Sunday, June 30, 2013

BeeLine on Twitter

BeeLine is now on Twitter!  You can follow the latest from BeeLine by following @BeeLineBlog by clicking on the Twitter box on the upper right hand corner of the blog page.

The shortest route to what you need to know just got a little shorter and easier to follow.

Rest assured, the blog posts will be longer than 140 characters.

After all, to provide you the context you need to understand what is going on around you requires a little deeper dive to separate facts from fantasy.

You can also subscribe to BeeLine which provides you with an email of each blog post.  To subscribe, merely type in your email address in the upper right hand corner right below the Twitter.

You will receive a follow-up email asking you to confirm your subscription.  You need to confirm or you will not receive the emails.  I have noticed that a number of people sign up but do not confirm with the verifying email.  Do not forget this second step if you want the email of the blog posts as they become available.

A little Twitter trivia from Eli Langer at Business Insider.

  • Twitter was created on a playground. Founding team member Dom Sagolla says the group went on the top of a slide at a playground in South Park, a small neighborhood in San Francisco, and Jack Dorsey discussed an "idea so simple that you don't even think about it—you just write." This moment of inspiration has turned into a multibillion dollar company.

  • The user with the most followers is Justin Bieber; the pop musician has 36 million followers. 

  • Hootsuite, a social media management company, follows more than 1.1 million accounts, the most of any user. 

  • Who has tweeted the most? That honor belongs to @Yougakduan_00, a girl from Japan, who posted a mind-boggling 36,402,262 tweets before Twitter suspended her account. 

  • The most followed brand is YouTube with nearly 25 million followers.

  • The official name of Twitter's bird is Larry. Yes, his name is Larry Bird.The iconic little fellow—seen in Twitter's logo shown in TV commercials, print ads and practically every web site—was named after Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird. Why choose to name it after a basketball player from Boston? It may have to do with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone growing up in Massachusetts.

  • Twitter didn't create retweets, replies, hashtags, a mobile app or social ads—it was created by users and developers in its ecosystem. Those features were later supported by Twitter, according to marketing site 140 Proof. Unfortunately for the inventors, they won't be receiving a slice of the company that some are valuing at $10 billion. Like most of you, they will have to wait for Twitter's IPO.

If you want to get a real-time idea of what is going on in the Twitter universe visit A World of   This site will show you exactly where all the tweet activity is in the world through heat maps, satellite views and 3d stereo views.

The United States leads the world with about 27% of total tweets.  Brazil is a close second with around 22% and Indonesians have about 11% of the tweet action.

Finally, Twitter has developed a very cool interactive look at all of the geolocated tweets that have gone out over Twitter in San Francisco and New York City.  These have been converted to an elevation map so that you can see exactly where the greatest volume of tweets are coming from in these cities.  See it here.

I am not against a little self-promotion.  If I am going to write this stuff I might as well have as many people reading it as possible.

I will be interested to see what Twitter can do in extending the reach of BeeLine.

Justin Bieber, look out!

@Yougakduan_00, get your Twitter account reactivated.  Don't tweet as much and read BeeLine to keep yourself occupied.

Hootsuite, are you following BeeLine yet?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Flummoxed in Philadelphia

I was in Philadelphia earlier this week and took this picture of Independence Hall.  I stopped to think for a moment what our Founding Fathers would think if they were with us this week.  I doubt they could believe what has happened to the document that they drafted there in the hot summer months of 1787.  I think they would be flummoxed in Philadelphia if they were alive.

Let's look at the facts in the U.S. Supreme Court's Proposition 8 case that was decided this week as one example.

The people of California voted to amend the California Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  This was in reaction to the State Supreme Court determining that California's state constitution guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry. By the way, this "guaranteed right to marry" had not been previously found in the California Constitution by anyone for the previous 150 years.

In effect, the California Supreme Court legislated from the bench and the People took matters into their own hands through the referendum process and made the California Constitution clear. 

A single federal district court judge (reportedly gay) ruled that California's definition of marriage violated the U.S. Constitution.

California's governor and attorney general did not defend the case as it went up to the Federal Appeals Court which affirmed the lower court decision. 

In effect, the State of California's highest elected officers violated their oath of office which is  specifically established in the state's constitution as follows.

SEC. 3. Members of the Legislature, and all public officers and employees, executive, legislative, and judicial, except such inferior officers and employees as may be by law exempted, shall, before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation:
"I, ___________________________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.
This required citizen supporters of Prop 8 to defend the Constitutional provision themselves from plainftiffs who wanted to subvert the Constitutional provision. This ultimately led them to the United States Supreme Court.

The decision in this Supreme Court case should send chills down all of our spines, not to mention those of our Founding Fathers.  The Court did not rule on the question of the constitutionality of gay marriage in California or anywhere else.  If they did, it is hard to see how they could not have ruled with the People of California.  After all, 35 other states have similar provisions on the books that defines marriage in identical terms.

