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Part of a Tribe

Is it possible to have a police dog testify in court?

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Just wondering!

We all have a feeling of wanting to belong. Psychologists call it wanting to be a member of a tribe. Restrepo and Korengal were two documentary movies based on platoons of American soldiers, who survived in war because of their desire to belong in their “tribe”.  So even war depends on belonging.

A group of lions is known as a “pride”, and a group of hogs is a “herd”. Geese in collection are a “gaggle,” and when in the air they are a “skein”. A gathering of foxes is referred to as a “skulk”, a gathering of quail is a “covey.” How about that? They all belong.

In Virginia, a civil jury consists of 7 people and and criminal jury consists of 12. In most states, juries are made up of 12 people. States such as Florida and Connecticut have experimented with 6 and 9 person juries.

No wording in the Constitution requires that a jury contain a specific number, to be considered a jury. Mathematicians have come up with formulas to figure out what is an acceptable amount of people on a jury, to make sure that there is justice. I have always speculated that the psychological principle of belonging can also impact the mathematics of what makes a fair amount of jurors. Just my speculation.

I guess that is why some states do not require a unanimous finding of all jurors, to determine a conviction. As a final note, there is a lot less at stake when considering what makes a quail belong to a covey!  Right?

This is one of those blogs that I could have written for a long time. Instead… just something to think about.

And for pic o’ day, this would give me no flying confidence!

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How About Some TV?

A gather around to get us started!

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For this Wednesday blog, I thought I would be The Program Director, in case you are looking for something to watch. I just finished Manhunt:Unabomber on Netflix. It was originally aired on the Discovery Channel and can also be purchased on Amazon, if you don’t have Netflix. (You can also watch on YouTube at a per-episode price)

I gave those details because it is one of those binge-watching kind of shows! The miniseries has 8 episodes that switch back and forth between 1995 and 1997, as the FBI attempts to track down the Unabomber.

The story revolves around Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald, who is the profiler that throws all else aside in his attempt to get in the mind of the person mailing bombs. It is based on real life events.

I was fascinated to learn about forensic linguistics and the uphill battle of law enforcement bureaucracy.  Does that sound like a movie review? I’m trying!

Even the cabin in Montana fascinated me. At the end, it made me grab my iPad and do more research on “where are they now?”.

And for our pic o’ day, I guess this would be called morning motivation:

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A Conspiracy Conspiracy?

First, let’s start with some fax humor… because you don’t see fax humor very often!

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During football watching on Sunday afternoon, multiple times a FedEx television commercial ran from a supposed Conspiracy Bookstore. The employees in the commercial were explaining their theories on a recent hike in online book sales. It wasn’t funny the first time. Not funny the 20th time; which might explain why you don’t remember it.

One of the employees credits galactic entities for buying all the books to conceal their alien secrets. The other worker credits FedEx because of their affordable deliveries. The FedEx guy just shrugs at the conspiracy theory.

By the way, do you buy into the conspiracy of Apple slowing down old phones with their constant updates? For several years, the Internet has been warning (as I use the Internet like a person identifier) that Apple keeps sending updates, to cause your old phone to slow down enough to irritate you and make you buy the new phone.

All I know is that I am tired of having constantly being asked by my phone and iPad whether I want to download my update now or at midnight. No is my answer. I was perfectly happy with my phone and iPad until your constant pestering. But I digress!

The real conspiracy that recently grabbed my attention (Reuters News)  relates to a pharmaceutical company. The New Jersey Attorney General has accused Insys Therapeutics  of engaging in a fraudulent scheme to boost the sales of their fentanyl-based cancer pain drug. Recently, Massachusetts announced a $500,000 settlement with Insys to resolve similar allegations.

The New Jersey attorney is claiming that the drug company had created a fraud scheme to encourage the prescriptions of a fentanyl-based pain medication, usually reserved for cancer patients. The intent was to get doctors to prescribe it broadly to many of their patients; not just those suffering great pain.

