You Have to Believe Us, We’re Fact Checkers

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Somewhere deep beneath Washington and in secret bunkers in California fax machines went into action and I-phone text traffic was heavy as the Democrat spin machine was shifted into high gear. How could they minimize the damage from the President’s State of the Union speech and Nancy Pelosi’s pre-planned tantrum? The talking points were decided on and the word went out to all available media players. The talking point was, and continues to be, that Nancy Pelosi just couldn’t take it and that she just had to rise in righteous “protest” over a “speech filled with lies.” Cue the “fact-checkers” to point out the lies. AP fact check, Politifact, and Snopes all weighed in with their predictably misleading bowls of word salad. Just calling themselves fact checkers is an act of chutzpah akin to naming Obamacare the “Affordable Care Act.” You can check out all of the tap dancing for yourself but the rest of this post will look at the AP version.

AP first attempts to undercut the President’s SOTU claims on the economy. “The U.S. economy indeed is healthy. But gains have largely followed along the same lines of an expansion that started more than a decade ago under President Barack Obama.” This is like saying that Stradivarius really can’t claim he made that violin; credit should really go to the guy who cut down the tree. One who claims that Barack Obama had anything at all to do with the current success of the economy is simply economically illiterate. There is no question that the combination of eased regulations, tax cuts, and repatriation of foreign money under President Trump has led to the current boom. Ask anyone you know who has ever signed the front of a payroll check.

The President also claimed he added factories. AP said “But increases in the number U.S. factories began in 2013, more than four years before the start of Trump’s presidency..” It would’ve been hard for them not to begin going higher after 5 years of the Obama recession/stagnation. It doesn’t matter when they started to recover. Who is responsible for the current record-setting increases? There is only one answer and that is Donald Trump. A friend of mine back in college had some down home advice for building a fire. He told me, ” One log won’t burn. Two logs might burn. Three logs will burn. Four logs make a fire.” After four years of shivering, then-president Obama got some kindling to ignite. That was slightly better than freezing to death. President Trump, on the other hand, knows how to build a roaring bonfire.

On immigration, AP quibbles with the statement that there was a “catch-and-release” policy on the southern border which the President claimed to have fixed. AP says “Mexicans were quickly returned while others were held in detention until they were deported.” This ignores illegal crossings by those from other Central American countries (treated differently) and, most importantly, those arriving with children. The combination of asylum claims from non-Mexicans and accompanying children put the border patrol in a box as to what they could legally do. The net result was that they were forced to release “families” (some were really families, some weren’t) with a promise to appear for a hearing. Massive numbers of these folks just melted into the US and never appeared. According to Customs and Border Protection, as of September 2018, more than 90,000 family units were detained in fiscal 2018 along with more than 45,000 unaccompanied minors. In October 2018 Arizona was forced to release at least 800 family members in one week.  Later, in their attempted take down, AP said, “The surge has since passed, so fewer people are being held and fewer would need to be released.” Yes AP, the surge has passed. President Trump made it pass. Forced to work without Congress, he secured the assistance of Mexico and several other Central American countries to drastically reduce the flow of illegal immigrants and built portions of the wall in several areas. It was reported this morning that total arrests at the border are the lowest in 2 years and apprehensions involving children are at the lowest since 2017. Did anything of note happen in 2017?

AP again quibbles with the President’s assertion that his regulatory relief has moved us to “become the number one oil producer in the world, by far.” Note the last two words…”by far.” AP hangs their hat on the fact that the US first became the number one producer for oil, natural gas, etc. in earlier years and thus Trump had nothing to do with it. Here’s a little fact …..The increase in annual US oil production since Trump became president is equal to the annual oil production of Mexico. That’s just the increase. It is surpassed only by the annual production of the other members of the world’s top ten. It seems that the key words missed by the AP fact checkers were “by far.”

