America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

May 23, 2017

Interesting analysis from NBC’s Chuck Todd.

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

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.

Here’s where we stand today:

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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 today.

How did we get here?

Read the rest of this entry »

Will President Trump get a Nobel Peace Prize?

May 22, 2017

That’s the thought that was running through my mind.

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It must have been an unbearable weekend for Trump-haters.

He got an enthusiastic, lavish red carpet welcome in Saudi Arabia.

He wasn’t boorish, crude, moronic, Islamophobic … or worse.

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He delivered a powerful speech to the leaders of 50 Muslim countries emphasizing:

  • There’s a fundamental difference between good and evil
  • Terrorists are evil and need to be eradicated from the earth.
  • Iran represents ground zero in the fight against terrorism.
  • Muslim-majority nations need to step-up and lead the fight.
  • America will help and will be dependable, because it’s in our self-interest.

Then, he participated in the ceremonial opening of a center intended to monitor and counter-act extremist ideologies.

Seriously, how can anybody think that those are bad ideas?

So, back to the opening question: will Trump get a Nobel Peace Prize … just like Obama did 8 years ago?

Obviously, he’s got a few things working against him….

Read the rest of this entry »

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

May 19, 2017

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 »

Are Comey’s memos stored in Pandora’s box?

May 18, 2017

The ‘Resistance’ has gotten what it wanted … and may rue the day.

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Let’s keep this simple.

1) Democrats have been hollering for a special prosecutor, and

2) Comey reportedly wrote a memo-for-the-file – a practice that he’s known to have always done routinely – that says Trump hoped the Flynn investigation would go away … obstruction of justice? smoking gun?

3)  So, Robert Mueller got appointed Special Counsel to the FBI:

Mueller is authorized to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump,”  as well as “other matters that may arise directly from the investigation”.

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OK, so Comey routinely wrote contemporaneous file memos documenting his interactions with his superiors … not just Trump … prior Presidents and DOJ bosses as well.

By definition, those memos are government property since they were created in direct connection to his job.

Mueller -– who has bi-partisan support as the last honest man – is authorized to pursue “other matters”.

Here’s where the Dems may be sorry that they got what they wished for …

Read the rest of this entry »

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

May 17, 2017

 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 …

Read the rest of this entry »

Happy? Sad? Excited? … Facebook can tell.

May 16, 2017

And, has been caught doing just that.

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It always amazes me what people post on Facebook. Their daily activities, their deepest emotions – you name it.

By now, every Facebook user should know that FB sifts through their content – posts, pictures, links, emojis – to determine, for example, what topics are hot; what people are doing; which brands people are buying, recommending, trashing or considering; whether users are feeling happy, sad, scared, excited.

The latter is called “sentiment analysis” using computer algorithms to take users’ “emotional pulse”.

Of course, FB promises that they’ll protect users’ privacy and would never even consider divulging that information to outsiders, say, advertisers or political campaigns.

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Bad news for believers: FB was caught “sharing” sentiment analysis data.

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According to USA Today

Documents leaked to a newspaper, The Australian, indicate that Facebook executives prepared a report for one of the country’s top banks.

The report described how Facebook gleans psychological insights into the mood shifts of millions of young people in Australia and New Zealand by monitoring their status updates and photos.

The 23-page report showed Facebook’s ability to detect when users as young as 14 are feeling emotions such as defeat, stress, anxiety or being overwhelmed … and. other information on young people’s emotional well-being such as when they exhibit “nervous-excitement” are “conquering fears“.

FB claimed that it can track how emotions fluctuate during the week.

Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week.

Reflective emotions increase on the weekend.

Monday-Thursday is about building confidence.

The weekend is for broadcasting achievements.

At a relatively benign level, advertisers can use that information to target ads to certain age groups … and they can time them to run on a certain day.

That’s apparently what FB got caught doing – revealing anonymous and aggregated data – to a potential advertising client.

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Let’s go a step further…

According to the article: “Facebook has also come under heavy scrutiny in the past for secretly conducting research that manipulated the emotions of users by altering what they see in their News Feed without their consent.”

So, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the collection and dissemination of individuals’ sentiment data that could be used to target advertising to specific individuals at specific times – say, when they’re feeling down and are vulnerable to buying certain products geared to giving them a pick-me-up, say, some new clothes, a fancy car or miracle drug.

