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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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Arthur Silber - Rape, Harrassment, Horrible Bosses

Arthur Silber - "They Don't Represent America"? Not Quite, Mr. President. (2004)

Will Kane (SF Chronicle) - Scott Olsen, vet hurt at Occupy Oakland, discharged

(Via Atrios):

World O' Crap - If 'Are You Being Served?' is the Kind of Programming...

Sam Seder interview of Dean Baker
Dean Baker: " . . .So we had a huge fall-off in both construction & consumption, creating a shortfall in demand over a trillion dollars a year. The point is, how do you replace that demand? We have all these people in Washington saying `We want the private sector to do it'. Wonderful! I want the private sector to do it too, but it doesn't work that way, they don't increase their spending just because we have politicians who want them to. . ."

just saw the Inside Job, found it a little overwhelming, found the interview with Mishkin, who seemed a nice man (and whose textbook is indeed quite good), painful to watch. One of the baroque details I found interesting was the extraordinary lengths Richard Fuld of Lehmann went to shield himself from the details of what the Lehmann rank and file were doing (He had his own private elevator, and his driver called in to the doorman to clear the way once he had arrived, so that the journey from the car to the elevator, instead of talking 5-10 minutes, could instead be over in 30 seconds, with minimum human contact. Once in the elevator, safe from the rank and file, straight up to the privacy of the executive floor).

I perhaps have similar misanthropic tendencies, a similar occasional desire to be free from the accusing glance of others, a similar desire to be safe in a private sanctuary, but could not imagine indulging that desire to that extreme, no matter how much money I had.

In any case, 2 people in the film that I found impressive were Robert Gnaizda & Charles Morris, and wondered why they didn't seem that impressed with the Obama administration. Also wondered what Larry Summers would have had to say about his dealings with Brooksley Born.

Re: Europe, it almost defies belief, but a great and sophisticated continent is coming to grief because it has saddled itself with a central bank that does not understand central banking: namely, that every industrial economy since 1820 has needed a lender of last resort at a penalty rate, and the penalty rate should be nonzero but affordable. The alternative to the lender of last resort is 1) large amounts of capital wasted self-insuring against Knightian uncertainty 2) random, unavoidable crisis caused by self-fulfilling fears & panics. It's easy to blame the Germans, but I believe the real fault lies with elites in Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, who need to gather their courage and get out of the Euro, ASAP. When the UK & Sweden exited the ERM, the results were very beneficial, and I believe the same would be true of exiting the Euro.

One idea I think would be good for US economic policy: allow every fixed Treasury bond to be freely convertible to a TIPS bond, if the bondholder wants to convert. The result would be to allow a shift of inflation risk from individual investors to the government. Hopefully, that would make the system more tolerant of moderate amounts of inflation, and therefore better protected against liquidity traps.

Thursday, November 17, 2011
Arthur Silber - So, What Exactly Are We Talking About? Some Preliminary Observations

Arthur Silber - Railroaded Into Unnecessary War


Arthur Silber - Sorrowful Silence

Violet Socks - Reclusive Leftist
Am I the only person in the world who thinks 200 bucks is serious money? Okay, not exactly serious, but significant. It’s a chunk of change, you know?. . .a hundred-dollar piece of electronic gear is not a stocking stuffer. A stocking stuffer is a plastic pez dispenser with red and green M&Ms. . .

Gary Farber - Amygdala

russell (Obsidian Wings) - the 28th

Susie Madrak - Dorli Rainey

A must-read post by Digby:

Digby - The war at home

Digby - For thee but not for me

Paul Krugman - The Very Brave BOE

The BOE sensibly realizes that moderate inflation is far preferable to the alternative of a liquidity trap combined with a crushing debt burden. No one liked the Post-WWII double-digit inflation rates, but surely they were preferable to depression. Central bankers with a clue: Who let them into the building?

Talking about people who know what they're doing, I've always liked this Roger Mudd interview:

Roger Mudd - interviewed by Brian Lamb (1999)
Lamb: . . .if people were to go back and say, `Was there a Roger Mudd moment?' it would be the question to Ted Kennedy, `Why do you want to be president?'. . .

Mudd: . . .So when we sat down for the interview, I knew almost as much about him and Chappaquiddick as he did so it was not an adversarial interview so much as it was he knew that he couldn't get by with very much. And he'd have to answer the questions because, you know, I knew where to go. . .And I kept saying, `Well, I mean, how do you differ from President Carter? I mean, what would be different?' And the answers were not very articulate, and suddenly I said, `OK, so why do you want to be president?' And the answer was, `Well, because the sky is so blue and the grass is so green and the water's so cold,' is basically what he said, and the answer did not make sense.

And it suddenly occurred to people that maybe the senator didn't know why he wanted to be president or maybe he hadn't thought about it; maybe he hadn't gone to the mountain and figured out who he wanted to punish and who he wanted to reward and what elements of society he wanted to -and it was a difficult moment for him because an awful lot of writers, columnists, reporters used that interview to to dump on him. They had not been willing to do that before because I think they were taken by the Kennedy magic, and this revealed the senator as inarticulate in many ways.

I think he's a terrific senator, by the way. . .

LAMB: . . .You glad it's over? Or would you have liked to have stayed on?

