Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mad Hungarian Admen

Squeek their wheels, get their grease;
Parliament formally modified Hungary’s controversial advertising law on Wednesday.  By a vote of 144 in favor to 50 opposed, the threshold over which the advertising tax must be paid was lowered from HUF 500 million (USD 1.77 million) to HUF 100 million (USD 353,870).  A flat tax of 5.3 percent replaces the progressive tax rates.
Which came under pressure from European Union regulators;
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into whether Hungary's advertisement tax introduced in June 2014 complies with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission has concerns that the progressive tax rates, ranging from 0 to 50%, could selectively favour certain companies and give them an unfair competitive advantage.
Worried about the unintended consequences of progressive taxation.  That's progress!

Why don't EU go with that, guys?

une rose sous un autre nom

A day after more than 80 percent of the members of his conservative UMP approved the proposed name change to "the Republicans," Sarkozy used an hour-long speech to a party congress in Paris to rebuff criticism from leftist opponents, some of whom have filed a challenge against the move. Critics see it as an attempt to claim the term for one party alone in France, where people from all political stripes routinely refer to their country as "the Republic."
"I would ask of those on the left who want to deny us the name Republican, what have you done for the Republic?" the former president told a cheering crowd of supporters.
"To those who accuse us of confiscating the Republic, I want to respond that if they had not betrayed it, abandoned it, degraded it, we would not have to restore it today," he added, referring to the policies of the government of Socialist President Francois Hollande, the man who ousted Sarkozy from power in the 2012 election.
Je suis républicain. Appelez-moi Nick Reagan.

Who's your caddy?

In Pierce County, Washington, the Tacoma News Tribune buries the lede by putting the benefits cart before the costs' horse;
Claims and counterclaims about which local governments stand to profit most from the U.S. Open golf championship caused a rift to develop last fall between Pierce County and the city of University Place, according to documents recently obtained by The News Tribune.
The trouble began when University Place city attorney Steve Victor tried to figure out how much revenue the county stood to gain by holding the event at Chambers Bay, a county-owned golf course located inside the city limits of UP. Victor then wrote a memorandum saying it looked like the county would reap considerably more money than his city.
The Adam Lynn story goes on for paragraph after paragraph--22, by our quick count--before raising the other side of the expected coin;
While the county stands to bring in about $4 million in revenue from the event, it also has significant expenses associated with it, [Deputy County Executive] Phelps wrote.
Oh yeah, it's a money losing proposition for the taxpayers of Pierce County, but these orphans--that Mr. Lynn eventually mentions--won't be claimed by any of those politicians, were fairly sure, which;
...include more than $2.5 million in improvements.... Among them was expanding the driving range and making improvements to a number of holes, as required by the USGA.

... the Sheriff’s Department anticipates assigning up to 100 deputies to provide security at the U.S. Open.... The county also has contracted with other law enforcement agencies, including the State Patrol and Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, to provide personnel.

The county has agreed to reimburse those agencies up to $72 per hour for “overtime worked at the U.S. Open and overtime incurred to backfill personnel assigned to the U.S. Open,” ....

...the county has committed significant resources within the Department of Emergency Management, Information Technology and our GIS division to assist in planning and execution of the event.”
All of which are a secret for now;
Phelps said last week that he would not release how much the security plan would cost the county until after the championship.
“We’ll provide a real good accounting then,” he told a reporter.
So, about those 'profits' mentioned in the TNT's opening paragraph;
Phelps and County Executive McCarthy told the County Council earlier this month that the county hopes to break even on the event.
Which springs eternal in politics.

[our bolds in the above, of course]

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Back to the boring drawer of doom

That would be Al Gore, former VPOTUS, who told us in October 2012;
This week, our nation has anxiously watched as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast and caused widespread damage--affecting millions. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help. Please consider donating or volunteering for your local aid organizations.
Yes, keep those donations pouring in, because;
Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.
However, today, as Insurance Journal reports;
“The environment is as non-conducive for hurricanes as we’ve ever seen,” [Colorado State University] research scientist [Phil] Klotzbach told a crowd of about 150 actuaries at a session titled “Predicting Hurricanes” at the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) Spring Meeting in Colorado Springs.
It's the job of those actuaries to predict likely insured losses, for the setting of premiums. Money...mouth....
An active season needs warmer-than-normal water in the tropical Atlantic. These warmer waters provide more fuel for developing hurricanes. They also create a more unstable atmospheric environment, thereby promoting thunderstorm development, which helps sustain hurricanes.
An anticipated moderate to strong El Nino, the warming of Pacific waters near the equator, reinforces the mild-season prediction. The warm waters create stronger upper-level winds, which “tear apart” storms and forestall hurricane development, he said.
So, less than three years since Al Gore told us to beware of worse things to come, some scientists are saying;
If the forecast proves out, 2015 will be the third straight year of mild hurricane activity. This would be a large anomaly given the Atlantic is considered to be in a 20-plus-year era in which active seasons are the norm. The lull has caused scientists to ask whether the active Atlantic hurricane era has come to an end. The North Atlantic has gotten colder over the past decade and ocean salinity appears to be dropping, both of which would indicate that lower hurricane activity may be in store for the Atlantic basin.

Live by the swordfish...

Better be en garde;
Randy Llanes, 47, spotted the 3ft-long fish in the water in Honokohau Harbor, in Kailua-Kona, and dived in with his speargun.
He shot the creature and the fish began thrashing around and speared him in the upper chest with its 3ft-long bill.
A police spokesman said the speared fish "got wrapped around a mooring anchor, came back and swam at him".
Now that's Hemingwayesque.

Friday, May 29, 2015

QWERTY Trilogy

The Scottish economist Neil Kay is still diligent, and has a third paper in the works. Which adds to his previous work on the claims of path dependence put forward by Brian Arthur and Paul David. The first was; Rerun the tape of history and QWERTY always wins, and followed by The QWERTY Problem. About both of which we've earlier written.

This latest provides some fascinating information about what we could call Christopher Latham Scholes (the typewriter's inventor) intellectual property game-theory'smanship. How he used a combination of patents and trade secrets to protect the key to the success of his invention. Which, in a nutshell, was what Neil Kay calls the infrequency principle. I.e., he placed infrequent combinations of letters (XDCFV, for instance) next to each other on the typebasket--which connected to the keyboard--of his machine. Since those letters would only rarely be struck in sequence, jamming of the machine was radically limited.

