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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Thursday, March 29, 2012
Arthur Silber - Thanks, Regrets

Solicitor-General Verilli excerpt, Day 3:
GENERAL VERRILLI: . . .if I may just say in conclusion that -- I would like to take half a step back here, that this provision, the Medicaid expansion that we are talking about this afternoon, and the provisions we have talked about yesterday, we have been talking about them in terms of their effect as measures that solve problems, problems in the economic marketplace, that have resulted in millions of people not having health care because they can't afford insurance. There is an important connection, a profound connection between that problem and liberty. And I do think it's important that we not lose sight of that. That in this population of Medicaid eligible people who will receive health care that they cannot now afford under this Medicaid expansion, there will be millions of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, and as a result of the health care that they will get, they will be unshackled from the disabilities that those diseases put on them and have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of liberty. And the same thing will be true for -- for a husband whose wife is diagnosed with breast cancer and who won't face the prospect of being forced into bankruptcy to try to get care for his wife and face the risk of having to raise his children alone and I can multiply example after example after example. In a very fundamental way this Medicaid expansion, as well as the provisions we discussed yesterday, secure of the blessings of liberty. And I think that that is important as the Court's considering these issues that that be kept in mind.

Congress struggled with the issue of how to deal with this profound problem of 40 million people without health care for many years, and it made a judgment, and its judgment is one that is, I think, in conformity with lots of experts thought, was the best complex of options to handle this problem. Maybe they were right, maybe they weren't, but this is something about which the people of the United States can deliberate and they can vote, and if they think it needs to be changed, they can change it. And I would suggest to the Court with profound respect for the Court's obligation to ensure that the Federal Government remains a government of enumerated powers, that this is not a case in any of its aspects that calls that into question. That this was a judgment of policy, that democratically accountable branches of this government made by their best lights, and I would encourage this Court to respect that judgment and ask that the Affordable Care Act, in its entirety, be upheld. Thank you. . .

Echidne - Today's Action Alert

Echidne - How About Them Teachers? Ripping Us All Off, From Primary School To Universities!
. . .[These are] "don't look at the man behind the curtain" tactics. As income inequality increases and one percent of the top one percent gets almost all of the recent gains ordinary people are asked to turn their inchoate feelings of unfairness and their bitterness against someone else. . .

Michael Doyle (McClatchy (Bellingham Herald)) - Can you predict an outcome from Supreme Court justices' questions?
. . .For three uninterrupted minutes Wednesday — an eternity in oral-argument time — Verrilli concluded with a stirring speech about health care and freedom from disease. No justice broke in to question him.

"In a very fundamental way, this (law) secures the blessings of liberty," Verrilli intoned. . .

Joel GAzis-SAx - The Martyrdom of Mayor George Moscone (1996)
. . .The jury found White guilty only of voluntary manslaughter. In other words, even though White had taken the trouble to load his gun in advance, to use the most lethal ammunition, to carry extra bullets, to climb through a window to avoid the metal detector, to sidestep Moscone's bodyguard, to reload after killing Moscone and then walk across City Hall to hunt down Harvey Milk, Douglas Schmidt had convinced the jury that there had been no premeditation. . .

. . .Better observers, among them close friends of Harvey Milk, were kinder towards Mary Ann White. Milk's lover, Scott Smith, was not surprised by White's suicide. Cleve Jones, a former Milk aide, sighed and said: "The lesson is that bigotry kills people. Bigotry killed George Moscone and Harvey Milk. It has taken Dan White's life, and, sadly enough, it probably will destroy the lives of his wife and their children." . . .

. . .George Moscone had never been a rich man. When he died, the man reputed by his enemies to be the kingpin of the City's cocaine trade had fifteen cents in his pocket and $3,955 in his bank account. . .

. . .In death, many chose to honor Moscone in ways that he would not have appreciated in life. Legislators, who eulogized him on the floor of the California State Senate and Assembly, cast votes in Moscone's memory to require the death penalty in special circumstances such as the killing of a public official. The "Twinkie Defense" was invoked by those who eschewed California's diminished capacity defense. After Dan White, men and women with more reasonable cases of diminished capacity were thereafter irrevocably condemned to execution or imprisonment without psychiatric help of any kind. . .

