Friday, January 19, 2018

The Creepy Part of the Health Insurance Issue

I am going to discuss today an example of an actual person and their health case, although I'm changing the name and an irrelevant fact or two.  What I have to stress is that this is not about that person, or her situation, as much as the extent to which she is representative of a larger issue.  There are lots of "Marys" around, and the fact that there are is the real topic.

Mary is not her real name, of course.  She is about 70, and a sort of "relative by marriage and then by marriage", so I know her somewhat.  She lives with her widowed sister, and has a room in the sister's house -- when she is not in a hospital.

Mary is, for all intents and purposes, dying, and there is no point waffling that fact.  She has suffered all her life from Crohn's disease, a chronic intestinal disorder, and a life of smoking (which she still does, when not in the hospital), has severely weakened her heart and lungs.  And she has severely damaged kidneys, which are in turn weakening all her vital organs in a downward spiral.

Again -- this is not about her, but the facts are somewhat relevant.

Her life consists of a series of health crises, when her vital signs go sufficiently out of whack to where she faints or otherwise needs to be hospitalized.  She will be there for 7-10 days until the doctors can stabilize her, after which she comes home to her sister's house ... until the next crisis, a week or so later.  A week in the hospital, ten days home -- the cycle simply repeats.

Mary is on Medicare, supplemented by a pension-based Medicare supplement, so the part she pays is mostly covered.  But that doesn't mean her care is free.

All those trips to the hospital, sometimes in an ambulance, all those weeks in the hospital, the care there, the doctors checking in -- all of that costs money, and the hospital charges are paid, in Mary's case, by the insurance company.  Medicare has truly no options here; her illnesses are quite real and common, so her treatment is normal and necessary.  They do not challenge the necessity of the treatment, as none of it is out of the ordinary.

The bills that Medicare pays, however, are gargantuan.  I don't have to throw numbers at you even if I knew them, which I don't; clearly a week in the hospital is tens of thousands of dollars, and someone is paying -- in her case, the taxpayer (through Medicare) and the supplemental insurance company for a modest percentage of it.

The point I want to make here is that Mary is dying.  I have a little medical background, enough to be dangerous, and I would expect that with the kidney failure going on, the secondary impact on other organs (particularly her smoke-damaged lungs and heart) will lead to death in less than a year.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of dollars will be paid out by Medicare to sustain someone who has little quality of life, and no prospect for that improving in her remaining time.  Taxpayers will pay taxes, which fund Medicare, which pays the hospital, which pays the medical staff and suppliers of the drugs and consumables, who pay their employees and suppliers.  Lots of transactions result from her care.

There are literally thousands of Marys in the USA as I write this.  Our national morality is a Judeo-Christian one, that we will make no moral decision on the quality of their life, and we will (through Medicare) continue to pay for sustaining treatment, rather than withholding it, until the patient or the family stop medical treatment and revert to palliative care.

I agree, as a Christian, an American and a human being.  There is no alternative for us.  People die, and for the most part it is a slow process requiring more care as it progresses.

But this is what the Obamacare people broke the seal on when they raised the issue of "death panels" (and quickly retreated) and apportioning care.  Health care as practiced in the USA is expensive, driven up by a tort-insurance crisis no one will touch, and it is not appreciably cheaper in the civilized world for the same level of care.

The leaking of the death-panel narrative tells us that the more socialist nations of the otherwise-free world -- Canada, the Scandinavian nations -- are having to look at actually deciding who gets care and who doesn't.  If it isn't pretty now, it surely is going to get uglier soon, at least when the word gets out.

There are many, many Marys in the USA right now, and the cost of sustaining them is astronomical.  Our Christian generosity and morality has a price.  What it may come to is that the USA distinguishes ourselves from the socialists, in that we remain willing to share the costs of that care and not withhold it -- or even discuss withholding it.  And we will not turn that decision over to unelected people.

In that, we will be a purer, if poorer, place.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Struggling WITH, Not ON, Minimum Wage

My best girl is a lovely lady, but sometimes she will see something on the news that trips her trigger a bit.  It is then that we discover that people see and hear the news differently, and that even the closest of couples can find ourselves debating but not actually taking opposing sides -- we're advocating different subtopics.

This came up when one state or other -- Maryland, maybe -- was cited as having a plan to raise its minimum wage to a very high number, maybe $15.00 an hour.  That, of course, is twice the Federal minimum wage, and she brought up the whole topic of varying the minimum wage across the country based on standards and cost of living, and how no number that applied to Los Angeles made sense in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

That got me thinking -- too fast, for the discussion we were having -- about the different facets of the minimum wage debate.  Should there be a minimum wage at all?  Should it be only a state thing and not a Federal one?  What should one be based on?

That was too much for a simple spousal discussion, and I decided it needed more contemplation than really made sense, so I went to get a cup of coffee and slunk back into my office to work.

I start from what I believe to be a truthful concept: understand the problem before you try to solve it.  I think that is actually why we have so much antagonism, because different people are using the minimum wage to solve different problems, and its effectiveness can only be measured against the problem you think it is supposed to fix.

So I start with a USA in which there is no minimum wage at all, and where wages move to a pure supply-and-demand curve, based only the availability of labor in each market, at each level and skill set, and on the need for that labor by what I will call "industry" (by which I choose to refer to all employers, collectively).  In other words, the situation if we were to delete all minimum wage laws today.

What would happen?  We would likely have some $3.00-7.00/hour jobs created, low-end work, internships where the experience is more important than the money, summer jobs for kids, invented jobs to keep young people working and pay them a little -- some of which jobs would not exist save for there being no minimum wage.  The pay curve from $15.00/hour on down would evolve into something smooth.

That, of course, is why I innately oppose minimum-wage laws.  I believe that the demand for labor, and the supply of adequately skilled and competent labor, together produce a "value" that industry determines.  Industry will pay as little as it can, altruism aside, for that labor, but that also means that it will also pay more than its competitor for competent, trained and skilled labor that has more value.

To me, the problem is overly-regulated valuation of labor, forcing a price that industry has to pay that is higher than its value.  That results in industry charging more (inflation), adapting by using fewer people and, as we have seen when minimum wages are too high, higher unemployment.  The first solution to the problem that I see, is to remove the laws.

To others, they see what I do not see -- a connection between the needs of the employer and the needs of the employee.  The needs of the employee are of no innate interest to the employer insofar as we are defining the value of the employee's effort.  Of course, the happiness of the employee, the value of their experience and contentment with their environment produce better productivity; we know and factor that in.  But if the employee wants a new car, there is no basic change to the value of that employee that would oblige the employer to raise his wages accordingly.

