Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

March 22, 2017

Disney’s technology applications are impressive.


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

Here’s some of what I found.


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.


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.


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 …


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?


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.


Interesting piece that I spotted on the DailyMail


Everybody tries to act smart, right?

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



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.


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


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.


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 »

About the “Extended Medicaid” bruhaha …

March 16, 2017

It’s center stage in the current debate.


So, I dug in a bit to understand the issue.



Here are my takeaways ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Another hidden cost of ObamaCare …

March 15, 2017

For most doctors, Medicaid patients are a losing proposition.


It’s hard to find anybody opposed to healthcare for the poor.

In the past, most doctors took on Medicaid patients –- which were relatively few in number — as a public service.

Some took Medicaid patients to fill empty appointment slots and, thus, increase capacity utilization (think, airlines filling empty seats).

But, an increasing number of doctors are demotivated to serve Medicaid patients.



What’s the problem?

Read the rest of this entry »

A hidden cost of ObamaCare: Docs getting stiffed.

March 14, 2017

ObamaCare’s high deductible plans pushing up bad debts.


Chatting with a doctor-friend recently.

His is a very specialized 1-doctor practice (supported by a handful of well-trained techs).

Patients who are referred to him usually have a very serious condition needing sophisticated diagnostics.

My friend casually mentioned to me that – in the past couple of years — he has had to write-off more than $2 million in bad debts.

Way more than in prior years.



Here’s what’s going on …

Read the rest of this entry »

Trip Notes: Seniors’ Week in Cabo …

March 13, 2017

Let’s get personal today…

We just got back from a rare out-of-country trip …

Friends and students oft-hear from me that I hate to travel.

I usually put it: “After 2 tours-of-duty as a consultant, I’ve had my fill of French restaurants and airports”.

That said, some friends nudged me to take a trip to Cabo.


Even though it was my spring break, it didn’t dawn on me that it was every college’s spring break.

The obvious become evident to me when I realized that my wife & I brought our flight’s average age up by about a year or two (think about the math of that calculation for for a second).

A college girl boarded with an appropriate t-shirt: “The few.  The proud. The privileged” … ah, to be an American college kid again.


For the record, here are a couple of takeaways from my trip…

Read the rest of this entry »

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

March 10, 2017

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


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.



Why’s this happening?

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t faint: I agree with ObamaCare on this one …

March 9, 2017

For the record, I think that ObamaCare is an expensive, amateurish travesty that should be repealed and rebuilt from the ground up by professionals.  Keep the high risk pools for pre-exiting conditions, keep the subsidies for the poor … but lose the  micro-narrow provider networks and the junk mandated into policies (e.g. my favorite: universally free birth control for law schoolers).

And, I think that Dr. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel – Rahm’s brother and one of the ObamaCare architects – is a complete butt.


That said, I was on Zeke’s side when he sparred with O’Reilly  …

Read the rest of this entry »

Obamacare For me, it’s personal…

March 8, 2017

Higher costs, higher taxes, longer waits, primary doc absentia, still working


My primary care doctor is on the faculty at Georgetown’s med school … and on the staff at Georgetown Hospital

Shortly after ObamaCare was passed, I asked him what he thought the implications would be.


His reply surprised me …

“Not much change … it will just shift around who’s going to be paying the bills…. now, the hospital would treat anybody and just write off unpaid bills … going forward, I guess, those bills will be paid by the government and insurance companies.”

When pressed, about service levels, he opined:

“I’m working full days now, seeing as many patients as I can … so, it’ll be harder for current patients to get appointments unless we hire more doctors or stop accepting new patients … and, I don’t see us doing either of those two things.”

At the time, I thought his assessment was a bit dismissive.

Looking back, he had had deftly cut to chase.

In the final analysis healthcare – and, hence – ObamaCare impacts are strictly personal.

Here’s my saga. It’s one that many of my friends can relate to.

Read the rest of this entry »

Remember when an ObamaCare architect called you stupid?

March 7, 2017

Let’s flashback to a November 2014 post ….


Even if you believe that “the end justifies the means”, this has gotta make your skin crawl.

Some background: Prof. Jonathan Gruber is an MIT economist who helped on RomneyCare in Massachusetts and was one of the primary architects of ObamaCare.

He was caught on video  speaking quite frankly about the crafting of ObamaCare.

