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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Friday, February 24, 2012
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF - In Sudan, Seeing Echoes of Darfur

ROD NORDLAND and ALAN COWELL (NYT) - Two Western Journalists Killed in Syria Shelling

ROGER COHEN - Anthony Shadid’s Story

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER - Halting the killing in Syria
. . .The key condition for all such assistance, inside or outside Syria, is that it be used defensively — only to stop attacks by the Syrian military or to clear out government forces that dare to attack the no-kill zones. Although keeping intervention limited is always hard, international assistance could be curtailed if the Free Syrian Army took the offensive. The absolute priority within no-kill zones would be public safety and humanitarian aid; revenge attacks would not be tolerated. . .

MUSTAFA BARGHOUTHI - Peaceful Protest Can Free Palestine

Violet Socks - Reclusive Leftist

Susie Madrak - Timoney in Bahrain

Laura Rozen - UN should weigh in on legality of Iran strike, Brazil’s foreign minister tells Yahoo News

Arthur Silber - When "Antiwar" Means "Start the Bombing!"

Peter Beinart - The Crazy Rush to Attack Iran

Diane - A Little Slice of Good News

Honestly, I'm grateful to Beinart for writing against war with Iran. But Silber's critique of Beinart is worth reading. I do think, Beinart's piece has a hidden assumption that whether to go to war in Iran is based on long chains of deductive logic, and if any of those chains break down, then war becomes an acceptable choice. I suspect the opposite is true, human use of logic and reason is sufficiently faulty that you can rationalize anything you have a mind to, even unnecessary, insane war.

I have no animus against Catholic Bishops and employers, and don't wish to aggrieve them or force them to violate their conscience. But do they believe employers who support population control should be able to take away maternity benefits from their employees? If not, how can they defend their right to take away contraceptive benefits from their employees? What the Catholic Bishops are asking us to accept is unacceptable for liberals: they are asking us to accept a society where workers have to live in fear that if their employer wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, their health benefits could be taken away from them.

Dorothy L Sayers - THE LOVE OF THE CREATURE (1941)
The resistance to creation which the writer encounters in his creature is sufficiently evident, both to himself and to others-particularly to those others who have the misfortune to live with him during the period when his Energy is engaged on a job of work. The human maker is, indeed, almost excessively vocal about the perplexities and agonies of creation and the intractability of his material. Almost equally evident, however, though perhaps less readily explained or described, is the creature's violent urge to be created. To the outsider, the spectacle of a writer "taken ill with an idea" usually presents itself as a subject for unseemly mirth; the "Spring poet" is the perennial butt of the plain man, just as, on the stage, any reference to child-birth is a signal for hoots of merriment, especially from the male members of the audience. In both cases, the ridicule is largely defensive-the nervous protest of the negative and chaotic against the mysterious and terrible energy of the creative. But that a work of creation struggles and insistently demands to be brought into being is a fact that no genuine artist would think of denying.

Often, the demand may impose itself in defiance of the author's considered interests and at the most inconvenient moments. Publisher, bank-balance, and even the conscious intellect may argue that the writer should pursue some fruitful and established undertaking; but they will argue in vain against the passionate vitality of a work that insists on manifestation. The strength of the insistence will vary from something that looks like direct inspiration to something that resembles a mere whim of the wandering mind; but whenever the creature's desire of existence is dominant, everything else will have to give way to it; the writer will push all other calls aside and get down to his task in a spirit of mingled delight and exasperation. Because of this, the artist ought, above all men, to be chary of basing his philosophy of life on the assumption that "we are brought into this world by no choice of our own". That may be so, but he has no means of proving it, and the analogy of his own creative experience offers evidence to the contrary. He knows very well that he, in his work, is for ever ground between the upper and nether millstones of the universal paradox. His creature simultaneously demands manifestation in space-time and stubbornly opposes it; the will . of his universe is to life as implacably as it is to chaos. (It is, of course, irrelevant to object that this "creature" struggling towards manifestation is "really" only a part of the maker's own ego. All creatures are a part of the Maker's mind, and have no independent existence till they attain partial independence by manifestation.)

