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Thursday, May 26, 2016


I think I have written here on my bout with something called polymyalgia rheumatic, or PMR.  I was in very bad pain for two months until my new doctor diagnosed it and prescribed Prednisone.  In two days I was pain free and launched on a more than year long slow reduction in the dosage, from an original 20 mg a day down, month by month, to 17.5, 15, 12.5 10, 9, 8, 7, etc etc until finally I will take 1 mg a day for a month and then quit.  When I left for Paris ten days ago I was taking 12.5 mg a day but was scheduled to go down to 10 mg last Monday.  Fearful that I might suffer a recurrence of the pain [that sometimes happens], I brought not only exactly enough Prednisone for the four week stay in Paris, but also an entire bottle of 5 mg tablets -- a three month supply -- just in case.

Well, Susie's MS has been getting suddenly much worse, so much so that she has been almost unable to walk.  This morning, I went to rue Danton and rented a wheelchair.  Susie has also been suffering an intensification of a painful condition referred to by MS patients as "tingling and burning."  I put in an overseas call to her doctor in Durham, NC, and while I was waiting to make a connection with him, Susie mentioned that when she had her very first MS attack, before we were married 29 years ago, her doctor had prescribed Prednisone.

So I asked her doctor, after we made contact, and when I mentioned that  I had a bottle full of the medication, he prescribed 20 mg a day to see whether it would help, .  In a day or two we shall see whether it does.

I mean, do I know how to pack for a trip or what?


Jeffrey Sachs has a must-read op ed in today's Washington Post.  I pay to get access to the Post but if you do not, here it is [I imagine this is illegal, but what the hell]:

Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute and a professor at Columbia University.

Mainstream U.S. economists have criticized Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s proposals as unworkable, but these economists betray the status quo bias of their economic models and professional experience. It’s been decades since the United States had a progressive economic strategy, and mainstream economists have forgotten what one can deliver. In fact, Sanders’s recipes are supported by overwhelming evidence — notably from countries that already follow the policies he advocates. On health care, growth and income inequality, Sanders wins the policy debate hands down.

On health care, Sanders’s proposal for a single-payer system has been roundly attacked astoo expensive. His campaign (for which I briefly served as a foreign policy adviser) is told that his plan will raise taxes and burst the budget. But this attack misses the whole point of his health proposals. While health spending by the government would go up in the Sanders health plan, private insurance payments would disappear, generating huge net savings for the American people.

Countries such as Canada, Germany, Sweden and Britain all follow something like a single-payer approach and pay much less for health care than the United States does. While the United States spent 16.4 percent of gross domestic product on health care in 2013, Canada paid only 10.2 percent; Germany, 11 percent; Sweden, 11 percent; and Britain, 8.5 percent. U.S. overspending is about 5 percent of GDP, or nearly $1 trillion as of 2016, mainly because of the excessive market power of private health insurers and big drug companies. An authoritative study by the U.S. Institute of Medicine confirms this extent of excess costs, finding losses of about 5 percent of GDP in 2009. Critics of Sanders’s health plan have failed to recognize or acknowledge the huge savings and cost reductions that would accompany a single-payer system.

On economic growth, Sanders also easily wins the debate. While President Obama opted for a short-term stimulus that peaked after two years and disappeared by the end of his first term, and Hillary Clinton has proposed a modest infrastructure program over five years, Sanders calls for a much bolder public investment program directed at the skills of young people (through free college tuition) and at modernizing and upgrading America’s infrastructure, with a focus on renewable energy, high-speed rail, safe drinking water and urban public transport. Sanders’s growth strategy would get back to fundamentals: a long-overdue increase in productive investments to underpin good jobs and rising worker productivity.

Sanders’s mainstream critics are mostly Keynesians. Their focus is on total spending, whether it’s consumption or investment. Sanders, instead, focuses on investment because long-term growth depends on more rapid capital accumulation (including in skills and technology). America’s slow growth is no mystery. The U.S. net investment rate has declined to about 5 percent of GDP, down from about 10 percent of GDP during the 1960s and 1970s. Sanders’s plan would restore a high-investment economy and, with it, a higher growth rate.

