[ a fully caused & embodied blog ] [ Good Sense Without God ]
It is in the prosecution of some single object, and in striving to reach its accomplishment by the combined application of his moral and physical energies, that the true happiness of man, in his full vigour and development, consists. Possession, it is true, crowns exertion with repose; but it is only in the illusions of fancy that it has power to charm our eyes. If we consider the position of man in the universe,—if we remember the constant tendency of his energies towards some definite activity, and recognize the influence of surrounding nature, which is ever provoking him to exertion, we shall be ready to acknowledge that repose and possession do not indeed exist but in imagination. - Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1854 ed.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

U.S. Interventions Around the World since WWII

Here are some lists detailing our involvement either militarily or covert into the affairs of other nations:
  1. List 1
  2. List 2
  3. List 3
  4. List 4
From one of the lists, post-WWII to the beginning of Vietnam:
1946 Iran Troops deployed in northern province.
1946-1949 China Major US army presence of about 100,000 troops, fighting, training and advising local combatants.
1947-1949 Greece US forces wage a 3-year counterinsurgency campaign.
1948 Italy Heavy CIA involvement in national elections.
1948-1954 Philippines Commando operations, "secret" CIA war.
1950-1953 Korea Major forces engaged in war in Korean peninsula.
1953 Iran CIA overthrows government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.
1954 Vietnam Financial and materiel support for colonial French military operations, leads eventually to direct US military involvement.
1954 Guatemala CIA overthrows the government of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
1958 Lebanon US marines and army units totaling 14,000 land.
1958 Panama Clashes between US forces in Canal Zone and local citizens.
1959 Haiti Marines land.
1960 Congo CIA-backed overthrow and assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
1960-1964 Vietnam Gradual introduction of military advisors and special forces.

Obama on Iraq & Afghanistan

Assuming you believe that both the Democrats and Republicans are cut from the same hegemonic cloth then Obama should be no different.

So, what does he say w/r/t to Iraq and Afghanistan for instance? Here are the paragraphs from his speech in which the word Afghanistan appear:
. . .

We could have deployed the full force of American power to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all of the terrorists responsible for 9/11, while supporting real security in Afghanistan.

. . .

In the 18 months since the surge began, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. June was our highest casualty month of the war. The Taliban has been on the offensive, even launching a brazen attack on one of our bases. Al Qaeda has a growing sanctuary in Pakistan. That is a consequence of our current strategy.

. . .

That's why I strongly stand by my plan to end this war. Now, Prime Minister Maliki's call for a timetable for the removal of U.S. forces presents a real opportunity. It comes at a time when the American general in charge of training Iraq's Security Forces has testified that Iraq's Army and Police will be ready to assume responsibility for Iraq's security in 2009. Now is the time for a responsible redeployment of our combat troops that pushes Iraq's leaders toward a political solution, rebuilds our military, and refocuses on Afghanistan and our broader security interests.

. . .

In fact - as should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain - the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was. That's why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is unacceptable that almost seven years after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on our soil, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahari are recording messages to their followers and plotting more terror. The Taliban controls parts of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan that is probably no farther from their old Afghan sanctuary than a train ride from Washington to Philadelphia. If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan.

Senator McCain said - just months ago - that "Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq." I could not disagree more. Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That's what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that's why, as President, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.

I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions - with fewer restrictions - from NATO allies. I will focus on training Afghan security forces and supporting an Afghan judiciary, with more resources and incentives for American officers who perform these missions. Just as we succeeded in the Cold War by supporting allies who could sustain their own security, we must realize that the 21st century's frontlines are not only on the field of battle - they are found in the training exercise near Kabul, in the police station in Kandahar, and in the rule of law in Herat.

Moreover, lasting security will only come if we heed Marshall's lesson, and help Afghans grow their economy from the bottom up. That's why I've proposed an additional $1 billion in non-military assistance each year, with meaningful safeguards to prevent corruption and to make sure investments are made - not just in Kabul - but out in Afghanistan's provinces. As a part of this program, we'll invest in alternative livelihoods to poppy-growing for Afghan farmers, just as we crack down on heroin trafficking. We cannot lose Afghanistan to a future of narco-terrorism. The Afghan people must know that our commitment to their future is enduring, because the security of Afghanistan and the United States is shared.

