Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

NFL Republicanism

I've long felt that the NFL is the most Republican organization on the face of the earth.  It's an old rich white guy's play ground, and as close to medievalism as we have - until the next Republican Presidency.

The NFL lockout of the officials simply confirmed what we should already have known.  The owners don't give a hirsute rodent's hindquarters about player safety, the integrity of the game, or getting anything right.  They wanted to engage in union busting, simply because they can.

Or so they thought.  In my jaundiced opinion, the regular NFL refs are TEH SUXXOR.  But that doesn't mean things couldn't get a whole lot worse.  And they did when they brought in cast-offs from the lingerie league.

But there are limits -- if you're a big enough ass hole to go look for them.

My Lovely Wife pegged this on Monday night when the Packers got shafted by a cluster-phung of bad calls culminating in the now infamous toucherception.

Picture found on Facebook

This was beyond even what Wisconsin Rethugs like Scott Walker could stomach.

I find that irony to be quite tasty.

It all comes down to who's ox is being gored.  Everyone in WI (and even some in MI) loves them some Packers - even those inclined to break unions and roll us back to the dark ages.

That's what the LW figured out, right on the spot.

It was all over when Green Bay got the shaft.

You do NOT mess with the Packers!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Effect of Capital Gains Tax on Investment - Appendix

In comments to my previous post, Robert requested the unsmoothed data from Graph 3.  Here it is.   GPDI is plotted against the Capital Gains Tax Rate.

Since the Capital Gains Tax Rate (X-axis) is quantized, the result is columns of data.  Compared to the smoothed version, there is little change in either the slope or intercept of the best fit straight line.  R^2 is, of course, much lower.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Effect of Capital Gains Tax on Investment

Matt Yglesias, servitor to our corporate overlords, suggests that the reduced capital gains tax rate paid by rentiers like Willard Romney is really a very, very good thing.  To wit:

The main reason Romney's effective rate is so low is that the American tax code contains a lot of preferences for investment income over labor income.
. . .
But this is definitely an issue where the conservative position is in line with what most experts think is the right course, and Democrats are outside the mainstream.
.  .  .
That's the theory, at any rate. It's a pretty solid theory, it's in most of the textbooks I've seen, and it shapes public policy in basically every country I'm familiar with. Even researchers like Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez (see "A Theory of Optimal Capital Taxation") who dissent from the standard no taxation of investment income position think capital income should be taxed more lightly than labor income. Empirically, it's a bit difficult to verify that variations in capital gains tax rates and the like really are making a material difference to investment levels. But then again the data is noisy.

Scott Lemieux at LGM demurs.

Sure, if you 1)accept the premise that reducing or eliminating capital gains taxes will result in productive infrastructure investments rather than worthless accounting tricks, 2)ignore the economic benefits created by consumption, 3)assume that significant numbers of people will forgo money for doing nothing just because the profits will be taxed , and 4)ignore the fact that in most jurisdictions consumption is also “double taxed,” then reducing capital gains taxes looks good.   But since all of these assumptions are (to put it mildly) highly contestable, it’s just question-begging.

My response to Matt is that in my jaundiced opinion, you might as well consult The Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred as an economics textbook for an issue like this; and that in a world that has on the one hand Krugman, Thoma and Delong, and on the other Fama, Cochran and Cowan, a consensus among experts is about as likely as lions lying down with lambs for some purpose other than a quick snack.

To Scott I say, why assume or ignore anything when that oh-so-noisy data is readily available?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ye Olde Political Survey

Following Beale's lead I took the survey.

My prefered candidate, as it turns out, is Jill Stein of the Green Party.  Oh, well, I'm still going to vote for the foreign-born Commie Muslim Nazi Neegra.  He's not that far off.

Here is how I align with the various candidates.

Jill Stein, Green                 90%
B. Obama, Dem                 87%
Rocky Anderson, Justice     64%
Mitt Romney, Rethug           8%
Michigan Voters                63%
American Voters                64%

Like Beale, I have to  wonder how Romney's positions have been defined, since he is a schizophrenic chameleon drawn on an Etch-a-sketch by a three-year-old desperately in need of a nap.

