Archive for July, 2019

Which will show up: Sleepy Joe or Mean Joe?

July 31, 2019

Anybody remember his debate against Paul Ryan?

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Most (all?) pundits seem to agree that Kamala Harris got the best of Joe Biden in the first debate … by getting in his face on busing and, in doing so, hit him with a veiled accusation of racism.

Biden’s response was weak …  truncated by his throwing in the towel with “I see that my time is up.”

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On the campaign trail, Biden has been telling supporters (and fat cat donors) that he’s going to up his game in the second debates.:

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His chest-pounding is eliciting a lot of “yeah, right” reactions….

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2020 Dem candidates are starting to trash Obama’s legacy … say, what?

July 30, 2019

A politically expedient strategy to neutralize a potential Biden advantage.

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According to the far-left leaning Daily Beast

The idea that the Obama legacy would be anything other than a massive positive for Biden … has been treated as indisputable within Democratic circles.

But in recent weeks, the Democratic frontrunner has had that legacy used against him, with his competitors pointing the to shortcomings of the last Democratic administration.

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On issues ranging from immigration to health care and foreign policy, the 2020 candidates have been increasingly critical in their public assessments of the Obama administration.

More specifically….

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OMG: I finally agree with Thomas Freidman on something…

July 29, 2019

Prior to Round 2 of the debates, he says: Dems may be handing Trump his re-election.

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Back in 2005, Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” did much to legitimize and promote globalization.

For better or for worse, the book had undeniable impact … becoming a bible of sorts and playbook for globalization.

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Since “Flat World”, Friedman veered far left and didn’t say much that I agreed with.

That is, until last week…

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In an NY Times opinion piece, Friedman observed:

“A lot of Americans were shocked by some of the things they heard (during the recent democratic presidential debates). I was shocked, too.

What shocked him?

I was shocked that so many candidates in the party whose nominee I was planning to support want to get rid of the private health insurance covering some 250 million Americans and have “Medicare for all” instead. I think we should strengthen Obamacare and eventually add a public option.

I was shocked that so many were ready to decriminalize illegal entry into our country. I think people should have to ring the doorbell before they enter my house or my country.

I was shocked at all those hands raised in support of providing comprehensive health coverage to undocumented immigrants. I think promises we’ve made to our fellow Americans should take priority, like to veterans in need of better health care.

And I was shocked by front-runner Joe Biden’s feeble response to the attack from Kamala Harris — and to the more extreme ideas promoted by those to his left.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Tommy.

And, what does Friedman conclude?

A racist, divisive, climate-change-denying, woman-abusing jerk who is our president is going to get re-elected

Ouch!

And his remedy for the Dems:

Dear Democrats:

This is not complicated! Just nominate a decent, sane person, one committed to reunifying the country and creating more good jobs.

Hmmm.

Ironic that the guy who championed the migration of “good” American jobs to low cost labor markets is now championing the creation of good jobs.

As Forrest Gump would say: “What goes around, comes around.”

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So, if Mueller didn’t run the investigation, who did?

July 26, 2019

… and, what are the implications?

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I think that it was clear to any reasonably objective person that Mueller was testifying under what’s called “diminished capacity.”

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For the record my mother fought a 20 year battle against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, so I’m both sympathetic and — while I have no medical credentials whatsoever — I’m reasonably well-versed in the symptomology and terminology.

Said differently, I’m sympathetic to Mueller and not just trying to take a cheap shot.

In my opinion, his symptoms weren’t a spontaneous response to the stress of testifying, but more likely, reflected an accumulative progression over time. 

If I’m right, that conclusion raises major questions and implications…

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“I’m not familiar with FusionGPS” … say, what?

July 25, 2019

Yep, being retired, I watched most of Mueller’s testimony live yesterday.

I agree with David Axlerod’s assessment: painful.

This morning, I flipped between CNN and MSNBC.

Their storyline: Great fodder for the impeachment cannon … poor optics … Republicans were disrespectful to Viet Nam war vet.

But, even they were admitting that Dems – who were reportedly aware of Mueller’s “challenges – share “some” blame for contriving yesterday’s sad spectacle.

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Source

Here are my morning after takeaways…

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#16 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change …

July 24, 2019

Reason #16: Pretending that the 1930s didn’t exist.
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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
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During a recent DC heatwave, we did some historical data-digging.

