Why don’t Federal employees have rainy day funds?

January 22, 2019

Even Lady Gaga is getting into the act, using precious concert time to trash Trump (“holding Federal employees hostage”) & Pence (“worst example of Christianity”) … and to rep for the cash-strained furloughed government workers.

OK, I know that 80% of Americans don’t have $500 in reserve to cover unexpected expenses.

I understand that for part-time burger-flippers working for minimum wages with no benefits.

But, that’s not Federal government employees.

A 2017 CBO study revealed that, on average, civilian Federal government employees make civilian federal workers make 17 percent more in wages and benefits than similar workers in the private sector.

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Before you say; “Yeah, but these pay-deferred government employees are disproportionately from the lower end of the payscale.”

Let’s look closer at the data…

Read the rest of this entry »

Should the border wall between San Diego and Tijuana be torn down?

January 21, 2019

Here’s the gut-check question for Pelosi who says that walls are immoral and don’t work.
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Let’s start with the historical context…

In the 1980s, San Diego was known for its enticing climate … and its high crime rate.

Much of the crime was attributable to hombres (literally) coming across the border from Tijuana with bad intentions … not hard workers coming across for employment.

Then, in 1993, President Bill Clinton signed Operation Gatekeeper into law … and. in 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fences Act.  During his term, President Obama’s budgets provided ample funding to complete the work authorized by “Gatekeeper” and “Secure Fences”.

What were the implications for San Diego?

Because of Gatekeeper and Secure Fences, right now the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego has 12 miles of double fencing that stretches from the coast to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

After that, there are another 43 miles of “primary” fencing into and through the mountains in the eastern part of the county.  Source

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That was then.  This is now.

Now, the Dem mantra is “Walls are immoral and don’t work.”

Let’s dive into that argument…

Read the rest of this entry »

Shutdown: Brace for an onslaught of PFSD claims?

January 18, 2019

PFST  Post Furlough Stress Disorder
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Man, you can see this one coming from a mile away…

When the shutdown ends, I expect a flurry of TV lawyer ads soliciting furloughed government employees who suffer from PFSD.

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Further, I expect the basis PFSD claims to stem on a couple of alleged stressors…

Read the rest of this entry »

Gov’t Insider: “Agencies working more efficently without them”

January 17, 2019

Let’s take a snapshot of the shutdown, starting with the demand side …

Seriously, has the partial government shutdown impacted you personally?

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Admittedly, my sample isn’t projectable, but — save for a couple of furloughed “non-essentials” — I have yet to run into anybody who has been impacted by the shutdown.

ABC-WaPo did run a projectable poll and found that 18% of Americans say they have been inconvenienced by the shutdown.

Take the converse of the WaPo findings:

82% of Americans have not been inconvenienced by the shutdown.

That’s less than 1 in 5 … and, it includes the furloughed gov’t employees who have certainly been inconvenienced.

Bottom line: From a demand perspective, the shutdown hasn’t been a particularly bad deal.

What about the supply side – the impact on government operations ?

Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a big difference between “lost wages” and “deferred pay”!

January 16, 2019

Among the aspects of the shutdown drama that make me want to scream are sympathy-soliciting headlines about furloughed government employees’ “lost wages”.

 

Here’s why that sets me off…

Read the rest of this entry »

Which is more “authentic”?

January 15, 2019

Ad agencies (and voters) harp on authenticity.

You know, presenting yourself as you really are … rather than exhibiting a  fake persona.

Let’s illustrate the concept…

Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tried to jumpstart her presidential  ambitions (and erase the memories of her laughable DNA test).

At a climatic moment, she expressed her need for a cold one and started to chug a bee.

Authentic or not?

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Her nemesis – President Trump – scored it as inauthentic, noting that it would have seemed more authentic if she had been wearing her native headdress.

Boom!

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Speaking of President Trump…

Read the rest of this entry »

Shouldn’t we be getting tax credits?

January 14, 2019

I’ve gotten credits from Comcast when my cable service has gone out!
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Let’s set the stage:

On a macro level ….

1/4th of the Federal government’s “non-essential employees” have been furloughed for about 3 weeks.

Technical note: In this case, “furlough” means “paid vacation”, albeit with deferred pay for the remainder of the time off.

1/4th of the government’s “essential employees” have been reporting to work … and, had been getting paid until last Friday.  Now, their pay is deferred until the end of the shutdown.

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On a micro level, I loaded Turbo Tax over the weekend and did a first-cut at my 2018 taxes.

