Friday, November 28, 2014

Unintended, Intended, or Just Plain Stupid?

Oh, those wacky Gruberites who foisted Obamacare on us.  They have made it almost impossible to determine whether some of its outcomes are intended, unintended, or that its authors were just plain stupid -- or crazy like a fox.

We now learn from the Washington Times and elsewhere that illegal immigrants were ineligible for the Obamacare subsidy, and more importantly, businesses which hire them are not penalized if they don't offer them health insurance.  That was merely a quirk when illegal immigrants were, well, illegal.  Now, thanks to the EOFH (Executive Order From Heck), they're still illegal, but they won't be prosecuted for it -- or deported.

So whether this was the intent of the law's authors or not, here is the outcome: businesses are now incentivized to lay off citizen employees and hire illegal immigrants to take their jobs.  The article places the value at $3,000 each, the now-avoided fine for not providing medical coverage to each employee.

If I am the citizen at risk -- and thankfully, I am not -- with what I thought was a somewhat secure job, I am aghast.  Sure, my job wasn't necessarily complex (which is why an illegal could replace me at all), but I was showing up on time, doing what was needed the best I could, and providing value for my paycheck and food and shelter for my family.

Well, not so fast.  Some percentage of those in that boat are going to find themselves out of a job, replaced by someone who shouldn't have been in the USA in the first place.  It will happen; the only question is whether the number of American citizens who will be put out of jobs because of it (many of them minorities who blindly voted for Obama based on his skin color) is a handful, or in the hundreds of thousands.  They voted for "hope"; they got "change", and not in the good way.

Of course, that's not the only question.  Was the White House that collectively ignorant that no one behind its unlocked doors realized this was an outcome, as the EOFH was being contemplated?  Where is the staff of the Department of Unintended Consequences Avoidance when you need them?  In fact, where is the entire union movement, which is supposed to be protecting the unionized jobs of those that will be lost?

You add all this up -- a terrible black unemployment rate, with no end in sight, vs. a flood of immigrants, many willing to work their tails off to stay in the USA, no matter what the job, and it only makes sense from a political standpoint.  Obama, it seems here, is willing to let the black unemployment rate stay high because they're going to vote for Democrats anyway, while he opens the doors to a flood of illegals assuming they, too, are going to vote for Democrats.

That being the case, this whole "creating-incentive-for-illegals-to-steal-citizens'-jobs" thing is simply part of an intended whole, and it's all political.  Help the illegal at all costs, to get his eventual vote, since the citizen who loses his job is going to vote for "our" guys anyway.

It's not "unintended."  It's corrupt.  And it's time to call it what it is.


Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Oh, Just Sit Back and Relax

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I am a fan of the Portland, Oregon-based Internet baseball writer Rob Neyer and a long-standing reader of his work online.  Rob wrote for ESPN and other outlets, and now is associated with Fox Sports, for which he does frequent baseball pieces.

In his most recent piece, Rob covers some changes done in the Arizona Fall League as experiments to try to speed up the pace of the game.  The AFL is a post-season league to which teams send some of their best prospects to get some seasoning.  It is also a laboratory where Baseball tries out some rule changes before possibly implementing them at the big-league level.

I'm really ambivalent here.  I know some of the suggestions, like cutting time between pitches with no one on, would probably be a boon to the game but, as Rob noted, the average game time in the AFL experiment was only shrunk by about ten minutes.  Meh.

Of course, whether we even should be trying to shrink game times is in question.  The NFL, for example, has stretched its start times of Sunday later games to 4:30pm Eastern instead of 4:00pm, apparently because they can't get the 1:00pm games done in time.  Three hours to play a game that has precisely one hour of timed action seems a bit much, but no one complains.

And ... I believe they're not complaining for the same reason that Baseball shouldn't get too worked up about its own game length -- people who are fans enjoy sitting in front of the TV watching the spectacle.  Granted that the elapsed time of baseball games has gradually expanded; but some of that is the unavoidable consequence of gargantuan TV rights contracts, which require a lot of advertising spots to pay the piper.

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I truly appreciate the leisurely, contemplative and cerebral pace of the major-league baseball game.  I can sit back and relax, consider the options and use the commercial breaks for the beer runs and bathroom trips that God intended when He inspired Abner Doubleday to create the game.  If the alternative is rushing pitches, freezing hitters in the batters box and otherwise affecting the game, I'm not likely to be a big fan of such changes.

Life has enough to rush through.  Baseball is a different game.  Relax.  Have a beer.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Call a Bigot a Bigot

Marion Barry passed away this week.  The former mayor of Washington, DC, Mr. Barry had a career that can only be called "colorful."  Like all of us, he had his merits and his warts.  When such an individual leaves us, you can tell if the warts were significant, because the obituaries mention them.  Obviously, most don't, because, well, no one wants to dump on the deceased.

In Mr. Barry's case, the "warts" in the obituaries seem to be confined to his well-documented (and videotaped) escapade, smoking crack in a hotel room with a woman who not his wife.  Obviously he was very familiar with the process (I personally wouldn't have known which end of a crack pipe is "up"), which made it pretty evident this was a frequent habit of his.

That, though, is not the topic of this piece.  The obituaries have that pretty much down.

No, here's the thing with Mr. Barry.  Either racism is the worst sin an American can commit, as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the like repeatedly assure us, or it isn't.  If it is, then we need to pause before canonizing the man, and remember that he was an unabashed bigot, and that is a sin that knows no race or color.

Mr. Barry, after his arrest and scandalous behavior surrounding the crack incident, was somehow returned to the D.C. City Council in what can only be regarded as a curious reflection on the moral standards of the voters of the part of the city that elected him.  Councilman Barry, unfortunately, must have gotten so secure that he felt able to say things in public like this one, in regard to the awarding of a maintenance contract  by the District to a campaign contributor and the pulling of that contract from a properly-awarded contractor.  

The quote is from an editorial in the Washington Post in October 2011: "Not only was Joseph Lorenz, owner of the Baltimore-based firm whose contract renewal was denied by [the mayor], subjected to the third degree about his contacts with the media, but council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) made the contemptible observation that 'a white company in Maryland' shouldn’t expect to do business with the District".

This was not a young Marion Barry, frustrated at the difficulties of the civil rights movement of the '60s.  This was City Councilman Barry, in 2011, corruptly trying to reward a campaign donor, and then compounding the sin by an amazing, bigoted remark toward a company that had provided contractor service for years, primarily because of the color of the skin of its owners.

