Sunday, January 30, 2011

Government and Choice

On Thursday I was in a meeting in San Francisco with a former Obama administration person.  At the end of the meeting we had a chance to talk about a regulation which I believe the US Department of Education has mis-interpreted.  The effect of the mis-interpretation has been to radically slow an effort that I have worked on to encourage students, when they use something called alternative loans (which are those loans used to finance an education that are taken out after all federal sources have been used) to be fully informed consumers.   The results in the first year of the program have been superb - not only have borrowers been better informed but their average rate of interest on their loans was almost 4% below what they would have received had they done a search for loan options on the web without using this comparison tool.

We talked and I told him that a) the program's growth had been very slow, in part because of the Departments interpretation of their own regulations.  His comment was "Students should not use variable rate debt to go to school."   In this case there is a federal program which allows students to borrow at a fixed rate which is a bit more than 1% higher than the rates in the consumer friendly program - but fixed.   But shouldn't that be up to the consumer?

Second example, a short time ago the TSA announced that it would allow some airports to go to private security for screening.  Many airports across the country have complained that the expense and the bureaucracy in the TSA has reached unacceptable levels.   When the Bush administration federalized security screeners many of us pointed out that some of the best screening systems in the world are private not governmental.  But the Bush people went ahead with this new bureaucracy anyway.

This week the TSA announced it was halting the program of conversion.  Evidently, just like the student loan program, the feds don't like to competition.    So how many of you still believe that the health overhaul that was passed by Congress will continue choice for consumers?  If you do you must also believe in Tinkerbell.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

SOTU versus the Superbowl

I was surprised a bit by the response from the State of the Union.  On the whole I thought the President's speech was pretty good, based on the glittering generalities that are always present in a SOTUA.  He talked about lowering rates in the tax code (something I care about and will wait to see how those generalities come into real proposals) and making regulations more reasonable (yeah right, this administration has done a monumental job in making the country even more bureaucratic).  I also liked the idea of a freeze although it would more properly be done on levels two years ago.  Some of his other proposals were simply bogus - the discussion about the trade pacts was something that the Administration did nothing to advance and indeed impeded in the last congress. But the news coverage suggested that the President was somehow flat.  I think that is a bit unkind.

Ryan's response was excellent - although also mired in glittering generalities.  But with Ryan we have a pretty good idea about what he would propose.   Ryan is telegenic and his speech was I think a bit better than the President's.

Then there was the Tea-Party response by Michelle Bachman.  She was more specific than either of the other two in her comments but I thought she still needs to figure out how to work with a teleprompter. I thought her remarks came across poorly, although there is a lot in the lines that I liked.

One other comment.  The level of confidence in the President, as evidenced by a focus group in Atlanta set up to follow the speech is pretty poor.   Unwavering support for the President, among the 30 or so people in a focus group was limited to four African Americans in the group.  That does not mean the American people are all that fired up for the GOP, I think the country is waiting to see who is serious about reducing the intrusions and size of government but there is a substantial minority that still thinks we should expand some things in government.  Obama clearly believes in the ultimate efficacy of government as leader.

The expectations about the SOTU are similar those for the Superbowl.  My Priest commented a couple of days ago that there were many more Americans that watched the Superbowl than watched the SOTU.   As I thought about the comment it seems to me that is about right but so what?  The SOTU is a media event, reality comes when the generalities come into focus with a set of proposals.  Unlike the Superbowl, the policy process is a process not a single event.  I like the SOTU more because it begins to set the tone for the coming congress (especially in odd numbered years).  All a Superbowl does is decide a season.

I normally don't watch the Superbowl but I do the SOTU. That shows I am a bit more interested in what politicians say than what professional footballers do.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hitchcock as Farce

One of the last movies made by Alfred Hitchcock in Britain was called the 39 Steps.  It is a story about a single guy who goes to a musical theater and gets involved with a spy or double agent and then is drawn into a search for spies and something he knows as the 39 Steps.   It is a 1930s melodrama which comes from an earlier novel by John Buchan.

In the movies it is a good example of Hitchcock's early work in the talkies.   But someone named Patrick Barlow had the idea of making it into a farce - camping up all the melodrama but keeping even the original music out of the movie.  The B Street Theater is doing a production of the Barlow play and does a superb job.   B Street's productions are known for their in the round performances and sparse set design.  In this production they use that to their great advantage.

