Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I am not convinced that Free Trade will allow the United States to “recover” economically


I have long been a believer in Free Trade.  I understand the classic comparative advantage – and in fact I personally have benefited greatly from Free Trade.  Essentially my job – technical project manager spanning out-sourced supply chains – wouldn’t exist without international free trade.

Imports & Exports:  simply explained
And, undeniably, free trade has lifted billions out of poverty.  That is nothing to scoff at.

The problem is that the United States’ comparative advantage lies with an increasingly smaller slice of the population – the educated and lucky.  You must be pretty highly educated to compete nowadays and pretty lucky to get a chance to prove yourself.

This wasn’t always the case.  My parents (and grandparents) succeeded by hard work and hustle.  Of course, I still think there is the possibility of succeeding this way, but it is harder to do and almost impossible to get the chance.  In “olden days”, and in other countries, manufacturing – making things, was a viable job for people.  You could make cars, or sprockets, or steel, or rubber bands, or furniture, or clothes, or toys and earn enough to live.

Manufacturing – and increasingly large parts of the service sector – are now outsourced to foreign workers because they have a comparative advantage in wages (i.e. It is cheaper to employ them).  As transportation costs shrink, computing costs fall significantly and communication cost fall to nearly zero, manufacturing chases the lowest cost of human capital.

The only time corporations don’t follow the lowest wage is only where governments erect barriers.  Either direct (like huge tariffs on imported cars or rice or finished goods) or indirect (like China’s policy of ordering planes from Boeing ONLY after Boeing agreed to make major parts in China).

Since I posted about UCLA's 14th Place - Here is Madison's 12th

University of Wisconsin - Madison came in 12th (here you go).  As the 12th Horniest University (it got great marks for attractiveness and extra credit as a Playboy Party School).

UCLA did not make this list.  UC Santa Barbara was the only UC school to make it (USC was 8th).  Yale was 2nd, Stanford 5th, and Harvard missed the list.  Wisconsin was the only Big 10 School.  Oregon joined SC and Stanford from the Pac 12.

Remaking The Thin Man?

Remaking the The Thin Man.  If I may go all New York for a moment, Oh Hell to The No! You Do Not Screw with The Thin Man.  Do NOT make me git all up into you bitn'zt.
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With Johnny Depp as Nick? .... Maybe.... - but you better keep that cute ass lil' dog.
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(from some other blog)

I’ve reported on the Thin Man remake that Johnny Depp is attached to star in a couple times before. First, there was the news that “Permanent Midnight” author Jerry Stahl would be writing the new screenplay for the film. Then there was wordthat past Depp collaborator Rob Marshall would be stepping in to direct. A new round of updates on the development of this project seem to confirm that, yes, Marshall is still attached to sit in the director’s chair. However, it seems that Stahl never actually did any writing for the film, so the suits have gotten a new guy to start a script from scratch.
According to Deadline Rockland, veteran screenwriter David Koepp has now been charged with the duty of updating the exploits of married P.I. team Nick and Nora Charles.
Koepp’s name doesn’t really tell me much about what to expect from this movie. He’s responsible for completely acceptable literary adaptations like Jurassic Park, but he’s also responsible for completely unacceptable literary adaptations like Angels & Demons. I guess his involvement is going to be a bit of a crapshoot.
There’s also some news on what sort of a treatment Koepp will be shooting for, however. Apparently Koepp’s script will be combining elements of the first two Thin Man movies from the 30s, 1934’s The Thin Man and 1936’s After the Thin Man. Marshall is looking to do a stylized, modern looking take on the material, similar to what Guy Ritchie has done with the Sherlock Holmes franchise. That sort of makes me want to puke, but moving on.
Also, there’s word that Marshall wants to utilize some of his Chicago experience to do a couple musical numbers in the film. That might sound ridiculous to some people at first glance, but it doesn’t worry me much. First off, the original Dashiell Hammett source material has already been adapted into a Broadway musical called Nick & Nora, so there is a precedent for this happening, and maybe even some good music to mine for this new film. And also, a musical number could just mean something like a song and dance scene when a couple of the characters are sitting in a nightclub. That was a staple of old detective movies and wouldn’t feel out of place in this story at all. Not like, say, Sherlock Holmes style Matrix kung fu. That would feel really out of place. Do you hear me Rob Marshall?

