hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Friday, June 14, 2002
concerning "Punditgate", I'm bemused by how things
that aren't true, like the assertion that you wrote a
"puff piece" for Enron in 1999, that you admitted
getting 50,000 dollars for "doing nothing", and worst
of all, that your primary response to ethics
criticisms was to "blame everything on a vast
right-wing conspiracy", can nevertheless be repeated
again and again by allegedly professional journalists.

Also, I got the sense that the media people had only
read your first posting on your web site, and not your
later additions. Perhaps when you post something
significant on your web page, you shold give a one or
two line mention in your column, so interested readers
can check it out. It doesn't really matter for
something as ultimately trivial as "Punditgate", but
your Argentina postings should have had as wide a
readership as possible.

Also, I think you can be fairly rebuked for three
recently sloppy arguments:

first, you said Enron, not the WTC attacks, will be
considered a bigger turning point, because an event
can't change everything unless it changes how you see
yourself, and being victimised cannot do that. By that
logic, Hitler coming to power did not change
everything for German Jews. Simply put, being
victimised on a sufficient scale can change how you
see yourself, and September 11th probably has.

Second, It is a non-sequiter to say that more
heavy-duty conventional weapons are not justified by
the war on terrorism because they can't attack
Al-Qaeda. Obviously, they're purported use is not to
go after individual terrorists, but to go after
terrorist-harboring, WMD developing countries. To
argue against the Crusader artillery system, you'd
have to argue it would be useless in potential war
against Iraq, not a potential war against Al-Qaeda.

Thirdly, if Bush allocates 11 billion this year and 9
billion *next* year, can't he be said to have
fulfilled his promise? You didn't make clear if the 11
billion was for just this year or for future years as
well. And you've never presented a reasoned analysis
of how much money New York *should* get. The 20
billion figure was basically just something Schumer
pulled out of his head. Surely how much money New York
should or should not get is a more important question
than whether or not Bush keeps his promise. After
all, he's broken so many!

I say this as a great admirer of your work. In this
vein, I think that readers who like your column may
really enjoy/benefit from reading your past books.
Going through your old books, I think "Age of
Diminished Expectations" is the only one where large
parts (but by no means all) of it have dated. In
particular, "Peddling Prosperity" holds up very well.
I used to think, to quote you, that if enough
influential people read Peddling Prosperity, "our
politics would be transformed". I'm no longer so
naive, but I still like the book.

Alas, liberals tend to be quite miserly, which is why
I think "Fuzzy Math" didn't do so well, being quite
thin for a harback. Perhaps a "Krugman Omnibus" ,
packaging your better popular writing into a big
paperback, from "Peddling Prosperity" to "Fuzzy
Math", would give potential buyer's sufficient value
for money? I think it would do very well.