A minimum wage, then, rationalized by the needs of the employee (the notion of a "living wage"), does not make sense.  It is imposing a cost on top of labor that is created by factors independent of the value that the employee brings to the table by virtue of his ability.

But let us even accept that a minimum wage exists and will be with us, and is now factored into the fabric of employment costs.  Then, a Federal minimum wage makes no sense at all, as long as the states pass their own laws in that regard.

I say that comfortably.  If a minimum wage exists because of a response to the perceived needs of the employee, it should be set at a level that represents those costs.  In other words, if it should be affected by the  cost of living, well, costs of living are substantially different depending on where you live.

So if the USA then passed a Federal minimum wage law, or reset the current one, even though I believe it is wrong-headed to do so, it should be set based on the economic needs in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the least-expensive city in the USA to live, not in Los Angeles or New York, and not in some "average-cost" community.  To do otherwise is to subsidize the economy of the expensive cities at the expense of jobs in Fort Wayne, right?

States can do whatever they want, of course, and should.  They are locally responsive, and Constitutionally allowed to address the needs of their citizens.  For them to implement economic absurdities like a $15.00/hour minimum wage, is to have to deal with the impact of that decision, and then have to respond to the citizenry of that state when companies flee (as they have in California already), taking jobs with them.

I do wish this discussion could be had rationally, but we will not readily come to agreement about whether employee needs should be mandated into law, as far as having impact on the demand curve for labor.  I do not want to see employees abused or taken advantage of, but I also want everyone to work to be able to prepare for a job they can do, and find a location where they can live on what they can make -- there.

The missus and I, business owners both more than once,  will surely have more to chat about there.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Trump Bump and the Obama Creep

We awoke yesterday to find that the pre-opening projection for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was a bit over 26,000, a number that the Dow had never reached, and which was more than 200 points higher than the Friday close, the last time the markets were open.

As I wrote this, with the markets still open yesterday, the Dow was at 26,060 and well over 250 points higher than that previous close (it closed back under 26,000 but still near the record, and this morning it is projected up another 100 points).

The Dow being only an index of a few dozen companies, it makes sense to note that the rest of the securities in American companies were increasing in value as well.  U.S. equities have increased well over five trillion dollars in value since the inauguration of Donald Trump less than a year ago, and well over seven trillion since his election.

That means, of course, that Americans' savings that were invested in mutual funds, and shares of American companies have soared.  Ask the person on the street who has a 401(k) how their values have changed since the 2016 election, and you will likely get a smile and an upraised thumb.

Of course, if we are to mention the extraordinary rise in the stock market in the last year under President Trump, the smug worshipers of our previous president will rush to point out that there was also a rise in the market under Barack Obama, from 8,800 in November 2008 when he was elected, to 19,100 in November 2016, shortly before the election of President Trump.  "Why shouldn't Obama get credit for the rise in the Dow over his administration, yeah, huh?"

Well, that's a good question, but to be honest, I answered that already.  Several years ago, I wrote a piece on that odd phenomenon.  You are highly encouraged to read it, but to be rather summary about it, I made the point that the rise in the market was not only slow but not really related to corporate performance.

The "slow" part is relevant; in fact the performance of the Dow in the year before Obama was elected is relevant -- a 4,500-point drop from 13,300.  It is relevant, because the economy as represented by the Dow had a year previously shown a certain level reflecting the innate level of strength of the companies (and the environment) as constituted then.  One could argue that half of the gain in the Dow over the eight years of the Obama administration was simply the natural, cyclical recovery of value already established.

On the other hand, President Trump was elected at a point where the Dow was already near its all-time high, and the economy had already established values for those companies, relative to the legal and regulatory environment in which they operated.  The 7,000-point gain in Mr. Trump's first year of office is amazing not only because it was done in a single year, but because virtually all of it entails values never before achieved in the market.

And that is critical in distinguishing the long-term, creeping rise in the Dow under Obama from the current, rocket-fuel blast in the market.  As I wrote in the referenced article, and which was its fundamental point, the Dow under Obama rose because there was no other place for investment capital.  Interest rates were essentially zero, meaning that the only moderate-risk growth instrument available to beat inflation was the stock market.  Demand for savings accounts was nil, demand shifted to equities, and their price went up based on demand -- not so much on the fundamental strength of the underlying companies.

And that growth under Obama was slow because there was little capital around due to the burdensome tax policy of his administration.

Now the companies in that time had, actually, increased that strength some, but not because Obama wanted them stronger.  The over-regulating nanny-state types in his Cabinet had made, among other things, hiring employees so expensive, from Obamacare to quotas, that it became cheaper to automate, to robotize, and to hire fewer, smarter and harder-working people.  Fewer, better employees meant lower expenses and thus better performance.

The economy inherited by President Trump thus started out in a place of retrenchment and, thus, solidity driven by a need for survival.  As soon as it came to understand that the Trump Administration would take the position that regulations needed to be removed far more than imposed, and that a massive tax overhaul was in the offing, industry felt freer to invest -- and investors felt that demand would rise and, therefore, the innate value of the companies would rise in parallel.

To summarize -- the $7 trillion in new value in the market is specifically the result of the economy's assessment of the value of industry, that with massively lower taxes, significant deregulation and the attendant hiring that would be necessary to sustain it, the true value of the nation's companies would indeed rise.

There is a lot of difference between stock prices going up by default, as they did for eight years, and going up because the economy is roaring and the demand curve is hugely and unprecedentedly positive.

I'll take the outcome of this administration's efforts, thanks.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Maybe We Don't WANT More Norwegians!

We're having just a jolly time watching the news lately, between the dummy working for the State of Hawaii who actually triggered a false alarm for an incoming ballistic missile, and the allegation that President Trump referred to certain countries as, well, you know; you've seen the pictures.

It did not take five minutes after the erroneous alert, for morons on the left somehow to blame President Trump for the missile alert, even though it was a state system, not a Federal one.  Even one of their (Hawaii's) congresswomen did that, and you'd think she would know better (... or did she!).

But because blaming the president for the Hawaii alert was pretty stupid to start with, the media and the left (but I repeat myself) turned quickly to statements the president is supposed to have made in a private meeting with a few senators, called to try to reach agreement on an immigration deal that would include protection for people, mostly now adults, brought into the USA as children and who grew up here.

Now, this profanity was leaked by Dick Durbin, the Democrat senator from Illinois, who has a reputation for leaking meeting quotes that were not true, so we won't really know what exactly was said.  And I won't even get into the notion that the quote, which you of course have heard, referred to the countries themselves (i.e., their government and living conditions), not the people themselves.

