Tuesday, October 9, 2018

#1000: It's Been Real, But Good-Bye

Way back in 2014, when I was only paying $500 a month for health insurance for a private plan that covered my wife and me, I had a thought.

There had always been "thoughts," rattling around in my head about this notion or that.  Things like the fact that "moderate" was a stupid term to use for people, since that didn't define anyone's actual beliefs so much as their approach to debate, so much so that two "moderates" could be in 100% opposition to each other.

Things like the notion that "maturity" is really an accumulation of cause-and-effect relationships that allow us to guide our actions by their expected outcomes, relationships I called "cubbyholes" and had always enjoyed describing to people.

Things like the fact that because socialism doesn't work, the power-hungry had to be brutal in their politics, because they couldn't win arguments based on performance, past outcomes or pretty much anything else.

So I got the idea that I would set up a sort of provisional blog site and write a few of these notions down as essays.  I figured if I wrote them and no others occurred to me, that would be it; I'd just take down the site and go do something else.

But then after the first few, a few more occurred to me, driven by life, or the news, or whatever.  How our tax code had gotten like a plate of spaghetti.  How America's Got Talent had lost contact with the notion of "talent."  The economics of baseball.  D.C. statehood, and how D.C. idiotically insisted that its employees had to live in the District.

It didn't end.  And I found myself treating the essays as a daily exercise in thinking and writing, a bit of a distraction from the formulaic writing I did for a living the rest of the day.  Sometimes I would have as many as five essays stacked up, already written, after a weekend of events and thoughts.  Sometimes I'd wake up in the morning with nothing, thinking "What do I care about today?".

And now, 1,000 essays later, it's time to let it go.

It got very political during the 2015-16 campaign season, and the evolution of my feelings toward now-President Trump as a candidate are documented in almost diary form, given the percentage of that period's daily essays devoted to the campaign.  And on the day of the election, I wrote not about the candidates or their platform, not an encouragement to go vote, or to vote for anyone particularly, but an essay on why I don't really like dogs very much.

I've had diversions to topics that were just the event of the week, and those that reflected many months of cogitation.  And in all that time, although this one is probably my very favorite, five columns have become the most-read of all the 1,000 columns of which this one will be the last.  So I'm going to go out by sharing them with you.

#5: Political Courage Needed, Sen. Franken -- a wasted appeal to Al Franken, who was a senator then before having to resign for being caught groping a sleeping woman and, absurdly, photographing it.  He had asked a question of Jeff Sessions in his confirmation hearings about Russian contacts in his capacity with the Trump campaign.  Although Sessions had a passing contact with a Russian in his Senate role, he answered "no", logically thinking that the question had been about campaign contacts. Franken knew that from the context of his own question, and I thought he should have the guts to say that.

#4: The Privilege of Dating -- a piece exposing the immaturity of 20-somethings in the context of a dating set-up feature in the Washington Post.  I get into the utter lack of understanding of life and the world on the part of two wide-eyed young people with no possible insight into what socialism does to societies on which it is imposed.

#3: A Look Back from 2019 or So -- written shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, where I suggest that all the people who back then were expressing "fear" about this or that (actually, the just kept saying "fear" as if we were supposed to get why they were afraid) should write down what they were afraid of President Trump doing, and then maybe in mid-2019 they should look back at that list and realize how many of those fears would turn out to have been completely unfounded.

#2: Adieu and God Bless, Santa Claus -- a eulogy to my first college roommate in my fraternity house at MIT, who had passed away.  Randy Vereen was a great fellow all his life, but his playing Santa at Christmas time was something that not only he continued to do all his life, but which defined the kind of person he was and would always be.

#1: When Leftist Worlds Collide - Again -- the most widely-read of any of the thousand columns was this one.  A black professional football player in the NFL, Edwin Jackson, had been killed by a drunk driver who was an illegal alien that did not belong in the USA.  The leftist press tried hard to ignore the immigration status of the driver and the fact that, had there been a wall at our southern border, Jackson would still be alive.  But at the same time NFL players were disrespecting the national anthem by kneeling, one of their own had been killed precisely because of lack of border enforcement.  The left, I wrote, had so many constituencies that the inevitable clashes among them for attention were its biggest problem -- as this one so tragically showed.
           _ _ _

I don't doubt that I may add a piece here and there in the future.  I've written one every workday for over four years, and I'm already of a mindset that there is an essay, a point to be made, deriving from at least a quarter of the news stories I read.  And there is still a World Series this year, and the Red Sox are still in the hunt for it, up 2-1 on the hated Yankees in the Division Series, as I write this.

But the daily commitment expires here, today.  I'm going to pour a glass of something (I like beer.  I still like beer, to quote the newest justice of the Supreme Court) at some point, start with #1 and read through all 1,000 to see what I may have learned about myself.  That could take a while.  But I'll make time.

And to all of you, the 90,000-plus who have read this far, I want to thank you for getting through the thickness of my prose and caring what I had to say.

Adieu and God bless.

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, October 8, 2018

How Democrats Will Be Remembered -- Hint: Not Well

I am beginning to write this shortly after Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that she would be the "yes" vote needed to give us the presumption that Judge Brett Kavanaugh would indeed be confirmed by the Senate over the weekend, as indeed was the case.  Immediately thereafter, the far less-courageous Joe Manchin (D-WV), facing a difficult reelection in a state that President Trump won by 40 points, also indicated that his was a "yes" vote.

[Note -- in fairness, there is word that Sen. Manchin had already informed the White House earlier that he was a "yes" vote regardless, but I would give the senator more of the benefit of the doubt had that been announced publicly ... it was not.]

In both cases, the senator's office had been, and then was thereafter, the scene of screaming protestors who somehow are allowed in the Senate building (hopefully through metal detectors, but we don't know).  They looked like robotic hippies from the '60s, chanting slogans that were not going to change anyone's mind about the issues.

But they could -- and will -- change people's minds about the people who paid them to be there and to scream and make general horse's rears of themselves.

That would be, um, Democrats.

