Mort Zuckerman advocates for smart stimulus

This weekend on the McLaughlin Group, Mort Zuckerman who is a billionaire, advocated extending unemployment insurance, food stamps, federal aid to states, and infrastructure spending.

These are all things I highlighted 10 months in post about Moody’s analysis, check out the graphic at the bottom of this post.

Remember he is a billionaire, he is a publisher, he wants Americans to be able to buy his products, and I interpret his comments to mean that he wants to focus on supporting American workers more than Wall Street and executives.

He also talked about the risk is not too much stimulus, but not enough, which echoes what Paul Krugman and others have said on this subject.


Movie Review – Let the Right One In

Last night I saw the Swedish movie Let the Right One In.

Now this movie has some unfortunate timing.  It is about a 12 year old vampire and her developing relationship with a 12 year old boy.  But no, it isn’t Twilight, which is getting all the press and has a similar basic story.  Since I haven’t seen Twilight, I haven’t got free tickets for it yet, and probably won’t, so I can’t compare.

I liked the movie and my friend Dave that joined me really liked it.  He thought it was faithful to the traditional vampire lore.  We both liked that it had a more deliberate pacing and wasn’t too Hollywood in style.

So if you want to see a good vampire movie that isn’t the latest Hollywood fare, check out Let the Right One In.


Movie Review – Slumdog Millionaire

Two weeks ago I won free preview tickets to see Slumdog Millionaire at Landmark Theater’s Edina 4 in the Twin Cities.

Here is the trailer,

I have to say this was a great movie, and I am not alone in thinking that, as it won the People’s Choice Award at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.  As I have attended TIFF twice, I do have this caveat to make about that award, it was shown three times (most movies only have two screenings) and twice at Ryerson Theater which has a larger capacity than many of the screens.  So more people would have seen this movie at the fest than most of the other movies.


Basically the story is about Malik who is is one question away from wining the big prize on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, which happens to be 20 million rupees.  Now a movie about a game show would just be painful.  But that just sets up the framework for the story.  See Jamal Malik grew up in the slums with his brother after being orphaned due to religious violence.  After the violent attack on his community, they connect with Latika who is his love interest throughout the movie.

Jamal gets arrested by the police because the host of the game show can’t believe that this kid from the slums, this slumdog, could know the answer to all these questions.  The allows the movie to use the flashback storytelling device to explain how he knew the answers to the questions he successfully answered on the game show (I will stop with the plot here).  The movie tells of Jamal’s story in three different time periods, and so the main characters, Jamal, Latika, and his brother Salim are portrayed by three different actors.  As with the Kite Runner and City of God, the children actors are quite good.

Since the US version of the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? came out I have hated it.  So much time wasted, so much fake drama and suspense.  The nice thing about this movie, is that the flashbacks really do provide the suspense and despite the similar production values for the Indian version of the game, it isn’t annoying at all.

As I said to the person getting quotes after the movie, “the people in Toronto got it right.” This was a very good movie, and if you go see it you won’t be disappointed.


Chris Wallace on auto industry bailout

This morning Chris Wallace in the talking table round of Fox News Sunday compared the airline industry and the auto industry and the extent of the relationship between the customer and the corporation.

In talking about the ariline industry, he talked about how you buy a ticket and they get you there and you are relationship is done (well unless it goes under in the middle of roundtrip).

In talking about the auto industry, he says you buy a GM vehicle and 6 months from now you wonder if a you can get your car serviced at a dealer.

I want to share a little secret with Chris Wallace, you can get your vehicle serviced at some place other than the dealer.  So that concern about the longer relationship with the automaker, well think outside the dealership!


David Brooks double dips


This cartoon dovetails very nicely, and timely (same day), with the point of this blog.  I don’t make any money doing this, and I don’t plan on it.  Granted if someone wanted to pay me, I would take it more seriously and blog more frequently.  I just appreciate that you are reading my thoughts.

While, I don’t get paid, David Brooks, columnist at the NY Times and weekly contributor on PBS’s Newshour does get paid.  Sometimes for saying the exact same thing, which must be sweet!

