36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

December 31, 2013

General Notes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

Here are some links which I’ve been building up but don’t fit a specific theme.

  • Human Resources departments are useless.  Well, HR is there for one thing:  to prevent the company from being sued.  You might think from the “Human” in the name that they actually deal with people; they do not.  They deal with regulations and act to prevent lawsuits.  Any employees are nothing more than “resources,” after all.
  • Attention, people of America:  watch this until you understand how to drive in a roundabout.  Roundabouts are a good way of increasing traffic flow and eliminating stop signs.  The biggest danger is that they’re so uncommon in the US that people who see them don’t know how to respond.
  • Attention, leftists who support prostitution:  it’s a bad idea.
  • Vicco, Kentucky will pay its police officer in Bitcoin.  I can’t say it’s necessarily a bad idea, but given all of the risks involved, I’m not sure I’d want to be paid in it.
  • Thomas Edison was a crony capitalist.  The people at Cracked are vindicated once more.

Been nice knowing you, AFC North desk.

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 10:43 am

Okay, how does somebody who works the AFC North desk not know the name of the coach of the Bengals? Marvin Davis? 

Top thirty crime procedurals, #30: Twin Peaks

Filed under: Our Favorites, Television and/or Movies — Tony Demchak @ 5:48 am

IMDB link. (The only gimmick of yours I’m stealing, Kevin).

Twin Peaks was created by David Lynch. I am tempted to end this post right there, but I think you deserve more.

Basic premise: Popular, good looking small town girl is murdernated. Whodunit?

Why it’s here: I was too young to watch this when it first aired, yet I distinctly remember seeing at least one episode (for some reason,  I instantly remembered the theme music.) Up until the middle of season 2, it was David Lynch doing a crime show. Kyle MacLachlan did a great job as the FBI agent. It also inspired one of my favorite episodes of another show on this list, but that’s a story for later.

Why it isn’t higher: Because it’s a complete and total clusterfuck after they solve the murder. David Lynch, allegedly, never wanted to solve the murder. I am warning you right now: If you watch this series, stop after the murderer confesses. YOU WILL BE MUCH HAPPIER FOR IT. Oh, and for the love of all that is holy and/or unholy, do not watch the awful movie. Seriously.

I leave the Internet for one stinkin’ day…

Filed under: Specific Stupidity, Sports — Tony Demchak @ 5:34 am

We begin our story, Sunday, with a defeat of the Browns by Pittsburgh. Bothersome, but not surprising. Pittsburgh was playing for the playoffs — the Browns were playing for nothing. Or were they? (Spoiler alert: They were.) Am I saying that if they beat Pittsburgh, Chud doesn’t get fired? Yes. Yes I am. But, this level of stupidity deserves more analysis. Here’s Terry Pluto.

I do know that Chud looked pretty good when he had a respectable quarterback in Brian Hoyer.

That’s right, Internet — you just saw “respectable quarterback” and “Brian Hoyer” in the same sentence. CLEVELAND! Terry Pluto, quite rightly, says this is a matter of the front office not knowing what it wanted. I still think they don’t know what they want, but at least they are categorically convinced it isn’t Chud. Maybe. However, this is the Browns. There can’t be just the one reason (the front office fucked up). What do you have to say, Tony Grossi?

The coaches became unsatisfied with the front office’s response to holes in the roster. For example, management wanted to blend in more younger players and expected the coaches to get them up to speed. When the toll of additional injuries taxed the roster, Chudzinski was expected to win with a threadbare roster. [...]

At one point, Chudzinski was urged by Banner to “shake up” the locker room by cutting wide receiver Greg Little or guard Shawn Lauvao. Chudzinski declined, and that was interpreted as Chudzinski not holding players accountable for their failings.

In recent weeks, a disagreement arose about a future role for receivers coach Scott Turner, the son of coordinator Norv Turner. Chudzinski, a source said, wanted to switch Turner to running backs coach. Norv Turner objected and the brushfire became another strike against Chudzinski.