His basic message:

“The bill was written in a tortured way … to be sure that the CBO didn’t score the mandate as a tax …  otherwise the bill would die … so, it was written to do that.

With regards to the subsides … if people figured out that healthy pay in to give sick people money, it wouldn’t have passed … lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.

Basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or what … that was critical to getting the bill to pass … yeah, it would be better to be transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

Watch the video … it’s even more chilling to hear Prof. Gruber say the words: Obfuscate and bank on American stupidity.

How do these guys sleep at night?



P.S. Another Gruber video got some wide play..

He’s on tape saying that the specific language in the bill that only provided subsidies for folks going through state exchanges was intentional to motivate states to build exchanges,

ObamaCare supporters started claiming that  it was just a typo that didn’t represent intent.

The Supreme Court agreed with them … with life & death consequence for ObamaCare.

As Forrest Gump would say:” Stupid is as stupid does.”



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

March 7, 2017

In 2016, employees paid $11,000 out-of-pocket … up $2,500 since 2012.


Milliman – a well-regarded actuarial consulting” firm – has published an annual recap of healthcare spending since 2001.

The Milliman Medical Index tracks the total costs of providing health care to an average family of four covered by an employer-sponsored “preferred provider plan” … that’s about 155 million employees and their dependents.

The total includes the health insurance premiums paid by both the employer and the employee, as well as the actual expenditures for health care paid by the insurance plan and out of pocket by the insured family.

The big news: In 2016, the average healthcare costs for a family of 4 surpassed $25,000 for the first time … the $25,826 is triple the cost to provide health care for the same family in 2001 … and up about $5,000 since 2012.



The bad(est) news is the increased proportion of the healthcare costs being shouldered by individual employees …

Read the rest of this entry »

Gains, losses, the endowment effect … and ObamaCare

March 3, 2017

Here’s why repeal & replace is so challenging …


Behavioral theorists have long observed that most people are risk adverse and, due in part to an “endowment effect”, they “value” losses greater than gains.

Endowment Effect: People tend to ascribe a higher value to things that they already own than to comparable things that they don’t own. For example, a car-seller might think his sleek machine is “worth” $10,000 even though credible appraisers say it’s worth $7,500. Sometimes the difference is due to information asymmetry (e.g. the owner knows more about the car’s fine points), but usually it’s just a cognitive bias – the Endowment Effect.

The chart below illustrates the gains & losses concept.

  • Note that the “value line” is steeper on the losses side of the chart than on the gains side.
  • L & G are equivalently sized changes from a current position.
  • The gain (G) generates an increase in value equal to X.
  • The loss (L) generates a decrease in value that is generally found to be 2 to 3 times an equivalently sized gain



For example, would you take any of these coin flip gambles?

  1. Heads: win $100; Tails: lose $100
  2. Heads: win $150; Tails: lose $100
  3. Heads: win $200; Tails: lose $100
  4. Heads: win $300; Tails: lose $100

Most people pass on #1 and #2, but would hop on #3 and #4.

OK, now let’s show how all of this relates to ObamaCare.

Read the rest of this entry »

Should lawmakers (and regulators) have to eat their own cooking?

March 2, 2017

Might induce some genuine empathy and motivate some constructive action.


According to The Atlantic …

As a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter criticized “exclusive private schools that allow the children of the political and economic elite to avoid public schools that are considered dangerous or inferior.”

When he assumed office in 1977, he did something remarkable:

He enrolled his 9-year-old daughter, Amy, in a predominantly black Washington, D.C., public school.

Amy became the first child of a sitting U.S. president to attend a public school since 1906.

She still is.

Gotta give the man credit for walking the talk.

Former President Obama?

Not so much …


A Dept. of Education study found that students in the nation’s capital that were provided with vouchers allowing them to attend private school made “statistically significant gains in achievement.”

Despite that finding, then President Obama curtailed the program … and turned around and enrolled his daughters in Sidwell Friends – the swank private school of choice for the DC elite.

So, it wasn’t at all surprising that several sources found that many of the Democratic Senators who voted against school voucher advocate Betsy DeVos –- opt out of the public school system and send their off-spring to private schools.

OK, maybe they really thought that DeVos wasn’t as qualified as Obama’s basketball buddy, Arne Duncan, who presided for 7 years over declining test scores and “failing schools” headlines.