Here Brooks is talking in his Friday night “deabte” with Mark Shields.

DAVID BROOKS: And they’re free from the corporate cultures, and they’re doing OK, which is not to say that losing Detroit as it exists will not be a cataclysm.

But my basic philosophy — and I think it’s the philosophy that’s been the tradition of American politics of both left and right — is that we have this creative destructive system. Companies rise, companies fall.

We protect workers. We give them a safety net. We give them unemployment insurance, in theory, and I hope we give them health care security in the near future. But we don’t mess up with that creative destructive process.

We don’t get the government in the way of that process, preserving failing companies, because if you do that, you will get — every CEO in America will be saying, “Hey, you helped out those guys. Circuit City, I matter. I’m a newspaper. I matter. Help me out, too.”

And we’ve already got — this has been a boom time for lobbyists already in Washington now, and they’re all lining up to get all this money.

Same day this was his column in the NYTimes,

Over time, American government built a bigger safety net so workers could survive the vicissitudes of this creative destruction — with unemployment insurance and soon, one hopes, health care security. But the government has generally not interfered in the dynamic process itself, which is the source of the country’s prosperity.

But this, apparently, is about to change. Democrats from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi want to grant immortality to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. They have decided to follow an earlier $25 billion loan with a $50 billion bailout, which would inevitably be followed by more billions later, because if these companies are not permitted to go bankrupt now, they never will be.

This is a different sort of endeavor than the $750 billion bailout of Wall Street. That money was used to save the financial system itself. It was used to save the capital markets on which the process of creative destruction depends.

Granting immortality to Detroit’s Big Three does not enhance creative destruction. It retards it. It crosses a line, a bright line. It is not about saving a system; there will still be cars made and sold in America. It is about saving politically powerful corporations. A Detroit bailout would set a precedent for every single politically connected corporation in America. There already is a long line of lobbyists bidding for federal money. If Detroit gets money, then everyone would have a case. After all, are the employees of Circuit City or the newspaper industry inferior to the employees of Chrysler?

I acknowledge that it is pressing issue inside the Beltway and as such he felt the need to write about it, and that Jim Lehrer asked about it.  And heck, if I think I come up with a clever frame, I will beat it like a dead horse.  But he is getting paid to say the same thing that he wrote, I for one would ask for a discount when he is double dipping.

I really think we are going to hold Brooks to his enthusiasm for health security for workers.  I am sure he might wiggle out based on ideological differences over how it is structured.  Don’t worry, I am sure his column on the topic will be repeated on the Newshour.


A Republican’s view on racism

Mitch Pearlstein had a commentary in the Strib this week defending Republicans as not being racist.  Personally I don’t think all Republicans are racist, and I dont’ think all Democrats are not racist.  That being said, lets look at what Pearlstein had to say, and examine how valid his points are.

He starts off with a little history lesson from the 60s.

The two most important pieces of domestic legislation in my lifetime (I’m 60) were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Question: Members of which party voted for them in higher proportions, Republicans or Democrats? I suspect only a small slice of Americans knows it was Republicans, and by significant margins.

Eighty-two percent of Senate Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, as opposed to 69 percent of Senate Democrats.

Eighty percent of House Republicans voted for it, as opposed to 63 percent of House Democrats.

As for the Voting Rights Act, 97 percent of Senate Republicans voted for it, compared with 73 percent of Democrats.

And 85 percent of House Republicans voted for it, compared with 80 percent of Democrats.

What conclusions or plausible guesses can be extrapolated from such barely recalled votes plus several other bypassed facts?

So we are looking at legislation that was passed 43 and 44 years ago, which happens to be before I was born (just for a frame of reference).

Starting with the Civil Rights Act, if you look at the vote percentage for the act by party and region, then the percentages favor the Democrats over the Republicans in the South (former Confederate States of America) and the rest of the country.

