Archive for September, 2018

Oh no: PETA says “stop eating crabs”

September 30, 2018

Crabs are part of the Maryland cuisine culture … a “signature” regional food.

Nothing like a group of friends sitting around a picnic-like table cracking crabs and sloshing down brewskies.

Good fun, No harm, right?

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click to view news clip

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Well. PETA doesn’t see it that way…

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Verdict: Feinstein, Dems found guilty of obstruction of justice!

September 28, 2018

Victimized both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.
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Sorry, but I have to start today with a chest pound.

Yesterday’s post Where’s the beef? made 3 major points:

1) The outside prosecutor wouldn’t be effective in the 5-minute ping-pong format.

2) Dr. Ford would be a sympathetic accuser but would still end the day with no evidence or corroboration to support her claims.

3) Kavanaugh would need to emphasize the damage done to him and his family… while aggressively  attacking the process and the Democrats scorch-the earth strategy.

BINGO!

What I underestimated was how good Kavanaugh’s A-game would be.

Let’s drill down to some takeaways…

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Where’s the beef?

September 27, 2018

And, other things to watch for in today’s hearing.
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I expect today’s hearing will be long on emotional drama, short on facts (which are known in some circles as evidence), and won’t change many entrenched opinions.

Any opinions that are changed will be based not on evidence but on apparent credibility… how Ford and Kavanaugh present themselves.

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More specifically, here’s what I expect…

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Breaking: Man says he, not Bret, did it.

September 27, 2018

Let’s stick to the facts:

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Judiciary Committee Republicans revealed that on Monday, they conducted their “first interview with a man who believes he, not Judge Kavanaugh, had the encounter with Dr. Ford in 1982 that is the basis of his [sic] complaint.”

They conducted a second interview.

Then,, they received a “more in-depth written statement from the man interviewed twice previously who believes he, not Judge Kavanaugh, had the encounter in question with Dr. Ford.”

The man has not been identified and his testimony has not been corroborated, though committee investigators indicate that he provided substantiating details re: time and place.

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According to NBC News, Democrats reacted predictably:

“They are desperately trying to muddy the waters.

Twelve hours before the hearing they suggest two anonymous men claimed to have assaulted her.

Democrats were never informed of these assertions in interviews, in violation of Senate rules.”

To that, Sen. Oren Hatch tweeted:

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For the record, the news of the issued statement (a fact) was reported by FNC.

click to view the video version

As of now, it hasn’t shown up on CNN’s or MSNBC’s web sites or newscasts.

They’re still hyping  Avanati’s gang rape story.

Hmmm…

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Avenatti jumps the shark !

September 27, 2018

Now, we’re moving from the sublime to the ridiculous … or, as Kavanaugh said “The Twilight Zone.”

In a nutshell the accuser – who reportedly holds a security clearance and contracts on-and-off with the government – says that circa 1981, Kavenaugh (and  buddy Mark Judge) spiked party punch bowls causing women to become inebriated and vulnerable to subsequent gang rapes.

She presents no witnesses or corroborators, but knows for sure.

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How does she know?

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The politics of the Supreme Court…

September 26, 2018

As I’ve stated before, Dems may win the current battle by scorching Kavanaugh, but may end up losing the war regarding SCOTUS balance.

Let’s put things in context…

Political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn developed  a measure to calibrate how liberal or conservative SCOTUS justices are … based on their rulings.

As near as I can tell, the measure is uncontested by either ideology.

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Source

First, let’s pull some takeaways from the chart…

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Did Kavanaugh make a fatal gaffe during the FOX interview?

September 25, 2018

A couple of things that he and wife Ashley said are head-scratchers.

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First, let’s deal with the stupid (but not fatal)  “I was a  virgin” answer.

Here’s the relevant part of the transcript:

B. Kavanaugh: We’re talking about an allegation of sexual assault.

I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone.

I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years there after.

What was he thinking? Why didn’t he stop after “never assaulted anyone”?

Being a virgin (at the time)  isn’t  a compelling defense point … and opens Kavanaugh up to ridicule and dispute.

It was a totally unforced error that is a distraction … but, not a fatal wound.

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There was a way more serious gaffe.  If haven’t heard it called out by the pundits. See if you can spot it:

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Where in the world is Dr. Ford?

September 25, 2018

Odds dropping that she’ll post at Thursday’s Senate hearing.
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Trending are speculations that Dr. Ford will be a no-show on Thursday.

