31 March 2017

A musical offering for the Netherlands MNT, which is having something of a turbulent identity crisis right now in World Cup qualifying.  (They don't play again until June 9.)  I would love to see them win their group.

30 March 2017

Rewriting the day's NPR headlines

The U.S. Is Ramping Up Military Engagement, Which Could Be A Risk For Trump

President Trump seems to have  [has] given the U.S. military a freer hand — but without apparent diplomatic or political strategies to accompany the increased military engagement.

Lonely People Report More Severe Cold Symptoms, Study Finds

The study builds on previous evidence linking loneliness to more serious health problems, but the findings do not link the sheer size of a person's social network to cold symptom severity [make no case whatsoever that Facebook cures loneliness.]

Rural Trump Voters Embrace The Sacrifices That Come With Support [Have Thoughts and Feelings]

KCUR 89.3
President Trump has proposed spending cuts to programs that prop up rural areas that voted for him. While some policy experts bemoan the cuts, there are rural voters [folksy-sounding men] who fully support them  [the idea of making "people bleed a little bit."].

29 March 2017

Translation of B. Hamon's 'solemn appeal to citizens', made today.  This is clearly a response to Manuel Valls, Hamon's Socialist primary opponent, endorsing Macron, although Valls is not mentioned specifically here.  Warning: Some of Hamon's sentences are epic, and a little hard to follow in English.

Dear fellow citizens:  this morning, what is to my eyes the most serious matter to our country, but also to politics in the noble sense of the word -- that democracy has suffered yet another major blow.  It has already been humiliated, yes, humiliated, and needs nothing of the undignified behavior and practices we've seen since the beginning of the presidential campaign. 

To my eyes -- and this is the most important thing, at a moment when the authoritarian extreme right and palling around with dictatorships have become trivialized* -- yes, democracy is the apple of our eye, which must be respected at all times, great and small, of political life.  Words given and words signed before the people should be scrupulously adhered to.  This is what I've always done, and it's because of that that I've never accepted -- indeed, I've fought against -- 49-3.**

So I turn towards the citizens of the left, towards all the strengths of civil society, to make a solemn appeal.  I ask you to get involved.^  I ask you to take action against whatever lends itself to this morbid game, and I ask you at the same time to turn the page on this old politics, to turn your backs to these politicians, who no longer believe in anything, who go where the wind blows, scorning all convictions.

There is thus no longer, to my eyes, any excuse, any pretext -- the instigators, the spokespersons, the theoreticians of the decisions that have done so much harm to the left, on the forfeiture of nationality or the labor law, have found, or are beginning to find, refuge in Emmanuel Macron's camp.  There's no longer any excuse, any pretext:  the Left, to win, must come together, and I appeal for it to do so now.

I've already gathered around me a large family of the Left, and of ecological parties.  I appeal henceforth to all voters:  those who are engaged in struggles against injustice; I appeal to social-democrats intimately attached to social progress and democracy; but also, the Communist Party, communists, and Pierre [not sure of last name]; the insoumis and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, to unite their forces with mine.  Everyone knows that with my platform, turned towards the Sixth Republic, towards the ecological transition, towards labor, towards increasing purchasing power, towards the re-foundation of Europe;  everyone knows that with my transformative and serious platform, I have a central position in the Left and that I am the only one able to join together different electorates, from radicals to the most moderate.  I am today the only one that can deliver victory, that can create the conditions for a parliamentary majority of the Left, than can govern and transform. 

The question is thus not one of voting as fleeing, of voting as protest, of voting to eliminate***.  The question is absolutely one of victory at our fingertips, won by a victory coalition of the entire Left.  Conscious of my responsibilities, I'm making this solemn, forceful, and fraternal address so that we might not leave [5] the forces of demolition, the forces of destruction, the forces of money to preside over the destiny of our country.  There's too much to lose for French women and men.  Let's create hope for ourselves, and let's give France the democratic politics of social justice that it needs.  Long live the Republic, and long live France.


**Article of the French Constitution
^Je vous demande de réagir
***vote refuge, vote de témoignage, vote d'élimination
5.  Pour que nous ne laissions pas -- There's power in the subjunctive, but you'd never know it from modern English.

28 March 2017

Although Hong Kong is not by any stretch of the imagination a free and independent country, it seems noteworthy that Carrie Lam was just elected its Chief Executive by a committee comprising 0.16 percent of the Hong Kong population -- quite democratic, really, compared to the USA's Electoral College, which comprises about 0.00016 percent of the USA's population (the numerical coincidence comes from my use of a rounded 2017 population estimate, 325 million.)

I applaud Russ Feingold for taking this seriously enough to start a pressure group. 

27 March 2017

Benoit Hamon's Salon of Agriculture interview, continued.

How will you make standards and regulations flexible?

