February 1, 2015
THE OTHER ALTERNATIVE TO UNIVERSAL HSAs:
AMERICA IS WORSE AT ON-THE-DAY CAREIn America, I've always had a long wait to see my doctor. I have read many a back issue of Newsweek in my primary care / general practitioner (GP) doctor's office. I've sat there for an hour playing with my phone while the doc sees patients in the order they were booked.In the UK, I showed up at 9am and was seen instantly, at the Waterloo Health Centre. For an American, this was bizarre: My butt barely touched the seat in the waiting room before my name was called. Turns out my doc and her staff are serious about patient scheduling.This was one reason I became convinced that the NHS way of scheduling is superior: You might not get the time or date that you want, but once you're in, you get seen super-quick.THE NHS ACTIVELY DISCOURAGES SOME PATIENTS - FOR GOOD REASONThe NHS actively discourages some types of patients: Interestingly, NHS offices and hospitals have posters up all over the place warning you not to show up at the emergency room if you have a cold or the flu. They're actively discouraging patients with minor ailments from seeking emergency treatment, and trying to get them to see their regular doctors instead. It's sensible -- everyone knows that a vast amount of hospital time and money is wasted treating people who are not an emergency. And hospitals and doctor's surgery waiting rooms are a hotbed of germs. But still, it's a culture shock to see a medical institution put up signs that basically say, "go home, you idiot!" in every waiting room.The US never discourages patients from doing anything. I've never seen any kind of public campaign to persuade patients to apply some common sense before dropping themselves off at an emergency room. The entire US pharmaceutical industry is also dedicated to running ads encouraging people to "go see your doctor" for even the most trivial of conditions.[...]THERE IS BASICALLY NO PAPERWORK WITH THE NHSThere is a load of paperwork for patients in the US. This is easily the worst aspect of US healthcare -- the billing paperwork. If you've ever had any health issue that required more than a simple doctor visit, you will know that it precipitates a seemingly never-ending series of forms, bills, and letters. You can be paying bills months, years later. And it's almost impossible to correct a billing error. It's stressful. I developed an intense hatred for health insurance companies in the US because of this.There was close to zero paperwork in the NHS. I filled in a form telling my doc who I was and where I lived, and that was pretty much it. The only other paperwork I got was a letter in the mail reminding me of my next appointment. They sent me a text reminder, too, which no American doc has ever done. It was incredibly refreshing. [...]THE COST TO THE PATIENT IS MUCH CHEAPER IN THE UK, OBVIOUSLYSo how much did all this NHS care cost me? £0. Nothing. Zero. I paid not a penny for some top-notch healthcare. There is no such thing as a "free," of course, but the per-capita cost of healthcare in the UK (paid by the government via tax collections) is generally lower than the US, according to the World Health Organization. Americans spend $8,362 per capita on healthcare annually, the Brits spend $3,480.
WHEN MEN WERE MEN:
[B]efore getting too upset about the present controversy, it's worth remembering those scheming days of yore. For a long time, it was simply assumed that every football had been illegally tweaked in some way. The rules were sacred, but only if someone had an incentive to enforce them.When kickers discuss their methods during that era, they do so with all the matter-of-fact detail of a craftsman hosting a home improvement show. "Every Monday, I'd go into the equipment room and get 36 balls and I'd break in the noses on a door jamb or end of a table," Husted says, "and then you'd pump them up to maybe 18, 19 psi, get them really hard, and then ... just put them in a sauna for like two days." After that, he'd let the air out and give them some time in the sun. The point was to soften and expand the leather so as to broaden the sweet spot on the ball. Sometimes they'd fill the balls up to 30 psi or higher. The ball would eventually play at the official air pressure, but by that point, the thing had already been transformed.Kickers had plenty more ways to prepare the ball: bake it, microwave it, put it in the trunk of a car for a few hot days, put it in the dryer with some wet towels, even soak it in lemon juice or evaporated milk. Former Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Mike Hollis told me that after over-inflating balls he'd spend a lot of time rubbing them down with a wet towel. But when he started in the league with the San Diego Chargers, he learned to work them over with weights: "You get a big 45-pound plate and you put the plate on top of the football and then you stand on top of the plate and roll the plate around."Usually, the first step was brushing the ball. Husted says his former teammate, punter Reggie Roby, really got into that part. He'd sit in the lounge and work the ball over with a piece of Astroturf: "It was kind of like meditation for him." The rubbing removed the protective coating the ball arrived with. If the pebbling was a bit too prominent--"knobby"--they'd have to wear that down as well.The mental image of these men expending so much effort and ingenuity on a bunch of footballs is kind of silly, but it was a serious and taxing component of their job. "I always dreaded a home game week of preparing the footballs," Hollis says.It was a Sisyphean effort: labor for days to get these footballs nearly to the point of perfection, and then, because the league mandated new balls each week, start all over on Monday.But if you're already bending the rules, why stop? After a game ended, refs marked each football to put it out of commission, often by blackening one of the laces. So Husted and others would simply apply a white paint pen or marker and carry it through to the next week. Hollis didn't do this, but he certainly could tell it was going on. "I remember playing a game late in the season looking at a football when the referee handed it to me on a kickoff and just was like, wow; this ball has been used in many, many, many games," he says. The ref either didn't notice or didn't care.There was a spirit of camaraderie about it all amongst the kickers. "Most guys were cool," Hollis says of meetings with the opposition's kicking unit before games. They'd proudly tell their counterparts, "You're gonna like the game balls this week." Husted remembers the Atlanta Falcons' unit bragging one year in week 11 that they'd managed to keep their footballs in circulation since week 1.
