Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Deep Breath and Hiatus

Just a note to the hundreds of loyal readers of this site ...

I'm very proud to have faithfully provided essays for this column every weekday for over a year.  Some readers have asked "How?" and I always reply that the world gives us much to talk about.  Certainly it has given many topics -- tonight was the Democratic candidates debate; there's a week worth of pieces just from that.

What the world cannot always give me is time.  And so, regretfully, I will be going on a hiatus for at least a few weeks.  I've been given a consulting assignment -- my "real" job -- that requires some very long hours for the next month.  Accordingly, I have to set aside my minimal free time to be supportive to my two sons, and particularly to be a good husband to my wife, who as you know just lost the mother she had cared for 24/7 the past two years.

I do encourage you, particularly those who only lately discovered this site, to find a little time, pour a cold Corona or a Breaux Vineyards chardonnay (try the Madeleine's) and go all the way back to last September and read forward.  Comment along the way if the spirit moves you.  Enjoy.

I expect to be back at the conclusion of this assignment, but for the time being it feels right to devote a much-reduced amount of free time to family.  Please check back to see when we can get this revved back up again.  The world will surely oblige with topics.

God bless.  I'll be back.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

About That Hard Slide

I suppose we have all seen it, those who care at least marginally about baseball.  On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers second-baseman Chase Utley slid into second to break up a double play and allow a tying tun to score in the second game of the National League playoffs.  In the process, he slid sufficiently wide of the bag to make hard contact with the shortstop, Ruben Tejada of the opposing New York Mets.

"Hard contact" indeed; the impact broke a bone in Tejada's leg and forced him out of the remainder of the season.  As I write this, the pundits of baseball are debating a few things, such as how clean or dirty the play was, and whether the takeout slide at second should be outlawed or modified, or whether those complaining are just wimps.  They have suspended Utley for two games, but then failed to hear his appeal in time to prevent his being able to play in the first of those games.

I have had the advantages, at least in terms of independence, first of not having a rooting interest in either of the teams involved; second, because Major League Baseball absurdly let the game start after 9pm in the time zone of one of the teams, I didn't watch it live; and third, I heard almost none of the debate I reference above.  So I think I can indeed be objective.

I've watched the play many times.  Clearly, Utley started his slide very late; Tejada got a fairly poor throw and was so out-of-position that in fact, after video review the umpiring crew decided that his foot never touched second and Utley was declared safe.  Utley started sliding almost as he reached the bag and crashed into Tejada's leg past second.

The rules are clear enough; in order for a slide to be deemed legal, the sliding player must either touch the base in his slide or be close enough for a part of his body to touch the base.  While sliding, Utley reached out to touch second.  His hand did not make contact but flew over the base's "air space", making him close enough to be declared well within range of the rule's tenet.  The slide was legal.

Chase Utley is known as a hard player but not a dirty one.  Most players would want him on their teams, for sure, or at least would have when he was a bit younger.  One salient piece of evidence to that is that the arguments that I have heard are all about the rule, and not about punishing Utley himself.  Of course, as I write, the slide was certainly legal, but a different player, more of a Ty Cobb spikes-first type of player, would have inserted a lot more venom in the discussion no matter how legal it was deemed.

Last year, MLB struggled to try to implement a rule regarding plays at home plate.  Collisions between scoring runners and catchers blocking the plate -- there is a long history of those -- had broken too many bones of both over the years.  Under the new rules, catchers are obliged to allow a sliding "lane" until they actually have the ball in hand, whereupon the tag can be made without blind collision.  The runners, too, may no longer slide in such a way as to try clearly to dislodge the ball from the catcher's grasp by collision.

If the home plate collision rule is the guide, then at the same time we can and should accept Utley's play as simply "hard-nosed baseball", there is a place to modify the rules regarding sliding into second -- possibly.

I believe that after 115 years of modern-day baseball, we have seen about everything that might require a rules change.  Baseball didn't have to change the home plate collision rule, and certainly didn't because of one particular incident but, rather, a body of incidents.  Likewise, many shortstops and second basemen have been hurt in the double-play breakup slide, and this play should not make a difference either.

I would be quite content if the rules stayed the same.  If a modest tweak is required, I'm tolerant.  If the takeout slide is removed, I'll be very disappointed and regard it as a significant wussification of the game I most follow.  You have doubtlessly seen certain of the, um, more corpulent "athletes" incapable of running hard into second on ground balls, turning toward right field to avoid the play.  Ty Cobb would shake his head.