If their assessment of American voters is anywhere near correct, then Romney can keep his position among the unemployed.

Party Affiliation
Democrat                           95%
Green                                92%
Libertarian                         18%
Repugnicant                        5%

I'm 18% Libertarian.  Actually, that seems about right.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What the Hell?!? Friday - Voter Fraud Edition

Sarah Silverman explaines it all.

Saraf F-ing Silverman - so do I need to explain it's NSFW and NSF if there are children, teabaggers, small animals or your ass-hole conservatard brother-in-law within earshot?

H/T to the L/W

My Angry Bear Posts in CY 2012

Here is a running list of my 2012 posts at Angry Bear, newest at the top.

 An Editorial on Robert Bork and his Legacy   12/26/2012

One Nation, Divisible     11/13/2012  

Fowl and Fishy Inflation     11/01/2012

GDP Growth Caused By Tax Cuts Has Never Happened     10/16/2012

Debt and Growth    10/11/2012

Strategic Lying as Political Art    10/09/12

The Effect of Capital Gains Tax on Investment      9/25/2012

What is the Economic Middle Class?   9/19/2012

Who are the 47%? Follow-up       9/18/2012

Public and Private Investment      9/13/2012

Yes, The Right Wing Lies When They Say Obama is a Profligate Spender   9/10/2012

Why Spending/GDP is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Metric For Judging Obama's Performance                                     9/07/2012

A Quick Look at Federal Spending     9/06/2012

Debt, Recession, and That Ol' Devil Denominator    8/23/2012

Who Determines Short Term Interest Rates?   5/01/2012

A Different Look at GDP and Inflation           4/30/2012

Another Look at Wealth and Consumption - Pt 2  4/12/2012

The Brute Economics of Slavery   4/05/2012

Another Look at Wealth and Consumption - Pt 1   3/30/2012

World Trade    3/24/2012

Has America Lost It's Drive? - Pt. 4  3/07/2012

Insurance and Birth Control         3/04/2012

More on Michigan Voting   3/01/2012

Michigan Primary Results  2/29/2012

Is America Losing Its Drive? - Pt. 3 Vehicles per 1000 Persons      2/24/2012

Has America Lost It's Drive? - Pt.2      2/21/2012

Has America Lost It's Drive?    2/17/2012

More on Markets and Neoliberalism rom Crooked Timber   2/12/2012

Where Has All The Money Gone, Pt IV - Dividends    2/07/2012

Income and Consumption   2/03/2012

Where Has All The Money Gone, Pt III - Not to You and Me  1/31/2012

Wealth and Income Appendix  1/27/2012 

Wealth vs Income   1/27/2012

Where Has All The Money Gone, Pt II - Finance Sector  1/24/2012

Where Has All The Money Gone, Pt I - Corporate Profits 1/17/2012

GDP Revisions  1/16/2012

Ron Paul Challenges Liberals - Or Maybe Not   1/09/2012

A Deeper Dive Into Oil Pricing   1/05/2012

Speculation About Oil    1/04/12

'Jazzbumpa' To Write For Angry Bear   1/03/2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quote of the Day

Scott Lemieux at LGM.

As far as I can tell, there is in fact every reason to believe that the Romney who tells people that as son of a governor and car company president he succeeded entirely by the sweat of his own brow and anyone who didn’t is a hopeless parasite is, in fact, telling the truth.


And more context.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Who are the 47%? Follow-up

Follow up to Afferent Input's post.

Ten states that are the highest in income tax non-payers are highlighted in (of all things) RED.

It just gets better and better

Via my former governor.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What is the Economic Middle Class?

My lovely wife shared this link with me on Facebook.  I got into a discussion in comments there with a right winger who suggested that $250,000 was a very reasonable estimate for median income in Boston.

As it turns out, median household income in Boston is $51,914, close to the national average, and way below the Mass. State average of $67,950.  But right wingers live in a data-free world, so this is no surprise.