Mr. MUDD: Well, no. Things have changed so much, Brian. Priorities are not the same. What you try to do is not the same. The audience you try to reach is different. The kind of stories that they use now are different. . .I've had a marvelous life with the networks, ups and downs, mostly ups, and was privileged to be a part of a--of, you know, a splendid news organization, CBS. You know, when you--when you went somewhere with CBS, you felt like you were the New York Yankees arriving because you--you knew there wasn't anybody any better.

And we were awfully good; I mean, had an awful lot of good people. And we knew what we were doing, and we knew what was news and what wasn't. And maybe we had too much hubris, I don't know. But, in any event, I think--I think it would be very difficult to go back. So to answer your question, no, I'm not sad about it.

Amid all news of cell phone patents/IP, I realized with a sense of shock that patents/IP are much more valuable for a company which doesn't make cellphones, who makes nothing, than a company which actually makes the damn phones. If you actually manufacture a phone, then you can sue other manufacturers for violating your patents, but they can sue you too for violating their patents, and it's mutually assured destruction. If you can sue for infringement of your "ambulatory communication device" patent, you can also be sued for your infringement of someone else's "device which ambulates while communicating" patent. But if you posses only the cell phone patents, without selling any actual phones, you can happily sue all the real manufacturers for violating your precious, oh-so-valuable IP, without a care in the world. (I take it for granted that 99.99% of patents are not actually valuable in the process of manufacturing a product)

Obviously, this is perverse and absurd. There are solutions, but the current crop of politicians have zero interest in finding them.

I don't think Steve Jobs bitter denunciation to Obama of unions/the left should be seen as Jobs just being a jerk. I think they should be seen as someone who wanted pretty badly to manufacture macs in the US, and was frustrated at his inability to do so. I think Jobs was well aware that if he had managed to make macs in the US, the love people had for him, already immense, would have reached stratospheric levels.

Cricinfo - Full coverage of Peter Roebuck's death

Rob Steen on Peter Roebuck - A sharp mind, a tormented soul

Sambit Bal - Remembering Roebuck

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is that Roebuck, when he first came up, was a pupil and friend of Tom Cartwright, one of my favorite cricketers.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Andrew Sullivan - Assad's Victims Mount

Andrew Sullivan - Obama on Cannabis

Arthur Silber - Sorrowful Silence

Susie Madrak - Generational Warfare
Economist Dean Baker

Gary Farber - Amygdala

Violet Socks - Reclusive Leftist

Fresh Air - (Jill Lepore) How Birth Control And Abortion Became Politicized

Are the kids in the PSA abuses getting all the help they need? What do they think is an appropriate punishment?

So how many jobs would Obama/Dems have created if the GOP hadn't blocked their bills? And why isn't this number a kajillian billion?

Thursday, November 03, 2011
Gary Farber (Obsidian Wings) - CPT Thomas J. Casey's Bronze Star

ROD NORDLAND (NYT) - 12 Americans Die as Blast Hits Bus in Afghanistan

Corrente Wire - Bernanke & Unemployment

I like Bernanke as a person. But the unemployed deserve to know that there are consequences to the nation's top economic policy-makers for failing to prevent high unemployment.

Violet Socks - The end of male primogeniture

Susie Madrak - Greece
Kevin Drum explains the latest banking mess.

I agree with Atrios that this is really not that difficult. This is just a form of bank run, and we know the way to deal with bank runs is some FDIC-like system.

Arthur Silber - Once Upon a Time. . .

ROBERT D. McFADDEN (NYT) - Dorothy Rodham, Mother and Mentor of Hillary Clinton, Is Dead at 92

Thomas Macaulay Millar (Feministe) - Facts on rape
. . .rape is not the result of miscommunications, and since it’s not the result of miscommunications, sending “mixed signals” isn’t the problem. . .

Rapists aren't actually seeking consensual sex, they're seeking plausible deniability that non-consensual coercion cannot be proved to be non-consensual. They're not looking for the truth ("Is this rape?"), they're looking for a cover story ("Can I make it possible to argue that I couldn't be expected to know this was rape?").

Alan Rappeport (FT) - Obama orders FDA to tackle drugs shortage
. . .Last month, a US congressional committee requested documents from five “grey market” drug companies that buy and sell drugs in short supply to find out how they are acquiring the drugs and how much profit they are making from selling them to hospitals and pharmacies. The committee said that one company was selling a drug to treat leukaemia for nearly $1,000 per vial when the normal price was $12 per vial. . .

One key point that was not made in the FT article: Europe & Japan do not have these drug shortages.

If I were the Dems, I would make this story the centerpiece of the 2012 campaign. "We found evidence that rogue companies & health-care providers were trying to corner the market in cancer drugs so they could drive up the price and gouge hospitals. We immediately investigated and and used every tool in our power to put a stop to it. We are willing to take action to stop these abuses, no matter how loudly the rogue companies squeal. The Republicans aren't".

The Herman Cain case reminds me of how much I hate non-disclosure agreements (I also hated the non-disclosure aspect of the settlements the Catholic Church made in an attempt to cover up clergy abuse). "I did nothing wrong, but let's let it be our little secret, hmm'kay?" I think a good law Congress could pass is "Non-disclosure agreements shall not be enforceable in a court of law unless the enforcer of non-disclosure clause can demonstrate that said enforcement poses no serious risks to the general public."