There are domains where we need to establish standards and regulations: health, the environment.  The question is how to adopt these standards to the reality and the diversity of situations of farmers in their enterprises.  Standards can, in certain cases, amount to a constraint that's too strong.  We have to find a happy medium, something that permits an economic sector to orient itself, without at the same time destabilizing the participants.  It's often difficult to carry through changes in the modes of production.  Instead of normative policies, it would be preferable to adopt contractual policies, which assign objectives to participants.

Agricultural development policies must also be put in place.  The capacity for innovative uses of terrain should be rewarded, and practices that work well should be mutualized:  short circuit selling, group agriculture, or upgrading towards organic farming and production, for example.  National public policies should support these exemplary practices of farmers who have already begun their agrarian transition.

How can production be better distributed?

Eating healthily requires us to better compensate our farmers and stockbreeders.  I want to see our producers get a larger return on value at the agricultural upstream.*

Production is not distributed, it's organized around specific potentials and the climatic and natural conditions of every region.  Of course, it also stems from the choice of people and from their collective organization.  As I see it, the solutions really go through the strengthening of producers' organizations, so that they're in a position to negotiate on a level playing field with processors and distributors -- and that transparency in the price chain is assured.

Policies regarding quality, whether it's about products given a seal of quality or about organic farming, also contribute to a new management of production that's closer to a circular economy and a locally based agriculture.

Furthermore, it's relevant to note that we no longer have a legal mandate for apportionment of production, like production of milk and sugar.  The Left has always been in favor of quotas that will at the same time guarantee prices and assure a fair allotment of production across the country.

How do we better manage water resources?

As always, it's about finding the equilibrium between the preservation of the resource and its delivery. Water is an important resource for dry regions, without which neither life nor agriculture can thrive there.  It's incumbent on us to adapt agriculture to these arid ecosystems.  This is why I'm proposing the creation -- on the model of the coastlands conservatory -- of an Arable Lands Conservatory, whose mission will be to protect the health of agricultural lands. 

How do we hold back desertification?

The farm sector is destroying jobs, the number of enterprises is dropping, the youngest have more difficulties getting started, the oldest have the feeling of being marginalized in our society.  I will push for the land law to fight the concentration and grabbing of lands by the big firms, as a way to encourage the renewal of generations and assure them better access to the land.  The arable lands conservatory that I propose to create will also promote access to the land for peasants** wishing to work it.

Also, we need to have initiatives for developing the countryside that are shared with the rural world's other partners.  Rural areas should not be marginalized.  They bring an important potential for development -- including the production of foodstuffs, but also other goods (renewable energies, in particular) and services.  So many jobs proposed thanks to this diversification of activities in farm enterprises are, furthermore, immune to outsourcing.  To accompany this transition, I want to guarantee effective equality of all citizens before the public services, and make a priority of broadband access in rural areas.

*Literal translation of "amont."
**The French word "paysans" that Hamon uses is, I think, less pejorative than English "peasants."
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.

14 March 2017

If Andrea Pirlo wants to learn Chinese and play in the Super League because Americans are too stingy with their salary caps, he is welcome to do so.  I know of no other sports league than MLS where exactly three (five is right out) players are granted extraordinary compensation packages amounting to a charter of baronial rights, but if that is just not enough anymore, well ....

13 March 2017

Our efforts at compromise have instead been met with a brick wall of intransigence...
UK membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish government or with the other devolved administrations - leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit...
There has been talk of special deals for the car industry and others, but a point blank refusal to discuss in any meaningful way a differential approach for Scotland.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, in a press conference announcing her intent to call for a second Scottish independence referendum (in late 2018 - early 2019).   Some guy from The Institute for Fiscal Studies is saying that an independent Scotland might have to increase taxes!!!!! Clearly, this alone should terrify all the good people of Scotland / Alba into remaining under the kind and gentle care of a Tory government for fifteen more years, and accepting stagnant wages for all except the most hot-shot currency traders (I'm not knocking their economic studies per se, it just seems that the concept of people having political choices to make is far beyond their ken.)

11 March 2017

Bill McKibben is quite right:  dignity works much better than rage in activism.  And his example of the dignified but politically forceful protest led by Rev. William Barber gets to the heart of why I continue practicing Christianity (fitfully).   It is not so that I will find success in my private endeavors (heresy 1), or even that it will help me to love everybody (heresy 2).  I practice Christianity to learn human dignity, period.  This is not something that any doctoral program can teach me.  Some have learned it really well from other religions, and more power to them -- but I chose Christianity at age 26 and can't see the point in changing now.

explanations of my so-called heresies 

1. The "prosperity gospel" is a well-known and bold-font version of this.  I think a softer version may lurk in the reasons many people adduce for going to church, viz.  "to make connections,"  "to plug in to society," etc.  But that's another post.

