Friday, February 27, 2015

No - You Don't Need A Million To Retire!


It has been pointed out before by various finance skeptics, but needs to be again (contrary to the worrywarts), that people do not need $1 million to retire. Yet to many this has almost been adopted as a norm, which ought not be challenged.  Thus, it was encouraging, to see in the MONEY magazine investment issue (Jan-Feb, p. 48) , that the authors also are trying to steer the masses away from the idea that stock investment is the only solution and one needs a minimum of one million bucks to achieve any degree of comfort.

A repeated trope that is 99 percent balderdash.

Indeed, author Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short, has noted it was all "built on quicksand, and people who invest in stocks are not paying serious attention to the underlying fundamentals."  Instead they're being mesmerized by flickering numbers on crawl screens, and carried away by temporarily inflated share prices and think this will net them compile a hearty retirement nest egg. Hardly, because if this bubble bursts as I believe it will, many will lose even more of their nest eggs - especially 401ks- than they did three years ago.

Apart from that,  monies accrued in stocks are never real until actually redeemed. This is why we refer to it as "phantom money". You can't build a secure income stream around it because it's variable. - from day to day and week to week. Apart from that it's been estimated ('Surviving the Coming Mutual Fund Crisis') that only 5 % of mutual fund holders manage to redeem their shares in time to reap gains.

The authors of the MONEY piece cite the finding that "more money makes you happier, but once you amass a comfortable nest egg, the effect weakens".  This according to Wes Moss, author of 'You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think: 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees'. Moss, in his survey study found that yes, the happiest retirees had the highest net worths, but the happiness quotient diminished after a net worth of $550,000. In other words, that amount was quite enough to fund a comfortable retirement.  As Moss put it, cited in the article:

"Once you reach a certain level, more money doesn't buy a lot more happiness".

And 550k is that level, at least according to Moss' findings.

But the MONEY authors add that where your money comes from is as important as the amount of savings you amass. As Moss finds (ibid.):

"Retirees with a predictable income - a pension, say, or rental properties - get more enjoyment from using those dollars than from a 401k or IRA"

Well, of course, given 401k and IRA monies are generally invested in mutual funds which are subject to variation as phantom money, as I noted. Hence, you cannot be sure that the IRA money you use (say in a yearly redistribution) won't go down the next year because of the underlying stocks plummeting. Thus, you are gambling with your IRA nest egg and you know it.

By contrast, getting regular, steady income - say from a pension or immediate annuity- means you can regularly budget for some enjoyment, e.g. holiday trips, and know how much you still have left.  This is confirmed as the MONEY piece notes:

"A Towers Watson happiness survey found that retirees who rely mostly on investments had the highest financial anxiety"

Again, not surprising since that anxiety will naturally arise given there is no predictable income stream on which to base financial projections or even basic budgeting, say for trips, special treats - nights out for a couple, or even buying a new car.

Lacking a pension income? You can still generate a "pension" equivalent by buying an immediate fixed annuity. As an example cited in the piece, a 65-year old man who puts $100,000 into an immediate fixed annuity (NOT a variable annuity!) will receive $500 a month throughout retirement.

Those who wish to check on the annuity which can be purchased for a given amount can go to this site:

http://www.immediateannuities.com/

Of course, to achieve even modest amounts for immediate annuity purchase requires diligent saving, which too many Americans haven't done. But if they ever do, they ought to know they don't need a million to retire and don't have to risk savings in the stock market.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Social Security Expansion Bill Americans Need - Given Many Cuts Are ALREADY In Place!


I just received in the mail yesterday news on a Social Security Expansion bill (S. 567) which I believe is desperately needed. But more on the reasons why a bit later. (Which I only learned about myself from a new book on Social Security I've been reading,   )

This expansion bill called the "Strenghthening Social Security Act" was actually introduced in the last congress by Sen. Tom Harkin. This landmark legislation would:

1) Gradually increase benefits by approximately $70 a month by changing the way the Social Security benefits are computed.

2) Ensure all retired Americans get a fair and larger Social Security COLA - one that truly reflects the cost of living, including medicines, food and fuel.

3) Extend the long term solvency of Social Security by almost two decades simply by finally making millionaires pay their fair share into this program (since most millionaires still demand their own .S.S. cut).  The change would be to the payroll tax cap and would mean someone making $3 million a year would pay the same percent as an ordinary bloke earning $30,000 a year.