I am of the opinion, and I don't mean this to be self-serving as a conservative, that the Democrats are going to get their backsides handed to them in the fall elections.  It will be analogous to the shock they got in 2010, when the voters rebelled against their seizure of power to ram Obamacare down our throats.  Or to 2016, when the Trump revolution kicked the Obamas and Clintonistas out of the White House for good.

But it will be for a slightly different reason.  Those other times, it was for other reasons.  The 2010 voters, reminiscent of the 1994 midterm, kicked the Democrats out of the majority in Congress because they had far overstepped their bounds.  When they had the presidency and both houses of Congress, and acted so dictatorially and unilaterally, the voters were moved to end that domination decisively.

In 2016, it was a clear lack of direction that doomed Hillary Clinton.  She was a terrible candidate with no evident platform, providing no reason to vote for her, all while Donald Trump had some discrete proposals and a pledge to bring a businessman's acumen to a job that sorely needed it.

More relevant to this case, President Trump has succeeded since, both economically (of course) and diplomatically (who would have guessed?).  Against that backdrop, one of actual performance in office and making life perceptibly better for Americans, we have, um, the Democrats.

And who represents them?  Well, in one sense there are Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and other unpleasant types, bringing no productive platform except "resistance", which falls flat when people have gotten actual pay increases and now have jobs.

But in the other sense, and more importantly, you have the people that the voters see as the representatives of the Democrats, and those are the elevator screamers, the picketers, the Antifa types throwing chairs through windows.  And the leaders of the Democrats apparently thought that those were the people who somehow were going to sink the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh.

I don't know why they might have thought that, but they're certainly the ones who orchestrated the protests and still are doing so, so they must have thought they would be effective.

Unfortunately for them, though, they did not, in that calculation, consider that they might lose.  By not thinking of that, they missed the possibility that they would lose, and that would mean that not only would Brett Kavanaugh be on the Supreme Court, but that the Democrats would now be seen by the voters as represented by the screaming protestors -- being them, in fact.

When America goes to the polls in November in places like North Dakota, and West Virginia and Montana and Missouri and other places where incumbent Democrats are running to hold Senate seats where President Trump won, they will not be in the same frame of mind as they were, even in 2016.

They will be voting for a senatorial candidates who will continue our turn toward policies promoting economic prosperity, and against one who allowed the uncivil screamers in the elevators to represent them.  If the Democrats don't immediately disavow them, they will get hammered in November.

Because otherwise, the screamers will be the Democrats.  The only ones.

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, October 5, 2018

If It Was About Beer, What About Obama's Coke Habit?

Last week, we were treated to the splendid theater of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) poring over the yearbook entries for Judge Brett Kavanaugh from some 35 years ago.  Whitehouse had his head in the yearbook, while asking about beer, and flatulence, and more beer, and why a classmate was referred to with the term "ffffffffffff" in the book.

I watched it, although I was laughing pretty hard at the pathetic spectacle of a United States Senator asking someone who is about to be a Justice of the Supreme Court, about things that couldn't possibly be any less relevant, but asking with a very serious tone in his role of advice and consent.  But that's the Democrats for you -- if it means possibly delaying the process another five minutes, they'll do it, as long as they can keep aborting babies (which is, of course, what this is all about).

And let us leave no doubt about the quote from the hearings that may last, at least in this house, even longer than we call Cory Booker "Spartacus" for his imbecilic reference to the old movie, in trying to make a point we have since forgotten.  In every subsequent election, Booker will now be derisively referred to as "Spartacus" before being laughed off the stage.  He asked for it.

But what we will longer remember and cite here was Judge Kavanaugh's impassioned opinion about beer.  "I like beer", he said in his opening statement and then in answers later.  "I still like beer!", he then added. 

Don't you just love that?  I know we did.  It didn't change our opinion of the type of Supreme Court Justice that he would be, but at least we know how he might relax after a long day of briefs and judicial arguments.

The questions or, more specifically, the answers to Sen. Whitehouse's odd line of inquiry, will not change his vote on the confirmation one bit.  He is a blue guy from a blue state being run into the ground by blue leaders, one who is never going to vote to confirm a nominee of President Trump even if he sniffed the nominee's butt and smelled flowers.

But he did ask the question, and so I have one for the good Senator.  So let us set the tone one more time.  Imagine that I'm a reporter doing an interview of Sen. Whitehouse live, and he is a captive audience.  Imagine that for the moment:

"Senator, you appear to have been particularly interested in Judge Kavanaugh's high-school life and his friends back then, and especially with his consumption of beer.  You are not explicitly stating that having consumed a lot of beer in one's college days is an automatic disqualifier, even against a pristine 30-year judicial career, correct?"

"Uh, no," Whitehouse will answer.

"OK, I'll make that assumption.  But, of course you are not voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh anyway, as we know.  So what if, instead of beer, he had been using cocaine, and everything else was the same as far as incidents, the yearbook, all that.  Tell me how that would have been different in terms of just how aggressively you were going to oppose the nomination.  After all, cocaine is an illegal drug and now we're in Federal crime land."

"Well, that would have been a lot worse", the senator would have responded, or something like that.

"OK, then.  But Senator, you were a big supporter of Barack Obama, weren't you?  You were a senator the entire time that he was president.  Barack Obama admitted to extensive use of cocaine, a drug that it is illegal under Federal law to possess, use and distribute.  He used it during the same age period that Judge Kavanaugh supposedly made the yearbook entries, and drank the beer that you seemed intent on asking him about as if it actually were some type of disqualifier.

"And yet, Senator, I'm still curious as to why you did not call for hearings by the Judiciary Committee in 2009, when your party still held the chairmanship, into the capacity of Barack Obama to continue to be president, given that he had done what you admit are worse things during his teen years, than Judge Kavanaugh apparently did? 

That should probably say it all right there, even though I'm straw-manning by putting words in Whitehouse's mouth.  The left cares about what the left wants, which is power, by any means necessary, including by worrying about the amount of flatulence generated by a 17-year-old high school student.

We must do what we can at the ballot box, the proper place, to see that they don't get it.  The power, I mean. 

Their flatulence is a given.