Pretty unnerving, right?

Of course, FB assures users that it would never consider divulging that sort of data.

Yeah, right.

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Connecting dots

In a prior post, we reported on a study that concluded time on Facebook can be hazardous to your mental health.

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

So, being on Facebook can make you emotionally vulnerable.

Facebook can determine when you’re vulnerable.

Facebook can sell that info to advertisers.

But, FB assures us that it won’t sell that data.

Whew … that’s a relief.

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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Here’s my nomination for FBI Director…

May 15, 2017

Pundits have been throwing around names of possible Comey replacements.

For example, the NY Times list includes:

Andrew G. McCabe, the acting director of the F.B.I.;

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas;

Judge Michael J. Garcia of the New York State Court of Appeals and the former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York;

Alice Fisher, a former top Justice Department official who would be the first woman to run the agency.

Mike Rogers,  the former chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, who represented Michigan and once served as an agent in the bureau.

One person strikes me as a perfect choice … but I haven’t heard his name mentioned.

Here are his qualifications:

  • Considered by all to be squeaky clean
  • Holds a JD from Harvard (Obama’s alma mater).
  • Has a track record turning around big organizations
  • Was an outspoken Trump critic during the campaign
  • ID’ed the Russian threat before it became fashionable

So, who’s my pick?

Read the rest of this entry »

NBC: Majority think Comey shouldn’t have been fired.

May 12, 2017

But, the numbers are, shall we say, curious at best.

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NBC has been trumpeting results of a Survey Monkey poll that it conducted in association with Survey Monkey:

“A majority of Americans — 54 percent — think that President Donald Trump’s abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey was not appropriate”.

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Color me skeptical on this one.

Here’s why …

Read the rest of this entry »

NYT: “Acting F.B.I. director McCabe contradicts White House”

May 12, 2017

P.S. He also contradicted Comey, the Democrat’s main talking point and, oh yeah, himself.

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Yesterday, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified before a Senate oversight committee.

McCabe was Comey’s second-in-command … previously best known for having a wife who ran for office in Virginia with mucho financial backing from the Democratic party and Gov. Terry McAuliffe – a longstanding Clintonista.

The connection raised obvious questions about conflict of interests during the Clinton email investigation.

Point: he’s certainly not a shill for the GOP.

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The mainstream media, led by the NY Times, took to headlining that:

Mr. McCabe rejected the White House’s assertion that Mr. Comey had lost the backing of rank-and-file F.B.I. agents.

“Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the F.B.I. and still does to this day.”

Hmmm.

Let’s dig a little deeper …

Read the rest of this entry »

Why did Comey choke on the biggest decision of his career?

May 11, 2017

Given Comey’s firing and the to-be-expected blow back, let’s flashback to our analysis last July — the day after he gave Hillary her stay-out-of-jail free card.

Saw this one coming …

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Image from The Drudge Report

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A weird turn of events put Comey under a particularly bright spotlight.

Before the events of the past week, the way I expected things to work out:

  1. Comey reads the 1st 14 minutes of his his speech laying out the body of evidence, concluding with a recommendation to indict.
  2. AG Lynch immediately puts the kabosh on the recommendation, refusing to indict.
  3. Or, AG Lynch green lights an indictment and President Obama quickly steps in to pardon Hillary “for the good of the country”.
  4. Hillary continues her campaign to become the first woman president.

Comey would have drawn the correct legal opinion based on the evidence, but the course of history wouldn’t have changed.

But, things didn’t work out that way, and Comey found himself in a much brighter spotlight … and, when the story ends, it won’t be pretty for Comey

Read the rest of this entry »

More reasons to be wary of restaurants’ table top touchscreens…

May 10, 2017

Olive Garden’s unauthorized “table game fee” opened a can of worms.

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In yesterday’s post, I whined about Olive Garden’s “profit scheme”: tacking an unauthorized “table game fee” to my bill .

For the gory details and the sleazy marketing “principles” underlying the practice, see Gotcha: Why I won’t go back to Olive Garden …

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When I googled “Ziosk” – what Olive Garden calls its devices – I was served links like Restaurant guests sour on Ziosk’s “touch it and you’re charged”  and Olive Garden servers are getting shorted on tips   … they exposed the  dirty underbelly of table top touchscreens.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gotcha: Why I won’t go back to Olive Garden …

May 9, 2017

For a measly 2 bucks, they lost me as a customer.