Pleasant Days and a Planned (Road) Trip

I've been to Paradise, but I've never been to me.  Or Montreal.
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La Route
Since I can only resolve one issue at a time, let's start with the physical instead of the meta-same.
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Eddie and I are heading north this week-end.  Actually early Friday. We are going for a Friday- Labor Day  feat in Montreal.  The city where you don't have to go to France to be laughed because you don't parle la Francias.
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It should be a nice drive, up through the Adirondacks and by Lake Champlain (or Lac Champlain- oui?).  Neither of us have ever been, so we are tres excited.  Verrouillez votre attractif jeunes frères. (Enfermez vos fils sons genre d'effrayant.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

UCLA Rank 14th as Happiest Colleges

We ranked 14th.... so so, but at least better than USC (15th).  Yale, Harvard & Stanford were 1, 2 & 4.  Purdue was the only Big 10 school to crack the list.  But they did rank Sunniest days as a net positive, which isn't going to help either  the Legends or the Leaders!
Janus Steps goes up the hill towards Royce Hall and Powell Library - at moon rise & sunset (behind you).
U rah rah rah C rah rah rah L rah rah rah A rah rah rah.... U C L A FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

UC San Diego - my grad school (for a year) was number 25.

Mumm.. What? (Funny)


If you ever saw Best Little Whorehouse in Texas - this is totally Charles Durning "Do a Little Sidestep"ing.


Texas Gov. Rick Perry offered the broad outlines of his foreign policy philosophy at an annual gathering of veterans Monday, telling attendees that he opposes "military adventurism" while also advocating for "taking the fight to the enemy" and decrying indecision by "multi-lateral debating societies" at times of international crisis.
"We must renew our commitment to taking the fight to the enemy wherever they are, before they strike at home. I do not believe that America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism," he said at the annual convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio.  "We should only risk shedding American blood and spending American treasure when our vital interests are threatened."
But Perry -- who did not specifically critique American involvement in the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, or Libya -- added that while American military leaders should honor and coordinate with allies around the world, too much collaboration with other nations could put U.S. soldiers at risk.
"We must be willing to act when it is time to act," he said to a crescendo of applause during his remarks. "We cannot concede the moral authority of our nation to multi-lateral debating societies. And when our interests are threatened, American soldiers should be led by American commanders."
"I say this because we owe to them and to their loved ones the commitment that any war is led by the country with the most advanced technology and the best training," he added.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The "New" Toyota Camry

Well they rolled out a new Toyota Camry after 7 years.  Huge changes.  See for yourself.
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Can't see any changes?  Me either.  Let's just say it isn't the car that is going to make me race down to get the very latest model year.  Don't get me wrong.  It's a fine car.  But if you aren't going to mess with it at all, you might not want to advertise it as "the BRAND NEW Camry!".

Is Social Security a Ponzi Scheme as Rick Perry says...

Ponzi = Talking Point
Once again, over the week-end, Rick Perry called Social security an unconstitutional Ponzi Scheme.  I know he is playing to a base that both wants their checks from the government and yet hates them.  And so Rick Perry is being only more blunt with his assessment.
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But that doesn't make it right.  A Ponzi scheme is an illegal and fraudulent, determinate action to steal money.  It requires active participation and a motive of stealing money.
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Social Security, on the other hand, is a governmental system to provide assistance to the aged and the infirm.  It has been active since the depression - which puts it at about 76 years old.  Now, can people who pay in right now expect "exactly" the same benefits when they retire - perhaps not.  But that doesn't make it a Ponzi scheme.
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Ronald Reagan was one of the prime "saviors" of Social Security when they made some changes a few decades ago.  Will changes have to happen again, sure.
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But are / were the people trying to fix the system, FDR, Ronald Reagan, Clinton, Bush(es) & Obama, were these men crooks and liars - as directors of a Ponzi scheme are?  Should they be thrown into jail - each and every one, as Bernie Madoff is?
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No, of course not.  The truth is that Rick Perry is just another dumb-ass Texan who believes the truth is whatever he can say and get elected.  One lying dumbshit we all will have to listen to for the next 10 years while he is Przdin't.