I was struck by one other notion as I enjoyed the production last night.  Barlow's work uses the music and many of the lines from the 1935 movie.    I believe one would enjoy the play even more by seeing the movie first.   It is an elegant parody.  Some in the copyright community would argue that this type of production is not permitted under the DCMA.   It would be a sad day if playwrights like Barlow felt themselves bound to the narrow standards.  The play stands on its own merits.  But it also offers a debt to the earlier movie.   Overly restrictive interpretations of laws meant to protect artist's creations that can hamper new productions like this one would mean a real loss for us all.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


My son took his oldest son and me to a Monster Truck Rally last night at Arco Arena. He kept where we were going a secret.  It turned out to be both fun and interesting.   Here are five reflections on the event.

#1 - Monster Trucks are loud (duh) -  The event is held in an arena and the trucks develop as many as 1500 horsepower using an engine that runs on alcohol (burns cooler).  The engine is in the back and the driver sits in a cage in the front.   The jumps are impressive.  My son told me that in a larger arena that the jumps are larger and there is more speed.

#2 - The crowd probably does not attend the opera (duh, too) - My son pointed out that before the recession that the crowds at these events were larger - a partial evidence of who this recession has hit.  The tickets are $20-40 so bringing a family, with treats and souvenirs could be an expensive evening.  But there were a lot of families there.   Many of the smaller kids had either ear buds or shooters clips.  The whole show took about three hours with one intermission.   They start with drag races where trucks line up at opposite ends and try to get to the middle first over a load of cars.   Then they had a freestyle competition where the trucks had 90 seconds to do all sorts of maneuvers over the parked cars and jumps and even doing broadies in the center of the ring.   With that size there is not a lot of variation but I was amazed that there were qualitative differences.  

The big attraction is a truck called Grave Digger.  I was not impressed with his performance last night although his truck was the crowd favorite.

#3 - It is a patriotic crowd - They saluted the military and the emergency responders and did a little flag waving before the event.

#4 - The trucks are delicate - Oddly enough the trucks seem to be very delicate.  They have independent suspension and four wheel drive and front and back steering.  And they are balanced to be able to get up in the air and land reasonably well.  At least one of the trucks messed up its steering during one of the events.  The mix of speed and delicacy got me to thinking about how someone would come up with the concept of doing this.  The announcer kept announcing that they have a fuel cutoff valve, perhaps reiterating that there is danger involved.  My son said at one event he went to ties flew off one of the vehicles.  The first 20 rows of the stadium were blocked off.

#5 - Arco Arena is a dump - Coincidentally yesterday the Mayor announced that things were moving forward on a plan for a new arena.  I remain skeptical about the plan on many levels.   Compared to Raley Field, Arco is shoddy.  The wood on the arm rests has not been maintained. I sat in a seat that was not fully operational.  Raley Field takes special care to make sure that the place is maintained.  The NBA has 41 games a season in each arena (or slightly more than half the games in minor league baseball) and the differences between the two stadiums are pronounced.

I still do not get why professional sports franchise owners believe they deserve taxpayer funding.  But if I were a potential investor (and if my tax dollars are potentially going to be involved in building the mediocre Kings a new home they will be) then evidence from Arco is that the owners have not been good managers or stewards.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blowing the numbers off the doors

IDC released data on the relative market shares of devices in that market space and I believe wisely choose to separate E-Readers and Tablets.  I suggested that separation when the iPad was first introduced.   There is still a strong market for single use devices.  Amazon has been smart about adjusting the price of their device.

Total sales of all the devices in this area are growing but it sure looks like the Tablets will take over the netbook market sooner rather than later.

Finally there are the Apple numbers from the last quarter.  Doubled the profits and sales of both the iPad and the iPhone grew rapidly.   That is an amazing result.   While the news of the illness of Apple CEO Steve Jobs dumped a bit on shares yesterday the prospects for the next couple of quarters on Apple look very strong.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sargent Shriver

The death of Sargent Shriver yesterday left me with mixed feelings.  Indeed, he had a life well lived.  But from my perspective much of his public life was in direct conflict with policies that I believe are pretty important.  Before WWII he was a supporter of the American First supporter.  He was young and he eventually served in the Navy so that youthful position might be one based on age and not thought.

