Monday, February 29, 2016

Obama, Tito and Saddam

You may be a bit young to remember Marshall Tito, who led the former Yugoslavia for many years before the communist bloc collapsed under the oppressive weight of the failures of socialism.  Tito was not always the favorite of the Soviets under whose thumb Eastern Europe remained for decades, but they let him stay.

Tito remains in our memory as much for what happened to Yugoslavia after Tito than anything he did, specifically, while the ruler.

You see, Tito was our generation's specific, first memory of what happens when a strong ruler, good or evil, leaves the scene after holding multiple warring factions together.  We have seen it over and over, whether intentional (Saddam Hussein and Muhammar Khadafi) or not.  A leader with multiple factions leaves the scene, and we soon realize that leader had his finger in a metaphorical dike.

The war following Tito's departure and the split-up of Yugoslavia into Serbia, Bosnia and the other countries now on the map was horrific.

Now, when Rand Paul spoke in the debates about nation-building not being such a great idea without knowing what will follow, without knowing who takes over or whether the outcome will be even worse, he was speaking of Syria.  Syria is potentially another such area, as we can readily see, where removal of the dictator Hafez Assad may actually cause turbulence as bad or worse for the Syrian people -- and the world.

Barack Obama is not exactly the same kind of leader.  In fact "leader" is a bit of a stretch, particularly as he plays out the remainder of his term, and I use the term "plays" intentionally.  He is a freely-elected president of a country that has lots of factions, even if "warring" isn't exactly the word that comes to mind.

But I did get to thinking, and you may also want to, about the analogous situation when Obama leaves office, if there is a Republican president.  I say that because the left in the USA, the people who have voted Democrat and put Obama into office, is just as fractured and could end up with those parties just as warring, possibly without the weapons.

Unions.  Blacks.  Hispanics.  Government bureaucrats.  Women.  Immigrants, legal and illegal.  Sharpton followers.  These all celebrated and blindly followed when Obama was nominated and elected.  Though he has accomplished nothing that has improved their lives, though more are unemployed and on food stamps than when he took office, that doesn't seem to matter.

But Obama will be gone by January.  And the raw differences among these groups that may have been kept bubbling below the surface may well be aired when they start chirping for their own needs when a Democrat is no longer in the White House.  When blacks start asking where the jobs are and are told they've been taken by illegals, how will that go over?  Where will the unions head for their needs, and will their needs be at odds with those of other special-category groups?

I'm just thinking that, absent a president whom these groups were unwilling or afraid to attack if they didn't get their way, all this contention and animosity, now framed by a still-rotten economy, may air itself loudly when they are willing to attack, both a president they may not like, and each other when one gets a concession the others don't.

It may be a stretch but it is indeed something that will not surprise me if it were to happen.  After all, it has happened often enough when someone holding down opposing factions leaves the scene.
Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, February 26, 2016

The Rites of Spring ... Training

Pause, if you will, from the stressful, burdensome (yet entertaining) daily grind and the sturm und drang that is politics.  Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will still be there tomorrow (if she is not in prison by then); Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson ... they will be there, too.  And we will not have to look hard to find them.

Today, though, my heart is gladdened by competition of a completely different nature.

As I ride my exercise bicycle each morning, the TV is typically tuned to a saved program from the DVR, most frequently during the winter months the Fox News program that would have started an hour earlier.  Zip, zip past the commercials and the animal segments.  These days, though, a different program is often on the menu.

I refer, of course, to the news of my favorite baseball team as they commence working out in sunny Florida, preparing for the beginning of a new season.  Yes, friends, Spring Training has begun.

I am not there in South Florida, nor do I want to be (OK, if I weren't working for a living and could go, I suppose ...).  It doesn't appeal to me that much to watch grotesquely overpaid athletes and, in some cases, grotesquely overpaid and overweight men trying to pass themselves off as athletes, throwing, hitting and catching baseballs outside of a game environment.

It is, you see, all in the symbolism.  Football is a sport where the players suffer pains while the fans in the stadiums suffer the cold.  It is a distinctly winter, indoor pursuit (for the saner fans, certainly).  I have been to many NFL games and enjoyed almost none -- too far away to distinguish the action, too cold to distinguish my toes or appreciate the beer.  Hockey is only a winter sport, although its arenas offer a much more tolerable and temperate environment for the fan.  And the NBA ... is there still an NBA?

Baseball, though, arises with the early spring, as the non-tropical USA is only starting to stir from its winter doldrums.  To watch the players on TV on your favorite sports network is to celebrate the fact that soon, very soon, they will begin exhibition games that mean nothing except to those fighting for a job.  As the teams arise, we emerge from hibernation flush with the knowledge that the sun, so ineffective for several months, will soon win its annual battle with the Earth's axis tilt, and warm us instead of the Australians.

It is all in the symbolism.  My team and yours, and even Donald Trump's, are all tied for the division lead at 0-0.  The can't-miss prospect has not yet shown that he cannot hit the slider low and away -- or throw one effectively. Those needing tendon-transplant elbow surgery have either already had it or are recovering from it.  Surely no one on my team will be sidelined so dramatically.

All of the miraculous things that can happen to a last-place team -- like mine -- remain totally in the realm of the possible, much as tomorrow, or soon, I may wake up and walk outside to a sunny day with the temperature in the 70s.  And anything can happen, because we are at Square One, the first step, the Beginning.  Spring Training has kicked off (and my metaphors have now officially gotten mixed).

From here until late October, I will be on that bike in the morning seeking out the details of the previous day's activities of my team.  I will cheer its victories, enjoy the maturation of its new stars, slowly mourn those in the twilight of their careers.  I will watch something else, likely, on the mornings after heartbreaking losses.

But for now, it is Spring.  The unlikely 162-0 season is at least a mathematical possibility.  While I know every day will not be sunny and in the 70s, the overwhelming possibilities of the good blot out the cold of the expiring winter.  Baseball, like the meteorological season itself, has started again.

Aren't you happy about it, too?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Another Pied Piper, It Seems

I don't know what it is about Democrats and the "pied piper" analogy.  But I'm going to try to describe it, because it never stops applying.

Last month I did a piece on the odd way in which followers of Barack Obama slavishly, devotedly follow what he says and tells people to think, even when what he says and tells people to think is contrary to their needs, desires and best interests.

Now, that piece was all about letting 10,000 alleged Syrian immigrants into the USA without knowing who they are, why they're coming and what they might do -- or if they're even Syrian.  But darned if, once again, the analogy bubbles up in regard to slavish followers of a Democrat.

I refer, of course, to Bernie Sanders, the self-described "Democratic socialist" currently giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money.  Well, not her money, actually, you couldn't pry a penny from the Clintons without heavy hydraulic equipment.  No, I mean that he is running neck-and-neck with her in the Democrat popular polls, even though he has essentially not touched the issue of her greatest vulnerability, i.e., that she ran well over a thousand known sensitive/classified documents through a non-secure server.

Although it is crazily early, it is worth noting that Sanders runs ahead, in nationwide polling, of every one of the Republican candidates.  Now, before you ask, I'll tell you that polls like that take as gospel when a respondent describes themselves as a "likely voter."  I'll guarantee you that there are blocs of Democrat voters who aren't showing up if Bernie Sanders is the candidate.

So what, then, are we dealing with?  Well, it's pretty simple -- look at what he is saying in his speeches, and then ask yourself who would be following someone saying such things.  Bernie Sanders is actually saying very few things, and you can recite them as well as I -- public colleges should be tuition-free; Wall Street needs to be functionally destroyed; income inequality is a terrible thing; a 90% top income tax rate is perfectly fine; government will give you X, Y and Z and probably 14 of the remaining 23 letters, and it will be paid for by ... well, borrowing from China, though he doesn't actually say that.

Who in their right mind would believe all of that?  Well, the key is "right mind."  In the only actual Democrat primary to date (New Hampshire), Sanders crushed Hillary, and the only demographic she won was the over-65 female vote. Bernie Sanders was voted for overwhelmingly by the young-voter demographic.

Now, understand this about the "young-voter demographic."  Dave Barry, in the top ten of satirists in the recorded history of mankind, once wrote this: "If you were to open up a baby's head, and I am not for a moment suggesting that you should, you would find nothing but an enormous drool gland." Barry went on to note that as a child grows up, the drool gland gradually congeals into brain matter, until eventually it is an adult with a working brain.

The process, however, is unfortunately gradual.  Some time past the point where the child decides it knows everything and can start explaining things to you (about age four), but before the point when the child realizes that its parents got way, way smarter (after age 30), it passes voting age and is allowed to contribute to the delinquency of the USA.

