Scientifically speaking, should the accuser be expected to remember when and where?

September 20, 2018

First, the disclaimers: On balance, I support Kavanaugh for the SCOTUS (though he wasn’t my first choice) … and, I’m not a psychologist.

But, over the years, I’ve done a lot of reading on how the brains work … largely focused on how students students learn – cognitively and mechanically.

So, politics aside, I found the accuser’s story (as reported to the WaPo) to be curious … mostly because of the self-admitted memory gaps … e.g what year the alleged  incident took place? where the incident took place? who else was present?


The cable coverage has been predictably biased on the question of how much an accuser should be able to recall … cherry-picking folks who fit their respective narratives.

CNN/MSNBC have rolled out experts arguing that memories of traumatic events are usually vague, fragmented and incomplete. Think: fog of war.

FOX has presented rape victims who claim precise recall of all sights, sounds and smells from start-to-finish. Think: mechanical evidence gathering.

Note: I do channel-switch to hear both sides.  If you don’t, try it to get a more complete picture.

I wanted a more scientific treatment, so I did some digging.

Here’s what I found…

Read the rest of this entry »

A simple, fast way to move forward on the Kavanaugh allegations…

September 19, 2018

Let’s recap …

The Dems wanted her story told.

GOP said okay. Put it on next Monday’s schedule – public or private.

Dems say: not until a full FBI investigation is conducted.

Say, what?

FBI has already said that’s outside their scope and isn’t going to happen.

So, what to do?


Here’s my idea…

Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Half of people “remember” events that never happened

September 19, 2018

According to a recent study, once a person hears that a fictional event happened, there’s a 50/50 chance that they will believe that it took place and start to embellish it with details, even if the imaginary event is of a personal nature.

For example, researchers “primed” subjects with fake (but relatively harmless) memories, such as taking a childhood hot-air balloon ride or pulling a prank on a friend.

Researchers intimated that the imaginary events  were real.


And, the result …

Read the rest of this entry »

Shocker: Obama’s “I’m back” speech gets fact-checked…

September 18, 2018

….and, the results may surprise some of you!

Kast week, breaking from the historical precedent, former-President Obama hit the campaign trail to support Dem candidates by blasting Trump and burnishing his record as president.

The sweet oration was there … along with the usual emphasis on “I” (reportedly. 132 times) and the castigation of all evil people who disagree with him … especially President Trump.


I imagine that Obama was expecting a continuation of the free-pass that the press gave him during his active  tenure … but, that wasn’t the case.

For example, the AP — which is dependably left of center —  took a stab at fact-checking Obama’s assertions.

The entire AP report is worth reading if you have time.

Here are some highlights…


Freedom of the press

Obama: “I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people.”

AP: Trump may use extraordinary rhetoric to undermine trust in the press, but Obama arguably went farther — using extraordinary actions to block the flow of information to the public .. in a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news-gathering activities, betraying information about its operations “that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

Quoting the NY Times: “The Obama administration moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.”




Obama: “Sabotage of the Affordable Care Act has already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance.”

AP: While sign-ups for government-sponsored private insurance under Obama’s law show a drop of about 900,000 … that number is more than offset by the number of additional people who are now working full-time with employer-sponsored health insurance benefits.

And, enrollment through expanded Medicaid — the other major source of Obamacare coverage — appears to be stable at about 12 million people.

The AP fact-check didn’t flashback to Obama’s biggest whoppers: “Keep your plan, keep your doctor” or “reduce costs by $2,500”.

Bottom line: Many folks had to switch plans and doctors … and average out-of-pocket spending on healthcare went up by $2,500 … a $5,000 swing from the promise.

For details, see Remember when an ObamaCare architect called you stupid?  and   Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family? 


The economy

Obama:  “The actions we took during that crisis returned the economy to healthy growth.”

Fact-check (from multiple sources): Yes, the economy did start to revive itself.

Obama stepped-up  Bush-initiated programs to bail out the the U.S. financial and auto industries … and his   stimulus package pumped almost $1 trillion into the economy.  About 1/2 went to tax cuts and about 1/2 went mostly to so-called shovel-ready projects and grants and loans to green energy initiatives.

But, data shows that the recovery was far slower than prior economic recoveries (source); none of the shovel-ready or green projects reached marquee status (quick: name one besides Solyndra); and, most economists credit the Fed’s near-zero interest rate policy for the recovery’s growth.