Apart from the blatant racism of Barry's comment, two things make it even worse:
(1) It obviously stemmed from feelings that he had inside of him about white people and the companies that they own, contemptible, bigoted feelings that had to have been there all along
(2) He felt not a smidgen of concern about airing them at a City Council meeting, knowing all along, or feeling, that no matter what he said he would be immune from criticism or retribution.

I can tell you that the Post, where the comments were noted in the editorial, never mentioned them again.  That, in itself, is amazing -- if we were talking about a Republican member of Congress saying anything like that in regard to an award of a Federal contract, that congressman would be forced out of office in a heartbeat.

But no, we will be subjected to a whitewashing of the record of Mr. Barry -- I expect schools to be named after him and statues built -- oblivious to the fact that the very racial animus we should be trying to remove from our society was an innate part of the fabric of the man.  

Thanks to Al Gore's Amazing Internet, his bigotry will go remembered forever.  We can only hope that before the first statue is designed, we'll think for a little bit.  We can hope that no school where children are taught life lessons will bear the name of an example of a lesson he never learned.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Baby, Bathwater, Ah, Who Cares?

This past week the University of Virginia, founded in old Charlottesville by none other than Thomas Jefferson, took the interesting step of suspending all of its fraternities and sororities for a seven-week period ending in early January.  The action was taken as a result of allegations of sexual assault at the house of the local chapter of Phi Kappa Psi.

So here is the mandatory disclaimer: Sexual assault is a criminal act, both morally and legally.  The perpetrators, if afforded due process and convicted, should be punished to the appropriate extent of the law.

Having said that, there is no excuse whatsoever for punishing anyone other than the person or persons responsible for the act.  As reported in the Washington Post this past Sunday, the university not only suspended Phi Kappa Psi, but also all the 30 other fraternities, all 16 sororities and something called "minority-oriented Greek-letter organizations", although except for the predominant race of the members, I wasn't aware that historically black fraternities like Omega Psi Phi, Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Phi Alpha were anything other than "fraternities."

I don't quite get the "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" logic.  Perhaps you do.  The Post did not explain what purpose was supposed to be served by the suspension of the 16 sororities, and I'm at a loss to understand why that was done.

But more to the point, the university is a Commonwealth institution, not a private one, and accordingly should be even more sensitive to the concept of "due process."  Sexual assault is not an organizational activity, it is personal -- here, disgustingly, by more than one "person".  In this case, although there was evidence or strong suggestion of cooperation and group assistance in the assault allegation by several perpetrators, it is pretty easy to argue that the suspension should have been of the accused and of any possible accomplices, not the Phi Kappa Psi chapter itself.

And even if you're not on board with that line of thinking -- which I believe correct -- there is no rationale for punishing any person or institution outside the individual accused, certainly not other fraternities not party to the assault, and for Heaven's sake, not the sororities.  I dare say that if the university president were asked to defend the decision to suspend all the other Greek organizations, including the sororities, she would say something clever like "Well, we have a problem and we had to do something."

Well, Madam President, here's the thing.  If you have a problem on campus with sexual assaults, and according to the article you do and have for a long time, how about following due process and confining your punishment to those meriting punishment?  If you believe that there is an institutional problem, then put in place a plan for addressing the institutional problem, which a seven-week suspension is not a rational part of.

My own fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, went alcohol-free at all its chapters some 15 years ago.  The Post even took the time this past spring to write up - positively - all the efforts it made to remove this kind of issue from its chapter houses.  Why did our chapter at U.Va. have to get suspended with the rest?  And why, again, were chapter houses only housing women included among those who have to go through this process?

Sexual assault is an atrocious offense and should be punished appropriately after due process.  That doesn't excuse the fact that overcompensation is inappropriate, and contrary to the principles of our Constitution.  And suspending 16 sororities that almost certainly have no complicity in the offense is throwing the baby out with the bathwater in its worst illustration.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton 








Monday, November 24, 2014

Pandora and Barack

Much of the discussion since the president went on TV last week to tell the country that he was no longer enforcing immigration laws has been about, well, immigration laws.  Since it was the topic of the speech, well, duh, no surprise there.

I do find a couple things interesting that have nothing to do with immigration.  Most important is that Obama had to have made a conscious decision to trade this specific action for the likelihood that a subsequent Republican president would do the same thing.

I really find that curious.  Was it so important to take this move now, knowing that the incoming Congress in a few weeks would be able to pass and put on the president's desk a bill covering the topic?  The risk is really great, after all.  As someone mentioned on the news a couple days back, there is nothing to say that a President Ted Cruz might decide in 2017 that the alternative minimum tax is just unfair and a burden to the middle class, so he is directing the IRS to cease enforcing it.

In such a case, the only Democrats entitled to speak are the few -- and there have been a few -- who speak out right now in opposition to the use of an Executive Order to suspend enforcement of the laws of the USA.  I will go on record right now to say that I question the right of any president to issue an Executive Order that affects the enforcement of Federal law.  I'm in accord with the right of Congress to suspend funding for certain activities of executive agencies, but only because, while I'm not a fan of that kind of action, it is absolutely constitutional and within their right.

But on this one, Obama has opened a classic Pandora's box.  If it is legal and constitutional for the president to suspend the enforcement of laws passed by Congress, then it is the same when done by a president of the other party.  So why did he think it was worth the trade-off?  After all, the next president to do this won't take a tenth of the grief that Obama will take for doing it the first time.

Right after I drafted this piece, I saw a clip from an interview over the weekend given by Obama to George Stephanopoulos.  He was asked about the precedent set for future presidents (I believe he was asked about enforcing capital gains taxes), and whether he was afraid his action would lead to such future Executive Orders.  "No", he said in a rambling reply, "because this was something we had to do."  How frightening that one man can decide when something he thinks he "has to do" trumps the Constitution.  That, friends, is a definitional dictatorship, and pretty darned scary.  By the way, I think we "need to" dump the Alternative Minimum Tax.   Just saying.

I hope that this action is taken quickly to the Supreme Court.  I think it is more important that the Court get the opportunity to rule on its constitutionality than what they actually rule.  Really, I do.  I'm not a constitutional scholar of any kind; I just want the definition of the separation of powers as it applies to this type of action to be no longer the subject of dispute.

Because if it is still unclear as to whether the president can interpret and enforce passed law as he chooses, Pandora will have done her thing once again.  And, friends, it is not a good America with that box opened.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton






Friday, November 21, 2014

Counting Grubers, One, Two, Three ...