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Her lawyers’ are griping that Grassley is “bullying” by bringing in an experienced sex crimes prosecutor to do the questioning.

I find that odd since their battle cry is “FBI investigation” … that they want unbiased law enforcement to dig deep into the case.

Perhaps Grassley should commission an experienced prosecutor who is a former FBI agent to do the questioning.

That would flatten out the surf…

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A few other pivotal observations that you might have missed….

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett !

September 24, 2018

Kavanaugh is toast … and, she’s the likely nomination.
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The new allegations reported in the New Yorker are likely  fatal to Kavanaugh’s nomination.

They’re everything that the Ford accusations weren’t:  heavy on details with specific time and place; eyewitnesses; contemporaneous word-of-mouth.  See the  New Yorker article for the graphic details.

I thought that Kavanaugh would survive Ford’s suspiciously-timed, gap-filled, uncorroborated charges.  In fact, I thought the odds were less than 50/50 that Ford would show up to testify this week.

But, these new accusations are a game-changer.

Hard to imagine Kavanaugh surviving this onslaught.  I expect that his nomination will be withdrawn.

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So, let’s advance the story and anticipate the next steps…

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OMG: Is Spartacus’ presidential bid doomed?

September 21, 2018

By his own account, Booker is guilty!
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Here’s a gut-check for for Democratic moralists.

I initially wrote “integrity check” but quickly realized how silly that would sound.

Let’s assume for a moment that Kavanaugh is guilty of the unproven and unsubstantiated allegations.

And, let’s accept the premise that unwanted groping is – at any age – attempted rape.

And, let’s conclude that attempted rape is disqualifying for the highest offices in the U.S. government.

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OK, that disqualifies Kavanaugh for the SCOTUS.

But, it also disqualifies Sen. Booker for the presidency.

Here’s the story

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Scientifically speaking, should the accuser be expected to remember when and where?

September 20, 2018

First, the disclaimers: On balance, I support Kavanaugh for the SCOTUS (though he wasn’t my first choice) … and, I’m not a psychologist.

But, over the years, I’ve done a lot of reading on how  brains work … largely focused on how students students learn – cognitively and mechanically.

So, politics aside, I found the accuser’s story (as reported to the WaPo) to be curious … mostly because of the self-admitted memory gaps … e.g what year the alleged  incident took place? where the incident took place? who else was present?

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The cable coverage has been predictably biased on the question of how much an accuser should be able to recall … cherry-picking folks who fit their respective narratives.

CNN/MSNBC have rolled out experts arguing that memories of traumatic events are usually vague, fragmented and incomplete. Think: fog of war.

FOX has presented rape victims who claim precise recall of all sights, sounds and smells from start-to-finish. Think: mechanical evidence gathering.

Note: I do channel-switch to hear both sides.  If you don’t, try it to get a more complete picture.

I wanted a more scientific treatment, so I did some digging.

Here’s what I found…

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A simple, fast way to move forward on the Kavanaugh allegations…

September 19, 2018

Let’s recap …

The Dems wanted her story told.

GOP said okay. Put it on next Monday’s schedule – public or private.

Dems say: not until a full FBI investigation is conducted.

Say, what?

FBI has already said that’s outside their scope and isn’t going to happen.

So, what to do?

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Here’s my idea…

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Study: Half of people “remember” events that never happened

September 19, 2018

According to a recent study, once a person hears that a fictional event happened, there’s a 50/50 chance that they will believe that it took place and start to embellish it with details, even if the imaginary event is of a personal nature.

For example, researchers “primed” subjects with fake (but relatively harmless) memories, such as taking a childhood hot-air balloon ride or pulling a prank on a friend.

Researchers intimated that the imaginary events  were real.

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And, the result …

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Shocker: Obama’s “I’m back” speech gets fact-checked…

September 18, 2018

….and, the results may surprise some of you!
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Kast week, breaking from the historical precedent, former-President Obama hit the campaign trail to support Dem candidates by blasting Trump and burnishing his record as president.

The sweet oration was there … along with the usual emphasis on “I” (reportedly. 132 times) and the castigation of all evil people who disagree with him … especially President Trump.

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I imagine that Obama was expecting a continuation of the free-pass that the press gave him during his active  tenure … but, that wasn’t the case.

For example, the AP — which is dependably left of center —  took a stab at fact-checking Obama’s assertions.

The entire AP report is worth reading if you have time.