Importantly, GDP growth  was stalled at 2%, which was touted as a “new normal”.

It’s currently hovering around 4%


Hope the AP’s fact-checking was just a one-time effort…


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett ?

September 17, 2018

Dems may win the battle but lose the war … vice versa for the GOP


It’ll be an interesting couple of news cycles as the Kavanaugh accusations either get substantiated or vaporize.

My initial take:  the allegations are serious but the case details are sketchy and the timing is suspicious.

In a court of law, I’d rather be Kavanaugh’s attorney since (a) the allegations go back 35 years (to high school!); (b) the accuser’s memory is fuzzy (e.g. where was the party held?) (c) no corroborators have stepped forward or have been discovered (who else attended the party?); (d) no other accusers have stepped forward to implicate a pattern of behavior; (e) first disclosure was made 30 years after-the-fact to a marital counselor.

But, in the court of public opinion – where accusation and verdict are synonymous and facts are fungible – I’d rather be the accuser’s attorney.

The quasi-legal situation should play out in warp speed over the next couple of days.

Today, let’s look at the politics…

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s magic about 10,000 steps?

September 14, 2018

“The 10,000 daily goal is built on bad science”

That’s the claim is a research recap done by The Guardian.


Here’s the skinny…

Read the rest of this entry »

What will be remembered about the Kavanaugh hearings?

September 13, 2018

Now that the dust has settled a bit, let’s pause and reflect on what happened last week.

I think it’s commonly accepted that no votes were changed … GOP senators will vote ‘yea’; Dems will vote ‘nay’ (save for the couple of Trump-state Dems running for re-election) … and Kavanaugh will fill the vacant 9th spot on the SCOTUS.


Historically, SCOTUS hearings have only 1 or 2 memorable takeaways.

For example, Robert Bork was uncivilly ‘Borked’ … though most people can’t recall the incendiary issue.

Answer: Bork was characterized as being callous to protecting people’s privacy (think: wire taps)

Clarence Thomas was characterized as “Long John Dong” — a misogynist who alleged told dirty jokes in the presence of women.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been cited in every subsequent hearing for the “Ginsburg Rule” that shields judicial candidates from answering hypothetical questions or ones related to cases that may come before the court.

So, what will be remembered about the Kavanaugh hearings?

Read the rest of this entry »

Advice to the Rowe v. Wade hyperventilators: chill out.

September 12, 2018

Judge Kavanaugh’s hearings were loaded with predictable content:

Dem senators used their air time to warn (again) that Rowe v. Wade would be repealed and abortions would be outlawed.


First, I doubt that a sweeping case will ever reach the SCOTUS. 

Pro-choicers — about half the country — are zealous to their cause.

The other half — pro-lifers — have largely accepted the world as it is … just nibbling at the margins against late-term and partial-birth abortions and tax-payer funding … not angling for “outlawing”.

Second, even in the very unlikely case that RvW were overturned, it wouldn’t eliminate access to abortions.



Here’s why…

Read the rest of this entry »

Is Rowe vs. Wade a winning hand for Dems?

September 11, 2018

Resisting Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the SCOTUS, Dems are warning that Rowe vs, Wade will be repealed and abortions will become illegal.

Putting personal views aside, the strategy is a bit of a head-scratcher for me.

While the issue riles the base (I guess) and motivates protest marches by passionate pro-choice advocates, it’s not apparent to me that it’s a winning political issue.

It’s true — based on Pew data — that when given a binary choice between  overturning RvW or keeping it as is, about 2/3’s of respondents are against overturning.

That says it’s a winning issue, right?



But, the political case isn’t nearly so clear when drilling down on the numbers …


Correct awareness?

2 in 3 respondents identify RvW as something to do with abortion (chart above) … but of those who do, the vast majority believe (or are led to believe) that that repeal would, by definition outlaw all abortions.

Not the case, it would simply push abortion rights back down to the state-level. (More on that in a subsequent post).

According to Pew, less than half of respondents under 30 even associate RvW as relating to abortion.


And, that’s despite a similar lathering-up operation when Justice Gorsuch was under consideration.


Critical Issue?

Pew also finds that only 18% of the total population consider abortion rights to be a critical issue.

53% say that abortion is “not that important” of an issue.


And, of those who think that abortion rights are a critical issue, by a margin of 4 to 1, the preference is to overturn RvW.