OK, so you can tell that this whole Jonathan Gruber thing is ticking me off to no end.  I think actually my biggest fear is that this business of an academic type from my own alma mater getting $400,000 from us, the taxpayers, to deceive the Congressional Budget Office on how economically bad Obamacare is, will soon be forgotten.

That, of course, is my biggest fear, but it is not the only one.  I'm actually almost as afraid that there are lots of little Grubers running around the White House and the executive-branch departments like HHS, Justice and State, each of which paid Gruber for consulting on Heaven knows what.  I'm afraid that they are being paid hundreds of thousands of your and my tax dollars to "advise" this Administration on how to deceive us stupid taxpayers and voters, on other issues.

It is certainly pretty frustrating when you think about it.  Consider, for example, that someone has to be being paid to tell the president how badly the globe is supposedly warming, and that it is our fault, and what kind of taxes can be applied to make it seem like we're controlling it, even though that's all about getting more money into Washington (strangely, no one is telling the president that nuclear power would go a long way to reduce emissions).

Someone has to be being paid to tell the president what the constitutional grounds are for being able to grant blanket amnesty to millions of illegals so they can go vote for Democrats -- also illegally, but that has never stopped anyone (coughChicagocough).

Someone has to be being paid to create the schemes by which the IRS can target groups for delayed approval of tax-exempt status when they apply for it.  Someone has to advise them on making emails go away -- and creating excuses for it having happened.

Jonathan Gruber's ego was far too big to prevent him from spilling the beans on what a contemptible fraud Obamacare was and its proponents were.  But that's just one guy with a big mouth.  How many Grubers there must be on the taxpayers' nickel these days!  How many such "someones" are being paid, using money we borrow from China?

Meredith Willson's song from "The Music Man" beautifully encapsulates what we need to say, over and over, to this band of overpaid consulting corrupters of our republic.

"Goodnight, my someone, goodnight."

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Fictional Children's Teeth

I am going on record here as saying that there will be an outcry among the populace within two weeks, and it is not going to be because of anything that happens in Ferguson, Missouri.

This past Saturday opened the 2015 sign-up for insurance for those of us whose health plans were invalidated by the individual mandate of Obamacare.  As I have written, I will be paying about $1,090 per month, slightly up (OK, about 98%) from the $550 per month we now pay.  This is for two 63-year-old adults who have had zero change in health in 2014.

I spent a while on the phone with our insurer, Aetna, trying to determine which of the 3-4 plans they offer in our county was the best fit (i.e., the least devastating).  At one point I had to ask the name of one of the plans to write it down. I was told "VA Innovation Health Bronze Deductible-Only HSA PD."

Well, I know what VA and HSA mean, so I had to ask, "What does PD stand for?"  You are going to love the answer:

"Pediatric Dentistry"

"No, really?", I asked.  Oh, yes, boys and girls.  A significant part of the doubling of my premium is to provide two mandatory parts of my plan -- pediatric dental care and maternity coverage.  Are we kidding?  The Congress of the United States and the President of the United States thought it appropriate to pass a law that requires a 63-year-old couple to purchase coverage for pediatric dentistry, even though we have no children under the age of 33, and coverage for childbirth, even though, well, we're 63.

And if that weren't silly enough, try this on for size: our $550-per-month plan that becomes illegal on January 1st, 2015 actually has dental coverage in it.  The twice-the-price plan that the law forces us to buy starting January 1st not only does not have dental care for us, but we are paying for dental care for children we don't have!

I'm so flabbergasted that I have to say it again: the Obamacare law results in our paying for dental coverage for non-existent children, but it provides no dental coverage for us, who actually are paying the premium and who are, well, actual people with actual teeth.

One has to assume that our situation is being replicated in millions of households in the USA over these few weeks of sign-up.  May our voices be heard loudly now, even louder than they were heard on Election Day.

Because, friends, we need to replace Obamacare with a health insurance law that has some actual teeth.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Kettle Calling Pot Black

I think it's an oxymoron.  You know what an oxymoron is, right?  No, it's not someone who believes laundry detergent commercials.  It's two words that are used together but don't fit, like "jumbo shrimp" or "congressional intelligence."

Or "medical marijuana."

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it; there's something in my BS meter that goes wild when the topic comes up, and here it is:

In the USA it takes years to get through FDA testing in a rigorous, controlled and peer-reviewed process which produces scads of interaction warnings, and very specific dosages and instructions for what you can and cannot prescribe it for.  Yet here we are, prescribing a known mind-altering drug that comes not in a dose-measured pill bottle but in a weed bag (I assume), with addictive properties, and the dosage is determined by the "patient".

This makes no sense to me.  I once wrote, on a different topic, about reacting to circumstances that don't quite align and the rule of circumstantial evidence.  Medical pot is just like that.  I am not arguing the medical utility of marijuana as a pain reliever.  I haven't done the research; have only read a little since it doesn't matter for this purpose; I will stipulate that there is a constituent of marijuana that alleviates pain.

So let's ask:
(1) Why does it have to be delivered in the same way (smoked) that produces the dangerous high?
(2) Why, among all prescribed drugs, is it allowed to be dosed so haphazardly?
(3) Why do we not trust only actual pharmacies with actual pharmacists to dispense it?
(4) Why is it not that just the active pain-killing ingredient is compounded into a pill, like all other drugs?

The answer is simple.  There is a large set of pot-smokers there trying to legalize their recreational drug of choice, and have found that making it a prescribable intoxicant for the least provable condition (pain) was the fastest path to full legalization.  Remember the "inconsistent with innocence" rule?  If the medical marijuana advocates were seriously concerned only for the well-being of the aching American, this would have been put in the hands of the FDA by an actual drug company years ago as a compounded drug, and an extract (i.e., a pill, not a cigarette) with the pain-reducing but without the mind-altering capabilities would be in pharmacies all over the USA.

I guess we'll have to look at the results, including the auto fatality rates in Colorado and Washington State, to see what the collateral damage is, but for me, I just want to keep asking why, if the pain relieving capabilities of C. Sativa are that wonderful, they weren't just made into a pill.

If you know, please tell me.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Behalf of my Alma Mater, I'm Sorry

For the last week, we have been hearing (at least on CBS and Fox; for some reason NBC and ABC have not noticed) the various tapes of M.I.T. professor Jonathan Gruber explaining how the Obama Administration successfully tried to dupe both the American people and the Congressional Budget Office to believe that Obamacare was actually an economically sound idea.