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In class, we cover Customer Lifetime Value – the math that captures a basic truth: businesses are better off getting repeat business from loyal customers than by gouging them on a single transaction.

Apparently, Olive Garden – which used to be one of my favorite chain restaurants — missed that class.

Yep, for a measly 2 bucks ($1.99 to be precise) they lost me as a customer.

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Here’s what soured our “relationship” ….

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Trumpspeak: It’s all about the way he talks …

May 8, 2017

Some folks can stand to listen to the President talk … and some find it refreshing.

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Great piece in the Washington Post by Barton Swaim author of “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics.”

His basic conclusion: “The most distinctive thing about Trump … is the structure of his language.”

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Swain says that Trump — nnlike most politicians –doesn’t speak in political rhetoric; he speaks in punchlines – short jabs, not convoluted passages. He lays it out there and let’s you buy in or opt out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

May 5, 2017

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 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?

Read the rest of this entry »

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

May 4, 2017

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 …

Read the rest of this entry »

Pareto is alive and well … and haunting the U.S. healthcare system.

May 3, 2017

Here are some numbers that put healthcare spending in perspective …

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According to a National Health Care Management Association analysis of healthcare spending:

  • The top 1 percent of the population is responsible for 20.2 percent of spending.
  • The top 5 percent of the population accounts for almost half (47.5 percent) of all health care spending.
  • ABout 60% of the top 5 percent (and top 1 percent) are 55 and older; about 40% are 65 and over
  • The top 10 percent of the population accounts for 63.6 percent of all spending.
  • 15.6 percent of the civilian, non-institutionalized population account for no health care spending at all.
  • The half of the population with the lowest spending accounted for only 3.1 percent of all expenditures.

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

May 2, 2017

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

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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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Did ObamaCare exacerbate a shortage of doctors?

May 1, 2017

Answer: Of course it did … it’s simple arithmetic.

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In yesterday’s post, I concluded that ObamaCare increased the demand for healthcare by providing health insurance to 20 million previously uninsured Americans … but that ObamaCare didn’t increased the aggregate amount of healthcare that Americans are getting.

Since the supply of healthcare is constrained by too few doctors, the amount of healthcare is just being redistributed

It’s a zero sum game …  previously uninsured people are getting more healthcare … previously insured people are getting less healthcare … and total healthcare delivered is staying about the same.

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I got a few questions about the incremental doctor shortage created by ObamaCare, so I pulled together a quick & dirty  estimate.

Read the rest of this entry »

A prof says: “You earn exam points … and, the burden of proof is on you”

April 28, 2017

Students often take issue with grades … sometimes understandably, sometimes not so much.

For perspective, here’s an interesting op-ed by an econ prof …

Read the rest of this entry »

Has ObamaCare provided more healthcare?

April 27, 2017

Or, has it just covered more people with health insurance?

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In my consulting / problem-solving class, I emphasize asking the right question before starting to gather data, doing analyses, drawing conclusions and making recommendations.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Then, would someone please explain to me why the politcos (on both sides) obsess over health insurance coverage (how many people are covered) and largely ignore the quantity & quality healthcare that Americans are getting?

 

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Source: AAMC

My conclusion: More Americans now have health insurance, but healthcare hasn’t increased … it has just been re-distributed.

Read the rest of this entry »

The limits of data analytics …

April 26, 2017

Team Clinton worshiped at the altar and got burned.

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One of the themes in the book Shattered was that theClinton campaign got fixated on their data-rich electorate models, applying the models robot-like to allocate ad dollars, deploy field workers and schedule “market visits” by Hillary and her surrogates.

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What Team Clinton seemed to have forgotten is the old Reagan adage: trust but verify.

The data models – which worked near-flawlessly for Obama – took the stage as “shiny objects” that led the Clinton campaign astray.

Politico reported a case study that  illustrated the point …

Read the rest of this entry »

Did data analytics miss the forest for the trees?

April 25, 2017

Team Clinton’s GOTV effort got out a lot of votes … for Trump

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Let’s dust-off another post related to the recently released book Shattered: Inside Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.

huffpost-big-data-clinton

 

According to the Huffington Post:

As the post-election day hangover wears off, an examination of the mechanics behind the Clinton’s get out the vote efforts ― reaching out to Clinton voters in key states at the door, on the phone or by text messages ― reveals evidence of what appears to be a pretty shocking truth.

