Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I was tired after bike riding today. Let's see how long I can go.
Hugh Jackman is surprisingly effective in the musical numbers. He’s funny, charming and he makes it look effortless. The songs aren't great, but he commits.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nice montage although they had a curtain malfunction. Why this group of actresses? Saint 1950s, Hawn 1960s, Huston 1980s, Goldberg 1980s and Swinton last year. Why not someone from the 1970s?
Penelope Cruz as expected. She is a lot harder to understand than in movies. It must be the time limit. Trish wonders why she isn’t married. I say she probably doesn’t want to be. Trish says all women want to be married.
BEST SCREEN PLAY
Former host Martin (he was decent) and Fey who is probably on the short list every year. They’re both writers and yet we know their faces.
Original Screenplay – MILK – Rules state that the speech must be about how tough it is to be ______ in America. Fill in the blank with whatever repressive issue your movie is about. Thank God he got out of Texas. Wait. He shouldn't have mentioned the proposition because it was defeated by minority voters. The speech failed to show sensitivity for diverse cultures. Put him on the DO NOT NOMINATE list.
Adapted Screenplay – Slumdog- The speech is about the movie and the people who made it. Screenwriter to be sanctioned by Academy. Ah, but it didn't actually happen in America. Second rule, even if the movie takes place in a literal hell hole, do not mention the fact if its not America's fault.
Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black. Aniston still doesn't seem fun. Her father was best friends with Kojack, I recently read. Black makes a funny joke about Pixar always winning and Katzenberg laughs. Did he know it was coming? The cameras pick up Pitt/Jolie. That's in bad taste. Let Aniston get on with her life. We get another shot of the pair. They know they're on display. Brad seems to have his hand near his mouth. Bad taste from the producers. They must all be a little uncomfortable and this isn't a tabloid show.
Presenting, that’s why Sarah Jessica Parker gets to sit in the second row.
The Duchess. Makes sense. Period piece is more sewing.
It has to be Button. Not that it didn’t look like makeup.
Yeah, Button wins. The winner should be for whoever makes up Anne Hathaway. She is always a shade of eyeliner from beautiful to homely and vice versa.
MONTAGE OF LOVE FILMS
I haven’t seen but a few of these. Not earthshaking.
Portman and Stiller. Funny joke by Stiller as Jaquin Phoenix in beard. He looks like him too. Portman is equally charming. I would guess its Slumdog's night. Yeah, they're going to rack up a cart full of them.
9:42pm -Seth Rogan film. Kind of dull.
Now they are going to present. . . LIVE ACTION SHORT
These were on Sundance today, but I couldn't see them. The winner comes all the from the cheap seats, because you have to have Sarah Jessica Parker breathing down their necks. You love to see the regular people win things. They seem happy to be there. No grievances to air.
9:52pm More Jackman. He's likable in a way few American hosts are. No snarky comments. Amazing that the same guy plays such a hardass Wolverine. He really can act. Okay, I'm tired of the musical number after 60 seconds. Can't we use this time for Mickey Rourke to thank his dogs by name? Beyonce sings AT LAST, and I remember Etta James knocking her a few weeks ago for it. She sounds fine, but the song ends after two words. I still don't want to see MAMA MIA.
10:01pm - I like seeing highlights from old winners, especially the humble ones.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Heath Ledger is a mortal lock according to the rags. Let's build the suspense anyway. Hoffman is nominated again. An actor that continues to impress. He was so good in Charlie Wilson's war I wish the movie had been about his character. Josh Brolin suddenly gets work 20 years after Goonies. I wish Robert Downey would win. I'm so glad that he is back. Amazing in the Ben Stiller thing. Great in everything. Michael Shannon I don't know. Revolutionary Road looks like the typical tear the walls off quiet America and you find pain and misery.
LEDGER - - Who is going to accept? His Parents. That's nice. But they have to sit next to the exits. They have to start a second entrance song. The janitor is sweeping up by the time they reach the stage. His father speaks eloquently. His mother does too. The sister too. It makes you glad he won. Sarah Jessica Parker is scaring the band.
BILL MAHER? Why because of that atheist movie that no one saw?
MAN ON WIRE was great. I haven't seen the Herzog. MAN ON WIRE makes sense. TROUBLE IN WATER would have won if McCain won the election.
Smile Pinky. You figure she must have spent every dime on the dress. Another regular person. She doesn't get invited to the after parties or if she does she sits on the couch next to Flounder.
10:23pm - Post Production -- Car chase montage
Will Smith gets to present alone. VISUAL EFFECTS
They all look impressive. Button, I bet. Yeah, I'm right. They take the subway to the stage. He thanks his wife Roma and his kids. The other winner's kids miss out because of the time limit.
Dark Knight beats Slumdog. What's the difference between Sound Editing and Sound? Doesn't good sound include good sound editing?
Ah they changed the name of SOUND to SOUND MIXING to address that complaint. It still seems like the same thing really. Slumdog back on top. The moral of the Oscar story is do technical work on a film that captures the public imagination. You never hear anyone say, "I was going to vote for Bejamin Button for best picture but they blew the sound mixing. Slumdog all the way." I liked Slumdog, but does it really have the best sound mixing of any film from 2008?
