Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Not Sweating Climate Science

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
                                                                     -Upton Sinclair

I am not a scientist. I am certainly not paid to understand or not understand anything with regard to climate science.

That sets me apart from almost all of the climate scientists on the planet.

I also consider myself a practical thinker who makes decision by looking at facts. I have also learned that it is always important to look beyond the "facts".  How are the facts packaged and what is the motivation of the messenger. Most of the time motivation is a direct result of the money involved.

In fiscal 2103 the U.S. government spent $22.5 billion on climate change based on this report in PowerLine.  Since 1993 the federal government has spent $193 billion!

If there is that much money in play for academics, researchers and climatologists into proving global warming, how much effort is going into looking at data that might be contradictory to that conclusion?

Even worse, how strong is the motivation for some of those individuals (who depend on that government money for their salaries) to manipulate the data to support global warming.

Over the years, I have listened to the claims about human created global warming. Without even spending a lot of time on the science, these claims never seemed to make sense to me.  The planet is known to have warmed and cooled over the years.  Even if the data shows it is warming, how do we know it is caused by man when you look at past history?  We know there was an ice age.  We also know the ice melted.  How did it ice up? How did the ice melt?

I often look at Steven Goodard's blog, Real Science, to get some interesting perspectives on climate science that you are not going to see in the mainstream media.

For example, did you realize that the frequency of hot days (those with temps exceeding 90F degrees) in the Midwest is less than half of what they were 100 years ago?

Here is a chart from Real Science showing the percent of hot days for all U.S. Historical Climatology Network (HCN) stations in the Midwest.

Source: Real Science

Does that look like warming to you?

So how does the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) keep coming up with reports that the planet is warming?

For example, compare the HCN data as shown in this chart by Goddard where the NOAA comes to a completely different conclusion after it makes "adjustments" to the data.

Source: Real Science

Goddard argues that this is due to the fact that "almost half of all U.S. temperature data is now fake." Missing data from former rural reporting stations that no longer exist have been replaced with urban data. It is hardly comparing apples to apples. Consider the temperature in an urban environment filled with asphalt and skyscrapers to a meadow by a babbling brook down on the farm. Which is going to be warmer?

The extent to which the temperature data has been "adjusted" is rather astounding. Note especially the adjustments made to the data in the last 10 years.

Source: Real Science

Again, I am not a climatologist or meterologist. However, it looks to me like all of this is a long way from settled science.

When you consider history you also quickly realize that God dwarfs anything that man can do. For example, the year 1816 was considered "The Year Without a Summer" after Mount Tambora erupted and the ash seemed to veil the sky across large swaths of earth.  Crops failed around the world and famine followed.  Riots and political unrest were not far behind.  People tend to get really angry when they are hungry. How much did the average global temperature fall that year? - only about 1 degree!

That story has always made me much more concerned about global cooling than warming. A rise in temperatures is actually beneficial for food production. It can extend the growing season further north. Cooler temperatures do the exact opposite.  Given a choice there is little doubt where I come down.

That's why I am not sweating all of this climate science even if it is getting warmer.

I like to eat and there are a lot of people to feed on this earth.

Give me warm rather than cool any day.

And no one paid me a cent to come to that conclusion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sweet Sixteenth and Breaking Your Heart

Ohio Governor John Kasich became the 16th major GOP Presidential contender today.

Credit: Michael Vadon via WikiCommons

I have a lot of respect for the job Kasich did as the House Budget Committee Chairman in the 1990's when he actually put together and delivered the last balanced budget at the federal level.

When I first became involved in politics in the early 1980's he was held in awe by most of the politicos I came in contact with in the Ohio Statehouse for his hard work and ambition.

Kasich won his first political race at age 26 by campaigning door-to-door for an Ohio State Senate seat after serving as an aide in the same body for three years after graduating from Ohio State University. He became the youngest State Senator in Ohio history at the time.

He then took on an incumbent Democratic Congressman in 1982 and beat him to be elected to the U.S. House in 1982 at age 30.  He served nine terms before retiring in 2000 after briefly flirting with a run for the Presidency in 2000.