Why the need for this expansion? Because we are already suffering from cuts that are working their way toward rendering every ordinary senior on a track to cat food. I wasn't aware of this until reading the book, Social Security Works by Nancy J. Altman and Eric R. Kingson.  A few of the findings that blew my mind (pp. 60- 61):

1) The 1983 Social Security enactment -amendment effectively phases in a two year increase in the full retirement age from 65 to 67 and has already lowered benefits by about 6.5 percent.  When fully phased in, the delay of 2 years to defined "full retirement"  will effectively cut the benefits to those born in 1960 or later by around 13 percent.

2) It does not matter whether you claim benefits at 62 or 70 or somewhere in between you can never 'catch up" and the cuts will wreak their havoc over time year by year.

3) Decisions made in 1983, 1993 to treat a growing portion of Social Security benefits as taxable income will effectively lower benefits by 9.5 percent in 35 years.

The last is especially nasty. Prior to 1983, Social Security benefits were tax free. Since 1984, up to 50 percent of Social Security benefits have been counted as taxable income for individuals in excess of $25,000/ yr. and couples in excess of $32,000/ yr.

Since 1993, additionally up to 85 percent of Social Security benefits have been taxed for some individuals with incomes in excess of $34,000, $44,000 for couples. It is almost as if the benefits are given with the right hand and taken away with the left hand of gov't!

Worse, because the above thresholds are not adjusted for inflation,  the reduction in benefits increases over time. The effective cut was, on average,  6 percent in 2012  and will be 8.8 percent by 2030 and 9.5 percent by 2050.

Did you know about any of these existing cuts? I didn't - other than the first threshold for benefits cuts via taxes.

How bad it can get was recently described in an article in MONEY magazine (March, p. 42). They use the example of a retiree in the 15% tax bracket who is taxed 50 % on his Social Security. If he earns another $1,000, his "combined" income rises that much too, subjecting another $500 of Social Security to income taxes. So, the tax bill on that $1,000 will not be $150 (15 percent of $1,000) but $225 or an effective tax rate of 22.5%.

All of this in concert screams for an expansion of Social Security and the sooner the better. Otherwise seniors will be subject to an ongoing "race to the bottom" - and that's assuming the billionaires like Peter G. Peterson don't get their way in cutting it further via a "chained CPI".

Could The Reepo House Soon Be Branded Terrorist Sympathizers?

One thing you have to hand to the Reepos they have perfected the art of "collateral language", i.e. misusing language or narratives to attempt to "mind fuck" our  weaker-minded citizens. They are trying again by withholding funding for Homeland Security (unless another poison pill amendment is passed, this to do with scotching Obama's executive orders on immigration).  But they would have the gullible believe it is the Democrats who are playing fast and easy with protecting citizens - even after a terror group last weekend invited attacks on the Mall of America!

Let's get it clear here, in case any have fog on the brain or are suffering the early entry of dementia, that it is the Reeps who are to blame by attaching the poisoned amendment to what was a clean bill. If the Dept. of  HS isn't funded in a timely fashion then, and malls are attacked by lone wolf terror nuts or ISIS zombies, then we must be able to lay the blame on the House GOP as terrorist sympathizers. Because even when they knew the potential consequences of their ill-advised actions, they refused to move forward on a clean bill. Insisting their 'Tea Party' ideology prevail.

Fortunately, the Reeps in the Senate  have come to their senses. Sen. Mitch McConnell, now tired of posturing and grandstanding (after a number of Dem filibusters and the Al Shabbab threats last W/E) has finally separated the disgusting poison pill amendment from the Dept. of HS funding bill per se.

But Boehner and the House Reeps, still cluttered with Tea Baggers, are not ready to move anytime soon. They are determined to teach Obama a lesson, even if the result may well be nasty for the country and a calamity for their party. Especially, in the latter case,  being labeled as terror sympathizers in perpetuity.

Post script:

Incredibly, the bald chutzpah of conservatives knows no bounds in terms of their brazen hypocrisy. In a recent column, conservo hack Charles Krauthammer actually insisted the Reepo leaders in the Senate adopt the "nuclear option."  and thereby prevent any more filibusters by the Dems. This, after the Reeps in the last session of congress used the filibuster over 450 times during Obama's tenure,  breaking a record.  Go figure.  Looks to me like it's one rule for the Gooprs, another for everyone else!

