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, April 24, 2012
Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerilla) - And it’s me and my machine
I’m sitting here with one of those “As Seen On TV” compression socks on my right arm, because the nerves are so shot in my right arm. (I cut holes in the end for my fingers.) . . .Sometimes the pain is so bad, it makes me cry. . . 
. . .I have an ergonomic mouse, an ergonomic chair. Thank God I have an articulating keyboard tray that one of you readers paid for. . . 
. . .And while you might say, “Hey, then go get a regular job,” it’s not that easy. . . 
. . .Look at some of the bloggers we’ve lost on our side – people like Steve Gilliard (The News Blog), Jim Capozzola (Rittenhouse Review), Melanie Mattson (Just A Bump In The Beltway) and Jon Swift, who just didn’t have the money to pay for medical bills and died as a result. . . 
. . .Support your favorite blogs. It’s going to be a long election season.
(Via Instapundit) Trace Sharp (Newscoma (A Two-Pack Habit And A Motel Tan)) - On Being A Progressive Blogger
Waiters and bartenders get tips. Writers and media folks don’t. It’s just true. And this is what I see because obviously Suzy is going through the same thing. . . 
. . .So help the progressive blogosphere out when you can. Buy a blogger a beer by putting a few bucks in their paypal account. Leave them a comment when you like their work or let them know about opportunities. Share their work. Not just me, I’m talking about other folks as well. . .   
I much prefer to buy bloggers beer in person. That way I can be sure you’re not squandering it on organic vegetables or healthcare.
Sasha Said - Speeding Toward Disaster

Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...

Arthur Silber (The Sacred Moment) - The Indifference and Denial that Kill (Requiem for Iris Chang) (2004)

Gary Farber (Amygdala) - TENTH BLOGIVERSARY

Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Arsha Vidya Gurukulam) - The Concept of Success

Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) - Doppler Dog

Reclusive Leftist (feminism, politics and space alpacas in the Spirit Smoking Lounge with your host, Violet Socks)

(Via Instapundit) Donald Sensing (Sense of Events) - In War, Truth Is The First Casualty.

(Via EchidneMONA ELTAHAWY (Foreign Policy) - Why Do They Hate Us?

Pratap Chatterjee (Informed Comment) - Was this 16-year-old Drone Victim Really a Terrorist?

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - Top 5 Stories from the Arab Revolutions Today (4/24/2012)

Paul Krugman (NYT) - The Crisis of Zionism

Paul Krugman (NYT) - End This Depression Now!

MJ Rosenberg (HuffPo) - "Israel, Yes: Occupation, No."

Hannah Mae (Blague) - Hvordan har du det? Bare bra. · 22 April 2012, 04:26
. . .I got a text from my dad as I was taking off that said “you’re a brave woman.” Of course that makes me fluff my feathers a little, but I’m not sure how brave I am, comparatively. My ancestors all went the other way across the Atlantic, in much more perilous times, and much more permanently: great-grandma Ida went back to Sweden only once, great-grandpa Carl never did. I’ve been back and forth five times now and I’m not even 35. How did they leave, knowing they’d probably never see their friends and family again? Extreme duress? A belief in reunion in the afterlife? I already miss certain people so much it feels like dying, not to be melodramatic or anything, and all I have is a piddly one-way ticket. Buck up, Freya, and get in the longship already. (of course, some of the famously brave were less nervy than we think. It only took four days for the first Norse settler of Iceland to get there, and Thoreau went to his mom’s house for dinner all the time.). . .
SHONALI MUTHALALY (Hindu) - Reluctant Gourmet - Where only taste matters
. . .It helps that the customers are unexpectedly endearing. We watch a group of old men in rose-milk pink lungis seriously demolishing a large pile of hot potato bondas. A pudgy boy trying to impress his jasmine-bedecked girlfriend with his ability to wipe out a ghee roast in ten minutes. A large family ploughing through idlis. They're here for just the food. No cell phones, no stares, no attitude. “I love them,” I beam. Robin's unimpressed. “No hot men,” she sighs. . .
(Via Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise)) William Kaminsky (Too Many Worlds) - Beat the Devil (1970) by Kris Kristofferson
. . .And thus, over the last 6 weeks or so, I wrote nothing.

Fortunately, I then had one of those bolts of inspiration that come from the direction you least expect. Namely, I heard Johnny Cash’s rendition of the following song Kris Kristofferson wrote as a tribute to him.

It’s set me straight. . .

. . .You see, the devil haunts a hungry man,
And if you don’t wanna join him, well, you got to beat him.

I ain’t sayin’ I beat the devil,
but I drank his beer for nothing.
Then I stole his song:

“And you still can hear me singin’ to the people who don’t listen,
To the things that I am sayin’, prayin’ someone’s gonna hear.
And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about,
Are things they could be changin’, hopin’ someone’s gonna care.

I was born a lonely singer, and I’m bound to die the same,
But I’ve got to feed the hunger in my soul.
And if I never have a nickel, I won’t ever die ashamed.
‘Cause I don’t believe that no one wants to know.”
(Via Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution)Bryan Caplan (EconLog) - Why Are Donations to Government So Small?

My answer: the collective-action problem is bigger for government than for private charities. People are willing to give "something" if it will "make a difference". How many people would have to give how much in order to make the kind of difference in people's lives that government programs like Social Security and Medicare make?

