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, April 12, 2012
BRACHA KURTZER and YOEL GOLDMAN and ILAN BEN ZION (Times of Israel) - Peres asks Obama to free Jonathan Pollard

If freeing Pollard makes some conservative Israelis happier by 0.0000000000000001%, the benefits of freeing Pollard still outweigh the costs.

Glenn Greenwald (Salon) - Peter Van Buren, Bowe Bergdahl, Bradley Manning, Bahrain

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - Washington’s Dangerous Blockade of Iran (Cole at Tomdispatch)

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - Bahrain Crisis between Hunger Strike and Grand Prix Boycott

Susie Madrak - How lobbyists jacked up your cell phone rate
this piece by Matt Stoller in the Republic Report:
. . .according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, people in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Finland pay on average less than $130 a year for cell phone service. Americans pay $635.85 a year. . .

Susie Madrak - Foreshadowing


Digby (Hullabaloo) - "I want Medicare"

Atrios (Eschaton) - Priorities

I think the reason for the Obama team's housing policies is that their top priority is avoiding giving money to undeserving homeowners, in order to avoid the Fox News Headline, "Obama Bails Out Deadbeats". Apparently, it's okay to give money to undeserving AIG counterparties, undeserving banks, undeserving insurance companies, but not undeserving homeowners. IMO, the top priority should be a ruthless & pragmatic Iceland-style deleveraging, not selective concerns about moral hazard.

Actually, the McCain campaign's proposal to have the government buy up mortgage debt at 100 cents on the dollar strikes me, in hindsight, as really, really good policy. It would have been a giveaway to banks, true, but it would have been a clean, transparent, 1-time giveaway, it would have produced a profit for the government in the long-term, and most importantly, it probably would have worked, accomplishing deleveraging faster than many alternatives. Of this current generation of finance-crisis firefighters, Douglas Holtz-Eakin might very well be the best of the lot - when he wants to be (lately, he doesn't seem to want to be).

In describing the value of Atrios, I think of this Michael Kinsley quote:
. . .It seems to me that humor is not only valuable for its own sake. It also efficiently makes the point that much of what goes on is perfectly ridiculous. This is a point that serious political punditry often suppresses. If that's not too pompous. . .

re: rosen-romney, it's very important that your people have the freedom to fail, to say or do less-than-optimal things, and then recover gracefully from their mistakes. Rosen, despite 1 "baking-cookies / bitterly-clinging" type-mistake, and RIAA shilling, is good people. Defend her.

LAURIE KELLMAN (AP) - Ann Romney fires back at never-worked charge

Re: Derbyshire, I wouldn't be offended if he kept his job. If the price of tolerating eccentric lefties who wear Che T-shirts (but who also help to prevent and shorten US foreign and drug wars) is that we have to tolerate eccentric righties who are racist, it seems to me a price worth paying.

Via @Beyerstein:
Seth Freed Wessler of @Colorlines talks to Maine Public Radio about winning a 2012 @SidneyHillman Prize

Kim Willsher (Guardian) - French resistance hero Raymond Aubrac dies aged 97

Saeed Kamali Dehghan (Guardian) - Iranian intellectuals raise alarm over war

Mehdi Hasan (Guardian) - Iran's nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered

RONEN BERGMAN (NYT) - Will Israel Attack Iran?
. . .a former top Mossad official told me . . ."when a scientist — one who is not a trained soldier or used to facing life-threatening situations, who has a wife and children — watches his colleagues being bumped off one after the other, he definitely begins to fear that the day will come when a man on a motorbike knocks on his car window.”. . .

Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic) - Guenter Grass and Germany's Responsibility

Ta-Nehisi Coates - Trayvon Martin's Parents Interviewed

Robert Wright (Atlantic) - Israeli Ambassador Fails Analogy Test

Jim Muir (BBC) - Syria: Annan ceasefire holds despite violent incidents

BBC - Nigerian Easter bomb kills many in Kaduna

ANITA JOSHUA (Hindu) - 117 Pakistani soldiers missing as avalanche hits Siachen Glacier

ANANTH KRISHNAN (Hindu) - China expresses condolences, considers aid for Siachen avalanche

Zofeen Ebrahim (Dawn) - Searching for answers in “avalanche country”

. . .take a look at this video from the top-rated Israeli show “Big Brother,” a television reality show in which a group of young people move into an apartment and live their lives on camera. These shows are popular worldwide, but the brilliant exposition of the evils of the occupation that one character made on the Israeli show last week is unimaginable here. (U.S. reality shows avoid politics like the plague. But this is Israel).

