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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Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Well, it could be worse.


"Jim Hacker: Mr Watson, before we start there is one thing I must make absolutely clear, this must not get out. If the unions were to get to hear of this all hell would be let loose.
Ron Watson: Oh yes.
Jim: Of course there'll be redundancies, you simply ... you simply can't slim down a giant bureaucracy like this without getting rid of people, and ultimately a lot of people.
Ron Watson: Won't you be holding discussions with the unions first.
Jim: We'll go through the charade of discussions, but you know what trade unionists are like thick as two short planks and bloody minded.
Ron Watson: All of them?
Jim: Pretty well. Good Lord you should know. All they're interested in is poaching each others members and getting themselves on the telly, and they can't keep their big mouths shut.
Ron Watson: What about drivers and transport service staff.
Jim: First to go, good Lord we waste a fortune on cars and drivers, and they're all on the fiddle.
Ron Watson: Because as I was trying to explain, I am not Mr Bruffs' deputy. I am the general secretary of the union of civil service transport and associated government work.
Jim: I ... I ...
Ron Watson: And I came here to check there was no truth in the rumour of redundancies for my members.
Jim: Well I, I, I ... I just ... I don't .... all I meant was, Oh God."

- Yes Minister, "The Economy Drive"


The part that bothers me is, did he hurt Ms. Duffy's feelings? She seemed like basically a nice lady, kvetching about immigrants aside, and it's not so easy to be called a bigot via national media. Careless words can be hurtful, and it seems to me that Brown (who, as I've said, I admire greatly) has an obligation to try and make up for it.

Seems worth remembering Brown at something closer to his best, a politician with the passion & moral imagination to understand how his policies affect people he will never directly see or hear:

"Our task is to rebuild prosperity and security in a wholly different economic world, where competition is no longer local but global and banks are no longer just national but international. . .

. . .So should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no one? No, we should have the confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us. Why?

Because while today people are anxious and feel insecure, over the next two decades literally billions of people in other continents will move from being simply producers of their goods to being consumers of our goods and in this way our world economy will double in size.

Twice as many opportunities for business, twice as much prosperity, and the biggest expansion of middle-class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen.

. . .So we must educate our way out of the downturn, invest and invent our way out of the downturn and retool and reskill our way out of the downturn.

And this is not blind optimism or synthetic confidence to console people, it is the practical affirmation for our times of our faith in a better future. Every time we rebuild a school we demonstrate our faith in the future.

Every time we send more young people to university, every time we invest more in our new digital infrastructure, every time we increase support to our scientists, we demonstrate our faith in the future.

And so I say to this Congress and this country, something that runs deep in your character and is woven in your history, we conquer our fear of the future through our faith in the future. . .

. . .In the Rwanda Museum of Genocide there is a memorial to the countless children who were among those murdered in the massacres in Rwanda. And there is one portrait of a child – David. The words beneath him are brief yet they weigh on me heavily. It says: Name – David; aged 10; favourite sport – football; enjoyed making people laugh; dream – to become a doctor; cause of death – tortured to death, last words – the United Nations will come for us.

But we never did.

That child believed the best of us. That he was wrong is to our eternal discredit. We tend to think of a day of judgment as a moment to come, but our faith tells us, as the writer said, that judgment is more than that, it is a summary court in perpetual session.

And when I visit those bare, run down, yet teeming class rooms across Africa, they are full of children, like our children, desperate to learn. But because we have been unable as a world to keep our promises to help, more and more children, I tell you, are being lured to expensively funded madrassas teaching innocent children to hate us. So for our security, and our children’s security, and these children’s future, you know the greatest gift of our generation, the greatest gift we could give to the world, the gift of America and Britain could be that every child in every country should have the chance that 70 million children today do not have – the chance to go to school. . ."


Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Well, I've been quite harsh on David Cameron, and I still am a great admirer and "supporter" of Gordon Brown in the upcoming UK election (my support plus a $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee), but apparently I was wrong about Cameron. If, as in this article by David Cameron and Jeffrey Sachs, Cameron is willing to sign his name to these two paragraphs:



Koraro is powerful evidence of how women can hold the key to development in some of the world's poorest countries – in education, enterprise, micro-finance and healthcare. Investing in women pays dividends throughout the entire community. So how can we put women at the heart of our vision for international development?

First, the UK needs to meet our moral commitment to increase spending on aid to 0.7 per cent gross national income. But this investment has to go hand-in-hand with greater transparency, ensuring the money reaches the people who need it most. A Conservative government will create an independent aid watchdog and publish every item of aid spending online, so that the performance and impact of development policies are transparent to taxpayers in Britain and to people in the developing world.

then Cameron & Osborne really can claim, with some justification, to be a different kind of Conservative, on this issue at least.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The internet has failed me:

No results found for "vegan madras coffee".

No results found for "vegan chennai coffee"

No results found for "vegan south indian coffee"