Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wells Fargo has trouble counting

Remember last year when the bank coughed up $185 million to settle three government lawsuits over the bank’s creation of potentially millions of unauthorized customer accounts? Well, it turns out that they underestimated how many false accounts they created. Originally they said that 2.1 million accounts were involved. They finally completed the count and the total was 3.5 million.

Also, a new issue came up: unauthorized enrollments of customers in the bank’s online bill payment service. Their estimate is that they had  528,000 cases in which customers may have been signed up without their knowledge or consent.

Obesity in the U.S. is leveling off?

That may be so according to a study by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. But it's still pretty bad. One-third of American adults and one in six children are now obese.   Nine of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South. States in the Northeast and the West had lower obesity rates. West Virginia is the worst, 37.7% of the residents are obese. Mississippi was second at 37.3 percent and Alabama and Arkansas were tied for third at 35.7 percent. 25 states had obesity rates above 30 percent. In 2000, no state had a rate above 25 percent.

Be careful with reverse mortgages

Apparently there are some banks pushing reverse mortgages claiming that it will allow them to reap a larger Social Security benefit down the road by delaying Social Security payments to a later age. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has studied this claim and says it's not a good deal.

“The CFPB examined different scenarios and found that, in general, the reverse mortgage loan costs exceed the cumulative increase in Social Security that homeowners would receive in their lifetime by delaying Social Security benefits. Furthermore, using this strategy will likely diminish the amount of home equity available to borrowers later in life. As a result of the diminished equity, borrowers that seek to sell their homes after using this strategy may have limited options for moving to a new location or handling a financial shock.”

When you take out a reverse mortgage loan of this type, you "assume debt for the principal loan amount, as well as for interest, mortgage insurance premiums (MIP), and monthly servicing fees, which are added to the principal every month. In addition, origination and closing costs are often added to the loan balance since most consumers choose to finance these costs using the reverse mortgage proceeds. Over time, the balance of the loan increases as a result of compounding interest and MIP, and fees. The increasing loan balance will slowly reduce the available home equity to homeowners who wish to sell and move.”

Going down the aisle

Would you believe that in America 33 children get married each day. Tahirih Justice Center, which focuses on ending gender-based violence, has looked at state marriage license between 2000 and 2015. In almost all of the children-centered marriages, the child was a girl and she married an adult.

Twenty-five states do not set a minimum age at which a person can get married, and eight more set it at an age lower than 16. Alaska and North Carolina, for example, set the age at 14. In New Hampshire it's 13 for girls, 14 for boys. In all of these states, minors who are below a certain age — it varies from state to state — must still get a judge's approval to marry.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fact checking

Looking at our infrastructure problem

Bipartisan Policy Center has some thoughts about remedying our infrastructure problem.

After the Nobel Peace Prize

Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" in Burma (now Myanmar). She was placed under house arrest for 15 years for challenging the government. She was a world hero. 

Eventually, in 2015 she was elected State Counsellor as she was prevented from any other office because her children were not born in Burma. She has made this position very powerful. She considers her position as being "above the President". 

Myanmar has had problems with Rohingya Muslims for many years. The government has been accused of raping, killing and otherwise attacking Muslim civilians. Ms Suu Kyi has been quiet about the issue and now never gives interviews to the Burmese press and carefully hand picks her encounters with international media. There is no regular questioning from MPs in parliament and there has not been a proper press conference since just before the election. 

But there has been propaganda, lots of it. On a daily basis, state-run newspapers print articles that denounce the international media for stories that highlight the plight of the Rohingya. Ministries Suu Kyi controls and officials she directly employs are rubbishing the accounts of desperate people and repeating as fact the denials of the Burmese army. That is the same army that has an appalling track record of burning villages and raping women from Myanmar's many ethnic minorities.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

I must be really old

This morning I got two scam phone calls. One was a repeat of a call I've gotten innumerable times informing me that my car warranty has expired. That is true, but I have no intention of renewing. There must be a lot of money to be made in these contracts, as I get at least one a month. I doubt there is any backing to these warranties. 