Which brings us back to the essence of Paul David and Brian Arthur's theorizing--that the Scholes QWERTY keyboard was merely a historical accident. Kay's papers show clearly that that was not the case at all. It was a conscious design, worked out over years. As he summarizes in his concluding remarks;
QWERTY was a consequence of creative design rather than an accident of history, indeed QWERTY was as near-optimal in terms of the crucial performance criterion of format/device compatibility as could be reasonably expected with the state of technical knowledge that existed in Sholes' time. This in turn helps reinforce arguments in [Kay's earlier papers] that QWERTY's role as "paradigm case" of inferior standard in the path dependence literature is not consistent with the evidence, and that instead the case is more consistent with path creation than with path dependence.
Which is going to be hard to swallow for this guy;

[Brian] Arthur: ....When you have increasing returns, at the outset markets are unstable and lurch back and forth according to different small events, and then lock in to one of many possible outcomes. What locks in is a function of what happened in history. The outcome in increasing returns markets depends on small events along the way. The shorthand for that is "path dependence." Meaning that small events along the way decide the outcome.
Not to mention Paul Krugman and his wife Robin Wells, who wrote in their textbook; QWERTY problem: an inferior industry standard that has prevailed possibly because of historical accident”

In another country, fishing

Where the men no longer eat the flesh, but catch and release. The old man would have been sad that Cubans were not hawks any longer. It was expected of the Americans. Of course. They were not required to be like real men. Who the girls in the cafe would admire as patriots. They would one day return to America to watch football...which they couldn't get in Cuba because of the embargo. The hated embargo.

More than 130 fishermen on 24 teams took to the sea this week to participate in the 65th Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament, being held May 25-30, from Baracoa’s beach in the eastern province of Guántanamo, to the west of Havana and Guanabo, east of the capital.
The Capitan of the Hemingway Nautical Club, José Miguel Díaz Escrich, expressed his satisfaction given the presence of U.S. sports fishers - authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department to participate in the competition for the first time in 35 years - including John and Patrick Hemingway, grandsons of the famous U.S. author.
Meanwhile, Josefina returned home with a trophy.

Quis proteget ex protectores?

Going to extremes in Britain;
Earlier this year, Home Secretary Theresa May defined extremism as "the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs".
It throws up the question, is a religious ban on women driving active opposition to the British value of individual liberty? And how do you square that with the other British value of mutual respect and tolerance for different faiths and beliefs?
All this over some small Ukrainian Jewish sect (Haredi) who seem to keep to themselves, with no attempt to extend their idiosyncrasies to the wider society.
Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Belz sect in north London wrote to parents saying "no child will be allowed to learn in our school" if their mother drives.
Women driving "goes against the laws of modesty within our society", it said.
The Home Office issued a response saying it was "developing a strategy to tackle extremism in all its forms".
Maybe the politicians should look in the mirror.

Now this IS scary

Insurance Journal reports, you decide, silly...or, scary;
An insurance company has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of an 85-year-old man who may have been scared to death before his car slammed into a tractor-trailer in suburban Detroit.
The settlement ends a dispute over the opinion of Dr. Werner Spitz, who said Abdulla Kassem’s heart attack could have been caused by a “fear of impending doom,” just before the 2008 crash in Dearborn. There was no autopsy.
Just the cost of doing insurance business. And added to the costs of Michigan's auto insured.

Truer words never a union official

"With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them," Hicks said in a statement. "This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing."
It sure is, and the legal minimum interferes with that 'good thing'. Whether or not the agreement was negotiated by a labor union for the workers, or by the workers on their own.

Which is a dog bitten by man moment, because Hicks, of the L.A. county Federation of Labor, was one of those who not only aided in getting the wage law enacted, but was part of the group talking against exemptions from it. Especially restaurants and hotels. Hicks doesn't want them to be exempt, but he is; advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces. [our bold]

Too much of a good thing isn't wonderful, after all.

Good Government

In New York state the gettin' was extremely good for one powerful family;
Former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos got his son a no-show job with a medical malpractice insurer who was lobbying the Legislature, according to a federal indictment.
Father and son “engaged in a corrupt scheme” to cash in on Skelos’s position at the helm of the Senate, according to the indictment handed down Thursday by a federal grand jury in Manhattan. Skelos and son Adam pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from campaign donors and firms with business before the state, according to the indictment.
Which, as the Insurance Journal story makes clear, is pretty much textbook economics (if the textbook is Public Choice). In addition;
Adam Skelos also pocketed title-insurance commissions from real-estate developers with business before his father, prosecutors said. The elder Skelos helped win a $20,000 payment from a large real-estate investment firm for his son and $10,000 in monthly payments to Adam from a company in Arizona that makes water filters to treat polluted stormwater run-off and water contaminated by fracking.
The two men referred “implicitly and explicitly” to Dean Skelos’s ability to use official actions to reward or punish targets of their five-year scheme, according to the indictment.
They went into politics to do good, and they ended up doing well.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Foot soldierette in the War on Women speaks

And isn't endorsing Hillary;
Paula Jones, the woman who sued President Bill Clinton for sexual harassment while he was governor of Arkansas, says Hillary Clinton is not fit to be president because of her husband’s past behavior.
“There is no way that she did not know what was going on, that women were being abused and accosted by her husband,” Jones said in an interview with Daily Mail Online. “They have both lied,” she said.
Talk about the good ol' days (as Debra J. Saunders put it) of one free grope;
It is wrong, however, for the president to hide behind his staff when he can speak for himself. It's wrong for Clinton to hide behind a court gag order, then use federal employees to dig up -- and make public -- dirt on his accusers. It's also wrong for the president to hide behind feminist skirts -- those of his wife, Ann Lewis and Gloria Steinem -- so that he can get away with treating women like footstools.
.... Feminist Steinem wrote a piece in Sunday's New York Times,in which she said she believed all the women's accusations against Clinton "for the sake of argument." [Kathleen] Willey has claimed the president fondled her breast and placed her hand on his crotch. Nonetheless, Steinem wrote that Clinton "took 'no' for an answer." Brutes have cause to rejoice: Feminists have concocted a One Free Grope defense.
Just in time for her book tour!

