Most Popular Movies Getting Worse (1991-2011)

Moki.TV presents visual evidence that overall, films are decreasing in quality. Moki noted the “spike in highly polarizing movies (Twilight movies, the Transformers sequel, Fast and the Furious) with wide ratings distributions. And, they note Sequels are (almost) always more polarizing.

Here is the trend:


click for interactive graphic


Hat tip Flowing Data

1st Week Without A Higher High Since November

Last week was the 1st in which the SPX failed to make a new high since November. Prior to this it had been 12 straight weeks of higher intraweek highs. In last night’s subscriber letter I took a look at other times similar streaks existed and what happened after they ended. Below is a study that showed results of instances with at least 10 consecutive higher highs.

It’s tough to draw too much from the low number of instances. Early indications suggest the market is not immune from a short-term pullback, but that past instances have not marked major tops. If you want to take a closer look at other instances like the present where the SPX made higher highs for at least 12 weeks before faltering, it occurred on 11/5/65, 3/17/72, 1/8/93, 8/15/97, and 4/17/98.

A theme I have found in my research is that persistent uptrends rarely end abruptly. Often they will chop for a while and lose their persistence before rolling over. While much of this research has been focused on the daily timeframe, studies like this suggest it may also apply to weekly timeframes as well.

Constitution Version 2.0: „Of the Banks, By the Banks and For the Banks“

We the People Giant Corporations of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union Pig Trough, establish Justice Perpetual Bailouts, insure domestic Tranquility Passivity, provide for the common defence Bewilderment, promote the general Welfare Sense of Cynicism and Helplessness, and secure the Blessings of Liberty Socialism for the Rich to ourselves and our Posterity Key Executives, do ordain and establish this Constitution Version 2.0 for the United States of America ...

Of the banks, by the banks and for the banks.

On a related note, a reader sent me the following:

If the Declaration were written today, how would Jefferson phrase it? A reader speculates . . .





When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for the people to renounce the political bands which have connected them with their government, and to reclaim among the powers of the earth, the equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to that renunciation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of the American people; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to renounce the conduct of their Government. The history of the present Government of the United States is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over its People. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

You have abused the electoral system to guarantee returns for incumbents, and allowed our elections to become advertising campaigns controlled by Monied Interests.
You have ceased to write our Nation’s Laws, allowing them to be written instead by those same Monied Interests that finance your election campaigns.
You have ceased to publicly debate or even read, before enacting, the Laws that Monied Interests write for you.

You have abdicated your responsibility to declare War and secure Peace.

You have saddled the People with the Gambling Debts of the Wall Street Bankers, and in so doing thrown our Nation into Bankruptcy.


Ninety-eight per cent of Congressional seats are now held by incumbents; a percentage matched only by fraudulent democracies and de facto tyrannies like the former Soviet Union. Those seats are controlled by Special Monied Interests that run our political system, write our laws in their own interests, exchange the Rights of our People for the Privileges of the Oligarchy, and saddle us with Perpetual War.


You have violated the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable Search and Seizure, and issued Warrants without Probable Cause.

You have violated the Fifth Amendment guarantee of due process of law, targeting your own citizens for extra-legal assassination.

You have violated the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a public Trial by Jury.

You have violated the Eighth Amendment guarantee prohibiting Cruel and Unusual Punishment with a reign of Torture.

You have saddled the People with the Expense of maintaining in Peacetime a Standing Army of

Two Million Professional and Mercenary Soldiers.

You have built a Thousand Military Bases in 110 Countries Worldwide, and subverted the United States from a Republic to a Military Empire.

You have asserted fraudulent Casus Belli to bend the People’s Will to the Hostile Designs of War.

You have made war on countries--Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan--that pose no threat to the American people and desire no conflict with us.

You have abused the Citizens with Propaganda Campaigns to promote these Wars.

You have allowed the Secret Police Forces of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, and the Military Police to spy upon, arrest, imprison without charges, and torture his own citizens.