In other words, most of the support for not over-tuning is among folks for whom the issue is not important.

So, politically speaking,  it’s not obvious to me, why the Dems would choose to showcase the issue …

Maybe it’s only important when it’s important … when folks are led to believe that the law will change and abortion will be outlawed.

More on that tomorrow.


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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Ben Sasse rises above the fray…

September 10, 2018

He and Kavanaugh seemed like the only adults in the room last week.

Not sure if that’s a benefit or a liability of being retired, but I had the TV on for much of the Kavanaugh hearings last week.

Save for the hilarity of Sen. Booker’s “Spartacus Moment”,  most of the proceedings were predictable histrionics and talking points (from both sides).

I was impressed with Kavanaugh’s ability to “take a punch”. (<= one of my highest commendations).

The only other “actor” who made me spin my chair around was Sen Ben Sasse.


I’d barely noticed Sasse before … but his opening remarks resonated with me.

Rather than laundry-listing political talking points, Sasse took Congress to task for failing to address difficult issues and “punting” rather than legislating.

Here are a couple of snippets from Sasse’s opening remarks…

Read the rest of this entry »

Forensic linguistics: The “lodestar” tell…

September 7, 2018

I thought that the NY Times’ anonymously written I Am Part of the Resistance op-ed  was pretty vacuous.


I was expecting a bombshell and got “where’s the beef?”

But, as a faithful Forensic Files viewer, I did get some amusement from the op-ed…

Read the rest of this entry »

Why are Canada’s drug prices so much lower? Blame NAFTA?

September 6, 2018

Short answer: No … it’s a self-inflicted wound.

Last week,  trade negotiators failed to close a deal with Canada.

During the Canadian press conference, a reporter asked a question about prescription drug prices.

Answering the question with a question: What has that got to do with NAFTA?


Let’s drill down?

Read the rest of this entry »

Does a 200% tariff sound fair to you?

September 5, 2018

Some Canadian diary tariffs are even higher!

The U.S.-Canadian tariff riff appears to center on 2 sectors: “cultural” and dairy products.


We dealt with the cultural products yesterday

Today let’s deal with diary tariffs …

Read the rest of this entry »

Should Canadians have to listen to Justin Bieber?

September 4, 2018

Apparently so: It’s a sticking point in the trade negotiations

The U.S.-Canadian tariff riff appears to center on 2 sectors: “cultural” and dairy products.


Today let’s deal with so-called “cultural products” …

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Labor Day !

September 3, 2018

Time to reflect…

The unemployment rate is below 4%.

Black unemployment is at an all time low

Wages have started  to creep up.

And, according to a recent Harris poll, blue collar job satisfaction is over 80%.

Thanks to all who do the work so that I can sit back and enjoy my retirement.


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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Shocker: Majority of Harvard students cut class…

August 31, 2018

A recent WSJ article written by a clinical psychologist advocated that college students attend classes.


Say, what?

Read the rest of this entry »

Fighting back against the cyber-attackers…

August 30, 2018

Yesterday, we posted about the Chinese cybersecurity threat.

Coincidentally, the WSJ ran an article: America Goes on the Cyberoffensive


The essence of the article:

Obama-era rules restricting the use of cyberweapons have been rolled-back.

U.S. government hackers will now have more latitude to respond to and deter cyberattacks by adversaries.

Here are some details….

Read the rest of this entry »

The Chinese cyber-threat…

August 29, 2018

Continues to amaze me so much attention is being focused on the Russians (and Macedonians) … and so little on China.


Michael Pillsbury nails the point in his book The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower

Read the rest of this entry »

John McCain: Respected … and Disrespected.

August 28, 2018

First, my personal view.

My wife is a Viet Nam Gold Star family member.

I’m deeply and sincerely appreciative to the men and women who serve in our military … especially those who were killed, wounded or confined as POWs.

I can’t imagine the horror of being a POW for 5 years.

So, I put John McCain irrevocably in the heroes’ column.

That said I disagreed with many of his political stands.

That was ok with me because he was one of very few politicians that I thought was a good, well intended man who had the cajones to speak his mind truthfully.

This week I’ve been struck by the gross hypocrisy of politicos who “always respected” John McCain.

Always? Really?

Reminded me of the day — the moment — when Obama “lost” me.

It was the televised healthcare summit that Obama held to “listen” to opposing views.

click to view

McCain offered a short, sincere, respectful point-of-view.