Maduro's Law drives out Gresham's

In Venezuela good money drives in and flips the key to the parking valet, according to Kejal Vyas of the Wall Street Journal. Even though it's officially illegal to price goods and services in los dolares del diablo; 2009, then-President Hugo Chávez scorned the dollar as “paper without backing.” But as Venezuela’s economy crumbles and its currency plummets amid triple-digit inflation, the country is in effect dollarizing. Coded messages increasingly let buyers know that greenbacks are welcomed.
.... From real estate to cars to even some cheaper goods like health-care products, an increasing number of vendors demand dollars ....
Hugo is dead and buried, but his socialism lives on and increases inequality between rich and poor.
[Venezuela's currency] controls have helped exacerbate class divisions between those who hold only bolivars and those with access to dollars, undermining Mr. Chávez’s so-called Bolivarian Revolution, the social movement embraced by his successor, President Nicolás Maduro, which aims to equitably distribute wealth.
Everybody knows it, even as Maduro denies it it;
“What can I buy in bolivars? Well, not much,” said Juan Verde, a retired lawyer with 20,000 bolivars ($50) a month pension, saying he recently spent all of his savings to buy groceries. “Things are a little up in the air for me. Much like how they are for many Venezuelans.”
Roberto León, head of Anauco, an independent consumer protection agency, said he has received scores of complaints about store salesmen illegally quoting the prices of appliances to prospective buyers in dollars. “Everything is now being referenced to foreign currency,” Mr. León said. “If we’re going to just go ahead and officially use the dollar, the government should just come out and say it.”
Hombre, in politics good intentions drive bad policy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nice doggie...

We asked a silly question here, but get a plausible answer;
Soccer’s governing body, embroiled this week in an international corruption investigation, has contributed money to the Clinton Foundation, records show.
The Federacion Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is listed on the foundation’s website as giving between $50,001 and $100,000. It did not specify when FIFA donated, nor the exact amount.
The plot thickens;
The Clinton Foundation also lists the “Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee” as a former donor.
Qatar’s committee for hosting a World Cup reportedly gave between $250,000 and $500,000 through 2014, the foundation’s website said.
This match definitely is not a friendly;
The indictment [by the US DoJ] launched on Wednesday accuses U.S. and South American executives of using more than $150 million “in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights” for international soccer tournaments.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch slammed FIFA, saying corruption in soccer “is rampant, systematic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States.”
Ball in your campaign court, Hillary.

Did they at least inflate the balls to spec?

When prosecutors preen, no sportsman is safe from arrest;
Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other US officials on Wednesday accused FIFA executives arrested earlier in Switzerland of corrupting global football, pledging to fully investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes.
Loretta is shocked, shocked to find money and politics in international sporting events;
"They corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and to enrich themselves," Lynch told a press conference in New York, flanked by top FBI and IRS officials.
She said, with unintended irony.
She said bribery and corruption had been damaging football for the past two decades as FIFA officials solicited bribes from sports marketing firms and others surrounding its marquee events.
Say, what about the NCAA's billions earned on the backs of unpaid teenagers?
Speaking at the press conference after Lynch, Kelly Currie, acting US attorney for the eastern district of New York, said Wednesday's actions marked the beginning rather than the end of the probe.
"It was a World Cup of Fraud. Today we are showing them the red card," said Richard Weber, chief of the US tax agency's criminal investigation division.
None of whom were calling attention to themselves in order to further their careers, it goes without saying.

Goodness, not Grace-ous

Zimbabwe's First Lady is also Lady of the many manors;
The cash-strapped Zimbabwean government is to fight a potentially embarrassing legal case in Hong Kong over a £4 million luxury villa said to be one of the favourite properties of the first lady, Grace Mugabe.
And the Mugabes' daughter who lived in it while a student in Hong Kong.
Asked how they could afford the expensive property in the New Territories, the Mugabes claimed it belonged to the Zimbabwean government and their daughter had been “borrowing it”.
[President] Mugabe has subsequently claimed the original purchase of the flat was part of a “secret government project”.
Then there's;
... the construction of about two dozen cottages for Mrs Mugabe on land she took from white farmers about 24km west of Harare, and which formed the basis of her orphanage.
Financed by businessman Jack Ping, who also was involved with Grace Mugabe's mining ventures;
The case [in Hong Kong] threatens to shed light on the long relationship between Ping and Mrs Mugabe. They were jointly connected to a number of failed platinum and gold-mining ventures in Zimbabwe several years ago, according to documents in the country’s mines ministry.
We thought diamonds were a girl's best friend.

Soccer? Use you head

At which the long time head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, is the master;
Soccer's governing body was thrown into disarray when several of its leading officials, including vice-president Jeffrey Webb, were arrested in a dawn raid at the [Zurich] luxury lakeside hotel which for years has pampered FIFA visitors.
They were detained pending extradition to the United States where they face federal corruption charges.
Odd, the Swiss sheltered child rapist Roman Polanski from extradition to the USA in 2010. But this is about something important; foosball. Which Europe takes very seriously, and doesn't appreciate being gamed at their own game;
Blatter has mastered the FIFA electoral system where the 209 member associations each hold one vote, meaning that tiny American Samoa holds the same voting rights as soccer powers like Brazil or Germany.
FIFA distributes revenue equally among its 209 members, a policy which helped the likes of Cape Verde to reach the African Nations Cup quarter-finals in 2013 and Costa Rica the World Cup quarter-finals last year.
Starting to make sense.
Only Europe, which holds 53 votes, has pledged to vote against Blatter and, although some other associations may break ranks, those would be unlikely to result in more than a small dent in Blatter's majority.
So Blatter can keep the money he controls from televised matches, flowing.
Outside Europe, federations see Blatter as the force which keeps the game truly global in the face of the growing financial power of a handful of elite European clubs and leagues.
So, why does the U.S. Dept of Justice have a dog in this fight?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We have often walked down this street before

William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal sez, 'Why can't a politician be more like homo economicus?';
Take Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady.” In her role as Eliza Doolittle, she not only turned in a wonderful performance but also delivered a lesson about upward mobility that is particularly timely today in light of the latest war of modern progressivism: on nail salons.
It started, as these things often do, with a two-part exposé in the New York Times, one focusing on the lousy pay and the other on the health threats. This provoked howls of outrage, and was in turn followed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo invoking “emergency measures,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) citing federal legislation on product safety she’s introduced and of course New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presiding over a “day of action.” The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute declares nail salon abuses a function of “national policy failures.”
Almost perfect textbook Public Choice Economics, this is. McGurn spells it out, Ms Doolittle turned to the private sector (Professor 'enry 'iggins) to lift herself out of poverty;
Eliza didn’t place her hope in new regulations for street-side flower mongering. For Eliza, upward mobility was about acquiring the skills she needed to get ahead, in this case proper English and the manners that went with it.
How different this is to the approach to nail salons now being worked out in New York and Washington. Like so many other bursts of progressive passion, chances are that while their bid for more government will make the pols and activists feel better about themselves, it will do little to improve the lives of these women.
We hope that George Bernard Shaw turns over in his grave.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Strictly from Hungary

In the past hundred years it's been World Wars, two Communist takeovers (1919 and 1945) Nazism and death camps. Today's troubles are a little different;
Several dozen young mothers breastfed their young children in the McDonald’s restaurant at Budapest’s Nyugati (Western) station on Friday.  The flashmob event was organized in response to a security guard requiring a nursing mother to leave the restaurant two days earlier.
 Remember the freedom fighters of '56?
One mother told the Beacon that while she herself never experienced a similar atrocity at a restaurant, she felt an obligation to be there in a show of solidarity.
Which brings us to what atrocities used to be in Hungary;

Even being a national hero and Olympics Gold Medalist wouldn't save your life then.

