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
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

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.

Amen.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I Wanna Go Home!

I have only the greatest sympathy for the victims of recent hurricanes, such as those in Texas and Puerto Rico and Florida.  People lost their homes, their possessions and, in all too many cases, their lives.  Florence, the huge hurricane that is wending its way up the Appalachians as I write this, was one of those.

I'm not sure, then, what to say.  This is Day 6 of our evacuation, and we are still 450 miles from home with no end in sight.  We are told that there is electricity in our house, which means that at least the meat in the freezer that thawed and spoiled will have refrozen when we return, so it will not be as gross to figure out what we lost.

There is water, but we won't be able to use it until we flush the lines, as there were local breaks in the main lines that put the risk of bacteria and other contamination in.  That boil-all-water order has not even been lifted yet.

Moreover, we physically cannot return, as to this point the access roads are flooded or impassable from falling trees.  There are at least four alternate routes into our area, and all are washed out.  Weirdly, that can get worse before it gets better, as the river headwaters far inland continue to carry water toward the ocean.  We don't know.  We just know that until there is an actual confirmed route, we can't leave.

Tashi hard at work.
I've been more fortunate than most; I have been able to continue to work as an independent consultant remotely, since what I do from home is just as "remote", except I have my desk there, and here in displaced evacuation mode I'm working from a chair with a big, furry Himalayan cat next to my leg (see at right).

Let's say this, though.  I don't expect to need or maybe even ask for help from FEMA or otherwise.  I am pretty sure our house survived intact (others, brave souls who never left have driven by and confirmed that it "looks OK"), even though we're about two miles from the shoreline.

I think I would be uncomfortable asking for other taxpayers to help out, if indeed there were something to help out for, other than having been displaced for what will be over a week.  It will end up costing me a few tanks of gas to get far enough away, and whatever we will give our son's friend as a gift for the generosity of offering his vacant house for us to stay in.

We will have lost maybe $500-600 worth of frozen foods that are spoiled, and possibly have some trees to replace, but otherwise we spent in exile something close to what we would have spent had we stayed.  Insurance might help or might not.  Either way, we took on that obligation when we chose to live on the coast, same as people do when they move to an earthquake zone or Tornado Alley.

I feel terrible for those with more extensive damages and losses, and pray that insurance should cover them.  We pray that they will be all right, and that damages get fixed and the insurance they bought to cover such calamities pays to repair and replace things, as it should.  I just don't think there's anything I need from FEMA -- meaning from the American taxpayer.  We're OK, thanks.

I just want to go home.  I want to size up the damages, put in a plan to get back to normal, put the furniture back where it belongs, replace the freezer and/or its contents, and move on with our lives.

It won't be today, though.

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 17, 2018

Death Tolls and Politics

I'm a bit overly sensitive to stories of hurricanes.  As I write this, Monday (today), we are staying in a house many hours from home, waiting for Hurricane Florence to complete her mission to the point that we can actually reach our house through unflooded roads, and that there is a house to reach when we arrive, with electricity.

Last year, of course, was a pretty difficult year for hurricanes, especially in certain areas of the mainland USA and in Puerto Rico.  We felt for the residents there and did whatever we could to support their local relief efforts.  That is never, of course, enough.

On Tuesday, as my best girl and I (with cat) were making the long drive to a less treacherous area, we started discussing not just the hurricane but the expected reaction.  I said that as soon as the relief effort started when Florence had passed, the left would be all over President Trump that it was not good enough, that FEMA was incompetent, etc.

I was wrong, of course.  Before Florence had even hit, some Democrat senator had complained that the Administration had moved $10 million in funding from FEMA to border security accounts.  Of course, as it turned out, the money -- a trifle in FEMA's budget anyway -- could not be programmed for disaster relief anyway based on Congressional direction, so the senator looked like a political fool, but that never stops Democrats.  Ask Maxine Waters.  And the people that voted for her.

At any rate, perhaps in preparation for Florence, the left is now doing their pre-hurricane complaining about President Trump's last oversight of a post-hurricane recovery, that being in Puerto Rico last year.  As you recall, the island, which had sketchy power and infrastructure to begin with due to decades of poor governance by Democrats there, was further devastated by a direct hit from a hurricane.