But what the media are excited about, now, is that there is a way that they can try to characterize the president as a racist.  That's because he was quoted as allegedly asking why we were taking in people from miserable countries like Haiti, and not more from countries like Norway.  The "Norway" reference was, of course, on his mind because (A) we don't take many people from Norway, a civilized country with a stable government, and (B) he had just met with the Norwegian prime minister, so Norway was on his mind.

Let's face it, the point that the president would have been trying to make, if indeed he said something like that, is that our immigration system seems heavily tilted toward what's good for the immigrant and not for our country.  In other words, rather than letting more people in who can add to the USA based on their skills, abilities and training, our system slants toward our being a salvation for people in poverty who would come and be dependent -- while we're $21 trillion in debt.

The problem, of course, is that between the lottery system and the chain migration model, the available slots are crowded by the unskilled and uneducated -- and the problems that other nations want to dump on us, and do so through the "lottery" system.

But let's take President Trump's view for the moment.  He is not, of course, a racist, and would be perfectly happy with a system that took in civil engineers from Haiti rather than street people, no matter what color they were.  That's whether they worked here for ten years and took their improved skills back to Haiti -- or stayed.

The point is that he wants the decision as to who comes here to be based on what they can do for this country, a rather JFKesque reminiscence.  So bringing in people who want to be here, because they have a skill that they can bring here to offer the USA, well, that's a good thing, better than coming in and asking "what the country can do for them."

But Norway ... is that the model he, or anyone else, should use?  After all, Norway is a socialist, welfare-state model that owes its economic existence less to its government-driven collective bargaining and socialized medicine, than to the native work ethic of the Scandinavian.  This is borne out by contrasting the standard of living of Norwegians, which studies have done, with Norwegian-Americans (hint: the Norwegian-Americans come out a lot better, and if Norway didn't have a ton of oil, their people would come out a lot worse, as do Swedes and Finns vs. their American cousins).

So given the immigration of a Haitian civil engineer or a Norwegian one, well, which one would we want?  The Haitian can go to work pretty quickly, as long as he or she can speak English (or find a crew that speaks French).  The Norwegian can, too, and probably already speaks English, since pretty much all Norwegians learn it in school.

The Haitian, however, will come over with contempt for the Haitian government and hoping for a better system here, where an engineer can rise based on capability and hard work.  The Norwegian?  Norwegians must think their socialist model works pretty well, since they don't seem to be changing it -- even though their high standard of living actually predates the socialist institutions in their nation and has gone relatively down since the 1960s.

So maybe the Norwegian is going to come over with innate prejudices that make him think that he knows better.  Maybe he thinks unions and collective bargaining are a solution, rather than that they are actually part of the problem anymore.  Maybe he wants to bring those attitudes here.  Maybe we need less of that.  All things being equal, I might take the Haitian.

And President Trump might, too.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Was "Me Too" Just a Larger Anti-Trump Plan?

[Note -- for those of you who saw the Minnesota-New Orleans playoff game yesterday, and saw the Saints toss away a certain berth in the NFC championship because of a putrid defensive play at the end, where a tackler who could have simply wrapped up a receiver and ended the game tried to blow up the receiver instead of tackling him ... well, you read it here first: http://uberthoughtsusa.blogspot.com/2017/12/tackling-one-thorny-nfl-issue.html] 

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The left, as we know, is all about power.  Getting it, keeping it, destroying its opposition by characterizing them as anything they can make out to be evil so that people will not vote for them.  I imagine that the left would happily do away with the whole notion of voting, the main threat to their power, if only they could.

As they effectively have in, well, everywhere they have taken power.  You know, Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea ... we know the list.

In the USA, a free country with an established Constitution and a well-structured voting system, the left has no choice other than to try to win those elections any way it can.  That includes not only destroying the character of its opposition (Reagan as bumbling, Bush 43 as stupid, Trump as everything bad in the world), but trying to stuff the electorate with reliable leftist votes.  They do that when in power by giving away taxpayer dollars to those already here, and adding voters by opening the borders and abrogating its role in defending them.

The ruthless manner in which they try to destroy their opposition to to try to gain power, though, makes you suspect everything they do, even reasonable things like opposing the abuse of women.  So naturally we have to suspect them.

The left stupidly allowed Hillary Clinton, an abysmal and corrupt candidate, to represent them in 2016.  They thought she would win, of course, since the media kept telling them she would, but surely they'd have liked to have had a better option.  So they really didn't prepare for the presidency of Donald Trump -- as seen in the incredible, over-the-top campaign going on now to destroy him, even somehow blaming him for the failure of the state-of-Hawaii-run early-warning system in Hawaii that went off by mistake on Saturday.  I think the next meteor that hits the planet will turn out to be on Trump too.  Just watch.

So now we have "Me, Too", a movement encouraging women to stand up to, and expose predatory sexual attackers like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Al Franken and others who have now lost their positions as a result of being exposed for their abuse of women.

But only now, apparently.

So let us suppose this.  A set of lefties like, I don't know, George Soros, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, that kind, are in a room trying to decide how to get President Trump out of office, or at least ensure he can't be reelected in 2020.  How, they ask, can he be so completely destroyed so that he is incapable of remaining in office?  "We have to do something, and do it quick, because the economy is booming just like he said, and ISIS is mostly crushed and, well, he's actually a good president!"

"Well, one of them says, what's the worst thing we could pin on him?  Racist?  Sexist?  Ooh, I've got it -- abuser of women!  We know he was a player in his somewhat younger days, and everyone knows that.  But the USA already knows it and elected him anyway.  He's probably not doing it anymore, so we can't change history, but we can make what we know he did seem worse!

"We need, they say, to get the focus off the booming economy and military successes and plaudits of our friends overseas, and on to something that will get headlines.  We'll make dealings with women bad first, and then pull him into it.  "I've got it", one of them says.  Let's sacrifice a bunch of our own so it doesn't sound political.  We'll dump a few of ours we hate anyway, and then all of a sudden everyone will be looking at Trump and we'll make his life with women sound more predatorial!

"We need a movement, but we need villains first.  Whom can we sacrifice?  Well, there's always Harvey Weinstein, start with him.  He's scum, we all know it, and then we can get something more going in Hollywood. We're going to need someone in politics, too.  Ahhh, we have those pictures of Franken, plus they've got a Democrat governor there so he can be replaced.  Never could stand Franken anyway."

Is that so hard to believe?  Not that those women weren't abused in Hollywood, but that someone who knew could have encouraged the first of them to expose Weinstein in public?  That the whole "#MeToo" thing was intended not so much to help women -- although surely a lot of the abused women were all for it and should have been -- as much as to start a campaign whose goal was to destroy the career of the sitting president?

