 5:00? I have walking pneumonia, but Eloise and I are going to make every effort to get to Rhinebeck. Head counts count.

MS said...

Tom,

The new House is essentially powerless under the scenario I suggest above. The special prosecutor, supported by the AG, is essentially self-governing. If neither wishes to go forward with the indictments, there is little the House could do to counter such a strategy. The best that the House could do would be to pass legislation creating a new office comparable to the special prosecutor to investigate the Russian issue. However, the Senate would have to support the legislation, something this Senate is unlikely to do. Moreover, Trump would veto it, and it would require a 2/3 vote to override the veto. This is not going to happen in the Senate. I know this all sounds Orwellian – and, I guess Orwell was wrong about the year – but 2018 is only 34 years off the mark.

Anonymous,

Thank you for the link to the interview with Chomsky. I am always stupefied by the breadth of Chomsky’s reading, knowledge and memory, and the seamless way he articulates his answers. The terse answer to the first question is wonderful. And the answer to the second question demonstrates his amazing ability to answer complex questions in one long, continuous verbal essay. Amazing.

A number of his answers are intriguing. He does not agree that AI presents a significant threat to humankind. He has some kind words to say about Nixon in comparison to Trump (and also, of course, some unkind words). One thing he states that I would question (yes, I know, who am I to question Chomsky) – he states that he does not believe that humans are innately warlike, and then states that even if they are, there are mechanisms to suppress that warlike nature. He claims that there have been several times in human history in which such suppression has occurred, but he does not identify when they were. At least since the rise of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, I am not aware of such periods. Even among Native Americans, the various tribes were in almost constant conflict with one another. Was he just referring to peace treaties that end conflicts? Or was he referring to something more substantive, where affirmative steps were taken to prevent a war from occurring? Would he be referring to something like the Cuban missile crisis, when diplomacy prevented a nuclear Armageddon? Can any readers back up Chomsky’s assertion?

Regarding the possibility of a revolution solving political problems in the U.S., he states, “But unless the great mass of the population comes to believe that needed change cannot be implemented within the existing system, resort to “drastic measures” is likely to be a recipe for disaster.”

Finally, in response to a question about what to tell the interviewer’s pessimistic students, Chomsky quotes Gramsci,: “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” An answer that s. wallerstein will love.

Thank you again for the link to the interview.

MS said...

More bad news. Justice Ginsburg has just been hospitalized.

There is a provision in the Constitution that I hope Il Duce is not aware of, and never sees. It frightens me so, that I dare not even identify it. It has, to my knowledge, been invoked only once in our history – by President Lincoln. (I am pretty sure that neither Il Duce nor any of his minions reads this blog, but who knows.)

I know, I am the prophet of gloom and doom. My beverage glasses are still looking half empty, Gramsci’s words of encouragement notwithstanding.

Michael S said...

Chomsky is indeed a proper intellectual - one qualification for which title is the repeated and straightforward avowal of one's own limitations - which many women and (mostly) men who get tagged as a 'public intellectual' would do well to copy. (He's also a human being with his own biases and defects - like occasional obstuseness and uncharitable representations of people he disagrees with).

If you actually pay attention to what Chomsky says, what he has pretty much always said, over his career, he is very careful in what he says he knows, what he only suspects, and very often states that he simply does not know enough about the area, or simply chooses not to talk about topics outside of his expertise.

The men-of-the-day (thinking of e.g. Harari, Pinker, and Peterson) would do, in fact, very very well, if they took some of this attitude on board. The faith in their own abilities (unsurprisingly accompanied by an over-sized ego) is astounding; and their presentation of themselves as seeming Masters of Culture, of both having answers to almost every question, and knowing in depth each and every field (even popular culture!!!), I'm sure plays into some of the same psychological quirks responsible for Trump. (though not all the same). Only men like them can help us! (Millenarianism being a common trait (and has long been) amongst this sort of figure).

(to ward off misunderstanding - the above-mentioned high-and-low-culture game being very different from the kind of use of cultural references mentioned on this blog recently).

MS said...