I wish MLB good luck figuring out what to do.  It was OK to say that the runner can't slide too far from the base to impede the infielder; I get that.  I just find it hard to imagine how to improve the rule any further.  How, for example, would you have stopped what happened with Utley and Tejada?  You can't, for example, try too hard to legislate when the runner has to start his slide, i.e., when a runner is trying to decide whether:
(A) He can actually get to the base ahead of the fielder
(B) If he can't get to the base ahead of the fielder, he can or cannot get in the way of the fielder
(C) If he can impede the throw, he can or cannot do so while staying close enough to the base

So what, while he is contemplating all that, now he is also supposed to figure out where to start his slide to avoid running afoul of a rule as to when he must start sliding?

I don't know if MLB's competition and rules committees will ultimately do anything.  I just hope that, while they're struggling to lessen the number of infielders' broken legs, they avoid giving runners even more to think about, in the middle of what are clearly reaction plays.

I wonder what fans of the Mets are thinking at this point.  Chase Utley played many years for the Philadelphia Phillies in the Mets' division.  They saw Utley about 18-19 games every year; they know the kind of player he is.  There are probably plenty of thoughtful Mets fans who, while they are livid at losing their shortstop, don't believe that the call was wrong, or that the rule needs to be changed; certainly not that it should be changed because of a single play.

After 115 years, one incident ought not to influence the rules that way.  Glad to hear your view in Comments.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Risk of the Online Presence

We exist in Al Gore's Amazing Internet in a variety of locations, and under a variety of contexts.  I'm particularly aware of this because, as secretary of my 1,000-person graduating class at MIT, I have had to locate members of the class whose address has been lost to (or hidden from) the school's alumni records office.  The AGAI has made that particular effort a lot easier, and it has certainly taught me where people can be found.

And ... what we can find about them.  In this case, though, "them" is "me."

I don't believe that I ever wrote about why this site was started in the first place, or what I wanted to accomplish, or how long I planned to do it.  So here's the thing.

Over a year ago, I started writing here, feeling that I had a few things to say and wanted to write them as essays.  I believed there might be a couple pieces and that would be it, or that it might turn out that there would be more than a few things to say.  If there were, this would afford me the opportunity to practice writing something quite different from what I normally do.

I write for a living.  My profession is the development, writing and management of proposals to the Federal government on behalf of my clients, who are defense and civilian contractors seeking to do what they do, for specific proposed tasks for which the government seeks contract support.  Different writing chops needed, as you can imagine.

The point of all that is that while originally I had thought after 3-4 pieces I'd be tapped out, this is the 282nd piece, one every weekday for over a year.  And that, friends, is a lot of published opinions and a lot of Internet presence.  Which means that, were someone to seek out what I believe, there is a tremendous lode of material from which to make inferences, far more, and thus far more easily, than most other citizens.

This came visible to me, surprisingly not as I recently had my security clearance renewed, but in fact when I referred a close friend to a piece I had written last week.  He surprised me first by letting me know he was not previously aware of the blog and certainly not that I had been writing over a year, and second by saying he wanted to read it all from the start.

Now, first, I'm going to say that if on your passing you leave with even one friend willing to do that, or a comparable action, reflecting his friendship and affection, you have won life's war.  I'm incredibly touched by that sentiment.

Then, however, it gets dicey.  I have written about politics, sports, entertainment and the arts, personal philosophy and faith.  There is so much in the collective writings that involves opinions -- probably 99 and 44/100ths percent of it -- that I seriously doubt I have a friend or acquaintance on earth who agrees with all of it.

In this particular case, I actually don't know to what extent there is agreement or disagreement.  We know each other because we are both members of the Barbershop Harmony Society and sang together in a quartet for a few years -- not coincidentally the most successful I was ever a part of, principally due to his talents far more than mine.

One of the great tenets of that Society is that we do not bring politics or religion into our associations with our fellow singers; our pleasure is in achieving musical harmony, not opinionated discord.  Trust me, there's plenty of the latter just on how to tune a dominant seventh chord properly.  So I can faithfully tell you that this gentleman and I, though we have known each other fifteen years and made some great harmonies together, and our families are friends, have never once discussed virtually any of the topics addressed in this site!

I sit here today with a real sense of concern as to whether it is a good idea that my collected writings of 13 months' time be read by someone that close and about whom I care that much.

Finally, I have decided that, if it is not a great thing, it is OK, no matter what degree of agreement there may be with any of it.  I am who I am; I believe what I wrote; I stand behind my opinions.  In many cases, I write to tease out discussions from you all who read this; I believe in some things you will find here more strongly than I do others, but I believe them.