Clinton volunteers were inadvertently turning out Trump voters.

Possibly in significant numbers.

What went wrong? Read the rest of this entry »

Perspectives on climate change …

April 24, 2017

To celebrate Earth Day, there was a Science March in DC on Saturday.

There were many serious scientists worried about Trump de-funding their work.

There were also the usual cadre of cause-chilling climate change zealots.

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Whenever I see these folks I reach back for some grounded perspective from political commentator (and comedian) Dennis Miller …

Read the rest of this entry »

WaPo Poll: Trump is a horrible person, a worse president, and everybody thinks so…

April 24, 2017

Well, actually, there’s somebody who is worse..

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The Washington Post just reported a poll that is, charitably speaking, unfavorable for President Trump.

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According to the Post’s analysis:

Trump has reached the 100-day marker in his presidency faring worse to much worse than other recent presidents.

Specifically: Trump’s approval rating stands at 42%, the lowest recorded at this stage of a presidency dating to Dwight Eisenhower.

In comparison, President Obama’s approval was 69% at this point in his Presidency.

But, to the obvious shock & dismay of the WaPo’s reporters, there doesn’t seem to be much indication of buyer’s remorse.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

April 21, 2017

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Shattered: Inside Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

April 20, 2017

I read it so you won’t have to …

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Well, that’s not totally true.

I was swayed by a WSJ reviewer’s conclusion that:

“Shattered” is not a pleasure to read.

The book is also too long.

It’s 400 pages of Clintonian self-aggrandizement, campaign malpractice and passive-aggressive blame-shifting.

More than any ordinary reader can bear.

Since I modestly fashion myself to be just an “ordinary reader”, I just digested a range of book reviews from the New York Times, NPR and the Wall Street Journal.

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Here is my collage of takeaways …

Read the rest of this entry »

Great moments in facial recognition……

April 19, 2017

The Chinese have a novel application for the technology. 

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According to the AP

To boost tourism, bathrooms at some Chinese tourist sites now use facial recognition to keep visitors from grabbing too much toilet paper.

Yep, you read that right.

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Picture source

Here are the details…

Read the rest of this entry »

Are airlines ruthless profiteers?

April 18, 2017

A short course in airline economics

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First. let’s establish that I’m no fan of of traveling … especially commercial air travel … via cattle-herding airlines.

That said, I scratch my head when folks characterize airlines as ruthless profiteers.

They may be ruthless but, I think, to be a profiteer a company has to make money, right?

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Below is a chart that’s a bit dated, but makes a directional point.

The graph shows cumulative net income of US air carriers since 1938.

What is says:

Since that fateful day when Orville & Wilbur took off, U.S.  airline companies have — as a group — LOST money.

There has been some recouping in the past decade — due mostly to consolidation  — but not enough to get the industry back above the birth-to-date Mendoza line.

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What’s going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

I thought my new Smart TV was haunted …

April 17, 2017

Today, as a public service, a Consumer Alert

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Let me set the stage:

Brought home a new 55’ Samsung Smart TV … very excited.

Late afternoon … plugged it in … fired it it up.

Picture looked fine … facsimile below left.

After a couple of minutes, the picture began to get dimmer & dimmer … facsimile below right.

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No problem, just fiddle with the picture settings, right?

Not that simple, my friends … much more to the story.

Read the rest of this entry »

What do high healthcare costs and high tuitions have in common?

April 14, 2017

Let’s connect a couple of dots today …

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A NY Times article explored “Why the Economic Payoff From Technology Is So Elusive”.

One example:

Look at this disconnect is in the doctor’s office.

Dr. Peter Sutherland, a family physician in Tennessee, made the shift to computerized patient records from paper in the last few years.

There are benefits to using electronic health records, Dr. Sutherland says, but grappling with the software and new reporting requirements has slowed him down.

Dr. Sutherland bemoans the countless data fields he must fill in to comply with government-mandated reporting rules…

He sees fewer patients, and his income has slipped.

The bottom line: over the years, due legal compliance and technology complexity, administrators (think: bureaucrats) have been added at a far faster rate than healthcare providers (think: doctors and nurses) …

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Hmmm.

Wonder why healthcare costs are so high …

What’s the link to college tuitions?