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF - From South Sudan to Yale

Sean Coughlan (BBC) - Gordon Brown calls for global fund for education target

Natalie Angier (NYT) - The Mighty Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of

just talked with work colleague about traffic in India, he found it hard to understand (and frankly, I did too, when he pointed it out to me) how someone could walk into oncoming traffic and get hit like in the Youtube videos.

HEATHER TIMMONS and HARI KUMAR (NYT) - India Steadily Increases Its Lead in Road Fatalities (2010)
. . .Shivani, a 15-year-old student, recently landed in St. Stephen’s Hospital in Old Delhi with a fractured right leg after just such a highway dash.

“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I was trying to cross the road.” Her forehead and knuckles were blackened and scraped, and her eyes were glazed after a four-day coma.

She has to cross a busy highway during her one-kilometer walk to school. There are no crosswalks, no underpasses and no stoplights. . .

SARITHA RAI (NYT) - The End of ‘Traffic Hell’ (2011)

S S Kumar (Rediff) - A cure for India's traffic mess (2009)

Hannah Mae - Rest In Peace (Adrienne Rich, “Diving Into the Wreck” (1973))

Re: Valentine's Day, I've always liked Hannah's 2008 post:
Cupid aims for the head · 15 February 2008, 00:23

Tonight I celebrated the shootingest of holidays by going with a modest-yet-dedicated horde of the undead to the new George Romero movie, Diary of the Dead. It is amazing what problems and “problems” you can solve by going out in public dressed as a bloodsoaked punk zombie. . .

Dorothy L Sayers - THE "LAWS" OF NATURE AND OPINION (1941)
. . .There is a difference between saying: "If you hold your finger in the fire you will get burned" and saying, "if you whistle at your work I shall beat you, because the noise gets on my nerves".

The God of the Christians is too often looked upon as an old gentleman of irritable nerves who beats people for whistling. . .

Susie Madrak - Setup

Violet Socks - The complete George Zimmerman surveillance video

Ezra Klein - At World Bank, Jim Yong Kim could be right fit at right time

Matthew Yglesias - Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans has an ingenious plan to jump-start job creation. His Fed colleagues should listen to him.

Noah Smith - Thursday Roundup (3/29/2012)

Mike Konczal - Iceland Recovers from a Financial Crisis with Debt Writedowns

Paul Krugman - The FT Does Iceland

Jim Yong Kim - My Call for an Open, Inclusive World Bank

Ezra Klein - In Kim, an activist to lead the World Bank

Felix Salmon - Why Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala should run the World Bank

Salmon may be right, and Okonjo-Iweala seems like a good choice, but Kim is a very good choice, too. My slight preference goes to Kim, on the grounds that I'd prefer a non-insider to an insider, and a technology-transfer background to a finance background. But I could very well be wrong, and, to repeat, they both seem like good choices.

ATUL ANEJA (Hindu) - All eyes now on enforcing a ceasefire in Syria

SUJAY MEHDUDIA (Hindu) - BRICS nations say they won't sever ties with Iran

Dana Goldstein - In Defense of Peter Beinart

Jonathan Cohn - Obamacare Is On Trial. So Is the Supreme Court.
. . .Think about that for a second: If the justices strike down the Affordable Care Act, they would be stopping the federal government from pursuing a perfectly constitutional goal via a perfectly constitutional scheme just because Congress and the President didn’t use perfectly constitutional language to describe it. Maybe labels matter, although case law suggests otherwise. But do they matter enough for the Court to throw out a law that will provide insurance to 30 million people, shore up insurance for many more, and help to manage one-sixth of the American economy? It wouldn’t seem so. . .

Dealing with this Supreme Court is like dealing with the mind-numbing bureaucracy of "The Place That Sends You Mad".

Jamelle Bouie - The Attack on Liberal Legitimacy
. . .The broader question, I suppose, is this—if our majorities don’t count, and our laws don’t either, then what does?

The answer, it seems to me, cannot be "civil war". LGBT rights seems like a good guide, to not compromise on principle, to not give up, but also to not to start, or think of starting, a civil war.