ALL ANGLOSPHERIC POLITICS IS THE SAME:
The "unconditional basic income" has a long history in economic thinking, with proponents on both the left and the right. For conservatives it is a way of radically cutting the administrative costs of means-tested benefits, and subsidising low-paid work. For those on the left, who embraced it after the 1960s, it is seen as a way to alleviate inequality. But if the basic income has any relevance to today's economy, it is as a solution to a much bigger problem: the disappearance of work itself.In 2013, researchers at the Oxford Martin School predicted that in the next two decades 47% of US jobs would be in danger of being lost to automation. McKinsey Global Institute research suggests that 140 million knowledge workers worldwide are at risk of the same fate. Most policymakers do not even want to think about the prospect of mass automation, because it is unlike any change we have seen before.In every previous technological upsurge, deskilling and job destruction went alongside the creation of new, high value jobs and a higher-wage consumption culture. But automation disrupts that pattern: it reduces the need for work in one sector without necessarily creating it in another. [...]If you paid every adult in Britain - including pensioners - say, £6,000 a year, with no requirement to seek work and no means test, it would cost around £290bn a year.You would abolish the basic state pension (currently around £6,000) and basic unemployment benefits, keeping only benefits targeted to extra needs such as child support or disability, which come to around £30bn now, so the overall cost might come to £320bn a year.That is a huge amount of money. The current welfare bill in Britain is £167bn - of which two- thirds goes to pensioners. Its eats around 23% of government spending. A true, subsistence level basic income would close to double that. But it is imaginable, in the short to medium term, if you factor in the benefits.
A CHIEF EXECUTIVE FOR CHIEF EXECUTIVE:
Gov. Rick Snyder said on CNN last week the 2016 Republican presidential nominee -- and the nation's next president -- should be drawn from the corps of GOP governors who are either being mentioned or have expressed interest in the race.Snyder's contention is that while Washington has mired itself in partisan bickering and gridlock, Republican governors like himself have been downsizing state governments, building better business climates and tackling the tough jobs of reforming tax and regulatory codes. Progress in the states is far outpacing that of the federal government. [...]"The main factor is that there's such an anti-Washington, anti-establishment mood in the country, and anyone from outside Washington can play that card," says David Dulio, chairman of the political science department at Oakland University. "Governors are not part of that Washington culture."A governor also can also take credit for specific and visible achievements as an executive. Congress members or other Washington insiders can rarely claim sole credit for anything.
SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE FIRED:Report: Only one of Patriots' 12 balls were under-inflated by two pounds (Sports Illustrated, 2/01/15)
Only one of the 12 New England Patriots footballs used in the team's AFC Championship game win against the Indianapolis Colts was under-inflated by a full two pounds, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport."Several" other balls were found to be roughly one pound under-inflated, and "several more" were either right at, or barely beneath, the correct inflation mark.
MAYBE THE SOLUTION WAS JUST TOO OBVIOUS TO BE ADOPTED...:
The reason why central banks have increasingly embraced unconventional monetary policies is that the post-2008 recovery has been extremely anemic. Such policies have been needed to counter the deflationary pressures caused by the need for painful deleveraging in the wake of large buildups of public and private debt.In most advanced economies, for example, there is still a very large output gap, with output and demand well below potential; thus, firms have limited pricing power. There is considerable slack in labor markets as well: Too many unemployed workers are chasing too few available jobs, while trade and globalization, together with labor-saving technological innovations, are increasingly squeezing workers' jobs and incomes, placing a further drag on demand.Moreover, there is still slack in real-estate markets where booms went bust (the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, Iceland, and Dubai). And bubbles in other markets (for example, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, Switzerland, France, Sweden, Norway, Australia, New Zealand) pose a new risk, as their collapse would drag down home prices.Commodity markets, too, have become a source of disinflationary pressure. North America's shale-energy revolution has weakened oil and gas prices, while China's slowdown has undermined demand for a broad range of commodities, including iron ore, copper, and other industrial metals, all of which are in greater supply after years of high prices stimulated investments in new capacity.China's slowdown, coming after years of over-investment in real estate and infrastructure, is also causing a global glut of manufactured and industrial goods. With domestic demand in these sectors now contracting sharply, the excess capacity in China's steel and cement sectors - to cite just two examples - is fueling further deflationary pressure in global industrial markets.Rising income inequality, by redistributing income from those who spend more to those who save more, has exacerbated the demand shortfall. So has the asymmetric adjustment between over-saving creditor economies that face no market pressure to spend more, and over-spending debtor economies that do face market pressure and have been forced to save more.Simply put, we live in a world in which there is too much supply and too little demand. The result is persistent disinflationary, if not deflationary, pressure, despite aggressive monetary easing.The inability of unconventional monetary policies to prevent outright deflation partly reflects the fact that such policies seek to weaken the currency, thereby improving net exports and increasing inflation. This, however, is a zero-sum game that merely exports deflation and recession to other economies.Perhaps more important has been a profound mismatch with fiscal policy. To be effective, monetary stimulus needs to be accompanied by temporary fiscal stimulus, which is now lacking in all major economies.
January 31, 2015
NOW PICK JINDAL AS YOUR RUNNING MATE:
Republicans have a tradition of picking an anointed one early. That establishment candidate almost always ends up with the nomination, although not without a fight and some speed bumps along the way. [...]Bush was already assembling a formidable army of fundraisers and talented operatives, including poaching Romney's top Iowa strategist, David Kochel, to be his national campaign manager.That process appears to be intensifying after the 2012 GOP presidential nominee bowed out on Friday."It's a great day for Jeb Bush," said Brian Ballard, a lobbyist who led Romney's 2012 fundraising effort in Florida and switched to Bush this time around. "I think Jeb had 75 percent of the money folks here. This brings in the other 25 percent."Chicago private-equity executive Bill Kunkler and his wife, Susan Crown, had been top fundraisers for Romney in the last election and had expected to be there again for him in 2016.Now, Bush is "the only one my wife and I will work for," Kunkler said. "If it's not Jeb, we're done for this cycle. I know in my heart that Jeb is the only one who passes the presidential test. . . . We'll be all in for him."