He spent the decade of the 2000's with a show on Fox News and a stint with Lehman Brothers. He returned to politics in 2010 by winning the governorship in Ohio and was reelected in 2014.

There is a lot to like about John Kasich but there is also one big negative. He is a politician through and through. He will do some nice things but he will also break your own heart when his interests conflict with yours.

I saw this with Kasich's decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio.

A recent AP story profiled the problems for a number of states, including Ohio. that expanded Medicare. Ohio is mentioned in the story as having seen its projected costs more than double under the expansion compared to forecasts.

More than a dozen states that opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act have seen enrollments surge way beyond projections, raising concerns that the added costs will strain their budgets when federal aid is scaled back starting in two years.
Some lawmakers warn the price of expanding the health care program for poor and lower-income Americans could mean less money available for other state services, including education.

The right decision for Ohio was to not get taken in with Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. The Medicaid program was already draining Ohio's budget. It has destroyed state funding to education and made almost every other government program (except for state employee pensions) a footnote in the state budget.

For example, between 1970 and 2014 health care spending in Ohio (most of which is Medicaid related) increased 67 fold. That is 10 times the rate of inflation!

In 1970 spending on health care in the Ohio was 15% of the total state budget and spending on education and transportation and public safety and services was 60%.

Spending on health care today takes up 34% of the Ohio budget. Education, transportation, public safety and services do not even make up a quarter of the state budget.

You can read all of the sorry details of Ohio's descent into Medicaid hell in my blog post, The Redistribution of Ohio.

Medicaid is literally eating away at the fabric of key functions that we have traditionally valued and looked to our states to provide---good higher education, support for local schools, safe and efficient roadways, public safety, prisons and parks.

Why did Kasich unilaterally push the Medicaid expansion through against the wishes of the Republican dominated legislature?

He has a politician's heart. It is hard to change when your entire adult life beginning at age 22 has revolved around politics.

He needed to get reelected as Governor in order to make the announcement he made today. To do that he needed money and he also needed to defuse a possible challenge that he was not compassionate.

After all, the Medicaid expansion was "free" (at least until 2016 when Kasich wouldn't have to worry about it). He could demonstrate he was a reasonable man and not some heartless neanderthal conservative. He could also curry a lot of favor with the health lobby who wanted the expansion for their own self interests.

The big money interests involved with hospitals, health services, health insurance companies and nursing homes wanted those Medicaid dollars. And they are big campaign donors. Kasich certainly did not want to be on the wrong side of those groups heading into his reelection bid.

Who is getting the expanded Medicaid coverage?

Matt Vespa of Hot Air provides some answers.

  • Despite always hearing about "the children", 82% of those who have gained Medicaid coverage are childless. 
  • 45% are able-bodied but do not work.
  • 35% have a criminal record that includes jail or prison time.

Has it helped the hospitals? 

It has not according to a recent analysis by Moody's that was recently reported in The Wall Street Journal. There are fewer unpaid bills but many more patients on Medicaid using services. Since Medicaid's reimbursement rates are only about 50% of the costs of hospital care every added "paying" patient is subtracting rather than adding to the bottom of line.

Hospitals in the mostly blue states that expanded Medicaid were largely expected to benefit from fewer unpaid bills and more paying customers, but that hasn’t generally translated into better operating margins or cash flow, Moody’s found.
In expansion states, hospitals’ unpaid bills fell 13% on average last year compared with 2013, the report found. But, their 2014 operating margins didn’t increase any more than hospitals in the 22 states that have sat out the expansion, the report shows.

John Kasich is sleeping well tonight. How about you?

This is the reality of politics. I don't like it but it is what it is when we elect politicians to political office. And no matter who or what they were before, when they enter the political ring they change with it. It is the nature of the beast.

I like John Kasich. He has many great qualities and he might make a great President.

He may be the Sweet Sixteenth into the race. However, he is still a politician. His Obamacare expansion decision in Ohio showed that.

It is certain he will break your heart when it serves his interests. That is the way it is with any politician.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Will Trump Be A Trumpet Call To The GOP?

Donald Trump is the GOP candidate that is getting the most PR and voter interest right now.

Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia Commons

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released today shows Trump was the favorite with GOP registered or Republican-leaning voters with 24% support.