Don Draper remembers the military

From last year, former adman Donald P. Bellisario talks about his successes portraying the U.S. Military on the small screen. He himself served in the U.S. Marines during the peacetime 1950s--and came close to punching out the lights of one Lee Harvey Oswald, when he encountered him reading Pravda on a Marine base in California in 1958--but, that's another story (that can be accessed at the TV Legends website).

Bellisario decided to get out of the advertising business after almost two decades, and gamble on a Hollywood career. Fortunately, with his money running low, he met with Stephen Cannell who liked a script he'd submitted for the program Baa Baa Blacksheep, about the exploits of WWII fighter Ace Greg 'Pappy' Boyington.

Bellisario was responsible for Magnum PI (the first Vietnam Veteran portrayed in a heroic light over his military experience), JAG, Quantum Leap, NCIS and Airwolf among others.

Vast right wing conspiracy lives in NYC

Comrade Philip Guelpa, is convinced of it;
Over the course of May, New York City’s Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio announced a series of proposals he claimed were intended to address the crisis of affordable housing in the city. In reality these proposals, which cover public housing, homelessness, real estate development and rent regulations, are thoroughly right-wing, intended to open the door to privatizing public housing while squeezing more money from low-income residents.
 That's the same Bill de Blasio who admires Castro's Cuba so much he went there on his honeymoon in 1991. Well, the honeymoon's over, says Guelpa;
De Blasio’s public housing plan, dubbed NextGen NYCHA [NYC Housing Authority], is an open attack on the future of public housing. With federal cuts exacerbating NYCHA’s budget deficit, the mayor declared there is no way to fill the funding gap outside of squeezing more money out of residents and turning public housing over for private development.
With the current residents already suffering the usual indignities of living in socialist housing--including leaking pipes, rampant mold, and vermin infestations. Requests for repairs go unfulfilled for months or even years.

So what's De Blasio got up his sleeve? 
To start, approximately 11 acres of NYCHA land will be leased to developers to build condominiums. Half of the units would be set aside for low-income tenants, while the other half would go for market rates. Meanwhile approximately 14,000 NYCHA apartments allowed to deteriorate to an uninhabitable state will be removed from the public housing system and turned over for private investment.
Hmmm. Sounds uncharacteristically practical of De Blasio; the government has made a mess of things, let's let someone else try their hand at housing the poor. Egads! What if it works?
In a further threat to housing affordability, the city’s rent regulations, dating back to World War II, which have some limited effect in moderating the spiral of rent increases in older buildings, expire in June.
Yes, the 'temporary wartime measure' is about to expire only 70 years after WWII ended. Hey, give it some time.

Try to remember...the Eady Levy

And the role it played in great war movies, like;

As Wikipedia explains; The movie was filmed in Trinidad and Tobago allowing [director John] Huston and Fox to use blocked funds in the UK, receive British film finance and qualify for the Eady Levy. Clicking on that last one gets some details. The levy was a tax on the movie-going public, added to the box office ticket price, with half the amount rebated to the exhibitors of the film, and half to the producers of British films.

And, to be a British film--and qualify for the lucrative subsidies--it had to be shot in Britain or the Commonwealth, and having only three non-British actors, directors and technicians. Or so says Wikipedia. Now, for the rest of the story we turn to Jonathan Stubbs' The Eady Levy: A Runaway Bribe? Hollywood Production and British Subsidy in the Early 1960s;
...the Eady levy encouraged Hollywood companies to use their British subsidiaries to produce films which actually offered representations of Britain [or British experiences overseas], thus further complicating the distinction between British and American film-making.
It also encouraged some creative accounting schemes to hide the true origin of films like the blockbuster Lawrence of Arabia. The movie moguls had to convince the British Board of Trade that the film met the criteria to qualify as British. Which wasn't easy for a film that was financed by an American like Sam Spiegel using the resources of Columbia Pictures, even though technically the producer of the film was Horizon Pictures (GB) Ltd, which Spiegel founded in 1952.

As the Board of Trade was aware, Columbia paid the salaries of many of the people involved in the making of Lawrence and then loaned them out to Horizon Pictures. As a member of the BoT put it, 'this engaging of staff by a foreign company...even though loaned or assigned to a British company, seems to me to be pretty close to direct participation by a foreign company.'

Further, the film's 202 minute running time was comprised of exactly 40 seconds shot in British film studios--Shepperton, and Goldhawk, Shepherds Bush--and 3 minutes, 2 seconds on locations on British soil. The bulk of the film was shot in (then dirt-poor) Spain (116 minutes) and Jordan (65 minutes).

But the Brits are nothing if not stiff upper lipped, so the BoT ruled that, 'there is no doubt that this film is essentially British in the light of the rather wider interpretation which...we allow to American sponsored films'. Which settled matters. Until Lawrence was entered in the Acapulco Film Festival in an American film.

Which required a re-evaluation of the BoT's earlier decision to classify it as British. But, millions of dollars of investment by Hollywood was at stake, so the Board was up to the task of re-affirming Lawrence as a product of the Empire. It was decided that the Mexicans who'd classified it as an American film were in error. And when it won the first prize in the festival, the honor of accepting it went to the British Ambassador to Mexico.

Whew! The coast was clear again. So clear that in 1969 another American film officially registered as British, Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, was able to compete in the Moscow Film Festival as the official American entry. Again, the British film board took it like her majesty's men they were.

