Archive for January, 2018

SOTU: Two images tell the whole story …

January 31, 2018

When Trump reported that the unemployment rate for Blacks has reached a historical low …


Apparently words & promises speak louder than actions and results.


When  CBS flash polled speech-watchers …


Sample was skewed (slightly) to Republicans … many ‘haters’ didn’t watch … hmmm.



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As if forgetting stuff wasn’t bad enough …

January 31, 2018

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


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 …


Tax Migration: Which states are losing income? Which are gaining?

January 30, 2018

A friend alerted me to a very cool web site called How Money Walks

Stated simply, the IRS captures data from income tax returns – tracks year-to-year changes in the filer’s address (intra or inter-state) – aggregates the data by county (and state) – and calculates the net movement on AGI in and out.

Below is the overall, U.S. map – red indicates a net income outflow; green indicates a net income inflow.

click to go to the How Money Walks interactive map

No surprise, Florida is the big winner with a cumulative annual AGI inflow of $156 billion.

New York is the big loser with a a cumulative annual AGI outflow of $99 billion

Drilling down is where things get interesting.

For example ….

Florida’s increase net inflow has been on a steady rise.

Most of the “new” money is from high tax & spend states: New York, New Jersey and Illinois.



On the flipside, New has had a steady net income outflow to low-tax Florida and North Carolina … and its sisters in the Tri-State area – New Jersey and Connecticut.



If you want to get more granular, How Money Moves lets you drill down to the county levels to track movements.


To have some fun slicing and dicing,  go to the How Money Walks website and just point & click.

WARNING: Playing with this data can get addicting.


Thanks to GFB for feeding the lead.



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More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

January 29, 2018

The tech behind biometric fingerprints


In prior posts, I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … and recounted the plausible explanations for why Mickey digitally records guests’ fingerprints when then enter the park.

Ostensibly, the purpose is fraud protection – keeping folks from passing along their partially used tickets for reuse.

Of course, there are other sorts of uses for digital fingerprints (e.g. catching bad guys) … and ways that the information can be misused.



With my curiosity aroused, I did some digging re: digital fingerprints.


More Disney: Why is Mickey fingerprinting me?

January 26, 2018

A plausible “why” and a very interesting “how”.
Note: We’re doing an amusement park case in class this week … .

In a prior post Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney? , I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … the Magic Bands than let me into my hotel room & the park, Fast-Passed me to the front of lines, and “personalized” my family’s experience with real-time greetings and photos.

I noted that I was digitally fingerprinted when I entered the park and asked if anybody could tell me why.


A couple of loyal readers clued me and provoked some digging.

Here’s what I learned …


Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

January 25, 2018

Note: We’re doing an amusement park case in class this week …


Disney’s technology applications are impressive.

I know because I took a fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) to Disney World.

Here’s some of what I found.


No surprise, there was a huge rush of “guests” entering the Magic Kingdom when the gates opened at 8 a.m.

The crowd measured into the thousands … all needing to be security-screened.

All bags and strollers had to be hand-checked … all kids – big & little – had to be ushered through metal detectors.

Nightmare, right?

Maybe at the airport, but not at Disney.

Our wait & processing time: less than 10 minutes.


Then came the good part…


How Trump got the Dems to blink …

January 24, 2018

It only took 2 well-timed tweets.


The Dems had Trump on the ropes, right?

Republicans always get blamed for government shut-downs … and, the majority of Americans are ok with Dreamers being allowed to stay in the country.

Should have been an easy  win for the Dems.

So, what the heck happened?

Here’s my take ….


First, Trump plays hard-to-get on an extension to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) … then he reluctantly agrees to let Ryan insert it into the Continuing Resolution (CR).

The Dems complain that the extension is too short, so he concedes to stretching its funding out to 9 years.

Dems do an end zone dance … a bit prematurely.

You see, CHIP became a sort of poison pill.