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, October 4, 2018

Our Depressingly Failing Memories

I have known my friend Gary for well over thirty years, through our membership in the Alexandria Harmonizers and singing together in a quartet for a while in that time.  We actually discovered more in common as the years went on, and I gained a great deal of respect for him professionally as I came to understand his skills as a communicator, and as a coach of those needing to speak and communicate better.  His ideas are worth hearing.

We don't see each other these days, living in different states, but I had to call him to pick his brain about a friendly matter the other day, and we caught up on things.  One thing, as it turned out, was that he didn't know I wrote this site every day, and I committed to send him an email with a link to it, and some links to favorite columns of mine.

One, of course, was "Adieu and God Bless, Santa Claus", which I wrote a few years back, on the passing of my first college roommate and fraternity brother Randy, a friend from Marion, South Carolina.  I think I sent Gary maybe 7-8 links, and then after I sent them I thought perhaps I might want to go back and read them again, since I might have written something I'd need to explain (or apologize for).

Well, I didn't think I had written anything offensive, and indeed I hadn't, but I made an interesting discovery.  In "Adieu and God Bless", I made a passing reference to a friend of his from high school who had gone to Harvard (we were at MIT nearby, of course), and who had stopped by our fraternity house once.

Now I have read that piece I wrote maybe thirty times.  It was read aloud at his funeral in 2015, and it wasn't all that long ago that I read it again, prior to last night.  But I was sitting on the couch last night reading it again, when I stopped at the reference to the friend at Harvard.  Wait a minute, I thought with a startled pause, that wasn't Randy's friend! The Harvard fellow -- and I even remembered his name -- was the high school friend of Kevin, a different fraternity classmate from South Carolina.

In other words, I had written, and then repeatedly read, an account of a friendship from 46 years previously, without realizing it was simply incorrect in identifying a person.  I was sure enough of my account to put it on the Internet, where everything is always 100% accurate, as we know.  Didn't give it another thought for three years.

How are those decades-old memories, we ask ourselves?  I had no sooner made that self-revelation about the Harvard friend, when my mind made the easy leap to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings filling our news this week.  I turned to my best girl and told her what I had discovered, and that apparently my memory was a bit leakier -- in fact, more deceptive than leaky -- than I had realized.

This past week we have been hearing allegations that have been of incidents that supposedly happened 35 years ago, and for which nothing was reported at the time.  In Dr. Christine Ford's case, her memory was inadequate to identify a year, a location, nor how she arrived at, or left, the site of the incident she alleges happened.

Since she was 15, she would have to have gotten a ride from someone thereafter, and that person would have known something happened.  The perfect corroborator, it would be, which makes the lack of that name rather convenient for those trying to keep the allegations nebulous and unprovable.  How 'bout that.

Our memories are funny things.  They keep bits and pieces and, as my own recollection incident apparently showed, occasionally move those back and forth a bit when the incidents start getting decades layered over them.

When people's lives and careers are at stake, it's about time we recognized 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, October 3, 2018

More Lessons from the Kavanaugh Hearings

Like many, I had the hearings late last week on TV in my office.  Those hearings were, of course, the ones of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be a justice of the Supreme Court.

Like many, the whole charade disgusted me.  In an attempt to be fair, the chairman (Chuck Grassley, R-IA) had allowed the testimony of a psychology professor who claimed to have been -- well, it's not really clear exactly what all was done except that it stopped short of actual rape -- so let's say attacked, by the nominee back in the early 1980s, or the mid-1980s, depending on which of her statements was to be believed.

This testimony could have been delivered many weeks earlier, except that the letter from the professor was held from the committee by the ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who is not coincidentally running for re-election, even though she would be 91 at the end of her term if elected. 

Why she sat on the letter for so long, not airing it until after the full hearings concluded, and why she did not even raise the issue with Judge Kavanaugh during her private meetings with him is apparently never going to be answered.  How the letter came into the hands of the press, although it was only in the possession of Feinstein's staff (and that of the California congressman it was also provide to), is also unknown.

But we know.

Christine Ford, the professor in question, is at best a pawn in an ugly game of chess being played by Democrats in a bizarre attempt to forestall a non-existent attack on Roe v. Wade, the SCOTUS ruling effectively legalizing abortion.

In other words, in an effort to defend the killing of hundreds of thousands of unborn babies a year, the destruction of a man who has an exemplary 30-year record of service to his nation is apparently collateral damage.  That is so, even though there is almost no chance that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe, since he has testified to his opinion that it is, at this point, settled law.

But that is not enough.

I truly detest when people talk past each other, let alone doing so for hours at a time.  And yet that is what went on last week as senator after senator on the Democrats' side went on about how wonderful Dr. Ford was, even though she was not able to testify specifically to anything identifiable in regard to the event, and everyone she named as having been there denied that the event occurred.

She was not able to identify the location, nor was she able to explain how she got home from the event, although at 15 she would have had to have arranged for a ride -- and could not name who had taken her home, let alone from where, when the driver would certainly have seen and remembered her alleged distress.  Not a single element provided by Dr. Ford would have been enough for a prosecutor to bring a case to a grand jury, let alone to expect charges to have been filed.

Now we have the FBI doing yet another investigation, although it will take next to no time to do so, given that there is no physical evidence to examine, and only a handful of people to interview.  As I write this, I believe that the interviewing is about done.

The FBI will almost assuredly come back with a report that changes nothing, that will state that no corroboration was able to be found for anything Dr. Ford alleged.  She might have been attacked, but if it was by Kavanaugh, it cannot remotely be shown by either evidence or corroborating testimony that it was.  And in this country, we require that, before we think about punishing anyone.

When the FBI does come back with that finding of nothing more than was "known" before, not one senator on the Democrats' side will change their vote, because they're not interested in supporting Dr. Ford; they're interested in stopping President Trump from appointing a Supreme Court justice.  And it is all about abortion, lest there be any doubt.

And Judge Kavanaugh and his family will continue (as, it should be known, is to some extent the case with Dr. Ford) to be the target of threats and vituperation from social media.  Given that Maxine Waters, a Democrat congressman, has encouraged physical confrontation with Republicans, it is not inconceivable that those threats to the judge may become physical.