The combo of the macro and micro raised a logical question…

Read the rest of this entry »

Twas a very entertaining week…

January 11, 2019

Dems and their surrogates snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
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For the record, I’m net positive about both the wall and the gov’t shutdown (or, as I like to call it: “the furloughing of non-essential government employees”).

But, frankly, I’m not very worked up about either.

With that relaxed perspective, I can enjoy the the entertainment value of the hysteria.

And, this was a great week for entertainment.

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Let’s jump to the week’s winner: Chuck & Nancy’s rebuttal.

I literally burst out laughing when they did their Bobby Jindal-like hallway entrance … to me, they looked a bit ghoulish … walking in from the catacombs.

Then they delivered their remarks in the fashion of  animated Madam Trussaud wax manikins.

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For laughs, watch the clip with the sound off.

As NBC’s Brian William’s observed: “This Chuck and Nancy visual tonight launched a thousand memes while they were still talking.”

There was an “Angry Parents”, “Gomez & Morticia”, “Space Aliens” and the more serious meme that I think won the prize…

Read the rest of this entry »

Shocker: Johnny can’t sign checks or legal documents…

January 10, 2019

Many schools just don’t teach cursive handwriting any more.

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Yesterday, we posted about how Johnny can’t write.  That was in a macro sense: he can’t construct a compelling, logical argument since that skill is decreasingly taught and practiced in schools these days.

Today, let’s dive down to the literal level.

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I was taken aback when a friend casually mentioned to me that his grandson – a freshman in college – “couldn’t even sign his name”.

I initially thought that the kid might have a learning disability, a physical handicap or was – for some weird reason – banned from signing legal documents.

Nope, the reason was more straightforward and pervasive than that…

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Johnny can’t write …

January 9, 2019

Faculty colleagues and I often bemoaned that there seems to be a consensus that writing skills among MBA students have been declining.

I’m not talking about flowery prose and precise grammar.

I’m talking about logical argumentation … being able to explain why something is happening and what to do about it.

My hypothesis was that colleges aren’t requiring students to take courses (or demonstrate proficiency) in, say, critical thinking or logic … and that college students today aren’t required to write many papers that hone their thinking and writing skills.

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Testing my hypothesis on a middle school math teacher-friend, I got a rude awakening …

Read the rest of this entry »

Should lawmakers (and regulators) have to eat their own cooking?

January 8, 2019

Might induce some genuine empathy, motivate some constructive action … and forestall future government shutdowns.

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There was an interesting exchange at last week’s impromptu Trump press conference.

A reporter asked: “Administration personnel are due for a salary increase … will you be delaying them until the shutdown is resolved?”

Trump answered: “That’s a good idea.  I’ll look into that.”

I think that the response surprised the reporter who probably expected a long-winded rationale for the pay increases.

And, the Q&A pushed one of my hot buttons: gov’t officials who insulate themselves from the burdens that they impose on us.  Think: Medicare exceptions for Congressional staffers.

So, to avoid future government shutdowns, what not a simple legislative change: No member of the Senate, Congress or their staffs shall receive any compensation during the period when any part of the government is shutdown because of Congressional actions or inaction.”

BINGO!

My bet: the likelihood of a future shutdown would fall to near zero.

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Along a similar vein — I said it was one of my hot buttons — in a prior post, I wrote about how our dim-witted government officials put the brakes on school vouchers that would allow working folks to send their kids to private schools …. while sending their kids to swanky private schools.

According to The Atlantic …

As a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter criticized “exclusive private schools that allow the children of the political and economic elite to avoid public schools that are considered dangerous or inferior.”

When he assumed office in 1977, he did something remarkable:

He enrolled his 9-year-old daughter, Amy, in a predominantly black Washington, D.C., public school.

Amy became the first child of a sitting U.S. president to attend a public school since 1906.

She still is.

Gotta give the man credit for walking the talk.

Former President Obama?

Not so much …

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A Dept. of Education study found that students in the nation’s capital that were provided with vouchers allowing them to attend private school made “statistically significant gains in achievement.”

Despite that finding, then President Obama curtailed the program … and turned around and enrolled his daughters in Sidwell Friends – the swank private school of choice for the DC elite.

So, it wasn’t at all surprising that several sources found that many of the Democratic Senators who voted against school voucher advocate Betsy DeVos –- opt out of the public school system and send their off-spring to private schools.

OK, maybe they really thought that DeVos wasn’t as qualified as Obama’s basketball buddy, Arne Duncan, who presided for 7 years over declining test scores and “failing schools” headlines.