Among the conclusions that we drew was that it was pretty damn hot during the 1930s … when SUVs didn’t roam the earth and factories were operating.at Great Depression levels

Heatwaves in the 1930s lasted longer in the 1930s (over 10 days then vs. less than 7 recently) … and hit higher temperatures (101 degrees then vs. 99 degrees recently).

And, based on a WeatherFacts analysis, “19 (38%) of the 50 U.S. states recorded their (current standing) hottest temperatures in the 1930s.”

More broadly, only 13 states have recorded their highest temperatures since 1940 … and, only South Carolina has set its record in this decade.

Hmmm.

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So, is the globe really warming?

I guess it depends on:

(1) What’s your starting point

(2) What parts of history you flat out ignore

(3) How much you dink with the data … See Dinking with the data  

(4) Where you take your temperature readings and how you combine them into a “global metric” … See What’s the earth’s temperature?

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See all 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …
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Recap: 16 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …

July 24, 2019

I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

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For the record, here are 16 reasons that I’m a lukewarmer … with links to the prior posts:

1.   Unsettling science   From “Ice Age” to  “Global Warming”  to “18-year Pause” to“Climate Change”.

2.   Expired doomsday predictions   By 2016, NYC would be swamped, Polar bears would be extinct, etc.

3.  The “97% of scientists” baloney   Oft-repeated doesn’t make it true – here’s the real story

4.  Dinking with the data   Temperature data “adjusted” by the NOAA eliminated the 18-year pause and bolstered the global warming case

5.  Temperature readings – plus or minus   Bottom line: thermometers weren’t very precise in the old days … and still have wide variances

6.  What’s the earth’s temperature?   It depends on the mix of reporting locations and an array of factors at each of them

7.  The Climategate Emails   Climate scientists were exposed hiding exculpatory data for political purposes

8.  Low on American’s worry list   Folks will nod that it’s probably getting warmer, but have more urgent matters to worry about (like keeping their jobs or getting healthcare)

9.  Seen a Volt recently?   Obama vowed a million EVs by now – where are the “believers”?

10. Letting the perps walk   For all practical purposes, the Paris Accords gave the world’s worst polluters – India & China – a free pass.

11. Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”   In the aftermath of a flood or hurricane, you can count on celebrities coming forth to bellow “I told you so”  …. even if the facts and the science say otherwise.  You see, science – and its relevance – is always malleable to the cause..

12. When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?   The short answer: hot spells are “climate”; cold spells are just dismissed as “weather”.

13. The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets.  A rationale for the classic “do as I say, not as I do”

14. Climate change zealots are piss-poor marketers.  “The promotional efforts of the climate catastrophists have lacked the cornerstones of effective persuasion: clarity, credibility, and empathy.”

15. Did Paris just pull out of the “Paris Accords”? Macron enacted a gas tax … then retreated when the mass of working folks objected.

16. Pretending that the 1930s didn’t exist … even though heatwaves were worse then and many states recorded all-time high temperatures in the 1930s

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And, my advice to climate change advocates:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to fighting pollution — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

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Heatwaves: More historical perspective…

July 23, 2019

Good thing we’re not living in the 1930s

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Yesterday, we posted the 10 hottest days recorded in my locale — Washington, DC.

The key conclusions: (1) last weekend’s 99 degree reading doesn’t come close to making the list (2) no days since 2012 made the list (3) it was pretty damn hot in the 1930s.

Here’s some more confirming evidence on that last point from WeatherFacts:

In the 1930s, there were more heatwaves and, on average, each heatwave lasted for a historically long duration.

In the 1930s, heatwaves lasted over 10 days …. nowadays, they’re less than a week.

“Yeah Ken, but heatwaves these days are way hotter than the were a hundred years ago.”

Not so, mes amies…

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Before you hyperventilate over the weekend temperatures…

July 22, 2019

Put them in a historical context.

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No denying it … it was really hot his weekend.

High temperatures hit 97 on Friday and 99 on Sunday Source

So predictably, I’ve been hearing that the weekend temps prove that there’s global warming.

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Before jumping to that conclusion, it helps to resort to data and put the weekend heat in a historical perspective….