Here are some highlights…

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Freedom of the press

Obama: “I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people.”

AP: Trump may use extraordinary rhetoric to undermine trust in the press, but Obama arguably went farther — using extraordinary actions to block the flow of information to the public .. in a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into its news-gathering activities, betraying information about its operations “that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

Quoting the NY Times: “The Obama administration moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.”

Oops.

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ObamaCare

Obama: “Sabotage of the Affordable Care Act has already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance.”

AP: While sign-ups for government-sponsored private insurance under Obama’s law show a drop of about 900,000 … that number is more than offset by the number of additional people who are now working full-time with employer-sponsored health insurance benefits.

And, enrollment through expanded Medicaid — the other major source of Obamacare coverage — appears to be stable at about 12 million people.

The AP fact-check didn’t flashback to Obama’s biggest whoppers: “Keep your plan, keep your doctor” or “reduce costs by $2,500”.

Bottom line: Many folks had to switch plans and doctors … and average out-of-pocket spending on healthcare went up by $2,500 … a $5,000 swing from the promise.

For details, see Remember when an ObamaCare architect called you stupid?  and   Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family? 

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The economy

Obama:  “The actions we took during that crisis returned the economy to healthy growth.”

Fact-check (from multiple sources): Yes, the economy did start to revive itself.

Obama stepped-up  Bush-initiated programs to bail out the the U.S. financial and auto industries … and his   stimulus package pumped almost $1 trillion into the economy.  About 1/2 went to tax cuts and about 1/2 went mostly to so-called shovel-ready projects and grants and loans to green energy initiatives.

But, data shows that the recovery was far slower than prior economic recoveries (source); none of the shovel-ready or green projects reached marquee status (quick: name one besides Solyndra); and, most economists credit the Fed’s near-zero interest rate policy for the recovery’s growth.

Importantly, GDP growth  was stalled at 2%, which was touted as a “new normal”.

It’s currently hovering around 4%

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Hope the AP’s fact-checking was just a one-time effort…

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett ?

September 17, 2018

Dems may win the battle but lose the war … vice versa for the GOP
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It’ll be an interesting couple of news cycles as the Kavanaugh accusations either get substantiated or vaporize.

My initial take:  the allegations are serious but the case details are sketchy and the timing is suspicious.

In a court of law, I’d rather be Kavanaugh’s attorney since (a) the allegations go back 35 years (to high school!); (b) the accuser’s memory is fuzzy (e.g. where was the party held?) (c) no corroborators have stepped forward or have been discovered (who else attended the party?); (d) no other accusers have stepped forward to implicate a pattern of behavior; (e) first disclosure was made 30 years after-the-fact to a marital counselor.

But, in the court of public opinion – where accusation and verdict are synonymous and facts are fungible – I’d rather be the accuser’s attorney.

The quasi-legal situation should play out in warp speed over the next couple of days.

Today, let’s look at the politics…

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What’s magic about 10,000 steps?

September 14, 2018

“The 10,000 daily goal is built on bad science”
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That’s the claim is a research recap done by The Guardian.

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Here’s the skinny…

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What will be remembered about the Kavanaugh hearings?

September 13, 2018

Now that the dust has settled a bit, let’s pause and reflect on what happened last week.

I think it’s commonly accepted that no votes were changed … GOP senators will vote ‘yea’; Dems will vote ‘nay’ (save for the couple of Trump-state Dems running for re-election) … and Kavanaugh will fill the vacant 9th spot on the SCOTUS.

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Historically, SCOTUS hearings have only 1 or 2 memorable takeaways.

For example, Robert Bork was uncivilly ‘Borked’ … though most people can’t recall the incendiary issue.

Answer: Bork was characterized as being callous to protecting people’s privacy (think: wire taps)

Clarence Thomas was characterized as “Long John Dong” — a misogynist who alleged told dirty jokes in the presence of women.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been cited in every subsequent hearing for the “Ginsburg Rule” that shields judicial candidates from answering hypothetical questions or ones related to cases that may come before the court.

So, what will be remembered about the Kavanaugh hearings?

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Advice to the Rowe v. Wade hyperventilators: chill out.

September 12, 2018

Judge Kavanaugh’s hearings were loaded with predictable content:

Dem senators used their air time to warn (again) that Rowe v. Wade would be repealed and abortions would be outlawed.

Really?

First, I doubt that a sweeping case will ever reach the SCOTUS. 