The New Jersey filed lawsuit alleges that Insys paid kickbacks to doctors, including sham speaker fees to induce them to prescribe the drug, defraud insurance companies into paying for it.

The lawsuit states that Insys’ greed put hundreds of lives in jeopardy and led to the 2016 overdose death of a New Jersey woman, who was prescribed a fentanyl-based medication to treat fibromyalgia. “The conduct alleged in our lawsuit is nothing short of evil,” Porrino said in a statement.

The NJ lawsuit was filed on the heels of the Massachusetts Attorney General Healy announcing that Insys would pay $500,000 to resolve similar allegations of schemes and kickbacks. (Doesn’t sound like much of a punishment. Right?) The political rhetoric would lead us to believe that this drug company is just plain evil and needs real punishment.

Fentanyl is a powerful and highly addictive drug with deadly consequences, yet this opioid maker aggressively marketed its product and made illegal payments to providers to boost sales,” Healey said in a statement.

Now that’s what I call a conspiracy. Just not one that really surprises me.

And finally for pic o’ day, here’s one from the past that always makes me laugh. Some explanation for that conspiracy?

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Thinking Through the Argument?

How about this for some Monday motivation?

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I have previously posted Thomas Jefferson’s Canons of Conduct, also known as Jefferson’s 10 Commandments. I always find something new in these, when I come back to reading them.

  1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
  2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
  3. Never spend your money before you have it.
  4. Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap: it will never be dear to you.
  5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.
  6. Never repent of having eaten too little.
  7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
  8. Don’t let the evils that have never happened cost you pain.
  9. Always take things by their smooth handle.
  10. When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, count to 100.

I enjoy each of these. But, let me focus this blog on #9.

There has been some debate about what Jefferson meant by “always take things by their smooth handle”. Beyond what Captain Obvious would say, many interpret it to relate to the way we should properly handle opposing opinion and disagreement.

Jefferson probably was taking the concept of how to resolve an argument from a saying originally credited to Greek Philosopher Epictetus; who said, “Everything has two handles, one by which it can be borne and another by which it cannot”.

Epictetus was born a slave, and was granted freedom upon the death of Roman Emperor, Nero. He is credited with many sayings and thinking related to self control. That self discipline helps us, if we are able to control our opinions, impulses, desires and aversions.

This is a blog that I am really writing to me. How to resolve conflict? A good reminder is… not to grab the sharp handle! It’s all in my control. As Epictetus put it, “We are all travelers at an inn“. We win or lose, based on the battle within those 4 inches above our neck.

And for pic o’ day, this really is some good camping humor!!

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Just Some of This and That

I almost ended yesterday’s blog with “Have a Great Weekend and Labor Day“. Then I decided… I will post a short blog for Friday of some random things. So thanks for playing along.  As they sometimes say at the end of a game show Put the rest on a gift certificate unless you would rather say I’d like to solve the puzzle, Pat.  I just hope you don’t start buying vowels!

We are just sending out our August Firm Email News. If you do not receive it in your email inbox and want to because you don’t want to miss the excitement (Yes, I am selling), you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

“Pumpernickel” was “invented” by Napoleon’s troops during the Napoleonic Wars. His men complained that they were often poorly fed despite the fact that Napoleon’s horse, Nicoll, always had bread. So, “pumpernickel” was coined—pain (bread) pour (for) Nicoll.

Here’s a random pic o’ for no reason:

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In the shaking-hands-department, J. Edgar Hoover would fire FBI agents whose palms were sweaty when he shook their hand, because he did not think they could handle pressure.

And here is proof that necessity is the mother of invention. John Van Wormer invented paper milk cartons after dropping a bottle of milk all over his floor. His annoyance brought us the milk carton.

 

And finally, I hope you have a great weekend and that you enjoy all the fruits of your labor on Labor Day!

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Experts Are More Wrong Than Right

There is an office fantasy football game called Football Survivor, that sounds so easy. Each player in the pool picks one NFL team each week. If that team wins, you advance to the next week. If your picked team loses, you are eliminated from the pool.