@TylerCowen: "People in North Dakota aren't saying we won’t create new jobs because of tax and regulation uncertainty."

next post: 4/12/2012

Monday, March 26, 2012
Arthur Silber - Thanks, Regrets
Many thanks to those who responded with such generosity and kindness to my last plea for donations. I'm deeply grateful. For the moment, I don't have to worry about basic living expenses, which is an enormous relief.

Unfortunately, I have to report that my health has taken a severe turn for the worse. It's very bad, and it makes it almost impossible for me to do anything. Last week, I couldn't make it to the corner store. I got halfway there and had to turn around, make my way home very slowly, and then collapse into bed. I guess my condition merits calling 911, but my experience with all that and with the hospital a year ago was so incredibly awful, that I simply can't make the call until I'm convinced something very extreme is about to occur momentarily. It appears I haven't quite reached that point, although I suppose I might any time now. Of course, I have no means to access ongoing medical care, so now I wait to see what happens. Hopefully, I'll feel at least a bit better sometime soon.

I offer my gratitude once again, and I'll get back to writing as soon as I'm able. All good thoughts are appreciated. I'll keep you updated as I can.

Jesse Taylor (Pandagon) - A Young Black Man, Being Late

Violet Socks - Understatement of the week

Ariel Edwards-Levy (HuffPo) - Newt Gingrich Calls Trayvon Martin Case A 'Tragedy,' Defends Stand Your Ground Law
. . .Gingrich said that while he didn't know all the facts of the Martin case, he didn't feel the stand your ground law would ultimately apply.

"The young man apparently was not following the person who's being investigated," he said. "Apparently, the shooter was following the young man. That's not a stand your own ground, that's a chase the other person into their ground. . .

David Taintor (TPM) - Rep. Allen West: Zimmerman Had ‘No Authorization’ To Shoot Trayvon Martin

JOHN F. TIMONEY (NYT) - Florida’s Disastrous Self-Defense Law

Susie Madrak - Elizabeth Warren

Oliver Willis - Killabuster
Ezra Klein’s article in the New Yorker makes a pretty good case, in my opinion, for totally killing the filibuster. . .

. . .Killing the filibuster will allow both parties to get things done and for the opposing party to appeal to the electorate in response — deciding to go ahead with or repeal legislation.

Let’s finally get some things done, for better or worse.

Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic) - An Interview With Jeremy Ben-Ami on Settlements, Beinart, Obama, the Whole Nine Yards

Michael C. Moynihan (Tablet)- Racial Profiling

Anshel Pfeffer (Haaretz) - Preventing the next attack on the Jewish community
. . .This is not a solely Jewish concern, of course. Think of the U.S. high schools occasionally swept by murderous gun rampages by disgruntled former students, a phenomenon that now seems to have become a peculiar part of modern American life. How do you ensure safety for students without instilling paranoia and installing metal detectors in every corridor to protect them against an appalling (but still exceptionally rare ) outcome?

Ultimately, the most effective form of security is the hidden one - a heightened awareness on the part of intelligence and police services of the sources of hatred, and the potential threats and willingness to take measures preventing the threats from materializing. This is what Jewish leaders around the world should be pushing their government to emphasize. Not only would it guarantee more safety than armed gendarmes at school gates and barricading children in fortresses, it would also be for the good of all children, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Jewish.

Niva Lanir (Haaretz) - Amos Oz: 'I get up in the morning and ask: What if?'

Doctor Science (Obsidian Wings) - Faulkner's past and Trayvon Martin

Paul Krugman (NYT) - Lobbyists, Guns and Money

FRANK BRUNI (NYT) - Rethinking His Religion

MATT BAI (NYT) - Scott Ritter’s Other War

DIANA B. HENRIQUES (NYT) - Broken Trust in God’s Country
. . .But the most intriguing aspect of Monroe Beachy’s story is how different it seems from Bernie Madoff’s — and from almost every other story with a “Ponzi scheme” headline over the years.

While victims of Mr. Madoff’s fraud, like most Ponzi victims, condemned their accused betrayer in court as a monster, many of Mr. Beachy’s investors have said in court that it is more important to forgive him than to recover their money. . .

. . .“A hundred years from now, what will be the difference about how much money we had here?” asked Emery E. Miller, a village resident and a proponent of the alternative plan, at the first creditors meeting. “But a hundred years from now, there will be a difference in how we responded to this from our moral being, from a moral level — the choices we made to forgive or not to forgive.”

