Music Monday: Oh Yeesus.

In Closing: a few words on mass surveillance and encryption; a record warm temperature; antibiotics; an interesting idea (hell, I’d be happy to go back to plain old fashioned metal detectors and no effing Pre-Check); the truth about the Estate Tax and why George W Bush couldn’t find a single widow who lost the family business to pay it to sit in the balcony at the State of the Union Address in 8 years; and some cool places to visit.

Diet Research? It must be January.

Yes indeed, it’s the first week of the year, and that means millions of Americans are trying to shed between 5 and 500 pounds. Some scientists were even willing to stick their necks out there and say fructose is a culprit in weight gain (a culprit not the culprit). Check the archives and you will find me many times saying that every weight loss diet that works requires drastically reducing if not altogether eliminating added sugars.

So Loyola University wants to help you out. They’ve got what they think are the top 4 reasons diets fail. Let me save you some reading:

  1. Underestimating calorie intake (e.g. eating too damn much)
  2. Overestimating activity and calories burned (e.g. imagining that an amble around the mall is just like a 5 mile run)
  3. Poor timing of meals (the dreaded “starvation mode“)
  4. Inadequate sleep (having a job and other responsibilities)

Really? I’m on board with reasons 1 and 2, although I see them as two sides of one coin. But do they really think that sleep is a bigger issue than unrealistic expectations in the first place, or diet plans that are for whatever reason unsustainable? Do they think that eating at the wrong time is truly a bigger issue than unsupportive friends and family who –subtly or openly — undermine the dieter’s efforts?

Want to lose weight without torturing yourself? Try eating reasonable portions of real food: plenty of veggies; adequate protein; no sweets, no crap that comes out of a box, no food-like chemistry sets. Hey, it’s no dumber than the other diets you’ve tried over the years.

In Closing: free classes; Downtown Vegas and F15; maybe now somebody will ask banks to follow the law pretty please?; Onnabugeisha; ha!; conform or be called a terrorist; Malala; why oh why did Texas give him a second term?; more employment data than you probably want; somebody inform Scalia that 24 is not a documentary; the estate tax is not a wealth tax, it’s a wealth moving into the hands of someone who didn’t actually earn it tax; it turns out you need facts before you can figure out what to think about them; well that’s gonna have conservative panties in a wad; the Romney Loophole; is anybody surprised by this?; and I think Brent may have been playing Black Ops 2.

Ignore Them

I am completely disgusted with pretty much all politicians, and even more so with politicians that try to position themselves as “I’m a [insert noun] first, not just another politician.” Those ones are dangerous because half the time they don’t understand what the heck they are dealing with. I’m talking to you, Dr. Joe Heck!

I’m tired of politicians who think we can balance the budget without increasing taxes.

I’m tired of politicians who think we can balance the budget without addressing our 2 1/2 wars.

I’m tired of politicians who think that just because I’m not 55 yet, I just need to kiss Social Security goodbye.

I’m tired of politicians who are so ignorant of history that they think there can be a “private sector” solution to Medicare.

I’m tired of politicians who use the phrase “death tax,” when only a few thousand people will ever pay it.

I’m tired of politicians who use coded words to whip the ignorant into a frenzy. (“Domestic enemy”? Why not just call him Satan or the Anti-Christ? What a shame that you really mean he’s an “uppity ******”!)

And most of all, I’m tired of the other politicians who won’t call them out on this nonsense. Don’t even get me started on the media that lets them lie on the air and call it the truth.

Go ahead. Close down the government. Do it! Do it right at “tax day” and completely screw yourselves.

In Closing: defense; a man and his boat; two takes on dessert sushi; WHY??; if you won’t stop for humane reasons, or justice reasons, how about fiscal reasons?; about time; I like Kathy; it’s all about cheap labor; gaming inflation through housing prices; if you haven’t heard about the real Tea Party yet, watch it today; resist BAMTOR; I knew this would happen! Throw the book at them!; and a picture of a random cat. If anybody knows the source, put it in comments so I can attribute it:


Two quick thoughts this morning and then the closing bits.

First, I did see Tron: Legacy over the weekend. Now, even the best reviews consider the plot a little bit difficult to follow. Without giving up any spoilers, I found this criticism to be unfair. Granted, I did myself a favor and popped the original in the DVD last weekend. What I think has happened is that to really appreciate what is going on requires more background knowledge than most of the audience had. You had to have some idea what happened in the original Tron. You had to have a passing knowledge of 2001. Being well versed in Star Trek helped. Remembering The Matrix Trilogy would be good. Blade Runner should be a movie you’ve seen. You had to know who Jules Verne was. In addition to a diverse literacy in Science Fiction, you also needed a moderate modicum of computer knowledge. Tron’s actions are explained by his one line: “I fight for the user.”

Jeff Bridges’s redux of Kevin Flynn draws strongly on The Dude from The Big Lebowski, and he adds surprising depth to the dual character of Clu particularly in the final scenes. Bruce Boxleitner does an excellent job reprising his role as Alan from the original Tron. Olivia Wilde makes a credible, innocent yet tough Quorra. Garrett Hedlund holds his own against an amazing cast, an amazing situation, and amazing effects. Oh, and the Daft Punk soundtrack freaking rocks.

My second quick thought is in regards to Social Security, a proven poverty-preventing program that does not contribute one red cent to the national debt, but that politicians would like to gut anyway. There is a nasty rumor that the State of the Union Address will include calls to gut the program: Click here to tell the President you think that’s a crappy idea.