Following the initial "stupidity of the American voter" video was a series of subsequent ones:

(1) More videos of Gruber with comparable offensive words about our intelligence (and touting his)
(2) Videos of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama denying they knew him or that he was part of the team
(3) Immediate response videos showing both Pelosi and Obama having been quoting Gruber all over the place for years.

This piece is brief.

On behalf of all alumni of M.I.T., of which I am one, I express my sincere apology for my alma mater having engaged, employed and presumably granted tenure, to a man who lied to the American people so blatantly and held you in such contempt that he would work to deceive the CBO into mis-scoring the bill.

I will at least tepidly defend the principle of academic freedom, that tenured faculty should be allowed to teach what they want.  But that doesn't excuse their performance and actions outside campus, for which they are accountable.  I've never been a really big contributor to my university before, but even that small amount will end.  As long as Jonathan Gruber is employed by M.I.T., the school's telephone solicitors will hear the same message from me: No contributions while he is still on the faculty.

Other alumni are invited to take their own stands.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Monday, November 17, 2014

Equal but Separate

We appear to be back having to talk about "income inequality" again, which is not terribly surprising.  After all, having been soundly thrashed a couple Tuesdays since and then embarrassed mightily by the expanding "stupid voter" scandal, the left needs to grasp at the nearest available straw to try to pull itself out of the hole its unworkable policies have dug.

And once again, having lost their appeal to the mind of the voter, they try to appeal to their hearts and sympathies.  Trot out the minimum wage, for example, a classic piece of feel-good-over-outcome misguidedness.  And create something from whole cloth that is the natural consequence of the fact that we're not all created the same -- "income inequality."

Now, first we need to remember that a capitalistic society is not a utopian one.  We're not all going to lay on the beach all day with ever-filled margaritas; someone has to pour them and someone has to pay for them.  Capitalism is not perfect, but it does work.  Of course, how near to or far from perfection any system lies depends on your view of what perfection actually is.

Here's my view:  Inasmuch as we're not all created equally, the best economic model is that one which allows the citizen to reach his or her best level of economic success relative to talent, intellect, drive and work ethic.  To me, that is a capitalistic economy that maximizes the return on those qualities and, at the same time, provides for those incapable of participating -- without encouraging non-participation.

Income inequality is, of course, the natural consequence of the differences in capabilities and self-motivation across the labor force.  Accordingly, I have to ask those crying over it, "When will you be happy? (i.e., what level of inequality is OK with you)"  And there, my friends, is how you know that they are redistributionists of the first order.  Here will be their answer:

[crickets ...]

The problems with crying over income inequality and, worse, doing anything at all to change it are two:

(1) In order to do anything at all, you have to have a specific metric for when controls end
(2) You are trying to overcome market forces.

The first is the telling case.  The Marxists will say that everyone should earn exactly the same, so the goal is zero inequality.  The run-of-the-mill leftists will say nothing.  They will say nothing, because if they were to legislate some kind of target, then once it passed and became the law of the land, they'd have to stop acting like closet Marxists and shut up, when in truth, complaining about those overpaid CEOs (to keep the attention of the masses) is their preferred motivation.

At the same point, however, there are actually constraints on CEO pay, called "market forces."  There is no reason that a company actually wants to give its executives gargantuan sums, and try to argue their rationale to their Boards of Directors, unless there is a logical reason.  That logical reason has to relate to the executives' capacity to bring value to the shareholders through their efforts.  I have known CEOs personally who were people of amazing capacity, absolutely paid in proportion to their value to shareholders.  If they no longer have that value, and the same value can be obtained for less, in the free market it will be obtained for less, whether it is I, buying a bag of navel oranges at store X because they're cheaper than the same bag at store Y, or ABC Corp.'s Board canning its overpaid leadership because cheaper competence is available elsewhere. There certainly are overpaid CEOs, but they don't last, far more often than you read about.

But that's not it!!!  It is about the left's desire to control everything in the economy, including salaries, and those bad overpaid CEOs are simply the bogeyman they use to justify their intrusion.  This is why you will never get the left to provide any metrics that say that they will shut up when the measure of income inequality has reached some specific level.  It's why they will never answer the question "What is the highest percentage of an earned dollar anyone should ever have to pay the government?"

Controllers control.  They can never tell you when they will say things are OK, because then they lose control.  God forbid that they ever get their way.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton   

Friday, November 14, 2014

The State University of Murderers

Lovely little piece today and elsewhere regarding the University of Illinois, a state institution, actually discussing hiring James Kilgore, the convicted murderer and bank robber (and, oh, by the way, a Maoist, but we can't all be perfect) who served an obviously inadequate amount of time in jail.

Before his past was found out, Kilgore was an "adjunct professor" (meaning that he taught some classes; we're frightened to guess on what) at old Illinois.  He was politely asked not to do so after his identity and background were made public.  However, it appears he is trying to become a permanent faculty member there, and groups of people who should know better are trying to get it to happen.

All well and good, no doubt, until some at the University started throwing around the term "academic freedom" as a rationale for why Kilgore and his rap sheet should be allowed to teach children.  That, boys and girls, is when the little gray hairs on the back of my neck started standing up and saying "BS alert, BS alert!"

Setting aside the accent of talking gray neck hairs for a moment, let's hear their point.  "Academic freedom" should not be a flexible concept.  The principle -- and there's nothing sacred about it -- is that professors can research what they want and teach what they want without constraint because of their beliefs.  If you're a philosophy professor and want to teach that communism is wonderful or that Bill Gates is inherently a bad person, or that Nixon was a cuddly kitten or that Obamacare is a great idea, hey, go ahead.  If you can't attract enough students to justify your salary and you're not tenured, you can get canned for that, but not for your beliefs, your teaching or your research.

Academic freedom does not apply to this principle: hiring a murderer to teach college students is a stupid idea, no matter what subject he's going to teach.  Kilgore is not teaching there now, and I daresay there are plenty of people in the USA equally qualified to teach whatever topic he was proposing to teach, who do not have the blood of a 42-year-old mother of four on their hands.  I'd teach those classes myself, but the thought of paying state income tax to a state that even considered hiring this guy would make the little gray hairs say even less pleasant things.  Plus, I don't have a Ph.D.

In the spirit of the "stupid Americans" comment this week, I hope the citizens of the great State of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, who just this past week voted out a governor who would have blithely let this pass, will rise in one voice.  They should not have to subject their sons and daughters to being in the same classroom with a convicted murderer, no matter what he plans to teach.  As a parent, I would think twice before allowing my child even to apply to such a school.