Now slumdog did a good job here. Editing was a big part of it. The way they revealed all the clues in between his beatings. Will Smith picks up co-hosting credit on this section.
10:41 - Eddie Murphy with the "Entertainer" playing in the background.
Jerry Lewis receives Jean Hershholt Award and it's well deserved. I thought Jerry Lewis was funny when I was a kid, but I can't really watch it anymore. John and I use to try and stay up with Jerry, but we never made it past 3am and then we paid for it all week at school. Jerry Lewis was such a jerk in KING OF COMEDY, he should have won the Oscar for that. Ah, the Nutty Professor is the link that binds Murphy to Lewis. Standing O. Nice Speech. He should have won this award 20 years ago. What took so long?
10:50pm - Zach Effron and Alicia Keyes. Who are they? Trish says that I show my age. I have heard of Keyes, but I have never seen her. Effron turns out to be a High School musical actor.
SCORE - Slumdog Millionaire. Obama Administration passes luxury tax on any movie that wins more than two Oscars. He hopes it will pay for limos to get the rest of the people to the Vanity Fair party.
Will the two Slumdog songs cancel each other out? Doesn't Bruce Spingsteen have a song in the Wrestler that won a Golden Globe? Didn't they use to have 5 nominees? Maybe they grew tired of having to present that many. Okay, I hope the third song wins from Slumdog. I remember it from the movie. It wins. Obama Administration sending in peacekeeping troops.
11:05pm - Hugh Jackman has class
Liam Neeson and the beautiful girl from Slumdog
FOREIGN FILM - Departures. Adding it to the Netflix cue. Nice speech that got the point across despite the language barrier.
11:11 Queen Latifah singing "I'll be seeing you" over the obit montage. She does a nice job, but I would rather see the montage full screen. Heston and Newman in one year. I didn't know some of the character actors had died. Pat Hingle was a surprise. I don't think I heard about James Whitmore either. He was great in Shawshank, but I always think of Miracle Grow.
11:17pm Reece Witherspoon cute as usual. The perpetual teenager.
DIRECTING - Will Danny Boyle win them both or will there be a surprise? No surprise. The British speak better than we do. They seem to say more with fewer words. Nice speech without all the phony emotion that we're use to.
Only drama left is whether Rourke or Penn wins Best Actor. I can't imagine Kate Winslet not winning.
BEST ACTRESS - It's always good to see Sophia Loren. Shirley McClain is another legend. I read online that they did the multiple preseters because they didn't think last year's winners were glamorous enough on their own. Cotaird and Berry and Kidman all won for looking less beautiful than normal. Yeah, Winslet wins. No surprises tonight. She spoke well.
BEST ACTOR - Deniro, Kingsley, Hopkins, Brody, Douglas - No Daniel Day Lewis -
Penn is a surprise. He just won a few years ago. Rourke's dogs turn off the TV. Penn is funny about his image. He saves the grandstanding until the end. A nice shout out for Rourke. Penn won the award for being a Dixie Chick, didn't he? Even he knows it and feels bad for Rourke.
SPIELBERG ON FOR BEST PICTURE - No Commercial for 30 minutes
AMC had all 5 movies showing yesterday for $30. A few years ago I would have done it. I have only seen Slumdog. . . and it wins as expected.
Overall, Jackman is fine. I like the idea of having a regular actor instead of a typical host.
I have a lot of movies to catch up on.
Oh, yeah they didn't have a lifetime achievement award. Has Redford ever won for lifetime achievement?
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I am impressed to no end at the sheer determination of the Pot-heads in this country to get high. This DIY video below simply cracks me up at how it is so much like any home-improvement video you would see on the Home and Garden Channel or This old house. Obama had promised to "decriminalize" medical marijuana. So far, I haven't heard if he's done that or if the raids on facilities in Medical Marijuana areas still continues. Although my preferred drug continues to be Knob Creek and Vanilla Coke or a nice beer, I do agree with the Late William F. Buckley's libertarian idea that the war on drugs is a lost one and perhaps we should spend value public dollars on more worth-while pursuits. Perhaps now that the Feds are going to be looking for many ways to save and increase revenue to the treasury, the war on drugs' days may be numbered. However, the paranoid cynic in me thinks that the Feds (and both the Dems and Repubs) like the control the layers of drug laws give them over the populus, so perhaps the war will continue. Nevertheless, motivated pop-heads will continue to keep Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware in business for many years to come.
Friday, February 20, 2009
with Jay Nordlinger
One of my great complaints — regular readers have heard it for a long time — is that no one ever goes back: No one ever reviews what was said, takes stock, etc. For example, a senator says, “If Ronald Reagan deploys those Pershings, we will have nuclear war!” Well, did we?
Why am I bringing all this up? Well, advocates of granting the Olympic Games to China all said that having the Games would force the PRC to liberalize. It would be good for human rights, people said. Even Chinese authorities themselves said that the Games would cause them to liberalize!
That was the great selling point.
And what happened? Not only did the Games not have a liberalizing effect; they had the opposite — moving the PRC to crack down all the more. I documented this extensively in a five-part series on this site last August. You can find it in my archive, here.
And just the other day, I saw this headline, from the Falun Dafa Information Center: “Fueled by Olympics, Falun Gong Persecution Escalated Sharply in 2008.” You’re darn right it did (and the relevant article is here).