I wrote back then that it was not the responsibility of the taxpayers of the rest of the USA to pay to put in a brand-new infrastructure to make up for the mismanagement by people their voters had elected, even though the island was suffering the effects of damage that would have been far less under better management.

People did die there, of course.  But apparently, with Florence heading our way, it appears to be time to exaggerate the death toll dramatically, in the interest of making it sound far worse, and then to blame the president for that -- somehow.  Now, I don't exactly know how many did die as a direct result of the hurricane, but it sure wasn't 3,000, as the new study suggested, even if it was more than the 60 or so that had been the original count.

The study that everyone is quoting now did not try to count actual victims, but rather assessed the population of the island, applied normal birth rates and death rates -- statistical stuff that has no business in a sensitive cause-and-effect count.

But if there is a disaster, even a natural one, during the administration of Donald Trump, you can be sure that anything that can be twisted to embarrass this president will be done that way.

Naturally, President Trump did not take that massive hike in the suggested death toll that was politically motivated, without commentary.  As he tweeted,

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000 ... This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising billions of dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!"

When I read these stories, I seem to recall a similar situation.  There was a severe heat wave some years ago -- I want to say maybe 2003 or 2004 -- that was particularly rough in Chicago, where it was very hot for a week or so.

Naturally, the global warming warriors were out there tying to point out that this must have been due to man-made impacts on the climate, even though they are conspicuously absent during deep freezes like the one that killed tropical vegetation on the Carolinas coastal areas last winter.

So death totals started to come out from the left in Chicago, ascribing a large increase in deaths to the heat, and that old people were dying and the like, and it was George Bush's fault -- either George Bush, it didn't matter.  Lots of people were dying.  Pick a Bush.

Of course, before long it came out that the lefties were counting pretty much any death as being heat-related, including deaths in hospices and the like.  You died?  Well, it had to be the heat.  Didn't take long for that to come out.

I suspect a ton of that is going on now in Puerto Rico, which is unfortunate.  First, it means that the actual death toll will never be known, since it is now completely politicized.  Second, since at least some deaths that are indeed attributable to the hurricane would not have occurred had there been a decent infrastructure -- thanks again, Democrats -- we will see even the best counts corrupted by the situation as well as by politics.

If you have been watching the death toll from Florence -- and I can assure you, we are -- we already know that there are heart attack victims in the numbers.  Trust me, I went to medical school.  If you have a heart attack on the day of a hurricane, you were about to have one, one way or the other, momentarily, even if it were sunny.

President Trump and FEMA will do everything they can, because they are good people.  What they can do is, of course, affected by resources and by the fact that this is a natural disaster that is going to destroy homes and kill people despite our best efforts.  We will, by definition, fail, because nature is that awesome when circumstances line up that way.

What a shame that we have to politicize a hurricane recovery.

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 11, 2018

A Florentine Pause

Please forgive me, but I think we will take a break from this column for a few days.  Florence is zeroing in on our home, and I believe we will be either defending our home or getting far away for several days.

In either case, please be in prayer for all those threatened by this storm.  See you soon.

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 10, 2018

What "Division and Resentment"?

Barack Obama had been mercifully traveling around with his mouth shut for most of the past two years, while his successor, President Trump, had been fixing the economy that Obama had nearly ruined, even as the Obama leftovers in the Justice Department were trying to cover up their own collusion with Russia in 2016 by accusing Trump of what they had done.

Still, Obama was out there last week making a speech at some place or other that was giving him an award for something he probably deserved as much as his Nobel Peace Prize (that he still hasn't given back).  In the speech, he accused President Trump and Republicans of offering "a home to the politics of division and resentment."

OK, well, I'm calling him out.

What the heck are you even talking about, you contemptible liar?

The "politics of division and resentment", indeed.  Let us set aside the fact that "politics" are by definition associated with division, since in a free country we elect people at the ballot box.  We're not voting for a choice of people who agree with one another, but who disagree on how to lead.  There is going to be division if there is politics.  That is no different in the current campaign from what it was in any election campaign that Obama lied his way through, whether with "You can keep your doctor" or "There is no scandal at the IRS" or ... well, you heard them all.

Is it not "division", when you ram through a hugely unpopular health-insurance law without even consulting with Republicans and using a parliamentary trick to pass when the 60th Senate vote was lost because a replacement Senate race was won by a candidate pledging not to vote for Obamacare?  What exactly was the olive branch you offered to those you divided yourself from after that?