Their ruling was simply that the citizens supporters did not have any "standing" or direct interest in the issue before the Court.  Of course, the State had "standing" (and an obligation) but it chose not to stand, support and defend its own Constitution.

What type of precedent does this establish? 

Are we to have a system by which our elected officials can now pick and choose which parts of a state constitution (or the federal constitution) they will and will not enforce? Which laws they will and will not enforce?  And the People are told they have no standing to support and defend their own Constitution?

That appears where the Supreme Court has left us in its decision on Prop 8. 

What is so troubling is that the Supreme Court was established by our Founders as the final safety mechanism for the People.  It is the ultimate check to keep things in balance and removed from the politics and passion of the moment.  It has proven to be an utter failure in this case.

There was a simple way to decide this case.  That was to uphold the right of the people of California to define marriage the way they wanted it and which had been the accepted rule for over 150 years in the state.  The Supreme Court could also have stated that if the people of California wanted to amend the  California Constitution (again) there was an established method to do that as well. 

They should have also done the same with the Defense of Marriage Act case.  How could DOMA be constitutional in 1996 when it was passed (by the way, the Senate passed it 85-14 and the House passed it 342-67 with President Clinton signing it into law) and not now? 

For my complete views on the issue of gay marriage see my post, Marriage and Money.

What is so wrong with following the Constitution? I wrote about all of this in 2011 in "Making Amends With The Constitution". There is a process in place in our Constitution if we want to change the rules. It is not easy but it was not supposed to be easy if we were to carefully protect the rights of the majority and also assure that minority rights are also respected. It is instructive to look at what I wrote at that time.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides that Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes.  Nevertheless, the income tax law of 1892 was ruled unconstitutional because it was considered outside the power of Congress.  The 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913 to allow it.

There was nothing in the Constitution signed by the framers that precluded women from voting. All references in the document were to people, not men.  However, the culture and custom was generally for only males to vote.  Nevertheless, it took the 19th Amendment in 1920 before it became the law of the land.  Interestingly, 15 states (beginning with Wyoming in 1870) granted women the right to vote before adoption of the 19th Amendment.  Since voter eligibility was an issue left to the states (in that it was not specifically enumerated in the Constitution by the Framers) women in these states voted in both state and federal elections before 1920.

The point here is pretty clear to me. There was a time when the Constitution meant something. It was respected for what it was. So were the limitations that were carefully crafted into the document by the Framers. Even when there was pretty compelling language in the Constitution to bend it to the "current times" it was ruled out of bounds. Has something been lost?

Was it designed to change with time? Of course. That is what the amendment process is for (Article V). The Framers in their wisdom also considered this carefully. They did not want it amended for some passing fancy. Nor did they want a small majority to change the key foundations of the governing document to the detriment of a significant minority. Therefore, 2/3 of both the House and Senate can come together and propose any amendment. They do not even need the President to concur.

Alternatively, 2/3 of the states can come together and call a convention to propose their own amendments and bypass Congress completely. If the amendment is ratified by 3/4 of the states it is adopted as part of the Constitution.

If the American people want a federal government with expansive power they can have it. They can allow gay marriage. Or ban it in all 50 states. They can require everyone to buy health insurance or anything else. They can ban assault weapons or ban abortions from coast to coast.  Or the manufacture or sale of alcoholic (18th Amendment) or the repeal of a previous Amendment (21st Amendment).

There is a way to do it. 

It just does not seem that these types of powers exist with the President or Congress with any reasonable reading of the Constitution. At least, this has been the interpretation for most of our history. Nor does it seem to be within the power of a handful of judges to suddenly discover fundamental rights that have somehow been hidden in the Constitution for over 200 years and start applying them to 308 million citizens by fiat.

That is why there is an amendment process to the Constitution. It is hard and it was meant to be hard.  Passing fancies and fanciful passions should not determine public policy.  It most certainly should not be decided by nine (actually five) people in robes in Washington, DC or a judge (gay or otherwise) in San Francisco.

Abraham Lincoln concluded his Gettysburg Address as follows,

That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abe, we can only pray that you are right.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Get Your Feet Off The Desk!

It was said that Ronald Reagan never took off his suit jacket in the Oval Office out of respect for the Office of the Presidency.

Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush had similar philosophies according to Bob Greene's Presidential book, Fraternity: A Journey In Search of Five Presidents.

George W. Bush had a rule that he and his staff were to wear their suit jackets for any meetings in the Oval Office.

I don't know about Bill Clinton's rule on wearing his jacket in the Oval Office but we know he left himself uncovered in other areas.

That brings us to Barack Obama.

A few observations.

That desk that President Obama has his shoes on was built from the timbers of the HMS Resolute and was a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes.  It is considered a national treasure and has been used by Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and every President since Jimmy Carter.

