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?
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Andrew Sullivan (The Dish) - The Passion Of David Kuo

Sarah Kliff (Wonkblog) - Arijit Guha, student who battled Aetna over cancer coverage, dies

Deep Thought, by Melissa McEwan: "Losing the capacity to oppress is not oppression."

Though I think this applies not only to unfashionable oppressors like the Westboro Baptist Church, but also to fashionable oppressors like money-lenders who get debt-collection agencies to do their dirty work, or the people overseeing overzealous government regulation of non-violent offenses. Or a permanent war which entitles us to kill people, without trying to keep an accurate record of who we are killing, and why.

(Via Glenn GreenwaldTBIJ - In Video: Naming the Dead

Monica Potts (American Prospect) - The Weeklies

Monica Potts (American Prospect) - The Runaways

Beth Schwartzapfel (Boston Review) - Who Shot Valerie Finley?

As Beth Schwartzapfel explains, the evidence is very, very, strong that a man named Angel Melendez shot Valerie Finley, not Rodney Stanberry, who was convicted and is still in prison for the crime. Unfortunately, the prosecutor, Buzz Jordan, who prosecuted Stanberry, is not willing to consider the possibility he might have made a mistake.

Liliana Segura (Nation) - Are Memphis Prosecutors Trying to Send an Innocent Man Back to Death Row?

As Liliana Segura explains, the evidence is very strong that a man named Patrick Johnson shot Donald Williams, not Timothy Terrell McKinney, who was jailed and is currently being re-prosecuted for the crime. Unfortunately, the Shelby County prosecutors, who are prosecuting McKinney, are not willing to consider the possibility they might have made a mistake.

Arthur Silber - Bad Times

Susie Madrak - Suburban Guerilla

Gary Farber - Amygdala

Diane (cab drollery) - With Deep Gratitude

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - Bradley Manning's personal statement to court martial

Edward Wasserman (Miami Herald) - Commentary: Media throw Bradley Manning to the wolves

I can understand someone believing that Bradley Manning leaking the lowest level of classified documents was problematic, troubling, even wrong. I can not understand, can not begin to wrap my head around, how anyone could believe that what Bradley Manning did was worse than what Charles Graner did. I can not understand how anyone could believe that what Bradley Manning did was worse than what Lynndie England did. I can not undersand how anyone could believe that what Bradley Manning did was worse than what the two officers who burned Pat Tillman's uniform and diary, in an attempt to cover up the circumstances of his death, did.

Yet the US Government, under a hip, stylish, liberal president, with a hip, stylish, liberal, spouse, with the approval of the entire respectable American liberal establishment, appears to believe that what Bradley Manning did was not only worse than what the perpetrators of Abu Graibh did, but 40 or 50 times worse. It seems to me deeply obscene.

I can't help liking all of the respectable liberals who have stayed pointedly silent on the outrage of the Bradley Manning prosecution. But I no longer trust them. And the more I think about it, the angrier I get, and the more I no longer want anything to do with them.

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - The persecution of Barrett Brown - and how to fight it

Create Our Own Light - Steubenville’s Jane Doe asked people to do something…

Adria Richards - Endlessly Enthusiastic Technology Evangelist

Andrew Sullivan (Dish) - Sexism In Silicon Valley, Ctd
Steve Marx: "It's very unfortunate that the guy lost his job, but I feel that the blame for that lies with his employer, not @adriarichards."  Adria Richards: "@smarx @x3rames clearly. I made comment on HN I didn't agree with his employer firing him."
Dylan Matthews (Wonkblog) - Mark Kleiman on why we need to solve our alcohol problem to solve our crime problem

Matt Campbell (Kansas City Star) - Iraq War veteran, who wrote letter to Bush and Cheney, is ready to die on his own terms

Tomas Young (Truthdig) - The Last Letter

Teju Cole (New Yorker) - A Reader's War

MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE (NYT) - Influential Ex-Aide to Obama Voices Concern on Drone Strikes

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - What we Did to Iraq

digby (Hullabaloo) - Truth's Consequences

Andrew J. Bacevich (Harper's) - A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz - Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war

Looking back on March 2003, what I remember is that I did not know my own mind until the first bombs fell. I never believed in the national security case for war, and I don't think anyone else did either. The reason the national security establishment, as a whole, was so eager for war was that everybody knew Saddam was weak, and had no significant ability to hit back. It was clearly a war fought for money, glory and revenge, rather than a war fought to address a national security threat. Merrill McPeak, when coming out against the war, expressed this sentiment well: "Everybody's getting a medal. Everybody's coming home. It's hard to oppose this thing."