Other films labeled as British--and collecting subsidies from the British taxpayers--were, over the years of the Eady Levy; The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Guns of Navarone, Tom Jones, Treasure Island, The African Queen, Captain Horatio Hornblower and Ivanhoe.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

It could happen to EU

Europe's answer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming is, this year, in Sintra, Portugal. According to the AP's David McHugh, Mario Draghi came out with guns blazing;
European Central Bank head Mario Draghi started things off with a sharp call for pro-business reforms by governments.
Such reforms "are about unleashing an untapped potential for substantially higher output, employment and welfare," Draghi said in his opening remarks.
Draghi wasn't the only one worried about Europe's sclerosis;
"There is no way the central bank all on its own can solve all of Europe's problems, and there has been a tendency for policy makers to sit back and let the ECB do it all, and that is both unreasonable and unconscionable" said Dennis J. Snower, president of the Kiel Institute of the World Economy in Germany.
Snower advocates active measures to help people get back into work, such as retraining workers whose skills don't fit employer needs, or subsidies to companies that take on the long-term unemployed. "Find the disadvantaged people and give them maximal incentives to get into the labor force, and give employers maximal incentives to hire them," he told The Associated Press on the conference sidelines.
Naturally that didn't sit well with the Euroway or the highway types;
Paul De Grauwe from the London School of Economics — a former member of the Belgian parliament — said the central bank put its legitimacy at risk.
He said restrictions on layoffs existed "because people want them. ... And in democracies, people will obtain protection from their governments."
"And when a central bank then comes out and says we should do structural reforms, it really says we should break down this system of protections. And in doing so the central bank sets itself outside the democratic process.
"The danger is that people will reject such a central bank."
Or the central bank will reject them. As may be dawning on Greece.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Look on the bright side, guys

Unlike most countries, Japan worries about running out of lawyers;
The government plans to make sure that at least “1,500 or more” aspiring lawyers pass the national bar exam each year after successful applicants sank to a record low of 1,810 in 2014.
The figure for 2014 is 239 lower than in 2013, and the lowest since the current exam debuted in 2006.
Wasn't that long ago that Japan's target was much higher;
In 2002, the Cabinet set a goal of gradually increasing successful applicants to 3,000 a year by roughly 2010.
So, sue us.

Blaming the website for the bad bolivar news

And the news for Venezuela's currency is bad indeed;
A staggering plunge in the free market value of Venezuelan currency sent people scrambling to sell off their depreciating bolivars Friday.
The widely followed website DolarToday, which tracks exchanges along the Colombian border, reported that the South American country’s currency lost a quarter of its value over the last eight days.
In January it took 173 units of Venezuela's currency to buy a dollar. A week ago it was 300. Today DolarToday reports that that's up to 415 bolivars. Of course, it couldn't be the fault of the socialist ideologues who rule the country;
In April, [President Nicolas] Maduro repeated his assertion that the site’s shadowy managers, whose identities are not public, are collaborating with the speculators and opposition leaders he blames for the country’s problems. He accused them of purposely sowing chaos and promised to have them arrested.
“We’re going to put those people at DolarToday who are waging an economic war against Venezuela behind bars, sooner rather than later” he said.
No news is good news, for Nick.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shall We Dance?

For oh, ho, ho, Who's got the last laugh -
Hee, hee, hee, Let's have the last laugh -
Ha, ha, ha, Who's got the last laugh now?
We couldn't help but think of Ira Gershwin's lyric, when we caught Brad DeLong;
Now on one level this will simply bonkers. Does anyone think that if the government has a target for freight-car loadings or kilowatt-hours and takes steps to hit that target that it is pursuing a “neutral” and “non-interventionist” policy? No. So why is a government that has a target for the quantity of liquidity services provided pursuing a “neutral” and “non-interventionist” policy? On another level it is very clever indeed, as one should expect because Milton Friedman was very clever. It disarms the lunatic right by saying: “You have your neutral monetary policy, I have mine, mine works, and yours doesn’t.”
waltzing in the arms of John Tamny to the same tune;
...the Comical Absurdity of 'Market Monetarism'
which Tamny says is actually central economic planning;
'Market monetarists' believe the Fed can achieve the alleged nirvana that is planned GDP growth and national income through money supply targets set for the central bank by members of the right who've caught the central planning bug.
We're pretty sure neither of them will be amused.

Uber Hold-em-off

The hired guns in Texas may have staved off the competition for the taxi industry. At least for this legislative session, reports Insurance Journal;
Uber Technologies Inc.’s attempt to replace a patchwork of local rules in Texas with a state law regulating its car-booking business is headed for defeat because lawmakers have yet to act on a key measure with only days remaining in the legislative session.
....Uber has been unable to garner enough support to bring the measure to the House of Representatives floor even after arming itself with almost 30 registered lobbyists and enlisting the the Texas Association of Business, an influential group that often sways policy decisions.
Even with this deft move by Uber spokesman Natalia Montalvo;
“With Texas leading the nation in drunk-driving deaths, it’s a shame state lawmakers ran out of time before passing similar legislation that would have saved lives by addressing this pressing public safety need.”
The legislative session ends on June 1, and it looks like, Opposition from the taxi industry and the four largest Texas cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin — was insurmountable for Uber and its fellow San Francisco-based startup, Lyft Inc.

Cue the usual suspects; 
In April, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, urging him to oppose the bill, which he said would “erode” the city’s carefully crafted rules. The taxi lobby also mobilized, telling lawmakers that the proposed rules would create an unlevel playing field while discriminating against poor and minority passengers who lack a credit card or smartphone.
“They’re picking and choosing to serve parts of the community where they’re going to get the most lucrative passengers,” said Edward Kargbo, president of Greater Austin Transportation Co. Advocates for the disabled also came out against the ridesharing legislation, saying the company excludes such passengers by not offering wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Wait til next year. 

Good (on you) Germans

So the public transit (train) employees of Deutsche Bahn are on strike for the ninth time in the past ten months. That creates a need for reliable transport;
Car and bus operator websites have registered a four-fold increase in the number of users and three times more passengers, like bus operator company The company has also had to employ new staff to attend to the increasing number of phone calls and to help passengers with information and luggage, Jessica Masik, Deinbus' press officer tells DW.
And they're grateful to the union (GDL) that keeps calling the strikes;
Car rental companies like Sixt would like to believe that the GDL will continue their walkout. Indeed, the firm is so thankful to GDL boss, Claus Weselsky, that he's been declared employee of the month. [our bold, of course]
Bus operator went so far as to name a bus after the trade union boss. "We admire Mr. Weselsky for his strong will, with which he represents his train drivers. And of course, when two people fight, the third is happy," says Deinbus' Jessica Masik. A nice "side effect" of the strike is that many commuters traveling long distances turn to bus operators in times of need, she adds.
Also, Germany has private, for profit, trains too;
"We were never a part of the strike," says Maik Seete, spokesman for Nordwestbahn and the Mittelrheinbahn (MRB). The private company's employees have not been part of the GDL strike, which only involves GDL members working with Deutsche Bahn, Seete adds.
Seete's company has earned a reputation of being dependable even when almost all of the country has been reeling under the consequences of train drivers refusing to work.
Sounds like Deutsche Bahn can be depended on too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spies like U.S.

