Archive for December, 2019

Merry Christmas … 45 Lessons in Life

December 24, 2019

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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The perils of long-term financial planning…

December 24, 2019

A couple of months ago, we alerted readers that Congress was targeting frugal estate planner by considering an end to so-called “stretch” IRAs.

Well they did it.

While folks were fixated on a shiny object, Congress passed a massive spending bill … with some of the outrageous spending being funded by limiting IRA benefits..

Why’s that important?

Here’s our original post, in case your memory needs a jogging…

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According to a WSJ recap…

Conventional financial planning wisdom has been to put as much money as possible into IRAs and 401Ks … starting early, maxing plan contributions, benefiting from company matches, growing accounts tax-free … and, if you don’t end up spending all of the dough in retirement, pass anything left in the pot to heirs.

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While that basic logic still holds, Congress is moving to throw a monkey wrench into the works by substantially increasing the tax burden on heirs.

Here’s what’s going on…

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Reading minds to discern intentions…

December 23, 2019

An opinion piece by Sharyl Attkisson in The Hill titled “Democrats can read minds” crystalized something that’s been bothering me for awhile.

Last week, IG Horowitz outlined 17 (or more) mega-errors in the FBI FISA process.

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Though all of the miscues were material and in the direction of securing warrants to surveil Trump campaigners, Horowitz asserted that he didn’t have testimonial or evidential proof (i.e. “smoking guns”) that the “mistakes” were the result of political bias.

Said differently, Horowitz refused to draw a conclusion re: motivation because “I can’t read minds”.

Fair enough.

The current FBI / FISA situation was reminiscent of Comey’s press conference re: Hillary’s transgressions…

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From imminent existential threat to our national security and democracy to …

December 20, 2019

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I’m hopelessly confused …

The “Intelligence Community” IG said that the whistleblower’s hearsay narrative must be considered immediately or the nation would perish.

Nadler & Schiff said that there wasn’t time to let the courts rule on constitutional issues.

Pelosi said that with each tick of the clock our national security and democracy itself were threatened.

The case was proven … uncontested … unanimous among disgruntled state department bureaucrats and Trump-hating law professors.

So, it was a sad, solemn day — Trump had to be impeached along partisan party lines … now!

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Then fast forward to the next morning.

No, we’re not going wheel our articles of impeachment and empty box evidence over to the Senate.

That can wait until after our Christmas break.

Say, what?

This has certainly gone from the sublime to the ridiculous at warp speed.

  • Def’n: A change from something very good or serious to something silly or unimportant.

So, should I fret that the world is crashing … or chill knowing that it was (another) hyperventilation-inducing hoax.

Somebody help me with this….

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“If you’re going to shoot the king, don’t miss”

December 19, 2019

On a party line vote, Dems declare war (and it’s going to be ugly)
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Last night, there was a remarkable split screen on TV that you may have missed  if you were glued to CNN or MSNBC.

On one side of the TV screen was the Congress voting along partisan party lines to impeach President Trump for going 61 MPH in a 55 MPH zone.

On the other side was a shot of Trump holding an arena-jammed “in your face“ rally in Michigan — a battleground election state — both figuratively and, now literally..

  • Note: Specifically, the rally was held in Battle Creek — the home district of former Republican Congressman Justin Amash who is rumored to be a member of the Dems prosecution team for the Senate trial “since he is able to speak to conservatives”

The split screen immediately brought to mind the admonition commonly attributed to Machiavelli:

“If you’re going to shoot the king, don’t miss”.

Even the Dems had to know that there aren’t 67 Senators who will vote to remove Trump based on the Dems constitutionally shaky articles of impeachment and a pile of hearsay dished by a stream of dismayed and defrocked state department shills.

So, why did they do it?

Surely, the couldn’t have thought that Trump would just retreat to a shell and politely watch the process evolve.

Haven’t the Dems read “The Prince”?

It’s going to get ugly.

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For historical accuracy: Though commonly attributed, Machiavelli didn’t really  write those words in “The Prince”.

Here’s the story…..

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Ken’s Political Engagement Index — the PEI

December 18, 2019

Though trained as an econometrician, I’m a simple guy at heart … always looking for a simple (but information-rich) indicator of what’s happening.

For example, my UEI (Ultimate Economic Index) is based on how long it takes to receive a non-Prime Amazon “free shipping” order.

Let’s do another one…

There are lots of polls done that try to measure how engaged or enthusiastic members of a political party are at any point in time … or respective of current events.

My PEI (Political Engagement Index) cut to to the chase).

I look to cable TV ratings … how right-leaning FOX is doing relative to left-leaning MSNBC and CNN … or, more specifically, how Hannity is doing compared to Maddow.