Now, there’s nothing wrong with guessing, or arguing, and being wrong. It may have happened even to me one time. And it was possible that the Games would have a liberalizing effect (although I always thought that was a foolish guess, for reasons I detail in the above-mentioned series). In any case, the granting of the Games to Beijing set the cause of human rights back.
And it would be nice if some of the advocates of those Olympics — and there were millions of them — would simply say, “Oops: Turned out to be wrong.” Why should they say this? Because I think there should be Mao-style self-criticisms? No. Because I like to say “I told you so”? No. It just seems to me that, before we glide on, we should review, take stock, so as to prevent similar errors or misjudgments in the future.
Isn’t that elementary?
I see this trend a lot and not just in politics. If you want to harness a critical mind you have to track whether or not your analysis turns out to be right and how often. Otherwise, you will continue to hold onto the same wrong premises and continue the cycle.
Professional commentators will often get into trouble by stating the conventional wisdom without thinking at all and then simply pretend they never said it moments later when they are wrong. They must figure the "crowd" that also holds the Conventional Wisdom can't blame them.
I think the same was true about the olympics. I think I said around that time that you should invite totalitarian countries to participate in the games so that they can see how the free world operates, but you cannot let them host because that legitimizes their behavior.
Put more strongly, I think America, and western Europe even more so, have a big problem with moral equivalency because they ignore context. Why did Bush's approval ratings tank? Because Gitmo is treated like Auschwitz in the media. Iraq is treated like a bloodbath and the equivalent of Vietnam although you'd have to fight 50+ years in Iraq at this rate to match the death toll.
Without the hand-wringing of moral equivalency by the Left, Bush would have left office with a 60% approval rating.
How is such moral equivalency born? By offering countries like China full participation in the league of decent nations before they have the decency to be decent.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
In the short span between my last review and today, we’ve seen the President sign a stimulus package so full of pork that Obama’s father would have been forbidden to touch it, along with a bump on the head, a scripted and sputtering press conference, and a contradiction from someone who actually understands how business works. Obama also appeared onstage in the theatre where Lincoln was shot, alongside a Lincoln impersonator (ouch).
Certainly there’s some topics ripe for ridicule. So what are the Late Nights talking about? I thought it was time for another review, so I fired up the DVR Tuesday night and watched David Letterman, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel. (Jon Stewart, and Stephen Cobert both have the week off.)
Alex Rodriguez (Letterman, Leno, Kimmel), the recession (Letterman, Leno, Ferguson) and the octuplets (Letterman, Leno, Kimmel) are the most popular topics right now. Meanwhile, the shows still struggle to find a handle from which to grab the new administration.
Jon Stewart did a piece last week which blamed Republicans for destroying “The Hope.” By now we’ve all seen the Dan Akroyd ”Saturday Night Live” clip (so devoid of laughter you wonder whether it was taped in front of an audience), where Republicans are mocked for not recognizing the intellect and eloquence of the new President. (I was reminded of an old Dan Akroyd bit where the “comedy” arises from Jimmy Carter being so brilliant, and an expert on absolutely everything.) Leno also told a “joke” about how well the President speaks. (He uses descriptions like: from the windy plains of the Dakotas, to the sunny skies of Arizona; rather than: from the sleazeball criminals of Wall Street to the broke-ass beaches of California.)
What's wrong here? I think they have made the classic high school dating mistake by projecting every positive attribute onto the cute girl they barely know. At some point the girl lets you down as will Obama, and if they can't joke about it then, they may just have a nervous breakdown.
In a related story, Sam Donaldson seems to support the Obama plan for the govt. to pay mortgages and he made the most lame defense of the thing via a long-winded joke and circular logic. You should watch it just because it borders on SNL parody.
We live in a world where the stock market can be down 1500 points since election day and not one reporter has asked Obama why Wall Street is afraid of his policies.
Do you remember when Bush attacking Iraq 18 months after 9-11 was a rush to war? All those Democrats voted for it without reading the intelligence for themselves and then they blamed that dolt Bush for outsmarting them. Those same people just spent $800 billion without reading what they spent it on. Change we can believe in.
Bush couldn't always get the message out cleanly, but you never doubted he knew his own mind. Obama says everything smooth and yet I still don't know what he believes in. Well, I do know that he believes that Democrats can spend your money better than you. But I bet he doesn't even know what he spent it on.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I never thought I would say this, but television is becoming more reliable than the movies. I think the main reason is that movies only need a good enough trailer to get you inside once, whereas television has to actually be somewhat good to get you to tune in again next week. Having said that, TV can still be disappointing, especially those shows that started out okay and have fallen in quality and still you have to stick around for a resolution.
If it weren't for DVD, I never would have seen most of the shows I now watch, because I hate commercials and I hate waiting until next week. The only shows we watch week to week are those that we began on DVD and caught up with.
The first show I watched via DVD is the best one of all, THE SOPRANOS. I may never see a show that good again in my lifetime. My only quibble was the first half of the last season that was totally pointless and felt like filler.
We just finished all three seasons ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and that show was solid all the way through. I don't find modern Sitcoms funny anymore, and here comes this show so surprisingly funny that it gives me faith in the medium.