From wikipedia on the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

The original House version:

  • Southern Democrats: 7-87   (7%-93%)
  • Southern Republicans: 0-10   (0%-100%)
  • Northern Democrats: 145-9   (94%-6%)
  • Northern Republicans: 138-24   (85%-15%)

The Senate version:

  • Southern Democrats: 1-20   (5%-95%)
  • Southern Republicans: 0-1   (0%-100%)
  • Northern Democrats: 45-1   (98%-2%)
  • Northern Republicans: 27-5   (84%-16%)

Interesting what the statistics look like when you break them down by region.  So those are my counter stats that give a very different perspective for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Sadly I don’t have regional breakdown of the votes for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but it is very likely that it breaks similarly to the Civil Rights Act in the two regions.  Interesting when broken down into these two regions that Dems have a higher percentage than Republicans in each region.

Back to Pearlstein,

For one, while fully acknowledging the watershed importance of Barack Obama’s victory last week, I would argue the United States actually has been equipped and poised to elect an African-American as president for more than just the last few months.

In no way does claiming so downplay just how stunning a moment last week’s election was in the history of our nation. And neither does it grant too little credit to President-elect Obama’s remarkable political skills, as they would seem to be possibly matched over the last half-century only by those of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and maybe John F. Kennedy.

The point, rather, is that we have made more racial progress than has been routinely acknowledged, and this has been the case for years. How much progress had we made in terms of presidential politics before Obama’s candidacy? I would contend, for instance, that Colin Powell was eminently electable in 2000. In saying so I concede he was too socially moderate to win the Republican nomination and likely too closely identified with Reagan to win the Democratic nomination. But those two nonracial reasons had measurably more to do with blocking his path to the White House than his race ever would have posed. I can’t prove this, of course, but I’m confident.

I do agree with Pearlstein, we have made much progress.  Yet, he has to throw in the framing that Obama is exceptionally eloquent, which we saw McCain use during the campaign, to attribute the success of Obama’s election to his skills as an orator, not the American public wanting a shift in domestic economic policy-universal health care, worker rights, rethinking free trade, etc…

One reason I’m trusting, beyond the fact Powell is an uncommonly compelling figure, is that the overwhelming majority of Americans have long been of bone-deep goodwill when it comes to respecting the religious beliefs of their fellows, and it’s no leap to envision a similar sense of tolerance and maturity expanding, decade by decade, in akin spheres. The fact, for example, that vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman’s (orthodox) Judaism had nothing to do with Al Gore’s defeat in 2000 is evidence of this former spirit.

Well, if you know me, then you know this a load of a crap.  And the crap gets piled on in using Joe Lieberman as an example of religious tolerance.  Yeah, a lot of people identify the US as being founded based on Judeo-Christian, but that includes Lieberman, not necessarily Muslims or those of no faith, like myself.

Lets start with some of Lieberman’s words.

In another recent sound bite, Lieberman warned against “indulg[ing] the supposition ‘that morality can be maintained without religion.’ “

That is an attack on those of no faith.  Looking at the Pew Forum on Religion, 16.1% of Americans identify as Unaffiliated which is Atheist at 1.6%, Agnostic at 2.4%, and Nothing in Particular at 12.1%.  That is about 1 in 6 Americans that Lieberman would assume lack morals.

And what about tolerance for Muslims?  It isn’t like we don’t know about Muslims here in Minnesota, especially in Minneapolis where we are represented by the first member of Congress who is Muslim, my US Rep. Keith Ellison.

Well US Rep. Virgil Goode was warning of a Muslim invasion, because a Muslim was elected to Congress, despite the fact that Ellison was born in Detroit, not an immigrant.

You can read the letter here at Talking Points Memo.

You had Glenn Beck asking if he can trust Ellison to not be working with terrorists because he is a Muslim.

So Pearlstein, where is the religious tolerance that you are talking about?  Actually Colin Powell has been the best in defending Muslims in his endorsement of Obama, but Republicans in general have not been standing up, and the Democrats are not stellar either – particularly the defense of Obama that he is not a Muslim, when the right answer, which Powell stated, is “so what if he was?