2.  It's true:  one can argue, with biblical passages, that this is exactly what Christians are supposed to learn.  I do not share these high hopes of learning to love everybody, but I do believe the Word of God teaches us to love ourselves and those closest to us better, which is no small thing.

10 March 2017

Benoit Hamon at Le Havre today

He repeated what François Mitterand once said of centrists: "they're neither on the left, nor on the left."

On the question of European solidarity, he cited Massimo d'Azeglio (after 19th century unification of Italy):  "We have just made Italy, now we must make Italians."

On considering the "fate of the planet" in economic planning, he remarked:  "What will I say to my children, and their children - if they choose to have them - when they are confronted with a world that isn't breathable?"

Shortly after speaking of "Spain, Portugal, Greece," he said:  "A word on the mutualisation of [EU member nation] debts:  German economists proposed the idea at first ...  we need cooperative action, not action emanating from one, two, or three countries ... Germany [is a] great parliamentary republic"

Rather than depending on "Russian gas," France can rely on solar and other forms of renewable energy; my investment plan will further this

I'm not promising a "great evening," but together we can make "little mornings" of change

"y'all decide now the people y'all wanna be*: a people that wants to leave the eurozone, that [resigns itself] to disorder and injustice?"

"Choose the Left; choose Europe; choose social justice!  Long live France and the Republic!"
*My creative translation of a phrase beginning "vous décidez"
OK, I wasn't actually done with Benoit Hamon.  When reading foreign languages is becoming politically uncool, then I feel all the more piqued to do it.  Here is a selection from the last two paragraphs from Hamon's written statement the morning after Trump was elected (and before Hamon won his party's primary):
In France, it's not too late to avoid the worst.  We have to mobilize ourselves starting now, to bring about in 2017 a triumph of the Left of Freedoms against the Right of Bans, the Left of Equality against untamed free-market ideology ... Time presses and the choice is being made right now.  In May 2017, in the first round of the presidential election, it will already be too late.  Like Bernie Sanders, I want to propose to the French people another path of exit from this system while creating a less unequal, more protecting and more fraternal society.  It's in January, at the primary, where we have to change the course of matters.

08 March 2017

[thank you, Brenda Konkel, for your exhaustive report of last night's meeting!]

In the wee hours of last night, my city's common council (twelve of them anyway) made, in my opinion, a very poor decision.

Alder Zellers was right to ask what happens if this biergarten becomes a disaster.  As I see it, the operators' plan -- if you can call it a plan -- is a standing invitation for roving armed gangs from nearby counties to descend upon the Olbrich neighborhood, grab a 20-ounce beer, intimidate all the soccer-playing children,* cut the rope "barriers" to ribbons, start stabbing each other in the Tiki Bar parking lot (yes, there's already a bar NEXT DOOR), then stop passing vehicles on Atwood Avenue and extort valuables from the drivers at gunpoint.  And the police will be too busy dealing with chronically drunken people on State Street to respond in time.  But, hey, it'll be innovative!

*Only children play soccer:  every Cool Person in Madison knows this, as was evidenced in Brenda's report.  URRGH
What "universal income" means to Julia Cagé, economic advisor to Benoit Hamon

[This will probably be the last of my Hamon campaign Englishings, at least until (hopefully) the candidate gets to the 2nd round of voting in May.  I find Cagé's French very accessible, so I selected her as a good surrogate voice for Hamon.]

For me, the universal subsistence income is the social safety net for the 21st century, accompanied by a return to giving labor its due value and an increase in the lowest wages.  It's an income that will be distributed to all French people of 18 years of age and older, in an automatic way, on a monthly schedule.  It comes into play for people who have no income, but it also comes into play for those who earn a wage that is too little, whose work is poorly paid.  For example, with the universal income, someone in that category could see their wage increased by 200 euros:  so, a universal social protection ... (digression about the C.I.C.E.) .... to sum up, the universal income is a guarantee to you, backed up and made automatic by the state, that you won't ever again be in a situation of poverty.  Those who think that this will lead to laziness or mass idleness are, unfortunately, people disconnected from reality.   You can't live at all easily on 600 euros a year; of course this is not going to fully substitute for work.  On the contrary, it's simply a stabilizing balance brought in -- because I think, in the 21st century, we just can't take it for granted that society will pick up the slack.  All those who have the right to it will tap into it; they won't have to ask, they'll get it every month, so it'll increase their net wages.  It'll make their work pay better, and encourage them to keep working.

07 March 2017

Summary of this afternoon's Freedom Caucus press conference:

White men who believe in "future generations" are unhappy that the AHCA wouldn't exterminate all poor people immediately, because that is a core conservative principle. 

Also, health care costs "going down by negative 1 percent" is "what Americans want to see."

The Bottom of a Cycle?

