More part-timers finding full-time jobs …

February 15, 2018

One of the benefits of the current low unemployment rate is that many people who were previously working part-time “for economic reasons” (i.e. had their hours reduced to part-time status or couldn’t find a full-time job) are now employed full-time.

By the numbers …

Approximately 127 million workers are now employed full-time …. that’s an all-time high … up 16 million from the financial crisis low point …  and up 5 million from the pre-crisis high.

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Here’s the interesting part …

Read the rest of this entry »

Finding college-caliber disadvantaged high-schoolers …

February 14, 2018

Universal SAT / ACT testing  “finds” talented low-income college candidates
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Interesting study reported by Brookings

Entrance exams (ACT or SAT ) are required for admission to virtually all selective colleges in the US.

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For low-income students, that’s a hurdle to overcome.

Students have to register and pay for these tests, and then travel to a testing center on a weekend to take them.

This is straightforward, if you have internet access, a computer, a credit card, and a car.

If you are missing any of these resources, it’s a lot more challenging.

The nearest testing center may be in a suburb that is unreachable by public transportation early on a Saturday morning.

To overcome these hurdles, several states are now giving the ACT or SAT exams in school, for free, on a school day during school hours.

The benefits are two-fold …

Read the rest of this entry »

One of these things is not like the others …

February 13, 2018

In the musical words of Sesame Street’s Ernie:

One Of These Things (Is Not Like The Others)
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

 

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Source: National Gallery

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Need proof that charter schools work?

February 13, 2018

New study of NYC charter schools provide compelling evidence.
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I recently stumbled upon an interesting research study by CREDO – the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University.

CREDO was established to gather and analyze empirical evidence about education reform and student performance (i.e. “outcomes) with a particular emphasis on innovative programs, curricula, policies and accountability practices.

A recent report focused on New York City  charter schools since “New York City has been the nexus of public discourse about charter schools for nearly two decades but only a fraction of that debate has been grounded in well researched evidence about charter schools’ impact on student outcomes.”

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And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Is the value of government secrets grossly exaggerated?

February 12, 2018

That’s a question posed in a WSJ opinion piece over the weekend.
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Of course, the immediate stimulus was President Trump’s refusal to summarily declassify everything in the Dem’s rebuttal to the Nune’s memo.

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A week ago, the Dems – buoyed by DOJ and FBI warnings – were uber-concerned about protecting classified material.

Those concerns seemed a bit silly when the memo was released.

The only sources “outted” were the Clinton Campaign and Yahoo News.

The only method revealed was Googling “Page, Russia”.

Sure, the FBI and DOJ were “embarrassed” … but, so what?

So, why not throw caution to the wind and release the Dem memo?

Read the rest of this entry »

Feldstein called it: Stocks are headed for a fall …

February 9, 2018

“The Fed’s easy monetary policy has led to overvalued equities”
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A couple of weeks ago, we posted Feldstein: Stocks are headed for a fall …

Now that the stock market has “corrected” by over 10%, it feels like time for a flashback.

Feldman called it … and, decades ago, I had researched (and confirmed) the basis of his forecast.

So, did Iact of Feldstein’s prognostication?

Of course not …

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Let’s start by taking a stroll down memory lane ….

Over 40 years ago, an economist-wannabe co-authored a study in the Journal of Finance titled “The Supply of Money and Common Stock Prices”.

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The article summarized an econometric study (think: big, hairy financial model) that demonstrated a tight link between the amount of money floating around and, on a slightly time-delayed basis, the price of stocks.

That is, when the Fed adds liquidity into the market (think: “quantitative easing”), much of money flows into the stock market – rocket-boosting stock prices.

And the opposite is true. When the Fed tightens, stock prices fall back into earth orbit.

OK, fast forward to today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are you a nice person?

February 8, 2018

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 »

Nums: A world of battling algorithms

February 7, 2018

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

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

Tech entrepreneur Kevin Slavin tells how algorithms have reached across industries and into every day life.

A couple of lines caught my attention:

  • There are more than 2,000 physicists working on Wall Street developing operational algorithms
  • Massive scale speed trading is dependent on millisecond read & respond rates …
  • So, firms are physically literally locating right next to internet routing hubs to cut transmission times
  • And, of course, there isn’t time for human intervention and control
  • “We may be building whole worlds we don’t really understand, and can’t control.”