And if the citizens in fact can prevent that through loud chorus, there will be some little gray hairs wildly applauding.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Still Inscrutable After All These Years

Oh, those wacky Chinese.

Today the press is laden with stories about how the president went over to China and successfully reached agreement on carbon emissions or some similar topic that is supposed to offset global warming by 2025 or 2525 or some other year that Obama will not be our president.  The content of the agreement really doesn't matter, so please don't dash off to your local newspaper; finish this piece first.

I don't know what your first reaction was, probably a yawn.  Greenpeace members probably lit an ecologically-friendly candle and ate some tofu to celebrate.  Energy companies looked, listened and then went back to what they were doing.

Me, well, I'm kind of a chipmunk, so I asked myself the usual question: "Why?"  In this case, actually, "Why would the Chinese bother to make some kind of unenforceable agreement on suppressing their own industry, or building a clean infrastructure, and why would they do it now?"

I had to turn to Corollary #1 of my FTM rule that governs everything on earth (follow the money), which is "follow the power."  The Chinese don't care a bit about global warming; they don't intend to cut back their industries, and they certainly have no reason to be seen as doing so.  Therefore, we need to peel back their layers of inscrutability to answer the question.

The Chinese leaders want one thing -- power.  Nothing they do challenges that notion, and the only time they retreat from a power grab is when it is politically inappropriate to be seen as aggressors.  They are patient, and if takes them a century to conquer the world, whether by troops or by hacking the Internet, they will do so.  And  they certainly don't want anyone poking their noses into their oppressive human rights pattern.

So this is the logical rationale: In order to weaken the USA, they are trying to weaken the strongest force here, and strengthen the weaker force to oppose it.  In this case, they are propping up the weakened part of the government (Obama, beaten to a pulp in the elections and a lame duck to boot) by giving him a perceived "victory" that he can wave in the face of strength (the incoming Congress, Republican, not particularly pro-Chinese, united for the moment, and strong).

Sure makes sense to me.  The emissions agreement as far as the Chinese is concerned was always going to be a piece of useless paper they regarded as trash.  China saw this as an opportunity to foment conflict at the upper levels of American government and, for that matter, its society.  What they don't want is a strong, united American government deeply suspicious of Chinese motives.  So they need to try to mellow the perceived strength of the new Congress by giving a "victory" to its biggest adversary -- Obama.

I sure wouldn't put it past them.  If Xi Jinping and his team are sitting around a table going "Obama wants a global warming agreement.  What should we do?", their conversation is naturally about what hurts America the most. "He just got beat up in the election.  Let's try to pick him up so he can fight Congress and maybe they forget about us, our hegemony, our oppressing our citizens for a while, while we annex Quemoy and Matsu" (Sorry, 1960 election flashback).

Time, tide, and Chinese inscrutability are everlasting.  We need to factor all of them in.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

What Part of "Illegal" Don't We Get?

Yesterday's Washington Post had an editorial from Catherine Rampell in regard to the voter ID issue, purporting to say that "restrictive voter registration" laws had possibly swayed some elections in Kansas, Virginia and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, she used the term "voter suppression", and she used it repeatedly and incorrectly.  Let me quote from her op-ed: "We know that more than 21,000 people tried to register but failed because they lacked the necessary 'documentary proof of citizenship' required by a new Kansas law [C. Rampell in Washington Post, 11 November 2014]". 

So 21,000 people in the State of Kansas failed in trying to register to vote.  Hurrah!  The law actually worked for its intended purpose, which was to protect the voting franchise of law-abiding Kansans of voting age.  Miss Rampell nowhere makes the case that even one of those rejected people was a legal voter.  Absent a shred of proof that any conscionable number of those rejected actually should have voted, we should default to the likelihood that they were rejected because they weren't legal voters!

I realize that there is a knee-jerk compulsion on the part of the left to oppose anything that presents any barrier to felons, illegal immigrants and Martians from voting for their favorite liar, but we need to shelve the "voter suppression" line in favor of what it really is -- "illegal-voter prevention."

We are doubtlessly familiar with the fact that not having to show an ID to vote is actually unusual in the world.  I would like to see Miss Rampell sit down across from an Iraqi voter from a few years back, who braved hostile threats to have his finger inked.  Having risked his life to cast the precious vote for his country, I'd be delighted to hear what she would tell the Iraqi as to why we Americans shouldn't have to demonstrate who we are in order to cast it.

My vote is no less precious than the Iraqi's, albeit with less threat to my well-being.  It is, however, threatened.  Why?  Because my vote is at risk whenever a person who has not earned the right, by virtue of citizenship, age and lack of a felony, goes unidentified into a polling place and offsets my vote.

I am a Virginian, where we do indeed have a voter ID law, and I presented my Global Entry card (issued by the Federal Government) to identify myself with pride.  You get a little tingle when you go to vote, analogous to the feeling you get on a jury when you are given a case to deliberate on.  It is your participation in our great republic, and it means something.

The stupidest, least-educated, most unbalanced among us have the right to cast a ballot as citizens of a certain age.  All I ask is that if my vote is going to be offset, it will be by one of those who is a legal voter, and not someone participating in the massive vote fraud risk that our current open borders are exacerbating.

Catherine, it is called "illegal voter suppression", and a hint: it is a good thing.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Unions and Onions

When you build a house, you hire a bunch of people to put the thing together, make sure that they have ultimately built something close enough to what you specified, pay them and then send them on their merry way to go help someone else.  You don't pay them to sit patiently in your living room waiting for you to decide you want another wing, or a new bathroom, or a closet.  They're done.

This, of course, brings me to the state of 21st Century unionism, a classic example of a country paying through the nose for services performed 100 years ago.

At the risk of oversimplification, it is, well, simple.  A century ago, the workforce was agricultural and industrial, and the industrial part was characterized by physical and financial abuse of employees without protection or the opportunity for legal recourse.  No one would describe it as a reasonable working environment, and it required a systemic fix.  Organized labor grew, instituted collective bargaining on a broad scale and, most importantly, was able to achieve Federal legislation to prevent the types of abuses characteristic of the era (and, of course, legislation that was equally abusive in the other direction, but that's another posting).

Unfortunately, having achieved the systemic improvements needed and the legislation required, we were left with one problem -- the unions still existed.  Yes, although they had built your house, unions were still sitting in your living room with big smelly cigars, being paid to wait for you to ask them to do something else.

