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.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Violet Socks - Reclusive Leftist
Arthur Silber - Once Upon a Time...
Susie Madrak - Winning the future
. . .If I could be so rude as to point this out, we have all the money in the world for wars and banker bailouts. What we don’t have is political will to do anything that doesn’t help rich people. . .
Glenn Greenwald - Iraq War veteran on Manning, the media and the military
. . .there is another response that I hope as many people as possible read; with permission, I'm publishing it in its entirety below. It's by former Army Specialist Ethan McCord. . .
Juan Cole - Today’s Top 5 Crises in the 2011 Arab Revolutions
. . .I vividly remember the moment in 2007, when our Battalion Commander walked into the room and announced our new rules of engagement:
"Listen up, new battalion SOP (standing operating procedure) from now on: Anytime your convoy gets hit by an IED, I want 360 degree rotational fire. You kill every [expletive] in the street!"
We weren't trained extensively to recognize an unlawful order, or how to report one. But many of us could not believe what we had just been told to do. Those of us who knew it was morally wrong struggled to figure out a way to avoid shooting innocent civilians, while also dodging repercussions from the non-commissioned officers who enforced the policy. In such situations, we determined to fire our weapons, but into rooftops or abandoned vehicles, giving the impression that we were following procedure. . .
. . .I was part of the unit that was responsible for this atrocity. In the video, I can be seen attempting to carry wounded children to safety in the aftermath.
The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. . .
. . .If PFC Bradley Manning did what he is accused of doing, then it is clear -- from chat logs that have been attributed to him -- that his decision was motivated by conscience and political agency. These chat logs allegedly describe how PFC Manning hopes these revelations will result in "worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.". . .
2. Syrian Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa chaired a nationally televised debate at Damascus University between regime supporters and a few dissidents over the future of the country. (Most in the opposition boycotted the meeting, but a few joined in.) Dissidents called for a pull-back of troops from protesting cities and the release of prisoners of conscience. As regime officials have done before, Sharaa spoke of the country moving to a pluralistic, multi-party democracy. . .It is easy to move to pluralistic democracy. You announce the date for elections, and let other parties freely contest them. Talking about it as a far-future ideal in the absence of practical steps will only enrage your citizens. And having a debate in which those who speak on the opposing side are likely to go to jail and be tortured is a farce.
ECHIDNE of the snakes - Today's Recommended Reading on the Economy
Is this article by James Galbraith. . .
WSJ Staff - Bush On Jobs: The Worst Track Record On Record. (Jan 9, 2009)
President: jobs created; Truman: 8.4 million; Ike: 3.5 million; Kennedy: 3.6 million; Johnson: 11.9 million; Nixon: 9.4 million; Ford: 1.8 million; Carter: 10.5 million; Reagan: 16.0 million; Bush: 2.5 million; Clinton: 23.1 million; Bush: 3.0 million; Obama: ?;
To give old Ev psych its due, it did inspire Antony Jay's book, Corporation Man
, parts of which have stuck in my head for years.
Antony Jay - Corporation Man (1971)
Anyone who tries to force a crystal to yield up the innermost secrets of its structure encounters an intriguing problem: the only available method is x-ray diffraction, but this provides two-dimensional photographs, whereas the atoms are arranged three-dimensionally in the crystal. From one single picture you cannot possibly tell how the individual atoms are arranged, you have to take more and more, until finally you are able to deduce the shape of reality from the shadowy images. Eight atoms arranged in a simple cube may surrender their secret after three of four diffraction photographs; the double helix of the DNA molecule took years of work by some of the world's leading scientists.
I use this parallel because this book is an attempt to explain the central reality of the modern corporation, and yet I always mistrust those writers who claim to have done so. Each seems to come up with a new complete explanation. The corporation is an economic unit. The corporation is a complex of personal relationships. The corporation is an organization chart. The corporation is a concept, a pyramid, a state, a monster, a game, a jungle, a battlefield, a way of life. How can all these truths be true, and what is the point of my adding another unsubstantiated assertion to a list that is too long already?