See also: http://www.salon.com/2015/02/26/gops_amazing_shutdown_debacle_doomed_dhsimmigration_strategy_enters_final_throes/

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Fake Climate Scientist Exposed: Willie Soon


Thanks to Chris Hayes in a segment on his  Monday might 'All In' for exposing yet another paid hack climate denier posing as a climate scientist and "astrophysicist". This would be none other than Willie Soon, whose dubious history regarding climate science precedes him.  This concerned a spurious paper in a joint 2003 effort by Soon and Sallie Baliunas with a graphic misuse of statistics. Reference to it may be found at: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=0007A664-3534-1F03-BA6A80A84189EEDF

The methodology used by Soon and Baliunas was terrible, and any proper referee versed at all in statistics would've tossed most of their analyses out in a heartbeat. Especially their deliberate  use of 50-year data periods, increments when the IPCC scientists had already disclosed anthropogenic warming appears at 30 -year levels. In effect, Baliunas and Soon employed what we call a 'selective effects filter' to cull the data they preferred not to have to deal with. As serious climate critics pointed out in the aftermath of the paper, by using much wider 50 year periods one essentially whitewashes the signal right out of the data.

Sadly, it seems Soon hasn't learned his climate lessons. But mayhap he's being paid too much as a shill for the denial lobby to do so. Hayes led off the segment with a pie chart showing 97 percent of published climate papers agree global warming is happening and humans are the primary cause. This elicits the question: 'Who makes up the other 3 percent?'

Hayes' immediate response was that these minority climate change deniers (I disdain misuse of the word 'skeptics' as Chris does) are not all they appear That is, objective researchers in pursuit of scientific truth. Such is the case with Dr. Willie Soon, ostensibly based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, until one digs beneath the surface. (And btw, when one is praised by the most infamous climate change denier - James Inhofe - one knows he's hit new lows and is really a bottom feeder scientifically.)

Hayes then went on to cite the truth about Soon using a clip and excerpt from the New York Times. e.g.

"Though often described on conservative news programs as a 'Harvard astrophysicist', Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard."

More technically, Soon is actually a part-time employee of the Smithsonian which jointly runs  the Center along with Harvard. More to the point, Soon is only there because he brings in his own funding. What exactly this translates into wasn't known until Greenpeace submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for Soon's grant correspondence. What they found also appeared in the Times' piece on 'Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher (e.g. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/22/us/ties-to-corporate-cash-for-climate-change-researcher-Wei-Hock-Soon.html?_r=0)':

"He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers."

Can anyone say 'paid whore' for the fossil fuelers? I can!   Especially as Soon, according to the Times:

described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

So can Hayes. As he put it:

"There are now one point two million more reasons to doubt his work."

Which, let's face it, would already be doubt worthy given how he earlier played with statistics to wash out the actual global warming signal from his paper.

Maybe Soon needs to very soon click on the link below to see the more rapid melting of ice caps and glaciers, which we're actually seeing in real time, showing climate change-global warming is happening as I write:

http://video.pbs.org/video/1108763899

The preceding ought to get even the most blinkered global warming denier's attention, as well as http://www.salon.com/2015/02/26/scientists_stick_it_to_climate_deniers_study_provides_direct_evidence_that_human_activity_is_causing_global_warming/

See also:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/21/climate-change-denier-willie-soon-funded-energy-industry

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/23/the-favorite-scientist-of-climate-change-deniers-is-under-fire-for-taking-oil-money/

And more documents on Soon's deplorable brand of science can be found here:

http://www.climateinvestigations.org/willie-soon-harvard-smithsonian-documents-reveal-southern-company-scandal

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

'Citizen Four': An Oscar-Winning Documentary Every Citizen Needs To See

Image result for Citizenfour

Though it's been nearly two years, most alert and aware Americans still can recall the brouhaha that erupted after Edward Snowden exposed how we were all being tracked relentlessly by the NSA. Tracked using programs with cryptic names such as XKeyscore and PRISM. Tracked via our telephone calls, emails and our web wanderings - including even terms we'd googled and all the websites visited.  Of course, in the wake, the Neoliberal machine  and its 'evil sister' Neocon War-Security state,  exploded with self righteous indignation - questioning who exactly was this "traitor" (with only a high school education) that brought these things to light.