Another contention in comments at that site is that the middle class is undefined and undefinable. Not so.  I define middle class household income as the middle quintile.  This range includes the median and a band around it wide enough to hold 20 percent of the population.  You might wish to concoct your own definition with a wider spread, but you'd better not be asymmetric around the median.  Feel free to use the middle three quintiles, if that is your preference.  But if your of concept of middle class gets very far beyond 50% of the population, you really ought to give more thought to what the word "middle" actually means.

Thinking about all this prompted a look at the various income quintiles.  The data, through 2009, is available at the Census Bureau web site, table 694.  This table provides historical data from 1967 through 2009 on the top income limit for the bottom 4 quintiles, and the bottom income limit for the top 5%, expressed in constant 2009 dollars.

Graph 1 presents this data.  The 3rd quintile - my definition of the middle class - is between the orange line and the yellow line.

In 1967, the threshold for the middle quintile was $32, 848.  By 2009, it had increased by 17% to $38,550.  This is a compounded annual growth rate of 0.38%

In 1967, the top limit for the middle (and threshold to the 4th) quintile was $46, 621.  By 2009, it had increased by 33% to $61,801. This is a compounded annual growth rate of 0.68%.

The threshold value for the fifth quintile increased from $66,481 in 1967 by 80% to exactly $100,000 in 2009.  This is a compounded annual growth rate of 0.98%.

To reach the top 5% required an income of 106,684 in 1967.  By 2009, this had increased by 69% to $180, 001.   This is a compounded annual growth rate of 1.25%.

So my comment sparring partner and the current presidential challenger he seems to support are a bit off base.  $250,000 in household income puts a family well above the 95th percentile.  In fact, that is just enough household income to crack the top 2%.

My ongoing hobby of debunking right wing nonsense aside, the point of this post is mainly to inform.
There are two main observations:
1) While the bottom two quintiles haven't changed much over the decades, entry to the third quintile has crept up a bit; and into higher categories it's moved up a lot.  We recognize this as stagnation in the bottom half and growing inequality in the top half, skewed powerfully to the top.
2) This data set stops in '09, so Obama is outside the discussion.  But we can see that all the way up to the 95th percentile, income growth was dead flat during the Bush administration.  No wonder the 95% percentile feels so poor.

But -- surely, some wealth was generated during those 8 years.  GDP growth was positive at least some of the time.  I wonder where it all went?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bumper sticker of the Day

Seen in the Trader Joe's parking lot

The rich get richer.
The rest get less.
Vote Democratic

Fifty years ago (or near enough as no matter) my dad told me this:

Every once in a while, when a crumb falls off the plate, the Democrats will let you keep it.

The Republicans won't even do that.

In my callow ignorance, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.  Seriously.  My own personal brand of selfishness was far too venial to help me get it.  I really had no idea about the all-too-common human capacity for avarice and cruelty.

As recently as 1990, I really still wasn't getting it.

Thank you Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Junior partner to your own presidency "W", John McCain, Paul Ryan and Willard Romney for bringing my late father's wisdom home to me in such graphic terms.

I really get it now.

Also, too - a H/T to my lovely wife who continuously teaches me the virtue of selflessness.

What the Hell?!? Friday - Romney is ODIOUS, LOATHSOME and DESPICABLE Edition

What Obama said:

I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives. I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants. On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss. The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.

What Romney said (emphasis added):

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

 What Jim Wright said:

Looking at this event in the cold light of a rainy Alaskan afternoon, this is what see I immediately:

Barack Obama condemned the attacks, he spoke against violence and expressed sadness for the dead and sympathy for their families and friends, he told us what he was doing to protect our people in similar situations around the globe, and he promised us justice.  About what you would expect from your President in such a situation.

Mitt Romney attacked his own government and his fellow Americans. 

The President was coldly angry, but determined in his public response to prevent further bloodshed, further violence. 

Mitt was outraged.

The President’s concern was for the dead, for their families, for people.

Romney’s concern was that somebody touched our stuff.

Obama responded like a president.

Romney acted like a businessman.

Do the math for yourself.

