The Power of a Good Lie: Kitty Litter for Trans Kid

On a recent trip, we found ourselves chatting with a retired principal in West Virginia. At some point, he told us how nuts things were getting. 30 miles away from him, in Louisberg West Virginia, there was a school where they had actually put out a tub of kitty litter to accomodate a six year old boy identifying as a kitty cat.

This story is not true. It has been debunked many times. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). It’s not hard to determine the truth, as there is zero primary evidence that it ever happened or ever would. But, ya know, it really does sound true. There’s a lot of nuttiness in the world. There are over 130,000 K-12 schools in the USA, odds are good that a few of them are going to have some crazy policies. This sound like just the kind of thing you could see some super liberal progressive school enacting. These are the best kinds of lies. Plausible. Just plausible enough to be passed along by those who like the story so much they don’t want to look further.

he Everyone falls for these occasionally. We all want to think we’re smarter than the average bear, but the victims of scams fall equally across every group – political, cultural, socio-economic, and yes educational also, all of it. Heck, the theme of this whole dumb blog is critical thinking, yet I once blithely posted a link asserting John Kerry voters had higher IQs than G.W. Bush voters. (It’s not true.) This ex-principal had fallen for this lie, even though knows the system better than most, and could have found out the truth just by calling around his network. But he didn’t want to.

It’s very hard to fight untruths like this. It doesn’t take much research to see it’s a lie, but it does take some. Some time is more time than most of us want to take. Changing minds is hard.

I simply told the man that although there is a lot of crazy going on around gender, schools, and trans I believed this particular story was a hoax, and he should check it out for himself. “Ignorance fought,” I thought to myself.

The next morning, I mentioned this to my 15-year old daughter, who confidently informed me that it was absolutely true, for sure it happened.

You really can’t win at this game.

Dear Marc Thiessen, Crimes Aren’t Mistakes

Marc Thiessen has a very strange editorial in the Washington Post. The basic thesis is Democrats have politicized and weaponized the Department of Justice in the Trump indictments. But, to be fair (says Thiessen), Trump has made some mistakes that allowed that to happen. Though the prosecutions are obviously unfair, he made some tactical errors in allowing himself to be railroaded.

It’s a good angle. It’s an interesting approach to assigning blame. Let’s dig in, shall we? Here are those mistakes:

Mistake No. 1: Imagine how different things would be today if, after exhausting his legal challenges to the 2020 election, Trump had presided over a smooth transition. Imagine if, even without conceding he lost, he invited Joe Biden to the White House as Barack Obama had invited Trump, attended Biden’s inauguration and left office graciously — with a MacArthur-esque farewell address promising that he would return in four years’ time. There would have been no “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, no Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and no second impeachment.

In this alternate reality, Trump doesn’t act outside the legal system to challenge the election results. That is in contrast to reality – where he did the crime of trying to overturn the election.

Mistake No. 2: Instead of contesting certified election results accepted by Georgia’s popular Republican governor, Brian Kemp, Trump should have focused his attention on turning out his loyal base in Georgia to save the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate by winning the two runoff elections. He could have left office with a major political victory under his belt and momentum toward a 2024 run — and would have been able to take credit for a GOP Senate reining in the Biden administration. Instead, his false fraud claims depressed GOP turnout, handed Senate control to the Democrats and enabled President Biden to ram through trillions in new spending with Democratic votes alone, which helped unleash the worst inflation in four decades.

In this alternate reality, Trump doesn’t contest the results in Georgia. That is in contrast to reality – where he did criminally try to change the legitimate results.

Mistake No. 3: When it was discovered that he had taken highly classified materials to Mar-a-Lago, Trump could have cooperated and handed over the documents, rather than reportedly ordering aides to hide documents and delete security footage.

In this alternate reality, Trump gives back the classified documents when asked. That is in contrast to reality – where he criminally refused to give them back and criminally tried to cover it all up.

Mistake No. 4: Instead of spending the past three years railing against the “rigged election” (a claim that 70 percent of Americans reject), Trump should have focused on Biden’s failings in office. Trump should have contrasted Biden’s disastrous policies with his many successes, and reminded the record 56 percent of voters who told Gallup just before Election Day 2020 that they were better off under Trump than they had been four years earlier how good they had it when he was in office. Imagine if his message had been “Miss me yet?” instead of “I am your retribution.”

In this alternate reality, Trump does normal political things. That is in contrast to reality – where his obsession with the election dragged down the whole party. But at least this isn’t an actual crime!