I have to put the blame squarely on Chud here. When he was hired, it was clear that he was just expected to be the Xs and Os guy. And, to be fair, the team sucked. Since we had more Pro Bowlers (5) than wins (4), obviously the front office did a great job, so it must be that the coach sucked. Fire his ass!

Bill Livingston, Old Coot, tried to work in a Ghostbusters reference that, really, really didn’t work. The column’s kind of rambling, but that’s the big take away I got.

Mary Kay Cabot had the analysis of the press conference with Haslett and Banner.

[Haslett] noted that it was an “expensive move” to fire Chudzinski, who’s still owed $10.5 million.

“We’re not only just saying it, we’re talking with our pocketbook here,” he said. “So these are not cheap moves to make, and I’m not saying that should be the guiding factor, but we’re doing everything we can to get this right.”

Excuse me while I shed a single tear of sympathy for you having to pay for your own incompetence. Okay, I’m done. So, in the immortal words of pro wrestling’s Goldberg: “Who’s next?”

Mike Tanier, Sports on Earth:

Cleveland Browns

What Went Wrong With the Last Guy: Rob Chudzinski could not win with Jason Campbell at quarterback and guys like Fozzy Whittaker at running back. In other words, he was neither Vince Lombardi nor Alexander the Great.

Boss Rating: D. From the Trent Richardson trade to Brian Hoyer’s depth chart leapfrog to the Chud firing, Mike Lombardi (no relation) and Joe Banner have established themselves as impatient hands-on executives trying to win back-to-back Super Bowls in early October. At times, it appears that Lombardi acts quickly so he can beat Banner to a decision, or perhaps it’s vice versa. The Browns may be Lombardi’s team, they may be Banner’s, the execs may duke it out in the parking lot, or the IRS may confiscate the whole shebang if owner Jimmy Haslam’s diesel receipts don’t add up. But they will never be the head coach’s team, unless he wades into the Game of Thrones.

Quarterback Situation: C-minus. The Browns have two first-round picks and Brian Hoyer, a steady young journeyman with a little upside who is also Lombardi’s pet project. The franchise has 14 years of experience making dismal quarterback controversies out of first-round picks and pet-project journeymen.

Building Blocks: B. Two first round picks, the best deep threat receiver in the NFL in Josh Gordon, and Jordan Cameron, a cross between Antonio Gates and Jason Witten at tight end.

Young Talent: B-minus. There’s a sprinkle of young stars and solid prospects around the roster, from Gordon and Cameron to Joe Haden. Mitchell Schwartz, Phil Taylor and Barkevious Mingo. There are also glaring deficiencies, starting with an entire backfield in need of replacement.

Salary Cap Situation: A-minus. The Browns will eat $6 million of Trent Richardson’s dead money next year, but should clear the cap by at least $25 million, giving them wiggle room to extend Gordon and/or Cameron, pursue a free agent or two, or cut bait on Brandon Weeden without choking on the cap hit.

Free Agent Issues: B-plus. Center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward are the biggest names; Mack will likely be prioritized. The Browns have the space to play ball with any lower-tier free agents they like.

Quick Turnaround Potential: C-plus. Enough rebuilding took place in 2013 to allow two top rookies and an upgraded quarterback situation to make a difference, but the AFC North schedule remains an endurance marathon against three challenging opponents.

Overall Desirability: C-minus. The next Browns coach is the fifth in seven years, and he walks into a power struggle above him which is likely to undermine the roster below him. Cap money and draft picks are nice, but there is little evidence that the next coach will have any say in how they are used.

Terry Pluto says much the same, but with less snark, here.

At the end of the day, this is nothing less than a catastrophic failure. I don’t care what Haslett and Banner say — it began and ended with Chud wanting some control over the roster. Banner and Haslett wanted the football equivalent of Joe Torre — do what you’re told and shut up. Of course, Joe Torre had a great roster, and being a baseball manager is more about dealing with personalities.