He also took up the responsibility for President Kennedy to make the Peace Corps something integral to our foreign policy.  The Peace Corps is one of those noble notions that I think in the end has helped our foreign policy for several decades in a modest way.  At the same time it has given a couple of hundred thousand Americans a different picture of the world.

Where I have problems with his legacy came primarily in his work for LBJ on the projects called the War on Poverty.  I've always resisted the expanded notion that politicians have (most of who have no military experience) with conducting wars on issues where guns are not involved.  The War on Poverty was a huge failure.  It spent billions of dollars with little positive effect.

In an interview for Fresh Air, which aired again today, Shriver claimed that the best part of the War on Poverty was changing the political nature of local systems.  But from my perspective, while his initial argument (that local politicians tend to take federal largess and use it for their own purposes) is probably right - the conclusion it lead him to (that federal money will somehow not be tainted when it goes to community leaders) was wrong.   Community Action Councils moved from their initial purposes to become modern day ward healers. Many became centers for new kinds of negotiations.  Public employee unions pressed their demands to these groups and there was simply a substitution of one broker for another - but this time many of the employees were on the public payroll with fat pensions and lousy job descriptions who treated their employment as a sinecure.   The major areas of poverty in the 1960s are often still the same areas of major poverty today.   What the "war" on poverty forgot was the political calculus that Shriver and his comrades failed to recognize.  Had the efforts started from more market based principles the "war" might have had a few more successful battles and we probably would be stuck with a much smaller deficit and a few more really empowered people.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A dry period for blogging

I have not added to my blog for five days, which is quite unlike me.  Frankly, two things have happened.  First, many of the things which have caught my attention have either been well covered elsewhere or are things that I am still trying to think about.    But here are five areas which you might wonder why I have been silent.

The controversy about the shootings in Tuscon, which I wrote about a couple of time, seem to have played out.  My first impression of the President's speech at the memorial service has improved quite a bit since I first read it.  I think he did a great job of being Presidential at that event.

I've also not written about the House action to repeal the Healthcare abomination.  I believe the healthcare bill that the democrats forced through last year is horrible - it will bankrupt the country if it first does not drive down the quality of care in the country.  Which comes first is not clear but both will happen.  But (and this is an area where I am simply an observer) I think that answer is not repeal but reform (mend it don't end it) by doing things like adopting interstate competition, tort reform and a couple of other things.  I think that is the end product of the GOP effort but I believe they first had to go through this process.

I have also not written about Governor Brown's proposed budget.  I understand the wailing that is going on on both sides of the aisle.  But from my perspective of watching the last 40 budget proposals with some attention that it is a realistic approach.   The last administration produced a series of fraudulent proposals that relied on rosy scenarios and BS.  While there are parts of this budget that I do not agree with, I think the proposal is at least realistic.   I hope the Legislature gives it careful consideration.  I may have some comments on that in the next couple of days.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the evolution of higher education in the state and the nation.  There are some changes afoot.  I am skeptical of Dr. Richard Vedder's claims that we are educating too many people in the US.  His numbers a silly and wrong.  But higher education will need to think carefully about what it needs to do to adjust to new realities.   I've also been trying to think about the proprietary sector of higher education.   We, in the traditional sectors of higher education, have something to learn from the prop schools but we also should not let them get away with silly comments.  They have a role in educating Americans but there are some questions that they need to begin to address.   So I will probably write about this area too.

Finally, I have not written about the long term effects of QE2 (not the ship but the monetary strategy).  I am skeptical but I think there has already been a lot written and most of what the critics have said are things that I agree with.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The State of Aguascalientes

On Monday I was in Aguascalientes, a state right in the middle of Mexico.  I was there to participate in the Final Address of the retiring rector of the autonomous university of the state (Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes) and the Inauguration of the new rector.

