Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Chinese cyber-threat…

May 16, 2019

Yesterday, we channeled Michael Pillsbury’s warning that It’s not Russia that we should be worrying about … it’s China!

Today, let’s dive down on a specific … the Chinese cyber-threat..

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

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

May 15, 2019

Keep that in mind during the emerging tariff war … there’s a higher purpose. 

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

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

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

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

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

May 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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Putting that hour of Facebook in perspective:

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

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

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

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

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Miranda 2019: Your DNA can and will be used against you.

May 8, 2019

You know the drill …

CSI techs find some DNA at the crime scene … they run it through the criminal database … and BAM … they got a match and the perp is arrested.

Only problem: the police database of DNA profiles is relatively limited to criminals.

What about bad guys who don’t have a criminal record?

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Well, it seems the police have come up with a clever way to to expand their DNA files … by a lot.

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

May 7, 2019

And, some advice for hedging your bets.
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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.

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What’s going on?

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I do my best thinking when I sleep … another scientific rationale.

May 3, 2019

 By default, your brain “defragments” when you sleep.

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In a prior post, we reported some scientific evidence that most people really do think when they sleep.

For details, see: I do my best thinking when I’m sleeping … say, what?

Let’s take the science a step further…

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First, an analogy…

Have you ever defragmented your computer’s hard drive?

Just in case your answer is “no” – or, you’ve never heard of defragmentation – here’s a short course:

When you save a file on your computer (think: Word, Powerpoint, Excel), the file isn’t stored in one piece.

Rather, it’s automatically broken into smaller pieces … and each piece is stashed in the first place that the computer finds an open space on the hard drive.

Since the file is stored in scattered pieces, the computer has to reassemble it when you subsequently re-open the file.

That takes time … and slows the process.

There’s a process called “defragmentation” that sorts through a computer’s hard drive, eliminates “dead links” and reassembles “live” files into contiguous pieces … making the save & open processes more efficient.

Well, it turns out that your brain comes with a process analogous to defragmentation … it’s called “synaptic pruning” … and it happens automatically when you sleep.

Here’s how it works …

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I do my best thinking when I’m sleeping … say, what?

May 2, 2019

Discussing creativity in class, I casually mentioned that I seem to do my best thinking when I’m asleep.

Specifically, I reported that I like to get to work as soon as I jump out of bed (literally) … and that I often find myself doing a brain dump of thoughts that weren’t top of mind before I’d gone nite-nite.

The revelation initially got some chuckles … then some folks started nodding and chiming in with “me, too” variants on the story.

Of course, some remained unconvinced.

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For the skeptics, here some science …

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Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford To Live Without.

April 25, 2019

From the summer reading pile.  I read ’em so you don’t have to …

Rath argues that “vital friends” play one or more of 8 roles.

Which of the role(s) do you play?  Which do each of your vital friends play?

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

April 19, 2019

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

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

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More specifically…

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More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

April 17, 2019

The tech behind biometric fingerprints

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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.

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

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More Disney: Why is Mickey fingerprinting me?

April 16, 2019

A plausible “why” and a very interesting “how”.
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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.

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

Here’s what I learned …

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Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

April 15, 2019

Disney’s technology applications are impressive (and effective)
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Last week, I took a  fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) to Disney World.

Once again, I was blown away by the park’s technology and security operations ….

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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.

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Then came the good part…

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What do colleges have in common with Kohl’s?

April 8, 2019

I oft say that anybody who pays sticker price at Kohl’s should look over their shoulder to make sure that Darwin isn’t chasing them.

Maybe the same should be said of parents who pay list price tuition to fund their kiddies through college.

Lots of talk re: how college costs are soaring.

According to the WSJ

Published tuition rates have soared in the last decade, but only a small percentage of families actually pays full freight.

Between grants to needy students and merit scholarships to entice other desirable candidates, schools these days are giving back nearly 50% of gross tuition revenue in the form of aid and awards.

In other words, list prices are going up, but more stuff is being sold at sale prices.