Or, maybe their pro-choice inclinations don’t really extend beyond their family & friends when it comes to education.

As the USN&WR opined:

Education politics are big business in America, often pitting institutionalized interests like the NEA against parents and kids.

And, equally unfortunately, there are far too many people who are in a position to right the wrongs who are taking advantage of their ability to opt out of the discussion, at least as far as their own children are concerned.

Where education is concerned there’s one America for the elites, like members of Congress and the President, who send their children to private schools.

And, there’s one for everyone else, the regular people who are seeing the educational dreams they have for their children shattered on the altar of politics.


So, what’s the answer?

Read the rest of this entry »

The agony and the ecstasy …

March 1, 2017

Sometimes, pictures are worth a thousand words.


Snaps from Trump’s speech to Congress …



The day after market reaction: pure ecstasy …



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President Trump arrives in Washington …

March 1, 2017

Press scrambling to find negative angles.


Let’s cut to the chase …

This is all that people will remember about President Trump’s speech last night.



Even Van Jones – former Obama Czar of Something and now a far-left CNN commentator – conceded:


Here’s the essence of Jones’s musings as reported in the Washington Post …:

That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period. And he did something extraordinary.

And for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment.

For people who have been hoping that maybe he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often finds a way to do, they should begin to become a little bit worried tonight, because that thing you just saw him do, if he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years.

He did something tonight that you cannot take away from him.

He became president of the United States.

With that as a starting point, the media has a challenge on its hands … how to do some reverse alchemy and turn the gold back into straw?

Read the rest of this entry »

Amazon, ObamaCare … and the “power of free”

February 28, 2017

Since “repeal & replace” is in play, it’s time to update a prior ObamaCare posts …


Everybody knows that Amazon’s free shipping program has been a resounding success.

The free shipping program’s success was highly predictable based an an apparently inadvertent “matched market test” that Amazon did.


Early-on, Amazon launched  free shipping on $25 orders in the U.S. and sales skyrocketed.

In the UK, Amazon launched “nominal shipping” (think, 99 cents) for orders totaling the equivalent of $25.

Sales increased … but only by a fraction of the U.S. sales gain.

Proof-positive of the “power of free” … and evidence an equally important dynamic: there’s a big difference between “free” and “almost free” … when you slip a price on something – even a small one, people recoil.

Now, what’s the link to ObamaCare?

Read the rest of this entry »

Starbucks brand image takes a hit…

February 27, 2017

And, this time it’s not about higher latte prices.


According to  Yahoo Finance, channeling a recent YouGov survey …

Starbuck’s brand image has gotten slammed.

The coffee giant’s consumer perception levels – measured by the YouGov BrandIndex — have fallen by two-thirds since late January.



The timing of the drop coincides with CEO Howard Schultz’s response to President Trump’s executive order … the one intended to slow the flow refugees entering the US.

Schultz announced — with great fanfare —  that Starbucks would hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in the next five years.

Take that, Donald!

Err …

Also according to YouGov, 2 days before Starbucks’ announcement, 30% of consumers said they’d consider buying from Starbucks the next time they were craving coffee.

Now, the percentage is down to 24%.


What’s going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

Michigan State University bans whiteboards … say, what?

February 24, 2017

This one gave me a false-positive flashback …


First, the flashback…

When we moved into our new business school building a decade ago (yeah, it has been that long), I was assigned a new office.

It was at the end of a corridor (as far away from the academic action as they could put me) with a clear view of the building’s commercially-sized air conditioners and the Jesuit graveyard (no kidding).

One complete wall in the office was floor-to-ceiling with book shelves.

Since I only had 6 books (5 of them borrowed), I took out all but the top book shelf (which was suitable for displaying memorabilia) and installed a self-purchased whiteboard (a necessity, right?).


In short order, I got visit from the Dean.

One of my colleagues had ratted me out for making an unauthorized alteration to my office.

Apparently, my whiteboard had violated some common law community standards.

I got off with a slap on the wrist (remember, Gtown is a Catholic school) … but still have occasional nightmares.


OK, fast forward to today in Lansing, Michigan where whiteboards are now officially contraband.

Read the rest of this entry »

So, are you left-brained or right-brained?

February 23, 2017

Yesterday’s post prompted some questions re: what exactly is left-brained and right-brained thinking, so … 

For decades cognitive psychologists has characterized folks as being either left brain dominant  – logical – or right brain dominant – creative.