The President said in the SOTU that the new USMCA agreement would create 100,000 new jobs. AP cites a hand-picked study which predicts only 28,000 new jobs. They then admit that another government agency predicts 76,000 new jobs. According to AP, “It’s still not the 100,000 jobs claimed by Trump.” First of all, this is a prediction. If the president is wrong that’s a bad prediction, not a lie. Second of all, whose prediction are you more likely to believe? I’m more inclined to believe the president’s optimistic projection. Just last week the “experts” predicted the economy would add 164,000 new jobs. Turns out it added 225,000. Who ya’ gonna believe, your experts or your lyin’ eyes? And even if it really is only 28,000 new jobs, is that a bad thing?

The AP version of this fact checking nonsense continues ad nauseum and touches on drug prices, unemployment, and healthcare with equal deception. The pretzel twisting knots they tie themselves into just to be able to say, “See, he wasn’t right” are just amazing. The self-assigned label of fact checker is cleverly designed to try to give a biased point of view instant credibility. Don’t buy it. Just as the Affordable Care Act had little to do with affordable, today’s fact checkers have little to do with facts.

Dig for yourself.

So, What Are You Trying to Say?

In many ways, yesterday’s Super Bowl coverage was confusing and disjointed, jumping back and forth between sports, politics, and social messaging. One had to be fairly nimble to jump back and forth between subjects. It must have been especially whiplash inducing for young women.

The commercials, which have been the highlight of many Super Bowls past, were dominated by politically correct messages of “empowerment” for young women. I prefer my commercials to entertain rather than preach but that’s OK. Different strokes for different folks. Within reason, positive messages to our young women are good things and this Super Bowl was filled with them.

Oil of Olay ran an ad called “Make Space for Women” telling our young women they should reach for the stars. After all, if they set their mind to it they can do anything. They set up a hashtag to donate up to $500K to Girls Who Code, in support of women who want to learn computer skills. Bravo.

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Microsoft ran a commercial called “Be the One” touting the first female NFL head coach. She said she didn’t want to be the best female coach, she just wanted to be the best coach. Show ’em what you got! Another ad featured Toni Harris, the young woman who wants to become the first female player in the NFL. Doubtful, but if you’ve got what it takes do it!

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There were several others including one from Serena Williams called “The Ball’s in Your Court” which suggested women take the lead and be more assertive. The NFL’s own commercials showed women in non-traditional roles competing with the men in a positive light. Across the board generally it was a very positive “women’s night” with one very notable exception.

The halftime show sent an entirely different message. It seemed to say to our young women “Look at the money and fame you can have by wearing next to nothing and doing soft-porn for men on television!” There was no mistaking the J-Lo and Shakira show for “dancing” or “musical performance.” The crotch grabbing, pole dancing, and near x-rated posing were more suited to a strip club than a nationally televised event watched by millions of kids. If you like that kind of thing, fine. Go to a concert and enjoy. It does not, however, belong as a main attraction in an event which has so many children watching. It amazes me that our society sends so many messages that we should be “woke” and treat women with respect and not as sex objects while, at the same time, promoting performances like these for our children. Performances which are the very height of women portraying themselves as sex objects for mountains of money.

Considering the halftime show, there was a heavy dose of irony in some of the pre-game quotes hyping the positive women’s commercials……

There’s an emergence of women in leadership roles in ads, instead of being the butt of the joke or being shown in a bikini.”

The climate has changed, with the #MeToo movement and things like that, there is a realization that there’s a big need to speak to the [female] audience and in a way they can appreciate and are not being talked down to.”

It’s important for my girls to see what is being modeled for them..…”  I would ask, “What was being modeled for them in that halftime show?”

I feel bad for today’s young women being bombarded with all of these mixed messages.The decisions must be difficult………Astronaut or stripper?…..Computer whiz or pole dancer?

Sunday Morning Brainsnacks

Brainsnacks are back at the Chronicle…. Small bite-size tidbits for the brain to have with your Sunday morning coffee. Enjoy a couple or even add one in the comment section…….