Manhattan-ites at work today

Today it seems as if the mass transit is working burrough by burrough. My workplace, which is in Times Square, is LIGHTLY populated as the railroad lines from Long Island and Connecticut seem to be down, as do the subway lines from Queens and Brooklyn (on one lives in the Bronx!).
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It is quite a bit like when the 405 goes down in the Valley.  Litter work groups than usual.  Many in Long Island can't work from home, because they are powerless or internet-less.

Sunny Day After Irene


It is Irene + 30ish hours.  The city is lovely this morning.  The winds pushed the clouds away and all is pretty in the city.  Now, of course, this isn't to diminish the problems elsewhere, but Manhattan fared pretty well.
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The worst for Eddie and I was that we were house bound for the 2 days.  Since mass transit closed Saturday at noon - most everything in the city was closed - no workers.  We went for a beer at Dalton's yesterday afternoon - the only place open, and it was PACKED.  A bartender was emergency manager, a waitress was emergency bartender and a bus boy was emergency 4 waiters.  When I went to the bathroom, I saw into the kitchen window and 2 poor guys where screaming around the kitchen -cooking with both hands.
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We just went home and made dinner and watched Princess and The Pea in between football.  Glad it is over for a while.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

PostHurricane but nothing is open

All Better After the Storm

Hello All.  Storm is passed, all is calm.  It passed overnight and New York is fine.  Kind of a non-event for most of us - but you can't do anything.  New York mass transit is down, so everything is pretty much closed (movies, food - everything).
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We did get to empty all our water from the vases, pots and pans.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane party at Aldona's

Irene Approaches

I am not sure if the hurricane is going to be a big thing, but people are treating it that way.  We aren't in a mandatory evacuation area - but we have stocked up, like everyone else.
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My guess is that we will lose power sometime tonight, but I don't think much else will happen.  But if you know Eddie without air-conditioning - well hope for the best for poor Scooter :-)
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Completeness at Playwrights Horizon

Wow!
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Since I no longer review at www.reviewsoffbroadway.com, I must - every now and then - discuss what I saw somewhere.  And, lucky you, it's here.
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So last night I saw "Completeness" at Playwrights Horizon.  OMG - go see it.  First - the ad sucks - sorry.  If it helps, out front of Playwrights they have a much better new ad with pictures - that is more promising (old ad is the only one I found online though).  That is one of the bad things about not reviewing anymore, I got off the list that gets the good production photos - oh well - trust me.
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The show doesn't sound promising ... an so I will dispense with the wrap up up front and get to the juice.
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The 2 leads, Karl Miller and Aubrey Dollar are wonderful.  Not in "I just want to pinch their cheeks" way, but in a totally believable, aching way.  Karl Miller has the slightly more sympathetic role, and he nails it.  He plays a grad student who falls for another girl while helping her (the previously mentioned Aubrey).
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What is wonderful is that their relationship starts talking about proteins and computer programs and attraction and choices.  And the two of them make this gobbledy gook both interesting and intelligible.  The playwright has boiled down the science to the simple essentials and Mr. Miller and Ms. Dollar never loose the audience while explaining it.
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Obviously I loved it.  The supporting team was good, and Ms. Dollar was great.  But Karl Miller was knock my socks off great.  Even while standing still and listening to "her" - he is full of life, listening and changing even his breath in reaction.  Great.
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And it's cheap.  Go see it.
Aubrey Dollar


Karl Millier

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Warning from the building

UPDATE:

I just got the map.  We are the blue dot. The orange areas will flodd with a storm surge.  The yellow areas with a CAT 2 Hurricane and the green with a Cat 3/4.

We are across the street from the green, just up from the Yellow.

It doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling.  I know that 9th Ave isn't going to stop all that much water.


This came from the building.  Let me just say, if our power goes out, Trev isn't walking!
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New York City and the Department of Buildings has issued a hurricane warning stating the New York City area is expecting heavy winds and rains over this coming weekend.

Please make sure all of your windows are closed and secured and, for those units who with a balcony/terrace space, bring in any loose furniture, potted plants, and other belongings you may have outside.

