Thursday, March 31, 2005
I still need to write up
something longish on social security, but there's a dissertation in the way.
In the mean time, consider this article by George Will on John Linder's consumption tax plan. The basic idea is to 1) eliminate the income tax, 2) eliminate the separate collection of social security and medicare taxes, and 3) fold it all into a single sales tax.
To maintain progressivity in the tax code, every household would get a check each month equal to the amount of taxes that would be taken on the purchase of basic goods (e.g., food & clothes) necessary to live at the poverty line.
The text of the bill under discussion is here.
Linder claims this approach will have the following effects:
- Dramatically reduce the costs of goods and services by 20 to 30 percent.
- Allows you to keep 100 percent of your paycheck, pension, and Social Security payments.
- Gross Domestic Product will increase by almost 10.5 percent in the first year after enactment.
- Compliance costs would decrease by 90 percent.
- Real investment would initially increase by 76 percent relative to the investment that would be made under present law. While this increase would gradually decline, it remains 15 percent higher than under the existing tax structure.
- Exports would increase by 26 percent initially and would remain more than 13 percent above the level under the current tax system.
- Real wages will increase.
- Increases incentives to work by as much as 20 percent in many households, leading to higher economic growth and efficiency.
- Interest rates will fall 25 to 35 percent.
I add the following effects:
- Up to a 15.3% tax cut for the poor who currently pay social security and medicare, but not income taxes.
- The elimination of a lot of money from politics. (No loopholes = no lobbying)
- A significant reduction in the cost of government (a much smaller IRS would be needed, though I see the need to police black market transactions).
- More predicatable revenue flows (consumption is pretty constant across all classes, income varies wildly with the economic cycle for the rich who bear most of the income tax burden)
- Improved competitiveness of US businesses in the global market (with no corporate tax, margins get wider and administrative overhead goes down)
- The temporary displacement of a few million workers (tax professionals, lobbyists) whose services would be absorbed into more productive activities over a few years (other than the actual remittance of taxes, tax professionals add little value to an economy)
- A temporary bump in the nominal price of goods followed by an extended decline in the real price of goods (more than likely the full tax would be initially passed along, but this wouldn't represent any actual increase in the chunk taken out of your income as your take home pay would go up significantly. The decline in real prices comes from price competition eating away the margins saved in the simplified tax code compliance).
- Market distortions will be lessened (no favoritism from the tax code)
- Internet sales will be taxed (otherwise we create a monster distortion in the market would be created)
- Lots of corporations will headquarter in the US (0% corporate tax rate)
- The EU will be pissed. However, they'll also eventually adopt this sort of plan. However, corporations are less likely to want to move again as they'll be no financial reason to do so.
- Savings will increase dramatically (which tends to add capital to the market) but IRAs 401Ks and all other tax sheltered investments will be eliminated (but then again, every investment will be tax sheltered)
- I, and millions of others, will dance a jig in happiness each April 15 as I eat a cake with John Linder's visage on it.
My inner libertarian also likes the idea because I get greater flexibility with my money (I could save or I could spend the extra take home money) (ok, my outer libertarian would like the idea for the same reason).
Now there's three decent questions about the plan that I know of. 1) Will a 23% sales tax really cover all that? 2) How will this affect charitable giving? 3) What about the housing market and the interest rate deduction?
My short answers to those concerns are the following:
1) Maybe 23% is too low. Maybe it's too high. I'm open to debate as to what the exact number should be. However, due the increased efficiencies that will gained and the stimulative effect that this should have on the economy, I fully expect that the percentage should be significantly less than the 45% (30 + 15.3) or so that comes out of my income now.
On 2 and 3, the worry is that without the tax deduction for home interest and giving, the demand for charitable giving and housing will go down.
However, that deduction is still effectively there. Interest payments and gifts do not represent a sale. So as you make your monthly home payment or your gift to charity, those transactions are not taxed (though the initial value of the house would presumably be taxed). So the fraction of your income going to these two activities are excluded from taxation. This is exactly the same effect as if you were deducting these items from your income when computing your income tax.
However, you would be getting this deduction without having to fill out a 1040.
The same deduction reasoning applies to IRAs, cept that now there's no cap on the deduction nor a government penalty for early withdrawal!
And the same deduction reasoning applies to medical care, cept now there's initial hurdle to clear before you start taking the deduction!
Anyways, leave a comment as to what you think of the idea of a national consumption tax replacing the taxes that are taken out of your paycheck.
Here's a FAQ on the fair tax.
Spakkadi has thoughts on the fair tax as well.
In the comments, Matt asks a good question - he's just paying 15% in taxes now, wouldn't this be a tax hike on people like him?
Well there's three parts to the answer.
First, 15% is your income tax rate. The consumption tax replaces the collection of all payroll taxes - income, social security, and medicare. 15% + 7.65% (social security + medicare) = 22.65%. So it'll be like you got an immediate raise of 22.65% on which you would be paying a consumption tax of 23%. But wait, there's more! (Social security and medicare are still there, the means of revenue collection are changed to be a part of that 23% consumption tax)
Second, you'll also get a check each month (as would everyone) offseting the taxes you're paying for necessities. While I don't know what the exact number would be, according to the the Fair Tax FAQ for spending of $28,808 (I think that's equivalent to the same income), that works out to an effective tax rate of 17.3%.
Third, that 7.65% that employers are saving on social security and medicare would eventually work their way into a combination of lower real prices and higher salaries due to market forces. This would happen almost immediately at Walmart (prices more likely than salaries), slower elsewhere. Likewise the same effect will happen on corporate taxes which go away. This effect is further heightened by the savings that each company will have in tax code compliance (sales taxes are much simpler than the mess of loopholes that is corporate tax code).
