Archive for January, 2019

What percentage of Americans speak a language other than English at home?

January 31, 2019

More important: does it matter?
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Earlier this week, liberal newser Tom Brokaw set off a firestorm when he dared to say on MTP:

“Hispanic immigrants need to do a better job of assimilating to the United States and teaching their children to speak English.”

The backlash — from the left no less – was fast and brutal.

Brokaw was accused of being a racist (really?) and of being insensitive to immigrants’ culture.

So, Brokaw backpedaled from his statement and apologized

Yipes.

Let’s take a step back and look at some data.

According to a WaPo analysis of Census Dept. data, about 1 in 5 U.S. households don’t speak English at home.

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That’s up from 1 in 10 back in the 1980s.

A pretty steep increase that begs a bigger question: does it matter?

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Cutting to the chase: What exactly is Trump demanding?

January 30, 2019

As the Senate-Congressional conferees kick-off their negotiations, the MSM is still harping on the political-emotional hysteria and continuing to insinuate that Trump wants a Chinese-like concrete wall that runs the entire expanse of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Very misleading…

Let’s take a step back and put the “demand” in context:

The U.S.-Mexican border is about 2,000 miles long … 1,954 to be precise.

About 700 miles of walls and fencing are already in place (e.g, the wall separating San Diego from Tijuana)

  • About 400 miles of the barriers are designed to stop pedestrian traffic
  • About 300 miles is “vehicle fencing”  which blocks vehicles but allows people on foot to cross easily.

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The Sand Diego – Tijuana border

So, what exactly is Trump demanding?

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“Shutdown proved the value of government” … say, what?

January 29, 2019

A blurb in the NY Times caught my eye:

The great irony is that the shutdown only proved the indispensable value of the very government Trump so often expresses such disdain for.”

I hate to resort to facts, but ABC-and the Washington Post teamed up on a  projectable poll in which 18% of Americans said they had been inconvenienced by the shutdown.

Is 18% a big number or a little number?

To put that number in perspective, take the converse of the WaPo finding:

82% of Americans had 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.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal.

But, the 35-day shutdown did surface a significant pain point: government managed air travel air travel…

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What the hell is he thinking?

January 28, 2019

And. what’s his next move?
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Gotta admit, I was surprised that the self-proclaimed tough man folded so quickly.

Driving around on Friday morning, I heard the the headlines:”Flights delayed at LaGuardia due to air controller absences.”

But, the story didn’t exactly match the severity of the news reader’s tonality as he read that there were 15 minute gate holds and some arriving flights were instructed to take a lap in holding patterns.

Geez, that sounds like a pretty normal day at any of the big airports.

When I got to my destination I was pleasantly out of media reach.

Then … BAM!

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No way to spin it … the man threw in the towel … proclaiming that he was going to trust Lucy (Nancy Pelosi) to tee up the ball again … and negotiate a wall-inclusive compromise in the next couple of weeks.

Are you kidding me?

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So, what’s really going to happen next?

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Dems put another precedent in place…

January 25, 2019

This one will backfire, too.
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For openers, I don’t give a hoot whether this (or any future) State of the Union address is held.

I can rarely stay glued to the TV when the Leader of the Free World drones on and on about what a fine job he’s doing … and present a laundry list of priorities which will never see the light of day.

Usually, I do enjoy the opposition party’s rebuttals … they’re always so awful that they’re entertaining … think: Jindal’s zombie-like pitch, Rubio’s futile reach for the water or Schumer-Pelosi’s  recent Ma & Pa Kettle response to Trump’s oval office pitch.

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If I were advising Trump, I’d advise him to mail in the SOTU … then go on a 4-week barnstorming tour of the Midwest & South. Why subject himself to the Dem frowns, eyerolls and catcalls?  That’ll happen now or in a couple of weeks,  So, bag it Donald.

That said, here’s what I find interesting about the current situation….

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Trust me, in 30 days we’ll do what we haven’t done in 30 years…

January 24, 2019

Will he fall for that disingenuous “promise” again?

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Today, the Senate is due to vote on Trump’s plan to open the government, secure the border and extend DACA  protections … and a Democratic bill to punt the issue (again): “open the government and we’ll negotiate (when we’ve stripped you of all your leverage).

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As Trump likes to say: “We’ll see what happens.”

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“I’m a security monitor”

January 23, 2019

An oft repeated  Dem talking point is that walls don’t work.

When they’re confronted with the success rates of the many walls securing borders around the world, they shift to “but there are more cost-effective methods.”

What are these more effective methods?

As best I can tell, it’s throwing human capital at the problem (think: more border agents) … or enhanced electronic surveillance  (think: drones).

Whenever you hear the latter argument, do what I do: recall the Lifelock commercial “Bank”.

When armed robbers rush into a bank, the scared customers implore the security guard to do something.

He informs them that he’s no a “security guard” … he’s simply a powerless “security monitor”.

View the clip to refresh your memory … then recall the imagery every time you hear the phrase “methods more efficient than walls”.

Click to play
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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…

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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…

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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…

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Gov’t Insider: “Agencies working more efficiently 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 ?

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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?

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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 …

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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…

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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!

* * * * *
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.

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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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