They had to continue, of course, at least if you asked them.  They had built up a system where dues were being paid -- in many states, by mandate -- and applying the FTM precept (follow the money), we can easily see they weren't going away.  No, instead of being defenders of workplace injustice, they were now professional bankers (with billions in pension funds), thugs ("don't mess wit da pension dat I'm protecting") and other things not associated with workplace stabilization.  Look up the name "Victor Riesel" sometime.

It is no surprise that organized labor and organized crime made for a happy partnership, given the money and the power and the money and the money.  OK, maybe not so happy, if you were to ask Jimmy Hoffa.

But I digress.  It is 2014, and union membership has shrunk drastically to where if there weren't government-employee unions (and why there should be is beyond me), then unionism would be a bare blip on the radar.  And yet, there are government-employee unions, most notably those of the teachers, and they're not going away anytime soon.

The largest teachers' union is a great example.  It is hilariously called the "National Education Association", presumably to hide the fact that it is a labor union; it has nothing really to do with education per se.  Last year, the NEA took in $367 million in dues.  About $90 million of that went for "union administration" and "general overhead."  Another $89 million went for lobbying and political activities and "representational activities."  This stuff is pretty easy to find, my friends.

The teachers I had as a high school student in the '60s are now in their seventies and eighties, and their pension amounts are available online, by name in fact.  They aren't getting a heck of a lot of money.  I wonder how they all feel, looking at the fact that fully half of the dues they paid went essentially for the feeding of the union itself, its staff, its overpaid management, and its political lobbying to keep itself alive.  Pension funds can be outsourced to professional fund managers for a fraction of what a union would need for that part if its infrastructure; the union does not need to be paying internally for that.

Oh, by the way, another quarter of that $367 million went for grants, which included money given to great educational achievers and researchers like the "Reverend" Al Sharpton ($40,000 in 2011, for example, even though his organization promotes the charter schools the NEA opposes.  Go figure).

Do you get the idea?  The union movement did its part, and now serves the primary function of sustaining its own existence.  Member defense is a negligible part of its budget, since the law and process itself takes care of preventing most institutional abuse.  The abuses today are on quite the other side.

That "lobbying" and those political contribution costs, that take up so much of the union budget, are spent creating pernicious arrangements -- the local governments are run by politicians, who rely on contributions to be reelected, who get the contributions from the government employee unions (NEA and others), who negotiate their contracts with the same politicians whose campaigns they donated heavily to.  The public is the victim here.

When an onion has been around too long, it can no longer serve its original purpose, and it starts to stink.  The American union has done its part, solved the problem it needed to solve, and has no utility anymore.  But it won't go away; it is sitting in the living room of the USA paid to continue forever.

Like the old onion, the longer it goes without being discarded, the worse it stinks.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Monday, November 10, 2014

Paul is Not Dead, But the President's Ears May Be

Forty-plus years ago, I was a college student living in the Phi Delta Theta house at MIT, when the news broke that you could play certain Beatles songs backwards and a message could be heard that indicated that Paul McCartney was, in fact, dead.  Despite the fact that, had he indeed died, there would have been instant round-the-world news, this rumor swept the country, and my brothers and I spent a little too much time playing Beatles records backwards looking for corroborating messages.

Paul is, of course, still alive in 2014.  However, that didn't stop dozens of college students and others who should have better things to do, to try to listen to Revolution and hear things that simply weren't there.

So what, then to make of Barack Obama going in front of the ladies and gentlemen of the press this week and saying the curious line, " ... and to the two thirds of voters who chose not to participate, I hear you, too"?

Much like the "Paul is dead" thing of the early '70s, we are being asked to hear things that weren't said.  That, as the not-late Mr. McCartney's family can attest, is pretty dangerous.

The president did not specify what he actually heard them say, and since this was a prepared speech, we can assume he specifically meant not to translate the silence for the assembled press.  But he certainly intended to convey a message, and I will happily translate for you: "Those of you who didn't vote are the ones who love me and agree with my policies, but you were too busy doing real important stuff to be able to make it to the polling place."

So let's ask ourselves, first, why two-thirds of voters didn't come out.  Let me start with this -- California, New York, Florida, Ohio ... none of these high-voter states even had a Senate race; Texas had a non-competitive race (John Cornyn was to be reelected with little competition) although an interesting (though equally non-competitive) governor's race.  Hardly any House races are very competitive any more.  So there are indeed a few very populous states with little incentive for the voters to show up.  What are we to make of that?

It scares me that Barack Obama hears the non-vote of someone living in a state with no Senate race (a third of states had none) and a non-competitive House race (few of the 400+ House races were really competed), and makes any determination as to her intent.

Here's an example.  In 2012, Obama won California's electoral vote, carrying the state in a presidential election at the same time as a Senate seat was up.  The total voting in California was on the order of 13 million total votes for all presidential candidates.  However, in 2014, with neither a presidential nor senatorial race, the total voting in the (non-competitive) governor's race was only a bit over 5.2 million, less than half the vote count of 2012.

What would you think?  Probably the same as I do -- without a competitive race, more than half of those who voted in California in 2012 saw no need to go to the polls this year.  That disincentive was irrespective of one's party affiliation, and irrespective of one's opinions.  No one, not you nor I, and certainly not Barack Obama, has the right to infer a blessed thing from people's lack of participation in a process with no tangible options.

Paul McCartney is still alive, despite hordes of once-inebriated fans convincing themselves that they heard news to the contrary forty years since.  If the president of the USA acts like an inebriated '70s type and starts hearing things no one said, we are in for some serious challenges.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Friday, November 7, 2014

How About Maybe You Surprise Me

We're all tired of discussing the election, so let's find something else to get us worked up about.  Since you asked, well, yes, I have something.

I do indeed watch some of the TV contest-format shows of competing singers and groups.  Not all, but some.  "The Sing-Off", which is a competition of a capella groups, is actually my favorite, primarily because the groups are really good and the judges are really expert at harmony singing; they know a major-seventh chord from a fully-diminished one, they actually recognize talent and they get the presentation aspects of the genre.

Although the Mrs. and I swore off "American Idol" for a few years after Simon Cowell left, we did return last year to follow the show.  Like Sing-Off, you have at least one judge (Harry Connick, Jr.) who is truly expert in the field, and can speak technically as to why a given performer, well, stunk.  It is very comforting when he speaks, since there is at least one part of the show -- when he speaks -- that is in fact educational.

