30 September, 2009

Saavik & The Fifth Element on Roman Polanski: HE'S A RAPIST!!

With Whoopi Goldberg, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Debra Winger, and god knows who else in Hollyweird all coming out in defense of child molester Roman Polanski, its good to see at least some sanity remains in the entertainment world.

Kirsti Alley and Luc Besson are making it plain that they think Polanski still needs to pay for his crime.

28 September, 2009

Reminder: Roman Polanski Raped a Child

Why we should insist that Roman Polanski be extradited back to California to face Justice.

Did Bankers Pay Cause the Financial Crisis?

Not according to finance professor René M. Stulz (Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University), as reported by the New York Times:

Their study has circulated since summer as a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study found few significant correlations one way or the other, but to the extent it saw patterns, they generally ran counter to what’s often assumed. Instead of performing worse, the banks whose C.E.O.’s had the greatest incentives for excessive risk-taking fared better, on average, than others.

In any case, Professor Stulz says he agrees that it is important for C.E.O. pay incentives to reward long-term performance and to discourage excessive risk-taking. Still, based on his study, he says that “it is not right to blame the credit crisis“ on C.E.O. pay incentives.

The New York Times article can be found here.

27 September, 2009

Joseph Stalin: Pure Evil

One of the major reasons why I am so bitterly opposed to socialism: When you centralize governmental control of everything, you make it far too easy for the monsters to exploit.

Michael Moore's new movie

Kyle Smith at the New York Post sums up my opinion.

The ever-invaluable Cato Institute notes the irony of multi-Billion Dollar corporations bankrolling an anti-Capitalist movie.

Only Six Days to go...

...before Chicago finds out if we're hosting the 2016 Olympic games.  Crossing my fingers we get the nod.  Although truthfully, I've never found the Summer Olympics nearly as interesting as the Winter Olympics (of which, we have only a scant five months before the next iteration thereof).

Personal gut feeling?  I think Chicago is going to lose out to Rio de Janero, but just barely.  Just the feeling I've had for a few weeks.  The US has hosted the Summer games many, many times, whilst South America hasn't hosted a single one (the closest was Mexico City in, I believe, 1964).  Tokyo and Madrid, the other two contenders, have both hosted the games before, so I tend to think they'll get a pass this time.  The Olympic committee has stated in the past that they tend to prefer bringing the games to places they've never been to before.  While Chicago has never hosted the games in the past, the United States has several times.  South America, however, is an entire continent that has never had the games before, so I think that will end up being the deciding factor.

But I could be wrong.  Hope I am.  But I don't expect to be.

Anyway, looking forward to the announcements at the end of the week, but not getting my hopes up too high.

25 September, 2009

So Iran reveals it has a second nuclear facility...

Does this make an Israeli airstrike more or less likely now?

24 September, 2009

Illinois Senate Race 2010

We're at least a good five months away from the Illinois primaries, but at this point I'm pretty sure the race is going to come down to Alexi Giannoulias for the Democrats, and Mark Kirk for the Republicans. According to all the polls I've seen, both gentlemen are substantially ahead among likely voters in their respective parties. However, Mark Kirk is essentially running unopposed, whilst Giannoulias has two semi-major opponents in Chris Kennedy (who is related to the Kennedy family of Massachusetts) and Cheryle Jackson (president of the Chicago Urban League). Whilst I sincerely doubt either challenger will narrow the gap between them and Giannoulias, they might make it enough of a fight he'll have to spend significant capital to secure the nomination. As for the Republicans, I do not think a serious challenger will emerge to topple Kirk from the nomination; the Republicans in Illinois are hungry for a win, and I think most of them realize that Kirk offers them their best chance. Thus, I think they will solidify behind him early.

And if the early Rasmussen polling is any indication, the Republicans have reason to be hopeful in any Kirk vs. Giannoulias matchup. But its still far too early to have any real sense of which way this race is going to go.


A huge hoard of Anglo-Saxon artifacts has been found.

Now if they could just find a complete version of Widsith, The Fight at Finnsburgh, or the complete works of Cædmon or Cynewulf...

The best thing about writing on a blog no one reads is...

...I can get away with saying whatever the hell I want, with the full knowledge that hardly anyone else shows up here and fewer even care.

Its rather therapeutic.

ACORN: Epic Fail

So, you're a nationwide organization whose primary purpose is to help low income people in matters of housing and "community action". You also dabble a little bit in politics, but that's another story entirely. Anyway, two young filmmakers manage to expose the fact that your organization seems to have a blindspot, in that many of your lowest level employees seem perfectly willing -- even enthusiastically willing -- to aid and abet criminal activity in the name of your organization, even to the extent of offering helpful advise on how to get away with it (I particularly like the guy in San Diego who told the filmmakers the best places for them to smuggle underage prostitutes over the border).

Anyplace else, the reaction would be "Thank you for bringing this to our attention.", while they investigate what went wrong and try to change their corporate culture. But ACORN's reaction?