The only limitation on your pick is that you cannot pick the same team again, the rest of the season. For instance, if I picked the Colts in week one, I cannot pick them in any week thereafter.  So the basics of the game to survive, is to simply pick a winner. No point spreads involved. Doesn’t that sound easy? But, as they say in a 25 mph zone, not so fast!

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I have heard the advice to win Football Survivor Pool is to wait, and don’t wait. How about that advice! Unfortunately, help is everywhere but it doesn’t really help you. Which serves as the bridge to the real blog topic. Why Experts are more wrong than right. It’s why you can’t turn to ESPN and simply make football picks. But, this blog isn’t about sports; it’s truly about expert opinion that is usually wrong, and here is the scientific proof.

Philip Tetlock (Wikipedia) did a study with 284 political “experts” in the 1980’s, who made their living at being pundits and speaking their opinions. He asked them to make about a hundred predictions. The questions ranged from “Would George Bush be reelected?”and “Would the dot com bubble burst?”. By the end of his study, he had over 82,000 different predictions.  The study is summarized in the book Everything Is Obvious:* Once You Know the Answer. (here is an article titled Why Experts are Almost Always Wrong, summarizing the findings at Smithsonianmag.com)

After Tetlock tallied the answers, he compared their forecasts to the ultimate results. How did they do? They were right less than 33 percent of the time. A dart-throwing monkey would have randomly done better in predicting the answers!

Seriously? What was the reason for such a bad result by these experts?

It’s the psychological principle of certainty. Instead of following what their intellect was truly telling them, the experts made their responses conform to results that they wanted to find. In trial, jury consultants call it the trial story. Once a juror decides, then they basically receive evidence in a light that reaffirms their already formed opinion. It’s why it is real easy to think that someone who disagrees with us is being irrational and we are being reasonable.

How can this expert mistake be avoided? That’s where I get interested because there’s an example from history! It’s why Abraham Lincoln is considered one of our greatest presidents.

In Team of Rivals, historian Doris Kearns describes why Lincoln was so successful. He intentionally filled his cabinet with rival politicians, who regularly disagreed with him. Secretary of State William Steward was an anti-slavery crusader, while Attorney General Edward Bates was an avid and vocal slave owner.

Lincoln encouraged vigorous debate, instead of just pushing everyone to what he had already decided. A result of letting his cabinet argue? Lincoln was initially viewed as weak-willed and indecisive. Ultimately, William Steward would describe Lincoln as “The president is the best of us”. He would listen, consider and then arrive at his decision and not be deterred.

I remember reading a story about a General Motors board meeting, where former chairman of the board, Alfred Sloan, announced, “Gentlemen, I take it that we are all in agreement on the decision before us. I propose that we adjourn for further discussion of this matter until our next meeting, and allow time to develop disagreement among us“.

This may explain why so many political commentators and polls were wrong about Trump being elected President. Going into election night, it was assumed that we were all settling down for a Clinton landslide.

To summarize, here’s how Tetlock explained his years of research:

“Extensive research in a wide range of fields shows that many people not only fail to become outstandingly good at what they do, no matter how many years they spend doing it, they frequently don’t even get any better than they were when they started.

In field after field, when it came to centrally important skills—stockbrokers recommending stocks, parole officers predicting recidivism, college admissions officials judging applicants—people with lots of experience were no better at their jobs than those with very little experience.”

Thanks for sticking with me through this long blog! Just food for thought. And for pic o’ day:

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Water Salesmanship?

On Netflix, there is a series titled Scam City, where the host travels to some of the world’s most popular destinations, to expose scams being pulled on tourists. (more on the series here)

The host manages to work up the “ladder” in each of the countries to talk to various individuals, and find out why they are pulling these scams. It’s interesting to hear their explanations.

In Buenos Aires, counterfeit money is a real problem which includes many of the taxi drivers giving fake money as change to the tourists. The reason that everyone gives as to why it’s ok to hand out fake money is described as “not a scam, it’s a contradiction”.

