27 March 2017

I have been awaiting with eagerness the release of "At the Gates," a 4X strategy game from Conifer Games, a spunky startup which seems to have begun in SE Michigan and then moved to a Maryland HQ.

As often happens to spunky startups, though, life throws all kinds of obstacles in the way of making a name in the world.  At last report, the intrepid head designer had his ribs broken.  I am trying very hard not to politicize this unduly, but it occurs to me that in any other developed country this would not necessarily be a financial blow to his company.  (It seems obvious that his COBRA insurance from his previous employer must have expired by now.  Following your dream is greatly valorized in our country, but not, alas, supported by health care law.)

I ask all annoyed and angry fanboys and -girls to think about Jon Shafer's health, and to think about the reasons why a really cool project might get derailed, even permanently, by the sub-standard state of health care in the USA.  As it turns out, someone who was running for President just last year has a plan to improve things.  Maybe you should check it out, and remember to vote for Democrats and/or Berniecrat Independents in upcoming special elections and next year's midterms.

25 March 2017

At the meeting of the 54th Salon of Agriculture, Benoit Hamon responded to questions from the Manifesto of Barcelonne-du-Gers on the worries of young farmers, which were posed to him by the editors of the newspaper Sud Ouest.

How can the farmer make a better living from his/her craft?  What levers are there?

The agricultural crisis that we are living is unprecedented.  Global competition weighs on prices of primary goods, there's a race to the bottom in distribution, and the food processing industry pushes prices down:  so more and more farmers no longer succeed in digging themselves out.

I want to improve the day-to-day situation of farmers; in particular, by assuring them a decent income.  I want to ensure that they can live decently from their production.  A universal income will allow farmers to be protected against climatic and economic rolls of the dice.  To address these hazards, I will also put in place a voluntarist political regime to rebalance power relations between producers and buyers, at the national and European level; this will also protect them from random fluctuations in the prices of products on the market.

I also want farmers to have better access to care, as they suffer much from health problems* linked to the toughness of their work.  I wish to protect them against the job risks of pesticides, and recognize poisoning by phytosanitary agents** as a professional illness.  Equally, I wish to generalize the right to respite, so that workers who have become exhausted or burned-out can be replaced.  Financial concerns should no longer be a barrier to farmers in great difficulty giving themselves rest.

I want to see the progress made in these last few years continued, and better use made of newly created devices.

( More to follow Monday. )

*The French is "affections," which must be an error.  I'm assuming Hamon meant "afflictions."
**I know almost nothing about this issue; there may be much better translations.
Alison Geyer, you're the best writer by far on the Isthmus staff now.  Keep up the good work, wherever you end up.

24 March 2017

An Ingenious Purple Health Plan for America

All current Americans with MDs will be offered a contract of chattel slavery with the county in which they currently reside.  Non-acceptance of this contract will constitute an act of treason.

Counties unable to pay all the doctors they now own will be eligible for block grants.

To promote choice and competition, Americans who have completed ten hours of Trump University course training on medical choice and competition will be considered as licensed to practice medicine.

To promote long-term sustainability of care, enslaved doctors will be encouraged to have children by means of a vigorous child tax deduction.  Medical education will be the responsibility of a nationwide consortium of Christian universities and yeshivas.  Although care for pregnant women is no longer available under this plan, with a 50% pregnancy survival rate, the Freedom Budget Office estimates that the rate of doctor reproduction will be sufficient to maintain adequate care for the US population. As a standby, foreign doctors will be able to "buy in" to to practice medicine in the US by selling at least two children into slavery to underserved rural counties in selected states.

(((advocatethis))) says:
I do not understand why there are so many Oregon fans in the Bay Area, so say nothing of why they are so assertive about it.


Firstly, it is known that a massive chunk of graduates from colleges in Oregon head directly to the Bay Area after graduation.  They naturally develop some kind of homesickness (for their college home, I mean:  many of them were from the Bay Area to begin with) and this may present as wearing duck hats and green and yellow all the time.  (I headed directly for Wisconsin after graduating from my Oregon college; I felt the deprivation of mountains very very intensely, pathologically.)

Secondly, this is just one manifestation of a cross-cultural phenomenon.  There are many Scotland soccer team fans in London (probably more than England fans these days), and they're known for being "assertive."  Ditto with Bretons in Paris:  watch some Benoit Hamon rallies and when you see the Breton Stars and Stripes flag* you'll know what I mean.