MJ Rosenberg (Al Jazeera) - The case for bombing Iran is quickly collapsing
Common sense dictates that war with Iran would be devastating for the region - and common sense must prevail. . .

Freddie Deboer (L'Hote) - there.

Freddie Deboer (L'Hote) - Up with Chris Hayes
. . .I'm conflicted on nuclear power, given its dangers but also its potential as a non-carbon producing energy source. However: I am just as opposed to nuclear weapons and power in Israel and the United States as I am in Iran. I didn't hear, and haven't heard, a statement of equitable political principles that explains why it is somehow more legitimate for Israel to have nuclear technology than Iran. Worse, there appears to be a consensus opinion that no such principle needs to be articulated.

I would very much like for Hayes to have asked that question yesterday, why Israel is entitled to a nuclear arsenal and Iran is not. . .

Diane Ravitch (NYRB) - Schools We Can Envy (3/08/12)

Diane Ravitch (NYRB) - How, and How Not, to Improve the Schools (3/22/12)

Kenneth Kolson (NYRB) - What Can We Learn From Finnish Schools? (4/05/12)


Jeffrey D. Sachs - Prof Sachs strongly supports Dr Jim Kim and expresses gratitude to world leaders and all supporters

next post: 4/05/2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012
Ta-nehisi Coates - Travyon Martin

NYT editorial - Shot to Death in Florida

Black Snob - No Apologies: On The Killing Of Trayvon Martin And Being "Good"

Susie Madrak - Skittles

Glenn Greenwald - Ironies in American justice (Manning & Bales)
Think about that. . .the one who committed atrocities will receive better treatment than the one who exposed them.

Atrios - How does Southwest do it?

Violet Socks - Dog fix: I love this commercial

Deep Thought (overheard at coffee shop) - "There's no Funny Barbie, is there?"

Andrew Tobias - 17-minute Obama documentary

The part of the documentary I really liked was Barack & Michelle Obama talking about Obama's mother's health care. The part on GM restructuring & GM bridge loans was pretty good too.

next post: 3/29/2012

Friday, March 16, 2012
Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...

More rif at work, this time hitting my team. Strikes me that so far in this job I've perhaps shown the type of flashy pseudo-smarts useful for saving my own skin, but not the kind of real smarts which would actually help anyone.

Partners In Health - AN URGENT MESSAGE FROM DR. PAUL FARMER (Feb. 23, 2012)
. . .We need to get the word out, and you can help. Share the news and encourage your friends and family to help us slow -- and someday stop -- the spread of cholera in Haiti.

Fred Kaplan (Slate) - American troops no longer serve a purpose in Afghanistan. It is time to get out. Now.

IMO, it is wrong to punish US personnel for mistakenly burning Korans. They did nothing wrong, and they should not be punished just as a sort of irrational appeasement ritual.

Jon Hemming and Jonathon Burch (Reuters) - Turkey considers Syria buffer zone; Annan seeks unity

Meghashyam Mali (The Hill) - Sen. Reid blasts Republican lawmakers for ‘obstructionism on steroids’
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Republicans for what he called “obstructionism on steroids” on Sunday and said he hoped that GOP lawmakers would return to Washington willing to compromise with Democrats. . .

(Via Susie Madrak (I think)) Phil Weiss and Scott Roth - The radicalization of Yossi Gurvitz

Yossi Gurvitz - Friends of George

KRISHNARAJ IYENGAR (Hindu) - Bun maska at Kyani (Mumbai Iranian restaurants)

Thulasi Kakkat (Hindu) - The last Jews of Kochi

Pankaj Mishra - Iran-Israel History Suggests a Different Future

Up w/ Chris Hayes - Sunday's Show (March 11)
This morning's show focused exclusively on the intricate relationship between Israel, America, and the Palestinians. We discussed nuclear tensions between Israel and Iran, the United States' alignment with Israel, Israel's complicated internal politics, the Palestinian non-violence movement, America's role in diplomacy, and Chris' panel provided their thoughts on what "You Should Know" about the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Joining Chris were:
Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal), contributing writer at Newsweek.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder & president of The Israel Project.

Leila Hilal, Middle East analyst at the New America Foundation.