You have lied about Iraqi Weaponry, the Perpetrators of the Anthrax Attack, and the Perpetrators of 9/11 [*Note: see statements below from the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and chair of the Joint Inquiry of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into 9/11, and the 9/11 Commissioners themselves, in this regard]; and used those lies to justify the Desecration of our Rights, and the Fearmongering and Warmongering Campaigns that preceded your Armed Invasion of the Middle East. You have allowed the Military Forces and the Secret Police of this country to wrest control from their Civil Authority, and embark on a campaign of world domination that requires as a corollary the usurpation of the fundamental rights of the Citizens of the United States.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Government whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyranny, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our brethren in Government. We have warned you from time to time of your attempts to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded you that our rights under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are Inalienable. We have appealed to your native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured you by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. You have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold you, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Citizens of the United States of America, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of this Country, solemnly publish and declare, That these Citizens of the United States are, and of Right ought to be Free and Vested in Liberty; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the Government of the United States, and that all political connection between them and the Government, is and ought to be totally dissolved until that Government restores the Rights and Liberties it has unlawfully taken from us; and that as Free and Independent Citizens, we have full Power to create a New Government, and to do all other Acts and Things which Free Citizens may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

* Note: In 2002, Senator Bob Graham - former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and chair of the Joint Inquiry of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees into 9/11 - told PBS:
I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted not just in financing -- although that was part of it -- by a sovereign foreign government and that we have been derelict in our duty to track that down, make the further case, or find the evidence that would indicate that that is not true and we can look for other reasons why the terrorists were able to function so effectively in the United States

Indeed, many 9/11 Commissioners, Congressmen and high-level government officials claim that the 9/11 Commission did not get to the bottom of that heinous terrorist act.

Restaurant Performance Index declines in January

This is one of several industry specific indexes I track each month.

Restaurant Performance Index Click on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

The index declined to 100.2 in January, barely indicating expansion.

More "Blame it on the snow!"

Unfortunately the data for this index only goes back to 2002.

From the National Restaurant Association: Restaurant Performance Index Declined in January Amid Weather-Dampened Sales and Traffic Levels
The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 100.2 in January, down 0.8 percent from its December level. Despite the decline, January marked the fourth time in the last five months that the RPI stood above 100, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.
Due in large part to extreme weather conditions in some parts of the country, sales levels were dampened in January. Thirty-nine percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between January 2010 and January 2011, down from 48 percent of operators who reported higher same-store sales in December.
Restaurant operators also reported a net decline in customer traffic levels in January.
For the fourth consecutive month, restaurant operators reported a positive outlook for staffing gains in the months ahead.

Why Oh Why Can’t We Have a Better Press Corps? (New York Times Needs to Fire All Sulzbergers Immediately Edition)

Outsourced to Keith Olbermann:

New York Times Punk’d By Anti-Union Plant: Few news stories better spoke to the destruction of union solidarity and the realization that even those public employees collectively bargaining in Wisconsin were going to have to give something back, than the New York Times’ piece a week ago tomorrow titled “Union Bonds In Wisconsin Begin To Fray.” The by-line was shared by no less than Arthur G. Sulzberger, the son of the publisher and official carrier of the Times’ family name. The piece ran prominently on the front page. Sulzberger himself interviewed the main ‘get’ in the piece. Beyond the mere reporting was the symbolism of the Times - even the sainted liberal media Times – throwing in the towel on the inviolability of unions, conceding that an American state could renege with impunity on a good faith contract with anybody, and that maybe the Right is right every once in awhile. Problem is, A.G. Sulzberger’s featured disillusioned unionist interviewee…wasn’t in a union.

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Rich Hahan worked at the General Motors plant here until it closed about two years ago. He moved to Detroit to take another G.M. job while his wife and children stayed here, but then the automaker cut more jobs. So Mr. Hahan, 50, found himself back in Janesville, collecting unemployment for a time, and watching as the city’s industrial base seemed to crumble away. Among the top five employers here are the county, the schools and the city. And that was enough to make Mr. Hahan, a union man from a union town, a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker’s sweeping proposal to cut the benefits and collective-bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin, a plan that has set off a firestorm of debate and protests at the state Capitol. He says he still believes in unions, but thinks those in the public sector lead to wasteful spending because of what he sees as lavish benefits and endless negotiations. “Something needs to be done,” he said, “and quickly.”