Scott Walker was second with 13% and Jeb Bush was right behind with 12% support.  Put another way, Trump has as much support as Walker and Bush combined!

The next seven candidates ranging from 8% to 3% support are Huckabee, Rubio, Carson, Paul, Cruz, Perry and Christie. This is important as only the top 10 in the polls will be allowed to participate in the first GOP Presidential Debate on August 6.

The GOP candidates that don't make the top 10 are Jindal, Kasich, Pataki, Santorum, Fiorina and Graham. None of this group polls better than 2% right now. And if they can't get exposure in the debates it is hard to see how they can get any traction in the race. As I have written before, this is unfortunate and should not be the way the race is run.

The GOP should be making the process more inclusionary and less exclusionary, simplifying the process for voters, and adding some competitive excitement to the race. They should not be trying to limit competition because of the large field and TV rules. There is a way it can be done as I have suggested.

Donald Trump's rise in the polls shows two things. The power of name ID and the power of straight talk. Carly Fiorina, George Pataki or Bobby Jindal would have to spend tens of millions in advertising to come close to matching Trump's celebrity.  However, I believe that it is Trump's straight talk that has been most responsible for his rise in the polls.

There is a substantial part of the electorate that are fed up with Washington, politics as usual, and political correctness. They are tired of our borders being overrun with illegal immigration while nothing is done by either the Republicans or Democrats. They are tired of the United States being the world's policeman and getting spit in the face. They are tired of seeing every trade agreement resulting in job losses for Americans. They are tired of seeing Islamic extremism being called workplace violence or the acts of lost souls. They are tired of lousy laws and terrible treaties being sold as "good as we can get."

What will be most interesting to me is whether the message survives even if the messenger does not.

And there is no question in my mind that the messenger in this case will not be delivering an Inaugural Address on January 20, 2017.

If you doubt that consider this polling question that was asked of all voters in the ABC/Post Poll.

62% of all voters today state they would definitely not vote for Trump. That is a big hole to climb out of and does not bode well for his electability. And when all is said and done, electability is still the most important factor for GOP voters in selecting their nominee.

I will make one other bold prediction. If I am wrong and Trump does win the Presidency, John McCain will not be his Secretary of Defense. You can't say I don't go out on a limb with my forecasts!

Interestingly, in a Bush-Clinton race 44% would definitely not vote for Bush and 43% would definitely not vote for Clinton. That is why, despite whatever merits Jeb Bush has as a person or candidate, he is a poor pick to run against Clinton. Hillary is carrying a lot of baggage into the race. Why would I pick someone with an equivalent amount of baggage when I have 15 other candidates that can be marketed with a relatively clean slate with most voters?

However, despite Trump's negatives if his straight talk continues to gain traction with GOP voters he will impact the race. And it could be pretty significant as we get into the debates and more intense campaigning and media attention drives the candidates to differentiate themselves from the pack.

Politicians are first and foremost very good listeners. They have no future without votes. They will bend with the political winds if Trump's straight talk continues to appeal to voters. The message that they carry may not be as bold or brash as Trump but a trumpet call nevertheless will be going out to the other candidates if Trump's appeal is sustained.

Another insight into voters right now is the response to this question in the poll where 23% of voters indicate that neither party represents their own personal values! Compare that to other periods when that question has been asked. This is another reason that Trump is polling well.

Keep an eye on Trump and his trumpet. And keep an eye out for the rest of orchestra. If the trumpet continues to strike a chord with the voters, you are going to hear a lot of similar notes even if they are not played with the same verve and vigor. Those notes mean votes. And votes are everything in this concert.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How a Coney Island Sideshow Saved 6,500 Lives

My granddaughter was born seven weeks premature with a serious birth defect 20 months ago.

She was in the NICU for 73 days and without excellent neonatal care she would not have survived. Thankfully, today she is developing well and is a joy to everyone she touches.

Most premature infants over the years have not been so fortunate. They simply did not survive.

The invention of the incubator in the late 19th century gave hope for these premature babies for the first time. It provided a controlled environment that kept the baby warm as well as protecting them from infection, noise and light.

However, it took almost a half-century before doctors and hospitals accepted this "radical" technology after it was invented because it was considered against "maternal nature".

The doctor who had a hand in developing and promoting the incubator was Dr. Martin Couney. Faced with resistance from the medical establishment he took his incubators on the road and set up demonstrations at Exhibitions to show their value. He did this first at the Berlin Exhibition of 1896 in his native Germany.

Circa 1909 Incubator
Credit: University of Washington, via Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons and The Blaze)

Quite the showman in addition to the doctor, he cared for six premature infants during the Exhibition that were loaned from a local hospital because they believed they would not survive. He saved each baby as crowds filed in to see the tiny babies and marveled at them in their incubators (and paid to do it).

Buoyed by his success in Germany, Couney moved to the United States and followed the same strategy at different Exhibitions in this country before he established a permanent venue at Coney Island in New York in 1903.


He maintained what today would be considered a Neonatal Special Care Unit at Coney Island right next to sword swallowers, bearded women and other side show acts. He funded his work by charging 25 cents admission to see the babies who were enticed into the exhibit by a carnival barker.

The outside of the building was no different than the other sideshows surrounding it. The sign above the door read “Life Begins With The Baby Incubator.”
The inside was essentially a hospital. The atmosphere was quiet and clinical, incubators lined the walls, and trained nurses were employed to care for the babies. One of the nurses was Couney’s daughter, who ironically enough was born premature and spent some time in the incubator herself. 
The wet nurses employed to feed the babies were ordered on diets, and were fired if caught eating a hot dog or some other fried fare from the boardwalk. Tour guides were fired if they made jokes during the presentation. The rules and regulations for infant care were strictly enforced, and professionalism was emphasized. It was important to distinguish themselves at least a little from the pandemonium surrounding them.

In those 40 years Couney saved the lives of 6,500 babies that were given little hope at regular hospitals. His survival rate was over 80% which was unheard of in the early 20th Century for such high risk babies. And he never charged the parents or the government a dime. All of his work was fully funded by paid admissions for his "exhibit".

One was Lucille Horn who recently recounted her story on Horn was born in 1920 and is now 94 years old thanks to the start Dr. Couney gave her.

"My father said I was so tiny, he could hold me in his hand," she tells her own daughter, Barbara, on a visit with StoryCorps in Long Island, N.Y. "I think I was only about 2 pounds, and I couldn't live on my own. I was too weak to survive."
She'd been born a twin, but her twin died at birth. And the hospital didn't show much hope for her, either: The staff said they didn't have a place for her; they told her father that there wasn't a chance in hell that she'd live.
"They didn't have any help for me at all," Horn says. "It was just: You die because you didn't belong in the world."
But her father refused to accept that for a final answer. He grabbed a blanket to wrap her in, hailed a taxicab and took her to Coney Island — and to Dr. Couney's infant exhibit.
"How do you feel knowing that people paid to see you?" her daughter asks.
"It's strange, but as long as they saw me and I was alive, it was all right," Horn says. "I think it was definitely more of a freak show. Something that they ordinarily did not see."
Horn's healing was on display for paying customers for quite a while. It was only after six months that she finally left the incubators.
It was not until after World War II that hospitals and doctors finally accepted the value of incubators in saving the lives of premature babies. Dr. Couney had been operating his "sideshow" clinic for 40 years and saved thousands of babies before incubators were accepted as standard medical treatment of premature babies.

Dr. Couney with Nurse (his daughter Hildegarde)  Circa 1935-1940
Credit: Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

What lessons can we take from Dr. Couney and his incubator?

First, conventional thinking is often wrong. In fact, it is not uncommon that some of the most rigid thinking is found in medical care. Many things that we accept today will undoubtedly be proven just as ill-advised as blood letting was in the 18th Century.

Second, never doubt the power of one person's passion, persistence and perseverance to change the world.

Dr. Couney had all three. And the world today is better off for it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hope for Non-Hotties

"Water always seeks its own level"

"Birds of a feather flock together."

You have heard these idioms over the years to describe the tendency for similar people to associate with each other.

Positive people attract other positive people. Conversely, misery loves company. Negative people seem to gravitate to other negative thinkers. High quality finds high quality and low quality inevitably finds something similar as well.

The same can usually be said about the physical attractiveness of couples. Good lookers attract good lookers. Average looks usually ends up with an average mate. It seems to be the natural order of things.

But not always.

There are times when water does not seek its own level.

Or as a friend said to me upon meeting my wife, "You really out-kicked your coverage with her".

John Tierney recently wrote about the science behind "mate value" in The New York Times.  The research indicates that people with high mate value insist on comparable partners and they usually get equivalent value in return when looking at looks, education and social status.

That pattern also occurs in married couples: Attractive, well-educated, high-earning people tend to marry people like themselves. In fact, economists say that this growing trend of “assortative mating” is a major cause of income inequality, because a household with two high earners makes so much more money than a household with two low earners (or only one earner).

However, researchers were most interested when this did not occur and there was a mismatch of "mate value". For example. Mr. Darcy ending up with Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Austen describes Mr. Darcy as tall, good looking and with a "noble mien". On the other hand, Elizabeth is initially seen by Mr. Darcy as "tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me." A bigger problem for Mr. Darcy is the fact that the Bennet family is decidedly of a lower social and economic standing.

So what about the science? Is there something beyond the superficial in our decisions about assessing the value of potential mates?

To investigate, psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin asked students to rate the romantic appeal of their opposite-sex classmates.
At the start of the semester, the students pretty much agreed on who in their class was most desirable. But when they were asked again three months later, after spending a semester in a small class together, their judgments varied widely on who was hot and who was not.
“Perceptions of mate value change the more time that people spend together,” said Lucy Hunt, a graduate student who published the study last year with Paul Eastwick, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences.

In short, the more familiar one becomes with someone, perceptions of attractiveness change. Some 10's become 7's and some 5's become 8's. Conversations, common interests, wit and wisdom all make a difference.

What I find most interesting in the research is the strong influence that familiarity has on the perception of attractiveness. In my years of working in branding and advertising, familiarity has the same effect in making a product or service desirable. This is based on the simple principle that the human brain generally feels safest and most comfortable with those things that they are most familiar with.  The effect seems to be at work in determining "mate value" as well.

Familiarity drives favorability.

Further research by the psychologists at UT-Austin and Eli Finkel of Northwestern University seems to bear this out in a recent study on "mate value" among married couples. The longer you know someone, and the more familiar they are with you before you begin dating, the better you are going to look to them. (Assuming what is inside of you equals or exceeds what is outside).

Some of the couples had been married for five decades; others had been dating for just a few months. Some had known one another for a while before starting a romantic relationship; others had started dating as soon as they met. After being videotaped talking about their relationships, all were rated for physical attractiveness by a group of judges who viewed each partner separately.
When the ratings for partners were compared, there was a clear pattern based on how long the people had known one another before they had begun dating.
If they’d begun going out within a month of meeting, then they tended to be equally attractive physically. But if they’d been acquaintances for a long time, or if they’d been friends before becoming lovers, then someone hot was more liable to end up with someone not so hot.

Therefore, if you have your eye on someone "outside of your league", do not despair.

Make yourself visible.

Stay in their line of sight,

Become a familiar friend.

Let them see you for who you really are.

Keep in mind that time is really your ally, not your enemy. Each tick of the clock increases the odds that the beat of their heart will be for you in the end.

There is hope for non-hotties everywhere if you remember these lessons.

By the way, for the record, I first dated my wife within a month of meeting her.

Perhaps I didn't out-kick my coverage?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Languages of the World

I bet you didn't know that there were 7,102 known languages spoken in the world.

I didn't either until a BeeLine reader sent me the interesting infographic below that was originally published in the South China Morning Post.

23 languages make up the mother or native tongue for 4.2 billion of the 7.2 billion  people on planet earth.

You might also wonder what is the difference between "mother tongue" and "native language" as I did.

Mother tongue and native language have similar meanings and are often used interchangeably but they have a subtle difference.

Native language refers to the language of the area the person grows up in.

Mother tongue refers to the language of the family you grew up in.

The infographic breaks these 23 major languages down by the countries they are spoken in and the numbers of native speakers of the language. You can go here to see a larger, higher resolution image of the infographic as it first appeared in the South China Post.

More people speak Chinese as their native language than any other. Chinese is the native language for some 1.2 billion people. Of course, there are an assortment of different Chinese dialects within the Chinese language with Mandarin Chinese the most prevalent with almost 850 million native speakers.

Spanish has 399 million native speakers and English has 335 million for second and third place in the world.

However, English is spoken to some degree in 110 countries around the world which is almost double the number in which Arabic is spoken (60 countries). Chinese is spoken in 31 countries and is 4th behind French which is spoken in 33 countries.

It is no contest when it comes to the most popular languages being learned around the world. There are 1.5 billion English learners around the world who are working to add it as a second language. French is second at 82 million and Chinese is third at 30 million. Spanish and German are being sttudied by 14.5 million people.

One country in which I am sure that Spanish is no longer as popular as a foreign language in the classroom as when I was in high school is the United States.

The reason? So many people in the United States now speak it as their mother tongue. It is not a foreign language to many in this country.

In fact, this recent report in The Washington Post indicates that there are now more Spanish speakers in the United States than in Spain! This includes those in which Spanish is their native tongue as well as those that are bilingual.

Of course, if you want exposure to as many of the world's languages in the smallest possible geographic area, head to New York City.

New Yorkers speak 180 different languages. How is that known with such specificity? It is because the U.S. Department of Education and NYC's own regulations require that the NYC public schools must provide translation and interpretation services to all parents of students. This is the number of languages that the NYC schools are trying to deal with in parent requests.

In fact, nearly half of the students in NYC public schools now speak a different language than English at home!

It is a far different world than when I grew up. The new world of languages is just another example of how different it is.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Independence Day

I retired today from a work-a-day world I have inhabited for the 40+ years since I graduated from law school.

It was not an easy decision. I loved the work and the people I associated with every day. I worked for an excellent company that paid me well.

However, I have reached a point in my life that I am valuing time more than money. Independence more than incentive pay. Family more than the FMLA, the FASB or FICA.

The career path I followed led me into jobs that I never would have thought possible as I entered law school in 1972. Public accounting. Practicing as a CPA. Practicing as a tax attorney. Leading a tax revolt in Ohio in 1983 (truly one of the first Tea Party members). Corporate Director-Taxation for a Fortune 500 heavy manufacturing company. Investment Committee member for a multi-billion pension fund. Political consultant. Washington tax lobbyist. A series of Corporate Finance roles overseeing Treasury, Cash Management and Risk Management. A series of Human Resources roles for a Fortune 500 financial services company including management of Benefits, Compensation and HR Systems. Corporate Communications. Media Relations. Marketing and Branding. Advertising. Real Estate Facilities. Administrative Services.

I doubt there have been many who started out their career doing tax returns and ended it developing marketing and brand strategy, writing ad copy and producing tv commercials.

It has been interesting and it has been fun. There have been so many great memories and great people along the way.

The Second Act now begins.

BeeLine will continue. I started writing it several years ago with the idea that it could be something that could continue into retirement.

I plan to finish a book I started a few years ago on financial planning and I would like to develop a gig doing some public speaking as well. I have a well-developed speech for college students on the principles of financial planning and have several other speeches on the emerging field of neuroeconomics and how it influences human decision making in benefits, sales, marketing and branding.

I have also recently developed a motivational speech on "The Science of Success" that has gotten very favorable reviews in the several times I have presented it.

Several people have approached me about consulting projects and I may find myself considering some of these opportunities as well. I am a big believer in the power of keeping both your mind and body active as the best ingredients for a long and happy life.

Of course, golf, grandchildren and travel will also get some of my attention with my greater independence.

This year's goal on the golf course is to get within 10 shots of my age. If I can then hold that score over the next decade I can get to my longer term objective of shooting my age.

The grandchildren are all here this week so I am off to a great start on that score.

No big travel booked yet but travel planning begins in earnest tomorrow.

By the way, if my BeeLine posts slump in number over the next several months, you will know why.

So much to do. Only so many hours in the day.

Each day of my Independence promises to be hard.