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.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Friday, April 20, 2012
Sasha Said - Speeding Toward Disaster
I was planning to write a few blog posts this week but I’m too weak, too tired, and too sad to focus on anything complex. Maybe in a few days. I’m also scared. . . 
. . .So this is where we’re at. There’s no way we can pay the May rent, but we’re going to run out of money even before then. Neither one of us has family that can help. One of the big and often unacknowledged advantages of coming from a middle class background is that if you fall, there’s someone to pick you up. Whether it’s providing financial assistance or using family connections to get you a job, if life deals you a rotten hand, you at least know you won’t end up in the street. 
We don’t have that. I’ve been on my own since I was 16, and I haven’t even told my mom I’m sick. She has a bad heart and just got out of the intensive care unit last week. The last thing she needs to hear about is my illness. And she wouldn’t be able to help anyway as she barely makes enough money to get by herself. My partner was abandoned as a baby, first by his dad and then by his mom. The grandmother who raised him now has Alzheimer’s. 
When I asked for financial assistance on this blog back in January, you guys came through for us, but how can I keep asking for help when there’s no end in sight? If you help us out this time, I can’t guarantee that we won’t be in the same mess again next month. In fact, unless we finally catch a break and my partner lands a job that pays a living wage, we *will* be in the same position again next month. Our freelancing business is practically dead. We have nothing coming in at all at this time. 
I truly don’t know what we’re going to do.
Violet Socks - Spring Bleg

Violet Socks - The pimp vanishes
I’ve just finished reading this morning’s New York Times story about the Secret Service scandal, and my head is reeling. Buried in the middle of the story is a remarkable sentence:
Eventually, she lowered her demand to $250, which she said was the amount she has to pay the man who helps find her customers.
It’s remarkable because “the man who helps find her customers” is mentioned nowhere else in the story. . . 
. . .The man in question is the pimp, of course. Contrary to popular dude imagination, pimps don’t actually contribute any value to the prostitution transaction; they’re simply parasites. They attach themselves to women and blackmail them for part (or all) of their earnings, with the penalties ranging from beatings to death. They also induct new girls into prostitution by raping them and then putting them to work on the street, appropriating the earnings for themselves. They’re like the mafia shaking down the corner store, only less benign. . .
I believe, FWIW, that the agents' actions were bad but not unforgivable, and I don't think they should lose their jobs, and I don't think they should permanently lose their clearances, though a suspension is perhaps appropriate.

(Via Drudge ) Sharon Churcher (Daily Mail) - Team of Investigators into Secret Service scandal to charge taxpayers $1.5 million

This is a scandal as well, IMO. Aren't we in an age of austerity? Do we really have to waste $1.5 million dollars investigating Secret Service behavior with this exquisite thoroughness? Couldn't we do it for $5,000 dollars? Or $10,000?

As Echidne said, these are more "don't look at the man behind the curtain" tactics, using scandals to distract us from the fact that ongoing war in Afghanistan, and drone strikes in Yemen, are doing more harm than good.

Glenn Greenwald (Salon) - America’s drone sickness
. . .In late 2009, an Obama-approved attack with Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs killed dozens of innocent Yemenis, including 21 children. In May, 2010, a U.S. drone attack killed a popular Deputy Governor of a Yemeni province. In October of last year, two weeks after Obama successfully ordered the death of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. drone strike killed his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman (today’s Post article asserted, seemingly without any basis, that that killing was “inadvertent,” even though the alleged target was apparently nowhere near the scene). It’s not hard to imagine what ordinary Yemenis think of the U.S., and whether they’d be more sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s message after all of this. 
So here we have — yet again — the U.S. doing more than anyone else could to increase the threat of Terrorism with the very policies it claims are necessary to combat Terrorism. . .
Godfather, Part II
Tom: Just consider this, Michael. Just consider it. Roth and the Rosatos are on the run. Are they worth it, are we strong enough? Is it worth it? You've won. Do you want to wipe everybody out? 
Michael: I don't feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom. Just my enemies, that's all. Now are you with me in these things that I have to do, or what?  
Digby (Hullabaloo) - Regina Tasca, a good cop, punished for stopping unnecessary beating

Katha Pollitt (Nation) - Ann Romney, Working Woman?
. . .Bertrand Russell, in his witty essay “In Praise of Idleness,” wrote, “What is work? Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so.” Clearly, between the houses and grounds, the five kids, the Cadillacs, the husband, the business socializing, the campaigning and, let’s not forget, that dog, Ann Romney has altered the position of much matter. Since it is not possible to run smoothly a multimillion-dollar multi-mansioned domestic establishment for seven people without at least some paid help, I’m guessing she probably instructed others in the proper positioning of matter as well. By Russell’s definition, Ann Romney has probably done a lot more work than I have. I sit at my desk and hours go by in which I seem to have hardly altered the position of anything, including myself. . .
Agatha Christie Econoblogging:

