[ 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.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Required Reading

  • Glenn Greenwald
    • Obama's impressive new OLC chief
      I first read these posts of Johnsen's a few weeks ago when a reporter asked me about my reaction to the possibility that she might be appointed to head the OLC. Beyond these articles, I don't know all that much about her, but anyone who can write this, in this unapologetic, euphemism-free and even impolitic tone, warning that the problem isn't merely John Yoo but Bush himself, repeatedly demanding "outrage," criticizing the Democratic Congress for legalizing Bush's surveillance program, arguing that we cannot merely "move on" if we are to restore our national honor, stating the OLC's "core job description" is to "say 'no' to the President," all while emphasizing that the danger is unchecked power not just for the Bush administration but "for years and administrations to come" -- and to do so in the middle of an election year when she knows she has a good chance to be appointed to a high-level position if the Democratic candidate won and yet nonetheless eschewed standard, obfuscating Beltway politesse about these matters -- is someone whose appointment to such an important post is almost certainly a positive sign. No praise is due Obama until he actually does things that merit praise, but it's hard not to consider this encouraging.
    • Orwell, blinding tribalism, selective Terrorism, and Israel/Gaza
      So many of these conflicts -- one might say almost all of them -- end up shaped by the same virtually universal deficiency: excessive tribalistic identification (i.e.: the group with which I was trained to identify is right and good and just and my group's enemy is bad and wrong and violent), which causes people to view the world only from the perspective of their side, to believe that X is good when they do it and evil when it's done to them. X can be torture, or the killing of civilians in order to "send a message" (i.e., Terrorism), or invading and occupying other people's land, or using massive lethal force against defenseless populations, or seeing one's own side as composed of real humans and the other side as sub-human, evil barbarians.
  • Via A Tiny Revolution -- Tom Engelhardt: The Ponzi Scheme Presidency
    With Bush's "commander-in-chief" presidency only days from its end, the price tag on his "war" continues to soar as dollars grow scarce, new investors refuse to pay in, and the scheme crumbles. Unfortunately, the American people, typical suckers in such a con game, will be left with a mile-high stack of IOU's. In any Ponzi scheme comparison with Madoff, however, one difference (other than size) stands out. Sooner or later, Madoff, like Charles Ponzi himself, will end up behind bars, while George, Dick, & Co. will be writing their memoirs and living off the fat of the land.
  • Arthur Silber: Witness the Lightbringer, the Harbinger of Hope and Change, the Man of Peace, and His Wondrous and Mighty Works
    As my title notes, in many contexts -- and indisputably in this one -- silence means consent. But Obama has repeatedly told us that he not only consents: he actively supports this policy -- not only with regard to Israel, but in Iraq, and in connection with the American ruling class's determination to maintain, consolidate and expand its global hegemonic role. Also see here and here, and many other articles linked therein. If anyone is surprised by any of this, he has only himself to blame. On many occasions, Obama told you precisely what he believed and what he would and would not do -- and many people, out of a stupidly misguided "hope" or, much more contemptibly, out of a desire to acquire power for "their" gang of criminals, chose not to believe Obama's own words (or to disregard them). They appear not to realize the nature of the insult they thus leveled at the impliedly loathsome vessel which they selected as the repository of their feeble, unfounded hopes: if you didn't believe what he said and preferred to believe he actually meant something else -- that something else being what you contend you believe -- that can only mean you thought he was a liar, which indeed he is. And yet many people still voted for him, even after concluding Obama was a calculating manipulator of the first order, one who was primarily interested in acquiring power and nothing else at all. (I discussed one example of this self-delusion in the concluding section of this article.)
    This is the article that Arthur riffs from.

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