Don’t blame me !

June 6, 2018

This year: Social Security’s first deficit.
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Let me get this straight …

On Monday, I announce my retirement.

On Tuesday, the Social Security Trust Fund – the lockbox that doesn’t have a lock – announces that Social Security will run a deficit this year… 3 years ahead of last year’s future projection.

According to the WSJ:

The Social Security program’s costs will exceed its income this year for the first time since 1982, forcing the program to dip into its nearly $3 trillion trust fund to cover benefits.

That is, outflows (payments to 61.5 million people like me) – will exceed inflows (taxes collected from current workers and their employers … and, interest earned on the trust’s assets).

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I know there may be a temptation to accuse me of being the straw that broke the camel’s back, but ….

Read the rest of this entry »

FBI lovers: A gift that keeps giving …

June 5, 2018

What’s more important: character or performance?
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One of the news cycle items over the weekend was an article in The Hill by John Solomon:

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The foundation of the article was a fact-based timeline of the Russia-Russia investigation that largely debunks the story the DOJ-FBI have been peddling.

Even I am getting pretty bored by that stuff.

But, buried in the article were a couple incidental text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page – the now infamous FBI lovers (and card-carrying Trump haters)….

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s official: I’m retired !

June 4, 2018

After more than 20 years teaching at Georgetown,  the word “emeritus” has been added to my title … I’ve learned that emeritus means “honored retiree”.

Whew!  I had always thought that it was something much more ominous.

I don’t golf (yet) … and after my stints in consulting, I’ve had all of the travel that I need.

So why retire?

Five main reasons:

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My motivation: I want to spend as much time as I can with my 5 awesome grandkids.

Frosting on the retirement cake:  more time with my 1 awesome wife Kathy, 2 awesome sons, 2 awesome daughters-in-law, and our 1 occasionally awesome dog Daisy.

Not to worry.

I plan to keep blogging on HomaFiles … to keep me reading, thinking and writing … and, to stay connected with loyal HomaFIles readers.

For now, my email stays the same: Ken.Homa@Georgetown.edu or the shorter homak@Georgetown.edu

Pass the word and stay in touch

Ken

Pundits have it wrong …

June 1, 2018

Trey Gowdy isn’t turning on President Trump … he’s doing him a favor.
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First, a disclosure: I’m a big Trey Gowdy fan.

Since I’m a fan of Forensic Files, I oft see reruns of him putting bad guys away.

These days he seems to know the law and be able to cut to the chase.

To that point, the National Review has proclaimed him to be “the voice of responsibility and reason.”

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Let’s start with Gowdy’s frequently looped remarks on CBS This Morning …

Read the rest of this entry »

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

May 31, 2018

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 teach contain a heavy dose of problem-solving skills.

Early on, I 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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Mastering math … or anything else.

May 30, 2018

Some insights on the science & practice of learning.

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Interesting article buried in a weekend edition of the WSJ: “How a Polymath Mastered Math—and So Can You”

The subject polymath (a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning) is Prof. Barbara Oakley.

To make her long story short, she was a self-proclaimed horrible math student in high school, dove back into math in her mid-20s, and is now an engineering professor..

“Her progression from desultory student to respected scholar led her to a sideline in the study of learning itself.”

She is the author of ‘A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)’ and ‘Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential’.

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Here are a few snippets from the article …

Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, the flight attendant really is checking you out …

May 29, 2018

Not for dating eligibility … for other good reasons.
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A couple of  Flight Secrets Revealed caught my eye…

The first is obvious once it’s stated:

When you walk onto the plane you’re greeted by a flight attendant, right?

Usually,  it’s with an obligatory warm smile and an equally obligatory  “welcome aboard”.

Did you ever sense that the flight attendant was checking you out?

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News flash, he or she was checking you out, but not because you’re hot …

Read the rest of this entry »

On this Memorial Day …

May 28, 2018

 Remember all who gave their lives on our behalf
   … and thank those who are serving us now. 

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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In praise of hard copies and writing things down …

May 25, 2018

Ran across an article by Eric McNulty —  the CEO of LinkedIn:  Journaling Can Boost Your Leadership Skills .

As the title suggests, he was advising busy managers to to take some time each day  to record their deep thoughts in a journal.

Seems like a reasonable idea … but that’s not what caught my attention.

 

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As a teacher, I’ve had to adapt approaches to leverage the ways that students process information … especially as the world goes all-digital.

One of my conclusions: digital provides many benefits, but also seems to restrict our capability “go deep”, to “connect the dots” and to draw insights.

Why might that be true?

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive biases: Falling for false expertise …

May 24, 2018

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”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Life in the digital age …

May 23, 2018

Quick: Name the last book you read.

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That’s the simple question Jimmy Kimmel asked people on the street.

The results are predictable … most choked on the question.

You can view the 2-minute clip below … or just take my word for it.

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What  the heck is going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

Starbucks “open door” policy …

May 22, 2018

Street people win the latte lotto.
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Yep, the Starbucks cafe manager made a big mistake calling the cops on the 2 non-customers who were hanging out … an especially big mistake since the guys were African American.

Immediately, Starbucks launched an internal program to re-sensitize its employees.  That’s good.

But, in a stunning over-reaction, the company announced a new policy:

No purchase necessary to hang out or use the restrooms.

 

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Post-announcement, the intuitively obvious unintended consequences became quickly evident …

Read the rest of this entry »

Was an “informant” tasked to probe Clinton campaigners, too?

May 21, 2018

That’s one of two questions that I have about “spygate”

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I’ve gotten great amusement from the evolution of the spying-on-Trump story …

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First, the FBI/CIA denied that that they planted a spy on the Trump campaign … “no way, Trump is crazy”.

Then there were a flurry of stories indicating that a spy was indeed engaged … “but don’t release his name”

Then the positioning: “that would be a good thing” … “done to protect Trump” … from what?

Finally, the name of the spy-who-wasn’t was leaked … some professor with a long history working with the FBI & CIA.

But, he wasn’t a “spy”, he was a “tasked informant”.

OK, that parsing should make everybody feel better, right?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Laurel’or ‘Yanny’? ‘MS-13’ or ‘All’?

May 18, 2018

There’s an interesting parallel, and a lesson for all.
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This week, the internet (and most news shows) were ablaze with the question “Do you hear ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’?”

In a nutshell, a 1-word audio loop is played … some folks hear the word ‘Yanny’, some hear ‘Laurel’.

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Click here if you haven’t heard the audio clip.
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What’s up with that?

Read the rest of this entry »

NYT: “Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think”

May 17, 2018

… and even “Comedians are beginning to catch on”
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Yesterday, we posted results of a study that calibrated the lean-to-left at U.S. colleges.

The summary conclusion: 90% of faculty that self-declare a political affiliation are Democrat and almost 40% of liberal arts colleges are, for all practical purposes, Republican-free.

See Shocker: Vast majority of faculty at elite colleges are Democrats…

And, it’s commonly accepted that (I think) that Trump hating dominates the media and entertainment.

Nonetheless, Trump’s base of supporters remains loyal … and recently, the Democrats lead on the so-called “generic ballot” has shrunk by almost two-third to low single digits on average … and equal within the margin of error on some surveys.

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How can that be?

Read the rest of this entry »

Shocker: Vast majority of faculty at elite colleges are Democrats…

May 16, 2018

Just how “vast” may surprise you. … there are even “clean sweeps” at some colleges
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Everybody knows that college faculties lean left.

To calibrate the incidence and intensity of the lean-to-the-left, Prof. Mitchell Langbert of Brooklyn College conducted a study and recently posted his findings with the National Association of Scholars.

Prof. Langbert surveyed  8,688 tenure track, Ph.D.–holding professors from 51 of U.S. News’ 66 top ranked liberal arts colleges.

Langbert’s top line findings: 40% of faculty self-report to be independents … the 60% who identify with a party are split 90% Democratic,10% Republican.

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Yep, about what you might expect.

But, things get more interesting when you drill down on the data …

Read the rest of this entry »

Stop right there, professor … proof of citizenship, please !

May 15, 2018

Yep, it happened again.

Unfortunately, this has become an annual event.  A summer initiation of sorts.

Once again, I was detained for questioning by government officials.

No, it wasn’t by rogue TSA agents targeting an alleged conservative blogger.

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Once again. I was suspected of crossing the border to illegally access government-provided services.

Here’s the story …

Read the rest of this entry »

Quiz time: How’s your Mideast knowledge?

May 14, 2018

The Middle East is always in the news, right?

You know, the chemical weapons in Syria, the Iran nuclear “deal”, the U.S. embassy moving to Jerusalem.

Over the weekend, one of the TV pundits argued that Americans favored staying in the Iran deal by a margin of 2 to 1.

Hmmm, I thought,

Wonder how many of those pro-deal Americans could headline what’s in the Iranian deal that makes it so attractive?

Or, on a more basic level, how many could even pick out Iran on a Mideast map?

Which leads us to today’s quiz.

Below is a map of the Mideast with countries tagged A to O.

Take out a piece of paper, write down the letters and the county names.

Don’t just “imagine” the names … write them down.

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Here are the answers ….

Read the rest of this entry »

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

May 11, 2018

Reason #14 – Climate change zealots are piss-poor marketers
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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
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Below is a post recapping  my prior 13 Reasons Why I’m Lukewarm to Climate Change

Let’s move on …
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Reason #14 – Climate change zealots are piss-poor marketers

Politicians, bureaucrats, activists, scientists and the media have warned Americans for decades that the Earth is headed toward climate catastrophe.

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But, as a recent WSJ opinion piece observed:

But, surveys consistently show that less than half of U.S. adults are “deeply concerned” or “very worried” about climate issues.

If, as zealots insist, climate change is the “most urgent threat facing our entire species,” why do a large percentage of Americans not share his fear?

Climate crusaders tend to lay fault with nonbelievers’ intransigence.

But this is its own form of denial and masks the real reason: poor salesmanship.

I agree.

In fact, as early as June 2017 we were dishing advice to climate change advocates.

Our advice back in 2017:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to “fighting pollution” — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

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Comparably, the WSJ opinionator builds upon these themes.

His central premise: “The promotional efforts of the climate catastrophists have lacked the cornerstones of effective persuasion: clarity, credibility, and empathy.”

More specifically, here are a few snippets;

On branding:

Successful advocacy campaigns use lucid names to frame and sell their issues—“living wage,” “welfare queen” or “death tax.”

Climate can be confounding;

And, swapping between “climate change” and “global warming” confuses the public.

They’re both a far cry from “Remember the Alamo!”

On credible spokespeople:

Bold statements about complex systems are always more plausible when they are made by people with impeccable credentials.

According to Pew, only 39% of Americans believe climate scientists can be trusted a lot to give full and accurate information on causes of climate change.

As a Harvard sophomore, Al Gore received a D in a natural-sciences course.

Leonardo DiCaprio dropped out of high school in 11th grade.

Tom Steyer’s  hedge fund invested hundreds of millions of dollars in coal mining.

More generally, “climategate” and questions about the integrity of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate data have all fueled public suspicion.

According to Pew, only 39% of Americans believe climate scientists can be trusted a lot to give full and accurate information on causes of climate change.

On dissenters:

While the prosecution may feel it has a winning case, the jury’s verdict is what counts.

Labeling dissenting jurors “deniers”— an insidious association with Holocaust denial — is a losing courtroom strategy.

Most people are naturally disinclined to obsess daily about a phenomenon that started long before they were born and won’t reach fruition until long after they die.

Calling skeptics “anti-science” is counterproductive, especially since skepticism is the essence of the scientific method.

The WSJ author advises climate activists that they will attract more supporters to their cause if  they …

  1. Pick a name (that resonates) and stick with it
  2. Create a clear call to action
  3. Enlist a convincing spokesman with a small carbon footprint
  4. Tone down the alarmism
  5. Fix your computer models
  6. Listen to the doubters, don’t lambaste them.

Hmmm ….

The advice sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

>> Latest Posts

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Recap: 13 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …

May 11, 2018

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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For the record, here are the 13 reasons that I’m a lukewarmer … with links to the prior posts:

1.   Unsettling science   From “Ice Age” to  “Global Warming”  to “18-year Pause” to“Climate Change”.

2.   Expired doomsday predictions   By 2016, NYC would be swamped, Polar bears would be extinct, etc.

3.  The “97% of scientists” baloney   Oft-repeated doesn’t make it true – here’s the real story

4.  Dinking with the data   Temperature data “adjusted” by the NOAA eliminated the 18-year pause and bolstered the global warming case

5.  Temperature readings – plus or minus   Bottom line: thermometers weren’t very precise in the old days … and still have wide variances

6.  What’s the earth’s temperature?   It depends on the mix of reporting locations and an array of factors at each of them

7.  The Climategate Emails   Climate scientists were exposed hiding exculpatory data for political purposes

8.  Low on American’s worry list   Folks will nod that it’s probably getting warmer, but have more urgent matters to worry about (like keeping their jobs or getting healthcare)

9.  Seen a Volt recently?   Obama vowed a million EVs by now – where are the “believers”?

10. Letting the perps walk   For all practical purposes, the Paris Accords gave the world’s worst polluters – India & China – a free pass.

11. Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”   In the aftermath of a flood or hurricane, you can count on celebrities coming forth to bellow “I told you so”  …. even if the facts and the science say otherwise.  You see, science – and its relevance – is always malleable to the cause..

12. When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?   The short answer: hot spells are “climate”; cold spells are just dismissed as “weather”.

13. The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets.  A rationale for the classic “do as I say, not as I do”

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And, my advice to climate change advocates:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to fighting pollution — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

==========
Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

>> Latest Posts

#HomaFiles

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

May 10, 2018

Reason #13 – The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets
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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
========
Below is a post recapping  my prior 12 Reasons Why I’m Lukewarm to Climate Change

Let’s move on …
=========

Reason #13 – The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets

It’s oft-noted that most climate change celebrities dart around in private jets and gas guzzling SUVs … … and Al Gore’s mega-mansion(s) consume more energy than most suburban neighborhoods.

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Guess what:  climate change hypocrisy is prevalent … and there’s a scientific reason why “believers’ don’t walk the talk.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recap: 12 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change … and some advice to “believers”

May 10, 2018

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

==========

For the record, here are the 12 reasons that I’m a lukewarmer … with links to the prior posts:

1.   Unsettling science   From “Ice Age” to  “Global Warming”  to “18-year Pause” to“Climate Change”.

2.   Expired doomsday predictions   By 2016, NYC would be swamped, Polar bears would be extinct, etc.

3.  The “97% of scientists” baloney   Oft-repeated doesn’t make it true – here’s the real story

4.  Dinking with the data   Temperature data “adjusted” by the NOAA eliminated the 18-year pause and bolstered the global warming case

5.  Temperature readings – plus or minus   Bottom line: thermometers weren’t very precise in the old days … and still have wide variances

6.  What’s the earth’s temperature?   It depends on the mix of reporting locations and an array of factors at each of them

7.  The Climategate Emails   Climate scientists were exposed hiding exculpatory data for political purposes

8.  Low on American’s worry list   Folks will nod that it’s probably getting warmer, but have more urgent matters to worry about (like keeping their jobs or getting healthcare)

9.  Seen a Volt recently?   Obama vowed a million EVs by now – where are the “believers”?

10. Letting the perps walk   For all practical purposes, the Paris Accords gave the world’s worst polluters – India & China – a free pass.

11. Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”   In the aftermath of a flood or hurricane, you can count on celebrities coming forth to bellow “I told you so”  …. even if the facts and the science say otherwise.  You see, science – and its relevance – is always malleable to the cause..

12. When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?   The short answer: hot spells are “climate”; cold spells are just dismissed as “weather”.

=============

And, my advice to climate change advocates:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to fighting pollution — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

==========

#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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“Moral License”, “Relative Behavior” … and the New York AG.

May 9, 2018

Beware of wolves that doth protesteth too much
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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was a very public face of the #MeToo movement.

He lambasted Harvey Weinstein for his “despicable” abusive behavior against women..

He encouraged victims to come forward and vowed to prosecute any and all men who abuse women women … especially those leveraging the power of their high positions.

Apparently, “any and all” didn’t include one Eric Schneiderman.

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After his warp-speed resignation, the airwaves were filled with shocked supporters and pundits asking: “How could he?”

The answer is simple and predictable …  his behavior was rooted in 2 cognitive biases: “moral license” and “relative behavior”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Great moments in Global Warming …

May 8, 2018

MLB reports record number of April postponements due to snow and brutal cold.

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I know, weather isn’t climate … unless it’s a hot spell … in which case, it’s evidence of climatic global warming.

(see When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”

So, I haven’t referenced articles like “Canada experiences coldest, extended winter”.

And, I haven’t whined about how my boat mechanic hasn’t been able to de-winterize my boat yet.

 

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But, I can’t ignore the way COLD weather has shambled the start of the 2018 baseball season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Two judges issue rulings against Team Mueller …

May 7, 2018

Here’s the ruling that might be the most problematic.
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There was some hoopla last Friday when a Federal judge admonished Mueller’s prosecutors in one of the Manafort cases … and ordered the delivery of some here-to-fore withheld documents.

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With regards to the admonition:  Judge T,S.Ellis opined the obvious: that  the case had nothing to do with Russian collusion … and that special counsel’s office wanted merely to pressure Mr. Manafort to provide information about Mr. Trump that might be the basis for prosecution or impeachment proceedings … and that the special counsel was acting in an “unfettered” way, far outside the boundaries of his charge. CNN

Judge Ellis then ordered the Mueller prosecutors to produce the original unredacted DOJ documents that established the special prosecutor’s scope of investigation.

The prosecutors said “no can do” because there’s sensitive (classified) information in the documents.

The judge’s reply:”C/mon guys, I decide that, not you” …  and he insinuated that he would dismiss the case if he didn’t get unredacted copies, pronto.

The implication: If the special counsel refuses to produce the documents … and if the judge follows through on his threat … then, there will be a precedent on the books of a court action based on the ruling that the special counsel is exceeding his legal scope of inquiry and failing to comply with court directives.

That could be a relief for Trump “satellites” who are charged with crimes that seem unrelated to Russian collusion,

But, in my opinion, the Manafort rulings are the least of Mueller’s potential worries …

Read the rest of this entry »

Should Elizabeth Warren take a DNA test?

May 4, 2018

Let’s end our DNA series on a statistical note…

As I’m sure you know, President Trump often calls Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” … a reference to her claim of Native American ancestry.

Nobody seems to deny the fact that she self-classified herself as a Native American and “person of color” on her academics records.

Skeptics say that was to secure minority preferences.

Supporters say “so what?” … she might be and there’s no evidence of preferential treatment.

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So, how to resolve this thorny issue?

Read the rest of this entry »

Miranda 2018: Your DNA can and will be used against you.

May 3, 2018

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gotcha: Using your own genes against you …

May 2, 2018

 NPR says …

“Getting the results of a genetic test can be a bit like opening Pandora’s box … you might learn that you’re likely to develop an incurable disease later on in life.”

There’s a federal law that’s supposed to protect people from having their own genes used against them, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA.

Under GINA, it’s illegal for health insurers to raise rates or to deny coverage because of someone’s genetic code.

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But the law has a loophole: It only applies to health insurance.

Some insurance can be denied or priced high because of a person’s DNA.

Here’s an example … and a prediction.

Read the rest of this entry »

Another swig of ‘tussin from Chris Rock …

May 1, 2018

Another cut at privacy and intellectual property rights
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 Yesterday, we reprised It takes more than a swig of ‘tussin…

The punch line to the post was that Chris Rock — a very funny guy — takes his craft very seriously and toils long and hard to test and fine-tune his material.

His routine on the many uses of Robitussin (‘tussin, for short) is a comedy classic.

If you haven’t seen the ‘tussin riff– or want a refresher — click to view it now.

 

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Chris Rock homes his skits standing up in comedy clubs … for example, he said he worked the Comedy Cellar for a week prior his recent guest spot on SNL.

In a recent interview, Rock talked about an emerging threat to his practiced work routine…

Read the rest of this entry »

It takes more than a swig of ‘tussin …

April 30, 2018

In praise of practice and relentless testing …
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Chris Rock is a very funny guy.

His routine on the many uses of Robitussin (‘tussin, for short) is a comedy classic.

The ‘tussin skit sets the context for the rest of this post.

If you haven’t seen it – or want a refresher — click to view it now.

 

 

I always assumed that Rock was a naturally funny guy who just stoked up and unleashed a stream of top-of-mind consciousness on stage.

I was surprised to learn that Rock takes his craft very seriously and toils long and hard to test and fine-tune his material.

Here’s a glimpse at his recipe for success …

Read the rest of this entry »

Biases: The “halo effect” … rock on, sister!

April 27, 2018

We covered the Halo Effect in class this week, so I’ve got an excuse to dust off one of my favorite posts …

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I’ll explain the picture later, but first, the back story.

A couple of interesting dots got connected last week.

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First, I started watching The Voice.

I liked the talent and the bantering among the coaches, but wondered why they used the turning chairs gimmick.  You know, judges can’t see the the performers, they can just hear them.

Became apparent when Usher turned his chair and was surprised to see that the high-pitched soul singer was a big white guy.

Hmmm.

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Second, for the course I’m currently teaching, I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Thinking Clearly — a series of short essays on cognitive biases – those sneaky psychological effects that impair our decision-making.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cancer ads: The power of anecdotes over hard data ……

April 26, 2018

Yesterday, we channeled the results of a study that found that patients facing major health challenges often select their course of treatment based on isolated success stories they might hear rather than hard data.

Specifically, the study found that when a success story was used to “validate” a low success rate treatment, patients would ignore or dismiss the hard scientific data and be swayed by the anecdote – even if the case history was a remote outlier, not a general case.

Deep in selective attention mode, my eye caught an opinion piece in the WSJ:

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The author’s punch line:

“The multibillion-dollar cancer treatment industry appeals to emotion in misleading ads … mounting  less a war on cancer than a war on truth —and on vulnerable consumers.”

Read the rest of this entry »

When it comes to your health, don’t bet on long shots …

April 25, 2018

… unless you’re out of options.
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In my Business Analytics course, I have students read a couple of excerpts from a book called Think Twice: The Power of Counter-intuition by Michael Mauboussin.

In a chapter called “The Outside View” the author reports findings from a medical study that investigated the relative importance of hard data and anecdotal evidence when patients select from among treatment options for serious health conditions.

Patients were given the hard scientific data about a treatment‘s success rates and an anecdote about a case history.

Some anecdotes were positive (the treatment was a success), some were negative (the treatment failed or had complications), and some were neutral (neither a clear success nor a dramatic failure).

Below is an extract of the study’s results summarizing the percentage of respondents selecting a treatment given the hard data on its success rate and a related anecdote of a specific case’s outcome.

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Let’s drill down …

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

April 24, 2018

 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?

April 23, 2018

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

April 20, 2018

Fraternities get a lot of press.

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

Why would anybody want their sons to join one?

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

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Here’s the scoop …

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As if forgetting stuff wasn’t bad enough …

April 19, 2018

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

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According to a recent study, once a person hears that a fictional event happened, there’s a 50/50 chance that they will believe that it took place and start to embellish it with details, even if the imaginary event is of a personal nature.

For example, researchers “primed” subjects with fake (but relatively harmless) memories, such as taking a childhood hot-air balloon ride or pulling a prank on a friend.

Researchers intimated that the imaginary events  were real.

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And, the result …

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Taxes: In total, how much do Americans pay in taxes? For what? To whom?.

April 18, 2018

Since yesterday was tax day, I thought you might like to see a recap of how much dough (some) Americans fork over to the government …

Americans pay a tad over $5 trillion in taxes to the Feds, States and Local Governments.

Technical note: In government parlance, the taxes are called “revenue”.

By taxing authority

Drilling down, the $5 trillion is split roughly 50%-30%-20% to the Feds, States and Locals, respectively

Here’s more detail …

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Uh-oh: Comey’s interview drew less than half of Stormy’s audience.

April 17, 2018

But,  he did have one bombshell revelation …
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According to media sources, Stormy’s 60 Minutes interview drew over 20 million viewer’s … Comey drew less than 10.

And, the day-after reviews have been, well, not so good.

I’ve switched across cable stations Monday morning for the commentary re: Comey’s interview.

The anchors on CNN and MSNBC were acting like like they got coal in their Christmas stockings.

They kept trying to bait their panels, but even reliable liberals were using words like “beneath his (former) office” … “self-serving” … “narcissistic” … and most damning of all, “petty”.

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I think the most replayed segment was Comey’s observations about Trump’s appearance:

From the official ABC transcript:

COMEY: He looked slightly orange up close with small white — half moons under his eyes, which I assume are from tanning googles.

Keen, mature insight from the former FBI Director, right?

No commentator mentioned what stuck me as the most ironic aspect of Comey’s dis …

Has Comey looked in a mirror recently?

Geez, don’t throw those stones, Jimmy … until you get some sleep and sun.

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But, Comey did put one issue to rest, once and for all.

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More great moments in facial recognition …

April 16, 2018

Chinese snap jaywalkers … then shame or fine them.
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Previously, we reported on on how the Chinese gov’t is using facial recognition to control toilet paper usage at tourist spots. See the post for gory details

Building on that success, the Chinese gov’t is now using facial recognition to ID jaywalkers … and then either shame them or fine them.

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Here are the details …

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Walking the talk …

April 13, 2018

How about housing a homeless family … in YOUR backyard?
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I always grimace when my liberal friends want to raise my taxes, but not their’s.

Evidence : the blue states’ whining about the cap on state & local tax deductions.

Or, when they advocate for mass migration of refugees and immigrants … to other folks zip codes.

And so on …

But, there may now be a counter-case:

LA County is launching an initiative to provide housing the homeless …


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The idea: LA county will provide loans and grants to homeowners to build HGTV-style mini-homes in their backyards … provided that the new tiny homes get inhabited to currently homeless folks.

Here’s how the plan works …

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All of the info I’ve collected says I’m right … so there!

April 12, 2018

Dan Lovallo, a professor and decision-making researcher says, “Confirmation bias is probably the single biggest problem in business, because even the most sophisticated people get it wrong. People go out and they’re collecting the data, and they don’t realize they’re cooking the books.”

What’s this “confirmation bias” that Lovello is talking about?

No surprise, people tend to seek out information that supports their existing beliefs.

You know, liberals watch MSNBC, read the NY Times listen to BBC podcasts; conservatives watch FOX, read the WSJ and listen to Rush.

Behavioral psychologists call the he dynamic “confirmation bias”.

 

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In socio-politics, the confirmation bias tends to harden polarized positions. People just gather debate fodder rather than probing both sides of issues.

In the realm of decision making, confirmation bias has a dysfunctional effect: it leads to bad decisions.

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Nums: What percentage of Americans prepare their own taxes? How many of them like it?

April 11, 2018

Since we’re heading down the homestretch towards the tax filing deadline … …

Pew Research says that overall, 33% of Americans say they do their own taxes while 56% say someone else prepares their taxes.

  • Note 1: 11% don’t know who does their taxes or were befuddled by the question
  • Note 2: The folks in the 11% get to vote in Presidential elections (ouch!)

A majority of Americans (56%) have a negative reaction to doing their income taxes 1 in 4  say they hate doing them.

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Among those who dislike or hate doing their taxes, most cite the hassles of the process or the amount of time it takes:

About a third (34%) say they either like (29%) or love (5%) doing their taxes.

Here are some details re: the “likers” and lovers … 

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Dilemma: The case of the lost concert tickets …

April 10, 2018

Here’s a classic “framing” question from Kahneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow

Here’s the situation:

A woman has bought two $80 tickets to the theater.

When she arrives at the theater, she opens her wallet and discovers that the tickets are missing.

$80 tickets are still available at the box office.

Will she buy two more tickets to see the play?

 

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Most (but, not all) survey respondents answer that the woman will go home without seeing the show.

Let’s try another situation …

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What’s the fundamental difference between baseball and basketball?

April 9, 2018

The NCAAs are in the books and the NBA is (finally) heading to the playoffs.

Except for some snow challenges, the MLB season is off and running.

Which reminded me of a study re: a common characteristic shared by good baseball players.

Gerald Hall, the director of a youth baseball program in Washington, says:

“Baseball is a game taught by fathers, while basketball and football are more often taught by peers in pickup games.”

So what?

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Score higher on the SATs … GUARANTEED!

April 6, 2018

Just make sure that your parents went to college.

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The College Board has just released it’s “Total Group Profile Report” for recent college-bound seniors …

One set of numbers caught my eye:

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

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

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

And, the performance differentials are substantial between the groups …

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Some “interesting” SAT results …

April 5, 2018

The College Board has just released it’s “Total Group Profile Report” for  college-bound seniors.

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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One way to alleviate the shortage of doctors…

April 4, 2018

Grant med school grads provisional licenses.

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Very interesting idea reported by the Heritage Foundation

It widely accepted that the U.S. has a current shortage of doctors that is expected to balloon as the demand increases (aging population, expanded Medicaid, etc.).

Current estimates put the 2030 shortage between 40,000 and 105,000.

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Each year, US med schools crank out about 18,000 medical degrees. Source

Dictated by the AMA, before getting licensed, these grads need to go through formal residency programs at teaching hospitals.

Here’s the rub.

The residency programs are largely government funded, and there are spending caps.

Spending caps translate to enrollment caps.

So, each year, about 5,000 of the med school grads — more than 25%) — don’t get a residency slot.

No residency, no license.

Reportedly, these non-residentially certified med school grads either land in non-patient treating medical jobs (think “pharma”) or leave healthcare all together.

The usual response: just throw more tax dollars at the problem.

But, there are other options…

Addressing the problem, a few states have implemented a program that Heritage is now touting: provisional licenses.

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Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

April 3, 2018

First, some background …

The tests I give my students always include some questions that can reasonably be tagged “memorization”.

Some students are repulsed by them and shout the cultural refrain: “Don’t memorize anything that you can look up.”

The apparent thinking: You’ve only got a limited amount of space in your brain, so don’t clog it with an overload of information … only store the stuff you can’t look-up.

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What’s wrong with that argument?

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Students push back on ‘common sense’ safety measures

April 2, 2018

… because they “infringe on our rights”
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According to the NY TImes

Since the Florida school shootings, the state and local school district have taken some steps to provide enhanced security:

The state “set aside $8.5 million for the school district to pay for at least one armed police officer at each school starting in the fall” … and, supplemental Florida Highway Patrol troopers will be deployed to “on alert” schools.

In Broward County, “all schools … will have single points of entry by early 2019.”

“Students and staff will be issued identification badges, which they will be required to wear at all times while in school.”

My POV: This is a good first step, which can eventually beefed up with scannable IDs … or, better yet, RFID trackers.

So far, so good.

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Here’s where the rub comes in …

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