Monday, September 24, 2012

Review of the Master

The movie sucks.  Don't watch it.  Just saved you $10.  If you want to watch a movie by Paul Thomas Anderson rent Boogie Nights instead.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Apple's Main Threat

Is not Google.  It is not Microsoft.  It is Amazon.  If Dan Frommer's speculation about the Kindle Phone comes to fruition I think Amazon will claim a sizeable share of the smartphone market.  Frommer thinks that Amazon might do what it is now doing with the Kindle Fire 4G LTE which "buying wholesale data capacity directly from AT&T (as it's doing here, and as it does for the 3G Kindle), and charging a lot less for an entry-level smartphone plan than its competition."  The Kindle Fire 4G LTE data plan is $50 annually for 250 MB a month of data.  That is not a lot of data, especially for a tablet.  I use between half a gig and a gig each month.  But you can imagine a phone which has LTE that is $299 and instead of paying a combined $50-100 a month for minutes, texts, and data you pay $10 a month for data and use apps for free texting and google voice or skype for calls.  The software won't be as nice as iOS and the hardware won't be anywhere near as pretty or substantial but over the life of the contract savings could be between $1k-2k.  That will be enough to get a lot of people to think about changing and would be disruptive to Apple, not ruinous, but disruptive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Infrastructure in the US

I thought this was a great passage from a piece by Stephen Smith:
"The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is spending $3.8 billion on a single subway station at the World Trade Center designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect known for his costly projects. If New York could build subways at the prices that Paris and Tokyo pay, $3.8 billion would be enough to build the entire Second Avenue subway, from Harlem to the Financial District. "

Smith lays part of the blame at excessive outsourcing.  I think there is a lot of truth to this.  One reason public managers rely on outsourcing as much as they do in the public sector is that they are trying to get around personnel restrictions: 1. the municpality/state/federal pay scale may not be competitive for certain fields (IT comes to mind); 2. it is much easier to fire contractors than civil servants (especially unionized civil servants).  The latter reason is unfortunate because when you pay for that flexibility the cost is very dear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note and a Note on Names

The Verge has a review of Samsungs latest and greatest tablet-the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.  I never understand why manufacturers have some of these awful names.  The Note part I get.  The big feature of this new Tablet is stylus integration.  Why Galaxy?  Why not just call it the Samsung Note?   Then Samsung would have two  tablet product lines, the Samsung Tab and the Samsung Note which would be differentiated by the presence of a bundled stylus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thoughts on Ryan VP

Ryan is a marginally better pick than the typical republican VP pick from a base broadening perspective as he is a young white male as opposed to an old white male.  This pick represents either foolishness or confidence on the part of Romney.  Ryan is energetic, charismatic, and has a great command of policy (which amazingly very few politicians do).   In terms of what he brings to the table from an electoral standpoint, my guess is the following:
-firms up the base, the ryan budgets have been bold political documents that slaughter many sacred cows (thus why they are political documents as opposed to public law)
-I think he will appeal to moderates for whom medicare isn't yet on their mind (under 50)
-I think he might move the needle a bit with women (he is good looking)
What  does he take off the table-
-Scaring people about medicare
-Dampens support amongst old white people, see the point immediately above

Ryan and Obama have both proposed taking an axe to medicare.  Their methods of doing so, IPAB v. shifting to a premium support model/competitive bidding, is very different.  But in the end, both are proposing similar cuts and and the same growth rates for Medicare (GDP +.5%).  Going after Obama on Medicare would have been very cynical but probably quite successful.  Picking Ryan takes this option off the table.  It's a good thing for the country regardless of the outcome.

Ryan has also proposed block granting medicaid.  I don't think this will move the needle.  People that oppose this weren't voting for Romney.  People that support it are already voting for Romney.   People that haven't thought about it won't spend the time to think about it now.

Ryan might make Wisconsin competitive.  I doubt it but he might.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Thoughts on the Future of Higher Ed

From somebody who is smarter than me and a much better writer: http://benjaminlima.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/massive-online-learning-and-the-unbundling-of-undergraduate-education/.

Give it a look.

Belated Thoughts on the Olympics Twitter Expulsions

I don't believe that athletes should be expelled from the olympics for saying offensive things.  Many of these athletes are young and foolish but nonetheless have made a tremendous personal sacrifice to make it to the olympics and this sacrifice should not be negated by an idiotic tweet. I think public censure is sufficient punishment by itself.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Two Cents on Gun Control

I favor gun control, primarily executed through rigorous licensing.  I think that if you want to own guns that you should actually be trained in their use and care to the point that you are a skilled marksmen and are capable of maintaining them.  Such licensing should be provided by the state and the possession of a valid license should be necessary for a sale.  That said, it seems like pandora's box has been opened long ago.  There are almost as many guns as there are people and tracking them down is sure to be nearly impossible. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paying to Keep the Insurer and Providers Lights On

Austin Frakt had a very intersting blog post several months ago where he tried to argue why it is sensible to have insurance cover routine predictable expenses.  He cites two principle reasons: 1. the tax subsidy, 2. Insurer's bargaining power.  I am less interested in the first reason but more with the second.  I think it is obvious that insurers through their bulk purchases can obtain discounts that individuals cannot.  That said, what I find amusing is this ignores the fact that much of what you are paying for when you go to a provider is the overhead associated with chasing a reimbursable.  If everybody paid cash (or a near substitute like the medical equivalent of a food stamp) I would imagine much of the direct and indirect costs a doctor incurs (and then passes along to you the consumer) would disappear.  The question then becomes do these cost savings outweigh the bargaining discounts the insurer is able to obtain.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thoughts on Possible VP Picks

Typically VPs are sought for electoral reasons.  Sometimes the VP is picked becasue he might put a state into play or keep a borderline state out of play.  Sometimes the VP is picked to compensate for deficiencies of the president.  Cheney brought experience to the the ticket.  Biden is a white male.  There are a lot of areas where Romney needs "balance".  Romney is a mormon which presents an unfortunate ick factor for most Americans regardless of party or religiosity.  Romney is also a bit aloof and out of touch with the every man (I suppose this is an organic result of being worth a quarter billion).  These two factors have many suggesting Tim Pawlenty as a running mate.  Pawlenty is certainly the "right" religion to reassure the base and he is a natural born retail politician.  That said, there are a couple of areas where Pawlenty concerns me as a potential veep.  I am no expert on Minnesota affairs but it is not clear that Pawlenty excelled in any particular area as a govenor and one can argue that he was not a very good govenor.  But, more troubling is something that is beyond his control and is ultimately unfair.  Pawlenty is a white male.  The Republican party is just now beginning to cultivate political talent from a broader demographic spectrum (I might add, this I think was the only clear positive of Palin's presence on the ticket in 08, an overwhelming positive given the fact that McCain didn't have a chance in hell).  Pawlenty is not going to put Minnesota in play.  Portman probably won't move the needle on Ohio.  Romney is going to win or lose because the economy is perceived to be getting worse or better.  With that in mind, Romney can afford to take a long view and to continue the process of cultivating political talent outside of white males within the Republican party and to truly make it a big tent party*.

*Obviously things like not gay bashing and talking about rounding up immigrants and deporting them would help too, but...baby steps.