Collateral damage, in the interest of killing unborn babies.  This is the lesson of the Kavanaugh hearings, and it is beyond unfortunate that we have come to this contemptible practice, the politics of personal destruction, on the part of the Democrats.  And I really don't have that much concern about the abortion issue myself; certainly not with much passion compared to most.

They don't care.  They have no "envelope" to regard their actions as being outside, because the left has no guidance, no morals, no sense of decency.  No constraints.  Extremism in the defense of abortion is, apparently, no vice to them.

We pray that the voters this November reject that notion in the best way possible.

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, October 2, 2018

The Bullies in the Land of the Moose

I don't know if the mainstream media actually covered it, but late Sunday night Canada caved in the standoff on overhauling NAFTA.

Now, trade talks are dull as all-get-out, but I think we knew the deal here.  President Trump was never a fan of the North American Free Trade Agreement, feeling that it had locked in some unfair practices that allowed jobs to escape the USA.  As president, he pledged to overhaul it in such a way that it would be fair to this country.

He had a tremendous objection to the tariffs placed on dairy products, making American dairy farmers essentially locked out of the Canadian marketplace by import duties that tripled the price of milk from the USA.  This he regarded as totally unfair (I believe the tariff was meant to protect Quebecois dairies and was related to the weird political relationship between Quebec and the rest of Canada, but that was Canada's problem which they were making ours).  He felt it needed to be fixed -- now.

What previous president would have gone to the land of the moose and the loon and the Mounties and Molson and actually said something like "Justin, you can take that dairy tariff back down to something reasonable, or I'm going to slap a tariff on the cars you hosers make up there.  How's that work for you, eh?"

The answer is that no previous president, Democrat or Republican, would have done that, not just because we actually love Canada and Canadians (I'm a big fan, myself), but that our historic posture would have been to cave and do something around the edges.  We can't possibly offend another country, can we?

But Donald Trump, as we know, is not like anyone else who has sat in the Oval Office -- not a bit.  In his view, he is the president of the United States, and is responsible first for bettering the lives of the people of the USA, lowering taxes, creating jobs, arguing on behalf of our people in the world's forums.

He was ready to walk away from the trade-talk table and focus on the new relationship with Mexico, which had already agreed to a significant update to NAFTA.

And that's the point today.  If our friends to the north were taking advantage of us when we had all the leverage -- and we surely did, given the size of our import volume -- then what do you think the rest of the world which, for the most part is not as friendly toward us as Canada is, was doing to us?

The folding by Justin Trudeau is a real watershed moment in American foreign relations.  It tells us that we have been bullied by our close friends, as well as by our less-close friends.  It tells us that we actually have leverage that no other country can claim, and that we need to start using it, rather than being the patsy to the economic bullies of the world.

I don't actually see Canada as a bully, of course.  They have this odd internal political dynamic up there that the USA's dairy farmers were being punished for.  But they also make or assemble a lot of cars up there that end up in the USA market.  They couldn't really expect that we would punish our own dairy industry, but let those cars come rolling in untaxed.

What could they have expected?  We never stood up to them before, so that while they might not have seen their intransigence as bullying, the outcome was the same as if it had been, for years and years.

Until we actually had a president of the USA, not, as he reminds us, of the world.

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, October 1, 2018

Cabs and Cars and Tobacco, Oh My!

OK, this piece really has nothing to do with tobacco, pretty much, although there might be an analogy I bring in later.  But you can't do a "lions and tigers and bears" spoof without three things, so I stretched.

Technology Review is the MIT alumni magazine, combining an actual set of articles on very cutting-edge technologies with news about my alma mater and whereabouts and stories of alumni.  It is published six times a year, and as the permanent secretary of the Class of 1973, I receive a printed copy without having to donate to the university, which I won't do as long as Jonathan "Obamacare" Gruber is still employed and teaching young people there.

In the latest edition's technology section, there was a piece about Taiwan, and how they were dealing technologically with issues between the nation's Uber drivers and its taxicab industry.  These two forces are at odds in a lot of places, including New York City, where I wrote about the City's decision to pick a winner and a loser on purely political grounds.

Without getting into the whole "vTaiwan" point of the article, suffice it to say that the island nation was trying to come up with a reasonable accommodation between the two industries.

But it made me think.

I really, really do not like governments picking winners and losers except where government contract awards are concerned, where by definition winners and losers are picked, but based on merit and cost, and not on politics.  Mostly.

In New York City, the mayor and council decided to limit the number of Uber drivers so as not to cause any competition for the taxicab business there, which generates lots of revenue and possibly bribes (often called "campaign donations") to the City and its leaders.

Well, when I read that the Taiwanese were dealing with a very similar situation, I thought back to New York and I let my mind wander, which is rarely a good thing unless I need a topic for an article here.

What, I thought, would have happened if there were neither a taxi nor an Uber system in the city at all.  Suppose that all privately-owned cars were banned, but starting January 1, 2020 the city would allow commercial passenger-carrying vehicles only.  Would there even be a taxi service started then?

In other words, if the notion of passenger-carrying vehicles were allowed with no predecessor model to start from, would we invent both an Uber and a taxi system?  Or would there be an Uber system alone?

I don't use either, since I don't travel and I have my own car when I do go somewhere.  I have used taxis in my life -- actually drove a cab for a short while -- and I've used Uber once.  And I realize that in some places, like dense cities, a service where you can just wave down an orange-yellow-colored vehicle because so many are out there, well, maybe that would be useful compared to a summon-by-smartphone model.

But I don't know if taxis would have proliferated to where they are today, highly protected but expensive to get a license to operate, if a free-flowing Uber presence were out there already.  And if the demand for cabs would have been fairly tiny had Uber been out there previously, well, perhaps the taxi industry, coming in after Uber, might not even start up, or at least be a simple niche industry, not one protected by the City.

Maybe both Taiwan and New York City should look at which service it should allow to shrink back based on consumer demand among its citizenry.  Or (gasp!) let the market decide.