Obviously once it got started, it would gather its own momentum, catching up people like Matt Lauer in the avalanche.  And it is actually a good thing; women should not be subject to assaults and workplace hostile environments (which is why it was such a clever idea).  But whatever its genesis, I have no qualms thinking that it was either originally intended, or quickly redirected, as a means to get more leftists elected.

See how all this makes us think?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Ten Weeks to the New Year

[Note to regular readers ... Thursday's column, "Boy, Do I Not Understand the Law", somehow got stuck behind Wednesday's column in the order.  So if you missed me yesterday, just look below "The Nation's HOA" and there it will be.]

So OK, most of you think that the New Year happened already and we're a dozen days or so into 2018.  I hear you.  IRS hears you and agrees with you, except that if you want to put money into a tax-deferred instrument, well, 2017 somehow ends on April 15th.  But the IRS doesn't listen to anyone, so their opinions don't exactly count.

For me, however, the year is to begin very late in March, about ten weeks from now.  On the 29th of March, the 2018 Major League baseball season will begin, and not a moment too soon.  Now the baseball that is played on that day may be a bit curious to watch, given that games will be played in New York (Mets), Detroit, Baltimore and Cincinnati on that day, and March 29 in those cities is as likely to be very chilly as comfortable, but it is baseball.  And Cincinnati can be excused as it is a very long tradition that the Reds, the oldest team in baseball, play at home on Opening Day.

Whatever.  I've been without baseball for two and a half months, locked in the play of the so-called "Hot Stove League", which is not actual games but the trades and signings that go on between seasons.  The teams are far from being done with all those transactions, though I am over it already.

Many player signings and trades are waiting on the signing of two or three key free agents.  Until they decide where they will sign, stacks of very good but slightly lesser players are unsigned because the teams which might sign the top couple can't sign an alternative until they know if they won the sweepstakes for the top few.

And I care about the games, the games, the games.  Lots of articles are out there in baseball literature world, but they're struggling for what to talk about until Jake Arrieta decides where he will pitch, or JD Martinez decides where he will hit (and hopefully not field; his glove is where ERAs go to die).

I'm tired of being tired.  I want to turn on the TV and see some live baseball.  I'm an unabashed Red Sox fan (even though, as I have to say, I did not grow up anywhere near New England).  The Sox have won their division the past two years, and their core lineup is almost all younger than 28 years old, the statistical peak of performance for players.  That means that they should be better in 2018 than before ... theoretically.

Of course, other teams have gotten better too, including the despicable division rivals, the New York Yankees.  Their former "shortstop", Derek Jeter, has seen to that (the quotes are to reference the fact that he played at short for easily a dozen years beyond where he should have been moved off that position; statistically he was the worst-fielding position player in the history of the game).

Jeter is now the general manager (or whatever title he has) and minority owner of the Miami Marlins, who are financially in dire straits and are selling off all their decent players to try to make a profit.  One such transaction involved sending Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 homers last year, to the aforementioned Yankees for a bag of balls and a six-pack of Moxie, plus an expendable second-baseman, just to clear Stanton's high contract off their books.

At any rate, this means that the Yankees will provide more competition than last year, even though the addition of Stanton is actually a replacement of an existing outfielder, so the "difference" is how much better Stanton might be than Aaron Hicks or Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, whichever one loses his starting job.

But see, that's all about transactions and lineups, and not about playing actual baseball.  I want to see games, and I suppose by late January every year, no matter what did happen the prior year, I get this way.  I started watching baseball and understanding what was going on early in the first Eisenhower administration, and it has never lost me, although it tried a few times, particularly in 1994.

I've got a few World Series videos.  Maybe I'll drag out the DVDs, or look on YouTube for something to watch.  There is about everything you could watch out there, of course, and a whole lot you'd prefer not to.  But there is active baseball, and you can pick games your team wins :)

I just need to see something.  See you Monday.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Nation's HOA

On Monday, addressing an agriculturally-oriented audience, President Trump pointed out an interesting statistic in regard to "regulations" as far as his administration is concerned.

The president had stated after inauguration that he had directed his Cabinet that for every new regulation they proposed to implement, two existing regulations would have to be stricken from the books.  His point was twofold; first, that excessive Federal regulation was stifling business from growing and adding jobs, and second, that those regulations had the effect of law, and laws were more properly created by Congress, not the Administration.

Naturally, his Cabinet officials took him quite seriously.  As conservatives, they were not exactly regulatory types to begin with, so the "new regulation" side of the equation was going to be pretty low.  But they really took seriously the "cutting regulations" side.  As of yesterday, President Trump announced to the assembled masses, his administration had removed twenty-two regulations for every one added.

Those assembled masses applauded vigorously, of course; nothing ticks off a farmer more than big government coming in and telling him what water he can or cannot use, or that he's better off with potato bugs than those awful chemicals.  They know a swamp from "wetlands."  It is a simple matter of outside interference in one's own property management.  Humans don't like that.

But some humans, of course (we call them "the left"), just love to tell people how to run their lives and, while regulations and laws are certainly necessary for a free society to operate smoothly and respectfully, there is a point at which it creeps over from necessary regulation to nanny-state overbearing bullying.  Hint: the Obamas were the latter.

There is a pretty good analogy for why those farmers were all thrilled to hear the anti-regulation message from our president.

Many of us live in communities and developments which were established with a homeowners' association, or HOA.  The purpose of an HoA, in its finest and most altruistic model, is simply to maintain the property in a manner that is comfortable and attractive to the homeowners.  There are covenants that you sign up to when you buy in to the community.

Unfortunately, however, HOAs have to be administered, and that means that the homeowners end up voting for fellow residents to run it as HOA officers.  Now, you and I probably would never consider running for such a thing; life is too short to want to be an HOA board member.  But ah, some people do, and somehow they are never the ones who want the HOA to be a quiet, unintrusive management group.

Nope, HOAs are full of Nancy Pelosi.

See the connection?  People detest an over-regulatory Federal government for the same reason we are all fearful of homeowners' associations, namely because they end up led by nanny-state types who want to run your life for you.  Decent, laissez-faire types never seem to run for HOA positions because they have better things to do.

Farmers don't have HOAs, of course; but they do have the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to serve in their stead.  And worse, leaders of those agencies are not really elected, but appointed by the president who wins a national election.  That means that those snowflaky Californians and big city types in New York and Chicago have as much input into decisions that affect farmers as the farmers themselves.