When the host travels to Las Vegas, he sees the various “VIP scams” where individuals sell worthless VIP cards to get into dance clubs. Then, he interviews a card shark to learn tricks of card playing. The card shark describes his scamming as not really cheating. Instead he is actually just a card mechanic. The scamming is not really stealing, it’s just being crafty.

I saw an analogy in this series when I recently saw the lawsuit that was filed against Poland Springs in this article from BDN Maine titled Lawsuit claims Poland Spring a ‘colossal fraud,’ selling groundwater.

A pile of Poland Spring water bottles.
Pile of Poland Spring

According to the article, a group of bottled water drinkers has brought a class action lawsuit against Poland Spring, alleging that the Maine business has long deceived consumers by mislabeling common groundwater. The lawsuit was filed in a Connecticut Federal Court and claims that Nestle Waters North America Inc. has committed a “colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers.”

The lawsuit claims that the company is simply selling groundwater which cannot be called spring water and that its purification methods disqualify the water as meeting federal regulations as a spring water.

The company spokesman has responded that “the claims are without merit” and that “Poland Spring is 100% spring water”. The article is filled with allegations that payoffs have been basically made, which caused the Maine Drinking Water Program to approve many of the water permits to the company. The lawsuit claims that “not one drop” of Poland Spring bottled water is from a spring.

This always begs the questions, “Is bottled water safer than tap water?” and “Is tap water safe?”. To answer that question, I am attaching an article from bluelivingideas.com that is titled 21 Facts About Bottled Water, The Environment, & Human Health.

A quick summary of the article deals with the harms of all the plastic of bottled water. It goes on to recite that some brands are basically bottling tap water. And, we know that some tap water is safe and some is not. Which means that some bottled waters are safe… and some are not. Of course, none of the bottled water companies market their product as simply fresh tap water, because no one would buy it.

So what is the best bottled water to buy? Well, I am attaching one survey from bestreview.guides (here) that lists Fiji Spring water as #1. Curiously, Poland Spring Brand is #9.

This article (here) from reviews.com lists Resource Spring Water as #1 and Fiji Spring Water as #2.

I guess we should be reminded that the brand of Evian is really naive spelled backwards. Right? What are they saying to us?

I still don’t feel safe drinking out of the tap. I miss those days on the farm when it all felt safe and real!

And for pic o’ day, the totality of this just makes me laugh! Is the dog left-handed? Just wondering.

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More Eclipse

At the danger of causing you to not read this, I titled the blog More Eclipse because it feels like everywhere I turn, I see an article on the eclipse. Although, maybe we can’t get enough reminders that we can’t just walk outside today and look up at the sky  “and take it all in”.

Of course, it seemed thematic to include this picture of Stevie Wonder taking a picture of a wax figure Michael Jackson. When you are blind, it’s a good sense of humor to have your picture taken… taking a picture of a wax figure. Right? Just sayin’.

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So in keeping with that, here is an article from Apple News titled Here’s what happens if you look at the solar eclipse without glasses that starts out the first sentence with “In 1962, a teenager in Oregon named Lou Tomososki and a friend both made the mistake of looking directly at a partial solar eclipse without any protective eyewear.” I have to admit, this article and warning got my attention!

But on a lighter note about the eclipse, here is a story that truly happened last week in the Greenville County Courthouse, as forwarded to me by Angie in our South Carolina office. Apparently sent around by a local lawyer:

Best story of the Day. I was in General Sessions Court this morning and Judge Verdin was going through pleas. In the case before mine she asked the lady if she had adequate time to discuss her case with her attorney and she said “no”. The Judge paused and the lady said “I’m supposed to get 30 days in jail and this eclipse thing is a once in 100 years thing and I want to see it, I told my lawyer that and he said he wasn’t going to ask you about it”. Judge Verdin let her withdraw her plea so she could see the eclipse.