The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.

Make no mistake: we can't succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It's time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people. That's why I'm cosponsoring a bill with Joe Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to the Pakistani people and to sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda. We must move beyond a purely military alliance built on convenience, or face mounting popular opposition in a nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror and radical Islam.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Little M.I.A. Goodness

Paper Planes


See! SEE! He's gonna end the war!

I am a little late on this Obama piece:
The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

. . .

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

The corrective:
Obama's candidacy is over; kaput. He's already stated that he has no intention of stopping the war, so he has disqualified himself. That's his prerogative; no one put a gun to his head. His op-ed in Monday's New York Times just removes any lingering doubt about the matter. What Obama proposes is moving the central theater of operation from Iraq to Afghanistan. Big deal. Why is it more acceptable to kill a man who is fighting for his country in Afghanistan than in Iraq?

It's not; which is why Obama must be defeated and the equivocating Democratic Party must be jettisoned altogether. The Democrats are a party of blood just like the Republicans, they're just more discreet about it. That's why people who are serious about ending the war have to support candidates outside the two-party charade. The Democrat/Republican duopoly will not deliver the goods; it's as simple as that. The point is to stop the killing, not to provide blind support for smooth-talking politicos who try to mask their real intentions. Obama made his choice, now he can suffer the consequences.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

After a Review We Should Know Too

So, if there is something to learn from History, what about w/r/t to Barack Obama and his candidacy? Assuming you are reading my blog on any semi-regular basis, I am not voting for him but for Cynthia McKinney.

Arthur Silber recently wrote a post that riled some people by suggesting a parallel between Obama's campaign and Hitler's appeal. He suggested that they were similar:
With regard to Obama in particular, what I have been getting at are very broad cultural and political dynamics, general patterns that repeat throughout history, assuming one studies and understands history. So, no, Obama is not a Hitler duplicate, but, to a readily noticeable and troubling extent, he is someone riding a similar kind of cultural wave and response, and he may well use an already existing authoritarian-surveillance state that repeatedly engages in aggressive war to wreak great destruction both at home and abroad. The unthinking, unquestioning idolatry heaped on Obama by many of his followers only increases the danger; as I have stated, this additional factor is a very significant one to me.
This is one of the reasons I am not voting for Obama. The idolatry is sickening.

But of equal interest to me was Arthur's quoting from this book:
"You are an American," he said again, smiling. "I will explain. There I was, in 1935, a perfect example of the kind of person who, with all his advantages in birth, in education, and in position, rules (or might easily rule) in any country. If I had refused to take the oath in 1935, it would have meant that thousands and thousands like me, all over Germany, were refusing to take it. Their refusal would have heartened millions. Thus the regime would have been overthrown, or, indeed, would never have come to power in the first place. The fact that I was not prepared to resist, in 1935, meant that all the thousands, hundreds of thousands, like me in Germany were also unprepared, and each one of these hundreds of thousands was, like me, a man of great influence or of great potential influence. Thus the world was lost."

"You are serious?" I said.

"Completely," he said. "These hundred lives I saved--or a thousand or ten as you will--what do they represent? A little something out of the whole terrible evil, when, if my faith had been strong enough in 1935, I could have prevented the whole evil."
The book is a collection of interviews with "average" Germans relatively soon after WWII. I have yet to read it (though it is on its way), it shows how simply and stealthily the evil came:
One day, when we had become very friendly, I [the author] said to him [one of the Germans he interviews for the book], "Tell me now--how was the world lost?"

"That," he said, "is easy to tell, much easier than you may suppose. The world was lost one day in 1935, here in Germany. It was I who lost it, and I will tell you how.