My friend is a brilliant gentleman.  I rather hope that we may, in fact, end up disagreeing some, and that we may be able to respond not by shunning each other as ideologues do, but by engaging in philosophical debate and discussion as we were given the ability to do by our Creator.

I'm proud of what is written here.  And I am proud of my friendships.  They can coexist.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Friday, October 9, 2015

When God Speaks to Us

 In my column Wednesday, I mentioned that my mother-in-law was in the hospital terminally ill, and that I was getting curious cues for columns from the signs in the hospital where my wife and I were spending our days with her.

My wife's mother passed away that night at 89 after her lengthy illness.  Certainly her passing was a blessing given her failing health and incapacity -- she required 24/7 care by her daughter for the last year and a half, to maintain a reasonable quality of life for her as detailed in this piece. But it was a further blessing given the messages surrounding her passing, that we received over the next day.

Not from friends and family, of course.

The first came about an hour after the midnight call from the hospital that she had indeed left, a half-day after her medications had been discontinued in favor of a palliative, pain-reduction regimen.  My wife finally got off to sleep, only to be visited in dreams by the mother she had cared so diligently for, for so long.

The encounter was in her mother's closet, where my wife found her putting clothes in a hamper.  "You don't have to do that", she told her mother.  "Why", her mother asked, "because I'm gone?"  "Yes", she was told ... whereupon the wrinkles disappeared from her face and she returned to the young woman she had been in the 1940s.  "Look, Mom, you can walk now", my wife said, and her mother began to walk unaided, and without the walker she had moved with for years.  She then turned back to my wife, paused and said "I am so happy!"

My Best Girl awoke from that dream knowing that her departed mother, now reunited with her late husband, her parents, her son and other family lost these many years, had just given her permission to return to her own life.  Can you read that and hold it together?

Early in the morning we decided to head to the hospital where she had died, to make the appropriate arrangements.  Inova Fairfax Hospital is, let's say, "sprawling", which means that the campus makes some universities look small.  We had no idea where to go, or even what office to seek, and just headed to the elevator, one of dozens in that campus, and went to the ground level, where we saw "Administrative Offices."

The receptionist there did not know where to send us, but gave us a phone number for "Decedent Affairs" to call, an office "somewhere in the basement and not near here."  And possibly not the right office anyway.  We stepped back out into the lobby and dialed.

I had not finished dialing when from one direction came straight over to us the director of hospice care, with whom we had been meeting the previous two days.  Knowing that she would know exactly what to tell us, and celebrating our serendipity, I hung up the phone -- when from the other direction came walking up to us the head of geriatric medicine there, who had been dealing with my mother-in-law's case for two years.  That would be the other person on earth who knew us, and knew where to take us.  Neither knew we were coming in that day.

In case you're wondering, the odds of either of them running into us on that campus, while we were figuring out what to do next, were fairly remote.  Both of them?

That would be called "divine intervention."  That's certainly what we called it.

I know that in these times people are often looking for signs, or they respond to situations believing what they want to believe.  Others read astrology sections of their papers, even though they never tell you of anything bad happening.

I am more than happy to have taken what has occurred in the last day as the comforting signs from our Heavenly Father that He is indeed here to take the burdens from us if we will accept His great word and His sacrifice for us.  It is not hard to explain, and not hard to understand.

It's actually simple.  I know that my Redeemer liveth.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Guest Column: Filters and Lenses

I'd like to welcome back Ed Fenstermacher, a friend and classmate of mine from the M.I.T. Class of 1973, about 45 years back, as guest columnist today for his second go-round.  Ed is a former Air Force officer, currently a nuclear engineering consultant, husband, and proud father of three.  Ed can be reached at efenster@alum.mit.edu.
 - - -

My Facebook friend Russ put up a post after a recent televised debate, to the effect that he could tell by looking at anyone’s online comments about the debate what the "filters" were, that they were looking through.  I knew just what he meant, and I’m sure you do too.  I read things all the time by people whose reactions are completely predictable -- and frequently hyperbolic.  As an undergraduate at MIT, we called them “flamers.”  They were abundantly present on campus.

But as someone who has worked in optics, both professionally and as a hobby, I know there are many other ways to change the information carried by light -- besides filters.  There are mirrors and prisms.  There are also lenses.  And I believe that, as we look out at the world, the lenses we use can be much more important than the filters.   

Filters remove information, hopefully the irrelevant.  Lenses can bring it into focus.  And it is important to be honest, particularly with ourselves, as to what lenses (and filters) we use.  I tend to look at the universe around me using the filters of mathematics, of science, of my belief in God (and what I believe about God) -- and of the Constitution of the United States.

