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, August 13, 2011
LORI MOORE and ROGENE FISHER JACQUETTE (NYT) - Photos of Military Personnel Lost in Afghan Helicopter Attack

Robert Paarlberg - Famine in Somalia: What Can the World Do About It?

Shakesville (Melissa McEwan) - Somalia food insecurity

Anderson Cooper (Aug. 9) - Somalia Food Crisis (interview with Iman)

Iman op-ed on Somalia crisis

DipNote - President Obama Announces Additional Funds for Horn of Africa Famine

Arthur Silber - Once Upon A Time. . .
Carolyn Lochhead - SF Chronicle (8/11/2011):
Citing the Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration denied immigration benefits to a married gay couple from San Francisco and ordered the expulsion of a man who is the primary caregiver to his AIDS-afflicted spouse.

Bradford Wells, a U.S. citizen, and Anthony John Makk, a citizen of Australia, were married seven years ago in Massachusetts. They have lived together 19 years, mostly in an apartment in the Castro district. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Makk's application to be considered for permanent residency as a spouse of an American citizen, citing the 1996 law that denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples.

The decision was issued July 26. Immigration Equality, a gay-rights group that is working with the couple, received the notice Friday and made it public Monday. Makk was ordered to depart the United States by Aug. 25. Makk is the sole caregiver for Wells, who has severe health problems.


"We are appealing to the Obama administration to begin to put into action what they've said repeatedly they can do," said Immigration Equality spokesman Steve Ralls. "The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have said again and again that they can exercise discretion in individual cases, but they have not done so for a single gay or lesbian couple yet."

One thing I'd like to see change is the idea that "rules are rules, and have to enforced, no matter what the consequences". In reality, no rule is so perfect that it does not require judgement, discretion, common sense. You need to give people the power to use their discretion, and then trust them, and in some cases hold them accountable, for using it properly. A bureacracy that lacks discretion is not a protector of the rule of law, it's just another monstrous, unpredictable, unaccountable menace that people have to be scared of. It's important to note that a "rules are rules" mentality leads not just to harshness, but also to unpredictability, because there are thousands of laws, all of which contain ambigous wording, which can be twisted into novel and creative (and terrifying) interpretations, many of which contradict each other. Bastards though we might be, we have no choice but to put our trust in the discretion and common sense of human beings, not the satisfying pseudo-certainty of an infallible rulebook.

Violet Socks - Reclusive Leftist

Susie Madrak - (MLK) The Other America

(Via Susie Madrak) Kathy Kelly - More Lost by the Second in Afghanistan
. . .No matter which side of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border you are on, suffocating hot temperatures prevail day and night during these hot months. It’s normal for people to sleep in their courtyards. How could anyone living in the region not know this? Yet the U.S. JSO forces that came in the middle of the night to the home of a 12-year-old girl, Nilofer, who had been asleep on her cot in the courtyard, began their raid by throwing a grenade into the courtyard, landing at Nilofer’s head. She died instantly. Nilofer’s uncle raced into the courtyard. He worked with the Afghan Local Police, and they had told him not to join that night’s patrol because he didn’t know much about the village they would go to, so he had instead gone to his brother’s home. When he heard the grenade explode, he may well have presumed the Taliban were attacking the home. U.S. troops killed him as soon as they saw him. Later, NATO issued an apology. . .

. . .“The raids occur ‘every night. We are very much miserable,’ said Roshanak Wardak, a doctor and a former member of the national Parliament.” I am reading a McClatchy news report, dated August 8th of this year. “Residents of the Tangi Valley area, in eastern Wardak Province, about 60 miles southwest of Kabul, issued similar complaints about the night raids in their vicinity, charging that they have killed civilians, disrupted their lives and fueled popular support for the Taliban.”

Imagine it. People in an Afghan village pass sleepless nights, anxious that their home might be targeted by a U.S.-led night raid. Villagers are enraged when they hear stories of elders and imams being roughed up and detained, of wives and children being killed, of belongings stolen and property destroyed. . .

. . .In Helmand province, in Nad Ali, the district governor told a New York Times reporter one incident in the spiral of violence: a NATO foot patrol came under fire from a family home on August 5, 2011, killing one soldier and wounding an Afghan interpreter. The NATO troops called in an airstrike. NATO is now investigating a report that the airstrike killed eight civilians, seven of them children. “The home belonged to Mullah Abdul Hadi, 50, a local imam who Afghan officials say was helping the Taliban,” said Mr. Shamlani. “He was killed along with one of his two wives and his seven children, all younger than 7 years old.”. . .

Josh Marshall - Was It Worth It? (Wisconsin)
. . .It would be a mistake to see this as a distraction, a big mistake.

Susie Madrak - Shhh, it’s a secret
Blue Gal (of Blue Gal and Crooks and Liars) is getting married this Friday to the very funny Driftglass. . .

. . .But I just wondered how many more Blue Gal fans there are out there, and how many people might want to go hit the tip jar on her page to give this lovely couple a little extra money as a wedding present.

She’s one of the nicest, smartest, funniest people — and so’s Drifty. If you want to send a gift to the happy couple, click here.

Driftglass - Deny, Deny, Deny (2005)
In the flick Matthau asks Morse what to do if his wife nails him with another woman. . .

. . .“Deny, deny, deny.”

. . .“But what if…?”
“But suppose she walks right in and finds…?”
“Right there. In her bed. Right in front of her…?”

Deny everything. As your wife stands over your marriage bed, deny that the woman she is staring at even exists. When your wife demanded to know who this woman is as she (and you) get hurriedly dressed two feet away, just repeat “What? What are you talking about? What woman?”

What made me think of that:

Bob Herbert made me think of that.

Bob Herbert, one of the few reasons I might consider holding a bake sale to pay Charon to get me across the river Styx to the Times’ OpEd page once NYT closes the free pedway.

Herbet talks; You listen.

The Rumsfeld Stain

Published: May 23, 2005

How does Donald Rumsfeld survive as defense secretary? . . .

Juan Cole - Iraq & Syria
In contrast to the Iraqi executive, the parliament has recently strongly deplored the government’s use of violence against protesters. Two major blocs in parliament, the Kurdistan Alliance and the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya Party, are not Shiite and have ties to protesters in Syria, whether Kurds or Sunni Arabs. The Speaker of parliament is a Sunni Arab from Mosul who has strongly condemned the Baath government’s repression. . .

Iraq calls Syria to stop bloodshed

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