Friday, December 14, 2012

Save Social Security and Medicare - Support Bernie Sanders

Today the issue of tax cuts for the wealthy is once again front and center in Washington, as part of the debate over how to reduce the federal deficit. And Mr. Sanders is once again talking, carving out a place for himself as the antithesis of the Tea Party and becoming a thorn in the side to some Democrats and Mr. Obama, who he fears will cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits as part of a deficit reduction deal.
This guy is the reason why I am a Socialist, and why I would move to Vermont if it weren't so cold. He is precious.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Help Sooth This Obsessive Grammarian

I wasn’t always this way, but I spent a few years as an English teacher, which obliged me to bone up on fine grammar points. When most of my reading was confined to books and magazines, I didn’t see many errors. Now that I read so many blogs, however, I’m seeing more and more. It’s not quite driving me up the wall, but after several hours of blog reading the irritation builds.


When I see its/it’s errors or there/their/they’re mistakes, I actually feel a surge of anger, even though I know the writer was just in a hurry and probably didn’t have time to edit.


If get too upset I try to calm myself by recognizing that English is changing as languages do over time.These days everyone splits infinitives, which used to be frowned upon. I do it myself, although I still reflect to see if there is any way I can avoid the split without making my phrase awkward or unclear. Since Winston Churchill gave us permission, we no longer mind leaving prepositions at the end of sentences, as I just did back there.


And I guess I will have to be politically and socially correct and get used to “they” as a singular pronoun when the gender of the referent is not specified. I note, however, that some militants are consistently using she when gender is unknown, perhaps to atone for past sins of male chauvinists.


But there are a few errors I may never accept, such as using “different than” instead of “different from”. When we stop to think about it we remember that “different” is not a comparative adjective such as “bigger”. which would obviously be followed by “than”. 


On the subject of comparative adjectives, it may already be too late to save the word “fewer”. Practically everyone says, “I have a few coins”, but too many of us say and write, “I have less coins than he has”. As our sixth grade teachers reminded us, “less” is the comparative form of “little” and is reserved for uncountable things like “money”. Every day there are fewer bloggers who get this right. I may soon be the only one left.


It is certainly too late to try to save “try to do something”, when even polished writers are using “try and do something”. Strange! The latter version doesn’t even make sense. My sixth grade teacher was very tough about that, but she apparently didn’t get the word out to everyone.


I would also like to save the American subjunctive. I call it American because the English have already given up on it. I fear it’s too late because most English speakers don’t learn it in school, and think it’s something only Europeans put in their mouths, like smelly cheese. But take a look at these: It’s important that he be on time! It’s essential that she do her homework! Well, I suppose it won’t be a great loss if it disappears, even though I will miss it.


I’m going to close this long lament with a question in the hope that some grammar guru will read it and provide guidance. It’s about gerundive phrases. Most grammar books say that if a pronoun is the subject of the phrase it should be a possessive pronoun as in the following: I’m worried about his going to Afghanistan. I feel more comfortable with this: I’m worried about him going to Afghanistan.


All that is not to claim that I’m perfect. I really have to watch my commas and capitals, and you will probably find other errors even in the above text.


What do you think, grammar gurus? Please give me your opinion or this and other points.


Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The God Glut - Frank Bruni has the Courage to Write What Many are Thinking

We Americans aren’t careful at all. In a country that supposedly draws a line between church and state, we allow the former to intrude flagrantly on the latter. Religious faith shapes policy debates. It fuels claims of American exceptionalism.

Some may feel a duty to evangelize, but please stop trying to overburden the public discourse with questionable interpretations of scripture which not everyone believes is sacred.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Sunday, November 11, 2012

EC Bureaucracy and Reactionary Economists Condemn Eurozone to Recession

To some it all seems very strange. The Eurozone is in recession, and no one is doing anything about it. The ECB are keeping interest rates at 0.75%, and there are no plans for Quantitative Easing. It is possible to speculate on possible factors here, but there is one obvious answer. Consumer price inflation is expected to be pretty close to 2% this year and next in the Eurozone as a whole. So with inflation on target, what is there to do? Now I think there are strong grounds, familiar to anyone who has studied economics, for saying that monetary policy is not just about current inflation, but should be about closing the output gap as well. The OECD in June estimated that the Euro area output gap will be between -3.5% and -4% in 2012 and 2013. However monetary policy makers in the UK as well as the Euro area (and, until recently, the US) appear to be just looking at inflation. Textbooks will have to be rewritten.
Quote from Simon Wren Lewis's Excellent blog.