Jeremy Ben-Ami (@jeremybenami), founder & president of J Street.

Zev Chafets, founding managing editor at The Jerusalem Report and contributor at New York Times Magazine.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Schlomo Gazit, former Israel Defense Forces intelligence head, from Tel Aviv.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and co-founder of Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People and Palestinian National Initiative, joining us from Ramallah, Palestine.

Watch the whole show here.

Nick Kristof (NYT) - Viral Video, Vicious Warlord

Dorothy L Sayers - Envy
. . . artists were debunked by disclosures of their private weaknesses; great statesmen, by attributing to them mercenary and petty motives, or by alleging that all their work was meaningless, or done for them by other people. Religion was debunked, and shown to consist of a mixture of craven superstition and greed. Courage was debunked, patriotism was debunked, learning and art were debunked, love was debunked, and with it family affection and the virtues of obedience, veneration and solidarity. Age was debunked by youth and youth by age. Psychologists stripped bare the pretensions of reason and conscience and self-control, saying that these were only the respectable disguises of unmentionable unconscious impulses. Honour was de-bunked with peculiar virulence, and good faith, and unselfishness. Everything that could possibly be held to constitute an essential superiority had the garments of honour torn from its back and was cast out into the darkness of derision. Civilisation was finally debunked till it had not a rag left to cover its nakedness.

It is well that the hypocrisies which breed like mushrooms in the shadow of great virtues should be discovered and removed; but Envy is not the right instrument for that purpose; for it tears down the whole fabric to get at the parasitic growths. Its enemy, in fact, is the virtues themselves. Envy cannot bear to admire or respect; it cannot bear to be grateful. But it is [always] very plausible . . .

Glenn Greenwald comment to Kevin Drum's post: "Is Barack Obama a Murderous Sociopath?"

Kevin Drum writes here: ". . .I really have a hard time understanding progressives who are disappointed in [The Obama Presidency]". I have a hard time understanding his hard time. Let me try to explain.

Here is what I think of as the paradigmatic Kevin Drum Post and the paradigmatic Kevin Drum Chart, at least in the pre-Obama era:

Did you know that Democratic presidents are better for the economy than Republicans? Sure you did. I pointed this out two years ago, back when my readership numbered in the dozens, and more recently Michael Kinsley ran the numbers in the LA Times and came to the same conclusion.

The results are simple: Democratic presidents have consistently higher economic growth and consistently lower unemployment than Republican presidents. If you add in a time lag, you get the same result. If you eliminate the best and worst presidents, you get the same result. If you take a look at other economic indicators, you get the same result. There's just no way around it: Democratic administrations are better for the economy than Republican administrations. . .

But Kevin Drum doesn't write posts like that anymore, and he possibly never will. Why? Because, as it turns out, the President with the worst record on creating jobs since Herbert Hoover is . . .Barack Obama.

Here is another Kevin Drum article, written just before Obama's election, which suggested to American voters what they should expect if Obama was elected:

Kevin Drum - Your Salary in 2016 (2008)
. . .There are more twists and turns to the story, but this is the gist: Democrats really are better for the economy than Republicans, and it really does seem to be related to differences in their economic programs. Given that, then, I’ll make this prediction: If Barack Obama is elected president, the economy over the next eight years will be better than if John McCain is elected. In fact, I’ll go further and put some hard numbers to that prediction. Here they are:

If Obama wins, unemployment will average about 5 percent. If McCain wins it will average about 6 percent. . .

I don't have a strong personal animus toward Obama, (though I am finding curious similarities between him and Bush - neither of them is willing to admit error, both of them are not willing to give Paul Krugman a careful hearing, and a reasoned response), and don't hold him soley responsible for the disappointments of his years in office. But so what? Am I disappointed in the Obama Presidency? Yes.

Susie Madrak - Intel working toward conflict-free chip

Violet Socks - War on Women: a treasury!

Melissa Mckewan - Today in Your Feminist Backlash

(Via Digby) MARK VANHOENACKER (NYT) - How Not to Attract Tourists

(Via everyone) Carolyn Jones (Texas Observer) - 'We Have No Choice': One Woman's Ordeal with Texas' New Sonogram Law

(Via everyone) Adam Gopnik (New Yorker) - THE CAGING OF AMERICA: Why do we lock up so many people?