So even ignoring the combination of effects in my third point, you'll have an immediate tax savings of 22.65-17.3=5.35%. If you include the third point, then you save at least another 7.65 points for a total of 13.00%. So your federal tax bill would be cut by 13.00/22.65 = 57%!.
(Note some numbers were adjusted above cause I f'd up my arithmetic. This caused a reduction in the bottom line savings from 59% to 57%.)
Today via Drudge I read of a major step in the GoBotification of the human race:
The pioneering surgery at New England Sinai Hospital, Massachusetts, last summer means [Matt Nagle] can now control everyday objects by thought alone. The brain chip reads his mind and sends the thoughts to a computer to decipher. He can think his TV on and off, change channels and alter the volume thanks to the technology and software linked to devices in his home....Mr Nagle has also been able to use thought to move a prosthetic hand and robotic arm to grab sweets from one person's hand and place them into another.Nagle, however, is merely the latest in a series of steps in the Gobotification process which I think begins with Barney Clark who survived for 112 hours on a Jarvik-7.
But is the GoBotification of the human race something we should be striving for? After all, are we not committing ourselves to a lifetime of battle against Cy-Kill and the rest of the Renegades? Are we not committing ourselves to a lifetime of being sold by Tonka? (Or at least until Tonka is bought by Hasbro and GoBots become to Transformers what Duplos are to Legos) Are we prepared to be attacked by flying coffee beans when we come to the aid of the Rock Lords?
On the other hand, who wouldn't want to be a "Mighty Robot, Mighty Vehicle?"
How many 5 year olds could you take in a fight?"
A different ethical dilemma at Catallarchy. But this one is a bit more serious than GoBotification or "5's for fighting."
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
New Criterion Contraption
Don't Do It Code Blue!
Via Michelle Malkin, I see where the radiologist who is running Code Blue Blog has put forth the following wager:
So let's analyze this gambling situation. If the neurologist guesses 60 or more cases correctly as either PVS or not PVS, the the neurologist quadruples his/her money (maybe 5 times - I'm not certain what distinction code blue is drawing on neurologist/bioethicist).
To prove my point I am offering $100,000 on a $25,000 wager for ANY neurologist (and $125,000 for any neurologist/bioethicist) involved in Terri Schiavo's case--including all the neurologists reviewed on television and in the newspapers who can accurately single out PVS patients from functioning patients with better than 60% accuracy on CT scans.
I will provide 100 single cuts from 100 different patient's brain CT's. All the neurologist has to do is say which ones represent patients with PVS and which do not.
If the neurologist can be right 6 out of 10 times he wins the $100,000.
Now if the neurologist was an untrained monkey, there would be a fifty-fifty chance of getting each diagnosis correct and the odds of getting 60 or more correct would be approximately 2.8%. Quadruple the return, and you have an expectation of getting 11.2% of your wager back. Those are indeed bad odds. However, that's for monkeys.
We're talking humans here, neurologists to be precise. If they only have a probability of just 56.13%, then they'll break even. Any higher and they'll make money.
Now cause I'm a dork, I plotted the probability of guessing right for 60 or more scans versus the probability of guessing any one scan correctly. As I show below, the neurologists need to only be able to guess right a little better than 56% of the time to come out ahead.
However, we can be more precise as to exactly how well the neurologists will have to do.
From the Journal of Neurology, we know that the occurence of misdiagnosis of PVS has been measured at 37% (that's disturbingly high which is what I think is Code Blue's motivation).
But that's just the probability of false alarm (the probability of diagnosing PVS when not PVS). We also have to factor in the probability of a miss (the probability of not diagnosing PVS when the patient really does have PVS).
Given that the break even point for Code Blue is when the neurologists guess right 56% of the time, we can figure out what the probability of a miss will have to be for code blue to make money (assuming that horrendous 37% false alarm rate is maintained). This miss probability can be found by solving the following equation:
For the sake of argument, let's assume that Code Blue chooses his samples so that half are PVS and half are not. Then that expression above becomes:
So assuming with this half and half assumption and with the assumption that the neurologists will continue with a 37% false alarm rate (saying it's PVS when it's not), then when the neurologists say the scan isn't PVS, at least 50.7% ot the time the neurologists would have to be wrong for Code Blue to make money.
Code Blue makes excellent points 1) that radiologists are the ones trained to take first looks at the scans, not neurologists and 2) that PVS is misdiagnosed ALOT.
But if Code Blue wants to hang onto his money, he shouldn't make this wager...
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
If you're a regular reader, these links will interest you.
Technicon 22 is this weekend in Blacksburg at the Ramada. I don't think I'll be attending as the $20 registration fee is more than I'm willing to pay. If you're looking for more than just the run-of-the-mill scifi, fantasy, anime Technicon will also have sessions on polyamory, BSM, and bellydancing (shudder... most scifi afficianados don't look like this) . As an aside, Andrew of Logomancy is on the staff of Technicon-22.
Hugo Award Nominations
The Hugo nominees have been announced. The full list is here.
Just cause I haven't seen a Star Wars link I didn't like...
Star Wars in 3-D
All the Star Wars films are going to be released in 3-D starting in 2007.
Batman vs Darth Vader
In a Maxim-esque comparison, Mister Snitch compares the men in black (capes). (Batman wins)
M&M's Chocolate Mpire
M&M looks to capitalize on the Revenge of the Sith phenomenon as they have their own faux Revenge of the Sith Trailer. (h/t SFSignal)
Ever want to have your text appear as StarWars characters? Probably not, but if you did, this is the site for you. (h/t Big Dumb Object)
Star Wars Clone Wars The Cartoon
Airs on the Cartoon Network. (h/t Christiana)
I couldn't find a good classification for these links, but they're still interesting.