"I was employed in a defense plant (a war plant, of course, but they were always called defense plants). That was the year of the National Defense Law, the law of 'total conscription.' Under the law I was required to take the oath of fidelity. I said I would not; I opposed it in conscience. I was given twenty-four hours to 'think it over.' In those twenty-four hours I lost the world."
And that is the point. This is why you can judge those in the past:
If you can know better, you should.
This is why you must open your eyes in the now:
You must act immediately to "prevent[] the whole evil".

They Could Have Known Better, Therefore They Should Have

It is always difficult when we review History and make moral/ethical judgments of famous figures of the past. How are we to assign blame or praise? Should we even attempt to do so?

In order to live a "better" -- a more reflective and intentional -- life, it is useful to review History. Only in this case, I believe, can we legitimately make judgments of the past.

One area recently brought to my attention is the opinions of Thomas Jefferson w/r/t to African Americans and slavery.

Jefferson, by pretty much any standard, was enlightened during his day:
Nobody wishes more ardently to see an abolition, not only of the trade, but of the condition of slavery; and certainly, nobody will be more willing to encounter every sacrifice for that object.
Thomas Jefferson to Brissot de Warville, 1788. ME 6:428

But of course he might have been better:
To these objections, which are political, may be added others, which are physical and moral. ... The circumstance of Superior beauty, is thought worthy attention in the propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in that of man?
Madison was pretty much in agreement:
It is due to justice; due to humanity; due to truth; due to the sympathies of our nature; in fine, to our character as a people, both abroad and at home, that they should be considered, as much as possible, in the light of human beings, and not as mere property. As such, they are acted on by our laws, and have an interest in our laws. They may be considered as making a part, though a degraded part, of the families to which they belong.
James Madison, Speech in the Virginia State Convention of 1829-30, on the Question of the Ratio of Representation in the two Branches of the Legislature, December 2, 1829.

And Washington:
... there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see some plan adopted for the[ir] abolition ...
But, there was one man who was on the modern side of this morality (and on most other topics):
As these people are not convicted of forfeiting freedom, they have still a natural, perfect right to it; and the governments whenever they come should, in justice set them free, and punish those who hold them in slavery.
The best that can be said for the Founding Fathers is that they were being practical in this regard:
I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy reproach in any practicable way.
Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, 1820. ME 15:249

But as the new subtitle of this blog states:
Everything revolutionary is impractical

Carnivals are fun!

Always a good idea to go to a carnival once in a while.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reinhard: Not sure who "they" are...

David Reinhard writes about The New Yorker's cover. Here is the letter I wrote:
David Reinhard is unsure who are the "Obama critics [that] traffic in this Muslim Manchurian candidate nonsense" in his commentary on July 17th, 2008 regarding the New Yorker magazine's caricature cover of Barack and Michelle Obama. Plainly Reinhard missed that Daily Show episode: It's you! The media! Jon replays a number of idiotic clips from the media essentially gossiping about Barack. Reinhard should review it.
Quentin Crain

Jon's commentary:

Required Reading

Today's (and maybe yesterday's and tomorrow's required reading):

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Extreme Continuation

But, wait!
You are comparing the killing of innocent people based on some sort of utilitarian calculus with some sort of "punishment" for just thinking discriminating thoughts?!! You are not suggesting that that punishment be being put to death for just a thought are you? I mean while your post was extreme, that would just be ridiculous.

No one is suggesting the death penalty for just bad thoughts!
Right, just the three main monotheistic religions on the planet:
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

(Update: Slightly edited for clarity.)

If not Obama, then who?


Nah, looks like the Greens nominated Cynthia McKinney:

Oh, if it could be true: that the values of the Green Party were reflected in the Federal Government’s public policy. Let me wake up and snap out of my reverie. Yes, today’s reality is harsh. Abu Ghraib, torture, rendition, lying, spying, war, stolen elections, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, New Orleans, poverty, racial profiling, Sean Bell, the San Francisco 8, Benton Harbor’s Reverend Pinkney, the Holy Land Foundation, 9/11/01.

Embargo, blockade, friendly fire, depleted uranium, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, bunker busters, shock and awe.