THE SHIELD was downright great in the first season and it’s been pretty solid since then. I missed the premiere episode last fall when it came back on and I’ll now have to catch the finale season on DVD.
THE WIRE was the HBO show that few watched. It would have been cancelled on network TV, but it’s surprisingly smart. What The Shield does for action The Wire does for the slow surveillance. There are a ton of characters and some are played by non-professional actors and yet everyone is seamless in the storylines. It’s not for all tastes. We crawled through the first season and almost gave up in the weak second season, but then became believers in the 3rd season and beyond
NIP/TUCK is a prison sentence. I chose it to watch on a lark when we ran out of other options. The pilot episode is decent and the whole first season moves along pretty good, but Dylan Walsh is such a milquetoast and his wife Joely Richardson is so fickle you can’t really like either one of them. The character who is supposed to be the cad, played Julian McMahon, is the easiest one to root for. Also, the plot lines are ridiculous and practically recycled in later seasons with a few twists. The point of the show seems to be shock value, because no taboo is left untouched. Now we’re too far in to stop watching and yet I feel like I’ve invested too much time not to see how it resolves. It’s a prison sentence.
BIG LOVE just returned to HBO in January for season 3. I think this will be the last season. There’s really no where else to go with it. We started watching it because it came on right after the Sopranos a few years ago. The first couple of episodes made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but now I just see the whole thing as a farce with serious expressions and no door slamming. What man Paxton’s age would really want the drama that goes with more than one wife?
I’m not a Sci-fi guy typically, but we blew threw the one season of FIREFLY which is really just a space western. Trish who doesn’t like either genre had no trouble spending long Saturdays watching episode after episode.
We also saw the first season of the British show, HUSTLE, about a bunch of conmen ala David Mamet. It was decent but repetitive so we may or may not go back for more later. The seasons are only 6 episodes long so it wouldn’t be hard to get through them.
This past weekend we began watching 24. This is the first network show in the DVD cue, and after three days we’re through 10 episodes. I had never seen 5 minutes of the show until this last weekend and it is as riveting as advertised. The main reason is that Kiefer Sutherland’s character Jack Bauer is just the kind of guy you hope works for the good guys in real life. In the show he is complicated, direct, and will do anything to stop the evildoers.
We may try HOUSE some time or another. I’ve seen a few of those already and Hugh Laurie is great as that character. I’m also leaning toward something British in the near future, maybe WIRE IN THE BLOOD which I have read good things about.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
made in the last 25 years. . .
If you haven't seen LIVES OF OTHERS put it at the top of your Netflix cue. Dude has been waiting for my review for more than a year, but the movie just leaves me speechless. Both times I saw it.
What rightwing movie do you think was the biggest omission on this list? Not counting the 25 honorable mentions.
My vote is for HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG. It might be the most Libertarian movie in ten years.
I don't feel like going through every movie on the list, but here is someone who does and has a few a good issues with it.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Former astronaut Harrison Schmitt, who walked on the moon and once served New Mexico in the U.S. Senate, doesn’t believe that humans are causing global warming.
Wow, how does a guy with those credentials not believe to be true what is plainly obvious?
"I don’t think the human effect is significant compared to the natural effect," said Schmitt, who contends that scientists "are being intimidated" if they disagree with the idea that burning fossil fuels has increased carbon dioxide levels, temperatures and sea levels. "They’ve seen too many of their colleagues lose grant funding when they haven’t gone along with the so-called political consensus that we’re in a human-caused global warming," Schmitt said.
And that, folks, is the reasoning, as we have discussed before at the Junto. If you are a professional scientist, your job is to confirm the beliefs of those empowered to give grant money. Otherwise, you will not be a professional scientist much longer. If you fall in line with the mainstream anthropocentric view of the universe, then your research will confirm it. If you don't, then you will either be marginalized by lack of funding or you will move on to some other line of research. Either way, you will never be recognized as an expert in the field of climate change. If you are known for other more honorable accomplishments, then you at least reserve the opportunity to be strutted about as a skeptic whenever the mainstream wishes to feign balance at a seminar.
Schmitt, the 74-year-old geologist argued that the "global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. Not that the planet hasn’t warmed. We know it has or we’d all still be in the Ice Age," he said. "But it has not reached a crisis proportion and, even among us skeptics, there’s disagreement about how much man has been responsible for that warming."
Schmitt said historical documents indicate average temperatures have risen by 1 degree per century since around 1400 AD, and the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise. Schmitt also said geological evidence indicates changes in sea level have been going on for thousands of years. He said smaller changes are related to changes in the elevation of land masses — for example, the Great Lakes are rising because the earth’s crust is rebounding from being depressed by glaciers.
But cars, factories and Republicans! They weren't around thousands of years ago so how can any of this be relevant? Is it really good science to study time on geologic scales rather than stick strictly to the past 200 years which better fits the model of man-made climate change?
500 years ago, when science was in its infancy, it was ballsy to stick your neck out by disagreeing with the establishment. Back then, dissidents were burned alive whereas today they are merely laughed at. I guess that's progress. 500 years from now, we will be studied and deemed ignorant as a culture, but those descendants will be less superstitious thanks to men like Harrison Schmitt who remained devoted to truth through trying times when truth was determined by empires rather than empirical evidence.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Has the ever been a better time to subscribe to Reason Magazine?