Mathematics was always my best subject in school, because it was precise, repeatable, and viewed the same way by everyone.  In those days (before I had heard of Gödel), every problem could be solved, or it couldn’t.  If it could be solved, the answer would be the same for all people, in all circumstances, here or across the universe.  If you have ever developed a mathematical model (which I’ve now spent a career doing), you know that the results are only as good as the assumptions and input values.  In some cases (e.g., calculating the trajectory of the New Horizons probe) they can be incredibly accurate.  In other cases, they are woefully bad, when compared to what actually happens. 
This calls into question the underlying assumptions and data ... which brings us to science.

Science is the study of what the universe actually is, as accurately as we can tell, as opposed to what we "think it should be" -- or were taught that it was.  It requires us to take data accurately, to examine it dispassionately, and to report it without the bias of wishful thinking, ego or the sure knowledge that positive results will bring wealth, while negative ones will result in unemployment.  

I know of several cases where people were ordered to change results that upset the people paying for the research, and resigned rather than do so.  In graduate school in the late 1970s, I resigned from a contract with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency rather than retract the results of an econometric model -- one that predicted that energy use in India and China would increase abruptly around the year 2000.  I was told that the prediction would have undermined President Carter’s nonproliferation ideas, which just happened to include discouraging the use of nuclear energy (if you don’t know how that prediction of mine worked out, check the numbers).

You may or may not believe in God.  I do because of personal experience I won’t share here.  I can say, however, that each particular set of religious beliefs will give the believer a particular lens to bring his views into focus.  I will admit that it is like the blind men and the elephant -- each will view God, His will, and His plan in ways that can differ as much as the tree trunk, the rope, the snake, the wall, and the spear that the blind men in the poem saw the elephant as.  

I think that every believer sees God through a different lens, much as a microscope focusing at different depths of a cell might have different views.  No human can understand an infinite God fully; I think the most we can have is a partial understanding of what God expects of us.  If I can have that and live up to His expectations for me, I’ll be happy with that.

The particular religious lens I use is Lutheranism.  Luther wrote extensively about many things, including the relationship of good government with God.  In his view, we are ruled by both -- our Earthly rulers in the material sense, and by God in terms of our internal governance.  He believed, and I do as well, that the best leaders are those who have Godly values in their hearts, but also are cognizant that not everyone in their domain shares those values, and treats those who share their faith, and those who do not, fairly and impartially.  Representative democracy was in its infancy in England, and practiced nowhere else in Europe, but I’m sure Luther today would say we are all both rulers (as voters) and subjects.   

This brings me to my last lens, the Constitution of the United States.

In my view, the Constitution (as amended, particularly by the Bill of Rights and the Civil War Amendments) is the perfect embodiment of the principles that God wants us to live, more so than has ever been written by man.  The main imperfection is that, despite the hard work of the founders, a variety of politicians have found ways to bend it out of shape to do things that were never intended.   

One obvious one is the writing of regulations by bureaucrats, which essentially usurps congressional responsibility.  A second one, of course, is that Congress has gone well beyond the enumerated powers.  In some cases, this is because technology has brought to the forefront situations the founders never envisioned, such as control of nuclear weapons and electronic invasion of privacy.  Those could be addressed correctly by amending the Constitution as needed as technology changes -- rather than the Federal government assuming uncontrolled power to regulate everything.

So as I evaluate the presidential contenders and their proposed policies, I will use the lens of mathematics to determine if the budgets, tax, and growth numbers make sense, and the lens of science (looking at past performance of similar policies, and determining if the input to the mathematics makes sense).  

 I will look at it through the lens of whether a candidate’s policies will be conducive to citizens of the USA being able to live life as God intended, particularly in terms of maximizing freedom of conscience and freedom of action.  And I will look at it through the lens of adherence to the spirit of the Constitution of the United States, as well as its words.

Once I have the issues in focus, then I can filter out some of the blather.  After all, we do need to cut down the glare sometimes.

 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Racism and ... Germs? Why We Should Treat Them the Same

Frustrating day today.  I was trying to get a bunch of germs in a jar.  Finally I had to yell at them.  I screamed "Get in that jar, germs!"  They replied in unison, "But we don't want to; we really like it out here."  I told them, "Don't bacilli."

I'm spending my days in a hospital lately, seven days a week as my mother-in-law is quite ill and my wife is taking incredible care of her.  I'm here because my wife needs support, and they do have wireless, so I can work here instead of my home office.