It's kind of like my HOA having its officers elected by members of an HOA in Idaho, Missouri and Colorado, if you get my drift.

Now, I belong to an HOA here in our community, a large one in the coastal Carolinas.  I have to admit, they have a fair number of regulations, given that it is a very large development, but all the dealings I have had with them regarding our house have been very fair and I'd vote for the same people who run it if they ran again.  That is certainly not the case with some prior HOAs in previous residences, but I think of myself as lucky -- this time.

It's just that I found myself applauding with the farmers, as they cheered on the president as he described his administration stripping regulations like a grass-roots HOA reform movement that somehow gets a majority on the board.

Twenty-two regulations removed for every one added?  I can only ask, "What took so long."

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Boy, Do I Not Understand the Law

On Tuesday night, a Federal court judge appointed by Bill Clinton made a ruling in regard to President Trump's announced plan for the termination of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.  The president, as you recall, had announced that the DACA program would end in March, effectively declaring that the program was an executive overreach.

You see, DACA is not a law passed by Congress, the people who make laws.  It was implemented as an executive order by the happily-former president, Barack Obama.  President Trump is perfectly fine with having the DACA folks, now mostly in their 20s, have a route to legalization.  He is not fine, though, and I am not either, with presidents making law.

Accordingly, he announced an executive order ending the program by March, with the overtly stated expectation that if Congress wanted to make DACA law, it would do so by then.

So I need some help on this from you, because I don't expect the judge to explain it.

Barack Obama issued the executive order creating the program within the Department of Homeland Security in the first place, because he wanted it and Congress would not pass it.  Whether or not you think he had the right to do so, well, that is another story.  But it was done by an executive order, not by law.

Donald Trump announced the planned end to DACA in an executive order, same as Obama did in creating it.  Obama took one step, and Trump used the same step to end it.

So how, please tell me, can a Federal court judge (Ninth Circuit, of course) make a ruling that the actions of President Trump in ending the program are legally any different from Obama's in starting it?  I am not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV and never have on stage, I think.  But if President X orders something and President X+1 ends it through the same action, how can a court rule that X+1 was not equally, legally justified (or not) in doing so?

If an executive order is not legal, it is not legal.  I'm sorry, but to say otherwise in this specific case is to imply that programs created by an EO are permanent, and that they cannot even be changed or ended by Congress.  I certainly could argue that is the implication of this judge's ruling.

President Trump is going at a record pace as far as getting judicial appointments to the Federal bench going and getting them confirmed.  It is cases like this that make that the most important thing that he can do, perhaps.

Or am I missing something?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Odd Question of the Workplace Pay Gap Argument

I am not going to start this off by babbling the figures that usually get babbled when the discussion turns to the pay gap between men and women in the workplace.  You know, women make x cents for every dollar a man makes, yadda yadda yadda.

I'm not babbling that, because the sources are so unreliable there is no point to trying to quantify it.  The only relevant data would be comparisons of identically qualified men and women in the identical job, and that's pretty hard to establish, because that identity -- age, experience, education -- is not going to be "identical enough" to rationalize pay gaps.

Let me give you a story.  Many years ago, I was the director of computer operations for a CPA firm with four locations.  I had two ladies working for me, and among other things, they processed the payroll.  That meant that they knew what everyone in the firm was making, and with a couple of fairly gossipy young ladies involved, needless to say, they often discussed comparative pay.

Word of that got to the firm's senior partner, the one whose name was on the building.  Now, I'm not exactly sure what I would have done to shut them up, but I have to give the man credit for creativity.  He called the two ladies into his office and told them to go get the latest payroll and bring it back to him, along with their boss (me).

The senior partner said this to them: "I am going to do this once and only once with you, in the presence of your manager.  I'm going to answer whatever you want to ask about why people are paid differently from others here.  And when I'm done, you are never again going to raise questions about salaries of people at the firm.  Got it?"

He then went over all the questions that two of them had about why person X was making more than person Y.  The senior partner, of course, knew quite well why the pay was what it was, and why this bookkeeper was making more than that one, and what college courses this one was taking and what complimentary client letters that one over there had gotten.  Sure enough, that shut up the two clerks for good.

I mention this not just because it is a good story, but because both the two clerks and every single employee about whom the two asked a question was female.  All the accountants and bookkeepers they were concerned about were women.

So that came to mind as I was watching some news program decrying the gender pay gap and spouting poorly-sourced salary figures and the like.  Then I saw that some TV personality had quit when she found out she was getting less -- a lot less -- than the male she was replacing on that program.

That's when something struck me, a notion I had had in the back of my mind but only now was coming into clarity.

Do you recall any of the pieces that I've done about the tendency of employers, as soon as they saw that Obama was going to put in rules that made hiring prohibitively expensive, to try to get three better, more skilled people to do the work of four?  The concept was that it was the baseline "per-employee" cost, in effort, cost, and risk of lawsuit, that had gotten high, so it was better, even for the same price, to have fewer, better employees.

That same notion was at play here.  If men are actually making more money in the same jobs, with the same background, as women, then a decision had to have been made in each case.  Why wouldn't they hire women and pay them less? 

Do you follow?  If men are actually making more than the women who replace them, or whom they replace, that means that employers are willing to pay men more to do the same job, even though it costs them higher labor costs.

The more pervasive that practice is (unequal pay), the more evidence there is that in the eyes of employers, they get more productivity out of males than females.  Otherwise, well, why would they pay men more?  It wouldn't make sense.

If I had a business anymore, I would be trying to save money everywhere I could, and labor costs would be right up there on top.  So again, why would I pay more to have a male do the job if I could have a female do it and presumably, if the stats are not completely erroneous, do it cheaper?

I don't actually know where this notion is going.  I believe that people should be paid what they are worth, that is, based on the value they bring to the employer, and not anything else other than the consideration the employer affords.  I'm worth what my clients think I am, not what I think I am, so I try to keep my rate a little lower than my perceived value, so I keep getting work.

But no one seems to be taking the gender pay gap to side B, and asking not why women are paid less, assuming they are, but why employers with a bottom line choose to pay more to men, when they could theoretically pay women less.  One inference, of course, is that employers do so because they think they will, for whatever reason, get more productivity from men, and are willing to pay for it.

I don't know.  In my profession, there is no real capability gap and no real pay gap, by gender.  And a lot of firms in the business are larger and, therefore, have controls over pay that compare to civil service, where you can't discriminate based on anything, including of course, ability.

Well, fun thought to consider on a Tuesday.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Why Weren't The Clintons Boosting the "Foundation" in 2017?