The second call was from my 'grandson'. On this one it took me a little while to hang up, even though the caller did not sound like my grandson and my phone system indicated an 'Invalid Number'. I guess I am getting old and may be getting subject to being scammed as I spent at least a minute on the phone.

Interpreting the President

Monday, August 28, 2017

Going to War

The above photo shows members of the New York Light Foot militia who patrolled in Charlottesville. There were 32 members, each of whom was carrying 60-80 lbs. of equipment. The equipment consisted of the following:
  • Kevlar military-style helmets.  
  • Tactical shooting glasses with polarized, toughened lenses, to improve vision and guard against shrapnel and kick-back from shooting action. 
  • Level Three body armor that resists up to a standard 7.62mm bullet fired from an AK-47-type gun.
  • Battle shirt and pants, in variable military colors and/or camouflage pattern. Favored brands include 5.11, Condor or ATAC. Combat boots, such as those marketed by US brand Bates. 
  • Firearms: Smith & Wesson AR-15 assault rifle and a semi-automatic handgun. Three spare magazines of 30 rounds each. 
  • Pocket knife. 
  • Police night-stick style baton. 
  • Personal first-aid kit and tourniquet. 
  • Radio and earpiece. 
  • Cellphone with GPS function. 
  • Personal hydration system, e.g., Platypus brand water carrier. 
  • Military surplus gas mask and respirator carried in a pouch. 
  • Snack bars.  


The next world champ

Friday, August 25, 2017

$4,000,000+ per job

It looks like Iowa really likes Apple for it gave the company $208 million in state and local tax breaks to build two data storage centers create at least 50 jobs. The state will refund $19.6 million in state sale taxes and the town of Waukee will give Apple a $188 million break on property taxes. Plus, Apple has agreed to buy 2,000 acres of land for the $1.4 billion project and to invest $100 million to a newly created public improvement fund to be used for community development.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Where will you wind up?

Our national emergencies

As the NY Times claims are still active

1. Actions of the Iranian government 
2. Breakdown of law and order in Zimbabwe 
3. Breakdown of law and order in the Central African Republic 
4. Colombian narcotics traffickers 
5. Disruption of the Middle East peace process 
6. Erosion of human rights in Venezuela 
7. Expiration of the Export Administration Act 
8. Extremist violence in the Balkans 
9. Human rights abuses in Belarus 
10. Human rights violations by the Sudanese government 
11. Instability and violence in Libya 
12. Malicious cyber-enabled activities 
13. Nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula 
14. Political and economic instability in Lebanon 
15. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction 
16. Sale of Iraqi petroleum 
17. Syria’s support of terrorism 
18. The 1979 Iranian hostage crisis 
19. The Sept. 11 attacks 
20. Threat of foreign terrorism 
21. Threats to Yemen’s peace, security and stability 
22. Transnational criminal organizations 
23. U.S. ships entering Cuban waters 
24. Undermining of democracy in Ukraine 
25. Violence and piracy in Somalia 
26. Violence in Burundi 
27. Widespread violence and atrocities in South Sudan 
28. Widespread violence and atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Do they ever end? Each must be renewed by the president annually. We still look at the Iranian hostage crisis (1979) and 9/11 (2001) as emergencies. How many others are more than five years old?


From Truthout:

About 104,000 people have been killed as a result of armed conflict in Afghanistan since 2001. More than 31,000 were civilians, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University. 
• Since President Obama approved a troop surge in 2009, the war in Afghanistan has claimed at least 26,512 civilian lives and injured nearly 48,931 more, according to a July United Nations report. At least 5,243 civilians have been killed or injured in 2017 alone, including higher numbers of woman and children than previous in years. 
• There are currently an estimated 8,400 US troops stationed in Afghanistan, according to reports. Trump did not say how many more troops he would send to fight in the war, but reports indicate that he approved sending 4,000 additional troops, bringing the total number to 12,400. 
• The Department of Defense reports that there have been 2,394 US military casualties as a result of the war in Afghanistan, including 44 casualties since military operations officially "ended" back in 2014. 
• As of 2015, US drone strikes in Northern Pakistan killed between 2,000 and 3,800 people, according to international estimates. About 22,100 Pakistani civilians have been killed and another 40,000 wounded since the US ramped up support for counter-insurgency programs in the country. Violence in Pakistan has created about 1.4 million refugees. 
• Congress has committed more than $800 billion directly to the war in Afghanistan since it began in 2001, but when associate costs such as the price tag of medical services for wounded veterans are factored in, that number easily tops $1 trillion. 
• $1 trillion is also the combined amount of money researchers estimate the US government will need spend on treating wounded veterans from military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan by 2053, according to a 2016 Brown University study. 
• The study also found that, when the war budgets for the Department of Defense, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security are combined with the estimated cost of caring for veterans, the total price tag for US operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria since 2001 comes out to nearly $4.8 trillion. 
• By 2014, the US had incurred $453 billion in interest on money borrowed to pay for the wars. Unless Congress changes the way the US pays for war, interest costs will add $7.9 trillion to the national debt by 2053, an amount that dwarfs the original costs of the all the wars combined, according to the Brown University team. 
• About $110 billion has been allocated to humanitarian relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan since 2001, including at least $4.8 billion for "counter-narcotics" operations. A 2015 report found that the formal Afghan private sector only accounts for 10 to 12 percent of the nation's economy, with much of the rest coming from international and US aid or the black market. 
• As of 2015, 58 percent of the $13.3 billion in USAID funds spent on reconstruction in Afghanistan went to only 10 contractors, and federal auditors have long complained of delays and cost overruns. 
• Critics say these claims of improvements brought about by US reconstruction efforts have been exposed as downright lies: For example, earlier this year the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that the number of Afghan pupils studying in US-funded schools is 70 percent lower than officials reported. 
• The federal government currently spends about 54 percent of its discretionary budget on defense, which is more money than any other country spends on its military by a long shot. If Congress were to accept President Trump's budget proposal, that percentage would increase to 63 percent in 2017 and 68 percent in 2018.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Do we have a dynamic economy?

One criterion is IPOs. In 1996 there were 845 Initial Public Offerings. In 2016 we had 98. Gross proceeds from IPOs in 2016 were $18.54 billion while the “average annual gross proceeds for the 12-year period preceding 2016 were $35.73 billion — 93 percent higher than the corresponding figure for 2016.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Thinking about taxes

Blue Dogs

Mumbai, India has nearly 1,000 pharmaceutical, food and engineering factories. They dump a lot of waste (up to 13 times the safe limit) into the Kasadi River. Strays often wade into the river for food, therefore the waste may be dyeing their fur a bright shade of blue.

Kids and Smart Phones

Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, really knows how to push her latest book, “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood”. In the past two days I've read two lengthy articles by her summarizing the book. And the articles appeared in The Atlantic and Conversation

The book studies kids born in 1995 and later, who now are "the first generation to spend their adolescence with a smartphone". That has made a lot of difference in their lives. Two out of three U.S. teens own an iPhone.They participate in social activities at a significantly lower rate than their millennial predecessors. 

She references a lot of studies. Some of which make one depressed: 

  • Depression, anxiety, and loneliness have shot upward since 2012, with happiness declining. 
  • The teen suicide rate increased by more than 50 percent, as did the number of teens with clinical-level depression. 
  • Sixth graders who spent just five days at a camp without using screens ended the time better at reading emotions on others. 
  • They read books, magazines and newspapers much less than previous generations did as teens. In the annual Monitoring the Future survey, the percentage of high school seniors who read a nonrequired book or magazine nearly every day dropped from 60 percent in 1980 to only 16 percent in 2015. Perhaps as a result, average SAT critical reading scores have dropped 14 points since 2005. 