Next post: 3/22/2012

Friday, March 09, 2012
Arthur Silber - Help Needed

What Obama said at AIPAC

What I sometimes wish somebody says at AIPAC

RONEN BERGMAN - Will Israel Attack Iran?
C. Attucks New York:
Throughout the course of human history, innocent people are always the group that suffers the ravages of military conflict. Does anyone in the moral mind want Persian families to die because of disagreements between governments? I don't. Stop it, stop the talk of war, now.

BEHZAD YAGHMAIAN - Iran in the Shadow of War

These sanctions are very much attacks on the Iranian people, not the Iranian government. The nuclear program is broadly supported by the Iranian people, by Iranian reformists as well as Iranian conservatives.

Michael Kinsley? After writing a column about how sanctions against Rush Limbaugh are ineffective, counterproductive, and hypocritical, perhaps you could write a column on the subject of sanctions against Iran?

Juan Cole - Syria

The New York Review of Books - articles by Jeffrey Gettleman, Katherine Boo, Diane Ravitch, among others

LINDSAY BEYERSTEIN - Review: “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo

Dana Goldstein - review of Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's "Random Family"

"America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great" - Ben Carson M.D. with Candy Carson

Krugman's "Economics in Crisis" lecture is must-reading, IMO. I think economists have 2 primary social roles:

1) To remind us that "Socialism Is Bad, m'Kay" (And it is!).

2) To remind us that recessions and depressions are unnecessary and pointless, and can be cured by persuading a variety of agents, in a variety of ingenious ways, to consume and/or invest Now, instead of waiting for Later. Agents always have a variety of very good reasons to Wait For Later instead Act Now, but in recession or depression conditions, it's the agents who take the plunge and Act Now who are needed, and who should be encouraged and rewarded. The only good reason to abstain from present consumption is to increase present investment, but the perversity of recession & depression is that lower present consumption leads to *lower* present investment, not higher.

The dispute between Krugman and more conservative economics is that conservatives believe the *only* social role of economists should be to remind us that "Socialism Is Bad, m'Kay". They deeply resent the idea that economists should have a liberal social role, as well as a conservative one.

Krugman's article on financing adult education is worth reading too, though I don't think there was anything really wrong in what Romney said. In fact, I think Romney's statement provided some needed push back against the cultural practice of mindlessly applying & choosing where to go to college based on rankings and prestige, instead of cost and other meaningful considerations. There were, however, 2 things missing from Romney's statement: 1) an acknowledgement that he didn't have to face the choices this student faces, because his family paid for his education. 2) more importantly, an acknowledgement that his advice, "go to a cheaper school, and take on less debt" might be right, and might be wrong.

For some students, stretching themselves financially to go to a more prestigious, more expensive school might be the right choice. The contacts & connections they made there, as well as other benefits, might make going to Elite U the best decision they ever made. OTOH, for someone else, the right choice may be to go to College-6 in exchange for being free, or freer, from debt.

Parents and elders, when giving advice, may want what's best for kids, but they don't know what's best, and they should not pretend that they do.

The only strong opinion I have on financing adult education is that everyone with non-dischargeable student loan debt should have the option of paying off that non-dischargeable loan with either debt (fixed payments) or equity (percentage of income). It's fine for students paying with equity to pay a premium, perhaps even a large premium (I think 20-50% would be about right). But I think the option to pay with equity would have a large positive impact on some student's lives.

Ezra Klein's post on political failure is worth reading, but there's one super-important word missing, an omission that spoils the post, for me. The word? "Filibuster". If the Obama administration, as Klein claims, is "liberal, but they also place[d] a very high premium on getting something done", they why didn't they abolish the filibuster? In the 2008 election, the American people gave the Democratic party an almost ungodly amount of power, an overwhelming mandate to do whatever they needed to do in order to produce substantial improvements in the lives of the American people. They failed. They didn't get it done. We can argue about why, but we can't argue about the fact of failure. Maybe in 2015, they can get some retroactive credit for health-care tax credits, but that's in 2015, not now, and not back in November 2010. And, entirely understandably and perhaps appropriately, they were punished by the American people for their failure. Badly.