If you took them away, and then allowed them to start up again and compete on a totally even playing field, well, you get the idea, I hope.  Sort of like the fact that if tobacco were discovered tomorrow instead of 400 years ago, there would be a whole lot fewer people getting lung cancer -- especially since, if you removed all the historic rationalization for certain states to protect the industry, people wouldn't voluntarily think to roll that stuff up and smoke it.  There, analogy.

I hate it when governments pick winners and losers.  And I do hope when that sort of contention happens, we need to use the square-one test -- if the two solutions didn't exist yesterday, what would be most sought by the market?

Just a thought to start the week.

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, September 28, 2018

The Role of Neighbors

As you're aware, we have just recently returned from a nine-day evacuation and returned to our home and our neighbors.  We fled the wrath of Hurricane Florence, which turned out to be a wise journey given the extended power outage, flooded roads and winds that stripped siding, fascia boards and soffits from houses in our community and on our street.

Our "street" is actually a semicircle that has about 18 houses on it, none more than a couple years old, some very new and more being built as we speak.  Given our location on the Carolinas coast, they are built to withstand Category 3 hurricane-force winds.

As new neighbors join the community as their houses are completed, those already here aggressively welcome them into the community that our street has become.  We need each other, I think we all agree, and so we make sure that we talk a lot and interact a lot.  The first Thursday of each month is "drinks in the driveway", where we get together in a common area at 6pm with drinks in hand and lawn chairs, to catch up.

We still don't really "know" each other as well as we ultimately will.  Certain couples -- most on the street are in our 60s -- have tended to pair up with another couple or three, as they discover particularly compatible personalities.

So it was not a surprise that one resident of the street, who lives two doors down, returned after only 3-4 days; we knew him to be one who would prefer to be addressing issues sooner and directly, even in the absence of electricity and a boil-your-water order that still has not been lifted.

After the storm left, but before anyone else had returned, our neighbor had walked around to take note of the damage to other houses -- some siding, some other minor damages.  We, for example, had a soffit piece come apart near the peak of our roof, and some separation in some wood joints, but that was it.

Our neighbor contacted a contractor right away.  Knowing that contractor vehicles would be banned from our community for a while for new construction but not for repairs, he arranged for a contractor to assign one of his crews to start fixing houses on our street as soon as the residents started coming back.

We returned last Thursday night, were given the contact information for the contractor's repair team, and by noon on Saturday our repairs were all done.  Completed, and for a very low price.

What is a neighbor?  I mean, the word just springs from some ancient English words for "inhabit" and "near", but on this street it means a little more.  Because of our neighbor, over half of the houses on the street, all of which sustained at least some damage, had their repairs completed before the weekend was out, with good work at a very good price.

I know I won't forget what our neighbor arranged, because the alternative would have been a mad scramble a week later to get someone to help.

Back in the winter of 1999, we had just moved into our neighborhood where we would be for 17 more years.  When the first snowstorm came, dropping a foot of snow on the neighborhood, I took out my snowblower and started clearing everyone's driveways, most of whom we had not met yet.

As I told my best girl at the time, if you want good neighbors, be a good neighbor first.  Not one neighbor I plowed out ever thanked me, but that's mostly because none of them knew who had done it.  But for as long as we were there, there were no issues with interactions with the community.

I think we're in one of those places now.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, September 27, 2018

You've Let Me Sing, Mr. Angelos, Please Let Me Watch!

This message is actually directed at John P. Angelos, the Executive VP of the Baltimore Orioles.  I suppose that his dad, Peter, who bought the team 25 years ago but is much less hands-on as he approaches 90, may read it as well, and that would be fine too.  So here goes.

"Dear Mr. Angelos,

I know it has been a hard year and all as far as the Orioles have been concerned, losing all those games and it being unclear as to how and when things may get better.  But people still actually want to watch the team, and that is especially true for those no longer living in the area.

My family and I went to many, many games, both at old Memorial Stadium and the beautiful Camden Yards, while living up there for 36 years and while the kids grew up, but I've been "reassigned" and now work and reside in the coastal area of the Carolinas.  I truly miss your ballpark, though, for several reasons.

One is that you invited me on numerous occasions to sing the National Anthem there.  

Of course, there was the one episode in Memorial Stadium where I was lip-syncing and you played the tape of a barbershop quartet while it was just me out on the field, but your predecessor owners apologized, and after you bought the team you brought me back often to sing live.  I really enjoyed the experience, and hope I did the Orioles and our country proud.

I was also privileged to have presented Cal Ripken with the Lou Gehrig Award of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity there at Camden Yards, another great Orioles moment I was proud to have played a part in.

And for many years I watched a lot of Orioles games on TV, including on MASN, the sports network you own, for many, many years.  We had MASN in our home then, through our TV service, being in the metropolitan area and all.

Unfortunately, though, that has ended, and I hope you can fix it.

Baseball, as you know so well, has an arcane TV blackout system where every zip code in the USA is assigned to one or more teams.  Fans are automatically blacked out of broadcasts of games from those teams in our zip code, unless you watch them on the regional carrier for that team, such as MASN -- assuming your TV service even carries it.

So even though we live 465 miles south of Baltimore, we are somehow assigned to the Orioles as our "local" team for TV purposes.  That means that we get to see no Orioles games at all, ever.

Why is that?  Because we are so far from Baltimore that neither of the two available cable services here carries MASN.  Our cable service is actually locally-based.  We selected them so that our service calls would be answered by Americans, 15 miles away, not in Mumbai, where they don't understand blackout rules quite as well.

Being a small service, they only have about 150 of their total customers who subscribe to the Extra Innings package to see all the unblacked-out games.  We know -- we are one of them.  In fact, we called the cable company to ask them to add MASN to their lineup.  Since they are a local company with good service, they actually talked with me about it and their experience with you.

Want to know what they said?

We'd love to add MASN, they said.  There are a lot of people who live here who are from the area up there who have asked.  But when they contacted MASN, you quoted them a non-negotiable price that was so high that no one would pay for it, and they certainly couldn't afford to add it to their basic package cost without losing half their subscribers.

So I am blacked out of your games.  I don't get to see your team.  And I now understand that the reason I can't see your team is because you can't, or won't, charge an affordable price to our tiny rural cable company.  And we can't use a satellite service, because this area is severely windy and dishes routinely move and blow away to where they can't provide the associated Internet service reliably enough to make work possible.