Click on the link to read this post in full. Oxford Economist Simon Wren-Lewis once again raises the essential question: Should European union go forward as long as EC bureaucrats are under the spell of retrograde economists, and have little direct responsibility to any directly elected legislative body such as the European Parliament. The current policy of austerity condemns most of Europe to recession.

Friday, November 9, 2012

California Comebacks: First Steve Jobs, Now Jerry Brown

Of all the state election results across the nation, few can top the shocking good sense of California voters in approving temporary tax increases to raise $6 billion a year to shore up the state’s tattered public schools and university system. That’s right: There were voters in these hard times agreeing to be taxed despite the “no new taxes” mantra of simplistic conservative politicians.

"The ballot measure, Proposition 30, was an audacious gamble by Gov. Jerry Brown".
Just about everyone knows the Steve Jobs comeback story, but just about everyone outside of California has forgotten that Jerry Brown had already served two terms as Governor of California, leaving office the first time in 1983. After that it was all downhill for a long while. He was defeated in his 1982 run for the Senate, and then failed in his third and last bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination, that time against Bill Clinton.
Then in 1999, Brown began his climb back up the political ladder, winning two terms as Mayor of Oakland, and one as California Attorney General, before winning a third term as Governor in 2011.
Jobs will no doubt remain the most popular California comeback hero, but even though I'm a faithful Mac user since 1984 I believe that Brown deserves just as high a place in public esteem thanks to what he has accomplished in this election.
Let's hope that California will once again lead the way, and that voters nationwide will remember that it's worthwhile to pay higher taxes in order to maintain essential public services.
(The above quotations are from today's NYTimes editorial, "Californians Say Yes to Taxes".)

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simon Johnson: The Importance of Elizabeth Warren -

One of the most important results on Tuesday was the election of Elizabeth Warren as United States senator from Massachusetts. Her victory matters not only because it helps the Democrats keep control of the Senate but also because Ms. Warren has a track record of speaking truth to authority on financial issues – both to officials in Washington and to powerful people on Wall Street.

This comes from Simon Johnson: The Importance of Elizabeth Warren -
I wonder if she could be a serious contender for President in 2016. Too honest, I suppose

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Get Used to it T-Party, The Real America is No longer in the Boondocks

No, you cannot have your country back. America is moving forward.

That’s the message voters sent the Republican Party and its Tea Party wing Tuesday night when they re-elected President Obama and strengthened the Democrats’ control of the Senate.

No amount of outside money or voter suppression or fear mongering or lying — and there was a ton of each — was enough to blunt that message.

President Obama and his formidable campaign machine out-performed the Republicans, holding together a winning coalition that is the face of America’s tomorrow: young voters, urban voters, racially and ethnically diverse voters and women voters.

The "Real America", imperfect as it may be, is no longer on a mid American lily-white farm, or in a small town in the hinterland. The Real America is now in the cities and their suburbs. Even those mythical family farms of yore are now owned by millionaires or big corporations. Get used to it Tea Partiers!

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nancy Folbre: Contraceptive Economics -

But unintended pregnancies – which account for about half of all pregnancies – have huge economic consequences for women’s employment, family welfare, public spending and children’s health. In a recent Guttmacher Institute study of women at 22 family planning clinics in 13 states, the most frequently cited reason given for using contraception was inability to take care of a baby at the time.

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that unintended pregnancy costs American taxpayers roughly $11 billion each year.