ALL ANGLOSPHERIC POLITICS IS THE SAME:
It is both necessary and desirable that this adjustment comes on the spending side. The receipts any government has obtained from taxes have averaged around 35% over the past 50 years, with an absolute maximum of 38%. Recent changes to GDP have revised down our tax-to-GDP figure, but we are certainly above the historic average and not far off the historically implied maximum taxable capacity of the UK.Cutting spending would be better for the economy. There is much evidence that countries with smaller government sectors enjoy faster productivity growth in the medium term. This raises living standards. Extra spending and tax hikes impose significant deadweight losses from distortions to working, investment and other activities.Many commentators are concerned, though, that cutting back to a state of around 35% of GDP (which has wrongly been compared with the 1930s) is infeasible without hugely adversely affecting the quality of public services. This may well be true for remaining services if we say we cannot touch health, pensions, aid, schools and other areas outlined for ring-fencing, and it is absolutely essential for government to undertake everything it currently does. But there's no reason for it to be true in general.Australia, Ireland, Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong and the US have all had overall government spending levels around or below 35% of GDP in recent times. It is true that all have a degree of private funding for health, pensions or both. But they are perfectly reasonable and pleasant places to live, and in many cases have services and outcomes demonstrably better than our own.
HIS THEORY OF THE CASE ALWAYS REFLECTED AN UNBALANCED MIND:
Testing of the pistol used to kill a prosecutor who had leveled incendiary charges against Argentina's president has found traces of DNA only belonging to him, the lead investigator in the case said Friday.
A HOMOEROTIC CULT:
"If you look at all the psychological profiling about bombers, they typically will look at porn. They are literally wankers (masturbators). Severe onanists," Boris Johnson told UK tabloid The Sun, citing an MI5 report."They are tortured. They will be very badly adjusted in their relations with women, and that is a symptom of their feeling of being failures and that the world is against them," said the Conservative Party member, adding that they sought others forms of spiritual comfort because they were not "making it with girls."Johnson further contended that turning to radical Islam was a form of compensation for men with deflated egos and a lack of purpose: "They are just young men in desperate need of self-esteem who do not have a particular mission in life, who feel that they are losers and this thing makes them feel strong -- like winners."
NO ONE'S KIDS HAVE IT HARDER THAN THEY DO:
In London after a trip to the World Economic Forum, he said that the Davos event had helped him understand that there is not just pessimism about the global economy, but worry."There's this increasing fear of technology, information technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printers, the internet and all these different forms," he said. Technology, he added "seems to be changing life in such a fundamental way and what it's leaving people thinking is 'where will I be in 30 years? Look how fast everything is changing now. Where will my children be? I want to leave something for them because they could be in terrible straits'."
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS...DYING:
But analysts polled in late January by Reuters saw the Russian economy falling by 4.2 percent this year and Moody's rating agency said earlier this month that GDP fall may by as much as 5.5. percent. Analysts at Danske in Copenhagen said in a recent note GDP may contract by 8 percent.
SHHHHH...IT REDUCES DEMAND FOR GOOD FOOD:
We used to eat birch bark off of neighborhood trees when we were kids. It was free.I hate the whole organic food movement. Notice I said "movement," because it is the mindset that is perverse and insufferable.My hatred stems from the fact that this trend is a repudiation of my own working class background. Eating organic is eating more expensively and, in my opinion, often unnecessarily.Just this morning as I was drinking my morning coffee with milk (more on this later), I almost choked when I saw the latest report on "Good Morning America." The "next big super drink" sweeping the country in 2015, according to GMA, is organic birch tree water. The water is actually the sap from birch trees tapped in early spring. Sounds very pastoral, almost nostalgic of a simpler era, something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.Think again.A quick search with Amazon suppliers indicates that this tree sap is like liquid gold. It is hard to come by, except if you happen to be a native of a Slavic country. A case of this forest juice, which equates to 10 bottles, is $24.95 -- without shipping. Give me my store-brand bottled water or, better yet, water that comes out of my kitchen faucet.I do not think it is wise to have to budget for simple hydration. Can you say fad? Remember coconut water?People who eat primarily organic are the same hipsters who make their little ones toil in community gardens after picking them up from child care cooperatives. What they can't harvest, they buy in small shops that sell two dozen kinds of honey, and enough soy and tofu to choke a cow.I don't know about you, but the only time I ever had honey as a kid was when I was sick. It was added to my mug of Lipton tea and came out of a little golden bear-shaped squeeze bottle. (And in my budget challenged household, we re-used the tea bag.)And as for cows, they are regarded as one moo short of pure evil by people who fear the possibility they may be treated with antibodies or growth hormones and steroids. The organic foodies raise children who may never experience the lush, velvety feel of a milk mustache. Instead, they get the flat, chalky aftertaste of some almond-based alternative milk product.Rather than dunk Oreos rich with refined sugars, they wash down carob biscuits baked with agave.
ALL YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE STATUS OIF THE TWO COUNTRIES...:
Even as Russia's Academy-award nominee Leviathan was winning prizes at half a dozen illustrious film festivals and garnering glowing reviews at arthouse cinemas in New York and London, doubts remained as to whether it would even be shown in its home country. Besides a week-long showing in one St Petersburg theatre in September to meet Oscar entry requirements, the film's release date was postponed, as officials criticised its grim take on modern Russia and many called for it to be banned.That's about to change on 5 February, when director Andrei Zvyagintsev's dark morality tale will begin showing on at least 638 screens around the country, producer Alexander Rodnyansky has told the Guardian in an interview. He said the film has online piracy to thank for that: where state television has mostly ignored the many accolades Leviathan has won, including a Golden Globe for best foreign-language film, an estimated 1.5 million Russians have taken interest and downloaded the film illegally.In confirmation of the old adage "there's no such thing as bad publicity", the heated debate over the film has made it into a "major public event" and won the movie more than double the 300 screens its producers thought they could get, Rodnyansky said."The unexpected thing, which we never experienced before, is that a few million people have watched it online, [now that] it's been pirated," he said. "A lot of cinemas and theatrical chains approached us because of all the controversy around the movie."