next post: 3/2/12

Friday, February 17, 2012
The Politic - More on Syria from Karam Nachar

Juan Cole - General Assembly Condemns Syria as Regime Bombards Homs Again

Arthur Silber - On Behalf of Life: Occupy, Authority, and The Obedient Dissenter

Susie Madrak - Child Hunger

Susie Madrak - Mark Perry on Israel & Iran

Violet Socks - My letter to Governor Bob McDonnell on the state-mandated object rape bill

Violet Socks - Through the looking glass and down that slippery slope
Huffington Post:
. . .“[I]t’s unbelievably broad,” said Judy Waxman, vice president for health and reproductive rights for the National Women’s Law Center. “I hear some people framing this about religious freedom, but I think it’s really about undermining health insurance in an extremely dramatic way and letting individual people decide what is moral for everybody they employ or insure.” . . .

No one is preventing anybody from following their conscience on birth control. All people are being prevented from doing is forcing their views on others via economic coercion. And everybody is forced, everyday, to pay all kinds of taxes & fees for things they'd rather not pay for.

Let me just state the obvious: the recent attacks and attempted attacks on Israeli citizens and non-Israeli bystanders in Georgia, India, Thailand, as well as older attacks in Argentina, were evil. I hope the people who planned, ordered and carried out these attempted murders are caught, and held to account for their crimes.

Al Gore - May 26, 2004 speech against torture
. . .Listen to the way Israel's highest court dealt with a similar question when, in 1999, it was asked to balance due process rights against dire threats to the security of its people:

"This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day they (add to) its strength.". . .

Juan Cole - Santorum Hypes Iran ‘Threat’
. . .The medical reactor was given to Iran by the United States and was inaugurated in 1967. The reactor is being regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure it is being used only for civilian purposes, and the IAEA was present Thursday to watch the insertion of the fuel rod.

The reactor actually has no conceivable military purpose, and its fuel, uranium enriched to 19.75 percent, is used up when run through the reactor, so it cannot be used to make a nuclear warhead. Nuclear bombs need the uranium to be enriched to 95 percent, typically. Iran is not yet able to achieve that level of enrichment, and says it is not trying to. . .

Juan Cole - Indian Investigators do not Suspect Iran in Israel Embassy Blast

Re: "Islamist resurgence"
The article “Prospects of Pakistan's Islamist resurgence” (Feb. 16) by Praveen Swami follows the predictable pattern of detailing the horrifying speeches and deeds of a few extremist leaders and portraying them as powerful forces which, if we are not careful, may at any time start a major jihad that will swallow all of us, ordinary folks. . .

. . .The use of terms like “toxic Islamism” is deeply offensive. The world is full of Muslims who are kind and compassionate, and Islamic political movements that have given the poor and dispossessed a voice.

S. Goga,


Hindu letters: Iran & US

JOHN MUELLER - False nuclear fears cloud judgment on Iran

Hindu editorial - Encounter at mid-sea

I do not think the Italians personnel who killed the Indian fishermen should be treated like criminals. It was an accident, and while they have been negligent, while they may have shown tragically poor judgment, while they may have been inexcusably trigger-happy, it was an accident, not a crime.

next post: 2/24/2012

Friday, February 10, 2012
Juan Cole - Informed Comment

Juan Cole - The Dilemma over Syria

Peter Van Buren, In Washington, Fear the Silence, Not the Noise

Juan Cole - Syria: Crimes Against Humanity in Homs

Juan Cole - How an Israeli Strike on Iran could radically weaken Israel

Arthur Silber - Preventing war with Iran

Gene Lyons - Why Stupid Wars Happen To A Smart People
After being elected in large part because he’d opposed a “dumb” war in Iraq, President Obama finds himself confronting an even dumber one in Iran. Exponentially dumber, actually.. . .You’d think the Israelis, of all people, would recognize that threatening a people with death and destruction hardens their resolve. . .

Violet Socks - religious freedom does not equal the right to violate employees’ civil rights

Doctor Science - The Value of Planned Parenthood
In the last abortion discussion we had around here, a number of people said

Contraception is easily available in the United States.

