The Arbitrariness of the Blog

March 5th, 2005  |  Published in Uncategorized

To paraphrase something Joseph Epstein once said about art, "good blogs refer only to other blogs." In that spirit, I offer my favorite blogs, with snarky comments and pithy summaries.

Talking Points Memo
Josh Marshall started out as a journalist, and he still actually does some journalism--you know, finding new information, rather than information somebody else already found. These days, he's pretty well obsessed with stopping Bush's Social Security phase-out scheme. But that's a fine obsession to have, and somebody's got to have it.

Max Sawicky is an economist at a lefty think-tank, the Economic Policy Institute. He's also an idiosyncratic lefty populist, and a pleasure to read. Most prominent liberal bloggers are centrist democrats like Josh Marshall and Brad Delong, but Max is decidedly to the left of them, even if he's not identifiably a socialist. I particularly appreciate Max's outspoken anti-imperialism, which comes more from the tradition of Mark Twain than that of VI Lenin.

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal
Brad DeLong is an economist at UC Berkeley. He's liberal only by comparison to the lunacy that passes for modern conservatism in this country--his fealty to the dogmas of neo-classical economics is absolute, and his incessant red-baiting is tiresome to no end. But he's good at the blog thing, at least when he's not bragging about how smart his teenage son is, and he's good at exposing the hypocrisy and outright mendacity of the right's house intellectuals. He generally gives the impression of being a super-intelligent, somewhat arrogant, thoroughly dorky teenager.

Informed Comment
Juan Cole, University of Michigan professor and middle east expert, mostly comments on events in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world. He's both a lefty and someone who actually knows something about Islamic history and culture, which makes him the bane of the jinogist blogosphere's existence.
I feel like I have to read at least one conservative blog regularly, lest I completely lose touch with the reality of American politics. I started reading Drezner mostly because I took a course on foreign policy from him while I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. He's a readable conservative, mostly free of the goonish machismo that characterizes a lot of the big right-wing blogs (Glenn Reynolds, Powerline, Little Green Footballs, etc.) His politics definitely tend toward the libertarian, so his thought tends to converge with that of pro-capitalist liberals like Brad DeLong.

The Washington Monthly
Kevin Drum started out with his personal site, Calpundit, before getting hired to write a blog for the Monthly, a wonky political magazine that covers the D.C. scene. He's basically a smart, middle-of-the-road liberal--nothing special, but his site is good for keeping track of what's going on in blog-land and in the real world.

Crooked Timber
CT is a bit different from the blogs above. For one thing, it's a group blog, and so it's inherently richer and more varied. It's also a very academic blog, not just because the contributors are mostly academics (most of the bloggers above are professors too), but because they're as likely to talk about Rawls or Derrida as they are to bash Bush's latest press conference. The politics of CT is still in the liberal-to-soft-left spectrum as academic politics go, stopping just to the right of the New Left Review. But it's a good read when you're starved for intellectual depth.

Scott McLemee
Scott is one-of-kind--a popular journalist who exclusively covers abstruse debates among academics. He writes a column for the new Chronicle of Higher Ed competitor Inside Higher Education, so he blogs less than he used to. But he's the source for the latest academic gossip. Plus, he shares one of my guilty obessessions, the history of the sectarian far-left--one of his first published writings was about the Marxist-Leninist Party, USA.

General Glut's Globblog
This is the blog of an economist, writing pseudonymously. He's one of those odd characters who seems like a radical leftist because he's so out of step with current intellectual fashions. Really, though, he's just some kind of Keynesian. But he writes often about the US current account deficit and the international monetary order, which is something I'm slightly obsessed with.

Stan Goff: Feral Scholar
Ah, now we get to the hard stuff. Stan's as hard as you get: hard-core Marxist-Feminist, and hard-ass former Special Forces officer. Stan's a great writer, but he hasn't really mastered the blog form, yet--his posts tend to be long-winded discourses on imperialism, thermodynamics, and other pet obsessions, and they lack the pithiness required of blogging. The comments sections are where the real action is, for the time being. Stan actively engages with his interlocutors, and he attracts characters you don't see much on lefty sites--in particular, former military people who are willing to have open, tough-minded arguments with leftists.

After reading all of these blogs, you should be able to figure out exactly who I am: the difference between all these other blogs.

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