They sue the filmmakers who exposed them.

Way to go about repairing your image, guys.

An attorney weighs in on the lawsuit here.

Another attorney chimes in here.

A little more on the Drug Companies

I just realized something I'd remembered reading about but had forgotten when I'd written the previous entry: The Obama administration and the drug companies had reached a deal in June whereby the pharmaceutical manufacturers are limited to an $80 Billion (strangely, the same figure I calculated as their 2008 profits. Conincidence?) liability over ten years, in exchange for support for the Obama administration's Health Care proposals. Many in Congress don't seem to like the deal, as they were hoping to get much more out of them to help fund Health Care. But it does look like the White House is going to stand by it.

23 September, 2009

Just some general thinking...

Fiscal 2009 budget for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid: $1.055 Trillion.

2nd Quarter 2009 Profits for the top 7 US Health Insurance Companies: $2.674 Billion. (Note: Companies included in sample are UnitedHealth Group, Humana Inc., Aetna, Health Net, Wellpoint, Coventry Health Care Inc., CIGNA; together, they make up about 85% of the health insurance business in the US).

For the sake of argument, lets assume those figures stay more or less the same for all four quarters of 2009. Multiplying by four, we arrive at a figure of about $10.696 Billion. Also, lets increase that by another 15%, to represent the additional 15% profits not covered in the above figures. That brings us to $12.3 Billion. Now, lets be really generous, apply a fudge factor and round up to $13 Billion, and get a rough estimate for the projected combined profits of the Health Insurnace industry in the US for 2009.

$13 Billion. Sounds like a lot. But its still only about 1.23% of the entire Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid budgets for FY2009.

Now lets switch over to the pharmaceutical companies. Can't find 2009 figures, but I did find a table listing profits for the top 10 companies in the first half of 2008.

  • Pfizer - $6.526 Billion
  • Merck - $3.019 Billion
  • Sanofi-Aventis - $5.140 Billion
  • Astra-Zeneca - $3.026 Billion
  • Hoffman-LaRoche - $3.578 Billion
  • Novartis - $3.669 Billion
  • Johnson & Johnson - $6.125 Billion
  • Glaxo Smith Kline - $5.132 Billion
  • Wyeth - $2.184 Billion
  • Bristol-Meyers Squibb - $1.381 Billion
Total: app. $39.781 Billion.  Looks like the drug industry is where the profits are at.

Multiply that figure by two, and you arrive at an estimate of $79.562 Billion for 2008.  Lets just round that up to $80 Billion for a rough figure of total 2008 profits.  This in turn breaks down to only about 7.6% of the FY2009 S&S-M-M budget.

Taken together, both figures only represent about 8.8% of the entire Fiscal 2009 budget for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  While these are only rough estimates, it seems reasonable to me to assume that they are not too much out of line from what we can expect in the future.

Even if we were to suddenly seize every cent of those profits from these "Evil Corporations" and put it to use to pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicade, we would only have enough money to run those programs for 32 days; the government would still have to find a way to fund the remaining 333 days. And that is just for the way things are budgeted FOR THIS YEAR; who knows how much we'll be talking about when Health Care reform passes?

If we take out Social Security and believe the fiction that the federal government does not need to touch the Social Security Trust Fund at present, and only worry about Medicare & Medicaid, we arrive at a total budget for FY2009 of $511 Billion. In which case, the profit amounts mentioned above only account for 2.1% (Health Insurance) and 16% (Pharmaceutical) of the combined Medicare & Medicaid budget, or about 18.1% combined. The government could run those programs for only 66 days on that amount. And again, this is only assuming current budget figures, and does not include any increases brought about by current health care reform proposals.

So for those who think "tax the corporations to pay for health care"... sorry, but so far as I can see, the math just doesn't work.

And hey, if someone has better figures or another way of parsing this data, feel free to point it out to me. But I'm still having a real hard time understanding how taxing the hell out of these industries is going to solve the basic budgetary problem. Or even make that big of a difference. In the end, the overwhelming majority of these bills are still going to be paid as they are always paid - on the backs of the taxpaying citizens of the country.

22 September, 2009

Cassini's Saturn at Equinox

Awesome image of Saturn taken from the Cassini space probe:

Higher rez images (Really, really higher rez!) can be found at the Cassini Imaging Central Labratory for Operations website.

18 September, 2009

16 September, 2009

The company you keep...

Another reason why I refuse to hand over any of my money to see an Oliver Stone film: He likes to hang out with dictators.

Left: Oliver Stone; Right: "El Presidente" Hugo Chavez

15 September, 2009

Something to watch



Almost three years since last I posted anything here. Blah.

Been thinking about starting this up again. Would like to, since I suddenly have a lot on my mind that I want to just vent. But as always, I have no idea if I have the time to devote to it. Not when I should be working or helping with the kids with their homework or doing all the things I should be doing instead of writing on a blog.

Crossing my fingers.