Overused Scifi Cliches
A humongous list of overused scifi cliches. I actually like most of the ones marked by the piggy symbol...
SF Cliche Contest
Subterranean magazine is having accepting entries for "original" science fiction stories that are chock-full of scifi cliches - the more the better. With that previous link in hand, you should have everything you need.
Leonard Nimoy - photographer
Via email from Roger, I see where Leonard Nimoy is branching out into photography. Spock also has some rather naughty photos (some pics in the gallery are not work safe)...
Iron Man's Game
Orson Scott Card is writing a series of five comic books on Iron Man. Scifiwire has the interview.
University of Kansas Science Fiction Center
Has a very cool science fiction website - lots of essays and educational material. (h/t scifiwire)
Find an an alien and bring it to the LoanPros, and you'll get one meeelion dollars.
Scalzi has a polyscifi like site (science fiction and politics) called Whatever.
How could I leave this one out?
Dalek attacks Parliament. (h/t Chaos Manor which doesn't do permalinks) Here's a picture of a Dalek.
NCAA Pickem League Standings
be nice to post an update on the status of the Polyscifi pickem league.
With four teams left, there's just eight ways in which the remaining three games can play out. Assuming those eight scenarios are equiprobable, then "A Picker Darkly" and "nope" have the greatest probability of winning with 3 winning scenarios a piece. "Coin Flippers" and "Bubblicious" each have a scenario by which they can win.
If you're interested in seeing the specific scenarios by which each of these entries can win and the current point standings, click through.
A Picker Darkly....85........3
League Winner....Semi 1.......Semi 2.......Champion
A Picker Darkly..Louisville...UNC..........Louisville
A Picker Darkly..Louisville...Mich. State..Louisville
A Picker Darkly..Louisville...Mich. State..Mich. State
Nope.............Illinois.....Mich. State..Mich State
The New Libertarian
It's available for free download (pdf) here. It's a good read, and not just because this Polyscifi post is included in the "Around the 'Sphere" section.
Ray Mummert: Intelligently Designed.
"We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."
Now that is a problem, Ray. There's always been a pretty strong undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in American culture. And as Neal Stephenson points out, intellectuals turned the twentieth century into an abbatoir. But geez, "intelligent" and "educated" as pejoratives? That's a little much, no?
Here's the story. H/T Wonkette.
Monday, March 28, 2005
Maybe Henry VIII Knew Something
The authors believe that the sex hormones of both parents strongly influence the sex of their offspring and back up their theory with data from the 1994 US General Social Survey.
So maybe ole Henry was right and his wives were too empathetic and a more systematizing wife was needed to increase the probability of male progeny.
Or maybe Henry would've been better suited for a different line of work...
New Criterion Contraption
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Frusion Breakfast Brawl
Friday, March 25, 2005
Major Major for the Blind and/or Lazy
I don't think any of the other Pulitzer Prize for Fiction nominees will have a reading from the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics.
So I'm like so in there.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
But is it Art?
Chile con Carnival at Wendy's
SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- A diner at a Wendy's fast food restaurant in San Jose, California, found a human finger in a bowl of chili prepared by the chain, local officials said Wednesday.There's no word yet if either a pony or a Radiohead showed up for the Chile con Carnival. And while the police are still trying to determine where the finger came from, I think they should first check the Tenorman household.
"This individual apparently did take a spoonful, did have a finger in their mouth and then, you know, spit it out and recognized it," said Ben Gale, director of the department of environmental health for Santa Clara County. "Then they had some kind of emotional reaction and vomited."
The diner has dropped the claim and has been arrested. See this post.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Letter from a Hokie on the Arabian Peninsula
The food here at the mess hall is on par with the Dietrick Hall Dining Facility (aka Die Quick) from VA Tech. My fellow Hokies alumni will know what I am talking about. For those who didn’t have the opportunity to attend such a fine college, the food is acceptable but the menu does not offer enough variety. The main difference between the Dietrick food and the mess hall here is that it doesn’t give me any heartburns.I never got heartburn from Dietrick, but I always had to take the Dietrick poop immediately afterwards. I hope he's not experiencing that aspect of Dietrick style food in the desert.
In Terrace View
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Life Imitates Weekly World News
Maybe the government does know something about an impending toilet paper crisis that we don't.
Previous Life Imitates Weekly World News Post
For the Blacksburg Readers
Monday, March 21, 2005
Are You Inquiring about a Challenge?
Anyway, point is, today Homestar Runner has a new game up, a spot-on recreation of Megaman. If you don't know the site, this link explains the characters in the game. And here's the game. Brings back all kinds of memories. Memories of staring at a television while my youth passed me by.
Replicators on the way?
New Criterion Contraption.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Dude.... You're Getting a Compaq?
Friday, March 18, 2005
On the science side...
Injection molding gives us everything from car and computer parts, to action figures and Legos.
Post edited (URL put in storyline) by Jody.
Harry Shearer at Talking Points Memo
Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith
I know I behind on this one, but you can see the Revenge of the Sith trailer here. Somehow, I sill prefer this trailer (h/t Christiana)
Star Wars - Revelations
Revelations is a major fan flick coming out on April 16. (what better way to unwind after Tax Day?) Its timeline appears to occur between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Here's a link to its trailer. The special effects actually look pretty good, though the actors are definitely not Hollywood actors. (h/t slashdot)
War of the Worlds
Coming out this June. (Official site here. It's horribly slow, so consider yourself forewarned.)
