While I Was Away…

by A. Jay Adler on March 22, 2010
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…I did not wonder, as I did before leaving, whether the world might spin askew in consequence of my bloglessness. (I was, I confess, guiltlessly schlepping, nesting and playing.) Consider, then, my total shock and no little dismay at discovering that our fragile planet has, indeed – according to measurements from the International Society of Bloggers’ own Earth Gyration Observatory (EGO) – developed a micro-wobble.

Conclusion?

This is a job for – Superblogger!

What I noted along the way, now (oh, thank goodness) commented upon.

David Brooks Touts Phillip Blond

and his provocative Red Tory ideas. It’s worth recalling, though, what we regularly forget once convinced of a present excess – that its opposite, shining ideally in its apparent absence, also has flaws. Toward overturning centralized market power, Blond makes the call, in Brooks’ words, to “remoralize the market.” Difficult to do, since the market, of course, has never functioned in any era significantly more moral than the current, and its moderations have always been the product of regulations by a central, not decentralized, authority. To counter centralized social power, Blond calls, like those oh, so compassionate American conservatives, for greater reliance on private charities. But it is beyond easy for post-Depression era generations to forget to recall the nature of poor and elderly life in the U.S. before Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and Medicaid and Medicare, and one tends not to hear too greatly much of the social evil of these programs from those whose lives bounced off the net because of them.

But on that score…

Matthew Yglesias Offers Us

by way of Yves Smith, Reinhold Niebuhr:

Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold.

Ta-Nehisi Coates Pursues a Related Theme (H/T Brad DeLong)

I think there’s something to be said about political correctness on the Left, about hate crimes legislation, about affirmative action etc. But these are problems that American conservatives don’t have to answer for, in large measure, because they’ve been utter cowards in the face of some of the greatest moral issues of our time.

Moreover they have used a skepticism of change, to mask a defense of institutional evil. In the South in 1860, the conservative position was to defend slavery. It was, after all, an ancient institution, with seemingly Biblical sanction. It was the “Radical” Republicans who gave the franchise to black people, while conservatives embraced phrenology and racist psuedo-science.

In the 20th century, it was conservative intellectual William Buckley who defended white supremacy in the South. I hear people talking about how National Review–a magazine that speculated that the Birmingham bombing was the work of a “crazed Negro”– has, of late, betrayed its holy intellectual roots and I wonder what planet they’ve been living on. People mournfully claim that conservatism has “died,” and I wonder if they’ve forgotten what “conservatism” had to say to black people in apartheid South Africa. Meanwhile, conservative intellectuals are attacking gay marriages because it might reinforce “black social failure.” These are the intellectuals.

There is a fundamental problem here, one that can’t be elided by pointing out the differences between “true” conservatism and Republicans. A bias toward time-tested, societal institutions almost necessarily means a bias toward institutional evil. Likewise, a skepticism of change almost necessarily means a skepticism of those who seek to expand democracy beyond property-owning white men. Taken in sum you have an ideology, whatever its laudable merits, that will almost always, necessarily, look charitably upon those with power, or those who control the institutions, and skeptically upon those without power, or those who seek to change those institutions.

Ron Paul’s Pot Pissed In

The latest in Adam Holland’s ongoing exploration of the crackedness of Paul’s pot.

Clarence Thomas – Wrong for the Court Then, Wrong Now

Linda Greenhouse notes an anniversary in Clarence Thomas’s long and loud silence on the Supreme Court. Worth noting, too, is that as recently as Safford United School District #1 v. Redding, Thomas demonstrated again that he cannot reason in the manner one should anticipate of a jurist in a post-enlightenment democracy. When school administrators could find no pharmaceuticals on the person of a 13 year-old middle school student, rather than conclude it both reasonable and proper for administrators to presume and, as well, induce the probability, that the student, in the absence of any other evidence, had no drugs on her, Thomas, alone among the nine justices, thought this all the more reason to strip search her. Growing evidence of the falsity of a proposition was, for Thomas, further, radical argument for its truth. However, as long ago as 1992’s Hudson v. McMillian, Greenhouse tells us, Thomas, along with the more nimble, but no more enlightened Antonin Scalia, was arguing for meaningful distinction between a prisoner’s sentence, and the prisoner’s treatment during incarceration after the sentence. The persistence of an event, for Thomas, is entirely separable in nature from the initiating occurrence of the event, i.e. beating and rape as a sentence – cruel and unusual; beating and rape during incarceration – not so cruel, not so unusual (well, yeah), not what concerned the framers. A medieval casuist trying Galileo, sure. A twenty-first century legal mind, no.

Michiko Kakutani Places “Texts Without Context” in Context

In his deliberately provocative — and deeply nihilistic — new book, “Reality Hunger,” the onetime novelist David Shields asserts that fiction “has never seemed less central to the culture’s sense of itself.” He says he’s “bored by out-and-out fabrication, by myself and others; bored by invented plots and invented characters” and much more interested in confession and “reality-based art.” His own book can be taken as Exhibit A in what he calls “recombinant” or appropriation art.

The book is causing a stir. I probably won’t read it. Shields and I, it appears, operate off different motherboards. In the twenty-first century Celebritorium, when publicly-made lives – lives made for the public – are vacuities seeking to suck mind and soul from those who gaze too long, the people who actually earn our attention, and real people living off the notorious grid, the kind imaginatively captured in, say, my current read, Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness, may be our only salvation.

In fact, the dynamics of the Web, as the artist and computer scientist Jaron Lanier observes in another new book, are encouraging “authors, journalists, musicians and artists” to “treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind.”

No shit? Back to the hive, but in bytes? That’s what it’s all been about? Hey, I lived for it. Sample your own anonymous ass, mutherfucker.

Unless, of course, you can get me on a Grecian Urn…

D. G. Meyers Considers Syllogism and Sensibility

The father of the thought, of course, is J. V. Cunningham, whose “Logic and Lyric,” originally published in Modern Philology in 1953, argues that the structure of the syllogism is one means to organize a poem, “a way of disposing of, of making a place for, elements of a different order.” His example, which changed the course of its interpretation, is Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress with its clear argument:

Major premise
Had we world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime. . . .

Minor premise
But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near. . . .

Conclusion
Now, therefore,
. . . . . . . .
Now let us sport us while we may. . . .

Adam Kirsch Reviews Derek Wolcott Perusing Yeats’ “Foul rag and bone shop of the heart,” in White Egrets

…the drumming world that dampens your tired eyes

behind two clouding lenses, sunrise, sunset,

the quiet ravages of diabetes.

Accept it all with level sentences,

with sculpted settlement that sets each stanza,

learn how the bright lawn puts up no defences

against the egret’s stabbing questions and the night’s answer.

Nick Cohen Tells a Tale of Ian McEwan’s Tale of Martin Amis’s Encounter with Liberal Cowardice

The process by which one ill-tempered meeting in the autumn of 2007 has come to stand for a whole compromised intellectual culture, must also seem to the ICA to be so random as to be incomprehensible. If Reidy had not been in the audience, if Arena had not commissioned me to write a profile of Amis, if McEwan had not been Amis’s friend, then the meeting would have been forgotten….

If supposed liberals refuse to oppose movements that are “irrationalist, misogynist, homophobic, inquisitional, totalitarian, imperialist and genocidal,” it is always worth condemning them wherever and however they do it.

Read it all. Follow all the links. It is rich – very, very rich.

And then there was that kerfuffle in Jerusalem, but on that, tomorrow.

“Thanks, Superblogger. You saved the world!”

AJA


1 comment

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Maureen March 22, 2010 at 5:27 am

Great post, Jay.

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