The old “truism” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day will be 100 years old sometime this decade. Prior to 1920 the standard American breakfast was coffee, some juice, and maybe a roll. Back then a man named Edward Bernays conducted a loaded question survey of doctors asking if they felt that a larger breakfast of bacon and eggs would be beneficial. His results were turned into the first ads beginning with “three out of five doctors agree that……..”. His employer, Beech-Nut packaging, was very pleased with the huge increase in demand for their bacon. Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud.

The word “arctic” as in Arctic circle comes from the Greek word for bear, “arctos”. The reference is to the Bear constellations and, by extension, Polaris (the North Star). It does not refer to the polar bears.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma it is illegal to make glue out of skunks.

In 2014, a missing woman on vacation in Iceland was found when it was discovered that she was in the search party looking for herself.

In 1967 tickets to the first Super Bowl cost $6.00 and there were 30,000 empty seats. According to StubHub the average price of this year’s ticket is $4380 as of yesterday. There are still 1500 tickets left with the lowest priced starting at $2900.

Ditch the Team Politics

Over the last few months the impeachment circus in Washington has cast a bright light on the polarization of our American politics. All events seem to be evaluated on the “team” aspects of what took place. Will it be good for the Democrats? Will this help or hurt the Republicans? What will be the next move for each team? The talking heads drone on and on about who is winning this news cycle and what it means for the polls. To some extent this is understandable. People are interested in upcoming elections, political wonks want to know the latest, and, as always, ratings are king for the media. I would submit, however, that today’s environment has crossed over from healthy interest to destructive obsession. Healthy debate will not be possible until the focus returns to the issues at hand.

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, although part of the President’s defense team, has given all of us (Republicans and Democrats) an excellent example of how to shred the team jersey in favor of higher principles. For a long time he has advocated the “shoe on the other foot test.” The basic idea is to flip the Republican/Democrat participants in any event 180 degrees and see if your opinion remains unchanged. If your opinion changes then your allegiance is to your “team” and not to the underlying question or principle. For example, if the principals in the impeachment drama were changed from Trump/Biden to Obama/Romney would you feel the same about the same evidence? Would the principle of executive privilege be any more or less important? If Donald Trump Jr. were substituted for Hunter Biden would your definition of corruption change? At each step of the process would you be interpreting the law and the Constitution the same way?

Mr. Dershowitz not only advocates for the test, he lives it. He voted for Barack Obama twice and Hillary Clinton in 2016 yet in this case he represents the very President he voted against. His loyalty is not to a team jersey but to the law. Importantly, he argues in this case not for this President but for the Presidency. He realizes that what can be used against a Republican to win a “team event” today can be used against a Democrat in the future once the precedent is set. He eloquently laid out the case that a victory in a “team event” that weakens the country or the Constitution is not a victory at all.

How can we follow Mr. Dershowitz’ example? We can follow by making our allegiance one tied to the law, a policy, or an underlying principle we wish to support. If that aligns with political objectives so be it. If not, be courageous enough to say so. Above all, we should be consistent with our praise or disdain for individuals or parties. If we believe “x” for a Democrat we should also believe “x” for a Republican. Ditch the jerseys. Follow your principles. Then vote your conscience. It’s the only way we are going to be able to talk to each other.

Who Voted to Send Articles of Impeachment to the Senate?

On December 18th the House of Representatives voted 230 to 197 to impeach President Trump. I got to wondering exactly who was it that voted to send those two incredibly weak and constitutionally dangerous articles of impeachment to the Senate.

I decided to check where some of those 230 votes came from. The numbers are approximate because maps and information are limited but they should be close. My method was to check just a handful of known Democrat strongholds to see how much effect they had. Out of the hat I pulled Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and Chicago.

I found that roughly 16 of those votes came from Los Angeles County where nearly 60,000 homeless live in the streets and pass their human waste directly into the environment. In 2018 over 1000 of those homeless died, double the number from 2012. In 2018 their budget was 63.4 million in the red.