The story of late 2008-January 2011 is not in any way a story of GOP failure, IMO. The American people removed that excuse from the Democrats, by giving them such an overwhelming majority. The story of late 2008-early 2011 is simply of a party and a president that was given an overwhelming mandate, and failed to deliver. We can argue about the causes for the failure, and remedies for the failure, but not the fact of it. IMO.

UPDATE: more broadly, Obama's main political task in the first 2 years was to persuade the GOP that he was willing to allow them to share in success, but he was not willing to allow them to veto success. In this, he failed, IMO. Even given the failure of the first 2 years, Democrats could have partially atoned for it by abolishing the filibuster. This would have shown a positive intent, signaling that incumbent Democrats were mad at the GOP obstructionism, they did not accept it, and they were not going to let it happen again. Instead, when they refused to abolish the filibuster, incumbent Democrats, including Obama, validated and legitimised every questionable GOP tactic during the 111th Congress, indicated through their actions that they rather agreed and approved of GOP obstructionism, and fully intended to let it happen again. Not abolishing the filibuster was somewhat unforgivable in my book, a final and egregious screw you from incumbent elected Democrats to their base.

I think Jeremy Lin's nickname should be "Hercules". Why? Because how happy has he made us by reminding that we do, after all, live in a rich & strange world, filled with possibilities that cut against stereotype? This happy.

next post: 3/15/12

Friday, March 02, 2012
Arthur Silber - Help Needed
I need some help in two areas. Once again, now that I've paid the March rent and a couple of other first of the month bills, I'm almost flat broke. And this time, I mean flat broke. In a little while, I'll go to the corner convenience store, to pick up a few staples (milk, eggs, bread, etc.). I'm posting this now because that errand will exhaust me for most of the rest of the day. Over the last several years, even that brief trip has become harder and harder for me to make. I have to rest two or three times in the course of walking a single block. That's what a worsening heart condition will do to you -- a rotten heart which steadily worsens in the complete absence of medical care, when I can't even afford basic heart medication (as I haven't been able to afford it for the last nine months, after the prescription from my last emergency hospital stay ran out). I remarked to a couple of friends earlier today that I have a particular reason for hating Andrew Breitbart: that bastard stole my heart attack. I sometimes fall into very black moods -- gee whiz, I simply can't imagine why, what with my superlative health and tens of thousands of readers eager for my every stray thought (hahaha) -- and a quick end to this extended misery seems enormously attractive. But I'm assured by mysterious powers that there is an unlimited supply of fatal heart attacks. Hope springs eternal, even for bloggers whose "significance" shades into invisibility.

After I buy those staples, I'll have about 50 bucks left. That's it. Since I'll need that 50 bucks to avoid starvation week after next, I won't be able to pay the internet bill that's due in nine days. Then, this exhilarating experience will be over. And to think I've been working on some complicated articles dealing with resistance movements, the particular factors that motivate the resister, the loss of perceived legitimacy in our government and the effects of that loss, and many related issues. I've been thinking about some of these articles for the last several years, and I briefly had been looking forward to publishing them at long last. Oh, well; sorry to disappoint the 30 of you who give half a crap. In any event, if a few of you care to make a donation, however small, perhaps my wondrous existence can be extended a bit longer. And I do offer my sincere thanks for your kindness, despite my current bleak mood. I suppose it will lift somewhat, as it has before. Or perhaps I'll be dead. Choices, choices. . .

. . .To hell with all that. Let's try to do it ourselves, or at least start the process. If this particular project fails, so what? It's not as if we're headed toward Paradise in the absence of even trying to effect desperately needed change, on however small a scale. If we do nothing, it's more than likely that events will continue to get worse, possibly much, much worse. Trying to alter that course is not a cause for condemnation or ridicule (although critics will assuredly offer both reactions). Besides, I thought that trying to change events in this way was what some of you wanted to do. Maybe I was wrong about that, too.

Okay. There are two main ways in which I need some help. Over to you. Thanks for your time.

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF - Battling Sudan’s Bombs With Videos
The region has no electricity or cellphone service, so Boyette charges his laptop and satellite phone with a solar charger. So far The Associated Press, CNN, Fox News and Al Jazeera have used his videos or photographs, and he plans to post more on a Web site, EyesAndEarsNuba.org.

To pay for operations, Boyette is hoping for foundation grants, or public donations on an account he will be setting up on Kickstarter.com. . .

