SPOTLIGHT

  • The Unpardonable President

    By: Dennis Rohatyn Can a President pardon himself?  No way. Then why is there even an issue? What’s all the fuss about? I devoted an entire essay to that topic; now I must add an appendix, which I hope will not be vestigial. The paradox of self-pardon would be swiftly resolved, but for the failure of nerve which paralyzes the nation. I will explain it once more, then discuss why this is impermissible.  It is the one “selfie” that no bona-fide ruler may take, yet there is a strong possibility that Donald Trump may do it, nonetheless.  If he does, he must do it soon.   If we let him, we will be signing democracy’s death warrant, as well as our own, regardless of what happens to Trump after he leaves office, or how long he survives, both biologically and politically, between now and the next election, the next revolution, or the Reichstag fire next time. The principle that is at stake is straightforward. So is the deductive reasoning that underlies it. If no one is above the law, then a President cannot pardon himself, since that would beg the question. Conversely, if a President can pardon himself, then he or she

  • An Incautious Defense of Optimism

    By: Dan Corjescu (Optimistically dedicated to Steven Pinker) In a world suffering from a global pandemic, it would be both easy and understandable to be morosely pessimistic. Yet, even here, amidst frantic calls of doom, there are some good reasons for optimism. After a mere ten months, the world has been able to produce at least three vaccines capable of effectively combating Covid-19. This is unprecedented and reveals the highly positive side of our current world order. A world order rich enough, smart enough, and organized enough to save it itself and learn from its errors when its collective will is called upon. Indeed, despite the constant media drumbeat of gloom, despair, and confusion, there is much to be optimistic about. In the last fifty years, living standards, on average, have risen around the globe, infant mortality is down, life spans are longer, extreme poverty is in retreat, minorities and women are more respected and secure, and the great powers have remained at peace. If you don't believe that all this good news (and much, much more) is true, I recommend that you read four "optimistic" books explaining in detail why there is much to be thankful about: Robert Wright's

  • The Hidden Success of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

    For the first time in international law, a credible investigation into a terrorist assassination has been followed by a credible trial proceeding. With its judgment, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s (STL) became first ever international proceeding to prosecute a terrorist crime (the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005). Although largely overlooked in the wake of the deadly Beirut port explosion, food shortages, anti-government protests, and pandemic, this is a milestone in Lebanese and judicial history.

  • Systems of Culture: Redefining the Current Debate

    By Glen Paul Hammond “The very idea that cultural practices belong to racial groups misunderstands both race and culture.” —Richard Thompson Ford What is systemic racism? Are the examples of it given by Critical Social Justice theorists really nefarious and oppressive tools employed by one race to dominate another? Is there perhaps a different, more accurate way to both understand and, so, articulate some of these items? If there is, will a better understanding of what makes multicultural societies diverse allow us to utilize these differences in a way that decreases division and increases social capital? In order to answer such questions, it is necessary to see that cultures, like families, have systems and these systems have basic requirements or requisites that allow them to function. Cultures are not necessarily specific to races but, as their systems evolve over time, they are often associated with a particular geographical space that has been peopled by a particular ethnic group over generations. One of the unique challenges of a multicultural society, then, is a clashing of systems. In the multicultural nations of the West, this clash is being presented as a struggle between races. In many instances, however, what is being racialized

  • Ragnarök in the Norse Myths and the Power of Dystopic Fatalism

    The Norse myths are singular among mythic narratives for a fascinating reason: the gods lose. They do not just lose a treasure, nor just a battle. They lose everything. Fatalism, the idea that the future has already happened in the sense that it is fixed, feels primitive to the modern mind. Dystopic Fatalism, the belief everything we have known and have experienced will one day be annihilated in a disaster of apocalyptic proportions, seems even more distasteful. And yet, it may be the only thing left with any hope of saving us from ourselves.

  • Recognition by the Father: Montreal’s Favorite Son Leonard Cohen and an Ancient Story of Homecoming

    The themes of homecoming and the father-son relationship have received a lot of literary attention recently. Marilynne Robinson just published Jack, the fourth novel in her Gilead series, about the Ames and Boughton families’ complicated stories of homecoming, fatherhood, and sonhood in an American small town beset by racial and religious tension. The tensions between fathers and sons, and the son’s struggle with finding his way back home are timeless and cross-cultural, and trigger some of the deepest issues we have with identity and belonging. Look to any cultural literary tradition, whether of the West, the East, or the Middle East, and you will find tales of fathers, and those sons who attempt to find their way back into their recognition. Songs by the Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, who died four years ago at the age of 82, suggest that he grappled with the father-son relationship, and with the emotional desire for home and homecoming. Cohen might not at first seem to have much in common with an ancient Greek figure, but a comparison yields rich and provocative similarities between Cohen and Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s poem of homecoming, the Odyssey. Odysseus, a fictional warrior with talents, like Cohen, as a language-artist, is better-known for his homecoming as a husband, but he ultimately returns to his broken father as the honored and beloved son. Homer’s and Cohen’s poetry have some surprising parallels on this theme. The fictional character of Homer’s ancient epic and the real-life contemporary poet and musician speak to each other across time and space.

