Monday, July 06, 2015

Back To The Future

ColumbusGuy just made a prediction about Greece.  At the beginning of the year I made my annual predictions.  Now that it's mid-year I think I'll repost them--without comment--so we can see how things are going so far:

Domestic Politics:

President Obama will veto more legislation than he did in his first six years in office.

Congress will not pass significant immigration reform.

The Justice Department will not back down on demanding lower due process requirements in sexual assault cases on campus.

No new Supreme Court Justice will be seated.

The Supreme Court will declare the Federal government may subsidize any health care exchange no matter what its source.

Elizabeth Warren will decide to run.  (I should add eight years ago I suggested Barack Obama run as he'd never have a better chance.  Same for Warren. Not that she's the same candidate that Obama was--heck, Obama isn't the same candidate Obama was--but with the changes in demographics, maybe McGovern can win this time around.)

At the end of the year there'll be no clear, odds-on frontrunner among the GOP for 2016.

International Politics:

ISIS will be weaker at the end of the year.

Iran will not announce they have an nuclear weapon.

Cuba will not have major reform, and will remain as poor as ever.

There will be a major terror attack in Europe.

The Economy:

The Dow will be over 18000 at the end of the year, but below 19000.

By year's end unemployment will be between 5% and 5.4%

Gas prices will continue to average under three dollars a gallon.


Alabama will win the BCS bowl.

The Detroit Tigers will not take their division.

The Michigan Wolverines will do better in 2015 than 2014 (they better).

A team that finished the season 12-4 will win the Super Bowl (a good bet, but hardly guaranteed).

Popular Culture:

After a couple years of no one caring, people will say a sad farewell to Mad Men and it will once again be nominated for a Best Drama Emmy.  (A brave guess, since once you're out that's usually it.)

On season five of Game Of Thrones, The Hound will not be dead (though we may not find out either way).  We will not find out this season who Jon Snow's real parents are.  Stannis Baratheon will not, even temporarily, sit on the Iron Throne.  At least two Westerners will meet for the first time in the East.

Birdman will receive the most above-the-line Oscar nominations.  Patricia Arquette will be Best Supporting Actress, J.K. Simmons will be Best Supporting Actor, Julianne Moore will be Best Actress (toughest category to call) and Michael Keaton will win for Best Actor.

PS  In the comments section, Denver Guy posted his predictions, including stuff about Greece (that he pretended was bold).  I prefer what he has to say about Jurassic World:


Sad to note that LG already has one correct prediction for 2015 (French terrorist attack). Here go mine for the rest of the year - mostly based on what's on my mind these days:


Though LA Guy thinks Obamacare could still be dismantled, I'm afraid even the King v. Burwell case couldn't do it. I'm going to predict that the S.Ct. will hold 5/4 that the text means what it says, but that will only give the Republicans an opening to force President Obama to accept significant changes to the law in exchange for fixing the typos. Too much has been invested for the Republicans to repeal the whole thing. They will gut the mandate and hope the program withers on the vine (it will become an expensive gov't program that does a fairly poor job at getting insurance to the needy and nobody else).

Of perhaps greater importance for free speech and right to work advocates, I predict a 7-2 victory for Abercrombie & Fitch against the EEOC, in the case where they wouldn't employ a Muslim woman in their fancy shmancy store because she insisted on wearing a head scarf. This seems obvious to me (employers have a right to control their own image, especially in retail), so maybe it will be unanimous in support of the 10th Circuit ruling.


Congress will pass a Keystone Pipeline bill, and the President will veto it, and the House will have the votes to overturn, but Elizabeth Warren will lead a massive push to prevent the Senate from overturning the veto, laying the groundwork for her run for President.

By the end of 2015, it will be clear that Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, John Kasich and Marco Rubio are the front runners for the Republican nomination, though none will dominate. I'm predicting that Huckabee and Romney will decline to run and Ted Cruz will not get much traction.

Harry Reid will announce his retirement before the end of the year, to make room for a new face in NV.


My bold prediction - the leftist party will take power in Greece, and by the end of the year, Greece will be in the process of leaving the EU.

Easy prediction - with 2 convictions in it's first 12 years of existence, I predict there will be no International Criminal Court convictions at the Hague in 2015.

Venezuela President Maduro will either have imposed a dictatorship with marshall law, or he will be out as President by year end.

Russia will not annex eastern Ukraine, but an autonomous State will be created, nominally under the control of Ukraine.


The Fed Funds Rate will be increased to .5% by year end.


Bronco's will get on the wrong bus and miss playing the Superbowl. Seriously, if I don't predict them to win the Superbowl, how stupid will I feel if they do?

And the Ravens will defeat the Patriots this weekend!

The Colorado Rockies will not win their division - Dodgers will repeat as NL West Division winners.


Star Wars VII will be the biggest blockbuster of 2015, breaking the $1B mark.