In case of a power outage, be prepared with flashlights and other battery operated devices.

If you experience any water leaks or other issues, please contact the front desk and Building Management.


Thank you for your cooperation.

Glen Greenwood Goes a Little OFF on Dick Cheney

Waa. Waaa. Waaaa.
He titles the article: The Fruits of Elite Immunity.  He is right, of course, but pissing in the wind.
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Less than three years ago, Dick Cheney was presiding over policies that left hundreds of thousands of innocent people dead from a war of aggression, constructed a worldwide torture regime, and spied on thousands of Americans without the warrants required by law, all of which resulted in his leaving office as one of the most reviled political figures in decades. But thanks to the decision to block all legal investigations into his chronic criminality, those matters have been relegated to mere pedestrian partisan disputes, and Cheney is thus now preparing to be feted -- and further enriched -- as a Wise and Serious Statesman with the release of his memoirs this week: one in which heproudly boasts (yet again) of the very crimes for which he was immunized.  As he embarks on his massive publicity-generating media tour of interviews, Cheney faces no indictments or criminal juries, but rather reverent, rehabilitative tributes, illustrated by this, from Politicotoday:
That's what happens when the Government -- marching under the deceitful Orwellian banner of Look Forward, Not Backward -- demands that its citizens avert their eyes from the crimes of their leaders so that all can be forgotten: the crimes become non-crimes, legitimate acts of political choice, and the criminals become instantly rehabilitated by the message that nothing they did warrants punishment.  That's the same reason people like John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales are defending their torture and illegal spying actions not in a courtroom but in a lush conference of elites in Aspen.
The U.S. Government loves to demand that other countries hold their political leaders accountable for serious crimes, dispensing lectures on the imperatives of the rule of law.  Numerous states bar ordinary convicts from profiting from their crimes with books.  David Hicks, an Australian citizen imprisoned without charges for six years at Cheney's Guantanamo, just had $10,000 seized by the Australian government in revenue from his book about his time in that prison camp on the ground that he is barred from profiting from his uncharged, unproven crimes.  
By rather stark contrast, Dick Cheney will prance around the next several weeks in the nation's largest media venues, engaging in civil, Serious debates about whether he was right to invade other countries, torture, and illegally spy on Americans, and will profit greatly by doing so.  There are many factors accounting for his good fortune, the most important of which are the protective shield of immunity bestowed upon him by the current administration and the more generalized American principle that criminal accountability is only for ordinary citizens and other nations' (unfriendly) rulers.

Some Images Get You

Passed on with no snark.
Labrador retriever Hawkeye lays by the casket during the funeral of his owner, Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson, 35, on August 19, 2011. Tumilson was one of 38 killed on August 6 when a rocket-propelled grenade took out a U.S. Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Well - It Has Arrived

The iPad (and Kindle) are refining an amazing thing.  They are bringing the local newspapers to be delivered daily to users around the world.
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It is fascinating.
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I haven't ever tried it, but I am guessing this is a push of a subset of the content built for Kindle originally - but now with color for the iPad (and color Kindles).  They have papers from around the world.  Here is a small selection when I searched for Los Angeles Times.
It seems to me that this is finally the idea that can feel connected to home easily.  It isn't like searching on LA Times for stuff, it is delivered daily to you.
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Cool, but weird.

Water Torture or Sri Lankan Spa Treatment?

"Why are you looking at Sri Lanka vacations, Scott?"
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That's not the point.  The point is that this picture is noted with their "Spa / Relaxation Retreats" and it looks like water torture to me.  I can just hear Ed in the next room, confessing and begging them to stop it."

Funny Story: Box O Kittens

So there is a comment in the Earthquake post that I must put  here because it is Fun Knee!
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The first "serious" earthquake that happened after I moved here was a whopping 4.8 temblor. They broke into primetime programming for the next 4 hours desperately trying to find something to report The next day the local news led with a report of the only known fatality. Seems a chandelier had fallen on a box of kittens and killed one of them. Not even all of them...JUST ONE OF THEM. -svh

P.S. I'm still wondering about the people who kept a box of kittens on their dining room table, but that's was a story for another day. 