"Resentment"?  Do you even have an example of what is different in this administration from yours?  Aren't you the one who sent your Attorney General to Ferguson, Missouri, to take the side of a convenience-store robber who tried to steal a police officer's weapon and got killed doing it?  And vilified the officer so badly that he had to quit the force?  And precipitated riots in the streets there?

Aren't you the guy who took the side, knee-jerk, of a professor in New England who was uncooperative with police?   You engendered resentment on the part of law enforcement officers across the country, but I guess its OK to be resented by people you think are "pigs" anyway.  And you know you do.

But actually, my problem with the speech is that "division and resentment" don't really apply to this president, let alone to where he would be the one accused of practicing them.  Donald Trump's approach to the economy -- which has worked, by the way -- is as ecumenical as could be, certainly by virtue of the fact that his tax policy and stripping of burdensome regulations have resulted in historic lows in the unemployment rate of black and Hispanic workers.  Imagine that.  A rising tide, after all, lifts all ships.

But it is not in the interest of Barack Obama and his ilk to see success on the part of minorities in the USA.  Rather, they need economic failure in minority communities so that they seek the solution of big, dominant, welfare-state government to take care of them, preferably on a generational basis, to produce the votes needed to keep them in power.

The nation saw through that, but it took two terms of Obama to realize that was what was going on.  Fortunately for the USA, with power comes entitlement, and the entitled Hillary Clinton bullied her way to a nomination for an office she couldn't possibly serve well in.  Someone who did her own "dividing", by insisting that her qualification for office rested upon her possession of a uterus.

Barack Obama could sure read a speech well (his extemporaneous stuff, well, that's a parade of stammering as his mind sifts through his platitude Rolodex).  But unfortunately now we actually can stop and listen to the words he reads, and we understand that it's all lecturing; all passion and no substance.  His failures in office will eventually be what unites us, ironically, behind an economically successful America that he had no hand in creating.  All he did was screw up so badly that we were willing to vote for Donald Trump to get us out of it.

Which he is doing.  If there is any "division", it is your legacy, not Trump's.  And I don't "resent" 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

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Pied Piper of Socialist Nonsense

We've all heard of the ancient tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the German story of the fellow who played a pipe to lure the rats out of the German village of the story's title.  As the tale goes, the mayor declined to pay the piper the agreed-upon sum for ridding the town of vermin, whereupon he returned later and played his pipe, luring all the children of the village away in revenge.
There are several variations of the actual story, but in each case it includes the notion of the children being entranced by the piper ("pied", of course, refers to his multicolored clothing) and going off to whatever fate awaited them.
We have our own pipers around, and have for centuries.  Whether for revenge or just power, or whatever, they have the mystical ability to get the young to follow them, regardless of the expected fate from doing so.  Advertisers, of course.  The people who got whole generations to think that only acts with a guitar and drums constitute "music."
And, apparently, our latest pied piper, the candidate herself, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Miss Ocasio, of course, is the candidate for the House of Representatives from some district in New York City, who remarkably won a primary victory against a long-time Democrat incumbent, possibly by persuading a whole district not to vote at all -- the voting percentage among the electorate there in the primary was barely perceptible (only 27,000 votes were cast, although some 700,000 people live there in a nearly-half Asian district).
She is an avowed socialist who ran with that label, possibly part of the reason that her incumbent opponent didn't even show up himself for one of the debates, figuring she was not worth it.
As we know now, though, although she has a degree in Economics and International Relations from Boston University, she fumbled through a series of interviews after her nomination on issues in the Middle East, clearly devaluing the institution from which she graduated and the department which actually found her degree-worthy.
But she does indeed have the script down, even though she appears not to have enough original thoughts to be able to answer simple questions for which "the script" doesn't have a section.  Ben Shapiro, the brilliant young conservative speaker, offered to give $10,000 to a charity of her choice for a debate, and she called him "sexist" and declined.  Go figure.
Having her script down, she is in a perfect position to lead children to the slaughter.  That was on view in a video where she is addressing a group of children outdoors and introduces herself:
I’m the Democratic nominee out here for Congress so I’m going to go to D.C., and we’re going to be fighting Trump. This is what we need to do: when you go back home, you talk to your mom, your dad, your aunt, grandma, sisters, anybody over the age of 18 that can vote — first you need to ask your parents to vote because if they don’t vote, then we can’t kick out Trump."
This is socialism in 2018.  This pied piper is out there trying to influence kids to get their parents to vote for her.  So she can help those children?  Um, no.  So she can promote policies on the economy, or foreign affairs, or the military, or immigration?  Um, no.  So she can "resist."
Socialists have no ideas left that work, so all they can do is chart a course straight for power, and in this case it means simply resisting the opposition, in this case as exemplified by President Trump.  Would it have killed her to take the opportunity in front of those eager young minds to explain what she is, you know, actually for?  I still don't know, because she is squarely in the bucket of identity politics and seems not to say anything other than the usual scripted nonsense.
Assuming she gets elected -- it's a safe Democrat district -- then Nancy Pelosi, as minority leader (we assume the Democrats don't have the stones to replace her) will have to assign her to committees.  Can you imagine the committee chairs all lined up in Pelosi's office begging that she not put Ocasio on their committees?  I can.  Who needs someone with no skills other than the ability to recite a script supposedly defending their positions?
The kids that Ocasio was telling to help her "get rid of Trump" will likely forget who she was in a few days; they're kids after all.  But eventually, her piping will start getting through, given that no one else is there to explain to them that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and "free college tuition" is not actually free, and that $15 minimum wage laws cost far more jobs than they help.
I can't recall what actually happened to the children of Hamelin.  But I can tell you what will happen to these children, eventually.  They will be encrusted into a welfare state in New York, as governed by leftists like Gov. Cuomo and communists like the mayor, Bill Di Blasio, and stuck there for life.
Ironically, the rats will also be 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

