Trump to the Rescue

Following Trump’s combative 60 Minutes interview, this video seems appropriate.


How to Test an Accusation

The Senate Judiciary committee is meeting today and the written testimonies of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh are available. The challenge for senators and everyone else is how to judge the validity of the sexual assault claim. Normally an accusation is supported by evidence such as other witnesses before it is given legal consideration. But this is a he said, she said situation.

We know from scientific studies that our memories are untrustworthy the further in the past are the events being recalled. Cognitive experts say that a core remembrance, usually laden with emotion, is elaborated with details invented by our brains to fill in the gaps for a complete story.  An accuser can bear truthful witness to a false memory, and thereby belie the facts. So how to sort out how much is what happened and how much is imagination?

Adam Mill is an employment lawyer who has experience with many such cases and writes in the Federalist 10 Red Flags About Sexual Assault Claims, From An Employment Lawyer

It’s not nice or politically correct to say, but people do sometimes lie to get money, revenge, power, attention, or political advantage. False allegations of assault have been documented.

I know it’s a very unfashionable to advocate on behalf of the presumption of innocence, and I am often reminded of how insensitive and outdated the principle is in today’s climate.

Of course, courtesy to the alleged victim is absolutely essential to be effective. To do otherwise is completely counterproductive and quickly turns the focus from the facts to the conduct within the inquiry. So I go to great pains to make my questions respectful.

When the complaint is “he said/she said,” we should not helplessly acquiesce to coin-flip justice that picks winners and losers based upon the identity politics profile of the accused and accuser. Experience with a career’s worth of complaints in hearings, depositions, and negotiations has taught me some tells, red flags that warn that an innocent person stands accused.

Without naming any particular accusation, I offer these factors for consideration to the fair-minded who remain open to the possibility that guilt or innocence is not simply a question of politics. I also remind the reader that politicizing these accusations have allowed men like Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Les Moonves, Bill Clinton, and Keith Ellison to escape accountability. Nobody seems to care if they walk the walk so long as they talk the talk.

1. The accuser uses the press instead of the process.
Every company has a slightly different process for harassment and assault complaints. Often it begins with a neutral investigator being assigned to interview the accuser first, then potential corroborating witnesses. When an accuser is eager to share with the media but reluctant to meet with an investigator, it’s a flag.

2. The accuser times releasing the accusation for an advantage.
For example, when the accuser holds the allegation until an adverse performance rating of the accuser is imminent, or serious misconduct by the accuser is suddenly discovered, or the accused is a rival for a promotion or a raise, or the accused’s success will block an accuser’s political objective. It’s a flag when the accusation is held like a trump card until an opportunity arises to leverage the accusation.

3. The accuser attacks the process instead of participating.
The few times I’ve been attacked for “harassing” the victim, it has always followed an otherwise innocuous question about the accusation, such as: Where, when, how, why, what happened? I don’t argue with accusers, I just ask them to explain the allegation. If I’m attacked for otherwise neutral questions, it’s a red flag.

4. When the accused’s opportunity to mount a defense is delegitimized.
The Duke Lacrosse coach was fired just for saying his players were innocent. When the players dared to protest their innocence, the prosecutor painted their stories in the press as “uncooperative.” If either the accused or the accused’s supporters are attacked for just for failing to agree with the accusation, it’s a red flag.

5. The accuser seeks to force the accused to defend himself or herself before committing to a final version.
Unfortunately, this has become the preferred approach of the kangaroo courts on college campuses. It’s completely unfair because it deprives the accused of the opportunity to mount an effective defense. When the accuser demands the accused speak first, it is a strong indication that the accuser wants the opportunity to fill in the details of the accusation to counter any defense or alibi the accused might offer. It’s a red flag.

6. The accused makes a strong and unequivocal denial.
In most cases, there’s some kernel of truth to even the most exaggerated claims. When the accused reacts with a dissembling explanation full of alternatives and rationalizations, I tend to find the accuser more credible. Rarely, however, the accused reacts with a full-throated and adamant denial. When it happens, it’s a red flag that the accusation might have problems.

7. The accuser makes unusual demands to modify or control the process.
It’s a flag when the accuser demands a new investigator or judge without having a substantial basis for challenging the impartiality of the process that’s already in place.

