[ 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.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Required Reading: Continued

  • On Obama: My Brilliant Career by Mike Whitney
    Obama has remained serenely detached while American-made F-16's have dumped more than one hundred tons of lethal ordnance on the captive population of Gaza. In fact, the president-elect has spent more time working on his abs at the Semper Fit gym in Honolulu than trying to stop the bloody onslaught which has already resulted in the deaths of over 300 Palestinians, half of who are civilians.

    When asked why he hasn't given his opinion on the conflict, Obama spokesman have blandly stated, "There's only one president at a time".

    Uh-huh. So why was Obama so quick to condemn Russia's invasion of South Ossetia? Is the yardstick for measuring aggression different in the Caucasus than it is in the Middle East? Or is it because politicians are just too afraid to cross Israel?

    "If somebody shot rockets at my house where my two daughters were sleeping at night, I'd do everything in my power to stop them," Obama proclaimed on a recent visit to Israel.

    Right. It's too bad Palestinian parents can't claim that same right without being branded as terrorists.
  • Shock, Awe and Lies: The Truth Behind the Israeli Attack on Gaza

  • Dean Baker: Free Market Myth
    The extraordinary financial collapse of recent months has been commonly described as a testament to the failure of deregulation. The events are indeed testament to a failure—a failure of public policy. Blaming deregulation is misleading.

    In general, political debates over regulation have been wrongly cast as disputes over the extent of regulation, with conservatives assumed to prefer less regulation, while liberals prefer more. In fact conservatives do not necessarily desire less regulation, nor do liberals necessarily desire more. Conservatives support regulatory structures that cause income to flow upward, while liberals support regulatory structures that promote equality. “Less” regulation does not imply greater inequality, nor is the reverse true.

    Framing regulation debates in terms of more and less is not only inaccurate; it hugely biases the argument toward conservative positions by characterizing an extremely intrusive structure of, for example, patent and copyright rules, as the free market. In the realm of insurance and finance over the last two decades, calls for deregulation have been cover for rules tilted starkly toward corporate interests. And the recent change in bankruptcy law, hailed by conservatives, requires much greater government involvement in the economy.

    False ideological claims have circumscribed the public debate over regulation and blinded us to the wide range of choices we can make. Without these claims, what would guide regulatory policy? What kinds of choices would we have?
  • On Obama: Arthur Silber
    In the months leading up to the November election, I repeatedly argued that both major presidential candidates were war criminals. The truth is considerably worse than this statement would indicate: given the United States' corporatist-authoritarian-militarist identity and nature, a major national political candidate must be a war criminal. If he (or she) is not, he will never rise to the national level in the first place. (The rare exceptions only prove the point: they are of vanishing importance, and they exercise no power whatsoever.)
    ( Chomsky has said this for years. )
  • NYRB on Torture Books
    Because so many of the facts surrounding the torture policy are now well known, Sands's book is illuminating not so much for breaking new factual ground as for the human insight he brings to the events. Through his interviews, he tells a story about how ordinary human beings, all working within an institution designed to fight by the rules, felt tremendous pressure to bend the rules—and in most cases did so without apparent concern or self-doubt. A narrowly pragmatic ethos guided virtually all actors. The real arguments were for the most part not about whether coercive tactics were legally or morally acceptable, but about whether they worked. Some, especially those in the FBI, felt strongly that they were counterproductive, and that building rapport through noncoercive questioning was the only way to gain credible intelligence from captives.[4] Others thought the idea of building rapport with al-Qaeda suspects was foolish; it could not be done. But with the courageous exception of Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, few argued that coercive tactics were wrong because they were immoral and illegal, whether or not they worked. In America after September 11, idealists were few and far between, and an amoral, blinkered pragmatism ruled the day.
  • Glenn Greenwald: Committing war crimes for the "right reasons"
    But we don't accept that justifying reasoning when offered by others. In fact, those who seek merely to explain -- let alone justify -- the tyranny, extremism and/or violence of Castro, or Chavez, or Hamas, or Slobodan Milosevic or Islamic extremists are immediately condemned for seeking to defend the indefensible, or invoking "root causes" to justify the unjustifiable, or offering mitigating rationale for pure evil.

    Yet here we have American leaders who now, more openly than ever, are literally admitting to what has long been known -- that they violated the laws of war and international treaties which, in the past, we've led the way in advocating and enforcing. And what do we hear even from the most well-intentioned commentators such as Douthat? Yes, it was wrong. True, they shouldn't have done it. But they did it for good reasons: they believed they had to do it to protect us, to guard against truly bad people, to discharge their heavy responsibility to protect the country, because we were at war.
    More crucially, Israeli and international sources from the first week of November 2008 – sources that are scholarly and (otherwise) more reliable than the NYT – shed further light on the misleading claim by the NYT editors. They include, but are by no means limited to:
    The Israeli Haaretz, November 5, 2008: "Israel Defense Forces troops yesterday killed a Hamas gunman and wounded two others in the first armed clash in the Gaza Strip since a cease-fire was declared there in June. […] An Israeli army spokeswoman said troops had entered the territory."

    The Israeli Yediot Ahronot, November 5, 2008: "For the first time since the ceasefire took effect in June, IDF forces operated deep in the Gaza Strip Tuesday night."

    (Note: had the NYT editors bothered to consult Hebrew sources they would have easily found that the Hebrew version of the news item cited above is even clearer.)

    The Times (UK), November 5, 2008: "A five-month truce between Israel and the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip was foundering yesterday after Israeli special forces entered the besieged territory and fought."

    Amnesty International, November 10, 2008: "A spate of Israeli and Palestinian attacks and counter-attacks in the past 24 hours could spell the end of a five-and-a-half-month ceasefire. […] The killing of six Palestinian militants in Gaza by Israeli forces in a ground incursion and air strikes on 4 November was followed by a barrage of dozens of Palestinian rockets."

    The Guardian, November 5, 2008: "Hamas militants fired more than 35 rockets into Israel today, hours after the Israeli army killed six people inside the Gaza Strip in the first major exchange of fire since a truce took effect in June."

    The Independent, November 5, 2008: "Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip fired more than 35 rockets towards Israel today, the army and the Islamist group said, hours after the Israeli army killed six militants in the coastal territory."
    ( Ed: See links on original. )

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