Sunday, January 29, 2017

Doing An Experiment

There are two extremes in doing an experiment. The Classic approach is to examine the literature, discuss with colleagues, take a few preliminary steps, then go step by step recording the results in your Lab notebook.

The second approach is to take that piece of shiny sodium and flush it down the toilet and run like hell. That way you get to see what really happens.

So if you want to, well say drain your sewer system, just toss that chunk of sodium and flush. Then you get to really see what happens.

Just a thought.

And for those Fine Arts majors who have not a clue of what I am saying try Wikipedia.

Telling People How to Live

The NY Times has some writer who discusses how to "take the care keys" away from a relative. This is a touchy topic. One the one hand we have 80+ folks who are often brighter and more considerate than their great grand children. Then we have some older person whose vision gets no higher than the horn on the steering wheel and moves like a snail but without any awareness of their surroundings. So who gets to decide?

The author writes:

My now-car-free relative is not the sort to sign up for one of those 55-plus communities promising sunshine, gardens and golf. Retirement was an eventuality that inspired in him not relief but dread. Fiercely independent, an old-school intellectual and, frankly, a bit of a loner, he insists on remaining in his suburban home (“I will die in this house” typically ends any conversation in which I suggest a move) — even if that home is slowly becoming a dangerous place for him to be in.

The issue here is; who gets to decide what to do? Does this author believe that she has total authority, that at some age we deny people autonomy, even if at no risk to others?

Autonomy has been a value for Americans since the founding, but since the Left has come along in a Nanny State, they get to decide and tell others what they should do, and in turn decide what is best.

There is an interesting article in the Deep Code blog which is worth reading. The author states:

So, for example, if the Deep State uses its power advantage as a way to stall until until it can innovate a collective intelligence advantage, it has a decent chance. (Of course, becoming a decentralized collective intelligence is going to be really hard for the actual individuals who make up the Deep State to understand and accept.) But watch out as the conflict evolves. As the Insurgency cuts down and unplugs legacy power structures (e.g, the media, the intelligence agencies) and replaces them with more fluid and innovative approaches (e.g., and Palantir) the balance will begin to tip quickly. If the Establishment cannot stave off the Insurgency in the next 4–5 years, that phase of the war will be over.

I will not  de-construct the above, but what it is saying is that there is a massive change afoot. Taking the keys away from Grandpa, letting Grandma just die, may be the final throes of the Left. It is not the Right taking over, it may be a totally different movement. Strangely enough, the very protests we see well formed and assembled with pre-printed signs, may be the very catalyst for this alternative to move ever so fast. Perhaps Marx had a point, namely thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis, but that such a process continues without a stable point.

Taking Grandpa's keys may be the last straw and the first act.

Friday, January 27, 2017


In 1861 there was a bit of a mess up started by states leaving the Union. Somehow if they could not get their way, well you know the story. Now along comes California.

It appears that yescalifornia is a move to leave the Union. They state:

In the Spring of 2019, Californians will go to the polls in a historic vote to decide by referendum if California should exit the Union, a #Calexit vote. You will have this historic opportunity because the Yes California Independence Campaign will qualify a citizen’s initiative for the 2018 ballot that if passed would call for a special election for Californians to vote for or against the independence of California from the United States. This is a very important question. It is the responsibility of this campaign to explain what a yes vote will mean for you, your family, your community, our state, our country, and our world. We have designed this website to answer many of these questions and look to you to ask more. "As the sixth largest economy in the world, California is more economically powerful than France and has a population larger than Poland. Point by point, California compares and competes with countries, not just the 49 other states.”

Not clear who these folks are. But perhaps we could sell it off to the highest bidder. Perhaps China would want California. Russia once had an interest, then again Mexico could get a claim in as well.

Knowing California, this may very well pass. Then think of it, all those Apps would be in a foreign country and we could block them. Make our children go back to reading books, doing real work.

There may be something here for everyone. Keep tuned.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Cost of a Wall

Now I have never built a wall, at least a big one. You see I have a little wall, around my daylilies, to keep out the deer. It does not keep out the squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and nothing keeps out the fox. You see, foxes are really smart, and they are fearless. My fox walks by and smirks, yes, smirks at me. Fortunately his possible meals are all up in trees. But my wall, I put it in myself, holds out those evil deer.

Now don't ask me how much the wall costs. I just went to Home Depot, loaded the car with wall building stuff, really fence stuff, and then put it up. And waited. It worked. It kept those deer at bay.