You let me sing at your games, Mr. Angelos, but now you won't let me see them.  But you could.  

How about contacting me, and I'll provide you the contact information for our cable company.  As a favor, you could negotiate a truly affordable rate for MASN instead of the non-starter that MASN's previous quotes have been.  My contact information is below.

In fact, while you're at it, perhaps you can also persuade your colleagues among the owners to revisit the blackout rules to reflect the reality of today's cable and satellite world, and not the world of 1953 that they are still based on.  

I will be more than happy to participate as a member of the committee, or to testify on your behalf for reasonable changes to the rules.  I can handle the English language pretty well.

I'd like to see the Orioles, really soon."

Kindest regards,

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

It's Not Kavanaugh -- It's the Next Nominee

As we watch the political desecration of the "advise and consent" role of the United States Senate, it is not a secret why it is happening -- but it also is one, at least to some extent.

The left had talked and tweeted itself into some kind of fury, at the notion that the approval of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would lead to the immediate overturning of Roe v. Wade and the illegalization of aborting the unborn across the USA.  Since apparently aborting babies is the most important legal issue we face, even though the judge has testified that he regards it as "settled law", the left feels the need to destroy the man before he can be allowed to take his seat.

We get that.  The left is an amoral bunch, akin to 1930s brown-shirts in pre-WWII Germany.  They will do whatever they want in the defense of their right to kill unborn babies, and that includes hounding Ted Cruz out of a restaurant in DC.

Unfortunately, it also includes concocting hazy (at best) or fictional (at worst) tales of Judge Kavanaugh's associations with women from high school.  It includes, as Dianne Feinstein did, holding back the existence of the tale from the Senate Judiciary Committee for two months, and from the accused, Judge Kavanaugh, even though she met with him to assess his qualifications.

But again, that's what they do, and why.

However, there is a far more insidious outcome that no one is mentioning, and it is incumbent on us to address before it is too late.

Recent elections for president and other high offices, and hearings for appointments to Cabinet positions have been utterly brutal -- and personal.  One thing we constantly hear is that "No one will want to run for, or apply for, senior public service jobs if they have to have their entire life, even the least relevant years, dragged through the mud."

They're right, of course.  I've never really contemplated running for public office, but in idle thoughts where I imagine myself doing so, the one thing that immediately switches my thinking to something like sports is the notion that my life would be an open book.

Now, I've never been charged with a felony, never been in jail, never appeared in my defense in court.  I managed to get through high school without a day's detention, and through college without whatever MIT's student government would have been empowered to charge me with had I actually done anything.

And yet the last week's events have made me think back to my relationships with women in college and before I got married (I didn't actually have any relationships to speak of in high school).  We don't actually know what Judge Kavanaugh supposedly did to or with the now-college professor, lawyered up with a virulent anti-Trumper.  We don't know, because no one will say, lest there be something tangible to deny or even to prove fictitious.

But even the things that have leaked out, true or not, seem to be things that young men often do at that age -- because young men do them.  If the young lady chooses, she can go along, and if not, the young man should be decent and find a way to lessen the stress of the interaction.  But the point is that if it were a requirement that no male candidate for office have ever made a pass at a woman in his life, well, that might have changed the course of history a bit.

Yet that is what the left has done here.

They are taking a brilliant and accomplished jurist with literally hundreds of published opinions and a thirty-year legal and judicial career, with a squeaky-clean reputation and the unanimous approval of the Bar organizations that vet such candidates, and trying to destroy him based on an as-yet-unpublished and completely unverified accusation of something in his teens that 99% of non-nerdulent boys have done.

So let's say that a few Republican senators decide to bend to absurd pressure and declare they will not vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, and the Democrat senators in Trump states facing reelection then don't have to vote to confirm because there's now not a majority.  Say that the judge withdraws his name, even though he is arguably the most qualified American to hold that post and has a 30-year record of excellence.

Who is next?

That's the part that is indeed a secret, because we're not thinking that far ahead.  If Brett Kavanaugh can possibly be rejected by the Senate, on the flimsiest of accusations from his teens -- literally -- then who is going to allow themselves to be subject to that kind of abuse voluntarily?  Would you?  I know that I wouldn't, and I've already mercifully forgotten most of my teenage years.

Are we not better off having the most qualified jurist on the Court?  Are we not afraid that the abuse heaped on this man is going to scare off the most qualified judges going forward, as long as they are appointed by a Republican (the Republicans in the Senate don't practice that kind of character assassination)?

Yesterday I asked what Democrat in the Senate would be willing to speak out against what is happening to the judge.  So far none has, of course.  But I will ask again, because the real danger to our democracy is hardly what happens if Judge Kavanaugh is approved by the Senate -- it is what happens if he is denied.

This needs to end.  Now.

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, September 25, 2018

Who Will Be the First Responsible Democrat?

As I write this, another flimsy, barely-remembered account of what might have happened in a prep school 30 years ago at a drunken party and might have been Judge Brett Kavanaugh but might not, has surfaced.

And the stink test is clearly failing the Democrats.

I will admit this.  Mitch McConnell's lack of action on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in the waning months of the Obama Administration was unwise and inappropriate.  That was a political absurdity, when the more logical action would have been to slow-roll the nomination to a vote right after the election and simply reject the nominee on the same partisan vote that the Democrats started with Robert Bork -- as the Republicans' majority would have allowed.

I don't believe that nominees should be judged on anything but their qualifications and certainly not their politics, but "they did it first", and now we have "to Bork" as a verb.  Of course, with the exception of l'affaire Garland, only Democrats have practiced Borking; Republicans have overwhelmingly voted to approve the SCOTUS nominations by Democrat presidents.

But even the Democrats have, until now, only opposed Republican nominees based on politics and not invented personal smears, even for Justice Neil Gorsuch.  Or maybe they couldn't dig up anything on Gorsuch - or, apparently, make it up.

Well, those days are over.