American Sniper is a runaway hit. It's so popular, in fact, that it's on track to become the highest-grossing war film of all time, passing Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Domestic grosses are approaching a staggering $300 million. This tells us what we should already have known: a gigantic, underserved audience exists in this country for movies that paint our troops as sympathetic human beings--or indeed have any basically pro-American theme. That audience has been thirsting for films like American Sniper with the intensity of Lawrence of Arabia crawling for an oasis in the Sahara. No wonder liberal critics are throwing a fit.Further, the film's success reminds us that investors on the right are leaving a hunk of change on the table. This may ultimately be the most important takeaway from Eastwood's movie. Right-tilting investors are way overdue to establish film and television companies with conservative or libertarian leanings. The problem here, of course, is that conservatives have long been suspicious of culture. Some of this is dumb prejudice, but much of the skepticism makes sense. The arts have been dominated by the Left for so long that it's difficult to see them as anything but treacherous. But right-wing investors should get over themselves. The local symphony is not the only cultural endeavor worth supporting. Popular culture is a far more powerful way of reaching the public, and films, as American Sniper proves, remain one of the most potent--and remunerative--of those avenues.
NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:
While most see the Hard Hat Riots and indeed the whole of Richard Nixon's presidency as part of a greater seismic shift towards political divisiveness in the United States, the truth is that the Hard Hat Riots and the rioting construction workers themselves are emblematic of a new breed of conservative--the often reviled neoconservative. Like the construction workers and their leadership, the founders of the neoconservative movement were all themselves former liberals and Democrats (some were even former Trotskyists). Their shift towards the Republican Party was caused in large measure by the takeover of the Democratic Party by college-trained Marxists, the anti-war young, and special interests groups such as the Black Panther Party, welfare-rights organizations, and the feminist movement.Of course, there is more to neoconservative philosophy than just anti-Leftism. Indeed, one can argue that neoconservatives are in reality liberals of an older school, and despite all the focus on founders such as Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol, the real backbone of the neoconservative movement is its initial followers--blue-collar New Yorkers and other members of the urban working class who were less driven by ideology and more driven by anger. By the 1970s, there was a lot to be angry about, especially crime, which was reaching unprecedented levels in places such as Detroit, Chicago, and, most importantly, New York. The crime wave of the 1970s and 1980s, besides giving birth to the "tough on crime" type of urban Republican and turning Irving Kristol's well-known phrase "A conservative is a liberal who is mugged by reality" into a literal experience, also helped to give birth to three cultural products that helped to define this twenty-year period: the vigilante film, graphic novels, and New York-style hardcore punk. Batman, as DC Comic's premiere avenger and an indisputable New Yorker, absorbed all three genres, and thus the Batman comics of the 1980s remain some of the best expressions of the neoconservative rage that was the byproduct of urban decay. [...]While the Hard Hat Riot explicitly showed the disconnect between those American students who had known only postwar prosperity and a large portion of the working class, the 1974 film Death Wish showed in gripping detail just how easily the average middle-class, New York liberal could turn into an angry vigilante. Death Wish is then the story of neoconservative conversion told in exploitative broad strokes. In short, Death Wish is the story of architect Paul Kersey (played by Charles Bronson), who takes up a nickel-plated .32 Colt after the police prove too slow in apprehending the men responsible for the rape of his daughter, Carol (played by Kathleen Tolan), and the death of his wife, Joanna (played by Hope Lange). From here, Mr. Kersey becomes the embodiment of the frustration felt by law-abiding citizens in Mayor John Lindsey and Mayor Abraham Beame's New York. His vigilantism throughout the film is not too far off from the vigilantism of comic-book superheroes, and Paul Kersey's heroic stature exists not only because of how his actions are portrayed, but also because of the differences between him and the effete hesitancy of his son-in-law Jack (played by Steven Keats).