I say "unfortunately", because up until age 30 or so, there is still a non-zero amount of uncongealed drool gland still in place in the young person's head, masquerading as actual brain.  That's the sort of thing that allows the young unfortunate to follow Pied Pipers like Bernie Sanders, without feeling the necessity to figure out who is supposed to pay for it all (i.e., that you could literally confiscate the wealth of the richest 1% and still not run a Sanders-style government for a year, after which you're out of luck as well as money).

Sadly, what causes immature young adults not to think through the consequences of their decisions will always be true of young adults.  We can't change that.  We can never change that.  What we can do is to shore up the logic of our argument, and dramatically alter the presentation of it, to where a 20-year-old can at least be tempted into thinking that when something has failed before, it is likely to fail again, particularly economic failures like socialism.

We conservatives will likely never have a Pied Piper of our own.  I think it unlikely because conservatism rewards work, preparation, investment, manageable risk, diligence, planning and foresight -- all the things that youth is perpetually looking to avoid, which is why they're so susceptible to Pied Pipers.  They want to be the grasshopper, not the ant, if you will.

Bernie Sanders may or may not carry the day, depending on whether Hillary Clinton is in prison by the convention.  But he will keep piping, and youth will blindly follow.

It's what liberals do, and what socialists do louder.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Obama. Guantanamo. Lies.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama, the president for the last seven years, demonstrated what can happen when you are so convinced of your own correctness (and are protected by a lapdog press)  that you feel you can say anything you want to.  That occurred as he made a little speech outlining his plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the USA is currently holding a large number of Islamic terrorists -- not counting the ones Obama sent back to the battlefield with nothing in return.

In trying to defend the indefensible proposal, we were treated to this example of packing multiple untruths in a single paragraph -- read carefully:

“I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next president, whoever it is,” he said.  "With this plan, we have the opportunity, finally, to eliminate a terrorist propaganda tool, strengthen relationships with allies and partners, enhance our national security and most importantly uphold the values that bind us as Americans.”

It is really interesting that every single part of that paragraph is -- let's call it what it is -- a lie.  That's "lie", as in "intentional untruth."  So let us pick it all apart, because it is simultaneously fun to do so and saddening that we have to.

"I don't want to pass this problem on to the next president ...".  Lie.  Sure he doesn't want to pass Guantanamo on to the next president, but it is not a problem.  Guantanamo (the prison part) in and of itself is there to house Islamic terrorists.  The prison is not a problem; Islamic terrorism and, thus, the need still to have a prison is.  We have that problem because Obama himself, by bailing out of Iraq while we still had an opportunity to protect our interest and that of the Iraqi people, and by ignoring the Syrians with his "red line" weakness, allowed ISIS to happen.  We have prisoners there who have been in Guantanamo since long before ISIS existed, but by making the world far more unsafe, Obama has forced our hand to need to hold people who would immediately return to radicalism.

"With this plan, we have the opportunity to:

"... eliminate a terrorist propaganda tool".  Lie.  Until Obama repeated this mantra a dozen times, ISIS never tried to wave Guantanamo around as a way to attract recruits, and there is still little or no evidence that they are actually doing so -- certainly not to where we should lift a finger to close it because of recruitment.  That is a flat-out, made-up piece of nonsense, and he can repeat it until the cows come home, but that won't make it true.

"... strengthen relationships with allies and partners".  Lie.  What allies and partners is he even talking about?  Israel?  The U.K.?  Jordan?  Egypt?  Exactly what country with whom we are remotely friendly benefits by our closing Guantanamo -- or even cares?  Whether that specific prison is open or closed, or whether the prisoners are in Cuba or held elsewhere, is of no consequence or concern to any ally or friend.  What is of consequence is when Obama releases even one of the terrorists held there to fight again, as he has done over and over.  And that, dear readers, only weakens any relationship with another country that we ever might care about.

"... enhance our national security".  Lie.  Our national security, whatever its status when 100 Islamic terrorists are held on an island from which they cannot escape, is only diminished when those terrorists are alive anywhere else -- especially if even one is moved to a prison in the USA itself.  There is absolutely no way in which national security is a shred better.  It takes some brass cogliones even to suggest that it somehow is.

"... and, most importantly, uphold the values that bind us as Americans."  Lie.  Fat lie.  Your values, Mr. Obama, are "keeping a campaign promise."  They are not the same as those that "bind us as Americans."  The binding values are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; they are the freedoms that are enshrined in the Bill of Rights.  Your contempt for the Constitution is palpable, Mr. Obama, as we know, and your unwillingness to protect our citizens is frightening.  And I can tell you, as surely as I am writing this, that there are no American values that are threatened by keeping a set of vile Islamic terrorists in a Cuban prison.

And you think, Mr. Obama, that we don't see through you.  But when you provide us an entire spoken paragraph, lying in each and every phrase, you have to know that we do.  May we never, never again let anyone close to the Oval Office with even a hundredth of the contempt for the truth that you have.

That, sir, is the truth.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

More on The Pope and The Donald

So the more I consider the words of Pope Francis in regard to Donald Trump last week, the more I'm glad that the papacy is no longer considered "infallible" even in his own church.  Because, as I wrote Friday, the current pope is reaching some new heights of fallibility.

Take a look at what he said, as he tried hard to castigate Donald Trump (who is not, it should repeatedly be pointed out, a Catholic) for his positions, specifically in regard to constructing a wall to protect our southern border against unfettered, illegal immigration by people avoiding the legal, due-process process to come to the USA.

Pope Francis described wanting to build walls (actually, "thinking only about building walls and no bridges") as being decidedly not Christian and "not in the Gospel", in his words.

Well, I have read the Gospel, perhaps not as often as a professional like the pope, but often enough, and I have spent enough Sundays in Sunday School to have learned that there absolutely is, in my humble opinion, a part of the Gospel that applies to this situation and lands, unfortunately for the pope, on Mr. Trump's side.

I point, as you may not have thought, to the familiar story about paying taxes that appears, at least, in Mark 12:17 and Matthew 22:21.  That's the one that quotes Jesus as saying "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and render unto God's that which is God's."  It is intended as a message with multiple meanings, but one of them, as I have always been taught, is a "separation of church and state" principle -- that taxes are a part of the governments on earth that man has created for himself, and are distinct from one's spiritual obligations.

That is particularly relevant to the statements of the pope, particularly as he appears to comment on the border between the USA and Mexico.  You see, to find that building a wall is "un-Christian", as he said, means that he thinks that the USA is supposed to take care of every single person in the rest of the world.  Is there another reading?  Clearly he doesn't think that the Vatican is supposed to, else there wouldn't be a 40-foot wall around it.

The problem for His Holiness is that the USA, like every other country, is not a separate, inhuman entity with its own resources.  It has only the resources that it has gained by levying taxes against its residents.  So to take the opinion that he should not castigate the Mexican government for running a country so inhospitable that its citizens want to leave, rather than castigating Americans for wanting our taxes to take care of us first, well, that is simply wrong.

It is not up to the USA to feel any obligation to the rest of the world's countries that fail at taking care of their citizens.  We do it, when we do, because it is a generous thing to do.  But you cannot mandate generosity as the pope seems to think.  Eventually, you would have to say that all people worldwide should have the same, earn the same, and be the same.  That is called extreme socialism.

If the pope is an extreme socialist, and feels like he has the right to tell us that the entire rest of the world should be accommodated in our borders and be paid for by those already here, well, he is free to those opinions (there are some pretty poor areas right here in the USA that might not agree).

But let us render unto Caesar ourselves, and take care of our own ourselves.  His church could probably take a lesson or two in generosity from the USA and what Americans already have done.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, February 22, 2016

On the Funeral and the Empty Chair

The White House tried really -- OK, not very hard, to defend the decision by the president or his staff not to have him in attendance at the funeral for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past weekend.

There was no defense, zero.  No conflict with an existing critical, presidential occasion.  ISIS hadn't done anything requiring his immediate attention; no foreign heads of state were in town.  Baseball hasn't started, so there was no ceremonial first pitch required of him.  No one more important had passed away, demanding his attendance at their funeral instead.

And no assembly of Black Lives Matter thugs and their supporters had come to the White House demanding the time of the president.  Well, actually, they had, but it was earlier in the week, and Obama had already met with them and told whoever would listen (which, at this point, is no one) what wonderful young people they were.