Obviously, Slavin comes down on the side of the quants.

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

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12 Rules for Life

February 6, 2018

Megan McArdle is a Bloomberg columnist who usually writes on the intersection of economics and politics.

On her 45th b-day, she penned her retrospective ‘12 Rules for Life’

A couple of her rules really resonated with me, starting with:

1. Be kind. Mean is easy; kind is hard. Making yourself feel bigger by making someone else feel small takes so little skill that 12-year-olds can do it.

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Here are the rest of my favorites, a link to the complete list, and a reason for the picture (#11) …

Read the rest of this entry »

OMG: Memo reveals sources & methods …

February 5, 2018

There was some humor in the Nunes‘ memo
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Prior to release of the memo, the FBI issued a statement expressing the agency’s “grave concerns”.

One of the grave concerns – echoed by every left-leaning talking head – was that national security would be put at risk because the memo discloses our intelligence agencies’ sources & methods.

Usually, that means releasing the names of undercover operatives … or identifying intelligence “partners” … or disclosing technological information gathering techniques (say, bugging another government’s conference rooms).

Revealing those sources and methods would be a serious matter.

Did the memo, in fact, reveal sources & methods?

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The short answer is “yes, it did” ….

Read the rest of this entry »

“The memo”: 3 scenarios

February 2, 2018

As I write this, the memo hasn’t been released yet …
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Reporter Kim Strassel  had a must read piece in today’s WSJ: Memo Reading for Nonpartisans.

After reading it, I conclude that there are 3 likely scenarios to emerge.

First, let’s pound some stakes in the ground:

it’s virtually certain that the memo will reveal that the “Steele Dossier” – which everybody seems to agree (or concede)  was funded by Clinton’s campaign (and-or the DNC) – was submitted to the FISA Court to obtain a warrant to wire-tap Trump associate Carter Page.

Strassel says to Ignore any arguments that the dossier was not a “basis” for the warrant or only used “in part.”

Why?

“If the FBI had to use it in its application, it means it didn’t have enough other evidence to justify surveillance.”

Further, Comey testified to the Senate, under oath that parts of the dossier were “unverified”.

The key word in the prior sentence is “parts”.

OK, on to the scenarios.

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Scenario #1: The DOJ / FBI applied for the warrant using the dossier and …

(1) failed to explicitly inform the court that it was funded by Clinton’s campaign and

(2) failed to explicitly inform the court which parts of dossier had been verified and which parts had not been verified.

If this is the case, the DOJ / FBI violated the FISA laws by providing the court with misleading (through omission) evidence.

That’s pretty bad.

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Scenario #2: The DOJ / FBI applied for the warrant using the dossier and …

(1) explicitly informed the court that it was funded by Clinton’s campaign and

(2) explicitly informed the court which parts of dossier had been verified and which parts had not been verified.

If this is the case, assuming that the verified parts were relevant to the application, then DOJ / FBI provided legit evidence and the FISA court ruled on the application based on its merits.

That gets the DOJ /FBI off the hook, but shines a light on the FISA Court and the FISA process.

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Scenario #3: The DOJ / FBI applied for the warrant using the dossier and …

The DOJ / FBI refuse to answer whether they explicitly advised the FISA Court of the Clinton-funding or whether they explicitly informed the court that relevant parts of the dossier were unverified.

The basis for the refusal to answer would likely be that the FISA proceedings are “sealed” … or that the information is classified.

This scenario simply keeps the issue alive at an even higher decibel level.

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My take:

If Scenario #2 plays out … the GOP case is toast.

I personally think that Scenario #1 represents “truth”, but ….

I’m betting that Scenario #3 will be operative.

We should know by the end of the day.

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Teachers with conservative views don’t make the cut.

February 2, 2018

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 »

SOTU: Trump gave a shout-out to “American grit” ….

February 1, 2018

What is this “grit” that he’s talking about?
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In his inaugural SOTU, President Trump said:

Together, we can reclaim our building heritage.

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

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

So, what is this “grit” that he’s talking about?

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Well, psychology professor Angela Lee Duckworth has researched successful students, athletes and business managers.

She concludes that talent and intelligence will get you only so far.

Prof. Duckworth says the characteristic that separates successful people from the also-rans is, in a word, grit”.

Grit is tenacious spirit that keeps certain people dedicated to their goal (whether it involves their studies, their projects, their clients, or something else) for the long haul, determined to accomplish what they set out to do.