There is one other striking thing about this video (besides the fact not even a Jewish Community Center would dare show it in the U.S). It is that the young man making the case against the occupation is the kind of person Zionism was supposed to produce: a proud Israeli afraid of nothing. . .

Rachel Gordon, Peter Fimrite (SF Chronicle) - Concord SUV kills father, daughter riding bikes

Al Saracevic (SF Chronicle) - Talk-show host Ralph Barbieri, KNBR part ways
. . .I was told to gather my belongings and turn in my card key, at which point I was "escorted" out of the building by a KNBR management person.

The whole process took about 7 minutes. Twenty-eight years and change at KNBR they had neatly wrapped up for me in 7 minutes. . .

PETER HARTLAUB (SF Chronicle) - Two things can be equally true: Some thoughts on Ralph Barbieri

It seems to me that Larry Gonick is a national treasure. Has he been in a segment on "60 Minutes" or Charlie Rose?

Chop Bouie - the most useful apps on my ipad

re: debt, equity & wealth, I guess another question is: what would policy look like if you targeted nominal wealth, instead of NGDP?

Another question: what is the consensus view of center-left economists of the relationship between inflation and unemployment, especially at low levels? I'd imagine the choice is between a) non-linear, but no multiple equilibria b) multiple equilibria (i.e. it's possible to have stable inflation of 2% with 8% unemployment and also possible to have stable inflation of 2% with 6% unemployment.

Very good weird possibly good, certainly weird, sentences:
. . .In 1999, Donald Trump proposed a once off 14.25% wealth tax on the net worth of individuals and trusts worth $10 million or more. Trump claimed that this would generate $5.7 trillion in new taxes, which could be used to eliminate the national debt. . .

I'd imagine being a pro blogger is a bit like being Slurms MacKenzie.

Beppe Severgnini (FT) - A week without the worldwide web
. . .For five days I've been doing less but I reckon I've done it better. . .

Brad Plumer (Wonkblog) - Are there better ways to pay for college than student loans?

Free exchange Economics - Selling a piece of your future
. . .Students in California have a proposal. Rather than charging tuition, they'd like public universities in California to take 5% of their salary for the first twenty years following graduation (for incomes between $30,000 and $200,000). Essentially, rather than taking on debt students would like to sell equity in their future earnings. This means students who make more money after graduation will subsidise lower-earning peers. . .

Felix Salmon (Reuters) - Buying equity in people

I actually don't like to think of this scheme as rich subsidising poor, I prefer to think of it as giving students more freedom to attempt difficult things and delay gratification. If you have the opportunity to try something difficult which might pay off in 3 years versus something easy which might pay off in 6 months, a debt-based system seems more likely to lead to taking the easy way out (day-trading, lottery tickets, B2B E-Commerce) versus trying something hard (Down syndrome research, high-speed rail, carbon sequestration, building St. Paul's Cathedral). Recall that one of the nation's top Down syndrome researchers, Dr. Alberto Costa, ". . .lives with Tyche and Daisy in a rented apartment, having never felt he had enough job security to buy a home."

Paul Farmer and John Gershman (WaPo) - Jim Kim’s humility would serve World Bank well

Paul Krugman (NYT) - Cannibalize the Future

Matthew Yglesias (Slate) - We Save for the Future by Building Things

Including relationships. Congrats!

Oof. Just tried and utterly failed to find an article I remembered reading by an African entrepreneur on the costs of working on weekends and evenings, and the unexpected downsides of 24-hour customer service. They found that customer-service complaints actually increased when they switched to 24-hour service, and that handling business during normal business hours led to better work, and more satisfied customers. Anyway, a thought-provoking article, which I'll assume is lost in the mists of cyber-space and cyber-time.

Wikipedia - Computer Graphics
. . .A student by the name of Edwin Catmull started at the University of Utah in 1970 and signed up for Sutherland's computer graphics class. Catmull had just come from The Boeing Company and had been working on his degree in physics. Growing up on Disney, Catmull loved animation yet quickly discovered that he did not have the talent for drawing. Now Catmull (along with many others) saw computers as the natural progression of animation and they wanted to be part of the revolution. The first animation that Catmull saw was his own. He created an animation of his hand opening and closing. . .

Wikipedia - Edwin Catmull
Edwin Earl Catmull, Ph.D. (born 1945) is a computer scientist and current president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. . .

Edwin Earl Catmull was born in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Early in life, Catmull found inspiration in Disney movies such as Peter Pan and Pinocchio and dreamed of becoming a feature film animator. He even made primitive animation using so-called flip-books. However, he assessed his chances realistically and decided that his talents lay elsewhere. . .