Walking in this morning, I noticed a "wash your hands" sign just inside the main door, telling us to wash our hands repeatedly to help win the "war on germs", or some phrase like that.  I'll take anything as a thinking prompt, and that sign was no different.

A "war on germs" is truly a losing battle.  Not only do we have no way of eradicating bacteria, we don't want to.  There are plenty of very valuable bacteria in the ecosystem, including the lactobacilli vital to human digestion.  No, we do not want to eliminate all of them.  And we can't; it is surely a losing proposition to declare a war on germs.  We can only try to take reasonable steps, and reach an accommodation with the world's tiny flora.

For whatever reason, I got to thinking about another "war" that is not going to get won, a war that some insist on battling despite the odds.

I'm talking about "racism."

Yes, racism, that oh, so terrible treatment by individuals of other individuals based on their ethnic origin or skin color.  I'm distinguishing institutional racism from individual racism, because institutions should not be discriminating on the basis of ethnicity, either for or against.  It's not their place.

No, I'm talking about individuals, and I'm going to tell you that the people who are working to stop their fellow humans from hating on others for their color are fighting a losing battle, in the same way that the world's medical community is not going to eliminate germs from our environment.

We grow up discriminating.  Our basic biological urges as males and females tell us to stand out in some way to procreate and attract a mate with whom to go forth and multiply.  To stand out, we are constantly looking for differences in our "competitors" for mates, and emphasizing those differences to our advantage.

We do that, right?  I'm taller than that guy, or I'm shorter ... or stronger or smarter.  I can tell a joke better and really make you laugh. I can cook a steak like you read about.  I can make a great living, or be relied upon to hold a job for a long time and give you a home.  I can sing really high, or really deep.  I'm better looking, or have great hair ... or no hair at all.

Or my skin is light.  Or dark.

Get the idea?  At the same time we value friendship and enjoy life by the help and society of others, we are also constantly contrasting ourselves with those others as competitors, however subconsciously.  We are humans first, after all, therefore we will always distinguish ourselves because discriminating is a basic human trait.

So what should be our attitude?  I would venture to say it is that we treat it like the war on germs.  Racism is simply the inevitable consequence of our subconscious, human desire to distinguish ourselves from our fellow man.  It is certainly not exclusive to Caucasians; not only are some of the worst raging bigots (Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton) not white, but black Americans even distinguish among themselves by lightness or darkness of skin tone.  It cannot be erased, merely contained.

By "contained", I simply mean that it not be treated with riots and chest-beating, but rendered as uncivil, and that we are taught that it is an uncivil thing to do.  And -- we all accept and understand that it is a fight that will never be won.  Rather than make racism the worst, most evil crime that can be committed against our fellow man, we treat it as an offense against civility.  Something, perhaps, that we recognize is in our nature but one that civility tells us to suppress, out of decency to our fellow man.

Racism, like germs, is a battle that cannot be won.  Therefore, let us not expend excessive energy, and certainly not excessive venom, on something that, whatever its history, is best treated by looking down on its practitioners as less civil and shaking our heads at them.  Recognize that discrimination is inherent in the human process. Recognize that there are places where it is actually fine to accept and practice it, and others where it becomes demeaning and unworthy of our society.  And then ... move on to something that can actually be fixed, like the economy, or immigration, or eliminating ISIS, or creeping socialism.

But not germs.  We aren't going to fix those either.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Illegals Influencing Elections WITHOUT Voting

The generally leftist magazine Politico occasionally publishes something with forethought and of interest to an independent reader, so it is less surprise that there was a piece last week meeting that criterion.  The article, linked here, points out that the apportionment of members of the House of Representatives -- and, by law, the Electoral College -- is actually affected by illegal immigration.

How, you ask?  Well, let's us take a look at the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which has the following text:

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons [underline mine] in each State, excluding Indians not taxed ...

The key part of the text, of course, is where the apportionment reflects the "whole number of persons in each State."  The Amendment couldn't be clearer; it specifically intended for population to be the proportional driver for populating the House and, by extension, the Electoral College.

It couldn't be clearer about "how" to count; what was clear then but has lapsed into the vagueness of evolving perception is what is actually meant by "persons."  It isn't that vague; we know that the clause was put in there to rectify the counting of slaves as representing three-fifths value of their population for apportionment, as was in the original Constitution.

At the time, the text may be presumed to have referred to citizens only, but whatever the intent, the actual text is what is handed down to us.  And that text states "persons", with no qualification in there as to being citizens, legal residents or illegal immigrants.