Mistake No. 5: Rather than saddling the GOP with midterm candidates whose main or only qualification was parroting his election denial, Trump could have backed electable candidates and used his $100 million-plus war chest to help Republicans take back the Senate and win an overwhelming House majority in 2022 — thus getting credit for propelling the GOP back into power on Capitol Hill.

In this alternate reality, Trump supports the party. That is in contrast to reality – where he continued to focus on his own self-interests above party or country. But at least this isn’t an actual crime!

Most of the five mistakes aren’t mistakes. They are the crime.

Let’s say I get pulled over by a policeman. And when he comes over I mouth off, call him a pig, yell how my taxes pay his salary, aren’t there murders to be solved etc. That’s a mistake. That policeman is now looking for anything they can get on me, he’s going to make sure I suffer. Through my own stupidity, I gave this policeman an opening to exploit his lack of from neutrality and I’m gonna pay for it. That’s the image Thiessen would like you to have in mind. But that’s not the right analogy.

Let’s say I am robbing a bank, and a policeman catches me and questions me. Next thing I know I’m being arrested and facing twenty years in prison. My mistake wasn’t that I said the wrong thing to the policeman. My mistake wasn’t focusing more on different investment options. My “mistake” was doing the actual crime! That’s not a mistake, that’s just being a criminal! The policeman is focused on me because I did crimes!

That’s why Trump has been indicted, for doing crimes. That’s not politicizing or weaponizing, that’s justice.

2023 Muttroxia Predictions: Mid-year Report

In the beginning of 2023, I published several predictions about the year. Let’s see how we’re doing. Sorry about the numbering.

  • Biden officially announces his re-election campaign (90%):


  • Donald Trump doesn’t spend any time in jail, house arrest etc. He lives the year free. (90%):

Yes. It’s likely that none of the pending cases will be finished with trials.

  • Congress passes no significant legislation about immigration (90%):


  • Muttroxia will not have any months with over ten posts after January. (80%):

Yes. Sigh.

  • The NBA MVP will be Jokic or Giannis (80%) if the Celtics don’t win the championship. Luka, you don’t make your bad team any better and no one likes you. Hard to win an MVP that way. As good as Taytum is, if he doesn’t win the banner, all his stats will be discounted (“He just had a better team”).

    No, the MVP was Embid. However, after the finals, Jokic is generally accepted as the best player in the league. I think this just points to the stupidity of handing out awards before the season is over.
  • Donald Trump doesn’t have any final civil judgements found against him personally (that is, no fines or consequences) (70%)

No. Trump was found guilty in the sexual abuse of E Jean Carroll. He is appealing, so technically the prediction is still true (I said “final”), but the spirit of the prediction was clearly wrong.

  • Inflation is below 4% by the end of 2023 (70%)

Probably true. Right now it is 4.05% and has trending down every month.

No. It declined sharply through then end of 2022, and has stayed around $3.60 the whole year.

  • The Justice Department does not charge Donald Trump personally for anything related to Jan 6th. (70%)


  • Celtics make it to the Eastern Conference finals (70%) (Yes, I’m keeping this low, there are a lot of good teams in the East. Things go wrong, winning is hard.)

Glad I lowballed this! Yes, the Celtics went to the Eastern Conference Finals and choked to the Heat.

  • Electric car sales top 10% in the USA. (70%) They are currently at 6%, this would be almost a doubling of share in one year.

Q1 was 7%. We’ll see.

  • UGA will repeat as college football champs. (Sorry Michigan, I gotta call ’em like I see ’em.) (60%)

Yep. Go Dawgs!

  • With abortion policy at the state level, there will be some further degradation, but generally there won’t be a massive rollback of abortion rights. (60%, but don’t know how to measure this.)

On balance, I’ll call this a no. It might not have been as bad as feared, but it’s been bad enough.

  • Joe Biden is not impeached (The House does not formally approve and bring impeachment charges to the Senate.) (60%)

Yes. I think this’ll stick.

  • By the end of 2023, I’ll forgot I made this post and need a reminder (80%).

No. Been looking forward to this one.

Final interim score: 9/15, or 60%. That seems pretty good.

Why Does Trump Want These Documents So Bad Anyhow?

Having read the entire indictment, I am still left with the biggest mystery in the whole Trump and the classified documents. Why did he want them? What is in them that he wants to hold onto?