Wright riffs on this at considerable outraged length, and I encourage you to go read it all.

Two three points stick out for me, even beyond Mittens swallowing his foot before he had any clear idea of what the hell was going on:

1) At a moment when our PEOPLE were under attack and dying, Mittens chose to ATTACK our people.

2) I haven't said often enough what the loathsome Romneybot makes crystal clear: while real people have as their first concern PEOPLE, conservatives (and yes, I believe this about ALL conservatives, not simply the regressives into which the modern Repugnicant party has degenerated) have as their first concern THINGS.

3) The Rethugs have been saying stupid things to their stupid base for so long that it has become reflexive.  Any why not?  They've gotten away with it since at least the Nixon administration.  But the stupid has gotten proregressively stupider over time. Perhaps at last now, famous Republican Abe Lincoln will be right about not fooling all the people all the time.

And what was the Obama administration's pronouncement that Willard found to be so disgraceful?

This, issued by the Cairo embassy staff several hours BEFORE any of the attacks:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Obama's statement, quoted above, and this statement from the embassy are pretty much boiler plate in these kinds of circumstances.  It's very easy to imagine these banal documents written well in advance and stuck in a drawer, ready to receive fill-in-the-blank details at the necessary moment.

For Mitt to attack the president and the embassy staff over this incident is not merely odious, loathsome, and the very antithesis of patriotism, it is also stupid.

Time and time again Romney has revealed himself to be a fully inside-the-bubble ideologue and ignoramus.  And after issuing these remarks, the son-of-a-bitch left the podium smirking.

And yet, this is going to be a close election.

Oh my god, are we screwed!

a) I lifted all the quotes from Wright's post, and I appreciate his legwork in rounding them up.
b) H/T to Tux.
c) For a whole lot more, see LGM here and here.
d) Plus this at AB.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Public and Private Investment

One not particularly cute graph; no analysis, explanation, nor editorializing.

GDPI is gross domestic private investment.

NDGIC96 is Real Federal Nondefense Gross Investment.

SLINVC96 is Real State & Local Government Gross Investment.

Source page at FRED.

Note that private investment runs at about 7 times the total of government investment at all levels.

Make of it what you will.

H/T to PK.

Cross posted at AB

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Latty Kudlow is an Idiot

And not even an especially useful one.

From PK:

"Larry Kudlow:
I have long believed that stock markets are the best barometer of the health, wealth and security of a nation. And today’s stock market message is an unmistakable vote of confidence for the president.

Oh, wait. Kudlow wrote that 5 years ago, about he-who-must-not-be-named."

 Much hilarity ensues.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yes, The Right Wing Lies When They Say Obama is a Profligate Spender

Part III - How to think about time series data.

For reference:
Part II  Federal Spending as a Fraction of GDP

Part I  Federal Spending Growth

Some commentors to the previous posts have rightly concluded that I consider spending under Obama in the context of historical trends.  In fact, if you don't consider historical trends, you are ignoring the most important element of context that is available.  I only mentioned trends briefly in Part II, but the directional changes in the graphs of Parts I and II implicitly suggest them.

Time series data that relate to the size of the population, the government, or the economy generally follow a quasi-exponential growth pattern.  I say quasi- because a perfect exponential growth pattern  results from a continuous constant rate of growth, while real world growth rates vary from year.  Graph 3 of Part II shows how these variations have occurred over several decades.  Usually this does not result in a large or permanent deformation in the shape of a quasi-exponential curve, since the growth rate typically oscillates irregularly around a mean value that only changes slowly over time.

Graph 2 in Part II shows that the spending and GDP growth curves stay close to exponential tracks over long time spans.  It also illustrates that the recent recession was one of those rare times when growth rates deviated substantially.

Human eye-brain coordination doesn't deal well with exponential curve shapes.  Straight lines are much easier to comprehend and extrapolate.  Graphing quasi-exponential data on a log scale reduces the curve to a quasi-straight line that is much easier to use and understand.

