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Friday, March 1, 2019


This is a word of advice from an old bull to Young Turks.  I sense from some of the comments an impatience with the attention I paid to the Cohen appearance before Elijah Cummings' House committee.  How important can it be when a mob lawyer turns on his mob boss?  Not very important in the world historical scheme of things.   It may be an appropriate subject for a movie, but is it fitting that someone puffing himself up as a Serious Thinker should pay the event any heed?

Let me answer, not as The Philosopher but as an eighty-five year old man who has been fighting the good fight, or at least has been trying to, for sixty-five years.  It is hard, really hard, not to give up over all that time, especially when every victory is followed by a string of defeats.  What is more, it wears on you to be angry for six decades.  It is not good for the digestion.

So it is simply self-defense to relish the confusion of one's enemies, the little momentary triumphs of one's friends.  Is the electoral victory of a few self-declared socialists the first light of a New Dawn?  No.  Will cruel things be done and exploitation pursued by rich and powerful people even so?  Yes.  How then can I make much of the appearance of Michael Cohen before a House Committee?

Because it is fun.  It feels good.

But won't my pleasure in the spectacle weaken my resolve, make me settle, lead me to abandon The Cause?  Well, it didn't when I sat in the lounge of William James Hall at Harvard during my first graduate year and watched Joseph Welch say to Joseph McCarthy, "At long last, have you no sense of decency?"  It dd not when I read of the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.  It  did not when I sat in my third floor study, watching the spot announcements of Spiro Agnew's resignation.  It did not when I saw Bill Clinton humiliated by a stained dress.  And it will not now that I have had the momentary frisson of seeing Michael Cohen put up an enlarged photo of a hush money check signed by Donald J. Trump.

Gather ye rosebuds where ye may.


Jerry Fresia said...

Given all that, what say you about the Green New Deal? I think there are several versions floating about but suppose the one that attaches to free higher education, single payer, and various reduction-of-inequality policies makes headway. Unlike those who say bah humbug, it's pro-capitalist, I would say that it ought to be treated as revolutionary reform, with subsequent efforts to tackle structural constraints to follow.

My primary lament is that the crop of "self-declared" socialists leave out, entirely, any critique of foreign policy that challenges American exceptionalism and empire (to wit, Venezuela). Maybe Tulsi is a ray of light in this regard.

Dean said...

Looks like has four GNDs simmering:

Only one, McConnell's, is a joint resolution.

Jerry Fresia said...

PS This from my twitter feed:

Jimmy Dore Retweeted:
How to lose to Trump #101

Pelosi on Medicare for all plan: "How do you pay for that?"

LFC said...

From the little I know of Tulsi, admittedly filtered through the LGM crowd, her foreign policy perspective is not good and includes a fair dose of Islamophobia.

David Palmeter said...

I look upon Wednesday’s hearing as the first of many impeachment hearings. If Trump is to be convicted, not just impeached, this is what it will take. The only thing that will get the 20 or so Republican votes in the Senate needed to convict is a massive erosion of Trump’s support from his base. If Watergate is any guide, the only thing that will do that is series of hearings that hammers day after day on the President’s unfitness for office until enough people finally are convinced.

I doubt it that it can be done. There just isn’t time before his term is up. The Watergate investigation by the police was well underway when Nixon took office and Congress got into the act quite quickly. We’re more than two years behind the Watergate schedule. The closer we get to the end of Trump’s term before a Senate vote, the less likely the Senate is to vote for conviction.

Nonetheless, I think the hearings are a good thing--parading Trump’s vile behavior before the public, reminding them day after day what a despicable human being he is, is good medicine for the body politic.

s. wallerstein said...

Jerry Fresia,

It seems that it's easier for people raised in the U.S. to become socialists than to view American exceptionalism critically and objectively. The illusion that God is on our side dies hard, very hard. The need to believe that "we" are "good" and always operate with "good intentions" is deeply rooted, much more deeply rooted than the belief in the merits of neoliberal capitalism, since actually, most of the new socialists are new dealers or Keynesians, rather than Marxists or Marxist-Leninists.

Probably, you could make the case that while most middle-class and working class people in the U.S. do not benefit from neoliberal capitalism (and obviously would from a keynesian new deal), they do obtain certain benefits from U.S. imperialism abroad, to begin with the psychological benefits of believing that they live in "the greatest and freest" nation on earth and that they are somehow superior to those from other lands.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Right on, Jerry!

Chris said...

Uhm, can't one be perpetually upset at the present political climate and just find satisfaction in everything else? Family, friends, literature, movies, if they're so luck their career, etc. The rhetorical framing of this post strikes me as possible a false disjunct... Political hope without optimism remains a live option for those content in other avenues of life.

Anonymous said...

To borrow perversely from Wordsworth:

"Surprised by joy—impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh!"

I, too, was surprised by my own joy at listening to AOC and others question Michael Cohen. Although we're admittedly over two years into this thing, it seemed like a fresh beginning. I was suddenly struck by the momentum that is building in the House around committee investigations. The Trump administration and their minions in Congress will do everything they can to gum up the works, but I'm convinced that hearings, conducted by various committees, will continue apace. I don't see why, after a year of this, they won't have enough to draft articles of impeachment.

And what a spectacle a trial in the Senate would be! With Chief Justice Roberts presiding, it would run live day after. The prosecution's enormous pile of evidence and testimony, touching on all manner of corruption and criminality, would be damning and impressive. Oh, let it be!

DWE said...

Yeah, what Chris said: ..."family, friends, literature, movies..."---all worthy diversions from obsessive political despair. But he forgot to mention wine. And too bad, at last, that there is no Consolation of Philosophy!

Chris said...

Recreational altering of consciousness via substance usage is something I left out! My bad JGK! I won't expand on which substances are preferable ;)

David Palmeter said...


On the question of American exceptionalism, John Adams had conflicting things to say. First, he denied it: There is “no special providence for Americans, and their nature is the same as that of others.” Americans “are like all other people, and shall do like other nations.” Then he apparently thought further about it: America is “more avaricious than any other nation that ever existed.” He might have been on to something there.

I think the proponents of exceptionalism are right: America is exceptional in its degree of income and wealth inequality; it has the highest cost health care in the developed world; it’s average life expectancy is in the lower half of that group, while its rate of infant mortality is near, if not at, the top; with the early 20th Century high school movement and the post WWII GI bill, it once had the best educated working age population in the world, but no longer. The list goes on. Quite exceptional.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It is also the only one of the advanced industrial economies to have been built on chattel slavery. For a more extended critique of American exceptionalism, see my AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EX-WHOTE MAN.

David Palmeter said...

That's true, but the British, the French, the Dutch and the Belgians all benefited from slavery in their colonies and elsewhere. The US was founded with the British slave system in place. Among the financial beneficiaries of slavery was John Locke.

s. wallerstein said...

Another instance of U.S. exceptionalism (which Eric Hobsbawm points out) is the fanatical cold war anti-communism, the widespread belief in the international communist conspiracy and the McCarthy era persecutions, including the execution of the Rosenbergs.

Western European countries often had legal communist parties during the cold war era and no other developed country that I know of went through a McCarthy era. It's not that the French right, for example, wasn't anti-communist, but they never saw communists as the incarnation of evil as we were educated to do during the 1950's.

LFC said...

@ D Palmeter

And it was John Quincy Adams, son of the person you quote, who said, famously if not altogether presciently, that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."