Now as to the southern wall. I have not a clue. But the Press today is quoting MIT at $25 billion. So I thought that it would be useful to see what the source was. I know something about building stuff. I built cable systems, cellular systems, fiber systems, some in over 20 countries. I know building some stuff. I also knew then when back at MIT students and even some faculty would wander into the field of costing things. Like how much a fiber to the home would cost. Then I asked such things like; where is the franchise cost, the pole attachment costs, the right of way costs? Ooops, since they had no experience they had no clue. So their analysis was usually off.

So when I heard about this MIT cost estimate I went on a trip to the source. It appears to be a Technology Review piece. Now Technology Review used to be the alumni magazine until some twenty years or so ago it was taken over I believe by some group who turned it into one of those technological sheets that are mostly ads plus writings from a variety of folks telling us about the future. My copy generally sees the trash before it is opened. So when I saw that the reference and source was Technology Review I got suspicious.

Now, further the writer, I gather, is from a left leaning think tank in DC and as best as I can gather has never "built" a wall, at least a big one. The author states:

That fits with what structural engineers have told me: the total cost of highways and other megascale projects in the U.S. is generally two to three times the material costs. That makes a 1,000-mile wall pencil out at $27 billion to $40 billion.

That is a bit of a range. So let me see. It was not MIT but Technology Review. It was not an expert in walls, but some staff person at a think tank. It was not a detailed analysis but at best a set of guess works and then a multiplier. And the answer is somewhere between $27B and $40B. Try that on an MIT problem set.

Even NPR, that bastion of totally correct reporting has stated:

Were he to, in fact, try a wall, the cost could be much higher. One estimate from MIT found that a 1,000-mile wall would cost anywhere between $27 billion and $40 billion. 

If NPR had at least noted from its hyperlink it was Technology Review and NOT MIT, then it would in my opinion have been true reporting, not what seems to be the latest flurry of in my opinion could be considered and element of  "fake news".

So let's talk to someone who has built things, real things. Like, I don't know, perhaps the Press could find a real person like that.

The Campus Cauldron

Back in the 60s, when one opposed the Vietnam War, there were clear reasons. One was you, if you were male, had a good chance of getting killed. Half a million at a time were sent there and the strategy and reasons were anything but clear.

Now we have the clamor over the current President. As noted I have no horse in the race but as an observer the intensity of the opposition is, well just to say, kind of over the hill.

In The Tech, the MIT student newspaper, which even during Vietnam walked a middle road, extolling the concert for the coming weekend, not bubbling over in terror because Johnson or Nixon sent more troops. But now in The Tech they writer notes:

Many recount losing friends, being insulted, or being yelled at after having revealed their political beliefs. They’ve said that MIT professors have publicly criticized their candidate, their party, or their beliefs. Many recall hateful post-election rhetoric, such as assassination wishes on the “Share your hopes” posters put up in Lobby 7.

Imaging "assassination" wishes posted in the main entry way, and among these wishes many were apparently lauded by the general statements of the President of the Institute.

What do they say about the odors of dead fish? Just a thought. How do computer scientists and molecular biologists get so vitriolic? One need look no farther, I believe, than the exploding administration overhead.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Traffic Merging

The Canadians are polite to an extreme, I guess, and so notes The National Post. You see when they notice a one lane notice, they all slowly and politely get into one land a mile or so ahead of the merge. The paper notes:

Virtually every traffic scientist agrees Canada is absolutely awful at merging through bottlenecks.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine how we could be worse. At the first sign of a lane coming to an end, the Canadian strategy is to immediately cram into single file and abandon the soon-to-run-out lane. Then, as cars slowly inch ahead through the gap, they zealously defend the sanctity of the line by aggressively blocking the entry of any and all late mergers.

Now the write suggests what he calls a "zipper merge" which is what we in New York City call "alternate merge".  It is what we do at the Holland, Lincoln tunnels and the GW Bridge. If we did not then the city would come to a halt. In fact in all of NYC we alternate merge. It is not just polite, it is survival.

Now for those of you who travel out of NYC in the State, I have been told by New York State Troopers, the last remaining Praetorian Guards in the US, that there is no such thing as an "alternate merge". The NY State Police say you MUST stop in the ending lane until there is NO traffic in the traveling lane, and then you may enter! Yep, bring half the world or more to a standstill. These guys must live in some holler in the Catskills. But they are 6'5" and walk holding the handle of their 9 mm on their hips. So, despite the fact that the law they say we must comply with does not exist, they are the law!

The Paper continues:

“By working together, by abandoning our individual preferences and our distrust of others’ preferences, in favor of a simple set of objective rules, we can make things better for everyone,” wrote Tom Vanderbilt in the 2008 book Traffic. Jurisdictions have tried with varying success to convert their citizens to the gospel of the zipper merge. Starting in the early 2000s, the state of Minnesota has been the U.S. standard for the zipper merge, rolling out pro-zipper merge signage and public relations campaigns. Since 2015, the City of Saskatoon has been pushing the zipper merge as a method to reduce congestion.