So outside of the prospect of a pleasant round of golf, there was no competing demand for the president's time.  There was, however, a competing ideology.

Barack Obama was simply not going to show up and say a nice word about someone whose written decisions and dissenting opinions stood for seven years as a conscientious barrier to the unconstitutional theft of power that Obama had been practicing.  Obama viewed Justice Scalia not as the distinguished and principled jurist he was, but simply as someone whose death was less important, per se, than his disappearance from the Court.

This absence was entirely political, and will go down as a further mark on the "legacy" of this president that continues to dissolve, even as he does only what he thinks is needed to polish it.

First, let us note that no president in memory -- and thanks to Megyn Kelly of Fox for actually getting this researched -- has failed to attend the funeral of a Supreme Court Justice who passed away in office.  None.  So for a sitting president to stay away despite a well-published empty agenda for the day, well, that is a statement.  And not a good one.

Second, let us consider the alternative.  Barack Obama could have attended, stayed in the shadows, mumbled a few kind words about "lengthy service" -- even "worthy adversary" -- and spent most of his words expressing sympathy for the Scalia family.  He could have done that and completely defused any criticism.  We all would have essentially ignored his presence because he would have given no cause to comment on it.

That would have shown what is known in the civilized community as "class."  But not being there was a statement.  It said "I, Barack Obama, regard my political opponents not only as my enemies, but as already dead to me.  It is more important that I not show even a chink in the armor of my devout leftism, nor pay the slightest honor to those opponents, rather than showing even normal courtesy and sympathy to the family by showing up."

Aside: You wonder what goes through his mind when he has to pin a Congressional Medal of Honor on a brave serviceman.

We have an opportunity that the press will, presumably, not take.  It is a chance to ask Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders if they would have attended the funeral of Antonin Scalia had they been president and had an empty Day-Timer.  No waffling, just a straight-up yes or no answer.  Not why they think Obama didn't attend; the question is not about Obama.

"Would you, Mrs. Clinton, and you, Mr. Sanders, have attended the funeral of Justice Scalia, had you been president and an empty calendar on the Saturday of the funeral."  And if the answer is anything but "Yes, I would have been there", then the follow up would be two words: "Why not?"

Because if class and respect have gone out of their vocabulary and out of their way of going about their lives and if, knowing that, people would still vote for either of them, then we have bigger problems.

I'll tell you what -- if I had been president and it had been the funeral of a far-left justice like Ruth Ginsburg, I would have been there no matter what I thought of her.

How hard would that have been, really, Mr. Obama?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Dear Your Holiness: Please Shut Up

I was a bit startled yesterday to hear that Pope Francis, the worldwide leader of the Roman Catholic church, had called out Donald Trump, of all people, at the end of a week's trip to Mexico.  In response to a question on Trump's faith, the pope said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump was his characteristic self in reply, expressing surprise and disappointment and challenging the pope's assessment of his Christianity.  But it really doesn't matter what Trump said about the pope.  It's all about the fact that the pope mentioned Trump in the first place.  The Donald did not start this one.

Now, before you ask, I am not a Roman Catholic, or any other flavor of Catholic, not Eastern, Greek or Russian.  I am an unaffiliated Southern Baptist, meaning that I am part of a classification -- Protestant -- that has not been represented at all on the Supreme Court since John Paul Stevens retired in 2010.

However, there are no end of Roman Catholics among my friends and family, including 40% of my wedding party, and I have attended innumerable Masses.  And I have been a great admirer of some recent popes, particularly John Paul II, whose support of the Polish independence movement, in my mind, helped facilitate the collapse of the Communist bloc in Eastern Europe.

I cannot recall in my lifetime, though, a pope making an unforced statement as (1) clearly directed at one individual, and (2) silly on its face.

Donald Trump is definitely not an enemy of the Catholic Church, and certainly not of the Vatican.  There was no earthly reason why Pope Francis should have answered the way he did, as if he were forced to take sides between Trump and Mexico, when he had no obligation to.

Let us be clear here.  Once you start using the term "building walls" in the way the pope did, you are talking metaphorically as well as physically.  Every freaking country on earth, including the Vatican, has borders.  Few, if any, have a wall around it as high as the Vatican's own.  But they all have borders, except maybe the USA under Barack "come on in and we'll give you welfare as long as you vote Democrat" Obama.

With the exception of the Berlin Wall, those borders are typically built to keep people out, or at least to allow the nation to do the normal, inoffensive governmental task of protecting its citizens by managing the flow of foreigners in and out.  I have never in my lifetime heard that referred to as being somehow un-Christian.  And Trump's border wall with Mexico, whoever ends up paying for it, is no different conceptually from the "metaphoric border wall" that consists of the cadre of government border patrol keeping watch.  Both do the same thing, managing the flow of people in to keep those who should not cross it out.

The other thing that was silly was the part about "... who thinks only about building walls ..."  Seriously?  How does an Argentine priest, even one who becomes pope, magically develop the knowledge about what an American businessman who is not even Catholic is thinking, all the time?  And even if Trump were thinking overwhelmingly about protecting the borders, is the pope unaware of the sworn oath taken by the president of the United States to defend the Constitution and the citizens?

We have a huge army of Muslim thugs already leaking in here and killing innocents -- a far less Christian pursuit.  For such as Donald Trump is indeed thinking about walls, it is for the time when he might become president and be obligated to do what is needed to keep his country's citizens safe -- including the Catholics (and, by the way, the Muslims).

Pope Francis could feel free to comment as much as he wanted about the level of faith of, say, Marco Rubio, who actually is Catholic. But he looked like a fool poking his papal nose in a place that he had no business opining on.  He looked foolish because there is no way that he can have a sense of the mood in the USA that is helping Trump's candidacy.  He looked foolish because saying what he did after a week in Mexico made it look like he had spent a week being brainwashed.  He looked foolish because he has not been poking his nose into the political affairs of any other nation, not the UK, not Iran, not China.  Believe me, the latter two's leaders offer a lot more to criticize than our candidates.

To the extent that a Protestant may be allowed to comment, his looking foolish has diminished the papacy.  And so I ask him, most politely.  Please butt out, Your Holiness. 

Or pull a Gorbachev and tear down your own wall.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Red Light and the Chinese

We all are prone to laughter when a needle is somehow figuratively stuck in the backside of a pompous person or entity.  Let's face it; none of us is terribly amused when someone preens their self-importance, and we're no more amused when self-importance is preened by an institution, a university or a company.

Or the People's Republic of China.

Way back around 1914 or so, there was a gold-mining town by the name of Cripple Creek, Colorado.  Cripple Creek is just west of Colorado Springs and, back in its heyday had an active and thriving gold mine.  Miners flocked to Cripple Creek to seek their fortune, and plenty of gold was found there.

Miners being what miners are, some other "industries" arose to take care of their, er, needs.  And so along with the lawyers and accountants, and the schools and the like that grew up to support the growth of the town, so also arose the practice of a profession much older also than any other, if you get my drift.

So at about that time, Cripple Creek was visited by a writer for the New York Mail and Express by the name of Julian Leonard Street.  Street was a pretty well-known writer with a humorous bent, back in the day when writers could actually put nouns and verbs together.  For some reason that is not worth worrying about, he decided to pay a visit to Cripple Creek and write about the town.

The whole town knew about the visit and rolled out the red carpet for him.  Suffice it to say that Mr. Street, after being wined and dined, had no end of great things he could have written about Cripple Creek, had he been so inclined.  

However, such was not to be.  No; Julian Street spent the preponderance of his article about Cripple Creek paying attention to the red-light district and its necessity, let us say, in a Western gold-mining town.  The red carpet was ignored, the red lights called forth.  The town, well, saw red.

Needless to say, the elders of the town of Cripple Creek were none too pleased.  And being none too pleased, they responded in the most clever and appropriate way, by renaming a town boulevard.  For at least as long as there was a red-light district in Cripple Creek, the avenue running right through it bore the name "Julian Street."

And so we find ourselves today admiring the brilliance of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has had it up to here with the pompous Chinese government.  China, as if taking a page from Barack Obama, believes that it knows far better than anyone else what is good for its people, even though that means one-party government and a heavy Chinese boot firmly on the neck of its billion or so citizens.

Senator Cruz proposed a bill which has now passed the full Senate, and is in the hands of the House of Representatives as we speak.  In true Cripple Creek fashion, the bill reminds us of one of those little needles that can get perpetually stuck in the backsides of the self-important folks who run China these days.