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$$$: What’s the impact of lower mortgage interest deductions on house prices?

July 19, 2019

Worst case answer: About $50,000.

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First, a couple of disclaimers …

1) I’m not a tax accountant or lawyer … so, nothing I say should be construed to be financial or tax advice.

2) Philosophically, I’ve always thought the income tax deduction for mortgage interest should be shelved.

Note: That philosophical principle certainly never stopped me from claiming my allowed tax deductions for my home mortgages.

Mortgae - Interest Rate GRAPH

OK, let’s get started…

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Remember how healthcare costs were going to drop by $2,500 for every family?

July 18, 2019

Since Joe Biden is hanging his hat (for now) on expanding ObamaCare (rather than signing up for the other candidates’ Medicare for All (MFA), let’s flashback to a prior post and inject some facts.

In 2016 (Obama’s last year in office), employees paid $11,000 out-of-pocket for healthcare … up $2,500 since 2012.

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Milliman – a well-regarded actuarial consulting” firm – has published an annual recap of healthcare spending since 2001.

The Milliman Medical Index tracks the total costs of providing health care to an average family of four covered by an employer-sponsored “preferred provider plan” … that’s about 155 million employees and their dependents.

The total includes the health insurance premiums paid by both the employer and the employee, as well as the actual expenditures for health care paid by the insurance plan and out of pocket by the insured family.

The big news: In 2016, the average healthcare costs for a family of 4 surpassed $25,000 for the first time … the $25,826 is triple the cost to provide health care for the same family in 2001 … and up about $5,000 since 2012.

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The bad(est) news is the increased proportion of the healthcare costs being shouldered by individual employees …

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Biden: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

July 17, 2019

Where have I heard that one before?

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Joe Biden’s first presidential run in 1988 cratered amid multiple instances of plagiarism. Source

So, you’d think that he would have learned his lesson and stayed squeaky clean in the 2020 campaign.

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Not so …

Countering the ultra-liberals Medicare for All (MFA), decided to reprise Obama’s infamous healthcare line.

So, what’s the rub?

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Trump versus “The Squad”

July 16, 2019

Unforced error or political brilliance?
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These days — with the S&P over 3,000 and all politicians proving to be incompetent idiots — I’m finding politics decreasingly interesting, save for its entertainment value.

And, there’s plenty of that, for sue.

Cue Trump’s shocking (?) weekend tweet … and the nationally televised press conference by the self-named “Squad”.

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Let’s run through that …

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Remember the ‘Miracle on Ice’?

July 15, 2019

After a week of World Cup celebration, let’s shift gears and take a walk down down memory lane … to another USA sports achievement.

In 1980, the US men’s Olympic hockey team clawed its way towards a gold medal with a game against the heavily-favored Soviet Union.

The Soviet team had won gold medals in each of the the four previous Winter Olympics.

In a “friendly” game a few days before the start of the Olympics, the Soviets manhandled the U.S.A. team 10-3.

Suffice it to say that things didn’t look good for the Americans.

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That is, until the miracle happened…

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Facial recognition: This could be a big idea…

July 12, 2019

Yesterday, we posted how it may be possible to create a facial image  (called a phenotype) from DNA … and bounce it against DMV photo files to ID suspects and witnesses.

And, we’ve previously posted how facial recognition has been gaining traction at airports, in some schools, on Chinese streets and even in some amusement parks.

Recently, NY Gov. Cuomo announced that cameras with facial recognition software were being installed to spot criminals in some of the state’s traffic tunnels, bridges and other choke points.

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More specifically…

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Gov. Cuomo revealed that facial-recognition cameras were already in place at  bridge and tunnel toll plazas across the state.

The cameras scan drivers’ faces and feed them into databases to catch suspected criminals.

“We are now moving to facial-recognition technology which takes it to a whole new level, where it can see the face of the person in the car and run that technology against databases.”

When a match is made, an alarm is triggered for follow-up by law enforcement.

In China, images are posted to real-time digital billboards to shame perps.

See More great moments in facial recognition

My hunch: This is less of a tool to nab petty offenders … more intended to deter or snag terrorists.

That would make it a big idea.

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Of course, civil libertarians oppose the use of facial recognition as an invasion of privacy … and claim that facial recognition is unreliable for children and “persons of color”.

