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Live-Blogging the Debate: The Blogs to Read

26 Sep

I’ll be busy at one of the last Fall For the Book readings tonight so I won’t be following the debate as closely as I’d like.  You, however, should follow along with these fine bloggers who will be giving you some of the best foreign policy and political commentary as they live-blog the event:

  • Ned Resnikoff and Charlie Eisenhood at NYU Local: Sweet political barbs from the Big Apple’s progressive, hipster capital.
  • Democracy Arsenal hits you with a right hook of wonkishness and lays you out with a southpaw of firece foreign policy analysis.  Or some other such boxing/defense policy metaphor-combo.
  • Dan Drezner: The man boasts political economy and foreign policy bona fides. If you mess with him, he will cut you.
  • Think Progress: It’s a virtual room full of wonks and twenty-something Beltway progressives, including Matt Yglesias. You don’t have to drink to hang out, but you will have to provide your own booze.
I’ll weigh in with a (hopefully) substative take post-debate, but until then enjoy your Friday.

Give It Up, Ahab

28 Aug

I’ll second these observations from Dylan Matthews and Jamelle.  Strangely, this whole thing reminds me of a scene from Star Trek: First Contact:

But in the end, of course, the sacrifice is worth it and the Pequod sails safely back to harbor…

It’s a Nice Day to Start Again

10 Jul

I hesitate to say that Brad DeLong is wrong–merely misguided, perhaps–in his advice to Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Marriage is good thing (There’s a drinking! And presents! All while in formal wear!) but I was reminded of a few lines from Philip Larkin’s “The Whitsun Weddings”:

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
– An Odeon went past, a cooling tower, And
someone running up to bowl – and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.

Yes, Larkin was a dyspeptic and rather unlikable fellow, but he has a point; one must consider the entire affair, the sheer production of it all.  If the current arrangement seems to be humming along nicely, no need to trade it in just yet. To be honest, though, the first lines to pop into my head were from the, uh “poet”, Gordon Sumner:

No earthly church has ever blessed our union
No state has ever granted us permission
No family bond has ever made us two
No company has ever earned commission
No debt was paid no dowry to be gained
No treaty over border land or power
No semblance of the world outside remained
To stain the beauty of this nuptial hour

The secret marriage vow is never spoken
The secret marriage can never be broken

No flowers on the altar
No white veil in your hair
No maiden dress to alter
No bible oath to swear

The secret marriage vow is never spoken
The secret marriage can never be broken

I should also mention that Young Zeitlin rains on my “excuse to have a party” parade with a thoughtful post about marriage policy and the Democrats.

He Says, We Say: The Moves that Matter in Blogosphere Discussion

9 Jul

There’s been some recent discussion about male violence and the feminist response from Mike Meginnis, based in part on a discussion from Feministe that addressed the prevalence of male violence and how this is rarely discussed.  Today, Jamelle asks people to weigh in, so I figured I’d toss in a few thoughts instead of breaking up discussion between the comments section of two different blogs.

What’s interesting about this exchange is what it suggests about the limits (or starting points) of some forms of online discussion and within some online communities.

The biggest problem seems to be the way Mike framed his comments, as a quick reread of the comments section reveals commenter Anna brought up essentially the same observation a few comments before Mike:

Is it derailing too far to bring up how rarely we do talk about men as the victims of violent crime as well?

Because, as you say, there is no gender applied to “shooting victim” but there will be to “female shooting victim”.

We don’t talk a lot about violence this way so people arguing with me about feminism will often bring up “men are the victims of violent crime more than women!” without responding to the point of “and that violence is caused by other men”.

Leaving aside the last part (which is a bit awkwardly formed, but you get the gist) this is what Mike seemed to be addressing, except that he began his comment thusly:

Ashley, I agree with much of what this post is trying to do, but it also deeply frustrates me. You’ve noted correctly – and this is something I try to push myself – that men commit the vast majority of violence. But what you haven’t noted, whether because it would complicate your argument, you feel it’s irrelevant, or you simply don’t know (but I assume you do know), men commit the vast majority of violence *against other men,* even if we discount violence in war zones, which intellectual honesty would suggest that we shouldn’t.