I believe that I wrote a while back about the extent to which the donations from around the world to the Clinton Foundation nose-dived after the 2016 elections, when it became fairly obvious that the Clintons would no longer wield power, what with Hillary losing the election and all.  I also pointed out that the precipitous drop was prima facie evidence that the "Foundation" was only of value as a means to purchase favor with the Clintons, and that with them out of power, there was no reason to give money there.

I pointed out that defenders of the Clinton Foundation always struggled to define any good that it had done with the hundreds of millions it raised ("Well, it does a lot of AIDS work, and ... and ..."), presumably because a lot of that money went to pay for Bill's lavish trips abroad and other non-charitable duties.

And that is the point of today's piece.

Let us assume for the record that the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is, in fact, doing outstanding work for some wonderful and badly-needed charitable causes.  Let's assume that.  We'll also stipulate that, given that their names are on it, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea really care about the success of the "Foundation" at getting anything done in the world.

Now let's assume that you or I were in the shoes of Hillary Clinton.  You are out of power now, and the only thing you have left is the "Foundation"; all the rest has been yanked from you since, you know, you lost the election.  That's it, only your eponymous charity.

Well, I know what I would do.  I would turn to my foundation and focus on it -- or I would retire and get the heck out of town.  Moreover -- and this is the point -- if after the election loss, the contributions to that foundation were drying up massively and my name is all over it, I'd be scrambling to save its existence.

I'd be doing that for two reasons if I were Hillary.  First, if it is such a force for good, I certainly want to be able to maintain its funding, so it can continue to do what it had allegedly been doing all those years, when I actually had power and could sell influence to Russian oligarchs who wanted our uranium.  If losing the "Foundation" caused little AIDS-riddled children to die all over the place, I'd be all over that, begging donors to give those millions all over again.

Secondly, and I did write this in the previous piece, if I don't get the donations back up to near the previous levels, it points out, in bold 18-point type, that the "Foundation" was only a means to peddle influence.  If the donations dry up when I'm no longer in power, that shows that power was being sold.  So to prevent anyone thinking that, we need to show that donors were being purely altruistic -- by continuing to donate.

So -- you would think that Hillary Clinton would have spent 2017 pounding the pavement for donations to the Foundation, right?  Because she be wanting to continuing the "good works" of her foundation, if there indeed were any.

But Hillary has been doing everything but that.  She walked in the woods, wrote a book, spent months on the road selling her book, created lots of excuses for losing.  I can't say that I have been in tune with everything she has said the past year, but I've heard a lot -- and nowhere, not once, did I hear that she had been lifting a finger to raise donations to her foundation back to pre-election levels.

No one seems to be mentioning that.

If the Clinton Foundation were indeed a thoroughly charitable organization and not a corrupt RICO device to peddle influence, then why, oh why, is not Hillary Clinton's focus not on running around reinstating the donations that went far away when she lost the election?

You know and I know.  The Clinton "Foundation" was pretty much only a device to sell access, to implement corrupt schemes like UraniumOne, and personally enrich the organization's namesakes.  No more influence to sell, no more power to peddle, and no more donations from those currying favor with the no-longer-influential Clintons.

Someone should have told Hillary those AIDS kids were more important than her book.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Whom Do You Believe?

I have to believe I have written to this topic before, but it certainly is worth touching on again as it is still an issue.

Once upon a time, there were two sources of local and world news.  There was something called a "newspaper", which was published on newsprint, sold by subscription delivery to one's home or picked up at something called a newsstand, or from a "newsboy", who may have been a girl.  For the most part, you bought a newspaper that covered your local area, most of which had only one or two.  And while decades back there were morning and evening editions of a paper, the evening paper eventually died off in favor of the morning one.

The other news source was broadcast journalism.  In the early days of radio and television, that meant a national and a local program broadcast in the evening, covering the days events in the world and the local city or community.  That was where the notion of an anchor, a "trusted" individual who would read a prompter solemnly and believably, arose.  Once upon a time, those people were, indeed, trusted.

We believed the newspaper, and we believed the anchors on the air.  We had no reason not to; if we read or heard that something had actually happened, well, we assumed that it actually had.  More importantly but more quietly, if they did not choose to tell us something, we flat-out did not learn about it, and would be led to assume, if we were told later, that it had simply not been important enough.

That was then, and this is now.

In my brief New Year's column, I noted that 2017 was a year of "fake news", and I meant a lot by that.  Particularly, I wanted to point out that the term "fake news" had been promulgated heavily this year, and from it we learned that, horror of horrors, the news media made up stories, or went to press with untruths and stories that had not been properly vetted, or vetted at all, in accordance with the medium's own journalistic guidelines, in a hurry to get anti-Trump stories out there.

Amid that, I have started to notice something when I watch the news on TV (I no longer get a newspaper).  I don't believe what I am hearing.

When an anchor from network X is talking, he will throw it over to the White House correspondent from network X to describe events in Washington that day.  But that is the same correspondent who earlier at the daily press briefing asked a biased (or stupid) question that we all heard then, because those briefings are aired now.

If we know the correspondent is a jerk, then how do we trust that what he or she is saying is accurate?  And then how do we trust the anchor if he doesn't challenge the correspondent's account of the day's activities?

I've caught myself a few times in the last month, hearing something on air and wondering if it was made up by the news team.  As soon as that happened, I said to myself that, effectively, I can no longer trust the news for any purpose at all.

For yesterday's column, as an example, I had to look up the Wikipedia entry for Susan Rice.  I noticed that one critical fact in that entry was sourced from a New York Times story.  Well, the New York Times is so biased, they are the standard for the loss of integrity in print journalism.  This was a simple point of fact, but I found myself having to check other sources for the same fact, simply because I couldn't trust the truthfulness of anything from the Times.

Do they care?  I mean, if there is one bedrock notion in journalism, it is that your editorial and reportorial sides are walled off, so that your stories are not seen as influenced by the opinions of the owners of the paper.  But clearly the leader in New York print journalism has gotten its wires so crossed that that wall no longer exists, and that means that we can't trust the paper's reporting of simple news stories anymore.  I ask again, do they care?

I have great respect for historical lights of journalism and, as Kris Kringle once said, contempt for meddling amateurs who practice it.  So I wonder what the few remaining true journalists -- folks like Chris Wallace, for example -- feel about the fact that their profession has practically died as the form it once was, to where opinions have made reporting suspect of being biased in the most mundane situations.

Well, there is always the weather; we know we can rely on that.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Walking the Talk on Foreign Aid

The other day I walked out to our sun room where my best girl was reading.  I had just seen a piece on the news to the effect that President Trump had precipitously cut some $250 million or so from our foreign aid to Pakistan.  That nation, the president had said, was harboring and supporting ISIS and other terrorists, and if they were going to do that, we sure as heck were not going to pay for it.

