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.


See the source image

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.


Just the Facts, Ma’am

With all of the debate going on regarding guns, school safety, and doing “something” I thought it might be helpful to have some facts to work with. So, without offering any opinion, I offer these twenty as a starter for you to work with. In no particular order:

  1. The gun homicide rate in the U.S. has been steadily declining from 7.0 per 100,000 people in 1993 to 3.4 in 2014. A decrease of over 50%. (Pew Research)
  2. Also since 1993, gun ownership has steadily risen from .94 guns per person to 1.45. An increase of over 50% (Pew Research)
  3. The 25 countries with the lowest private gun ownership rates have a composite intentional homicide rate more than twice that of those 25 nations with the highest per capita gun ownership rates. (Pew Research)
  4. 56% of all Americans think gun homicide rates have gone up. (Pew Research)
  5. As opposed to the national murder rate of 3.4 per 100K population the top ten major cities have murder rates ranging from 45 (Detroit) to 21 (Kansas City). (FBI 2014)
  6. All semi-automatic weapons have basically the same rate of fire; as fast as you can pull the trigger. This includes semi-automatic handguns, semi-automatic hunting rifles, and the AR-15.
  7. All fully automatic weapons (and conversions) are already banned in the U.S. with penalties of up to 10 years in prison, $250K fine, or both per weapon.
  8. Should the AR-15 be banned, there are dozens of semi-automatic hunting rifles with the exact same capabilities. The first online store I checked had two pages of them with 68 different models.
  9. In 2012 Chicago (last available year) 80% of the gun homicides were gang-related (Chicago police chief McCarthy).
  10. In Baltimore in 2017, “The average homicide suspect, meanwhile, had 9 previous arrests on his record. About 70 percent had drug arrests, and nearly half had been arrested for a violent crime. Nearly 36 percent were on parole or probation, and 6 percent were on parole or probation for a gun crime.” (Baltimore Sun)
  11. Since 1950, 98% of all mass shootings took place in gun-free zones. Mass shootings defined as more than 4 victims, not part of another crime, and not gang-related. (Center for Crime Research, raw data available).
  12. Beginning with Columbine, school shootings have spanned 18 years and four separate Presidents.
  13. A check on our current background check system showed that, for 630 of 631 randomly sampled state point of contact records, the state had not updated the system records to allow the FBI to determine whether a purchase should be approved or denied. (September 2016 DOJ audit).
  14. The difference between one 30-round magazine and three 10-round magazines being fired by a non-professional is approximately 10 seconds of down time to reload (2, averaging 5 seconds).
  15. The average school shooting lasts 12.5 minutes. (Homeland Security)
  16. The average police response time to a school shooting is 18 minutes. (Homeland Security)
  17. Thus far in 2018 in Chicago, on average a person has been shot and killed every 17 hours, 8 minutes. (running totals at
  18. Thus far in 2018, almost four times as many people have been shot and killed in Chicago (66) than were killed at the Parkland school shooting.
  19. In Israel you must be a citizen for three years before you can own a gun.
  20. According to one source, the country with the strictest gun laws is Jamaica (basically bans gun ownership) and it has one of the highest gun homicide rates in the world. Japan (probably the runner-up for most strict) has one of the lowest gun homicide rates. In both of these countries, the homicide rates predated the gun laws and passage of the gun laws did not affect homicides one way or the other.

I did my best to get back to an original and believable source for these. If any are in error please let me know.

You Keep Bickering in Washington – We’ll Take Care of This

After seeing yesterday’s White House “listening session” and watching the constantly escalating debate on guns, violence, and school shootings go totally viral the thought occurred to me that maybe we can solve a huge portion of this problem without government. A second later, it hit me. We can.

For those of you who have seen my take on this in other places you know I am in favor of hardening schools as targets to include multiple (and anonymous) armed staff within each school and controlled access points among other things. My belief is that, besides providing a last line of defense for our kids, it becomes a huge deterrent for a bad guy to know that there are armed people within the building who will oppose and kill him. I often remember a security expert who was on TV after 9/11 saying that the strongest security is sometimes just the appearance of security. A “gun free zone” and armed security are totally different incentive sets.There was, however, an article in this morning’s American Thinker which said that the cost of providing armed security would be prohibitive. Considering the total number of schools in the U.S., to provide the all with armed security guards it said. “If you pay them around $36,000 per year in salary, that yields a new annual cost of $9 billion.” My response is “OK, let’s do it.”

Link to the full article:

It probably would be a “prohibitive cost” if we asked the federal government to provide it. It would again become a political football with the “my team – your team” battles paralyzing everything over the $9 billion cost and political positioning. It’s about time we realized that our government is not able to do much of anything except try to get reelected. I suggest cutting the government out of the picture and taking care of it ourselves. How could the private sector possibly provide $9 billion per year, you ask? That’s crazy. Is it, really?

Let’s work backwards to get to that number. Allow me to point out that several universities have endowment funds with billions in assets. The most famous is the Harvard University endowment which has assets of $37 billion. Last year Harvard earned 8% on their money from that fund. M.I.T. earned 13% on theirs. These are funds that actually have grown over the years while earning millions in interest. Sounds like a good idea to me.