I wish you all the best, Chud, if you’re reading this blog (and I know you aren’t.) To the Browns front office: You handled this better than Dan Snyder did with Mike Shanahan. That is the nicest thing I can say.

 

December 30, 2013

More Obamacare Notes

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

Top thirty crime procedural shows of all time: Intro and Honorable Mentions

Filed under: Our Favorites, Television and/or Movies — Tony Demchak @ 1:31 pm

With the thrilling conclusion of Kevin’s series of “almost” sci-fi shows (though seriously, he gave me a lot of shows to think about), I was thinking to myself, what have I watched more of than sci-fi shows?

Cop shows. Lots, and lots, and lots of cop shows.

For the purposes of this list, I am including three major categories:

1. Anything focusing on law enforcement personnel, as opposed to the judicial system in particular. I stretch a point for one particular show you may have heard of, but it’s the only one.

2. Anything focusing on the supply side of crime, as with them inevitably come cops.

3. Shows generally called mystery shows.

Specifically excluded are shows that are primarily legal procedural. I like those shows too, but not as much as the others.

Here’s a list of shows I haven’t watched any of: Any Sherlock Holmes series, any Agatha Christie series, Miami Vice, Columbo, the new Kojak, the new Hawaii Five-0, the Wire, Castle, Boardwalk Empire, Justified, Copper, The Fugitive

Most of those are in the “want to but haven’t yet” pile. Columbo is probably the biggest shock from Kevin’s point of view, but my mom really, really hated Peter Falk for some reason, and so I’ve never seen it. The first two are because I know the books are better (although I will watch the new Sherlock series and the American one with Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller). Miami Vice was banned in my house growing up too — that one I’m not sure if I’ll get to or not.

Here’s a list of shows I’ve watched some of, but not enough: The Shield, The Sopranos, 21 Jump Street, any of the NCIS shows

The first two are definitely on a to-do list someday, particularly if I can find a good quality version of the Shield. As a kid, I hated it, but now I think I’d really like it. 21 Jump Street I’m almost certain I’ll skip. NCIS… I don’t know.

Honorable mention: Prison Break. If I cheated, I’d squeeze this on the list for the first two seasons, but it really becomes more of a conspiracy type show. Definitely worth watching — it’d be in the top half, for sure, if it was eligible.

Honorable mention: Alcatraz. I’ve already talked about it enough, and it’s time to let other shows have a chance to shine.

Honorable mention(s): Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel. Terrific shows, and tangentially related to crime and criminals (you could make that case for almost any Western, probably). I’d love to see a proper crime show set in the Old West, but I just don’t think it’ll ever happen.

 

December 29, 2013

Single-Payer Is the Answer

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

I’ve railed against, mocked, and abused Obamacare for quite some time now.  I consider this to be a worthwhile endeavor—we have to make it clear exactly who caused this failure and how bad the failure is.  Once we understand that, we can start to understand how to fix the long-term problems here.

Tom Blumer says that Obamacare’s failure is part of a strategy to increase the role of the federal government in health care.  He sees the massive ball of failure and thinks that this is according to a plan.  This trojan horse theory might be sound, but I don’t think things unfolded the way that the Obamacare architects wanted.  Let’s suppose for a minute that Obamacare was designed as a trojan horse.  The idea would be that Democrats cram the law through, knowing that there were long-term inconsistencies:  that there would be a couple good years (heavily-subsidized with few penalties) followed by things getting worse and worse.  Democrats could then claim that this is the result of recalcitrant pharmaceutical and insurance companies and Republican malfeasance and the only viable solution would be a complete government takeover—after all, look how great the first 2-3 years of Obamacare were, and that was only a partial government takeover!

Well, if this bill was supposed to be a trojan horse, the floorboards were rotten and all the Greeks tumbled out before the horse got to the gates of Troy.  Obamacare has been such a spectacular failure that it is turning people off from the notion of government-provided health care, and if Democrats try to expand, all Republicans have to do is point out how crappy Obamacare is and ask if we really want Obamacare 2:  Electric Boogaloo.