Mary Westmacott / Agatha Christie - A Daughter's a Daughter (1952)
. . ."Ah, she's got a way with her, Miss Sarah has. That you can't deny. I've often noticed as how there's young ladies who leave their things about, expect everything mended for them, run you off your feet clearing up after them - and yet there's nothing you won't do for them! There's others as gives no trouble at all, everything neat, no extra work made - and yet there you are, you don't seem to fancy them in the same way. Say what you like it's an unjust world. Only a crazy politician would talk about fair shares for all. Some has the kicks and some has the ha'pence, and that's the way it is." . . .
I'd guess this is the classical conservative view, "Some has the kicks and some has the ha'pence, and that's the way it is". It's a view that deserves respect, given the frequent failures of socialism/progressivism to make things better. The more modern or hypermodern conservative view is not "Some has the kicks and some has the ha'pence, and that's the way it is", but "Some deserve the kicks and some deserve the ha'pence, and that's the way it should be" This also, in a way, could be described as the view of meritocrats. I'm not sure, in theory and in practice, how belief in meritocracy differs from belief in Randian inequality.

What do I believe? I'm finding that I believe in neither Rawlsian equality nor in Randian inequality. What I believe in is "Don't-Die-With-Your-Music-Inside-You-Ism". I believe some patching and tinkering and duct-taping of market outcomes is just and appropriate in order to achieve the goal of everyone having what they need to do and be their best. Said patching and tinkering may have unwelcome side-effects, but so what? I believe not patching and tinkering will have even more unwelcome side-effects. And I'm open, I suppose, to the possibility that hardness might get more and better music out of people, in certain circumstances, than softness.

UPDATE: I should elaborate a little on the problem I have with "equal opportunity". The goal of equal opportunity implicitly assumes a 2-stage process: 1) achieving equal opportunity 2) taking advantage of said opportunities. The problem is that stage 1 is so difficult and time-consuming a task, perhaps even so endless and Sisyphean a task, that stage 1 can swallow up stage 2. Had we but world enough and time, pursuing equal opportunity would be no crime, but given limited resources, I think "good opportunity" or "sufficient opportunity" or "the best opportunity possible" is a better focus than "equal opportunity".

ECHIDNE (of the snakes) - The Problem of Uppity Nuns

An interesting review of Martin Gardner's last book (2009)

and 2 interesting job-search posts by the same author:

Mr. Smarty Pants (Frothygirlz) - 5 Things to Do If You Lose Your Job (Plus two things to do if you don’t.) (2010)

Mr. Smarty Pants (Frothygirlz) - 7-Steps to Finding a Job (2011)