Read the rest of this entry »

“Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean there’s a physician who can (or will) see you.”

April 13, 2017

Remember Romney Care?

To refresh memories, the former Massachusetts governor  enacted something very similar to the Obama health plan.

It’s still largely in place.

And, it still  isn’t working well:  Costs are up, folks are gaming the system, and people with insurance can’t get in to see doctors.

Uh-oh.

Here’s a flashback to further refresh memories.

* * * * *

Excerpted from WSJ: The Failure of RomneyCare

The Bay State is suffering from what the Massachusetts Medical Society calls a “critical shortage” of primary-care physicians.

As one would expect, expanded insurance has caused an increase in demand for medical services. But there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in the number of doctors.

As a result, many patients are insured in name only: They have health coverage but can’t find a doctor.

Fifty-six percent of Massachusetts internal medicine physicians no longer are accepting new patients.

For new patients who do get an appointment with a primary-care doctor, the average waiting time to see a doctor is 44 days.

As Dr. Sandra Schneider, the vice president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told the Boston Globe last April, “Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean there’s a [primary care] physician who can see you.”

The difficulties in getting primary care have led to an increasing number of patients who rely on emergency rooms for basic medical services. Emergency room visits jumped 7% between 2005 and 2007.

Officials have determined that half of those added ER visits didn’t actually require immediate treatment and could have been dealt with at a doctor’s office — if patients could have found one.

* * * **

The promise that getting everyone covered would force costs down also is far from being realized.

One third of state residents say that their health costs had gone up as a result of the 2006 reforms.

A typical family of four today faces total annual health costs of nearly $13,788, the highest in the country. Per capita spending is 27% higher than the national average.

Insurance companies are required to sell “just-in-time” policies even if people wait until they are sick to buy coverage. That’s just like the Obama plan.

There is growing evidence that many people are gaming the system by purchasing health insurance when they need surgery or other expensive medical care, then dropping it a few months later.

Some Massachusetts safety-net hospitals that treat a disproportionate number of lower-income and uninsured patients are threatening bankruptcy.

They still are treating a large number of people without health insurance, but the payments they receive for uncompensated care have been cut under the reform deal.

Oops

 

Are emergency rooms required to treat all patients?

April 12, 2017

More specifically, the question that a friend and I were discussing recently was:

“Are emergency rooms required to treat all patients? … whether or not they have insurance?”

I said “yes” but decided to fact-check my answer.

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Here’s what I found…

Read the rest of this entry »

Remember how ObamaCare was going to divert patients from ERs to doctors’ offices?

April 11, 2017

Turns out that the number of people flocking to ERs is increasing, not decreasing.

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According to the Louisville Courier-Journal:

One of ObamaCare’s goals was to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by expanding Medicaid and giving poor people better access to primary care.

Instead, many hospitals across the nation are seeing a surge of those newly insured Medicaid patients walking into emergency rooms.

Nationally, nearly half of ER doctors responding to a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians said they’ve seen more visits since ObamaCare was enacted.

That’s a problem since an average ER visit costs $580 more than a trip to the doctor’s office.

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Why’s this happening?

Read the rest of this entry »

But, all of the chemical weapons were already out of Syria … right?

April 10, 2017

Even the mainstream media has had to acknowledge former President Obama’s infamous Syrian red line threat.

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You remember,  the former President said that Syria would face grave consequences if chemical weapons were used.

When the WMDs were used, the Administration kicked into high gear with increasingly harsh teleprompter readings and and a pleas for the Russians to take charge.

Soon thereafter came the declarations of victory – bold self-praise that all chemical weapons had been destroyed or removed (to Russia, of course).

In case you’ve forgotten the chest-banging, here’s a great compilation of the self-congratulatory gobbledygook (def’n)

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Source: Washington Free Beacon

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Hmmm.

Naive, delusional, intentionally misleading?

You make the call.

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P.S.  Here’s a question to ponder:

Any chance that Syria’s chemical weapons are stamped “Made in Iraq”

15 years ago there were claims that Iraq – given plenty of time while the UN dithered – had moved their stockpiles of chemical weapons to Syria.

But, the emerged narrative was that Bush lied – there never were WMDs in Iraq.

Might be time to re-think that conclusion.

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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Teachers with conservative views don’t make the cut.