I began working in Aguascalientes seven or eight years ago when another friend began work on planning a new polytechnic university in the state.  But this was a two fold celebration.  The retiring rector was a thoughtful leader who in his two three year terms built the university in a number of ways.   One of the things  I appreciated most about him was his understanding of universities.  At one point he commented  that universities are really networks and thus they flourish or die based on their relationships.   He wanted his university to create a series of relationships with "sister universities."  We worked on that project but he also worked in other areas of the world and had some success.

I was also there to meet the new Governor and Mayor.  Aguascalientes was one of the first states in the country to move to the National Action Party (PAN) in elections from for the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI), a few years before Vicente Fox was elected.   When the prior governor was elected, I chaired a meeting with his senior staff on governance issues.  That governor, Luis Armando Reynoso, had huge potential.  He hired a cabinet of superb people who had a real mission.  But he quickly devolved in that kind of personal loyalty leadership which has plagued Mexico in many places.  He ended up being expelled from the PAN.   As you fly out of the airport you can look down at one of his to achievements.  He produced a racetrack for cars that is out in the middle of nowhere.   Inside the city, there is the other symbol of his leadership, a half finished hospital.

The new governor, Carlos Lozano de la Torre, has pretty extensive experience in politics. He is an industrial engineer.   He served as the Secretary for Economic Development a couple of times. From my short meeting with him, I was impressed.  I had the sense that unlike his predecessor, he has a good idea of how to move the state forward.  Friends told me he was a superb economic development secretary.

The new mayor is a young lawyer.  I think she has promise.  I had a chance to sit down with her and with one of her policy people, who I was quite impressed with.

The state has some worries.  Drug violence, which is more prevalent in states to the north has escalated.  They have a continual problem with water - most of it comes from the aquifer which is being diminished.    But with a superb university and a promising new governor, I left the state optimistic.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Does Speech Become Less Civil When the Government is Larger?

The odd and continuing discussion about the shootings in Arizona have become bizarre.  But one voice, not from the US seems to have caught the real substance of the issues which started when the left began to try to connect a lunatic with their political opponents.

The Economist commented "Mere minutes after the identity of the alleged Tucson gunman hit the wires, partisans began a reprehensible scramble to out Jared Loughner as ideological kin to their political opponents. Actually, well before that time, some left-leaning opinionators began suggesting that Sarah Palin's now-infamous crosshairs map probably had something to do with the shootings. At the very least, intemperately fiery right-wing rhetoric probably had something to do with creating a cultural "climate" unusually encouraging to would-be assassins. Before anybody really knew anything, some people seemed to have become convinced that if not for the heavy weather of partisan antagonism summoned by intemperate tea-party types, Gabrielle Giffords would not have got a bullet through the brain."

The politicization of events is not new.  When the NY bombing suspect was identified the Mayor of New York speculated ""somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health-care bill or something."  Robert Dryfuss, writing for the Nation commented "It may be that the Pakistan-based Taliban, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has quietly established a Connecticut franchise while we weren't looking. That's possible. But it seems far more likely to me that the perpetrator of the bungled Times Square bomb plot was either a lone nut job or a member of some squirrely branch of the Tea Party, anti-government far right. Which actually exists in Connecticut, where, it seems, the car's license plates were stolen."

When government makes up such a high percentage of our economy - the left especially, although not exclusively believes our entire lives are political and normal bounds of discourse are let down.   But part also comes from political correctness.   That manifests itself in two ways.  First, in ignoring the obvious. When Fort Hood happened the NYT and others on the left asked us not to leap to judgment about the perpetrator.   But secondly as a way to reinvigorate  on-going political disputes.   A lot of the discussion on Arizona has been whether anyone should possess a firearm.   In my mind the more essential questions we should be addressing is why even after repeated incidences that the Sheriff of Pima County, who is in part responsible for starting this discussion, failed to exercise his legal authority to restrain a lunatic.  That kind of question should be answered by the voters of Pima County.

That notwithstanding there are legitimate reasons to disagree with one's political opponents.  We do have significant differences in philosophy.   That should not offer license to incite violence.  