Or, maybe their pro-choice inclinations don’t really extend beyond their family & friends when it comes to education.

As the USN&WR opined:

Education politics are big business in America, often pitting institutionalized interests like the NEA against parents and kids.

And, equally unfortunately, there are far too many people who are in a position to right the wrongs who are taking advantage of their ability to opt out of the discussion, at least as far as their own children are concerned.

Where education is concerned there’s one America for the elites, like members of Congress and the President, who send their children to private schools.

And, there’s one for everyone else, the regular people who are seeing the educational dreams they have for their children shattered on the altar of politics.

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So, what’s the answer?

Read the rest of this entry »

Even the mainstream media had to reluctantly agree…

January 7, 2019

The economy has been el fuego since Trump took office.
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Last Friday’s jobs report was – by all measures – a blowout.

An exclamation point that the economy – save for the stock market – had a remarkable year.

The headline: 312,000 jobs added in December.

That’s more than the 176,000  that economists expected … and brought the 2018 total number of new jobs to more than 2.6 million.

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Drilling down, the numbers are even more impressive …

Read the rest of this entry »

Whew! At least I don’t own Apple stock…

January 4, 2019

Ouch: Make that: I don’t own Apple stock directly.
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Except for a couple of legacy stocks, I shy away from individual company stocks.

My history has been dismal when I’ve tried to pick individual stocks. I either buy at the peak … or, hold winners until they become losers.

So, my equity investments tend to be in broad market ETFs and low-cost mutual funds.

I used to think that they insulated me from wild swings in individual stock prices.

If true, yesterday’s steep drop in Apple should have been lost in the round.

Not so, as evidenced by the hammering that the Dow and S&P took yesterday.

One analysis I saw indicated that Apple was directly responsible for over 15% of the Dow’s decline … and indirectly responsible for the rest … either by dragging other tech stocks with it, or by seeming to be a leading indicator of economic troubles ahead.

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For example, consider the SPY ETF…

Read the rest of this entry »

About those “non-essential” government employees…

January 3, 2019

The current partial government shutdown showcases one of my hot-button issues.

Best that I can tell, about 1 million government employees are impacted: about half of them are “essential” employees who must report to work and will be paid when the budget is resolved.

The other 500,000 are classified as “non-essential” … they get to stay home for the duration … and, will also be paid when the budget is resolved.

That raises 2 questions:

(1) why should non-essential employees get a better deal than essential employees (who have to work for their pay)?

(2) Why do non-essential employees ever have to report to work, and why do they ever get paid?

As I’ve said, I’ve been on this issue for awhile … and the shutdown gives me an opportunity to reprise a post on the subject from last winter … when you read “snow storm”, simply substitute the word “shutdown”.

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It’s snowing in DC … “non-essentials” need not report.

It’s snowing in DC today … err, kinda.

Not much on the ground … temp is 34 degrees … roads are clear … but those AccuWeaterher folks are saying more snow is coming.

Good enough for the Feds … to shut the government down.

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Archive photo … not from today!

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Just heard my absolute favorite public service message on TV:

Due the inclement weather, non-essential Federal government workers do not have to report for work today.

Maybe the Feds can use the snow storm to solve the budget bruhaha … here’s how.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gov’t shutdown: A tree falling in the woods?

January 2, 2019

Seriously, do you care one way or another?
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Have noted some asynchronous behavior in the past week or two…

Cable news pundits lead most broadcasts with deep concern: “It’s day (insert number here) of the partial government shutdown and no end in sight.”

Clarification: On MSNBC and CNN, the word “partial” is replaced by “Trump”

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But, holiday chit-chit among friends and family has taken a much different track…

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On no occasion has the topic come up in the normal course of conversation.

If prompted, I’ve gotten responses ranging from “What government shutdown?” … to “I hope it stays closed.”

Only one instance of anybody being impacted: A government lawyer who was appreciative that she was getting an additional week or two of vacation … knowing full well that she’d eventually receive back pack for the time off.

While the MSM is positioning the stalemate as the greatest disaster since Katrina, it’s not evident to me that the public is buying into the hysteria.

Hmmm….

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Celebrate !

December 31, 2018

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Merry Christmas … 45 Lessons in Life

December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all !

This short video was sent to me by a friend a couple of years ago

It really resonated with me, so continuing a tradition,  I like to share it at Christmas time.

back with you after the New Year

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         click to view  (best with audio on)
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Nums: A world of battling algorithms…

December 24, 2018

Many pundits say that the recent stock market volatility and steep decline are at least partially attributable to algorithmic trading … complex analytical models with decision rules executed in real time by computers … think: flash trading.