I propose the creation of a permanent non-revocable trust/endowment for the purpose of funding armed security guards for local school districts as well as arming and training school staff who volunteer to serve. Simply because it comes at this time in history let’s call it the “Parkland Fund.” How much would the fund need to “throw off” $9 billion per year? The fund could earn as much as 13% as M.I.T.’s did but let’s just say we could get a 10% return. That would require $90 billion in the fund. Can that even be done?! Well…….

To begin, we would have to ask some of the ultra-rich to help us out with some large numbers. We hear all the time about how folks like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett are looking for ways to “give back.” They always tell us they are looking for “worthy causes.” Here’s a list of the 29 richest people in the U.S.: . I’m all about freedom and all of these people are totally free to do with their money as they see fit. It’s their money. But…. wouldn’t it be cool if Jeff Bezos kicked in a billion? In a practical sense he would never miss it. A billion maybe from Bill Gates? Half a billion here, half a billion there from some others? Toss in a few million from those who could part with a little less? There are loads of very wealthy folks in Hollywood and Silicon Valley who tell us every day they want to “give back.” There’s also LeBron James and the sporting world’s ultra-rich. And could there ever be a more worthy cause? Hey, we’re off to a good start.

How about the corporate side? With the recent tax cuts many corporations are absolutely flush with cash and should be making even higher profits for the next few years. What if they made some large donations to the fund? Wouldn’t it be great PR for Disney to invest in the safety of the children who make their movies so successful? What about Wal-Mart? Johnson & Johnson? General Mills? Verizon? We have seen the bandwagon effect with corporations jumping on the “green” movement. Let’s create a bandwagon for them to jump on for the “safe” movement.

Finally, there is us. Using the number of U.S. schools from the American Thinker article and ball-parking the rest of it, if less than half of the parents gave an average of $100 I come up with $700 million. There are also lots of retired folks and grandparents who might be willing to donate significantly more. I know I would. As you can see, we can seed a fund from several different sources that would be there to help provide security for our children permanently.

Well, what if we fall short? If we only make it halfway to our goal in 2018 that means that for 2019 we will only generate $4.5 billion for security in our schools. That is not a bad thing and the principal would stay intact. The fund can continue to grow over the years. And remember, what I have proposed here would pay for the entire $9 billion. Local school boards, cities, and counties, could modestly increase real estate taxes to cover parts of the cost as well. I don’t think there would be much objection to that.

We. Can. Do. This.

Things My Father Taught Me

As I age and see more and more of this world, adding to my “databank,” I think back more often than ever about the things I learned from my father. He wasn’t much of a talker. He taught by his actions, not so much with words. I learned how to respect and treat a woman by watching how he treated my mother. I learned compassion for others by watching him help others in need time and time again. I watched him give respect and demand respect. In the wake of the senseless school shooting in Florida I have repeatedly had one of his “lessons in action” come back to me over and over.

That lesson took place when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I was due back for Sunday dinner at the prescribed hour and I was not there. Not only was I not there, I put myself in danger by riding my bike way outside of my boundaries all the way down to the banks of the river where I knew I was not allowed. To make it even worse, I also put my younger brother in danger by taking him with me. When I got home is when I got the lesson. I got the one butt-whippin’ in my life I can actually remember. Looking back on it now it wasn’t really so awful (as in a “beating”). Oh, I remember the stinging of the belt a little bit but what I really remember are the tears. Not mine, his. My dad was crying because he knew what he had to do and he really, really didn’t want to do it. He had to burn it into my brain so that I would never do anything like that ever again. The lesson that keeps coming back is that he did the thing that had to be done even though it brought him to tears.

As I see and hear friends and family discussing what can be done about school shootings and how we can protect our children there are many opinions. There is a lot of discussion about passing new laws to make it harder to get a gun. Unfortunately, people who are willing to commit murder do not generally obey laws of any kind. There is talk about improving the mental health system and, while this is a worthy goal in any case, it cannot stop all disturbed people from buying guns (as happened in Parkland). The Florida shooter was in mental health treatment and voluntarily stopped going. He was not reported for a myriad of reasons. No matter what we do with our laws and our mental health system, a determined human being bent on killing is going to eventually be able to slip through. There is only one way to be absolutely sure we are providing the best possible safety for our kids. I’ll call it Engineering and Deterrence. It may not fit our visions of the perfect schools but it has now become necessary. The thing that has to be done.

The engineering part is easy. All it takes is the will and money I assume we would all be willing to spend. We can build or alter schools so that access is controlled and doors are locked. Install “panic gates.” Should an incident occur these can be dropped (or raised) instantly to section off areas denying a shooter access to entire sections of the school and more victims. As one expert put it, “Make the big school small.” We can plan for emergency exits for kids. We can install doors that, once locked, can only be opened by the police who are on the way (similar to elevators with keys for firemen). Run drills so that all these things are familiar to teachers and students. This is an almost open ended avenue to explore for ways to keep our kids more safe.