8. When the accuser’s ability to identify the accused has not been properly explained.
In the Duke lacrosse case, the accuser was shown a lineup of photos of potential attackers. Every photo was of a member of the team. None were of people known to be innocent. It’s a red flag when an identification is made only after the accused appears in media and the accuser has not seen the accused for a number of years or was otherwise in regular contact with the accused.

9. When witnesses don’t corroborate.
10. When corroborating witnesses simply repeat the accusation of the accuser but don’t have fresh information.
It is now clear that accusations of sexual misconduct will forever be a tool to change results in elections and Supreme Court nominations. It’s disappointing to see so many abandon the accused to join the stampede of a mob that punishes any who ask legitimate questions about accusations.

These accusations destroy the lives of the accused, often men, and bring devastation to the women who love and support them. Some of the falsely accused commit suicide. When the mob attacks legitimate inquiry into the accusation, it’s a sure sign that the mob isn’t confident about the truth of the allegation. Rather than shrink in fear when attacked, we should take it as a sign that there is a risk that the accused is innocent, and the questions need to keep coming.

Adam Mill works in Kansas City, Missouri as an attorney specializing in labor and employment and public administration law. He frequently posts to Adam graduated from the University of Kansas and has been admitted to practice in Kansas and Missouri.

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus concluded in one TED talk:

If I’ve learned anything from my decades working on these problems, it’s this: Just because somebody tells you something and they say it with lots of confidence, detail, and emotion does not mean that it really happened. We can’t reliably distinguish true memories from false memories; we need independent corroboration. Such a discovery has made me more tolerant of friends and family who misremember. Such a discovery might have saved Steve Titus. We should all keep in mind that memory, like liberty, is a fragile thing.


Why Teenagers Are Not Supreme Court Justices

The current skirmish is between those who want to disqualify Brett Kavanaugh and those who want to confirm him to the Supreme Court bench. At issue is a claim by a woman that the nominee harassed her when both were teenagers. Presumably she will tell her story to the Senators and he will tell his, and unless something unforeseen is disclosed, the claim will end up being unprovable and undisprovable.

At that point we should remember why teenagers are not candidates for adult responsibilities. It is widely accepted that most of us at those ages have brains not fully developed, especially regarding morality. The inability to foresee consequences of risky behaviors is a classic adolescent failing. Every parent struggles with granting freedom to youngsters to take decisions and bear the consequences, all the while hoping they and others survive the mistakes and learn to be responsible adults. Are teenagers accountable for their actions? Absolutely, as we see reckless teenage drivers causing damage, injury and sometimes death, ruining their own and other lives.

In the current context, with an all-out, full-court press by desperate Democrats to prevent another originalist Justice, this accusation at this time has clear political motivations. That doesn’t say nothing happened between the two teenagers; her animus against him seems more than distaste for his legal position, though I could be mistaken about that. Teenagers are infamous for taking chances, pushing the envelope, testing the rules and advice provided by their elders. With the uncertainties about the recalled incident, when and where and who was present, there is no way for us to know what happened.

Martin Luther King said it well, and in fact there is progress unacknowledged by social justice warriors.  Today’s surveillance for racial bias is extremely sensitive, and yet the demand for such incidents far exceeds the supply.  In addition we now have conflicts over male and female sexual encounters, and some presume that women are always the victims and men the trespassers.  Case by case, it comes down to personal integrity and character of the individuals involved.

What we do know is that judges are qualified by the character they have displayed over a lifetime of service in their families, communities and in the courtroom. That character is only partly formed in adolescence, but can be examined and known by adult behaviors. What matters is not a single incident, but the pattern exhibited over decades. On this basis, Brett Kavanaugh is supremely qualified and his confirmation should not be derailed.


The Dog That Didn’t Bark

This post gets into political territory, but continues a theme on the importance of evidence in attesting whether a claim is true or false.  The topic of course is the investigation into election collusion (itself not a crime) between Russia and Trump.  Here is a status report following convictions yesterday.  George Neumayr writes in American Spectator Ignore the Noise, Mueller Still Has Nothing  Excerpts below with my bolds.

For all of the media’s oohing and ahhing over Robert Mueller’s legal victories on Tuesday, his impeachment case remains hopelessly threadbare. In terms of his Department of Justice mandate, he has made no progress whatsoever. He is presiding over a “collusion” probe that has absolutely nothing to do with collusion.

Let him keep indicting and convicting ham sandwiches. Most Americans won’t care. It just underscores the superfluous and abusive character of his probe. He is not compiling an air-tight legal case for impeachment; he is simply using abusive prosecutorial tactics to foment an anti-Trump political firestorm.