Funds worth trillions of dollars start to plummet in value. Political pressure to be “socially responsible” distorts the market decisions of government-related enterprises, leading to risky investments. Investors who once considered their retirements safely protectedwake up to a sinking feeling of uncertainty and gloom.
State, local, and private pension plans covering millions of government employees and union workers with “defined benefit” accounts are teetering on the brink of implosion, victims of both a sinking stock market and investment strategies influenced by political considerations.
Many of these funds prospered in the 1990s, when the basic material stocks that they frowned upon swooned, while the favored sectors—mostly technology and financial stocks, which were considered “clean investments”—did great. But the technology and communications bust of 2000–02 knocked out one of SRI’s pillars, and now the crash in financial stocks has destroyed the other. Despite much hype to the contrary, socially responsible stocks, as measured by major broad-based SRI stock funds, have significantly underperformed the market this decade, and some of the most aggressive pension funds that use “responsible” screens—such as the California Public Employees’ Retirement System—have taken some of the largest hits.
As recently as mid-2008, three of the top eight holdings by the leading social investing organizations in the country were financial stocks: AIG, Bank of America, and Citigroup. AIG was praised for its retirement benefits and sexual diversity policies; Bank of America strove to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote diversity; and Citigroup donated money to schools and tied some of its loans to environmental guidelines. The stock prices of all three companies tanked in 2008.
The self-righteous are certainly getting a wake-up call, but taxpayers are the ones who will suffer as a result. This may be the best example of the "road to hell is paved with PC intentions."
The state’s pension fund meddling went into high gear in 1998 with the election of Phil Angelides as California treasurer. If there is a face to pension fund activism, it’s Angelides’. As political issues go, treasury and pension fund investments are not the sort of hot-button topics that ambitious California politicians usually ride to glory. But Angelides had a vision: to use retirement dollars as a way to change the world, and the state treasurer position became his tool.
Supported by labor unions and minority groups, Angelides argued that the state had too many billions stashed away in so-called emerging markets—Third World nations where democracy is weak and wages are low—and not enough invested at home creating jobs and housing. So in March 2000, he rolled out an ambitious social investing program, dubbed the Double Bottom Line, which included dumping $800 million in tobacco stocks and persuading fund managers to shed investments in countries that Angelides thought had questionable environmental or governance practices. He claimed the initiatives would not sacrifice investment returns, saying at the time: “I feel strongly that we wouldn’t be living up to our fiduciary responsibility if we didn’t look at these broader social issues. I think shareholders need to start stepping up and asserting their rights as owners of corporations. And this includes states and their pension funds.”
How has this social engineering worked out? Angelides left his job as state treasurer in 2006 for an unsuccessful run for governor, but his legacy of politicizing pension fund investing remains. In 2003 CalPERS rejected a recommendation from its financial adviser, Wilshire Associates, to invest in the equity markets of four Asian nations—Thailand, Malaysia, India, and Sri Lanka—based on their alleged misdeeds. That was a costly decision, as their stock markets roared in the ensuing years. Another decision to shun investment in China, India, and Russia cost the fund some $400 million in forsaken gains, according to the fund’s own 2007 internal report.
Some of the most steadily performing sectors, through both good and bad times, have been the very “vice” stocks that are no-nos for most social investors. When times get tough, the sinners get sinning. “Demand for drinking, smoking, and gambling remains pretty steady and actually increases during volatile times,” says Tom Glavin, chief investment officer at Credit Suisse First Boston. Alcohol, tobacco, and gambling stocks rallied solidly during two of the last three major recessions, in 1990 and 1982. “Many of these industry groups tend to be beneficiaries of the flaws of human character,” Glavin says.
So what stocks did the California funds buy instead? High on the list were financial stocks, which have been given a green bill of health by social investors. CalSTRS recently acknowledged it had lost hundreds of millions of dollars on Lehman Brothers, AIG, and other fallen icons that were recent favorites of social investors.
But those losses may pale when the tab comes due for misplaced bets on the boom-to-bust California real estate market. According to a report released last April, CalPERS had 25 percent of its $20 billion real estate assets in the California market, which has declined faster than the real estate markets in most of the rest of the country.
Large public pension funds have a selfish notion of risk: heads they win, tails you lose. If they gamble on risky investments that pay off, they are heroes, although the predetermined benefits don’t increase. But if those investments go south, tax dollars will have to bridge the gap. “This is adding insult to injury,” says Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “At the same time we’re seeing our own 401(k)s get hit, we’re on the hook to make up the shortfalls for public employees who are guaranteed their full pensions without any risk.”
When public funds slide in value, taxpayers get hit from all sides. The municipalities and school districts that hire firefighters, police, teachers, and other workers have to cut their staffs to recapitalize funds. Last October the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors learned that the county would have to come up with an extra $500 million to keep its pension fund whole. That means the county may have to raise local taxes and cut services to deliver on overextravagant promises it failed to safeguard.
The great Thomas Sowell wrote a column sometime last year with the title, "Stop Making a Difference" in reply to meddlers. I think someone should start listening.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I would like to ask our new Marxist leader, Where do those 'resources' come from? The primary source of income for our federal government is direct taxation on corporations and the middle class. He is declaring a straightforward redistribution of wealth plan.