With that in mind, I want to put down a few ideas for where we should go from here.  My big idea is in the title:  single-payer.  But unlike the leftist single-payer plan, my version of single-payer is as follows:  if you want to receive medical services, you pay for medical services.  Right now, we have a convoluted system in which federal and state governments, as well as employers, tend to be the primary payers for health insurance.  The employer angle came about as a consequence of one of Franklin Roosevelt’s terrible policies:  wage ceilings during World War II.  Instead of paying higher wages to employees, companies offered additional benefits, including providing health insurance.  After World War II, the government codified this practice by making health insurance payment a pre-tax activity, meaning that individuals now had incentives to tie their health insurance to their current employer.  We know exactly why this is bad:  if you get laid off, you lose health insurance (or have to pay a huge amount to go on COBRA).  Furthermore, to paraphrase something Milton Friedman said, we don’t buy food from company stores, so why do we buy insurance from them?

We should also get the government out of paying for health care.  As a result of government health care shenanigans, we have Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare.  Medicare is bankrupting the federal government, Medicaid is bankrupting state governments, and Obamacare is an utter disaster.  Somehow, the federal government has found a way to spend way too much on services while still low-balling doctors and providers to the point where a large percentage of them simply will not accept Medicare or (especially) Medicaid clients.

I would also get rid of health insurance companies as they currently exist.  It’s a common trope on the Right that we don’t use our auto insurance to cover oil changes or our homeowner’s/rental insurance to cover a can of paint, and therefore we should not expect to use medical insurance to cover a flu shot or cold.  Decades of regulation and twisted policy have led to a point where orange juice at a hospital can cost $100 and your medical bills are overstated to the point where a hospital may bill $5000 for a service and the insurance company only pays $1500.  That $5000 figure is made up in part because the hospitals know that insurance companies will only cover a fraction of the total cost, so they inflate prices beyond the market clearing price in order to end up somewhere around that clearing price.  Getting rid of insurance companies (except as truly catastrophic insurance providers) would cause individuals to begin comparing prices.  Right now, it’s almost impossible to do price comparisons between providers—most hospitals won’t even tell you that information.  Imagine if grocery stores or restaurants refused to tell you how much items cost, or if you needed to go through a three-month negotiating session to buy a hammer.  Yet this is exactly what happens in health care because of our screwed-up system.

Taking this into consideration, I want to see more competition.  I want to see doctors put their prices online.  I also want to see innovative practice groups, like the one I linked to.  In that case, the same physician ends up charging $5885 in a private setting but $33,505 in a hospital setting.  Note from my last paragraph that the $33K figure is made up and is not a true market clearing price—after all, if the same doctor can profit by charging $5900 for a service, why are we paying $33K?   I doubt we would see quite the same difference across all avenues of health care, but there’s no reason that health care is a special industry in which free enterprise wouldn’t work.

I’d even like to go a step further and break the AMA oligopoly.  As it stands today, if I have a cold and need to see somebody about it, I have a few options:  call my GP (if I have one) and schedule an appointment for a visit and a prescription for what ails me; walk into an urgent care facility and pay a good deal of money; or walk into an emergency room and pay a great deal of money.  For minor issues, all of these are wasteful and expensive options.  A fairly large percentage of health care claims are low-risk scenarios which involve prescribing over-the-counter or non-risky remedies.  Let people open up minute clinics in supermarkets and drug stores like we see for flu shots and reduce the burden of everyday cases from expensive MDs.  Combined with a proper single-payer system, people would decide what level of service they want and price signals would guide people to making the most of available resources.  The current system artificially increases prices by eliminating the lower rungs of health care, meaning that you need to go to expensive primary care facilities, urgent care facilities, or hospitals for basic treatment.  The funniest part is that these facilities are already using non-MD labor as substitutes for MDs.  For example, nurses and nurse practitioners perform a series of basic tests.  In addition, for a number of basic treatments, hospitals will use graduate students rather than MDs.  Yet we as consumers don’t get the benefit of paying less for this decrease in care, due to messed-up incentives.