Rod Rosenstein is the Dr. Frankenstein in this political horror show. He birthed a monster in Mueller, who is now rampaging through the streets of Manhattan in search of pre-presidential dirt. Let’s, for the sake of argument, say that all of his claims about Trump-Cohen corruption are true. Is that impeachable material? No, it is not. The American people voted for Trump knowing full well that his pre-presidential record was checkered. Does anybody really think the American people are going to rise up and demand that not only the House but most of the Senate expel Trump from the presidency over an alleged campaign finance violation that doesn’t bear in the slightest upon the collusion question?

Mueller is expert at finding flaky witnesses. Cohen is his latest. His memories of conversations and meetings with Trump are no more reliable than Jim Comey’s. Cohen has given baldly contradictory accounts of his payments to Stormy Daniels. The notion that Trump could lose the presidency owing to the testimony of a sleazy casino lawyer strains all plausibility.

Mueller’s report will culminate in nothing more than an epic political food fight — a mode of combat Trump has perfected. Through his relentless tweeting, Trump has thoroughly educated the American people on the raw politics of Mueller’s probe — that he inherited a hopelessly tainted investigation from Trump haters ensconced in the Obama administration, that Mueller assembled a team of Hillary supporters to continue the probe, and that he has abandoned his DOJ mandate for a partisan fishing expedition of staggering proportions. The unfairness of it all has not been lost on the American people.

The media routinely calls Trump a “bully” even as it forms a mob encircling him, bellowing about this or that utterly trivial offense. None of it adds up to anything even close to impeachable material. From the fulminating, one would think that a foreign occupier had invaded Washington. Trump’s great crime was colluding not with Russians but with neglected American voters, with whom he ended the Clinton dynasty. While Hillary was waiting with bated breath for dirt from Russians conveyed to her British spy, Trump plunged into the American heartland, winning the election the old-fashioned way, by simply outhustling Hillary in places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

I just got back from the latter state. Not a single mechanic, trucker, or waitress I met in Pennsylvania ever showed the slightest bit of interest in Mueller’s probe. Most of them probably don’t even know who Mueller is. That the media is staking its demolition of Trump on this gray, little-known ruling-class darling is a measure of its alienation from the American people. They simply don’t care about Trump’s pre-presidential sins, political screw-ups, and minor law-bending, if that even occurred.

Mueller is desperately trying to stitch together an impeachment case based on these thin threads. He struck out on collusion, then turned to obstruction of justice, only to realize that his star witness, Comey, is himself under investigation. So he resorted to a search for pre-presidential dirt and papered over the nothingness of his probe with indictments and convictions on matters far afield. Only members of the ruling class and media, who devote every waking moment to studying all things Trump at the granular level, could portray this probe as “momentous.” To most Americans, it remains a giant bore — an inside-the-Beltway parlor game of no particular interest to them or relevance to their lives.

Trump on Tuesday night resumed his mockery of the probe, asking at a rally in West Virginia, “Where is the collusion? You know, they’re still looking for collusion! Where is the collusion? Find some collusion. We want to find the collusion.” Mueller called off that search a long time ago, shifting to a Cohen, rather than collusion, probe, to which the America people will ask upon the release of his report: Why are we supposed to care?


Neumeyr is probably right forecasting that the long-awaited Mueller report will throw the kitchen sink garbage against POTUS hoping something will stick, thereby starting yet another food fight.  It seems too much for Team Mueller to come out exonerating Trump on the original issue.  But they have turned over every rock in vain to find damning evidence against the null hypothesis:  Trump campaign did not collaborate with the Russians.


“Silver Blaze” is the story of the disappearance of the titular race horse. It is believed that a stranger stole the horse, but Sherlock Holmes is able to pin the horse’s disappearance on the horse’s late trainer, John Straker, because a dog at the horse’s stable did not bark on the night of his disappearance. The following exchange takes place in the short story:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”


Heat Wave Good Vibrations

Enjoy this wonderful hot summertime while it lasts.  Don’t let the climate grinches get you down with their doomsday pronouncements.  Chill out with Sunshine Reggae and let the good vibes get a lot stronger.

