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Whither Pax?

21 May

When I first started this blog, I had hopes that I could make it a group blog–not just because it would make the writing load easier on myself, but because there are a lot of areas that I find very interesting beyond my narrow personal and academic experience (e.g. science, law, philosophy).  I was also much more foreign policy focused, in large part because foreign policy issues dominated politics at the time.

In the intervening years, I’ve alternated between neglecting the blog and occasionally dipping back in to write about some of those disparate issues.  That’s required a lot of reading and, frankly, a lot of energy that isn’t as helpful to the (few, transient) readers of this blog. I don’t have the intellectual or policy experience that a lot of other bloggers have, and that makes my posts a lot less useful for making sense of an issue, something that I think is important if I’m going to add to the debate and not simply add to the noise.

That’s why I’ve decided to start blogging again while taking the blog in a different direction.  As my blogroll suggests, I want to draw from a range of disciplines and approaches, and this is part of my comparative advantage. So I’m going to embrace my disparate intellectual interests and see if I can’t serve as a rough translator between disciplines and ideologies. Even if I don’t have the policy experience of the experts, I can make some of the disagreements and points of contention between philosophies and political positions clear and hopefully add to understanding even if I can’t provide answers.  Here’s hoping some of you will stick around for it.

Poetry Blogs You Should Be Reading

25 Jun

In my long blogging absence I’ve negleted to highlight two great blogs about poetry and the process of writing poetry:

1. First Book Interviews: Keith Montesano interviews Rauan Klassnik in his 21st interview for the series (while in the midst of getting his own first book published).  Choice excerpt:

Yes there’s certainly a lot of violence in Holy Land. I don’t think it’s gratuitous though. And, yes, there’s also a lot of tenderness. Perhaps some of the tenderness is gratuitous. But I’m quite sentimental and as much as I guard against it does come through in the poems sometimes. I’ll cry over just about anything. Over a raindrop. The latest Star Trek movie. An old man in a doorway.

2. How A Poem Happens: For aspiring poets–or those who simply want’s to peal back the the veil of inspiration and Romantic ideas about poets–Brian Brodeuer asks poets about their process writing and shaping a single poem.  The latest post takes a look at Philp White’s “Six O’Clock Flight to the Interment”.  An excerpt:

What is American about this poem?

Even if death is the great universal, love and grief, and attitudes toward time and place, self and other, are all tinged, if not shaped, by culture. I’m sure the poem is American in some way. But it doesn’t make a point of it.

A Question About Literature and Political Philosophy

30 Sep

And since people are thinking about literature I’ll take this opportunity to ask a question I’ve been considering recently: Why doesn’t more literary criticism make mention of rights-based liberalism?  Not that I expect a lot of lit professors to approvingly cite Rawls, but he doesn’t even get name checked.  This might seem like a silly question considering that Rawls didn’t have a lot to say about literature (as far as I know), but I’ve never heard him referenced.  Not even as figure to disagree with.  Then again, I never hear Nozick or Judith Sklar either. Marx, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, yes–but nothing about Rawls.  

There’s a lot of vague comminitarian talk that gets thrown around and plenty of discussion about the difficulty of language, but seemingly nothing about rights-based liberalism.  What gives? (I leave this an open question for people who probably have more experience considering the two fields).

More Young Blogger Media Domination or “Folksy vs. Sexist”

10 Sep

These young bloggers and their expanding media empires. If it isn’t Young Zeitlin and his Pushback gig or Ned editing NYU Local, it’s Jamelle guest blogging at Feministe (among, I think, nine others) and Dylan Matthews holding the keys to Ezra Klein’s place while he’s gone. 

 Dylan sees current “lipstick remark” flap as a failure of some in the media:

In a country with a responsible news media, the presidential frontrunner beginning a speech by excoriating American journalism as an institution would prompt deep reflection on the problems in news coverage by every newspaper in the country. Every op-ed columnist and editorial page would endorse more substantive coverage, and newsrooms would switch gears and start reporting Obama and McCain’s records and policy proposals on everything from nuclear terrorism to urban policy. This kind of crap would be relegated to paragraph-length articles, if retained at all. When Sarah Palin claimed she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere, the AP headline would be “Palin Repeats Lie about Infamous Bridge” […]
[…]So I send my best to Brock and Podesta. The ideal situation is one of a roughly bipolar system with conservative and liberal outrage machines of equal potency, and liberals have a long way to go in closing the hack gap. But building up that infrastructure is going to take a whole lot longer than the two months left before the election.

I think this last point is sadly true, despite my centrist symapthies.  The more partisan the news outlet (or the more that hackish voices in the media multiply) the more noise that has to be filltered by the average citizen reading their newspaper, clicking through the internet, or watching cable news.  It won’t help for liberals and progressives to decry the conservative echo chamber and it’s reverberations in the MSM as unfair and distortionary.  They’ll have to provide some noise of their own.  Is this good for debate?  Much of it isn’t, and the left is likely to make the same hackish claims and advance the same kinds of lame talking points as the right, but the alternative is a discourse dominated by one side.

Jamelle over at Feministe has similar thoughts:

As many others have pointed out however, none of this would be possible without a complicit media. The media, instead of calling out lies and presenting the truth, has been content to treat this election like a game: McCain’s/Palin’s distortions and lies are just part of the “horserace.” 

Why oh why (etc.)…?

With Apologies to Chris Collingsworth*

3 Sep

Greg Easterbrook may be tedious (and irrationally contrarian) when commenting on other subjects, but this is a pretty good take on one of the longer suffering teams of the AFC North (in haiku no less):

Front office is the
Bear Stearns of the NFL.
The Cincy Bengals.

Forecast finish: 6-10

Or, as Myron Cope used to call them, the “Cincinnati Bungles.”

*But not Boomer Esiason.

Secessionists for a Stronger America

2 Sep

Jack Balkin is waiting for the in-depth investigation of Palin’s possible support for Alaskan independence:

It’s entirely possible that at one point Sarah Palin thought well enough of the cause of Alaskan independence that she was willing to join the AIP. Then, later when she decided she wanted to run for public office, she resolved to become a hyper-loyal American, one who puts America first. (Naturally, she chose to become a member of the Republican Party, which, as well all know, loves America more.)

Still, it seems to me that if Barack Obama had once flirted with a secessionist party of any sort, much less one that based its arguments for independence on the United Nations Charter and international law, it would be fairly certain evidence that he was not really an American at all, but some sort of radical fifth columnist.

I await the Fox News expose asking the burning question on everyone’s mind: Why did Sarah Palin hate America? And does she hate it still secretly in her heart of hearts?

I await attempts to spin this as support for federalism and states’ rights* instead of an interest held for state-level political consumption.  As they say: “All secessions are local.”

*Update: Forget spin. I should note that the Alaska Independence Party doesn’t like the term “secession.” I think this reinforces the “maverick” narrative.  For instance, the word “independence” is right in the name of the party.

Second update: Edited to make clear Palin wasn’t a member of the AIP party.

Barack Obama: Eisenhower Republican?

2 Sep

Obama’s campaign makes the same bet that Ike made rhetorically in his 1956 convention speech:

The great Norwegian, Henrik Ibsen once wrote: “I hold that man is in the right who is most clearly in league with the future.”

Today I want to demonstrate the truth of a single proposition: The Republican Party is the Party of the Future.

I’ll also note that there are many fewer Ibsen references made by either party today.