Why does it matter?  Simple -- if you load up a state with illegal immigrants, who by rights should not count for anything except deportation figures, that state will gain disproportionate representation in both the House and the Electoral College.  It's bad enough in the House; it is considerably more wretched in the presidential election, since electoral votes are vital, each and every one.  All the electoral votes of a state go to the candidate carrying the most votes in that state, so if illegals, let alone legal non-citizens, get counted enough to add a vote or three to a routinely-Democrat state, it could readily change the outcome of an election they're not even allowed to vote in, in a State some are in illegally!

Most of us, I assume, are at least a little uncomfortable with that.  I know I am.  But what is the process?  We are not going to see an attempt to amend the Constitution; that won't work and will take forever to decide that it won't work.

No; we will have to accept the fact that the law is in place, right there in the old Constitution we love so well.  Of course, the words are stable, but that doesn't mean the interpretation can't be clarified by our friends on the Supreme Court.  We need, folks, to figure out how to get a case in front of the Court that forces it to decide whether "persons" means "citizens", or "those legally here", or "everyone."

That means that there has to be an actual suit -- you can't just phone up the Court and ask them to render an opinion on the 14th Amendment.  Someone has to be an aggrieved party, and the aggrievedness (?) has to come from the current apportionment of the House.

So here's my thought -- there are a few states (e.g., Louisiana) which would have higher representation in the House if only citizens were counted for apportionment.  Suppose the State of Louisiana were to file a suit in Federal court against the United States, claiming that it is entitled to an additional representative and additional electoral vote because of what it believes to be the appropriate reading of the 14th Amendment.

I think there is enough of a case there, between their actual "damage" (losing representation) and the logical interpretation of the Amendment itself (extrapolating the phrase about "untaxed Indians", and claiming that the authors of the Amendment excluded them because they were not citizens -- because they were citizens of their tribal nations).  Fold in the writings of the time about the Amendment, and voila, you have a case that deserves to be heard.

It is possible that the ruling this Supreme Court term on Evenwel v. Abbott may give the precedent needed, but I wouldn't be completely sure; we need the specific aggrievement by a State.

Let's do it.  Let's get Bobby Jindal off the debate podium and back to Baton Rouge where he can do something really productive by leading this suit.  I would love to see the Supreme Court forced to do some real work, some real thinking, and some thoughtful, quiet, calm deliberation.  What did the authors of the Amendment mean, and how would they have applied that had they known that 150 years hence the USA would be crawling with illegal aliens?

I think that would be just a splendid use of their time.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why ISIS is MUCH Worse Than the Army of Nazi Germany

 On Friday I decried the manipulative use of the press by the Administration to foist words on us like "extremist" when they want to avoid saying "terrorist" or the real phrase, "Islamic terrorist."  Well, I actually read my own columns multiple times, both before they are published and then afterwards.

Sometimes I get to thinking about something related to the column that spawns another, and it certainly happened here.  Trying to think about the terrorists of ISIS and Al Qaeda as "extremists", as the press was trying to get us to think, my mind wandered about what was going through the minds of the terrorists themselves, and something occurred to me.

We have fought actual wars against actual armies full of actual soldiers on the other side.  The "other side" soldiers have been fighting not for an ideology, but for some nationalistic chauvinism.  I mean, do you really think that the German Army in World War II were all a bunch of Nazis, fighting for the great glory of Nazi principles and because they shared Adolf Hitler's hatred of non-Aryan peoples everywhere?

Of course not.  They fought because they were conscripted to fight, drafted into the service.  If they volunteered, it was likely to fight for the Fatherland -- "for Germany" as opposed to "for the Nazi ideology."  That is a pretty significant difference, folks.

Think about it ... that difference colors our perception about us (the Allies) and the way that the enemy viewed us.  The German soldier didn't see the American (including the American soldier) as an innately bad person; he saw him as the enemy in the way of his army's conquest of the world in the name of the Third Reich.  Were the Germans to win, we would still be Americans, just under the rule of the German leaders.

That is decidedly not the case with ISIS.  What leadership they have is certainly ideological, but the difference is that the troops are the ideologues, as much as their leaders are.  These are not conscripts; they are volunteers who have joined the army of ISIS because they want to destroy, or at least change, the people different from them.  That is far more frightening than the Nazis, folks.

When has there ever been a conquering army where the ideology distinguished the soldier as much as the political leadership?  Even the Crusades weren't a great example; the soldiers of the Crusades were conscripted as much as the WWII American army was.

