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I've been paying attention to the many attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)* and what's been really obvious in the last year is that the Republican majority don't actually want to repeal it.

There seem to be three different groups:
1) Republican Senators who can see that Obamacare is actually about as right-wing a way to have universal healthcare as you can get**, and don't actually want to get rid of it.
2) Republican Senators who may or may not be in favour of Obamacare, but can see that their constituents are now attached to their healthcare, will be furious if they lose it, and only have a slim majority which they are terrified of losing at the next election.
3) Republican Senators who really are against Obamacare.

The problem here is that all three groups need to pretend that they're in category (3), because they've spent the last decade telling their supporters how terrible Obamacare is, to the point where there are voters who support all of the individual parts of the bill, and even the "Affordable Care Act" but will be will be against Obamacare.

And the longer the ACA exists, and the more that voters understand about it (as is happening the more Republicans talk about it) the more popular it gets. To the point where a majority of the public are now in favour of it***. But the Republican Party now has a central point of belief that "Obamacare is bad".

Which means that in order to be against it, but not actually remove it, we're left with a few Republican Senators taking it in turns to vote against repeal, on various largely spurious grounds. Being very careful to say "Oh no, I hate Obamacare as much as the next person. But I can't vote to repeal it this time, because of a minor provision. Maybe next time." - and then the next time a _different_ Republican Senator can do exactly the same thing.

None of which means that Obamacare is safe. It's balanced on a bunch of senators believing that if they repeal it they'll lose their jobs. So every time a repeal bill is put forward they have to be persuaded _again_ that the public still cares. And I am very grateful for my US friends who are involved in getting people to phone their representatives every time it comes up.

But I am moderately hopeful that we'll make it through to the mid-terms without it being repealed. Because I don't think that a majority of the senate actually wants it to be.****


*There were over 50 of these between 2011 and 2014, goodness knows how many we're up to now
**Not surprising, as it's very similar to RomneyCare.
***But only 17% of registered Republicans. It's the swing voters who have moved.
****But don't trust me. This is just my impression from what I've read from, frankly, a long way away.
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
Jane and I went up to Nethy Bridge, near Aviemore, and stayed at the Lazy Duck in one of their Eco-Lodges. Which is a cabin built for two, with electricity, gas cooking, and (distant, wobbly) wifi, right next to a large duck pond full of a variety of different species of ducks.
Loads of photos and four videos )

Interesting Links for 22-09-2017

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:00 pm
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Reading: Gemini

Sep. 20th, 2017 09:18 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
In the final book in Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolò series, Nicholas de Fleury returns to Scotland to try to make amends for the damage caused by his earlier actions and to safeguard his family from the enemies who have tried to kill both him and them so many times. For a while, I thought that Gemini was going to be a bit of an anticlimax to the series; several plot threads were resolved at the end of Caprice and Rondo, and Gemini is almost entirely set in Scotland, lacking the exotic locations of the earlier books. Nicholas has also changed and grown, and in Gemini is tackling the task of learning to care for people, and not just for the outcomes of his schemes. However, after a slow start, the novel gathers pace and the psychological drama is more than a match for the drama of any of Dunnett's other novels; there were just as many twists and edge-of-the-seat moments, and I found it just as hard to put down. It's a fitting end to the series, and like the ending of Checkmate leaves me wanting to go back and re-read key moments from earlier in the series in the light of the final revelations.

Fittingly, having started reading The Game of Kings on my 40th-birthday trip to Scotland, because I wanted to read something set in Scotland while I was there, I read Gemini while on holiday in Scotland once again. Three and a bit years, 14 books, at least 7,000 pages and an amazing sweep of European and Middle Eastern history in the early modern and late Middle Ages later, I can safely say that it has been one of the most intense reading experiences I've ever had. I can't actually remember who it was who made Dunnett sound intriguing enough for me to give her a try (I suspect it may have been a gestalt entity of friends and acquaintances), but it's been incredible, and in many ways I'm sorry to have come to the end. (I do still have King Hereafter to read, and will probably give the Johnson Johnson novels a try at least, but neither is going to be the same.)

Interesting Links for 20-09-2017

Sep. 20th, 2017 12:00 pm

Interesting Links for 19-09-2017

Sep. 19th, 2017 12:00 pm
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[personal profile] major_clanger
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (John Le Carré, 1963)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (dir Martin Ritt, 1965)
A Legacy of Spies (John Le Carré, 2017)

‘Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinised by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.’

From that advance plot summary, I expected A Legacy of Spies to be a follow up to the events of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or its immediate sequels. In fact, it turns out to be a quasi-sequel to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Le Carré’s third novel but the one in which he broke out into mainstream success. I say ‘quasi-sequel’, because A Legacy of Spies revisits, and even to an extent retcons, the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and indeed can to a substantial extent be seen as a prequel, setting up some of the important plot points and filling in some key events between that book at Le Carré’s first novel (and introduction of George Smiley), Call for the Dead.