Grit is working with intensity and  stamina over long periods of time to incrementally chip away at some goal.

Prof. Duckworth says schools & companies should recruit people who are not only smart, but also demonstrate “true grit”.

Maybe she’s onto something.

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Here’s a TED talk in which Prof. Duckworth summarizes her findings.

 

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SOTU: Two images tell the whole story …

January 31, 2018

When Trump reported that the unemployment rate for Blacks has reached a historical low …

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Apparently words & promises speak louder than actions and results.

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When  CBS flash polled speech-watchers …

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Sample was skewed (slightly) to Republicans … many ‘haters’ didn’t watch … hmmm.

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As if forgetting stuff wasn’t bad enough …

January 31, 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 …

Read the rest of this entry »

Tax Migration: Which states are losing income? Which are gaining?

January 30, 2018

A friend alerted me to a very cool web site called How Money Walks

Stated simply, the IRS captures data from income tax returns – tracks year-to-year changes in the filer’s address (intra or inter-state) – aggregates the data by county (and state) – and calculates the net movement on AGI in and out.

Below is the overall, U.S. map – red indicates a net income outflow; green indicates a net income inflow.

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click to go to the How Money Walks interactive map
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No surprise, Florida is the big winner with a cumulative annual AGI inflow of $156 billion.

New York is the big loser with a a cumulative annual AGI outflow of $99 billion

Drilling down is where things get interesting.

For example ….

Florida’s increase net inflow has been on a steady rise.

Most of the “new” money is from high tax & spend states: New York, New Jersey and Illinois.

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On the flipside, New has had a steady net income outflow to low-tax Florida and North Carolina … and its sisters in the Tri-State area – New Jersey and Connecticut.

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If you want to get more granular, How Money Moves lets you drill down to the county levels to track movements.

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To have some fun slicing and dicing,  go to the How Money Walks website and just point & click.

WARNING: Playing with this data can get addicting.

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Thanks to GFB for feeding the lead.

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More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

January 29, 2018

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?

January 26, 2018

A plausible “why” and a very interesting “how”.
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Note: We’re doing an amusement park case in class this week … .
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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 »

Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

January 25, 2018

Note: We’re doing an amusement park case in class this week …

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Disney’s technology applications are impressive.

I know because I took a fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) to 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 »

How Trump got the Dems to blink …

January 24, 2018

It only took 2 well-timed tweets.

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The Dems had Trump on the ropes, right?

Republicans always get blamed for government shut-downs … and, the majority of Americans are ok with Dreamers being allowed to stay in the country.

Should have been an easy  win for the Dems.

So, what the heck happened?

Here’s my take ….

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First, Trump plays hard-to-get on an extension to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) … then he reluctantly agrees to let Ryan insert it into the Continuing Resolution (CR).

The Dems complain that the extension is too short, so he concedes to stretching its funding out to 9 years.

Dems do an end zone dance … a bit prematurely.

You see, CHIP became a sort of poison pill.

When the Dems shut things down, he tweeted:

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Boom !

Just like that, the debate got framed as healthcare for 8.9 million American-citizen children versus citizenship benefits for 800,000 non-citizens.

On a dime, the polls started to turn against the Dems.

And, to make the Dems a bit uneasy, he tweeted again …

Read the rest of this entry »

California braces for outbound migration of fat cats…

January 23, 2018

Loss of SALT deduction may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

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Last week, we reported some moving data from United Van Lines that indicated “moving deficits” in high tax & spend states: Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts.

See Northeast states continue to experience a “moving deficit”…

We expressed surprise that California was rated as “neutral” not “outbound”.

Well, according to the Sacramento Bee, it’s just a matter of time.

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Even Gov. Jerry Brown has observed: ““People with higher incomes will pay a lot taxes (when SALT taxes deductions are cut), and some of them may be tempted to leave.”

That’s a problem because “The state’s wealthiest 1% pay 48 percent of its income tax, and the departure of just a few families could lead to a noticeable hit to state general fund revenue.”

In the past, California passed tax increases with impunity, assuming that “elites are embedded in the regions (like California) where they achieve success, and they have limited interest in moving to procure tax advantages.”

Now, that’s not a certainty, and the state is considering some very creative (and, somewhat laughable) ways to offset the likely drop in individual tax receipts ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Dems taunting Trump into pushing the nuclear button?

