The Professor's Notes

Where my thoughts and your eyes (and now ears!) collide

Taxing “Because they do it” is Insanity

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 15 - 20142 COMMENTS

Many say that PA needs to follow the lead of other Natural Gas producing states, and have a severance tax on natural gas. That we “need” the tax revenues. That we are the “laughing stock” of these states because we don’t tax that production.  This article lays out what the tax burdens are, by state.

So here you go. PA (at least in FY2011) was ranked as the 10th highest tax burden. That’s the top 20%. The states with the lower tax burden? The very natural gas/oil taxing states they say are laughing at us. (Texas, OK, and others) I bet they are laughing!

I have said all along–I support emulating those states, so long as we emulate their full tax picture. No, or low, state income tax. No state sales tax on many things. etc. Sadly, each state really is different with different dynamics, different political and social pressures and needs. I get that. So we can’t be “like Texas” or like Fl, or NH, and have no state income tax. I get that–but then don’t say we should be like them with Natural Gas taxes either. Let’s decide for ourselves if this is a good decision or not, not simply becaus
State Tax Burden


e “they do it.”

Google Glass and Supply Chain Management

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 8 - 20144 COMMENTS

I am pleased to share my first article posted on my new column with Eye For Transport. I will be writing regularly on innovations and technology in the supply chain. I decided to lead off with an article about Google Glass and the implications of wearable technologies on Supply Chain Operations. Go read the article, and let me know your thoughts on the future of wearable–and what you think I should include in my next article. http://eft.com/column/benefits-google-glass-your-supply-chain

Are special use facilities a waste?

Posted by Steve Brady On January - 17 - 20141 COMMENT

This article in the Wall Street Journal is quite interesting, highlighting people now living in empty office buildings in London.  I have always looked at empty office buildings, and even empty strip malls, and wondered what it would be like to live in a place like that.

One thing that has always “bothered” me is the proliferation of “special use” facilities. Whether it is Churches that are only used on Sundays, or Football Stadiums that see huge crowds only 7 days a year. the amount of space and resources we consume for such limited use seems, well, wasteful.

What facilities do you think are under-used? How would you “re-use” facilities if you could?

There are issues of accountability with those in power. And for a change I am not talking about Congress and the President (although I think the lesson applies here as well.)

This weekend was quite an interesting one for football. The head coach for the Steelers was in the way of play, with one foot on the field, and thus he is facing penalties including a (possibly 6 figure) fine and possible loss of a draft pick.

196064-330-0

Okay, so there are penalties associated with bad decisions, right? This doesn’t help the Ravens, but then again, they didn’t need the help. Right?

So let’s move on to the other big controversy of the weekend–the “what down is it?” controversy with the Redskins and the Giants. In this case, the chains were moved, the down boxes were changed to read first down, and the ‘Skins behaved accordingly. THEN, the officials back-tracked, set everything to 4th down, and shook up the Redskins on the field. Right?

Unlike the Steelers-Ravens game this one may well have shaped the final outcome of the game.

So here’s my beef–what are the penalties associated with the officials making a mistake? Do they get fined? Do they (in classic NCAA fashion) ‘vacate’ the win from the Giants’ W column? Of course we all know the anwer: NO.As the story below shows, the NFL has admitted the mistake, and now the ‘Skins must, as their Head Coach Shanahan says “…live with it.”

 

That’s right. When those in a position of power make a mistake, they issue an apology. “Sorry–we will try not to make that mistake again… hope you don’t mind…” But they pay no real price for their failure–while at the same time (and in the same weekend) exacting a price from those in their control.

Hypocrisy? Hubris?  Share your thoughts.

 

 

 

Let “Washington” Pay For It (Really?)

Posted by Steve Brady On October - 2 - 20131 COMMENT

A good friend posted an article on Facebook that purports to explain why the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) scares the Republicans. The article posits that the GOP is scared, because ACA will work, and people will realize that they can now “afford” healthcare.  What should really scare all of us is that it isn’t about some being able to afford it now, it’s that it quite simply is a redistribution of wealth (generally) and in the long term is a shifting the burden of paying for  healthcare from us, to our creditors, and then ultimately to succeeding generations.

I recommend reading the full article, but in the set-up to the argument there is this one, very interesting line:  ”Washington would pay the extra cost entirely for three years and pick up 90 percent of the bill thereafter.”