In “normal” times — i.e. no frenzied events like an impeachment — Hannity and Maddow jockey for the top spot.

Using ratings as a PEI, look what happened last week during last week’s Nadler hearings.

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Data Source

FOX snagged the top 5 slots … led by Hannity and Tucker.

Look specifically at the Hannity – Maddow match-up.  Maddow trailed Hannity by a statistically significant 33%.

My read: As the Dems case for impeachment weakened and weakened … and, as ardent Dems began to realize that they were on a fool’s mission with certainty that Trump wouldn’t be bounced from office …  Dem viewers’ interest in the proceedings waned.

Looks to me like the GOP is more energized than the Dems right now.

Maybe love will trump hate after all.

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Still again, thanks Chairman Nadler.

December 16, 2019

Polling the public: the nays have it.

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OK, the Judicial Committee voted allong part lines to impeach … and Nadler published a 500 page report defending the decision.

With those acts in the book, there should be a public groundswell for impeachment, right?

Nope.

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According to the RCP poll-of-polls, the lines have crossed and opposition to impeachment / removal now has a plurality:

Now, 46.7% support impeachment … but,  oppose impeachment … 47.3% oppose it.

For the first time, opposition has a plurality.

Nice job Schiff & Nadler!

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Ken’s UEI (Ultimate Economic Indicator) … the real gauge of the economy.

December 16, 2019

Recently, I placed an Amazon order for a pair of shoes … checked ‘free shipping’ (not Prime) … and it took 10 days for the order to arrive on my doorstep.

Why is that important”

There are a lot of indicators bandied about to ‘prove’ how well or poorly the economy is doing.

There’s GDP, unemployment, CPI, and many, many other metrics.

Sometimes they provide a consistent view of the economy … sometimes they contradict.

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Well, I now rely on my Ultimate Economic Indicator (UEI). An indisputable measure of economic activity …

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Thanks again, Chairman Nadler!

December 13, 2019

A milestone today in the RCP poll-of-polls

Support for impeachment and removal has dropped … opposition has increased … and, for the first time, support / opposition is now dead even.

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Pelosi said no impeachment without bipartisan Congressional support and a groundswell of public support.

Well, looks like it’ll be partisan support and bipartisan opposition in Congress … and by the time the vote is taken next week, a plurality of public opposition to impeachment and removal.

Hmm.

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Are you doing better than you were 3 years ago?

December 12, 2019

The classic Ronald Reagan campaign question seems likely to be resurrected in the 2020 election.

And, guess what?

Based on a recent Quinnipiac poll

A majority — 57% of registered voters — think they’re better off now.

The breakdown: 87% of Republicans and 54% of independents  think they’re doing better today … only 1/3 of  Democrats share the joy.

Hmm.

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A couple of other interesting cuts …

A higher proportion of younger registered voters (think: millennials) think they’re doing better today (66%) … but less than half (47%) of seniors feel the same way.

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Two-thirds of whites think they’re doing better today … half of Hispanics think they’re doing better … but less than 1/3 of blacks think they’re doing better.

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I guess the Macedonian “content farms” are in the clear, right?

December 11, 2019

The Dems are now arguing that — since the Russians hacked the 2016 election — then it is simply a conspiracy theory to think that the Ukrainians did, too.

Apparently, there can only be one designated “meddler”.

My question: Using the same logic, aren’t the Macedonians innocent, too?

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In case you’ve forgotten about the Macedonians, let’s flash back to one of Hillary’s first book launches…

Remember when HRC perched on a faux-throne at CodeCon and the Javits Center … spilled the beans on why she lost?

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Of course, there are the usual villains: Comey, the Russians, WikiLeaks, deplorables, etc.

But, she’s also starting to turn on her support base: the DNC (bad data, no money, no ground game), mainstream media (for disclosing that she had classified docs on her server), women (both suburban and rural, urbans were ok), and low-information voters (her base !).

My personal favorite: “content farms in Macedonia” … apparently there’s an army of tech savvy social media writers based in Macedonia who turned their cannons on her.

Really?

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Here’s a current list of culprits and ill-wishers …

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Trump contemptuous of Congress…

December 10, 2019

Just like the vast majority of Americans !

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Here’s a set of stats to keep in mind when you watch or hear about Nadler’s impeachment hearings…

Trump has a 43.7% job approval.

Pelosi is at 37.1% favorability.

And, my favorite: only 26% have a “positive opinion of” Adam Schiff.

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Surprisingly, Schiff low-ball 26% pulls up the Congressional numbers ..