A report by Adam Thomas published in March by the Brookings Institution shows that unintended pregnancies are disproportionately concentrated among women who are unmarried, teenage and poor. It also summarizes evidence that these pregnancies set in motion a series of unfortunate outcomes that effectively reproduce poverty.

Conventional economic theory, still taught in many college classrooms, assumes that individual decisions reflect rational choices. From this perspective, a woman who engages in sexual intercourse without making the effort required to make low-cost methods of contraception succeed (which typically includes finding a partner willing to cooperate, as with use of a condom) must either be unpardonably ignorant or trying to get pregnant.

Behavioral economics, on the other hand, emphasizes that people often lack self-control, particularly when affected by “visceral factors,” such as hunger, thirst and sexual desire.

From this perspective, people need to protect themselves, pre-emptively, from carelessness that can lead to costly consequences. Even small differences in the form protection takes can have significant long-run effects.

Women sometimes forget to take birth control pills or let their prescription lapse. Partly for this reason, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now prioritizes use of IUDs and hormonal implants. Unpopular among older physicians and older women because they were once considered risky, these methods are now rated quite safe.

Mounting evidence suggests that making these new contraceptive technologies more economically accessible reduces abortions and unwanted births.

Fortunately, we super-humans are all immune to these inconveniences of so-called overwhelming passion. Hmmm. I wonder. Even at age 80 when I have much less temptation, I doubt that.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

S'more thoughts on the marshmallow game and it's ramifications

Everybody reading this has probably run across the persistent (and well-subsidized) narrative that goes something like this: virtually all of the variability we see in wealth can be explained by intelligence, talent and character with luck and inequality of opportunity playing little role in a person's success. In this narrative the labor market is now strongly efficient and the decrease in social mobility is simply the consequence of that current level of efficiency and a very large genetic component associated with those traits needed for success.

Since I reblogged the original, it's my duty to continue with the followup/

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Econbrowser: If You Want Faster Growth...Get out of the Zombie Economy

As in the movie "The Sixth Sense," (in which many ghosts didn't know they are dead and only see what they want to see), for most Americans our auto centric suburban way of life is dead, but most of us don't know it yet, and we only see what we want to see.

It's not my fault. I sold my car.

This is from a comment by one Jeffrey J. Brown on Menzie Chin's blog post.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Nobel Prizewinners Work Toward Solutions Better Than Socalled Free Markets

A Nobel for Planning?: “The combination of Shapley’s basic theory and Roth’s empirical investigations, experiments and practical design has generated a flourishing field of research and improved the performance of many markets,” said the committee awarding the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

We've all noticed that the influence of powerful players has made the term "free markets" more or less of an oxymoron, but Arindrajit Dube points out that maybe something better is on the way. Hat tip to Mark Thoma who gives us hope that it may be a Nobel for Planning.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Friday, October 12, 2012

Prospects of a Keynesian utopia-Why this Obsession for More Instead of Better?

The 15-hour working week predicted by Keynes may soon be within our grasp – but are we ready for freedom from toil?

John Quiggin seems to have covered everything here, except curiously for global warming.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Marshmallow Study revisited

For the past four decades, the "marshmallow test" has served as a classic experimental measure of children's self-control: will a preschooler eat one of the fluffy white confections now or hold out for two later?

Now a new study demonstrates that being able to delay gratification is influenced as much by the environment as by innate ability. Children who experienced reliable interactions immediately before the marshmallow task waited on average four times longer—12 versus three minutes—than youngsters in similar but unreliable situations.

I've often thought that this must be the case. We've all heard stories about poor people who come into a bit of money, spend it all right away, and eat beans for the rest of the month.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is God a TV Zapper or a Pinball Player? Irreverent Pop-Theology as Seen by an Obsessive Agnostic

At the beginning I was a proper Calvinist. Before it got watered down in the 18th century, Calvinism was very often about predestination vs. free will. So when I started researching the subject, I went back as far as the English Puritans and moved forward to Jonathan Edwards, who was certainly the most reasonable and convincing of all the Puritan theologians.