"It is only government that can break the vicious cycle where lost jobs lead to people spending less money which leads to even more layoffs."
He takes a position a defeat and invites us to believe that we are in a 'vicious cycle'. His solution? Nothing new. Socialists all over the world have one play in the playbook. Tax and spend. Only this time, he doesn't mention the tax part. He re-frames the situation by telling us that he will give us free money to spend.
"These steps will put more money in the pockets of those Americans who are most likely to spend it, and that will help break the cycle and get our economy moving."
I am still shaking my head. Keep those printing machines running. We are gonna need a lot of fresh 10s and 20s.
You shouldn't blow your nose when you have a cold.
Blowing your nose to alleviate stuffiness may be second nature, but some people argue it does no good, reversing the flow of mucus into the sinuses and slowing the drainage. Counterintuitive, perhaps, but research shows it to be true.
E: But isn't constant sniffling the most annoying noise in the world?
Daily multivitamins do no good.
In a study of 161,808 women who were part of the government-funded Women’s Health Initiative research effort, doctors from 40 centers around the country collected data on multivitamin use. While research shows that people who eat nutrient-rich diets filled with fruits and vegetables have lower rates of heart disease and cancer, it hasn’t been clear whether taking a daily supplement results in a similar benefit.
After following the women for about eight years, they looked at rates of various cancers and heart problems among the 42 percent of women who were regular multivitamin users, and compared them to those who didn’t take vitamins. The researchers found no evidence of any benefit from multivitamin use in any of 10 categories studied, including no differences in the rate of breast or colon cancer, heart attack, stroke, blood clots or mortality.
“I don’t want to disparage people who take multivitamins — it’s their choice as a consumer,” Dr. Neuhouser said. “What we’re presenting is the science showing it’s neither beneficial nor harmful. If they want to choose to spend their dollars elsewhere this might be a good place to do so. Perhaps they can buy more fruits and vegetables.”
E: Vitamins are far inferior to food for delivering nutritional content. They are food with all the food removed, that is, not food. In January I committed to eating fruits and vegetables for dinner every weeknight for three weeks. I felt great and lost 8 pounds.
Mediterranean diet is good.
Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Mental Decline
A Mediterranean-style diet appears to be good for the brain as well as the heart.
E: I don't know this diet, but I'm guessing fruits and vegetables and olive oil.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 09, 2009
Washington solutions of more money for more government, more power for politicians, more debt, and more bureaucrats will not lead to real growth in jobs and prosperity.
We need a clear and decisive alternative that creates jobs and rewards work, saving, and investment. What has passed Congress in this crazy "stimulas bill" is more expensive than WW2, Vietnam, Korea, both Gulf Wars, Iraq and Afganistan all Combined. THIS, is CHANGE we can believe in???? Mr. Newt offers a great alternative. The RINO's in the Northeast should take heed and listen. We don't need more Bush "conservative free-market" economics, we need more of Newt's.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
A follow up on Dude's earlier Post:
You have two cows.
John Paulson borrows one cow so he can sell it for $100. He gives you $10 as collateral.
You buy your neighbors cow for $100, which you finance by taking out a $90 loan from the bank and use John's $10 to make up the rest.
You brag to everyone about your financial health. You have assets--two cows you own, plus one Paulson owes you--worth $300, and liabilities of just $100.
A third of the country goes vegetarian.
You thought your two cows were worth $200 and now they are worth $140.
You express confidence in your financial health. Your assets are now worth only $200--your two cows plus the one John owes you--but your liabilities are still only $100. If necessary, you could sell the assets at this distressed price and pay off all your loans.
You hold onto your cows because you are sure the market is "dislocated." Some day someone will want to eat beef again.
The rest of the country goes vegetarian. Your two cows are now worth $2 each to guys who want to make dog food.
John Paulson buys a cow in the market for $2 and he gives it to you as repayment of the loan. You now have three cows worth six bucks.
John wants his $10 back.
The bank calls. It wants its $90 back.
You call the Federal Reserve and ask for a bailout.
I work on the 10th floor of the 2000 Avenue of the Stars building in Century City. Several times a day, I have to come down to street level to go to the Photography pavilion, where I oversee the audio/visual setup. At street level, there are about a dozen valet guys who stand out in front of the building as cars are deposited in the loop. Just past the elevators at street level is the entrance to Creative Artists Agency. So, while I am walking from the elevators, often there are people walking towards CAA from valet and our paths cross.
I see doable babes often coming and going from CAA but if I don't recognize them, then I assume they are some sort of Kelly Preston character from Jerry Maguire. Most of the guys are handsome too, leading me to think they have strict hiring policies to weed out the uglies. A few days ago, I was emerging from the elevator area and made eye contact with a petite, unassumingly pretty girl on her way to CAA. I gave her the polite nod and it was only after we had passed that I realized it was Alyssa Milano, wearing no makeup and a ball cap.