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I found another 8 or 9 votes that came from San Francisco and the Marin County area where residents have to dodge human waste and needles in the streets on top of dealing with nearly 10,000 homeless in the streets. Shoplifting and theft have been downgraded to misdemeanors as long as the total stolen is less than $950. Can you guess how that is working out? There is an interactive “poop map” for residents to check before they go out in their new shoes. You can zoom in block by block to find the latest “deposits.” (The picture below is not a link to the active map). Digressing just a bit, an interesting thing happened when I tried to put a link to the map in this article. It seems that the authors are not happy that so many are linking to it to illustrate how bad things are there. Click on it yourself and see what happens for an amusing little show: http://mochimachine.org/wasteland/

Another half dozen or so votes came from Seattle where over 11,000 homeless reside, where individual workers and entire businesses are fleeing, and even the police are leaving to find places to work where the police are at least appreciated and not called “murderers” by city council members.

I found similar numbers of representation in Chicago, where gunfire and death are daily occurrences and bankruptcy is not out of the question. And of course the largest number came from New York City where a once great city slides further down the rabbit hole every day. Among an ever growing list of “Cuckoo’s Nest” policies they now pay their homeless to move to Newark, many of whom take the money and come back after a few weeks (think about that for a minute). Bail reform (basically no more cash bail required) enacted there Jan. 1st has led to robberies being up over 30%, burglaries up 15%, and all serious felonies up 11% in 2020 according to the police commissioner.

In all, I found roughly 50 votes out of the 230 came from just the five metropolitan areas mentioned above. These are places where liberal politics have overtaken sanity and the necessary pragmatism to actually run a city. The disastrous results are undeniable. Almost a quarter of the votes to impeach the president came from just these 5 metropolitan areas. I’m sure the people who live in this areas are fine people but I wouldn’t trust their representatives to feed my cat. These are the people who want to overturn the votes of over 60 million people immediately. The Iowa caucuses begin a week from today and the President is up for re-election in 9 months.

I did not look at representatives from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Oakland, Newark, Portland, Washington DC, etc., etc. My guess is that almost half of the votes to impeach the President came from House members from failed Democratic cities more interested in playing politics than helping the people they were elected to represent. For months now they have done zero work on behalf of their districts. It’s been all impeachment all of the time. They have also wasted countless millions of dollars which could directly or indirectly help their constituents at home.

Sunday Morning Brainsnacks are Back!

Brainsnacks are back at the Chronicle…. Small bite-size tidbits for the brain to have with your Sunday morning coffee. Enjoy a couple or even add one in the comment section…….

  • The shortest professional baseball home run ever hit traveled 24 inches. On a very rainy day In 1900 Andy Oyler, playing for the minor league Minnesota Millers, had the ball accidentally hit his bat and travel 2 feet before it stuck in the mud. He was able to round the bases before anyone on the opposing team could find the ball. The legend is the subject of multiple books.
  • Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, and many of your cartoon favorites was behind almost 400 separate characters. Movie critic, Leonard Maltin said, “It is astounding to realize that Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam are the same man!” (He was also Speedy Gonzales, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd, Pepe LePew, the Tasmanian Devil, Marvin the Martian and many many more).
  • In his youth Robin Williams performed much of his act at the Copacabana in New York while walking on the railing of the mezzanine (I saw it happen).
  • Eleven US states are larger than the United Kingdom.
  • Two are larger than France.
  • Alaska is 425 times larger than Rhode Island.
  • Los Angeles county is more populous than all but nine US states.
  • If you are old enough to be on Medicare here’s an interesting fact for you: The Vietnam War is now further in the past for today’s grade school kids than the First World War was for you in grade school.
  • We all agree that the color we call “red” is what we see on apples and that the color we call “orange” is what we see on oranges. On the other hand, if you are told from birth that “red” is red who’s to say that two different people might be seeing two different colors that they call the same thing?