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(editor's comment: I actually found a picture of a Box Of Kittens to put with the picture - but it isn't nearly as funny then .. whaa waaa!)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake Silliness

So... today's quake reminds me of the stupid California Signage.  California (for those that don't know) is a little  "warning" sign happy.  A victim of too much if-it-saves-one-life-itis.  Eddie and I think it should have to save a baker's dozen.
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Anyway, quite a few years ago, in Paso Robles, a young lady freaked out during an earthquake and ran outside.  A stray brick hit her on the head and killed her.  Well, her mother was overcome with grief and I understand.  However she took that grief and channeled it into requiring the stupidest warning sign ever.  Brick buildings fall down in an earthquake.  So now these are posted because, you know, if it saves one life.
And notice that it says "unreinforced masonry".  Even California couldn't bring itself to say "Brick Buildings Fall".
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California also has to have warning signs for any known carcinogen.  Like lead.  There is no limit to the amount of lead, so you get signs like these for everything (including Crystal glasses).

For a computer mouse


So we felt the earthquake here and the office FREAKED OUT

If you want to see people freak the hell watch New Yorkers after an earthquake.  The building shook, the chairs rumbled and people screamed like they were going to fall out of the windows.
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Swear.  You could tell the Angelinos and Aussies who just sat for a moment - and went back to work.  Versus the New Yorkers that ran for the exits.  A bunch of people have left for the day.

End of August

Every year since I have moved to New York, I am surprised by the weather cooling at the end of August.  Don't get me wrong - I like it, summer has been just north of hellish.  But the fact that you can notice the weather change in August is weird!
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In LA and Palm Springs, August blends to September with little change.  If anything, early September is hotter (September is LA's hottest month).  I know I have been here 5 years now, but I was in LA 47years, so it still kind of surprises me.
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I do look forward to football.  I do not look forward to cold rain.

Unclear on the concept of "Free Speech"

I have to say, there are a lot of people in the Tea Party (and others from both sides of the political spectrum) who are unclear on the concept of "Free Speech".  Whether describing poor Dr. Laura, Sarah Palin or now the Tea Party, they seem to confused disagreement with trying to curtail their free speech.
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If someone disagrees with you and says so, even when they do it loudly, that isn't trying to "silence you". It is engaging in discussions.  Granted, you may not like what they say, but it isn't an attempt to silence you.  It may be an attempt to discredit you, or to disagree with you or even point out some of your errors.
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You see these assholes below.  Trying to discredit them and point out they are kind of bad people isn't curtailing their free speech.  Disagreement is a form of speech.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ricky Post of the Day

It's All Up Here
Well, I will let you Google around yourself for the details, but I do like this story.  Let's go way back in time to right after Rick Perry announced he was going to run for President.  He was asked on a Sunday (August 14th - a LIFETIME ago - 8 days) what his plan was for the government.
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He took a rather stern turn towards the man (the impertinent twit!) and told asked the rabble if they read his book Fed UP! ?  "Read that and you will know my views."
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Unfortunately someone did, and asked him about Social Security.  You see in Fed Up! Governor Fancy Pants describes Social Security as an illegal and unconstitutional Ponzi scheme.  He wrote it before he was running for President you see.
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So a question was asked of his Press Secretary, who said he never heard the governor say that.  When directed to Fed Up!, the Press Secretary said, on August 18th, that the book wasn't meant to be his "current" views.
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Now, this isn't as bad a Newt Gingrinch threatening to prosecute anyone who replayed his comments for liable, but it is a pretty quick turn-around from the coyote shooting, straight talker.

My Niece: I have to put in my 2 cents

I know I am fighting the uphill battle against Wisconsin and Minnesota for the hearts and minds of the nieces (the nephew is a lost cause - he is a Rodentia: Classification Gofericious)
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But I am giving it my best shot.  Dora and her new Kindergarten duds!

Any Chicago or Train Buffs out there?