I've been thinking about that.  What, for example, would any of the great U.S. generals of recent wars -- Patton, Eisenhower, Pershing, Schwarzkopf -- be able to do; what would their approach to strategy and tactics be, if instead of going up against an enemy army of conscripts and volunteers for their country, they had to plan a war against an enemy army of ideologues bent on the destruction of the enemy in total and the conversion of anyone left to a specific, bad-tasting flavor of Islam?

I'll take the German Army, thanks.  They mostly acted in accordance with the Geneva Convention and, well, human decency -- it was their political leaders who created the concentration camps, not the military.  The Japanese military was certainly worse to POWs, but that was more because they were populated with brutal thugs, not because of their ideology.  Surely some of the Japanese working in the POW camps were, quietly, not really thrilled about the way Allied prisoners in their camps were treated.

Soldiers of ISIS would have no such compunction, or they wouldn't be there in the first place!  They hate their enemy and swear to kill them, however horrifically they can, because the enemy is not Islamic and their belief system says they are "infidels", who need to be destroyed.

We cannot approach this by calling them "extremists" or anything else.  It is not just ISIS who is the enemy needing to be vanquished; it is the individuals in ISIS, from general to private, who need to be eliminated.  We would have been perfectly happy to have captured Hitler and just let the soldiers of the German Army go back to their fields and factories without reeducation.  Such is not the case with ISIS.  That war will only be over when their army is vaporized and their ideology is pulverized.

We thought we faced the worst of humanity in WWII, perhaps.  We knew nothing.  Nazi Germany was some brutal, bigoted leadership backed by a strong military, but a military linked by a common love of country, not of ideology.  ISIS is ideologically terrorist, top to bottom.

And we have a president who just thinks of them as "extremists."  Crazy.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My Terrorist is Not Your "Extremist"

I did not get to read the paper yesterday; had to leave the house early and get back late -- various meetings and visits back and forth to the hospital where my mother-in-law is unfortunately in her last days.  But while on the Metro, riding to and from Washington, I noticed a headline significantly placed in the day's issue of the Washington Post, on a fellow-rider's copy of the paper.

"CIA and Special Operations Team Up to Kill Extremists [sic] in Syria and Iraq", the headline screamed.  I was, after all, on a subway, so I could not read the text, the context or anything else.  But, of course, I didn't have to.

My mind was far too occupied digesting the implications of the headline.

I didn't really care as much that the CIA and Special Ops "teamed up" to kill, well, anyone.  It was not a particularly big deal to me, and it wasn't even what got my attention.  What did get my attention was the oh, so indicative use of the term "Extremists" to refer to ISIS and Al Qaeda, the Taliban and others who are our opponents in the war on terror, being, you know, terrorists.

"Terrorists", as in "willing to kill innocents to achieve their global ambition to impose their particular view of a particular religion."  There is nothing "extreme" about that, actually.  It is perfectly mainstream Islamic terrorism.  But the headline writer who forwarded the story -- and it came from a news service, not an actual reporter at the Post -- apparently chose that word intentionally.

I say that because I'm not the only one startled by the headline.  The New York Post ran the story, all right, but unlike the Tulsa World, the Huffington Post, the Charlottesville Observer and, of course, the Washington Post -- all of which left the headline intact -- the New York Post ran the story with the headline "CIA and Special Operations Team Up to Kill Al Qaeda and IS Targets", eschewing the "extremists" word for one more appropriate.

I got a little wired when I saw the headline on the fellow-rider's paper in the subway.  What, I asked myself, possessed the headline-writer to make the curious word choice of "extremists", when we're talking about Islamic terrorists and everyone knows it.  Ask 100 people on the street to name the intended victims of this CIA-Special Ops team, and I guarantee you 100 will come up with a word other than "extremists."

Well, I'm not a stupid man.  This is clearly a choice of words on the part of someone wired into the Obama Administration's word-speak to avoid naming the Islamic terrorists as "Islamic terrorists."  Now, I can understand if the White House press secretary used words like that, but this was the Associated Press, an ostensibly, if not actually, independent news organization.

Moreover, it was not a choice of words just meant to avoid saying something (it was that, of course), but a specific selection meant to convey that being an “extremist” is not a good thing in any context.  Setting the stage, as it were, for the use by the White House of that term to characterize its political opponents – first get the sheep in the press to use precisely the words you want them to, setting the context, then use those same words to describe your opponents.  Darn clever, those White House extremists.

I suppose that I’m writing today’s piece not just to alert you, the reader, to how cleverly you are being manipulated when you plunk down a buck for a newspaper, but also to let the left know that we do see through you.  Choosing a word such as “extremists” could not possibly be an accident.  I know exactly what you were doing, as did the New York Post, to their eternal credit.