I'm trying not to blog as much now because it's Lent and the name of the season suggests that we ought to take things slowly.  (Of course, try telling this to conservative Catholics who want to decapitate the Pope...)

I do find myself thinking more and more about income inequality and the unsustainability of its continual rise.  (I'm given to understand that some economists think a continual rise is sustainable, but if I believed everything those economists said I would also believe that 40-day erections were healthy.)  The Magic Seasteading Kingdom that will house all our super-rich hasn't materialized yet, except in the brains of video-game and anime developers, so West Palm Beach has to suffice, and when the next tropical storm hits it the President might be very very sad indeed.

Still, there are so many ways people who are doing okay in this economy can rationalize and explain away unnecessary poverty and hunger and child mortality.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz (FN - Utah), who is being rightly slammed now for his callous words about health care, is not at all atypical in this regard for a rich straight white man in the developed world. 

I'm often exasperated by liberal or politically moderate (and almost always male) academics who are so eager to share with us the shocking results of their research:  There is growing inequality in this country!  This never seems to get old for them.  Maybe they are trying their darndest to effect political change for the better, which would be great, but really, guys:  people figured this out during the Reagan administration.

An example of this can be found here.  I hesitate to call myself exasperated by Paul Campos, since it is certainly important for young people considering law school to know the price tags.  And I love the rococo painting he chose to accompany his post, since it captures what I feel very strongly about this time:  that we are reliving the last days of ancien régime France.

We have an aristocracy that jealously monopolizes higher political office.  We recognize them not by their titles of nobility but by their honorary degrees and the speaking fees they can command.  They are not all bad people:  I was ready and willing to vote for one of them for president last year, because I knew the likeliest alternative.  Some of them have made great contributions to science and social welfare, just like some French aristocrats did.  Of course, they often were in a position to do so only because they participated in rapacious profiteering activities that undermined the moral legitimacy of the state.  (Today they take jobs with HMOs or Lockheed Martin.)

The French Revolution was completely unthinkable to intelligent European men of the time, like Edward Gibbon, until it actually happened.  There was, after all, so much innovation going on in France in the 18th century!  Surely the tenant farmers could appreciate that, or would appreciate it one day, when they bought themselves out of feudal debts and bestrode the amazing modern economy with their improved agricultural techniques.

03 March 2017

While E. Macron sings of content-free progress, "innovation," and his personal coolness, Benoit Hamon is proposing something that many people in the Puget Sound area are already familiar with.

I've been proposing to put in place a system of inter-enterprise currency, as it's known on the model of the Swiss huire [sp?]  It's a non-profit cooperative ... which is to say, 20 percent of Swiss enterprises exchange goods and services through a currency that is an alternative to the Swiss franc ... for example, a builder lacking work in the winter, who doesn't have a reserve fund, will be able to complete projects all the same ... by exchanging inter-enterprise money.  The objective is to maintain employment and to maintain activity in counter-cyclical periods ... [this has] functioned extremely well in Switzerland, ... which has succeeded in maintaining a living economic fabric even in the most difficult periods ...
Apparently, Theresa May spoke to a Tory party conference in Glasgow and announced that she is King Charles I, or something.  (There are probably about six Tories left in Scotland, by the way.)

When the Sovereign British Government has withdrawn from the EU, NATO (after refusing to raise income taxes to satisfy the United States' cost-sharing demands), the International Olympic Committee, and UEFA, and ordered a return to the Old Style Calendar,* and a large swath of the population is dying of scurvy because they can't afford imported citrus fruit anymore, maybe Prince William will step in with unaccustomed royal assertiveness.  Preferably, though, a general strike or some such uprising will turn things around.  Waiting until the next general election in 2020 does not inspire much hope.

*The New Style Calendar, after all, was foisted on an unwilling English people in 1750, robbing them of eleven days of life!!

02 March 2017

Obscure Theater Troupe from Mountains of North Carolina Attempts to Stage Macbeth in U.S. Capitol

01 March 2017

An Ash Wednesday Praise Song for Ian Grillot (and others)

There weren't a lot of homicides in Olathe,
at least since the days of Bleeding Kansas,
when Righteousness warred with the Slave Power
and John Brown's axe cleaved the skulls
of greed-soaked Missourians in their cabins.
That was all prelude to the transcontinental railroad,
and the Triumph of Technology, circa 1870.
The buffalo disappeared, then the Arapahoes,
and Kansas knew peace.

But our time is another Bleeding Time, because
a greedy time, and the engineers, architects of
the longue durée of peace, are lambs,
and the wolves are neighbors who "seem nice."

Praise him with great praise who,
not content to mind his own generation's business,
wrestles with death when his elders avoid it;
praise them who tend the bodies of the young
and comfort the falling friends,
praise him who reads the tale,
and tweets not, but weeps.