Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rating Happiness

The UN publishes the Happiness Report every year. This year there is not much change when you look at the top 10. The same countries have appeared there for the past three years:

New Zealand 

The countries are ranked on the following - income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.

We are ranked 18th. The reasoning: "The U.S. is in the midst of a complex and worsening public-health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards." Plus high levels of income inequality, a "woefully inadequate" health care system, corporate deregulation and increasing screen time on new technologies. "The main issue for the U.S. is not the lack of means to address the crises of public health and declining well-being. Rather, perhaps the major practical barrier is corporate lobbying that keeps dangerous corporate practices in place and imposes untold burdens on the poor and vulnerable parts of the U.S. population, coupled with the failure of the American political system to address and understand America's growing social crisis."

Here are the 10 unhappiest countries 
South Sudan 
Central African Republic 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Is this the way you fire someone?

Trump's tweet re Tillerson:
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!
What world does Trump live in?  

All the news that's fit to print

That was - and may still be - the slogan of the New York Times. But a recent Frontline program causes me to question it. The program aired in February and analyzed the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I just saw it today. Although somewhat too long, the program was interesting and reasonably comprehensive. The item that really caught my eye was the adulation and praise heaped on Saddam Hussein by the average Iraqi at the time of his execution. I and several of my friends could not recall any such demonstrations recorded in the media. Yes, the media has become less open in this century. But I would have thought that the praise of Saddam by his subjects would have been truly newsworthy.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Smartphones can become addictive - and that's not good

Economies need competition

Edmund S. Phelps, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2006, argues that China has become a more competitive economy while the West, since the 1930s has become less competitive. Phelps believes that "most Western governments have seen it as their duty to protect established enterprises from competition, even when it comes from new firms offering new adaptations or innovations". Trump's tariff program is a manifestation of this.

In the past few years China has moved to increase entrepreneurship and innovation and has made it easier to start a company. It has learned by allowing foreign experts to work on new projects in the business sector.

The leader in solar panels

Friday, March 09, 2018

Learn about government finances

Studying Fake News

Three MIT scientists have performed a detailed study of fake news on Twitter. Their conclusion:
“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information. And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.” 

They found that
A false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story. 
A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. 
While false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.

We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

Even penguins take selfies

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Why is white skin better?

Compensating CEOs of Public Companies

One of the changes in the tax code made by President Clinton was to limit how much executive compensation was deductible against corporate earnings. However, the cap applied to cash pay only, not stock grants. So, stock compensation has become an ever-larger proportion of executive pay at public companies. 

Thus, the CEOs pay is based more on the company's stock price than its performance in its industry. Yet, the stock market can do very well or very poorly no matter what the company does. It is more dependent on the state of the economy, Federal Reserve policy, industry trends, bull-and-bear stock-market cycles and inflation. The CEO can do very well in a rising market.

Are our CEOs over-paid? They get more than CEOs in Europe or Japan. Today, top German executives make about half of what their U.S. counterparts are paid; Japanese CEOs get paid about 10 percent of comparable American CEOs. In 1965, an American CEO was paid about 20 times -- a ratio of 20-to-1 -- more than the median pay of other workers. Then executive compensation took off, peaking at 383-to-1 in 2000. The ratio checked in at 296-to-1 in 2013, according to Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.

Bringing back the Great Recession

That's what the Senate is proposing to do with a bill called “The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act.” This bill is aimed at reducing regulations for community banks. However, at the same time the bill includes the mega banks that were primarily responsible for the Great Recession. The bill eliminates several of the regulations that were aimed at the problems of the Great Recession. The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis showing that the legislation “would increase federal deficits by $671 million over the 2018-2027 period” while increasing the probability of a big bank failure.

Senator Warren discusses the issues below.

A race car driver of the 20th century

Is the 21st century any different?

Cows electrocuted by lightning in Australia