Although the almost gleeful violence of Death Wish is the most-often remembered aspect of the film, Mr. Kersey's transformation from a former conscientious objector in Korea with all the trappings of bourgeoise life to a hardened vigilante is more important than the film's bloodletting. [...]Three years before Death Wish, another vigilante appeared in movie theaters, and he too would star in five total films that would stretch over multiple decades. Inspector Harry Callahan, better known as "Dirty Harry," is the byword for both the stereotypical American vigilante and police brutality. Like Paul Kersey, Mr. Callahan is a solitary man of "the System" stuck inside one of America's most liberal cities (in this case San Francisco), and he too finds the gun to be the perfect expression of his brand of justice.Both films, which point out the limitations of the American legal system, were loathed by critics. Roger Ebert declared that Dirty Harry promoted a "fascist moral position," while Pauline Kael claimed that the film was a "single-minded attack against liberal values." Vincent Canby hated Death Wish so much that he wrote two long articles denouncing the film, and in one instance decried that the film was "a despicable movie, one that raises complex questions in order to offer bigoted, frivolous, oversimplified answers." Although Mrs. Kael had loved the violent epic Bonnie and Clyde, and although Mr. Ebert and Mr. Canby were often quick to laud supposedly "realistic" portrayals of sympathetic criminals and their motivations, they and many like them all condemned the vigilante film craze of the 1970s with almost religious passion. Even to this day, vigilante films are widely criticized, even though as Anthony Paletta pointed out in a 2012 article for The National Review, they are widely loved by audiences. Conversely, the vigilante films of the 1970s directly inspired the groundbreaking Batman graphic novels of the 1980s, which in turn forever altered the character and comic books generally. [...]Batman almost did not live to see the 1980s. The damage from the ABC television show proved long-lasting, and during the early 1970s, Gotham's favorite caped citizen was nearly cancelled due to poor sales and general uninterest. Comic book fans in the 1970s, hardened by years of news reports from Vietnam and the urban slums of their own country, no longer seemed interested in a vigilante crime fighter who had been neutered through Pop Art. By 1970, Batman titles were collectively selling south of 300,000 a month, which was a far cry from the 1966 peak of 898,000 copies per month.Besides the lingering dislike of the childish ABC television show, Batman creators also faced a far more competitive field, with a resurgent horror comics industry riding a wave that had started in the early 1960s, fueled by what Crime Factory contributor John Harrison has termed the "Monster Kids" of the postwar era, who had grown up with reruns of the Universal monster films on late-night television and magazines such as Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland. Under the team of writer Dennis O'Neil and artists Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, and Gene Colan, Batman took a turn towards the gothic in the 1970s, which, though it made for great reading and certainly gave Batman some of his earlier grittiness back, also helped to weaken further the character's traditional stance as an independent dispenser of justice. Killing supernatural vampires is one thing; killing real-life social leeches is quite another.Besides the monster books, Marvel, DC's main competitor, was taking some of their titles into formerly unchartered territory. In 1979, a nine-story arc in The Invincible Iron Man entitled Demon in a Bottle dealt with the very adult topic of alcoholism. In the David Micheline-scripted series, Tony Stark, the millionaire behind the Iron Man suit, struggles to overcome his dependence on drink in ways that are made all the more visceral through the brilliant artwork of John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton, and Carmine Infantino. Although DC had attempted something equally as adult-oriented with a short-lived run of Green Lantern/Green Arrow in 1970 (which was yet another collaboration between Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams), DC did not sustain the style in the way that Marvel did throughout the 1970s.No Marvel characters would prove more influential on the later development of Batman than Daredevil and the Punisher. Although he debuted as a villain in 1974's The Amazing Spider-Man #129, Frank Castle, alias the Punisher, quickly became an anti-hero whose popularity revealed a collective neoconservative turn in the late 1970s and early 1980s. After his family was murdered in New York's Central Park, the Punisher, a gun-toting Vietnam veteran and a synthesis of all the then-popular vigilante film tropes, is a ruthless killer who wages a one-man war on crime that frequently rankles more traditional superheroes like Spiderman and Batman, who do not kill their adversaries. Initially written as a minor character, the Punisher became a recurring figure in many Marvel titles throughout the decade because the fans demanded it. Eventually, the character received his own series and continues in print today.Just as the Punisher was blossoming into Marvel's greatest anti-hero, Matt Murdock, alias Daredevil, was undergoing a makeover. Previously a second-tier title with little popular interest, the so-called Man Without Fear got a much-needed boost when in 1981 a young artist and writer from Vermont named Frank Miller was tapped to be the series's full-time writer. Joined by artists Klaus Janson (who would later work with Mr. Miller on the groundbreaking Batman: The Dark Knight Returns arc) and David Mazzucchelli (who would also work with Miller on a Batman series, this one being Batman:Year One), Mr. Miller turned the fledging, blind lawyer Daredevil into a noir superhero full of emotional complexities. In such standout arcs as Daredevil: Born Again, which touches upon the issues of drug addiction, organized crime, militarism, and Matt Murdock's relationship with his Irish-Catholic faith and his Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, and in issues #183-184, which see Daredevil squaring off against the Punisher in a battle of left-wing vs right-wing ideologies years before the much more well-known struggle between Batman and Superman in The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller introduced not only his trademark hardboiled style of writing, but also his Ayn Rand-influence worldview. In The Romantic Manifesto, a text that played a crucial role in Mr. Miller's development as a storyteller, Ayn Rand poses a crucial question: "Why is the soul of a murderer worth studying, but not the soul of a hero?" Rand asked the question in order to show the philosophical problems associated with Naturalism, but she incidentally gave Frank Miller a driving rationale--an inspiration to study at length his heroes while at the same time completely removing any potential sympathy with their antagonists. If nothing else, Mr. Miller's world is black and white, despite flashes of noir-inspired grays.Without question, Frank Miller forever altered Batman and how we view him in our popular culture. Mr. Miller made Batman punk rock by, in his own words, "giving Batman his [manhood] back." The high inflation rates of President Ronald Reagan's second term, coupled with New York's deeper and deeper regression into criminal anarchy helped to make Frank Miller's tales all the more relevant, and so too did Hollywood's continued interest in vigilante tales. In the same year as the release of Mr. Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, another vigilante film, Sylvester Stallone's Cobra, packed the theaters with a rough justice tale that was less about plot and more about flying lead and muscle cars. The 1980s, in film and comic books, proved to be even more bloodthirsty than the 1970s.