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Increasingly, colleges are using pricing methods previously the domain of airlines and discount retailers …

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Teachers with conservative views don’t make the cut.

April 2, 2019

Last week, we looked at the ACTA college ratings. They evaluate a school based on whether (or not) they require that students take courses (or demonstrate proficiency) in core subject areas such as math, science, and critical thinking.  And, ACTA reports scores on how well schools deliver on freedom of speech and diversity of thought. 

See Have colleges watered down their curriculums? and If your kids are college bound…

Bottom line: few schools receive stellar grades.

Wonder why?

Here’s one plausible explanation….

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GREAT article in the WSJ from MSB’s own John Hasnas – MSB Professor of Policy & Ethics: The One Kind of Diversity Colleges Avoid

His central point: When recruiting faculty, universities seek diversity by gender, race and nationality … but, not ideology.

In many instances, conservatives and libertarians need not apply.

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That conclusion probably doesn’t surprise many of you who already see the elephant in the middle of the room.

But, Prof. Hasnas provides some texture and “inside scoop”

Here are a couple of highlight snippets from the article … (more…)

In praise of math, logic, and Latin … say, what?

April 1, 2019

Classical educators argued that these disciplines are the building blocks of reasoning, problem-solving and critical thinking.

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The courses that I taught contained a heavy dose of problem-solving skills.

Early on, I’d assert my belief that that problem-solving skills can be taught – and, more importantly, learned – and set about to prove the point.

 

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I’ve been doing some summer reading on the topic of reasoning & problem-solving and learned:

“For twenty-six hundred years many philosophers and educators have been confident that reasoning could be taught.”

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A bigger college scandal than the recent admissions bruhaha…

March 26, 2019

Employers say that 9 of 10 college grads are poorly prepared.
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According to the WSJ

9 out of 10 business owners surveyed by the American Association Colleges and Universities said that recent college graduates as poorly prepared for the work force in such areas as critical thinking, communication and problem solving.

“Employers are say that they don’t care about all the knowledge you learned because it’s going to be out of date two minutes after you graduate … they care about whether you can continue to learn over time and solve complex problems.”

 

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Are employers being too critical?

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Some “interesting” SAT results …

March 21, 2019

Since SAT scores  are in the news, here’s some perspective.
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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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How to get your kids into good colleges … without cheating or bribing.

March 20, 2019

There’s a sure-fire method, but it isn’t easy.  It’s called parenting.

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Last week – in the wake of the college admissions scandal –  we posted about how Asian-American students are being admitted to highly selective (aka. ” 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 (well beyond SAT prep classes).

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

March 13, 2019

Reason #3: The “97% of scientists” baloney

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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Since AOC rolled out her Green New Deal, I’ve heard many left-leaning pundits spouting the oft-repeated but unsupported claim that 97% of scientists agree that climate change (nee, ‘global warming’) is real, man-caused and catastrophic.

Reason enough to flashback to our long ago post debunking the 97% malarkey.

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In a prior posts, I covered:

Reason #1Unsettling Science … I’ve gotten  cognitive whiplash from “Ice Age” u-turning to  “Global Warming”  …  which was slowed by an “18-year Pause” … and then wrapped in a catch-all “Climate Change”.

Reason #2Al Gore and his doomsday prediction …  in 2016 we passed his point of no return towards a true planetary emergency  … without the planet melting or exploding … and with Manhattan still above water (I think).

Let’s move on…

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My 3rd reason: The “97% of scientists” baloney.

This claim really gained traction when former President Obama tweeted:

“97% percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.”

Case closed, settled science, right?

Not so fast …

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Let’s start with a simple smell test:

Can you think of any issue that garners 97% agreement?

My bet is that 97%% of “scientists” don’t even agree that smoking causes cancer.

Pick your issue … 97% … really?

Doesn’t smell right to me, but maybe climate change the exception to the rule.

So, let’s deep dive the claim…

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The politics of the Supreme Court…

March 12, 2019

Conservatives are fretting (rightfully) that Roberts is trending liberal. 
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Let’s put SCOTUS political leanings in context….