But I was not so sure about the humanitarian case for war, the argument that the Iraqi people would want us to declare war on their country in order to remove Saddam. I didn't realize Daniel Davies's lesson, "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them to gain acceptance". If the only justification for this war was humanitarian, then every troop, every person with a role in dropping those bombs, should have been told that this was not a war fought for national security, this was a war fought in order to benefit the Iraqi people. The national security establishment wanted it both ways: They wanted the tactical freedom to fight a war of national security, while at the same time they wanted the moral kudos for fighting a humanitarian war.

But still I didn't oppose the war, maybe because I had in my mind the image of Saddam being toppled, and of Iraqis, on the whole, being happy that it was done. It was only when Bush, in order to placate Tommy Franks, announced a 48 hour grace period for Saddam, and I realized that I didn't want the grace period to end, I didn't want those bombs to start dropping, did I realize the war was a mistake, killing and injuring people when you didn't have to was a mistake, that this war was an act of evil, and not an act of good.

I guess in part because of the Iraq war, I now believe that a fundamental part of being a good hat is waiting for the bad hat to shoot first. The fact that the Coalition was the aggressor in the Iraq war made them the bad hats, no matter how good their intentions may have been. And if a Judeo-Christian alliance initiates a war of aggression against Iran, then that makes them the bad hats, no matter how evil, or even dangerous, the Iranian regime may be. The murder of Iranian scientists was an act of great evil, as was the murder of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and India, and the plotters responsible for those murders deserve to be punished for their actions. "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go".

I'm not sure it's relevant to this discussion, but if you can imagine what an English drone war against material supporters of the IRA, conducted in Ireland and Massachusetts, would look like, then I think you are in the proper frame of mind to understand what the hell has been going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen these past 14 years. Of course, you might say that the IRA was never responsible for anything as bad as 9/11, and you would be right. On the other hand, 99.9999% of the people we've killed in the past 14 years have had nothing to do with 9/11, either.

C.S. Lewis - On Living in an Atomic Age
. . .it is part of our spiritual law never to put survival first: not even the survival of our species. We must resolutely train ourselves to feel that the survival of humans on this Earth, much more of our own nation or culture or class, is not worth having unless it can be had by honourable and merciful means.
    The sacrifice is not so great as it seems. Nothing is more likely to destroy a species or a nation than a determination to survive at all costs. . .

(Via Shengbo Wang) Mary Westmacott - A Daughter's A Daughter
'Listen, Ann, there are just two things that I've no use for whatever - someone telling me how noble they are and what moral reasons they have for the things they do, and the other is someone going on moaning about how wickedly they have behaved. Both statements may be true - recognise the truth of your actions, by all means, but having done so, pass on. You can't put the clock back and you can't usually undo what you've done. Continue living.'

Charles Pierce (Esquire) - Iraq War Anniversary
There were people who got it right. Anthony Zinni. Eric Shinseki. Hans Blix. Mohamed ElBaradei. The McClatchy Washington bureau guys. Dozens of liberal academics who got called fifth-columnists and worse. Professional military men whose careers suffered as a result. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets around the world. The governments of Canada and France. Those people, I will listen to this week


TIM WU (New Yorker) - How the Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz—And Us


Justin Peters (Slate) - The Idealist Aaron Swartz wanted to save the world. Why couldn’t he save himself?

Justin Peters (Slate) - Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee: Aaron Swartz Case Was “A Good Use of Prosecutorial Discretion"

Justin Peters (Slate) - Yes, Your NCAA Office Pool is Probably Illegal.

If you believe in the rule of law, as people sometimes idiotically claim to do, you should turn yourself in.