Predatory lending, mortgage crisis, foreclosures, a country $53 trillion in debt. And while Bear Stearns gets a bailout, you and I sink or swim.

Harsh? Today’s reality is harsh. But what’s even harder for many to accept and admit is that our quality of life today is the making of the Democratic and Republican Parties.

What our country has become through their public policy is reflective of their values.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

To the Extreme

It is beyond me how any morality is not based on human consequences but instead on some "objective" right and wrong:
Note also that discrimination is wrong when it demeans whether or not the person affected feels demeaned or stigmatized. In other words, this account of wrongful discrimination is grounded in the wrong that discrimination sometimes is rather than the harm that it may cause. (my emphasis)
So, given that there need not be any negative consequences to any person, even just thinking a discriminating thought is wrong!? Now presumably discrimination is punishable. This means that if you could read people's minds you could/would be able to punish them for their bad thoughts of discrimination.

The problem is not necessarily how silly this is. This is taking to the extreme this type of philosophy (deontology). The problem is the only real objection to consequentialism is of this type.

Generally, objections to consequentialism are framed so as to violate a person's intuitions: Kill an innocent person, take her organs to save 5? How horrible!!

But think about it!! In the extreme which morality far and away violates intuition? So compare for yourself:
  1. Kill innocents to save even more innocents; VS
  2. Punish people for their thoughts.
Seems pretty obvious to me: Even in the extreme, consequentialism is far better.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama: Never really a "liberal"

It seems there are a number of people who do not really believe that Obama is "liberal" or "progressive" but simply that he is more amenable to being influenced so:
  • Digby: The question for all progressives remains what it always has been, in my view, from before and during the primary season and beyond. To the extent the American two party system allows, assuming we can get the most liberal politician available elected to the white house, what do we plan to do to make him actually govern progressively?
  • Hayden: I first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues. The excitement among African-Americans and young people, the audacity of their hope, still holds the promise of a new era of social activism. The force of their rising expectations, I believe, could pressure a President Obama in a progressive direction and also energize a new wave of social movements.
  • Davidson: But the critical one is would you rather mobilize people to end this horrible war against an Obama White House or a McCain White House? We'll have to do one or the other, but its a no-brainer for me.
The argument then goes that positive change is more likely to be effected towards these goals than if McCain is in power. Ok, I guess I get it.

But, I thought Obama was "progressive" or a "change" to the current establishment. And by establishment I do not mean Bush but Washington (Digby again):
The rationale for his campaign is almost entirely based on the message of change...
But here is Lessig pointing out how much of an idiot I was for thinking so:
You can't read Obama's books, watch how he behaved in the Illinois Senate, and watched how he voted in the US Senate, and believe he is a Bernie Sanders liberal.
If this is so, I am less inclined to want to vote for him as I do not believe he will be that influence-able by me or "progressives" once in power. Too much Silber I guess:
As is true of Democrats generally, they both support an authoritarian-corporatist state at home and aggressive interventionism abroad.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

ZNet on Obama

Here are a number of articles on Obama -- to help push to you to NOT vote for him:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More on FISA and Obama

Pretty much cinches it for me:
Audio debate between Clinton administration official and Glenn:

Rachel Maddow hosting MSNBC's Countdown:

Given this, his chicken-shit behavior w/r/t to Rev. Wright, his craven position to the Israel lobby, and his blustering towards Iran, I will definitely not be voting for him.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sure, but so what?

Sure, it might be the case that the "average" voter is dissimilar to the "average" American, but so what? Maybe all those who do not vote because, well, you know they just do not want to. Not biggie. Sure, half the population is not represented but that is their choice.

Except, that is not the case either:

First, for those people who are not registered to vote 50% are so because politics is "uninteresting" or their "vote would not make a difference":

And of those, the greater the level of education the less likely to be unregistered:

Second, for those people who are registered but did not vote 20% did so because they were "uninterested" or "did not like the candidates":

And of those, the greater the level of education the less likely to not vote:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Obama and How to Lie

Glenn sums up Obama's "misleading" or "lying" statements.