If anyone is reading and is interested in Chicago, Trains or just the "Streamline" era - this is a really interesting article about the Chicago <-> Milwaukee "Electroliner" service.  It is richly illustrated with new color pictures - the originals - which the black and white versions were struck for tickets, articles and ads.
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Story (from "Imprint" Mag via Salon)

Yesterday bumbling through Washington sq park

 We had a great bumble around the city yesterday - until the clouds opened and decided to dump a shed load of water onto us.  This is overcast, hot late afternoon in Washington Sq. park.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

OK - Lisa was right

So for years, Lisa has told us to go to the Frick Museum.  She was (deep sigh) - right.
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It is beautiful.  It is a museum inside a mansion (the Frick Mansion - duh) that has some amazing art.  Right now they have redone their most famous painting - Francis At Dawn - about Francis of Assisi renouncing worldly goods.  It is very pretty.
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But the museum building itself is also really cool.  Many of the rooms are the same as when Mr. and Mrs. Frick lived there (1919ish), with famous paintings (Monet, etc.) just hanging on the wall.  There are few enough of them to explore - and it comes with a free audio guide that you can call up info at random.
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Ed took the picture of the Garden entrance.  It was a lovely day (right off Central Park).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ricky Explains Public Education in Texas (Evolution Addition)

Nothing Is Evolving Up Here Kids.
At a campaign stop where a child (granted - prodded by his mother) asks Rick Perry why he doesn't believe in Evolution - he explains "Evolution has some holes in it.  That is why we teach Evolution AND Creationism in Texas.  We teach both and figure you can decide which is right."
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First - BRILLIANT teaching method.  I like it.  And - for Weather you can teach about rain ; both water vapor AND Angels peeing on you from heaven - and the kids can decide what is true.  For History - The winners in World War II were The United States, Great Britain and Germany - you decide the right answer. For Geography the states are Texas, Carolina and California.  You decide which is right.
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Second - umm - NO YOU DON'T.  What you describe (mandatory teaching of Creationism or Intelligent Design) is unconstitutional - even from this right wing court.  It was knocked down when Louisiana mandated it.
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That's using the old noodle.
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(Thank you Joc for the spelling catch.  I can't believe Eddie missed it!)

New Fulton Street Subway Center

 This is the new Fulton Street Subway stop ("Transportation Center").  It is downtown, right near Ground Zero (the new World Trade Center 1 is quickly growing).  It looks to be big and cool.  The view is from our Broadway Offices 8th Floor conference room.

Utah is Missing?

"Police comb Nevada town for missing Utah."
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The state is missing?
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I think they mean "missing Utah Girl", missing Utahn" or "missing Utah citizen".  Not Missing Utah.  Utah is right there, East of Nevada, West of Colorado. Just this side of crazy from the Scientologists.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ahhh.. Perry is always good for a laugh. UPDATED; SNAP Says a Republican

That's using the old noddle.
Ah Rick Perry.. just when the day is getting me down, he is always good for a giggle.  Today he is attacking Science again (good-God the Republicans HATE science!).  This time it is Global Climate Change.  He thinks it's all a big lie so that Scientists can have "money rolling into their projects".
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Hum...WTF?  Scientists aren't rolling in money - Climate Change or not.  No one becomes a Scientist for riches. (Maybe he has them confused with Scientologists).
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You want to get rich?  ...Donate to Rick Perry.
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Now I think uou can reasonably and intelligently argue that the cost of battling Climate Change isn't worth the price.  Fair enough.  But you can't just say Science doesn't support it.  Any more than you can say Airplanes can't stay in the air.  It's science, not voodoo.


.Rick Perry told an audience in New Hampshire Wednesday that scientists have “manipulated data” about climate change “so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” The accusation came in response to a question from a Republican who said he worried the rejection of climate-change data “calls into question…America’s status as an advanced technological society." Earlier, Perry had said programs to battle climate change are costing the United States “billions, if not trillions” of dollars. Without specifying what he meant, he went on to say, "I don't think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on what is still a scientific theory that hasn't been proven, and from my
perspective is more and more being put into question."
August 18, 2011 6:24 AM

Updated by Scott Mitchell.  I LOVE this question as noted to by LA Times.

One of his questioners was Jim Rubens, a Republican from the village of Etna who works as a   consultant for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Rubens prefaced his question by reading statements from Perry's book "Fed Up!" that global warming is "a contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight."