Compelling, damning, overwhelming words, and from such a source!

Except the source, Rick Hahn, now admits that while he worked in union factories, he was never, you know, in a union per se. So why did the Diogenes of the Times, Mr. Sulzberger, believe he had found his honest union man? Because Hahn “described himself to a reporter as a ‘union guy.’” And yes, Hahan/Hahn’s deception, intentional or accidental (and if you noticed the multiple spelling, yes, Mr. Sulzberger of the Times also got the guy’s name wrong) sat out there in the alleged newspaper of record for four days, during which nobody bothered to correct the sloppy, destructive reporting of the Family Heir. When they finally did, editors buried it inside. ‘Buried it inside’ is newspaper lingo, in case A.G. Sulzberger isn’t familiar with it.

We know about this Times disaster from last Tuesday because the paper finally got around to correcting it in Saturday’s edition. The mistake got page 1A. The correction got a little box “below the fold” (somebody explain that term to Mr. Sulzberger, too) on 2A, which is read about as thoroughly as the drug interaction warnings that come with aspirin:

A front-page article on Tuesday about reaction among private-sector workers in Wisconsin to Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to cut benefits and collective-bargaining rights for unionized public employees referred incorrectly to the work history of one person quoted, and also misspelled his surname. While the man, Rich Hahn (not Hahan) described himself to a reporter as a “union guy,” he now says that he has worked at unionized factories, but was not himself a union member. (The Times contacted Mr. Hahn again to review his background after a United Auto Workers official said the union had no record of his membership.)

This clear picture of a bunch of agendas happily coinciding – ‘Sulzberger! Find me a Wisconsin union guy who agrees with the Governor!’ – and to hell with the facts or the fact-checking or the spelling, with the truth coming to light only from – gasp! – an actual union guy (from the devil UAW itself!), has been reduced to a “PS, the publisher’s kid kinda screwed up on the most important domestic news story of the moment” instead of serving as the springboard for something fair, or even useful – maybe a front-page piece about the disinformation war being waged by Governor Walker and the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party in Wisconsin and whether or not this Hahan/Hahn was part of it, intentionally or inadvertently....

The obvious point about Sulzberger’s story is that, at best, the Times made a terrible mistake rendering fraudulent a featured piece on imperiled American freedom in the middle of an info-war over that freedom by a reporter whose name is synonymous with its power structure and then tried to whitewash itself (or, at worst, it wasn’t an amazing coincidence, and the Times got played like the proverbial three-dollar banjo and then tried to whitewash itself). Seems to me the Times could start with finding out exactly who Mr. Hahan/Hahn is. There appears to be a “Rich Hahn” involved with “staffing and recruiting” for a company called “PSI” in the “Janesville/Beloit area” in Wisconsin. Is that Mr. Sulzberger’s “union guy”? I’d try to tell you before, but that shred of possibly irrelevant information required me to expend nearly one entire calorie of brain heat performing a google search that kept me hopping for 30 seconds. I just did more research than the Times did and I need a nap. Maybe they could talk to Gabrielle Union. She must have an important point of view on organized labor. Man, what if she liked Walker’s proposals! That’d be some story, huh? That’d get the Right Wing off our backs for eight seconds? Am I right? Sulzberger? Sulzberger? Hello?...

And to Digby:


Hullabaloo: Olbermann... may be a good blogger and a great broadcaster, [but] he missed a very important part of this story. But Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution caught it right away:

For me the best part of the Scott Walker prank call is how much he loves a New York Times article:

SCOTT WALKER: The New York Times, of all things—I don't normally tell people to read the New York Times, but the front page of the New York Times, they've got a great story—one of these unbelievable moments of true journalism—what it's supposed to be, objective journalism—they got out of the capital and went down one county south of the capital, to Janesville, to Rock County, that's where the General Motors plant once was. FAKE DAVID KOCH: Right, right.