THEORY

The Ecstatic Agony of Jeffrey Toobin

By |November 13th, 2020|0 Comments

Mr. Toobin is a celebrity.  Therefore, he has no right (as it were) to lower himself to our level or at least not in such a way that we are made aware of it. Discretion is the better part of ardor, especially for those in the public eye. Since those who wield power (control over other people’s destinies) belong to the priestly caste of society, they must relinquish the life of the peasant in exchange for their rank as sanctified members of the hierarchy. The peasant is no better than an animal; the priest must not descend to the level of the peasant, or be witnessed doing so, lest the peasantry become disillusioned, and begin to question their lack of status, let alone, rebel against priestly authority. That violates the tacit social contract (or unstated Freudian bargain) that we make with our living symbols of supernal grace.

Recognition by the Father: Montreal’s Favorite Son Leonard Cohen and an Ancient Story of Homecoming

By |October 31st, 2020|0 Comments

The themes of homecoming and the father-son relationship have received a lot of literary attention recently. Marilynne Robinson just published Jack, the fourth novel in her Gilead series, about the Ames and Boughton families’ complicated stories of homecoming, fatherhood, and sonhood in an American small town beset by racial and religious tension. The tensions between fathers and sons, and the son’s struggle with finding his way back home are timeless and cross-cultural, and trigger some of the deepest issues we have with identity and belonging. Look to any cultural literary tradition, whether of the West, the East, or the Middle East, and you will find tales of fathers, and those sons who attempt to find their way back into their recognition. Songs by the Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, who died four years ago at the age of 82, suggest that he grappled with the father-son relationship, and with the emotional desire for home and homecoming. Cohen might not at first seem to have much in common with an ancient Greek figure, but a comparison yields rich and provocative similarities between Cohen and Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s poem of homecoming, the Odyssey. Odysseus, a fictional warrior with talents, like Cohen, as a language-artist, is better-known for his homecoming as a husband, but he ultimately returns to his broken father as the honored and beloved son. Homer’s and Cohen’s poetry have some surprising parallels on this theme. The fictional character of Homer’s ancient epic and the real-life contemporary poet and musician speak to each other across time and space.

The Unmasked Question: Behind the Veil of Misery

By |October 23rd, 2020|0 Comments

No veil of ignorance shields us from the worst, or blinds us to the fate we have in store. Only philosophers think that they can escape from it by erecting a priori theories and creating hypothetical cases, as if we could start from scratch and be given a second chance. Life is what it is—uncompromising and unredeemable. That is what people know in their bones. They don’t need a theory, be it original sin or the myth of meritocracy, to figure that out, or to understand that wearing a mask does not protect you from poverty, iniquity, or disgrace—or from being stomped on by the police, every day, or from being gang-raped, or from being homeless, or from being poor, naked, unaccommodated fool, thrust out upon the heath, in the cold, with no crown except the concussion from playing football or being beaten with a lead pipe by an ex-spouse, or being unnatural heir to a thousand shocks, both large and small, as you eke out a meager existence amid a thousand points of blight, with no end in sight, except the one we all dread, but are powerless to prevent.

Load More Posts

PRACTICE

Why I Signed the “Dump Trump, then Battle Biden” Open Letter

By |October 23rd, 2020|1 Comment

I surprised myself, because the position of advocating a lesser-evil vote – not for myself in Massachusetts, but for those in “battleground” states – is one that I would not ordinarily take. But this is not an ordinary moment, and the allowance for this kind of exception finds strong precedents, including in the strategic thinking of Marx.

Load More Posts

JUSTICE

Social Contract Theory

By |February 1st, 2019|0 Comments

When you make an agreement of some significance (e.g., to rent an apartment, or join a gym, or divorce), you typically agree to certain terms: you sign a contract. This is for your benefit, and for the the other party’s benefit: everyone’s expectations are clear, as are the consequences of failing to meet those expectations.

Load More Posts

ARTS & LETTERS

Collectivism & Consensus in a Post Covid-19 World

By |July 10th, 2020|0 Comments

Death is a great leveler and, a virus that strikes at individuals indiscriminately, a potent reminder of just how precarious life can be and why, much like the pioneers, it might be in humankind’s best interest to re-invest in a philosophy that acknowledges man’s ability to understand the real world around him. Ayn Rand’s maxim that “nature to be commanded, must be obeyed” seems particularly appropriate (9). The question is, do we have the courage and the humility to subject ourselves to the laws of nature and identity?

Load More Posts