Liu Xiaobo is a Chinese national who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.  Liu had struggled for the rights of the Chinese people in opposition to its throat-booting government.  For his efforts, he received the Nobel Prize, but he was already in prison in China.  China jailed him for the same thing that the Nobel committee felt moved to honor him (It is ironic that the same people gave the same award to Barack Obama "on the come", and Obama would spend his first two years of unchecked power lacing on his boots until the voters of the USA, a month after the Liu Nobel announcement, gave him an electoral shellacking).  Mr. Liu will be in prison for many years to come.

Ted Cruz proposed that the USA do to the Chinese leaders what Cripple Creek did to Julian Street.  Under his bill, the name of the street in front of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Washington, DC would thereafter be known as Liu Xiaobo Plaza, and the address "1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza" would be assigned to that very Embassy.

The Senate approved the bill unanimously, if you can believe it.  The House will likely go along, and we can expect the weak and feckless Obama to veto it.

Who cares.  The Chinese have already warned us in ominous, James-Earl-Jones-with-a-Chinese-accent tones of "serious fallout" if the bill becomes law.  To heck with them.  What are they going to do, exactly?  They're already wiretapping us and stealing secrets.  They play currency games and their economy is going in an unpleasant direction, although their leaders are surely eating well.

I want to congratulate Ted Cruz for a brilliant idea, or for productively shepherding someone else's brilliant idea.  I think we win this one no matter what Barack Obama does.  It's just a shame that regardless, Mr. Liu rots in prison.  Tells you all you need to know about China, regardless of what their embassy's address is.

Perhaps they should move it to Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Scalia Replacement Commentary #2

Yesterday I pointed out that it was incumbent on the Republicans to take the message to the people in regard to the filling of the seat on the Supreme Court vacated with the passing of Justice Scalia.

The main message, though, for yesterday was that we should all grit our teeth and let the process play out, rather than intransigently declining even to hold Senate hearings on the nomination when Barack Obama inevitably comes up with someone.

If that is the main message, there is still a lot of subtext.  I am one who believes that presidents indeed serve for four years, not three, and they should go ahead and nominate someone and send the name to the Senate for what we call "advising and consenting", even if they have only a few months left in their term.  It is their job.

The real discussion point is one that did not exist 100 years ago.  Back 100 years, the Senate would have regarded its role not primarily a vetting of the opinions of the nominee, but validating that the judge had the experience and qualifications.  That's it.  Curiously, not a single Supreme Court nominee by a Democrat in 120 years (since Grover Cleveland) has been voted down by the Senate.  Apparently Republicans are historically a great deal more accommodating.

But I slightly digress.

The thing is, ever since the contemptible rejection by the Democrat-led Senate of the perfectly well-qualified Robert Bork in 1987, the grounds have shifted.  In my view, if Bork could be rejected on ideological grounds, then the same arguments pertain today on the other side; that is, the Senate may choose to evaluate and reject a candidate for the Supreme Court based on anything it feels relevant, even if the nominated judge has a perfectly sound background.

And that, friends, includes what the voters of the USA have most recently expressed as their viewpoint.  In other words, by totally rejecting the direction that Barack Obama and, particularly, Harry Reid, have tried to take the country by giving the Senate to Republicans in 2014, the voters of the USA have given the Senate a directive.

And it is totally valid for the Senate in 2016 to take that directive into consideration as it advises and consents on the candidacy of whomever Obama sends over.  If we couldn't have said that pre-Bork, well, we certainly can now.

That is today's point.  The Senate leadership and the most prominent senators -- specifically the presidential candidates, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz -- need to start making the case in public and hammering it repeatedly.  The "case" I'm referring to is that ideology is important; that the USA soundly rejected Obama's leftist ideology by giving the Senate to the Republicans in the most recent election; and that they are justified in considering but eventually rejecting, on ideological grounds, any candidate out of step with the result of that election.

Most importantly, in making that "case", they need to use the Democrats' words against them.  There are at least 30 years worth of public pronouncements from leading Democrats in regard to Republican presidents' Supreme Court nominees, both approved and rejected.  Every single one of those comments, especially from Democrats still on the public stage like Reid, Schumer, Pelosi and Obama himself, needs to be carefully assembled and put in front of the American people.

Democrats are innately hypocritical -- they advocate for a socialistic economic structure that they know for a fact doesn't work, but keeps them in power.  They claim that their open-border advocacy is to be generous, when they know it is a blatant attempt to pack votes in.  The press repeatedly ignores their hypocrisy and declines to put two and two together on the front page.

Here, however, we don't have to rely on the press to call out the hypocrisy of Democrats who previously opposed Republican Supreme Court nominees on ideological grounds.  We don't need the press, because we're in the middle of a presidential campaign.  We already have the nation's attention.  We have a couple candidates who are sitting senators, both of whom are skilled debaters and persuasive speakers.

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz need to put down their weapons for the time being, sit down and create a strategy wherein they are making the same point, that is, that the Republican-led Senate will act on Obama's nominee using as guidance the words of the Democrats themselves.  "Chuck Schumer said this in 2007 about so-and-so, and we will apply that in evaluating this nominee.  Barack Obama said this ... Harry Reid said this ...".

They should go back to 1987 and 1991 and dig out the statements made by Democrats in the confirmation hearings and in public about the candidacies of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.  Tell the nation in the beautiful forum that is the presidential campaign, and on the debate stage, that if the Democrats thought this, this and this applied then, well, it must still apply and they're, by God, going to consider those "wise words" today.

The press won't do it, of course.  But Rubio and Cruz sure can.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Struggling After Scalia

Forgive me.

I have immense inner conflict about the filling of the Supreme Court vacancy left by the passing of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia over the weekend.  I know there is a great deal of discussion from the Republican candidates and from the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, about not acting on any nominee from Barack Obama to fill the seat.

I will restate my conservative bona fides here before I go forward.  There are over 340 posts on this site for all to see, and anyone who has read them and doubts my credentials, well, send me an email and we'll debate that.  I thought Antonin Scalia would be way up in the list of the greatest jurists ever to sit on that Court.  Still do.

And now I will say that Barack Obama should go ahead and nominate someone to sit in that Supreme Court seat.  How can he not?  It is his Constitutional duty to do so, and while it is funny to hear him invoke the Constitution in talking about it, as if he, you know, had ever read it or cares a bit about it, it is still his job, and he should do it.

The Senate, in turn, should do its job.

Now, once upon a time, the Senate's job was "advise and consent."  While it still is the case, there were 200 years of precedent (i.e., before "bork" became a verb), when even if the Senate disagreed with the judicial philosophy of the nominee, it would still grudgingly confirm them if they were qualified.

Since the time of Robert Bork, an eminently qualified, distinguished jurist rejected by a Democrat-majority Senate, a nominee's philosophy, not their resume, has become a "legitimate" reason for rejection.  Well, that's the case with a Democrat Senate, at any rate.  It never should have happened, and Robert Bork should have had a long and distinguished career on the Supreme Court.

But since then, there is ample precedent for the Senate to vote to consent to -- or reject -- the candidacy of a nominee based strictly on judicial philosophy.  Too liberal?  Too many decisions that sound like the Core Four leftists now on the Court?  Sorry, you're out.  You've been borked.

That's really my point.  The president should do his job, and the Senate should as well.  The president should nominate whomever he wants to, someone who reflects his judicial "philosophy" if he so chooses.  And then the Senate should take its sweet time, go over every available decision of the nominee, carefully evaluate temperament, opinions, writings and background.  That should take months.  Months, I tell you -- the decision is that important.

And then, come October or November -- let's say November, maybe after a Republican has become president-elect -- the Senate should vote to reject the nominee, as is its right.

I have watched a number of Senate confirmations of Supreme Court nominees in my life.  I have cringed when Republican senators roll over and let a nominee slide who is every bit as leftist as Bork and others were conservative.  Well, the Republicans have the Senate now.  And every single senator in the caucus should have the courage to act as their Democrat counterparts did with Bork, and reject Obama's nominee -- after a lengthy process, of course -- based on his or her being out of step with the USA.

Since Barack Obama was elected in 2008, every subsequent national election has been a massive repudiation of his philosophy.  He has won only the presidential election in 2012, and that not on his philosophy, but his personality and his race.  The USA promptly rejected his philosophy and incompetence again in 2014 by giving both houses of Congress to his opponents.

But no, I don't believe that Obama should stay his hand; he should find a candidate and make a nomination.  And I think the Senate is then justified by recent history and precedent by taking plenty of time to evaluate the nominee, and then being willing to reject the candidate solely on opinions.  Just as the Democrats have done in recent memory.