Back to Pearlstein,

Remember when Trent Lott was too effusive in congratulating Strom Thurmond, his Republican Senate colleague, on Thurmond’s 100th birthday in 2002? Did conservative columnists try to bail Lott out after he “misspoke”? The opposite was predominantly the case, and not just because he had undercut his party’s political prospects. They also railed against him because they were morally offended by his comment that the nation would have been well-served if the then-segregationist (and non-Republican) Thurmond had been elected president in 1948.

Then there’s what I’ve personally heard — as well as what I haven’t heard — in decades of daily proximity to right-of-center men and women.

I have no patience for the kinds of absurd constraints imposed on language by politically correct censors and scolds. But that’s not to say I’m not acutely alert to matters of decency and civility when it comes to words, especially when the subject is as sensitive as race. Yet if you were to ask me the number of times that I’ve heard conservative colleagues say anything racially unacceptable in all that time, the answer — unbelievably, I’m sure to many — would be maybe once every half-dozen years or so. I can’t imagine liberals being any purer.

One instance, Lott’s comments, that isn’t defended.  What about what Senator Chambliss has said recently?

The development is not lost on Mr. Chambliss. “There has always been a rush to the polls by African-Americans early,” he said at the square in Covington, a quick stop on a bus tour as the campaign entered its final week. He predicted the crowds of early voters would motivate Republicans to turn out. “It has also got our side energized, they see what is happening,” he said.

“They see what is happening,” that African-Americans are rushing to the polls.  Not straight up racist, but definitely language of us vs them in the South.  Or Jesse Helms in the 90s,

Mr. Helms has also made his views on race clear through a series of merely symbolic actions. Soon after a Senate vote on the Confederate flag insignia, Mr. Helms ran into then-Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun of Illinois, who is black, in a capitol elevator. Mr. Helms turned to his friend, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, and said, “Watch me make her cry. I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing ‘Dixie’ until she cries.” He then proceeded to sing the song about the good life during slavery.

That is definitely racist, no two ways about it.  Or former Senator George Allen calling someone “macaca.”

Or that Republican politician in Michigan saying,

There is rarely hard proof of the Republicans’ real agenda. One of the few public declarations of their intent came in 2004, when then state Rep. John Pappageorge of Michigan, who’s now running for a state Senate seat, was quoted by the Detroit Free Press: “If we do not suppress the Detroit [read: 81.6% black ] vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election cycle.”

So maybe they have gotten better at hiding their true feelings trying to be politically correct, but clearly these examples show that the true feeling isn’t that well hidden, and these are pretty recent.

So before you start patting yourself on the back for the role of Republicans almost half a century ago, you really need to ask, what have you done lately for civil rights.  More often than not, your party continues attacks on minority populations, many times hidden in coded language, but other times quite openly.


Southwest and WestJet to code share

What does this mean?  I think it really depends on two things, does Southwest add Canadian destinations or does WestJet add more northern US destinations?

Right now WestJet flies into these cities in the US:

  • Fort Lauderdale, FL – Toronto.  Seasonal city – Montreal
  • Fort Myers, FL – Toronto
  • Honolulu, HI – Vancouver
  • Kona, HI – Vancouver (seasonal only)
  • Las Vegas, NV – Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg.  Seasonal cities – Victoria, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Regina
  • Los Angeles, CA – Toronto, Calgary.  Seasonal city – Edmonton
  • Maui, HI – Vancouver
  • Newark, NJ (NYC) – Calgary (seasonal only)
  • Orlando – Toronto.  Seasonal cities – Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax, London, Hamilton
  • Palm Springs, CA – all seasonal cities – Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary
  • Phoenix, AZ – all seasonal cities – Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg
  • Tampa, FL – Toronto.  Seasonal city – Ottawa

So right now all the flights but the seasonal flight from Calgary to Newark are to Sunbelt states or Hawaii.  Las Vegas has the most routes to Canadian cities, but while Las Vegas is a big hub for Southwest, its real draw is as a destination, not a layover, same for Orlando which is another big Southwest hub.

What I expect to happen is that either WestJet and/or Southwest will open some Canada to northern US city routes that are huge hubs for Southwest.  I bet a Toronto to Chicago Midway and Toronto to Baltimore will show up first.  I would also expect to see a Vancouver to Chicago Midway route too.  I suspect that WestJet would actually fly the routes since they already fly to the US.