Lies, Damn Lies, and Polls

Mark Twain famously said “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” In today’s hyperpartisan world polling qualifies as a statistical weapon which is often twisted and formed to fit the political spin of the day. An excellent example just popped up yesterday.

A new poll came out saying that 72% of Americans think that the Senate impeachment trial should allow witnesses. This is being seized upon by the talking heads on the left to imply that the vast majority of Americans think the President’s defense team is hiding something and, by God, they want to find out what it is. If you dig into the internals of the poll, however, you will find that the percentage is so large because Americans on both the right and the left want witnesses. The left wants them because they think the witnesses they want to call will help them “get Trump.” The right wants them because they think their witnesses will totally exonerate him and expose corruption. Unsurprisingly, the poll shows that a large majority of Americans want what they think will help “their side” win.

Statistics and polls can be bent and twisted into shapes that will say almost anything you want. In closing, I’d like to leave you with a health tip for the day. Remember that 97% of people who died in car accidents last year ate some kind of potato during their last week on earth. Cut out the carbs.

Experts

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Back in my days on the road as a safety consultant there was an old saying. It said, “An expert was anyone with a briefcase that was more than a hundred miles from home.” These days it seems that experts are defined as anyone near a microphone or a word processor who can string together long sentences of impressive sounding, yet meaningless, verbal salad. And if the verbal salad works well with the “meal” of the media’s particular bias all the better. Here’s a few examples of totally off the mark predictions that were given credence:

Back in 2016 dozens of “experts” predicted doom for our economy should Donald Trump be elected. The most famous doomsayer was the Nobel Prize winner in economics and NY Times columnist, Paul Krugman. He said that, due to Trumps election, “We are probably looking at a global recession with no end in sight.” Result…… The strongest economy in history, a record-breaking stock market, lowest ever unemployment numbers, and (best of all) wages rising fastest for lower and middle income level workers.

In 1988 experts predicted the Maldives would be under water in 30 years due to global warming (that’s what they called it back then). They predicted the West Side Highway in New York would be under water by 2019. In 2008 Al Gore said that “experts” predicted that Arctic ice would be gone in 5 years. And the New York Times famously touted “the end of snow” in 2000. Result….The Maldives are just fine, traffic is heavy on the West Side Highway this morning, and there is more Arctic ice now than in 2008. Last year people were skiing in Colorado on the Fourth of July.

Just recently experts said the killing of Qassem Soleimani would drag us into another “endless war.” Some called it a “1914 moment” referring to the beginning of the First World War. It was “reckless,” “impulsive,” and would only lead to our own demise. It was being called “Trump’s Iraq.” Experts wondered would NATO stand with us in the conflagration? Result……a feeble attempt at a retaliation and, although Iran could still attempt a terror attack at any time, it seems pretty quiet compared to World War III.

Back in 2000 “experts” predicted a mini-Armageddon for Y2K. Supposedly the turning of the calendars from years that began in “19” to years that began in “20” was going to make computers and all the things they control go crazy. Electric grids, water systems, and banks were under threat. They said it was “possible” planes would fall from the sky on New Years Eve! I worked on a project that created an entirely separate water supply (at great cost I might add) for the dialysis unit of a major hospital out of fear that the city water would not function. Result……mostly nothing.

In 1998 Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman (see above) predicted that the internet would have little effect on the economy or commerce with “no greater impact than the fax machine.” Result….Can you say Amazon? Google? Facebook?

“Experts” have been predicting for years that polar bears and penguins were in imminent danger of extinction at the hands of evil mankind’s global warming. Result…..In 2019 polar bear populations were at the highest level on record since 1973. This number was so good that climate activists began dropping the polar bear as the go-to face of their propaganda releases. Penguins were the source of much hand wringing until a March 2018 discovery of a colony of 1.5 million of them in Antarctica. Not so amazingly, the “experts” did not even know they existed.