This is not actually true, if we're talking about *effective* contraception. [1] The most effective contraception methods will always be ones that don't have to be deployed every time you have sex, but only checked up or re-deployed occasionally -- injections, IUDs, patches, etc. Such methods are not going to be over-the-counter, they will always require seeing a doctor and getting a prescription. For women who are poor, uninsured, or transient, this is not at *all* easy, and in many areas it would be almost impossible without PP. . .

Susie Madrak - The ‘peace police’
David Graeber:
. . .Gandhi was part of a very broad anti-colonial movement that included elements that actually were using firearms, in fact, elements engaged in outright terrorism. He first began to frame his own strategy of mass non-violent civil resistance in response to a debate over the act of an Indian nationalist who walked into the office of a British official and shot him five times in the face, killing him instantly. Gandhi made it clear that while he was opposed to murder under any circumstances, he also refused to denounce the murderer. This was a man who was trying to do the right thing, to act against an historical injustice, but did it in the wrong way because he was “drunk with a mad idea.”. . .

next post: 2/17/2012

Friday, February 03, 2012
Arthur Silber - Seeming Madness: The Suffocating Unreality that Kills

Sasha Said - Homelessness Averted

Susie Madrak - Komen
. . .Several years ago, when I was out of work and scraped together the money to see a doctor for the flu, she urged me to go have a mammogram through a program for the poor.

“And then what?” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“So suppose I have a mammogram, and it turns out I have breast cancer. I have no way of paying for treatment, and no one’s offering to do it for free, so what’s the point?” I said. I was angry.

She didn’t have an answer. . .

Violet Socks - Komen

I guess my main opinion on the controversy is that PP, despite being run and staffed by imperfect human beings, is nonetheless a valuable institution, worthy of support.

Juan Cole - Syria's Crisis Deepens

Kevin Drum - Public Money and Public Policy

I guess my other view of these kinds of disputes, is that the government can give vouchers to people, and if people decide they want to go to PP or the CC, I don't think government should prohibit that choice. But that's the kind of non-interference policy conservatives messed with when they adopted their "health-care vouchers cannot buy insurance policies which offer abortion services" position. When they took that position, they insured decades of government interference in people's freedom to choose.

Juan Cole - The Generals try to stop an Iran War

Ali Gharib - Experts Urge Caution About Attacking Iran

RONEN BERGMAN (NYT) - Will Israel Attack Iran?

Roane Carey (Mother Jones) - Will Israel Attack Iran?

I think the controversy over "Israeli-First" and "dual loyalties" really misses the point. In what sense can people who support the indescribably insane policy of initiating an eternal war with the Iranian people (evil, too, but let's start with insanity) be considered to be "putting Israel first" or being "loyal to Israel"? Putting Haim Saban first is not the same as putting Israel first, being loyal to the cause of eternal Israeli occupation and dominance is not the same as being loyal to Israel. Some Israeli hardliners are manifestly more committed to the cause of dominance and supremacy, than they are to the cause of Israel per se.

went to the Hindu website, admittedly looking for editorials condemning Israeli murders of Iranian scientists, instead found this:

K. PRADEEP - He made deserts bloom (Eliahu Bezalel, who migrated to Israel in the fifties, is a pioneer in fertigation)
. . .Bezalel soon became part of David Ben Gurion's, (Israel's founder and first prime minister) dream of turning huge tracts of desert land into fertile farms. He was allotted land in a village in Negev Desert, south of Israel. And here he proved that roses bloom even in these arid deserts. . .

. . .Among the many visitors to his farm Bezalel was the Nobel Laureate and French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. “Sartre came with his girlfriend Simone de Beauvoir. He wanted to know if there was discrimination in Israel; discrimination of race, colour or prejudices of being European or Asian. I told him that this was not there but another kind of discrimination was obvious. It was very difficult for a farmer to get a loan in Israel. He had to go through so much formality. But for a European, in his silk suit and tie, doors would open very fast. Of course, things have changed now.” . . .

Also found this:

VATSALA VEDANTAM - 'I don't have cancer'

next post: 2/10/2012