To verify, I just cyberstalked her until I came up with contact info, and sure enough, her agent is Michael Katcher at CAA. I guess if you are an uberbabe going out in public, your best disguise is the lack of makeup and hair design. I would have never recognized her, even walking past her, unless we had made eye contact. It was that brief connection that sparked a hint of recognition. So now, in her honor, my relationship to Alyssa Milano over the years:
Of course, it all began with Who's the Boss. It was not a particularly good show, but neither was Charles in Charge, or Saved by the Bell, but I watched them all whenever I could and whenever nobody was looking, because of the mondo babe attached to all three shows. Milano was only 12 or so when she first appeared on that show, but I was only a couple years older, so she fit right into my wheelhouse. I watched the show here and there, party because I knew Tony Danza from Taxi, but mostly to enjoy the spectacle of watching Milano mature into a luscious babe as if in time lapse.
I guess our relationship pretty much ends there, except for her appearance in Commando as somebody's daughter in distress who needs rescued by Ahnald. Alyssa Milano was just a fond memory for many years, as I never got around to watching Melrose Place or Charmed. At some point, a couple of years ago, I learned that she was a huge Dodgers fan and maintained a web site where she expresses her opinions on the team. She is a knowledgable fan, a season ticket holder, and a babely 36-year-old in a ball cap, putting her once again on my radar as one of earth's finest specimens.
Last year, Alyssa appeared on My Name is Earl for half the season, but mostly I enjoy her now as a regular follower of her blog. She also models the sporty clothes she designs for her own Touch label, which fills the feminine sports apparel niche. Alas, I shall never fill Alyssa Milano's niche, but it's a dream I've held since my teen years, and I was never so close as the day our eyes met for that brief moment.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Thanks for pointing out this site Tom. Now how will I ever get anything done?
Name the Top 20 national US colleges and universities. I missed six: Duke, Washington University in St. Louis, Johns Hopkins, Emory, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt. Can you name the other 14 in five minutes? Additional hints: there are none in FL and one in TX.
UPDATE: Naming all 10 QBs who started in at least 2 Super Bowl wins was easy. Did so in 90 seconds.
I'm still not convinced that John Tyler was POTUS.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
I just returned from Minneapolis. My cabbie from hotel to meeting place was a white guy from Denmark. Halfway there, it occurred to me that I was in a cab in Minneapolis, where there had been a big controversy about Somali Muslim cab drivers refusing to carry passengers who were drunk or carrying alcohol. There was a big stink about the cabbies' civil rights, remember that? Well, the final resolution was that if you want to be a cabbie, you can't mess up the system by picking and choosing who gets into your cab, and if you don't like it, you can drive a school bus or deliver mail, which is the right answer and I sure don't remember seeing that get any press, do you? When common sense prevails, the story disappears.
Incidentally, my cabbie from meeting place to airport was black with an African accent. I asked him where he was from and he said "East Africa." I asked where exactly in East Africa and he said Somalia and gave me a long look. I asked him why so many Somalians would move from 100-degree Somalia to 2-degree Minnesota and the answer was obvious: Somalia was beset by civil war and people fled, and there were three families who had settled in Minneapolis, and their family members followed, and word got around that there was a small concentration of Somalians in Minneapolis, and people fleeing to a new country needed a point of contact and community, so Minneapolis suddenly developed a Somali population. I reckon the story behind every ethnic population in every US city would be the same. Reading, Pennsylvania has a large Mexican population that formed the same way, with poverty the driver rather than civil war.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
So true and fun to read.
For some unknown reason, tradition states that the first movie must consist largely of something no one in the audience paid to see: The superhero as he lived before he could do any cool superhero stuff.
Other genres don't feel the need to do this; Die Hard didn't spend the first half of the movie with John McClane taking target practice, Rambo didn't spend an hour showing Rambo in basic training. Why can't we just jump in?
Instead we have to watch Peter Parker struggling as a photographer, and Bruce Banner quietly working as a scientist, as if we must first appreciate the tedium of their regular lives before we get to see them jump off an exploding building.
And to double the problem, they usually throw in an origin story for one or more of the villains, too. Behold! Here is the awesome badass supervillain, back when he was just a disgruntled dude in a lab coat!
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
As I begin my second week here as a guest blogger, I'm going to risk venturing into a couple of contentious political areas. My aim is not to provoke dissent; I simply feel that some stories are not being told.
It started when I read Nickel and Dimed, in which Atlantic contributor Barbara Ehrenreich denounces the exploitation of minimum-wage workers in America. Somehow her book didn’t ring true to me, and I wondered to what extent a preconceived agenda might have biased her reporting. Hence my application for a job at the nearest Wal-Mart.
The job was as dull as I expected, but I was stunned to discover how benign the workplace turned out to be. My supervisor was friendly, decent, and treated me as an equal. Wal-Mart allowed a liberal dress code. The company explained precisely what it expected from its employees, and adhered to this policy in every detail. I was unfailingly reminded to take paid rest breaks, and was also encouraged to take fully paid time, whenever I felt like it, to study topics such as job safety and customer relations via a series of well-produced interactive courses on computers in a room at the back of the store. Each successfully completed course added an increment to my hourly wage, a policy which Barbara Ehrenreich somehow forgot to mention in her book.
My standard equipment included a handheld bar-code scanner which revealed the in-store stock and nearest warehouse stock of every item on the shelves, and its profit margin. At the branch where I worked, all the lowest-level employees were allowed this information and were encouraged to make individual decisions about inventory. One of the secrets to Wal-Mart’s success is that it delegates many judgment calls to the sales-floor level, where employees know first-hand what sells, what doesn’t, and (most important) what customers are asking for.