Pro-choicers — about half the country — are zealous to their cause.

The other half — pro-lifers — have largely accepted the world as it is … just nibbling at the margins against late-term and partial-birth abortions and tax-payer funding … not angling for “outlawing”.

Second, even in the very unlikely case that RvW were overturned, it wouldn’t eliminate access to abortions.

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Here’s why…

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Is Rowe vs. Wade a winning hand for Dems?

September 11, 2018

Resisting Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the SCOTUS, Dems are warning that Rowe vs, Wade will be repealed and abortions will become illegal.

Putting personal views aside, the strategy is a bit of a head-scratcher for me.

While the issue riles the base (I guess) and motivates protest marches by passionate pro-choice advocates, it’s not apparent to me that it’s a winning political issue.

It’s true — based on Pew data — that when given a binary choice between  overturning RvW or keeping it as is, about 2/3’s of respondents are against overturning.

That says it’s a winning issue, right?

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But, the political case isn’t nearly so clear when drilling down on the numbers …

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Correct awareness?

2 in 3 respondents identify RvW as something to do with abortion (chart above) … but of those who do, the vast majority believe (or are led to believe) that that repeal would, by definition outlaw all abortions.

Not the case, it would simply push abortion rights back down to the state-level. (More on that in a subsequent post).

According to Pew, less than half of respondents under 30 even associate RvW as relating to abortion.

Really?

And, that’s despite a similar lathering-up operation when Justice Gorsuch was under consideration.

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Critical Issue?

Pew also finds that only 18% of the total population consider abortion rights to be a critical issue.

53% say that abortion is “not that important” of an issue.

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And, of those who think that abortion rights are a critical issue, by a margin of 4 to 1, the preference is to overturn RvW.

In other words, most of the support for not over-tuning is among folks for whom the issue is not important.

So, politically speaking,  it’s not obvious to me, why the Dems would choose to showcase the issue …

Maybe it’s only important when it’s important … when folks are led to believe that the law will change and abortion will be outlawed.

More on that tomorrow.

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Ben Sasse rises above the fray…

September 10, 2018

He and Kavanaugh seemed like the only adults in the room last week.
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Not sure if that’s a benefit or a liability of being retired, but I had the TV on for much of the Kavanaugh hearings last week.

Save for the hilarity of Sen. Booker’s “Spartacus Moment”,  most of the proceedings were predictable histrionics and talking points (from both sides).

I was impressed with Kavanaugh’s ability to “take a punch”. (<= one of my highest commendations).

The only other “actor” who made me spin my chair around was Sen Ben Sasse.

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I’d barely noticed Sasse before … but his opening remarks resonated with me.

Rather than laundry-listing political talking points, Sasse took Congress to task for failing to address difficult issues and “punting” rather than legislating.

Here are a couple of snippets from Sasse’s opening remarks…

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Forensic linguistics: The “lodestar” tell…

September 7, 2018

I thought that the NY Times’ anonymously written I Am Part of the Resistance op-ed  was pretty vacuous.

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I was expecting a bombshell and got “where’s the beef?”

But, as a faithful Forensic Files viewer, I did get some amusement from the op-ed…

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Why are Canada’s drug prices so much lower? Blame NAFTA?

September 6, 2018

Short answer: No … it’s a self-inflicted wound.
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Last week,  trade negotiators failed to close a deal with Canada.

During the Canadian press conference, a reporter asked a question about prescription drug prices.

Answering the question with a question: What has that got to do with NAFTA?

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Let’s drill down?

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Does a 200% tariff sound fair to you?

September 5, 2018

Some Canadian diary tariffs are even higher!
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The U.S.-Canadian tariff riff appears to center on 2 sectors: “cultural” and dairy products.

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We dealt with the cultural products yesterday

Today let’s deal with diary tariffs …

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Should Canadians have to listen to Justin Bieber?

September 4, 2018

Apparently so: It’s a sticking point in the trade negotiations
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The U.S.-Canadian tariff riff appears to center on 2 sectors: “cultural” and dairy products.

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Today let’s deal with so-called “cultural products” …

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Happy Labor Day !

September 3, 2018

Time to reflect…

The unemployment rate is below 4%.

Black unemployment is at an all time low

Wages have started  to creep up.

And, according to a recent Harris poll, blue collar job satisfaction is over 80%.

Thanks to all who do the work so that I can sit back and enjoy my retirement.

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