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Stories with a purpose, not the news

Yesterday's shooting spree in Arizona where a federal judge and five others died was a horrible act.  Vice President Biden's statement about the tragedy was framed properly.  He said ""We do not yet know the motivation behind these shootings. But what we do know is that there is simply no justification, no rationale for such senseless and appalling violence in our society."   Unfortunately, the law enforcement official on the scene, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik did not have the sense to think before he spoke.  He said ""When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."   The Sacramento Bee had a story titled "New Focus on Political Vitriol" which seemed to play off the Sheriff's comments.  It quoted the Sheriff then went on to relay a number of details about recent political history that had no correlation to the event yesterday except possibly that the Representative had just gotten through a very close re-election campaign.

What we know about the suspect at this point is that he is deranged.  One of his web postings (on YouTube) ties the Communist Manifesto and hard currency together.  He was evidently thrown out of community college because college officials thought him unbalanced.

What annoys me about the Sheriff's comment is the notion that just because a political figure was the target of the shooting spree, does not assure that this was a political act.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Zune Tablet

Since the introduction of tablet computers with the iPad this spring, development has been fast and furious.  Software options (APPS) have grown enormously.   There is starting to be a distinct category of iPad apps and at the same time many of the iPhone Apps have been expanded or improved to use the larger screen and other features of the iPad.   There have been a number of alternatives to the iPad based on the Android operating system. There has been some experimentation with a 7" format - which is about the size of a Kindle. So there was some anticipation that Microsoft might get its game back with a new tablet that would be previewed at the Consumer Electronics Show. (CES)

The Financial Times coverage of the newly released Microsoft tablet seemed to mirror most responses - they found the new device wanting.   The FT had a couple of harsh comments.  First, Windows 7 is simply not designed for the environment of tablet computing which does not anticipate a keyboard for most tasks.   The decision to port a desktop system to a tablet was widely criticized.   The Android and iPad devices start with a mobile device platform.

Most of the coverage of the new device was negative.  Computerworld quotes Directions on Microsoft Analyst Michael Cherry as saying "by choosing to port a desktop OS to a tablet in the first place and also to preview something at CES (Windows 8 on ARM chips) that won't be available for at least a year and a half."

Then there is the pricing.  The new device will cost $999.  That is about twice the cost of many of the Android tablets and even the lowest priced iPad.

With a clumsy operating system and higher price what is not to love?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Reading the Constitution

The House of Representatives, as one of the first acts of the current congress read the text of the Constitution into the record this morning.   These kinds of ceremonial events are seen as either a way to set the tone for the session or as a waste of time.  One can figure out who thought what.

But perhaps the most idiotic comment of the day went to Keith Olberman.   I hesitated about whether to credit his absurdity since his dwindling audience makes him even less of a household name than he once was (although MSNBC does confirm that the six people in East Murgatroid, IA still watch him.

Olberman wondered aloud about whether the exercise would include reading of the 3/5 Clause.   In the original Constitution there was a clause which temporarily allowed slaves to be counted as 3/5 of a person in the decennial reapportionment.  Evidently, Mr. Olberman, who often claims to cite constitutional authority for his blatherings, has never bothered to read the document.  In Article V it states "The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate."

I restate that because as a result of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, the 3/5 clause was excised from the Constitution.   When one reads a Constitution into the record presumably they would read a current version.  But evidently Mr. Olberman does not realize that.   He thinks the "living Constitution" (a term coined by Saul Padover) is one where he can interpret the meaning by fiat.  Actually Mr Olberman our Constitution is living because we can amend it; but only using the process in Article V.

Is Ponzi Socialism a redundant concept?

In a column in the New York Post this morning Charles Gasparino discusses what Hayek called the Fatal Conceit.  It is well worth re-reading. Gasparino is a senior correspondent for the Fox Business Network.  He worries that the malaise in Europe could spread here.  It may already have spread.

He discusses the inevitable miscalculations that result from many activities in government.  There are lots of Ponzi elements that we can discover.  In the old Soviet Union you had the five year plans which, like Ponzi's schemes, promised a big payoff in the future.   But bringing examples closer to home there are also plenty.  What about the imbalance of the Social Security "Trust Fund" or the vast underfunding of public employee pensions?   One could also look at most estimates on tax revenues when new ones are enacted.   Or the relative transfers induced by the introduction of public employee bargaining - which seem to have the employees represented on the discussions but not the public.

But if you carry this logic to its limit - all decisions like this are Ponziesque.  So the bright turn of phrase may be redundant.