JUST USE GRONK AS A WIDE RECEIVER THE WHOLE GAME:
Seattle's version of Cover-3 sees Richard Sherman control the deep third on the offense's right side of the field, Byron Maxwell on the offense's left and Earl Thomas in the middle. They very rarely stray from that alignment. Sherman lined up to the offense's right on 91.3 percent of his snaps this season, according to ESPN, and he's lined up to the offense's left for only 90 defensive snaps (out of 2,839) in his career. [...]The Patriots won't have to make nearly as drastic an offensive shift if they wish to avoid throwing Sherman's way. Check out the distribution of Tom Brady's passes this season, courtesy of Pro Football Focus.Brady threw to the left side of the field -- where Maxwell will be lined up -- far more often (28.7 percent of the time) this season than he did to the right (16.4 percent). He also completed a far greater percentage of his passes (64.8 percent to 56.9 percent) when throwing to his left, and though he was intercepted more, his passes turned into touchdowns at a significantly higher rate when throwing that way (7.3 percent) than when he threw to the right side of the field (4.9 percent). It's already a natural New England strength to go away from Sherman, and that likely won't change much on Sunday.Brady's favorite target when throwing left is unsurprisingly tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had 38 catches for 532 yards and 10 touchdowns on throws to the left side of the field alone. Brady and the Pats love to split Gronk out wide near the goal line to get him matched up one-on-one with a corner or a safety, most of whom are not nearly big or strong enough to handle him.The result of plays like this is almost never favorable for the defense. Gronk is actually more effective when split out wide than when he's lined up in line as a tight end or in the slot. [...]In any event, the Seahawks actually struggled to cover tight ends more than they did any other receiving option this season. While Seattle ranked fourth in pass defense DVOA against No. 1 receivers, sixth against No. 2 wideouts and fourth against the slot, they were only 18th against both tight ends and running backs. Gronkowski working seam routes or digs in the middle of the field, behind the linebackers and in front of Thomas, is something that could work very well for the Patriots on Sunday.Similarly, while he's been marginalized in recent weeks in favor of LeGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen could be very useful both out of the backfield and split out wide in the Super Bowl. Vereen is an excellent receiving back, and it's worth exploring how the Seahawks wish to match up with him when he lines up wide to either side or motions out of the backfield. If they use a linebacker rather than one of their corners, it's a matchup that could be exploited. Vereen has busted open for big plays down the field multiple times this season, including once against the Ravens a few weeks ago. Had Brady not underthrown the ball, it would have been a touchdown.One of the keys to forcing Brady into bad throws like that is getting pressure in his face. Brady was pressured on only 27.3 percent of his throws this season, the sixth-lowest figure in the league. When opposing teams did manage to get pressure on him, though, his numbers collapsed, and that's a trend that goes back a few years now. Judging by his quarterback rating, Brady turns from Aaron Rodgers into Heath Shuler when opponents put pressure on him.The Seahawks have the goods to bring pressure with the best of them. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are possibly the best duo of pass-rushing defensive ends in the league, and though Jordan Hill is out with an injury, guys like Bruce Irvin, Kevin Williams and O'Brien Schofield can help bring supplemental pressure from the edge and inside.Of course, Brady is one of the NFL's best at countering pressure by getting rid of the ball quickly before it has a chance to hit home. He held the ball for an average of 2.39 seconds before throwing this season, second-fastest in the NFL to only Peyton Manning. When holding the ball for 2.5 seconds or less before delivering, Brady was unstoppable, completing 70.7 percent of his passes and registering a 101.1 quarterback rating. If he had to hold the ball longer than that, though, his completion percentage dropped down to 50.0 percent and his quarterback rating dipped to 89.3.
IT'S NOT CHEATING WHEN YOU DO IT TO THE PATRIOTS:
[A]ccording to Carroll, the officials will change their mechanics so that it's clearer to the defense whether each player is eligible or ineligible. That's an advantage to the Seahawks, and something the Ravens and Colts wish would have been done for them.
January 30, 2015
FROM THE ARCHIVES: THIS PROFILE IS SO FASCINATING... (via The Other Brother):
Who is this guy? (Wright Thompson, ESPN)
You don't notice Ernie Adams at first, but he's always there in his own peculiar way. Walking the halls in the Patriots' complex, lost in his own thoughts, he will often ignore co-workers. In meetings, he has been known to fall asleep. After practice, he is almost always the first person Bill Belichick consults. On game day, he's in the press box with a headset on, running numbers, computing percentages and, some around the league insinuate, overseeing more insidious operations.
When Belichick is taking those lonely walks up and down the sideline, his head bowed as if in prayer, you can bet it's Ernie Adams yapping away in Belichick's ear. Some call him the smartest man they've ever met. A longtime NFL watcher compares him to "Q," James Bond's master of espionage and gadgetry. Author David Halberstam called him "Belichick's Belichick." No other team has anyone like him on its payroll. And yet, save for football insiders, he is virtually unknown. In an era of media oversaturation, there is exactly one more picture of Bigfoot on The Associated Press photo wire (two) than there is of Adams (one). And it's of the back of his head.
So here, in the ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center, just six days before New England will attempt to complete a perfect season that Adams played a significant role in creating, I want to know what the almost-perfect Patriots think about their secret weapon: a guy with thick glasses and the sartorial sensibility of Mister Rogers; a guy who lived with his mother until she died three years ago. Who, exactly, is Ernie Adams?
"I don't know what his job title is," linebacker Adalius Thomas says. "I didn't even know his last name was Adams."
"Ernie is a bit of a mystery to all of us," offensive tackle Matt Light says. "I'm not sure what Ernie does, but I'm sure whatever it is, he's good at it."
Finally, I approach receiver Wes Welker. "I'm writing a story about Ernie Adams," I tell him.
"Who?" he says.
"The guy who's always with Belichick who doesn't ever really talk."
"Oh," he says, recognition washing over his face. "Ernie."
He thinks for a second. "He's got to be a genius," he says, "because he looks like one."
This is why God created best friends. Inside a cavernous church, Ernie Adams sat through his mother's funeral, the saddest day of a man's life, and by his side, where he'd been for years, was Bill Belichick. Sept. 25, 2004 was a beautiful New England day, a Saturday morning during the Patriots' bye week. In the tree-lined suburb of Brookline, Mass., a small crowd had gathered in the Gothic Revival Episcopal Church on the corner of St. Paul Street and Aspinwall Avenue. The stone bell tower rose cold and medieval against the fall blue sky.
The mourners had come to say goodbye to Helen Adams, a woman who loved education and adored her son even more. Ernie and Helen lived together, like something out of a Victorian novel, one friend said, with much doting and an occasional trip to the old continent. At the end, Ernie took care of his mother. In the crowd were friends from childhood, high school and college. One of them was the headmaster of Dexter School, where Ernie went to elementary and junior high. "I was struck by the loyalty of Belichick to Ernie," Bill Phinney says.