US District Court grants Chevron’s motion to dismiss climate change case

US District Court grants Chevron’s motion to dismiss climate change case

World Pipelines, Tuesday, 26 June 2018 12:00

The US District Court for the Northern District of California has issued a ruling dismissing the climate change lawsuits filed against Chevron Corporation by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland. The court dismissed the complaint as requiring foreign and domestic policy decisions that are outside the proper purview of the courts.

As the court described, “the scope of plaintiffs’ theory is breathtaking. It would reach the sale of fossil fuels anywhere in the world, including all past and otherwise lawful sales.”

“It is true,” the court continued, “that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has caused (and will continue to cause) global warming. But against that negative, we must weigh this positive: our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fuelled by oil and coal. Without these fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible. All of us have benefitted. Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?”

The court concluded by dismissing the claims and deferring to the policy judgments of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government: “The dangers raised in the complaints are very real. But those dangers are worldwide. Their causes are worldwide. The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government when the problem at hand clearly deserves a solution best addressed by those branches.”

Reliable, affordable energy is not a public nuisance but a public necessity,” said R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron’s Vice President and General Counsel. “Tackling the difficult international policy issues of climate change requires honest and constructive discussion. Using lawsuits to vilify the men and women who provide the energy we all need is neither honest nor constructive.”

The court’s decision dismisses a lawsuit that the cities of San Francisco and Oakland filed against BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, seeking to hold a selected group of oil and gas companies responsible for the potential effects of global climate change. The suit, filed in 2017, claims that the production and sale of oil and gas are a public nuisance because they result in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to worldwide climate change and rising sea levels. The US Supreme Court and other courts around the country have previously rejected similar claims brought by the same lawyers. Those courts – like the court today – found that America’s environmental policies must be determined by national policymakers like the Environmental Protection Agency, not courts of law.

Several other US cities and counties, including New York City and King County, Washington, recently filed nearly identical cases against the same oil and gas companies. Many were filed by the same lawyers. The energy companies have filed motions to dismiss those cases as well. As Chevron has repeatedly emphasised in its court filings, Chevron supports meaningful efforts to address climate change and accepts internationally recognised climate science, but climate change is a global issue that requires global engagement, not lawsuits. Chevron is taking prudent, practical and cost-effective actions to mitigate potential climate change risks, including managing emissions, testing new technologies, and increasing efficiency.

Chevron Corporation is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies. Through its subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide, the company is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry. Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemicals and additives; generates power; and develops and deploys technologies that enhance business value in every aspect of the company’s operations. Chevron is based in San Ramon, California.

Judge Alsup’s Ruling

Footnote:  It will be claimed that the court has confirmed dangerous man made warming.  But IPCC science was stipulated by both plaintiffs and defendants, so there was no disagreement for the court to resolve.  The science was not at issue between the parties.  It doesn’t mean the science holds up under scrutiny, only that such examination was not pertinent here.

2018 Graduation Music

This message from the Eagles goes out to all those social justice warriors on campus.

Jordan Peterson: “So the first thing that you might want to know about Postmodernism is that it doesn’t have a shred of gratitude — and there’s something pathologically wrong with a person that doesn’t have any gratitude, especially when they live in what so far is the best of all possible worlds. So if you’re not grateful, you’re driven by resentment, and resentment is the worst emotion that you can possibly experience, apart from arrogance. Arrogance, resentment, and deceit. There is an evil triad for you.”

Alternative song for sending off graduates comes from Bob Dylan:


Seeing What We Presume

This remarkable arrow was designed by a scientist specializing in optical illusions.  In this case, no matter what you do, you can not make your brain see anything other than an arrow pointing right.  The reason is your brain processes the patterns on the object with only that perception possible.

It is the creation of Professor Kokichi Sugihara at Meiji University in Tokyo.  Professor Sugihara has a long history of designing mind-bending objects.  The mathematician provides some complex equations in his paper explaining how such an illusion is possible, but all you really need to know is that the always-right arrow uses forced perspective to exploit your brain’s penchant for finding right angles where there aren’t any.  It may seem like magic, but it’s really just your brain being too efficient in its quest to make order out of chaos.

This is a fun example, but it reminds us of the climate wars where perception bias is also hardwired. And it reminds us that any observer adds a frame of reference on top of objective reality.

