[ 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.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Required Reading

  • Dean Baker on the gall of the Washington Post
    Yes, I'm talking about the Washington Post, which had the gall today to run a column by Jim Hoagland complaining about how "we" are passing on a bad world to our children. The "we" in the column is meant to refer to the generations currently in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, who he claims are leaving huge problems to our children.

    . . .

    The reality is that the Washington Post and the elite clique for which it is a mouth piece have badly failed us and our children. The housing bubble was easily recognizable. The economic disaster that we are now facing could have been easily avoided if the Washington Post and its elite friends (e.g. Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Henry Paulson) were not too incompetent or corrupt to see the evidence of problems everywhere. Needless to say, those of us who did try to issue warnings were ignored by this elite crew.

  • Louder than Bombs: Andrew Exum considers the paradox of deterrence.
    All signs point toward another war – just as disastrous as the last one. For despite Hizbollah’s claims of victory, there was no winner in 2006. Hizbollah’s followers in the south were punished to a degree that exceeded previous Israeli bombing campaigns in 1993 and 1996; one million Lebanese were driven out of the country or internally displaced; and more than 1000 civilians were killed. One horrific massacre in the Biblical town of Qana left some 30 dead – half of them children – in an echo of a similar slaughter there 10 years earlier. If the war really was a “victory from God” as Hassan Nasrallah claims, then consider me a convert to atheism.

    On the Israeli side, meanwhile, hundreds of thousands were either displaced or driven into shelters, a traumatic experience for a population which thought it had turned a page on Lebanon by withdrawing its occupation forces in 2000. Worse, the vaunted IDF – rightly hailed as the region’s finest military machine – was upstaged by its Lebanese adversaries, even as many of the villages that put up such ferocious resistance were defended in large part not by Hizbollah regulars but by residents who functioned as a kind of “national guard”.

  • Philosophers on God: Boston Review
    The traditional arguments for God’s existence are very much worth our attention, though, for at least three reasons: they are of great intrinsic interest; popular discussions of them often fail to pin down their defects; and one argument, the “design argument,” has had a new lease on life as the intellectual underpinning of the intelligent design movement.

  • Our Excellent Strategy in Afghanistan
    The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

    Four blue pills. Viagra.

    "Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

    The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills.

  • We have no words left: Palestinians are at a loss to describe this latest catastrophe. International civil society must act now
    "I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those chilling words were spoken on al-Jazeera on Saturday by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defence official in the Sderot area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. For days Israeli planes have bombed Gaza. Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed and a thousand injured, the majority civilians, including women and children. Israel claims most of the dead were Hamas "terrorists". In fact, the targets were police stations in dense residential areas, and the dead included many police officers and other civilians. Under international law, police officers are civilians, and targeting them is no less a war crime than aiming at other civilians.

  • Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood
    2. Israel claims that Hamas violated the cease-fire and pulled out of it unilaterally.

    Hamas indeed respected their side of the ceasefire, except on those occasions early on when Israel carried out major offensives in the West Bank. In the last two months, the ceasefire broke down with Israelis killing several Palestinians and resulting in the response of Hamas. In other words, Hamas has not carried out an unprovoked attack throughout the period of the cease-fire.

    Israel, however, did not live up to any of its obligations of ending the siege and allowing vital humanitarian aid to resume in Gaza. Rather than the average of 450 trucks per day being allowed across the border, on the best days, only eighty have been allowed in - with the border remaining hermetically sealed 70% of the time. Throughout the supposed 'cease-fire' Gazans have been forced to live like animals, with a total of 262 dying due to the inaccessibility of proper medical care.

    Now after hundreds dead and counting, it is Israel who refuses to re-enter talks over a cease-fire. They are not intent on securing peace as they claim; it is more and more clear that they are seeking regime change - whatever the cost.

  • Has Global Stag-Deflation Arrived? by Nouriel Roubini
    The latest macroeconomic news from the United States, other advanced economies, and emerging markets confirms that the global economy will face a severe recession in 2009. In the US, recession started in December 2007, and will last at least until December 2009 – the longest and deepest US recession since World War II, with the cumulative fall in GDP possibly exceeding 5%.

    . . .