The current relevance prompted me to flashback to a very cool 15 minute TED Talk … my all time favorite.

In the talk, tech entrepreneur Kevin Slavin tells how algorithms have reached across industries and into every day life.

A couple of lines caught my attention:

  • There are more than 2,000 physicists working on Wall Street developing operational algorithms
  • Massive scale speed trading is dependent on millisecond read & respond rates …
  • So, firms are physically literally locating right next to internet routing hubs to cut transmission times … or, setting up shop right at the exchanges.
  • And, of course, there isn’t time for human intervention and control
  • “We may be building whole worlds we don’t really understand, and can’t control.”

Obviously, Slavin comes down on the side of the quants.

It’s worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

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Alert: About the recent increase in interest rates…

December 21, 2018

Like most investors, I’ve started paying closer attention to interest rates.

The initial motivation: came this summer via 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.

Ouch.

Now, with the Fed “normalizing” interest rates, i.e. jacking rates up, I’m on full alert.


Source

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Fed says: Stock market be damned.

December 20, 2018

… and, the market responds predictably.
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Yesterday, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell took a meat ax to the market.

As expected, the Fed inched interest rates up a notch — as planned, and as expected.

That’s OK … the economy need to be weaned off of near-zero interest rates.

But, despite indicators of an economic slowdown, Powell said there are still more interest rate boosts on the table for next year … count on ’em.

Pundits expected a more wiggle-roomed statement that the Fed would be watching what happens and be driven by the data.

Then, he deliver the coup de grace, saying “financial markets and the Fed’s balance sheet don’t matter.”

Au contraire, Mr. Powell.

The financial markets matter to folks holding financial assets … and the Fed’s balance sheet – a correlate to the supply of money in the economy – is a major determinant of financial markets’ strength.

Need proof?

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Let’s start by taking a stroll down memory lane ….

Over 40 years ago, an economist-wannabe co-authored a study in the Journal of Finance titled “The Supply of Money and Common Stock Prices”.

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The article summarized an econometric study (think: big, hairy financial model) that demonstrated a tight link between the amount of money floating around and, on a slightly time-delayed basis, the price of stocks.

That is, when the Fed adds liquidity into the market (think: “quantitative easing”), much of money flows into the stock market – rocket-boosting stock prices.

And the opposite is true. When the Fed tightens, stock prices fall back into earth orbit.

OK, fast forward to today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Americans are “Eatin’ Mor Chikin”

December 19, 2018

And, Chick-fil-A is leapfrogging rivals.

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Last week, we posted that Costco – which sells almost 1 million chickens each day –  is opening its own mega chicken farm to partially satisfy its needs.

See How many chickens does Costco buy & sell each year?

A beneficiary of the trend – or, make that “the driving force” behind it – is Chick-fil-A .

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I thought the long lines were a local phenomenon, but data indicates that it’s a national occurrence.

Read the rest of this entry »

You can’t control everything that happens to you but …

December 18, 2018

… you can control the way you respond to everything that happens to you.

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That’s one of the admonitions from my adios lecture to my MBA students.

I was amped when Condi Rice used a version of the line in one of her speeches

Other snippets from her speech that caught my eye are below  …

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The world is a chaotic and dangerous place. 

The U.S. has since the end of World War II had an answer – we stand for free peoples and free markets, we are willing to support and defend them – we will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.

Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland to the Philippines to Colombia and across the world — they must know that we are reliable and consistent and determined.  And our adversaries must have no reason to doubt our resolve — because peace really does come through strength.

When the world looks at us today they see an American government that cannot live within its means.  They see a government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come.  The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny.  That is not the America that has inspired others to follow our lead.

The essence of America – that which really unites us — is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion – it is an idea — and what an idea it is:  That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.  That it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going.

Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement.  We have not believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well.

We have been successful too because Americans have known that one’s status at birth was not a permanent station in life.  You might not be able to control your circumstances but you could control your response to your circumstances

Today, when I can look at your zip code and can tell whether you are going to get a good education – can I really say that it doesn’t matter where you came from – it matters where you are going.  The crisis in K-12 education is a grave threat to who we are.

We need to have high standards for our students – self-esteem comes from achievement not from lax standards and false praise.  And we need to give parents greater choice – particularly poor parents whose kids – most often minorities — are trapped in failing neighborhood schools.

And on a personal note– a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America – her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant – but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter – she can be President of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State.