Game Changer? Brewing Fuel

There’s been a lot of crazy talk regarding energy coming from the Golden State, but there are also serious scientists in California, especially at Cal Tech, where Steven Koonin studied, taught and served as Provost.  This recent announcement caught my eye: Scientists breed bacteria that make tiny high-energy carbon rings.  Text below with my bolds

Caltech scientists have created a strain of bacteria that can make small but energy-packed carbon rings that are useful starting materials for creating other chemicals and materials. These rings, which are otherwise particularly difficult to prepare, now can be “brewed” in much the same way as beer.

Brewing equipment. Pike Microbrewery, Seattle. Source: Lonely Planet

The bacteria were created by researchers in the lab of Frances Arnold, Caltech’s Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, using directed evolution, a technique Arnold developed in the 1990s. The technique allows scientists to quickly and easily breed bacteria with the traits that they desire. It has previously been used by Arnold’s lab to evolve bacteria that create carbon-silicon and carbon-boron bonds, neither of which is found among organisms in the natural world. Using this same technique, they set out to build the tiny carbon rings rarely seen in nature.

Familiar energetic organic compounds found in nature.

“Bacteria can now churn out these versatile, energy-rich organic structures,” Arnold says. “With new lab-evolved enzymes, the microbes make precisely configured strained rings that chemists struggle to make.”

In a paper published this month in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they have now coaxed Escherichia coli bacteria into creating bicyclobutanes, a group of chemicals that contain four carbon atoms arranged so they form two triangles that share a side. To visualize its shape, imagine a square piece of paper that’s lightly creased along a diagonal.

Source: Wikipedia

Bicyclobutanes are difficult to make because the bonds between the carbon atoms are bent at angles that put them under a great deal of strain. Bending these bonds away from their natural shape takes a lot of energy and can result in unwanted byproducts if the conditions for their synthesis aren’t just right. But it’s the strain that makes bicyclobutanes so useful. The bent bonds act like tightly wound springs: they pack a lot of energy that can be used to drive chemical reactions, making bicyclobutanes useful precursors to a variety of chemical products, such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and materials. When strained rings, like bicyclobutanes, are incorporated into larger molecules, they can imbue those molecules with interesting properties—for example, the ability to conduct electricity but only when an external force is applied—making them potentially useful for creating smart materials that are responsive to their environments.

Unlike other carbon rings, such as cyclohexanes and cyclopentanes, bicyclobutanes are rarely found in nature. This could be due to their inherit instability or the lack of suitable biological machineries for their assembly. But now, Arnold and her team have shown that bacteria can be genetically reprogrammed to produce bicyclobutanes from simple commercial starting materials. As the E. coli cells go about their bacterial business, they churn out bicyclobutanes. The setup is kind of like putting sugar and letting it ferment into alcohol.

“To our surprise, the enzymes can be engineered to efficiently make such crazy carbon rings under ambient conditions,” says graduate student Kai Chen, lead author on the paper. “This is the first time anyone has introduced a non-native pathway for bacteria to forge these high-energy structures.”

Chen and his colleagues, postdocs Xiongyi Huang, Jennifer Kan, and graduate student Ruijie Zhang, did this by giving the bacteria a copy of a gene that encodes an enzyme called cytochrome P450. The enzyme had previously been modified through directed evolution by the Arnold lab and others to create molecules containing small rings of three carbon atoms—essentially half of a bicyclobutane group.

“The beauty is that a well-defined active-site environment was crafted in the enzyme to greatly facilitate formation of these high-energy molecules,” Huang says.

The precision with which the bacterial enzymes do their work also allows the researchers to efficiently make the exact strained rings they want, with a precise configuration and in a single chiral form. Chirality is a property of molecules in which they can be “right-handed” or “left-handed,” with each form being the mirror image of the other. It matters because living things are selective about which “handedness” of a molecule they use or produce. For instance, all living things exclusively use the right-handed form of the sugar ribose (the backbone of DNA), and many chiral pharmaceutical chemicals are only effective in one handedness; in the other, they can be toxic.

Chiral forms of a molecule are difficult to separate from one another, but by changing the genetic code of the bacteria, the researchers can ensure the enzymes favor one chiral product over another. Mutation in the genes tuned the enzymes to forge a broad range of bicyclobutanes with high precision.

Kan says advancements like theirs are pushing chemistry in a greener direction.

“In the future, instead of building chemical plants for making the products we need to improve lives, wouldn’t it be great if we could just program bacteria to make what we want?” Kan says.

The paper, titled “Enzymatic Construction of Highly Strained Carbocycles,” appears in the April 5 issue of Science.