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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Saturday, June 04, 2011
Remarks by the President at a Memorial Service in Joplin, Missouri
. . .There was a young man named Christopher Lucas who was 26 years old. Father of two daughters; third daughter on the way. Just like any other night, Christopher was doing his job as manager on duty at Pizza Hut. And then he heard the storm coming.

It was then when this former sailor quickly ushered everybody into the walk-in freezer. The only problem was, the freezer door wouldn’t stay closed from the inside. So as the tornado bore down on this small storefront on Range Line Road, Christopher left the freezer to find a rope or a cord or anything to hold the door shut. He made it back just in time, tying a piece of bungee cord to the handle outside, wrapping the other end around his arm, holding the door closed with all his might.

And Christopher held it as long as he could, until he was pulled away by the incredible force of the storm. He died saving more than a dozen people in that freezer. (Applause.)

You see, there are heroes all around us, all the time. . .

Andrew J. Bacevich - How America Screws Its Soldiers
. . .The relationship between American people and their military—we love you; do whatever you want—seems to work for everyone. Everyone, that is, except soldiers themselves. They face the prospect of war without foreseeable end.

Americans once believed war to be a great evil. Whenever possible, war was to be avoided. When circumstances made war unavoidable, Americans wanted peace swiftly restored.

Present-day Americans, few of them directly affected by events in Iraq or Afghanistan, find war tolerable. They accept it. Since 9/11, war has become normalcy. Peace has become an entirely theoretical construct. A report of G.I.s getting shot at, maimed, or killed is no longer something the average American gets exercised about. . .we the people allow our leaders to evade this basic responsibility to articulate a plan for peace . . .

Josh Marshall - Memorial Day

Pat Tillman: "Really, the hard part is actually setting your mind to it. Actually accomplishing it usually is kind of secondary. I mean when you really think about it, it's just deciding you're going to spend your energy going in that direction. After that, it's not really that big of a deal."

Andrew Sullivan - The Evil In Damascus

Nicholas D. Kristof - She’s 10 and May Be Sold to a Brothel
. . .Now at age 10, M. is running out of time. Her parents have pulled her out of her school in Kolkata and are sending her back to their native village hundreds of miles to the west. . .

. . .This leaves Basu and me with an extremely bad feeling, fearing that once she is back in the village and away from her protectors at the New Light shelter, her grandfather could sell her to a trafficker for transfer to a red-light district anywhere in India.

When we ask M. what she thinks, she looks down and says in a small voice that she worries as well. But she says she will never give up: “I will not stop my studies,” she told me firmly. . .

. . .I don’t know how this will end up. Ferrera said she will be writing letters to M. in hopes that this may make her family nervous about a sale. And Basu is counseling M. on what to do if she is sold to a trafficker. We just don’t know what else to do. . .

Paul Krugman - Against Learned Helplessness

Jared Bernstein - Interesting “Coulds” Coming In

Brad Delong - The Marx-Mellon-Schumpeter-Hoover-Hayek Axis Is Back!
. . .Modeling 140 million workers, 10 million firms, and 20 million commodities is really complex--that's why we don't do it, and don't have a big computer centrally-planning our economy. That is why we use the market system.

But when it comes to business-cycles--to recessions and depressions and downturns--we don't need to model 140 million workers, 10 million firms, and 20 million commodities: we only need to model two: (OK, four): currently-produced goods and services on the one hand, and (perhaps three types of) financial assets on the other. . .

Deirdre McCloskey - Economical Writing (1999)
Good style is what good writers do. . .In matters of taste - and everything from the standard of proof in number theory to the standard of usage in split infinitives is a matter of taste - the only standard is the practice of recognizably excellent practitioners. . .The test of rules is excellent practice, and the test of practice is the sovereign reader. . .Now start writing. Here I must become less helpful, not because I have been instructed to hold back the secrets of the guild but because creativity is ineluctably scarce. Where exactly the next sentence comes from is not obvious. If it were obvious then novels and economics papers could be written by machine. If you cannot think of anything to say then perhaps your mind is poorly stocked with ideas, or perhaps you have been reading too much machine-made prose. The solution is straightforward: spend a lifetime reading the best our civilization has to offer, starting tonight with elementary Greek. . .Like any sort of thinking, writing sometimes flares and sometimes fizzles, like a fire. When on a burn, though, do not break off. . .Be selfish for a while about the little candle of creation you are tending, however poor it may seem beside the conflagrations of the giants. . .

Rich Karlgaard - interview of Vint Cerf
. . .Did the owners of proprietary networks see you as a friend or foe? "Oh, they hated us. I heard from a reliable authority that Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corp., once asked in a meeting: 'How do we kill TCP/IP?'". . .

I do think it's possible that if the Internet had taken off during a GOP administration, it would have wound up being owned and controlled to a much greater extent by the people who owned the pipes. And many people would have defended this as a just and appropriate outcome.

An analogy to clarify to myself why I found the Kanazawa post so annoying: Suppose someone had written an article, "I think Americans are warmongering imperialists". No one would care. Further suppose a piece "Lots of people consider Americans warmongering imperialists". Still, no one would care. Then consider a piece "Americans objectively proven to be warmongering imperialists. Scientifically!" I think a lot of people would be annoyed, and rightly so. i.e. It's using the word "objective" in a place it had no business being.

Charles Williams - The figure of Beatrice: a study in Dante (1943)
. . .Love besides proper direction needs proper speed . . .To avoid harm is not, in itself sufficient. . .Those err who think that all love is in itself worthy of praise, even though the object itself is good. The grand image of Beatrice does not by itself justify the kind of love offered her; the lover himself must see to that. This is his choice; it is `the faculty which holds the threshold of assent'. . .

. . .But if Sloth overtakes Love, Beatrice is lost in the Siren, the romantic Image in the pseudo-romantic mirage. She comes in mid-purgatory (but naturally only in a dream) as Geryon came in mid-hell. She has been called the image of Sensual Pleasure, but this (it would seem) need not be the whole significance. She is as much - let us say - Ideal Gratification; all the sighs that lament the imperfection of a man's actual mistress, the verses that sweetly moan over her failure to live up to his dreams (or the other way round), the self-condolences, the `disillusions' - all these are the Siren's song. She takes flesh and colour and music within the night-reveries of laziness; she is, then - what? what we want; and that is? we do not rightly know, but certainly a Siren and a song. . .

. . .Of the three sins that which remains the nearest in kind and in enjoyment to Sloth and the Siren is Avarice; it is most content with an inner satisfaction of dream. The two others, Intemperance and Lechery - and here we are following hell in reverse - need increasing attention to something objectively other. . .From the Siren to Beatrice the appearance of the real other becomes more defined. The Siren is wholly within; Avarice almost wholly - gold is inorganic; Gluttony and Drunkenness less - food and wine are, or were, organic; Lechery still less - a real externalness and a real distinction are necessary there; and then Beatrice is absolutely without. So that part of the purification is the real recovery of the exterior image. . .

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