When the Dems shut things down, he tweeted:


Boom !

Just like that, the debate got framed as healthcare for 8.9 million American-citizen children versus citizenship benefits for 800,000 non-citizens.

On a dime, the polls started to turn against the Dems.

And, to make the Dems a bit uneasy, he tweeted again …


California braces for outbound migration of fat cats…

January 23, 2018

Loss of SALT deduction may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.


Last week, we reported some moving data from United Van Lines that indicated “moving deficits” in high tax & spend states: Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts.

See Northeast states continue to experience a “moving deficit”…

We expressed surprise that California was rated as “neutral” not “outbound”.

Well, according to the Sacramento Bee, it’s just a matter of time.


Even Gov. Jerry Brown has observed: ““People with higher incomes will pay a lot taxes (when SALT taxes deductions are cut), and some of them may be tempted to leave.”

That’s a problem because “The state’s wealthiest 1% pay 48 percent of its income tax, and the departure of just a few families could lead to a noticeable hit to state general fund revenue.”

In the past, California passed tax increases with impunity, assuming that “elites are embedded in the regions (like California) where they achieve success, and they have limited interest in moving to procure tax advantages.”

Now, that’s not a certainty, and the state is considering some very creative (and, somewhat laughable) ways to offset the likely drop in individual tax receipts ….


Are Dems taunting Trump into pushing the nuclear button?

January 22, 2018

Maybe it’s time to kill the legislative filibuster …

Trying to pin the shut-down on Trump & the GOP, Dem front-men and their supportive media keep repeating the same refrain:

They control the White House and both houses of Congress … how can they not be responsible?”

CNN’s Jim Acosta asked that question of OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and was summarily schooled on the obvious.


The short clip is worth viewing but, if you’re in a rush, here’s the story …


Northeast states continue to experience a “moving deficit”…

January 19, 2018

Each year, United Van Lines reports a tally of moves into and out of states,

If a state has more outbound moves than inbound moves, it has a “moving deficit.

The headline for 2017 is no surprise:

Illinois and New Jersey lead the pack with with 63% outbound, followed by  New York (61%), Connecticut (57%) and Massachusetts (56%).


Now, what do those states have in common?

Besides cold weather, they’re states with very high state and local taxes.

So, it’s no surprise that folks are heading for the exits.

And, the data is for 2017.

Imagine what the migration pattern will look like in 2018 now that the SALT deduction has been largely eliminated.


P.S. Only surprise to me is that California is able to to stay put in the “neutral” column … could be the warm weather and scenic views … but, gotta wonder where all the inbounds are coming from.

Hmmm …



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Feldstein: Stocks are headed for a fall …

January 18, 2018

“The Fed’s easy monetary policy has led to overvalued equities”


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”.


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.


“When are things going to get fair?”

January 17, 2018

A hotel employee asked me that pointed question …


This is a story with a happy ending …

We were on a family road trip, staying at the Marriott Courtyard in Princeton, NJ.


After working out, my wife and I looked around for the usual coffee-in-the-lobby.

Not seeing any, we approached the front desk and asked where the coffee was.

The desk person said that the pay-for-coffee restaurant would be opening in 15 minutes.

A very nice lady standing behind the desk clerk offered: “Interested in a complementary cup  of coffee? Follow me …”

We did.

Here’s the rest of the story …


Is there another Y2K on the horizon?

January 16, 2018

Oregon goes “non-binary”.


Let’s connect a couple of dots today …

First, the White House recently announced  that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies.

Included was an obscure rule that requires agencies to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted many computer systems when the calendar turned on January 1, 2000 – more than 16 years ago.

Tech note: In the 1900’s, to save tape and disk space, most computer programs coded years in 2-digits, e.g. ‘1988’= ’88’.

But, coding ‘2000’ as ‘00’ would cause many problems since computers would think the ‘00’ would mean 1900, e.g  a baby born on January 1, 2000 would be 100 years old at birth.