The deterrence part is the part that is going to be unpleasant to a large portion of our population. Unfortunately, if (when) a shooter makes his way into a school filled with our children there is only one thing that is going to make him stop. Armed and trained adults. This is proven to be 100% effective in Israel. I get it that our schools should be places of learning and we would like to have an idyllic setting with ivy covered walls and peaceful fountains where our children can sit and think. We just don’t want to have guns in that environment. Our emotions tell us, “No! It shouldn’t have to be that way.” It shouldn’t…. but it is. Sadly, we must now do something we really really don’t want to do. We may shed a tear as we are forced to arm our schools but it is the thing that has to be done. The lives of our children come first.


Three Reasons Why Global Warming Isn’t Always Warmer

    Although you wouldn’t know it by the current weather in the U.S., the earth has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age (roughly 1850). This is also about the time we started keeping weather records. There is a natural trend of warming that has been “built in” for all of the almost 200 years we’ve been keeping records that will continue (or at least we’d better hope it does). For as far back as all of our records go it has been normal for every year to be ever so slightly warmer than the year before. The scientific reply to “Last year was the warmest on record!!” should be “Well…..of course it is.” Where we are now is at the bottom right of Figure #1 below. Interestingly, notice that although there have been peaks and valleys and we are currently warming a bit, the long-term trend has been cooling for the last 8000 years and “rapidly” cooling for 4000 years or so.

                                                      Figure #1

You may wonder, how fast is it warming? Figure #2 below shows that the rate of warming has been slowing with each decade. The blue line is the global temp for 1972-82. The green is 1982-92. The purple is 1992-2002. And the red is 2002-12. Slow, slower, and flat line/slightly declining by 2012. If you “plug in” the slowing to Figure #1 above the only conclusion you can reach is that we are soon headed down (colder) and possibly much colder.


Figure #2

OK. So it’s slowing. But what is the rate? Back in 2012 NASA (the folks many refer to as the  “scientists” in sentences that begin with “Scientists say…..”) looked at all the data they had from 1880-2011 and said that the rate of warming for that period was .59 degrees C per century. Let’s just say that’s correct for the sake of discussion. That’s what they said in 2012. This year they are saying that the rate of warming is .66 degrees C per century. No change in data. Exactly the same readings as before. How can you get a different rate with exactly the same set of temperature readings?

Most people don’t know that NASA adjusts its temperature data every month. In one month alone in 2012 60% of all of NASA’s data for this time period was changed. Figure #3 below is a chart of the adjustments NASA made between 2012 and 2017. This is a chart of adjustments to temperatures, NOT actual temperaturesObviously, there can be no new thermometer readings for 1880-2011 but NASA “adjusts” the data for that time period every month and when they do the earlier data is no longer available. It’s just gone. You can see from the trend line that the .07 degree difference (10% of the total rate) comes from adjustments, NOT temperature change.

Figure #3

Keep in mind that this only goes back as far as “adjustments” made after 2012 because a few people outside of NASA decided to save the older data. How was the data adjusted even before that? We don’t know because it’s been erased. Serious science welcomes questioning and has no reason to hide earlier data. Serious science also acknowledges a failed theory.

By the way, all of the NASA related data comes directly from their website (just at different times). As you shiver inside while the schools and roads are closed feel free to go have a look for yourself.

TOH to Randall Hoven for the NASA story and graph.

New York Times Reports More Trump Connections to the Russians

  The New York Times reported today that they have discovered further disturbing ties between President Trump and Vladimir Putin:

“Yet another disturbing example of Donald Trump’s ties to Russia has been discovered. Anonymous sources have told the NY Times that they personally know someone who told them that there is a rumor that all of Donald Trump’s hotels serve Russian vodka. This is causing further chaos and possible cases of syphilis in the White House as the President’s staff was in crisis mode already attempting to respond to leaked information from unnamed intelligence officials who released a recording of Donald Trump from 1980. The White House has already admitted that, on the recording, Trump said that the Russian Olympic hockey team was “very good.” As the number of Russian ties to Donald Trump mount it is only a matter of time before he addresses the elephant in the room that is, as yet, only whispered about. Why does his daughter’s name contain within it the Russian name, Ivan? Or, even worse, is Ivanka a Russian name?”

It seems odd to even have to mention it but the satire light was lit for this post. The fact that it might even be conceivable that the once respected NY Times might consider such a thing shows how far the Gray Lady has fallen.

Hey! You Can’t Talk About How I Used My Free Speech!

  The mainstream media has been calling foul on President Trump calling them out as “fake news.” What about the 1st Amendment? You can’t stifle free speech!! Even Captain Establishment, John McCain, has hinted that free speech was being threatened.

Let’s be clear about the 1st Amendment. Its protections are from government silencing anyone who wishes to speak their mind. It does not, however, end when that person speaks their piece. It continues on for all who wish to reply.

In this case the government is doing nothing to hinder CNN, NBC, and the rest of the leftist propaganda outlets from saying whatever they want. Once they say it, President Trump and the rest of us are just as free to say they are lying as they were to speak the lie.