January 22, 2018

Maybe it’s time to kill the legislative filibuster …
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Trying to pin the shut-down on Trump & the GOP, Dem front-men and their supportive media keep repeating the same refrain:

They control the White House and both houses of Congress … how can they not be responsible?”

CNN’s Jim Acosta asked that question of OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and was summarily schooled on the obvious.

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The short clip is worth viewing but, if you’re in a rush, here’s the story …

Read the rest of this entry »

Northeast states continue to experience a “moving deficit”…

January 19, 2018

Each year, United Van Lines reports a tally of moves into and out of states,

If a state has more outbound moves than inbound moves, it has a “moving deficit.

The headline for 2017 is no surprise:

Illinois and New Jersey lead the pack with with 63% outbound, followed by  New York (61%), Connecticut (57%) and Massachusetts (56%).

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Now, what do those states have in common?

Besides cold weather, they’re states with very high state and local taxes.

So, it’s no surprise that folks are heading for the exits.

And, the data is for 2017.

Imagine what the migration pattern will look like in 2018 now that the SALT deduction has been largely eliminated.

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P.S. Only surprise to me is that California is able to to stay put in the “neutral” column … could be the warm weather and scenic views … but, gotta wonder where all the inbounds are coming from.

Hmmm …

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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Feldstein: Stocks are headed for a fall …

January 18, 2018

“The Fed’s easy monetary policy has led to overvalued equities”

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Let’s start by taking a stroll down memory lane ….

Over 40 years ago, an economist-wannabe co-authored a study in the Journal of Finance titled “The Supply of Money and Common Stock Prices”.

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The article summarized an econometric study (think: big, hairy financial model) that demonstrated a tight link between the amount of money floating around and, on a slightly time-delayed basis, the price of stocks.

That is, when the Fed adds liquidity into the market (think: “quantitative easing”), much of money flows into the stock market – rocket-boosting stock prices.

And the opposite is true. When the Fed tightens, stock prices fall back into earth orbit.

OK, fast forward to today.

Read the rest of this entry »

“When are things going to get fair?”

January 17, 2018

A hotel employee asked me that pointed question …

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This is a story with a happy ending …

We were on a family road trip, staying at the Marriott Courtyard in Princeton, NJ.

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After working out, my wife and I looked around for the usual coffee-in-the-lobby.

Not seeing any, we approached the front desk and asked where the coffee was.

The desk person said that the pay-for-coffee restaurant would be opening in 15 minutes.

A very nice lady standing behind the desk clerk offered: “Interested in a complementary cup  of coffee? Follow me …”

We did.

Here’s the rest of the story …

Read the rest of this entry »

Is there another Y2K on the horizon?

January 16, 2018

Oregon goes “non-binary”.

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Let’s connect a couple of dots today …

First, the White House recently announced  that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies.

Included was an obscure rule that requires agencies to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted many computer systems when the calendar turned on January 1, 2000 – more than 16 years ago.

Tech note: In the 1900’s, to save tape and disk space, most computer programs coded years in 2-digits, e.g. ‘1988’= ’88’.

But, coding ‘2000’ as ‘00’ would cause many problems since computers would think the ‘00’ would mean 1900, e.g  a baby born on January 1, 2000 would be 100 years old at birth.

Date-dependent programs were affected, and the fixes were both costly and time-consuming. But, the job got done!

 

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Seven of the 50 paperwork requirements that were eliminated dealt with the Y2K bug.

OMB estimates that the changes could save tens of thousands of man-hours across the federal government.

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The second story comes from the state of Oregon:

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Oregon became the first state to allow residents to identify as “nonbinary,” neither male nor female, on their driver licenses and identification cards.Beginning July 1, Oregonians will be able to choose “X” for sex Instead of “F” or “M” on their licenses and identification cards.

Most Oregonians favored the change.

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So, what’s the problem?

Read the rest of this entry »

Test your geo-climate knowledge …

January 12, 2018

What is this a picture of?

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Source

OK, let’s make the question easier – a multiple choice:

(A)  A portion of the Arctic where global warming has melted parts of the Polar Icecap.

(B)  A part of the Sahara Desert where snow has fallen for the 2nd time in 40 years?

And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

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

January 11, 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 …

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick: how many 3’s in the block of numbers?