Mike’s comment was directed directly at Ashley and began with a note contention (“it deeply frustrates me”).  From there the responses (while measured and civil) were easy to predict: some defensiveness and rhetorical moves that were dismissive of Mike’s concerns on the grounds that he was speaking from a position of privilege and taking a position that asked “what about teh MENZ?” This is a rhetorical move that you see in a lot of online discussions (and a not altogether illegitimate one either). There are lots of discussions where people in a community or with a certain familiarity with a topic will cut off further discussion along those lines because it’s a flawed or downright spurious argument they’ve dealt with before-it’s a kind of rhetorical efficiency (e.g. For many feminist discussions how often have you heard: “But why can’t we be humanists?”; for race, “Why can’t we just be colorblind?”).  But it also has its drawbacks, in the same way teaching people cognitive biases can lead people to easily dismiss the content of an argument once any sort of bias is identified.  Mike’s point-that the dominate conception of masculinity and the violence it promotes-is most often directed against men themselves isn’t really much of an issue, nor does anyone at Feministe really take issue with it.  Instead, the problem becomes the way Mike addresses the topic.  I think most of the disagreement could have be waived away by responding with something like “Fair enough, but in this discussion we’re going to focus on women as objects of violence (because that’s what we’re most interested in/that’s the implied focus of many of these posts/that’s just what we feel like right now).”

For my part, although I understand that a lot of these rhetorical moves are often are useful, from a stylistic (as well as argumentative) perspective, I’d like to see less of them.  Yes, some unremarkable conservative probably said something wrongheaded or guffaw inducing, but does every response have to be “WTFBBQ!1!11!!!!11!”?  Yes, yes, we get it; you’ve saucily mimicked someone’s digital overreaction or outrage-wonderful.  What’s that?  You have your own prepared word or phrase to describe a certain position or person that ends with (TM)?  What a clever skewering of well-rehearsed debates and a trenchant critique of consumer culture and corporatism run amok!  At least read someone like Belle Waring who does this better than most and still manages to wrestle with content of the argument to get a sense of best practices.

Young Blogger’s Media Domination Continues Apace

11 Jun

Matt Zeitlin has just joined a very formidable looking (and well designed) group blog called Pushback, part of Campus Progress Action.  And if Dylan Matthews is right (and I suspect he is) Pushback is also part of a very successful model for progressive activism developed by the Center for American Progress.

I’ve heard some complaints (mainly from the 40+ demographic and old-guard liberals) that young people don’t seem as politically active, at least when it comes to things like showing up to anti-war protest marches.  Part of the answer, as Pushback bloggers demonstrate, is that activism has moved elsewhere.  I also think that a large percentage of my generation feels that they can engage with the status-quo political order and affect change through traditional channels that baby boomers never felt were open to them.

Pax Americana Goes International! Sort of!

16 Apr

Sometime contributor Alicia is currently living in Malawi as a member of the Peace Corps.  Apparently, Alicia neglected to tell us that she has another blog all about her stay in Malawi.  But now we know and can stay informed.  With luck (and permission) I’ll cross-post any interesting Malawi related posts.

DeLong Smackdown Watch? (Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Edition)

19 Feb

Not quite. Chris Betram–with his mighty clairvoyant powers–elicits predicts this anti-Castro response from Brad DeLong:

I haven’t looked yet, but I’ve no doubt that there’ll be lots of posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves). And, of course, Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, denials of democratic rights etc. Still, I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate. Ditto Cuba, for a much smaller chunk. So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care.

Thus (from DeLong):

Fidel Castro has retired. Good riddance!!

That the Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin Authoritarian Project of which Fidel Castro was the next-to-last exemplar was not an advance toward but a retreat from a better world was obvious long, long ago. Quite early–Kronstadt?–it was clear to all save the dead-enders that the project was a mistake.

Why should I approve of laudable goals achieved (to whatever extent) by illiberal means? I’m going to take the Sen/Nussbaum approach here and ask: “To what extent did the Castro regime allow citizens to realize substantive freedoms?” Taking for granted the literacy and health-care standards, Cuban welfare is substandard. Cuba doesn’t allow for political dissent or free political association unless it’s part of “socialist” objectives as defined by the state. While citizens may live in relative good health with good average education, they are severely limited in their political and expressive (personal) lives. Essentially, Cubans have the good fortune to live a long time in an oppressive socialist bureaucracy and they’re educated enough to know how bad they have it. What sort of life is that?