In the spirit of hip-hop, and of the season, I’ve sampled three great poets (Dickinson, Shakespeare, Newton**) to offer a Christmas prayer that might get us through this fearful eve. Merry Xmas, y’all, and come January, a good flight. James Livingston Every man was blind: The truth had dazzled them–suddenly, The eyes around had wrung them dry, Their tears had drowned the wind. But now these sightless couriers of the air Have roused themselves–foolishly: Their faith belies this reality, Once blind, but now they see. **”Tell All the Truth,” “Macbeth,” Act I, scene vii, “Amazing...Read More
Author: James Livingston
Why Were We in Afghanistan? (Don’t Demonize the Military): A Conversation Between John McClure and James Livingston
I’ve been arguing with my fellow editor, former colleague at Rutgers, and old friend John McClure for years about—well, about every goddamn thing. Recently we’ve been wondering about what happened in Afghanistan, reading accounts and analyses, polling friends and neighbors, testing our ideas against the ideological realities that surround and sustain us, which is the air we breathe, and I don’t mean that as a metaphor. We stay alive only insofar as we can believe in something. Call it faith, call it common sense, call it the will to believe, you can’t do without it. Here is our email...Read More
Wet floor in the kitchen, WTF? You didn’t spill anything, and you sure as hell didn’t wash the dishes–that’s what the machine s for! This gets you thinking and then laughing to the point of coughing because you’ve been writing up a list for the grocery store, on which you have inscribed shallots, onions, and leeks, three variations on a savory theme. What would a slow leek mean, what would it do, what would it look like? Only the tortoise and the hare would...Read More
A Universal Basic Income is in the news these days, mainly because the child tax credit in Biden’s recovery bill looks like a permanent feature of fiscal policy. Who will try to strip this subsidy to marriage and family from any future budget? Not even a truly demented Republican, of which there are now many, would think of it. So we asked our colleague James Livingston, who’s been thinking and writing about the issue for a decade, to address it. He responded with a talk he gave at the University of Chicago and elsewhere in 2017-2018, called “Now What,...Read More
It’s March, when the Second Iraq War started 18 years ago. On this sorry occasion, we offer you a song that might illustrate some of the social forces that led to this little magazine of ours. It’s my rewrite of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” Click and listen when you want. The backstory of these additional and replacement lyrics follows the song. http://politicsslashletters.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Watchtower-mix-2-Output-BUS-1.mp3 I started blogging in 2002, in a desperate attempt to persuade my fellow citizens that Bush (the Joker), Cheney (the Thief), and Rumsfeld (the Fool) were being less than honest, shall we say, in claiming that Saddam Hussein had a role n 9/11, and by insisting that an American-led invasion was justified—you remember, WMD and all that. The first sustained piece I wrote for the original blog was “Atlanta to Baghdad,” November 2004, about getting stuck in an airport bar with dozens of seething veterans happily or stupidly or unluckily on their way back to Hell. Here’s the link, thanks to Bruce Robbins, who somehow recovered it from decrepit cyberspace. http://politicsandletters.blogspot.com/2004/11/atlanta-to-baghdad.html Four years later, my marriage was falling apart, and so I was writing folky songs about love lost alongside earnest blog posts about the war’s emotional costs—the desolation and consolation I found in both these venues helped me to accept my lonesome fate, and to compose plainer, simpler sentences about imminent catastrophe, both personal...Read More
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