. . .To its credit, the Obama administration is intensively working diplomatic channels to try to end the food blockade in the Nuba Mountains. On a visit to Washington in October, Boyette spent an hour briefing White House officials on the situation. But he’s skeptical — as am I — that the measures under consideration will be enough to avert starvation. . .

. . .Any humanitarian intervention, even the provision of food, could be seen as an act of war with uncertain consequences, and right now there’s no appetite in the United States or abroad for such a use of force. There are reasonable arguments against such steps. But the alternative may be the starvation of tens of thousands of people. If Boyette has anything to do with it, images of suffering will make it into American living rooms to soften hearts and build political will for action if famine arrives.

I’m hoping that Boyette stays safe and deluges us with images to prod our consciences.

Hamara Abate - Remember Darfur

Lindsey Hilsum (FT)- The bravest war journalist of her generation

Up with Chris Hayes - Syria

Up with Chris Hayes - Iran

Up with Chris Hayes - Whistle blowers

Violet Socks - So, are men whose Viagra is covered by insurance also prostitutes?

Susie Madrak - Mac McClelland at Mother Jones has another great piece

Juan Cole - At Oscars, Director of “A Separation” Slams War Talk

Robert Wright - The Arab Spring Comes to Israel

Robert Wright - Israel Meets the Arab Spring (Cont'd)

Robert Wright - Fadi Quran Is Freed

Robert Wright - Best Iran Idea Yet?

Megan McCardle - Home Health Care

Megan McCardle - sympathy for the rich

The Max Abelson article reminded me of Soledad O' Brien's "Almighty Debt" show, and specifically one family, realizing they were going to lose their house, but desperately trying to hang on to it until their daughter went off to college. Parents, in the appropriate circumstances, will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths not to puncture their children's dreams. Whether this is appropriate or not depends, perhaps, in part, on the nature of the dream.

RIF at work, I was perhaps foolishly surprised that some of the best, most experienced, most company-defining people were the ones let go. The sometimes-semi-vampiric corporate urge to chase after the new young thing makes me wonder, yet again, why exactly cutting Social Security is supposed to be a good idea. Also makes me wonder how many people Lieberman negatively affected when he scuttled the Medicare buy-in.

Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...
. . .Gary and I had never had much to do with each other; that day, for some reason, he decided that he had some business to conduct with me.

"Where have you been?," he asked, in a manner suggesting I'd answer if I knew what was good for me. I told him I'd been at my piano lesson. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and thought about it for a moment or two. "I don't want you going to piano lessons any more." Gary said it as a simple declaration of fact: this is what he wanted, and it would happen. I looked puzzled in my turn; I wondered what on earth he meant. Gary noted my expression, and he took a step closer to me, his face tightening with distaste and disapproval. "You aren't going to any more piano lessons. If I catch you going to one, I'm going to beat the crap out of you." . . .

. . .I loved my piano lessons. I wasn't about to give them up, but I also knew that, if he chose, Gary could definitely beat the crap out of me. So I devised a few different routes to my piano teacher's house, routes where I thought it very unlikely that Gary's path and mine would cross.

I avoided my old route to piano lessons for several weeks, and I never met Gary. Then I grew annoyed, even angry, but my anger was primarily directed at myself and at the fact that I'd made even that much of a concession. I also concluded that Gary didn't actually care a great deal whether I went to my piano lessons. I saw him at school and in other places; he never mentioned it again. . .

One of the things Swami Dayananda says, which to my surprise I'm finding to be true, is that the human heart cannot bear to live in ignorance. If you see someone poking about purposefully with a stick, you have to know what that poking is about. Or throw rocks to catch their attention, perhaps in hope they'll explain the mystery.

Perhaps a long-winded way for me to say it's long past time for me to start poking some sticks, and at least try to explain what it's all about.

Mike Nesmith post on death of David Jones

Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman - Good Omens
. . .if you want to imagine the future, imagine a boot, no, imagine a sneaker, kicking a pebble; imagine a stick to poke at interesting things, and throw for a dog that may or may not decide to retrieve it; imagine a figure, half angel, half devil, all human. . .slouching hopefully towards Tadfield . . . .forever.

next post: 3/9/2012