Perhaps if we are in the process of renegotiating NAFTA we could train the NY State Police in polite driving, and practiced in New York City. Who said we are rude?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Protests: Then and Now

Well back a hundred years there was my Grandmother, Hattie F. Kruger, before marrying my grandfather. Shortly after this photo, she is 3rd from right, President Wilson had them thrown in the Lorton Prison and there they rotted till he felt the public pressure. The he declared War on Germany.

Here are her great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter. They came and went by bus, the capes were, I gather, gifts from some one upon their arrival. They made it back home without a stop in Lorton.

I will let you all figure what has changed.

Come the Economists

Again come the economists. This time with pets. Simply put, they argue that health care for pets is cheaper than for humans.

The NY Times reports:

“These commonalities made us think that something else may be behind the rapid growth in human health care spending,” said Amy Finkelstein, an M.I.T. economist and one of the authors of a recent study on pet care. She, along with her co-authors Liran Einav and Atul Gupta of Stanford, tried to find what that something else could be in their study on pet health care presented at the American Economic Association annual meeting in Chicago. “We often blame generous insurance and significant public sector involvement, but those are absent from pet care,” Ms. Finkelstein said.
Some health economists say generous health insurance and significant government intervention in the health care market promote unnecessary spending. They note the United States spends more of its G.D.P. on health care than other similar advanced economies yet does not exhibit broadly better health outcomes, a sign of inefficiency. But other economists argue that health care is so valuable that we might reasonably spend even more on it than we do today. Which camp is right?...“It makes you think that the emotional nature of the treatment decision may be important in explaining high and sometimes heroic end-of-life health care spending,” Ms. Finkelstein said, “whether on your dog or on your mother.”....Though you might reasonably avoid pet care insurance, you really can’t do that with human health insurance. Human and pet health care may have some commonalities, but this isn’t one of them.

Well folks the answer is real simple. If your dog or cat is terminally ill you "put it down". Cheap and does not require the excessive costs of hospitalization in final days. We used to let humans stay at home for their final days. But that too has ceased. If your pig or goat or sheep is terminal you may  bring it down and render it, make some money on the carcass. Sorry, but it was an economic decision.

First, animals are not humans. We can legally "put them down". The ACA somewhat thought of that but never implemented it. The close as the got was in doing away with PSA testing, that was acceptable, so instead of biopsies and surgery, you have bone mets and death. After it is just a man. Rover has more dignity!

I wonder if the researchers ever spent time on a farm? I never saw many in Cambridge.

Down the Rabbit Hole

There is an old technique in interrogation or in avoidance called "Down the Rabbit Hole". This means you get a white rabbit, dress them up with a pocket watch and let them run down a rabbit hole. People than follow and the issue is following the white rabbit. While at the same time you are left to do what you wanted yet no longer having a tone of watchers, in fact of the watchers are dumb enough then they all go down the rabbit hole. Sound familiar? Think!

But now perhaps re-reading Alice would help on many fronts.

"It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.”  

And so forth.

Remember; "Nothing is necessarily what it appears to be." And if you really want to find out what is happening, do not go down the rabbit hole. Stay and watch was is happening.

Are We That Dumb?

The Telegraph published a piece on the impact of Technology and Income Inequality as spoken by the Chosen Few at Davos. They state:

A regular refrain was that governments and technology firms are not going to be able to solve many of the imminent problems that the world faces on their own; they are going to have to work together. Joichi Ito, the Japanese entrepreneur, activist and director of the MIT Media Lab pointed out that this will require groups with fundamentally different world views to collaborate. "Typically the people who are focussed on computer science and AI don't like the messiness of the real world," said Ito. "Most engineers don't understand the law; most engineers don't understand why governments exist." MIT even has a Charm School that tries to equip students with the skills to become future tech leaders and better deal with the real world of non-geniuses. 

Now the Media Lab always held a rather strange position at MIT. Half real an half just Demo. Back in the 80s I spent time and donated funds to try to get them to break bread with EECS to no avail.

But the above remark is frankly a personal insult. Engineers deal with the "real world" every day. They deal with patents, contracts, budgets, investors, lawyers, environmental controls and regulations. Perhaps a 19 year old does not but Engineers for the most part have to bridge the gaps to create and sustain something.

Engineers do Term Sheets, NDAs, Patent Filings. The lawyers take what they do and as good scriveners reduce it to writing suitable for filing. To say "most engineers don't understand why government exists" is in my opinion absurd to the extreme. As for the MIT Charm school, whatever that is, perhaps Alumni should rethink the Alumni Fund. The Charm School may be a reflection more of the Administration than the reality of the working world.