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Really, Is THIS How Democrats Want to Be Known?

I have had the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on for a couple days, the hearings for the conformation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  I hope you have been watching, too, or maybe not.

If you have been on an island, or remove all exposure to the news, Judge Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to fill the spot of the now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.  This is a "big deal", of course, because Kennedy was what they liked to call a "swing vote" -- not reliably conservative or liberal, even though he was an appointee of a Republican president.

That is a crock, of course.  Every vote on the Court is a swing vote, and Kavanaugh should actually say that any time there is a reference to Justice Kennedy.  That is not a "role" on the Court; it is the outcome of the consequences of presidential elections.

Kavanaugh is a conservative judge, and would make a conservative justice.  That is, of course, a good thing, in that it would entail a solid conservative majority on the Court and a defense of the Constitution from, well, the other four of them, who vote in lockstep leftist mode, although no one seems willing to point that out.

The Democrats opposing Kavanaugh will lose that battle, of course.  The Republicans have a majority of the Senate, and beyond that there are at least a half-dozen Democrat senators up for reelection in two months, who are in states won in 2016 by President Trump.  If they don't vote to confirm Kavanaugh, it is extremely likely it could kill some of their chances at reelection, swinging the Senate even more Republican.

But apparently it is not enough for the Democrats to lose the confirmation battle.  They seem to want to look as bad as they possibly can in the process.  Why else would they have paid protestors to come inside the committee chambers and scream slogans and epithets at the top of their lungs until the officers in charge -- and they need a few dozen more of them -- drag the morons out of the chambers and haul them off to jail, we hope.  They get texts -- we can see it -- saying "OK, you're next to stand up and make a jerk of yourself."  Or something like that.

I do not understand the thinking.  They seem to feel that creating chaos in a civilized environment is how they are supposed to win the argument about Judge Kavanaugh's qualifications to be a SCOTUS justice.  They think that people out in the voting world will see them in a more favorable light by screaming and chanting and trying to disrupt the proceedings.

I realize that this is a major battle for the Democrats, because of the power -- and the lifetime tenure -- of the Court and its justices.  But elections, as good old Barack Obama said, do have consequences.  One of the things that candidate Trump said, often, is that an issue of the election was going to be who appointed justices -- maybe as many as 3-4 over his tenure -- and did we really want Hillary Clinton doing that?

It is not said enough, but when the last couple justices were nominated by that same Obama (prior to the ill-fated Merrick Garland), there was never an issue in the voting.  Plenty of Republicans accepted the fact that a president had a right to nominate qualified candidates of his own political leanings and judicial philosophy, and they voted for leftists like Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, who actually got away with her stupid "wise Latina" comment (I truly wish that Kavanaugh would have included, in his opening remarks, an opinion that a "wise Irishman" would make a great Justice).