There is another court out there, the one called "public opinion."  That one is hard, as it is subject to the spin of a leftist media.  They will be all over the Senate, particularly if the nominee is a woman or a minority (or both).  So it is up to the most articulate senators -- and the presidential candidates, who now have the attention of the populace -- to make the case, to show the recent precedent.

It is up to them to point out the hypocrisy of people like Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is even this week conveniently forgetting how he felt that George W. Bush had no right to nominate a candidate to the Supreme Court in 2007.  It is up to them to point out that we are long past the "first of this race ..." garbage.  It is up to them to point out that the Democrats indeed were the ones who brought philosophy, not temperament, competence and experience, into the confirmation process.

We need to grab the public's ear, and quickly.  But we should let the system operate as the Constitution tells us to.  And "Sorry, but after much deliberation and thought, we have rejected your nominee" is a lot better than "You're in your last year of your last term, you should not make a nomination" or a long filibuster.

You don't need to do that, senators.  Don't need to rush.  Just receive the nomination, deliberate and reject.

The way the Constitution allows.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, February 15, 2016

The Donald, The Hillary and The Unions

It is, at this point very unclear who will be the candidate for president with an "(R)" after his name (I can say "his" now, with the unfortunate departure of Carly Fiorina from the campaign).  Even, or maybe especially after the debate Saturday night, there is a legitimate opportunity for Donald Trump to win enough delegates to go to the convention with the nomination in hand, but there is still a long way to go, and several of the candidates are funded well enough to stay in for the duration.

It is even less clear, perhaps, on the Democrats' side.  Yes, I know that whatever may be the widespread and growing support for Bernie Sanders among actual breathing Democrat voters, Hillary Clinton has an immovable choke-hold on the "super delegates", the Party folks who get a vote irrespective of the voting in their state of residence.  The super delegate count is about one-eighth of the total number, enough so that Hillary gets almost one-quarter of the way to the nomination just by having secured most all of the Party types.

Yes, I know all that.  I also know that when the FBI has 150 investigators exploring the clearly illegal and probably feloniously illegal receipt and transmission of classified information, it is not ending well for Mrs. Clinton.  The FBI will undoubtedly recommend an indictment, given the extraordinary amount of effort -- do you understand what 150 FBI agents cost?  The Justice Department, headed by Loretta Lynch, appointed to a previous position by Hillary's "husband", will then decide whether or not to indict her.  If they don't, FBI agents will resign in droves -- they're already leaking information on the investigation so that the results can't be spun by their political-appointee superiors at Justice.  And that will not look good for Hillary.

All that said, if you had to bet a dollar on the candidate selections, I expect that you would likely bet that Hillary will be the nominee, if she is not in prison by then, and that she will face off against Donald Trump.  And there is one aspect of that competition that is worth considering.

Hillary Clinton is reflexively pro-union, by which I mean "pro-union donations to her campaign."  She is a big fan of the happy dance, by which government-employee unions donate to the campaigns of Democrats, who then sit down with the same unions and negotiate contracts favorable to the unions who bought their support with campaign donations.  Big fan of that, she is.

Donald Trump's relationship with unions is way, way different.  He has not been involved working with government-employee unions nearly as much as private-sector ones, particularly construction and trade unions who help build his buildings.  Which, by the way, is his business.  Working with those guys is not a lot of fun.

I'm definitely not a union guy.  I belonged to one in my life, the American Guild of Variety Artists back when I played a little cocktail piano in bars in the '70s.  My experience with unions personally is pretty much a blank.  But what I do believe is that the evolution of unions in the USA from the early 1900s looks something like this, chronologically:
(1) Business abused employees for long hours, poor conditions and low wages
(2) Unions formed to unite employees and solve the hours, conditions and wages issues
(3) Unions addressed the issues and the issues were neutralized
(4) Lawmakers enshrined in law the worker rights sought by the unions
(5) Having gotten solved all the worst of the problems and abuses, the unions no longer served any function other than legal agency for the workers in their union.

The last is the problem.  By the time they had made it decent to be a worker in a unionized or even non-union job, they had accrued huge pension funds and massive political power.  You think they would give all that up just because they were no longer needed?  I didn't think so, either.  Neither did Victor Riesel.  Look him up.

So what we have is a huge institution in the union world, which has accomplished all its goals and no longer has a reason to exist in the form that it once had -- yet it does.  And by being as large as it is, well, it has power that it no longer needs -- or deserves.  The legal balance, if anything, is already in favor of the employee over the employer (trust me).

So if it comes to a debate between The Donald and The Hillary, at some point, the topic will become "jobs."  And I want to hear Donald Trump say this:

"We can talk about unionized jobs and union employees all we want.  But let's make it clear -- the only experience Mrs. Clinton has is in the mutual back-scratching world of government-employee unions.  I, in decades of building in this country, have had a long, long relationship with private-sector unions.  I have worked with their leadership to negotiate contracts and, unlike Mrs. Clinton, I have provided real, productive jobs in the private sector for union employees.

"The union leaders may not like me a lot after years of negotiating, but they know me and they know that I respect them -- and they respect me in turn.  They respect me because, at the end of the day, their members have more jobs, bring home more money in pay, and pay more back to them in union dues, because I have been successful.  There is not one thing that Hillary Clinton can say to compare, because no matter how much pandering she does to organized labor, their members know that she hasn't done one thing to give them work.  I have, and the trade unions know it."

Donald Trump could then turn to Hillary Clinton and watch her dissolve into a pool of Jell-O, because she has not one cogent sentence to say in reply.

Admit it -- wouldn't you want to see that?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Bernie and Al

At the conclusion of the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, the celebrants celebrated, the successful rejoiced, the unsuccessful licked their wounds (or dropped out of the race), and everyone remaining made a beeline to the next primary state, South Carolina.

Oh, yeah, except for Bernie Sanders.

The Great Promiser of Free Everything absolutely demolished Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary on the Democratic side, winning the vote by about 22 percentage points, and leading her in every single demographic except for women over 65 years old.  He then celebrated with an interminable acceptance speech wherein he reiterated his pledge to:

1) Raise the Federal minimum wage to $15 per hour
2) Make tuition at public colleges "free"
3) Provide single-payer medical insurance (i.e., like VA hospitals for all)
4) Etc., etc., etc. -- it was like Oprah giving away cars

And then, the generous senator headed straight for -- not South Carolina, but New York, and he headed for New York for a special meeting with none other than your marginally-certified preacher and mine, the "reverend" Al Sharpton.

Now, you don't need an IQ over 85 to figure out why he felt that necessary.  Bernie Sanders is facing a series of state primaries in which, unlike Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democrat voters are as much as 40% or more black and Hispanic.  Between South Carolina, Nevada and the "SEC" state primaries in a few weeks, Sanders has to have a strategy to appeal to a different set of voters from those who gave him a virtual tie in Iowa and a huge win in New Hampshire.

Now, one could argue that he doesn't really need a different strategy for those states.  Those susceptible to his giveaway approach are susceptible because they are ignorant of basic economics, not because of  what color they are.  Having beaten Hillary soundly in New Hampshire, Sanders's message at least appears receptive to both genders -- there's no reason it should be not equally receptive by all races.

But Bernie is taking no chances. He fears that Hillary, though she has now shown to be overrated in her appeal to women, still has some special kind of appeal to non-white Democrats.  I don't buy it, certainly after New Hampshire, but Senator Giveaway does.

So I put myself in his shoes, and asked myself, "If I were a socialist and had just won New Hampshire in a landslide, but I felt I needed to appeal to black and Hispanic voters in the next primaries, what would I do?"  Now, I believe that I would try to address a few issues -- even two -- that would make minority voters listen to my message.

Perhaps I would talk about jobs ... oh wait, the biggest impediment to job growth in the black community is the unabated influx of Hispanics across the southern border to compete for jobs.  That is being done by the current president, in whose administration Hillary Clinton worked.  Of course, he is black, or at least half so.  So if I were to tout my opposition to unchecked immigration competing for jobs against American black job-seekers, I'd be able to wedge out Hillary, but I would then be opposing the views of the black president and offending Hispanics.

Perhaps I would talk about health care ... oh wait, the plan I advocate requires the same Federal government that is currently running the contemptible VA hospital system to run a universal system.  The VA system is killing veterans, and the armed services are a bit disproportionately non-white -- and not VA fans.  So I might not win on that.