Those of us who are real Americans, applauded Snowden's courage in outing the vile violators of our Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Clearly showing that only individual warrants are acceptable and one cannot have mass warrants issued out of laziness, disrespect for the Constitution or mere expedience and efficiency provided by technology. Moreover, Snowden was ultimately vindicated when a  300-page report     was released last year by a commission appointed by Obama himself (who was finally backed into a corner after NSA spying on foreign heads of state was made public in one release)

All this came out at the time, but what is less known is the backstory on how Snowden accomplished his file access and then made contact with the journalists who he would entrust with the actual file release. That incudes documentary film maker Laura Poitras who - with Glenn Greenwald (then journalist for the UK Guardian) took home the Oscar for the Best Documentary Feature on Sunday night.

Watching the film last night on HBO, Janice and I were both spellbound as the movie - though totally factual - had the aura of a John Le Carre spy novel. We see the first encrypted messages between Poitras and Snowden and then the instructions she needs to follow to ensure the spooks aren't listening in. As I mentioned to Janice (barely one tenth of the way in), the guy may only have a high school degree but he's absolutely brilliant as well as skilled - something the idiot corporate media downplayed when they tried to make the story about him.

The scene in his Hong Kong hotel when he needs to upload a set of documents to Greenwald's laptop is intriguing in itself, including all the sundry precautions taken to ensure electronic spying eyes or ears don't compromise the transfer. Greenwald and another Guardian journalist are then charged with releasing the files using their best judgment since Snowden didn't want his personal bias reflected. He also wanted to delay his identity being outed so the story could be about what was done to his fellow Americans, as opposed to making him the story. (Which eventually happened thanks to our Neoliberal media elites.)

Two of the more appalling scenes which made us want to chew nails, showed NSA honcho Keith Alexander and then James Clapper lying through their teeth before congress when directly asked (by Sen. Ron Wyden, in the case of Clapper) if any  phone calls of ordinary Americans had been scooped up by the NSA. (After some prodding the turkey explained it might have been done "accidentally")
James Clapper at Senate
Clapper lying to congress.

In another scene that soon follows, where the NSA's mass surveillance of  (Verizon) phone records is being challenged,  we see a Justice Dept. lawyer trying to argue the federal court hearing the case has no real standing and besides, "national security would be affected" if the mass seizure of phone records was stopped.

The documentary then follows Snowden's crisis after his name is released, and we see here this is what he wanted as he didn't wish to be perceived sneaking around "in the shadows".  From the CNN broadcasts the media learns he's holed up in a Hong Kong hotel and it soon becomes clear he needs to leave or risk possible extradition. He's then helped by Julian Assange and his group to make it to Russia and we see only occasional communications with Poitras keyboarded onto the screen - he's obviously taking great precautions.

The issue of the sort of justice Snowden might face (if he returned to the U.S.)  then comes up for discussion and it's noted he'd be prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act as a spy, just like other whistleblowers. There would be no comeback and no fair trial because the court and jury proceedings would be entirely weighted ab initio for Snowden's guilt as a spy.  The preservation of the amendments of the Constitution would be totally irrelevant. All of which points up the fact that those yahoos who yelp about Snowden returning and "facing justice" are idiots.

This segment also had our heads ready to explode given that Obama is a former Constitutional lawyer and essentially betrayed all his (early) promises of governmental  "transparency". What makes it even more wretched is how those doing the truth telling,  whistle -blowing have been put behind bars while the torturers and Constitutional violators have been allowed to roam free and even appear on TVs .... as opposed to being shot or turned over to the International Court in the Hague.

The segments dealing with the NSA's overstretch in spying on Brazilian leaders is also gripping, with Greenwald delivering testimony in Portuegese before the Brazilian parliament. And then William Binney, former NSA technical director, testifying before the German parliament to do with NSA's mass  spying on Germans.

The final scenes show Snowden and his girlfriend (American, who joined him in July, 2014) seen through the window of their Moscow apartment.

Leave out Oscars' host  Neil Patrick Harris' idiot snipe about 'treason'(after the award), most real Americans know that Snowden is a hero, a Constitutional protector and defender, and if this film doesn't convince you (assuming you don't believe it currently) well,  you need to admit you're just like the Good Germans. That lot who were quite happy to have the Gestapo looking over their shoulders, and were more than elated to turn their neighbors in on the slightest pretext.

Monday, February 23, 2015

San Fran Priests Gives Kids Sex Pamphlet to Use for "Confession": What Were They Thinking?