Republicans are not the type to act like spoiled children in venues like Supreme Court hearings at a Senate committee.  It surely is not becoming for Democrats to do that, and it starkly points out their lack of regard for the process.

Brett Kavanaugh will become Justice Kavanaugh within a few weeks, but that won't be all we remember.

We will remember that the Democrats, void of ideas and now void of civility, not only tolerated grotesque incivility, but actually paid people to exhibit it.  No more stark example of their dearth of ideas can there be.  No more stark example of their disqualification to lead the nation is there, than the fact that not one Committee Democrat stood up to condemn the behavior of the protestors.

Not one of them gets it.  Red wave is a-comin'.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Are There Multiple Trumps?

Well, maybe that wasn't the ideal title for this piece, but I wasn't sure how to title it.

See, here is the thing.  There are a lot of facets to President Trump, and I was wondering if another person (in his stead) could have had the same track record.

To date, he has overhauled our relationship with North Korea, healed our relationship with Israel, redefined our relationship with Iran and established new approaches to trade with Mexico, Canada (we hope) and the UK.  He has successfully slashed the corporate tax rate and immensely hiked the nation's GDP, while lowering middle-class and lower-income tax rates.

He has brought attention to the Swamp, the corruption of the entrenched bureaucracies in Washington that long since ceased working for the good of the country.  He has exposed the bias in the Justice Department, the people who are supposed to be protecting us from crime, not from Republican candidates.  And he has appointed a virtual torrent of conservative judges to Federal courts, protecting us from lawmaking among the judiciary.

He has done all that.  He has also issued about 26,447 or so tweets since taking office, many of which are grammatically cringe-worthy and occasionally sophomoric.  He has taken on opponents with name-calling, and often says the kind of things you hear in junior high.  And Lord knows, he has a history with women that has left a trail of hush-up payments, although so far it appears to all have been consensual and not #metooworthy.

And that's all the same guy.

Now, I am really happy with the domestic and foreign progress he has made.  Our economy is roaring with no end in sight, as long as the USA doesn't go all stupid and elect socialist Democrats to the House.  I'm strongly for the foreign relations direction of the Trump Administration, both in military posture and on trade.  The nations that President Trump regards as friendly are the ones I feel the same about, and the same is true for our adversaries and enemies.

So essentially, I am in the same boat with about 90% of supporters of this president.  I'm really happy with the outcome, and I struggle with the personal side of the guy.

But I have to ask myself this -- can you separate the two?  That was pretty much the meaning of my title for this piece.  Could someone else have gotten the good outcomes without the baggage?  Could someone else have turned the economy and stiffened our foreign resolve, or is it actually a result of Trump's personality and candor that he has been able to get done what he did?

I immediately assume that no one, including the current Vice President, Mike Pence, whom Trump praises at every turn, could have done the same thing.  You see, the biggest impediment to Trump's success has been the Swamp, and had he not put the Swamp on the defensive by exposing them to the nation, they would have slow-rolled it and screwed the USA yet again.

And I fear that almost all of the logical candidates would have lacked the resolve to expose the Swamp, let alone to go after it.  Frankly, I think that can be said for virtually all the other 16 or so candidates in the Republican primaries in 2016, as well as VP Pence.  Senators like Rubio and Graham and even Ted Cruz or Rand Paul would have been reluctant to take the Swamp on, since they lived in it.

Non-politicians like Ben Carson -- well, Carson might have been far too gentle -- and Carly Fiorina might have tried to make peace with it first and gotten absorbed.  I mean, I almost voted for Mrs. Fiorina in the primary, but I suppose that might have been a challenge to think she could have made the same progress, despite her intellect and willingness to bring private-sector priorities to the government.

I have to infer that a huge part of President Trump's success is the kind of person he is.  Gargantuan ego, New York brashness, excessive macho, all that stuff allows him, or even encourages him, to take on his adversaries both overseas, on the left and even the Swamp creatures of his own party.  As a businessman, he is driven by results, and has absolutely zero interest in a system that allows itself to be entrenched without accomplishment, like, you know, the Senate or the Justice Department.