Perhaps that is what Bernie Sanders was thinking when he decided that the best way to appeal to non-white voters -- and the very first thing he would do after New Hampshire -- would be to seek out an endorsement from some well-known black "leader."  Jesse Jackson has been leaning toward Hillary and probably won't endorse either of them, so he was out.

But what have we come to when a guy trying to run for president and attract black voters thinks that the guy he has to grovel before to do so is Al Sharpton?  As of a couple years ago, Sharpton had some $4.5 million in tax liens for non-payment of taxes owed.  It didn't stop Barack Obama from having him as a regular visitor at the White House, but wouldn't you think Bernie Sanders would be sensitive to a rich guy not paying taxes, and find someone else to pander to?

He's going to South Carolina, a state with an actual black senator!  Why doesn't he ... oh, wait, the senator, Tim Scott, is a Republican.  Nope, he has to grovel before Al Sharpton, who has called white people (like Sanders) "crackers", referred to Jews (like Sanders) as "diamond merchants", and actually did commercials for LoanMax, the auto title-loan company that lends money to -- you guessed it -- with rates and fees that equate to 300% total rates.

I don't quite know whether it says more about Bernie Sanders that he thinks Sharpton is the right guy to grovel before in public, or more about Barack Obama that he would let a guy like that within 20 miles of the White House, or about the people that Sanders thinks would be more likely to vote for him if he cozied up to Sharpton.

I just know that if I were genetically black (as opposed to "legally black"), and saw a candidate acting as if the way to my vote were to have coffee with Al Sharpton, I would vote as far from that candidate as humanly possible.  Perhaps Hillary Clinton suggested it to Sanders?

Wouldn't put it past her.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

When Will MLB Ever Learn?

Not a baseball fan in the USA is unaware of the name Albert Pujols.  Pujols, who plies his trade for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (known by everyone but the team's owner as the "LA Angels"), is a 36-year-old player, formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pujols was a Hall-of-Fame-caliber ballplayer with the Cardinals, spending eleven years there, from 2001 through 2011.  During that time, he performed at a level few in the history of the professional game could match.  As a hitter, one is best measured by his ability to do two specific things well -- get on base (i.e., not make outs) and get multiple bases with the hits he gets.  Those two attributes more effectively correlate with team runs far more than any other offensive statistic.

We have all now likely heard the term "OPS", meaning "on-base percentage plus slugging average", which is a rather artificial number used to combine the two most relevant offensive statistics, albeit a bit crudely.  You may less likely have heard the term "OPS+", which is a statistic that weights OPS with ballpark effects, and gives some  rationality to the number.  A player with an OPS+ of 100 is a league-average hitter.  Simple as that.  An OPS+ of 130 means "30% better than league average", and is definitely an All-Star-level hitter.

In Albert Pujols's first eleven years, all spent with the Cardinals, he recorded a composite OPS+ (i.e., for all eleven years combined) of 170.  Combine that with his excellent fielding at first base (also borne out by modern fielding metrics) and you have a player, the likes of whose first 11 seasons were almost historically unparalleled.

During the 2011 season, however, all of which was spent at age 31, one aspect of Pujols's baseball life took precedence.  His contract was expiring, and he would be a free agent after the World Series.

Despite his age, the Cardinals were anxious to sign him to a multi-year contract, one that would cement his status as one of the two greatest Cardinal position players ever (there with the sainted Stan Musial), and recognize his singularly positive relationship with the St. Louis fan community.  He was loved, admired and respected there, and the Cardinals wanted him to stay.

Except for one little thing.  Pujols wanted a ten-year contract, one that would put him on the field through his age-41 season.  And the Cardinals, no matter what his past performance and how well-respected he was, were not stupid.  Pujols had been a horse for eleven years, nearly always playing 150 games or more, and rarely injured.  But a ballplayer's peak years are from age 26-30, and it simply did not make economic sense for any team to commit huge dollars to putting a now-age-31 player on the field past age 36 or 37, let alone at 41.  Far, far too many bad things can happen.

So the Cardinals made a very attractive offer for a very attractive number of years, but it was not "ten."  And Pujols wanted ten years.  This dispute played out in the media, and while the Cardinals took some flak, they are an organization with a marvelous history and a credible one that is thought to operate at a high level.  The fans ultimately wanted to keep Pujols in St. Louis but, it being the Cardinals, many came to look at Pujols's demands as beyond reasonable.

Ultimately, the Cardinals held to fewer years, and Pujols indeed got a ten-year offer from the Angels, at $24 million per year, where he plays now.  The Cardinals have not suffered; in the four seasons since they were first in their division three times and second the other; averaged almost 94 wins per season and made the playoffs every year, including a trip to the World Series.  

And let's look at the Pujols numbers, shall we?  Pujols is four years into that Angels contract.  Has he performed at that level of 70% better than league average?  Well, not so much.  At 40% better?  Er, no.

For his $24 million per year, which LA will be paying through 2021 no matter what happens to him, Albert Pujols has in the first four years accumulated an OPS+ of 126, or about 26% better than league average.  Now that is good, for sure, and had LA signed him to a four-year contract and been done with him now at age 36, they wouldn't be all that regretful.  But it surely is not worth both the $96 million they have paid to date and the $144 million they still have to pay him, again, no matter what.

I remember thinking in 2011 that the whole contract issue with St. Louis was going to come back and bite someone and, although I'm not a Cardinals fan, I hoped it would not be they, and I hoped either that Pujols would sign with them for 6-7 years, or that he would sign with another team I either rooted against or didn't care about.

I wanted to see St. Louis's approach, which I thought was more than reasonable, result in a lesson.  And surely it has.  The Angels are burdened with six more years of a contract for which they will be lucky to get an average of 100 offensively productive games from Pujols.  Pujols is getting paid, sure, but his reputation is immensely diminished from what it would have been had he stayed in St. Louis and had his career slowly mature (i.e., decline) but as a city icon.

In effect, the LA Angels are paying Albert Pujols the value of the productivity that he had as a St. Louis Cardinal.  Except, of course, that productivity was as a Cardinal, a younger one, and he is now an Angel.  And the Cardinals are paying him nothing, as they polish the two World Series rings they earned while he was there.

I would like to hope that every team in major league baseball is evolving its view on long-term contracts for players over 30.  I say that because, as a conservative, I applaud fiscal responsibility wherever it takes over an institution, particularly one I care about as much as I do baseball.

It is interesting that the only team in baseball this off-season that has not signed a major free agent has been, of all teams, the New York Yankees, the long-time kings of profligate spending -- and who are still on the hook for a few inane contracts, such as the one paying Alex Rodriguez into his forties.  Perhaps if the Yankees, of all teams, have seen the light, there is hope for the rest of the game.

Albert Pujols could have played out his career as a Cardinal hero, rather than being regretted by Angels fans, who were really never able to see the player at his best.  Maybe the teams are so flush with cash that the tragedy of the Pujols situation isn't that of the Angels but, rather, that of a player whose career could have granted him a status to which few in baseball history could compare.

But his career is now split irrevocably into two parts -- historic and beloved in St. Louis, where they don't have to pay for his decline; declining and regretted in Anaheim, where every few points of OPS+ his bat loses each year will be met with contempt.

I hope and pray that lessons will be learned by owners and players alike.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Has Become of Bubba?

Have you seen Bill Clinton lately?

I think it is fair to say that the version of Bubba that is currently making the rounds, ostensibly in support of the candidacy of his wife Hillary, is a far cry from the one we remember as president and for a few years thereafter.  Yup, it is pretty sad watching him make speeches and answer questions abut the campaign.

He has allegedly become a vegan, or at least "gone vegan", presumably the result of his imperfect cardiac health and the after-effects of an indulgent life.  Being a vegan will make you miserable anyway, especially if it is not particularly voluntary and emotionally committed.  And Bill Clinton looks miserable.  Certainly last night on stage with his wife as she was being demolished in the New Hampshire primary by Bernie Sanders.  Let's just say his suit looked a lot better than Bill did.

I would offer that there is a large part of his perceived misery that is associated with the fact that there is a campaign in the first place.  Back in April I wrote that I believed that Bill absolutely did not want Hillary to run for president.  It was completely at odds with what he wanted; no matter how you define the role of a man married to the president of the USA, it would not fit with the lifestyle Bill Clinton wanted for himself.

Golf?  Occasionally, sure; he could be allowed to do that.  But from that point his freedom would be immensely restricted.  No more speechifying overseas for $10 million a year.  No more being treated like royalty by the royalty of regimes that treat women and others as disposable.  Couldn't get away with that.  Clinton Foundation?  Nope, no more of that -- conflict of interest all over the place when your wife is president.

