Friday, December 13, 2013

TGIF; Administration To "Run" Health Insurance Industry. For The Granddaughters: James Bond

Active rigs: 191

RBN Energy: a nice essay from past CEO of Williams Companies on global warming and US energy potential. [This morning I posted this link which included this observation: " If you look at the numbers, 2013 is going to turn out to be one of the coldest years in the U.S. in the last 20 years." This afternoon, there was this story linked by DrudgeReport: over 2,000 cold and snow records set this week in the US.]

The Wall Street Journal

Here it comes. The administration will tell health care insurers how to run their business, including providing unlimited liability even if folks don't pay their premiums. This was the same situation when folks were allowed to live in their homes for months without paying rent during the housing debacle, and houses were in foreclosure. Previous articles used the word "urged" in the following headline in The WSJ: health insurers told to ease coverage rules. By the way, the reason for this: HHS realizes that most/many/some of those folks who signed up for ObamaCare in October, November probably don't have coverage due to high error rates in transmission. However, there is another nasty little bit of reality: folks have policies in their carts, but the software to pay for those policies has not been written. This is seldom mentioned in most news reports. The photo on the front page of this particular article appears to be a nursing home. Imagine all the folks in nursing homes with senile dementia/pre-senile dementia who have not enrolled. Social workers would not have the time or resources, and many of the patients are seldom visited by family members any more. [Oh, that's right; they're covered by Medicare; never mind.]

The WSJ continues to look at November retail numbers. As more and more data is analyzed, folks are going to realize this is going to be a blockbuster holiday season. The automobile sales suggest that. In addition, the surge of first-time unemployed claiming benefits (68,000) suggests a lot of folks will have free time to shop.

Saudi won't cut unilaterally.


As inflation view shifts, the Fed might "floor" it -- leaving rates at near zero until 2016. Huge story, for so many reasons:
Before making a move on interest rates, though, a quick glance at its blind spot—inflation—may be in order. The Fed's critics, who in recent years have accused it of risking rapid inflation through unorthodox policies, have egg on their faces.
In fact, the danger of disinflation—decelerating price gains—now looms. November's producer-price index is due out Friday, and the consumer-price index will be published Tuesday. In October, both registered their lowest level of year-over-year growth since autumn 2009, when the country was just climbing out of its worst postwar recession.
Both should tick slightly higher on that basis for November, but not by much. While low prices sound good, the Fed's current leadership is wary of flirting with outright deflation. Their preferred measure of prices, known as the personal-consumption expenditures deflator, rose by just 0.74% year over year in October, even slower than the 0.9% rise in headline consumer prices.
The difference is explained by the greater weight of housing in the consumer index. The PCE deflator excluding food and energy, the measure most favored by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, is expanding by just 1.1% annually. In response, he suggested at a September news conference that an inflation "floor" might be worth considering to decide when rates should rise from zero. That would supplement the Fed's inflation "ceiling" of around 2.5%.
It appears consumers will be paying more out-of-pocket at retail, but the government numbers will suggest inflation is non-existent  because greater weight is being placed on home values. Okay. I'm not sure if this is good news or bad news. Investors will like the news. Seniors on pensions pegged to the inflation rate will not.


The government gives in: switching from paper one-dollar bill to coin would be too expensive.

Natural gas prices at a 2 1/2-year high.
The big chill gripping the U.S. is heating up the natural-gas market. Prices climbed to a two-and-a-half-year high on Thursday as one of the coldest autumns in more than a decade has kept stoking demand for the heating fuel. The run-up has helped investors who bet that gas prices would rise once temperatures fell.
But it is bad news for utilities, which use gas to fuel power plants but are prevented in many states from immediately passing higher prices along to consumers. If the rally is sustained, it will spell relief for producers, which have struggled with low prices for years as output has soared. 