Obama shot him his trademarked condescending glance and rebutted: “John” … not Senator McCain … “you can stop campaigning the election is over so .”

Pretty disrespectful, right?

I wonder if Obama’s flowery eulogy this week will say “I always respected, Senator McCain” or if it will include an apology for publicly disrespecting “John” at the healthcare summit.

My money is on the former.


PS Obama doesn’t have a monopoly on this week’s hypocrisy.  It’s just that the incident was meaningful to me at the time.  There are worse cases, including the Bush campaign insinuating during the SC primary  that that McCain was a racist.  I doubt that Bush will apologize for that in his eulogy.

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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Southwest nixes peanuts, okays horses … say, what?

August 27, 2018

Is the world getting crazier by the day or is it just my imagination?


OK, I understand the peanut part.

I’ve seen allergic reactions to peanuts … not pretty … and potentially a big health risk.

I also accept that ingestion isn’t always required to trigger a reaction … for some people, just touching or smelling a peanut can set off a threatening reaction.

But, let’s put the dastardly peanut in context…

Read the rest of this entry »

Chuck Todd: “Start impeachment now”

August 24, 2018

I agree … but for different reasons.

Let’s connect a couple of stories today.

Encouraged by the Manafort-Cohen outcomes, Chuck Todd (NBC / MSNBC commentator) ranted that outgoing Speaker Ryan should begin “drawing up impeachment papers now”.

After all, “You now have a president of the United States accused of committing a federal crime.”

click to view

My first reaction was “echo-chamber over-reaction”.

At first, I shrugged off the idea, but…

Read the rest of this entry »

Dershowitz: “Candidate” Committed No Election Crime

August 23, 2018

I was channel-switching yesterday to get both sides of the Cohen “bombshell”.

Alan Dershowitz provided the clearest (and most succinct) explanation (on MSNBC of all places).

Click to view … or keep reading

Here’s the essence of Dershowitz’s argument…

Read the rest of this entry »

Cohen lawyer: “It’s a crime because he plead guilty to it”

August 23, 2018

Say, what?

That’s the central argument being proffered by Lanny Davis – Michael Cohen’s lawyer (and longtime lawyer for the Clintons).

Interviewed by a well-prepped Martha McCallum,  Davis — playing defense — argued that there is certainly a campaign law violation:

Explicitly, because Cohen plead guilty to a campaign violation, and …

Implicitly, because the prosecutors – who had the facts – included the campaign violation in the plea deal.

imageclick to view … or keep reading

Let’s unpack Davis’ logic…

Read the rest of this entry »

Trump’s Space Force is a dumb idea … or is it?

August 22, 2018

After reading …

Bret Baier’s Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Empire

… and Michael Pillsbury’s The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower

I think Trump may be on to something.



Let’s drill down…

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s not Russia that we should be worrying about … it’s China!

August 21, 2018

And, here are China’s 9 strategic principles.


One of my summer reads has been The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury.


Pillsbury is a bona fide China expert, having served 8 administrations in a variety of high-level positions in the state and defense departments and having worked for heralded think tanks, including RAND and the Hudson Institute.

Note: To me, guy seems very credible since (a) he footnotes every major point with compelling source documentation, and (b) he is very self-effacing – often pointing out the mistakes that he had made in his China analyses.

As the title indicates, Pillsbury concludes that China is about midway through a 100-year strategy to replace the U.S. as the global superpower…

Read the rest of this entry »

About the bruhaha over security clearances…

August 20, 2018

Thanks to John Brennan for opening a veritable can of worms.


Let’s start with some basics.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s not your imagination, people are really getting dumber.

August 17, 2018

That’s the conclusion from a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers that the  increase in population intelligence observed throughout the 20th century has peaked and has now gone into reverse.


More specifically…

Read the rest of this entry »

Who’s your daddy?

August 16, 2018

Ancestry DNA tests are delivering some shockers.


Yesterday, we wrote about a relatively common situation: ancestry DNA results that don’t jive with a person’s prior beliefs regarding their race or heritage.

See Here’s a way to get your kid into a better college…

Let’s open another of Pandora’s DNA boxes today…


The NY Post ran an article titled “My ancestry test revealed a genetic bombshell”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s a way to get your kid into a better college…

August 15, 2018

Instead of submitting SAT scores, take an ancestry-DNA test.