*What I call the flag of historic Brittany - but the 'stars' are actually weird little emblems, probably ancient and Celtic in origin.
In the House of Representatives today, Rep. Diane Black* was given the honor of speaking first about the AHCA.  She was a nurse in the 1990s; she believes that the ACA is a monstrosity because -- doctors should never ever be allowed to retire (or die, I guess)^; Al Gore once sketched a plan for a single-payer health care system in Tennessee on a bar napkin**; "we were promised" massive reductions in premiums (I believe she said $2500 - God knows where that number came from.)

At least, that is my interpretation of her speech.  Those fluent in Trumpian may have other translations.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky) spoke second, quite forcefully.  He is being treated for lymphoma now.

*I believe she is one of only two women left among House Republicans, the other being Virginia Foxx (NC) , whom you could see presiding as chair shortly before the AHCA debate began.  A female House Republican's PR work is never done.
^ Isn't that the only way to guarantee "you will always be able to keep your doctor"?
**Cool story, I must say.  Maybe a movie is forthcoming?

22 March 2017

I am offering a cash reward of $500 to any economist who can explain to me in good layman's terms why "core inflation" excludes food.

Email me with your explanation (between 200 and 1,000 words, please).  Entries received by May 1st will be evaluated and the best selected for reward.

Historian Erik Loomis writes of Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust,

I will also say that Faust is an embarrassment to the reputation of historians. Faust herself works on issues of justice in her writing and yet has sold out all the way. I really struggle to understand how you can know everything she knows and then want to treat pregnant hotel workers or impoverished dining hall workers in this way. I guess that’s why I will never climb the corporate ladder. 

I find this strange in two ways.  I do think Loomis is justified in pointing out hypocrisy in academia at the highest levels:  it's his profession, and he cares about the moral standards of his profession (that's how I, son of an academic, would put it anyway).  But:

1.  Do historians even have a "reputation" in this country to embarrass?  I suspect if you asked a hundred college-educated people between the ages of 30 and 90 to name some living American historians, the names David McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwin would come up a lot, a lot.   I wish more college-educated people knew the names Barbara Tuchman (although she's dead) and James McPherson, and Linda Colley too.  Goodwin has had a few spots on her record.  Does knowing the hypocrisy of one Ivy League president lead to a feeling that those historians are hypocrites, just like the politicians?

2.  "How you can know everything she knows and then..."  Well, didn't Upton Sinclair warn us about this?  "If a man's salary depends on his not understanding something..."  Sinclair lived through the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a man who knew many many things as a historian and president of Princeton University.  Then, Wilson got into the Oval Office and waged unrelenting war on African-American civil rights.  (He called himself a 'progressive,' of course, and cared deeply about national self-determination for white Europeans.)  This was fifty years after slavery had been abolished.  One would hope the lessons of black American competency were ready to be learned by this point, right?  And yet, because Wilson relied on white Southern Democrats for his nomination, he did not seem to understand.

19 March 2017

Yuval Noah Harari is probably a very smart man.  (Full disclosure:  I have read none of his books, nor even heard of him until today.)

Alas, after reading all his responses to these questions, I am left with a barren feeling of emptiness inside.  For one thing, he declined to fully answer the question 'What concerns you most about the world, and what are you doing about your concerns [emphasis added]?'  Is there really nothing that can be done about our concerns?  I want to ask him, "Do you even vote, bro?" 

Veganism and daily meditation (although I think the latter can be beneficial) are no substitute for risky political actions such as speaking out in favor of a measure that's unpopular in your community; blocking traffic at rush hour to protest police brutality; going on strike because you are underpaid and poorly treated at work.  There is plenty of hope to go around for homo sapiens if we are ready to undertake these sorts of actions.  Retreating into books (and I know the temptation well) is not going to save anybody from new elite domination.  You may feel better after embracing a vegan diet, but the vultures and/or worms who feast on your remains aren't going to give you any karma/virtue points because, in your lifetime, some cows were not slaughtered or milked. 

18 March 2017

"...as for me, I think that's useful information:  do we have pharmaceutical labs, through their directors, financing a campaign?  And do we have chemical and petrochemical industries financing a campaign?  Do we have, not firms, but managers--"
"Do they have the right to give that out?"
"Perfectly, they do--"
"The names of donors."
"Well, I'm happy to do it.  I ask all my donors to give us 2,500 [euros] at most, to give smaller amounts if they wish, but I tell them that I'll make their names public ..."