The former is true since kids’ facial structures change rapidly as they age and grow … but, kids don’t drive, right?

The claim that facial recognition isn’t accurate for persons of color is a headscratcher.

Think about it for a minute or two…

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Facial recognition: From DNA to DMV … to jail?

July 11, 2019

Police have long had access to fingerprint and DNA data bases … usually ‘populated’ by criminals and suspects.

On occasion, crime scene DNA samples have been matched to genealogical traits directly or indirectly — by honing in on family member DNA profiles.

See DNA search used to nab Golden State Killer

Increasingly, facial recognition is being used to track down suspects and potential witnesses.

imageSource: Parabon Nanolabs

There have 2 recently revealed advances on the facial recognition front that have moved the technology to a higher and more controversial level.

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When was the last time that you went to a pro soccer game?

July 10, 2019

That’s the question that I posed to a few friends recently … prompted by the World’s Cup excitement and bruhaha over player pay.

I set the over-under at 1 … and, if you had bet the under, you would have won.

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Assuming that I drew a bad, non-projectible sample, I checked out attendance numbers for the U.S. pro soccer leagues.

Some surprised me…

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So, how much did each U.S. player earn for winning the World’s Cup?

July 9, 2019

Lots of chatter about soccer’s gender gap in earnings … most of the analyses I’ve read are pretty confusing … lots of apples being compared to oranges.

So, let’s step back and ask a more basic question: how much did each of the women players earn for winning Le Coupe du Monde Femme?

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Let’s work through the numbers…

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WaPo: Trump approval at highest point ever…

July 8, 2019

5 point surge in past couple of months.

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If it were Rasmussen, we’d have to dismiss it as right-side bias, but this is an ABC-Washington Post Survey that’s reporting that despite a constant barrage of negative media coverage and a majority feeling that he acts unpresidential:

Aided by a strong economy and perceptions that he has dealt with it effectively, President Trump’s approval rating has risen to the highest point of his presidency.

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Specifically, his approval has gone from 42% in April to 47% in July … a 5-point gain.

He’s still underwater by 3 points — 47% to 50% … but that gap has closed from the 12 point deficit in April) 42% to 54%).

How can this possibly be?

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Happy 4th of July !

July 4, 2019

Take a moment to remember how lucky we are …

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I’m hacked at Fox News …

July 3, 2019

For disrespecting a veteran’s organization.

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First, a bit of background.

I don’t trust most charities — especially the larger ones that invariably waste money on executive perks or glitzy marketing campaigns instead of their primary missions.

So these days, I channel the bulk of my donations to healthcare organizations run by well-intentioned nuns and small veteran’s groups run by true believers.

One of my current favorites is the Catch A Lift Fund (officially,the Christopher Coffland Memorial Fund, 27-3901149).

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In their words: “The Catch A Lift Fund has helped thousands of post 9/11 combat wounded veterans regain their mental and physical health through gym memberships, in home gym equipment, personalized fitness and nutrition programs and a peer support network.”

Over 90% on donations go directly to support CAL’s mission, which has a track record on undeniable success helping to rehabilitate injured vets.

So, what’s my beef with Fox News?

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Did the Dem candidates jump the shark with this one?

July 2, 2019

They dropped a couple of doozies during last weeks debate…

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I went cool turkey (<= that’s not quite “cold turkey”, but pretty close) away from cable news while at the beach.

On return, I jumped off the wagon by watching parts of the Democratic debates.

I was expecting entertainment value … and I wasn’t disappointed.

Reminded me of the old Happy Days tv series that – among other things – coined the the phrase “jumping the shark”.

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Ratings were slipping, so they had Fonzie (Henry Winkler) jump a shark while water skiing … hoping (but failing) to generate some ratings-boosting buzz.

So now, according to Wikipedia:

Jumping the shark is the moment when something that was once popular that no longer warrants the attention it previously received makes an attempt at publicity, which only serves to highlight its irrelevance..

How does that apply to the Dem debates?

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What I learned at the beach…

July 1, 2019

Easing back into the “real” world with a couple of takeaways from beach week…

1) While a dying breed, there are still families.  It’s fun being with your’s … and fun watching other families have fun … especially multi-generational families (<= grandparent bias).

2) Kids grow up quickly.

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