Dean Baker (CEPR) - Ezra Klein Gives Real Coverage to the Progressive Caucus Budget

Drug Policy Alliance - Women and Gender in the Drug War

David Dayen (Pacific Standard) - Signed, Sealed, Deposited

Falguni A. Sheth - Translation Exercises

Echidne of the Snakes

Freddie - L'Hote

Matthew Yglesias (Slate) - The Rent Is Too Damn High

Duncan Black (USA Today) - The Incomes Are Too Damn Low

Mike Konczal (American Prospect) - Automatic Stabilizers: There When Congress Isn't

Alyssa Rosenberg (Think Progress) - ‘Enlightened,’ Aaron Swartz And The Consequences Of Activism

(Via MJ Rosenberg) BEN EHRENREICH (NYT) - The occupation is a terrible thing that should not continue, and should be resisted nonviolently

MJ Rosenberg - My Position On A Fair Solution To The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

MJ Rosenberg (Washington Spectator) - Obama in Jerusalem: No Big Surprises But Mission Accomplished

An interesting post by Steve Randy Waldman, on the fairly shaky grounds for believing the fight-song economist* argument for privileging capital over labor:

*That is, the collection of economists who have jobs at institutions that have fight-songs

Steve Randy Waldman (interfludity) - K is not capital, L is not labor
. . .let’s assume that the economy is characterized by permanent two-factor, constant-returns-to-scale production function. . .What distinguishes these factors and leaves one optimally taxed, the other optimally untaxed? Fundamentally, the difference is that capital accumulates, while labor does not. . .eliminating conventional capital taxes shifts the cost of government to wages, which include returns to human capital. If human capital accumulation is as or more important than other forms of capital accumulation, and if the quality of effort that people devote to building human capital is wage-sensitive, then taxing wages in preference to financial capital may be quite perverse. . .One final point: The force that drives the Chamley-Judd conclusion is the long-term elasticity of capital provision to interest rates. . .this sort of calculation does not seem to describe economy-wide savings behavior very well. Aggregate purchases of financial assets seem to be insensitive to returns. . .
Just this once, I'm going with the lawyer, and not with the econ PhDs:
. . .Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. . .
I would add this: any theory, whose implication is that thrifty, risk-averse billionaires who live on 5K a year and salt away the rest in T-Bills, should pay a tax rate of near-zero, while someone making and consuming 5K a year should pay a rate many multiples of that, is to me obviously false: a theory that has been falsified by reality.

Determining exactly why theories are false is difficult ( "Why questions are difficult!" Though if I had to guess, I'd bet they're using the wrong production function, and the wrong utility function). But no one should feel bad about preferring the evidence of their own lying eyes, rather than the assertions of Garret Jones, or George Osborne, or Barack Obama*, or Jean-Claude Trichet, or even Paul Krugman. (I've always, for example, believed that Krugman's use of Okun's law is pretty dodgy, though unfortunately, nobody seems to have a better way of determining potential output)

*Obama is included in this list because 1) He seems to think he's done a wonderful job on the economy, despite the fact that a lot of people don't seem to have very much money 2) His highest priority on economic policy at the moment seems to be cutting Social Security.

One final point: I'm fairly sure Martin Feldstein wrote an article in 1993, about why the deadweight loss of the Clinton tax increases would be so large, they would not bring in any new revenue. I have no idea why Feldstein was wrong, but he was. Especially on a politically charged issue like taxes, very strong results greatly privileging your home team are likely to be wrong. IMO, that applies to the Picketty-Saez 70% number, as well as to the Garret Jones 0% number.

"I though these methodologies and techniques were supposed to be impartial!"
"Oh, Minister. Railway trains are impartial too, but if you lay down the lines for them that's the way they go."

I was interested in the discussions of writers and reporters and money. The question that occurs to me, is what portion of their income do writers and reporters spend on other people's writing and reporting, and how do they allocate those dollars?

I said in my previous post I would have my opinions on policy platforms in this post: I don't have too many opinions at the moment, just 2 opinions in the form of questions, organized around the words "war" and "work".

1) How many people is our government killing and injuring? What are the tactical, strategic, legal, ethical reasons for these actions, and do these reasons make sufficient, or any, sense?

2) How many of our people are being killed and injured? And how can we prevent,  and where appropriate, avenge these deaths and injuries?

1) If your preferred policies are in place, what is your best estimate for when the economy will return to full employment?

I would like to evaluate American officials and pundits, in part, according to their answers to these questions.

I guess if the events of the last few days re: mr-hankAdria Richards and Tim Noah prove anything, it's that rich people do, indeed, like firing people. Krugman: "it is an open secret that the chief payoff from being really rich is, as Tom Wolfe once put it, the pleasure of "seeing 'em jump.""