In the early stages, it could have just been a mistake. Trump is impetuous. Trump is stubborn. Trump is unwilling to show weakness to his perceived enemies. But it is more than that.

The evidence shows that he put great effort into holding on to the docs, or at least certain parts of it. He moved files around. He moved them around again. He removed parts of files (or considered it). And he had been informed many times along the way. He knew the stakes, knew that there was a good chance he would be in serious trouble for this.Trumps actions are not those of someone being careless.

Most damning, “TRUMP indicated that he wanted to be at The Mar-a-Lago Club when Trump Attorney 1 returned to review his boxes on June 2, and that TRUMP would change his summer plans to do so.”

Donald Trump is not a guy to change his vacation or travel plans lightly. As President he put less hours into the job than any President in modern history and prioritized golf over most business. There is no way he would have changed his plans unless it was important. Unfathomable.

So what did he want these boxes for? At multiple points he could have shrugged his shoulders, things happen, and given them back and no one would have gotten too upset about it (like Biden and Pence and others have done). Why was it so important for him to try and pull a fast one rather than just give them back? I don’t believe he was planning to sell them, give them away, or do anything to directly betray the country. For memoirs? To remove incriminating evidence from the record (but I assume there are more copies of these)? To show that some of his opponents did things just as bad? I am truly puzzled.

George Winston, R.I.P.

I distinctly remember the first time I heard George Winston. Working on Folio (the school annual arts magazine) at Howard Shen’s house, someone put on a cassette tape of Autumn. It was distracting enough that I stopped working. It had been a long day, I might have even drifted off. I asked who this pianist was and got the tape the next day. That was almost 40 years ago, and the songs from Autumn have remained in my every daymix ever since. I saw him live twice and he was just as good in person.

George was a real master. He could make simple themes ring out. His sense of dynamics and volume was superb. And he understood how to bring the best kind of reverb and tone from his instrument.

In my mind, there’s no better place to appreciate his music than with Autumn. And there’s no better track than the very first one: Colors/Dance. Put aside ten minutes and dive into this beautiful song.

Democrats on the Debt Ceiling: Your Problem, GOP

Three weeks ago, I wrote this:

This will not go well for anyone. The GOP will not fund the government or raise the debt-ceiling without concessions from Biden and the Democrats. The Republicans can’t seem to make policy when they are in charge, instead they wait until they are in the minority then put a gun to the head of the Democrats. The problem for them is, they lose every time. The country saw enough of this under Clinton and Obama. The Democrats will not give an inch, they will offer zero concessions, and dare the GOP to shut the country down. Which the GOP will, then they will eventually fold, and we will back where we started, but with yet more damage done.

It was an easy prediction to make, and it has come true. The White House and the Democratic Party has been explicit. They aren’t offering any concessions, they aren’t just holding to a hard position. They are refusing to even negotiate entirely.

And indeed, the GOP will fold. Their position is obviously wrong on the merits, hypocritical, nonsensical, and unconstitutional. But given that none of those things matter much to the crazy wing of the GOP pushing this, it is more important that it is a political loser. The consequences of shutting down the government will be large, they will get bigger, and they will be visible to ordinary citizens. Struggle as they will, the GOP will be unable to pin any blame for the consequences on the Democrats.

The questions remaining are:

  • How much pain and damage will be caused before the GOP folds?
  • Will the White House even try particularly hard to mitigate the pain and damage, or will they simply let the consequences unfold.
  • How will the GOP spin the narrative when they lose? What ridiculously untrue story will they tell?
  • Will this humiliating loss finally teach the GOP their lesson, and stop them from doing it again?

Muttrox Goes to England: Travel and Leftovers

I love double decker buses. I love the subways, trains, and buses are well integrated and they all run very frequently. Public transport is easy and quickly fades to the background.

The subway (tube) has frequent exhortations to “Please mind the gap!” What a wonderfully polite way to remind people not to fall in between the tracks and train. That is the t-shirt I never got around to buying. Please mind the gap. Delightfully English.

At last we saw the true source of the wealth of the House of Tyrrell. (The reference is out of date, but you can’t pass up a chance to post a picture of Margaery Tyrell.

Bourtons town sign: Wonderful engraving. From my angle, I first thought it was a coincidental color match.

We stayed in the Shepards Bush area. I was excited. This is where The Who grew up and started out. Our first taxi driver shared stories of seeing them in the old days with his father. Shepards Bush was the starting point for The Who, The Clash, Bush, The Sex Pistols. Does it have the highest rock and roll per capita of any area? (I guess not. Coventry, Newcastle, and Cardiff all have it beat.)