Just recently “experts” screamed that tariffs were going to make everything cost more. Washing machines, cars, and, and …..everything!! Farmers would be crushed and auto makers would suffer. Result…….a trade agreement was reached with Canada and Mexico as well as the first phase of a trade agreement with China. These agreements will bring tens of billions of dollars worth of business to farmers, auto manufacturers, and other American businesses. According to CNBC, only 8.3% of corporations had raised their prices to consumers as of the end of 2018 even though they experienced higher costs. It turns out that when prices were raised demand dropped enough to make them reconsider in many cases. It seems the market really does set prices.

If you have an attention span long enough to compare what happens in the real world to the predictions of “experts” you can find an almost endless number of these. Trust me. I’m an expert on this kind of thing.

A World Where Every Assault Rifle Just Vanished

Enter Rod Serling….. “Submitted for your approval, a not-so-young idealist named Louise who is about to have her most heartfelt wish granted. In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida she frantically bangs at her cell phone sending messages in every way possible to demand that someone pass a law. Someone do something! She tags her messages from what she thinks is the local Starbucks but she has no idea she is about to make a detour straight into ……..the Twilight Zone.”  Cue the theme song.

“I feel your pain,” said the tall stranger.

“Leave me alone, I’m in no mood,” she growled.

“I can grant your wish” he said as he sat down.

“Who the hell are you?”

“My name is Sam Francisco but that doesn’t matter. Do you want your wish granted?”

“You mean about the guns? Hell yeah.”

“Well what exactly do you want? Be careful, I can grant your wish but you have to be precise.”

Eyes wide open, she said “I want all assault rifles gone, especially AR-15’s and I want every single weapon that could kill children registered with a background check 100% of the time.”

“Is that it?”

“Yeah, I think that covers it.”

“OK. All you have to do is drink this magic latte and when you’re done your wish will be granted.”

“That latte looks a little weird. It looks like Kool-Aid.”

“Never mind. Just drink it.”

After drinking the latte, she looks around and it seems like nothing has changed and she notices that Sam is gone. As she begins to glance back at her phone, she hears breaking news on the CNN blaring in the barista. “We are getting reports from all over the world that AR-15’s have just vanished. We are attempting to verify this story but it seems that we cannot find a single AR-15 or anything like it left on the planet. No one seems to know how or why this happened but we will keep you up to date on this amazing story.” 

Absolutely gleeful that her wish was granted she decides to head home. Upon entering her kitchen she opens the drawer to put her keys away and finds an entire pile of papers that were not there when she left, at least she doesn’t remember them. Leafing through them she finds a “permit to own kitchen knives,” a “permit to own a pressure cooker,” and dozens of other permits for fertilizer, baseball bats, her mini-van, gardening tools, and on and on and on.

“Sam,” she whispered. “He made it all happen. All of it.”

Louise returns to her daily grind which, other than the massive inconvenience of filling out background check forms for all kinds of previously innocent items, hasn’t changed much. She is, however, delighted that every single assault weapon on the planet is gone and it’s because of her. Louise Lehfti will be a name remembered in history!

Fast forward….three months later. Sitting in the very same Starbucks where she met Sam, Louise hears a breaking news report on CNN…. “There has been a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. The shooter killed several students with a shotgun and a revolver which was owned by his parents. He also had several explosive devices, a pressure cooker bomb, and molotov cocktails. We will keep you updated on details as they come in.” 

In shock, Louise tries to fit it all together, “But Sam said….he….all those background checks….I, I…and the AR-15’s….but, but, this can’t be! Noooooooo!!

It’s then that she notices Sam sitting across from her with a look that just drips with “Hey, I did what you asked.”

Rod Serling appears… “Louise Lehfti. A woman who thought she had figured it out and had stepped into history with the help of a man named Sam. Little did she know she had just stepped into…….the Twilight Zone. A place where reality has a stubborn way of returning.

Cue the theme song.