Netflix says binge viewing is no 'House of Cards.'
Netflix is trying to better understand your binge-viewing habits.
The company Friday will reveal a snapshot of a phenomenon that is reshaping TV culture—viewers devouring shows in long jags, episode after episode. Executives say they found a strikingly consistent pattern in the pace at which people binge: In general, about half the viewers studied finished a season (up to 22 episodes) within one week. "Our viewing data shows that the majority of streamers would actually prefer to have a whole season of a show available to watch at their own pace," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of Netflix in a statement. The data adds to evidence that binge viewing is becoming a social norm. It also shows that no matter what kind of shows are available, viewing patterns are remarkably similar. Netflix's message is that the stream-and-binge model it helped create is here to stay, undermining the stereotype of stupefied couch potatoes. 
And really good shows will have viewers watching more than two or three times.  Case in point: "Big Bang Theory." The next big thing: product placement. But down the road: someone is going to figure out some way to make those DVDs more interactive, and current over the lifetime of the viewer. YouTube is beginning to crack the code. It will only be a matter of time before Hollywood cracks the code. Folks like Tina Fey are no doubt trying to figure out how to do it.


Netflix series: a wise guy's warm welcome in a cold climate.
When "Lilyhammer" ended its initial run in 2012—the first of Netflix's original-series endeavors—it was understood that it would be some time before this hilarious concoction of wiseguy melodrama and scathing social commentary returned. Return it does on Friday with its saga of a cooperative mobster who got himself relocated, under the FBI's witness protection program, to the relative obscurity of Lillehammer, Norway—a place whose charms Frank Tagliano ( Steven Van Zandt ) first noticed while watching the 1994 Winter Olympics. He arrived in Lillehammer with a new name—he was now Giovanni Henriksen, or Johnny, as he told everyone to call him—and some very old, firmly established views on how things are supposed to work, what's right, what's wrong, what a person can put up with and what's intolerable and requires action.

A Note To The Granddaughters

The original (and newest) James Bond movies are now available in Blu-Ray and have been for quite some time.  They hold up very, very well over time. I have "Dr No," "Goldfinger," and "Skyfall." Some say "Skyfall" was the best of the Bond movies. Maybe. But I'm not so sure. "Skyfall" was mostly "action" and little story line with not much dialogue, and I don't recall much romantic interest but I watched it while blogging and probably missed a lot. I remember the good old days when the annual Playboy issue came out with "women in film" or something to that effect. The movies, of course, were all G, PG, or maybe a few R-rated, so the photos were less than what Sports Illustrated now reveals. But the issues were widely anticipated and always seemed to live up to one's expectations (at least for teenage boys). In the 60's it was guaranteed that the Playboy issue would include photos from James Bond movies. I have not seen the inside of a Playboy magazine in decades; I always bought it for the writing, and gradually migrated to The New Yorker which had better writing, and better more cartoons.

I digress. I watched "Goldfinger" on Blu-Ray earlier this week. Fantastic. It holds up well. Then I watched it again -- just the first ten minutes -- with commentary. I want to watch/listen to the full commentary with a significant other, and not by myself. But the little I watched, I thoroughly enjoyed. I have to say I enjoyed "Goldfinger" better than "Skyfall." The earlier Bond films had better gadgets, Pussy Galores, and great writing. And when you get right down to it, "Skyfall" was simply about trying to protect a government official from being assassinated; not quite as exciting as knocking off Fort Knox.

I watched "Goldfinger" with my granddaughters last night (again, only the first 30 minutes before we had to go to soccer). They were mesmerized. I had to explain a lot but there were no difficult or embarrassing scenes. Not last night, but earlier, when I watched "Goldfinger" with the commentary, this was said: the director of "Goldfinger" had a miserable challenge complying with both the British and the US censor. The British censor, at the time, abhorred violence; the US censor abhorred sex. There was less violence in "Goldfinger" than "The Hunger Games."

I think there are 23 or 24 James Bond movies. (23) I know I will end up watching all the Sean Connery films; I'm not sure about the rest. They say Daniel Craig is the "best" James Bond/007. I'm not so sure. Or maybe they say "after" Sean Connery, Daniel Craig is the "best" James Bond. That I can accept.

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