It's going to be a great summer with yet another SciFi Movie. (h/t Drezner)
New Hitchhiker's Trailer
A new trailer (quite amusing too) is available here.
Old TV Shows Made New
If you've missed out on the show so far, you can at least see the entire first episode here.
The first episode of the new Dr Who apparently leaked out onto the net. The BBC isn't happy about this and are looking into threatening downloaders with copyright laws. I think they could learn something from the SciFi Channel's treatment of Battlestar Galactica. Capt Xerox thinks the leak was done intentionally so the BBC's posturing my all be for show.
Legos and Scifi
What do legos have to do with SciFi? Ask Stephen Green.
Spiderman vs Doc Ock
In LEGOs in a yahoo quicktime movie.
Batman in Legos
On this site in another LEGO quicktime movie. It has actually has some amazing voice talent for an online movie (like Adam West as Batman). (h/t SFSignal)
Lego Starwars Demo
The Lego Starwars game mentioned in the previous roundup, now has a demo that you can download. (h/t SFSignal)
Technically not scifi, but why not?
It appears to be in the works, but perhaps 3-4 years off according to this article.
LOTR - the Musical
is opening in Toronto next March.
Legend of Zelda Trailer
Yes, you read that right. A video game has its own trailer. (h/t Christiana)
Fantasy Bedtime Hour
The only thing better than fantasy? Having fantasy novels read to you by a couple chicks in bed it's the Fantasy Bedtime Hour. (h/t gnxp science fiction)
Some cool links I found via SFSignal
If you're not reading SFSignal daily for your SciFi fix, you should be.
The Physics of Science Fiction
Is discussed in this presentation interspersed with a transcription of the original speech. There's a lot of detailed discussion of the physics and stability of Ringworld. (SFSignal article)
George Takei Soundbourd
A very large collection of George Takei (Capt Sulu) is available here. (SFSignal article)
The Differences Between SciFi and Science Fiction
is discussed in this article. In short, the author posits that SciFi (cinematic Science Fiction) is concerned with stories where the characters are fighting to stop/avoid an event that will change the status quo (think Armegeddon or Deep Impact) whereas in Science Fiction (literary Science Fiction), the story follows the characters' attempts to adjust to the event (think Lucifer's Hammer). (SFSignal article)
I couldn't find a good categorization for this stuff, but I thought you would like to see it nonetheless.
A Scifi role playing game
that you write as you go along on this site (h/t Nute)
Scifi for [fill in the blank] lists
For liberals (h/t The Mumpsimus)
For just about everyone else. Though I think the list of "Science Fiction for people who think supreme executive power should be lodged in the candidate who possesses the memories of previous leaders" is lacking as it doesn't include the Serpentor series.
Appears to be in the works according to Duchovny. However, it won't have anything to do with the alien storyline.
The author of the Witch World series has died. (h/t Instapundit)
Wonder Woman Movie
Appears to be in the works.
You know you want one. (h/t boingboing)
Learn to Draw Boba Fett
You know you wanna.
Revenge of the Sith will be like the Titanic?
So says Lucas - "I describe it as a 'Titanic' in space. It's a real tearjerker, and it will be received in a way that none of us can expect."
Silly me, I was expecting bad ass light saber fights. Maybe when Vader kills Mace Windu, he'll exclaim, "I'm King of the World!!"
H.P. LoveCraft in the WSJ
You know an author has finally been mainstreamed when he appears in a WSJ article.
Economics as Psychohistory
After noting an article by Kevin Drum which highlighted an economic study by econophysicists, Jon of QandO analogized the situation to Asimov's psychohistory.
Lucas - Idiot or Savant?
Over the past week there was a lengthy debate in the Corner on the Star Wars franchise and Lucas. This one is rather lengthy, so click through if you want to read the exchange.
It all started with Jonah's innocent note that Revenge of the Sith may be too scary for kids...
Rick, no fan of Lucas (or Spielberg - too much SouthPark methinks), chimed in with "[George Lucas] and Steven Spielberg are two of the most disastrous pop cultural figures of the last thirty years. They converted an entire medium to childishness--scary sharks, space men, Indiana Jones. Star Wars is bits of plastic put together with Scotch tape. There were clever moments here and there, and more often cheap thrills. But anything adult was banished."
Rick then added: "George Lucas made a hugely successful piece of rubbish. Steven Spielberg, in his wittier way, has made many more. And we have all suffered." and trashed John Williams ability as a composer noting that the man actually managed to rip himself off.
At this point, Jonathon Adler noted that Jason Apuzzo had hopped in to defend Lucas on Libertas as a follow up to Apuzzo's prior post. While the defense was all well and good, Apuzzo also insisted that Jonah, Last and others had no place criticizing Lucas as they weren't sufficiently learned in the art of movie making. Needless to say, this pissed off Jonah. I know I felt the same way in this thread though Apuzzo at least argued a point.
However, all this was ignored for a while as Jonah dropped the ball.
Finally, on Monday, someone emailed Jonah Apuzzo's second post, and Jonah went off. Jonah then got official approval to pontificiate froma an emailer here. The Derb weighed in wishing for more intelligent SciFi.
Jonah finally got back to Rick's original argument here listing several craptastic movies that came out before Lucas and Spielberg would've had a chance to ruin Hollywood. Then Jonah offered an email supporting his position an contra Rick's Speilberg Nazi position (they're silly) and defended Williams in the process.
Rick weighed back in here expressing an appreciation forScifi kitsch. And then added a comment in praise of Kubrick's choice of music in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Rick and Jonah adjourned to Atlanta with Jonah challenging Rick to a light saber duel.