It is pretty obvious that Bill Clinton is about the most reluctant presidential campaign spouse you could possibly imagine.  And he looks it.  That is a man with zero energy; he was a man who was once an active, aggressive, happy warrior on the campaign trail -- in bygone days.  Today he is reduced to accusing the Sanders campaign of sexism.  Even Bill can't believe that, and no one short of John Kennedy has ever treated the White House more as his personal brothel than he did.  No accusation of sexism from Bill Clinton is taken seriously.

But there's one other thing that I did not mention in the April piece, and now as I look at the uninspired, reluctant candidate's spouse that Bill has become, it finally makes more sense to me.  It's a matter of legacy.

Bill Clinton left the White House in a stench of scandal, having gotten caught dallying with a young intern, and having gotten impeached for lying in relation to testimony about the case.  But over time, l'affaire Lewinsky became less the defining element of his presidency.  It didn't go away, mind you, and certainly he will be associated with the incident forever.

But time has given the spin doctors time to write (and to some extent, rewrite) the history of the Clinton years to where we are more frequently reminded of positive things, such as the balancing of the Federal budget and some reforms to welfare.  One way or the other, by 2016, absent the Hillary campaign, we would be remembering the Clinton presidency and its legacy in a more positive manner.

But we are not absent the Hillary campaign; it is out there as loud as you please. 

Along with the campaign come some things that would be far more minor were she not campaigning, such as the egregious email scandal, which is smelling more and more like an indictment (or a mass resignation at the FBI if there is not an indictment).  There is the manipulation of the press, a bribery-for-access scandal just now out.  There are the gargantuan conflicts of interest at the State Department during her tenure there, associated with Bill's speeches for countries wanting favors from State.  That smells pretty bad, too.

And with each of those huge negatives, Bill and his presidential legacy are colored with the negatives associated with his wife.  Rather than live the life of a popular ex-president, traveling, golfing, making scads of money and celebrating a presidential legacy of his own, he is denied all that.

Bill Clinton looks like a very, very sad man right now.  There is not a shred of doubt why, and only a part of it is that vegan thing.

Nope -- Hillary is getting her revenge.  She just doesn't know that she is.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

That's $19 Trillion, with a "T" -- Does the White House Care?

There was an interesting under-the-radar story that floated past us last week, as the national debt -- the amount our federal government still owes because it spends more than it takes in -- passed $19 trillion.

The story appeared in the Fiscal Times, and I give it to you here in case you have a few minutes and need to get ticked off about something.  In essence, while the White House's budget director usually testifies before Congress when the president submits his annual budget request, the Budget Committee chairmen of both the Senate and House combined on a statement, announcing that Obama's budget director, Shaun Donovan, was not welcome to testify and would not be invited to do so.

Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), the Senate committee chairman, wrote that “It appears the President’s final budget will continue to focus on new spending proposals instead of confronting our government’s massive overspending and debt.  It is clear that this President will not put forth the budget effort that our times and our country require.”

Ladies and gentlemen, somebody has to do something.  I imagine that despite the ineffectual leadership by the Republicans in Congress, and their utter failure to do collectively as the public clearly asked them to do in the 2014 election, at least some senators and House members have had it up to here with profligate spending.  Certainly Sen. Enzi and his House counterpart, Tom Price (R-GA) appear to have.

Well, Sen. Enzi and Rep. Price, I want you to know that I've had it too.  I have had it up to here with struggling to pay my own bills, doing so with no debt (save my mortgages), and watching the Federal government blithely run up $19 trillion in debt.  More importantly, I have had it with the Federal government doing so with no apparent regard for the impact this has on the USA.

I never tire of reminding people of Mitt Romney's line in the first 2012 presidential debate, where he promised to go over every line of the Federal budget and use the evaluation criterion "Is this important enough that it is worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?"  That's China, whose leaders and henchmen serially hack into our networks, play manipulative games with their currency, let their satellite North Korea launch satellites, and subjugate their people.  That China.

If you have an ounce of fiscal responsibility and a shred of ethics, you would have heard that and it would have changed your approach to budget development.  But no, Barack Obama whistles in the breeze and puts forth a budget that is even larger than before (not smaller), borrows even more from our enemies (not less), and adds spending for innumerable items that are completely out of the constitutionally-mandated scope of the Federal government.

So Sen. Enzi and Rep. Price, today I salute you for having the brass cogliones to make a public statement against unchecked spending.  I salute you two for telling Obama to keep his budget and to go back to the well and try again.  I salute you two for bringing the absurd heights of the national debt to the public despite the previous capitulation of your party's leadership.

Now it is up to the press.  The Fiscal Times has written the story.  Will the rest of the press pick up on it and, at the very least, take the position that two Republicans are actually right?

As I write my monthly bills against our family's balanced budget, I can't wait to see

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, February 8, 2016

Playing the Race Card on Behalf of Dr. Carson

Having recently discovered that presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is, in fact, black, I have started to look at him in a very different light.

And in Saturday's debate, I saw something I did not like in the way he was treated, and I'm really not happy about it.

The presidential debate Saturday night produced plenty of its own conflicts, but there was one thing that seemingly none of the post-debate analysis and spin commentators felt moved to bring up.

We know going in that news networks have their biases, and ABC, which brought the debate to the country, is a left-leaning organization with an agenda.  Martha Raddatz, the co-moderator, is a left-leaning journalist with a spotty track record of equanimity in previous debates.  She, too, has an agenda.

One thing that agenda demands is that black Americans slavishly follow leftist candidates, even against their own self-interest and despite Democrats' atrocious track record of improving their lives.  As long as black voters cast ballots in lock-step with the Democrat way, nothing can, in the left's view, be allowed to change.

Ben Carson blatantly rejects that notion.  As a black conservative, he smashes the stereotype the Democrats have foisted on his race, for decades and decades, to subjugate them and seize their important votes.  Therefore, he must be ignored, Democrats believe, and in some manner, desperately silenced.

And silenced he was, Saturday night.

I write here to accuse ABC, the moderators of the debate, and George Stephanopoulos, the former Clinton senior staffer and Hillary donor who is somehow allowed to be passed off as a "journalist" at ABC and to comment between segments, of racial bias, racial profiling and race-based suppression of views.

If you doubt me, go back, watch the recorded debate, and ask yourself where the questions for Ben Carson were.  ABC, I believe intentionally marginalized Dr. Carson by minimizing the questions to him, allowing other candidates far more time on the questions of substance (the only question asked of Dr. Carson for what seemed like an hour was a non-policy question about the Cruz campaign), and letting other candidates speak up when they were not asked questions.

Dr.Carson himself had to point this out, in response to one rare question reminding the moderators that he was "not just a pretty face on the stage."

I contend that ABC's lack of questions for Dr. Carson was an intentional, pre-planned effort to provide as few seconds as possible wherein Ben Carson, a black conservative in stark opposition to their narrative, actually presented conservative views from the mind of a black American.  And I demand that ABC be held responsible and taken to task.

Ben Carson is a brilliant and accomplished man.  He has done what the Democrat left wants -- and needs -- black Americans not to do, that is, to think independently and decide for themselves, one by one, what works and what does not.  Were they to do so, far more would, as has Dr. Carson, reject the notion that the Democrats in government have their back.

ABC should be ashamed and apologetic.  The next network hosting a debate, whichever one it may be, needs to accommodate the good doctor and ensure that he is granted at least as much air time to answer substantive questions as any other candidate.  And they should prominently note why they are doing that.

We need far more televised minutes of Ben Carson speaking to the important issues of our day.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, February 5, 2016

Thanks, Rand

This week the senator from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Dr. Rand Paul, suspended his campaign for the presidency with a video and announcement that he was stepping away and returning to the Senate and his reelection effort there.

I must say that I regarded his action with a mix of feelings.  Dr, Paul had not been able to generate much of a percentage of the Republican caucus-goers and polled voters during his campaign.  He had performed pretty well in the debates, but in no case did the polling thereafter seem to reflect anything in the way of additional earned support.

So I could say that as long as the senator was not going to generate enough of a following to present a chance of winning the nomination, it is best that he step away and defend his Senate seat.  Anything else would be tilting at windmills and not a defensible pursuit.

But this is not Jim Gilmore or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee.  This is Rand Paul.  And while I have the utmost respect for Gov. Huckabee and Sen. Santorum particularly, their candidacies did not have what I can only call "specific meaning" that will leave a gap as they leave the race.  Rand Paul most certainly left a gap.