Political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn developed  a measure to calibrate how liberal or conservative SCOTUS justices are … based on their rulings.

As near as I can tell, the measure is uncontested by either ideology.

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Source

First, let’s pull some takeaways from the chart…

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Trump may be wrong about the U.S. going socialist…

March 4, 2019

… AOC may be holding the matches, but the GOP tax reform provided the kindling. 

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Last week, I whined that – though I’m getting a tax refund this year – my income taxes went up in 2018.

I’m ok with that since I conclude that the corporate cuts turbo-charged the economy and the stock market … and my IRA account gains are much larger than my additional taxes.

But, I do have a mega-concern that I started touting way back in 2017 when the GOP tax reform was being crafted, debated and passed.

My mega-concern is the long-run tilt in voting dynamics, in the new age of the Green Dream, Medicare for All and Guaranteed Minimum Income (for those who are unable or unwilling to work).

Let’s start with a flashback…

Remember Mitt Romneys ill-timed observation about “47% of Americans”.

No, they weren’t Hillary’s “deplorables”, they were simply the folks who pay no Federal income taxes.

Well if the GOP tax plan got enacted … the 47% is still alive .. and now on steroids..

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Let’s drill down on the data…

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America’s “Exhausted Majority”…

February 28, 2019

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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Maybe there is a political middle…

February 21, 2019

In the old days it was called the “silent majority”
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yesterday, we reprised a post: America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

That analysis ended in 2014 … showing a double-humped distribution that had been separating over the past decade or so.

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New data is now available, so let’s advance the picture to 2017

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Source: WaPo analysis of Pew data

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The humps have spread further apart … indicating sharper polarization.

The peaks are higher … especially the one on the left,

Also, note the vanishing middle (the dark blue on the graphic).

Now, let’s drill down another level…

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America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

February 20, 2019

The hardening political divide in Washington remindsme of an interesting analysis that NBC’s Chuck Todd did a couple of years ago.

So, let’s flashback:

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It’s no secret that American politics has become increasingly – and maybe, irreversibly – polarized.

Of course, Obama lays blame on Trump and his band of ignorant deplorables.

Let’s look at some inconvenient facts from Todd’s analysis…

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As Meet the Press host Chuck Todd puts it:

Polarization is no longer just polluting the system — it’s paralyzing it.

The deepening divide between the right and the left has largely hollowed out the center of American politics.

Gone are the politicians who once occupied the large “middle” and the voters who once gravitated to them.

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The Pew Research Center has tracked party identity and ideology for decades.

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values.

Based on the latest Pew data (from 2014), here’s where we stand:

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What the chart means …

Democrats cluster to the left, Republicans cluster to the right.

There is less than 10% in each party leaning ideologically to the left (or right) of the other party’s median.

That’s where we are.

How did we get here?

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “I have grit!”

February 19, 2019

What is this “grit” that she’s talking about?
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Announcing her presidential candidacy (in a snow storm), Sen. Amy “Minnesota Nice” Klobuchar declared:

“I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit,” 

I doubt that Klobuchar was intentionally trying to channel Donald Trump, but …

You may remember that In his first SOTU, President Trump gave a shout-out to “American grit.”:

Together, we can reclaim our building heritage.

We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land.

And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.

So, what is this “grit” that they’re talking about?

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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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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

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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Nums: A world of battling algorithms

February 7, 2018

Some stock market pundits are charging algorithms – or more precisely, algorithmic trading –  for the  recent extreme stock market swings.

That brought to mind a very cool 15 minute TED 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
  • 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.

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

Debate Commission: “Yep, there was a problem with Trump’s audio”

September 30, 2016

This election campaign gets wackier by the day.

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After the debate, Trump complained  that his microphone wasn’t functioning properly at the debate.

“And they also had, gave me a defective mic … My mic was defective within the room.”

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Of course, Team Clinton jumped on that:

According to CNN: Trump’s Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, mocked Trump the day after the debate for complaining about his mic:

“Anybody who complains about the microphone is not having a good night.”