We are now confronting the dredging up of hazily-recalled events that may or may not have happened.  Dr. Ford, the accuser of the boy Brett Kavanaugh once was, wrote a letter describing something (no one apparently gets to see it, an obvious denial of due process to the judge) that happened in high school in the 1980s.  It was not reported then, nor does anyone purported to be there have any recollection of such an event or of Kavanaugh even being there -- which he himself denies.

In the subsequently-reported incident, the claimant concedes to having been so drunk that she can't even recall if it was actually the young Kavanaugh in the first place.

Not a prosecutor in the nation would try to file such a case in the absence of a corroborating witness and with zero physical evidence.  Moreover, given the ample opportunity for either complaint to have been filed previously, either with the police at the time or at any of Judge Kavanaugh's subsequent confirmation hearings for his judicial appointments, imagine that, no one thought it helpful to make those incidents public at the time.

Dr. Ford apparently did not want to testify, until she did, and wanted Judge Kavanaugh to testify, absurdly, before she even testified herself before the Senate committee!  Her lawyer (a virulent anti-Trumper) actually wants the person accused to testify in response to something he knows nothing about before he's supposed to know what he is accused of.  This, madam counsel, is not China.

And yet, the Democrats in the Senate are lined up behind these unfounded accusations, demanding that the accusers be believed even as they deny more adult allegations against, say Bill Clinton.  And they are willing to delay the appointment of a Supreme Court justice based on 30-year-old allegations made, in both cases, by people who were supposedly drunk at the time.

We are supposed to be judging the judge based on his record, his judicial temperament and his character.  All those, for at least the last thirty years, have been impeccable and public.  As I wrote some time ago, the childhood imperfections that threaten a career are no more important than the passing good deeds that purport to sanitize the criminal.  Yes, please read that piece.

Is there not a single Democrat in the Senate willing to stand up and condemn this ridiculous tolerance of a political act that will not work, first, and is based on exactly zero that would produce a court case?  And, we should add, even if it happened, which it very likely did not, given the political nature of the timing, the thirty years of the man's life and career are what would inform him as a justice and inform the Senate as to his qualification to serve.

Not one Democrat willing to be their party's single voice of sanity in all this?  Nope, not a single one.

Doesn't that say all we need to know about the left that thinks it should rule us.

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, September 24, 2018

Don't Fire Rod ... Yet

President Trump was surely a bit surprised to hear a piece in the New York Times this past week suggesting that the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation into something or other, had made an odd statement last year.

Apparently, Rosenstein was reported as having suggested that he wear a wire (this was apparently not long after inauguration) in conversation with the president and try to catch something that could lead to the Cabinet declaring him to be unfit for office under the 25th Amendment.  This was a big deal to the Times as some type of palace intrigue.

Of course, as you apply the sanity test to all this, and start to hear from people close enough to Rosenstein to understand how he talks, the actual nature of the incident, if it indeed happened, comes out a lot different.

Rosenstein is known, or reputed, to be a fairly sarcastic person when he hears a suggestion he finds to be stupid.  Given that among the people in the room at the time was reported to be Andrew McCabe, the Trump-hating senior executive in the FBI, a totally different spin seems to be playing out.

If Rosenstein actually did utter those words, with McCabe in the room, a more reliable accounting of the incident would have been that McCabe himself, whose wife had just lost an election as a Democrat and Trump opponent, had made some suggestion about getting dirt on the president.  Rosenstein would have then replied with something like, "Sure, Andy, how about I just wear a wire and bug the President of the United States and then give it to Jeff Sessions to start a 25th Amendment case?  That what you want, moron?"   And then forgotten he ever said it.

Since the whole incident is only coming out now, a year and a half later, it obviously didn't lead to anything because, if it was said at all, it was a sarcastic rejection of something McCabe said.  That it is coming out now makes sense when you step back.

The left wants Trump out.  Any way, any means.  He threatens their Deep State power, the choke-hold they have on Washington.  What way would be better than to bait the president into taking an action that looks like the "obstruction of justice" that they see as an avenue to impeachment, since the russiarussiarussia probe seems to have reached a dead end a year ago?

So it is incumbent on President Trump simply to let this incident go.  Word is that he actually has a very cordial relationship with Rosenstein.  That being so, it is incumbent on Rosenstein to go see the president immediately and clarify what that was all about, even to the extent of throwing the already treadmarked McCabe under the bus.

And it is incumbent on the president simply to let it go, and not do anything with or to Rosenstein.  He is being baited by the left, and he's certainly smart enough -- as are his closest advisors -- to see this release of a non-story for what it is.  It is no more than an attempt by President Trump's political opponents to get something that sounds like an impeachable offense in the event of the (unlikely) assumption of a majority in the House.

This, of course, is precisely why Americans need to go out to the polls on Election Day and keep the Democrats as far from the power that they abuse immorally, as possible.

Do nothing, Mr. President.  Grit your teeth and let it go.

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, September 21, 2018

Lying Before You Get to the Story

The actor Burt Reynolds, who coincidentally was a fraternity brother of mine, passed away not long ago at 82.  We know, of course, that he was married a time or two, including to the actress Loni Anderson, with whom he adopted a son named Quinton, who is now 30.

Reynolds voted for Donald Trump, although he didn't claim to be particularly passionate about it in an interview, possibly to minimize the damage that Hollywood might inflict given their gasping-for-breath shock that anyone would actually have cast that vote.

However, that has to be what accounts for a bizarre headline on Yahoo's "News" feed that is up there as I write this.  The article was by someone named Taryn Ryder, although who wrote the headline is lost to the imagination.

Now the headline itself is not actually bizarre, in and of itself; had it been factual it would have seemed perfectly reasonable.  The headline read:

"Burt Reynolds cut 30-year-old son out of his will: Here's why" 

Lots of people cut their kids out of their will.  Sometimes it's not out of retribution but for perfectly good reasons, such as leaving their estate to a different child who cared for the parent during their latter years.  Perfectly reasonable.  And, of course, often it is actual retribution, which is what we immediately assume when we see the term "cut out of the will."  Cutting out of a will implies retribution.

So if you read only headlines, you would make the logical assumption that Reynolds and his son were at odds, enough to drop Quinton from his will and not provide for him.