I suppose, in my opinion and based upon my experience, the dicta from this Media Lab employee is more reflective of his world view than reality. For how did MIT alumni set up so many companies if we all are dullards requiring "Charm School".

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Not to Run a VC Entity

MIT had announced its Engine Initiative, an intent to have a $250 million fund to invest in start up based upon the technology coming from the Institute. I never saw this as a positive, in fact it can have great down side effects.

Today they announced the "Team" to oversee this effort. You really cannot make this up.

My first question would be:

"Have any of these people ever run a start up?"

I would strongly doubt it. Then when you see all of these people, first it costs money, lots of it to keep all these folks going. That drives up tuition.  Second, massive committees like this never get anything done. The Soviets had dozens of Five Year Plans, see where that landed them.

There is a wealth of VC entities just around the corner. Why do something like this. The assembly of this massive team clearly demonstrates that many have not a clue.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Problems with Peer Review

There has always been a potential problem with Peer Review. Namely the Reviewers are not always pristine. The latest example is extraordinary.

In the Annals of Internal Medicine an author harmed in the process writes:

Dr. Doctor,I am aware that you recently admitted to wrongly publishing, as your own, a scientific research paper that I had submitted to Annals of Internal Medicine. After serving as an external peer reviewer on our manuscript, you published that same manuscript in a different medical journal a few months later. You removed the names of the authors and the research site, replacing them with the names of your coauthors and your institution.It took 5 years from conceptualization of the study to publication of the primary analysis (1). This study was my fellowship project and required a lot of work. It took effort to find the right research team, design the study, raise the funds, get approvals, recruit and create materials for study participants, run the diet classes, conduct the study visits, compile and analyze the study data, and write the initial report. The work was funded by the U.S. government and my academic institution. The secondary analysis that you reviewed for Annals used specialized methods that took my colleagues many years to develop and validate. In all, this body of research represents at least 4000 hours of work. When you published our work as your own (2), you were falsely claiming credit for all of this work and for the expertise gained by doing it.As you must certainly know, stealing is wrong. It is especially problematic in scientific research. The peer-review process depends on the ethical behavior of reviewers. Physicians and patients depend on the integrity of the process. Such cases of theft, scientific fraud, and plagiarism cannot be tolerated because they are harmful and unethical. Those who engage in such behavior can typically expect their professional careers to be ruined: Loss of reputation, loss of employment, and ineligibility for future research funding are the norm. Coauthors are also collaborators in the fraud, and such losses potentially apply to them as well. All the previous publications of those who steal others' work become suspect, and it reflects poorly on their training institutions, current employers, collaborators, and mentors.
It seems that one of the Reviewers just took the paper and put names on it. Legally this may be a bit more than plagiarism, especially if it relates to Government funded work. 

I wonder how this one will turn out. Sorry for the original author!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Happy Friday 13th!

Friday the 13th of a January has always been an interesting day personally. So I look forward to the next few hours!

Cheers to all!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Some thirty seven years ago I discovered disintermediation. Some call it "creative destruction". Simply it is the process whereby and existing channel of distribution, say selling shoes, gets changed. So we go from a system where to obtain a pair of shoes we go to a shoe maker, who measures our feet, asks us what type of leather we want and then after some long period we get our shoes.

In this world, which actually existed, we may have one or at best two pairs of shoes. First they are expensive and second shoemakers can just make so many.

Switch to Amazon. I can log on look for what I want and then get it delivered the same day. Also the price is such that I may have a dozen or more shoes. Athletic shoes, beach shoes, dress shoes, hiking boots, snow shoes, and a second or third pair of dress shoes. Lots of shoes.

What happened. Disintermediation. The distribution channel changed. The nexus between maker and consumer was dis-intermediated by multiple parties including Amazon.

Now go to the current Twitter President. And the Movie Elite. Back in the old days of cobblers, the Movie Elite had a hand in glove relationship, symbiotic as it was, with the Broadcast media. If it were NBC or ABC or whatever, some movie elite could make a statement about a politician and the networks would carry it and if the politician did not like it the best they could hope for was some Page 10 note commenting on such.

Now with Twitter, I don't use it so I am relying on the media, true, fake and otherwise that iut exists, the movie elite and the media elite get dis-intermediated. Like the old cobbler, they get shouted down by the person with some 140 characters!

These folks have not yet realized that the game has changed. Communications channels are ever more fluid and can be rapidly dis-intermediated. RT knows this better than China Daily. Trump knows this better than the Elites.

It will be interesting to see how this changes. Oh and yes, since I have never seen a football game and have no idea about this martial arts thing, I boxed as a young man, but only until my nose was broken three times, I have no Ox to be gored in this fight. One player brings all the power of the Elites, the other brings Twitter. So who do you think will win?