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I agree that it was a bad nite for the Trumpster, but …

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Are more folks employed in manufacturing jobs or government jobs?

September 21, 2016

Of course, the answer is government jobs.

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Interesting analysis by Terence Jeffrey of CNS News

According to the BLS, government employees in the United States now outnumber manufacturing employees by almost 10 million.

Federal, state and local government now employs 22,213,000 people: 2,790,000 federal employees, 5,120,000 state government employees, and 14,303,000 local government employees.

The manufacturing sector now employs 12,281,000.

A difference of almost 10 million.

 

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Note on the above chart that manufacturing employment peaked in the late 1970s at just under 20 million.

Government employment has been on a tear since the mid-1940s.

The lines crossed in the late 1980s.

While government employment has leveled off, manufacturing jobs continue to disappear.

So, the gap keeps widening and soon government employment will be twice manufacturing employment.

Think about that for a moment.

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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Is Princess Elsa an anti-Semite?

July 10, 2016

She looks very innocent ….

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But, Team Trump had to raise the controversial question…

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Comey folds!

July 5, 2016

FBI Director Comey spent 14 minutes laying out the case against Hillary Clinton:

Extremely careless handling of classified material (a felony) that in high likelihood has fallen into the hands of sophisticated enemies of the state.

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Then, he spent less than 1 minute explaining that since there was no direct evidence of wrongful intent, the FBI is recommending that no criminal charges be brought against Clinton.

A total non sequitur.

The last honest man just lost his title.

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Next time you’re stopped for doing 70 in a 55, jest tell the cop that you didn’t intend to speed.

Surely, he’ll let you off since he would have no direct evidence of your intent to speed.

Let me know how it goes.

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P.S. We called this one … See our prior post AG Lynch: “Depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is …”

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Click for a transcript of Comey’s remearks

#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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High frequency trading: A world of battling algorithms…

August 27, 2015

The extreme market volatility this week,  at least partially fueled by the algorithm-based high frequency traders, reminded me to reprise a very cool 15 minute TED Talk that is stashed in the HomaFiles archives.

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
  • 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.

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

Sparkling water … but, no brown M&Ms !

June 15, 2015

This came up in conversation over the weekend, so I thought a reprise was in order …

Awhile ago,, I was invited to do a radio interview on NPR.

When I told my daughter-in-law, she suggested that I request sparkling water and green M&Ms.

M&Ms

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I thought that was pretty funny, but didn’t know the story behind it (more…)

Nums: A world of battling algorithms

April 28, 2015

In my Strategic Business Analytics course, we were covering decision rules .. specifically, the current day importance of decision-making algorithms.

Reminded me to flashback a cool 15 minute TED 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
  • 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.

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

Nums: A world of battling algorithms

December 10, 2014

In my Strategic Business Analytics course, we were covering decision rules .. specifically, machine learning and algorithms.

Reminded me to flashback a cool 15 minute TED 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
  • 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.

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

Nums: A world of battling algorithms

October 3, 2014

Recently I gave a pitch that touched on whether quants (left-brainers) or poets (right-brainers) were on the rise.

Reminded me of a cool 15 minute TED 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
  • 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.

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

Sparkling water … but, no brown M&Ms !

August 14, 2014

Awhile ago,, I was invited to do a radio interview on NPR.

When I told my daughter-in-law, she suggested that I request sparkling water and green M&Ms.

M&Ms

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I thought that was pretty funny, but didn’t know the story behind it (more…)

Nums: A world of battling algorithms

April 16, 2014

Recently I gave a pitch that touched on whether quants (left-brainers) or poets (right-brainers) were on the rise.

Reminded me of a cool 15 minute TED 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
  • 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.

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

Nums: A world of battling algorithms

September 11, 2013

Yesterday I gave a pitch that touched on whether quants (left-brainers) or poets (right-brainers) were on the rise.

Reminded me of a cool 15 minute TED 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
  • 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.

Worth listening to this pitch … a very engaging geek who may be onto something big.