April 7, 2017

Topic came up (again) in a post-class chat with students, prompting this HomaFiles flashback…

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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 … Read the rest of this entry »

How the Feds spend almost $4 trillion each year …

April 6, 2017

Former Treasury official Peter Fisher once said, once said:

“The federal government is basically a gigantic insurance company  with a sideline business in national defense and homeland security.”

To that point …

According to a Pew recap of CBO data:

In fiscal year 2016, which ended this past Sept. 30, the federal government spent just under $4 trillion.

A about $2.7 trillion – more than two-thirds of the total – went for various kinds of social insurance (Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, unemployment compensation, veterans benefits and the like).

Another $604 billion, or 15.3% of total spending, went for national defense.

Net interest payments on government debt was about $240 billion, or 6.1%.

Education aid and related social services were about $114 billion, or less than 3% of all federal spending.

Everything else – crop subsidies, space travel, highway repairs, national parks, foreign aid and much, much more – accounted for the remaining 6%.

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A couple of things to think about …

–  Extending Medicaid to 12 million people cost about $60 billion … more than half of the total education budget.

Each 1% bump in interest rates costs about $200 billion annually on a $20 trillion debt …. “eventually” because it takes awhile for the debt to turn over.

Yep, a highly leverage insurance company with diminishing side businesses …

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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Global IQ: What are the 10 most populated countries?

April 5, 2017

Today, a lesson in world geography and data visualization…

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Below is a great visual from Tableau … countries are displayed as as bubbles … with each bubble proportionate based on each country’s population.

The 10 most populated countries are numbered.

OK, name them … in order.

Should be easy for well-educated, news-following, world travelers … right?

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Need a hint ?

The bubbles are color-coded based on region:

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Ready to check your answer?

Read the rest of this entry »

Glad to see that Bezos passed Buffett on the planet’s richest list …

April 4, 2017

My View: Bezos changed the world; Buffett, not so much.

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According to Bloomberg:

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is now the second richest person on the planet.

His $76.7 billion personal fortune puts him ahead of Warren Buffett and gaining on Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

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Here’s what I find interesting about the Top 10 list …

Read the rest of this entry »

What percentage of babies are born on Medicaid?

April 3, 2017

Make your guess before peeking ….

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Medicaid took center stage during the repeal & replace drama … so, I’ve been more alert to Medicaid news.

Let’s put today’s question in context.

According to MSN:

Over the past five decades, Medicaid has surpassed Medicare in the number of Americans it covers.

It has grown gradually into a behemoth that provides for the medical needs of one in five Americans — 74 million people.

For comparison … about half are on employer-based plans and “only” 14% are on Medicare.

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Here’s the geographic spread, according to the Kaufman Family Foundation:

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Note the heavy Medicaid density in the West … and the relatively light density in the Heartland.

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OK, you have your frame of reference: about 20% of Americans on Medicaid.

So, what percentage of babies are born on Medicaid?

Read the rest of this entry »

Are you a nice person?

March 31, 2017

You probably over-rate your “niceness” … but that’s OK.

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According to the UK Independent

You may consider yourself to be a nice person, but  a new study concludes that you’re probably not as nice as you think.

Psychologists at the University of London have discovered that 98 per cent of British people think they’re part of the nicest 50 per cent of the population.

Participants in the study were given a list of “nice” behaviors and asked which ones they do.

They claimed to do easy stuff like giving directions to lost souls, holding doors open or giving Granny their seat on the bus.

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But, their niceness had limits …

The respondents stopped short of giving money to needy strangers (less than 1 in 5) or helping Granny cross the street (about 1 in 4).

Still, there’s some very good news …

 

Read the rest of this entry »

More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

March 30, 2017

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

More Disney: Why is Mickey fingerprinting me?

March 29, 2017

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 …

Read the rest of this entry »

America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

March 28, 2017

Interesting analysis from NBC’s Chuck Todd.

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

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.

Here’s where we stand today:

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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 today.

How did we get here?

Read the rest of this entry »

How much did ObamaCare increase premiums?

March 27, 2017

ObamaCare survived … so did the higher (and increasing) premiums we all pay.

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Previously, we posted: Here’s the main reason why YOUR health insurance premiums have gone up.

We just ballparked the premium impact of “guaranteed issue” to folks with pre-existing conditions (about 27% increase in premiums attributable to guaranteed issue)

Below is a more complete analysis compiled The Daily Signal

Headline: “Obamacare Regulations Drove Up Premium Costs By Up to 68%.”