There aren't actually multiple Trumps.  There are simply many facets to what it means to be this president, and it really seems that in order to get done the things that many want, but only he has been able to get done, he has to be the other half of him, the hard-to-stomach tough guy.

Fortunately, the USA only has to look at the results.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

"Whose Job Is Next?" -- The Republican Campaign Ad Copy

I was listening to the radio the other day, and a guy from the Midwest called in to a talk show where they had been talking about labor -- it was, after all, Labor Day.

The guy was a coal miner, and had been a Democrat all his life until Hillary Clinton stupidly said during the 2016 presidential campaign that she was going to try to eliminate lots of jobs in the coal mines and put coal miners out of work.  Now, she was pandering, as usual, in this case to the environmental wackos that seem always to win out when, on the left, environmental issues clash with organized labor (private sector) and actual working people.

I won't say that her coal-miners comment was what finally won the election for Donald Trump; after all, he won West Virginia by some 40 points.  While it certainly affected the final tally, he would have won the state regardless.  But it sure cost her votes and surely didn't gain her any.

At any rate, this caller was going on about that, and apparently he is now not only a Republican and a Trumpian, but he is out there proselytizing for Republican candidates among his co-workers and friends.

What he told the radio host, was that he was saying this to them:

"The Democrats wanted to take away my job in the mines.  Whose job are they taking next, buddy -- yours?"

I heard that, and I thought that little piece of messaging was precisely what was needed to influence the 2018 election on behalf of Republican candidates for the House and Senate.  After all, it was the Democrat standard-bearer for president just two years back, who declared that her party's policy was to eliminate jobs that didn't comport with their environmental policies.

So I immediately saw the commercial in my mind's eye and ear.  Here goes:

Start with a video clip.  It's Hillary Clinton herself, declaring to a crowd, "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business" -- and the crowd cheers (you have to hear the cheering, because it carries the message that the Democrat party agrees with her).  Cut to a coal miner, dirty and tired but with a look that conveys "I'm proud to work."  The miner looks at the camera and says, "I heard Hillary Clinton say that.  I knew the Democrats were coming to take away my job.  My living.  My home.  Whose job are they coming for next -- yours?"  As he walks back to the mine, the voice-over says, "Since the Republicans started making America great again, we have the lowest unemployment among black, Hispanic and other workers who were abandoned by the Democrats.  [name of House or Senate candidate] will protect your job, and you can be sure of that.  Vote for jobs.  Vote for [candidate].

That, my friends, is a winner.

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 3, 2018

The Real "Happy Labor Day"

Although I already gave my Labor Day message in a piece last week, it is, after all, the day to celebrate hard work, in many people's cases, by killing cows and throwing their parts on a grill.

Or something like that.  So to all you who do the work, just relax and grill up a little something.  Exhale.  Enjoy.  Remember that you probably get paid and consultants don't.  Remember that beef is really a vegetarian thing -- cows eat grass, and we eat cows.

Have a beer and be happy that you work.  Or used to.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, August 31, 2018

Where Affirmative Action is Affirmatively Wrong

You may or may not have heard this, but for a while now a group of Asian-American students has been pursuing an admissions lawsuit against ivy-covered Harvard University, the second-most prestigious institution of higher learning in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The premise of the suit is that Harvard discriminates against students of Asian descent, admitting them at a rate disproportionately low for the nature of their academic qualifications.  One position of the organization sponsoring the suit is prompted by the discovery that with the same qualifications that would lead to the admission of about 90% of black student applicants and 70% of Hispanic applicants, an Asian student would be admitted about 15% of the time.

This is fun.

It's fun as an MIT alum to ridicule the pomposity and virtue signaling of the other college down the road.  They look incredibly disingenuous, especially when they try to defend their processes.  "We are committed to a diverse student body ...", they say.  Yeah, like "diversity" is the most important factor in admission, or at least second only to how much an applicant donated to Harvard's bloated endowment fund.

At any rate, this suit was in the news yesterday when the Department of Justice took a holiday from protecting its own leadership's corruption, and actually did something productive.  They filed briefs on the side of the Asian students, and committed to be a part of the suit.

I don't know how Harvard actually defends this.  "Diversity" is such an amorphous, blobby term that it is darn near impossible to pin down what the goal is.  Think about it.  If you are to be textbook diverse, you pretty much need to come up with a quota system that reflects the population of the USA.  And if you do that, you have to define the tolerance limits -- if there are 6% Martian-Americans in the general population, then the admitted class needs to be perhaps between 4% and 8% Martian.