Graph 1 shows Federal Spending and GDP, since 1995, plotted on a log scale.  Constant growth results in a straight line segment, and a higher growth rate causes a steeper slope.  Zero growth shows up as a horizontal line.   I've again included a line for 5 times spending, to get a close overlay with the GDP line.

 Graph 1.  Spending and GDP since 1995 (log scale)

There is an upward bend in the spending line in 2000.  This is most easily seen in the blue line.  During the 90's, we can see that GDP grew faster than spending.  In 2001-2, GDP growth flat-lined, as expected during a recession. Then, from 20002 to 2008, the growth rates for GDP and spending were close to identical.  Both lines twist during the most recent recession.  Curiously, spending growth was flat for a large portion of 2008.

Since the recession, the spending lines are very close to flat, and GDP growth has been anemic.  Here is a close up.

Graph 2.  Spending and GDP since 2007 (log scale)

Graph 3 provides context, all the way back to 1947.  Ponder the inflection points and slope changes at your leisure.

Graph 2.  Spending and GDP since 1947 (log scale)

Note that there are only two flat-ish spots in the spending lines: now, and during the Eisenhower administration. The current administration has, at least temporarily, broken the decades-long trend in continuous spending increases. 

To emphasize the obvious, spending growth is now very close to zero.  In context, this is remarkable.  Saying Obama is a profligate spender is a lie. 

In this post, I am not suggesting that the rate of spending growth under any president is good, bad, appropriate or inappropriate.  I am only pointing out what was and is. 

So, this is how you think about time series data.
0) Forget your preconceived notions.    (Frex:I had no idea that spending growth has essentially stopped until I looked at the data.)
1) Identify trends. The history of time series data provides meaningful context.
2) Identify break points and trend changes.  These are key data points.
3) Note the directions of these changes.
4) Think hard about what these observations are actually telling you, not what you want them to say.
5) Double down on 4) if you are looking at a ratio.  Ponder that denominator.
6) Don't cherry pick.  It's dishonest.

There are a lot of ways to look at a data set: linear and log scales, rate of change, etc.  Chose the one that gives the clearest picture of the data you want to analyze, or simplifies the analysis, or makes it easier to understand.  Studying different views can be informative, as can a comparison of different data sets. 

Here is the working page at FRED for the graphs in this post.  I encourage the interested reader to spend some time working with the capabilities of this very powerful tool.

Editorial Comment:
In case it's not obvious, I'll tell you that I write these posts because they interest me and I think they generate some knowledge, or at least information, that is worth sharing.  I have virtually no interest in the fool's errand of convincing anybody that I am right - either the data analysis convinces you or it doesn't.  So unless you have better data, or can point out some specific flaw in my reasoning [and then tell me specifically and in detail how to get it right] don't bother arguing with me.

I appreciate rational discourse, and am always willing to engage thoughtful readers. I'm also willing to be proven wrong by a cogent argument.  That said, though, I don't really care if anyone comments.  At this point, I'd almost rather nobody did.  But if you chose to, please do me the courtesy of having your comment be somewhere in the general vicinity of on-topic.  And - fair warning: naked assertions and unsubstantiated ideologically approved talking points will be scoffed at, so please check that nonsense at the door.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why Spending/GDP is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Metric For Judging Obama's Performance

A post like this really shouldn't be necessary, but part of the right wing canard that Obama has been a profligate spender is based on spending as a percentage of GDP.

It looks like this - Graph 1.

Graph 1.  Fed Expenditures/GDP

Sure enough, by the end of Clinton's term the ratio had fallen from Reagan's high of 24% to a modern low of 19%.  But note that the 19% value wasn't typical.  It was the end point of a decade-long decline.  And, yep, there's Obama with an all-time-high approaching 26%.

What otherwise intelligent, and sometimes even famous people seem to ignore though, is that every ratio has not only a numerator but also that ol' devil denominator.   Let's have a look at both of them.  Graph 2 shows GDP and Expenditures since 1980, expressed in $ Billions.  I've also added a line representing 5* Expenditures, since 20% of GDP is a reasonable rough estimate for the post WW II era.

