Saturday, March 28, 2009

Best AIG Bonus Analogy Yet

"Tipping your rapist."

I can't take credit for this one, I'm just repeating it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

English Empire: Result of Bad Food?

Paul writes:

There are advantages to not having a food culture. I have always claimed that the reason England conquered half of the world is that Englishmen were seeking a decent meal. The English sailor would sit down to a meal of overcooked and greasy meat and vegetables and think, I need to go conquer a country that knows how to prepare a decent meal.

The Italians, on the other hand, dined very handsomely and stayed at home.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Iron Chef, Family Edition

We've all seen that cheesy Japanese TV show (and it's equally cheesy American spinoff) where top chefs compete to whip up amazing dishes in an hour.

That's all fine and good, but as a practical matter, Iron Chef is as valuable to a parent as trying to learn tire rotation tips by watching NASCAR pitstops.

So I propose a new spinoff: Iron Chef Family.

Same basic format, with the array of Iron Chefs and a weekly guest challenger, but from there the rules would be a bit different.

Instead of the mystery ingredient being rare Peruvian sea cucumber, eye of newt or whatnot, ICF would have everyday items like 'hamburger meat', 'broccoli' or 'whatever's on sale that day at Safeway'.

Then would come the *real* challenge: preparing in an hour a meal using everyday ingredients that one could serve to a typical family. No soux chefs, blast chillers, 5 megawatt electric skillets or 'mixologists'. Just a stove, knives, a sink, maybe on special occasions (if they've been good) a blender and a microwave. Oh, and did I mention that the chef has to also get the dishes washed and put away within the hour?

Then would come the judging. Two families of four. Mom, dad and the 2.2 kids would judge the meals. Scoring would be on taste, nutrition, balance (did the chef put out an entree, a starch AND a vegtable?) and most importantly: did the kids eat it?

Iron Chef is great for the fancy restaurant crowd with their huge fully-staffed kitchens. But you want to impress me? Make a great meal that everyone will eat in an hour. Hell, if it tastes good enough, I'll throw in an extra 30 minutes to let him square away the leftovers.

Heck, just watching the Chairman scream "Hamburger Helper!" while revealing the secret ingredient might make the entire show worthwhile.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Fall of Empire

Talk about reporting your own death:

I find this another interesting example of the *huge* social changes that the internet has brought. Digital cameras have devastated (for now, at least) professional photography, all the way from High Fashion and Advertising to the mall photo booth. Job outsourcing has within a few years devastated domestic employment as any "information job" can be run from "anywhere". Finance and Wall St. have exploded with the ability to suck money from anyone with cash and an internet connection. Online sales have put major pressures on "Brick and Mortar" retailers. Medical, political, the list goes on and on.

We all remember the power of William Randolf Hearst. Strange how the seemingly unrelated invention of "The Internet" has brought these huge and powerful institutions to their knees. They can't even sell the newspapers now... the entire business or even the paper its printed on. Remarkable.

P.S. I predict TV will be the next media victim. In the next 10-15 years, we'll see broadcast TV and many "cable" TV shows go the way of the payphone. (Cue post on the remarkable social re-working brought about by the mobile phone!)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So... Do We Have Free Healthcare Now or What?

For decades Republicans have warned that free healthcare for all would lead to economic collapse, the onset of high taxes, unemployment, frozen equity markets, just to name a few.

So.... we got all that. Where's my free healthcare? I'm still getting bills.

We're totally in the crapper. Did we lose a war or what?

Oh, right. We did. We lost to ourselves.

Saving the Rich

On Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 2:00 PM, XX wrote:
There needs to be a examination of the cost of government compared to the output of it's citizens. When Gov't expenses go to high, taxes go up, workers are likely to balk at improving their income.

It will cease to be an issue, because we are approaching 50% of our voters not paying any federal tax. That means they will decide to increase taxes on those who do pay. Notice how "the wealthy" are now paid less and less. Now it's about $250K. In a previous Democratic administration, a Millionaire was someone that earned a million dollars in their life time.

Ah, another Red Herring. "If you raise taxes too high, people will just refuse to work."

This reflects an *aggregious* mis-understanding of the tax code.

Let's say, for example that you make $100. Let's say that the tax rate is 40% up to and including $100, and 50% for $101 and up.

So, when you make $102, what is your tax?

A) $102 * 0.5 = $51
B) ($100 * 0.4) + ( $2 * 0.5 ) = $40 + $1 = $41

We have a *staged* tax system. The answer is 'B'.

I've not heard of a single extremely-rich person (we used to call them "millionaires") that's in it for the money. I doubt there's a single one that says, "You know, I've made enough money, why don't I stop for a while?" or "You know, if I make over X, it'll just send me into the next tax bracket. No thanks."

The only people we hear talking about this is A) Republican talking heads B) People who *want* to be millionaires, but don't even understand the basics of finance enough to become rich, let alone millionaires.

Show me one instance in which Warren Buffet said, "No more money for me! I don't want to be in the next tax bracket."

Rich people will turn all sorts of tricks to avoid paying taxes. They may *defer* income into "down" years or whatnot, but I'd like to see one case of a truly "rich" person refusing the opportunity to make money because it would kick them into the next income tax bracket.

I never cease to get amusement out of middle-class Republicans that will bend over backwards to screw themselves in order to save "the rich" money.

A much better avenue of attack would be chasing down that 50% that doesn't pay taxes.

Lemme propose a test:

Let's say someone approaches you on the street and says, "If you give me a nickel, I'll give you $250k, but you must give 75% of it to a random passer-by."

Do you accept or no?

A final point. I *used* to be in the $250,000 bracket. I'll *gladly* pay whatever tax Obama wants rather than continue to "save tax money" under the W administration. I'm tired of this "American's don't want to work (because taxes are too high)" bullshit.

Monday, March 09, 2009

My thoughts exactly:

The Cunning Realist
That Would Have Worked Out Well

Anyone seen any recent calls for Social Security private accounts?

The stock market crash has shown how catastrophic private accounts would have been, and who would have really benefited from them. Would the government have allowed the Bear Stearns and Lehman outcomes had the Social Security system been chock full of those stocks? Remember, both were former blue chips, the sort of companies that proponents of private accounts insisted any new system would be limited to. The same for Citi, AIG, Fannie Mae, and others. How much pressure would the Fed and Treasury have felt -- and what more would have been done -- to keep those afloat and/or out of penny stock land?

That pressure would have been exerted by millions of unpaid but highly effective lobbyists: people emailing and calling Washington, demanding that their Social Security money -- and so the stocks, the companies, and the executives -- be saved. Corporate bondholders would have loved it, since the Social Security system effectively would have become a massive safety buffer. Would "nationalization" even be considered if it meant destroying part of Social Security?

Private accounts are dead now, so it's a bit of a moot point. But I wonder how many of those who both supported them and genuinely object to the prevailing bailout ethos ever thought this through.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Krugman: Nonrival and Nonexcludable

Krugman at NY Times

What should government do? A Jindal meditation

What is the appropriate role of government?

Traditionally, the division between conservatives and liberals has been over the role and size of the welfare state: liberals think that the government should play a large role in sanding off the market economy’s rough edges, conservatives believe that time and chance happen to us all, and that’s that.

But both sides, I thought, agreed that the government should provide public goods — goods that are nonrival (they benefit everyone) and nonexcludable (there’s no way to restrict the benefits to people who pay.) The classic examples are things like lighthouses and national defense, but there are many others. For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there’s no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn’t contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that’s the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.

So what did Bobby Jindal choose to ridicule in this response to Obama last night? Volcano monitoring, of course.

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.