If both "observed scientific data" and the National Academy of Sciences are wrong on the issue, Rubens asked Perry, "doesn't that call into question the entire science discovery process that is the basis for America's status as an advanced technological society?"

"You may have a point there," Perry quipped, adding that he believed the issue had become politicized. Without citing any specific examples, the Texas governor charged that "there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects."

His opinions put him at odds with the vast majority of experts. 

The Problem Summed Up

This cartoon defines the problem for President Obama and the Democrats.
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Let's say you've convinced me you are powerless to keep your promises.  You can't close Gitmo, you had to extend the Bush Tax cuts for people making over $1,000,000,000 a year, you were powerless in the debt ceiling debacle, you have no choice but to double down in Afghanistan, the Bushies were right in their zealous pursuit of  whistle blowers.  You WANT to keep your promises but you can't.  Even when you had a Democratic Majority in both houses of Congress.
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Okay.  I believe you.  Why ever vote for you again?
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shag's Limited Hanging Light Set

1. It's too bad we sold the Desert House
2. $750 is way too much money - that is $250 per lamp - but they are a limited edition!

For My Non-US Readers

I know that many of the Brits understand that we have non-stop elections, but others may not.
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Here is what is funny in the United States.  We have a big election every 2 years.  In Summer Olympic years, it is for President, 435 House of Representative members (the lower chamber) and 1/3 of the Senate (the upper chamber).  In Winter Olympic years, it is for the 435 House of Representative members - again! and a different 1/3 of the Senate.  (The Senate terms are every 6 years).
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The minute that the "little elections" end (Winter Olympic Years), the race for President starts anew.  So it is, essentially, a 1 year race for the nomination (for the out of office party - or both if the President is term limited out), then a second year between the 2 major parties.
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Because we have a "first past the post" system, a third party doesn't really have a chance to get into office.
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Our assemblies (the House of Representatives and the Senate) are elected in first-past-the-post districts, with no proportional apportionment additionally (for the US readers - in many countries if a smaller party gets a percentage of the vote - they get a percentage of the seats in Congress' equivalent, this helps 3rd parties get started).  And our districts are set up so they are usually reliably Democratic or Republican districts.  So most of the times, the key election is the "primary" which is also a first past the post system to determine the party's nominee.
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That is how our system is set up to produce the most crazy per captia - only the most orthodox of the candidates wins the primary - and because of the way the districts are set up - they usually win the election for Representative or Senator.  This encourages craziness on both sides.  (Aside - California, just changed this - I'll report back on how it turned out after 2012).
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Our President has a different electoral hurdle. First (during the primaries) they have to appeal to the orthodox party voters to get the nomination.  Then they need to appeal to the "swing" voters to get elected.  ("Swing voters" are a sub-group you hear about a lot.  They are like bisexuals, rumored to exist, but rarely seen in the wild.)   HOWEVER - even this is a bit of over-simplification in our Presidential Elections..
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We elect the President by block of State votes.  Each state gets a vote equal to their % of  House of Representative members (which total 435 and is attributed mainly  proportionally) + 2.
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Then the Presidential vote is first past the post, but by state.  So if you win  the most votes in California you get all 55 votes, if you win Texas you get 38, if you win Wyoming you get 3, and so on for all 50 states + the District of Columbia (don't ask).  Quite often "the most" isn't even 51%,. but all state votes go to the Candidate with the most votes.
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Here is where it gets trickier.  Some states are reliably Democratic ("Blue") or Republican ("Red").  So there is no way the Republican is going to win California or New York.  Just like there is no way the Democrat will win Alabama or Wyoming.  So all that money (about $US 2,000,000,000.00 in the last election) is chasing the few "swing" voters in a few states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Missouri come to mind off the top of my head). It's crazy.