Monday, January 9, 2017

They are at it Again!

Prostate Cancer is a multifaceted malignancy. BRCA2 genes can make the result explosive and lead to rapid death. Many however are indolent. Knowing how to select which is which has not yet been achieved.

In a recent article a physical writes in Health Affairs:

The indolent nature of many prostate cancers has heightened concerns that harms from treatment may outweigh those from the disease and has resulted in a growing consensus in favor of less aggressive screening and treatment. We sought to understand the population-level impact of this consensus on the treatment of prostate cancer. Using national Medicare data for the period 2007–12, we assessed treatment rates among men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer. We identified both population-based rates (which are sensitive to changes in diagnosis and treatment patterns) and rates among diagnosed men (which are sensitive only to changes in treatment patterns). We also assessed trends in treatment among men with a high risk of noncancer mortality, who are unlikely to benefit from treatment. Population-based treatment rates declined by 42 percent, while rates among diagnosed men declined by only 8 percent. Treatment rates among men with the highest noncancer mortality risk and regional variation were unchanged. These results suggest that decreasing rates of diagnosis, changing attitudes, and guidelines calling for reduced prostate-specific antigen screening, not changes in practice patterns among specialists treating diagnosed men, drove the decline in population-based treatment rates. Compared to policies that emphasize volume, those that emphasize value in specialty care have the potential to exert stronger effects on practice patterns. 

Read the last sentence carefully. Value. It is like Quality. It has not absolute meaning and it would appear that as it is in the eye of the beholder and not the patient, well you guess it. That was the core of the ACA. Not any per-existing condition, but who gets to decide who lives and who dies.

Now read Science Daily which reflects on this article:

The researchers recommend new payment models or other policies that emphasize value of care over volume, which might provide more incentive for specialists to choose observation over treatment. They also urge participation in quality improvement initiatives, such as the Michigan Urological Surgery Improvement Collaborative, which strive to provide high quality, evidence-based care.
In addition, research continues to uncover new clues to identify which men are at highest risk of aggressive prostate cancer and could most benefit from screening and treatment. "That's really the concern here. We know prostate cancer is a deadly disease in some men. We need better tools to identify which men should be screened and among those diagnosed, which men should be treated aggressively. This is still a black box. It's that uncertainty that leads to different approaches to treatment based on how different physicians view the risk. If we get better predicting who's at highest risk, we can more accurately tailor screening and treatment," 

The statement is in my opinion grossly arrogant. The physician gets to decide if the patient should be treated? Really? What about the patient. After all he has paid for this. So we just let him die because some academic decides to do so. 

Why does the ACA need to be repealed and redone? Life versus Death, the patient versus the system.

China and Trump

The current Administration seems fixated on the power of RT to influence Americans. Then there is such sites as China Daily which lays bare threats and uncertainty.

China Daily states:

...professor and chair of the department of political science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, said: "Trump is about to create a very difficult period in China-US relations, one that may rival that of the 1950s and 60s. I am deeply concerned that Trump is rapidly moving US foreign policy toward a deep Cold War mindset regarding China. "My profound fear is that Trump has surrounded himself with anti-China hardliners who have little experience with or expertise on China, have rarely, if ever, visited the country, and have little understanding beyond textbooks and oped pieces of the nuances and subtleties of China's history, culture, and political system."

I am not aware of this Professor of what appears to be a small Catholic college in Texas, but it seems that he has become a statement maker for the Regime. Surprised no Harvard, Stanford, Yale or Princeton types.

In contrast the article continues:

...deputy director of research at the School of Regional and International Studies at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostock, Russia, said the exchange of goodwill between Trump and Moscow signals subtle changes in Russia's ties with China. According to public opinion surveys, Russia was the only country to prefer Trump over Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. "Since 2012, ties between Moscow and Beijing have been expanding and deepening, especially in the political-military domain," Lukin said. If Moscow normalizes relations with Washington, "the Sino-Russian partnership will continue, with the emphasis shifting to economics and trade", he added.

How much of this is game playing and muscle stretching and how much reflects a fundamental change is yet to be played out. China and Russia have had a tenuous relationship at best over the decades. You cannot buy anything Made in Russia at Walmart but there are still tons of Made in China.

It is surprising that the organ that the Chinese use to send out a message  use Academics so far from the base. Vladivostok is not Moscow, but it is quite reputable. Houston is not Cambridge yet it is no where close to Vladivostok.

One should ask; what this message means and to whom was it directed?