Rick rejoined his Spielberg Nazi criticism here.
Apuzzo then got around to responding to Jonah, which Jonah noted here promising more. I suggest (for what that's worth) that both sides drop it and stop the unproductive portion of the Lucas debate.
- Studios make the most money on opening weekend. After that, profit participation falls. Theaters make the most money after the opening weekend. So a studio wants a movie that makes a hundred million the first weekend, and they don't care how it does after that. A classic example would be The Hulk, which made $62 million its first weekend and dropped to just under $19 million the weekend after that. It made half of its total domestic gross (roughly $120 million) the first two days it was open (and it was in first run theaters for three months).
- Theater owners make more money the longer a movie has been showing; My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the kind of movie they want. It made just over a half a million dollars the first weekend it was open (on 108 screens). Its total domestic gross was nearly $250 million, and every week past the opening, theaters earned a larger and larger percentage of ticket share.
Which brings me to my main point: theater chains are not really rational actors in this market. Or, they are, but not in the way you'd think; they don't always show a movie because they think people will see it--they make all kinds of strange deals with studios, because the fact is, the studios don't have to sell them product. So they'll say things like, you want an exclusive engagement in Knoxville of The Matrix Reloaded for its opening weekend? Well, then you have to guarantee me you'll give me two screens of a revival screening of Battlefield Earth for a full month, so that word-of-mouth will bring kids in (an optimistic plan, to say the least). And there are people who'll see whatever movie has seats available, even if it's John Travolta with dreadlocks; and by making this kind of deal, Warner Brothers gets that extra money, and more importantly, denies another studio the same screen.
Say a hypothetical theater owner decided that Battlefield Earth tickets were only worth $1, not $7.50. And as a result, sent $0.50 to the studio for everyone who saw it, not $3.75. Warner Brothers distributed that movie. Guess which theater isn't even going to get to bid on showing The Matrix, Batman Begins, Million Dollar Baby, or anything else they might want?
Finally, add to the equation that actors and directors get profit participation as well, and you can see why neither theater owners nor studios are anxious to price different movies differently. You don't want a star pissed off because people can see her latest flop for $1.25, while Hilary Swank gets $10.
And last, remember William Goldman's central rule about Hollywood:
Nobody knows anything.
Nobody knows what movie is going to be a hit ahead of time. Nobody knows what movie is going to strike a chord with audiences a particular week. Movies are tracked, and studios have some idea how they'll do, but they get surprised. It's not like other businesses, where past revenues give an idea about future returns; a studio markets and sells ten to twenty completely different products each year. Which will do well? Nobody knows anything!
Example: The Grudge tracked at $25 million for the first weekend (tracking is the studio's prediction of how it will do) and it made $40. They were nearly 100% off. (this info is from Tad Friend's excellent piece about Dave Wirtschafter (head agent at William Morris) in this week's New Yorker; the president of production at New Line makes an appearance. It's not online, but there's an interview with Friend here). Trying to further second-guess audiences by negotiating different ticket pricing deals for different movies is nothing theater owners want to get into (studios can't negotiate ticket prices). So this is an issue where I'm not sure the market (at least the market between studios and theater chains) is capable of making rational decisions.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Where did I put my keys?
But these guys are doing crazy things like memorizing a deck of cards in 45 seconds and memorizing a 50 line poem in 2-3 minutes (by comparison that used to take me 30-40 minutes in Spanish class).
I am simply in awe of their short term memories.
Know thy Poop
I don't see how I could not post a link to such a brilliant article. Of course my judgement may be a little off from the mainstream as the article does say the reviewed exhibit is intended for 8-12 year old boys...
Astroturfing Campaign Finance Reform
Well, now you can add one more source of annoyance. It was astro-turfed.
Via QandO and Instapundit, I learned of this NY Post article by Ryan Sager. In it Sager levels the following charges based on videotaped conversations with Sean Treglia.
1) There was no public groundswell for campaign finance reform.
2) The appearance of a groundswell was orchestrated by a group of 8 organizations (lead by Pew Charitable Trusts - "Serving the public interest" - Ha!) and pliant members of the liberal media like American Prospect and NPR (if you don't think NPR can be bought, check out this Kaus post)
3) This was further advanced by buying "independent" groups such as the Center for Public Integrity (I like Sager's descriptor of Orwellian names)
None of this is illegal, mind you.
I'm just very much annoyed at the 4th estate (make it 4 for 4) which saw fit to publish a large expose' on the Swifties connections to Bush based on a shared consultant (Spaeth), but couldn't be bothered to follow the money in something that was clearly intended to dramatically limit political speech in America.
Ryan Sager's blog - Miscellaneous Objections - has documentary transcripts and videos.
On a tangential note, I think what Sager did with this story is exactly what the media should be doing with blogs/online content - publish the story in print and provide documenting evidence/background info online for those who want to know more.
Hopefully others will pick up this strategy.
In the comments of QandO, shark suggests that it may be illegal due to the classification of Pew (and the other organizations) as charitable groups.
News you can Use
I'm Spartacus! (or: Why I Can't Leave Los Angeles)
Anyway, there's a Criterion DVD of the restored movie, and I recommend that. I also recommend that if you're in Los Angeles, you catch a movie at the Arclight. You pay for what you get there; my ticket tonight was $10, but a weekend night ticket is $14. But what you get:
- Reserved seats, like in a real theater. You don't have to wait in line or try to find a place to sit.
- The sharpest, brightest projectors money can buy. It's a noticeable difference; seeing a movie there, colors pop in a way they don't at most other theaters (even here, where projection standards are pretty high).