Two San Fran Padres,  Rev. Joseph Illo and Rev. Patrick Driscoll, are real pieces of work, and dumb ones at that. Evidently distributing a sex pamphlet to 8- 11 year olds as a means by which they might consider their "sexual sins". What were these boneheads thinking? Wait! They weren't! Padres (most) don't think, they just blindly follow some antiquated noisome moral "orders".  It was then left for many parents to complain (from the 'Star of the Sea' Catholic school) and erupt when they saw what was in the stupid pamphlet.

Driscoll, trying to be a good little RC padre,  distributed the pamphlets for the kids at the private RC school that they might better make "an examination of conscience" before their first confessions. The incredibly explicit  pamphlet (thank goodness he didn't include images) asked kids:

- Whether they had "engaged in impure acts with themselves" (masturbation) or others (adultery, fornication, sodomy)

- Whether any of the students or "their spouses" had practiced artificial birth control or been "sterilized" via tubal ligation or other means (e.g. vasectomy for males).

- Whether they "had an abortion" or "encouraged someone else to terminate a pregnancy".

-Whether they had accessed any nasty internet porn or passed on links to others.

Naturally, most of the parents on seeing this went batshit crazy and were rightly infuriated. Some even opined that the priests had actually created "occasions of sin"  for the kids. Many of the teachers, to their credit and sanity, realized on first inspection what incendiary crap the padres had allowed in and wisely withheld the material from their innocent charges. (And as most of us know - especially those who grew up RC and sex stupid, when you see sex terms like the ones in the book, your curiosity is triggered and you want to find out what it all means.)

Of course, all Catholic kids have to endure the "examination of conscience" ritual prior to making a first confession and what one often recalls in retrospect is how ridiculous the preparation can be, especially with  the notorious Catholic obsession with "impurity".   In my own case, at age 7, I had to go through a "prep" with Sr. Vivina along with classmates at St. Leo's Parochial School in Milwaukee.

Like all RC's (and the SF padres) she also was obsessed with "sins of impurity" and doggedly belabored each of us to recall exactly what we did. We knew we had to have done something, so we could as well spit it out when we got to confession. Harangued for over a week by the good nun, I finally admitted what I did to Fr. Kosciuscko: "I farted in my pet cat's face three times!"

But often, things aren't so funny, especially when one grasps that Catholicism has deep Manichean roots in which the body and all things to do with it, especially yielding any kind of pleasure, are viewed as "Satanic" or "sinful" because of being bound to the "flesh".  So it is not surprising that a common thread throughout RC Church history is an unhealthy obsession with common sexual acts. These are what we call the "pelvic prohibitions" and they include masturbating, fornicating, oral sex and many other expressions of intimacy because well.... the popes and padres and their bureaucracy of fossils all view humans as fallen angels as opposed to risen apes - which is what we really are.

Ever see males apes masturbating at the zoo? Well, then you know it's a fairly common primate act, and under no conditions a "sin". Besides which the whole concept of sin is bogus anyway. I mean, how can an allegedly omnipotent being be affected in any way by a puny mortal human's deeds or misdeeds? It's laughable!

Getting back to the harping on "impure actions and thoughts" it was left to a former RC priest, Fr. Emmet McLoughlin to document the extent of this RC  sexual obsession and its ill effects on the minds of Catholic youth in his book: 'Crime and Immorality in the Catholic Church'   (Lyle Stuart Books, 1962) in which he detailed using statistics the extend of seeding sexual paranoia in kids' minds leading them into precarious mental states. These mental states often incepted great emotional suffering and shame, and in extreme instances, confinement to psych wards. Often the affected kids -usually teens- would literally be terrified of going to sleep lest they die having forgotten some "impure act" or other and ending up roasting in Hell.


In one of his chapters ('Let the Statistics Tell Their Tragic Story', pp. 189-214) ) McLoughlin documents how relentless hectoring about "sexual fantasizing" (which every normal male does, at least 200 times a day)  led dozens of students at an RC school to be hospitalized for depression or acting out. Many others, too terrified by the prospect of their "sins" - willingly turned themselves into eunuchs for the padres and whatever pope at the time - despite most sexual experts (e.g. Dorothy Baldwin) warn of the dangers of teens not ejaculating regularly.

