Friday, February 25, 2005

Armando gave me a 4!!

Armando gave me a 4!
Armando gave me a 4!

Seriously, greatest of congratulations to Daily Kos on winning the Koufax. I am very proud.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


I apologize to Mike Martz for saying he should be fired.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Koufax Awards

I visited many new blogs in the course of my incomplete vote for the Koufax Awards.
I liked Crooked Timber, Obsidian Wings, Panda's Thumb, Bob Harris, and Michael Berube. Michael Berube's writing is graceful and insightful. I am sorry that I was blinded to it in voting for Kid Oakland in the last round, because KO has a um, unique, writing style.

Jefferson's Demons

I just finished this book. Wrapped up in the Powerline insulting email controversy, I was going to say nicely that the Powerline bloggers might get something out of it. I find a review
on the Claremont Institute website(two Powerliners are affiliated with the Claremont Institute). Dr. Yarbrough almost nails it. (MHO: Jefferson's idea of subdividing counties into smaller units may not be as related to Burke as Beran thinks in the note. It may be related to the Federalist claim (I'm 90% sure this is Hamilton) that a federal system is the equivalent of a republic because a large country has enough natural leaders to congregate together and make representative decisions. But does this cultivate republican virtues in individuals? Jefferson says no. I see in blogs a tendency to congregate people into a self-selected "platoon", where they can have practice in civic virtue if other users are willing to call them on comments that Kossacks would troll-rate and I can only call partisan lashon hara.) I take small issue with the final statement that emphasizing that Whig politics is drab, and that irrationality is necessary, does not "revive public virtue". I invoke the name of Rawls, who said that liberalism ("Whiggism", in Beran's terms) cannot prescribe the meaning of life. I also invoke the name of Gershom Scholem who points out that for all the rational religion that goes on to the credit of Judaism, it is kabbalah that provides underlying myths and reasons for people to be shomer mitzvot. Rationality and irrationality complement each other. Beran implies that Jefferson had and used myths of his own. There was the Greek/Roman myth involving fertility magic, the treatment of which Beran concludes by saying, "Art made possible the higher form of order known as love. It supplied the techniques that enabled men to turn what Jefferson called 'eager desire' [the lusts inherent in fertility magic] into something that 'kindles' not the 'senses only' but the 'imagination' as well. These processes changed lust into love, passion into noble architecture, bloody revolution into ordered liberty, and so on." (p. 107, bolding blogger's) That Beran also says that Jefferson is forced to reach this conclusion by the landscape in which he found himself is not a glorification of irrationality. It is saying that the use of irrationality is the imagination ordered by the process that creates love ("ordered imagination" gives you Nazism). Jefferson also used the prophetic myth and the myth of the republic being on the brink of disaster if a strong, centralizing leader such as Hamilton got his way. Jefferson himself became a myth of rationality. Beran does something of a service in emphasizing that this rationality was the product of struggle and shaking hands with irrationality in himself. In any event, individuals can become virtuous because of a myth (religious or political) or because of the rational pursuit of "American principles". The USA is a great country because a good citizen can follow abstract principles, and not necessarily founding myths. With the flood of books on the Founders, we show our commitment to how they understood the principles.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Jonathan Lethem continued

In an interview in SF Site, Jonathan Lethem observed that The Fortress of Solitude was part of working out his alternate career as a rock critic, and praised Greil Marcus :) Aha!

The Fortress of Solitude

This book is marvelous. I hope I will give it a chance to change my life. Where has Jonathan Lethem been for all of it? The musical criticism is apt. A scene puts the hero , Dylan Ebdus, at the beginnings of hip-hop at a block party in Brooklyn, and he goes through the next twenty years of rap resenting rappers for being able to talk about their street experiences. This and Robert Woolfolk's extremely tough rap gives an East Coast perspective on the local hip-hop station. (One of my beefs with said local hip-hop station is that it is very tentative to play East Coast hits. Lloyd Banks got arrested there, then was let go. The outlook is Southern, and IMHO there is only so much crunk you can listen to, except at a club. I think Kelefa Sanneh is enamored of crunk because it's exotic there.) Dylan gets out of his bad neighborhood by getting into Stuyvesant, but otherwise is less than the hero of his own life. He represents the "middle space". At the end of the book, he is perhaps ready to be the hero. Music will give him a way out!? If he is still interested in writing his script about the Prisonaires, his actual experience in the prison will be more important than his self-pity. The POV on graffiti is refreshing, too.
The book took more than care of a personal desire to hear a story. I may be able to put off I Am Charlotte Simmons for a while longer. After about 100 pages, I testify that the strength of that book is the desire to hear a story and to know what happens next. (And the savage take on college basketball...) I know from the reviews a few things that happen to Charlotte, but I'm not far enough to know how she rises above the things that happen to her, as I am assured that she does.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dean as Chair