January 10, 2018

Let’s test our cognitive skills today..

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For my consulting course, I’ve been reading up on storytelling and data visualization.

Hit pay dirt with a book called  Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals.

One of the topics is how to leverage pre-attentive attributes – visual cues that can influence what information catches a reader’s eye on a slide or chart … think: “shiny objects”.

To demonstrate the concept of pre-attentive attributes: Observe the block of numbers below … how many 3’s are there in this block of numbers?

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And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Who consumes the most fake news?

January 9, 2018

And, are they swayed by it?
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Interesting article in the WSJ channeling a study by three political scientists from Princeton, Dartmouth and the University of Exeter…

The objective of their study was to validate or refute the common Democratic hypothesis that “fake news” elected Donald Trump … that “Trump voters were duped by fringe websites that traffic in misinformation, and that if those voters were better informed, Hillary Clinton would be president today.”

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Their findings may surprise you …

Read the rest of this entry »

Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation.

January 8, 2018

A new book says that not all of the “shaping” has been good.
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According to the WSJ

Over the weekend, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — which control about $2 billion of Apple shares — sent a letter to Apple urging the company to “develop new software tools that would help parents control and limit phone use more easily and to study the impact of overuse on mental health.”

Apparently, they got the word that “obsessive teenage phone usage may be causing increased rates in teen depression and suicide and that phones are replacing old-fashioned human interaction.”

No kidding. We were all over this topic last fall.

Here’s a timely flashback …

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Last fall, when Apple celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the iPhone and launch of iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook boasted:

Having sold over one billion units and enabling millions of apps that have become essential to people’s daily routine …

The iPhone redefined how consumers live, work, communicate, and entertain.

I chalked it up as marketing hype, but then …

I started reading a recently released book (coincidence?) called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

The author is Jean Twenge, a psychology prof with a specialty in “generational differences” who is credited with coining the newest generation “iGen”.

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mazon link

Prof Twenge agrees with Cook’s basic claim that the iPhone has redefined life.

But, she argues, not all of the redefinition is positive … specifically highlighting the decline in in-person social interaction and a sharp rise in mental health issues among iGens.

Let’s start at the beginning ….

Read the rest of this entry »

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

January 5, 2018

Reason #12 – When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?

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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”.

Moving on …

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Last summer, I posted a series The 10 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Then, I added Reason #11 – Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Loyal readers had to know that this one was coming …

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Reason #12 – When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?

OK, I concede that last summer had some scorching moments … creating an opportunity for the “warmists” to shout from every rooftop:

“See, I told you so.  Climate is changing, climate is changing. Globe is warming. It’s your fault.”

You see, a hot spell is “climate” … and ample proof of the warming dogma.

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OK, lets fast-forward to the past couple of bone chilling weeks.

I grew up in Cleveland and lived in Minneapolis, Chicago and Connecticut … so I know snow and cold.

These past couple of weeks have been the worst prolonged deep cold spell that I can remember.

And, the record low temps are spread wide … and deep into the South.


Click to enlarge

Of course, global warming skeptics have headlined the cold spell as an inconvenient fact for global warmists.

Not to worry.

The warmists simply school ignorant skeptics by dismissing the cold spell as “weather” not “climate”.

So, when is weather “climate” … and when it it just garden variety “weather”?

Read the rest of this entry »

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

January 4, 2018

Reason #11- Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

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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”.

And, I’ve personally had the eyes of 2 hurricanes literally pass right over my house, so I’m aware of their devastating potential.

I have friends and family in Houston and scattered around Florida. They and other hurricane victims have my deepest sympathy.

Moving on …

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Last summer, I posted a series The 10 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Then, a celebrity phone-a-thon for Harvey & Irma victims prompted me to add to the list.

Let’s flashback to Reason $11 to set-up tomorrow’s Reason #12

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Reason #11- Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

The quote is generally attributed to Rahm Emmanuel – former of Obama chief-of-staff and currently Mayor of murder- riddled Chicago.

Hurricanes Harvey & Irma put the credo into action …

At 8 o’clock, I tuned in the see the semi-finals of my favorite TV show: America’s Got Talent.

Imagine my disappointment when I saw that the show was being delayed (to past my bed time) for a celebrity fund-raiser.

OK, I figured … let’s watch an hour of pros sing and dance.