Browse the lists below and pick your dominant brain side – left or right.


= = = = = 
So what? What to do?
= = = = =

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World …

February 22, 2017

In class, we touched on left-brain, right-brain thinking and I made reference to a book I’d read:  A whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World.

As a hard core left-brainer, I found the title ominous ….

Amazon link


Here’s the crux of the book …

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers.

But, the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers.

We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age …

… to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.

Why the shift?

Because any kind of work that be reduced to repeatable rules and defined processes can be automated or shipped off-shore – even so-called knowledge work

Survival in the Conceptual Age requires thinking skills utilizing the right-side of the brain.

Specifically, “high concept” involves the capacity to:

  • detect patterns and opportunities
  • create artistic and emotional beauty
  • craft a satisfying narrative

…. and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new and distinctive.



What’s required to to succeed in Conceptual Age?

Read the rest of this entry »

Nums: A world of battling algorithms

February 21, 2017

In my SBA course, we explored how human judgment and decision-making can often be outperformed by out-performed by algorithms, especially in oft-repeated data-rich situations which are largely rules-based.

In a cool 15 minute TED Talk (my all time favorite), 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.”

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

click  to view video

* * * * *
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Where do you get your news?

February 20, 2017

Your answer says a lot about you.


Before you look at the chart below, jot down the  channels/shows or web pages that you trust as your primary sources for news.

No cheating.



OK, now check where your news sources fall along this ideological continuum crafted by Pew Research.

confirmation bias - media ideology
Your news sources align with your political ideology, right?

It’s a psychological dynamic called “confirmation bias” … soliciting and internalizing information that is consistent with one’s current beliefs.

Said differently, confirmation bias is a natural stress-reduction tendency to avoid or resist any information that is contrary to or inconsistent with one’s current thinking.

One of the major solidifiers of our current political polarization is the “echo chamber effect” … we all tend to consult sources and hang with people who share, reinforce and exaggerate our ideological leanings.

So what to do?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tell me again: When did Dems start thinking that Russia was a threat?

February 17, 2017

This recent brouhaha about General Flynn chatting up the Russian ambassador seems  to have stoked new flames for hair-on-fire Dems.


Let’s go back a few years.

Remember the 2012 Presidential debates?

A key moment was when President Obama ridiculed Gov. Romney’s knowledge of foreign affairs.

Given Democrats reaction to recent events, this clip is a classic …  try to stay calm when it


Here’s more that’ll make make you scream …

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Democrats and the “wasted vote” phenomenon …

February 16, 2017

Two states and a handful of cities do not a country make.


Ran across an interesting article in the Boston Globe titled “The Democrats’ demographic dilemma.”

The punch line of the article:

Democrats have carried the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, an unprecedented run.

But, Democrats are confronted by the “wasted vote phenomenon”.

They roll up huge margins in blue enclaves, but political polarization and demographic sorting control the electoral map.



Here are a few highlight snippets from the article …

Read the rest of this entry »

Another Chicago flashback …

February 15, 2017

Long ago, I was community organized.


The sour-grape Dems who have taken to mass-disrupting GOP town halls brought some memories out of long-term storage …

Way back in the 70s, we moved to Chicago (for a 2nd time).

We bought a cute little ranch that backed up to a large vacant parcel of land.

The real estate agent said that it was wetlands that couldn’t ever be developed.

If you can’t believe your real estate agent, who can you trust, right?

Well, as soon as the moving trucks pulled out, a couple of our next door neighbors came walking up the drive.

Friendly neighborhood, I thought.

But, their first words: “What do you think of the apartments that are going to be built on the vacant parcel – starting 10 fee from our lot lines?”

Uh-oh. Panic city.

Got an invite to meet more neighbors at a “stop the apartments” get together.

We went, and got to meet Father Greg – a young Catholic priest who said he was a community organizer and could help us stand up to the town chieftains and the developer.

Sounded good to me.

His prescription: start barging into town meetings, making a big ruckus.

“Bring babies if you have any … bring ‘em hungry and, if necessary, pinch them – not to hurt them, but  to make them cry.”

He told us that those were some of the “Rules” of community organizing.

At the time, I didn’t think to ask: “What Rules?”

But, now I know …

Father Greg  wasn’t preaching from the Good Book, but right out of  Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.




As a public service, just in case you’re unfamiliar with Alinsky’s rules, here’s a short-form version that’ll help you understand the Dems strategy….

Read the rest of this entry »

Constitution says “All men are created equal, not just Americans” … say, what?

February 14, 2017

Liberal talking point has a few holes …


A near-viral liberal assertion these days is that the Constitution protects all people, not just Americans.

Sorry, Charlie … that’s just not true.

For openers, glance at the Preamble to the Constitution



Note that it says “We the people of the United States  … not “We the people from everywhere around the globe”

And it says “… to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” … not “… to anybody from anywhere on the planet who may sneak across our borders.”

Seems like a clear (and narrow) definition to me.

Some may not like that proclamation, but that’s the way it reads, folks.


OK, let’s give the libs some slack …

Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley…

February 13, 2017

Kellyanne’s gaffe brought back memories of Boss Daley.


Big bruhaha last week when Kellyanne Conway — the first woman to ever run a successful Presidential campaign – was asked in an interview:

“So, what do you think of Nordstrom dropping Ivanka’s Trump’s line of fashions?”

“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would say,” Ms. Conway said in an interview with Fox News, speaking from the White House briefing room.

“I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online.”


Double oops in this time of political correctness and diminished senses-of-humor.

According to the NY Times: “Legal experts said Ms. Conway might have violated a federal ethics rule against endorsing products or promoting an associate’s financial interests.”

Certainly an ill-advised comment, but strikes me as a molehill being elevated to mountain status.



The ruckus brought back memories of my days living in Chicago…

Read the rest of this entry »

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

February 10, 2017

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


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.




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 »

Why are tech companies hyperventilating over Trump’s travel ban?

February 9, 2017

Are they drawing that much intellectual capital and talent from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen?


According to ABC News: “Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are taking a strong stand against President Donald Trump’s travel ban, saying high tech needs immigrants’ creativity and energy to stay competitive.”

“About 58 percent of the engineers and other high-skill employees in Silicon Valley were born outside the U.S.”


OK, I get that tech companies need foreign talent …

But, silly me, I thought they were coming from places like India, China, Russia, Korea.


We’re talking about some of the science centers of the world: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.



All of which begs another question.

Are the schools and technical training that much better in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen than they are in the U.S.?

If that’s the case, why aren’t the tech companies ‘all in’ to fixing the American education system.

Strikes me that would be a better use of tech company time & money than rallying to keep a constant flow coming from 7 Obama-identified terrorist hotspots.

This one really baffles me.



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Tell me again why Duncan was good, but charter-advocate DeVos is bad …

February 8, 2017

Math scores dropped since 2009 … U.S. now trails 39 countries.

Strikes me that Duncan is an easy act for DeVos to follow as Education Secretary..


The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently released its 2015 survey results for math “literacy” … and, the results aren’t pretty.

The average for 15-year-old U.S. students slipped to 470 on the PISA scale … down about 3.5% from 2009 … ranking the U.S. #40 among developed nations (see list at end of this post) … 20 points lower than the average of the 35 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The scores differential versus the OECD countries is roughly equal for the average, 25th percentile and 90th percentile … refuting claims that “our” best are head-to-head competitive with the the rest of the world’s best.




Digging a bit deeper into the numbers ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Digital amnesia: Is Google dulling your memory?

February 7, 2017

Don’t memorize anything that you can lookup (<=bad advice!)


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.


What’s wrong with that argument?

Read the rest of this entry »

As if forgetting stuff wasn’t bad enough …

February 6, 2017

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


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.


And, the result …

Read the rest of this entry »

Should you put your extracurricular activities and interests on your resume?

February 3, 2017

More than you think, they may impact your chances of getting an interview.


Interesting study reported in HBR

The study investigated whether applicants got invited to interview at highly prestigious law firms (though the findings are probably generalizable to other top-notch professional firms).

Here’s the drill:

Imagine four applicants, all of whom attend the same, selective second-tier law school.

They all have phenomenal grade point averages, are on law review, and have identical, highly relevant work experiences.

The only differences are whether they are male or female and if their extracurricular activities suggest they come from a higher-class or lower-class background.

Who gets invited to interview?

More specifically, the researchers used a technique — known as the resume audit method — randomly assigning different items to the resumes and sending applications to real employers to see how they affect the probability of being called back for a job interview.

All applicants were from 2nd tier schools (where top firms don’t typically do on campus interviewing).

All educational, academic, and work-related achievements were identical between the fictitious candidates.

To test gender effects, the applicants were first-named James or Julia.

To “signal” social status, last names were either prestigious sounding “Cabot” or more common “Clark” … and commonly used and and often required portions of resumes were varied: awards and extracurricular activities:


The experiment confirmed some expectations, but there were also surprises …

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Trump: Inspired by the 1972 Cuban Olympic boxing team?

February 2, 2017

The AP calls it “unsettling” …   “governing-by-upheaval” to recast the role of government.

A historian says that Trump’s style is a mixture:  “a whiff of Reaganism”  with “plays reminiscent of Richard Nixon”,

My take: President Trump’s 1st week in office calls for a reprise of a HomaFiles post from August 2015 … slightly ahead of its time !


Many of you may be too young to have witnessed and remember, but…

In the 1972 Olympics, the polished U.S. boxing team was predicted to sweep the competition.

But, something happened on the way to the medals’ platform that shocked the sporting world.



Here’s the story and why Trump’s first days in office jogged my memory of the 1972 Olympics …

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Reuters: Plurality favors the travel ban …

February 1, 2017

But, you have to read beneath the headline !


Reuters issued one of the 1st polls on attitudes towards Trump’s travel ban on people from President Obama’s list of 7 terrorist hotspots: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen.

The headline:


Of course, we hate to get picky, but if you add together “make you safer” and “keep you safe”, the headline would read “majority think travel plan keeps America safe (or safer)”

But, that doesn’t fit the narrative, I guess.

Here’s the bigger story (that should have been in the headline).

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Want higher exam grades?

January 31, 2017

Well, then quit browsing the Internet during class.


A recent study by psychology researchers at Michigan State University investigated students’ actual Internet usage during classes.


The students agreed to have their in-class browsing activity monitored .

The researchers then matched the browsing activity with the students’ self-reported browsing behavior, their overall academic readiness (think: SAT / ACT scores), their self-reported motivation and interest in the class, and their performance on the course’s final exam.

Here’s what the researchers discovered …

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Now, government employees are walking in coal miners’ shoes …

January 30, 2017

“Retrain and relocate” sounds so reasonable … unless you’re the one needing to retrain & relocate.

When the Obama administration declared war on coal, and Hillary famously declared “we’re going to put a lot of coal companies out of business and a lot of coal miners out of work” … most government employees whopped and hollered in delight.


Their advice: Shake it off, coal miners.

Go back to school and get trained as a java programmer (even if that’s a quantum leap from your skills, education and interests … and as natural as learning to speak Swahili).

Move to thriving locales like Austin or Palo Alto (even if it means leaving 3 generations of family and friends behind).

Suck it up and turn the page, bro.

You’ve got to embrace change and adapt to the changing times (even if the change is artificially induced by government know-it-alls)

Well, it looks like the worm has turned …

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Is financial stress making Americans dumber?

January 27, 2017

Connecting some research “dots” suggests that may be the case.


A recent survey says that 40% of respondents or their immediate family ran into a major unexpected expense last year.


That’s a problem since most Americans (63%) don’t have enough budget-cushion or savings to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense (think, medical bill, house or car repair).

According to the poll, only 37% said they would be able to take the money directly from savings; the rest said they would try to cut expenses (24%), use their credit cards (15%) or borrow money from friends & family (15%). About 1 in 10 had no idea what they’d do.

Predictably, those with higher incomes were most likely to say they would be able to tap savings for emergencies or divert some discretionary spending.

75% of people in households making less than $50,000 a year and 2/3s of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 would have difficulty coming up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected bill.

Even for the wealthiest 20% — households making more than $100,000 a year — more than 1 in 3 say they would have  some difficulty coming up with $1,000. Source


Obviously, the threat of a large, unexpected expense is emotionally daunting to most Americans.

“It definitely adds stress to everyday life. It hangs over you.”

To make matters worse, there is some evidence that the financial stress may impair “cognitive functioning” – that is, dent a person’s IQ.

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

January 26, 2017

Since tax reform is on the front burner, it’s time for some tax facts.


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

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

By taxing authority

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


* * * * *

By type of tax

Roughly 1/3 of the $5 trillion is income taxes individual and corporate)

about 1/4 is ad valorem taxes (think sales and property taxes)

just under 1/5 are social insurance (i.e. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid)

… slightly more than 1/5 are fees and charges (think tolls, business licenses)


* * * * *

Income taxes

Roughly 1/3 of the $5 trillion – about $1.8 trillion — is income taxes

…  83.4% are individual income taxes; only 16.6% are corporate income taxes

… about 80% of income taxes go to the Feds; around 20% goes to the States & Locals


* * * * *

Ad-valorem taxes

Roughly 1/4 of the $5 trillion in total taxes paid – about $1.2 trillion – is ad-valorem taxes – taxes paid based on the value of something bought or owned.

…  about 40% of ad-valorem taxes are Local property taxes

…  about 1/3 are Sales Taxes …  going mostly to the States


* * * * *

Social Insurance

Roughly 1/5 of the $5 trillion in total taxes paid – about $961 billion – is social insurance – with about 80% going to the Feds

…  roughly 60% of the social insurance payments going to the Feds is for Social Security

…  almost 1/4 of the social insurance payments going to the Feds is for Medicare.


* * * * *

Pulling it all together Ken’s Rosetta Stone of Taxes

All the details — now much? to whom? for what?

Click for a PDF: Ken’s Rosetta Stone of Taxes


PDF          Data Source

>> Latest Posts

To bring back jobs, don’t cut the the corporate tax rate …

January 25, 2017

Rather, double the corporate tax deduction for workers’ wages earned the U.S. workers.


Let’s start with an interesting analysis from Nate Silver’s titled Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back

“It’s understandable that voters were angry about trade. The U.S. has lost more than 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994. And, there’s mounting evidence that U.S. trade policy, particularly with China, has caused lasting harm to many American workers.”

“Manufacturing in particular embodies something that seems to be disappearing in today’s economy: jobs with decent pay and benefits available to workers without a college degree are vanishing. The average factory worker earns more than $25 an hour before overtime; the typical retail worker makes less than $18 an hour.”

“In 1994 there were 3.5 million more Americans working in manufacturing than in retail. Today, those numbers have almost exactly reversed, and the gap is widening. More than 80 percent of all private jobs are now in the service sector.”



How can that be?  Aren’t we hearing a lot about “re-shoring” and foreign capital investing in U.S. based manufacturing plants?

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Isn’t it time to dust off the Simpson-Bowles Report ?

January 24, 2017

Now that tax reform and spending “rationalization” are on the front-burner, I wonder why there has been nary a mention of old Simpson-Bowles Report.

You may remember that former President Obama commissioned Simpson, Bowles and a blue-ribbon committee to recommend ways to cut the deficit  … and the skyrocketing national debt.

The report took shots at some sacred cows like capping home mortgage deductions and taxing employer-paid healthcare.

But, S-B had the gall to suggest pulling back some entitlements so Obama deep-sixed the report.

Maybe DJT should try to locate a copy.


Maybe it’s time to re-visit the Simpson-Bowles Report .

Here are some of the highlights …

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Should a family of 5 have to pay more at a restaurant than a family of 3?

January 23, 2017

The answer is obvious, right?

They take up more seats, require more server time, and eat more food.

Why do I ask?

As the GOP moves to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare, a constant refrain is ‘everybody agrees that two popular parts of ObamaCare should be saved: insurability for pre-existing conditions and allowable coverage of ‘adult- children’ on their parents’ policies until they are 26”.

I agree that there needs to be a way to cover pre-existing conditions, but … except for special needs situations, I respectfully disagree re: adult-children.

First, the term “adult-children” gives me the creeps. But, that’s beside the point.

More on point, I don’t care if insurance companies have to carry 26 year olds on their parents’ policies, but I don’t understand why they should “fly free” and that you & I should have to pay for it … not the adult-children’s parents.


Let me explain …

Now, practically all employer-sponsored  health insurance plans charge premiums in tiers: employee only, employee plus spouse, employee plus children, and employee plus spouse and children. Note: it doesn’t matter if the employee has 1 child or a dozen children … same premium.

Say what?

For example, the United Healthcare plan through Georgetown — which is probably pretty typical — charges:


Let’s dive a little deeper into those numbers …

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A Inauguration Day irony …

January 20, 2017

Comey probably did cost the Dems the White House …


Here’s something for Dems to ponder on inauguration day.

My theory of the case from the get-go was that

(1) Hillary did break the law by grossly (and intentionally) mishandling classified information

(2) There was both harm & foul … i.e. foreign agents hacked the info.

(3) Comey brushed past the intent  (which wasn’t really required for criminality) and the harm of the foul … because he didn’t want to go down in history as the brutish guy who stopped the first woman from being elected president.



Here’s the irony for the Dems ….

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The limits of data analytics …

January 19, 2017

Team Clinton worshipped at the altar and got burned.


Lots of post-election articles about how the Clinton campaign got fixated on their data-rich electorate models, using them to allocate ad dollars, deploy field workers and schedule “market visits” by Hillary and her surrogates.


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 stage as “shiny objects” that led the Clinton campaign astray.

Politico reported a case study that  illustrated the point …

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Departing AG Lynch’s opens investigation of Comey & the FBI …

January 18, 2017

Her action might prompt re-opening of the Clinton server investigation.


Departing AG Lynch lobbed a clock-winding-down grenade … unleashing the DOJ’s inspector general to review “broad allegations of misconduct involving FBI Director James B. Comey and how he handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices.”

Center stage are Comey’s July 5 non-sequiturial press conference (lots of evidence, but issue a stay-out-of-jail free card anyway), his re-opening of the case when classified emails were spotted on Anthony Weiner’s laptop and Comey’s last minute pronouncement for every to fuggitaboutit.


There are a couple of ways that Dem-loyal Lynch’s ploy might backfire.

First, beyond Comey, the IG said that he’ll be investigating “whether Peter Kadzik, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, improperly disclosed non-public information to the Clinton campaign” and whether “FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe should have been recused from the case since his wife, Jill McCabe, ran for a Virginia Senate seat and took money from the political action committee of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a fierce Clinton ally.”

Said differently, the IG is likely to find more influence peddling and tampering from the Clinton side than from the Trump side.

Second, while Lynch has narrow-scoped the investigation to exclude her not-so-secret tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton, an in-coming AG might broaden the scope to dig into the “event” that forced Lynch to punt the ball to Comey … setting the stage for his press conference and letters.

Her improprieties certainly contributed to the mess.

Third, and most important, while the IG said that he’s not going to relitigate the findings in the Clinton case, the IG review is likely to rip off some scabs at the FBI and prompt a re-look at the case.

And, there are a couple of plausible motivators for re-opening Clinton’s file …

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Obama’s CIA chief says that Trump is naive about Russia …

January 17, 2017

Wonder if the guy watched the 2012 Presidential debates when Obama mocked Romney and declared the cold war to be over …


 On the Sunday talk shows, outgoing CIA Director John Brennan had some sharp criticism and warnings for President-elect Trump.

Brennan said  that Trump is a bit naive and doesn’t have a “full understanding” of Russia’s power and the threat to the world posed by Russia’s aggressive actions.

Brennan failed to mention that — up to a couple of months ago — President Obama didn’t consider Russia to be much of a threat.

I wish the shows’ anchors had asked Brennan if he remembered the 2012 Presidential debates?

A key moment was when President Obama ridiculed Gov. Romney’s knowledge of foreign affairs.

The clip is a classic …  try to stay calm when it


Here’s more that’ll should make you scream …

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Maybe we’re just not that smart …

January 13, 2017

Yesterday, we reported that the U.S. is, on average, #40 in the world in mathematics.

Usual punditry is that schools are bad … blame it on the teachers.

But, I wondered: is it a bad production process (the schools) … or could it be the raw material going into the process (i.e. innate brain power).

So, the question of the day: how does the U.S. rank on IQ versus other countries?

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Ouch: U.S. math scores continue to drop

January 12, 2017

U.S. now trails 39 countries …


The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently released its 2015 survey results for math “literacy” … and, the results aren’t pretty.

The average for 15-year-old U.S. students slipped to 470 on the PISA scale … down about 3.5% from 2009 … ranking the U.S. #40 among developed nations (see list at end of this post) … 20 points lower than the average of the 35 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

The scores differential versus the OECD countries is roughly equal for the average, 25th percentile and 90th percentile … refuting claims that “our” best are head-to-head competitive with the the rest of the world’s best.




Digging a bit deeper into the numbers ….

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