More on Employment January 2017

Last Friday the Government announced the latest Employment Stats. As usual we noted the mass amount no longer in the work force but we now take a look at details.
The above is a plot of Government or Government related employment versus non-Government. It dropped for a while but we note it climbing again. This chart shows that as that climbs then more people doing real work are having to be taxed for people doing Government supported work.
Again we show this as a Public versus Private sector breakout.
Looking deeper the real reason is the explosion of employment in Health Care. Clearly the AMA has created a massive number of jobs, most at the lower end, and in turn these jobs are paid for from a taxation base. Unfortunately that is ll being borrowed. Compare this to the JAMA analysis presented earlier.
The above is a listing of the Core workers during this period.
The above is detail per pop. Finally below we compare before the Collapse and now.
The above is a picture of the change in our employment structure.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

You Broke It, not BREXIT

And I thought the US Academy was in a state of collapse. But the Telegraph depicts the UK Universities as follows:

But students at a prestigious London university are demanding that figures such as Plato, Descartes and Immanuel Kant should be largely dropped from the curriculum because they are white. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)'s student union is insisting that when studying philosophy “the majority of philosophers on our courses” should be from Africa and Asia.

The article continues:

Sir Roger Scruton, the philosopher, said the demands suggest “ignorance”. “You can't rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavour without having investigated it and clearly they haven't investigated what they mean by white philosophy,” he told The Mail on Sunday. “If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant's Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it.'

Knowing Scrunton, and he is brilliant, he has more than a point. The irony is that these individuals led to the very creation of a civil society.

Facts and Then There are Parting Memos

For those who may have been examining this Blog over the past eight plus years one of our topics was the Romer Curve, which was the projection of unemployment

Now from the still current Administration comes a rewriting of history.
They state:

From its peak, the unemployment rate recovered to its pre-recession average in mid-2015 and continued to fall, standing at 4.6 percent as of November 2016. This rapid decline came far more quickly than most economists predicted: as recently as March 2014, private forecasters expected the unemployment rate to remain above 5.0 percent until at least 2020 (Figure 1). Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate, which has been subject to downward pressure due to the aging of the U.S. population, has been broadly stable since the end of 2013, as the strengthening labor market recovery has led workers to enter (or reenter) the workforce, offsetting downward pressure from demographic trends.

To examine the facts just go back and look at my Romer curve analyses. At NO time did any data appear as indicated above. By month we tracked the actual versus the Romer projections. Even using the recalculations which employed massive numbers removed from the possible employment roles.

History is written by the victors. Not clear yet who they may be but when data such as the above is presented when the real data based on the Romer memo disputes it, I truly wonder. But alas, they are but economists. Worse yet, they are politicians.

Interesting Data

JAMA has an exceptionally interesting piece on Health Care costs and changes. The authors state:

From 1996 through 2013, $30.1 trillion of personal health care spending was disaggregated by 155 conditions, age and sex group, and type of care. Among these 155 conditions, diabetes had the highest health care spending in 2013, with an estimated $101.4 billion (uncertainty interval [UI], $96.7 billion-$106.5 billion) in spending, including 57.6% (UI, 53.8%-62.1%) spent on pharmaceuticals and 23.5% (UI, 21.7%-25.7%) spent on ambulatory care. Ischemic heart disease accounted for the second-highest amount of health care spending in 2013, with estimated spending of $88.1 billion (UI, $82.7 billion-$92.9 billion), and low back and neck pain accounted for the third-highest amount, with estimated health care spending of $87.6 billion (UI, $67.5 billion-$94.1 billion). The conditions with the highest spending levels varied by age, sex, type of care, and year. Personal health care spending increased for 143 of the 155 conditions from 1996 through 2013. 

The following chart is quite interesting, albeit open for some discussion.
DUBE is Diabetes and a collection of other things. Frankly I would have liked to see T2 Diabetes separate but I suspect it and its sequellae are all over the chart. The greatest sum is in the 65 and older as one might suspect.
The above is interesting since it depicts annual costs total and per person by age and by disorder. Surprisingly older women are more costly than older men. Also as one would expect over 85 is costly. However I would expect that if one looked at the distribution it would be some 80:20 rule, namely 20% of these people account for 80% of the cost.

Finally the data below is of interest, which is a chart of Public Health spending.
The ones with the greatest change are of most interest. Such as breast cancer with an annualized cost increase of 30%! I really do not know what to make of this one. But worth reporting.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Smart Phones

I had the opportunity to view the Senate hearings yesterday to see the latest dance about the camp fire. What struck me, and this now must reflect age, was as the DNI was speaking one of his aides apparently was continuously on his smart phone and both chuckling and sharing it with a colleague.

In the old days if that happened the employee, yes a Government employee we pay for, would be seeking alternative occupations.

But I gather the messages were more important than the content of the briefing.

Just an observation. Oh well, they are on their way out any way.

Employment January 2017

Employment is increasing but we still have a significant amount no longer in the base. It should reflect a 7% + unemployment rate if we maintained the base as it was in 2006. Even then it had dropped from 2000.

One can see the growth in employment and population. The latter growth is the problem in a sense that we do not have the old percent in the employee pool. Thus the 4.7% is truly deceptive as we have been showing for the past eight years.
The above does reinforce this issue. The workforce as a percent of population is still well below what we started with.

We will examine the details later.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It is Called a Bus

Perhaps I have too much time. But I have been reading the MIT News Office documents, it seems to be in my opinion a Politburo type now. The one which caught my eye today was the "car pooling" idea for Manhattan.  You see I actually drove a cab for a short while, as the front seat driver with an uncle, briefly mind you, and I am back and forth and am an avid subway user. Nothing better than the Bway line from 34th to 42nd at rush hour. It makes Tokyo look genteel. You want diversity, get on that train. And yes, the East side Lex line is just as bad.

Now to the MIT folks. They state in the MIT News blurb:

Led by ... MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), researchers developed an algorithm that found 3,000 four-passenger cars could serve 98 percent of taxi demand in New York City, with an average wait-time of only 2.7 minutes. “Instead of transporting people one at a time, drivers could transport two to four people at once, resulting in fewer trips, in less time, to make the same amount of money,” .... “A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air, and shorter, less stressful commutes.” The team also found that 95 percent of demand would be covered by just 2,000 10-person vehicles, compared to the nearly 14,000 taxis that currently operate in New York City. Using data from 3 million taxi rides, the new algorithm works in real-time to reroute cars based on incoming requests, and can also proactively send idle cars to areas with high demand — a step that speeds up service 20 percent, ...

First, people want to  go to different places. If you want to join in there are buses. If you want to get there fast there is the subway. If you want to go really fast, try a helicopter. The copter can get you from one point to another fast but it does not deliver you to where you really want to go, no landing spot.

Now for the above. "Shorter hours" means less pay. I guess these wizards have never really worked on the streets of New York. The traffic problem is simple. No alleys. Thus all the trucks double and triple park during rush hours and traffic stops. You even stop the bus.

Some how the above study seems to have spend no time finding our how people get around New York. The 95% coverage makes a tone of illogical assumptions in my opinion.

Thus in my opinion and in my almost 75 years of experience, having been born and raised here, traffic is driven by individual decisions, not group decisions. Just spend time on the cross town S line from Times Square to Grand Central. There are millions of individuals just passing by. Stop that individuality, in my opinion, some half thought out academic illusion, and you destroy what makes New York work. If not the world. This is not a world of neat computer science. This is mass humanity.

Stay in Cambridge, please. Oh yes, and try and find a parking spot in Kendall Square!

Debt: It Just Keeps Going Up!

The total debt keeps rising with no end in sight. The above is through Q3 2016. Most likely we are well above $20 trillion.
The above is the annualized changes by Quarter, The surprise was a year ago where we saw a $3 trillion annualized increase! One wonders where the Press is on this one. Clearly this is more important than some less than competent IP server manager and their employer.
Finally the above are the Quarterly annualized increases. This is well ahead of any GDP changes. The blame is on Medicare and Social Security. But frankly many of us paid into and continue to pay into a system whose returns to us are negative to say the least. Where is the money going folks!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Cyber Security

In the recent complaints about invasion of cyber networks, the DNC and Burlington Power, we see in all cases human failures on the party attacked. Whether it is use of personal or entity computers to access what should not be accessed, like web sites, images, attachments, it is generally the blatant carelessness and/or stupidity on the part of those invaded.

Cyber security has a multiplicity of ways to block intruders and even more so to attempt to overcome the incompetence of the users. We briefly review some of them.

1. Encryption

Encrypting messages is straightforward. There are a multiplicity of relatively secure means to achieve this. All this does is take what is created and allow it to be opened and used only by whom it was intended. It does not mean however that the receiver cannot then take it and let it become open due to their incompetence. Even if it is of printed form it can be reproduced and sent onwards.

2. Authentication

Authentication is the process of making certain that the entity seeking access is both authorized and who they say they are. Over the decades I have examined a multiplicity of authentication systems. All have some issues but many present viable necessities.

There are many authentication options now available, especially biometric ones. Many have evolved from the intelligence sector and can be readily applied in commercial applications. These authentication mechanisms can be used on both transmit and receive so that encrypted files require a high level of authentication. However, like all of these issues, the device which opens the file, after being authenticated may not be secure! It can be an endless chasing of the tail.

3. Outbound Control

Sending messages from a secure location to another secure location requires that the data being sent and its destination is authorized. One means of doing this is to employ a DPI, deep packet inspection, where not only are P addresses checked but packets are fully inspected. That means that an approach to send packets to some acceptable address via a tunneling mechanism, then sent elsewhere, could be determined. Also examining the type of data being sent and profiling it to IP address can also be accomplished and determine if data is being improperly downloaded.

In addition means to determine lists of insecure or threat IP addresses or even more complexly profiles of outbound traffic that meet threat profiles. Namely traffic that may be sending files which should not normally be sent to locations that may not be acceptable. This would mean an intelligent DPI process.

4. Inbound Control

This is the process of monitoring where traffic is coming from is critical. One can also use DPI here as a means to assess not only where the traffic is from, but what the traffic is. Messages have profiles and they should be used to throttle access.

5. Usage Monitoring

The key question is often; what is being used on the network? Thus, monitoring what applications are being used is essential. This may be complex but as with others it can be accomplished.

6. User Monitoring

Users have profiles. They have jobs that requires certain behavior at certain times. They type in a certain manner. Back in the days of Morse code one could identify a distant operator by their key usage patterns. The same can be done by keyboard, mouse, and other I/O interfaces. When they change then one must immediately suspect something and remediate.

7. Usage Flagging

Usage profiles can be developed. Metrics describing users can be developed and once a usage profile is aberrant then immediate remediation is necessary.

8. Network Segregation

In the later 1980s the ARPA Net was split into a commercial and military net. The result purportedly was a separate and non-connected set of IP networks. In the late 1990s when I deployed my Central and Eastern European nets I did so over independent private fiber links. One could have a secure and isolated network.

9. Private Networking

A key element in security is separating the network. Network segregation is the ultimate in that construct but a less costly and somewhat effective method is private networking. Take the power grid as an example. Any power company who controls their networks via some IP methodology should do so only on a separate secure private network. Lease circuits, block any outside access, and separate all facilities so that the control backbone is NOT a part of any public access. Any company utilizing the public side of the Internet for control of critical assets is asking for a disaster to occur.

10. Secure Operating Systems

Many of the concerns are from the outside in. However back in the 1970s there was a major concern from the inside out. Namely having a secure operating system. Who wrote the OS, what is hidden inside the chips, the file manager. Remember the chips come from a potential adversary. The OS may have bits and pieces from generations of old code.

Furthermore, this issue of security demands a secure platform in toto. Namely, having the right person, decrypt the secure data on what would be an insecure platform defeats the purpose. This is the classic issue of Red and Black environments. This is an old paradigm where everything secure was held within a protected environment with no communication between it and the outside world. However, this is quite difficult to achieve in current day operations. Namely, people all too often want to use their own computers or devices and it is at this point that security can and is often breached. It can be a secure person in a secure environment but with an insecure terminal.

11. Paper Trails

In the old days, we had paper. The paper was numbered, it was kept in a secure environment, and there was theoretically no means to copy it. Yet good spies would find a way to compromise the situation. But paper had its worth. A security check of a safe at random times allowed for some semblance of security. However, under the right circumstances one could photo the document if surveillance was inadequate. This could be mitigated by having multiple individuals in at the same time. However, that also could be compromised. Yet paper did eliminate a multiplicity of risks that electronic access presents.

The classic exception to this is in the tale of the Falcon and the Snowman, the story of the son of an FBI agent working in a secure facility at TRW who managed to feed the Russians massive amounts of data. The reason, just sloppy security controls.

12. Real Time Security Audits

Security audits were and still are essential. Trust goes just so far. When establishing a security policy and protocol one must further be certain people understand their responsibilities, that they are checked on meeting them and that there are substantial and immediate consequences for failure. Collusion with the auditors represents a risk, but it would require substantial efforts.

13. Real Time Network Monitoring

Networks should be monitored. Monitored for use, users, usage. Who is sending and receiving what and when and from/to whom. Profiles count and looking at the network as a totality is critical. Furthermore, there must be some sequestering of the network. The old aphorism, "Don't use pay toilets" reflects the fact that various infections can be obtained from truly open environments. If anyone, and especially unknowable actors can access the same facilities as the secure users, there is no security.

14 Training and Punishing People

Ultimately security of any type depends on people. As someone once said to me; "Trust no one, not even your father!". Brutal but all too often true. The tales of the Communists from Cambridge, Burgess et al, is a tale of assuming the "good old boys" or "one of us" means something. People range from stupid, to arrogant, to incompetent, to downright evil. They do not wear signs telling us what one or combinations they present. We all too often have to assume the worst. Trust is the basis of betrayal.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Interest Rates

The Treasury yield curve is increasing again. The spreads have taken a substantial change.
This will be a harbinger for this year.