The biggest chunk is, in fact, attributable to guaranteed issue … which the DS pegged between 15% and 30%.

Our prior observation: almost everybody agrees that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get coverage … but virtually no one realized that they were paying (much) higher premiums to provide that “social good” …  especially since they were told that their premiums would go down by $2,500.

See Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family?

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A couple of other notable conclusions …

1) The EHBs – the controversial “Essential Health Benefits” mandated into all policies – increased premiums by about 8%.

2) “Community Rating” – which equalized premiums for men & women and contained old folks’ premiums – really increased premiums for the under 35 crowd by 19% to 30.

No wonder the young healthies were reluctant to sign up.

 

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Hack alert: Don’t be so quick to “unsubscribe” …

March 24, 2017

The obvious became evident to me …

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Everybody gets more email solicitations than they want, right?

So, how to stop them?

Easy answer: click the Federally required “unsubscribe” link.

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Err, not so fast … might cause a problem bigger than an overflowing email box …

How so?

Read the rest of this entry »

“The under-26 provision is one of Obamacare’s biggest flaws”

March 23, 2017

Senator: “We didn’t think ahead” … and consider ramifications.

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From the get-go, I’ve questioned the “wildly popular” ObamaCare provision allowing “adult children” to say on their parents’ health insurance policies until they’re 26.

My objection was two-fold.

First, it removes a significant source of motivation for adult-children to get a job.

In the old days, parents encouraged their college kids to get a degree that might just qualify them for a paying job.

Unfocused, impractical exploration wasn’t a viable option for most families.

And, in the old days, parents used to nudge their kids to land jobs with benefits (not the same as “friends with benefits”) that included “hospitalization” … the old school name for health insurance.

I guess those days are gone …

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Second, as we’ve posted before, due to the weird insurance pricing schemes that let all except a family’s 1st child ride free on their parents plans, an adult-child rides completely free unless he-she is the family’s only covered child.

That means that all other plan members who pay premiums end up paying higher premiums to cover the cost of the free-riding adult-children

I don’t like these kinds of hidden cross-subsidies.

On this point, an insurance buddy of mine advised me to settle down since these adult-children are generally healthy and don’t consume much medical care.

True, but that raises an even biggest issue …

Read the rest of this entry »

Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

March 22, 2017

Disney’s technology applications are impressive.

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I know because I’m Just back from fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) at Disney World.

Here’s some of what I found.

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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…

Read the rest of this entry »

If you’re one of the 155 million people on employee-based health insurance plans …

March 21, 2017

Here’s the main reason why YOUR health insurance premiums have gone up.

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All the repeal & replace attention seems to be on the 20 million people who are getting insurance via Extended Medicaid or ObamaCare Exchanges.

Virtually no light is being shined on the vast majority of folks who are covered by employer plans.

Case-in-point: the soaring premiums being paid by employees … hardly the $2,500 reduction that was promised.

Here’s one of the reasons that premiums have gone up not down …

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Most people – probably bordering on all – would agree that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get health insurance.

I accept that as a non-debatable point.

But, I got curious about the economics of so-called “guaranteed coverage”… i.e. how much does it cost, and who pays for it?

Specifically, for folks covered by employer plans, how much of their increase in health insurance premiums over the past couple of years is attributable to guaranteed coverage?

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Let’s take a whack at the numbers …

Read the rest of this entry »

There are 5 clues of “authentic” intelligence …

March 20, 2017

For openers, high IQ and bilingual aren’t on the list.

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Interesting piece that I spotted on the DailyMail

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Everybody tries to act smart, right?

You know … long words, dramatic pauses, furled brows, grasped chins.

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Psyche researchers dismiss most of these antics as shallow fakery and have identified 5 behavioral traits that authentically mark true intelligence.

Test yourself ….and start using the markers to smoke out faux-smarties.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wonder why it’s so hard to untangle ObamaCare?

March 17, 2017

Here’s a (scary) chart that puts the program in context.

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Seriously, here’s a graphic of the ObamaCare organization structure and processes …

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Here’s a link to enlarged version and another to a summary that decodes the chart and lists some of the bill’s key provisions.

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Take a quick glance at the flowchart and ask yourself: ”Think this will work?”

The bill’s laundry list special interest provisions caught my eye…

Read the rest of this entry »