Archive for the ‘Federalism’ Category

Books and the Lightness of Travel

August 13, 2009

8 months since last post, a repaired laptop, and returning to CT tomorrow to work at a retreat center (after the dentist).  I’ve been trying to decide what books to take with me.

I’ve settled on small ones.

  • Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy  The Christian Future and Planetary Service. I feel I need Eugen at all times and these two are focused on issues of society’s speed and the need for communion.
  • Ira Stone A Responsible Life: The Spiritual Path of Mussar.  Stone’s translation and commentary for Wisdom & Mussar by R. Simcha Zissel is a surprise gift as the appendix.  Mussar means “instruction” or “correction” and refers both to a literature of self-improvement throughout rabbinic Judaism and also specific activities. Stone’s encounter with Zissel’s Kelm school of mussar through the lens of Emmanuel Levinas brings the tradition to greater contemporary relevance.
  • Dalai Lama Spiritual Advice for Buddhists and Christians.  Short and quick.
  • Pirke Avot “Chapters of the Fathers”.  Olitsky brings major commentaries to his pages of both English and Aramaic. This is a major effort for the next few months to be able to teach this tractate.
  • Margaret Atwood Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth.  The cover has a balloon near the top above the print and a thumb tack at the bottom facing up.  I started this in June and it was a riot.  Part of my effort see the financial bubble as a poetic invention.

Perhaps Walter Brueggeman The Covenanted Self: Explorations in Law and Covenant and a Daniel Elazar edited book on covenant and constitutionalism.  There’s a project in me about the federating, communing in personal and political dynamics, drawing on Jewish and Christian sources and seen in US history.   Not sure if that deserves my time now.

I’m concerned once again with the “culture wars.” Hopefully that may subside as a I depart the DC area. It forced to drop an idea of reviewing several classic studies of legislative dynamics through the lens of health care reform 1970s-1990s.  Yet there is less legislative activity now compared to the culture war of the town hall meetings which all media outlets excitedly channel to the viewer.

Was tempted to bring an Aquinas-based reading of salvation history through he lens of Torah & Temple and a book on Lonergan’s own intellectual conversion.

There are also a number of books relevant to retreat management or other activities where I’m going. They’ll have to wait here. I’m committed to easy of travel.

That’s the update. Scattered interests, as ever.


Small Town Values?

September 3, 2008

Besides being more politically astute than most commentators allow, Gov. Palin also represents a reality that liberal elitists must destroy, according to What I Saw in America.

There can be little doubt that the viciousness of the attacks on Palin … are motivated by fear, not confidence. Sarah is a threat to the Obama coronation, particularly inasmuch as she is the living refutation of his disdain for “bitter people who cling to their guns and religion.” Palin’s happy warrior visage shows that guns and religion and the values of small town America are the sources of satisfaction and joy, not what people console themselves with when they don’t decamp to New York or L.A. Her very existence shines a bright white light on the underlying assumptions of “false consciousness” that the Democratic elite attribute to the working class. Nothing could be more offensive to their therapeutic worldview, and because of that, she must be crushed – feminism be damned.

I’m not convinced of this argument entirely though this it does address a major blindspot for liberal meritocrats, cosmopolitans, the new class, etc.


Civics, not Celebrity

August 14, 2008

The topic is now prominent in the presidential campaign. It would have been nice if Obama hadn’t responded to the celebrity charge in the way he did (you’re a bigger DC celebrity than me). Peter Levine posts a message Obama could still employ.

This statement acknowledges the principle behind the opponents attack, examines the dangerous forces of celebrity culture and its negative impact on political life, sees oneself as implicated and not above the problem, takes the high ground and sets the terms of a new debate by asking the attacker to join ways to support counter-institutions and habits — various forms of local civic and communal participation. Well done, Peter. After the fold I share challenges of CIVICS not CELEBRITY in my civic education work. Here’s some snippets from Levine’s post:

“John McCain has been running ads associating me with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. He has been criticized for those ads, but I believe they reflect a deep concern that I share with him…

I can hardly believe the appetite for news about Paris and Britney–and now Angelina and Beyonce–when there are wars going on, and the earth’s climate is shifting dangerously, and our people are losing jobs and health coverage. Not only are there serious problems to read about; there are also wonderful people doing amazing things to solve our problems. They work together at the grassroots level, leading organizations, cleaning up the environment, mentoring kids, creating art and culture. But these real, active citizens get one thousandth of the attention of a single Hollywood star breakup…


Confederate-tainted Conspiracy Theory Links

August 13, 2008

Thanks to the dozens of folks who’ve stopped by from and Crimlaw‘s nod to where where they heard about the story (see “Too Weird for the Wire” below and the original story here). I posted comments on those sites which developed my thinking beyond my original post.  Use the above.