Jurassic World will disappoint at the box office (though I'm looking forward to it).

Walking Dead will get a Season 7 from AMC. With such a turnover in cast, they don't have to worry about actors getting tired of their roles, or demanding too much money to continue.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Well I guess you've learned your lesson

LAGuy seems to like predictions. Here's one: Now that Greece has held a vote to say 'screw you' to Europe, by a large margin (60 percent) following a week of polls saying it was a tight margin, I predict Europe will now bail the Greeks out under the status quo, which is to say, Europe will pretend to be tough, Greece will pretend to pay, and everyone will stay in the Euro.

Who does Obama intend to use them on?

U.S. stockpiles powerful bunker-buster bombs in case Iran nuclear talks fail

I suppose Obama wants these to threaten Israel.

Search Me

I have a friend who loves one of those shows where they try to pick new stars.  I forget the name of the show, because there are a ton of them, but I don't watch a single one. Perhaps they're entertaining, but I'll never find out--I'm too busy watching shows with people who have already made it in show biz.

I faintly recall David Letterman mocking one of the first of this modern wave, Star Search.  Dave would ask, in horror, "where oh where will we find our new stars?!" The actual situation, as Dave understood, is we've got a glut of people in show business.  Not just too many who aren't good enough, but too many who are good enough.  There are already more than enough good records, TV shows, movies, etc., if you just know where to look, and plenty of people ready to replace all the artists out there.  In fact, if you killed every star in the world today, the next tier would take over and you wouldn't notice the difference.

So I was thinking maybe we should have a new Star Search.  We'll search for stars who have been around too long.  Maybe they're okay, but we've seen enough.  Every week, the judges will pick yet another well-known name who has to leave show biz to make room for everyone else.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

"Risk" is the wrong word

Too bad we didn't have the Common Core when this guy was educated, or he might know what statistics is about:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich runs the risk of being perceived as a jerk 

(Just kidding. Kids won't learn anything under Common Core, either.)

Tote that barge

Except that it should be a strict liability crime for any government official to have any data that identifies any individual driver. You don't really need GPS for this, you just need tolls, and these days those are cheap devices.

And, needless to say, the money can be spent only on the roads where it is collected.

But of course none of those things will happen. In fact, not only will they collect GPS data for individuals, they'll have an additional non-use tax if you're not driving enough. 

Happy Fourth of July!

Uncle Sam's Birthday

It's a day of fireworks and food, but don't forget the music.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Oh, no, not a political branch!

George Will fears the supreme court will become political.

Ship, sailed.

I guess I agree that retention elections are pretty stupid. Can't we just shoot the chief justice?

Free To Be You And Me

I recently got a mailing from my Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.  They want to overturn the Citizens United decision.

There are a number of ways to do this, and their favorite seems to be by Constitutional Amendment.  It's amazing how proud they are to change our Constitution to make sure political speech will be limited.

Their material spreads all the usual nonsense about the opinion, but I'm not going to rehearse all the arguments here.  I just want to note, as we enjoy the fireworks this weekend, let's remember one of the great things about America is you can speak freely, especially about politicians.  And the time to speak about them is during an election campaign, the very period they want most to regulate that freedom.

As incumbents, Feinstein and Boxer have a huge advantage, but that's not enough for them--they'd like to prevent some potential criticism from even happening.  Indeed, they want me to sign a petition to further their wishes.  And send in money.  Wait a second, money?  I thought that was the problem.  Guess it's only a problem when people use it to support bad ideas.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

It's all Greek to me, or, Round it off to the nearest 'good' or 'bad'

Apparently the Greek referendum is confusing.

Can't we just run 10 million FICO scores?


I just listened to Mitchell Zuckoff's biography of Robert Altman.  It's an oral biography, so listening to it makes sense--indeed, some of the people interviewed came in and taped their own lines.

Even among the great directors of the last half century, Altman holds a special place.  No one had a looser, more open style.  Not that he wasn't in control, but he'd let his actors try whatever they wanted, and sometimes they didn't even know if the camera was on them.  This led to a lot of flops, and some bad films, but when it paid off Altman's movies were unlike anything else.

Altman, born in 1925, spent a lot of years in the wilderness, directing industrials and TV.  He learned the basics, but had run-ins with management.  Even after he became a star director--in fact, more so after--he would fight with the suits. Either he made films his way, or it wasn't worth it.

The breakthrough came with MASH. No name directors wanted to make it, so Altman, with almost no record in features, got it through connections.  A raucous war comedy, the low-budget film was quietly shot at 20th Century Fox in Altman's multi-miked, improvisatory style.  It was dirtier and bloodier than comedies had been up to that point--and it was also political, commenting on Vietnam even though officially set in Korea--and no one thought it would be a big deal.  But it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and went on to become one of the biggest hits of 1970.  It was nominated for six Oscars, only winning Best Screenplay for Ring Lardner, Jr., who'd been pulling his hair out at how Altman and company were ignoring his script.

Altman could write his own ticket.  He took advantage of this, making such diverse films as Brewster McCloud, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Images, The Long Goodbye, Thieves Like Us and California Split.  Many of them pleased the critics, but they weren't big hits, if they made money at all.  In 1975, he released Nashville, perhaps his most critically beloved film, but even that was a minor moneymaker in an age of blockbusters.

The first half of the 70s was probably his most fertile period, and the films he made for the rest of the decade, like Buffalo Bill And The Indians, 3 Women and Quintet, weren't as well-received.  Then came Popeye in 1980.  The producers were hoping for a superhero-sized hit, like the Christopher Reeve Superman. Instead, they got a quirky musical which eked out a profit but sent Altman to no-man's land.

His work in the 80s was generally on small projects that got little attention.  For instance, Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Streamers and Secret Honor (which he shot on campus at the University of Michigan) have their fans, but they're essentially low-budget adaptations of stage plays.  Then there are titles later in the decade that just about no one saw--O.C. And Stiggs, Fool For Love and Beyond Therapy--as well as TV and theatre work.  He did get some attention for HBO's Tanner '88, a pseudo-documentary starring Altman favorite Michael Murphy (Murphy reads Altman's voice in the book) as a Presidential candidate.

Against the odds, Altman managed a second (or was it third) act, coming back in the 1990s.  Vincent And Theo, about Van Gogh and his brother, did okay, and then in '92 the Hollywood expose The Player got him an Oscar nomination and put him back on top. He got another nomination the next year for Short Cuts (a film notable for many things, including full frontal nudity from Julianne Moore--Altman was often accused of misogyny, but most of the women he's employed don't agree), an adaptation of stories by Raymond Carver.

A heavy drinker, Altman was having health problems around this time, and might have died if he hadn't gotten get a heart transplant.  After the operation, he made Cookie's Fortune in 1999 and got excited about films all over again.  Then in 2001 came Gosford Park--an upstairs-downstairs British murder mystery--which became one of his biggest hits and garnered seven Oscar nominations (once again only winning for screenplay).  Some believe he might have actually won that year if he hadn't made some untoward political comments about 9/11.

His last film was in 2006, the enjoyably oddball Prairie Home Companion, a film adaptation of sorts of Garrison Keillor's radio show.  He didn't get an Oscar nomination, but was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Academy.  He gave a touching speech that night.  Perhaps he knew it'd be his last big moment.  He died later that year.

The book does a good job getting across his life mostly through the words of others.  If I have a problem, it's that some of my favorite titles--The Long Goodbye and California Split, for example--are practically skipped over to concentrate on the turning points, such as MASH, Nashville, Popeye, The Player and Gosford Park.  I guess something had to be left on the cutting room floor.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


I recently heard a radio guy discussing a Gallup poll regarding what might stop the public from voting someone into the White House. For some things, such as the candidate being female, black or Jewish, less than 10% say they couldn't do it.  Still too high, but it's progress.

But for a few items, there are very high levels of resistance--38% wouldn't vote for a Muslim, 40% for an atheist, 50% for a socialist (or so they say).

The radio guy turned out to be right-wing pundit Michael Medved, and I was surprised that he agreed an atheist essentially shouldn't be President because such a person couldn't properly represent the public, the vast majority of whom believe in a Supreme Being.  (It also turned out that this is a view Medved has held for a while.)

This is hateful nonsense. Even if the Presidency is partly a symbolic position, it's not the President's job to believe everything the public believes, even the majority.  Indeed, America is about freedom of religion, where all can believe as they choose--an officer holder's religion is his own business (even though many politicians choose to exploit their religiosity).

And for someone who claims to care about the Founders, he seems to be ignoring the original Constitution, which doesn't mention religion much, but does go out of its way to state "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust..."  And yet here's Medved saying we basically should have our own religious test for the White House.  Shame.

I might add that Medved is Jewish. There are more atheists and agnostics than Jews in America, so I'm not sure why he thinks his exclusionary rule shouldn't apply to his own people. He chooses a level of abstraction he feels good about (belief in a higher power), but why?  As long as we're going to be bigots, demanding we be represented by someone with consonant religious views, why not keep Jews out of an office that represents a majority Christian nation?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

He's All Right, Jack

Let's say goodbye to Jack Carter, the last of the old-time comics. He was around so long, 50+ years ago he was making fun of how the kids are today.

Busy Miss Lizzy

Happy birthday, Lizzy Caplan.  She's been working regularly in TV and movies since she first appeared as a recurring character on Freaks And Geeks.  She's presently starring in Masters Of Sex on Showtime and appears in movies such as last year's notorious The Interview.  But to me, she'll always be Casey Klein on my favorite sitcom of the past decade, Party Down.

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