Monday, January 03, 2011

We should have had this debate in 2001

The Washington Post has an article on the increasing number of airports that a trading the TSA bureaucracy for private airport screening - the Post comments "At issue, airport managers and security experts say, is the unwieldy size and bureaucracy of the federal aviation security system. Private firms may be able to do the job more efficiently and with a personal touch, they argue."

Well, duh, but wouldn't it have been better to have this discussion (remember airport security systems like Israel's that are already private) before the TSA was created?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Roscoe Conkling's Reformers

In this morning's Bee there are a series of articles about how to "reform" California.   I am always reminded of Roscoe Conkling's comment on reform - "Those who fear the attraction that patriotism has for scalawags and scofflaws, have failed to capture the allure of reform."     Reform is always in the eyes of the beholder - but indeed something is wrong with California. 

The Bee - offers a set of six options from which readers are asked to choose is the most important - the options include:
  1.  Realign state and local revenues and responsibilities to renovate a system that has become over-centralized.
  2. Simplify, broaden and flatten the tax structure for a broader base with lower rates.
  3.  Reform the budget process to keep spending within fiscal constraints, including a rainy day fund, long-term and performance-based budgeting.
  4. Modify term limits to enhance accountability, decisiveness and quality of the Legislature.
  5. Reform initiative process to curb ballot-box budgeting.
  6. Streamline regulation in order to promote a better business climate and stimulate job creation, while being careful to protect the environment.
There are two things that attracted my attention on this list.  First, there are some obvious things on the list which would improve state government substantially but are not listed.  For example, how about reforming and reducing public pensions? Their costs were partially abated in the recent reform legislation but we clearly have a crisis based on the costs of providing benefits to public employees that are well in advance of what private sector employees could obtain.

Second, why should people choose only one.  From the list my first TWO choices would be numbers 2 and 6 - to simplify the tax and regulatory burden in the state.   But one without the other would be far less powerful.

California is about to embark on some changes which some might call reform.  Unfortunately, Mr. Conkling's nostrum is not always in clear view.  Those same scalawags and scofflaws that brought us California's decline still have the bully pulpit of reform.   Does that mean we should not try to change the system?  Absolutely not, but we should be cautious around people who claim to want to help us out of our problem.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Barcode reader that saves money

A friend of mine put me on to an iPhone Application called Pic2shop (look for it on iTunes but the link is to the developer's site.  You hold your iPhone on the barcode of an item and when it flashes green it will show you where you can buy it and what various merchants charge for the product.

I've used the App for finding out where I can buy products.  For example, I have been in restaurants and found a wine I liked - scanned the barcode and found prices for the wine.  That is very handy.

But this week I found it even more useful.  I was in Best Buy purchasing a CF card for my daughter and her husband.  They have gotten into digital photography and have my old Canon 10-D.  (A great first generation SLR).   Best Buy's price for a San Disk 8 GIG CF card was $179.99.   I thought that sounded outrageously high.  I did a scan and pulled it up at Walmart for $78.   Best Buy does a price match - so after a supervisor had verified the Walmart price - I saved over $100.  WOW.

Pic2shop is easy to use.  It can also help you find books in libraries and bookstores.  What a great APP.

The King's Speech

Last night we saw the King's Speech with Geoffrey Rush and Colin Furth.   It is an excellent movie that mixes a compelling story with bits of humor.  Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue who was a speech coach in London and Colin Furth plays the future British monarch, the Duke of York (George VI).

George VI stammered and this is the story of the attempts to fix that problem.  Logue worked with the future king from about 1925 after one of his first public speeches.   The story of the movie focuses on Logue's methods, which had been developed working with WWI veterans, and ends with him coaching George VI on one of his first wartime speeches.

What intrigued me about the movie was the immediate tie I had with all of the characters.  Firth and Rush play well off each other but so do all the other characters.   The final speech episode is riveting.

I had not realized that George VI died relatively young, at 56, in part because of his heavy smoking - he was, of course succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth.   The movie also presents some of the intrigue between the future George VI and his brother (Edward VIII who eventually became the Duke of Windsor after his abdication).  The themes in the movie are developed in a compelling manner.