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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.)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Required Reading: More

  • More Glenn Greenwald
    • Salon Radio: Pam Spaulding on Rick Warren
    • Torture ambivalence masquerading as moral and intellectual superiority
      There's an irony to the fact that this infinite capacity to self-justify is purely adolescent in nature. As the above-excerpted clip demonstrates, those who view American Torture as a fascinating moral dilemma over which Serious People publicly agonize -- as Drezner put it: "if you're a national security person, you don't care about the legal niceties . . . it is a complicated question; it's not cut and dried" -- have actually convinced themselves that their refusal to make clear, definitive judgments is a hallmark not only of their moral superiority, but of their intellectual superiority as well. Only shrill ideologues and simpletons on either side believe that the torture question is "cut and dried." They actually believe that their indecisive open-mindedness on such clear moral questions is a sign of their rich and deep complexity, even though it's nothing more than an adolescent inability to assess the world through any prism other than their own immediate reflexive desires and self-interest.
    • Marty Peretz and the American political consensus on Israel
      Not a word of condemnation of the Israeli blockade -- which has caused extreme suffering and deprivation in Gaza -- or of the massively disproportionate response or the ongoing and ever-expanding Israeli occupation. It is all one-sided support for whatever Israel does from our political class, and one-sided condemnation of Israel's enemies (who are, ipso facto, American enemies) -- all of it, as usual, sharply divergent from the consensus in much of the rest of the world.
    • Torture prosecutions finally begin in the U.S.
  • Bernard Chazelle on the liberal respect for authority
    The question is useful because it disposes of the rejoinder: "You're not being serious by defending shoe throwers." For Perlstein, the parallel stops there. He is clear about it. It's not about the person but the authority behind it: a "leader of a sovereign state, no matter how much he's deservedly hated" deserves respect. Two interesting points: first, Perlstein presumably confines his sphere of respect to "our kind of leaders" (not Pol Pot, Kim Jong-il, Saddam, etc.) Second, Kant's theory of respect-for-persons as an end in itself is neatly swept aside. It's OK to spit at a terrorist but not at a president. Why? Because, as liberal bloggers write, out of spectacular ignorance, one should "despise the man but respect the office." Do they realize the essence of the Enlightenment was to reach precisely the opposite conclusion? That shoes should be aimed at kings and presidents, not at the persons behind them.

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