In response to the flap regarding the video that the White House has promulgated in order to justify its pulling of Jim Acosta’s press credentials, a commenter posted the following quote from 1984:

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control,' they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink.'”

And another quote from 1984 has become the Republican Party’s manifesto:

"You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self- destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane."

Perhaps 34 years off the mark, but nonetheless prescient.

s. wallerstein said...

MS,

On whether human beings are innately warlike.

First of all, there are theories about ancient matriarchal societies which were not warlike, but I don't know enough about the anthropology of ancient cultures to opine about them.

However, in all contemporary societies there are violent people. There are fistfights,
homicides, teenage gangs, etc. A contemporary society without violence is probably impossible

But the fact that people are going to get drunk and into fistfights after football games from time to time does not mean that governments are going to organize armies, foment patriotic fervor against people on the other side of the world and send kids off to die as cannon fodder, all drummed up by complicit media and by the arms industry. That's not part of human nature and in fact, some societies, Switzerland, Sweden, etc., have avoided wars for a long time, while others always seem to be at war. So it seems obvious that some cultures are more warlike than others and in fact, the homicide rate varies from culture to culture too. While we can't change human nature (that is, there will always be jealous husbands, I imagine), we can make cultures less warlike through education and voting for politicians who advocate giving peace a chance.

MS said...

s. wallerstein,

I agree with you that some cultures/societies are less militaristic and violent than others. Costa Rica, for example, in, I believe the 1970s, eliminated its own military. But I thought that Chomsky was referring to something more substantive – instances in which two or more nations/civilizations were confronted with the option of going to war, but instead chose an alternative to avoid war. The Cuban Missile crisis came to my mind. And I was just wondering if there are other prominent examples of this occurring in history. And although Switzerland remained nominally neutral during WWII, it did so without being threatened with invasion by Germany.

Regarding Sweden, although it has not been engaged in any military conflict in recent history, under Gustavus Adolphus it was a pretty aggressive country. And according to Barbara Tuchman’s account in The March of Folly, even the Swiss have had their militaristic leaders. Matthaus Schinner, the Swiss martial Bishop of Sion, joined forces with Pope Julius to fight the French. According to Tuchman, “Schinner rode to war wearing his cardinal’s red hat and robes after announcing to his troops that he wished to bathe in French blood.”

Perhaps for more specific examples of suppression of the instinct to go to war I should submit the question to Quora.

David Palmeter said...

Switzerland has a history of neutrality, but it is armed to the teeth. I'm not sure if military service is compulsory, but it is certainly common. I've been on buses an trams in Geneva when on would come a group soldiers, with their assault rifles, riding the bus to some raining locale or other. I was told, by a proud Swiss government official, that the troops take their weapons home with them,and that there has never been a crime committed with them.

A few centuries ago, many mercenary groups were Swiss. A remnant of that is the position of the Swiss guards at the Vatican.

LFC said...

@MS,

History certainly contains examples of crises between 2 (or more) governments that did not escalate to war -- that were either resolved w/o shots being fired or remained at the minor skirmish stage.

The Fashoda crisis (look it up for the exact date, pls) is one well-known case. In more recent times, plenty of border conflicts, for ex., that could have escalated to a full-scale war never have. The incidence of inter-state war (as opposed to civil war) has in fact been declining for quite some time, and there has not been a war between 2 or more 'great powers' since the Korean War (or since WW2, depending on how one defines 'great power').

On these matters generally, see, e.g., J. Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday (argues that great-power war is obsolescent); C. Fettweis, Dangerous Times? (same); J.S. Goldstein, Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide. On int'l crises, R.N. Lebow, Between Peace and War.

LFC said...

p.s.

It's not so much that Switzerland is "armed to the teeth," which suggests a lot of high-tech weaponry that I doubt it possesses, but rather that it has a long tradition of the citizen-soldier (and at one time the Swiss were famed mercenaries, as D. Palmeter says). I believe military service, at least for men, is still compulsory there. That's not true today in most countries, at least in the so-called developed world, though there are exceptions (e.g. Israel).

