Saturday, August 05, 2006

politics on my daily commute

At the corner of Warren and Hanshaw in Ithaca, Robert Rich posts signs on the fence outside his house. Many of them pose questions: “Can a secretive government be an honest one?” “Is ‘Stay the course’ a plan or a prayer?” “Is it even conceivable that we oppose a ceasefire?” Rich bills himself as The Sine Man, and recently began adding the address of his blog to the signs.

The bus route I take to school each day passes by this intersection. I have seen that the signs have been subjected to various kinds of vandalism. Very occasionally they are broken; more often terse, dogmatic replies are spraypainted over the original messages. I have wanted to take pictures of these vandalised signs, perhaps title the photos “Dialogue”, which of course is very rarely what they evoke.

If you check out Rich’s blog, you’ll see that he also has a link to an opposing viewpoint: The Anti-Sine Man. Both of these websites present their perspectives carefully, and I think they provide fruitful occasions for discussion.

I am not a political person, by which I mean I do not find politics inherently interesting. More often, frankly, I find the behavior of those embroiled in politics appalling. But I have previously acknowledged the importance of politics, when well carried-out, so I provide these links for those who may know better than I how to work to improve the situations under discussion, and for myself so that I may continue to stay aware.

Two more blogs on Middle East politics I’d like to mention. The first is Informed Comment, by Juan Cole. This blog is of particular interest in academe, because Cole is a professor of history and one of the (apparently growing) number of academics who use blogging to have direct influence outside of their own fields, perhaps even a bit of fame in the culture at large. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently (in the July 28 issue) had an article on this general trend and Cole’s case in particular. He was recently turned down for a faculty position at Yale, despite the recommendations of two departments, and speculation ensued as to whether his blog was part of the reason for the rejection. In any case, I have not had time to examine much of his writing, but from a cursory reading the title of the blog seems well-chosen. Lots of references, lots of well-reasoned commentary.

If you prefer more spleen in your political discourse, you may want to check out the satirical Olive Ream. Again, I have not had time to read much of this, but it is a forum for those who would like to use wit to comment on world events. The author also appears well-informed on the relevant news and issues. Don’t expect the same kind of clean language as the other blogs have, if that sort of thing concerns you. I am intrigued by how political humor (e.g., Doonesbury) can treat topics both substantial and trivial in a way that resonates with those “in the know”, educates those who are more ignorant (that’s usually where I fall), and generally amuses both camps.

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