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, September 21, 2012
Arthur Silber (Once Upon a Time...) - A Note

Natasha (Suburban Guerrilla) - Why don’t you give all your money to Third World children?

Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerrilla) - The fine print

Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerrilla) - Tales of the Fed

odd man out (Suburban Guerrilla) - Republicans block jobs-for-vets bill

Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerrilla) - The bills keep on coming

Diane (Cab Drollery) - Welcome

Diane (Cab Drollery) - Things That Make Me Ill

Diane (Cab Drollery) - Granny Bird Award

Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) - Foreign policy


Lollardfish (Daily Kos) - My cousin Chris Stevens, and hope

Kate Quigley & Abigail Pesta (Daily Beast) - Sister of Former SEAL Glen Doherty Says He Always ‘Loved Adventure’

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks at transfer of remains ceremony for Americans killed in Libya (Transcript)

Anouar Majid (Informed Comment) - Fury Unbound: the Muslim Dilemma

Islam Your Islam

No one can pretend that as a living tradition, Islam does not require fundamental changes, as fundamental as the purging of the caste system (still incomplete) and widow-murder from Hinduism, as fundamental as the purging of eternal damnation (still incomplete) from Christianity, as fundamental as the repudiation of large portions of the Old Testament. The spirit we require is similar to the last paragraph of Orwell's England Your England:
. . .Nor need we fear that as the pattern changes life in England will lose its peculiar flavour. . .In whatever shape England emerges from the war it will be deeply tinged with the characteristics that I have spoken of earlier. The intellectuals who hope to see it Russianized or Germanized will be disappointed. The gentleness, the hypocrisy, the thoughtlessness, the reverence for law and the hatred of uniforms will remain, along with the suet puddings and the misty skies. It needs some very great disaster, such as prolonged subjugation by a foreign enemy, to destroy a national culture. . .England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of recognition and yet remain the same.

Søren Schmidt (Informed Comment) - Syria

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - Netanyahu in 1992: Iran close to having nuclear bomb

MJ Rosenberg - The Anti-Semitic Attacks On Maureen Dowd

Andrew Sulivan (Daily Dish) - Beyond The Campaign, The Country

Andrew J. Bacevich (Daily Beast) - Bacevich: What the Arab Movie Riots Mean for U.S. Foreign Policy

Excerpts from the Barack Obama speech:
. . .We don't think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don't think the government is the source of all of our problems - any more than are welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles because America, we understand that this democracy is ours.
We, the people recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together . . .  
. . .I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed – and so have I.

I'm no longer just a candidate. I'm the President. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn't return. I've shared the pain of families who've lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who've lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I've made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. And while I'm proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.". . . 
. . .I don't know what party these men and women belong to. I don't know if they'll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a "future filled with hope." . . . 
. . .I need you to vote this November.

America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don't turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless these United States.
I think one thing not commented on in the Obama speech was that he was careful to distinguish between 2 different things:1) his concrete, modest promises for what he knows he can achieve if granted the powers of the presidency 2) the broader aspiration to end unnecessary war, homelessness, lack of appropriate health care, and unemployment, aspirations for which we'll have a friend and partner in the White House if Obama is elected, but which are beyond the powers of a President to achieve, and can only be achieved by the American people as a whole.

 Ezra Klein (Wonkblog) - What Romney doesn’t understand about personal responsibility

Andrew Sullivan (Daily Dish) - Romney's Fatal Word: "Victims"

MoJo News Team - Full Transcript of the Mitt Romney Secret Video
. . .Romney: [Laughs.] Well, I wrote a book that lays out my view for what has to happen in the country. And people who are fascinated by policy will read the book. We have a website that lays out white papers on a whole series of issues that I care about. I have to tell you, I don't think this will have a significant impact on my electability. Um, I wish it did. . .
Compare that to Bill Clinton, who for all his faults, has never been afraid to go into the details and honestly engage (on policy issues!) with the American people.