That bond is the cornerstone of the Patriots' dynasty. In many ways, the traits we associate with Belichick and the Patriots are traits commonly ascribed to Adams. The humble pie? Classic Ernie, frequently described as having no ego. The rumpled hoodie? Again, classmates remember, classic Ernie. Together, Adams and Belichick have created the transcendently successful franchise they dreamed of creating back in high school.
"It's really the story of a friendship," says Michael Carlisle, a successful literary agent who was Adams' high school roommate at Andover.
Adams and Belichick met in 1970. Adams had been at Phillips Academy in Andover, an elite New England boarding school, for three years. In that time, he'd become a campus legend, famous for his quirky attire and habits. He wore high-top cleats and old-fashioned clothes, looked and talked like something from the 1940s. His three obsessions were Latin, naval history and, strangely, football.
...that if it were April you'd assume he was another Sidd Finch.
[originally posted: 1/31/08]
THERE IS NO CASE FOR NATIVISM:
Halting President Obama's deportation amnesty will end up hurting Uncle Sam's bottom line, the Congressional Budget Office said Thursday in a new report that is bound to cause more problems for Republicans trying to block the White House's executive action.While keeping illegal immigrants in the shadows would save the government billions on spending, it would also mean billions in taxes that never get paid, leaving the federal budget a total of $7.5 billion worse over the next decade than it would be if Mr. Obama's amnesties take effect as scheduled, the CBO said.
AT KING ARTHUR, WE GIVE THE SAME ADVICE:
The most cutting remarks were about the warning that those who change their eating habits - indicated in the infographic by a cross over a baguette-shaped object - are likely to become extremists. "The government invites you to be wary of those who do not eat baguettes," said one user, in a theme that was echoed by many others.
WINNING THE WAR ON WAGES:
Media company AOL laid off roughly 150 employees Friday, or 3% of its staff.The bulk of the layoffs, or close to 100, were in sales, a result of the company's surging growth in so-called programmatic ad sales, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak on the record.The remaining cuts will come from AOL's corporate offices, including legal and HR, as well as from a planned consolidation of certain media sites, this person said.
AS THE BUBBLES TIGHTEN...:
Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate. Two decades ago, the only communities where the left could exert such hegemonic control lay within academia, which gave it an influence on intellectual life far out of proportion to its numeric size. Today's political correctness flourishes most consequentially on social media, where it enjoys a frisson of cool and vast new cultural reach. And since social media is also now the milieu that hosts most political debate, the new p.c. has attained an influence over mainstream journalism and commentary beyond that of the old.It also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity. A year ago, for instance, a photographer compiled images of Fordham students displaying signs recounting "an instance of racial microaggression they have faced." The stories ranged from uncomfortable ("No, where are you really from?") to relatively innocuous (" 'Can you read this?' He showed me a Japanese character on his phone"). BuzzFeed published part of her project, and it has since received more than 2 million views. This is not an anomaly.In a short period of time, the p.c. movement has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. "All over social media, there dwell armies of unpaid but widely read commentators, ready to launch hashtag campaigns and circulate Change.org petitions in response to the slightest of identity-politics missteps," Rebecca Traister wrote recently in The New Republic.Two and a half years ago, Hanna Rosin, a liberal journalist and longtime friend, wrote a book called The End of Men, which argued that a confluence of social and economic changes left women in a better position going forward than men, who were struggling to adapt to a new postindustrial order. Rosin, a self-identified feminist, has found herself unexpectedly assailed by feminist critics, who found her message of long-term female empowerment complacent and insufficiently concerned with the continuing reality of sexism. One Twitter hashtag, "#RIPpatriarchy," became a label for critics to lampoon her thesis. Every new continuing demonstration of gender discrimination -- a survey showing Americans still prefer male bosses; a person noticing a man on the subway occupying a seat and a half -- would be tweeted out along with a mocking #RIPpatriarchy.Her response since then has been to avoid committing a provocation, especially on Twitter. "If you tweet something straightforwardly feminist, you immediately get a wave of love and favorites, but if you tweet something in a cranky feminist mode then the opposite happens," she told me. "The price is too high; you feel like there might be banishment waiting for you." Social media, where swarms of jeering critics can materialize in an instant, paradoxically creates this feeling of isolation. "You do immediately get the sense that it's one against millions, even though it's not." Subjects of these massed attacks often describe an impulse to withdraw.
NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:
Or take the matter of food. There is nothing so romanticized as old-fashioned cookery, lovingly hand-prepared with fresh, 100 percent organic ingredients. If you were a reader of the Little House books, or any number of other series about 19th-century children, then you probably remember the descriptions of luscious meals. When you reread these books, you realize that they were so lovingly described because they were so vanishingly rare. Most of the time, people were eating the same spare food three meals a day: beans, bread or some sort of grain porridge, and a little bit of meat for flavor, heavily preserved in salt. This doesn't sound romantic and old-fashioned; it sounds tedious and unappetizing. But it was all they could afford, and much of the time, there wasn't quite enough of that.These were not the nation's dispossessed; they were the folks who had capital for seed and farm equipment. There were lots of people in America much poorer than the Ingalls were. Your average middle-class person was, by the standards of today, dead broke and living in abject misery. And don't tell me that things used to be cheaper back then, because I'm not talking about their cash income or how much money they had stuffed under the mattress. I'm talking about how much they could consume. And the answer is "a lot less of everything": food, clothes, entertainment. That's even before we talk about the things that hadn't yet been invented, such as antibiotics and central heating.In 1901, the average "urban wage earner" spent about 46 percent of their household budget on food and another 15 percent on apparel -- that's 61 percent of their annual income just to feed and clothe the family. That does not include shelter, or fuel to heat your home and cook your food. By 1987, that same household spent less than 20 percent on food and a little over 5 percent of their budget on apparel. Since then, these numbers have fallen even further: Today, families with incomes of less than $5,000 a year still spend only 16 percent of the family budget on food and 3.5 percent on apparel. And that's not because we're eating less and wearing fewer clothes; in fact, it's the reverse.The average working-class family of 1901 had a few changes of clothes and a diet heavy on beans and grain, light on meat and fresh produce -- which simply wasn't available for much of the year, even if they'd had the money to afford it. Even growing up in the 1950s, in a comfortably middle-class home, my mother's wardrobe consisted of a week's worth of school clothes, a church dress and a couple of play outfits. Her counterparts today can barely fit all their clothes in their closets, even though today's houses are much bigger than they used to be; putting a family of five in a 900-square-foot house with a single bathroom was an aspirational goal for the generation that settled Levittown, but in an era when new homes average more than 2,500 square feet, it sounds like poverty.