So it is going to start up again soon and, before it even starts, I feel like venting on one of its most puzzling and disappointing aspects.  I refer, of course, to of all things, the introductions to the songs.  "The what?", I hear you say.  Yes, indeed.  I refer, in fact, to the practice of Ryan Seacrest, the host, introducing a performer by saying "Now here is Contestant #11, Etaoin Shrdlu, singing 'My Adenoids Hurt' by Charlie Potatoes."  And you know and I know that he does that every time, and that it is not he who is writing the script.

There is so much wrong with that.  First and foremost, when Etaoin is singing the song, it is not a Charlie Potatoes song, it is an Etaoin Shrdlu song.  In other words, the story of the song that the singer is about to perform, is the story told by the singer, not the guy who first recorded it.  Could I be any clearer?  When Etaoin is singing a song, he sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks does not want your mind wandering to what someone else did with it, particularly the first guy to record it.  He wants you listening to him and the story that he is telling.

Doesn't that make sense? If your mind is off remembering how Charlie sang it, Etaoin has already lost you.  As a listener, I cannot sit in the audience and suspend my disbelief.  And the performance suddenly becomes just another cover.  Whatever Etaoin has done to put his own stamp on it is mostly lost.  A guy like last year's third-place finisher, Alex Preston, becomes far less appreciated for his creativity.

On top of that, believe it or not, many of us don't know the song!  I, for one, do not listen to current music, so every Idol performance is new to me.  The more you tell me before the performance, the less real storytelling it becomes.

Would it not be better if this were the case: Seacrest says only, "Let me introduce our next performer, Etaoin Shrdlu."  The house lights come down and Etaoin owns the stage.  No one knows what he's going to do, and he is free to create the mood the best he can.  What a marvelous way to let the performer be a performer and not just a cover singer, right?

Of course, we know why the song is introduced.  Follow the money.  It is patently obvious that this is done so the audience can be told what song to download, and which singer made it famous, and probably had to be stroked to grant the performance rights in the first place.

But there's no reason that can't be done right afterwards, and grant the performer the ownership of the stage for the time he or she is there.

There is a lesson therein for all performing groups, by the way.  Never, never, never tell your audience the name of the song you're about to do.  Just set the mood and sing.  Do an introduction but stop short of the name of the song, just set the mood.  Take us on a journey.  Suspend our disbelief.

Don't be American Idol.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton







Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where's the Election Board?

Tuesday night there was a frightful slip made by Bob Beckel in his team election night commentary on the Fox News Channel.  After mentioning that 40% of Fairfax County, Virginia had not reported yet (even though it is a high-income county advanced enough to be able to report quickly), he said "I used to work [Fairfax] County, and we always held back votes."  I'm not making this up, of course; you can see it yourself at your convenience.

I don't know what will come of this, but based on the aghast expressions on the faces of his colleagues on air, it won't rest there -- and it shouldn't.  Beckel's career is well-documented in Wikipedia; he has been a Democratic political operative and consultant for many years.  It is perfectly reasonable to assume he was simply stating facts from his past; it's just that saying it on air raises many questions.

First ... who is "we" that did this vote-holding?  What does "I worked Fairfax County" mean?  In what capacity was a political operative placed such that he was in a position to "hold back votes"?  For that matter, what does "hold back votes" mean?

I'm very scared.  Since the polls are closed at 7:00pm, there is nothing that can be done thereafter to change the results legally.  At that point, all of the votes are cast and the counting and compiling has begun.  So what, exactly, is in either party's interest to slow down the reporting process?  Slowing it down can't influence the voting itself; it can only influence the part that is ongoing, i.e., the counting of votes

I'm not the brightest light on the Christmas tree, but it seems pretty easy to infer that Beckel was talking about delaying the reporting to give time to create a favorable count.  In other words, someone with access to the certification of ballots was in a position either to under-report, over-report or worst of all, create fraudulent ballots or ballot reports, to get the result needed based on the reporting of other counties.  They needed time to see just how many votes were needed, and time to "create" them (or destroy them).

If you've got a better answer, let me know.  But starting tomorrow morning, the FBI should be at Bob Beckel's doorstep asking what he meant, what he did and how he did it.  Because right now, no matter what the answers are, every resident of Fairfax County, Virginia ought to be boiling at the possibility that their voting results are being manipulated by party hacks, and the sanctity of the ballot box has been compromised.

Since the statement was made on national television, the process of elections in this county has been declared corrupt until shown to be honest, and as a Fairfax County resident myself, I am livid.

I will not rest until the Fairfax County Election Board, the Commonwealth's Attorney and the U.S. Justice Department demonstrate to the citizens of the County that there has not been the type of voting and election fraud that Mr. Beckel's statements suggest has been rampant.

To the next Democrat who claims that the voter ID proponents are just bigots, and there's no real fraud going on, I will ask that they take a quick look at that clip.

Bob Beckel, you have some 'splainin' to do, and it better be to the authorities as well as the public.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton





Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Legislating and Governing: Not the Same Thing

A couple weeks ago I wrote (http://uberthoughtsusa.blogspot.com/2014/10/be-careful-for-what-you-ask.html) "on the come", that if the Republicans were to take the Senate back, they needed to have a solid plan for what to do for two years.  By "solid plan", I meant not only priorities as far as which, of the 350 or so bills now rotting on Harry Reid's desk, to pass first.  I also meant to get out in front of the narrative on those bills and their underlying issues, taking the issues to the public.

That is more than "legislating", and it is a bit different from "governing".  But the part of legislating that an opposition party does, when it has the majority, has a PR aspect to it as well.  And for that, the newly-majority Republicans need to rethink something serious.

The House leader is, of course, the Speaker, John Boehner of Ohio, while the Senate Republican side is currently led by its Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who just won reelection.  They were each elected to lead a different situation; Boehner to crank out bills that would die in the Senate anyway, and McConnell to try to ... well, you can't do much when the Majority Leader puts nothing up for a vote.

That was then, and this is now.  It is clear that different leadership is needed in both Houses, since the needs are different.  It is possible that different leaders are needed to provide that different leadership.  I'm not saying that it is mandatory; people can actually lead differently depending on the situation.  In fact, I was really impressed by the acceptance speech that McConnell gave last night, if he were planning to lead the way he spoke.

But if I were in charge, I would be trying to get some different leadership as Speaker and Majority Leader, and that could certainly mean two different leaders, certainly as Speaker.  Why?  Because the needs are different.  The Republicans have two years to develop, execute and promote an agenda, even in the face of a terribly leftist press.  They need to get their faces out in public talking about their legislative activity, and I'm not sure that Boehner's perpetual tan and McConnell's perpetual lack of tan are what are needed.  And to tell you the truth, the last thing the Republicans need is a chain-smoking Speaker and a Majority Leader from a tobacco state.

There are 52 senators and maybe 250 congressmen and congresswomen.  Some of them are remarkably telegenic and articulate, and can answer reporters' questions glibly and pointedly.  If they're not going to let a couple of those actually lead the caucuses, then put them in leadership positions and get them out on the news to speak the story.

You know, despite everyone thinking the Democrats' "war on women" was a winning strategy because the Republicans didn't have anyone out front to refute it and the press wouldn't fact-check it, it didn't work.  Mia Love won the House seat in Utah.  Mark Uterus Udall lost hugely in Colorado campaigning on nothing else.  Wendy Davis was crushed in Texas on that platform.  Joni Ernst won big in Iowa.  What happens if the Republicans actually have a really articulate Speaker or Majority Leader (or even Whip or Chief Whatever or Lord High Everything Else) who can speak the agenda?

The mind boggles.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

And Another Whack from Obamacare

A week or more ago, I provided a forecast of a particular economic outcome of Obamacare (http://uberthoughtsusa.blogspot.com/2014/10/a-giant-sucking-sound-no-one-mentions.html)
that has gotten some interesting response from those who have read through it.  In essence (well, read it anyway), I was estimating the huge amount that would be pulled out of the retail economy due to the hikes in insurance premiums that Obamacare would trigger on January 1st, as well as the severe depression of wages, hiring and raises needed to offset its impact on business premium hikes.

So the "supply" half of the curve is heavily affected; although it isn't much of a topic for the airwaves, it is nonetheless worth pondering.  But the "demand" part of the equation is perhaps far more impactful, and certainly harder to predict.  By that, I mean that demand for physician and hospital care is liable to soar after New Year's Day, again as a result of the law and its amazing power to create unintended consequences.

Let's again look at the part of the law causing my consternation.  An astonishing number of previously adequate health insurance policies become illegal on January 1st, my own included.  This has nothing to do with insuring the previously uninsured; it is simply a Nanny State removal of the citizens' right to decide how much risk for health care costs we are willing to shoulder ourselves.  In my family's case, our insurance premiums will almost precisely double, costing us well over $6,000 in additional premiums in 2015.

But I'm not paying all that extra for nothing.  I am getting a much more expensive policy that covers, along with things a 63-year-old man does not normally need to insure against (like pregnancy), doctor and hospital costs, after a small copayment.

Well, kiddies, if I'm paying for all that extra care, I'd be stupid not to use it, right?  At the very least, my resistance to going to the doctor for certain afflictions will be much lower.  Right now, there's a stabilizing brace on my thumb for a strained ligament or tendon, and I'm simply immobilizing it so it will heal by itself, without ever seeing a physician.  At the moment, I don't need surgery, and hopefully in a few weeks it will have taken care of itself.

But if this were 2015 and not 2014, and I had this awesome policy, you're darn sure that I would be at least thinking about getting an MRI and maybe a quick surgical fix, something I'd never consider now.  Multiply that decreased reluctance by millions and millions of Americans who now have to pay for way higher premiums, and pay for a lot more coverage than they wanted.  I'll wait ...

Yep, you got it.  The mandated increase in premiums and associated coverage will drive demand for treatment -- and therefore its basic cost -- through the roof.  In fact, I might even go a lot quicker to the doctor for things I wouldn't even have gone for at all this year, precisely because I'm forced to pay the insurance for it, and millions more will, too.

Higher demand for treatment means higher costs, simple as that; it's simply supply and demand.  It means longer waits for treatment, and it means we start adopting all of those attributes of the countries with socialized medicine that we most dislike -- particularly the availability of the type of care that we feel compelled to seek because, well, we're already paying for it.

Obamacare is the gift that just keeps giving, and this New Years that gift is going to be one fat lump of coal for the economy.

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Giant Pain in the Ears

The local supermarket chain here is Giant Food, part of the same Dutch conglomerate that owns the New England chain Stop 'n' Shop.  I shop there regularly enough to know a few of the long-time employees by name.

Shopping at Giant is essentially indistinguishable from the experience at any other chain grocery of its type, Safeway, Kroger, etc.; which is to say that it is a generally tolerable experience.  I can't imagine that too many people live to food-shop; I certainly don't, and would likely cede the responsibility if at all possible.  But it is a matter of course, and I do it.

Unfortunately, with familiarity comes analysis of the mundane aspects of any oft-repeated experience, and that is the case here.

One cannot wander the aisles at Giant without the assault of piped-in music, and I have to ask the logical question -- why?  I ask that logical question particularly because the music that is piped in is mostly the same thing, by which I mean the kind of whiny song done by countless indistinguishable pop tarts these days.  I would name a few of the songs and singers, but that would involve looking them up, and life is too short for that kind of research.  Plus, I'd have to care more.

So Giant sees fit to assault the ears of its shoppers with the plaints of a bunch of 20-year-old girls set to similar tunes, complaining of ... well, I don't know; can't understand half the words and don't care about the others.  But they're clearly not happy, from the whining and the six words per song I actually can understand.  And trust me, that's all they play.

Why?  Giant wants us to come in, buy a lot of food, and go home happy.  I can't imagine there's another goal; when we eat up what we have bought, they want us to come right back to Giant.  They try to make things easy to find, pleasant colors and all that.  You would think that they would want you to stay longer, wouldn't you?  The longer you stay, the more you buy?

OK, the platform is yours, Giant and your Dutch parents.  Please clear up the mystery of how listening to 20-year-olds whining is to be expected to entice me to stay longer and spend more.  Because mostly, I can't wait to get out of there.

Would it be any different if the music were really different, like classical music at half the volume, or maybe anything at half the volume?  Or maybe nothing at all?  Have they tried that?  I rather doubt it, because the only reason I can imagine for the whiny pop tarts is that someone is paying Giant to play the stuff.  My Rule #46 applies; if something is happening that otherwise makes no sense, follow the money.

Of course, what makes no sense to me is whether Giant analyzed the downside of taking revenue for playing loud whiny pop tart songs, against the potential loss of revenue from shoppers staying shorter periods because of the subtle discomfiture.

I'll still go there; it's not that big a deal.  But you'd kind of want to know, wouldn't you?

Copyright 2014 by Robert Sutton