Now, recently to the rescue we have Sister Margaret Farley, who in her 2006 book,  Just Love.      has shown how the Vatican has overstepped the bounds in its sexual ethics and how sanity can be brought to bear. Those interested in the details can check out my earlier post,

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/04/vatican-sics-bishop-enforcers-on-nuns.html

For the rest of us who've left the RC's for sanity, or to quote George Carlin in one of his routines, "once we reached the age of reason", we never look back.

Those interested in how bad this crap was can watch a video,  reported by KNTV-TV

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Will the Academy Engage in Narcissistic Navel Gazing - Or Deliver A Real 'Best Picture' Award?

A recent article on salon.com by Andrew O'Herhir observed:

If “Birdman” wins best picture on Sunday – and that’s where the smart money is coming down – that would be, to quote the inestimable Mark Harris in Grantland, “the third time in four years that people who make movies have given top honors to a movie about people who make movies.” (In case you’ve forgotten, and if there is any mercy in heaven you probably have, the earlier examples are “The Artist” and “Argo.”)

Self-regarding movies about the greatness and craziness and triumph and tragedy of those who make movies have become the new Oscar norm, replacing the suddenly outdated Oscar norm of comic-sentimental British costume drama draped over anodyne messages. The producers of “The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game,” a pair of pictures conspicuously molded to that old Oscar-bait template, evidently hadn’t gotten the memo.

REALLY? So I guess my take that 'Imitation Game' was a shoo -in, e.g.

http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-imitation-game-shoo-in-to-win-best.html

was a bit premature. Well, that's too bad. Because if the Academy is now on a navel-gazing bender it is likely to discredit their choice of  'Best Picture' and demean it as a less than objective selection. Just reading the passage above ought to send off alarms that while you (in the movie business) can be forgiven awarding top honors to a movie about people who make movies - you can't make it a habit. We refer to this as "artistic incest."

The Academy, then, needs to be more serious in its take this year. While Keaton is a good actor, and 'Birdman' is probably worthy of top honors I say the Oscar ought to go to Richard Linklater's film 'Boyhood',  (certainly if  'Imitation Game' is out of the running.) Why 'Boyhood'? Let's start with being 12 years in the actual making - an uncommon achievement for any film nowadays. Imagine the editing alone that had to go into cutting those millions of hours of film down to 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

Watching the film (which we did on pay per view last week) was an experience in itself, seeing all the characters aging naturally - including female lead Patricia Arquette. The kids' characters also age by those 12 years and their experiences are melded seamlessly into the whole. The effort alone - not to mention the acting - is Oscar worthy.

I therefore tend to agree with O'Herhir when he writes:

I can’t get super exercised about “Birdman’s” likely victory, honestly. As Harris has noted, it speaks to a widely shared experience in Hollywood, the attempt to create something beautiful and meaningful that runs off the rails into the swamp. It’s “a movie about someone who hopes to create something as good as ‘Boyhood,’” a reading both barbed and generous, and right on the money.


So why give the top award to a 'wannabe good' flick as opposed to giving it to the actual article? It would make no sense at all. But from past choices (e.g. 'Hurt Locker' over 'Avatar' a few years ago - despite Cameron's film setting new cinematic standards) we know the members of the Academy aren't always committed to acting sensibly. Politics, as Harvey Weinstein noted in an interview on CBS Early Show a month ago, also plays a huge role - and who knows how many Academy members can be bought off at the last minute by sundry blandishments and perks? (Including extra $$$ in those 'swag bags')

Let us hope they are this time!

On another note, the Best Actor Oscar ought to go to Eddie Redmayne for his incredible portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in 'The Theory of Everything' which we saw last night. The performance, including meticulously manifesting every one of Hawking's movements (and speech) as he develops ALS, is as worthy of Oscar glory as Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of an autistic in 'Rain Man'. If Hoffman merited an Oscar for his performance, so does Redmayne now!
--------------------------

Footnote: After watching 'Birdman' my assessment stands as given. Way too much obsession with acting kitsch and one guy's drama in attaining (Broadway)acting perfection following the end of his Hollywood career. Too much navel gazing, in other words. Janice, in fact, was ready to ditch the viewing after barely a half hour - so tired did she become at the over the top acting rehearsals and 'character exploration' rituals. The ending was also way too esoteric, and some of the scenes with Riggan flying around Manhattan (with his 'Birdman' persona) absoluotely surreal, like out of some LSD'ers bad dream.