. . .After Disney acquired Pixar in January 2006, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger put Catmull and John Lasseter in charge of reinvigorating the Disney animation studios in Burbank. According to a Los Angeles Times article,[7] part of this effort was to allow directors more creative control as collaborators on their projects and to give them the creative freedom to use traditional animation techniques. . .

That's a nice journey, no? From being a child who wanted to draw, but didn't have any special talent for it, to being president of Disney Animation Studios.

George Orwell (Tribune) - What is Science? (1945)
. . .Implied in the demand for more scientific education is the claim that if one has been scientifically trained one's approach to all subjects will be more intelligent than if one had had no such training. . . And, in fact, there are already millions of people who do believe this. . .

. . .But is it really true that a ‘scientist’, in this narrower sense, is any likelier than other people to approach non-scientific problems in an objective way? There is not much reason for thinking so. . .The German scientific community, as a whole, made no resistance to Hitler. Hitler may have ruined the long-term prospects of German science, but there were still plenty of gifted men to do the necessary research on such things as synthetic oil, jet planes, rocket projectiles and the atomic bomb. Without them the German war machine could never have been built up. . .

. . . I imagine that the number of German scientists — Jews apart — who voluntarily exiled themselves or were persecuted by the règime was much smaller than the number of writers and journalists. More sinister than this, a number of German scientists swallowed the monstrosity of ‘racial science’. . .

. . .But, in slightly different forms, it is the same picture everywhere. . .those English scientists who do not simply accept the status quo are frequently Communists, which means that, however intellectually scrupulous they may be in their own line of work, they are ready to be uncritical and even dishonest on certain subjects. . .

. . .But does all this mean that the general public should not be more scientifically educated? On the contrary! All it means is that scientific education for the masses will do little good, and probably a lot of harm, if it simply boils down to more physics, more chemistry, more biology, etc., to the detriment of literature and history. Its probable effect on the average human being would be to narrow the range of his thoughts and make him more than ever contemptuous of such knowledge as he did not possess. . .

. . .A hundred years ago, Charles Kingsley described science as ‘making nasty smells in a laboratory’. A year or two ago a young industrial chemist informed me, smugly, that he ‘could not see what was the use of poetry’. So the pendulum swings to and fro, but it does not seem to me that one attitude is any better than the other. At the moment, science is on the upgrade, and so we hear, quite rightly, the claim that the masses should be scientifically educated: we do not hear, as we ought, the counter-claim that the scientists themselves would benefit by a little education. . .

Brad Delong (Semi-Daily Journal) - Notes: What Thomas Sowell Thinks of The Bell Curve (2003)
Atrios laments: "Every time I refer disparagingly to [Herrnstein and Murray's] The Bell Curve some true believer expects me to write a 50,000 word critique of the book to justify my opinion of it. Frankly, it's as if every time I spoke disparagingly of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion someone expected me to write a 50,000 word critique of it."

You don't have to write a 50,000 word critique. All you have to do is point them to Thomas Sowell's American Spectator review of The Bell Curve. . .

Ben Armbruster (ThinkProgress) - Pakistani Acid Attack Victim Commits Suicide Because ‘There Was No Justice Available To Her’

(Via Digby) Neil Shea (The American Scholar) - War in Afghanistan

Jack Serle (Informed Comment) - The Syrian Army’s outlaw Executions

Ben Armbruster (ThinkProgress) - Erdogan Suggests Invoking Article 5 Of NATO Charter To Protect Turkey’s Border With Syria

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - China hopeful Iran will compromise with the UNSC

Robert Wright (Atlantic) - Nuclear Talks With Iran: 4 Key Questions

Karam Nachar's twitter feed (@knachar)

XKCD - Lakes And Oceans (large)

Partners In Health - IHSJ Reader April 2012 Issue 21

HRC - Remarks on George Marshall and the Foundations of Smart Power (VMI, April 3, 2012)

Darius Dixon (Politico) - Mayor Booker saves woman in fire
. . .“I think that’s way over the top, honestly,” he said, when asked about the [hero label] at a press conference Friday. “There are firefighters that do this every single day. I’m a neighbor that did what most neighbors would do, which is to jump into action to help a friend.”. . .

Glenn Greenwald (Salon) - DOJ prosecutes another whistleblower, Drone activist denied visa, Charles Davis asks Jay Rockefeller tough question and people freak out, horribly cruel and unfair treatment of Tarek Mehanna, sentenced to 17 years in prison, in the United States, for political speech

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - Tens of Thousands of Syrians Protest Peacefully after Ceasefire, 6 Killed

next post: 5/11/2012 (planning to change the cadence of the blog from one post a week to one post a month)

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