Date-dependent programs were affected, and the fixes were both costly and time-consuming. But, the job got done!



Seven of the 50 paperwork requirements that were eliminated dealt with the Y2K bug.

OMB estimates that the changes could save tens of thousands of man-hours across the federal government.


The second story comes from the state of Oregon:


Oregon became the first state to allow residents to identify as “nonbinary,” neither male nor female, on their driver licenses and identification cards.Beginning July 1, Oregonians will be able to choose “X” for sex Instead of “F” or “M” on their licenses and identification cards.

Most Oregonians favored the change.


So, what’s the problem?


Test your geo-climate knowledge …

January 12, 2018

What is this a picture of?


OK, let’s make the question easier – a multiple choice:

(A)  A portion of the Arctic where global warming has melted parts of the Polar Icecap.

(B)  A part of the Sahara Desert where snow has fallen for the 2nd time in 40 years?

And, the answer is …


Frat boys party more, study less and earn more … say, what?

January 11, 2018

Fraternities get a lot of press.

You know: Heavy drinking, hazing tragedies and pure goofiness.

Why would anybody want their sons to join one?

Well, a couple of economists at Union College did a study that makes joining a fraternity look like a very rational decision.


Here’s the scoop …


Quick: how many 3’s in the block of numbers?

January 10, 2018

Let’s test our cognitive skills today..


For my consulting course, I’ve been reading up on storytelling and data visualization.

Hit pay dirt with a book called  Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals.

One of the topics is how to leverage pre-attentive attributes – visual cues that can influence what information catches a reader’s eye on a slide or chart … think: “shiny objects”.

To demonstrate the concept of pre-attentive attributes: Observe the block of numbers below … how many 3’s are there in this block of numbers?


And, the answer is …


Who consumes the most fake news?

January 9, 2018

And, are they swayed by it?

Interesting article in the WSJ channeling a study by three political scientists from Princeton, Dartmouth and the University of Exeter…

The objective of their study was to validate or refute the common Democratic hypothesis that “fake news” elected Donald Trump … that “Trump voters were duped by fringe websites that traffic in misinformation, and that if those voters were better informed, Hillary Clinton would be president today.”


Their findings may surprise you …


Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation.

January 8, 2018

A new book says that not all of the “shaping” has been good.

According to the WSJ

Over the weekend, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — which control about $2 billion of Apple shares — sent a letter to Apple urging the company to “develop new software tools that would help parents control and limit phone use more easily and to study the impact of overuse on mental health.”

Apparently, they got the word that “obsessive teenage phone usage may be causing increased rates in teen depression and suicide and that phones are replacing old-fashioned human interaction.”

No kidding. We were all over this topic last fall.

Here’s a timely flashback …


Last fall, when Apple celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the iPhone and launch of iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook boasted:

Having sold over one billion units and enabling millions of apps that have become essential to people’s daily routine …

The iPhone redefined how consumers live, work, communicate, and entertain.

I chalked it up as marketing hype, but then …

I started reading a recently released book (coincidence?) called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

The author is Jean Twenge, a psychology prof with a specialty in “generational differences” who is credited with coining the newest generation “iGen”.

mazon link

Prof Twenge agrees with Cook’s basic claim that the iPhone has redefined life.

But, she argues, not all of the redefinition is positive … specifically highlighting the decline in in-person social interaction and a sharp rise in mental health issues among iGens.

Let’s start at the beginning ….


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

January 5, 2018

Reason #12 – When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?


For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

Moving on …


Last summer, I posted a series The 10 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Then, I added Reason #11 – Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Loyal readers had to know that this one was coming …


Reason #12 – When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?

OK, I concede that last summer had some scorching moments … creating an opportunity for the “warmists” to shout from every rooftop:

“See, I told you so.  Climate is changing, climate is changing. Globe is warming. It’s your fault.”