Bienvenido, agente de espionaje

Granma forgets to mention that the lady is a spy;
[Last week] the Cuban delegation to the third round of talks with the United States arrived in Washington; a continuation of the bilateral conversations initiated at the end of January. This session will focus on the process of reestablishing diplomatic relations.

As in the previous talks with representatives of the U.S. government, the Cuban delegation is presided by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Ministry of Foreign Relations general director for the United States.
Josephina has been in the U.S. before, with her husband;
In May 2003, the US expelled 14 Cuban diplomats for espionage. Seven diplomats were based at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations and seven at the Interests Section. Among the seven Washington-based spies declared Persona Non Grata was First Secretary Jose Anselmo Lopez PereraHis wife, First Secretary Josefina Vidal, also known to the US as a Cuban Intelligence Officer, voluntarily accompanied her expelled spouse back to Cuba.
HSIB underlined that above, so the readers from the U.S. government wouldn't miss it.

If you fund, they will build it

Not exactly news that government agencies know that there is no future in making prudent decisions, but every little anecdote helps;
The United States wasted $36 million in taxpayer funds building a military base in Afghanistan that was "unwanted, unneeded, and unused", a U.S. government watchdog said on Wednesday.
Some generals thought they had enough capacity already, but;
Their objections were overruled by another general who believed it would be imprudent not to spend funds that had already been allocated by the U.S. Congress, Sopko said in a report. [our bold]
The new base (Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province) was intended to support a military surge of 30,000 extra troops sent to Afghanistan in 2010....

Yet construction did not begin until May 2011 and the building was not completed until April 2013, seven months after the extra troops were withdrawn from the country....
But the money got spent, which is the important thing, since once spent the precedent is set...and more will follow.

¿Dónde está Arnaldo?

Granma welcomes a distinguished visitor;
The Vice President of Angola, Manuel Domingos Vicente, today paid tribute to the Cuban internationalist fighters killed in his country, while emphasizing the strong ties of friendship that distinguish relations between the two nations.
Count us among the surprised, that Granma wants to go there. With the recent publication of former Fidel bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez's book, The Double Life of Fidel Castro, which contains a chapter entitled; Fidel, Angola and the Art of War, the world can learn that the hero of the Angolan communist victory was not Fidel Castro, but the Cuban General Arnaldo Ochoa.

To defeat the South African forces fighting to overturn the comrades in 1987, Ochoa deliberately ignored Castro's specific orders. Thinking that he, being on the battleground in Africa, was in a better informed position than Fidel, six thousand miles away. As Sanchez puts it, 'The general got it into his head to formulate alternative propositions to the tactical choices decreed by El Jefe.'

That didn't sit well with el lider maximo at all, so he summoned Ochoa back to Cuba in the middle of the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in January 1988, for instruction from Fidel. But back in Angola, Ochoa again disregarded those instructions and went on to win that battle for Cuba's ally.

Sanchez claims he knew Ochoa would pay for doing that, and Less than a year later, Arnaldo Ochoa was shot by a firing squad. By order of Fidel.

Heel de France

The BBC reports on the film festival with a foot fetish;
[Film producer Valerie] Richter told the BBC she "couldn't keep her balance" in heels, after having her big toe and part of her left foot amputated.
She was stopped four times on her way into the premiere of Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees on Saturday.
"They pointed their finger at my shoe and then were waving their fingers at me," she said. "It was quite obvious it was my shoes that was an issue."
Though she eventually managed to shame the gendarmes de pieds into allowing her to enter, she said, "many of my colleagues who can't wear heels were rejected and did not come in."

Then there was the actress who lived up to her name;
British star Emily Blunt, whose latest film Sicario debuted in Cannes on Tuesday, called the alleged ban on flat shoes "very disappointing".
"Everyone should wear flats to be honest," she said.
"We shouldn't be wearing high heels anyway. That's my point of view. I just prefer wearing Converse sneakers."
Chuck Taylor All Stars?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

'Fidel was always the first to know what was happening' in Allende's Chile

Says former bodyguard to Castro, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez in his new book The Double Life of Fidel Castro. His source for that was the máximo líder's own intelligence chief La Barba Roja (Manuel Pineiro)--about whom we've written before.

Sanchez provides a few more details to what we've already learned from other sources about the extent of Cuba's role in the supposed martyr, Salvador Allende's Chile. That country, the start of the 1970s was without doubt the country in which Cuban influence had penetrated most deeply. Fidel devoted enormous energies and resources to it.

According to La Barba Roja, says Sanchez, while Allende was not Castro's puppet, Fidel was grooming two Chileans to succeed that socialist presidente when the time came. Fidel's real proteges were Miguel Enriquez, the leader of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left [MRI], and Andres Pascal Allende...nephew of President Allende. Both had been trained in Cuba for that purpose.

Meanwhile Manuel Pineiro and his intelligence services were busy penetrating and infiltrating the entourage of Salvador Allende. Including the head of Chilean public television Augusto Olivares. Also the daughter of the President, Beatriz Allende, was married to a Cuban diplomat stationed in their embassy in Santiago. She managed to convince her father to replace his personal security team with Cuban agents, including the notorious twin brothers Patricio and Tony de la Guardia (later to be sacrificed to a firing squad along with General Arnaldo Ochoa, when word threatened to get out that Fidel was heading a drug smuggling ring).

When the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet waylaid those intricate plans in 1973, all was lost. Not that Castro didn't have his henchman Barba Roja try to reverse things. Sanchez confirms reports that at the time of the Pinochet-led coup there were hundreds of Chileans getting politico-military training in Cuba's Punto Cero de Guanabo camp. They were eventually sent back to South America to fight the Chilean junta, and almost succeeded in killing Pinochet in a rocket attack on his motorcade in 1986.

The leader of that attack still lives in Cuba today, according to Sanchez's book. 

