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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Sunday, April 17, 2011
David E. Coombs - Brig Fails to Follow Its Own Rules

Over the past few weeks, the defense has been working to facilitate an official visit for Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Mr. Juan Mendez (the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture), and a representative from Amnesty International. Despite multiple inquires from the defense and the interested parties, the Quantico Brig and the Government have denied the requests for an "official visit." . . .

from a comment:

I am just shocked that the Army has the power to deny an elected representative. Congressman Kucinich, like Amnesty International and the UN just want a clearer picture of whats going on and by denying them [official] access, Quantico seems to have a lot to hide. . .

Glenn Greenwald - Manning, Obama and U.S. moral leadership

The Guardian reports:

"A senior United Nations representative on torture, Juan Mendez, issued a rare reprimand to the US government on Monday for failing to allow him to meet in private Bradley Manning, the American soldier held in a military prison accused of being the WikiLeaks source. It is the kind of censure that the UN normally reserves for authoritarian regimes around the world . . .

. . .Mendez pointed out that his mandate was to conduct unmonitored visits, and that had been the practice in at least 18 countries over the last six years.

Since December 2010, I have been engaging the US government on visiting Mr Manning, at the invitation of his counsel, to determine his condition," Mendez said. "Unfortunately, the US government has not been receptive to a confidential meeting with Mr Manning.". . .

Bob Park on Fukushima


On Tuesday Japan raised the severity rating of the Fukushima nuclear crisis to 7, putting it on a par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Although Japan is releasing few details, you can safely conclude that radiation is really bad; beyond that you're on your own. . .

The report relies on the linear-no-threshold model to estimate the risk from multiple exposures at much lower levels, such as airliner crews. This is not only wrong, they know it's wrong. A DNA repair process is constantly at work in human cells repairing DNA damage from sources of ionizing radiation, including UV light and cosmic radiation. There is not much choice but to ignore the repair process and assume a linear model which greatly overstates the risk from multiple exposures. . .

Is is still true that the radiation from Fukushima is less than from eating Brazil nuts, or is that no longer true?

Gary Farber & Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings have some anti-intervention posts on Libya worth reading, in addition to Juan Cole.

Leader’s Arrest in Ivory Coast Ends Standoff

The picture of Gbagbo reminded me of Orwell's Revenge is Sour essay

Ashlee Vance - This Tech Bubble Is Different

[Hammerbacher] "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads," he says. "That sucks." . . ."If instead of pointing their incredible infrastructure at making people click on ads," he likes to ask, "they pointed it at great unsolved problems in science, how would the world be different today?"

Robert Root-Bernstein - The Art of Scientific and Technological Innovations (via Andrew Sullivan)

. . .In medicine, the stitches that permit a surgeon to correct an aneurysm or carry out a heart transplant were invented by American Nobel laureate Alexis Carrel, who took his knowledge of lace making into the operating room . . .

Rob Cunningham - A tragic accident at Yale

A young woman was killed yesterday at Yale University in a machine shop accident. She was a senior with only several weeks until graduation.

This hits me close to home in two ways.
First- My oldest son and my daughter are both college seniors. . .

. . .Secondly- I work in the machine shop of a local college. We support the five science departments. For the most part, my co-worker and I do all the work. There have been occasions where a student will show an interest in machining and we will work with them, always stressing safety. .

. . .My thought and prayers go out to the family, faculty and students.

msnbc article

. . .Dufault was from Scituate, Massachusetts, and was graduating in a month, said her grandfather Robert Dufault. She studied constantly and loved sports, he said.

"She was a living saint," the grandfather said. "She was a good, smart girl."

An uncle called her brilliant.

"She's a wonderful, wonderful kid and that should be celebrated. There's nothing but good things to say about her," said Frederick Dufault, of Holliston, Massachusetts.

Dufault intended to work in oceanography after graduating and played saxophone in the Yale Band, Levin said.

Felix Salmon - US taxation datapoints of the day

The dean of tax reporters, David Cay Johnston, has a fantastic cover story in the Willamette Week . . .

. . .•John Paulson has paid no taxes at all on the $9 billion of income that he made in 2008 and 2009.

•Frank and Jamie McCourt, the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not paid any income taxes since at least 2004.

•Between 2000 and 2008, corporate profits rose by 12% while corporate income taxes fell by 8%. Without any change in the corporate income-tax rate. . .

Andrew Sullivan - Tax Brackets 101

. . .the top 400 taxpayers, with the highest adjusted gross income, paid an effective tax rate of 17% in 2008; the top 1% of all taxpayers paid an effective tax rate of 23% in 2008 (IRS figures from Bloomberg's Businessweek April 11-17, 2011 edition, page 45). . .

Our complicated tax system seems designed to make taxes seem high, while actually being very low. . .

I'm actually in favor of the bulk of revenue being raised with a flat payroll/income/VAT tax, with a small amount of revenue coming from a progressive wealth tax. It seems to me that flatness and even regressivity hurt the poor much less than programs which you can't rely on, because the rules keep changing.

And it's important IMO to tax wage and inflation-adjusted investment income at the same rate, because otherwise elites come up with all sorts of ways to reclassify their income as investment income, rather than wage income.

One of the first things the Bush administration did after taking office was to shut down investigations into Cayman Islands tax avoidance. Genuinely surprised me, that one did.

Brad Delong - Neoliberalism Agonistes

Mike Kimel: ". . .ever notice how countries that adopt policies favored by right wing or libertarian think-tanks tend to have a few very successful years (with much crowing by those think tanks) followed by disaster? Be it Japan, Argentina, Russia, much of Eastern Europe, Ireland, Iceland, etc., it does seem that there's a pattern. Heck, that pattern even applies to the US. I think even some of the promoters of those policies are starting to see that pattern. Its to the point where a lot of folks in those circles are trying to convince the public that Singapore, a country where the government's role in the economy is larger and more intrusive than in most other countries, is an example of a libertarian paradise. . ."

Question for economists: There's obviously no agreement among economists on fiscal and monetary stimulus. But is there agreement on what potential output is? Do conservatives agree with liberals that actual output is below potential output, and that therefore we are in some sense leaving money on the table? Or do conservatives believe that whatever is, is by definition potential output?

intend to read over the next few weeks:

William J. Baumol, Robert E. Litan & Carl J. Schramm - Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity (2007)

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