LFC said...

p.p.s.

There have been border clashes betw. great powers in fairly recent decades (e.g., USSR/China on the Ussuri River, 1969) but those don't amount to wars.

s. wallerstein said...

The Vatican Swiss Guards date back to the 15th century.

I've heard (I don't know if I'm allowed to make this kind of remark in a blog from the U.S.) that the Popes, being mostly Italians, didn't trust their fellow Italians and so hired Swiss mercenaries (whom they trusted) as their body guards.

MS said...

LFC,

Thank you for your detailed response to my question regarding examples where humans have stepped back from the brink of war. I was not familiar with the Fashoda crisis, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, and yes, that confrontation is an example where humans did take steps to avoid a war. Such examples appear to be the exception, however. A book that I often consult for information is 100 Decisive Battles by Paul Davis. The first battle he discusses is the battle of Megiddo in 1479 B.C. The book continues thereafter with one major battle after another, throughout history. The book discusses only major battles - battles which the author regards as having changed the course of history - not the many more “minor” battles and skirmishes that have plagued humankind.

Aside from the question of whether humans are innately warlike, I thought Chomsky was rejecting the broader claim that humans are innately aggressive. What does it mean to say that humans are innately x? Does it mean that all humans must display x? If so, a claim all humans are innately aggressive is, I believe, obviously false. There are humans who are, by nature, pacifists. I cannot, for example, see Chomsky ever lashing out physically, except in self-defense – and even then reluctantly. (Although, watching his debate at Harvard with Alan Dershowitz about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – which is available on you tube - I got the impression Chomsky was tempted to go over and bash Dershowitz in the face, a temptation he resisted by crossing his arms.) But if innately being x means the average human is x, or that a majority of humans are x, then I think the answer whether humans are or are not innately aggressive is less clear. In one of his lectures on youtube (I don’t recall if it was part of the Kant or Freud series), Prof. Wolff alludes to the use of language by philosophers and mathematicians that demonstrates the sublimation of their aggressive tendencies (e.g., the killing proof, etc.).

I have been convinced for some time that humans are innately aggressive, in the sense that it is a trait shared by a majority of the species. My belief has been influenced, I suspect, in large part by the opening scene in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Out of curiosity I Googled the question whether humans are innately aggressive and found this article from Psychology Today in which Dr. Steve Taylor submits that recent research indicates that they are not. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201609/how-natural-is-war-human-beings He asserts that, contrary to Prof. Pinker’s claims, anthropological research indicates that hunter/gatherer societies were relatively peaceful, and that evidence regarding such societies that still exist indicates that they are also, generally speaking, peaceful. He states that warlike tendencies did not emerge among humans until about 3500 BCE, caused by the competition resulting from hunter-gatherer societies converting to agricultural societies. He also debunks the notion that chimpanzees are naturally aggressive, and points out that bonobos, who are also our close genetic relatives, are very peaceful primates.

Dr. Taylor concludes his essay with the following observation that will perhaps ease the concerns of the pessimists, like myself, and please the optimists, such as Prof. Wolff and s. wallerstein:

“This issue is much more than a pedantic academic argument. Our view of human nature determines our view of the human race’s future. If we believe that human beings are innately warlike, then there is no reason for us to believe that our future holds anything else but more of the chaos and conflict that has filled our past. But if we believe that conflict is not innate to us, and that our aggression is due to external factors rather than being “hard-wired” into us, then we’re entitled to have a different vision of the future. We were a peaceful species once before, so there’s no reason why we should give up hope of becoming peaceful once again.”

LFC said...

MS,
I will refrain for various reasons from commenting at great length, but I think we agree that the question of aggression is broader than, and different from, the question of war.

At the individual level, to the extent that (some) humans have aggressive impulses, whether innate or otherwise, outlets exist for those impulses that need not involve war at all. The most obvious such outlet is sports. Boxing and football, neither of which I much like, are two obvious examples; then there is wrestling, a sport that may be older than boxing and is definitely *much* older than football, and that is not as violent as the other two but certainly involves aggression. (The original idea of the modern Olympic movement was connected to peace among countries, if I'm not mistaken, though I think that connection is today largely forgotten.)