Graph 2.  Expenditures and GDP Compared

Actually, the 5x Expenditures line runs pretty consistently above the GDP line, telling us two things that we should have already known from looking at Graph 1.  First, Expenditures greater than 20% of GDP have been the norm since before 1980, and 2) Clinton's final number is not representative of anything other than a single year.  Using it as a comparator is cherry-picking and fundamentally dishonest.

The 5x line also emphasizes that the majority of the spending increase under Obama unavoidably occurred during the officially designated recession.  The GDP line shows that, post recession, GDP growth has not recovered to the pre-recession trend line.  In fact, growth has established a new trend line with a lower slope.  This is unprecedented in the scope of FRED historical data.  My guess is that insufficient Federal spending has been a big drag on this recovery.  But it's also true that GDP growth has been in secular decline since the Reagan administration.  Note that skewing the denominator down will automatically skew the ratio up.  This is what Bill Clinton calls "arithmetic."

Slicing across this a different way, Graph 3 gives us year-over-year percentage growth in Expenditures and GDP, dating back to the Eisenhower administration.

Graph 3.  YoY % Change in Expenditures and GDP

A few simple observations:
- The spending increase during the recent recession was modest by any standard, and dwarfed by earlier surges.
- That increase, coupled with the most severe GDP decline since the other Great Depression gave our beloved ratio a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad double whammy.
- GDP growth during this recovery is only marginally better than it was during the 2001-2 low, and far below Clinton era levels.
- Clinton was the most consistently frugal president of the post WW II era - until now.
- Since the recession was declared over, B. Hoover Obama has been miserly.

One can legitimately argue that Obama's approach to the economy has been excessively conservative.  Krugman has made this point repeatedly.  I often say that Clinton governed to the right of Eisenhower - who was a genuine deficit hawk - and that Obama is to the right of Clinton. That is intended to be slightly hyperbolic, but using this data as the benchmark, it's dead on.

Any questions?

Cross posted at Angry Bear

What the Hell ?!? Friday - Yet Another Movie Review


I suppose CRAZY, STUPID LOVE is a chick flick.  Isn't anything with LOVE in the title a chick flick?  But I'm a guy, and I really like this movie a lot.  When I tell you that it's the best romantic comedy I've ever seen, that's actually pretty low praise, since it's a genre I generally avoid.  Frex, though Jennifer Aniston is cute and adorable, If she's in a movie, I know to just flip the channel.

Not so with Rene Zellweger and Julianne Moore.  Rene made BRIGIT JONES'S DIARY memorable, though the real delight for me was in seeing Colin Firth kick Hugh Grant's scrawny British ass.  Grant's mere presence is enough to spoil an entire evening for me.  However, anything with Julianne Moore in it is worth a look; but even she couldn't save the terminally awful NINE MONTHS.  That time waster also starred Hugh Grant, who I generally refer to as "that annoying British guy," and IIRC, there was no ass-kicking to bring even a slight positive to this dismal experience.  But I digress.

CRAZY,STUPID LOVE - not a yuck-it-up comedy by any means - is a somewhat convoluted story, and, as such, relies rather transparently on coincidence.  But that's OK.  Coincidence is a terrible way to wrap things up, but it's a perfectly fine way to get things going. And - taken individually - none of the coincidences is much of a stretch.

Julianne Moore plays Emily Watson, who drops a bomb shell on her unsuspecting husband Cal (Steve Carell) when she tells him she wants a divorce.  Even worse, she had sex with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon.)  I'll put Julianne Moore up against anyone - even Diane Lane - in a realistic portrayal of the wife who strays.  She proved that long ago in SHORT CUTS.  And who better than the FOURTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN guy to play a wronged and utterly baffled husband.  In short, the casting is perfect.  And it doesn't stop there.  Ryan Gosling as Jacob and Emma Stone as Cal and Emily's 25-year-old daughter Hannah are also perfect.  As are Jonah Bobo as the 13-year-old middle child, Robbie, and Analeigh Tipton as Jessica Riley, the confused 17-year-old girl who is the object of Robbie's forlorn affection.