Cue the first act: Little Stevie Wonder … err, I mean Stevie Wonder … err again, I mean Steven Wonder … whatever.

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Pre-ambling his ditty, Mr. Wonder preached:

“It just loves. As we should begin to love and value our planet.”

So far, so good.

Then the pivot:

Anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.”

He made a lightning-fast pivot from the hurricane disasters to climate change.

Conveniently, ignoring a few facts …

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

January 3, 2018

And, some advice for hedging your bets.
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Researchers at Harvard scoured the records of 730,000 patients treated between 2011 and 2014 by more than 18,800 hospital-based internists (now called “hospitalists”).

The results were originally published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and recapped in StudyFinds:

Patients are 1.3% more likely to die when treated by doctors over the age of 60, than if they’re treated by doctors under 40.

That translates to one additional death for every 77 patients under the care of a doctor over 60.

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What’s going on?

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Will 143 million households notice that their taxes have been cut?

January 2, 2018

Trump and the GOP face some formidable headwinds …

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First, let’s deal with the numbers …

According to a recent Monmouth University poll,  50% of the public believes the federal taxes they pay will go up under the GOP’s tax plan; 25%think their taxes will stay the same, and just 14%say their taxes will go down.

Say, what?

The good news – according MarketWatchMarketWatch and the non-partisan Tax Policy Center   — is that about 143 million “tax units” (think: households) will pay lower taxes next year and only about 8.5 million will pay higher taxes. That’s a 94% / 6% split.

Note: The Joint Committee on Taxation, which is Congress’s independent number cruncher, came up with similar numbers. They found the average tax rate would fall to 19% from 20.7%. The tax rate for those with an adjusted gross income between $50,000 to $75,000 would see their tax rate fall to 13.5% from 14.8%.

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For the most popular bracket — the $50,000 to $75,000 range – the average tax cut will be $870.

Technical note: The Tax Policy Center slots folks based on “expanded cash income” that includes cash income plus tax-exempt employee and employer contributions to health insurance and other fringe benefits, employer contributions to tax-preferred retirement accounts, income earned within retirement accounts, and food stamps.

The big question is whether the tax cut beneficiaries will notice the difference and applaud the tax cut.

My conclusion: The GOP is facing some perceptual headwinds…

Read the rest of this entry »

Merry Christmas … 45 Lessons in Life

December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and HAPPY NEW YEAR  to all !

This short video was sent to me by a friend a couple of years ago

It really resonated with me, so I like to share it at Christmas time.

 … back with you after the New Year

* * * * *

       click picture  to launch ( best with audio on)
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>> Latest Posts

Obama’s tax cut bigger than Trump’s … say, what?

December 23, 2017

There’s spin … and then there’s dizzying spin.

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I like to tune in to MSNBC to get a sense of what the far left is saying … and, for pure entertainment value.

To say the least, I was surprised that a constantly looped headline following Trump’s signing of the tax reform package was:

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I had to scratch my head: What Obama tax cut?

At first, I assumed that they might be referring to Obama’s billion-dollar stimulus program which gave a dollar-a-day Tax Credit ($400 per worker and $800 per couple) in 2009 and 2010.

Nope.

Here’s what they were talking about …

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Uh-oh: Cable companies threatening crackdown on password sharing …

December 22, 2017

Will Amazon Prime be next?

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You had to know that this one was coming.

According to Bloomberg:

“Using someone else’s credentials to stream for free will soon be a $10 billion problem for pay-TV companies.”

Apparently, the problem isn’t just a matter of sharing passwords across extended families.

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There’s reportedly a thriving market for passwords-to-buy (at deep discounts, of course) or password swapping (I give you my NFL password and you give me your HBO password).

And, the problem has reached epic proportions: as many as “30,000 simultaneous streams from a single account.”

So, what is the cable industry going to do about it?

Read the rest of this entry »

My biggest beef with the GOP tax plan …

December 21, 2017

… and still, nobody seems to be talking about it.

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Now that the tax reform package is in the books, I should be elated, right?

But, I’m quite ambivalent.

On the plus side, I do think that the stock market will stay el fuego.

Selfishly speaking, that dwarfs all of the negatives.