Let’s open Pandora’s box today…

As previously reported, some colleges are no longer requiring (or accepting) SAT & ACT scores

See University of Chicago drops SAT / ACT scores … say, what?

The action is a thinly veiled move  to “diversify” the student body by throttling the number of high scoring Asian-American admissions.


I’m not a big fan of the commercial DNA testing done by ancestry sites.

But, they may be a tool for getting kids into better colleges.

Read the rest of this entry »

About the recent spike in interest rates…

August 14, 2018

I’ve started paying closer attention to interest rates.

The motivation: my trusty mortgage ARM — which hovered around 3% for a decade or so — jumped to 4% last year and is being reset to 5% this year.




That got me wondering about the the impact of rising rates on the Federal budget…

Read the rest of this entry »

GOP narrowing the Congressional “generic ballot” gap, but…

August 13, 2018

Will ‘hate trump love’ in the midterm elections?

Lots of chatter re: a forthcoming ‘blue wave’ in the 2018 midterms.

The usual quantitative metric is the so-called Generic Congressional Ballot …. which queries folks on which parties’ (unnamed) Congressional candidate they’re likely to vote for.

At the end of 2017, the Dems had a 13 point advantage.

That gap has narrowed to under 4 points in the RCP poll-of-polls.


And, the the most recent individual polls indicate that the gap is continuing to close…

Read the rest of this entry »

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?

August 10, 2018

That’s a question I seem to struggle with…

The good news is that a linguistics professor  found that 4 simple rules cover 75% of cases that writers encounter.



Here are Prof. Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer’s four rules…

Read the rest of this entry »

Parents: Stash your cell phones !

August 9, 2018

New studies raise concerns re: “distracted parenting”.


Lots written lately re: kids spending too much “screen time” on iPads, computers and cellphones … and too little time reading, exploring and conversing.

All true … and much concerning.


A recent analysis in The Atlantic stipulates to the cognitive development dangers of kids spending too much time glued to screens … but concludes that “When it comes to children’s development, parents should worry less about kids’ screen time—and more about their own.”

Here’s the essence of the argument…

Read the rest of this entry »

Geez, who can I have faith in?

August 8, 2018

Now OSU coach Urban Meyer is suspect.

This is a very sad personal story.


Raised as a Catholic kid, I was taught that priests were pure as the fresh driven snow.

Then came the revelations that priests were fiddling with altar boys and the Church was covering up for them.


My first job out of college was with Arthur Andersen … a squeaky clean Big 8 accounting firm.

Technical note: yes, there used to be 8 !

When some rogue partners got in cahoots with Enron shysters, the Feds brought down the entire firm.

Technical note: The Fed charges were eventually overturned by the SCOTUS.


In my dumbest blog post ever, in December 2015, I heralded James Comey as the “last honest man” and endorsed him for President.

See My nomination for President … experience, integrity, leadership.

Oucn. At the time, I didn’t suspect that he was just a run of the mill political hack.


Fast forward to today…

Read the rest of this entry »

How do you feel about your bank giving your financial detail to Facebook?

August 7, 2018

Yesterday, we asked how you felt about ancestry sites selling your DNA data to drug companies.

See How do you feel about 23&Me selling your DNA to drug companies?

Today, let’s go a step further.

The WSJ was the first to report that Facebook has asked large U.S. banks to share detailed financial information about their customers, including card transactions and checking-account balances


Think about that for a minute…

Read the rest of this entry »

How do you feel about 23&Me selling your DNA to drug companies?

August 6, 2018

Maybe privacy just doesn’t matter any more.

I was a bit surprised when a group of friends were chatting about DNA testing thru 23andMe, and other sites.


As usual, I was an outlier since I’m skeptical of the science and worry about the privacy implications…

Read the rest of this entry »

CNN: “Trump has no earthly clue what the average person is dealing with day to day”

August 3, 2018

That’s what Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator says.

The silly talk (and bias) is getting sillier and sillier.

Here’s the backstory…

At a campaign rally this week, President Trump was pitching the need for voters to show a photo ID.

To illustrate the point, he rattled off a list of places that require IDs: airports, bars, gun shops … and he slipped in: grocery stores.

Obviously out of touch says CNN’s Psaki. Source



Let’s drill down on that, Jen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Finding college-caliber disadvantaged high-schoolers …

August 2, 2018

Universal SAT / ACT testing  “finds” talented low-income college candidates
Recently, some name-brand colleges have announced that they would no longer require SAT or ACT test results.