On income distribution, Sanders accurately argues that U.S. income inequality is uniquely high among the rich countries. Only the United States has deep poverty alongside soaring wealth. Only the United States tolerates a hedge-fund industry in which poorly performing money managers (not to mention quite a few crooks) take home billions of dollars in pay, backed by unconscionable tax breaks pushed by Democratic and Republican senators who live off of the largesse of Wall Street.

Consider the most basic measure of income inequality, the Gini coefficient. This measures the inequality of income among households, with zero signifying complete equality and 1 complete inequality. For high-income countries, a Gini coefficient below 0.3 reflects a low degree of income inequality; between 0.3 and 0.4, a moderate degree; and at 0.4 or above, a high degree. According to the most recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. Gini coefficient stood at 0.40, with Canada at 0.32; Germany, 0.29; Sweden, 0.27; and Britain, 0.35.

What accounts for this striking difference? Most important, U.S. inequality has soared in the past 35 years, since the start of the Reagan era. The U.S. Gini coefficient stood at 0.31 in 1980. All countries have faced market pressures pushing toward more inequality — especially increased trade with low-wage countries such as China and automation that has claimed the jobs and wages of workers with only high school educations. Yet only in the United States have these pressures turned into massive inequality of income.

The reasons are clear. The United States unleashed the power of CEOs to enrich themselves with mega-salaries, weakened trade unions and gave massive tax breaks to the super-rich. Sanders’s policies would go after all of these unconscionable moves, bringing the United States back into line with the rest of the high-income world. He would, in short, end the age of impunity in which the rich and the powerful get their way, while the rest suffer. Sanders’s policies include higher taxes on the rich, strengthening unions, raising the minimum wage, supporting families, providing free tuition at public universities and cracking down on financial crimes.

There is nothing magical or utopian about Sanders’s recommendations. He is advocating policies of decency long ago adopted by other prosperous high-income countries. Our own neighbor, Canada, is a case in point. Canada has lower-cost health care, a life expectancy two years higher than in the United States, much lower college tuition, far lower poverty rates and, not surprisingly, more happiness (ranking sixth in the world in life satisfaction, behind Scandinavia and well ahead of the United States, which is 12th).

Mainstream economists long ago lost the melody line. Their models are oriented to the status quo and underemphasize the benefits of public investment. They take America’s bloated health-care costs as a given, not as the result of the influence of the U.S. private health lobby. They treat low growth as natural (“secular stagnation”) rather than as the result of chronic underinvestment. They have come to accept cruelly rising income inequality and rampant impunity for financial crimes. Sanders knows better, based on worldwide experience, an abiding sense of decency and a strong and accurate vision for a brighter economic future.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016


I have six or seven routes for my morning walk, which I rotate to keep the experience fresh.  This morning, at six-thirty, I set out on my basic, standard walk, the first one I ever took.  I turn right coming out of my building, walk the half block to the Left Bank, turn left and walk past Nôtre Dame, and then continue on past Place St. Michel, the refurbished La Monnaie [the old Mint – now home to a famous three start restaurant, among other things], on past the Academie Française, the Louvre [across the river], the Musêe d’Orsay [once a railway station] and the statue of Thomas Jefferson, and finally past the little row of Batobuses on the river, with Yves Montand and Jean Gabin bringing up the rear, and then back again the same way to home.  The large square in front of Nôtre Dame is currently sporting a white rectangular tent-like structure, just put up, and today Susie and I walked over to find out what it was for.  [We started at the famous English language bookstore, Shakespeare and Co., where I used to hang out sixty-one years ago during my graduate school wanderjahr, but the place is now so totally given over to tourism that it no longer feels like a bookstore, so we left.]  It turns out that the structure in front of the cathedral is devoted to a “festival of bread.”  Only in France, I guess.  We went in, bought a mini-brioche [2 Euros], and ate it at a café while sipping coffee and watching countless tours walk by led by a man or woman holding up an umbrella [as a form of identification] and speaking into a microphone to the members of the tour all fitted out with earplugs.