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Laughs: For one day, let’s lighten up on Trump…

December 17, 2018

Both sides are getting way too serious either defending or skewering the guy.

So, let’s step back and start the week with a chuckle.

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Yeah, I’m still a fan of America’s Got Talent .

I watch it so that you don’t have to … except for the highlights that I dish to loyal readers.

Here’s a hilarious one for you, whether you’re pro-Trump or anti-Trump …

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The back story:

When the Singing Trump walked on stage for his first audition, the crowd booed loudly … remember, it is an NBC show.

Australian “Mel B.” – former Spice Girl and now an AGT judge – joined the booing and gave him a disqualifying ‘red X’ as soon as he started his act.  Politically motivated?

The other judges passed him on to the next round.

This time, crowd was friendlier and Mel B. said

“I have to eat my words and apologize. You’re just like ‘him’ and you entertained us with the best 2 Backstreet Boys songs ever.”

Trust me … and start the week with a smile (and maybe a laugh).

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How many chickens does Costco buy & sell each year?

December 14, 2018

According to CNBC

Costco is shelling out $440 million to open a Nebraska chicken farm.

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Why is Costco doing it?

“To partially escape the American chicken monopoly run by the likes of Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride and Perdue.”

Technical note to CNBC: A monopoly has only one supplier.  A duopoly has two. When there are three, it’s a concentrated competitive market.

The self-operated farm provide Costco with 100 million chickens … 40 percent of its yearly chicken needs.

Doing the arithmetic, that means that Costco goes through about 250 million chickens every year.

That’s a lot of chickens but pales in comparison to KFC which reportedly goes through 3 or 4 times as many.

Personal note: Many, many years ago, I interviewed for a position at KFC as a chicken buyer. I was recruited because I had an economics degree and had worked for a large grocery store chain.

It wasn’t a good fit. (<= understatement)

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The two most dangerous words in the English language today …

December 13, 2018

When it comes to human behavior, “studies show” are becoming “the two most dangerous words in the English language today.”

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According to Andy Kessler, writing in the WSJ

Many of the cited studies on human behavior are pure bunk.

For example:

The 270 researchers working under the auspices of the Center for Open Science spent four years trying to reproduce 100 leading psychology experiments.

They successfully replicated only 39 of the 100 psychology experiments.

A survey of 1,576 scientists published in Nature reported that “more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments … and more than half are unable to reproduce their own experiments.”

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What’s going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

President acts Russian … names more than 30 “Czars”

December 12, 2018

Why hasn’t this gotten any attention recently?

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Dems and their media buddies keep hammering Trump for being too cozy with Russia.

The slightest innuendo or chance encounter (think: Trump chats with Putin at formal G20 dinner”) gets blown up into a faux cause celebre that quickly evaporates.

Imagine for a moment if President Trump were to circumvent the Senate’s “advise & consent” rules by appointing people to his administration who play high-level cabinet-like roles … but aren’t subject to Senate approval.

The screaming would be deafening.

And, imagine if Trump were to call the process-circumventing appointees “Czars”.

Russia !  Russia !!!  Russia !!!!

Clear evidence of collusion: Impeach for treason.

 

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Only problem with the story: Trump hasn’t done it, but Obama did … to a gleeful, encouraging press that argued “he had no choice but to do it.”

For a trip down memory lane, here’s a list of Obama’s Czars….

Read the rest of this entry »

“Resisters” now think that it’s not fair to resist … say, what?

December 11, 2018

Forrest Grump: “What goes around, comes around”

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For a couple of years, it’s been in fashion among the established, the elite and the folks on the left to use any method to stymy the Trump agenda.

After all, the end justifies the means, right?

Well now, from Madison,Wisconsin to Paris, France … left-leaning elected officials are being thwarted.

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And, many who were touting the graces of the Resist Movement just a couple of weeks ago are squealing like pigs.

Read the rest of this entry »

In praise of gridlock …

December 10, 2018

And, why I don’t care if Trump gets impeached.

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I had a few very interesting conversations over the past week or two.

They revolved around a couple of linked topics:

1) Buyer’s remose

2) Congressional gridlock

3) Impeachment

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For what it’s worth, here’s how I come out on these topics …

Read the rest of this entry »

Maybe we’re just not that smart …

December 7, 2018

Yesterday, we reported that the U.S. is, on average, #40 in the world in mathematics.

Usual punditry is that schools are bad … blame it on the teachers.