Attribution: Some rights reserved by Cooperweb

If only this was true, that “Washington” would pick up the costs. But that’s the fallacy. We fall into a line of thought that says “we” aren’t paying for this–’Washington’ is” and then we as “who do they represent?”

The reality SHOULD be, the whole nation pays, not Washington, because the whole nation sends money for Washington to spend. Sadly, that isn’t the reality. We as a nation prefer spending over taxing, and thus we are spending Chinese money (and any other holder of the debt instruments we use to finance our debt.) The extended reality of who pays is “our grandchildren” when those debts come due.

But let’s come to grips with another reality. We are the grandchildren of the spending ways of our grandparents, and our parents. We are currently spending $220B on interest each year, with that number projected to go t o $1T (Yes, TRILLION) by 2020. And that’s only 7 years away. (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/11/19/how-the-nations-interest-spending-stacks-up)

Subsidies aren’t free. Defense isn’t free. Highways aren’t free. Decisions made today not only impact our immediate paychecks, but those we hope to earn, and those our children earn, and our children’s children.

As with everything the decisions are about trade-offs. But we cannot be informed decision makers if we let the rhetorical use of “Washington” paying for things continue.

WE are paying–and we all deserve to know the impacts, and true costs, as well as benefits, of the decisions for which we pay.

Upgrade Time… and questions. I need advice!

Posted by Steve Brady On July - 15 - 20131 COMMENT

So wise friends:  Time to replace my Motorola Xoom (with LTE) tablet. The battery is now finally wearing out.  I got it so that I can tether when traveling and it has served me well.  I have decided on the Galaxy Note 10.1 (I like the SPen).

So here’s my decision:

1.  Get the tablet, with LTE, for $600 (and 16 GB of ram) or…
2.  Get the WIFI only tablet for $499 and 32 GB of ram, and get a mobile hotspot (the “Jetpack”) for $50.

Now–I like option 2. It’s cheaper, and perhaps more flexible.  But.. I almost always travel with my tablet, and it means there is one more thing to keep charged, AND that I can either forget at home, or forget on the road.

Thoughts?

Perhaps you have seen the Prudential advertisement that shows people placing dots on a chart showing the oldest person they know.  Prudential uses this, in comparison to the line drawn on the chart with the retirement age, to show a large difference between the that mark (when people retire) and the large number of people that know old people.  The intent of the message seems to get people to realize that there is a large difference from when you retire and when you will die.

A Psychology professor, Daniel Gilbert, is behind the study and, according to Prudential’s comments on their YouTube posting, are saying that t”Our real-life experiment revealed a real-life challenge: Helping Americans prepare for a longer retirement.”

What does the “average” show?

Take a look at the graphic.  Visually you can see what implies a “normal” or “bell curve” distribution. The average here seems to be in the mid-90s. So what does the ‘average’ value here show?  What are you led to see is that the average age when people die is far beyond the age of retirement.  But that isn’t the question that was asked.  The curve is showing the average of the OLDEST PERSON these people say they know.  Obviously, if someone dies at a young age, then they are eliminated from consideration for the “oldest person” we know.

So what is the average life-expectancy?  Is it somewhere in the 90s?  We all would like to think so. We all tend to think and act as if we won’t die.  In fact, more often than not we fail to plan for death–not life.  (When was the last time you checked to see if you have enough life insurance to protect your family in the unlikely event you die unexpectedly?)

According to the Social Security Administration (the agency with the best data, I would think) the average life expectancy for men is 83 and for women is 85.  Certainly greater than the expected age of retirement at 65 (or 67 1/2).  but far from the numbers we see on this chart.

So–do you think this use of “active graphics” is useful?  Is it misleading?  Is it unethical behavior on the part of Prudential?  And what, if any, responsibility does the Professor have for what can be seen as a misleading use of graphs and charts?

Watch the video:

Internet Trumps Education? I think not…

Posted by Steve Brady On April - 22 - 2013ADD COMMENTS

Contrary to what some may say (including close family relatives) the internet isn’t “all that” for solving every problem. Many seem to think that the internet (twitter) really led the way in reporting news because of access to police scanners, much “dis- and mis- information” still was circulated.  In fact, the WSJ recently posted an article “Cops to Boston Bombing Crowdsourcers: Please Don’t Try This at Home” (where the ‘hidden’ title in the browser bar is “Internet worried Boston Bombing Investigators”)

Despite what even my nephew may have thought, just because you hear something on a police scanner doesn’t make it correct even if you heard it correctly, and there is always a high likelihood that it will be “mis-heard.” During any operation (especially military and military style operations) there exists the “fog of war.” People report what they see, and they often are incorrect. Remember, eye-witnesses to events are often the least objective reporters. Police, while we would like to think are ‘trained observers’ are not immune to these problems as well. In fact, in their rush to share information with their colleagues, WHO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF THE NEWS SHARED, they may share wrong, or later to be found wrong, information.

People listening over the internet to the scanners often (always?) don’t understand the nature of what is shared, and repeat it as fact. One quote from someone tweeting what they were hearing was “I can say the police scanner is pretty reliable.” But at age 16, he doesn’t understand the inherent problems associated with ‘immediate” situational reporting. He hasn’t been there–and yet he reported everything he heard as “fact” because it was the cops. He of course also shared it in “all caps” which (as my daughter pointed out, is shouting — see and re-read my use of caps above.)

BOTTOM LINE: Professionals, with extensive training in their fields, who have developed an intuition born through repetition and education, remain the best suited for dealing with their disciplines and ultimately making a difference. This is true regardless of whether it is a police officer, a neurosurgeon, or even a pancreatic cancer researcher.

I will leave you with one question: Who would you want to draft the plans for a new skyscraper–a structural engineer, or someone who has “read a lot” on the internet?

TERRORISM: Used by our own government to Terrorize Our Own Citizens?

Do you wonder how the government manipulates words to make us “feel” certain ways, with the intention of manipulating the population as well?

I have to admit, in a discussion with my Brother (Christian Brady) about terrorism I was sticking to the long standing definition of terrorism that defines it based on the intent to create fear in the populace. That is the definition that most people think but I have been quite surprised (!=) to learn that the FBI and the State Department have adopted a far broader definition.

Under the FBI definition, “Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Note that there is not mention of the desire to incite or induce terror or fear. It’s simply doing something to coerce. The definition of “international terrorism” is equally broad:

“violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government…”

In reading this it is small wonder that people are unable to draw distinctions between Guerrilla warfare and terrorists. We hear “terrorists” and “Terrorism” and we immediately have a picture in our minds based on the portrayal in the media of rag-tag groups of ne’er do wells, hell bent on their agenda and assume they are attacking the general population. By the current definition the Viet Cong were not Guerrillas fighting in the jungles of Viet Nam, they were “terrorists.” In fact, Mao Tse Tung, the master of Guerrilla warfare was actually just another Osama Bin Laden.

But this is not the case. Remember the USS Cole? We claim it was a “terrorist” attack by a “terrorist organization” but in reality it was a targeted attack on a legitimate military target. We may have not liked the way they snuck up beside us on a boat, and that they have never “declared war” on us as a nation-state would. but that doesn’t in any way negate the decision to target a military unit.

So what happens when our government chooses to define “terrorism” so broadly? Why would they choose to do that?

First, given the “general” view that terrorism is against the population and designed to strike fear into our hearts, by constantly labeling acts and actors as “terrorists” the government leads us into that very fear. We willingly give ourselves over to the police state to protect us, because as we have seen with all the “security” measures introduced in the past week “we aren’t safe” even in our own homes. (Of course, it was the police entering all the homes in Watertown but that is a different discussion.)

Second, and most importantly, the government deflects the discussion. We immediately know that these are “irrational” actors bent on inflicting harm. We aren’t talking about the legitimacy of the claims of the combatants. We can go after them with impunity because, after all, they are “lawless” individuals and organizations. (And yet, we view them as “enemy combatants” as well. Irony? Expediency?)

We need, as a nation, to step back and evaluate how not only the media, but our own government has been controlling the message, and through that message controlling our responses. How they, in an effort to “fight terrorism” legitimize actions solely on the basis of the description of “terrorism” rather than looking at and assessing the broader policy and geo-political issues that surround these actions.

So what makes one a terrorist?

Yup, you read that right–you can learn a bit about Photoshop layers in a 5 minute video tutorial, from Puppets.  According to PetaPixel.com:

Here’s a humorous and lighthearted 5-minute video titled, “Fafa’s Photoshop Tutorial.” Created by the comedy series Glove and Boots, it’s a short and sweet introduction to using layers in Photoshop… taught by puppets. Think Sesame Street meets Scott Kelby.

Read more at http://www.petapixel.com/2012/11/24/tutorial-introduction-to-photoshop-layers-sesame-street-style/#fU7BChuxK28MMYcU.99

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