- Black box theaters, with no light coming in, no aisle lights during the movie, &c. Nothing bleeds into the picture.
- No sound leaks theater to theater, either.
- Real buttered popcorn.
- No discount for kids, so parents don't bring them. You never have a screaming baby in the theater.
- Nobody gets to enter after the movie has started; the ushers really won't let you. So you never have somebody scrabbling all over you, trying to get to their seat.
- And, maybe best of all, no in-theater advertising. None: no crappy slide show, no music playing in the theaters with a helpful voice telling you where you can buy the songs you're hearing, none of that. Which you don't realize how obnoxious those ads are until you don't have to deal with them.
The larger point here is that this is an example of the market working, I guess; but most people won't pay for a better movie experience. Or at least won't do it consistently enough to have a multiplex that does it right. Which means, even if I weren't trying to write screenplays, I'd still want to live in Los Angeles, because there are enough people to support a place like the Arclight. And I don't mean support like the Tennessee Theater in Knoxville or other places that people give money to, like art museums. This theater makes money hand over fist. I'd love to think it's a business model that could be supported elsewhere on a smaller scale. So I put it to you guys: would you pay more for a perfect projection, print, sound system, &c, &c. All the time? For some movies? (my roommate will see epic things there but not smaller scale stuff) Never? Inquiring minds want to know.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
I'll just say I'm a little disappointed in my liquor result having an extremely large personal bar (50+ varieties of liquor) and all...
(Click here to see the test results)
| Bacardi 151 |
Congratulations! You're 153 proof, with specific scores in beer (100) , wine (100), and liquor (121).
|All right. No more messing around. Your knowledge of alcohol is so high |
that you have drinking and getting plastered down to a science. Sure,
you could get wasted drinking beer, but who needs all those trips to
the bathroom? You head straight for the bar and pick up that which is
| My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender: |
|Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test written by hoppersplit on Ok Cupid|
Polyscifi joins the Neolibertarian Network
- The choice that maximizes personal liberty is the best choice.
- The policy choice that offers the least amount of necessary government intervention or regulation is the best choice.
- The policy choice that provides rational, market-based incentives is the best choices
- A policy of diplomacy that promotes consensual government and human rights and opposes dictatorship.
- A policy of using US military force solely at the discretion of the US, but only in circumstances where American interests are directly affected.
If you like reading blogs that subscribe to those principles, check out the members of the Neolibertarian Network. Of course Polyscifi remains your one stop blog for politics, science fiction, and stupid stuff.
Lid up or lid down?
Smarch Madness reminder
In case you forgot, the group number is "23853" and the password is "polyscifi".
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Ventura to speak at Tech tonight
How to serve Roo
May I suggest one of the following lovely cuts of kangaroo as highlighted on this Aussie kangaroo industry site.
More info about that tasty, tasty animal we call kangaroo is available in this helpful guide (a rather large pdf, but a must on Eat an Animal for PETA day). Recipes for each of these cuts are available at this site.
Now, suppose your local McDonald's doesn't serve roo, but yet you still have a hankering for a roo burger or a roo filet. (That's not a McDonald's I care to contemplate. What's life without a good McRoo sandwich with a side of Koala?)
Well then, this company will ship roo straight to your house.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and eat an animal. They're literally asking you to eat them.
Instead of Roo, I had this for breakfast/lunch. Mmm mmm good.
Yourish has a list of some other sites participating in Eat an Animal for Peta Day here.
Wizbang has a particularly nice pic of some BBQ and its chefs.
What is the source of the success of Japan?
Is it being invaded by the US - ala the Mouse that Roared?
Did the Samurai code lead to good salarimen?
Is a natural outgrowth of MITI?
Are the Yakuza giving Japan a leg up?
Or is it subtle help from the Pokemons? [As an aside, whenever I see someone from Pi Kappa Alpha, I have an uncontrollabe urge to start saying, "Peeeka... Pikachooo."]
According to an article linked to by Rog on nanothoughts, it's the shape of the Japanese women's pubic hair that did it.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
No means no.
Another reason it makes no sense is that it buys into the essential dishonesty of the president's political argument -- namely, that we're now debating how to 'save' Social Security: He has a plan. So the Dems should have one too.
But, as we've argued repeatedly here, that's not what we're debating. As press commentary has belatedly but increasingly awakened to, what we're now debating is whether to keep Social Security or to replace it with private accounts.
I think this is dead on the money, and I think that if the Democrats can successfully frame the debate on these terms, this will be a big winner for them in 2006.
Read the whole thing.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Credit Card Woes
Allowing credit card companies to take even more from the people who can least afford it is going to encourage them to make even more bad decisions when it comes to loaning people money in the first place. The fact is, when you get to a certain financial point, you have very few options in terms of repaying credit card companies. If you'd like details, check out the Washington Post's report here (reg. required). And I have very little sympathy for an industry that preys on the weak.
The stupidity of this bill is legion; among other things, it makes bankruptcy lawyers liable for any assets their clients successfully hide from the courts. Newsflash: the bankruptcy lawyers don't necessarily know about those assets either. This is like sending a defense attorney to the gas chamber because his client was guilty.
Democracies have a right, even an obligation, to pass stupid bills if the majority wants them. But this bill has little or no support among the American populace. Glenn Reynolds and Paul Krugman agree about this bill; Glenn also thinks it's a dumb move for the Republicans. There's a lot of talk on KOS about penalizing the Democrats who voted for cloture. You can find a list of them on Josh Marshall's bankruptcy bill edition of his blog, here (click the "Bankruptcy Rolls" links on the right). I'm pleased to note that Boxer and Feinstein both voted against cloture. While I do agree that the Democrats on the list should suffer (I couldn't support a presidential bid from Biden in 2008, for instance), I think it's also worth noting, again and again and again, that every single Republican Senator voted for cloture.