On the Caribbean front, if a partnership with Spirit Airlines happens, then Fort Lauderdale becomes a more prominent city as that is their entry hub (kind of like San Juan, PR for American Airlines).  If it is Air Tran, well from what I can see they don’t go to more than two cities in the Caribbean, San Juan, PR and Cancun, MX, so that doesn’t make sense for an entry into the Caribbean market.

On the Mexico front, there are bigger issues as I don’t see Southwest or Volaris Airlines crossing the border right now.  I bet that Houston will be an entry city into Mexico as it is a strong hub for Southwest.  I also wonder if some the Volaris flights to Tijuana, a huge hub, will shift to San Diego, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas.

On the Hawaii front, they mention Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.  Alaska gives you Alaska, a lot of the west coast of the US, and west coast of Mexico.  Unfortunately for their route map, Anchorage and Seattle appear to be the only cities that fly to the islands.  While Hawaii doesn’t give you much more than Hawaii and some Pacific locations, it does give you more west coast of the US access with Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas all flying to Honolulu.  Using routes on WestJet through Vancouver is quite a hassle as I think you would have to pass through customs to enter Canada, and depart Canada.  Not the best use of my time unless I get dirt cheap airfare.

With my hometown legacy airline, Northwest, now part of Delta, and Southwest finally entering the Minneapolis/St Paul market, things sure are getting interesting out there.


Bill Kristol still crushing on Palin

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable segment, Bill Kristol defends Sarah Palin’s supposed lack of knowledge of which countries are in NAFTA.  He defends her by saying which countries are in North America, which is a fair point, after all some people only say Mexico, USA, and Canada, describing those countries south of Mexico to Panama as part of Central America.

That point being said, NAFTA was passed in September 1993 and came into effect on January 1, 1994.  So for 14 years we have been in this agreement with only Canada and Mexico.  Since the state of Alaska, the state she is governor of, has only a land border with a foreign country, Canada, which happens to be one of the NAFTA partners, you would think she would know this.

So as Colin Powell pointed out Obama has an intellectual curiosity, and I feel that he thinks that Sarah Palin has a lack of intellectual curiosity and this is proof in my mind that she doesn’t really want to understand things.


Dog in the White House

Does this really qualify as news?  This isn’t the supposed liberal media, this is the crappy fluff/human interest story media.

This is the coverage in Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and MS NBC on the Obama family getting a dog!

How about spending more time reporting on the employment numbers, and possible stimulus packages to help working Americans not the golden parchute crowd (read Wall Street bailout)?  That would be really valuable journalism.


NBC’s presidential election coverage

I am not very happy with a couple parts of the coverage.

Brian Williams asked both Governor David Paterson and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani about whether or not Barack Obama would be up to the task of handling the economic crisis.  They didn’t ask if John Sidney McCain was up to it, maybe accepting that Obama had already won, but wouldn’t that be a better question to ask during the campaign, not after polls had closed?

I mean could this be, oh crap – we didn’t think of that, can we get our vote back?  Personally if I were Paterson I would have started with I think Obama is better prepared to handle the economic uncertainty than McCain is.

The other thing that pissed me off, and pissed me off a lot, was comments or lack of comments about people with disabilities.  When introducing Governor Paterson, Brian Williams pointed out that he was the first African-American governor of New York, but he didn’t mention that he is the first legally blind governor ever in the United States.

Then when discussing the re-election of Tim Johnson as Senator from South Dakota.  They talked about the medical problems he had during this last session of Congress, and how he is still very intelligent, but two of the commentors (one was Tom Brokaw) pointed out that he needs assistance walking.  Who the hell cares, and why the fuck does it matter?  After all former Georgia Senator Max Cleland was triple amputee and was in a wheelchair.  That didn’t seem to hinder his ability to serve.  Plus clearly the majority of South Dakota voters think that Tim Johnson should continue to represent them in the Senate.

It is really discouraging to see the NBC political team not highlight the great accomplishments of folks that face a little more physical challenges, but clearly are very able politicians that voters want.

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