That got me to thinking that if Edwards were alive today he might describe predestination as a fourth dimensional necessity. For God, time would simply be another dimension that SHe would perceive instantaneously as we perceive the other three dimensions, which means that God would perceive in an instant what we mere mortals perceive as eternity.

(I have been wondering which pronoun to use for God, and have considered He, She and It. I decided on SHe as being gender neutral while still being personal. I thought of adding It to the SHe, but that could lead to an inappropriate combination of letters.)

Back to the main stream in the person of that contemporary philosopher, Elvis Costello. My son the poet tells me that Costello once said that he thought of God as lying on a big circular bed surrounded by an infinite number of television screens. In Costello's vision, God holds a tele-command which enables Herm (objective case pronoun proposal) to intervene when things start going wrong.

Now, even though Edwards probably did not own a television set, let alone subscribe to cable, he would certainly have objected strongly to Costello's vision because it detracted from the idea of God's omnipotence. I would agree with Edwards. What kind of a god would it be who didn't get everything right in the first place and had to keep zapping to set things straight? Besides, I have cancelled my cable subscription and now watch TV only over the internet.

Further meditation led me to another theological insight, which I feel corresponds closely to American WASP religious thinking. Conceive of God as a pinball player using a very advanced, holy machine. Each time SHe pulls and releases the plunger it sets off a Big Bang in one universe or another. Obviously God would use that plunger with such finesse that the big ball would cross the table just as SHe had planned. Certain souls would be saved and others damned. But God might change Hers (possessive adjective proposal) mind and jog the table from time to time to modify the ball's trajectory. Doesn't that leave a little room for human exercise of free will, perhaps even for someone else to jog the table directly? In any case, that's what Edwards's followers decided, thereby leading to today's Christian compromise.

This idea is most appealing to us ex-pinball players. But our agnostic leanings make us doubt that this is more than an illusion. Nevertheless, I sit and wait, sometimes hoping God will invite me over to play. Sometimes I even think I'll walk over and put a quarter in the machine, or maybe just give it a little jog while hoping it doesn't light up TILT.

Copyright: Edgar Farrar Richardson

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Can You Believe My Bordeaux Wine Posts Get More Hits Than My Political Rants?

As usual, the so-called law of supply and demand explains everything. There's not enough information on the web about good, affordable Bordeaux wines, while there are too many political rants. I suppose it's the election season. Or maybe it's the Gresham's law of blogging: bad dope drives out good.


But I won't tease you any longer. I've come to you here on the web today to give you more good news about Bordeaux wines of the 2011 vintage just coming to market. In this recent post I told you why I thought they would be good, especially the Saint Emilions Today I offer you taster's proof positive. A few days ago, I found some Lussac Saint Emilion from Château La Croix de Chereau, vintage 2011 at €9 the bottle in my neighborhood supermarket. This wine is a real miracle at that price. It's just as round and full as the Graves I wrote about the other day, but it's also got enough tannin so that it can travel well and keep for a few years. Addionally, it has special nutty overtones that I've seldom tasted in other reds. I'm going to buy a few more bottles for special occasions.


The Lussac Saint Emilion is a small northern suburb of the main Saint Emillion district. It has less prestige, but a bit more merlot (65% rather than 60%), and commands a lower price. The nearby Fronsacs will probably be interesting, too, and I will let you know if I find some good bargains. All these wines are near neighbors, if not kissing cousins of the  Pomerols (70% to 80% merlot), which people who can afford them often rate the world's best reds.


I should warn you: I'm not an expert, just an ordinary wino wine-lover like you.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Prefer the Original Scandinavian TV, Especially "The Killing" (Forbrydelsen)

We have just finished watching the first season of the internationally top-rated Danish TV series "The Killing". I now see that we are way behind the times as the Danes have already broadcast their third season, and the Americans have done a complete remake of the first Danish season after splitting it into two seasons. We did not have to pay one centime extra to see this excellent series the original version broadcast in in the clear on the Franco-German public channel. Nor did we have to suffer through innumerible advertising breaks. In fact, we saw all 20 episodes in the space of three weeks (the same time frame as the murder investigation) without a single commercial. It was even rather tiring sometimes sitting through four hours end to end, with only brief hourly pipi stops. We wound up recording some episodes for the following day.