That’s all I want to write about the eclipse. Sometimes, it’s real easy to wonder if all the warnings are real… but apparently they are.

Speaking of real….

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The Heaviness of Loneliness

We all know that obesity is a problem. Now, we’re told that just sitting and working at a desk is much like smoking for your health. But from Telegraph.com comes another “health issue”. The article is titled Loneliness is Deadlier than Obesity.

Researchers in more than 200 studies evaluated the health effects of social isolation and loneliness. The studies evaluated four million people.

Their findings connect loneliness to length of life. The primary finding: lonely people had a 50% increased risk of early death, compared to those who had relationships. As a comparison, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30%.

Lead researcher, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, Utah, advises that the study shows that people should be preparing for retirement socially, just as they prepare financially. For most, the workplace is their biggest source of companionship. I think that’s a great response to those who think that people that are injured on the job, don’t want to get back to work.

According to Holt-Lunstad, “Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need—crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment. As she notedYet an increasing portion of the population now experiences isolation regularly.”

Campaign To End Loneliness states that 17 per cent of the elderly see friends, family and neighbors less than once a week, while one in 10 may see more that one month pass without seeing any loved ones.

There was a time that people would walk next door to get a cup-of sugar and spend some time on the neighbors porch. (At least you see that in the movies, right?)  Now, Facebook, email, Instagram and other methods on the Internet have become the preferred way of staying in touch. Just a thought of our reality.

Some ways in combating loneliness include making a habit of helping others and staying connected. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that “For a man to have friends, he must show himself friendly“. (Be Friendly)

Unfortunately, I see some clients who are hurting and isolated and don’t feel like connecting with others. Emotional trauma from a car crash can ultimately lead to isolation. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean loneliness. I think that loneliness really comes from not feeling valued by someone else.

On a positive ending, it’s a great feeling to feel connected!

And for pic o’ day, two great expressions that made me laugh:

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And

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Optimism Bias

PilotOnline and U.S. News bring us one of those stories that just grips you in a very sad way. Not normally what I would write about on a Friday, but it is thought-provoking.

Last Friday, Rebekah and Austin Wesson left the courthouse in Wichita, Kansas after just getting married. The 19-year-old newlyweds could not stop smiling.

“I’m Mrs. Wesson,” Rebekah Wesson kept saying. Here is a picture of the couple that shows their happiness and hope of a wonderful future together:

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On Saturday, one day after becoming husband and wife, the Wessons crashed into a tree. The pickup truck that they were riding in went off a dirt road. Austin Wesson, the driver, died at the scene. Rebekah Wesson died on Monday. Now their families are planning a funeral instead of checking Facebook to see their smiling faces on their honeymoon.

For some reason, while reading the article, I can’t help but keep looking at their picture. It causes me to ask myself, “what were they thinking in this picture”. I also think about how sad this is.

But here is the point of this blog. It’s what psychologists say that many of us do when we see bad news or bad things that happen to other people. This couldn’t happen to me!

At least that’s what psychologists tell us. It’s called optimism bias. The thought that “it won’t happen to me”. It’s why insurance companies never advertise how fast they pay. Airlines typically don’t advertise their safety record. Instead, it’s all about pricing.

It is the psychological principle that causes a person to believe that they are at a lesser risk of experiencing a bad event, as compared to others.

This blog isn’t counter to the power of prayer or the will of God. Instead, looking at this happy couple is a good reminder that bad things do happen. In the meantime, it’s up to us to exercise good behavior habits. It’s why a person might smoke. Or, why someone might be obese and continue to eat mass quantities.

It’s hard to alter bad behavior and eliminate risk. It goes against the optimism bias. The converse is reality. I remember when I sold Harley-Davidson motorcycles to put myself through law school. Invariably, I would hand the keys and paperwork to a new buyer and comment that I knew they would ride safely… but be careful of other drivers. No optimism can change negligence of someone else!

 

After that blog… I feel like I need something to pick us up a bit. So, here’s a pic o’ that makes me smile. I hope you have a great weekend!

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