Movie Review: 13 Hours

13Hours

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Last Sunday my wife and I caught the matinee performance of 13 Hours. As a war movie buff it reminded me of Black Hawk Down. It shares a lot of the same themes and is action packed. Although my wife and I liked the movie, it is not without its detractors. Washington Post columnist Ann Hornaday complains that the movie is political and then spends most of her movie review contrasting it with the recent Iran prisoner swap. I guess she misses the point that when the consulate is under attack, political negotiations like the Iran prisoner swap are no longer an option. When the security guards ran away during the firefight at the consulate, you are officially in the soldier’s world and that is what the movie is about.  The writers at Hot Air were not impressed with her “political” argument either. Surprisingly I found the movie to be less political than I expected. If the movie included a cameo of either the President or the Secretary of State asleep during the battle or Susan Rice on the talk shows blaming a movie for the consulate attack, it would have strayed from the script and become political. Instead it focused on the courage of six men to save the Ambassador and his staff despite a lack of State Department and military support.

 

Steelers Versus Bengals – I Would Not Want It Any Other Way

If the Bengals are going to win their first playoff game in a long time I want it to be against the Steelers. If the Bengals play mistake-free football and get a few big plays they can win. The Bengals will never be a Super Bowl contender until they beat the Steelers in a playoff game.  The Bengals have to earn the respect of the Steelers before they can take the next step. If they beat the Steelers, they can beat anyone. I am hoping for a great game by both teams.

The Link Between The Health Care Economy And Income Inequality

Ever since the latest GDP report said the economy grew at a 5% rate in the latest quarter I have been thinking of the theme song for the Jeffersons, Movin’ On Up. Surely With 5% growth everyone should be feeling a little wealthier like the Jeffersons. Here are some of the lyrics from that song.

Well we’re movin on up,
To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up,
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

The irony is that despite 5% growth I do not feel wealthier in 2014 and am pretty sure my wealth in 2015 will diminish even more. So I started exploring the GDP contributions and found that most of the gain in Real Personal Consumption Expenditures(PCE) is attributable to health care(23.8%).This is not too surprising since health care has growing faster than every other PCE category since I started working in 1976. As long as our politicians were unwilling to slow down health care cost increases, it was just a matter of time before it would be number one. What was surprising was that the next three largest contributors were Financial services and insurance(16.3%), Recreational goods and vehicles(14.1%), and Motor vehicles and parts(12.8%). Missing in action were those durable and non-durable stalwarts of clothing, furnishings, food, gasoline, and housing. Obviously this health care economy is a much different economy than the Jeffersons were enjoying in the 1970s. The “Jeffersons” in this economy are definitely not moving on up. That is when I started thinking about my number one financial problem for 2015, health insurance.

In a previous post I mentioned that my grandfathered insurance premium for January 2015 will be $479. This is up 18% from my 2014 insurance premium of $407 and up 54% from my 2011 premium of $311. The lowest cost bronze plan in 2015 would cost me $923. As a person whose last insurance claim was made in the 1990s I think the fair market value for my health insurance is probably around $311 and everything charged above that amount is the equivalent to a wealth redistribution tax. From the perspective of my employer I got a raise since they paid more for my services. Unfortunately for me my raise did not buy clothing, furnishings, or bolster my retirement savings. Instead it went to pay other people’s medical expenses and insurance.

Unfortunately for the Affordable Care Act supporters it is an easy argument to show that income inequality increases when the health care economy is based primarily on redistributing wealth between different parts of the middle class. It did not have to be that way. Reforming health care costs was an essential part of health care reform and an integral part in supporting a growing the economy and creating good paying jobs. Instead we see a health care system that is dominating the economy and is literally sucking the growth out of other sectors of the economy. It looks like we are in a race to the bottom. Milton Friedman would probably have this to say.

A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.

What I Learned About Cybercrime Last Week… Beware of the Air Conditioner Man!

Although it was not a surprising result KrebsonSecurity reported that the hackers who broke into Target used the network credentials of the HVAC contractor. Like most retailers when we see the HVAC contractor or other maintenance people in the building, we get out of the way and let them do their job with a minimum of supervision. I can understand in this interconnected world that the HVAC  contractor and Target want to know immediately if the HVAC equipment has malfunctioned. I am surprised that the HVAC equipment evidently used the same network as the POS terminals. As a person who fills out the annual PCI questionnaire there are a lot of questions about segregating and securing credit card data. Giving network credentials to the HVAC contractor kind of defeats the goal of segregating the credit card data from non-essential personnel. It does make you wonder what the security folks at www.healthcare.gov are doing. As far as I can tell the web site security questions are still unanswered. It make me wonder what they have done and what still needs to be completed. Is there anything the www.healthcare.gov security folks can learn from the Target incident?  If you believe that the exchange should be operating more like a business than an inept government program, this would be a good time to for the Affordable Care Act management to be more proactive and tell the public how secure their personal data is at  www.healthcare.gov. Hmm… It’s beginning to look like another missed opportunity.

Obama’s claim that the Bush tax cuts helped cause the economic crisis – The Washington Post

Here is an excellent post from Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post that provides background for the cause of 2008 financial crisis.

It is time for the Obama campaign to retire this talking point, no matter how much it seems to resonate with voters. The financial crisis of 2008 stemmed from a variety of complex factors, in particular the bubble in housing prices and the rise of exotic financial instruments. Deregulation was certainly an important factor, but as the government commission concluded, the blame for that lies across administrations, not just in the last Republican one.

In any case, the Bush tax cuts belong at the bottom of the list ”” if at all. Moreover, it is rather strange for the campaign to cite as its source an article that, according to the author, does not support this assertion.

Obama’s claim that the Bush tax cuts helped cause the economic crisis – The Washington Post