The news that there was an American remake did not surprise me, but led me to search critical comparisons. This was all that I found. This critic led me to believe that the US adaptation was almost as good as the original, which I doubt. Nevertheless, the critic asks the same question as I did: "Why did they bother", given the excellent quality of the original series. I haven't seen the version dubbed in English, but the French dubbing was perfect, and I can't imagine that the Brits would do worse. The decisive verdict is that the Danes have done two more successful series, whereas AMC dropped theirs after the first double series.

The question remains: "Why did they bother to do the remake?" Did the producers suppose that Americans are too self-centered or closed-minded to be interested in how another culure might treat such a horrible event? Or did they just presume that American TV would inevitably do it better? I doubt the latter interpretation because such suppositions have so often proved wrong: e.g. the original Swedish production of the Millenium trilogy. 

Of course, you can always buy the Danish Season 2 on Amazon for $65, but you will need a dezoned DVD player to watch it. This brings up another gripe I have with the US media industry. Those guys do the maximum to push free trade when it's to their advantage, while at the same time creating artificial barriers such as DVD and Bue-Ray zoning to protect their monopolies.

Meanwhile, we continue to enjoy a good film free nearly every evening on French TV.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Republican Small Government Fanatics Distort Views of Their Hero Hayek

despite his complete lack of faith in the ability of politicians to affect the economy, Hayek, who is frequently cited in attacks on entitlement programs, believed that the state should provide a base income to all poor citizens.

To be truly Hayekian, Boettke says, Ryan would need to embrace one of his central ideas, known as the “generality norm.” This is Hayek’s belief that any government program that helps one group must be available to all. If applied, Boettke says, a Hayekian government would eliminate all corporate and agricultural subsidies and government housing programs, and it would get rid of Medicare and Medicaid or expand them to cover all citizens. (Hayek had no problem with a national health care program.)

Maybe this guy Hayek wasn't as bad as the Republicans make him out to be. I hereby resolve to read more of what he wrote, My loyalty to Keynes, however, remains absolute

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't Neglect Bordeaux Vintage 2011

A few weeks ago, I read a New York Times review of French wines now coming to market, and was rather miffed to see that the critic completely ignored Bordeaux. That's mainly because I live in Bordeaux; nevertheless, I began to wonder if my adopted region was falling behind Burgundy, and if so why. Maybe the excellent Pinot Noirs from the US West are leading more Americans to try their ancestors from Burgundy. Or maybe the wine critic just didn't have enough of a budget to cover both sides of France.

Be that as it may, I decided to stay on the lookout for medium priced 2011 Bordeaux, which I expected to be showing up in our supermarket. I rather thought they would be good because spring last year was precociously hot and dry, which I knew would favor the Merlots. And fortunately, the summer of 2011 was not especially hot, which should enable wine makers to avoid the high alcohol percentages that I don't much care for.

I didn't have long to wait. One day last week, I discovered a bottle of Chateau du Bos, a 2011 Graves at 12.5%, which is usually the right percentage for me. It was a miracle at less than five Euros the bottle: round, full, and fruity, with little acidity, it was a perfect table wine. I say "was" because I was not the only one to discover it. When I went back, I grabbed the last three bottles, and fervently hope they can restock. There was not much tannin, so I'm not sure this would be a keeper or that it would ship well, but it bodes well for those which will be coming out of oak a little later. 

On the other hand, a few days later I tried a 2011 Côtes de Blaye at 13% which was drinkable, but a bit "piquant". I was disappointed, because these were quite good a few years back. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic.

My guess is that the Saint Emilions will be better than ever, because they usually have a higher proportion of Merlot than the other Bordeaux. They reach their peak sooner, too, so you won't have to wait so long to drink them. I'll let you know if anything else turns up.

Posted via email from FRauncher's posterous