I’d never actually read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, although I’d long ago seen a plot summary that revealed the key twist. (So, by the way, does this review, hence the cut below.) I read A Legacy of Spies when it came out, saw that it referred back heavily to the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold so then read that, and then out of curiosity watched the 1965 film, which currently features on Netflix’s list.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (book)

I won’t spend too much time on the original novel; if you’ve read it, you’ll know how good it is. If you haven’t – well, rather than have it spoiled, I suggest that you go and read it yourself. It’s short by modern standards, very readable, and although the underlying plot is complex (as much as I can say without spoilers) everything is clearly explained.

(Spoilers from here)

Discussion of crucial bits of plot )

A Legacy of Spies is highly recommended, although if you’ve not read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold I’d strongly suggest reading it beforehand. And once you’ve done so, look out the 1965 film, which stands up very well indeed.




Interesting Links for 17-09-2017

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:00 pm

Interesting Links for 16-09-2017

Sep. 16th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Reading: The Shortest Way to Hades

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:08 am
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[personal profile] white_hart
The Shortest Way to Hades is the second of Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar novels, and is very similar to the first; Hilary, Professor of Legal History at Oxford, is called in by the junior members of the barristers' chambers at 62 New Square to investigate the death of a young woman who was recently involved in a variation of trusts case in which all of them represented various parties, and which they feel was suspicious. Like the first novel, it's entertaining and contains some lovely comic scenes; I particularly enjoyed the account of how Selena, on finding herself present at an orgy, decides that her preferred pleasure is in fact reading the copy of Pride and Prejudice she happened to have in her bag (a woman after my own heart!), and, having an Oxford background, I also very much liked Hilary's justification for not taking part in examining, which was an absolutely pitch-perfect example of the Oxford don's refusal to carry out a disagreeable task couched as a favour to absolutely everyone else. Meanwhile, the mystery was well enough plotted that I didn't come anywhere close to suspecting the real murderer until the final reveal, which is all you can really ask of a mystery, after all.

I think I enjoyed Thus Was Adonis Murdered more, but I'm not sure whether that's because the second book is so similar that I knew exactly what I was going to be getting and there wasn't the pleasure of discovering something new, or if I simply wasn't quite in the right mood for it; I certainly think it's just as good a book.

I am angry about subscriptions

Sep. 15th, 2017 01:13 pm
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[personal profile] andrewducker
When I rule the world the mechanism for cancelling a subscription will have to be at least as easy as the mechanism for setting one up.

So, for example*, if you can take out a subscription to the Financial Times online in about 30 seconds online, by clicking on a few options, then you should be able to cancel your subscription by clicking on something on your subscription details on their site. And they should not require you to email their support desk, reply with a second email explaining why you don't want it any more, and then answer a phone call wherein they offer it to you cheaper and then have to insist that, no, really, you don't want it any more.

The rule shall, instead, be that if ten random people take longer to unsubscribe than they did to subscribe that your home page will be replaced by a big flashing sign reading "We will treat you badly in the hope of holding on to your money."

Secondary rule: No introductory offers. Free trials are allowed (but must be easily cancellable, as above), but you can't offer new people a better deal than your existing customers. Introductory offers are a way of tricking people into signing up, and then hanging onto them when inertia stops them from cancelling/moving. Instead you must offer a good deal in the first place, which is sustainable, and which is easily compared to your competitors. I know this makes life harder for companies who are trying to hide long-term costs from their customers. I really, really, don't care.


*Or, possibly, exactly what happened to me at lunchtime.

Interesting Links for 15-09-2017

Sep. 15th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 14-09-2017

Sep. 14th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 13-09-2017

Sep. 13th, 2017 12:00 pm

Reading: The Mark of the Horse Lord

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:07 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
Reading Gwyneth Jones put me in mind of Rosemary Sutcliff, and as I'm off to Argyll on holiday soon I thought I would re-read The Mark of the Horse Lord, which is set in Argyll. Unlike most of Sutcliff's novels set in Roman Britain, Phaedrus, the protagonist of The Mark of the Horse Lord, isn't a Roman soldier; instead, he's a half-British ex-gladiator, son of a Greek wine merchant and a slave woman, who lived his whole life as a slave until being freed after winning a fight in the arena. By coincidence, he discovers that he is the exact double of Midir, the exiled prince of the Dalriad tribe, and is persuaded to impersonate Midir and travel beyond the northern boundary of the Empire to lead a rebellion and win back the kingdom of the Dalriads from Queen Liadhan, who has seized the throne and imposed the old matrilineal rule of the Earth-Mother in place of the patrilineal worship of the Sun-God. The plot is not dissimilar to The Prisoner of Zenda, really, as Phaedrus tries to take over another man's life and relationships and learn how to be a king.

This isn't my favorite Sutcliff; Phaedrus is a less sympathetic protagonist than the various members of the family in the Dolphin Ring saga, hardened by the years in the arena as he is, although he does become more sympathetic as the story goes on. I also don't find the society of the Dalriads, beyond the frontiers of the Empire, as interesting as the Roman society depicted in the books set inside the Empire, and, revisiting it now, I also feel that the conflict between the matrilineal and patrilineal societies is probably more nuanced than the book really suggests, and I wish we had got to see Liadhan's point of view as well as Phaedrus's.

Interesting Links for 11-09-2017

Sep. 11th, 2017 12:00 pm
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