Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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."

Total Pageviews

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


It is my fault.  I should not have commented at all on Nancy Pelosi, since I know much less about her than Jerry Fresia, for instance.  I got up at 5 yesterday, drove to the airport at 6, got to Columbia [what with delays and all] at 11:30, saw Todd for a quick lunch, held office hours, taught for two hours, headed back to the airport, and was in bed again by 11:30.  All in all, an eighteen and a half hour day, which at eighty-four takes it out of me.  I don’t want to argue.  I want to see the new young progressive House members maneuver successfully for the sorts of committee assignments that will enable them to write progressive legislation, legislation that will probably not become law now, but may lay down a marker for the future.  I want Mueller to get off his butt and have his Grand Jury indict someone, preferably someone related by birth or marriage to Trump.  I want Mike Espy to win his runoff, I want those missing in the California fires to turn up safe, I want the children kidnapped by our government reunited with their parents.  I want something good to happen, so that I can sleep at night.    

Like Lili von Shtupp played by the inimitable Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles, I am tired.


Anonymous said...

One can be tired out after performing duties less engaging, much less valuable than yours. I know. What I do in order to make money neither engages my intellect nor improves the young people with whom I come in contact. It is called "teaching", but might equally well be called preparing them to be wage slaves.... I am in a position where failure is a feature not a bug. And I can't see any way it's going to change any time soon. So, rest and take care of yourself.

MS said...

Prof. Wolff,

As I recommended in a previous comment, if it is still showing in your vicinity, go see The Old Man and A Gun with your wife. While it will not accelerate the indictment of anyone in Il Duce’s family, or salvage the lives of any of the victims in the California fires, it will, I believe, alleviate, if only temporarily, your sense of weltschmerz. Plus, you will get to see Robert Redford in an outstanding performance – his last, according to him (ably assisted by Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck, Danny Glover, and, believe it or not, Tom Waits). And, you will also see, if you watch carefully, the use of a gesture from a movie in which a line you are fond of quoting was spoken.

And Anonymous,

I understand your sense of disappointment and under appreciation as a teacher. But some teachers do reach their students and change their lives. I recommend that you see the movie Freedom Writers, in which Hilary Swank portrays an actual teacher, Erin Gruwell, who had a positive impact on the lives of the Black and Latino students whom she taught in a California high school located in an impoverished neighborhood.

By the way, both of the movies named above are based on actual people who succeeded in finding fulfillment in life – one by teaching, the other by robbing banks.

s. wallerstein said...

You say you want something good to happen. From what I can see, your course at Columbia is working out very well. Isn't that good?

One can't control the universe, but it seems that within the small sphere of activity that you, like each of us, move in and to some degree control, things are working out very well.

MS said...

On the subj. of career disappointments, I have had many victories, and some losses, but 1 loss stands out. While this comment may be an exercise in self-indulgence, it is hardly, I believe, an example of effluvium.

In 1983, a newspaper story reported about 2 men who had pled nolo contendere to manslaughter. They were accused of beating a man to death w/ baseball bats on Woodward Ave., a main artery in Detroit. They were sentenced to probation! I was stunned. How could this be? The victim, Vincent Chin, was a Chinese-American engineer whom they mistook for Japanese. They were auto workers; the increasing sales of Japanese cars had resulted in their lay off. Vincent was at a strip club w/ some friends, celebrating his upcoming marriage. The auto workers, father and son, got into an argument w/ him – they accused him and others of stealing their jobs. Vincent and his friends left the club. The auto workers followed, retrieved baseball bats from their car, and chased them up Woodward Ave. Vincent ducked into a McDonalds and waited there, thinking he had eluded them. He left the McDonalds; while walking back, the auto workers caught up w/ him and killed him.

I showed the story to an Asian atty. in our office. She was shocked & began calling others in the Asian community. As we dug into the story, we learned no one from the prosecutor’s office had attended the sentencing. The def.’s atty.’s misrepresented the facts, claiming their clients had been provoked and acted in self-defense. The Asian community formed an org., American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), to determine if anything could be done. I was charged by my firm w/ that task. After research, I recommended bringing an action in the Mich. S. Ct. for a writ of mandamus, requiring the judge, after being advised the true circumstances, to consider resentencing the def.’s.

I concluded ACJ, a private org., had standing to request a writ of mandamus where the official whose job it was to represent the People had failed to do so. I wrote a 125 p. brief, citing ample case law, addressing every applicable legal issue-the sentence was defective because the atty.’s had committed a fraud upon the court; ACJ had standing because the pros. had abdicated his job; resentencing did not implicate double jeopardy, because jeopardy had never attached. Since I was an unknown, young atty., ACJ retained a retired Mich. S. Ct. Justice to be lead counsel, but I did all the research, wrote every word of the brief. The Justice, who had ambitions of running for gov., never consulted w/ me, never even read the final prod., w/ his signature as lead counsel above mine. On the day we filed, he arranged to have tv cameras present to record his courageous fight for the people of Mich.

After 2 mos. the Ct. issued a 1 par. decision – petition denied. ACJ, the Ct. held, as a private org. did not have standing to participate in a criminal proceeding. Disgruntled, I wrote a mtn. for reconsideration, re-summarizing the arguments. The mtn. was denied. I was then, and still am, angry the legal system was so intractable it could not adapt to do the right thing.

The story doesn’t end there. The Asian atty. in our office had been lobbying the Dept. of Justice to bring civil rights charges. She met w/ the friends to prepare them for their interviews w/ the Dept. and recorded their meetings. She succeeded in convincing the Dept. Vincent had been killed because of his ethnicity. It decided to prosecute. The trial resulted in a conviction. On appeal, the same def. atty’s subpoenaed the tapes. In their appeal, they selected excerpts from the transcripts to make it appear she had coached the witnesses re what to say. The Ct. of Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial in Cincinnati. On re-trial, they were acquitted. So, 2 men beat a man to death in the middle of a major street and got away w/ murder. The case haunts me to this day.

By the way, 1 of the 2 atty.’s I accused of committing a fraud upon the court is now a U.S. District Court judge in Detroit, nominated by Pres. Clinton.

Brianism said...

Dude, can't you take a hint?

MS said...


Are you referring to Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski?

Happy Thanksgiving!