* * * * *
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma >> Latest Posts

Florida could make it an early night …

November 6, 2012

Surprised to see Florida deadlocklocked with over half the vote in …  Romney has been gaining, and may pull it out … but it shouldn’t be this close.

If Florida goes to Obam, it’s lights out.

= = = = =
On;ine tracking

Real Clear Politics is  the best vote tracker I’ve found  online ..  way better than the TV data flashes and screen crawlers

7.9%

November 2, 2012

In October there were 171,000 new jobs added.

Most of the job creation came in the services sector, with a gain of 150,000.

The unemployment rate moved higher to 7.9 .

Economists had been expecting the report to show a net of 125,000 new jobs and a steadying of the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent.

= = = = =
What Homa Files Predicted

Earlier this week, we posted Re: Friday’s big number … what to expect (if the BLS doesn’t hide-the-weinie).

We said …

My bet: They’ll report on time that the unemployment rate clicked up to 7.9% …  it’s the best “managed” number …. let’s Obama crow that it’s under the magic 8% … and, let’s Romney point out that it’s going in the wrong direction.”

Bingo !

Flash: BLS Commissioner’s post vacant since January … previously headed by Bush appointee.

October 11, 2012

That’s right, the BLS Commissioner’s position has been vacant since January 2012.  A Deputy Commissioner has been doing double-duty — running his department and overseeing day-to-day ops for the entire BLS.
BLS org chart

Question: Has Labor Secretary Hilda Solis been providing the “quality control” of the numbers coming out of BLS this year?

So, during an important time period, BLS has either been (a) under-supervised, or (b) more aggressively managed from above by one of the President’s cabinet members.

Either way, sounds like what we in b-school call “sub-optimal”.

Hmmm.

Imagine if  Jack Welch catches wind of this one.

* * * * *
Story Line

Dr. Keith Hall was the Commissioner of the BLS from January 2008 to January 2012.

He was appointed by George W. Bush (uh-oh) and approved by the Senate to serve a 4-year term

When his term expired, President Obama cut him loose, and still hasn’t filled the position.

Since January,  the entire Bureau of Labor Statistics has apparently been managed more directly by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, with day-to-day ops handled by Deputy Commissioners.

The Labor Secretary, of course, is a cabinet member reporting to President Obama

* * * * *
Resume: Hilda Solis

Hilda Lucia Solis is the 25th United States Secretary of Labor, serving in the Obama administration.

She is a member of the Democratic Party and served in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2009, representing the 31st and 32nd congressional districts of California.

She gained degrees from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) and the University of Southern California (USC) and worked for two federal agencies in Washington, D.C.

She was elected to the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees in 1985, the California State Assembly in 1992, and the California State Senate in 1994. She was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the State Senate, and was reelected there in 1998.

Solis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, where she focused mainly on labor causes and environmental work.

She was reelected easily to four subsequent terms.

In December 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Solis as the next United States Secretary of Labor.

She took office after being confirmed by the United States Senate in February 2009, becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve in the U.S. Cabinet

Source

* * * * *
Resume: Dr. Keith Hall

Keith Hall received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Virginia and M.S. and Ph.D. in Economics from Purdue University.

Prior to his government service, Dr. Hall was a full time-faculty member in the economics departments at the Universities of Arkansas and Missouri.

Dr. Hall had over 20 years of federal service with the Department of the Treasury, the International Trade Commission, the Department of Commerce, the Executive Office of the President, and BLS.

Prior to becoming BLS Commissioner, he served as Chief Economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, where he analyzed a broad range of fiscal, regulatory and macroeconomic policies and directed a team that monitored the state of the economy and developed economic forecasts.

He served as the Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Commerce for four years. In that role, he was the principal economic adviser to the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs and served as a special adviser to the Secretary of Commerce.

Dr. Hall previously served as a Senior International Economist in the Research Division at the U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent agency that investigates any matter involving tariffs, international trade, and competition between U.S. and foreign industries.

In 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Hall to be the 13th Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He was confirmed by the Senate in December 2007 and officially sworn in to office in January 2008.

Source

* * * * *
Recent Developments

From Watchdog.com

“Ex-BLS chief says unemployment data flawed”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ method of calculating unemployment is a “flawed measure” that contains “real problems,” the agency’s former commissioner, Keith Hall told the Wisconsin Reporter on Tuesday.

He said: “The monthly unemployment data is an imperfect tool”.

Appointed by former President George W. Bush, Hall served as commissioner for much of Obama’s term in office (until January of this year).

Hall said he understands, even agrees with, some criticism of BLS unemployment data.

Among his concerns:

  • The unemployment rate is “artificially low” because only people who are actively seeking employment are counted as “unemployed.” People who got frustrated and stopped looking for work aren’t technically “unemployed,” according to the data.
  • The rate does a poor job measuring “underemployment,” those people who are working but not at the level or to the extent they should be, based on their education and experience. “If you worked one hour (in a given month), and got paid at all, you’re employed,” according to BLS data, Hall said
  • The payroll survey, conducted by interviewing businesses and government agencies, gives a good, broad overview, but not a lot of information. The household survey gets a lot of information from households about their earnings, hours of work, demographics, etc. But Hall said the sample size probably needs to be larger for the statistics to be more accurate.
    “And that’s the one that probably should be larger than it is,” he said. “It’s a cost thing.”

“There’s no one best single indicator that tells you about the health of the labor market,” Hall said.

“You have to look at a number of things.”

* * * * * *

Bottom line: In January, Obama sends an experienced, highly qualified BLS Commissioner packing.  For the past 8 months, the BLS has been reporting to the Secretary of Labor – who has a deep political background, but no particular expertise in economic statistics.  For the past 9 months (as frequently reported here in the HomaFiles) the BLS data has been arousing curiosity, culminating in last week’s incredible (i.e. not credible) pre-election unemployment report.

Hmmm.

See also “Why would anybody distrust the BLS?”

>> Latest Posts

Are people well enough informed to vote?

October 11, 2012

In his book The Ethics of Voting, MSB prof Jason Brennan argues that all adult citizens have the right to vote … but that they shouldn’t exercise that right unless they are informed, rational, and aiming for the common good.

image

Regarding how informed citizens are, Prof. Brennan, referencing other research and studies, writes

Overall levels of political knowledge are low.

For example, 79% of Americans can’t identify their state senators.

During election years, most citizens cannot identify any congressional candidates in their district.

And, political knowledge is distributed unevenly.

The top quartile (of informed citizens) knows much, but the bottom quartiles knows hardly anything.

Ballparking, political scientists conclude that less than half of voters are informed; some put the number as low as 10%

Against that backdrop, I was pretty encouraged when Nielsen reported that over 67 million households tuned into last weeks Presidential debate.

To put that number in context, about 125 million people voted in the 2008 Presidential election.

That means that over half the number of people likely to vote this year watched the debates.

And, the 67 million was almost evenly divided between those over and under 55 years old.

Interestingly, Pew Research reports that over 80% of Romney supporters have given the election a lot of thought … not so much for Obama supporters … 1 in 3 of them have not given the election a lot of thought.

Hmmm.

Too bad all voters aren’t required to watch the debate before voting …

image

>> Latest Posts

Darden increases class size …. to 50,000!

October 11, 2012

According to Fortune

UVA’s Darden School has joined up with Coursera and plans to launch its first B-school class in January.

In a typical year, Professor Ed Hess figures he teaches no more than 300 students in his courses on managing smaller enterprises and the challenges of business growth.

When Hess walks into the classroom this January to teach Smart Growth for Private Businesses, however, as many as 50,000 people are expected to have signed up for it — more students than Darden has graduated since its founding nearly 60 years ago and in all probability the largest single audience ever assembled for a business course.

The professor will be the first to deliver a so-called MOOC (a massively open online course) for Darden to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.

The free online class is part of a partnership with Coursera, an online education startup.

Since it began six months ago, Coursera has enrolled 1.57 million students in a wide range of courses taught by professors from Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, and other prominent schools.

Very few of those courses, however, have been in business.

Mostly, students have gravitated to classes in computer science, math and engineering.

For Prof. Hess, it means learning an entirely new way to teach.

Like other MOOC courses, his course will be broken into manageable chunks, with short video modules, PowerPoint slides, and interactive quizzes.

An online forum will allow students to ask questions, get answers, and collaborate in learning teams by industry sector, work backgrounds, or geography. “This is like going to Mars,” he laughs.

Hess also plans two live webinars in addition to the five class sessions, one to give students real time access to him and another with an entrepreneur to help students create a growth plan.

Students who complete the course with passing grades will receive a certificate of completion.

>> Latest Posts

AMS Concept: Disruptive Innovation

May 4, 2012

In every market, there are two trajectories—the pace at which products and services improve and the pace at which customers can utilize the improvements.

Customers’ needs tend to be relatively stable over time, while the offerings improve at a much faster rate.

Therefore, over time, products and services that once were not good enough for the typical customer ultimately pack in more features and functions than the customer can use. These are sustaining innovations. Whether they are simple or breakthrough improvements, they help industry leaders make better products that they can sell for higher profits to their best customers.

Industry leaders—or incumbents—almost always win battles of sustaining innovations, regardless of how technologically challenging they are.

Industry leaders stumble, however, when they face disruptive innovations.

A disruptive product or service is not a breakthrough improvement — in fact, it’s actually not as good as the item the industry leaders are selling. Because of this, existing customers won’t use it, and the leaders ignore it.

But these disruptive innovations are more threatening than industry leaders realize.

They transform complicated and expensive products into simpler and more affordable ones, so they appeal to consumers who previously lacked the money and skill to own and use the leaders’ products.

And little by little, the disruption predictably improves, until the disruptive products serve a much wider audience better and more affordably.

As a result, everyone is better off—except for the disrupted companies.   Consumers abandon more expensive and less accessible old-line products, and the incumbent companies that produced these go out of business.

The dynamics of disruption play out in virtually every industry, from electronics to transportation. The personal computer disrupted mainframes and minicomputers. Southwest disrupted the major airlines. Toyota disrupted the Detroit car companies.

Excerpted from BizEd, “On Innovation”, Clayton Christensen, May / June 2008

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Microsoft tries to stay relevant

December 23, 2010

TakeAway: As personal computing moves away from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets, Microsoft has yet to establish a foothold in either.

Its new smartphone platform offers the best chance get to gain market share but there are some steep challenges to overcome.

Developers don’t want to develop apps for the platform until sales justify doing so, but people won’t buy Windows 7 phones without compelling apps.

Not only that, but the platform won’t work on Verizon until next year, when Verizon is expected to launch the iPhone.

* * * * *

Excerpted from Bloomberg Businessweek, “Microsoft is Pinning Its Hopes on Windows Phone 7,” by Peter Burrows and Dina Bass, October 14, 2010

In an interview shortly after he unveiled Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 mobile software on Oct. 11, Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer declared a new era for Microsoft. “This is a big launch for us—a big, big launch,” he boomed.

Ballmer, never known for understatement, may be lowballing this one. Gartner expects smartphone sales to surpass PCs in 2012. Microsoft remains immensely profitable thanks to its aging PC monopoly, and it will remain so even if it never figures out the smartphone market. …

By almost any measure, Microsoft is nearly out of the mobile game. Its market share fell to 5 percent from 22 percent in 2004, says Gartner. Customer satisfaction of Windows smartphones is 24 percent, according to ChangeWave Research; it’s 74 percent for iPhones and 65 percent for handsets powered by Google’s Android. …

… With Apple and Google each activating more than 200,000 customers a day, according to those companies, handset makers, carriers, and app makers have far larger audiences than Microsoft offers. …

… While AT&T and T-Mobile will offer Windows Phone 7 devices, the software won’t work with Sprint or Verizon Wireless until next year. (Apple’s AT&T-only iPhone may be on Verizon by then.) …

Holding share in such a fast-growing market could require sales of about 20 million units in 2011, no easy feat. That’s how many iPhones Apple sold in its debut year. …

Microsoft’s to-do list doesn’t end with Windows Phone 7. It has no tablet software that can match the iPad. Failing in smartphones would be bad. Failing in tablets, which users expect to run office software, would be catastrophic …

* * * * *

Full Article
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_43/b4200042877975.htm?campaign_id=magazine_related

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Barack Obama: “Elections have consequences”

November 3, 2010

Let’s see if he’ll man-up and say that in his press conference this afternoon.

Some quick morning after thoughts:

1) The sheer number of GOP wins in the House sent a clear message, for sure.

2) GOP control of the House is key b/c revenue bills originate there and there’s supoena power to call hearings

3) Rep. Issa will kick butt from his chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee … that’ll be fun to watch

4) I really did want Reid to survice as Senate majority leader … I hope he gets a lot of visibility as Obama’s sidekick over the next couple of years … helps GOP in 2012

5) When does Pelosi have to turn over the keys to her mega-Air Force passenger jet?

6) Hooray for John Kasich in Ohio … the only candidate that got $$$ from me …  the sweep of governor seats — especially in the Midwest — is huge !

7) Sorry, but there are 2 Americas … New York & California (& maybe Illinois) … and the rest of the country … that’s a problem.

8) Luckiest gal: Meg Whitman … that state is unmanageable … nobody can get the public employees’ unions under control … the unions showed their muscle in CA and NV

9) Angle, O’Donnell, Raese, Miller stirred things up …  if only they were stronger candidates

10)  My bet: Obama didn’t hear the message and will dig in his heels after some faux conciatory rhetoric.

Those ungrateful CEOs …

September 24, 2010

An economic recovery depends on the private sector … and the private sectors is run by CEOs.

Does the Prez really think that demonizing business leaders is a way to get their support?

Interesting article in the New Republic.

Here are some snippets …

* * * * *

From the New Republic …

Valerie Jarrett, the president’s chief liaison to the business community stresses: “Our goal is to foster an environment where companies invest and innovate and grow and expand their employment base in a way that will be good for the country and good for business.”

The business community has spent the past few months locked in an increasingly public squabble with the administration.

Alternately sounding like an outraged populist and a free-market cheerleader, Obama’s balancing act serves mostly to confuse people. He is bashed simultaneously as a market-hating socialist and as a bloodless elitist, uninterested in the suffering of regular Americans. This betwixt-and-between stance is Obama’s trademark brand of thoughtful, noncommittal pragmatism.

To connect with business chieftains at their annual gathering in Washington. the president came with a teleprompter and a prepared speech that was more lecture than invitation to engage. He said his piece, took no questions, and decamped with impolitic alacrity — leaving behind a roomful of disgruntled chief executives still anxious about the White House’s policy aims and unaccustomed to such high-handed treatment. Far from feeling courted, or even understood, some members felt they’d been used as props.

Obama officials, in turn, suggested business was being overly sensitive, unrealistic in its demands, and more than a little ungrateful for all that government had done to stave off an economic apocalypse

There is, in the words of one Democratic strategist, “a cultural dissonance” at work here.

“I don’t think anything will honestly happen before the election to change the dynamic,” says one administration official. “The business community by and large is sitting and waiting and hoping that we learn a lesson in the election.”

New Republic: Executive Indecision – Obama and the CEOs: He loves them, he loves them not,  September 10, 2010 http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/magazine/77394/obama-and-the-ceos-executive-indecision?passthru=Yzc1MWI5ODI2NjFiMWI2MTA3YjdlNDFmZDNjYzIzZjQ

Jersey Boys pulls professor out of Five-O funk …

September 23, 2010

I’ve been slowed all week by my lingering disappointment over the Hawaii Five-O premiere — which, incidentally, drew almost 14 million viewers.

I’m pleased to report a bounceback.  Trekked into NYC yesterday to finally see Jersey Boys.  Man, was it good — nice storyline and great oldies.  The 2-1/2 hours flew by.

If you haven’t seen it, you should — even if you’re too young to know who the Four Seasons are.