Rick Perry: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

(from Salon's Alex Parveene - reprinted here for you enjoyment).
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I've got just the ticket for getting America back to work. It's pretty simple, actually! All we need to do is get every unemployed person in the country to cut Rick Perry a check for a couple hundred thousand dollars. Next stop: A new age of prosperity!
Lots of people have a pretty cartoonishly oversimplified idea of how money corrupts politics, so it's nice when that cartoonish oversimplification turns out to be totally 100% accurate, as it is in the case of Mr. Perry and the 150 Texans who have given him $37 million over the last decade. The L.A. Times reports what those "megadonors" got for their money:
  • "Permission to build a low-level radioactive waste disposal site in Texas" for $1.12 million.
  • "$25 million a year in subsidies" for a Formula One racetrack for the low price of $400,000
  • "Multiple transportation contracts" and a University of Texas board of regents appointment for "more than $320,000."
  • A $500,000 grant for a chicken hatchery and processing plant for $165,000
"They get the same thing that all Texans get," Perry spokesman Mark Miner said to the Times. (Enjoy your lucrative government contracts, everyone in Texas!)
The radioactive waste disposal site was by far the biggest coup. It required approval from multiple Perry-controlled commissions and a new law allowing private companies to own radioactive waste disposal licenses (followed by a law saying only one private company could do so). A team of geologists and engineers even recommended that the license be denied, but the state eviromental agency executive director ordered that the license be granted anyway. That executive director is now a lobbyist for the company that won the license.
As you can see, everyone wins, besides the people getting cancer after the radioactive waste seeps into the groundwater, as the geologists predict it will. (But that is a job-creator, for doctors?) In this unstable world, it looks like sending huge amounts of money to Rick Perry is one of the few reliable investments we've got left. If I had any money to invest, I'd send it to the Perry campaign! (And move to Texas and start a waste disposal company?)
So why not apply that principle nationally? Rick Perry will make the government work for you, as long as you send him money!
If you've lost your job and you're underwater on your mortgage, just scrape together $400,000, send it to President Perry, and you just might end up with a sweet government grant! Or even a job!
Americans, after all, hate the idea of giving a "free ride" to people who don't work hard and play by the rules. So what could be more fair than restricting government assistance to those who both need it and canafford to pay for it?
That is, probably, what our Founding Fathers intended.

Harbor Tour and Odd Memorial

So, yesterday we took a "Hidden Harbor" tour, with Open House New York.
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It took us to the working parts of the NY / NJ port - seeing container ships, seeing the old Erie Canal Basin (with a few barges still there).  We saw the salt yards, the container yards.
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It was a fun tour.
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But coming back we saw a gift to the people of New York from somewhere foreign.  it is kind of proof that art is cultural.  You see it is meant to be a memorial commemorating those that died in the Twin Towers attack.  It is one of the Towers, attacked with a teardrop.
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That is not what most people see when looking at it for the first time.
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It is in part of the harbor "temporarily" while they figure out where to put it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Next on Rick Perry's Hit List: George Bush's Fed Chairman

Not Just a Pretty Face
Rick Perry just continues to be an asshole.  First he has questioned if the President loves this country ("You have to ask him, I don't know.") which is blowhard 101.  But he cranks it up a notch with these words about Ben Bernake - who may be Head of the Fed under Obama, but the Traitor (his words, not mine) was appointed by George W Bush.
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FYI - Treason is the only illegal action described in the Constitution and has a death penalty associated with it.  Of course, since he implies that he would be beaten up or killed in Texas anyway, that might be moot.
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Monday broadly attacked the Federal Reserve, accusing the central banking system of manipulating currency for political gain.
"Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous or treasonous in my opinion," Perry, who officially entered the GOP presidential race on Saturday, said in his first full day of campaigning.
He went on to say that promoters of such an idea — hinting but not naming Fed chief Ben Bernanke specifically — would get an "ugly" treatment in his home state of Texas. (MSNBC LINK)

Fascinating Article For Both What it says and what it misses

So Salon has an incredible interesting article that spells out the problems with both the "Red State" and "Blue State" module of economics and stability. Story Here.
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It is very well thought out and non-partisan, in that it points out both the positive impacts and the sustainability issues with both systems.  Read it if you want a different look into our "blue / red" dynamic.
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But it misses the mid-west and states that "work".  In particular I would say it misses the dynamics of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dakotas and Colorado - which have had to figure out a balanced system of state benefits / taxes.
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Anyway, it is interesting and a different perspective.

Monday, August 15, 2011