They all display terrific acting chops.  But what underlines the brilliance of the casting is that Stone and Bobo actually look like they could be Moore's kids.

The story is tangled, but completely (well - almost) believable.  According to IMDB reviews it avoids falling into genre cliches. Even the ending is hopeful, rather than happily-ever-after.  In fact, though this movie relies on situations to get the story moving and interject some poignant and/or amusing plot points, it's really about the characters.  A strong story always is.  You feel Cal's pain.  And Emily's.  And Hannah's. And Robbie's and Jessica's.  And even Jacob's - the cool guy who at first look seems to be feeling no pain whatsoever.

The acting is superlative from everyone in the cast.  This makes the characters real, and draws you in so that you actually care about and root for them - even Jacob, an utterly amoral womanizer.  The story telling also draws you in, and as you get to know the characters, they become real.  Each of them has a back story that you would like to know more about.

The mood shifts from pain and jealousy to light-hearted flirtation to poignace to anger and disappointment.  But it all is done with precise timing and a careful sensitivity to what the characters are experiencing - or, at some times - enduring.  A long, quasi-intimate scene with Jacob and Hannah illustrates this wonderfully, and might have the best single moment in the whole story.

Bacon's part is little more than a cameo, but he executes it to perfection.  Ditto Marisa Tomei, who plays a desperate, difficult, double-edged, not quite over-the-top roll that I won't give away.  These two have the presence to capture the scenes that they are in.  But the one who runs away with the show is Jonah Bobo as love-lorn Robbie.

These characters are all fully-formed, three dimensional people.  They make mistakes, get back up and keep going, and cause each other pain without ever meaning to.  It's a lot like life.  But the struggle is worth it if you know what you care about and never give up.  Most especially if it involves your soul mate.

So, I'd say this movie is worth a look; even if, like me, you're a grizzled old guy who doesn't usually enjoy romantic comedies.

Previous Reviews

Cowboys and Aliens
Julie and Julia

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quote of the Day

In response to my comment at LGM:

I’m sorry, but this is far too rational to be connected in any way with modern regressive (I cannot in good conscience use the word “conservative”) mental processes (I cannot in good conscience use the word “thought.”)

Dr. Dick said this:

I think the phrase you are looking for is “random sputtering of disorganized neural ganglia”.

That, my friends, is the quote of the day.

A Quick Look at Federal Spending

Over at Plain Blog, an anonymous wing nut made this off-topic comment.
Now, yes, Bill Clinton and his 2000 federal spending level of 18% of GDP doesn't put him on the fringe, which makes it surprising that you lefties are celebrating him, even as you hysterically condemn anybody who resists the Left's current massive spending levels, which are nearly 50% greater than Clinton's and are spending the nation into debt obvlivion.

This once again raises the regressive canard that Obama has been a profligate and fiscally irresponsible spender.

Let's have a look.

Here is a graph of current expenditures that took place in the years of the current century.

First observation is that anon's math isn't very good.  Current expenditures are roughly 100% greater than when Clinton left office, not a mere 50%.

Second observation is that the vast majority of that increase - from about $1900 billion to about $3200 billion - took place under the previous administration.

Third observation is that the bulk of the Obama increase occurred during the recession - as it should - from a bit under $3200 billion to a bit under $3600 billion.  Since then it's crept up to about $3800 billion, and has recently flat-lined.

A more subtle point is that spending, like many time series data sets, increases exponentially over time, following population growth.  So, saying that a value at time B is some percentage greater than the value at time A communicates essentially zero information.  Context matters.

Let's look at expenditures in terms of year over year increase.

Yep, there was a big increase in 2009 and 2010, as social safety net programs kicked in.

Since then, expenditure growth fell precipitously and now has actually gone negative.  The last time that happened was in the Eisenhower administration.  Clearly, Obama has not been profligate.  Would it be an exaggeration to say he's been miserly?

Bill Clinton did a great job of exposing Republican lies in his speech at the Democratic convention last night.  But really, it's easy.  All you have to do to refute a regressive is have a quick look at facts and data.

Cross posted at Angry Bear.