    With a global recession a near certainty, deflation – rather than inflation – will become the main concern for policymakers. The fall in aggregate demand while potential aggregate supply has been rising because of overinvestment by China and other emerging markets will sharply reduce inflation. Slack labor markets with rising unemployment rates will cap wage and labor costs. Further falls in commodity prices – already down 30% from their summer peak – will add to these deflationary pressures.

    Policymakers will have to worry about a strange beast called “stag-deflation” (a combination of economic stagnation/recession and deflation); about liquidity traps (when official interest rates become so close to zero that traditional monetary policy loses effectiveness); and about debt deflation (the rise in the real value of nominal debts, increasing the risk of bankruptcy for distressed households, firms, financial institutions, and governments).

  • From the Haaretz: The neighborhood bully strikes again By Gideon Levy
    Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!"

    Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama and Rick

Glenn Greenwald provides two links to -- in his opinion -- the two strongest pro/con pieces regarding Obama's choice of Rich Warren to give his inaugural speech:

Pro: Juan Cole says:
What Obama has done in elected office in the past and what he does after the inauguration are the things we should focus on, not a small nod to the evangelical right in the spirit of inclusiveness.
That is the stupidest thing I have heard of. Does he really believe anyone is convinced? Actually, this type of thing is what continues to encourage me in my decision to vote for McKinney: This action by Obama is pure politics. It convinces no one in any real power and allows at best something to point to in the 30sec sound-bite world of TV.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The 56, 5 Book Meme

' thought themselves bound in conscience to the public justice

The Century of Revolution: 1603 - 1714
Christopher Hill

Pass it on:

1. Grab the nearest book.

2. Open it to page 56.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these # instructions.

5. Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

[ h/t: http://devlishgenius.blogspot.com/2008/11/56-5-book-meme.html ]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Required Reading: Writing the posts I wish I could

I assume you all are constantly and consistently reading Silber? No?

Get to it (hope you -- Arthur -- do not mind me fully quoting this one!?)

Can't We All Just Get Along?, or: Kiss, Kiss, Kill, Kill:
I'll have much more on the necessarily unchanging changiness of the soon to be upon us Obama Administration in my new series, "Clinging to the Wreckage" (briefly described in the intro here). With much more to come on this topic, I emphasize that you must always keep in mind Silber's Iron Law:
Any individual who rises to the national political level is, of necessity and by definition, committed to the authoritarian-corporatist state. The current system will not allow anyone to be elected from either of the two major parties who is determined to dismantle even one part of that system.
As I discussed in the earlier piece, there are a few minor exceptions to this law, but they are only that: very minor exceptions, allowed precisely to convince you that you are availing yourself of a meaningful method of opposition. You are being allowed nothing of the kind.

Before I get to my own longer analysis of the issues involved, I want to note a few recent blog posts that I came across in my recent travels attempting to bring myself up to date on blogospheric happenings. I should have added this site to the blogroll some time ago, just for the name alone: Stop Me Before I Vote Again. I have a fantasy of my own along those lines. Too many of you ruined it. I dunno what you people were thinking. Nothing at all, certain testimony would indicate. I suppose a self-induced coma helps. And yet many of you still wonder how horrors happen on this earth. You shouldn't (see the last half of that essay in particular, and apply the lessons as you are able, which for certain people obviously isn't much). And always ask yourself what you are supporting (see here, too).

As is true of more than a few entries there, a recent post at Stop Me Before... offers a certain mordant humor:
My liberal, Obamaphile friends are rapidly losing their sense of humor.

Oddly enough, it was more or less OK for me to be a Grinch before the election. Now, however, it seems to be in very poor taste. I'm getting a lot of sour looks and testy emails, when I chortle about Rahm Emanuel, and Tom Daschle, and Larry Summers, and Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.

My friends fell in love, it seems; and the love-object is, well, dumping them -- dumping them with almost indecent haste.

Oh yeah, sure, it's kinder to dump an ex-lover quickly and briskly, instead of drawing it out. But there's something creepy about a person whose heart is so much under his control that he can act on this undoubtedly sound principle, and never turn a hair.
And this comment to the post is worthy of note, providing more of that gallows amusement that provides so many opportunities for dying laughter ("dying" being the operative word there):
Ever since Bubba's first term, I've gotten an up-close-and-personal look at [how] the Donkeycratic Party treats its "Left", and it's a classic spousal abuse pattern. He beats her and fucks up her head, and tells her shit like how nobody cares and how she's got noplace else to go; she eventually despairs to the point of actually believing him, and just hoping that he'd change, but of course he doesn't and -- as I understand, in many cases -- eventually beats her to death some night.