The rationale: the tests may be culturally biased, dampening diversity.


Taking another tack, the Brooking Institution recently published a study suggesting that diversity can be enhanced with more, not less, SAT/ACT testing.


Entrance exams (ACT or SAT ) are required for admission to virtually all selective colleges in the US.

For low-income students, that’s a hurdle to overcome.

Students have to register and pay for these tests, and then travel to a testing center on a weekend to take them.

This is straightforward, if you have internet access, a computer, a credit card, and a car.

If you are missing any of these resources, it’s a lot more challenging.

The nearest testing center may be in a suburb that is unreachable by public transportation early on a Saturday morning.

To overcome these hurdles, several states are now giving the ACT or SAT exams in school, for free, on a school day during school hours.

The benefits are two-fold …

Read the rest of this entry »

Which TV news source is “most trusted”?

August 1, 2018

The answer may surprise you.

A survey outfit called Brand Keys periodically measures a “Customer Loyalty and Engagement Index” that examines 1,287 brands across 150 categories to determine how much “trust” contributed to each brand’s engagement and market success.

For  TV “brands”, 4,012 viewers rated broadcast and cable brands that they regularly watch to determine how much trust those brands engendered. Source




The tightly bunched  “most trusted TV brands” at the top of the list are the BBC, Fox News and PBS.

Bloomberg and MSNBC fall in the middle of the pack.

The bottom of the pack are the Big 3 networks and CNN.


What about ratings?

Read the rest of this entry »

Facial recognition: Why not in schools?

July 31, 2018

Some schools are already doing it!

Many schools have security systems that include cameras sending live feeds that are monitored by security personnel.

The AP reports that some Lockport, NY  schools are going a step further by implementing facial recognition technology that checks each face against a database of expelled students, sex offenders, disgruntled employees and other possible troublemakers.


In addition, the system can be programmed to scan for some weapon “tells” (think: guns or knives in waistbands) and can be matched against a complete file of student and faculty pictures.

Though the system has potential life-saving benefits, some folks are opposing it…

Read the rest of this entry »

Great moments in facial recognition……

July 30, 2018

The Chinese have a novel application for the technology. 


According to the AP

To boost tourism, bathrooms at some Chinese tourist sites now use facial recognition to keep visitors from grabbing too much toilet paper.

Yep, you read that right.

Picture source

Here are the details…

Read the rest of this entry »

Studies: More time on Facebook … and it’s not good for you.

July 27, 2018

“Negatively associated with overall well-being … particularly mental health”.


At the risk of piling on during FB’s stock “correction” (single day drop of 20%), let’s connect a couple of recently reported studies …

First, the BLS periodically reports how Americans spend their leisure time.

According to the NYT, channeling the most recent BLS report:

The average time that users spend on Facebook is nearing an hour.


Putting that hour of Facebook in perspective:

That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed … with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours).

It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes).

It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours). NYT


And, a recent study published by the Harvard Business Review indicates that all that Facebook time is unhealthy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Facial recognition: This could be a big idea…

July 26, 2018

We’ve previously posted how facial recognition has been gaining traction at airports, in some schools, on Chinese streets and even in some amusement parks.

Recently, NY Gov. Cuomo announced that cameras with facial recognition software were being installed to spot criminals in some of the state’s traffic tunnels, bridges and other choke points.



More specifically…


Gov. Cuomo revealed that facial-recognition cameras were already in place at  bridge and tunnel toll plazas across the state.

The cameras scan drivers’ faces and feed them into databases to catch suspected criminals.

“We are now moving to facial-recognition technology which takes it to a whole new level, where it can see the face of the person in the car and run that technology against databases.”

When a match is made, an alarm is triggered for follow-up by law enforcement.

In China, images are posted to real-time digital billboards to shame perps.

See More great moments in facial recognition

My hunch: This is less of a tool to nab petty offenders … more intended to deter or sang terrorists.

That would make it a big idea.


Of course, civil libertarians oppose the use of facial recognition as an invasion of privacy … and claim that facial recognition is unreliable for children and “persons of color”.

The former is true since kids’ facial structures change rapidly as they age and grow … but, kids don’t drive, right?

The claim that facial recognition isn’t accurate for persons of color is a headscratcher.

Think about it for a minute or two…


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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Words really do matter … especially in a kid’s early years.

July 25, 2018

Interesting study reported in The Atlantic

A pair of psychologists – Betty Hart and Todd Risley –  got curious about why some 3 and 4 year old kids are more academically ready than others.

“They devised a novel (and exhaustive) methodology: for more than three years, they sampled the actual words spoken to young children from 42 families at 3 different socioeconomic levels: (1) welfare homes, (2) working-class homes, and (3) professionals’ homes. Then they tallied the quantity and quality of the words spoken to the kids. “


The results were – in the words of the researchers – “astounding”…

Read the rest of this entry »

Amazon and the “power of free” …

July 24, 2018

Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders and NY Dem Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were barnstorming deep-red states with their Progressive platform: Medicare for all, free college, minimum wage, guaranteed job, etc. Source

Many dismiss the ideas as unaffordable pie-in-the-sky.

But in class, I always preached: Don’t underestimate the “power of free”.

Here’s a real life example to prove the point.


Everybody knows that Amazon’s free shipping program has been a resounding success.

So much so. that the company has announced that it will be moving the minimum qualifying order up from $25 to $35 … inducing shoppers to fill  their carts fuller or switch to the highly profitable Amazon Prime program.

The free shipping program’s success was highly predictable based an an apparently inadvertent “matched market test” that Amazon did.



Here’s the skinny on the Amazon’s inadvertent market test …

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We saved their butts twice and they still haven’t forgiven us…

July 23, 2018

This is cleaned up paraphrases a classic slam at the French for underappreciating the U.S. role in both World Wars.

It came to mind when I read a Los Angeles Times article over the weekend.



The gist of the article is that Trump — by calling on NATO members to meet their 2% of GDP defense commitment and by not wholeheartedly promising to defend Montenegro — has given NATO members cause to question whether the U.S. is a reliable ally.

Say, what?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

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Red Notice: A timely book to read…

July 20, 2018

One of the early advantages about retirement is finally having time to read books that have little or nothing to do with my courses…

First up: was Red Notice.  Recommended by my son, long before this week’s Russia events and reactions..



This was an engaging read … and provides an interesting back-drop to the current Russia bruhaha…


In a nutshell:

Browder was a brash, recently minted Stanford MBA who moved to Russia and built Hermitage Capital … a hedge fund that rose to prominence as the biggest foreign investor in Russian businesses.

Browder leveraged keen financial analysis to identify market anomalies and undervalued assets … and had brass balls, utilizing aggressive strategies against Russia’s oligarchs and Putin’s government.

Predictably, taking on Putin ended badly.

Browder – and most of his team- got out of Russia, avoiding incarceration and physical harm.

But, one of his lawyers – Sergei Magnitsky – was jailed by the Russians, tortured in an attempt to get him to turn on Browder, and eventually beaten to death.

Browder turned Magnitsky’s death into a human rights case against Russia … and was the driver behind the Magnitsky Act which banned the perpetrators from the U.S. – establishing a blueprint for other human rights violators.


The biggest takeaways were Browder’s keen investment analyses … and his gross underestimation of Russian brutality against perceived enemies of the state.

No doubt about it … Putin is one mean & nasty dude…

Update: For more detail, see today’s WSJ editorial Donald Trump, Meet Bill Browder

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Is Russia really “an oil and gas company masquerading as a country”?

July 19, 2018

That’s the characterization usually attributed to Se. Lindsey Graham.

Let’s drill down on that, starting with some GDP stats.

Russia’s GDP is only about $1.5 trillion.



Let’s out that number in perspective…

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Rand Paul cuts to the chase re: meddling…

July 18, 2018

Though often annoying, Rand Paul is consistent on a couple of important issues (think privacy and non-intervention) … and has an ability to to hone in on pivotal conclusions.

This week — after the Trump-Putin meeting — Sen. Paul cut to the chase on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections…

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Flashback: Obama schools Romney that “Russia isn’t a threat”

July 17, 2018

President Trumps is getting blasted for his presser with Putin.

“Naïve,  Disgusting, Disgraceful. Treasonous.”

Just a minute guys…

Remember the 2012 Presidential debates?

A key moment was when President Obama ridiculed Gov. Romney’s knowledge of foreign affairs.

Given the current hysteria over Russia, the clip is a classic …  try to stay calm when it


Here’s more that’ll should make you scream …

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