We do wish that Sanchez had expanded on this remark about La Barba Roja; ...he died in a car accident in 1998, at a time when he was about to embark on writing his memoirs.

Light's better in Oakland

The Employment Policies Institute looked in on Oakland, California's small business sector to see how it's coping with the $12.25 per hour minimum wage just instituted on March 1st of this year. No surprise, the laws of supply and demand function just as the textbooks say.

To the question, Would you say that the $12.25 wage caused a large increase in your labor costs, a small increase in your labor costs or no increase?: Of the 223 business surveyed, 56% said it was large, while another 30% said it was small. Only 8% said there was no increase in their labor costs.

Nearly one in four said the increase was 'more than 20%'. But, some Berkeley economists promised the impact would hardly be noticed. Well? 27% of the surveyed businesses said it very likely or somewhat likely they'd have to close their businesses. Others;
 Half of the surveyed businesses used prices increases to offset the additional labor costs; Thirty percent...reduced their employees' hours or their hours of operation to offset the costs; Seventeen percent...laid off employees or otherwise reduced staffing levels to adapt to the higher costs....
30% delayed or canceled plans to expand their business, and 17% decided to move outside Oakland.

The EPI also did in depth interviews with three affected small businesses. One, a husband and wife sewing company that subcontracts for larger San Francisco apparel companies--in business since 1990--couldn't, for competitive reasons, raise prices to their customers. So, they laid off employees and had to do more of the sewing themselves. They now work from 9 AM to 8 PM to keep their business alive, but will re-evaluate after six to twelve months, and may close altogether.

A second, a seafood restaurant opened in 2010, couldn't absorb the higher labor costs and laid off 2 of its 3 employees. As with the apparel subcontractors above, the owner now does most of the work himself, along with his wife. He also contemplates closing.

The third story is even more poignant. A day-care center, Sterling's Family Childcare, open since 1974 and serving Oakland's low income families, has had to cut back on services offered, reduce employee hours, and notify her customers of higher fees to come soon. Since she now has to do more of the supervision of the children in her home, she no longer offers free pick-up of children.

Muriel Sterling tells EPI that she knows that other small daycare firms face the same challenges as she. EPI didn't survey the parents of the small children to find out how they replace the services now gone thanks to the new law, nor how they are going to come up with the extra money to pay for those that remain.

I.e., how they will cope with what the Berkeley economists promised they'd barely notice.

ill de France

French teachers are revolting...again;
Thousands of teachers went on strike across France on Tuesday to protest against new measures aimed at revamping the country's creaking school system, but President Francois Hollande vowed to push ahead with the reform despite widespread resistance.
What they don't like;
Billed as countering elitism and ensuring fairer use of teaching resources, the reform has faced criticism from trade unions, the conservative opposition, sections of the left and even Germany, which fears German-language teaching will suffer.
"There will be a reform, and it will be one that allows everyone to succeed," Hollande, in Berlin for talks on climate change, told a joint news conference with Angela Merkel. He assured her that German was a priority in French schools.
Deutsch avant tout!

Nick the American weighed in on Hollande's Education Minister; 
Critics have rounded on 37-year-old Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a Moroccan-born daughter of working class parents and a rising star in the government who is often hailed as a success story for French integration efforts.
Ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, now head of the opposition UMP, said she was an icon of what he called the government's "unrelenting quest for mediocrity."
Vallaud-Belkacem hit back, calling some of her critics "pseudo-intellectuals".
Hope that sounds better in a French accent than it did for George Wallace in 1968;
...the pseudo-intellectuals and the theoreticians and some professors and some newspaper editors and some judges and some preachers have looked down their nose long enough at the average man on the street: the pipe-fitter, the communications worker, the fireman, the policeman, the barber, the white collar worker, and said we must write you a guideline about when you go to bed at night and when you get up in the morning. But here are more of us than there are of them because the average citizen of New York and of Alabama and of the other states of our union are tired of guidelines being written, telling them when to go to bed at night and when to get up in the morning.
Actually, it often seems that that's exactly what the French want. Else, why do they vote for socialists.

Shell Yes!

Brit MEP (Euro-liament) Dan Hannan takes aim, fires, and hits the bulls-eye;
We free-marketeers believe, not in trickle-down, but in trickle-up. Capitalism, uniquely, rewards people who sell to the mass market. I am typing these words on a program that I bought from Bill Gates. My purchase enriched him, adding fractionally to his net wealth; and it also enriched me, making my life more convenient. Like most successful people, Bill Gates became rich by persuading lots of poorer people to buy something from him; in consequence, we are all better off.
Living in Puget Soundlandia, as we do, we'll add that Shell Oil expends billions of dollars exploring for, extracting and refining oil for us common folk. And we're grateful for that (even though they occasionally spill a few drops in the water). So, we appreciate Mr. Hannan's point we've bolded here;
Try running that argument past your liberal friends, though. The chances are that even the most open-minded among them will give you a slightly glazed look. Even if they grasp the idea, they will soon forget it and go back to telling you that "everyone knows" that conservatism is all about the defense of privilege and oligarchy. This is because, to a greater degree than most of us care to admit, our political leanings are expressions of our character traits, and are not dependent on empirical data.
Nor are many, mostly on the political left, at all concerned with the inconveniences they impose on the rest of us by their grandstanding without any compensating benefits to the general public whatsoever;

Demonstrators protesting Shell's Arctic oil rig were
Someone might need to use that street to get to work, to earn money to feed, clothe and house their family. To take a sick child to a hospital. What are the chances of any of the protestors in the above having weighed that against their lark?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Norwegian Wood

Three economists (Esther Ann Bøler, Beata Javorcik and Karen-Helene Ulltveit-Moe), study hard and find that your pay will be higher if you meet the needs of your employer better than someone who doesn't.
... the gender wage gap persists partially because firms have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who work long and particular hours. Differences in pay between genders may also be due to differences in flexibility and commitment. Moreover, if women are less committed and flexible, globalisation may exacerbate the gender wage gap, because it increases the value of worker flexibility to firms.
Got it; more commitment and flexibility to the employer is key.
By the virtue of being exposed to higher competition, exporters require greater commitment to work and greater flexibility of their employees. For instance, working for an exporting firm may require taking late night phone calls to communicate with customers in different time zones and international travel arranged at a short notice. The employees may be expected to be available around the clock seven days a week in case of unexpected problems arising on the production line or shipments being delayed.
So, expect to be paid more. How unfair;
Thus, working for an exporting firm is associated with closing almost a fifth of the observed gender wage gap. ....
I.e., the gap in the non-export sectors is greater.