I see some weird liberal sneering at Ben Carson, so let me say I strongly disagree with the comparisons of Carson to Hermain Cain. Carson is, indeed, worthy of the greatest respect. Anyone who wonders why should read his books. His first book, "Gifted Hands", is the best, IMO, or at least the least controversial. The later books have large portions I agree with, or learned from, but also patches I either strongly disagreed with, or felt were just not well thought out. (Specifically, I'm thinking of the passage on Fallujah, and the passage on a "Saudi Arabian" solution to health-care overbilling)

I knew Carson is fairly conservative in some respects, but I also believed he supported universal health care and full-employment policies, so am somewhat surprised to hear him talked about as a GOP politician, instead of as an independent. I also never believed he had the love of the political game you probably need to be a good politician. If he did run, and he did have a plan for universal health care and full-employment, it's possible he might have a sort of interesting Salaam/Douthat-type platform, though he seems to be trending toward a libertarian Rand Paul direction.

One quote from Carson's 2008 book, "Take the Risk", which I think shows he is worth reading, even if you don't always agree with him:
I took them. . .to meet Mr. Jaek, the dapper young science teacher who . . .invited me to start coming by his room after school to help with the laboratory chores. He further sparked my interest in science by allowing me to feed and take care of the school's lab animals: a red squirrel, a tarantula, a Jack Dempsey fish, some crawfish, and more. . .I showed up with an ABC camera crew in my wake to find a bald and somewhat rumpled Mr. Jaek still teaching. He and I enjoyed a short reunion and reminisced for a while; then I wanted the video crew to see the wonderful collection of creatures in his lab. He shook his head sadly and said, "We don't have animals in our science lab anymore because of the risk that one of the students might get bitten or scratched. The school system can't afford the liability." I couldn't believe it! Well I could believe it. I just didn't want to believe it because I hated to think of generations of young students missing out on the very thing that sparked my interest in biology and kept feeding the dream that led to my becoming a medical scientist today. . .[page 119-120] 
UPDATE: Obviously disagree with Carson's recent comments implicitly equating homosexuality between consenting equals with bestiality and pedophilia. But the comments were fairly offhand, and unless he doubles down on those comments, don't fundamentally alter my respect for him. Liberals pouncing on those comments remind me of this Homer Simpson quote:
Yeah, yeah, that's his problem, he's a nut! It's not about me being lazy, it's about him being a crazy nut.
So I see Odub mocking Somerby, yet when I go to the Daily Howler site, it's still good: For example, Somerby links to a great piece by the one and only Gene Lyons. OTOH, this is pretty great.

UPDATE: Actually, it wasn't Oliver Willis, it was what's his name. Though reading the 2007-era Yglesias, I feel like Nat X screaming at Michael Jackson: "What happened to this boy, Michael? Where is he?" (should note I don't like the transphobia in the clip).

(Via Glenn Greenwald) Fred Branfman (Salon) - When Chomsky wept

Reading about the greatness of Chomsky makes me appreciate even more this blurb that appears on many of Martin Gardner's books: "Martin Gardner's contribution to contemporary intellectual culture is unique - in its range, its insight, and its understanding of hard questions that matter." - Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Barriers.

I haven't read too much Jhumpa Lahiri, but did hear her read `Sexy' on NPR, and the ending is just about my favorite of any short story ever:
. . .She would see him one more Sunday, she decided, perhaps two. Then she would tell him the things she had known all along: that it wasn't fair to his wife, or to her, that they both deserved better, that there was no point in it dragging on. 
But the next Sunday it snowed, so much so that Dev couldn't tell his wife he was going running along the Charles. The Sunday after that, the snow had melted, but Miranda made plans to go to the movies with Laxmi, and when she told Dev this over the phone he didn't ask her to cancel them. The third Sunday she got up early and went out for a walk. It was cold, but sunny, and so she walked all the way down Commonwealth Avenue, past the restaurants where Dev had kissed her, and then she walked all the way to the Christian Science center. The Mapparium was closed, but she bought a cup of coffee nearby and sat on one of the benches in the plaza outside the church, gazing at its giant pillars and its massive dome, and at the clear-blue sky spread over the city. 
I guess I'm realizing the truth of this:
We may be content to remain what we call `ordinary people': but God is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. Not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded by the greatest saints is beyond us.
George MacDonald. An Anthology (edited by C.S.Lewis)
 [ 63 ] Be Ye Perfect
"I cannot be perfect; it is hopeless; and God does not expect it." - It would be more honest if he said, "I do not want to be perfect: I am content to be saved." Such as care for being what they call saved.
 next post: 6/18/2013

Comments: Post a Comment