It is very saddening to know this sort of thing goes on.  You want to know that the press is at least mostly out there to report the news. You want to be able to trust them even a little.  You want to think that news agencies like AP have a shred of independence.

I also want to see the Easter Bunny.  I think I’m more likely there.

Copyright 2015 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Guest Column: Left Tackle

The "other" Robert Sutton (not the former Army football coach, either) is still why I'm actually "Sr.".  As guest columnist today, I'd like to welcome back to the mic Jay Sutton (Robert, Jr.), whom I've known since he came into the world in Manassas, Virginia 34 years ago.  Jay is a Libertarian, a Web developer and a marvelous writer, which he likely gets from his mother.  He can be reached at jaiatillar@gmail.com.  
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Michael Sam, the professional football washout who was (let's face it) drafted for being gay has made the claim that he would still have a job in the NFL had he not gone public.  Many are responding to this statement with, in essence, "You wouldn’t have had the job to lose, had you not ..."  Like many… well most… pretty much all cases in life, both of these arguments are very correct -- and very wrong.

As my father, your normal author, is fond of saying, "Follow the money."  Sam was a decent player in college, with a few standout games to put him on the radar.  He simply didn’t have the stats to put him on the board as an actual drafted player. He did, however, have the stats to sign on as an undrafted talent -- and lend value to a team, likely on a practice squad or a backup’s backup.  

However, because of the free publicity the media attached to the "NFL's First Gay Player," his stats were foregone for his potential ad revenue.  If a team could squeeze even a few good plays out of the kid, he’d pay for himself and then some.  And as an added bonus, any team drafting him would get a free stamp of approval from the media for being progressive.

Now that we’ve explored the reasoning behind the draft, we must explore the reasoning behind the cut.  

Unfortunately for Sam, he didn’t have "the few good plays" in him.  That put the Rams, who spent the draft pick on him, in a difficult position: Cut Sam and chance the negative publicity, or keep him on and waste the cap room and a valuable roster position.  Sam's public fame wouldn't allow him to so easily fade into the obscurity of the practice squad.  If we once again play by FTM rules, you can see that cutting him was a "chance" of loss where keeping him was a definite loss.  They chose to cut him.

Returning to the present, we have Sam drafted because he was gay and cut because the media wouldn't let the public forget it.  In other words, we have a man neither drafted nor cut on the basis of his talent.  Is there a similar story anywhere about a man being judged by his media presence rather than his on-field ability?  

Oh yes.  Remember Tim Tebow?

Tim Tebow is a professional football washout who garnered a great deal of media attention for his faith.  While it had little to no effect on his draft number, it had a great deal of effect on his post-Manning career.  You see, Tebow was a mediocre NFL talent at quarterback, who would have had some value as a backup or third-stringer.  The media, however, found out about his personal faith and decided he would be their go-to Christian on very non-football topics.  Where Sam would earn a team points for being progressive, teams associated with Tebow (and, not inconsequentially, the corporate sponsors of the team and stadium) would be indelibly linked to his statements.  Very quickly, teams stopped taking that chance.

So we have a not-quite-NFL-caliber gay man, and a not-quite-prime-time caliber devout quarterback, both without jobs. 

Then you have a convicted felon who has served time, playing on the field tonight.  The person I am talking about, of course, is Michael Vick.  Vick, as anyone not on Mars for the past several years knows, was arrested, tried, convicted, and jailed for dog-fighting.  While many people out there claim he took the fall for his brother, the far-greater majority simply see him as a dog killer.  Michael Vick,  a now-second string talent with felony canicide on his record, has a job in the NFL.

But why?  Why would someone with a criminal past be a justifiable risk, while an outspoken Christian and a gay man are not?  The answer is twofold.  Vick has several years of NFL experience prior to his arrest, and those years are valuable.  That experience gives him a tremendous edge over Tebow or Sam as a second stringer or practice squad guy, even if all talent between them were equal.

The other answer is that Vick's drawback is momentary and in the past.  He can repent for what he's done, whereas Tebow and Sam cannot change who they are.  And while the media will never let us forget a public figure's private life, they adore a story of a bad man turning his life around.  So while Vick, Tebow, and Sam all bring with them tremendous media scrutiny, they don't bring with them the same risks along with that scrutiny.

Which brings us all the way back to the original question:  Would Michael Sam have a job in the NFL if he hadn't come out as gay?

The answer is possibly.  But none of us would know about it.

 Copyright 2015 by Jay 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."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu.