Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good...And Bad...

David Frum finally identifies the main problem facing our society:

We live in a world of global competition now, where even white-collar jobs can be outsourced to India. If the jobs can't be exported, then the workers are imported, via legal or illegal immigration. Outside the government sector, unions wield little clout -- where they exist at all. For those reasons and others, the wage share of the economy had already sunk to record lows as of 2007.

I'll rephrase that a little - the global economy leads to a very few, elite number of people of high skill to be incredibly successful - and the vast majority of average or above-average folks to experience declining wages. This is the future, folks. No good jobs for most of you - and 1 or 2 of your friends becoming members of the super rich. Not a recipe for a healthy society.

Frum goes on to outline the difference between Obama and Romney's approach to this issue. Neither is even remotely satisfactory. Obama thinks we can redistribute via government bulk - infrastructure and public jobs that pay well and insurance programs to make sure everyone's basic needs are met. This is obviously an undesirable solution as there are only so many public sector jobs and who wants a society where everyone is dependent on the government for survival?

Romney promises lower taxes, more innovation in the marketplace, and cheaper products through globalization, so while wages will continue to decline, the standard of living will rise. The main problem with this argument: housing, healthcare, and education are still costly and rising sharply with no signs of decline. And these are important to most people - and important to the long term health of our society - we need families to grow and they need houses to live in, we need to educate all the kids and this costs money, and obviously, we need to stay healthy and pay for medical stuff. We can't be having middle class people going bankrupt over hospital bills.

Obama's plan on this issue is better than Romney's, but just barely. I suppose we already made this choice to head down the road of cheaper goods at the expense of middle class jobs years ago during the Clinton era. I don't like the look of this future.

Film:  Fletch

A poor man's Beverly Hills Cop.  I've never understood Chevy Chase - is this guy funny?

Saturday, September 29, 2012


A Benghazi cover up?

Why is it so difficult to get the straight facts about what happened on the 9/11 anniversary?  Isn't it clear a Muslim Brotherhood influenced TV station picked up the Islamic video and spread it around to incite the mob and cause "spontaneous" protests and violence at US Embassies?  All the mealy mouthed liberal pundits talk about the filmmaker causing this trouble.  WRONG.  Even if you didn't believe in free speech and were truly concerned with instigating violence (which none of these liberals do) - the instigator would be the Egyptian TV station, not the filmmaker.  The filmmaker probably couldn't get his friends to watch his movie, much less the entire Muslim world.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Film:  Pitch Perfect

It was no "Bring It On."  I'll leave it at that.

Film: Infernal Affairs

Every memorable scene from The Departed exists in this film. The Departed is a better crafted film, more stylish, bigger, more spectacular version. But what points should we reward originality in cinema vs. craft? The brilliant set up of The Departed and the most tension filled scenes are all copied from Infernal Affairs. The only thing truly added is style and a slight twist on the ending. Does this take away from The Departed as a work? I think it does.  I think it matters what comes first.  And I think the accolades heaved upon The Departed are slightly undeserved.   I know it recognizes itself as a remake, but no one talks of the brilliance of Point of No Return or 3:10 to Yuma.  This is a reputation thing - the Academy owed Scorcese an Oscar and Monahan is considered a "hip" writer.
Interesting Guy

Old article about Peter Greenaway.

At 67, Greenaway is no longer interested in cinema per se – it's a half-dead medium wasted by taking its cues from books, "telling bedtime stories for adults. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are illustrated books. Not cinema. I want to be a prime creator. As every self-regarding artist should do."
and this:
He is, he says, planning to take advantage of the freedom afforded and kill himself when he's 80. "My youngest daughter will be 21 so I can see her to full adulthood. Why would it be sad? I've got 14 years left. They say the most valuable thing about death is that you never know when it's going to happen. But I think this a curse. I think if we knew we'd make much better use of life." To some extent, this suicide plan is another example of his eagerness to be at the cutting edge – "I think very soon we're all going to have to seriously discuss compulsory euthanasia." But it's also nobler. He's an ideas man to the end, who's keen to put them into practice – and not just in film. He has a genuine sense of responsibility. "I've had a fantastic life and I'm still enjoying it and am an extremely happy man, but there has to be a trade-off somewhere. I'm a Darwinian. All I can think is that we're here to fuck, to procreate. And we're incredibly focused towards it. All our literature and television is pushing us towards it. But I passed on my genes a long time ago, so I have to justify my place in the human race some other way."
Never heard that before.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Filmmaker Arrested

The Innocence of Muslims filmmaker arrested.  I'm sure the Feds think they are doing this for "his own safety."  I don't see why we even bother to listen to the offended masses.  Who gives a flying shit?  I'm not even interested in the content of the movie, but it bothers me how readily Americans are will to sell out free speech.  Everyone feels it pertinent to point out the stupidity of the movie and yet no one is at all morally offended by the lunatics killing and rioting over this.  I guess no believes in the old saying, I don't agree with a word you said, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.

And I'll go on record now:  if I ever offend the Muslim masses - and I'm sure it's a possibility in the future - because I don't give a flying fuck what they think - I'll be buying and training with weapons and they can bring all the fatwas they want against me and I'm betting I can take out 4-5 bounty seeking lunatics before they get me.  Bring it on.

What's eating the family budget?  Housing, health care, education.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More on Drones

Pretty frightening further assessment of the use of drones.

I have not been a vocal opponent of wiretapping and indefinite detention.  But if you ARE a vocal opponent of those, it certainly seems like the way we are using drones is degrees more morally suspect.

After all, leaving innocent individuals in a perpetual state of terror is worse than listening in on innocent phone conversations and is worse than denying legal review to terrorists.
Small Homes

On people moving into tiny places to live debt free.
Something To Think About

The drones are terrorizing the ordinary people of Northwest Pakistan.


This graph shows the cost of living in DC has skyrocketed compared to other metro areas in the US.

I just got back from DC and had the same thought - this place is expensive.  And since most of the professional jobs are government jobs - it got me thinking:  how much are these people getting paid?  With my taxes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Film:  The Odd Couple

Somehow, I had never seen this film (or play or tv show) before.  Terrific.  A huge influence on Seinfeld's style of humor.  Laughed out loud many times.  Jack Lemmon - maybe the best straight man ever?

Film:  The Bucket List

A brief break from film watching over vacation comes back with a major bang - the Rob Reiner masterwork - The Bucket List starring the two greatest actors of their generation - Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in what must be regarded as the most important film in both great actors oeuvre.

I'm just joking.  This was an impotent joke of a film with the most egregious green screen usage known to cinema audiences.  Good lord.
LA Rising

On newly developed neighborhoods of LA.  Hat tip, Andy.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Watching the last drive of Monday Night Football was a total joke.  Seattle could not move the ball against Green Bay all half.  On their last two drives, the replacement refs turn around an interception on a garbage call, they give a total bail out call on a phantom pass interference penalty on 3rd and long.  And then the final play, which was clearly an interception, they call a touchdown and give the game to Seattle.  This was the most preposterous football game I've ever seen.  The press has been up in arms about the replacement refs for weeks now - it is almost a joke to contribute more noise to the problem.  But I have another angle: this is a reflection of the weakness of labor relative to big business in America today.

The replacement refs are clearly out of their league.  They are clueless.  They cannot handle the gig.  Perhaps it is training, perhaps it is innate ability, whatever, it doesn't matter.  They cannot do the job.  But the NFL does not care because the customers will still watch and it does not hurt the pocketbook of the league.  Therefore, they feel no compunction to make their product better and set a precedent that the NFL will cave to labor demands.  They are willingly putting out a shoddy product because they know we have nowhere else to go for quality football and it would take years and billions of dollars for a competitor to spring up.  So they have a monopoly (no one cares about that issue) and won't budge on labor issues.

What happened?  What is going on in the American consciousness today with our contempt for skilled labor?  We are for the most part happy for the government to bail out fat ass, inefficient corporate and banking giants such as GM and Citigroup and AIG and provide enormous tax breaks and benefits and funding to scams like Solyndra, conglomerates like GE, and allow the NFL to run a monopoly to the tune of 9 billion a year, but we can't pay replacement refs the wage premium they deserve for being at the top of their profession (I'll admit to not knowing the numbers - nor caring all that much - you could pay them each 2 million a year and I'd be fine with it).

A couple years ago the grocery workers in LA were striking for more money.  It was tough for me at the time to sympathize with them.  They wanted something like $20 a hour for an unskilled job.  They lost.  Now I see self-check out in most grocery stores.  I don't like it.  It's a pain.  I like workers at stores.  I like feeling like I'm part of a world where human beings do things and the store is being run by a crew of people.  I'll pay a premium for this - although I doubt these machines are all that much more efficient or cost saving.  These machines break down and get confused.  The customers don't know what they're doing.  They are always asking someone for help.  Some customers are certainly lying and ripping off the store about what type of tomatoes they are buying, etc.  In the end, I doubt this will be the cotton gin or the PC - really it is just a negotiating tactic to pay people shit - and say - don't complain or else will bring in the machines.

If left unchecked, market capitalism cannibalizes itself.  I listened to an interview with David Simon the other day.  He said the newspapers were ruined they day they went from being community owned to conglomerate owned.  When the wall street analysts got their hands on newspapers, it ruined news coverage in this country.  When he worked at the Baltimore Sun, there were 600 reporters.  5 were devoted to covering crime.  One person was assigned the courthouse and just covered the court all day.  Now, there are 165 reporters and 1 person for all of Baltimore covering crime.  He acknowledges maybe 600 was bloated - so perhaps it should have been 550 or 500 even.  Maybe the analysts had a small point about efficiency.  But it didn't stop there and now you have a system where the "news" as he understands it, simply doesn't exist.  It doesn't get covered.  There is tons of "commentary" via the internet, etc, but there isn't coverage.  There isn't a person who knows what is going on minute-to-minute at the courthouse.  There are just bloggers and other people spouting off opinions.

Now I might be sounding like a ridiculous communist, but consider this:  what the hell are 300 million American supposed to do with their time?  What do you think happens when 20% of the population is perpetually unemployed?  What do you think happens when the elite make their money by holding investments and flipping property and having the right connections?  What do you think happens when "average" people can only make $15 per hour?  (and by the way - that's 150 plus million people - because by definition, the majority of folks).  What does society look like when these forces are left unchecked?  It will be very, very ugly.  You can catch a preview by watching the last drive of the Monday Night Football game.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Day 9 (cont) - Dinner at terrific Brewster Fish House.  Ate first real lobster.  Buttery.  Tasty.  Back at hotel for quiet last night at B&B.  Sleep well there.  Very quiet, comfortable.

Day 10 - Bfast again at B&B before hitting the road toward Plymouth Rock and then Boston.  Definitely the best "deal" for lodging of the trip.  Everything was great and the price was reasonable.

Stop at Sesuit Harbor where there is little cafe with the best lobster rolls on the cape.  Take to go.  Drive up to Plymouth.  See the little worn down rock the pilgrims supposedly stepped on.  See the replica Mayflower.  Decide to drive to the plantation and pay the $25.  Eat the lobster rolls.  Not bad.  Hit up the plantations.  Talk with the Indians with Boston accents.  Talk to the actors pretending to be pilgrims.  Decent attraction.  Impressed with the knowledge of the actors.

Grab pumpkin latte for the drive up to Boston.  Massive traffic.  Drop off rental car.  Get shuttle to hotel.  Check in.  Meet up with sister.  See her apartment.  Go to dinner at nice Italian spot - Stella in the South End.  Crashed.

Day 11 - Wake up and grab a quick coffee and breakfast sandwich before taking a long walk down to Boston Common and checking out the sites.  Check the public garden.  The state house.  The old state house.  Chinatown.  Get a little dose of the Freedom Trail.  The Quincy market.  Head over to Fenway to watch the Red Sox take on the Orioles.  Can't believe the Orioles are the team in the playoff hunt.  Haven't heard of any of their players, but their 3-4 guys can really hit.  Guys named Young and Wieters.  Sitting in the bleachers and the sun comes out right and the beginning of the game and incredibly bright and hot.  C buys a BoSox cap.  I can't bring myself to.  In the 9th, we take a walk around the stadium.  Boston surprisingly ties the game and it goes to extra innings.  So we leave.  Not invested in the game, really just wanted to see Fenway.

Rest up and make a quick dinner.  Go to see Good People, a play set in Boston.  Surprisingly good.  Head home.

Day 12 - Meet up w/ sister again.  Make breakfast before grabbing bikes and riding out to Cambridge and Harvard.  Tour the college.  Ride back along the Charles to meet up for lunch on Beacon Hill with a film school friend.  Walk up the hill, see the nice neighborhood.  Walk over to the North End, the Italian part of town.  Looks great.  Grab a cannoli from Mike's - first good Cannoli I've ever had.  Grab bikes and ride home - to Back Bay.  Rest up before grabbing a cheap dinner at a good Ethiopian placed called Lucy's.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Football Picks

I am already paying more attention to football (although not necessarily watching more) due to playing a pick 'em betting league.  Yesterday I kept going back and forth between Carolina and the NY Giants on a Thursday night game with a low spread.  I wanted to pick Carolina, but eventually settled on the Giants, remembering they won the Super Bowl and Carolina was 6-10 last year.  Jesus.  Turns out to be one of my best picks of the year and why sports betting is incredibly stupid.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bad Luck?

The A's have lost 3 starters in a month (not to mention trading away 2 awesome pitchers before the season.  Can they still get into the playoffs?

Day 9 - Cape Cod - Day 2.  Wake and eat enormous breakfast at B&B.  Too much food.  Can't finish.  Drive to highly reputed crab shack to get Lobster rolls to take whale watching, but turns out it is closed for the season.  Bummer.  Head up to Provincetown, about 45 minutes away.  Have Sirius in car and listen to Stern.  Nice to hear again.  Arrive at whale watching outing.  Turns out heavy sea swells.  5 foot waves.  Should we go?  We decide yes.  3 hour trip.  Very rough and bumpy.  Takes awhile to spot a whale, but we end up seeing a ton of humpbacks.  One was playing on his back and flapping his fins right near the boat.  Another breached three times.  One got so close to the boat, I thought he was going to hit it.  C got dizzy and sea sick despite the dramamine.

Hit up the Lobster Pot, a good spot in Provincetown.  Ate burger.  Needed comfort food.  Quickly went up the Provincetown Monument - the largest granite structure in North America to commemorate the Pilgrims landing here (they stayed here a month before going to Plymouth Rock).

Going to hit up dinner soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Day 8 - Jog in the morning around Providence.  See RISDY.  See Brown.  See the river.  Learn our hotel Biltmore is one of the historic hotels of America.  Cool.  Too bad they gave us the handicapped room.  Grab Dunkin Donuts coffee and bfast.  Pick up jacket left at restaurant.  Drive past RI state capitol building.  Providence is an interesting place - it seemed to be designed as a BIG city, an important city.  Maybe it was at one time.  Obviously, it isn't now.  But there are a disproportionate number of statues and monuments and majestic type of architecture around town.  I like it.

Hit the road toward Cape Cod.  Arrive in Brewster.  The Cape a larger area than I realized.  Spread out.  need a car. Nice B&B.  Hit up a wine tasting.  Not great.  Head over to a lighthouse.  Very cool.  Links golf course right around the lighthouse.  Gorgeous.  Climbed to the top.  Heard the tour.  Looked out on water toward Portugal and Nova Scotia and saw an army base that used to be part of the early warning system of Soviet Nukes.

Drive past drive-in movie theater.  Check it out.  Don't show movies past labor day.  Other local theater last shows during the week at 730pm.  Won't make it because we need to eat dinner first.

Local Seafood spot.  Red and white checkered table cloths.  Clam chowder and fried scallops.  Back to the relaxing B&B to catch up on some work, etc.  They left out brownies.  B&Bs.

Why QE3 won't work and how the short run is over.  Also this:
If you think that unemployment is high because demand is low and therefore business isn’t profitable, you are empirically mistaken. Business is very profitable, but it has learned to get by without as much labor.
What are we going to do with all these people who need to work to feel productive, make money, and not cause social problems and unrest?  On the East Coast some of the gas stations are full service.  There is one job.  Anyone else have other ideas?  Should we begin giving tax breaks to businesses who create jobs vs. businesses who realize profits through capital gains?  I think so.  I'm not so sure taxing middle class people and forcing them to pay a little bump at the gas station is the most optimal way to spread the wealth around.  But I suppose it'll do better than nothing at the moment.


What an all out regional war in the Middle East might look like.  Ironically, we'd probably come out smelling of roses.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Day 4 -  Quick brunch in Woodley Park at a brunch spot down the street from the hotel.  Decent food.  Picked up car from hotel rental car. Baltimore for lunch.  Crab cakes at Faidley's in the Lexington Market.  The Wire was a glamorization.  This area is bad.  Back on the road toward Philly.  Get to town.  Crowded downtown.  Reminds me of San Francisco.  Street names the same.  Pier areas the same.  As if people designing SF just took a copy of the plans for Philly and set it up on the West Coast  Check into hotel - nice place - 4 star thanks to priceline.  Loews.

Walk down to Independence Hall and Liberty Bell.  Foundation of our country.  Head over to Reading Market.  Awesome spot.  Grab roasted pork sandwich from Dinic's - voted the best sandwich in the country.  Was toward the end of the day and they ran out of greens.  Chilled and cleaned up at hotel before taking taxi to Rittenhouse Square and eating profiteroles at Parc.  Decide to walk home because we suspect the taxi driver overcharged the 1.1 mile trek.

Day 5 - Wake up to loud pounding music - literally Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit followed by other ridiculous pop songs including Eye of the Tiger and No Easy Way Out.  Philly.  Look down out our window to see marathon runners taking up the entire street.  Madness.  Who knew.  Luckily, by the time we got going, the marathon was ending, grabbed food at the Reading Market again.  Talked with a guy about starting a deli - as he had given up his job as an engineer to open up a small family deli in the middle of the market.  Walked down to the Mutter Museum - a museum for doctors of all sorts of weird physical ailments and conditions documented since the 1850s.  Such things as gigantism - where a man had a tumor pressing on his gland that causes growth and literally could not stop growing and grew huge before dying at a young age like 23-24.  There were all sorts of crazy other freakish things, like a woman with a horn, a massive skull collection, a man with a gigantic colon because he got a disease that didn't allow him to poop.  Weird, nutty stuff.

Afterwards, we grabbed the car, checked out of the hotel and drove to Geno's to eat a famous Philly cheesesteak.  What's strange about Philly cheesesteak - there is nothing distinctive about the sandwich to Philly.  You can get the meat, the bread, the cheese, anywhere.  Therefore the cheesesteak place down the street on Lincoln Blvd in Santa Monica isn't really any different than the famous Philly spots. I guess they serve it with cheese whiz - if that can be considered an improvement.  Still, we threw one down, it tasted good and then we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to run up the stairs like Rocky.

Hit the road to Atlantic City.  Never been there before.  Pricelined a hotel - the Sheraton for cheap.  Turns out there is no casino inside, which ends up probably being a good thing.  Get in, rest up, watch some football.  Go out to the boardwalk.  Picture Boardwalk Empire.  Place feels like 3rd Street Promenade with casinos.  Interesting detail: only place I can remember seeing in America where they have guys that'll push people around in wheeled carriages.  Walked out onto the beach, took a picture.  Headed to Tropicana Hotel.  $5 craps.  Wait for later.  $10 blackjack.  Sit down.  Get hot.  Up $90.  Cindy is chilling, looking up dinner spots.  Have premonition, I must quit now or will lose it all soon.  Decide to go get dinner - find an Italian place off the boardwalk.  Eat up.  Get back to hotel to watch the Niners beat the Lions.  Was going to watch at casino bar, but tired and not jazzed about ingesting more crap into the body.

Day 6 - Lousy breakfast at a local bakery.  Get out of AC.  First time in a long time I've left a gambling spot up.  Of course, I didn't play much.  Easier not to gamble when around non-gamblers.  The opposite, of course, is also true.  What's with the toll roads?  Real rip off.  Heading to NYC.  Where to stop along the way?  Find on the internet Mud City Crab Shack in Manahawkin.  Off the road a bit.  Place is delicious.  Order crab legs.  Boiled in salty water.  Yum.  Very clearly a locals spot.

Off to NYC.  Staying at friend's place right near Columbia in the north part of Manhattan, an area I've never been.  Drive into the city, find their apartment, bring in our stuff.  Hang.  Catch up.  Go grab dinner at a Grand Sichuan, which apparently is a Sichuan (spicy) chain in NYC, but wow, was it delicious.  One of the better Chinese meals I've had in awhile.  Walked up past St. Johns Cathedral, one of the most impressive buildings in all of NYC.  Grabbed a drink at a local bar.  Hit the hay.

Day 7 - Breakfast at Kichenette, a little spot near Columbia.  Good biscuits.  Heading off - quick ninja stop in NYC - toward Providence with a planned stop in New Haven to visit Yale.  Unpleasant interlude - car accident.  Getting onto the 95 east in the Bronx and a truck veers into my lane and hits me.  I brake and honk and ram my rim onto the median.  Pull over.  Wait for cops for 2 hours.  Real pain in the ass.  Deal with it.  Towed to a place who does biz with the rental car company.  Rental car company gets us a new car - Dodge Durango.  Insurance company dealing with it.

Finally back on the road.  Rain coming.  Low gas.  Starbucks pumpkin latte.  Fill up the SUV tank.  Don't buy an SUV.  21 gallons at $4.15 a gallon.  You do math.  Make it to New Haven in the late afternoon.  Parking meter gets 1 hour.  Quick walk around Yale campus.  Bigger than I thought.  Crappy food options.  Yale has street meat?  Who knew?  Rain again.  Back on the road.

Providence, Rhode Island.  Biltmore Hotel.  A Historic place.  Could also just be old.  Where to eat dinner?  Try this Peruvian spot with a strangely hit or miss meal:  Ceviche cocktail is amazing.  Arugula salad is no good.  Lamb Shank delicious.  Cocktail too sweet.  Strange.  Meal is enormous - have many leftovers.
We'll See

LA becoming the next mass transit city?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Very Interesting

Life logic embedded in football logic.

At the very end of the game, the Lions faced a mostly theoretical decision that is worth discussing, too. When Brandon Pettigrew scored with 1:29 left, the Lions went down by nine points, pending the conversion. They chose to kick an extra point, bringing them within one score, and then failed on an onside kick that essentially ended the game. Should the Lions have gone for two? It doesn't really matter because their odds of winning were so low,7 but they probably should have, yes. The natural argument is that the Lions should take the extra point and make it a one-score game, but that's just delaying the moment of truth. 
Analyst Chase Stuart has written a bunch about this recently, and he makes a very good point: Essentially, people are afraid of missing the two-point attempt and trailing by 9 points. But it's not a one-score game. Trailing by 8 isn't a one-score game if you are going to fail on your two-point try. And there's no reason to think your odds of converting a 2-point attempt are higher when trailing by 2 than by 9. Trailing by 8 is a 1.5-possession game; half the time it is a 1-possession game, and half the time it is a 2-possession game. 
To simply put your head in the sand and say "I don't wanna know!!" may keep hope alive longer but it lowers your odds of winning. Let's pretend for a moment that the Lions scored with five minutes left and faced this same decision. If they go for two and don't make it, they're down two scores with five minutes left. They're pretty screwed. On the other hand, what if they kick the extra point, score again with 20 seconds left, and then don't get the two-point conversion? They're really screwed. If you fail with five minutes left, you at least know that you need two scores and can plan the rest of the game accordingly. By delaying the decision, you're trading that tangible knowledge for a glimmer of hope in being able to put off the really tough part until later. Unless there's some significant reason to think that a two-point conversion after the second touchdown is more likely to succeed than one after the first, delaying it doesn't offer an advantage.
Repeat: delaying does not offer an advantage. Good life lesson.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


DC Day 1 - Tour Woodley Park and Adams Morgan.  Ate dinner at Turkish place in Adams Morgan, a Bohemian style neighborhood.  Walked down past Dupont Circle all the way to the monuments at night.  Saw Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial.  Took subway home and passed out from long travel day.

DC Day 2 - Breakfast in Woodley Park area.  A popular place called Open City.  Food was average.  Coffee good.  Headed down to tour of the Capitol Building.  Visited Harry Waxman's office.  Got galley tickets to Senate and House.  Senate was boring, just one person talking about a domestic abuse bill.  House had some interesting debate about "No More Solyndra" Bill.  Saw Waxman, Kucinich, some guy from MA and another from TX speak.  

Had a 3pm reservation at the new International Spy Museum.  One of the few museums that cost money.  A bit cartoony, but carried a surprising amount of information.  Had dinner plans at Little Serow, a hard to get into Thai restaurant in Dupont Circle serving a special kind of Thai food.  Price fixed.  Put in our name at 5:30.  Went back to hotel rested up and back to restaurant at 7:15pm.  Ate delicious, super spicy food.  Met up with friends for drinks in Dupont Circle area.  Back to hotel.

DC Day 3 - First off to Cleveland Park to visit neighborhood where I lived one summer.  Grabbed sandwiches from Italian deli.  Tried to get Capitol share bikes, but they were all out.  Went down to Metro and rode to other station and found bikes.  Rode down Rock Creek Park towards Georgetown…rode along bike path along Potomac past Watergate Hotel and Kennedy Center…then back to Georgetown.  Ate sandwiches on campus and strolled around.  Grabbed bikes again and rode down further along Rock Creek all the way to monuments.  Visited Vietnam Memorial, FDR memorial, and rode around Jefferson memorial.  Parked bikes.  Went to Natural History Museum and Air and Space museum for quick visit.  Back to hotel for a nap.  Met up with friend and did an insider White House tour.  Excellent.  Saw Oval Office, the Situation Room, the Cabinet Room, the Press Room, all the works.  Grabbed dinner in Dupont Circle again, a Turkish place.  Solid.  Ate a Mr. Yogurt.  Similar to Pinkberry, but individually owned and operated.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mind Hacks Five good mind hacks (or attitude shifts) for living a healthy life.
College Costs McCardle on whether college is worth it. Here's a point I don't understand:
notes that while we may have replaced millions of filing clerks and payroll assistants with computers, it still takes one professor to teach a class. But he also notes that “we’ve been slow to adopt new technology because we don’t want to. We like getting up in front of 25 people. It’s more fun, but it’s also damnably expensive.”
I get why college can't be "more efficient" and hence cheaper -- but why would this factor make it more expensive than inflation? It seems like the relative price would stay the same. It makes more sense to imagine the administrative costs booming, better food, and better facilities costing a lot more.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Own Up

The Dems ought to own up to the neoliberal economic choices made during the Clinton era that caused our current economic situation AND helped crush the middle class.  Hardly liberal at all, really.

Money point:
Democrats have really screwed up -- twice. The argument goes like this: Back in the '90s, while the economy was expanding, the IT bubble was bubbling, and capital gains churning was filling federal and state coffers, Clinton -- guided primarily by his economic mentor and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- helped ignite a financial-sector privileged wealth production machine that didn't take into account the long-term consequences of American manufacturing decamping to foreign shores. In other words, Clinton pushed the Uruguay Round of GATT, set up China's membership in the WTO, and removed the important barriers that divided retail banking from securities trading. Clinton was highly influenced by the economic-policy practitioners on his team who carried with them all of the biases of neoliberal economics. Those who focused on the importance of manufacturing, of the role of government in seeing to the parts of the economic environment markets would not sustain, the importance of high-wage job creation, were pushed aside.
Government decisions do matter - a lot - to the shape of the future. It's just the people making those decisions don't know how. This is why governing is tricky and requires wise people rather than just smart people who can remember the talking points.
This Would Not Be Good

If we have a treasury auction and no one showed up?

You can see it happening if the interest rates went low enough - what's the point of buying a 30 year bill at less than 2%?  Especially if you know inflation will go up faster than that.  Our economy is terribly unhealthy right now - the interest rates are way too low.  I think we can survive 8%, even 10% unemployment.  It is bad, but survivable.  It would impact a single generation - mostly the young people - and it would disproportionally hurt the least well educated and lower middle class.  But we can't survive all senior citizens losing 50% of their savings if something catastrophic happened to the banking system.  Who will pay for all of it?  We'd need to do a wealth tax at some point.  Or something.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

One Game At A Time...

...but the Niners looked good today.  Picked up from where they left off last year defensively and then on offense were able to open it up a bit more with the receivers.  Only big misstep of the game was the punt return for a touchdown (on which there was an illegal block in the back), but other than that, to dominate the Packers coming off a 15-1 season in all aspects of the game at Lambeau was as good as one could hope for.  Hope we can keep it up all season.

The other day I received a check in the mail from my old health insurance company.  During a period between transitioning from my day job to a full time writer, I purchased my own health insurance.  It was not a pleasant expenditure.  The monthly premiums was doable, but the coverage was only decent and fatefully, I needed some rather expensive sick care during that time.  I ended up paying a lot of money out of pocket - basically the maximum one could pay for a year - and it was during a time where I wasn't making much money, nor did I have much job security.  It was a shitty situation, but I dealt with it.  I knew it was for a transition period.

Well, the other day, a check in the mail came for $1.83.  Yes, that figure is correct.  $1.83.  It explained in the cover letter that due to Obamacare, I was entitled to a refund from my health insurance company. 2 years after the fact.  The postage stamp, paper, and ink (not to mention the labor cost) of issuing the refund was more costly than the refund itself.

This is my impression of Obamacare.  Impotence and stupidity.

I will grant the fact that probably 30 million working poor will get health insurance through Obamacare paid for by the upper 10%.  I think that's all it boils down to.  It is a simple redistributive choice.  The cost curve will not be bent due to Obamacare - it will get bent through new technologies or better business practices - but not by tossing more people into the mix.

Maybe this is the right choice for America - maybe in a country with as much wealth at the top as ours - we should fund the working poor's health insurance.  But what I find truly disingenuous is the argument Obamacare is meant to help the working class or will improve the cost of the overall healthcare system.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Musical Theater:  Book of Mormon

Awesome show.  Well worth the hype and the ticket price and the day out.  I really enjoy these top notch theater shows.  Should not be missed.  Pantages Theater is an awesome old theater to see a show.  Across the street are Wood and Vine and the W Hotel as post-show drink options.

Funny thing happened during show - some sort of technical difficulty with set - never seen that happen before.  A tad annoying, but the actors did a good job of playing it off.

Friday, September 07, 2012


Wine:  Navarro - Pinot Noir 2009

Fantastic wine.  Gets better after being opened up and sitting around.  If you can find at $15, a steal.
God Didn't Create Rambo.  I Made Him.

"Who the hell are you?"

One of the best written scenes in modern cinema.  The ultimate midpoint (in screenwriting terms):

"I didn't come here to rescue Rambo from you, I came here to rescue you from him."

It's on TV and hard to stop watching.  Who would make Rambo or Rocky today?  It's almost like they'd be indy movies.

"You're sending that many?  I hope you have a good supply of body bags."

Book:  2666 - Book 1

Although this book is a 5 part novel, it was originally written as 5 separate novels.  I am going to log as I finish each book.  The first book is tremendous.  A stark reminder of the power and strength of the novel as a form (and not merely the basis for a movie).  Simple story about four European literature professors brought together over their shared study of a reclusive German author.  A love triangle emerges between the one female of the group and the two eligible men.  The third man is handicapped.  They discover the author may be living in a Mexican border city I took to be a substitute for Juarez.  The three professors journey to Mexico and begin to act strange and develop nightmares and I can only imagine where we go from here.

I once visited Juarez on a day trip from El Paso when I was young.  It may have been 1992 or 1993.  It was the first time I ever set foot in another country.  It seemed like the worst place on the planet, then.  Of course, since then I've seen many other bad places.  But per this book, and the real history, hundreds of killings of women have taken place down there since then up to the present day...perhaps my initial impression as a child was correct.
Trouble For Netflix

This is what I understood the problem to for Netflix all along.

They have no leverage in getting films.  The studios can stream with whomever they please or even create a stream service themselves.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Film:  The Evil That Men Do

Some excellent moments in the film.  Not great to start watching as you sit down for dinner.  I enjoyed it considerably more than Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia.
Where Are The Parents?

Another article on the insanity of student loan debt.

Why is no one talking about the parents here?  All these students act like victims - but who on earth takes out 100-300 G in loans - and doesn't think this is a really, really big deal?  Like an enormous amount of money?  Have these people ever tried to save up and buy a car that costs maybe 20-25 G?  It's hard -- really hard -- to save up that much money.  Now times it by 5 or 15 and you should immediately feel hopeless.  Why people don't do this before taking the money astounds me, but I can see 18 year olds or even 22 year olds being flighty with money and imagining a future with a job that pays enough to pay it all back.  But what about the parents?  The parents know how hard it is to make 100,000.  After all, they're the ones not paying for the education up front.  Why are they letting their children take out that much money in debt?  I don't even care about the interest rate (which supposedly makes it a "good" loan).  It's money!  You're going to have to pay it back.

Very strange all of this and how we got here.  I have no idea how this is going to resolve itself, but judging by the statistics, at least 20-25%, if not more of this debt is never going to get repaid.  Who is going to eat it?  Taxpayers, I guess..

A new episode of The Moviegoers is up.  We discuss Lawless and The Ambassador.

To get an email subscription to The Moviegoers podcast:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

This is the way to approach business and life.
Your business icon is your cleaning lady? 
She’s on her own, she cleans people’s homes, she’s incredibly nice. She brings flowers every time she cleans, and she’s just respectful and nice and awesome. Why can’t more people be like that? She’s been doing it some twenty-odd years, and that’s just an incredible success story. To me that’s far more interesting than a tech company that’s hiring a bunch of people, just got their fourth round of financing for 12 million dollars, and they’re still losing money. That’s what everyone talks about as being exciting, but I think that’s an absolutely disgusting scenario when it comes to business.
My work inspiration is my cleaning lady as well.
CIA Mea Culpa on Iraq WMDs

As Instapundit points out - does this mean Bush and Cheney didn't lie, but rather some government bureaucrats made a mistake?

Which is the more likely scenario?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


VDH lays the smackdown on American culture.  In particular he points out the assault on savers and retirees in a futile attempt to "kickstart" the economy with low interest rates.  It is shocking that savers get .25% interest on their accounts and kids are paying 6-9% on their student loans.  Maybe there is a business opportunity?  Of course, I wouldn't loan out any money to kids with the employment situation as bad as it is right now for the 16-29 set.
I'd Watch

Usain Bolt to play for Man U.
Marathon Fraud

An interesting New Yorker piece about a big time marathoning fraud.  Reminds me of The Informant.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

2nd Best Record in the AL

Guess who has the 2nd best record in the AL?

That's right: the Oakland A's.  Pretty unbelievable.

Monday, September 03, 2012


Webseries:  Comedians Riding In Cars Getting Coffee

The new Seinfeld web series.  Seinfeld makes an interesting point about cars -- because the whole show he drives around in old cars -- he says back in the day all the cars used to be different and distinguish themselves.  And nowadays, they all just look the same.  I'm not sure if this is nostalgia speaking, but yeah, I'm pretty bored of the cars I see on the road.  The new ones that stand out to me are the new Dodges and the Fiat and not much else.  I liked the Subaru I got when it came out - the new body style on the Impreza - but the look is getting old now and was ripped off by Lexus anyhow.  I can't think of much else that has caught my eye recently.

TV:  Breaking Bad, Season 4, final episode

WW.  Ended pretty much exactly how I expected.

Film:  The Ambassador

Strange how a documentary comedy fills the space traditionally done by investigative reporting.  The filmmaker aspires to be Borat and ends up doing a piece worthy of Foreign Affairs.

My biggest thought throughout the film as it really ends up skewering the French interest in CAR, is how you can re-look at the French opposition to the Iraq war and remember what all the neoconservatives were saying at the time:  the French and the UN were bought and sold by Saddam Hussein.  It seemed paranoid to the leftist opponents of the war - who cited UN and French disapproval as a sign of popular will against the war - now it just looks like par for the course in the way France handles their diplomatic affairs.

An interesting documentary film, surely worth watching.

Ryan admits to misstating his marathon time.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

The best episode yet - Alec Baldwin.  Man, Baldwin needs his own show.  Just follow Baldwin around all day making observations on life.  I'd watch it.

Paul Ryan lies about his best marathon time and is immediately caught.

I don't quite know how to interpret this.  On the one hand, embellished responses to past athletic endeavors is quite common amongst older men and mostly insignificant.  But Ryan embellished by 1 entire hour - a significant leap - suggesting rather than being an average marathoner, he was a really fast marathoner.  Not only that, but unlike Al Bundy's claim to have scored 4 touchtowns (which could be an embellishment, it doesn't truly matter) in an important high school football game, a marathon time matters because of its specificity.  Because of the time itself.  Every second matters.  You can't imagine Usain Bolt laughing and joking 20 years in the future talking about his 9.5 100 time.  You know?  It just doesn't work that way with times.

I think the only way to interpret this is through the lens of being a lifelong politician.  These guys are not normal creatures.  They create myths about themselves and the successful ones believe the myths.

For instance, I highly question President Obama's basketball skills.  He acts as though he was a real baller, but from what I understand, he did not start for his varsity high school basketball team.  I know sports - and I know he went to a big high school - but it was also a really bright nerdy high school and not exactly the South Side of Chicago with elite basketball players.  And he couldn't start for them.  This means he isn't that good.

And now we have Ryan lying about his marathon time.  I think these guys are full time salesman, selling themselves, and they'll do anything to make the product sell better.  Enough to disappoint us regular folks.

Sounds like an episode of Breaking Bad - the great Quebec maple syrup heist.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


QE3 - another big economic sham.
There is no benefit to quantitative ease except you feel richer than you really are. When looking at the costs, the Fed also needs to total up all the damage that it has wreaked on retirees that are living on a fixed income. Most of them have investments tied to an interest rate instrument and have been devastated by Fed action over the past several years. The other people that are hurt are savers. People sitting on cash in checking and savings accounts. Their cash suddenly got worth less than it was yesterday.
and this point:
He also made the observation that there hasn’t been any inflation caused because of previous QE’s. He is right about that. The reason there is no inflation in the US economy today after all the monetary stimulus the Fed has engaged in over the past three years is that there is no economic growth. GDP is flatlining. If we had real growth, we’d have inflation because the velocity of money would flow through the economy.
Our government and economists are really out of ideas about how to start up the economy. I don't think we need to do anything -- just set up rules that are fair and make sense and clear to everyone -- and then let it go. The outcome will take care of itself. By tinkering, we end up picking winners and losers and create stagnation.

Film:  Lawless and The Big Year

Yes, a random pair of films.  Not on purpose at all.  Watched Lawless in the theater, came home, was making dinner and looked up what was on HBO on-demand.  Obviously, the pickings were slim, so I told myself I'd start "The Big Year" and see how it went.  I watched the entire thing.

Lawless was a strange movie.  As a story, it was a total mess.  The overall strategy of the good guys and bad guys was unclear to me.  At first, I was surprised by the restraint of the violence, then shocked at the brutality and then later, again, at the restraint.  The film had no rhythm to logic or obvious theme that cut across the stories and characters.  I was rooting for it, but it didn't land.  Quite a disappointment.

On the other hand, The Big Year started off as among the lamer movies I can remember.  But it grows and I watched the whole thing.  It wasn't great by any stretch, but as a contained little story, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  Let's put in this way -- I recently watched Death at a Funeral -- which was supposedly this big comedy hit several years ago and I actually thought The Big Year was a superior film, even though I believe it is known as a flop.  It reminded me of movies I'd see with my parents growing up.  Movies like City Slickers -- which seem stupid on the surface, but end up being little tales to reinforce certain male American middle class values of adventurism and family and eschewing careerism.
The Plot Thickens

The bizarre cheating scandal at Harvard.

This is going to be fun to watch.  My favorite bit:

They face the possibility of a one-year suspension from Harvard or revocation of their diplomas if they have already graduated, and some said that they will sue the university if any serious punishment is meted out.
If you want to understand the elite dysfunction in America, watching how this plays out will highly instructive. Everyone will point fingers. No one will take responsibility. People on all sides will threaten, harass, lie, and try to intimidate to get their way. All involved will come out looking like horrendous spoiled little children, and not a single person will suffer any sort of harmful punishment. This is how we resolve things at the top. I love how everyone feels justified in cheating because the class was supposed to be easy and it turned out to be hard. Brilliant!!!

TV: Louie, season 3, part 1 of the 3 part series

Far and away the best episode of the season.  I'm incredibly excited about the next couple episodes.  Fantastic random casting of Gary Marshall of all freaking people.

Louie's agent is hilarious.