WALKER: They moved out two years ago. The lead on this story's about a guy who was laid off two years ago, he'd been laid off twice by GM, who points out that everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees, and it's about damn time they do and he supports me. And they had a bartender, they had—every stereotypical blue collar worker-type, they interviewed, and the only ones who weren't with us were ones who were either a public employee or married to a public employee. It's an unbelievable—so I went through and called all these, uh, a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day, and said to them, everyone, get that story and print it out and send it to anybody giving you grief.

Noting the fact that the article was written by Sulzberger Jr he later wrote:

So that's ominously funny and funnily ominous in its own right. But we don't need to try to predict how honest New York Times coverage will be in the future when A.G. Sulzberger becomes publisher...because we can just examine his writing right now. Sulzberger just wrote a 733-word article about the prank call. Number of mentions of Walker loving a certain Sulzberger-written New York Times article? Zero.

Yes, that's right. Sulzberger Jr also wrote the article for the NY Times about Walker's prank call and never mentioned that Walker had talked at length about his own (incorrect) article in the call.

One hates to think that just because Sulzberger is the heir to a great newspaper empire that he has an agenda. And perhaps it's better to use Occam's Razor and just assume that he's lazy and inept as so many bosses sons are. But these events are ironically funny at the very least. Indeed, the fact that they assigned the Paris Hilton of newspapers to cover this story at all is hilarious, especially considering that he accepted the word of someone who said he was "a union man" and didn't bother to ask what union he belonged to. I'm guessing that Sulzberger Junior just assumed that no one would lie about being a member of a union. Or maybe he was the only person he could find to properly illustrate the article he already wanted to write.

This is a lovely little story of Big Media and its biases working in favor of the ruling class. Just as one would expect...

John Quiggin Walks the Web of the Future and Examines the House of Saud


After the Sauds: The downfall of the Gaddafi dictatorship now seems certain, despite brutal and bloody attempts at repression. The failure of these attempts kills off what was briefly the conventional wisdom, that dictatorships in the region can hold on if they “don’t blink“. At this point, Gaddafi and his remaining supporters will be lucky if they can make it to The Hague for their trials.... Now a new conventional wisdom seems to be emerging... while dictatorships (more accurately perhaps, tyrannies, in the classical sense of monarchs who have seized their thrones with no prior hereditary claim) are doomed, but that monarchies can survive with cosmetic concessions. In particular, on this analysis, the US relationship with the House of Saud can go on more or less as before.

There’s an element of truth here, but the central claim is wishful thinking

The element of truth is that the Arab monarchies have good prospects of survival if they can manage the transition to constitutional monarchy. And it makes sense for them to do so. After all, a constitutional monarch gets to live, literally, like a king, without having to worry about boring stuff like budgets and foreign affairs. And, in the modern context, the risk that such a setup will be overthrown by a military coup, as happened to quite a few of the postcolonial constitutional monarchs, is much diminished. By contrast, there’s no such thing as a constitutional dictatorship or tyranny and no way to make the transition from President-for-Life to constitutional monarch....

[T]he general point is valid enough. But it doesn’t yield the kind of conclusion implied by the conventional wisdom. The first big difficulty is with the assumption that the monarchs can retain sufficient power to be useful allies of the kind US foreign policy has traditionally sought.... That seems unlikely to me. Monarchs who want to survive should be looking to transform themselves into ornamental figureheads/elder statesmen, not just sacking their existing governments but holding free elections to pick new ones and handing over effective power. That shouldn’t be too hard in, say, Morocco or Jordan, but it will imply that existing relationships with the kings of those countries will be about as valuable as close personal ties with Queen Beatrix.... The other big problem is that this can’t easily be done in Saudi Arabia. There are not even the forms of a constitutional government to begin with. Worse, the state is not so much a monarchy as an aristocracy/oligarchy saddled with 7000 members of the House of Saud, and many more of the hangers-on that typify such states. These people have a lot to lose, and nothing to gain, from any move in the direction of democracy.