"So [the campaign is] not constructive?"
"Actually, yes, because in spite of this it's uplifting.  It's uplifting because -- the choices that'll be made by our compatriots -- there's a very nice phrase from Tocqueville that says 'in each new generation there is a little more that's new.'   And today, it means the generation that's going to vote for the first time, or -- that takes responsibility from ages 18 to 30, the active young people--"
"Do you think it excites them, voting for the first time?"
"No, but I think they have to decide what people they want to be.  What people they want to be.  In every generation there's a little more that's new.  Decide the people you want to be.  Do you want a sinister future that brings us to ... [too fast for me] ... definitively extinguished?  Do you want to continue writing the page that's been written the last twenty years:  less of a welfare state, less social protection, less protection for low earners ... [too fast] ... that hasn't worked one bit.  They're going to decide what page they want to write, and I for one find ... [too fast] ... my candidacy is about passing the witness[1].  I want to preside over the Republic so I can pass the witness to them.  I observe that other candidates, eventually, become encircled by men who, in matters political and economic, wish to hold back their hands; and they wish to keep the witness that they've held for 20, 30, or 40 years.  I want to hand it over."

Yann Barthès and Benoit Hamon in conversation

1.  Literally; "passing the baton" would be more idiomatic in English.

17 March 2017

A partial English transcript of this video clip of March 13 ("Who is Macron really --according to himself?")

 [Yann Barthès reads off the words on the poster]
"Liberal / libertarian, universalist, progressive, ambiguous, of the right but not reactionary, of the left but not a slinger[1], neither right nor left, of the right and the left ... go ahead, now."
 "Liberal / libertarian. [pause]  I am liberal, in the political sense; in the economic sense too, even if I'm not only liberal, but I'm not liberal - libertarian in the proper sense of the term ..."
"Not on morals."
"Not totally.  But on the subjects of security, my zero tolerance, on morals, I'm not effectively for the legalization of cannabis ... I'm on the side of -- in effect, a little more, I'd say, authoritarian, maybe--"
"You're not Justin Trudeau."
"No, because I think France is not Canada.  Because I think that the Republic is not a multiple, pluralist country any longer; so I don't think myself liberal - libertarian in the true sense of the term."
"Yes, because that's the philosophy of light[2]."
"Actually, that is -- one can be --"
"Are you going to take 10 minutes on each item?  Because, if not--" [audience laughter]
"But no, you see--"
[indiscernible, with arm gesture]
"No, this is important, because that's a fight that I've decided to lead.  I'll go this week to Villers-Cotterets ... to talk about French culture and what it is to be a patriot.  And that is a fight that I want to win against the National Front, and also against François Fillon and his acolytes ..."
"The pride of French people."
"Yes.  As for the word universal, French universalism, it means you don't like France ... no.  I am a universalist, because I am a patriot.  And a patriot is somebody who likes France and its openness, and wants it to propose other things.  On the contrary, I'm not a nationalist:  those guys are nationalists.  Progressive:  completely [ticks box] ...  Progressive, it's the idea of saying -- I believe in a progress [garbled] of the left, center, right, and civil society ... ambiguous; I am not ambiguous ... no, I'm not on the right; left but not a slinger, also no, because ... actually, yes, I come from the left.  But I don't like the term slinger ..."
"You don't come from the left."
"Yes, I just said it.  I do come from the left.  Those are my convictions [garbled]"
"You say 'I come from,' but not 'I am.' "
"No, because I'm right now in the process of building a political option that goes beyond that cleavage.  I am much more comfortable with 'progressive.'  And so I'm gathering people from the left, the center, and the right who want to work together on a progressive platform."
"Would you permit me to say you're a little ambiguous?"
"No. [audience laughter] No, because I, I am progressive.  Look:  I am of the right and the left, in the movement I bring.  There [ticks box]."
"OK.  Very good."
"I'm not in the double exclusion.  I am -- I think there are good ideas on the right which are just and effective, and there are good ideas on the left that are just and effective.  Me, as a personality, I come from the left; I was in a leftist government and I confess it totally."

1. The literal meaning of frondeur.  Historically, it refers to people supporting an aristocratic conspiracy against Louis XIV in the earliest years of his reign. 
2. he may have said "philosophy of the Enlightenment"  -- they sound almost identical in French.