We were traveling with two young boys, one of whom is incredibly active and needs constant activity. After ten hours on a plane we needed to burn calories, and hiked fifteen minutes through the airport to find the play area. We couldn’t find it. We walked past it twice. I’ve helpfully circled the play area in the picture below. That’s the play area — just pathetic.

We had a fantastic time in England. So let’s end on a good note. The reason we were in England in the first place? Our oldest boy was in a boys choir and they were the choir-in-residence at St. Pauls for a week. They performed every day for the evening prayers. They were incredible, and our boy and his solo brought water to the eye most nights. They also toured the country, sight seeing and signing. After one show an old woman hobbled up to my boy. She suffered from severe arthritis. The music was so wonderful that she was pain free for the first time in years and walking without help. Top that, my boy heals the sick!

Bad Calorie Math at the Costco

What’s wrong with this sign?

There are two mysteries about the numbers on this sign. It’s very odd that the cheese pizza has more calories than the pepperoni. Do pepperoni slices have negative calories? Could those numbers reflect reality? Well, yes, they could. The pepperoni pizza could have less cheese in it. It’s not a topping on a cheese pizza, it’s a replacement for cheese in the cheese pizza. (Darn it, I’m not the first to notice this! Reddit was all over it.)

The bigger mystery is the ratios. The calories in a cheese pizza are are exactly six time the calories in a cheese slice. Presumably the pizza is cut into sixths to make individual slices. That matches common sense, so far so good. But the calories for pepperoni pizza are not in that ratio, the pizza is only 5.969 as caloric as an individual slice. The pizza is being cut into 5.969 slices? That doesn’t make sense, the ratio should be a nice whole number (and divisible by two). And the ratio should be the same for both options, they wouldn’t cut cheese pizzas differently than pepperoni.

Could this be a rounding error? 650 calories for one slice times six slices would equal 3,900 calories for the whole pizza. That would be an even easier number to display and understand. But if you go the other way, the likely story reveals itself. 3,880 calories (as displayed) divided by six slices is 646.66 calories. If you round that the nearest ten-calories, you get the 650 that is displayed on the sign.

It still doesn’t seem correct though. Under the rounding hypothesis, they measured the entire pie, wrote that down, and the divided it by six to get the individual slice number. If this is true though, then we need to accept that the cheese pizza just happened to be a perfect multiple of six, while also being a nice round number. That is possible, but. We conclude it is unlikely that the same calculation method was done for both the cheese and pepperoni. The numbers reveal a likely inconsistency in methodology.

You may be wondering how precise these numbers need to be? (You are more likely wondering what the hell is wrong with my brain that I’ve spent this much effort noticing and thinking through the inconsistencies. I can’t help it. Yes, I noticed the math discrepancies while waiting in line. Just wired that way.) It turns out the FDA accepts a 20% margin of error in calorie counting. Twenty percent! That’s a lot! It’s probably safe to say that almost every displayed calorie count you have ever seen has been understated by close to 20%, as close as the manufacturer can make it. That margin of error seems crazy high to me, particularly for mass produced foods that are made and packaged through a consistent manufacturing process.

As applied here, twenty percent means that Costco could have very easily kept all these ratios consistent. The simplest approach would have been to display the pepperoni pizza at 3,900 calories and each slice at 650. The numbers are nice and round and the ratios stay consistent. They did not. Why not? Because someone over there doesn’t understand math and how to use numbers to convey information.

My Latest Favorite Song #30: Johnny Cash- When the Man Comes Around

The Man in Black, underrepresented on Muttroxia!

This track is not a typical song from his career. This is a remake from late in his life, the title track of American IV. I’m not sure it’s his best. But it’s a good one, I like it enough, and that’s good enough.

For all you beginning guitarists out there, this is an easy one to learn. All beginner chords.

Muttrox Goes to England: Trash

This trash can has a specially built area to dispose of cigarettes. While leaning on it and yakking on her cel phone, a young banker actually threw her lit cigarette on the ground next to it. Wow. That may be the worst person in the world.

True grit.

Why would I post a picture of a condom vending machine from the loo? Because the red caution circle says, “CAUTION: May enliven sexual vigour”. That’s the whole point! Aspirin warning: May cure headaches. Cars warning: May transport you safely to a distant location at great speed in comfort.