Russia unexpectedly backed away from its efforts to prop up the ruble, cutting interest rates just weeks after taking them to an 11-year high and signaling policy makers are now focused on mitigating an economic slump that threatens to destabilize the financial system.The central bank lowered its benchmark rate to 15 percent from 17 percent, spurring a wave of ruble selling that drove it down as much as 4 percent against the dollar to levels not seen since panic swept across Moscow's financial markets last month.
OUR REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT:
President Obama urged fellow Democrats Thursday night to "keep your powder a little dry" as he begins working with Republicans on securing fast-track trade authority.He also called on them to "get informed, not by reading the Huffington Post," as Congress prepares to debate giving him the authority to complete work on the broad Trans-Pacific Partnership.
WINNING THE WAR ON WAGES:
The employment-cost index, a broad gauge of wage and benefit expenditures, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6% in the fourth quarter last year, the Labor Department said Friday. That's down from 0.7% in the two earlier quarters and jibes with other data showing only limited wage pressure across the U.S.Wages and salaries, which account for about 70% of compensation costs, climbed 0.5%, a slowdown from the third quarter's 0.8% pace. Benefit costs rose 0.6%, matching the prior quarter.The data is better than recent hourly earnings figures, which showed wages declining in December despite a postrecession low for the unemployment rate.
BOSTON SPORTS ARE OUR GIFT TO AMERICA:
So what if the pregame story lines have been asinine and absurd? On Sunday, the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will be among the most talented teams to take the field in the Super Bowl.According to FiveThirtyEight's NFL Elo ratings, this year's Seahawks are the fifth-best team to participate in a Super Bowl since the AFC-NFC merger. And the Patriots aren't far behind. The average Elo rating of the teams this year is the second-best in a Super Bowl since that merger, trailing only Super Bowl XIII when the Dallas Cowboys played the Pittsburgh Steelers. [...]But it's not only that the Seahawks and Patriots are strong teams: They're just about evenly matched. The Vegas line opened as a pick 'em, and most sports books have the Patriots as mere one-point favorites. Elo, which loves the Seahawks, differs slightly here: It has Seattle as 2.5-point favorites. But that's partly because the system, in its simplicity, punished the Patriots for their meaningless Week 17 loss against Buffalo. Without that game, the Patriots' Elo rating would be 1756, which would make Seattle only one-point favorites and which would vault this matchup ahead of Super Bowl XIII into the top slot of all time.
ONCE YOU'RE IN THEIR HEADS, TWIST THE KNIFE:
First up was ESPN's Sports Science series, which showed how the pressure differentials in footballs manifest in the real world. They found that a typical NFL player could depress a deflated ball by less than an additional 1 mm. Further, the deflated ball weighed a less a regulation ball. How much less? About the weight of a dollar bill. Work in additional air-speed resistance and its not clear that any material advantage would be gained by deflating the balls in the way the Patriots were alleged to have done.Then a group called HeadSmart Labs ran an experiment analyzing what effect changes in temperature and humidity would have had on the internal pressure of the footballs. They tried to replicate the conditions of the AFC championship game--you can watch the video here or read the full report here.But the take away is that under the conditions of the Colts-Patriots game, all of the footballs HeadSmart Labs tested experienced a drop in pressure--and the average drop was 1.82 psi. Or, right about in the range that was observed at the game.
INDEED, THEY'VE RETURNED TO KINNOCKISM...:
Labour is now comprehensively failing to provide a convincing narrative on a scale bigger even than during Neil Kinnock's doomed 1992 election campaign, according to the influential playwright David Hare.In an excoriating analysis of Labour's leadership, he suggests that Miliband struggles to connect with the public, saying "you can only make a great speech if you have a great analysis". But he also turns on the entire political class, saying it is their fault that they are now perceived as a "self-interested cartel".
ALONG THE ANGLOSPHERE:
DW: What do you make of the Philippine official's claims that the country is no longer the "sick man of Asia?"Rajiv Biswas: The Philippines economy has undergone a remarkable transition from a pussycat into a tiger economy over the last decade. Prior to this, the Philippines had for several decades been performing poorly, with weak growth, low inward investment and a very uncompetitive business environment aggravated by high levels of corruption.However, the Philippines economy has shown much more rapid growth over the last decade, helped by significant improvements in the fiscal deficit and gradual economic reforms. The Philippines economy now has the capacity for robust long-term economic growth of around 4.5 percent to 5.0 percent per year over the 2016 to 2030 time horizon. This will transform the Philippines economy from its current 280 billion USD economy to a 680 billion USD economy by 2024, with a projected GDP of 1.2 trillion USD by 2030.IHS forecasts that total GDP per person in the Philippines will rise from around 2,800 USD in 2014 to around 5,800 USD by 2024. This has considerable implications for the size of the Philippines consumer economy. These significant increases in per capita GDP will create one of ASEAN's largest consumer markets of the future, as the middle class rapidly expands over time.