This isn’t to say that today's teens don’t have a lot going for them. They are physically safer and more tolerant than previous generations were. They also seem to have a stronger work ethic and more realistic expectations than millennials did at the same age. But the smartphone threatens to derail them before they even get started.

Will Marcellus Williams be executed tonight?

He is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. today in Missouri. He was convicted of murder. His attorney contends that DNA testing conducted in December using techniques that were not available at the time of the killing showed DNA found on the knife matches an unknown man, but not Williams. He also cited previous DNA testing of hairs found from Gayle’s shirt and fingernails that also excluded Williams, and said footprints at the scene did not match Williams.

The state says the DNA test doesn't count as Williams’ conviction was based on the testimony of two convicted felons who were out for a $10,000 reward. One was Williams’ former girlfriend and the other was his former cellmate.

Update: 9:30 pm 8/22 Governor stayed the execution

Where is the nuclear toilet?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Protection costs

The Secret Service is getting concerned about its budget, most of which involves protecting the president. It will probably be asking Congress to increase the maximum wage for an agent from $160,000 to $187,000. Their costs have increased because of Trump's family's business activities here and abroad and their houses up and down the East Coast. Plus Trump's weekend travels to Mar-a-Lago, New Jersey and Virginia.

Under Trump, 42 people have protection, a number that includes 18 members of his family. That's up from 31 during the Obama administration.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Almost impossible to believe these covers would be printed

Illegal workers

Studies have shown that there are about 8 million immigrants working in the U.S. with false or no papers, and, surprisingly to me, it seems that they’re more likely to get hurt or killed on the job than other workers. But almost all 50 states, including Florida, have given these workers the right to receive workers’ comp. 

I guess Florida has a real thing about immigrant workers. They have made it a crime to file a workers’ comp claim using false identification. This has been good for insurance companies as they often report these workers to the state, thereby not having to pay for injured immigrant workers’ lost wages and medical care. 

Workers have been charged with felony workers’ comp fraud even though their injuries are real and happened on the job. Immigrants can be charged with workers’ comp fraud even if they’ve never been injured or filed a claim because legislators also made it illegal to use a fake ID to get a job. In many cases, the state’s insurance fraud unit has conducted unusual sweeps of work sites, arresting a dozen employees for workers’ comp fraud after merely checking their Social Security numbers.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Music can help in tough times

Tonight, I watched a PBS fundraiser with Peter, Paul and Mary. It was old. It reminded me of the troubles we had in the 60s and beyond, be it war, racism and a whole lot of problems. But then we acted. We did not simply castigate the opposition. Many of the musicians worked hard to change things, to make this a better country. Other than the late night tv hosts, I don't see many of the musicians of today doing much to make this a better world. Peter, Paul and Mary did try.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Give me everything you have

That's what the Department of Justice (DOJ) has said to DreamHost, a Los Angeles-based web hosting company. DOJ has asked the company for more than 1.3 million IP addresses to identify visitors to a website set up to coordinate protests on Inauguration Day .

The company argues that DOJ's search warrant is not only dealing with everything in relation to the website but also tons of data about people who visited it. The warrant is also asking for emails between the site’s organizers and people interested in attending the protests, any deleted messages and files, as well as subscriber information — such as names and addresses — and unpublished photos and blog posts that are stored in the site’s database.

Have you ever seen a white moose?

Want some fruitcake?

The above photo is of a fruitcake that is over 100 years-old. It was found in Antarctica, the coldest, windiest, and driest place on Earth, in a hut used by a British explorer during an expedition in the early 1900s. The finders claim that the cake, which was wrapped in paper and the remains of a tin, is in "excellent condition," and looks and smells almost edible.

Is this the right thing to do?

Supposedly antifascist protesters tore down a Confederate statue in Durham, NC. Did they not break the law by destroying government property?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Why would you get a margin loan?

Stock brokers have been pushing securities based loans (margin loans) for quite some time. And they've been succeeding. Margin debt went from $153 billion in January 1999 to $278.5 billion by March of 2000. It may be of interest that the bust started soon after. The loans are being pushed to cover a wide range of activities - mortgage funding, tax liabilities, weddings, graduations, to buy more securities, vacations. They differ in a very important ways from your typical bank loan. Each month’s interest is added to the loan balance, thus compounding the interest expense. Borrowers have no protection from actions taken by broker-dealers to preserve their collateral. Loan accounts are susceptible to forced liquidation at unfavorable prices because, as the value of the securities declines, the borrower must either deposit additional collateral (which he often does not have) or sell multiples of the amount of his margin call. Furthermore, the broker can effect these sales without contacting or seeking the permission of the borrower. The broker can even choose unilaterally which securities it wishes to sell. 

So, why are margin loans now at a record high of over a half-billion dollars?

A Real Storm

Thoughts on Confederate Monuments

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Who is to blame? Why did it happen?

When someone is killed by the police, the question of who to blame is always raised. Never is the question of why it happened asked. Yet, if there is a plane crash, the TSA does ask the why question and conducts a very thorough investigation. The investigations ares so effective that for the last several years, the death rate from crashes of American commercial planes has been zero. Whereas, police officers in the United States now kill about 1,000 people and wound more than 50,000 every year.

Many of these killings happen during a routine traffic stop. A warrant is not required to search a car; the search efforts often trigger a confrontation. And there are many routine traffic stops. The Bureau of Justice says that about 26 million Americans were pulled over by police officers in 2011 alone — that’s over 10 percent of the population aged 16 and older. Of course, because of racial bias, a disproportionate number of those people are minorities.

Which will strike first?

Keeping the board in the loop

The Federal Reserve thinks that a bank's board is wasting time on regulatory issues, which distract the board from guiding bank strategy and adopting effective governance at their institutions. Now, Fed examiners report all regulatory matters requiring corrective action to a bank’s board as well as its senior management. The Fed wants to leave it to senior management to keep the institution’s board apprised of its efforts and its progress to remediate matters requiring attention.

The board of directors would still be responsible for holding senior management accountable for fixing supervisory flaws. This seems strange to me as who guarantees that management will tell the board.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


That stands for Foreign Military Training. Since 9/11, we have spent more than $250 billion training foreign military and police personnel in a variety of programs, such as International Military Education Training (IMET) and CTFP (Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program). Year after year, we train 200,000, from 154 countries, of these soldiers and security officers. 

Sometimes the training doesn't work out too well. According to official U.S. government documents, at least 17 high-ranking foreigners -- including five generals -- trained through IMET between 1985 and 2010 were later accused and in some cases convicted of criminal and human rights abuses. An open-source study by the non-profit Center for International Policy found another 33 U.S.-trained foreign military officers who later committed human rights abuses. 

There have been 275 military-backed coups worldwide between 1970 and 2009. In 165 (60%) of them, members of that country’s armed forces had received some IMET training the year before the coup. They succeeded in overthrowing their governments in 72 (43%) of the 165 coup attempts.

“There are no standard guidelines for determining the goals of [counter-terrorism] security assistance programs, particularly partner capacity-building training programs, or for assessing how these programs fit into broader U.S. foreign policy objectives,” reads a 2016 Center for a New American Security report. “And there are few metrics for measuring the effectiveness of these programs once they are being implemented.”


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

One way of making a yuan

A yuan is China's dollar. It's worth about fifteen cents. The women I'll be talking about were paid 200 yuan ($30) a day for helping collect debts or trying to entice people to move. They were not kids, some were as old as 70. There were more than 30 in what was actually a gang. They've been working together for the past four years. 

They did not do their job in what would be considered the usual way. Basically, they terrorized people into paying debts by cursing, spitting, beating and even stripping off and grabbing their victim’s genitals. Before actually confronting the debtor, they would harass them by using megaphones for days. When they confronted the victim, they would tear off the clothes of female victims and strip off their own clothes before confronting the men, apparently to suggest that they had been sexually assaulted. The police did eventually act and many of them went to jail for as many as eleven years.

Ten tasks to straighten out the country

Andrew Bacevich thinks we need massive change. Here are his suggestions as to what those changes should be:

  • First, abolish the Electoral College. Doing so will preclude any further occurrence of the circumstances that twice in recent decades cast doubt on the outcome of national elections and thereby did far more than any foreign interference to undermine the legitimacy of American politics.
  • Second, rollback gerrymandering. Doing so will help restore competitive elections and make incumbency more tenuous.
  • Third, limit the impact of corporate money on elections at all levels, if need be by amending the Constitution.
  • Fourth, mandate a balanced federal budget, thereby demolishing the pretense that Americans need not choose between guns and butter.
  • Fifth, implement a program of national service, thereby eliminating the All-Volunteer military and restoring the tradition of the citizen-soldier. Doing so will help close the gap between the military and society and enrich the prevailing conception of citizenship. It might even encourage members of Congress to think twice before signing off on wars that the commander-in-chief wants to fight.
  • Sixth, enact tax policies that will promote greater income equality.
  • Seventh, increase public funding for public higher education, thereby ensuring that college remains an option for those who are not well-to-do.
  • Eighth, beyond mere “job” creation, attend to the growing challenges of providing meaningful work -- employment that is both rewarding and reasonably remunerative -- for those without advanced STEM degrees.
  • Ninth, end the thumb-twiddling on climate change and start treating it as the first-order national security priority that it is.
  • Tenth, absent evident progress on the above, create a new party system, breaking the current duopoly in which Republicans and Democrats tacitly collaborate to dictate the policy agenda and restrict the range of policy options deemed permissible.
What do you think? Do you like any of them? I like all but item 4. Perhaps, item 10 is the most important.

What do you make of these quotes?

"So if you compare Facebook and Twitter, which seem pretty cool, to electricity or the internal combustion engine, or the airplane, it’s just not that important.” by Neel Kashkari, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

“The things at which Google and its peers excel, from Internet search to mobile software, are changing how we work, play and communicate, yet have had little discernible macroeconomic impact. Productivity—the goods and services a worker produces in an hour—grew just 0.4% per year over the past five years…” by Greg Ip, reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Courtesy of Wall Street on Parade.

Women were better programmers than men

That was my experience in the forty-one years I worked in the software business. They had the kind of mind and work style necessary to solve the problems of programming. In fact, it's likely that Ada Lovelace had a lot to do with the work of Charles Babbage, who played a large part in creating the computer. And, of course, Grace Hopper was very instrumental in creating COBOL, the first computer language that could be used on a variety of computers. 

I dealt with a fair number of woman, worked for some and worked with some woman executives. I saw no difference in their management skills than in the men I worked with and for.

The last Ho Jo's restaurant

Monday, August 07, 2017

It's a dog's life

Lower and lower fines on Wall Street

During the first six months of 2017 penalties imposed on Wall Street firms by the three government agencies regulating them (SEC, CFTC, Finra) declined by 65% compared to the same period in 2016. Looking at the full year of 2016. fines were down by over 50%. 

Maybe they should send some executives to jail.

Thoughts from Thomas Hoenig

He's the Vice Chairman of the FDIC. On July 31 he wrote a letter to the Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs giving his thoughts on Bank Holding Companies (BHCs). Here is the essence of that letter:

  • 10 BHCs in the U.S. will distribute, in aggregate, 99 percent of their net income on an annualized basis. Such massive distributions of capital provide no base for their future growth that would benefit our national economy.
  • Four of the 10 BHCs will distribute more than 100 percent of their current year’s earnings, which alone could support approximately $537 billion in new loans to Main Street (See columns 3 and 5).
  • If share buybacks of $83 billion, representing 72 percent of total payouts for these 10 BHCs in 2017, were instead retained, they could, under current capital rules, increase small business loans by three quarters of a trillion dollars or mortgage loans by almost one and a half trillion dollars.

If the banks are paying out just about all of their income, are they not damaging the economy? 

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Boarding a plane....

...can be a real pain in the neck. To identify risky passengers, the TSA has compiled a list of 36 behavioral indicators that identify the risks from airline passengers. A lot of money has been spent in compiling the list and monitoring passengers. However, the GAO says that the list stinks. There is no evidence to support whether the behavioral indicators can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.

The TSA compiled the list from 178 sources. The GAO reviewed these sources and  found that 98 percent (175 of 178) of the sources do not provide valid evidence that is applicable to the specific behavioral indicators TSA cited them as supporting. Most of these sources are news articles, opinion pieces, presentations created by law enforcement entities and industry groups, and screen shots of online medical websites that do not meet GAO's definition of valid evidence. 

Quotes from the President

Be Patient. The video will appear quite soon after you see an X in a box.

WATCH: Bill nabs Obama impersonator to say... by sarahburris

Friday, August 04, 2017

Are we getting our money's worth from our health investment?

It doesn't look that way when you look at a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The organization looked at 35 countries in the OECD. We rank 27th in life expectancy. We have the fourth highest infant mortality rate, the sixth highest maternal mortality rate and the ninth highest likelihood of dying at a younger age from a host of ailments, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. We are the most obese country, lead in drug-related deaths and rank 33rd in prevalence of diabetes. We also spend more per capita on prescription medicines and over-the-counter products than any other country. 

Does the fact that we don't have a single-payer health system have any effect on these results? Unlike other countries in the OECD, the U.S. mostly relies on voluntary health insurance to fund health-care costs. Public health insurance, such as Medicare and Medicaid, accounts for 27 percent of coverage. By contrast, the 10 countries with the highest life expectancy depend on voluntary insurance for an average of less than 6 percent of their costs, and government spending for nearly half.

India is different

You can buy condoms of all types of flavoring -  aubergine,  strawberry, banana and, even pickle. 

Latest SIGAR report

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has filed his latest quarterly report to Congress. He is quite busy as the total number of ongoing investigations is 267. He is producing results. In the last quarter SIGAR produced three criminal indictments, one criminal information charge, three arrests, three convictions, one sentencing, over $200,000 in restitutions, and more than $5.5 million in savings for the U.S. government. Recent audits could not account for $27,229,340 because of poor internal control and noncompliance with requirements, such as incorrect employee payments and miscalculations of travel costs, exceeding maximum budgets without prior approval, and insufficient documentation to support project expenses. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Some phone calls

Is the Fed understaffed?

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors is supposed to have a roster of seven Governors. It currently has four, two of whom serve on the Fed's eight committees. Six of the eight committees have only two members. Yet, the Fed is charged with supervsing:

4,922 Bank Holding Companies
442 Domestic Financial Holding Companies
470 Savings and Loan Holding Companies
839 State Member Banks
154 Foreign Banks Operating in the U.S.

Should it be a felony to boycott Israeli products?

That's what a bill before the Senate will do. For quite a while, there has been an active international movement (the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement) to boycott Israeli products until it ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. The boycott is explicitly nonviolent and is supported by activists, celebrities, faith-based groups, and political and social justice organizations around the world.

If the bill passes, it would be a felony for Americans to support BDS, with a penalty of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Americans’ right to peaceful boycott with the aim to “bring about political, social, and economic change” is protected by the First Amendment. Thus, this bill is unconstitutional.

Get rid of political parties?


Automobile sales are plunging. Year-over-year they're down 7%. This is the seventh month in a row of year-over-year declines. Car sales are particularly bad. They’re down 11.7% year-to-date. Truck sales (including SUVs and vans) are down 2.5%. The Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of sales fell to 16.7 million, the fifth month in a row under 17 million, and down from 17.8 million in July 2016.

People are taking longer to pay off their loans. Loans of 84 months and longer accounted for more than 6% of retail sales for the first time ever.