But, I wondered: is it a bad production process (the schools) … or could it be the raw material going into the process (i.e. innate brain power).

So, the question of the day: how does the U.S. rank on IQ versus other countries?

Read the rest of this entry »

Ouch: U.S. math scores continue to drop

December 6, 2018

U.S. now trails 39 countries …

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The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently released its  survey results for math “literacy” … and, the results aren’t pretty.

The average for 15-year-old U.S. students slipped to 470 on the PISA scale … down about 3.5% from 2009 … ranking the U.S. #40 among developed nations (see list at end of this post) … 20 points lower than the average of the 35 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The scores differential versus the OECD countries is roughly equal for the average, 25th percentile and 90th percentile … refuting claims that “our” best are head-to-head competitive with the the rest of the world’s best.

 

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Digging a bit deeper into the numbers ….

Read the rest of this entry »

#15 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change …

December 5, 2018

Reason #15: Did Paris just pull out of the “Paris Accords”?
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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
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In car-speak,  the rubber seems to be hitting the road in Paris.

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In case you missed it, French President Macron tried to slap-on a gas tax to save the planet by discouraging petrol consumption, (i.e. driving).

The result: a political crisis for Macron … more than a million protesters … some rioting in the streets … approval ratings in the 20s.

Apparently, French citizens who don’t travel by Metro, Uber or private jets took the gas-tax personally since it impacts their get-to-work costs and, thus, flattens their wallets in a statistically significant way.

As Gomer Pyle would say: “Surprise, surprise, surprise”

Read the rest of this entry »

Need proof that charter schools work?

December 4, 2018

New study of NYC charter schools provide compelling evidence.
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I recently stumbled upon an interesting research study by CREDO – the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University.

CREDO was established to gather and analyze empirical evidence about education reform and student performance (i.e. “outcomes) with a particular emphasis on innovative programs, curricula, policies and accountability practices.

A recent report focused on New York City  charter schools since “New York City has been the nexus of public discourse about charter schools for nearly two decades but only a fraction of that debate has been grounded in well researched evidence about charter schools’ impact on student outcomes.”

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And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Finding college-caliber disadvantaged high-schoolers …

December 3, 2018

Universal SAT / ACT testing  “finds” talented low-income college candidates
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Interesting study reported by Brookings

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

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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 …

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Score higher on the SATs … GUARANTEED!

November 30, 2018

Just make sure that your parents went to college.

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Earlier this week we posted about how Asian-American students are being admitted to selective elite high schools at increasingly high rates.

Why?

Because they are academic achievers.

Why?

In part because Asian-American parents place a high priority on education, drive their children to excel (especially in STEM academics) and provide their kids with extensive  extracurricular learning experiences.

And, oh yeah, they’ve probably gone to college … providing good role modeling and ready tutoring capabilities.

To that point …

The College Board published a  “Total Group Profile Report” for recent college-bound seniors …

One set of numbers caught my eye:

SAT scores by the student’s parents level of educational attainment.

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Note that about 2/3’s of the college-bound seniors taking the SAT came from homes with a degreed parent – either associate, bachelor or graduate.

Only about 1/3 came from homes with parents having only a high school education or less.

And, the performance differentials are substantial between the groups …

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Some “interesting” SAT results …

November 29, 2018

The College Board publishes a “Total Group Profile Report” for  college-bound seniors.

Browsing it, a couple of sets of numbers caught my eye ….

Let’s start with math scores/

Two big takeaways:

(1) The gap between boys and girls narrowed from the 40 point difference in the 1970s to about 25 points … but has remained fairly constant at that level for about the past 20 years

(2) Scores for both boys and girls have been falling for the past dozen years or so.

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OK, boys outscore girls in math, but girls do better on the verbal part of the SATs, right?

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Obama better buy his Volt now … right now!

November 28, 2018

On a campaign stop a couple of years ago, after a photo op sitting in a Volt, President Obama told a crowd of United Auto Workers:

“It was nice. I bet it drives real good,” he said. “And five years from now, when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself.

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Well, since GM has announced that it is killing the Volt, Obama might want to place his order pronto … and, demand a clearance price discount.

All of this should come as no surprise to anybody.

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Why are Asian-American students dominating “elite” schools?

November 27, 2018

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (“TJ” for short), is a selective DC-area magnet school designed to provide an elite, high-tech education for the most academically gifted students in Northern Virginia.

The school offers rigorous study in advanced college-level offerings like electrodynamics, neurobiology, and artificial intelligence.

High octane academics, for sure … offered to the best and brightest.

What’s the rub?

Demographic mix.

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The school’s newly accepted Class of 2022 is 65 percent Asian, 23 percent white, five percent Hispanic, and two percent black.

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20 years ago, the concern was that Black and Hispanic representation at TJ was less than half their demographic mix in Fairfax County – the “feeder” county.

Several initiatives were launched to increase Black and Hispanic representation, including early identification and proactive outreach to high potential minority children; supplementary in-school and extracurricular programs to teach and mentor them; and more ready access to prep and gateway courses such as Algebra.

While undertaking those initiatives, something unexpected happened.

The numbers of Black and Hispanic students applying and enrolled at TJ remained stalled at the pre-initiative levels. So, that’s still a concern.

But, during the same time period (and unrelated to the minority initiatives), the number of white students declined sharply … and the number of Asian-American students has soared.

Why is that?

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How would you feel if a “squeegee boy” kicked in your car door?

November 26, 2018

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This one hit close to home recently.

One of my sons works downtown in Baltimore’s Harbor East complex … his office building is across from the posh Four Seasons Hotel.

You get the idea…

His morning commute is about an hour … with the last leg running through Baltimore’s city streets.  The finish line is thru a busy intersection – the only way to his workplace.

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Thanksgiving !

November 21, 2018

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Answer to: Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 20, 2018

Yesterday, we posted a question posed to me last year by my soon-to-be 10 year old granddaughter … and challenged you to give it a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.

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Here’s the answer … if you haven’t already done the problem, do it before peeking:

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Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 19, 2018

A Thanksgiving Day puzzle from my granddaughter.

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What does your family do for fun at Thanksgiving?

Nowadays, mine tries to stump me with math problems.

Last year, my soon-to-be 10 year old granddaughter brought over a set of puzzles that she’d been working on at school (when she was in 3rd grade).

Give one a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.

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We all like to whine that American students are slipping behind other countries in math and science … which begs a basic question:

Are you at least as smart as a 3rd grader?

I’ll post the answer tomorrow …

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Thanks to AMH for feeding the lead.
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About the homeless guy who forked over $20 to save a damsel in distress…

November 16, 2018

Heartwarming story that raised  $400,000 takes a strange twist.

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Just in case you missed it…

In November 2017, a homeless guy (Johnny Bobbitt) noticed that a driver (Kate McClure) was stranded on a roadside … out of gas with no money or credit cards.

So, Bobbitt gave “his last $20” to McClure to buy a couple of gallons of gas.

McClure went on a PR blitz praising Bobbitt’s generosity.

Then, McClure and her boyfriend (Mark D’Amico) set up a GoFundMe page to lift Bobbitt from homeless.

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The GoFundMe campaign raised almost $400,000.

Bobbitt reportedly set up a bank account, bought a house and a truck, and started looking for job.

A life-changing story that restores your faith in people, right?

Well, here’s the rub….

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Amazon and the “power of free” …

November 15, 2018

Since Amazon is in the news these days ….

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

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

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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.

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

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Amazon decides … more jeers than cheers.

November 14, 2018

May be a classic case of the “winner’s curse” … or just loser’s lament.

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Well, Amazon finally reached a decision re: HQ2.

Err, make that HQ2 and HQ3

Rather than the ballyhooed 50,000 jobs in one locale somewhere in the U.S., Amazon had a last minute change of heart and split the spoils between 2 east coast metro areas:: HQ2 in Crystal City. VA  … HQ3 in Long Island City, NY (25,000 jobs).

WSJ summarized Amazon’s stated criteria … and estimated where both VA and NYC score.

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Looks pretty analytical, right?

But, many observers retro-conclude that the fix was in from the start.

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Predictable places?

Yep,

DC because it’s the nation’s capital and proximate to the goldmine of government business (of which, Amazon is already a major player).

NYC because it’s the financial and media capital of the world (where Google has already staked a big claim).

Both DC and NYC because they’re located on the east coast (pundits say that Heartland locales were never serious contenders) … and because those local governments have the deepest pockets.

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So far, there don’t seem to be many current residents dancing in the streets.

What’s up with that?

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Economist: The demography of American voters…

November 13, 2018

Conclusion: All politics is “identity politics”.

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The Economist and YouGov, a pollster, have surveyed thousands of Americans and built a statistical model to predict political party preferences.

Think: generic ballot for Congressional elections.

What did they find?

America’s founding fathers envisioned a republic in which free-thinking voters would carefully consider the proposals of office-seekers.

Today, however, demography seems to govern voters’ choices.

Specifically, Economist and YouGov identified a dozen demographic characteristics that highly predicted how people would vote in Congressional elections.

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Let’s drill down on the the findings…

Read the rest of this entry »

Déjà vu all over again?

November 9, 2018

Florida’s tax migrants may not be out of the woods yet … but they may be holding an ironic high card.

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OK, let’s recap the the bidding…

On election day, FL Gov. Rick Scott (R) edged incumbent Senator Bill Nelson (D) by a razor thin margin.

Similarly, Congressman Ron DeSantis edged Socialist-Democrat Andrew Gillum for the Florida Governorship.

Gillum conceded the race to DeSantis.

Looked like Florida was safe as a tax sanctuary … at least for another 4 years.

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Then the worm turned.

Let’s walk thru that … and, a predictable end-game that I haven’t heard from the pundits yet.

Read the rest of this entry »

America’s “Exhausted Majority”…

November 8, 2018

Post-election, can they muscle up to pull us together?
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A lot of punditry these days about American Tribalism … categorizing people by common interests …  usually with a demographic slant (i.e. race. gender, and location – urban, rural; coastal or Heartland).

Those “tribes” are usually characterized as warring factions with little in common.

The result: sharp differences and apparently intractable political polarization.

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An organization called More in Common did some research that takes a different cut at the situation.

Their study – America’s Hidden Tribes – identified seven distinct groups of Americans. These are our Hidden Tribes of America: distinguished not by who they are or what they look like, but what they believe. (Below – at end of this post – are descriptions of the groups)

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The study reached three fundamental conclusions…

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Bottom line: The stock market likes the results.

November 7, 2018

Brace for 2 years of Congressional theatrics, legislative gridlock, Executive Orders and  judicial appointments.

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Here are a couple of morning after thoughts from the election:

  1. Big win for prognosticators … on balance, the election turned out the way Silver, et. al., said it would – split decision with an expanded GOP majority in the Senate.
  2. Money down rabbit holes … big money bets by Bloomberg, Streyer, Soros, etc., made for some tight races, but no wins.
  3. Obama was a non-factor … the candidates that he stumped for came up short: Gillum, Abrams, Cordray (former head of BHO’s CFPB)
  4. So were the celebs … think: Oprah, Buffett, oh yeah, Taylor Swift.
  5. MSNBC first with many calls … I was flipping channels and MSNBC beat Fox to the punch on many calls (e.g. Cruz over Beto); big exception was Fox’s early call that the House would flip.
  6. Another Reid Rule kicks in … remember how Harry Reid refused to take up hundreds of bills passed by the GOP led Congress? Well, what goes around, comes around … gridlock is alive and well.
  7. Time for “pen and phone” … remember how a stymied Obama turned Executive Orders into a governance art form? A favorable judiciary looked the other way as Congress was rendered inconsequential.  Bet on Trump to apply the precedent.
  8. Here come the judges … no secret that the GOP will use its Senate majority to pack the courts with Constitutionalists … again, big thanks to Harry Reid for implementing the nuclear option.
  9. Tax migrants sigh relief … couple of close calls – especially Florida – but tax & spend progressives were fended off … whew!
  10. Stock market is up … past couple of days have been good and today’s futures are up … let’s see if that trend is enduring.

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Silver’s hedge: ”Bet’s off if there is a systematic polling error”

November 6, 2018

And, a Vegas odds-maker says that’s likely.

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Let’s connect a couple of dots today…

Nate Silver is the Democrat’s predictor of choice.

Remember, he’s the guru who said – on the day before the 2016 election – that Hillary had a greater than 90% chance of winning.

Oops.

Of course, he retroactively said that he was talking about the popular vote – not the pesky electoral college …. and Hillary’s 90% meant conversely that Trump had a slim statistical chance that happened to materialize..

Vindicated, right?

So, what is Silver saying about today’s elections?

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Cutting to the chase, he says that Democrats have an 86% chance of taking control of the House.

But, wiser with age, Nate is explicitly hedging his bet this time….

 

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Here’s Silver’s final pre-election banner headline:

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Directly on-point,  he says:

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Hmmm

Could it be that the polling data is “systematically wrong” … again?

Read the rest of this entry »

How do you feel about the country’s direction?

November 5, 2018

Here’s a variant of the question: Are you better off than you were 2 years ago?
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According to the mainstream media, America is going to hell in a handbasket.

Evidence: Only 40% of Americans think that the country is on track and  moving in the right direction.

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True, but let’s put that number in perspective…

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