In response to M.Simon:
The money Dean raises ought to be independent of the money that Soros raises. (Also, I think Soros is involved with ACT instead of MoveOn.) So the Democratic Party is now "co-owned".
The great strength of Howard Dean is that he can arouse Democratic passion and make it positive. Democrats could retreat, lick our wounds, hate Bush, and post on dKos all day :), or we can start being active in our own party for our state and local candidates. Dean's job is to make the Democrats more representative and more vocal, so that the elitism charge doesn't stick. I also don't believe that, apart from being against the war, Dean is all that liberal. Even conservatives can believe that the way we were taken to war does not pass the smell test, although it was important for the international community to say that Saddam's regime was immoral.
Dean was gracious enough to say in an email that DFA should continue as a grass-roots group.

The Super Bowl

I knew the Patriots were going to win; my prediction was 10 points. Once again, the Patriots did just enough to win and Donovan McNabb threw wildly at times. I congratulate Terrell Owens for knowing that he could play.

"The Missing Peace"--5 stars

I have just finished Dennis Ross's "The Missing Peace". The book provides excellent context for the "peace process" that came out of Oslo and the American perspective on it. Ross has no kindness for Arafat whatever (he didn't deserve it, the SOB), and admits that Arafat was "overindulged" by the Clinton administration. He points out in the last chapter a failure of the Bush administration in not being on the ground to support proposals that came out under it, such as the road map, which was designed by the Quartet without working with the parties on how they were going to implement it. This process might have rebuilt trust, although trust in Arafat is ridiculous. The roadmap could be interpreted as what Palestinians and Israelis could do if Arafat was to be trusted. We are also able to see Israeli leaders beyond the vague impressions of them that were possible from the MSM. I had the impression that Barak was "doing his best" from the small attention I paid to his administration. But one can see from this book that, although Barak was willing to take risks for peace that Arafat was not willing to do, he did not always do his best. The issue of giving back some villages, such as Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem became very tangled, with Barak delaying his promise to give even one because of political considerations.(In addition, there was considering letting El Al fly on Shabbos! Scandal!) Abu Mazen comes out more or less positive from the book. When he was a negotiator, he worked hard for peace and had creative ideas. Bill Clinton comes out as desperately wanting peace and willing to chastise both sides. Rabin is, of course, the hero of the book.
Possibly more later...

Tova Mirvis strikes back

Eric Alterman, in another episode of wanderings in the blogverse, has pointed out Tova Mirvis's reply to Wendy Shalit in The Forward. This was a good reply because it emphasized the power of the imagination, and not to worry about what "they" are saying about us. My response was more literal. (I posted it on dKos but it really belongs here.) Tova Mirvis a) created idealistic characters in "The Outside World", notably Bryan/Baruch, and b) has the subject of individuals who worship Judaism as a tradition, but are not worried about closeness to Hashem. These individuals do exist.

More wanderings in the blogverse

Well, dKos was very slow yesterday, so I visited Matt Yglesias' blog from there. This blog is very good! I was then referred to Power and Control, M. Simon's blog. This blog also has a libertarian, pro-war outlook, and the posts are intelligent. M. Simon is a graduate of University of Chicago! Excellent school! My sister went to the Harris School! Woo hoo! M. Simon claims that Bush is a political genius. Karl Rove has a great deal to do with any political genius Bush has. I could respect Karl Rove as President. There is also my mom's line: "It's all simple aphorisms". Bush is good at putting across simple aphorisms. He is not so good at implementing them. An example from the site is No Child Left Behind. The idea was of a more rigorous education than these kids were getting before. Unfortunately, political realities left who was "proficient" up to the states, and the requirement to be proficient by a short deadline punished the states that had more rigorous standards. (The New York Times: good for something.) NCLB is good if it creates a movement in the states for rigorous standards.
I don't know if this country will reveal its real libertarian nature or not. The Christian Right does not have many libertarian impulses, and they are holding up this administration. Individuals who are disgusted with the Christian Right have the easy option of being Democrats.