The absence of any kind of organised opposition may allow the Sauds to hang on through the current crisis, but assuming that democratisation is successful elsewhere, the regime will stand out as an indefensible medieval anachronism.... I’d put the life expectancy of the regime in months or maybe years, but not in decades. In particular, it’s hard to imagine the monarchy outlasting the current King, Abdullah, aged 88 (according to Wikipedia, his brother and heir aged 82, enjoys the flattering title “Prince of Thieves“).

What would the Middle East be like, if Arabia were no longer ruled by the Sauds? No doubt experts have written on this, but a cursory Google didn’t find any, so it’s open for blog speculation....

Saudi Arabia has already ceased to play the central role it once held in oil markets.... If the downfall of the Sauds were chaotic, output might fall, and world prices rise. But as far as oil consumers are concerned, what you lose on the short-term roundabouts you gain on the long-term swings. Arabian oil is very easy to extract, so sooner or later, all of it will be....

The conventional ‘realist’ view is that Saudi Arabia counterbalances Iran.... I think this is silly. Anyone can see that the Iranian Basij are the same as the goons used by dictatorships elsewhere in the region. They managed to beat pro-democracy protestors last time, but it will be more difficult to pull that off again....

[W]hile Saudi Arabia has not exactly been friendly to Israel, it has been more subject to US influence than any likely successor regime will be. But again, the big effect for Israel will be the demonstration effect as more and more dictatorships and absolute monarchies fall. Why should Palestinians, alone in the region, be denied a democratic government and recognised international boundaries?

Finally, there’s the US.... [T]here are plenty of examples (Indonesia, Phillipines) suggesting that the successor regimes won’t necessarily be hostile.... Uncounted billions (counting Iraq, trillions) of dollars have been spent on the premise that the US has a vital interest in determining political outcomes in the Middle East. Yet in the current upsurge the US Administration has been reduced to the role of a bystander at a sporting event of which they don’t know the rules....

More than any other state in the region, and perhaps in the world, Saudi Arabia is a creation of US policy. A democratic Arabia, if it emerges, will be just another moderately problematic trading partner. After the Sauds, there will be no real reason for the US to have a Middle East policy, just as it no longer has, in any effective sense, a Latin America or Europe policy.

Information You Need to Know

From Google:

Backing up your mail with POP - Gmail Help:

Here's how to download a copy of every message in Gmail to an email client:

  1. Sign in to Gmail.
  2. Click Settings at the top of any Gmail page, and open the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.
  3. Select Enable POP for all mail (even mail that's already been downloaded).
  4. Click Save Changes.
  5. Open the mail client you've configured for Gmail, and check for new messages.

Gmail messages are downloaded in batches, so it may take time for everything to appear in your mail client.

The Glass Bead Game Is a Really, Really Stupid Game to Play…

Jonathan Chait:

Tom Friedman's Volcano Wakeup Call: A very clever friend sends over today's Tom Friedman column edited down to nothing but mixed metaphors and cliches:

A wake-up call’s mother is unfolding.  At the other end is a bell, which is telling us we have built a house at the foot of a volcano. The volcano is spewing lava, which says move your house. The road will be long and rocky, but it will trigger a shift before it kicks. We can capture some of it. IF the Middle East was a collection of gas stations, Saudi Arabia would be a station. Iran, Kuwait , Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates would all be stations. Guys, here’s the deal. Don’t hassle the Jews. You are insulated from history. History is back. Fasten your seat belts. Don’t expect a joy ride because the lid is blowing off. The west turned a blind eye, but the report was prophetic, with key evidence. Societies are frozen in time. No one should have any illusions. Root for the return to history, but not in the middle.

My friend could have published this himself, but he was between a rock and a hard place with no easy answers.

1 2 3 4 350