For people who are afraid that going to a supermarket clinic would be dangerous, they could always choose to spend the extra money to go to an AMA-certified doctor.  To soothe their minds, we could make any clinics not headed by AMA-certified doctors post signs which read “NOT AMA Approved.”  I have no real problem with that requirement, as it provides an additional piece of information to consumers at a very low cost.

To summarize (and hit a few points that I didn’t include up above), here’s a quick bullet list of things which would considerably improve health care in the United States:

  • Customer pays, like in pretty much every other scenario.  This is the key.
  • Eliminate tax subsidies for employer-run health insurance.
  • Reform health insurance markets.  Eliminate any insurance policy requirements which effectively ban true catastrophic care.  Allow interstate health insurance markets.
  • Eliminate regulations which would prohibit the introduction of lower-cost clinics outside of hospital settings.
  • Make it easier to open up new hospitals and facilities for MDs to compete against current facilities.  Reduce federal and state regulations wherever they prove anti-competitive.
  • Reduce regulations which prohibit non-MDs from performing certain sets of activities.  Scale down the “MD only” list over time based on highest marginal value.
  • Scale down over time federal and state health care coverage.  Change fee-for-service to lump sum HSA contributions for indigent individuals and provide strict means testing on any remaining coverage.

Putting these into place would result in a more competitive, freer market for health care.  This would lead to better outcomes and lower prices for Americans.

Science Fiction Wrap-Up

Filed under: Our Favorites, Television and/or Movies — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

I thought I would wrap up our science fiction round-ups with a summary post.  All of the shows we listed are in tabular form with links to our articles.

Show

Tony’s Rank Kevin’s Rank Discrepancy
The 4400 N/A HM
Alcatraz 14 N/A Kevin never saw the series
The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. N/A HM Neither of us saw the series
Alien Nation N/A 18
Babylon 5 N/A 4 Tony never saw the series
Battlestar Galactica 2 N/A Kevin never saw the series
Blakes 7 N/A HM Neither of us saw the series
Buffy the Vampire Slayer N/A 8 Tony says not sci-fi
Caprica 6 N/A Kevin never saw the series
Continuum N/A HM+ Tony never saw the series
Dark Skies N/A 17 Tony never saw the series
Doctor Who 1 N/A Kevin only saw a couple of episodes
Dollhouse 12 N/A Kevin didn’t see the series at series runtime.  Might now rank in top 20.
Earth: Final Conflict N/A 15 Tony never saw the series
Farscape 5 11
Firefly 3 2
Fringe N/A N/A Kevin never saw the series
Futurama 7 N/A Kevin thought it was okay early on
Heroes 9 N/A Kevin never saw the series
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy HM N/A Kevin thought the production values were terrible in the ‘80s series
La Femme Nikita N/A 5 Tony might not think it’s sci-fi
Lost N/A HM Kevin never saw the series
Max Headroom N/A 6 Tony never saw the series
MST3K N/A 3 Tony focused on series; Kevin focused on shows
The Outer Limits N/A 13 Tony never saw the series
The Prisoner N/A 1 Tony never saw the series
Quantum Leap 15 16
Red Dwarf HM N/A Kevin never saw enough to like it
Seaquest DSV 8 N/A Kevin never liked it
The Six Million Dollar Man HM N/A Kevin never liked it
Space:  Above and Beyond N/A 19 Tony never saw the series
The Stand 11 N/A Kevin never saw the mini-series
Stargate SG-1 N/A 14 Tony never saw the series
Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine HM N/A Kevin never liked Star Trek
Star Trek:  The Next Generation 10 N/A Kevin never liked Star Trek
Star Trek (The Original Series) HM HM Neither of us liked the series
Star Trek:  Voyager HM N/A Kevin never liked Star Trek
Supernatural N/A HM Kevin never saw the series
Torchwood 4 N/A Kevin never saw the series
The Twilight Zone HM 7 Tony never saw many episodes
Twin Peaks N/A HM Tony says not sci-fi; Kevin never saw the series
Ultraviolet N/A 9 Tony never saw the series, might not think it sci-fi
V N/A 12 Tony never saw the series
The X-Files 13 10