This analysis, however, does not take into account unobservable worker characteristics that are likely to be correlated with the choice of working for an exporter. Interestingly, and in line with our hypothesis on gender differences in flexibility and commitment, controlling for unobservable worker characteristics (or unobservable worker-firm heterogeneity) reverses the results.
Unobservable. Except to the people who have to pay for it. Which appears to be a bad thing only if you're  a PhD student at the Centre for Equality, Social Organization and Performance (ESOP) in the Department of Economics, University of Oslo.

Tough room

The World Socialist Web Site just isn't happy unless they're unhappy...even with the world's most prominent socialists;

Hollande, the Clintons and imperialism in Haiti

Their gripe is;
To match dishonest minds with empire in today’s Haiti, one need look no further than French President François Hollande and the representatives of Washington and Wall Street, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Because Hollande went to Haiti and promoted jobs, instead of reparations for Napoleon's beastliness in 1804.
Giving lip service to the right of Haitians to democracy, however, Hollande made it obvious that the purpose of his trip was to promote French business interests.
“Development is indispensable for democracy,” he declared, after announcing the establishment of a committee that will discuss opportunities for French companies to make profits from the super-exploited workers of the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Funny, the Cubans were happy to entertain the same French business interests. Oh well. Then, those darned Clintons;
In her book Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton uses the same language as Hollande to describe the US government’s approach to Haiti when she was secretary of state: “It made sense to refocus our approach to development so we can better harness market forces.”
The Caracol Industrial park, built in the north of Haiti with USAID funds after the 2010 earthquake, is portrayed by Clinton as a monument to “sustainable economic growth.” She boasts of its “modern waste water treatment facility, a new electric grid providing reliable power to surrounding towns for the first time, as well as new housing, schools, and health clinics.”
In reality, the industrial park is being built on fertile farmland from which the government evicted local farmers, and it threatens to pollute nearby mangrove stands relied on by local fishermen.
Bill doesn't come in for any praise;
Some of the Clintons’ activities have been purely venal, such as Bill’s involvement in a luxury Marriott in Port-au-Prince, for which he recruited Digicel CEO Denis O’Brien as an investor.
Nor Nancy with the blazing eyes;
A February 2010 State Department cable leaked by WikiLeaks reported on a post-earthquake visit by 12 US senators and representatives, all but one of whom were Democrats. Then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi disguised her meaning, but in a threat worthy of the mafia, told Haitian President René Préval that “we would like to hear that Haiti is going toward a different place. If so, you would receive even more support, and we see this as an opportunity to be even more helpful.”
An offer not to be refused?

That's a relief

Drug warriors, call your offices;
For centuries, morphine and other opioids have been the go-to drugs for pain relief. But their molecular structure is so complex, they are isolated or manufactured from compounds in plants, such as opium poppies. Chemists have never been able to produce them from off-the-shelf components.
Scientists, however, recently reported engineering yeast to carry out the second part of the 15-step opioid-producing reaction. What remained was just the hurdle of coaxing yeast to carry out the first part.
That is what scientists, led by John Dueber of the University of California, Berkeley, have accomplished.
Considering all the headaches Berkeley is responsible for, they owed us.

Heard the one about the health policy expert and the handyman?

Probably not, but you may have read something like this Leonard Pitts Jr. column from the Tacoma News Tribune on the deplorable situation of one South Carolina self-employed handyman named Luis Lang. The headline tells all;

Obamacare critic discovers GoFundMe is much worse

In which Pitts misrepresents several facts about the the man who is going blind, such as; ...he has a $300,000 home and a wife who doesn’t work; why, they ask, can’t he raise the money from them? 

Well, because he has no equity in his home, Len. A problem, come to think of it, that a lot of people have found themselves in since the housing bubble popped back in 2006-07. A bubble created by yet another bright idea brought to fruition by government; affordable housing.

But, let's pass over that debacle, and go to Professor Harold Pollack of the U of Chicago, who also has a blog, and was honest enough to call Mr. Lang and talk to him (and learn something!). Pollack recorded his conversation and posted a trascript, which reads, in part;
Lang: The whole story is the following: In the summer of 2013, I had … my right eye went a little bit blurry so I went to a ophthalmologist, Dr. Edwards....
He is known for working with sliding scales [of his fees, for those who can't afford him]. So I went to see him and he diagnosed me with what’s called diabetic retinopathy.
.... I was in once a month and when I went to sign in, they’d say okay, the first time it was $120 … paid it. As I was leaving the office it’s another $80 for the injection. Paid it. And every month I would go in for my injection and I would pay my bill.....I went through three treatments. After the third treatment, Dr. Edwards goes “I’m going to have the girls here in the office help you fill out the paperwork because pharmaceutical companies often do … They give medication for people who have a different type of income.” So I filled it out and I was happy when I got approved because Avastin is almost $2,000 an injection.
.... So I filled it out. I got approved. I go for my fourth session and the bill went from $80 … and I was expecting it to go down … went up to over $600.
....And so I’m like “Okay, I need an explanation of this.” And what they told me at that moment was because the Affordable Healthcare Act going into effect,  he could no longer give me the discounts he was giving me. [our bold]
This takes Prof. Pollack by surprise. He tries to talk away the problem;
Pollack: But that’s not because of President of Obama, that’s because the state of South Carolina has chosen not to expand Medicaid. That has nothing to do with President Obama. That’s completely your state government.
Lang: Okay, but if you get to the beginning, the only reason my visits went from $80 that I was paying to over $610 that I could no longer afford was because the Affordable Healthcare Act went into place and what happened was …
.... was because of that, all the other insurance companies cut back on what they were paying doctors so he could no longer afford to give me discounts because what he would make on other payments that other insurance companies would pay full payment, he would use it help other people who didn’t and basically what he was charging me was the same thing like if I had Medicare. So if I had Medicaid, he would have only gotten paid $80 for the visit and that’s the only thing he was asking me to pay.
....I can’t blame him. He’s been wonderful, but and again, I’ve done my little bit of research and I’ve heard about this over and over again of doctors that used to work on sliding scales that can no longer work on sliding scales.
Which doesn't exactly support the TNT's headline that which, in desperation, Mr. Lang has turned to raise money for an operation needed for his failing vision--is much worse than Obamacare. It sounds like GoFundMe is actually a solution to the problem Obamacare created for Mr. Lang.

Read more here: