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Wednesday, June 17 2015

Personal Finance for the young

On today's Diane Rehm Show show on NPR, they discussed the topic of young people and money for an hour. It was a truly bizzare conversation.

The first 10 minutes were focused around college-age kids - those thinking about going to college and those just graduated. This was mostly OK, but:

For a minute or two where the panel insisted that personal finance is complicated. It really isn't. Personal finance is pretty simple for the great middle - those who have enough income to be comfortable in their situation, but not so much income that they need an advisor and a CPA to handle it all. Make a budget, file your taxes on time, save a little bit, and know how to evaluate offers for credit.

The panel also seemed unwilling to point out an obvious cause for why kids seem to need more help from their parents straight out of college: graduates aren't getting married at 22 and 23 as often. Operating a household is expensive; sharing a household saves money. And unlike with a roommate, spouses typically pool money to reduce the risk of one person being laid off and falling into financial trouble. There are some drawbacks to marriage - for example couples with large student loan debts are likely to hit the cap on the student loan interest tax deduction.

The second segment was largely about teaching small children the value of money. One of the panelists suggested giving your kids an allowance, but expecting them to contribute to household expenses (ala rent) "depending on your means." How about, if you're of limited means, don't give an allowance at all, and if you're wealthy give an allowance.

Another suggested a "three jar" allowance where the kid would be expected to save some money, spend some money, and donate some money. The concept of charity is well beyond young children. Maybe this is a good strategy for a 10-year-old, I think it is enough to teach a young kid that you can't buy a new bicycle with $27.

The first caller talked about people who don't understand credit cards and the panel suggested that cash was the way to go. This is obviously outdated thinking - first, it is clearly easier to choose not to carry cash - $100 in a combination of 20s and small bills is a noticeable thickness to my wallet, and there's a good chance whatever I do I'll end up having to break a 20 anyway. Second, you get substantial value out of credit cards in the form of rewards. The same is true of debit cards, where many banks will pay significant interest on your checking account if you charge a certain number of times to their debit card.

A later caller wanted to thank her father for prohibiting her from taking out student loans, and the panel praised the pair for their decision. Similarly to the previous paragraph about credit cards, student loans aren't actually that bad, as long as you do the repayment math first. Taking out $6700 a year in loans for four years would result in a monthly payment of around $330 on a 10 year term. Not a small sum, but if you take a job out of college with a salary of around $38k, definitely doable. Probably doable on less depending on the cost of living in your area. And keep in mind that $6700 will actually go quite a ways to funding a year of tuition at a public school - plausibly more than 2/3, with the remaining third easily covered by a summer job.

The best commentary came from two educators, one from Tulsa and one from Cincinnati. They denounced the myth that secondary schools fail to put on programming for financial preparation for college to the best of their abilities and that schools don't teach kids how to calculate the interest on a loan (although I would argue that this kind of thing needs to be emphasized and things like trigonometry de-emphasized)

Some times the ability of the school isn't sufficient - it is ultimately up to a parent to figure out how they can help their kids save for college.

Now for some things I agree with the panel about:

  • Choosing an expensive college because it's expensive/exclusive is not a good idea, and declining to apply to expensive universities is also a bad idea because the financial aid packages can sometimes be very generous. Applying to a dozen colleges is also a silly exercise.
  • Personal Finance is certainly a topic every public school should cover in some detail and repeatedly. The panel on the Diane Rehm show called personal finance complicated, and I disagreed above - but I've spent many hours trying to figure out the finer points of IRA investing. Knowing to save 5-10% of your salary is easy enough, but comparing competing offers from employers is not -- especially when it comes to fringe benefits and culture.

Wednesday, March 26 2014

Evansville's Well-Being Index -- Bottom 10 in the USA!

I was going to ignore this Gallup survey, released earlier this week. But then, the Honorable Mayor of Evansville, Lloyd Winnecke, felt the need to repudiate the survey in this YouTube video. In it, he says that an "extremely small percent of those people who responded did so in an unfavorable way." And, Evansville Courier and Press business writer Susan Orr wrote a story where everyone the paper interviewed (one person, talk about small sample sizes) was incredulous. "You've got Evansville lower than friggin' Detroit" the Courier and Press quoted Greg Wathen as saying.

Well, here's the facts, Mayor. The survey sampled 789 people by telephone (both landline and mobile) in the Evansville area. That's a very considerable sample size for the relatively small number of people living in it. As the Mayor says, that's over 300,000 people in the Evansville MSA, but consider that surveys for things like Senate races will sample only 1000 people to project up to the 6 million who live in Indiana.

Evansville is the lowest rated metropolitan area in Indiana, out of 7. Of those, Evansville:

  • Is most obese (28.6%)
  • Has most smokers (29.4%)
  • Has most uninsured residents (18.2%)
  • Exercises third least (48.7%)
  • Eats fruits and veggies at the second lowest rate (55.3%)

The only category where Evansville is in the top half of Hoosier metro areas is "has daily stress", which only 55.8% of Evansvilliagers expressed.

Since Mr. Wathen was curious, let's have a look at Detroit. Detroit reports fewer obese people, fewer smokers, more people who eat well, more people who exercise, more insured people. On five of the six categories, Detroit ranks above the River City.

Think about that, Evansville. Not about how Gallup is some evil organization that wants to destroy Evansville and promote Holland, Michigan. Look within.

P.S.: I'm not trying to imply that Evansville lacks amenities that other cities like Detroit or Indianapolis has, because to me Evansville seems to have most of the important ones. The problem is how people make use of them, or don't.

Wednesday, February 13 2013

Manipulated Statistics ... or Not?

A couple of weeks ago, the University of Evansville Alumni Association started telling its alumni that they had fabulous job placement. To quote their tweet:

98% of UE Business grads last year landed a job in their chosen field & avg starting salary was 40k

This seemed incredible right away. First, the school of business at Evansville is very small, generating between 60 and 80 graduates in an academic year, meaning that 98% of students would probably mean "all but two."

Second, because this data has to be determined in some way, most likely by a survey, there is the potential for selection bias, where the survey might be distributed only to a select group, or the survey might somehow discourage the unemployed from responding.

There wasn't anyway to prove or disprove this, until this week when UE released a larger survey of the entire 2012 graduating class (not just the school of business).

In that survey, the headline was that 92% of Evansville graduates were either employed or pursuing a graduate degree, with a median salary of $42,000.

The problem? Part-time jobs are being counted. I can't imagine that many college graduates are looking to wait tables. Looking at strictly full-time work, or graduate school, the number is 67%. That does exclude some people who did not specify the nature of their work, so it may be a little too low.

But that number isn't going to trigger anyone's BS detector, which is arguably a problem with both the 92% and 98% figures.

Monday, February 11 2013

Extremely Terrible Challenge-Response Questions

I've never been a fan of the "prove your identity" questions that many web vendors use, particularly financial institutions. I had to answer some of these today, and thought I'd share a couple of doozies.

What year did you get your first job?
This seemed like a reasonable question. But then I realized that I have no idea. I know I started my first job in September, but I have no recollection of what year. I could probably figure it out, but I don't want to do that every time I have to answer the question. The other problem is that for a person of known age, there is a very limited number of values which this might take, roughly a bell curve with center at 18 and tails extending toward 14 and 23.

What is the first name of the funniest friend you know?
There is a problem with this general class of questions: one's habits and friends change over time. So, in this case, the answer today might be my co-worker "Jack." In five years, the answer is somewhat likely to have changed, because people change jobs all the time, and I'm unlikely to keep track of Jack just because he's a decent Leno impersonator.

What was your first sweetheart's last name?
Here's another one that has multiple problems of recall. First, will future me think that my "first sweetheart" was a grade-school crush, first kiss, or first steady girlfriend? Second, will future me think to spell "Hoopengardner" with or without that silent "D"?

In what city was your favorite Olympic games played? What was the year of your favorite soccer World Cup?
These two fit very well together. They require you to perform two exercises:
(a) think about all the (World Cups or Olympics) you can
(b) Rank them subjectively
Again, someone knowing my age has a huge advantage. Being in my 20s, I do not remember the 1992 Barcelona Olympics at all and have only vague recollections of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. So, someone attempting access to this account would be able to guess with a one in eight chance. World Cups are even worse because there are only four that I would have any chance of remembering, and only one during which I watched a single match.

Even a middle-aged person is going to answer a question like this in a predictable fashion. Either they will pick a recent Olympics, or they will pick an especially famous Olympics (1980 with the "Miracle On Ice", 1992 with the "Dream Team" or 1996 because it was in the USA).

Here's why this is important:
Imagine you're a smartphone owner, who gets her purse stolen, phone and wallet included. Thief opens purse, finds phone with no passcode on it, and an email account logged in. Thief decides to play with your 401(k) which happens to be hosted at Fidelity. To reset a Fidelity password, you need only the last four digits of the victim's social security number (which many folks do not consider private information, including many employers who write it on pay stubs), the name of the victim, their date of birth, and access to their email or telephone.

Tell me what of that information is hard to find, given a purse? Maybe the last four digits of the social security number. Maybe. Some states in the past used the social security number as an identifier for issuing driver's licenses, so it isn't impossible that all of that information is on the driver's license.

Even after a password reset, the verification questions are still in the way. But what if the question is "What was the year of your favorite soccer World Cup," and the thief knows even a little bit about USA soccer?

I propose that perhaps using these security questions as additional passwords is a good idea, in place of actually answering the question. Even if you choose a common dictionary word, a 1 in 1000 chance of guessing a dictionary word is a whole lot better than the 1 in 8 chance of guessing which Olympics was my favorite.

Monday, February 4 2013

Sportswriters - out of touch with TV

I woke up this morning to read several columns skewering CBS for not providing adequate entertainment during the Super Bowl blackout. It seems that all of the columnists tried to offer helpful suggestions for what CBS should do the next time the power goes out during the Super Bowl.

I'll run through several of those suggestions and explain why those are impossible at worst, or unhelpful at best.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: But never has the vapidity of NFL commentators been more painfully in evidence. It is amazing, in the year 2013, these are the people who are paid to talk live on television. That's their job. Professionally.
They are paid to talk live on television in the same way that Diane Sawyer is paid to talk live on television. Both "The NFL Today" team and Sawyer are mostly reading from a teleprompter, with a couple of bad jokes ad-libbed into the broadcast. You put Diane Sawyer in a scene where she has to run a 30-minute broadcast off the cuff, and the vapidity points will very quickly add up.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: Dan Marino and Boomer Esiason just sort of mumbled, confused, which led, lord help me, Shannon Sharpe to fill the void.
Boomer Esiason was not on TV during the blackout. He was seven floors above, sharing a broadcast booth with Kevin Harlan on Dial Global Sports.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: I couldn't help but wonder how much better NBC or ESPN would have been with this. They would have at least had a reporter or two hanging around. I guarantee you Michele Tafoya or Sal Paolantonio have at least some information for us there. I guarantee you, they wouldn't have. An honest NFL official would have said "I don't know anything." A slightly more loquacious official would have blamed the utility for cutting off the SuperDome's power. In reality, the problem was a breaker inside the SuperDome, meaning the information Solomon Wilcots would have been sharing would have been wrong.
And, what's more, even though Michele Tafoya and SalPal have "experience" on NFL sidelines, their experience is only as deep as being fed information from a team spokesperson on injuries, and whatever they can observe from their reserved area on the sideline.


You may remember something similar happened on a Monday Night Football game at Candlestick Park earlier this NFL season. Stuart Scott and the rest of the ESPN "MNF" crew were there, and the time-filling was no less inane. There was no explanation for what happened to the power, although ESPN did have video of an explosion from their blimp that they kept showing, and speculating about. Eventually, ESPN did get an estimate of how long the delay would be out of Candlestick Park officials (possibly by the Public Address system). Other than that, they didn't seem to seek any comment or hold the NFL's feet to the fire.

Will Leitch, Sports on Earth: CBS, in an unforeseeable circumstance that you sort of nevertheless have to have a backup plan for (this being the Super Bowl and all), was left without its pants on the biggest sports day of the year.
CBS did have a back-up plan. They had a generator installed to run their equipment (most of it, at least). They had their studio crew on site. The only thing they didn't have on reserve was something to talk about!

Further, the Super Bowl, that happens once every three years, is a special case. During the regular season, CBS and FOX have the ultimate. If there were to be some kind of lengthy delay in one game, they simply switch their stations to another game. No need to fill 30 minutes without any advance warning. Because the Super Bowl is the only game happening, and the final game of the season, there is extremely little that you can talk about other than the mechanics of the game itself.

Finished with Mr. Leitch.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: There is a major screwup and the NFL won’t put someone on the air — and CBS won’t push the league — to try to explain what’s going on? That’s mind-boggling.
No, that's what billions of dollars will do. CBS has no incentive to do anything that might upset Roger Goodell, whose enterprise makes CBS billions more than it pays back to the NFL.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: Why not take a camera and microphone on the sidelines for an interview [with one of the players who was stretching on the field?
A: The NFL explicitly forbids broadcasters from interviewing players a certain number of hours before, or during, a game.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News: At one point, CBS had a shot of John Harbaugh screaming at some suit who we assumed worked for the NFL (we take that grand leap because CBS never identified who the gentleman was). Why not stick a microphone in Harbaugh’s face and ask him why he was angry?
A: See above. Coaches are also off-limits. I'm a little surprised that the gentleman from the League wasn't identified, although Dial Global Sports did identify him as "just a messenger."

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News CBS’ inability to report the news, dig into all angles of the story, is a direct result of how the NFL controls the media. If normal coverage is limited and restricted, it stands to reason that league suits would try to black out all coverage of a Super Bowl blackout.
Hey look. Someone finally said something that is true.

Bob Raissman, New York Daily News In the end, the league could have looked even worse -- If CBS had done its job.
This, I truly do not understand. CBS's job is to make the NFL look bad? Moreover, how could the NFL be made to look worse than having its Super Bowl interrupted by 30 minutes of darkness in New Orleans? It seems to me that the reality of the situation, that a breaker in a maintenance room somewhere in the Super Dome opened, makes the NFL look less bad.

I'll quickly summarize my opinions:
1) CBS did the only thing it could with its studio team. It was not good TV, but they had no alternative.
2) The NFL, and most other sports leagues, have quite a bit of leverage over how their league is covered. You may remember some commentators thought the NFL would somehow punish ESPN for its criticism of the TOUCHCEPTION (a.k.a. "Fail Mary") between Seattle and Green Bay this year. That doesn't seem to have happened, but the threat is a big money concern to the media companies that cover the NFL.

Saturday, January 5 2013

On One-Point Safetys

I was looking for an explanation of exactly how a one-point safety is possible in football, and didn't find one. Therefore, I went to the font of all things football, the NFL rule book. (May be harder to read than the baseball rule book, not recommended reading).

Much like Brad Nessler in 2004 during the previous one-point safety (between Texas and Texas A&M), I thought a point-after try could only end in one or two points for the offense, and any possession by the defense would result in a dead ball. This is indeed the rule in the NFL. In the NFL, a one-point safety can be awarded only when the defense "muffs" the ball on its way out of the back of the end zone, and so it has not happened in the modern era.

The NCAA rule is slightly different because the defense can possess the ball without the ball becoming dead. In the NCAA, a point-after try is only a dead ball when "it becomes clear the try has failed." In the Fiesta Bowl, the try was blocked, but there was still some possibility that Oregon could have recovered the ball in the end zone for a two-point conversion, or indeed that K-State could have returned the missed kick for a one-point safety by reaching the other end zone. The officials did not declare it dead until the K-State player was tackled in the end zone.

By the way: go look at the Fiesta Bowl replay. The kick was blocked and recovered in the field of play by K-State. The one-point safety is avoided by simply taking a knee.

Saturday, December 15 2012

Shameful coverage of Newtown shootings

Before I start, I should state that I of course feel badly for the Newtown community and especially for those who had friends and family in the school. I have nothing new to add to the piles of sympathy they have already received. I do, however, wish to point out that the media made things worse.

Starting about noon yesterday, reports started to filter in about a school shooting in Connecticut. So, let's review how this story would have worked in 1980, on the dawn of the cable news era:

- Shooting occurs. Local police schedule a press conference, which local newspaper, TV and radio reporters would dutifully attend to learn the "official" details.
- Afterwards, reporters look around the scene for people to offer their comments.

- After that, a 3 paragraph story moves on the AP wire. It would look something like this:

A lone gunman entered a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school on Friday morning and opened fire, injuring or killing dozens.  Few details are available at this time, but at a press conference, police chief (Name here) said the suspect was among the dead.  No motive had been determined.
(Name here) described the scene inside the school during the attack to the AP: "First hand account here."
Another witness at the scene said the suspect carried what appeared to be a machine gun.  Police believe the assailant drove to Newtown from his home in New Jersey, and are hoping to interview family.  They have not confirmed whether the suspect has a criminal past.

The TV stations would have some film of the press conference, the PM newspapers some stills of the school's exterior. No more information would likely come out until a second press conference late in the evening, but in time to make for longer stories in the morning papers, with several sources and maybe a hundred words of analysis.

Now, let's review what happened yesterday. Before I go on, I should note that I did not watch this unfold in real time. Most of the below information was gathered from meta-reporting.

Around noon ET, stories begin to appear about a school shooting in Connecticut with almost zero details. By 2pm ET, we think we know who the shooter is, and have a basic idea of how many casualties. Soon after that, we learn that the shooter's identity has been mistaken by the local police. The shooter had apparently taken his brother's ID with him.

I'd like to pause there and reflect. The name of the gunman was published in hundreds, nay, thousands of outlets worldwide - all because the police department didn't do their job post-facto.

Lesson for police spokesmen around the country: release no details until you're absolutely sure. Lesson for journalists around the country: being wrong just because everyone else was wrong isn't a good excuse.

President Obama schedules a statement for 3:15 ET, a lightning quick turn for the President of the United States.

In the middle, we get TV reporters trying to extract stories from 5 year-olds. This should never have been permitted. Not by the producers at the TV station, not by the parents of the kids, not by the photojournalists, and not by the reporters. Responsible journalism is supposed to be a part of the curriculum in journalism school, and this was something most bloggers wouldn't even fathom.

By about 4pm ET, the story is running out of steam, and the broadcast networks return to regular programming. Many local stations continue coverage during their 4pm local news. Reporters have had time to fan out across the country to find out why the local school is safer than the one in Newtown, and interview local experts on criminology and psychology.

At 6:30, the network newscasts take the air. Due to the short distance between New York and Newtown, all of the name anchors are there, and many of the newscasts are extended to one hour.

In prime time, coverage shifts to the cable networks. I couldn't bring myself to watch MSNBC or FOX News, but I can imagine the sort of things hosts on both networks were saying. I didn't really want to watch CNN either, but it was on at the gym. Here's what I saw: Piers Morgan interviewing two authors at the same time, one arguing for more gun control in the general population, and one arguing to repeal the ban on guns in schools.

Morgan all but physically attacked the pro-gun guy.

Morgan also had a former friend of the shooter (apparently last contact was 8 years ago!) and some psychologists. So, here's what you have, less than 12 hours after the shooting. You have authors hawking their books on CNN. You have psychologists and former friends psychoanalysing a suspect with whom they had nothing in common, also on CNN. You have Piers Morgan rah-rahing British laws on gun control, still on CNN.

For the 11pm news, my ABC affiliate, WEHT, spent their entire A-block on the shooting, despite ABC having just aired an hourlong 20/20 special live from Newtown. When it was time for sports, anchor Brad Byrd made some comment about how it must have been hard to cheer for a basketball team tonight in the wake of what happened in Connecticut.

The problems, as I see them with yesterday's media coverage:

- Too fast, too furious

Only in a 24 hour news cycle would the wrong shooter's name have been so widely disseminated. The time between the wrong name being reported and the right name being reported was about an hour. Also, the media moved much to quickly toward analysis.

- Too much

In a 24 hour news cycle, you must have 24 hours worth of content. And this story could not provide it on its own. There was no explosion to show on film over and over again. No one to turn into a hero. Very few eyewitnesses who were willing or able to provide their version of the story. Not much other than to watch the casualty count rise.

And so, despite consumer demand, CNN and the others would have put together better coverage by putting together less coverage. Maybe 15 minutes out of an hour. Throw out the authors, keep one psychologists, and most certainly do not try to equate 5 year-olds to college students.

- Too invasive

I've written a thousand words without even mentioning how offensive it must be to be a friend or relative of one of the victims, and receive an interview request in the first 12 hours. http://dailycaller.com/2012/12/15/abc-ny-times-reporters-go-full-on-vulture-tweeting-friends-family-of-connecticut-massacre-targets/

Just because the Daily Caller only caught a couple of these incidents, I bet every news organization was contacting these poor people. Fortunately, the young victims' names were not released at that time, but they are expected to come out today - giving yet another opportunity to pour on.

Wednesday, December 12 2012

Jazz Today

I happened to open my Kindle Store today and browse to the "Jazz" section, thinking I might buy some new material. According to Amazon, their top selling albums: 1) Glad Rag Doll - Diana Krall 2) Time Out - Dave Brubeck (RIP) 3) Greatest Hits - Dave Brubeck (RIP) 4) Duets - Tony Bennett 5) Micheal Buble - Michael Buble 6) Christmas Classics - Bing Crosby (RIP) 7) Christmas Song - Nat King Cole (RIP) 8) Call Me Irresponsible - Michael Buble 9) Kind of Blue - Miles Davis (RIP) 10) The Essential Dave Brubeck - Dave Brubeck (RIP)

Notice how only one of this top 10 albums were released this year, the Diana Krall. And critics have largely panned the release from Diana Krall. The Amazon store shows it with 3.1 out of 5 stars, and many say it isn't exactly jazz.

It may be a little bit unfair to take a look this week, with Dave Brubeck's recent passing spiking three of his titles into the top ten. But I suspect it is a bigger sign of no one getting out and discovering new jazz recordings, of which there are many. Its frustrating to people who want to see this genre thrive to see such poor uptake of new product.

Sunday, August 19 2012

A "Revolution" catch-22

Watching the promos for NBC's new drama "Revolution" (whose premise is a sudden failure the electric grid failed, along with all other fuel sources) tonight on NBC, a question arose:

How would the market deal with the sudden shortage of horses, given a lack of instant communication?

The easy answer, I guess, is that there is no longer a single market, but thousands of markets, and buyers might be unlucky or lucky about the price they pay in the first few days or weeks.

Sunday, August 12 2012

Support for NPR

Support for NPR comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

You may have heard this line on your local NPR member station after news bulletins. Its not surprising, the arts and public radio have been linked for decades. When public radio first became common around the country, almost all of the stations ran classical music, except for the presentation of "All Things Considered" and later "Morning Edition."

Classical music is one of the major things the NEA funds, along with opera, theatre, folk art, and the visual arts.

The thing is, the classical music is disappearing, as are other "artsy" programs.

Locally, WNIN has just announced "next-gen WNIN," which relegates classical music to the late evening and overnight hours. Further, they are removing WHYY's extremely popular "Fresh Air" program, which often interviews actors, directors, dancers, authors, and other generally interesting people.

So too did a recent decision from WGBF in Boston to drop jazz to air news all night. And Vermont Public Radio. And WESA (nee WDUQ) in Pittsburgh. And Western Kentucky University's public radio network a couple of years ago.

I'm OK with local stations having the right to choose which programs they air, but maybe the National Endowment for the Arts should move its support elsewhere since NPR's member stations are choosing politics over art.

Thursday, March 22 2012

A Thursday Passage for March 22, 2012

(The title is a reference to a regular segment on the television program Sunday Morning on CBS that notes an historic event)

Thanks to a tweet from @stickerboy, I went looking to see what he was talking about. The most notable change is the retirement of the longest serving team member, Florian Messner.

I don't know much about Mr. Messner other than that he is German. Never met him, never really interacted with him in any kind of social context. But he served in the phpBB teams for a period of almost ten years, a most notable achievement. (I believe he joined the support team in October of 2002, and retired quite recently as moderator team leader.)

Messner is replaced by Paul Cammish, whom I did meet in London in 2008.

On a semi-historical note: I'm fairly certain that the longest serving active team member is now Nils (aka naderman) who joined up in 2005.

Saturday, February 4 2012

Amplifications Regarding Charlie White

I'm not an attorney, but I wanted to get to the actual laws regarding the Charlie White case because I found the press coverage confusing. I do that by starting with the the story as reported in the web edition of the Evansville Courier & Press

From the newspaper, paragraph 3.

But the governor said he was holding off on naming a permanent replacement because a judge could reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, allowing White to regain the office.

This is a correct summary of the statement the Governor released. But it ignores Indiana Code 3.8.1.5(d) , which states:

The subsequent reduction of a felony to a Class A misdemeanor under IC 35-50-2-7 or IC 35-38-1-1.5 after the public announcement of a felony... does not affect the operation of subsection (c).

This section of the law describes candidacy and not a condition for an officeholder who is convicted of a felony. There is a separate statute (IC 3.5.1.38) for felonies committed while in office which appears to allow for Mr. White's return.

However, because at least one of Mr. White's felonies was committed before taking office, one can certainly argue that he could have been a convicted felon prior to taking office if the criminal justice system had worked more quickly. This would become a question for the courts, but only if the Hamilton County Superior Court were to downgrade the felony convictions to misdemeanors.

The second legal issue presented in the article relates to the assertion of Democratic state chair Dan Parker that Democrat Vop Osili should take office. I understand that this is what was ruled by Marion County judge Louis Rosenberg on multiple occasions, most recently on December 21, 2011. This is accounted for in IC 3.12.11.25(a)

Except as provided in subsection (b), whenever the commission makes a final determination under section 18 of this chapter that the candidate who is subject to a contest proceeding is not eligible to serve in the office to which the candidate is nominated or elected, the candidate who received the second highest number of votes for the office is entitled to a certificate of nomination or certificate of election even though a certificate may have been issued to another candidate upon the tabulation of the votes.

However, I reference IC 3.8.8.8(b) and (c) which seems to contradict 3.12.11.25:

(b) If, after the election, it is determined as provided by law that the individual was not qualified to be elected to the office, it shall be considered that: (1) an eligible candidate of the same political party, if any, as the ineligible candidate had been elected; and (2) a vacancy in the office occurred after the election. (c) The vacancy in the office shall be filled as otherwise provided by law.

If this is the applicable section, then the Governor would appoint Mr. White's permanent replacement. The ambiguity is somewhat removed by the section title of 3.8.8.8: "Effect of candidate who withdraws receiving most votes in election; filling vacancy" (emphasis added).

Because there is at least the potential for ambiguity, I believe this case will end up with a decision by the Indiana Supreme Court, and I suspect it would lean towards the Governor appointing White's replacement.

Saturday, January 14 2012

Introducing BAM!

"Bam" became the tagline of celebrity chef Emeril LaGasse at the start of the last decade.

With Emeril's star having largely faded, a coalition has now proposed a new use for the word. They propose to use it as an acronym to replace the word "Jazz". The acronym's long form? Black American Music, and Nicholas Payton introduces us to the new genre with his new album, "Bitches."

The word "Coalition" may not be the right one. It appears that Nicholas Payton was the first to publish his thoughts on the issue on his blog in a lengthy November entry where Payton simply states several dozen reasons why "Jazz" is no longer a relevant term. A few other musicians have signed on since then although I have been unable to find a listing.

So I give you two pieces of music to compare, both taken from Payton. First is the quintessential "Take Five" from Dave Brubeck. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwNr...
And the second is off of Payton's recent release, "Bitches" (apparently a reference to Miles Davis's groundbreaking 1970 Columbia release, "Bitches Brew") is the original composition "Give Light. Live Life. Love." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXgy...
Not so different, stylistically. Close enough that they can be described using the term jazz, I think. But one has sold millions of copies (over 43 years) and the other would be delighted to sell 100,000.

And that is really the core of Payton's argument -- Jazz is a hard sell in America today. Maybe jazzers should try something else.

With that, "Bitches" provides some interesting new tracks such as "iStole Your iPhone" which melds elements from Jazz, the Caribbean, and Urban music. But take away the vocal track, and its still jazz.

Another part of Payton's explanation is one that flirts with "Occupy Jazz." Payton tries to convolve jazz with the n-word, calling it in a subsequent blog entry "the derogatory j-word." I don't want to touch that one, so I simply quote someone hopefully more versed in the field than I, AllAboutJazz columnist Greg Thomas

Equating jazz with the "n" word, is, in my estimation, not wise.

My total opinion of the project is this: I feel it is a fool's errand for Payton to try changing a genre that has become known for its closed-mindedness, a genre with few living influential figures, and hundreds of academics who will try to defend the original label by psychoanalyzing the statements deceased greats like Miles Davis.

The album itself probably deserves 3 and a half stars on the five star scale. If not for Payton manufacturing this controversy, it probably would have slipped under the radar of almost everyone as being too experimental -- which suggests that Payton's speaking out is having the desired effect. If not for the "BAM" storyline, I never would have heard of the album. It will be interesting to see if the statement causes Payton to be shunned in the future, though.

Wednesday, November 30 2011

RIP James Gilmore Jr.

James Gilmore headshotJames Gilmore Jr. himself was deceased nearly 11 years ago. But his company, Gilmore Enterprises lived on -- until today, when the sale of its final major asset closed.

It seemed to me like this was a good time to look back at a man who had fingers in many industries. By the time he was fifty-one, Gilmore had won a term as mayor of Kalamazoo, MI, purchased a string of car dealerships, operated numerous broadcasting outfits, helped run a family department store, and taken an Indianapolis 500 championship.

Continue reading...

Saturday, November 19 2011

End of NEWS25 Sports Channel

Just minutes ago, Mark McVicar said farewell for the final time on the NEWS 25 Sports Channel. As reported by Jacob Newkirk over the last few weeks, McVicar is among those losing their job shortly as Nexstar takes over operation of WEHT December 1, and today's Mater Dei/Guerin Catholic game was the final scheduled local broadcast before the channel shuts down.

During my time in college, I was able to work with several current and former staffers of the NEWS 25 Sports Channel, from McVicar himself to some of the producers, statisticians and camera operators.

I would take the opportunity to work with any of them again if it arose, and I hope everyone lands a position quickly.

Sunday, November 13 2011

Internships: Required -- And Costly

The following is a survey conducted on the web by the University of Evansville campus magazine, the Crescent: Internship Importance

Almost 75% of respondents say that you must have an internship experience to be employable. I don't like that idea, but I understand a competitive job market in many industries can force students to become student-interns, or (worse) student-unpaid-interns

It seems to be a commonly accepted fact outside of Evansville. There are a number of universities where 60% or more of graduates held internships at one point. The linked USA Today article covers the main ground that is relevant here, but there's one more thing I don't understand:

Why do colleges charge full tuition prices for internship hours? It costs the school approximately nothing to administer an internship. Not a minute of faculty time is spent on internships (unless the internship is within an academic department). The clerks who do the processing are paid at a much lower rate than faculty, and probably only spend a few minutes on each student-intern.

What service does the university provide that's worth somewhere between $300 and $2500 (depending on your school's tuition prices and guidelines)?

Sunday, September 25 2011

Competition: When It Isn't Optimal

This evening the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for a remote portion of the Evansville television market with approximately 8,000 people and a population density of 30 per square mile. The weather service warned for the possibility of a weak tornado, surely an EF0.

Two of the television stations in the market have the blanket policy that "whenever a tornado warning is issued for our DMA, we will carry continuous coverage."

Combine that with one of those two television stations carrying the Colts/Steelers game when that tornado warning is issued, and the first reaction is to look at the competition: if they don't cut in, we won't either and just hope nothing happens.

When that fails, it doesn't take long for some folks to be upset. Upset Football Fans

After about five minutes of a fill-in meteorologist fumbling, not knowing what to say other than explain how unlikely it is that there is anything damaging actually happening in a remote corner of the DMA and that he'd rather be watching football too. Meanwhile, the staff in the the control room rigs this up:

Picture-In-Picture Football

Let's back off for a moment and look at the big picture: who benefits from policies like this? Is it the public, or is it only insurance that the media outlets, who make big money on weather coverage, don't get egg on their face by missing even the tiniest event?

I'm not suggesting that these decisions be made based solely on what programming is on the air. I'm suggesting that a decision to insert a 60 second bulletin could have been made because of the lack of severity in this situation. Perhaps, in those 60 seconds, folks could have been directed to watch the competing station for full coverage.

Friday, July 29 2011

A Requiem for Integra Bank

Integra Bank is one of three victims of the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency this week.
Integra Bank Headquarters

The Integra Bank headquarters was bustling at dusk this evening as executives, regulators and rank-and-file employees prepared for a long working weekend

Integra was based a short distance from my home, and I held a relatively small amount of stock in the now-failed bank. I don't imagine a whole lot of people care about the fate of their bank, so long as the full faith and credit of the United States Government backs up their deposits. (Which appears to be about 3 more days)

The national news reports about the bank focus on it being the third-largest failure of the year, with assets of $2.2 billion and $1.9 billion in liabilities; the first collapse in Indiana since 2009 and only the second in the whole banking crisis. The national reports indicate how Old National and the FDIC are sharing the losses. But they're lacking the backstory.

When the banking crisis first hit U.S shores, we knew that Integra was in trouble. The bank was losing money before the front fell off the industry. Then Integra took millions of dollars in TARP. $83.5 million, in fact. I saw this number in 2008 and thought that no bank their size could possibly lose that much money, and felt that the company's stock was a relatively safe investment, especially at its price of around $1/share at the time. As time rolled on and Integra began selling banking branches and laying off employees, the investment seemed less and less safe. For about nine months, it has been apparent that a receiver would be appointed after a dismal fiscal 2010 where the company lost more then $9 per share.

From here on out, the future of Integra's 52 remaining bank branches are somewhat unclear. Old National Bank will take over the branches and rename them. It seems certain that some branches will be closed because the two banks most of their geographic footprint. It is too early in the game for Old National to know how they will pick which branches to close and which to save. For example, the combined company will have 23 branches and 71 ATMs with an Evansville address. In some areas, Old National and Integra are a few hundred yards separated; a clear redundancy. I also would expect some branches to be closed in smaller towns like Rockport and Mt. Vernon where both banks had a branch. I suspect Old National will probably keep nearly all of the Illinois and Kentucky branches open, because, although both banks already operate in the state, both have a very limited presence.

By the way, the photo in this entry was taken from the Old National Bank parking garage. You can see another building owned by Old National Bank at the left, in white. One thing that will clearly not get in the way is geography.

Tuesday, July 26 2011

Bipartisanship is Alive and Well: Statistics

In 2011, Congress has passed 23 bills through both chambers.

I analyzed the voting records on all 23 of those bills, and was shocked to find that 48% of those bills passed both houses by unanimous consent. And in that bastion of partisanship, the United States Senate, 18 of the 23 bills received no dissenting votes.

What are these weighty issues that 530+ Congresspeople have agreed on universally?

  • Five Laws Rename Federal Properties (post offices, federal courthouses and the like)
  • Three Laws Appoint Directors to the Smithsonian Institution
  • Three Laws provided programs for improvements to local airports

Some further bills that faced some opposition in the House but passed unopposed in the Senate:

  • Ended the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission
  • Federal Highway funding
  • Funding for various programs supporting small business
  • A continuing resolution for the Federal Budget
  • Authorization for the US's intelligence agencies
  • Funding to issue to refunds overpayments to the government
  • An "Interest Rate Reduction Act"

The most contentious bill this year to pass was an the budget continuing resolution 180 "Nays" in the House. (As mentioned above, the resolution passed the Senate without opposition). A close second was the extension of the Patriot Act with 153 "Nays" in the House and 23 "Nays" in the Senate. Almost all of the down votes to both of those bills came from Democrats. Overall, 80% of all "No" votes in both houses on successful bills since January 1 have been cast by Democrats.

By the way, President Obama has not vetoed one bill in the 112th Congress.

Wednesday, July 6 2011

Want to air your legal laundry? Become an OSS Project!

I've written a number of blog posts over the years about other people's legal problems. I mean, "WordPress" and "GPL" are two of my five most-used tags on this blog. But the key point is that I've done it on my blog, a resource for which I pay and on which no one should feel compelled to write a response.

Now look here: http://tracker.phpbb.com/browse/PHP...

I couldn't think of anything better to do than smile.

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