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for:  hardcore analysis.  All in all, I’m surprised to see so much discrepancy between these two lists.  Tony and I have a pretty broad range of shared tastes in science fiction, so to see us come up with radically different lists is quite interesting.  I think part of it has to do with when each of us really got into watching a lot of sci-fi TV:  my primary years were the 1990s (followed by the last couple of years with Netflix) and Tony’s looks to be more the 2000s.

  • Closest Matches:  Firefly (K2-T3) and Quantum Leap (K16-T15) were exceptionally close matches, followed by the X-Files (K10-T13) and Farscape (K11-T5).  These were the only four shows we had in common.
  • Biggest Discrepancies:  The Prisoner (K1-TN), Doctor Who (KN-T1).  Neither of us had the other’s #1 science fiction show on the list.  In fact, of our top 5s, we only shared Firefly in common.
  • Biggest Regret:  I didn’t list Farscape higher.  When I originally planned my list out, I expected Farscape to be in the top 5.  I just kept running into other shows that I preferred.  In retrospect, I could see flipping Ultraviolet (K9-TN) and Farscape.
  • Lesson Learned:  After going through Tony’s list, I started watching Dollhouse (T12).  I have three episodes to go, but it might bump Space:  Above and Beyond (K19-TN) as #19 on the list.  I also intend to watch Battlestar Galactica, which I’m sure will be high on the list.  Doctor Who is on my queue as well, if only because of the number of people around me who love that series.
  • Themes:  4 of my top 6 shows are about the individual striking out against a corrupt State.  The Prisoner, Firefly, and Max Headroom are most explicit about this, but I can make a great case about La Femme Nikita as well.  I’m a sucker for anti-State television, apparently.

December 28, 2013

Kevin’s Favorite Science Fiction Shows: #1 — The Prisoner

Filed under: Our Favorites, Television and/or Movies — Kevin Feasel @ 6:00 pm

The Prisoner

IMDB link

General idea:  “I am not a number; I am a free man!”  Danger Man goes rogue.

Interesting because:  This is the best libertarian television show I’ve ever seen.  The premise is that John Drake (maybe?) suddenly resigns, and the agency for which he works sends him off to The Island to attempt to pump him for information.  The entire series is about the power of the individual in standing up against a tyrannical State (and sometimes, the government really is out to get you).  Patrick McGoohan’s character is relentless, uncompromising, and willing to face everything in order to bring down the monster he sees.  The show went on a bit longer than McGoohan really wanted, but he was still able to end it on his terms without the premise getting stale.

Annoying because:  The show is fantastic but it’s such a relic of the 1960s with regard to fashion.  The psychedelic nature of the show could be a turn-off, and you get 1960s production values.

Best season(s):  1

Worst season(s):  N/A

I want Kirk Cousins…

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 7:27 am

…to play for a team other than the Browns. Dawgs by Nature is absolutely right.

I have to ask — why is this happening all of a sudden? Can people just not process the idea of “peaking at the right time?” I would never spend anything more than a 3rd round draft pick for a backup QB, who’d almost never started, before a lucky run. Let’s not hesitate to mention that the whole reason RGIII isn’t playing is because he’s a pawn in the game between Dan Snyder and Mike Shanahan. I’ll tell you what, Washington — if Kirk Cousins is so great, we’ll give you the third rounder for Robert Griffin III. Heck, we’ll throw in the fourth rounder too, since we have two of each.

How ’bout it? Eh? EH?

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