It's too late to stop passage of this stupid, stupid bill. It's not too late to use it as a pointed reminder that Senators don't always serve their constituents (I'd propose an exception for the Senators from Delaware--they really are serving their constituents. Their evil, predatory constituents). A democracy that lets people buy legislation through campaign contributions is not a democracy at all; it's a plutocracy. And plutocracies inevitably become monotonous, incorrigible failures.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Happy Birthday Dave
A Good Entry in the Abortion Debate
As such I was happy to see (via Jane Galt) this post by Doug on Catallarchy which proposes what I think is a neat conceptual definition of when life begins - the same definition we apply to determine when life ends. Specifically, Doug proposes that we use the same definition we apply to determine if someone is alive/dead even when on life support - the absence or presence of brain activity.
According to Doug's link, this occurs towards the end of the 9th week, though I have also seen the 6th week cited as well. I like this definition of the beginning of life (whether week 6 or week 9/10), particularly because of its symmetry with the end of life.
I'm not particularly interested in a discussion of the morality of abortion in this post, because once we get rhetoric out of the way, I think most people - even those ardently pro-life or pro-choice - have a similar moral interpretation of abortion. If you want to debate the morality of abortion, go post it on Jacqueline's site. She seems to like that discussion.
However, I am interested in a discussion of definitions, in particular the "the presence of brain activity" definition for the beginning of life. So if you like this definition or would like to suggest a different one, leave a comment.
Of course without a team in the tourney, it's only fun to watch(I like to watch - ed...) if you're in a basketball bracket. So this year Polyscifi has put together its first annual yahoo (read as free) tournament pick'em league.
To play, you'll need a yahoo id (which is free), the group number - 23853, and the group password - polyscifi.
The winner of the league will receive a signed copy of the polyscifi artwork of their choice (So you think others prize your "art?" -ed Hey, we're a low budget site, and it's all we have.)
It's good fun, relatively low maintenance, and if you're not playing along in the polyscifi group, it'll be harder to follow the gratuitous smack talk which tends to accompany these
No TP for my bung hole?
In what could be the most serious crisis in the history of butt wiping, the world's supply of toilet paper may soon plummet to zero!Soon we may only be able to read about toilet paper in special toilet paper museums.
However, all is not lost. Just as there are alternatives to oil, there are also alternatives to toilet paper:
"There are plenty of substitutes for toilet paper... such as parking tickets, credit card bills, and wedding invitations. Remember, lots of cultures have never even heard of toilet paper -- take the French, for instance."So plan ahead and start identifying your own toilet paper alternatives like this man. (If that link doesn't work, try this one.)
Shameless link whoring on Wizbang 'cause this story is just too important to not be read...
Personally, I'll be drinking this to toast St Brendan in addition to my green beer for St Patrick.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Superman is a Dick
Via INDC and my brother, comes this link - a collection of comic book covers where Superman is a dick.
This Place Sucks (Office Space and the Super Friends)
This Place Sucks recreates scenes from Office Space with the Super Friends. Robin as Samir and Aquaman as Drew is pure genius. (h/t Milk and Cookies) (If you click on nothing else in this roundup, click on this link.)
Out of Context Comic Book Frames
This site collects frames of superhero comics, which when taken out of context, are quite amusing. (h/t BoingBoing)
Spiderman in Biblical History
Who knew that Spidey played such a key role in Biblical history? This Portland Mercury cartoonist, that's who. (h/t BoingBoing)
Spidey Goes to India
Not satisfied with just helping out thos of a Judeo-Christian background, Spidey is going to India to help the Hindus (ok about 20% of India is Muslim or Christian, but I thought it made for a nice transition). Here's the official press release, an article in the Weekly Standard (h/t Oxblog) on the universal values of Spiderman, and here's some initial cover art.
Superheros in Egypt
They've now got superheros in Egypt - AK Comics is putting out an Arabic collection of comic books. Clearly this is a
Superheros in Saudi Arabis (Update)
Via the comments of this post on Dean's World (which also notes AK Comics), we learn of Qkids, an English language comic book series published out of Sweden and edited in Saudi Arabia.
Superhero Sues Yourish (Update2)
In the comments, Mr Snitch points out his post in which the Hulk sues Yourish. So be careful what you say about the green guy - he's got counsel.
I have no idea why there was the double internal post, but it should be fixed now.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Speeding Ticket for Roger
There's no word if trivia was involved.
Caption Contest Results
We got three, count em, three entries.
"How the Democratic Party plans to court the black vote in the 21st century"
"Some Union Head"
Roger (channeling Marv Albert?):
"Tonight at the Alamodome, he gets Happy-Go-Jackie on the big white guy like a donkey eating a waffle! Sweet Sassy Molassey! Get out the checkbook and pay grandma for the rubdown as the Spurs beat the Heat, 86-79! Thason!"
I think Thason's the clear winner here. So later this week, he'll be receiving a signed copy of "The Bill Gates."
Seems to me that it's only fair judging by this picture on Xrlq.
Today, I see where cats are now hunting us with 9mm guns. Eventually, they'll wise up and start using rifles, so we should pass this vital legislation now. This legislation is made all the more important as I fully expect the cat population to stand in the way of my dream of a mouse butler.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
In this universe, a species' social rank in the universe is determined primarily by the number of other species that it has uplifted. So when aliens finally come across humans, they are confused by 1) where our parent species are 2) how we managed to advance on our own to become a space faring species. However, since we've already uplifted chimps and dolphins, we're grudgingly accepted into the universe's society.
Today, via Futurepundit, I see where we're now implanting human brain cells in mice. Uplift in process?
However, the folks at the National Academy of Science don't see this as an uplifting process. As quoted by Randall, Professor Henry T. Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, said:
"We concluded that if we see any signs of human brain structures . . . or if the mouse shows human-like behaviors, like improved memory or problem-solving, it's time to stop.''For the time being, I'll ignore the considerable weird uncomfortable ethical questions this raises (in my gut, I'm against chimeras), and merely note a) it's about time we started working our way up the alien social ladder and b) I'm looking forward to having my own mouse butler.
Why do I care so much about the mouse butler? Because once we've figured out how to make a mouse butler, it's only a short while until we have monkey butlers.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
For the fellas
Friday, March 04, 2005
Polyscifi on Dean's World
After describing the backstory to the line: "You only have any rights because the rest of us pretty much agree that you have them." Dean goes on to conclude that: "Your rights do not exist unless your fellow men agree that they exist."
Fundamentally, Dean is correct as "a right is a claim, on other persons, that is acknowledged and reciprocated among the principals associated with that claim" and if they don't agree, then you don't have that right.
So go read the post and this comment which adds another example of the social contract origin of rights from Lucifer's Hammer.
QandO continues the discussion.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Anyway, that's a roundabout way of saying that I think Christopher Walken is inherently funny; even the idea of Christopher Walken makes me laugh. So a Norman Rockwell-style painting of Christopher Walken building a robot in his garage? Yeah, I'm a fan. So if you're a connoisseur of fine art (and who isn't?), I'd highly recommend the paintings of Brandon Bird. You can find his site here (but also at http://painteroflight.com (!)) . A few highlights:
- Bad Day on the High Seas
- Norton Defiant
- Lazy Sunday Afternoon -- this is the one of Walken in his garage.
- And probably best of all, a collection of children's yearly Christmas letters to Christopher Walken.
A Possibly Impolitic Idea
Wouldn't it be nice if you could specify the fraction of your income tax that went to each department? The levels of taxation would still presumably be set by Congress.
Say you're a big antiwar "Not in my name" protestor. Then the war really wouldn't be in your name if you didn't fund the defense department.Giving a more formal description of this idea, when you fill out your taxes, you would specify what percentage of your taxes go to each of the 15 Cabinet level departments and to a general fund. Each department would have complete control over how they spend the money they receive with typical Congressional oversight. The general fund would be allocated by Congress among the departments and any top level agencies that aren't part of a cabinet level department (like NASA). Congress would still be responsible for passing the laws and setting taxation levels.
Say you're flat out against abortion. Cut your funding to the HHS department.
Say you want more law enforcement - increase your percentage to Justice.
Say you want more money for the national parks - increase your percentage to the Interior.
If your allocation does not add up to 100% (whether from a math error, intention, or simply forgetting to do the breakdown), any unallocated tax dollars will go to the general fund. If you erroneous choose a breakdown that adds up to greater than 100% your percentage allocation would be normalized by the sum of allocations.
Here's the upsides and downsides to this proposal as I see it (I'm advocating a position here, so I've probably not giving a fair treatment to the downsides. That's where you, the reader, can show me the error of my way in the comments).
- No one can complain about the government spending their dollars on something they wouldn't approve of.
- Hopefully by removing personal responsibility for aspects of government that people findd distasteful, the civility of political debate will improve.
- The functions of the government will more closely reflect the will of the people If people across the board don't like something, it's funding will be harder to come by. If people really like something, then it will be rolling in dough.
- If you subscribe to theory propounded by The Wisdom of Crowds, then more intelligent allocations of tax money would be made when 200 million people instead of 535 people are making the allocation decisions.
- I've never really liked the aspect of democracy where you can vote yourself other people's money. Government enabled theft is what that is. This would limit, though not completely eliminate, this negative aspect of democracy.
- It'll encourage many people to pay closer attention to the sausage making of government.
- It strokes my inner libertarian. [ed - what's up with you and the penis jokes - sausage followed up by stroking?. - Hey, it works for Wonkette]
- I've long felt, like Boortz, that if you pay more taxes, you should have a greater say in how the government spends its money - like being a bigger stockholder in the company.
- Also like Boortz, I think it would be a good thing if smarter people got a greater say in government than stupid people. Since I buy that there's a correlation between intelligence and income, this proposal seems to achieve this objective.
- Since the public is approving the funding, I think we can limit the "spend-it-or-lose-it" mentality the infects so many agencies of government, particularly as there would be some motivation to save money from year to year as a Department could never be certain how much money it was actually going to receive the next year. Hopefully this will hold down the growth of government.
- It is possible that instead of acting like a crowd, the public will act like a mob and choose the allocations poorly and underfund something important. That's where the general fund and Congress comes in which presumably most people will contribute to as we're generally fat, lazy, and contented. I would point out that Congress makes many many stupid allocations so perhaps the people couldn't do that much worse.
- Being a conservative libertarian, I recognize that there may be many unforseen problems with this plan so we should be careful. Perhaps this would be best implemented on the state level first, perhaps by the Free State Project.
- There could be an outcry about the inequality of the power of allocating tax moneys. To which I respond, a) Voting rights would not be changed. b) We're not French. We founded our nation on the concepts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and not liberty, equality, and fraternity. c) Why should other people be allowed to determine how to spend my money in the name of equality? Is my name Harrison Bergeron or John Galt?
The commenters at Tacitus have some criticisms.