This morning I shopped for two dinners, and decided to go with skate for this evening.  Skate is a really scary looking fish that actually tastes rather delicate and lovely if broiled with butter on it.  The trick is getting the fishmonger to take the skin off [sans peau] because taking the skin off oneself is a little like trying to skin a medium tank.  I bought a piece of a skate wing weighing 485 grams [before the removal of the skin], which should give each of us a bit less than half a pound.  The skate has radiating cartilage, and one pulls the tender flesh from between the spokes with one’s fork.  Steamed white asparagus and little potatoes will complete a simple meal.

Our fellow copropriété member and good friend, an ebullient, cheerful America woman who has lived here for thirty years or more, told us we must go over to the Jardin des Plantes and see the Wallabies in the Wallaby Enclosure, so maybe tomorrow we will give it a try.  I actually once went to Australia for the weekend to watch my then teen-age son play in the World Junior Chess Championship, but I did not see any Wallabies.  [Patrick did not win that tournament, but somewhat later, when he had become a Grandmaster, he did win the U.S. Open Championship twice, among many other things.  To this day, I brag that I taught him how to play, when he was six.]

You will notice that I am studiously avoiding any mention of Clinton and Trump.  I will however point out that Bernie does TEN POINTS better than Clinton in matchups against Trump.  Just sayin’.

Monday, May 23, 2016


The coquelet was delicious.  Tomorrow, I shall try some fish --perhaps coquilles St Jacques, if they are available at the market, or maybe skate [raie], which is delicious, even if rather scary looking.


I imagine many of you are in despair at the recent polls showing Clinton and Trump in a dead heat, or even with Trump a few points ahead.  Sam Wang at the Princeton Consortium offers this reassurance.  It will be August before the polls are meaningful.

To pass the time, I spent this rainy Paris morning stuffing a coquelet with pearl onions, mushrooms, prunes, and chopped nuts, with several pieces of butter [yes, real sweet butter] interlarding the mixture.  This afternoon, when we return from a showing of the latest Woody Allen movie, I shall put the bird in a slow oven and nip out for another bottle of Beaume de Venise rouge.

A typical slow day in the City of Lights.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


As I have often remarked, one of my favorite activities here in Paris is shopping at the open air market in Place Maubert on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  I am particularly partial to a little stall at the extreme west end of the market where a cheerful man sells quail, duck, rabbit, and such like things.  When I cook rabbit, I will ask for a “demi-lapin, sans tête.”  The patron picks up a whole skinned rabbit, neatly splits it up the middle, and then cuts off the half-head and chops the remainder into four or five pieces before wrapping it up for me.  [I suspect real French cooks have something they do with the head, but I am just as happy to have it gone.  The quail come with heads also, which he twists off with a quick gesture.]

For some time now this booth has been a part of the market only on Thursdays and Saturdays, so when we arrived on Tuesday morning, I did not expect to see him.  Instead I bought a lovely dorade royale [filet sans peau, which is to say filleted without the skin].  But when I went to the market on Thursday, the game man was not there!  I was devastated.  I mean, it is nice that the TV works – one never knows.  But this was serious.

Happily, he was there today.  I asked, and he explained that on Thursdays now he stays home and rests.  He is, to be sure, looking somewhat older than when I first found him twelve years ago, but I think he has a responsibility to his customers and to France!  So I bought a nice coquelet [basically a small chicken midway in size between a Cornish Hen and a roasting chicken].  I will stuff it with a mixture of pearl onions, sliced mushrooms, chopped up nuts and cut up prunes, and then roast it slowly in my oven until it is golden brown and the stuffing is all cooked and merged.  I will accompany that with some courgettes mandolined [i.e., zucchini sliced thin] and sautéed, and slices of what we call in America an heirloom tomato.  It should do nicely.

Friday, May 20, 2016


I accidentally deleted the most recent comment without even reading it.  My apologies.  Could you repost it?