Just today, renowned blogger Andrew Sullivan has picked up the ball but, alas, fails to mention yours truly.  I can’t recall if I sent Andrew the link back on July 30 which I sent to half-dozen higher-profile blogs that might have an interest.  (Turns out my BCC: Blind Carbon Copy keeps the addresses hidden forever.) But, he had to have read it from one of those posts which link to me.  I mean, does anyone read the Washington Monthly still? (sorry Kevin Drum and Mr. Peters)

Anyway, I’ll await the popularity from an Andrew Sullivan link until I’m more mature and can better handle the attention.  Mr. Kevin Carey, author of aforementioned story, feel free to write me about the responses you’ve been getting or anything else you wanna talk about.  Maybe we can see a movie or something?  I like drama but really whatever you want to see is cool with me.

Introducing the Kosher Seal of Justice

August 2, 2008

The Alphabet Soup of Jewish organizations is matched only by kosher certification labels: OU, OK, Star-K, KSA and Kof-K, to name a few. I won’t get into the politics and corruption of Kosher labeling authorities now. More notably, 3 decades after Zalman Shachter coined the termed Eco-Kosher, the Conservative movement has announced a complementary type of certification for kosher products — the Hekhsher Tzedek, or Kosher Seal of Justice. According to the JTA:

Hekhsher Tzedek, aims to certify foods produced by companies that adhere to standards of worker safety and environmental sensitivity, among other criteria. The certification would complement a traditional kashrut stamp.


Academics and the War on Terror

July 24, 2008

Hugh Gunderson addresses with appropriate moderation, Project Minerva, the Pentagon’s renewed interest in academic knowledge to better fight its war on terror.

As Gunderson reports, under Minerva, the Pentagon has allocated $50 million for academics, for example, “to write about the connections between religion, especially Islam, and terrorism; translate, analyze, and publicly archive documents captured in the Iraq war; create a centralized archive of publicly available documents on Chinese military doctrine and technology… Secretary Gates flagged the contributions that could be made by history, sociology, evolutionary biology and, above all, by my own discipline, anthropology.”

Gunderson details why, “many anthropologists simply will not apply for funding if it comes from the Pentagon.” 


Respond and Change in Jackson

July 24, 2008

Here’s a good story about my former colleagues at Operation Understanding DC in Jackson, Mississippi.

Samuel Spires, 17, a student at my former high school, superbly sums up what’s at stake in intercultural dialogue.  “You just have to do it,” he said. “Be willing to face contradictory ideas. And if you find yourself changing your mind and your ideas, be open to it.”

Respondeo etsi mutabor, I respond although I must change, is the motto of our age according to my teacher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy.


Too Weird for The Wire

July 22, 2008

This article in The Washington Monthly reminded me of a fun but one-sided men’s college basketball game I attended with a friend. As we entered the parking my pal began to speak about his strange day at work. A middle-aged Black defendant (race is relevant) walked into his Baltimore office with a question about the man’s upcoming criminal trial. The guy learned during his last jail stint a theory involving the the illegitimacy of the federal government since the Civil War resulting in the unconstitutionality of the income tax and our leaving the gold standard. If a defendant expressed all this to the judge, he must release you. “Should I use this defense?” he asked my friend?


Black Agency, Urban Migration, Paternalism

July 22, 2008
Atlanta In Transition

Atlanta In Transition

Black Agency? I don’t mean group sales or political things. In the confines of university sociology, agency refers to the power of a person or group to enact their will. Indeed, it is the translation of conscious will into action. Chris Bodenner, filling in at Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, finds both a story and a sharp reply relevant to the topic of Black Agency.

The WSJ examines how U.S. cities such as Atlanta, DC, and San Francisco are reversing historic trends by becoming more white — both because white professionals are gentrifying blighted areas and because black middle-class families are moving to the suburbs. In other words, white flight has given way to “African-American out-migration.”

The story goes on to detail the hand wringing by SF mayor and community leaders. How can they reverse this out-migration of African-Americans? A jazz center? More affordable housing? Chris then links to Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ response:

Part of the reason cities like Atlanta are becoming white is because black folks (like myself) who grew up caged in cities want their taste of the stereotypical American dream and thus are leaving. But there never is any black agency–to be African-American is to be an automaton responding to either white racism or cultural pathology. No way you could actually have free will.


Mainline’s Decline and the Fate of America

July 21, 2008

Peter Leithart notes the implication for moral discourse in America:

In a characteristically fascinating article in the August/September edition of First Things, Jody Bottum argues that, given the informal Protestant establishment that has existed since America’s founding, “the death of the Mainline is the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other period in American history. Almost every one of our current political and cultural oddities, our contradictions and obscurities, derives from this fact: the Mainline has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding.” The collapse of Protestant America makes it very difficult for Americans to combine patriotism with profound criticism, with the result that “any attempt to speak in the old-fashioned voice of moral criticism turns sour and bitter – segueing into anti-Americanism, regardless of its intentions.”

Bottum poses, more sharply and profoundly than any one else has, the question of whether America can survive the loss of this “leg” of the three-legged stool of democracy, capitalism, and religion.

I hadn’t considered this element. Kudos again to First Things, which continues to surprise and challenge me with the depth of thinking. The religious conservative is much richer than anyone not participating in it can appreciate.