A Bit Of Fry And Laurie - The Busker and the Toff

James Fallows (Atlantic) - An Acquired Taste
. . .Neel said he hoped for something else, too. "I don't have any fears about his performance in a Bush debate. He has a first-rate group working with him. They will be very disciplined and will have everything thought out. But what I would like to see is for people to be able to look at him and -- without hearing anything specifically that he's saying -- think, 'You know, I like that guy. That guy makes me feel comfortable.'"  
I kept a straight face as Neel said this, but he had identified the major liability of Gore's mature style. I can imagine that many people would respect Gore, or fear him, based on the way he has learned to destroy opponents. It is hard for me to imagine anyone's watching his technically strongest performances -- against Gephardt, Dukakis, Perot, Kemp, Bradley -- and thinking, You know, I like that guy.  
I feel especially qualified to talk about the emotional impact of Gore's rhetorical style because of a recent concentrated exposure to it. In April, I spent several days in Nashville, at the Television News Archive at Vanderbilt University, viewing dozens of hours of Gore's speeches, press conferences, and debates in chronological order from 1987 into this year. The image that kept coming to mind was the physical transformation in the Michael Corleone character as played by Al Pacino through the three movies of the Godfather, saga: in the beginning a clear-eyed young idealist; in the end a heavy-lidded, stone-faced man of respect who has outgrown illusions and faced up to the responsibility of doing what is necessary. . . 
. . .Ours is a culture that admires unforced natural talent -- Bill Clinton rather than Bob Dole, John McEnroe rather than Ivan Lendl -- but feels reassured by the idea of steady, dutiful effort from those in prominent positions. . .
. . .In his public presentations Gore has done worst when caught by surprise -- just like most people except true naturals. (Remember that Bill Clinton ad-libbed his way through the opening section of an address to a joint session of Congress when the wrong speech showed up on the TelePrompTer. If Gore had been at the lectern, an assistant says, "that would have been a very short speech."). . .
By quoting this I don't mean to criticize Gore (who I don't think gets enough credit for giving the most effective convention speech in modern history, as well as other great speeches in concession, warning against war with Iraq, and after Abu Graibh), but to point to something I thought was really true: I don't think Gore was very good in his debates with Bush, possibly because he attached too much importance to them, and so was unable to be natural. Whatever the reason was, I found it hard to watch the debates, because I was a great admirer of Gore, yet found his performance unappealing.

Kerry, OTOH, I thought was very good in his debates with Bush, and looking back I'm not sure whether Kerry could or should have done anything differently in order to win.

I think it's fair to say that one of Bill Clinton's weaknesses was a belief, deep down, that he could work & talk himself into and out of anything. Possibly, he only gave up this belief after the 2008 primary, when it became clear that no amount of political genius could compensate for a campaign that had not paid sufficient attention to delegate logistics, was forced to explain away an Iraq war vote, and perhaps faced an inexorable tide of hope and change. But freed of this delusion of invincibility, it seems to me he's become an even better politician in the years since then, as he uses his limited, but still impressive, powers to the best of his ability.

Ta-Nehisi Coates (Atlantic) - Fear of a Black President
. . .Just beneath the humor lurked a resonant pain, the scars of history, an aching doubt rooted in the belief that “they” would never accept us. And so in our Harlems and Paradise Valleys, we invoked a black presidency the way a legion of 5-foot point guards might invoke the dunk—as evidence of some great cosmic injustice, weighty in its import, out of reach.  
And yet Spud Webb lives. . .
Charles P. Pierce (Esquire) - Life Under Romneycare
. . .His primary political necessity has been to lie about his primary political achievement. It has lodged in his campaign a fundamental dementia that has come to affect everything else. . . 
. . .That's why when he posed for his portrait, the one that now hangs in the important office where the important people can see it while they wait for their important meetings, he made sure it was the blue binder with the caduceus on it that everybody noticed. He did not see this future coming. He knew what he wanted people most to remember about his time in that office. 
"You know," says his successor as governor, Deval Patrick, with a canny old statehouse pol's twinkle, "you look at that picture and you know that somewhere in his heart, he's proud of what he did.". . .
2 videos which are worth watching a couple of times before the election, and which cannot be watched too often on the day after the election, because they indicate a bipartisan elite unwillingness to engage with the American masses, on certain issues in which the elite's opinions are indefensible.

 (via Glenn Greenwald) John Cook (Gawker) - Ask the DNC: Is Romney Ready for the Kill List?

 "Because I'm gay! Allright?. . .What the hell is the difference?"

Some people support outlawing LGBT marriages on the admittedly persuasive grounds that "It's Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve". But how come those people never support outlawing December-May marriages on the equally strong grounds that "It's Sam & Alice, not Sam & Marsha"?

A question for Scott Brown: Why is Wall Street giving you all this money? To paraphrase Don Corleone, why do they come to you? Why do you deserve this generosity?

Matthew Yglesias (Think Progress) - Mitt Romney & Abortion
. . .By the time he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, it was already well-established that conservatives are against legal abortion. And when Romney was running, there was no denying that he was in general more conservative than Shannon O’Brien. But the perception that he might be less pro-choice than O’Brien was deadly in the eyes of many otherwise Romney-friendly voters. Consequently, he found himself angrily denying that he was even slightly less pro-choice than O’Brien, and indeed offered what I think is one of the most passionate defenses of abortion rights I’ve ever heard from a male politician.

This is the question Romney is being asked to answer. He seems to have felt quite strongly about this issue in 2002, but then by 2008 claimed to feel quite strongly about it on the other side. . .
 Romney on Abortion - 2002

I honestly don't know why Romney wants to be President, other than personal ambition. Job creation would be a good answer, but it would not be a true one, since he started running for President in 2005, at the height of the housing boom.

Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone) - Romney & Debt

quarkstomper (Street Prophets) - We Built That -- Dorothy L. Sayers on The Makers

Philip Bess (The Witherspoon Institute) - Toward a Renewed Culture of Building

2 issues where I disagree with Yglesias:

1) Labor and investment income

2) Crop insurance

I'm not so sure of my position on labor and investment income, but when it comes to crop insurance, I feel fairly sure that Yglesias is not addressing some basic reasons why crop insurance makes more sense than web advertising insurance.

What are they? I guess it can wait for next time.

next post: 12/14/2012