In closing: “We can’t let 9 year olds have abortions!”; More “pro-life” hypocrisy; no, really, a 30 year old law designed to prevent discrimination did not suddenly cause foreclosures in the last 5 years; at least violent crime is down (until we peasants start getting desperate); I guess the Feds should keep an eye on all of us!; duh; health insurance is nothing like auto insurance; and how come Dubya couldn’t find just one of these guys to talk about at the State of the Union Address in 8 years??

Thoughts for Labor Day

I think it’s appropriate to focus on jobs for Labor Day.

The good news is that employers did add new jobs last month. Unfortunately they didn’t add nearly enough to make a dent in unemployment. Even as private employers are adding positions, cash-strapped state and local governments have had no choice but to cut them. Drowning government in the bathtub sounds great until you realize there’s lots of things government does to make the private sector possible.

The flipside of employment is, of course, unemployment. Real unemployment is much higher than the “headline” number. That’s because the number you hear on the news doesn’t include people who have given up on jobs, people who went back to school because there’s no jobs/to get training/hoping the market will be better when they graduate, part time workers who would rather work full time, etc.. Of course, it’s also alarming how long many of the unemployed have been unemployed.

It doesn’t help matters that the current administration thinks they can create jobs by encouraging companies to borrow money. Banks are still being stingy and real property is no longer something with which truly small businesses can secure loans. Besides, what bank in their right mind is going to lend money to some unemployed guy who figures he can start his own business?

We’re one of the only modern countries with no maternity leave, no mandated sick leave, and no guarantee of health care (merely an upcoming mandate that we pay the profitable insurance companies that created our unaffordable system). We also trail every modern nation when it comes to vacation time. Heck, some people have to fight for their lunch break!

Let’s hear it for Labor this Labor Day.

Acute Angle: Looks like the Review Journal is going to actually sue Sharron Angle for copyright infringement!

In closing: any prison term can turn into a death sentence; why people believe lies; fired for being paid so little she qualifies for food stamps; advice for college freshmen; Enron exec to stay in prison during appeal (good!); this is not good; Thank you, Digby, for saying what I’ve said for years, If Social Security is running out of money, how is less money supposed to fix it??; parents’ worries vs children’s actual risks; Abigail Disney on the Estate Tax; VW wants to be #1; on debt; I wouldn’t treat a dog this way; “Moby Dick with Dragons“; on racism, bad neighborhoods, and the news; and Mac Vs. PC.


Raise your hand if you think your net worth is over a million dollars!

If your hand is up, you are in a very, very small minority.

It’s been some years since I have had the occasion to say anything about the estate tax. However, now the temporary rollback of that tax is about to expire and all of a sudden we are seeing little pieces in the news designed to make us panic. It’s part of a scheme to blame Democrats for “tax hikes” that are really nothing more than letting the disastrous, deficit fattening Bush tax cuts expire. Today’s salvo from USA Today is titled “Estate tax to return in 2011, and it could hurt ordinary folks.” Of course, it’s mostly wrong.

A $1 million exemption would affect a lot of families that are well out of Steinbrenner’s league. “You take a home, an IRA or 401(k) retirement account, some other savings and you get to $1 million pretty easily,” says Richard Behrendt, senior estate planner for Robert W. Baird and a former IRS attorney.

Let’s take this apart a little bit. According to the National Association of REALTORS, the median price of a single family home in May of 2010 was $166,100. Currently, does not report any metropolitan areas with a median price above $500,000.

As for retirement savings, a report that came out earlier this month suggests that most people, even many wealthy people, will run out of retirement savings. It’s hard to find an estimate of just how much money people have saved up. This 2006 item suggests that even the best off of us had less than $100,000 savings in their retirement accounts, and that way before the Great Recession. Considering what stocks have done, it’s not likely that these accounts doubled in value. Even if they did, many were raided by their unemployed owners in the interest of keeping the bills paid.

As for other savings, this Washington Post article, also from 2006, says that we only had $3800 in the bank on average.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal says that at the end of 2009, the average net worth of an American was only $175,600, down from a peak in 2007 of $218,650. And that’s without accounting for mortgages or credit card debt! Even somebody with 4 times the peak average net worth wouldn’t be touched by a tax on estates over $1,000,000. Certainly, somebody with a median priced home, median IRA/401K accounts, and median savings is nowhere near being at risk of owing estate taxes.

It’s pretty easy to see that the expert cited by USA Today is in no way connected to reality as you and I know it. The truth is that fewer in one in ten Americans will receive any inheritance whatsoever.

Of course after pointing out the truth of this statement, opponents of the Estate Tax will do two things. First, they will revert to calling it a “death tax,” just because it sounds scarier and like it will effect more people. Second, they will start talking about how it could [in some alternate reality] effect small businesses and farms. This point applies to so little of the population that George W. Bush couldn’t find a single “victim” of this tax consequence to put in the gallery at the State of the Union Address in the 8 years of his Presidency.

Seriously, if you’ve got a million dollars of net worth and can’t afford some estate planning, you’ve got bigger problems than what happens after you are dead.

And how fascinating that this issue comes up just as some on Capitol Hill are saying Social Security is too expensive and needs to be cut. Talking out of both sides of their mouths as usual.

In closing: Tony Horton Goes to Italy; “Improving neighborhoods is a desirable goal, but it’s not education reform”; 13 reasons the economy really sucks; Darn, I agree with Glenn Reynolds again (this is becoming an annoying habit).