"Best Girl", I said, "Do you recall how many times over the years we have wondered about foreign aid?"  I went on to point out that many times over the years we had wondered why the USA was giving money to nations and regimes that opposed us in the UN, that did things we did not agree with, and that were counter to our interest.

We had wondered this, I said, for so many years, only to have the State Department operate on a business-as-usual basis, and shell out dollars seized from USA taxpayers (and borrowed from China) to these nations that hate us.  Talk, talk, talk, threaten, threaten, threaten, then do nothing and blithely turn over the money.

Donald Trump became president on the notion that he was going to be a different one from the previous 43 people who had served (yes, I included Cleveland once).  He was a businessman, with a distinct and different view of the flow of money ... that he actually cared about spending.  We saw that, when he immediately said he would negotiate down the expense of some Federal contracts (and Lockheed Martin, for one, was only too happy to save taxpayer money).

The businessman in him must have choked when he looked at to whom, and how much, we were giving away.  President Trump knows that the government does not "have" money; it has to tax the people for it and borrow the rest, and so he respects the notion that it should be handled with exceptional stewardship.

Now, when the White House announced the cut to Pakistan, it was stated that this had nothing to do with the Pakistanis voting in the UN to oppose the USA for moving our embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv, where the Israeli government is not, to Jerusalem, where it is.  It had nothing to do with that, they insisted.

Now, if we did cut foreign aid to every nation that voted against the USA for moving our embassy to Israel, we would be cutting aid to a lot of nations (and saving us a ton of borrowed money).  So I'm willing to cut the White House some slack and say that the cut in aid to Pakistan was not really punishment for their vote.

But I do believe that a likely scenario is that President Trump took careful note of who had voted against us.  And he had that in the back of his mind, the notion that we give money to nations that oppose us, when he specifically heard some new intelligence about Pakistan harboring ISIS or Al Qaeda terrorists.  That, I imagine, put him over the edge, and he ordered the cut in aid as a shot across the bow to other nations that rely on our wallet but show no respect for it.

Did you notice that there is a reception planned, for the 9th, I think, for the ambassadors and representatives of nations like the Czech Republic that voted with the USA on moving the embassy?  I did.  I laughed when I heard about it, a laugh of joy that we are finally, under this president, "walking the talk" as far as foreign aid is concerned -- oppose us, and risk financial penalties; come with us courageously, and we will show our appreciation.

I love it.  A president is finally rising above the diplomatic cesspool that is the deep state swamp, and doing what the main-street American feels he should be doing.  We're not lightly taking third world countries grabbing our money and spitting in our faces.  Come April, I have a large payment to make to IRS, and I care very deeply about how that is to be spent.

Now we have a president who cares as much as I do.  Let's have even more of that.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Does Susan Rice Hear Herself Tweet?

It is cold this morning in a lot of places you are reading this, including here, where it is, well, not supposed to be.  When it is cold, molecules move less (it's actually the other way around, but this is not a physics column), and so do opinions.

Apparently, Susan Rice, who used to be the national security advisor to Barack Obama, and hence thinks she knows something, well, she must be in a cold place today.  That's because her thinking is frozen in time, in a time when it was equally worthless, but did not have the value of having been once implemented and, therefore, provided historical context.

In other words, now we know she was wrong the first time, so to say that we should take the same approach, that failed spectacularly before, is to show why the Obama Administration failed so spectacularly before -- partly because of listening to people like Susan Rice.  Let us also remember that Susan Rice was the person who set the record for lying on five different national news programs within two hours, when she told the "Benghazi was about a video" whopper to try to protect Hillary Clinton from having her incompetence exposed.

We are talking, of course, about the dictatorship of the Undemocratic and Unmerciful Islamic Republic of Iran.

Now, if I have mentioned Iran here a dozen times, I'm sure that I've at least three or four times written that I really like pretty much all the Persian-Americans that I have met.  Now, I used to live in northern Virginia, so I have met a lot of people who immigrated here from Iran, and I have liked all of them.  In fact, I have found them to be among the most easily assimilated foreigners, as if they "get" America more than most people, or as if their culture is surprisingly similar to ours.

So more than most people, I tend to distinguish the Iranian people from other Middle Easterners, and from their government.  My take is that they really didn't like the Shah (despite his pro-Western stance, not because of it), so they deposed him in the late '70s, only to have the Islamist ayatollahs take over the government and try to ramrod deathly-strict Islam over a fairly Westernized population.

The new rulers clamped down on the people who had facilitated their ascent, leaving them no choice.  They didn't really try to revolt until 2009, likely assuming that the USA and its shiny new president, Barack Hussein Obama Jr., would help their nascent rebellion and bring down the Islamists choking their nation.

Unfortunately, though, Obama had other things in mind.  His "legacy", he thought, would be to lower the image of the USA in the eyes of the world, not to be that shining beacon of freedom.  So when the Iranian people revolted in public rallies in 2009, the Green Revolution, Obama sat on his butt, waved and did nothing.  Susan Rice, who was ambassador to the UN at the time, was in a position to see what the "do nothing" approach would do. 

What the approach did, of course, was to kill the revolution.  The Iranian rulers saw that the USA would not interfere, and crushed the revolution.  Susan Rice saw that from her perch at the UN, but apparently learned nothing, even though she had already participated in UN sanctions against that government.

We know that she learned nothing, because of her quote this week in regard to the new round of revolution in the streets of Iran's cities that has just started, and I quote the quote:

"How can Trump help Iran’s protesters? Be quiet."

Yuk.  If there is one person who could tell you that nothing will shut down the new Iranian Revolution down any quicker than our stepping away in public, well, it's Susan Rice.  But President Trump is not about to step away, nor should he.

It is in the best interest of the USA for the people of Iran who, remember, are surprisingly like us in their Westernized values, to throw off the dictatorial yoke of the ayatollahs and establish a rational democracy.  It is further in our interest, the people of the nation notwithstanding, to neutralize a huge threat to geopolitical stability in the Middle East.

President Trump knows that.  He also knows what failed the last time, and why -- and it was people like Susan Rice advising the others on the Obama team to go all "hands off" on the Green Revolution, that caused it to fail.

The president should be anything but quiet.  He has been making public statements that threaten the Iranian dictators with further sanctions if they suppress the current revolution, and repeatedly letting them know that the USA is watching what goes on in the streets of Tehran and elsewhere in the nation.  And we have to believe -- I do -- that if the mullahs start firing on the demonstrators, the USA will intervene somehow.