Of course if one subscribes -- as I tend not to -- to Freudian drive theory, "civilization" requires some repression/sublimation of the aggressive "instinct" (connected by Freud to the death drive). Btw, Freud's two essays on war ("Why War?" and his letter to Einstein) are far from, IMO, his best work.

As for the rest, I'll leave it, at least for now, to the psychologists, neurophysiologists, anthropologists, social theorists, & etc.

David Palmeter said...

Off topic: In Maine’s second (of two) House districts, no candidate got a majority on Tuesday. The Democrat and the Republican each have 46%. Two independent candidates have the rest. Maine has instituted ranked voting, so there will be a recount on that basis: the candidate with the least votes will be dropped, and those votes distributed to the other candidates. If there is still no majority, the third place finisher will be dropped and those votes distributed to the top two.

This practice has very interesting implications for third party candidates. If there are third party candidates from both the left and the right (e.g. Green Party and Libertarian) that would mean that neither of those candidates is likely to be a spoiler. The voter for the Green Party is likely to list the Democrat as a second choice, and Libertarian is likely to list the Republican.

Only in situations in which there is only one third party candidate would the spoiler risk be present. But if ranked voting were to be adopted nationally, it is likely that more third parties would field candidates, thus reducing, if not eliminating as a practical matter, the risk of being a spoiler. It would, in the process, make third party participation more viable because the bigger share of the total vote the third party candidate received, the greater policy leverage it would have with the major party that wound up with its votes.

LFC said...

p.s. The relation of sports to aggression, war, and violence is a subject much commented on, though I haven't had occasion to dip into that literature in a long time. I mentioned above three so-called contact sports, but sports that don't involve quite as frequent contact (e.g., soccer) or don't involve contact at all (e.g., tennis) can also implicate aggression broadly construed. (And I shd probably have mentioned hockey, which can get quite violent at the professional level at least, and which I know almost nothing about.)

LFC said...

I got the Freud cites wrong. "Why War?" is the letter to Einstein. The other's title is usually translated as "Thoughts for the Time on War and Death" or "Reflections on War and Death" (or something close to that).

Anyway, not a particular fan of those, as I already mentioned, though I haven't read them in a long time.

MS said...

David,

Thank you for your comment about rank choice voting. I was not aware that a state had actually established that system. It appears that Maine is the only state that has. Establishing that system in every state could avoid the electoral college anomalies that occurred in 2000 and 2016. In 2000, all of Nader’s votes would have been awarded to Gore, giving him the win in Florida. It would also encourage more people to vote in general. We should also be aware, however, that the third party votes of conservatives for the Libertarian party candidate, for example, would probably be awarded to the Republican candidate. In terms of avoiding the anomalies of the electoral college, which would benefit liberal candidates more, state legislation requiring the state’s electoral college electors to vote for the candidate who won the national popular vote, or rank choice voting?

I checked online, and the website FairVote lists all the locations in which rank choice voting has been instituted. The only state is Maine, but several municipalities have instituted it.

https://www.fairvote.org/where_is_ranked_choice_voting_used

Several states have legislation pending to adopt rank choice voting. FairVote also has an online petition that people can sign to request their state legislators to support rank choice voting legislation. See

https://www.fairvote.org/new_ranked_choice_voting_in_states#2018_legislation_advancing_ranked_choice_voting

David Palmeter said...

MS,

Yes, of course, ranked choice could hurt the left in some instances. The only remedy for that is for the left to make sure that the total left vote is more than 50%. The right would be in exactly the same situation. I suspect,though, that it will not be an easy sell nationally. The big losers under such a system would be the two major parties, and they're likely to form an unholy alliance to oppose it.

MS said...