George Orwell - The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)
. . .But there is no doubt about the deadening, debilitating effect of unemployment upon everybody, married or single, and upon men more than upon women. The best intellects will not stand up against it. Once or twice it has happened to me to meet unemployed men of genuine literary ability; there are others whom I haven't met but whose work I occasionally see in the magazines. Now and again, at long intervals, these men will produce an article or a short story which is quite obviously better than most of the stuff that gets whooped up by the blurb-reviewers. Why, then, do they make so little use of their talents? They have all the leisure in the world; why don't they sit down and write books? Because to write books you need not only comfort and solitude--and solitude is never easy to attain in a working-class home--you also need peace of mind. You can't settle to anything, you can't command the spirit of hope in which anything has got to be created, with that dull evil cloud of unemployment hanging over you. Still, an unemployed man who feels at home with books can at any rate occupy himself by reading. But what about the man who cannot read without discomfort? . . .
. . .Israel is more than its most strident supporters here seem to understand. If they understood how much more, they might be less cavalier about advancing policies that would ultimately deliver doom. . .
Randy Pausch - Time Management (UVA 11/27/2007)
. . .One of my favorite stories in the One Minute Manager is, he talks about, did you ever wonder about how they got the killer whales to jump through the hoop? If they did it like modern American office managers, they would yell at the killer whale: "Jump through the hoop!" And every time the killer whale didn't jump through the hoop they'd hit it with a stick. This is how we train people in the office place. Read the book if you want to see how they actually do it because I'm curious. I know now. But it's really cool how they get them to do it. . .
Kenneth Blanchard, Spencer Johnson - The One Minute Manager (2003)
. . .Just remember young man, people are not pigeons. People are more complicated. They are aware, they think for themselves and they certainly don't want to be manipulated by another person. Remember that and respect that. It is a key to good management. With that in mind, let us look at several simple examples . . . 
. . .For example, at some of these Sea Aquariums you see around the country, they usually end the show by having a huge whale jump over a rope which is high above the water. When the whale comes down he drenches the first ten rows. The people leave that show mumbling to themselves ”That's unbelievable. How do they teach that whale to do that?" Do you think they go out in the ocean in a boat, the manager asked, and put a rope out over the water and yell, "Up, up!" until a whale jumps out of the water over the rope? And then say, "Hey, let's hire him. He's a real winner." No, laughed the young man, but that really would be hiring a winner. The two men enjoyed the laugh they shared. You're right the manager said. When they captured the whale, he knew nothing about jumping over ropes. So when they began to train him in the large pool, where do you think they started the rope? At the bottom of the pool, answered the young man. Of course! responded the manager. Every time the whale swam over the rope which was every time he swam past he got fed. Soon, they raised the rope a little. If the whale swam under the rope, he didn't get fed during training. Whenever he swam over the rope, he got fed. So after a while the whale started swimming over the rope all of the time. Then they started raising the rope a little higher. . .Over a period of time they keep on raising the rope until they finally get it to the surface of the water. Now the great whale knows that in order to get fed, he has to jump partially out of the water and over the rope. As soon as that goal is reached, they can start raising the rope higher and higher out of the water. So that's how they do it. . .
So the media coverage of the killing of Travyon Martin seems to me to be increasingly hysterical and negative toward the prosecution, similar to their coverage of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The key facts seem to me to be that Zimmerman has a history a violence, Martin had no history of violence, and Zimmerman has told at least 4 different versions of  the killing to different people, none of which seem likely to be the truth. The fact of Martin being killed, combined with the fact of Zimmerman's history, combined with Zimmerman telling provable lies about the facts of the killing, seems to me, by itself, to warrant prosecution. Certainly, I cannot imagine an armed black man with a history of violence chasing down and shooting an unarmed white boy, and then being charged with anything less than first-degree murder. In any case, I appreciate Zimmerman showing remorse, and I believe Zimmerman should come clean, tell the truth about what happened that night, and then let the jury decide.

Optimal Blogging Analysis Opining: 5 posts a year is all we ask.

I sort of feel that a good blog post, as Stephen Fry once said in another context, "tears the arse out of three days really". Given that amount of time, how often should I blog? Once a week is obviously too much, and I sort of think once a month is too much as well. Once every two months seems about right, with one turn in the rotation skipped just to break the rhythm. So that's what I think is the right amount of blogging for me: 1 post every 2 months from August to April, adding up to 5 posts a year.

The Monte Carlo Masters is one of my favorite tennis tournaments to watch. The red clay, the blue sea, the sunshine, the extravagant clay court groundstrokes, add up to something special. Are there any other island tennis tournaments with a similar appeal?

Praveen Swami (Hindu) - In Kashmir, some hot potatoes (4/23/2012)
In the charged summer of 2010, an irate cleric from the central Kashmir town of Badgam showed me startling evidence of India's plot to destroy Islam in Kashmir: an improbably large potato. The potato, he claimed, contained pig-genes which would defile the faithful.
Last month, Usmaan Raheem Ahmad — the man behind the high-yielding potatoes which the cleric had claimed induced impiety — was denied entry to India. Mr. Ahmad's path-breaking work on rural empowerment, urban entrepreneurship and women's rights had been publicly endorsed by the Chief Minister, the Governor and even the State police. He was seen by them as representing the kind of progressive intervention needed to drain the swamps of religious chauvinism and backwardness in which the Badgam cleric thrived — opening up the prospect of a new, vibrant Kashmir. For reasons no one in the Central government is willing to explain, though, New Delhi chose to shut Mr. Ahmad's work down.
Full disclosure: I made several attempts to find out why Mr. Ahmad was denied entry and to see if the problem could be resolved. I was told, variously, that Mr. Ahmad had worked on a tourist visa (not true); that he met with secessionists (true, but so does the Home Minister); that a 50-page Intelligence Bureau report concluded his organisation, the Mercy Corps, was working too closely in coordination with the United States (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, some critics say, also does). No one actually accused Mr. Ahmad of a crime.
In the grand scheme of things, Mr. Ahmad's fate is perhaps trivial — but his story illustrates a paralytic malaise that has gripped New Delhi's policy on Jammu and Kashmir. In recent months, this malaise has manifested itself in dogged efforts to persuade young people in the State that India is a mindless tyranny, opaque and arbitrary in its use of power.  
No one has seen fit to explain to the thousands of young people who saw hope in Mr. Ahmad's work why it was abruptly terminated. Nor has New Delhi explained its decision to stonewall the Chief Minister's repeated calls for phased demilitarisation. . .
next post: 8/10/2012

Comments: Post a Comment