There certainly doesn't appear to be too much consideration for the "respect of the office" in looking at these shots.

With as much work as President Obama has ahead of him on so many issues it doesn't seem that he should be putting his feet up on the desk quite yet.

There also seems to be something fundamentally wrong about anyone who is living in a house owned by someone else treating the furniture that way, doesn't it?

President Obama, is it too much to ask to get your feet off the furniture since you don't own the place?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Looking For A Few Good Men

I came across two articles this week on the decline of males in our society.

The first is an article by Michael Snyder on "32 Facts That Show How Men Are Being Systematically Emasculated In America Today".

Snyder asks the core question,
What is wrong with men in America?  Why isn't our country producing lots of strong, independent, hard working men of character like it once did?  
Snyder believes the answer begins at a very young age through a system that beats up on boys and young men to such a degree that only a few emerge as adults as strong independent young men able to take care of themselves and start families of their own.

He thinks a big part of the problem is how men are portrayed on television and movies.

Sadly, the message that our young men are getting from our television shows and our movies is that men are idiots.  Instead of being portrayed as leaders that are eager to get married and raise strong families, young men are often being portrayed as passive slackers that love to party and chase women. 
Start paying attention to how men are portrayed in the media.  In particular, pay attention to how they are portrayed in our commercials.  Our boys and young men are exposed to thousands upon thousands of hours of this "programming", and it has a dramatic affect on them.

A few of the 32 facts that are both sobering and unsettling.

#2 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs.  Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.  The chart posted below illustrates this stunning decline...

#6 Between 1969 and 2009 the median wages earned by American men between the ages of 30 and 50 dropped by 27 percent after you account for inflation.
#8 In 1982, 1.9 percent of all men were receiving disability benefits.  Today, 3.1 percent of all men are receiving disability benefits.
#10 More than half of all middle management jobs in America are now held by women.
#13 Incarceration rates for men in America have been steadily increasing over time.  The following is from a recent CNN article...
Looking at those born just after World War II, some 1.2% of white men and 9% of black men had been to prison by 2004, according to Bruce Western, a Harvard sociology professor. But looking at those born 30 years later, some 3.3% of white men and 20.7% of black men had been to prison.

#15 Males account for approximately 70 percent of all Ds and Fs in U.S. public schools.

#17 The average American girl spends 5 hours a week playing video games.  The average American boy spends 13 hours a week playing video games.

#21 According to the New York Times, approximately 57 percent of all young people enrolled at U.S. colleges are women.  That means that only 43 percent are men.

#24 Young men are nearly twice as likely to live with their parents as young women the same age are.

#25 Back in 1950, 78 percent of all households in the United States contained a married couple.  Today, that number has declined to 48 percent.
#26 The marriage rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low.  Right now it is sitting at a yearly rate of 6.8 marriages per 1000 people.
#27 Today, an all-time low 44.2 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 are married.

The second article by Helen Smith explores some of the reasons why the marriage rate is down and why men do not seem to see marriage as important as they once did. in fact, just since 1997 the share of women ages 18 to 34 that say a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives has risen nine percentage points-from 28% to 37%. For men, the opposite has occurred, from 35% to 29%.

Smith has done extensive research on the issue and lists a number of reasons why men are avoiding the altar. What's at the top of the list?
1. You'll lose respect. A couple of generations ago, a man wasn't considered fully adult until he was married with kids. But today, fathers are figures of fun more than figures of respect: The schlubby guy with the flowered diaper bag at the mall, or one of the endless array of buffoonish TV dads in sitcoms and commercials. In today's culture, father never knows best. It's no better in the news media. As communications professor James Macnamara reports, "by volume, 69 percent of mass media reporting and commentary on men was unfavorable, compared with just 12 percent favorable and 19 percent neutral or balanced."
A few others.

2. You'll lose out on sex. Married men have more sex than single men, on average - but much less than men who are cohabiting with their partners outside of marriage, especially as time goes on. Research even suggests that married women are more likely to gain weight than women who are cohabiting without marriage. Men's Health article mentioned one study that followed 2,737 people for six years and found that cohabiters said they were happier and more confident than married couples and singles.
4. You'll lose space. We hear a lot about men retreating to their "man caves," but why do they retreat? Because they've lost the battle for the rest of the house. The Art of Manliness blog mourns "The Decline of Male Space," and notes that the development of suburban lifestyles, intended to bring the family together, resulted in the elimination of male spaces in the main part of the house, and the exile of men to attics, garages, basements - the least desirable part of the home. As a commenter to the post observes: "There was no sadder scene to a movie than in 'Juno' when married guy Jason Bateman realized that in his entire huge, house, he had only a large closet to keep all the stuff he loved in. That hit me like a punch in the face."
8. Single life is better than ever. While the value of marriage to men has declined, the quality of single life has improved. Single men were once looked on with suspicion, passed over for promotion for important jobs, which usually valued "stable family men," and often subjected to social opprobrium. It was hard to have a love life that wasn't aimed at marriage, and premarital sex was risky and frowned upon. Now, no one looks askance at the single lifestyle, dating is easy, and employers probably prefer employees with no conflicting family responsibilities. Plus, video games, cable TV, and the Internet provide entertainment that didn't used to be available. Is this good for society? Probably not, as falling birth rates and increasing single-motherhood demonstrate. But people respond to incentives. If you want more men to marry, it needs to be a more attractive proposition.
What do you think?  Do we have enough good men?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do We Need A Red Card And A Green Card?

The immigration reform debate is winding down in the Senate and it appears that the "Gang of Eight" bill will pass that chamber.  This will bring the issue before the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

I have long been in favor of some form of immigration reform.  There is little question that our current immigration laws have not been effective and are in need of reform.  The United States is a nation of immigrants and it needs a rational, practical, balanced and equitable set of immigration laws for the 21st Century.

The most explosive issue in the immigration debate, especially among conservatives, involves amnesty.  Simply stated, are we going to allow people who violated our laws by entering our country illegally the rights and privileges of legalized status?  What about the millions of people who want to come to our country, obeyed the law and have waited patiently in line for their turn?  For example, in 2012 there were almost 15 million people who applied for the green card diversity lottery for just 50,000 openings hoping to come to the United States from underrepresented countries!  How is it fair and equitable to reward those who broke the law and deny others who play by the rules?  More importantly, what precedent does that establish for the future?

After all, we have already been down this road once before in 1986 when 3 million undocumented immigrants were granted amnesty and provided legal status in this country.  How has that worked out?  Not real well. We now have at least 11 million undocumented immigrants.  It is also estimated that those 11 million have another 4.5 million children that were born in this country.

If we were to enforce the law it is clear that those 11 million should be required to pack up and return to their home countries.  However, the practical reality is that is not going to happen. This is particularly true in light of the parents who have minor children that were born in this country and are legal citizens under the law. The Democrats therefore argue that we should legalize all of these undocumented aliens, since they are here and they are not going anywhere, and get them on the path to citizenship with a green card.

The green card is the term used to signify an individual that has been granted permanent residence in the United States.  The general rule is that someone with a green card can apply for citizenship after five years. In my mind there is no way that this existing legal grant of residency should be granted to anyone who entered this country illegally.

However, we also must recognize the practical reality that the undocumented illegal immigrants are not going home and it is to everyone's benefit that they come out of the shadows and have some status under the law.

My solution is to create what I call the "Red Card".  Of course, this assumes that the border is secure and we don't have to worry about doing this all over again.  Nothing is going to work if we don't prevent future illegal immigration.  We will be an even worse position in another ten years.

The Red Card would be available to anyone who is in the country currently that does not have proper documentation.  Application for the card would have to be made within 90 days of the enactment of the law.  Holders of the Red Card would be granted conditional residency as long as they were gainfully employed and contributing to the economy of the United States.  After all, we should encourage people who want to work and contribute to our society in a positive manner.  The Red Card would permit the individual to stay in the United States as long as they remained employed, paid all taxes and committed no crimes.

It could also be used in the future to grant status for temporary guest workers in situations and job sectors where it was necessary.

If a holder of a Red Card should lose their employment status, they would be given a grace period of 120 days to find other employment.  If they could not find employment in that period they would have to leave the country within the next 60 days.

Holders of Red Cards would be entitled to no government benefits currently or in the future (Social Security and Medicare).

All immigrants would be required to have their green or red card in their possession at all times.  Beginning 90 days after enactment if someone does not have proper documentation they will be deported and will never be entitled to return to the United States.  This may sound harsh but without a strong provision like this you have little hope in insuring compliance with the law and getting everyone to register.

Holders of Red Cards could apply for Green Cards by getting in the back of the line for their respective category under the law.

What does this accomplish?  It provides a method by which we can provide a method for allowing hard working people to stay in this country if they are contributing to the economy and are positive forces in the community.  However, it establishes a clear delineation between people who came to this country legally and those who did so illegally.

It also insures that those here illegally will not benefit from our government programs and have no path to citizenship and no amnesty.  They are free to work to make a living for themselves and their family. They will not be allowed to take advantage of the taxpayer or get an unfair advantage over legal immigrants.

I see this as a common sense compromise to bridge the liberal and conservative divide on the issue. Common sense should also be determining all of the decisions on immigration reform.

Why have an immigration policy at all?  Why do we let anyone in? The only logical reason is to improve your country by importing human talent that will provide a benefit to the nation.  This is the thinking that drove our immigration policy for most of our history.  Immigrants with illness or who could not support themselves and their families were turned away.  Often this was at Ellis Island after they had already faced an arduous journey here by ship. Those who were willing to work and contribute were welcomed. Why should it be any different today?

Why don't we just let everyone in that wants in? What would this ultimately do to employment and pay levels of American citizens? This is why we need to carefully monitor unemployment rates by industry as part of any ongoing immigration policy to insure that immigrants are not taking the jobs of American citizens or are unduly holding down wage costs.

I thought it was interesting to see this recent graph on unemployment prepared by the Congressional Budget Office by group from 1994 to the end of 2012.  Note that for those born in Mexico or Central America (almost 75% of illegal immigrants are from these areas) the unemployment rate was over 8% at the end of 2012.  For native born citizens the unemployment rate was 6.5% and for those born in Asia it is lower still.

Bruce Krasting makes a very astute observation in looking at this data.

Looking at this chart I concluded that the unemployment rate at the end of 2012 for the native born population was very close to 6.5%. Based on what has happened so far in 2013, I would expect that the rate today is less than the YE level.
The 6.5% number is significant because Bernanke has set this level as a line in the sand. If the overall unemployment rate falls to this magic level, then the Fed has promised it will back off on the insanity that is now US monetary policy. Now the question:
"Mr. Bernanke,  are you running monetary policy to achieve a significantly lower rate of unemployment for undocumented workers? If so, please tell us why this is in the best interest of the country."
I would suggest that is the best question I have seen all year.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Snowden, Dissent and Dissonance

I have been asked several times over the last few days what I think about the National Security Agency disclosures by Edward Snowden.

First, nothing that Snowden disclosed surprised me with regard to our capabilities.  I always thought that we had to have the capability to easily access phone calls, records, emails and the like as part of our    national security apparatus.

That capability has to be very close to real time if it is going to be useful as well.  Therefore, there is logic to having the key to get in to this information if it is necessary on short notice.

The real question is not that we have the capability but how is it being used?  It is one thing to have the key to your neighbor's house in case any thing goes wrong while they are on vacation.  It is something else altogether if you use it for indiscriminate snooping when there is no reason to enter their house.

That is the unanswered question here.  How was the access being used?  What were the safeguards?  Was the NSA working with the judicial system or other independent overseer to insure that the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of a citizen was not being violated?  

The reason that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was important in the adoption of the Constitution among the several states was that those living in the colonies under the rule of the King of England were often subject to raids and searches of their residences based on general warrants.  In effect, these were open-ended "fishing" expeditions where no specifics by name or place were given in the warrant.  It basically gave carte blanche for the law officers to do almost anything under very general legal language.

The Massachusetts Declaration of Rights that was enacted in 1780 (written by John Adams) and enacted as part of the Massachusetts Constitution was the basis for the Fourth Amendment and it made clear there needed to be both specificity to the search warrant and that they also must be reasonable.

Every subject has a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches, and seizures of his person, his houses, his papers, and all his possessions. All warrants, therefore, are contrary to this right, if the cause or foundation of them be not previously supported by oath or affirmation; and if the order in the warrant to a civil officer, to make search in suspected places, or to arrest one or more suspected persons, or to seize their property, be not accompanied with a special designation of the persons or objects of search, arrest, or seizure: and no warrant ought to be issued but in cases, and with the formalities, prescribed by the laws. Wikipedia citing Mass. Const. pt. 1, art XIV
 Therefore, at this point, until I know more, I don't know what to think.

Second, is Snowden a hero or villain?  I am not sure of this either at this point but it is clear that he should be arrested and charged as a criminal.  He appears to have violated the laws of this country.  He certainly violated the terms of his employment and his security clearance with Booz Allen and the government.  He should be tried so that his fellow citizens can determine his guilt or innocence.

If he believed that what the NSA was doing was wrongful there were many avenues he could have taken short of going to the press to air his grievances.   You can be a dissenter but you don't have to destroy our security infrastructure at the same time.

In addition, it is one thing to be a whistleblower and it is something altogether to commit treason against  your country.  Mr. Snowden's actions in the last two days regarding his comments about United States intelligence operations directed at China is not whistleblowing.  If Mr. Snowden wants to be viewed as a hero that did not help his cause.

Finally, I always find it interesting in looking at issues like this to see the reaction of people based on their politics.

I remember a few years back when George W. Bush was in office that even the use of NSA monitoring of foreign phone calls of suspected terrorists to the U.S. was being criticized by Democrats as a vast overreach and an affront to American values.

Who was the leading Democrat making that charge?  Barack Obama.

Watch this debate between Candidate Barack Obama and President Obama on this issue.  Are you confused?  I sure am.

It is also interesting to look at poll data on this issue.  This is a poll by Pew Research that compares the public's views on the NSA surveillance program in 2006 (Bush Presidency) and 2013 (Obama Presidency).

Overall, 51% stated that they believed that the NSA surveillance program was acceptable in 2006 and 56% were on board with the program in 2013.  However, what is really interesting is the partisan split.

Note that 75% of Republicans found the NSA surveillance program acceptable under Bush but only 52% were fine with it under Obama.  At the same time, only 37% of Democrats were with the Bush Administration on this but 64% think it is just fine with Obama.  Independents might give a better perspective on overall attitudes with 45% on board with Bush but only 38% supporting the Obama NSA policy.

This poll data demonstrates a basic principle of behavioral science called cognitive dissonance.  Most people tend to only reference those perspectives that support their pre-existing views while dismissing facts and opinions that threaten their world view.  No one is immune.  However, reading BeeLine should assist you in building up cognitive consonance in which you have a belief system founded on facts, values and knowledge that is internally and intellectually consistent.

President Obama, for one, apparently has yet to find that consonance.  Perhaps I need the NSA to send him an email with a link to BeeLine?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dialectic Differences

I have moved around a fair amount in my lifetime.  One thing I have noticed is the differences in how people say and refer to things from region to region.

For example, you can always tell someone who was born and raised in the Cincinnati, Ohio area because when they don't understand you or missed what you said, they don't say "Pardon me", they just say "Please".

If you are in the New York City area you are standing "On line" while almost everywhere else I have lived you are "In line".

The Blaze reports on the work of Joshua Katz who has developed 122 heat map charts detailing the differences in how Americans say things depending on geography.  Katz is a PhD student in Statistics at North Carolina State University.

Katz explains the methodology of his charts.
“The composite map gives a picture of the overall distribution, coloring each cell according to whichever answer is estimated to be most likely at that location,” he adds.

“The more clearly one answer dominates, the darker the color. Individual maps show estimated probability of each particular answer at a given location, with larger probabilities shown in red and smaller probabilities shown in blue. At the moment, only the four most popular answers for each survey question are displayed.”

Here are a few of my favorites.

There is a pretty clear demarcation on this one between east and west.  However, what is going on in South Carolina with frontage roads and North Carolina with service roads?

They are sneakers in the Northeast and with those senior citizens wearing "Silver Sneakers" at the malls in South Florida, but they are tennis shoes most every place else.

I have used both terms and now I know why.  I lived in Michigan and Chicago which are both in kitty-corner territories but also in Ohio, Georgia which are catty-corner states.  I prefer catty-corner because it is a relative to one of my favorite words---cattywampus meaning something that is in disarry or askew.

Water fountains and catty-corners seems to go together.  What is it with Wisconsin and Rhode Island and bubblers?

No jammies in the Southeast.  It must be jommies.

I learned this when I lived in Atlanta in the 1970's.  It is all about coke.  "I'll have a Coke.  Bring me a Pepsi." That seems to hold true in most of the Southeast today but you can see the influence is not as strong as it once was with all the Northerners that have moved to Atlanta in the last 30 years.

This one shows the power of a good brand.  The Brew Thru is a beer store that you can drive through to pick up your six-back on the way to the beach along the Outer Banks of North Carolina  They have been so successful they have become the generic term for a drive-through liquor store in that area of the country.  Another interesting fact about Brew Thru is that they annually sell around 200,000 t-shirts at their 6 stores at around $20 apiece.   That is around $4 million of revenues before you consider the brew.  Not a bad business model.

They have always been lightning bugs to me but I understand some Western states do not have them at all.

"Ahhnt" in the Northeast.  "Annnt" most everywhere else except for Virginia and Upper Midwest that seem to use both.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Longest Day

June 6. The Longest Day.


How many people today remember the significance of this day?

My first real exposure to the events and sacrifices of that day were in 1962 when my father took me to see the movie, The Longest Day, about the Normandy invasion of Europe.  He was a WWII veteran and he wanted to make sure that I understood what went on that day.  He told me after the movie, "I hope you never have to go through anything like that but you need to appreciate the sacrifices these men made for you."

Over 6,000 Americans lost their lives that day 69 years ago on the beaches of northern France.  By contrast, that is roughly equal to the total lives lost in over ten years of the War on Terror in Iraq and Aghanistan.

It was a day of incalculable horror and heroism.

I hope we never forget men of courage like Walter Taylor who pushed forward as so many others fell (or drowned) around them.

This article from the, "Remembering D-Day", written two years ago by Christopher Coughlin is worth the read.  You might also want to read this 1960 account of the "First Wave at Omaha Beach" by S.L.A. Marshall, the U.S. Army's chief historian, for a more comprehensive view of what transpired on those beaches that day.

From "Remembering D-Day".

History shows that on June 6, 1944, 160,000 US and allied troops were involved in Operation Overlord, the code name for the invasion of Europe. It was and remains the largest amphibious operation in history.
June 6th was also expected to be one of the most lethal days for US troops in American history, with carnage unheard of since the American Civil War.
Allied high command was so concerned about the anticipated, epic levels of violence, destruction and death that would meet the first wave of troops that they were reluctant to assign veterans of other invasions, fearing the men would be overwhelmed and break down. As a result, two of the three US divisions assigned to hit the beaches at Normandy had never been in combat.
And as history turned out, the high command's expectations of violence were more than justified.
At Omaha Beach, the US 1stand 29thInfantry Divisions, and the 2ndand 5thRanger Battalions, faced the veteran German 352ndInfantry Division, one of the best trained units in the German army.
Through acts of commission and omission, the majority of the allied landing craft missed their assigned sectors on Omaha Beach, causing confusion, and in some instances, landing American troops directly in front of German machine gunners.
As a result, casualties among the first wave of trooops were nothing short of catastrophic, where surviving American soliders were leaderless, isolated and traumatized by the violence surrounding them. The situation was so grave that senior commanders considered abandoning Omaha altogether.
But from the unspeakable carnage came a profound courage.

This is where Lt. Walter Taylor enters the story.
Slowly, small units of infantry, based on nothing more than individual initiative and survival instinct, formed up as ad hoc groups, and began to move the 1,000 yards off the beach to dunes to take on the German pillboxes and establish an allied foothold in Europe.
It was at that critical time of decision that Lt Walter Taylor, Company B (or Baker), 116th Infantry, of the 29thDivision, landed with the second wave.

Coming ashore, Taylor didn’t know that his commanding officers were already dead.
But, seeing the chaos, Taylor immediately took the initiative.

He led a group of men off the beach, crawling past the obstacles, barbed wire and mine fields, and eventually over the sea wall.

He continued to lead his men straight up the bluff and into the town of Vierville, where he engaged the Germans in a two-hour fire fight, and won without losing a man.

It was only later, meeting up with other elements of Baker Company, that Taylor realized that he was in command. The sergeant did a head count – there are only 28 men out of the original 240.
Undeterred, Taylor proceeded to lead the 28 men inland against an imposing German fortification with rock walls and artillery proof tunnels.

Taylor engaged the Germans there and continued the fight throughout the day, leading a force mixed from his company and several Rangers, trying to reach goals outlined in the Overlord plan for Day 1. This despite the fact, borne out on Normandy, that no battle plan survives the beginning of the battle.

By nightfall, Taylor and his men made camp near the village of Louvieres. An allied runner found them with a message to fall back to meet up with the remnants of the battalion, closer to the sea.

Taylor had led his men to a place a half a mile ahead of the rest of the United States Army in Europe. It was an incredible accomplishment.
From the "First Wave at Omaha Beach"
Taylor is a luminous figure in the story of D Day, one of the forty-seven immortals of Omaha who, by their dauntless initiative at widely separated points along the beach, saved the landing from total stagnation and disaster. Courage and luck are his in extraordinary measure.
Later, still under the spell, Price (one of Taylor's men) paid the perfect tribute to Taylor. He said: "We saw no sign of fear in him. Watching him made men of us. Marching or fighting, he was leading. We followed him because there was nothing else to do."

Thousands of Americans were spilled onto Omaha Beach. The high ground was won by a handful of men like Taylor who on that day burned with a flame bright beyond common understanding.
Thankfully, Walter Taylor survived the war and went on to serve in the Baltimore Police Department from which he retired according to the article.  He passed away in 2003.

God bless Walter Taylor and all the courageous men who stormed the beaches of Normandy 69 years ago today.  We all owe them a debt of gratitude.  May the memory of their service and sacrifice never be forgotten. Let's hope that the flame that burned bright by their actions should never be extinguished.

Second Lieutenant Walter P. Taylor, United States Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 6 June 1944. Second Lieutenant Taylor's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 29th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, Ninth U.S. Army, General Orders No. 75 (1944)

Action Date: 6-Jun-44

Service: Army

Rank: Second Lieutenant

Regiment: 116th Infantry Regiment

Division: 29th Infantry Division

Source: Military Times Wall of Valor

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change

Over the years there have been many enormous advances in technology that have changed the world and the way we live.

The printing press, railroads, the internal combustion engine, automobiles, electricity and the telephone are just a few examples.

We are still in the midst of the technological revolution that defines us today---the internet.

Mary Meeker and Liang Wu of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers recently released their 2013 report on Internet Trends.  This has become an annual must-read for me over the last few years.  The current report contains 117 PowerPoint slides that provides an overview of what the internet is today and where it is going tomorrrow.

A few of the more interesting slides in the report.

Internet growth in 2012 was primarily driven by emerging markets like China, Iran, Indonesia, Argentina and India.  China has 564 million internet users (more than twice as many as the U.S.) but it still has only penetrated 42% of the population.

Smartphones usage is now at 1.5 billion but still is less than 1/3 of the 5 billion mobile phone users in the world (the world population is around 7 billion).  There is still a lot of room for this usage to expand.

The big story of the last two years in Smartphones has been the dominance of Apple and Samsung in this segment.  In particular, Samsung and its Galaxy Android phone---up 7x in a little over two years-WOW!

Speaking of WOW!, look at this change in the global market share of Smartphone operating systems since 2005.  Apple, Google and Microsoft are dominating this market that at one time was the domain of BlackBerry (Canada), Linux and Nokia (Finland).

You see the effects of Smartphones and the emergence of mobile usage in this slide that compares the % of time spent on various forms of media compared to the advertising spend in these segments.  This clearly shows the challenge to all forms of print advertising. 

Only 6% of time is now spent with print but it still is garnering 23% of ad dollars.  Old habits die hard.  However, the writing is on the wall for print advertising.  Many more dollars will come out of this segment to follow the eyeballs to where they are.  The beneficiary will be mobile advertising.  Meeker sees at least a $20 billion opportunity in mobile ads is on the horizon.  Who is going to capture these dollars?

We hear that we live in a world that is increasingly "connected".  We are also living in a "shared" world as this graph illustrates.  The amount of global digital information that is created and shared is truly astounding.  One example---BeeLine, created and shared digitally beginning in 2010.

Photos are on the top of the list for shared content.  On Facebook alone, over 300 million photos will be shared today!

Video sharing is on an explosive path upwards.  In six years YouTube uploads have gone from almost nothing to today where 300 hours of video content is being uploaded every minute.

Technology is disruptive.  Remember the Pony Express?  The U.S. Postal Service may some day have a similar story in our history books.  This chart compares the pieces of mail delivered to the net profit/loss of the Postal Service.  Look out below!

As the internet changes our world, the world's economy is also changing.  China and India are gaining more of the global economic pie. The U.S. and Europe are losing influence.  What is interesting is that China and India make up 21% of world GDP today.  In 1820, they made up 49% of the world economy.  Europe's share of the world economy has been cut in half in the last 50 years.  Is it a coincidence that this decline basically tracks the rise of liberal, socialist policies in Europe over the same period?

Immigration reform is in the headlines and it is imporant to remember that 99% of Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  I thought it was also interesting that Hispanics now make up 16% of the U.S. population.  Hispanics now exceed Germans (15%), Irish (11%), English (15%) and African Americans (13%). 

"The only thing that is constant is change."  ---Heraclitus

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Animal Spirits

Have you noticed that your burger or steak is costing you more this year?

According to USA Today, steak averages $4.81 a pound at the store and ground beef is $3.51.  These are the highest on record.

The culprit? The basic economics of supply and demand.

High feed costs have led to the smallest number of cattle being raised in the United States since 1952-89.3 million. At the same time, we are just entering the summer grilling season when demand typically picks up.

Here is a chart of U.S. cattle production since 1945.

Bear in mind that in 1952  the population of the U.S. was about 158 million compared to an estimated 315 million today.  Therefore, the ratio of cattle to population is about half of what it was 60 years ago. 

This chart from The Atlantic shows the changes in meat consumption by Americans since 1955.  It is only updated through December, 2012 but it gives you a good idea of the trends.  Beef consumption per capita is only about half of what it was in the mid-1970's.  On the other hand, chicken consumption per capita has doubled.  Is it any wonder that Chick-fil-A has been so successful?

Source: The Atlantic Wire

This leads to some interesting chicken trivia that I found during my research of this subject.

  • There are an estimated 19 billion chickens alive at any one time in the world according to the United Nations.  This compares to an estimated 7 billion human beings.
  • 50 billion eggs are produced in the United States every year according to Purdue University.
  • 9 billion chickens are born and about the same number are consumed in the United States each year according to Human Diets and Animal Welfare.  By comparison, there are only about 274 million turkeys, 100 million hogs and 45 million cows born in a typical year.  There were slightly fewer than 4 million babies born in the U.S. last year.
It can't end here can it?

What about ants?
  • It is estimated that there are 1 million ants for every human being on earth according to
What about fish?

I could not even find any source willing to estimate the number of fish in the world.  There are over 25,000 species of fish that have been identified and it should be remembered that over 95% of the oceans have never been explored.  There undoubtedly are lots and lots of fish swimming the seas.

Last but not least, what about bees?  We couldn't ignore the bees in BeeLine.  Again, I could not find any source willing to guess at the number of bees in the world.  There are about 20,000 different species of bees so undoubtedly bees also outnumber humans by a substantial margin.

A few facts about bees.
  • About 50,000 honeybees typically are in a hive
  • A honeybee makes about 1/10 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.  That lifetime is typically only about a month.
  • A hive of bees must fly about 55,000 miles and tap 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey.
  • A bee can fly about 15 miles per hour.
Of course, when that bee returns to the hive she does it on a straight beeline.