David,

I went back to look at the election results in the 4 states Trump won which gave him the election – Mich., Wis., Ohio, Pa. Had Clinton won Mich., Wis., and Pa., she would have won the election. I looked at the votes for the 2 major 3rd party candidates – the Green Party and the Libertarian Party – in those states to evaluate how rank choice voting might have affected the results. In reviewing the data, I assumed in a rank choice voting system, most of those who voted for Stein would have chosen Clinton as their 2nd choice. (I can’t imagine many Green Party voters choosing Trump as their 2nd choice.) Similarly, I assumed most of those who voted Libertarian would have chosen Trump as their 2nd choice. (Analyses have indicated Johnson helped Clinton by taking votes away from Trump.)

Looking at Mich., Clinton lost Mich. to Trump by 10,704 votes. The Green Party won 51,463 votes; the Libertarian Party 172,136. Given my assumption, Trump would still have gained more votes than Clinton under a rank choice voting system, and have increased his advantage by an additional 120,673 votes, for a total differential of 131,377. Under this analysis, the Dem.’s would be better off supporting state legislation that requires a state’s electors to vote for the candidate who has won the national popular vote. Given the number of Dem. votes in Cal. and N.Y, Dem.’s are likely to win the national popular vote, a trend that will continue as more Latino citizens begin to vote.

This analysis does not take into account the Sanders voters – some of whom voted for Clinton, some for Trump, and some who decided not to vote at all. I went back to my Oct. 15 comment to look at the figures I used in my analysis of how the Sanders vote affected the outcome. In the Mich. primary, 581,775 voted for Clinton; 598,943 voted for Sanders. I referred to a study by Brian Schaffner, professor of political science at U. of Mass. Amherst, indicating that 8% of the voters who voted for Sanders in the Mich. primary voted for Trump in the election. That would account for 47,915 of Trump’s votes. That leaves the 92% balance of Sanders primary voters – 551,027 – to account for. It is clear they did not all vote for Stein, since she only garnered 51,463 votes. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that all of Stein’s votes were by disgruntled Sanders voters, that still leaves 499,564 to account for. I doubt all of them voted for Clinton. Let’s assume 70% of those Sanders voters who did not vote for Stein or Trump voted for Clinton. I believe this estimate is high given how angry the Sanders voters were because they believed Clinton had stolen the nomination. That leaves 30% - 149,869 Sanders supporters in Mich. - who decided not to vote for anyone. As between Stein, Clinton and Trump, these voters would likely have preferred Stein, but decided not to vote for her because they reasoned she could not win. However, if they had the opportunity to rank vote, they would have been likely to choose Stein, with Clinton, rather than Trump, as their second choice. That’s 149,869 votes that would have overcome Trump’s 131,377 advantage, even with all the Libertarian votes going to Trump.

The same pattern repeats itself in Wis. and Penn. I therefore believe the Dem.’s have more to gain by rank voting than the Republicans. And rank voting gives voters who do not wish to vote for the lesser of two evils the opportunity to vote for their 1st choice, with the lesser of two evils as their 2nd choice.

Dem.’s should therefore support legislation in states that requires the electors to vote for the candidate who wins the national popular vote, and, as a back-up, for legislation that allows for rank voting. If they succeed in having only one or the other adopted in some states, that will reduce the likelihood of an anomalous electoral college result. Moreover, if there should emerge a very popular progressive 3rd party candidate, then that candidate could have an opportunity to be elected without being a spoiler for a less progressive Dem. candidate.

Anonymous said...

The race in the second congressional district in Maine will be decided by the ranked-choice method. Right now, each of the party candidates has 46 percent of the vote. There were some 23,000 votes for the two independents, both of whom were left-leaning (by the standards up here). So, it’s likely that the Democrat candidate will benefit from their second-choice votes more than the Republican will. The latter is the incumbent. He’s a media-averse (and media-adverse) reactionary weasel named Poliquin (aka Poliquisling) who made a lot of money on Wall Street and then bought his way into Maine politics, apparently just for something to do. Anyway, we’ll see. The ranked-choice count is underway now and is expected to take a couple of days to complete.

MS said...

This is totally off topic, but how much longer can Kellyanne Conway and George Conway remain married? Do they even talk to each other?