That is why I started with crystallography. The point is that none of these generalizations can be the whole truth because the complexity of the corporation, as of the crystal, is three-dimensional: but any or all of them can be valuable two-dimensional diffraction photographs which help us to build up more and more understanding of the elements that compose the complex three-dimensional whole and of their relationship to each other. Some of these photographs are so close in angle to previous ones that they tell us hardly anything we did not know already. Others, by taking an unfamiliar or unexpected angle, can be a revelation. . .
I. The Evolution of Corporation Man
. . .Even while I was a member of the BBC I wondered if this attitude to time and money was unique or unusual among corporations. After leaving, I worked with with quite a number of of big organizations, and realized in fact that the BBC was rather good. . .
. . .I found horrifying schemes for reporting on staff that tried to turn every manager into a cross between God and a consulting psychiatrist. I found people treated with an indulgent softness that in ordinary life no one would show to a plumber or car mechanic who had fallen down on the job a quarter as badly, or with an inhuman callousness that the same people would privately not inflict on a stray dog. . .
II. The Picture on the Box
. . .The accepted stereotype of the creative artist is as a solitary - the painter alone in his studio, the composer alone at his piano, the poet alone in his garret. When working on Tonight I came to believe that this was a lot of romantic nonsense: the act of creating a work of art has to be solitary, but the artist does not have to be solitary. . .
. . .many ideas are only half an idea - with the single producer they stay half, with a team someone is likely to produce the other half. . .a single producer's ideas would only be for programs he could carry put on his own, they were limited by the skill experience, judgement, and inclinations of one man; but a production team could initiate ideas that used a far wider range - a good example was That Was the Week, which united musicians, singers, actors, political comment, studio audiences, comedy writers, news film, documentary film, studio cameras, bench work, and other ingredients which demanded a range of techniques and expertise which no single producer could possibly command. . .
. . .It did not occur to me at this stage that I had stumbled onto something with a relevance beyond television. All I knew then was that the production team worked in a way in which neither the solitary producer outside it nor the cumbersome structure above it could ever work. It had formed itself naturally, spontaneously, and almost in spite of the existing formal structure, and it was carrying BBC television. . .
I also met Doug Hughes.
Doug is a production engineer with International Computers. . .He felt about the engineering industry much as I felt about the BBC, though at first this was the only connection I could see. However, as he led me me further and further into the dark recesses of the average engineering factory, lightening my path with dazzling flashes of sarcasm fueled by his rich sense of the absurd, it all began to look unbelievably familiar.
To Doug, the average engineering factory was chaos. Metal came into it in a few basic shapes - casting and sheet, billet and strip and bar - and then went through thirty or forty processes before the finished machined part went to assembly: heat treatment, milling, drilling, grinding, reaming, then more of the same, with each process under a different manager's control. Away in one building were designers stipulating tolerances that could not be achieved, and in another were estimators playing happy games with fairy-tale figures that bore no relation to the nasty realities of the factory. If any part had to be scrapped, it was never anyone's fault - the milling foreman and drilling foreman each blamed the other and the factory manager's office turned into a law court. The system worked by a sort of selective panic called "expediting," which meant that urgent parts were rushed through at the expense of logic, order, economy, and efficiency. Machine operators alternated between waiting for parts and being submerged in a flood. . .The BBC, in retrospect, started to look like a model of smooth management.
Doug had been in engineering factories all his life, but he hadn't been able to change anything until one day he was given the design of a card punch so complex that he knew it could not be manufactured by the normal methods. There was only one way, and with a remorseless logic which I now recognize, a production team took place. A small group of men were put together in a separate shop with the necessary machines, and took the card punch through from raw metal to finished machine. The production volume, the degree of precision and the delivery date were all met.
That could have been that. But Doug realized that in a situation almost totally wrong, he had stumbled on something right. And he began to see an engineering factory exactly as I had begun to see the BBC - as a collection of independent workshops with a boss in charge of each who was responsible not for a process but for a complete part or a complete product. . .