Several of my co-workers had relocated from other areas, where they had worked at other Wal-Marts. They wanted more of the same. Everyone agreed that Wal-Mart was preferable to the local Target, where the hourly pay was lower and workers were said to be treated with less respect (an opinion which I was unable to verify). Most of all, my coworkers wanted to avoid those “mom-and-pop” stores beloved by social commentators where, I was told, employees had to deal with quixotic management policies, while lacking the opportunities for promotion that exist in a large corporation.
Of course, I was not well paid, but Wal-Mart is hardly unique in paying a low hourly rate to entry-level retail staff. The answer to this problem seems elusive to Barbara Ehrenreich, yet is obvious to any teenager who enrolls in a vocational institute. In a labor market, employees are valued partly according to their abilities. To earn a higher hourly rate, you need to acquire some relevant skills.
As for all those Wal-Mart horror stories—when I went home and checked the web sites that attack the company, I found that many of them are subsidized with union money. walmartwatch.com, for instance, is partnered with the Service Employees International Union; wakeupwalmart.com is copyright by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Why are unions so obsessed with Wal-Mart? I'm guessing that if the more-than-a-million Wal-Mart employees could be unionized, they would be compelled to contribute at least half a billion dollars per year in union dues.
I'm a big fan of Wal-Mart. As I told a friend a few years ago, it's like they are paying you to go there. I use to go into Wal-Mart to get specific things and then I found myself buying groceries because I needed that too. What was always surprising was how little food cost there. Early on I would guess the bill would be $130 and I'd really be paying $92.
Wal-Mart has done more to raise the average standard of living than any government program. If you couple that fact with the union push, you can see why they are the scourge of the Establishment.
Monday, February 02, 2009
. . . because they don't intend to pay them
“Like Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, he rails about corporate greed and Wall Street perks while he too is deep at the trough. If an administration is going to make a moral case against the pernicious role of D.C. lobbyists and insiders, for the moral need for taxes on the upper incomes, and for suspicion of perks and freebies—then why pick Daschle, whose free limo and tax evasion make all that look ridiculous?
Also, this gem this gem from the congressional record
“Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter.” Sen. Tom Daschle, Congressional Record, May 7, 1998, p. S4507.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Every Republican in America knows that if Mr. Daschle were a Reagan or Bush nominee he'd now be headed back to private life faster than you can say John Tower. That's the way Democrats have treated GOP nominees who were accused of far lesser transgressions than Mr. Daschle's tax, er, avoidance. The question is whether Democrats are going to treat Mr. Daschle according to the standard that Mr. Daschle set when he was running the Senate.
As a legal tax matter, this isn't even a close call. Mr. Daschle says he used the car service about 80% for personal use, and 20% for business. But his spokeswoman says it only dawned on the Senator last June that this might be taxable income. Mr. Daschle's excuse? According to a Journal report Friday, "he told committee staff he had grown used to having a car and driver as majority leader and did not think to report the perk on his taxes, according to staff members." How's that for a Leona Helmsley moment: Doesn't everyone have a car and chauffeur, dear?
Daschle has earned more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry he's been nominated to regulate. Capitalism is wonderful, but at the very least Mr. Daschle's record strips the veneer from President Obama's moralizing that lobbying and special interest pleading are the root of all evil in Washington. In appointing Mr. Daschle, Mr. Obama is showing that lobbying is fine as long as it is done by people who agree with him.
James Taranto has the best line of all:
If a certain sort of conservative tends to be moralistic about sex, liberals tend to be moralistic about money. That makes Tom Daschle the equivalent of a televangelist caught in a sex scandal.
Change we can believe in!
Just your run-of-the-mill disaster. . .
Last week a massive ice storm struck the heartland of America, leaving at least 42 dead and millions without power or water. Days later there are still over a million people in Kentucky who have no power, no water, and no communications. They could have to survive this way for weeks! The conditions are dire and getting worse, with some storm survivors carrying pails of water from creeks. Thousands more are living in shelters with no timetable for returning home. FEMA is nowhere to be found.
Amid this catastrophe, where is President Barack Obama? While millions are struggling were struggling with the dangerous and deadly icy conditions President Obama had the thermostat in the Oval Office cranked up like a “hothouse” growing orchids. On Thursday — while millions in Tennessee and Kentucky did not have access to shelter or food — Obama hosted a cocktail party at the White House and served up fancy martinis and an appetizer menu that featured mouthwatering wagyu steak costing $100 a pound.
Saturday night — as the governor of Kentucky called up the entire National Guard in his state to deal with the ongoing crisis — President Obama slipped into his black tie attire to attend the exclusive Alfalfa Club dinner, where lavish cocktails and fine dining were the order of the evening. And on Sunday — when millions in Kentucky and Tennessee still lacked the basic necessities of power and water — the Obama family threw an extravagant Super Bowl party!
When you have a President that finally cares, he doesn't have to show it. I know because Spike Lee hasn't complained yet.
President Barack Obama said in an interview aired on Monday he worried that detainees freed from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, might resume attacks on the United States.