According to the RCP poll-of-polls, only 22% of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing.

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Seems like contempt of Congress is even more widely spread than Trump-hating.

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Thank you, Chairman Nadler!

December 9, 2019

Last week, we posted survey results seeming to indicate that the uptick in impeachment opposition that was increasing during the hearings …  was dissipating during the Congressional Thanksgiving recess.

At the time, I opined: I’m glad that Jerry Nadler is going to restart hearings and start drafting articles of impeachment. For sure, that’ll rally the opposition.

If you’ve been glued to CNN or MSNBC, all you’ve been hearing is how the 3 Trump-hating law professors hit it out of the park with their bombshell testimony … and, surely, support for impeachment would now sky-rocket.

  • Note: I know that’s true b/c I’m a channel switcher.

But, as is usually the case, facts (not opinions), get in the way of the Trump-hating narrative.

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Based on the most recent RCP poll-of-polls, after the Nadler & Eggheads show, opposition to the impeachment inquiry process turned up again … and support for the inquisition dropped.

So, the gap has narrowed … to now be within the polls margin of error.

More hearings this week … that should close the gap even further … and keep impeachment support well below Pelosi’s stated requirement of “compelling public support and bipartisan Congressional approval.”

As a self-proclaimed devout Catholic who prays every day for President Trump, she wasn’t lying, was she?

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Cognitive biases: Falling for false expertise …

December 6, 2019

This week’s “constitutional” hearings reminded me:

People don’t naturally know who they should listen to.
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Worse yet, in a majority of instances when a reliable expert is identified, people end up following somebody else’s advice.

That’s what Univ. of Utah’s management professor Bryan Bonner concludes.

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Bonner observes that rather than identifying advisers with actual competence, people habitually fall for spurious “proxies of expertise”.

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‘Ramblings of a basement blogger’ … say, what?

December 5, 2019

OK, maybe I’m being hyper-sensitive, but…

A couple of weeks ago, we posted the sad story of Maria Yovanovitch — who Trump “re-posted” (i.e. fired) from her position as ambassador to Ukraine — and “relegated her” to a teaching gig at Georgetown (at full government rank and pay).

Sensitive-me pointed out that when I got an offer to teach at Georgetown after 2+ decades in corporate and consulting jobs, I considered it an opportunity to change careers and pursue a life dream … I didn’t think that I was being relegated to to some junk heap job.

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Fast forward to yesterday…

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Burst the bubble !

December 4, 2019

High time to decentralize the government … at least geographically
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I’ve long been a proponent of moving some (or many) Federal government agencies out of Washington to other locales … e.g. cities & states that have been upended by globalization-induced deindustrialization.

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The idea has often been floated, but rejected.

The usual arguments: (1) Gov’t employees — especially departmental honchos — need to be geographically co-located in order to coordinate services and activities across agencies (2) The gov’t has already amassed a formidable network of real estate holdings in DC (think: offices) (3) there is a massive organization of gov’t employees (note that I try to avoid the term “government workers”)  up and operating. 

But, the idea of decentralizing the Federal government seems to be gaining some momentum…

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Smart states voted for Hillary, dumb states voted for Trump … right?

December 3, 2019

A friend sent along a study by an organization called SafeHome that ranks states by their relative “smartness”.

More specifically, the study used a formula that “takes into account college degrees, high school graduation, professional or advanced degrees and test scores to create a smartest states ranking.”

So, “smartness” isn’t just native IQ, it’s opportunity and achievement, too.

Without quibbling over the criteria or the formula, here is the answer:

imageclick to see the state by state details

I suspect that my friend was multi-motivated, sending me the study because (1) it’s interesting, (2) New Jersey — her home state — topped the list, and (3) it would prove that smart voted for HRC and dumb voted for DJT.

Of course, I had to drill down to see if #3 is true…

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Thank God, the impeachment hearings are starting up again…

December 2, 2019

There was practically no T-Day chatter among our friends & family re: the impeachment hearings.

It wasn’t out of respect for the holiday, it was pure apathy re: impeachment and the Schiff inquisition.  Vast majority didn’t watch any of the hearings … and, flat out didn’t care.

So, I was surprised when I checked the polls to see how the numbers are moving.

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Bottom line:

According to the RCP poll-of-polls … since Congress went on recess (i.e. no hearings held) … support for the hearings increased a bit … support is up by a point, opposition is down by a point.

Could be that Dem Congressmen were able to rally the cause when they went back home for the recess … or it could just be rounding error … or it could just be that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Presuming the latter, I’m glad that Jerry Nadler is going to restart hearings and start drafting articles of impeachment.

For sure, that’ll rally the opposition.

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