It is, we hear, already getting a little uncomfortable in the palaces of the leaders there.  They don't know what to make of this President Trump, but they also know that he was perfectly happy to drop the Mother of All Bombs when it was militarily helpful.  And it would be extraordinarily good for the USA if the dictatorship were replaced with a more democratic government there.

But Susan Rice advises that the president "be quiet", as if she thinks that her performance merits a shred of respect for her opinions.  We see quite well what "being quiet" did last time.

President Trump knows much better.  How does that feel, Madam Ambassador?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Was Obama Talking to Snowflakes?

Back in September, the fortunately former president, Barack Obama, sat down for an interview with that esteemed journalist, Prince Harry of Great Britain.  We seem not to have known about it over here for some reason, and only in recent days has its content been aired.  I've no idea why it took so long.

That said, this past week saw a number of networks commenting on it, with what I thought was a surprising sense of unanimity in interpreting what the former president had said.  In fact, this was common to both leftist media and the conservative outlets.

Their point was that at least one passage was, they assured us, directed at President Trump, without his having said that directly.  Obama was talking about the Internet, and in doing so he was quoted as having said this.

"One of the dangers of the Internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. The question I think really has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a balkanization of our society, but rather continues to promote ways of finding common ground.

Regardless of the network, this was all supposed to be about Donald Trump and his use of Twitter to communicate with the people directly, rather than his assuming that the news media would ever properly represent his efforts and opinions.  "Veiled reference to President Trump" was the term used all over the news.

Was it?  Well, of course it was; Obama can't possibly shut up and drift back into the woodwork like a decent ex-president would.  He firmly believes he knows more than you or I know about everything, and he knows his "legacy", not that it was any good one, is being ripped to shreds on a daily basis -- in the better interest of the USA, of course -- by our current administration.

But the thing is, the whole "cocooned" comment, which was absolutely correct (even a blind squirrel finds a nut on occasion), well, it doesn't really apply to the current president.  You see, whatever Obama intended to say or to mean, that comment really applies, truthfully, to those people who gravitate toward modes of Internet communication -- Facebook, I assume, and a few others I also am not on -- where they end up communicating with a group of like-minded individuals to the exclusion of outside voices.

But that ain't Donald Trump.  The Trump Twitter presence, which is a force of its own, is a "push."  He uses it to say things, not to listen so much.  He has over 45 million followers on Twitter alone, so he could not possibly be listening to what is being said back to him by reply.  President Trump sends tweets, and his points go out to the world.  There is no "cocoon" involved in his communication model.

There is, however, another group that's aptly characterized.

I'm talking about snowflakes.  I know this to be true, because my best girl used to have a Facebook account that was mainly to communicate with extended family members in her extended family.  They're Italian, so they're very extended, if you get the drift.

Well, the discussion part, meaning the back and forth posts, gradually got taken over by the millennial snowflakes in the group, particularly last year during the whole election campaign.  The missus sat back some, because she's not really a political type, and because the millennials were all Hillary types, but one particular comment was so, well, factually incorrect, that she felt obliged to reply.

I read her comment, and it was really innocuous -- pretty much that there were two sides, and the right were out there every bit as concerned about the country as the left was, if we all sat back and were rational about it, however hard that might be in an election campaign.  And maybe Hillary wasn't exactly the savior they thought she was, and that possession of a uterus did not innately make her a better candidate.

You would have thought she had advocated for killing babies or something.  The little snowflakes went all The Hulk on her, disrespecting her opinions, her age, and well, it was not pleasant.  She decided to drop Facebook and has not returned, and will not.

Now that, friends, what she left, is a cocoon.  My wife had actual things to say, and opinions that deserved a hearing.  Perhaps the little snowflakes might have actually learned something, except most coffins aren't as closed shut as their little minds.  I mentioned a month or so ago in one column how one of them was causing her aunt to stay away from a Thanksgiving gathering rather than cause a stir.

I went to M.I.T., as you know, and there are discussion groups on LinkedIn that include one for our alums, and there are various years-long discussions that go on.  I was involved in one that had a lot of political overtones to it.  There were several active members with strong political views -- M.I.T. alums tend to have strong views on everything -- and although I was a participant, I was not the most active.

I noticed that the leftists were amazingly intolerant, even by M.I.T. alumni standards, of opinions that challenged their own.  Now, one of the participants was a brother of Al Franken, the recently-disgraced and about-to-resign far-left senator, but there were some even more intolerant than he.  I finally had enough and left the group after one comment was responded to in a way that reminded me that I could say all I want, but it wouldn't help the discussion move toward either civility or rational discourse.

I assume that particular discussion has now gotten to snowflake land, where only people of common view are welcomed, and that view had better be leftist, or else you should fear the wrath of their world view.

Barack Obama probably didn't think he was talking about snowflakes when he made his comments in the interview with Prince Harry, but I wonder how you could have read the words any other way.  It is a gargantuan problem with Internet usage today that people's opinions are reinforced by closing themselves off and isolating themselves inside groups of those of common opinion.  I certainly thought that, the moment I heard the words.

It may not be what he intended, but what he said rang true in that context.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year!

It is 2018, an Olympic year (so I get to watch lots of curling, my favorite Olympic winter sport), an election year (lots of senators and all the congressmen are up for election), and a still-have-to-work year (as I didn't win the lottery).

We all survived 2017, at least my best girl and I did, and all of you did if you're reading this.  It was a fun year, a year of "yoooge" events, of fake news and the Astros' first World Series win -- and our new, severely downsized house.  The Patriots are the NFL champions for at least a few more weeks, although fewer people are watching the NFL these days.

Basketball -- well, I'm not sure anyone watches basketball anymore and, despite ESPN trying to globalize us, no one is watching soccer over here either.  I'll root for Phil Mickelson to win a major in golf; although he's getting a bit old to be contending he still contends, and I would not put money on his not being around for at least one close Sunday finish.  And I'll pull for the Washington Capitals to do something in the playoffs that remotely reflects how good a team they actually are and have been.  Something.

I grew up when today would be the last day of the college football season, with the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Rose Bowls played, after which the arguments would begin as to which team was actually the best.  Now we have a playoff system, which still doesn't seem to have resolved the arguments.  I don't know if that's a good thing.

I will work, unless that lottery thing actually happens.  And I'll stay on this column, because sometime before the beginning of next year, I will publish the 1,000th piece on this site.  That may be as far as it goes, but I think I'd like to believe there will be lots to write about through then.

Happy New Year to all, and for the first time, we unveil a new copyright notice (and believe me, I thought of using MMXVIII):

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.