You see, a hot spell is “climate” … and ample proof of the warming dogma.


OK, lets fast-forward to the past couple of bone chilling weeks.

I grew up in Cleveland and lived in Minneapolis, Chicago and Connecticut … so I know snow and cold.

These past couple of weeks have been the worst prolonged deep cold spell that I can remember.

And, the record low temps are spread wide … and deep into the South.

Click to enlarge

Of course, global warming skeptics have headlined the cold spell as an inconvenient fact for global warmists.

Not to worry.

The warmists simply school ignorant skeptics by dismissing the cold spell as “weather” not “climate”.

So, when is weather “climate” … and when it it just garden variety “weather”?


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

January 4, 2018

Reason #11- Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”


For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

And, I’ve personally had the eyes of 2 hurricanes literally pass right over my house, so I’m aware of their devastating potential.

I have friends and family in Houston and scattered around Florida. They and other hurricane victims have my deepest sympathy.

Moving on …


Last summer, I posted a series The 10 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Then, a celebrity phone-a-thon for Harvey & Irma victims prompted me to add to the list.

Let’s flashback to Reason $11 to set-up tomorrow’s Reason #12


Reason #11- Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

The quote is generally attributed to Rahm Emmanuel – former of Obama chief-of-staff and currently Mayor of murder- riddled Chicago.

Hurricanes Harvey & Irma put the credo into action …

At 8 o’clock, I tuned in the see the semi-finals of my favorite TV show: America’s Got Talent.

Imagine my disappointment when I saw that the show was being delayed (to past my bed time) for a celebrity fund-raiser.

OK, I figured … let’s watch an hour of pros sing and dance.

Cue the first act: Little Stevie Wonder … err, I mean Stevie Wonder … err again, I mean Steven Wonder … whatever.


Pre-ambling his ditty, Mr. Wonder preached:

“It just loves. As we should begin to love and value our planet.”

So far, so good.

Then the pivot:

Anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.”

He made a lightning-fast pivot from the hurricane disasters to climate change.

Conveniently, ignoring a few facts …


Study: Chances of dying are greater if your doctor is over 60.

January 3, 2018

And, some advice for hedging your bets.

Researchers at Harvard scoured the records of 730,000 patients treated between 2011 and 2014 by more than 18,800 hospital-based internists (now called “hospitalists”).

The results were originally published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and recapped in StudyFinds:

Patients are 1.3% more likely to die when treated by doctors over the age of 60, than if they’re treated by doctors under 40.

That translates to one additional death for every 77 patients under the care of a doctor over 60.


What’s going on?


Will 143 million households notice that their taxes have been cut?

January 2, 2018

Trump and the GOP face some formidable headwinds …


First, let’s deal with the numbers …

According to a recent Monmouth University poll,  50% of the public believes the federal taxes they pay will go up under the GOP’s tax plan; 25%think their taxes will stay the same, and just 14%say their taxes will go down.

Say, what?

The good news – according MarketWatchMarketWatch and the non-partisan Tax Policy Center   — is that about 143 million “tax units” (think: households) will pay lower taxes next year and only about 8.5 million will pay higher taxes. That’s a 94% / 6% split.

Note: The Joint Committee on Taxation, which is Congress’s independent number cruncher, came up with similar numbers. They found the average tax rate would fall to 19% from 20.7%. The tax rate for those with an adjusted gross income between $50,000 to $75,000 would see their tax rate fall to 13.5% from 14.8%.


For the most popular bracket — the $50,000 to $75,000 range – the average tax cut will be $870.

Technical note: The Tax Policy Center slots folks based on “expanded cash income” that includes cash income plus tax-exempt employee and employer contributions to health insurance and other fringe benefits, employer contributions to tax-preferred retirement accounts, income earned within retirement accounts, and food stamps.

The big question is whether the tax cut beneficiaries will notice the difference and applaud the tax cut.

My conclusion: The GOP is facing some perceptual headwinds…