(The free-riding problem is bigger, too, but this comes after the collective-action problem has been solved.)

Or to put it another way: the size of the collective-action problem increases exponentially with the size of the endeavor.

Haiti actually is a place where private charities could, in theory, replicate and replace the public sector. In practice, they don't seem to be able to.

Of course, if the Second Noble Economic Truth is that private charity & non-profits can't replace the public sector, surely the First Noble Economic Truth is that the public sector can't replace the private sector.

So conservatives shouldn't feel too sad about the Second Noble Economic Truth, nor liberals too smug. And vice-versa for the First Noble Economic Truth (also known as "looking out for number one").

Third Noble Economic Truth? Support private charity & non-profits, despite the Second Noble Economic Truth.

Fourth Noble Economic Truth? Rand smart, but Tobin is . . .smarter! Right? That's right.

UPDATE: to elaborate on the First Noble Economic Truth, there's a magic to people acting out of their own free choice, in their perceived self-interest, out of love, that cannot be captured by people sacrificing their perceived self-interest for obligation, duty, the greater good, or fear. Note, though, this sense of freedom can be interfered with by private coercion, or natural coercion, or many things, not just state coercion. And it seems to me this sense of freedom can be present in seemingly difficult circumstances, and can be absent in seemingly easy circumstances.

Dorothy L Sayers - What Do We Believe?
. . .Ask yourself: if there is something you supremely want to do, do you count as self-sacrifice the difficulties encountered or the other possible activities cast aside? You do not. The time when you deliberately say, "I must sacrifice this, that, or the other" is when you do not supremely desire the end in view. At such times you are doing your duty, and that is admirable, but it is not love. . .
Dorothy L Sayers - Why Work?
. . .There is, in fact, a paradox about working to serve the community, and it is this: that to aim directly at serving the community is to falsify the work; the only way to serve the community is to forget the community and serve the work. There are three very good reasons for this: 
The first is that you cannot do good work if you take your mind off the work to see how the community is taking it – any more than you can make a good drive from the tee if you take your eye off the ball. . .
Dorothy L Sayers - Vocation in Work
. . .At this point, of course, we come up against a really fundamental difficulty. It is all very well for the artist to talk like this, but his work is of a really creative and satisfying kind. That is why he doesn't want to get away from it. But how about the factory-hand whose work consists of endlessly and monotonously pushing a pin into a slot? How can he be expected to live for the sake of the work? Isn't it right to want to make money so as to get away from it as quickly as possible? Can you blame him for looking on work as "employment" - something to be done grudgingly, with as little exertion as possible? Doesn't it correspond to the artist's necessary "pot-boiler", which has to be ground out in order that he may get away to "his own work"? It is useless and silly to say that machines and industry ought to be abolished. We can't turn time backwards. We have to cope with things as they are and make the best of them. This is what the worker will always retort when you talk to him about the sense of vocation in work. Well, that is so, and unless and until we can achieve a radical change in our whole attitude to work and money, we shall have to allow that a great deal of necessary work is in the nature of a pot-boiler, and that it ought to be arranged so as to boil the pot as quickly as possible and in such a way that nobody's pot remains without a fire to boil it. This is the task on which those reformers are engaged who try to deal with the question in purely economic terms. And while we have to deal with it along those lines, we may take the opportunity of trying to establish two things: First, that even work done for pot-boiling should be done as well and as conscientiously as possible. Secondly, that when the pot-boiling is done, the worker should be taught and encouraged to turn to "his own work" - to some creative and satisfying hobby at least; and not merely to an idle and soul-deadening killing of time. . .
Melissa McEwan (Shakesville) - Shakespeare's Sister
. . .In this good and flawed and mostly empty room, I formed the habit of freedom, to the extent that it's been granted me, and, with some intrinsic courage and the rest conferred by anonymity, I wrote exactly what I thought. 
And I invited people in. . . 
. . .Making the room a safe space is a fight. Making the room accessible is a fight. Making the room as warm at its center as at its margins is a fight. This fight is my obligation and my muse. Its mere existence inspires and taunts me in equal measure. Work that teaspoon. . .
LATOYA PETERSON (Racialicious) - America Healing: Unconscious Bias and Race

Derrick Z. Jackson (Boston Globe) - Dean's blunt talk about race (2004)
HOWARD DEAN SAID, "I'm trying to gently call out the white population." His genteel example was a story he tells to voters about how his chief of staff as governor of Vermont was always a woman. After two or three years, Dean noticed that she had a "matriarchy" in the office. When the chief of staff was going to hire a new person, Dean said, he told her, " `I notice we have a gender imbalance in the office, and I wonder if you could find a man.' She said it's really hard to find a qualified man. I got everybody laughing about that."    
That is Dean's icebreaker to get audiences to understand institutional racism. "The punch line of the story that it's so hard to find a qualified man is everybody does it. Everybody tends to hire people like themselves. . .
This C.S. Lewis quote always makes me unreasonably happy:

  C.S. Lewis - "Answers to Questions on Christianity"
Question: Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness?  
Lewis: Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? 
While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best. I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you far better, but I can’t give my advice on it.
next post: 8/10/2012

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