I can understand why you might vote for him, but this is indefensible. At least be honest and call it politics.

But what is wrong with Obama said w/r/t the newest FISA bill?

At least one of you is wondering what is wrong with Obama's comments regarding the FISA bill before Congress.

First, a useful corrective is to find out what Russ Feingold says.

Here is the summary of what Obama said in his press conference (see the Youtube embed in first link above):

  1. The bill has changed.

    First comes the deflection requiring a shit-load of research to verify.

  2. I think the security threats are similar.

    Translation: We are still in grave danger. Meaning he is perpetuating the myth that we are 20sec away from total annihilation at every moment.

  3. Mmm .. my view on FISA has always been that .. uhm .. the issue of the phone companies per se .. uh .. is not one that override the security interest of the American people.

    As Arthur says: Shithead! This is the most blatant lie or dodge or whatever you want to call it! We are not talking about the issue of the phone companies but our fundamental Fourth Amendment rights! He is dodging the issue by obfuscating the language. If he were to say outright: "The threat is such that we need to capture your phone calls and emails. The problem was that Bush did this illegally. I think we just need to do it legally, which this bill does and the other did not." he would end his career.

Again, you need to be reading Glenn on this topic.

Glenn continues his streak with another Obama posting

Again, for those of you unable to understand why Obama's position on the current FISA bill was the last straw and prompted me to decide not to vote for him must read Glenn. And no, you need to read it all.

And no talking-points or sound-bites to help you out. You can not complain about the level of discourse and then not read "long" blog posts.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

And there is more...

If you recall, the "average" voter is whiter than the "average" American:

And it turns out that the "average" voter is more educated than the "average" American:

And the "average" voter is more wealthy than the "average" American:

It would seem that the "average" voter has little in common with the "average" American.

Wait ... maybe the "average" voter is an "average" American?

Hold on! Maybe it is true that not everyone votes, but how do you know that those that do vote are not "average"?

Well, to answer that we simply review the breakdown of voters.

First, in this post, by race. If "average" Americans are voting then it should be the case that voting percentages among the racial categories are similar to the overall voting rate (recall: 58%) and to each other.

Except they are not:

So, of the 58% of the population that voted:
  • 66% of the white population voted;
  • 56% of the black population voted;
  • 30% of the asian population voted;
  • 28% of the hispanic population voted.
Therefore, the "average" voter is more white than the "average" American.

More on Obama and his "Change"

Either Obama is playing politics which is explicitly against his campaign theme of "Change" or he believes what he is saying and is just like all politicians. Which is it?

Here is Obama on FISA and immunity:

Wesley Clark defends himself:

Glenn continues to document why I will not vote for Obama

Here is Glenn Greenwald again:

The choices Obama makes about how he campaigns and the positions he takes are extremely consequential in how political issues in this country are perceived. In the last two weeks alone, Obama has done the following:

*intervened in a Democratic Congressional primary to support one of the worst Bush-enabling Blue Dogs over a credible, progressive challenger;

* announced his support for Bush's FISA bill, reversing himself completely on this issue;

* sided with the Scalia/Thomas faction in two highly charged Supreme Court decisions;

* repudiated Wesley Clark and embraced the patently false media narrative that Clark had "dishonored McCain's service" (and for the best commentary I've seen, by far, on the Clark matter, see this appropriately indignant piece by Iraq veteran Brandon Friedman);

* condemned MoveOn.org for its newspaper advertisement criticizing Gen. Petraeus;

* defended his own patriotism by impugning the patriotism of others, specifically those in what he described as the "the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties" for "attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself" and -- echoing Jeanne Kirkpatrick's 1984 RNC speech -- "blaming America for all that was wrong with the world";

* unveiled plans "to expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and -- in a move sure to cause controversy . . . letting religious charities that receive federal funding consider religion in employment decisions," a move that could "invite a storm of protest from those who view such faith requirements as discrimination" -- something not even the Bush faith programs allowed.