But …

  1. Based on my calcs, I’m in the 20% of folks whose taxes are going up, not down.  I’m thinking that I may be the only person who doesn’t reside in CA, NY and NJ whose taxes are going up. Ouch.
  2. Carried interest is alive and well.  C’mon Donald, you promised. And please, don’t tell me that hedge funds and private equity are engines of growth.  May be small potatoes re: tax revenue, but it’s what Rudy Giuliani would call a “broken window”.
  3. Are Google and Facebook really going to invest their tax savings here in the USA? I’m betting the under on that one. Wish the corporate tax benefits were tied more directly to employment levels.

And. my biggest concern is the long-run tilt in voting dynamics.  Tax cuts will no longer have any campaign whallop.

Why?

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

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

Well if the GOP tax plan goes through, the 47% will be be alive .. and well … and growing.

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Source

Let’s start with some data…

Read the rest of this entry »

What word annoys you the most?

December 20, 2017

Marist Poll releases 2017 list … mine wasn’t on it.

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Every year, the Marist Poll conducts a survey to ID the word that most annoys Americans.

For the 9th consecutive year, this year’s winner: ‘whatever…’.

According to the folks at Marist, ‘whatever’ first gained infamy about 20 years ago  in the movie Clueless.

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Here are the runners-up and my pick ….

Read the rest of this entry »

The non-science President redirects NASA to re-focus on space exploration.

December 19, 2017

You might have missed this in the flurry on news last week…

President Trump issued an Executive Order redirecting NASA’s mission:

The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.

It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use.

This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond — and bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.

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I know what you must be thinking: What’s newsworthy about that … hasn’t that been NASA’s mission all along?

Nope.

President Trump’s Executive Order reverses former-President Obama’s marching orders for NASA.

In case memories have faded, let’s flashback to 2010 ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Polls: Near-majority opposes GOP tax plan.

December 18, 2017

Gomer Pyle observes: Surprise, surprise, surprise.
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MSM is taking great delight reporting polls that show a near- majority of opposing the emerging GOP tax plan.

Some polls have the opposition as high as 55%.

USA Today reports that 48% oppose it and explains:

“53% of those surveyed predict their own families won’t pay lower taxes as a result of the measure.”

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Let’s unpack the survey results ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Do you drink red wine at room temperature?

December 15, 2017

Experts say that’s too hot … not “flavor optimal”

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Taste research conducted by Sydney Wine Academy and Taylors Wines observes that most people drink red wine at room temperature … and, concludes that’s to hot.

Conversely, most people serve white wine too cold for optimum flavor.

 

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Here’s the logic …

Read the rest of this entry »

Is repatriation of cash really a big deal?

December 14, 2017

The WSJ and FT disagree on the impact.  I disagree with both.

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Let’s start with some background …

Currently, when a company earns money abroad, it’s taxed in the local jurisdiction where it’s earned … and then the Feds collect U.S. income taxes when the company brings the cash associated with the earnings back to their U.S. accounts.

Most folks agree that represents punitive double taxation.

So, companies tend to keep the cash associated with offshore earnings parked offshore … deferring U.S. income taxes as long as possible.

Currently, the 50 top overseas cash holders have almost $1 trillion parked outside the U.S.

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click for full top 50 list

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The GOP tax plan moves towards “territorial taxation” … meaning that U.S. companies will only be taxed in the jurisdiction where money is earned.

That makes complete sense to me.

The GOP tax plan also  includes a one-time “deemed repatriation rate” on earnings now held abroad … that rate is proposed to be 14% to 14.49% … lower than the current corporate rate of 35% or the proposed rate of 20%.

Why not a deemed repatriation rate of zero?

I guess the logic is that the current stockpiles of offshore cash were earned under the old double taxation rules … so the companies “owe” the Feds around 35% … offering a deemed rate of 14% roughly splits the difference between 35% and zero.

Here’s were things get interesting …

Read the rest of this entry »

Which states get hit hardest when SALT deduction is eliminated?

December 13, 2017

Looks like it might just be rich folks paying their fair share.

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Everybody knows that tax-payers in liberal-leaning states (CA, NY, NJ, MA, CT) will get hit the hardest when the GOP plan to eliminate the SALT (state & local taxes)  deduction is disallowed.

And, everybody has probably heard Chuckie Schumer whine about how New Yorkers toss more into the government coffers than they get back.

The Rockefeller Institute of Gov’t pulled together those 2 observations into an interesting (albeit a bit complicated) chart.

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click to enlarge

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Let’s decode the chart …

The vertical axis basically indicates if a state puts a low or high SALT burden on its residents.

The horizontal axis indicates if a state’s Balance of Payments with the Feds is positive (to the left) or negative (to the right).  That is, does the state get back from the Feds (in goods and services) more or less that its residents pay in Federal taxes.

For example, Hew York is in the upper right quadrant.

Chuckie is right: New York (a high SALT state) pays more to the Feds than it gets back.

Maryland and Virginia are in the upper left quadrant: residents pay high SALT but get more back from the Feds than they pay in Fed taxes.

All of which illuminates a couple of interesting points …

Read the rest of this entry »

Newser: Now, this is funny …

December 12, 2017

CNN goes from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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MSM reporting has had a bad couple of weeks …

Off the top of my head:

  • ABC’s Brian Ross caused a 350 point drop in the Dow by reporting exclusively that “Candidate Trump” instructed Flynn to make contact with the Russians. Turned out to be “President-elect Trump” and the contacts were completely legal
  • It was revealed that the FBI did, in fact, tell Sessions he didn’t have to report his Senatorial meetings and incidental contact with Russians.
  • CNN scooped that Donald, Jr. was emailed an encryption key to open purloined DNC emails before they were publically released.  Wrong. It was after they had been posted to the internet. Oops.

Now, CNN has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Yesterday, a mere hour after the Port Authority bombing, CNN started headlining another breaking news story.

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Source: TownHall.com

Note that the times on the 2 screen shoots are identical … then glance at the headlines.

Fox was still on the bombing story.

CNN, not so much.

They were reporting leaked information that President Trump drinks up 12 Diet Cokes every day … and, on the campaign trail, would often down a couple of Big Macs every day.

They  failed to present some exculpatory evidence: To keep his svelte physique, Trump doesn’t eat the Big Mac’s buns.

You just can’t make this stuff up …

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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Reality Check: How much will YOUR income taxes go down (or up)?

December 11, 2017

Here’s a simple online  calculator that rudely awakened me.

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My son who admonished me to “stop calling it a tax cut until you run your numbers” … I finally did run my numbers.

For me — a discounted-rate college prof – my Federal income taxes will go up about 30%.

Whoa, Nelly.

What’s going on?

The key drivers: (1) loss of personal exemptions ($4,050 times 2)  (2) non-deductibility of state income taxes (Virginia has turned purple with a Dem governor) and (3) loss of 1/3 of my local real estate taxes (assuming the House version that still allows $10,000).

The alleged reduction in rates doesn’t offset those deductions lost.

Nuts.

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If you want to see what the likely impact will be on you, pull out the first couple of pages of your 2016 tax return so you can plug a few numbers into the CALCXML online tax calculator.

Here’s an example for a family of 4 – husband, wife, 2 kids under 18 … filing jointly … $150,000 combined income … no “unearned investment income” (dividends & capital gains which get taxed at a preferential rate) … $500,000 mortgage @ 4% …. $5,000 local real estate taxes .

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click for CalcXM’s online tax calculator

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And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Living high off the pork …

December 8, 2017

According to the Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey” …

The five richest counties in the United States are all suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Loudoun County, VA tops the list … the median household income there is $125,672.

As a benchmark, the median household income in the U.S.  $55,322.

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Following close behind Loudoun are:

  • Falls Church, VA ($115,244)
  • Fairfax County, VA ($114,329)
  • Howard County, MD ($113,800)
  • Arlington County, VA ($108,706)

New York, New Jersey and California have a total of 8 counties on the top 20 list.

Here’s the full list …

Read the rest of this entry »

Have business gurus (and business schools) lost touch?

December 7, 2017

Some pillars of management theory are weakening.

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Interesting article in The Economist asserts that “business gurus have lost touch with the world they seek to rule” and that “management theory is ripe for a reformation, especially at Business schools — the cathedrals of capitalism.”

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More specifically, the author argues that: “Management theories are organized around four basic ideas, repeated ad nauseam in every business book you read or business conference you attend, that bear almost no relation to reality.”

Here are some snippets on those four disputable basic ideas …

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Who would vote for a creepy old man?

December 6, 2017

Answer: Probably a majority of Alabama voters.

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Have you noticed what’s been happening in the Alabama Senate race?

Note that – after a couple of weeks of losing poll numbers – creepy old Roy Moore has pulled back into the lead.

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Let’s dissect the numbers a bit …

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