And you would be wrong.  So, so wrong.

In fact, as the article actually notes in detail, Reynolds did not bequeath anything to Quinton because he had earlier created a trust through which to pass the bulk of his estate to Quinton, avoiding probate and high inheritance taxes.  He specifically points out in the text of the will that he created the trust for that purpose, and that Quinton had been provided for "during his lifetime", i.e., by Reynolds passing his estate to his son through the trust.

So what was the purpose of the deceptive headline?  In earlier years, that would simply have been click-bait, meant to get people to read the article and see the ads positioned beside it.  But the character assassination that goes along with blasting the fake news that a Hollywood actor had disinherited his only son, carries malice that can't be dismissed as click-bait.

Yahoo owes the Reynolds family and the memory of the late actor a serious apology for that headline, an apology that will never happen.  The malice in the headline is clearly triggered by Reynolds' politics, though Yahoo will never tell you that.  That flat-out fake-news headline would never, ever be used in a similar situation for a liberal icon actor (say, Alan Alda) who had protected his children from huge death taxes by setting up a trust, even as they insist that the rest of us pay more taxes.  And don't kid yourself, they do it as well on the left (the word is spelled "hypocrite", by the way).

Fake news, as President Trump often states, is the enemy of the people (no, he never says that "the press" is; they just assume that by "fake news" he means "them").  The pen, even the online version, is mightier than the sword, and those who smear the innocent (and in this case, the deceased) because they don't like their politics, using that powerful pen, should be castigated in public.

Oh, yeah -- That's what I'm doing now.  Yahoo, you should be ashamed.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Heading Back Home

The floodwaters are all over the place, some receding and some increasing, but this morning (Thursday) we are heading home on the long drive from evacuation exile.

We have been able to stay 400 miles away through the kindness of a friend of our son, who allowed us to stay in his house for ten days while he was away, and that is a blessing compared to those who did not have relatives or friends to host them, and had to spend large sums on hotels with inflated prices, or ended up in temporary shelters.

Count us lucky.  We know that our house is intact, as friends who could return have taken pictures and sent them.  We know that little if any actual damage was sustained, and our losses will end up being predominantly from the loss of power to freezers and refrigerators.  That can be replaced.  People cannot.

To all those who prayed for the displaced from Hurricane Florence; to all those who braved the risks to return and start moving trees from roads and protecting people and property from subsequent injury and damage; to all those already actively arranging for recovery for their neighbors -- you are good people and we are grateful, even those of us spared the brunt of the actual damage.

The Lord watched over us and we are grateful to Him above all for keeping us safe and giving us a place to be.  May He watch over our return and bring us safely back today.


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, September 19, 2018

Man, It Never Ends with AGT

Back two or three months ago, when the America's Got Talent show was getting going for its umpteenth season, I did a piece after the judges put through an embarrassingly awful performer named Courtney Hadwin, a British girl of about 14 or so who ran around the stage screaming in an imitation of Janis Joplin, who herself also ran around the stage screaming 50 years ago but at least had a story that somehow rationalized it, and was not imitating someone else.

As I mentioned, the girl was given the "golden buzzer" by one of the judges (I won't embarrass him by giving you his name, but his initials are "Howie Mandel"), which allowed her to bypass the next rounds of competition and go straight through to the live quarterfinals.  That was a few weeks ago, and she proceeded to do the same act, this time running around and screaming in imitation of someone else.

It was equally unpleasant, but the "fans" this time voted her to the semifinals and, last week, brought her again to the finals over people of immensely more talent and certainly more listenable performances.  She is getting better at what she does; it's also a problem that what she does is simply unpleasant to watch or listen to.

Last night she performed on the live finals, and tonight she will be crowned the winner.  How do I know?  Because her tale on AGT is eerily similar to Grace Vanderwaal, another barely-in-her-teens competitor who won two years back despite showing no real talent as a performer whatsoever -- she strummed a ukulele and sang songs she wrote, in a whispery voice.

That tale is creepily reminiscent now, as yet another performer, like Grace given the "golden buzzer" by a judge and put through by an alleged TV audience vote despite much better competition, is there to be given scads of money.

Now, remember that I'm still in evacuation exile from my coastal Carolina home, and have to watch TV a bit behind the time, especially when there is a competing Red Sox game.  So at this moment, I have not seen the finals, not that it matters.  And tonight is the announcement of the winners.  So I do not know who will win, but I know who will win.  Been there, done that.

Back in June when I wrote the linked piece, my best girl told me (and I immediately agreed) that Courtney, this year's Grace, was going to go all the way and win.  Not, I pointed out, because she was good, but because the gap between her performance and the judges' collective slavering over her was clear evidence that the network wanted her to win for some reason and, since we never see the actual voting, they could control it.

Three months later, the announcement is tonight.  I'll watch the last-night show to see what happened on the actual performance night, and then the announcement show to confirm my assumption.  But we told you three months ago both who would win and why.  It's right in these pages before the airing of the show.

For the record, there is a fellow on there named Daniel Emmet who is also in the finals, although he was not chosen by the judges to go to the semis until he was made a judge's wild card pick.  He is a trained operatic singer who did a simply gorgeous performance of "Somewhere" last week -- effortless singing and marvelous communication with the audience (of which, I should note, Courtney has exactly none).

In the real world, although there are some other outstanding acts, including an Asian sleight-of-hand magician who is equally remarkable, Daniel would win or be in the top two.  This is network TV, though, not the real world.  The head judge, Simon Cowell, is a talent broker of some kind, and owns the show franchise, which creeps out the rest of us who believe in an honest balloting.

I sincerely hope Daniel will have a marvelous career and, more, that the world gets to hear him over and over again, but they won't let him win.  The beauty of his singing brings tears to the eyes, as it did to me watching the replay of last week's performance yesterday.  The world needs to know what beauty in music is.

But that's not what AGT is about, and tonight it will try to tell us that America, devoid of ability to recognize talent, voted for a screaming 14-year-old as the winner.  The network will tell us the voting was fair (or not even bother to) but we will know better.

You heard it here first, almost by definition.

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