This first hit me early in the '96 campaign, just after Ralph Nader had announced for the Greens and there was this small but noticeable rippling of scoffing and dissing -- which barely disguised the smell of fear -- coming from the Donkeycrats' general direction, most specifically in the form of a quote in a Washington Post article from some high-level White House flack whose name escapes me, saying the the DP Left "had noplace to go" in terms of how to vote in '96. This, of course, after Somalia, Waco, NAFTA, an attempt to pass a version of the Patriot Act, an attempt to impose direct state censorship of the Internet, oh, I could go on, but, anyway...

I've often wished that the DP leadership would just grow a goddamn' pair, already, and just go on TV together and look us all -- us all, being those of us on the Desperately Hopeful Pwogwessive "Left" -- right in the eye, and tell us to go fuck ourselves...and in those exact words, too. Get 'em a goddamn' exemption from the FCC for the half-hour it should take that whole crew to get up in front of the the camera and tell us that they never cared about us and never will, and that we should just kiss their rosy-red asses, take a goddamn' hike and go fuck ourselves...just so perhaps we'll know a hundred percent where we stand regarding the Donkeycratic Party, get off our asses, and move on.

(heh, heh, I said 'MoveOn')
This is a scenario thoroughly admirable in its conception. But as I'm sure its author realizes himself, it wouldn't have anything remotely approaching the desired effect. Can't you see the responsive posts from Atrios, HuffPo, Daily Cosset, et al. before your eyes at this very moment?
Oh, well, they have to say that. But they don't actually mean it. Their hearts are in the right place, because...well...um...ah...oh, shit, because they're Democrats! If they could do what they really want to do, peace and liberty would break out all over the wurld, we'd have the bestest health care system the plannet ever, ever seed, and everyone would get a puppy or a kittycat. And a rainbow! A rainbow called Obama!

They have to say those mean things about us, 'cuz of the effect it would have if they didn't on the election in Flat Ass, Alabama in...um...well...2356!

See? SEE??? If you don't, you're no better than those evil Republicans!!!! Now STFU!!!!!

You can bank on all of it, including the "asshole" part. That reminds me: I'm also planning an upcoming essay (or two) about the moral and psychological intimidation -- or should I say, terrorism -- that is becoming so popular these days. This time, on the left.

And you had thought only rightwing bloggers and conservatives were greasy apologists for the ruling class, and for authoritarianism, corporatism and endless war. Aren't you the silliest goose.

Meanwhile, even people who lost the election feel as if they didn't: "HAPPY THANKSGIVING: Leaving the Bush tax cuts alone. Putting Iraq-war supporters in as Vice President and Secretary of State. And now keeping Bush's Defense Secretary on. I'm beginning to feel like I won this election!"

And the Democrats did win! So, especially since what Obama stood for (and didn't) has been entirely clear to any chunk of rock for well over a year, I think all those liberals and progressives should STFU themselves!


Shucks, I'm sorry. Honest, I am. It's about The Unity, baby. I'm all about The Unity. Love, sweetheart. That's all we've got. We've changed and hoped and transcended! Woweee shazam hot damn jumpin' gee whillikers and gadzooks!

We gotta sink or swim together. Or swim and then sink. Or just drown.


P.S. And I see that Michael J. Smith has saved me a brief post I had on the drawing board. Thank you, sir! Dems say no gay marriage in New York for us pathetic faggots. Thanks, Dems! It's immensely comforting to know that you still think we're freaks. But someday, someday we may not be -- just in time for that election in Flat Ass several centuries hence! I luvs me the Dems. Is there anything more worthless than the Democratic Party? No, not the Republicans. In certain respects, the Democrats are worse: see here, here, here and here (and lots of other essays too, but those will give you the idea).

"Two percent less shitty than Pure Evil" is still evil. Many people expend untold energy to avoid that very simple, indisputable fact.

Someday, they might consider stopping that. Then, perhaps, we might begin to make some genuine progress, and start to extricate ourselves from this morass of suffering and death.