But it is impossible for Harvard to put numbers on diversity quotas.  For example -- and it is a sterling example -- about 2% of the American population is Jewish.  That's about one in 50.  But incoming classes at Harvard are about 25% Jewish and have been for years.  Do you think that Harvard feels the need to do anything at all about that?  And given the figures above on the comparative standards for admission across just Asian, Hispanic and black applicants, just how "Asian" would Harvard be, if they applied comparable standards in a race-blind way?  Maybe 70%?  Would that be wrong?  If so, why?

They can't apply the same strictures against Asian applicants to Jewish applicants to get the Jewish figure down closer to 2-3%, right?  But they can do whatever they want to Asian (and, for that matter, white) applicants, apparently.

So what do they do?  They stay far away from any quantification to define admission policy and toss out the term "diversity" as a desired goal, without ever defining how you know you have reached it.  That way, as with every action of the left, they never actually reach the goal, and have to keep in place the overreaching rules (or, in the case of government, the overreaching Federal programs) forever.  That allows them to maintain control and keep it within the entitled few, rather Obama-like when you think of it.

Harvard is contemptuous of the Justice Department intervening on behalf of the Asian students, of course.  They know better than anyone what is the right way -- the Harvard way -- and God help anyone, especially a Justice Department headed by someone from, God forbid, Alabama (and appointed by Donald Trump), who tries to tell them otherwise.

Long-time readers will remember this column that I wrote a couple years back, one that suggested that my own alma mater had not come close to figuring out when to declare victory in the diversity wars.  Please read it if you have not already.  If you went to MIT or know anyone who did, get yet another copy in the hands of MIT Admissions.  MIT had been using the same dangling carrot in front of itself for 50 years, without ever knowing how to declare victory.

Harvard is such an awesome target, though.  I want to hear them in court, answering questions like "What is your precise goal, qualitative and quantitative, for the outcome of race in admission?  We're waiting, please ..."  I'd actually like to have the Asian students themselves hire the noted Harvard Law professor emeritus, Alan Dershowitz, to defend them.  Can you imagine Dershowitz, who knows where all the admissions bodies are buried, asking insightful questions in court?

Let's see what happens here, because there is no win for Harvard.  And I love seeing them lose.

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, August 30, 2018

Who's Asking Whom What?

It's hard to know what to make of the testimony of the disgraced DOJ official Bruce Ohr before a congressional committee on Tuesday.  It is difficult, in part, because the testimony was behind closed doors and thus we don't have a verbatim transcript.  It is also difficult because, had it been in the open, with posturing and preening by witness and congressman alike, the testimony might have been much different.

Still, in accounts from some of those present, Ohr was fairly cooperative and did not appear to be pleading the 5th Amendment,or unwilling to be forthcoming, as some previous witnesses before that committee had been.  And one question that he did answer, and for which we'll take his answer to have been candid, was really curious.

Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel, was hired to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and collusion between foreign (i.e., Russian) nationals and American candidates.  His investigation having clearly turned up not a bloody thing regarding the Trump campaign and any collusion, he has wandered off into absurd rat-holes like the financial dealings years back of a guy who later was a campaign manager for the Trump campaign for a month or two.

You would think that instead of (or even in addition to) sending his taxpayer-funded minions down such rat-holes, like Paul Manafort's bank records from 2007, Mueller would honor his mandated mission by exploring actual evidence of such collusion with a political campaign.

That might, you'd think, include the known facts of likely collusion.  That should include the "known fact" that the opposing campaign had hired Fusion GPS, an American dirt-digging operation, to work with Christopher Steele, a foreign national who hated Donald Trump, and by extension with actual Russian operatives, to fabricate a faked dossier of material on Trump to influence the 2016 campaign.

Knowing that, you would think that it is of interest that the pathway of the fake dossier was from Fusion employee Nellie Ohr to her husband, a very senior DOJ executive, Bruce Ohr, to the FBI for corrupt senior players like Peter Strzok to use as the basis for a FISA warrant to spy on an American citizen.  Bruce Ohr, though twice demoted, still works for the Federal government and still holds a clearance.

You'd think, right?

And yet when Ohr testified Tuesday, and he was asked if Mueller's team had even once interviewed him, what do you know?  According to Ohr, he has never once been interviewed by the Mueller investigative team.

So what exactly is the Mueller investigation about?  Is it about Russian collusion or is it about submarining the presidency of Donald Trump?  Is it about getting to actual, well-documented connections, in this case between the Democratic National Committee and Russian operatives seeking to influence the 2016 campaign, or is it about Paul Manafort's tax returns and embarrassing and jailing people around the president?

I have been one to say that the president should steer clear of the Mueller investigation as it could not end well for him to play a role.  But at this point, I'm ready for President Trump to use the fact that Ohr was never interviewed as a reason -- a very public reason -- to take over the investigation, declare that it is imperative that we expose collusion, if any, fire Mueller and his team on the spot, but replace him with someone capable of an impartial investigation confined to the issue of Russian tampering and collusion.

Mueller never talked to Ohr.  Are we crazy?

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Admiring Teams that Try

This past weekend, the Boston Red Sox, owners of the best record in the majors and rather a shoo-in to reach well over 100 wins in the season, hosted the Tampa Bay Rays.  The difference in the teams is fairly stark and worth a little observation.

The Rays play in Tropicana Field, a domed stadium in St. Petersburg (it is, after all, the Tampa Bay and not the "Tampa" Rays).  Although I've never been inside, it is widely regarded as a dump, unattractive to watch a game in, and certainly reflective of the dump that is the Rays organizational finances, in part because they can't attract fans to the place.

Although it is not necessarily the best metric, it is certainly worth pointing out that the series pitted the team with the highest 2018 payroll in the game (Boston) against the team with the lowest (Tampa Bay).  That having been said, it should have been only a minimal surprise that the Rays swept the series, to the disappointment of the Red Sox, their fans (including me) and most of New England.

After all, in baseball, they play 162 games, and the better team certainly does not always win.  Beyond that, despite their meager payroll, the Rays actually are several games over .500 and, while they're really not contending even for a wild card, the fact that they win as much as they do with a paltry payroll is remarkable.

Now, as I have said, comparing payrolls can be a fool's errand.  Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap, but it does have a "luxury tax", under which teams whose payrolls exceed various thresholds kick back a percentage of the overage to the league, which distributes it to lower-revenue teams.

The luxury tax is progressive, to where at a certain point it is an effective limit on team salary obligations.  The highest team payrolls are still under $250 million (Tampa Bay is at the bottom, about $75 million).  But note that the revenues of the highest-income teams are substantially above that, so that while those teams rake in a lot of dollars, they still have to be careful where they spend it.

Boston, for example, is still paying two players no longer with the team $40 million or so in 2018 as a result of poor contract decisions in the past.  The New York Mets are still paying $1.2 million a year to Bobby Bonilla, who has not played in the majors for seventeen years.  But I digress.

Boston this year is paying two players no longer on the team well over half of the amount that Tampa Bay is paying their entire team.  The economics are truly bizarre.  Tampa Bay can obviously not afford to hand out even $15 million a year contracts to anyone -- only four players on the roster make even $1 million a year, and none makes as much as $6 million.  They certainly can't afford to make mistakes.

So while I regretted the three game losses over the weekend, I also respect the process by which the Rays have built their roster, heavily tilted toward younger players (and therefore cost-controlled).  I respect that they have taken a young manager, Dave Cash (a former Red Sox catcher, naturally) and allowed him to guide his team with the trust of the organization.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Oakland Athletics were in the same financial position as the Rays are in now, with a similarly abysmal ballpark and little possibility of generating the revenues needed to attract free agent players and keep their own talent.

But they, like the 2018 Rays, found ways to succeed.  They even won several division titles with over 100 wins, despite being at or near the bottom of MLB in team payroll.  They looked for ways that they could minimize the impact of revenues, identifying undervalued skills that traditional scouting paid little attention to, such as getting on base.

I don't know what the Rays are doing.  The statistics don't seem to show anything particular, but the team wins a lot of games.  If there is an undervalued attribute they're leveraging, we can't yet tell what.  And no one really looks forward to playing them, even if the game is not in St. Petersburg.

But they have my respect.  And they also have four more games with the Yankees, in which I wish them all the best.  And no more with Boston, for which I'm grateful.

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