Libertarianism is arguably a form of conservatism with one facet polished brighter.  It is conservatism, in that it is associated with limited government, but it acutely stresses the rights of the individual against, if you will, the government.  It is no accident that the name is based on the word "liberty", since libertarianism is all about freedom to live one's life as one sees fit, with minimal government intervention, and a minimalist approach to the global role of the USA.

And Rand Paul is the hero of the American libertarian, if anyone is.

Accordingly, Dr. Paul will be missed more than his fellow single-digit candidates; at least I will miss him.  Rand Paul had a way of keeping his competitors philosophically honest, and if you watched the debates you understand what I mean.  He was not my candidate, mind you, and I never considered if I would vote for him in the general election, because I never considered he might reach the general election.

But now, as he steps away, I am convinced that the tone of the debates will change somewhat.  Despite the arguments among the remaining candidates that currently are a-brewing in the press, their policy differences are surprisingly thin (Donald Trump's lack of specifics and tendency toward the marginal factor notwithstanding).  Rand Paul made a point of differentiating himself.

Dr. Paul's self-referential Twitter caption is typically terse: "I fight for the Constitution, individual liberty and the freedoms that make this country great."  Don't you love that?  I do not see a word of that that I find difference with.  I want my president to fight for the Constitution, for individual liberty and our freedoms.

I would find difference with him in areas such as foreign policy, where I believe that the USA does have a role in ensuring the growth of free governments around the world as nations' citizenries seek them.  Yet I agree heartily that "nation-building" is a delicate endeavor, and that the lessons of Tito's Yugoslavia, Saddam's Iraq, Khaddafi's Libya and now Assad's Syria teach us -- as Dr. Paul pointed out carefully in the debates -- that just getting rid of a dictator without a known capacity to implement a freely-elected replacement government is a fool's errand.

I would find difference with the senator in the extent to which the government can employ court-ordered data collection and tracking to protect the law-abiding citizen.  Perhaps, as I think of it, we're not that different there -- but there is a spectrum to be debated as to how far government can go and we're probably a bit apart there.

I would find great difference in regard to tobacco and drug policies.  I not only find smoking stupid and contemptible, but an entire industry (heavily at work in Kentucky) conspired to mask the effects of its products, which still kill 400,000 Americans prematurely each year.  And I find the whole pro-pot campaign, including the "medical marijuana" people, insanely hypocritical.  The good doctor and I would not concur there.

It does not matter.  The blessing of a presidential primary campaign is that there is indeed a forum for a national debate on issues important to our lives.  Rand Paul, bless him, brought a sound, well-thought-out presence to the debate floor against which the other candidates could lay out their differing views.

He will be missed, certainly by me, and I was not going to vote for him.  I value the time that he did put into the campaign and believe that he offered something for us to talk about as we decide on our candidate.

I'm grateful for his time in the race.  Thank you, Senator Paul.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Choosing Your Leaders -- Unwisely

Oh, I'll just bet you looked at that article title and assumed this piece would be about the 2016 election season.  You would not be very right.

Government is different from business in so, so many ways.  Businesses, like households, are required to live within their means and then make profit on top of that.  To make a profit, you have to provide value that justifies customers being willing to pay for the product or services, an amount that exceeds the cost of the business producing what the customer is paying for -- plus a proportionate share of all the expenses of having a business in the first place.

Government, on the other hand, specifically the Federal government, is under no legal constraint.  It can spend, spend, spend and when it finds itself unable to control itself to spend only what tax revenues produce, it may simply borrow, borrow, borrow.  There is always, at least so far, someone willing to lend.  That's why the Federal government owes about $19 trillion (with a "t"), a lot of it to mortal enemies like China.

Another way that governments are unlike business -- directly opposite, in this case -- is that the leadership of a business is derived from the ownership of the business, and those whom the ownership has entrusted with that leadership role.  Those who take the risk maintain the scepter and the purse strings, and they make the decision as to who the leaders and decision-makers are.

Government is quite the opposite, in a republic or representative democracy, such as the USA.  The leaders of the government are not in their jobs because they control the purse strings and have taken the risks.  No, no; they are in their roles and control the purse strings because they have been selected by the people they represent in some way.  If he populace is stupid enough to select leaders who are incompetent, or corrupt, or weak to represent them, and the result is that their quality of life swirls down the toilet, they have only themselves to blame.

The same applies to leaders who may not be elected officials, but who somehow float up and portray themselves as representing the people as would a government leader.  When they turn out to be corrupt, incompetent or otherwise detrimental to their followers, it is only the followers who can blame themselves.

I think of this as I ask myself how many conservatives are currently leading large cities in the USA.  It seems somehow that there are about none, and that's at least since Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York.  Then I ask myself how many large cities in the USA are both peaceful and financially stable.  I'm asking ... I'm asking ... nothing.

What, pray tell, is it about people that when they live in cities with horrible crime rates and financial problems (Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, New York, Detroit, to name a few of the many), that they don't connect the fact that they're run by Democrats with the fact that they have horrible crime rates and financial problemsYou pick your leaders, people!  If you don't like your iPhone, you can go buy an Android, and if you don't like your government you can vote it out office just the same.

But you don't.

I suppose no one will stand up and say that Palestinians are a prosperous people.  They are poor and not going upward economically anytime soon.  But do they collectively rise up and say that maybe continuing to choose and follow leaders like Arafat and Abbas might, just might be what has gotten them where they are, and kept them subjugated and poor?  Does being a Palestinian seem a lot like being, say, black in Baltimore?

It is not a lot of fun to be black in certain areas of Baltimore and, for that matter, pretty much any of those other USA cities.  Yet in the 2011 election, the last time the city voted for a mayor, over 84% of the votes went for Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Democrat who had served a year as interim mayor after replacing the previous mayor, another Democrat who had been convicted of misappropriation and forced to resign.  That would be the same Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who handcuffed her entire police department this past year and allowed the residents to burn and loot entire neighborhoods, destroying its tourism potential for a while -- no cops, no protection, no tourism.

Do you think that the citizens will respond this November when the next mayoral election is to be held?  Sure they will.  They'll give Mayor Hyphen's successor (she is not running) over 80% of the vote again, and Baltimore will be a mess for another five years.  And one of those candidates to succeed her recently spoke at Yale, supporting the rioters who looted his native city.

What is it?  We live in the one country on earth where we granted ourselves the constitutional right to choose our leaders. Yet communities here continue to send Democrats back to office regardless of what they have done as mayors, over and over again.  No matter how poor the citizens are; no matter how little gets fixed; no matter how far in debt the cities get, the voters reflexively avoid electing competent leaders, and return leadership that has shown itself incompetent to solve the citizens' own problems.

Whether elected officials like Mayor Hyphen or Bill De Blasio, or unelected, self-appointed publicity hounds like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson, one must wonder when it will be that communities will finally rise up and say "enough", exercise their constitutional right and decide that the people they've selected as leaders have been screwing them for decades -- and it's time to change.

If your leaders are not helping you and your community, it is time for new leaders.  Try it, no matter what continent you live on and what language you speak.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Bernie Won't Do for Us

By now we know the results of the Iowa caucuses and the extent to which Iowans turned out to support the lovely and talented Bernie Sanders, the not-particularly-accomplished senator from Vermont with the armload of giveaways from the tax-paying class to the not-tax-paying class.  It was enough to tie him with the self-presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, if she is not in prison by then.

We hear so much about the man (Sanders), that it behooves us to think about generalities and specifics, and how his proposals meant to solve one problem seemingly open up three others ... each.  I'm reminded when I hear Sanders speak that he has a lot in common with chemotherapy; both kill of a lot of healthy, thriving content in order to achieve their goals.

The difference, of course, is that chemotherapy can sometimes do what it is intended to.

Now, don't get me wrong; I hope that Sanders is the Democrat nominee.  I hope that because he would get trounced in a general election, starting the moment that the Republican nominee asks him the logical question in a debate, to wit, once he has confiscated all the wealth of the "rich" and been able to run the government on that for the few months all that would last, well, then what?  There is a finite amount of wealth in the country, and a rapacious federal government would zoom through that before you could turn your head sideways to say goodbye.

Bernie Sanders advocates income tax rates that top out at 90%.  It is a fair assumption that he means for that rate to apply to people earning over a million dollars a year or so, and also that it would scale slightly down from there.  You could expect that people earning, say, $200,000 a year -- not anything that will make you wealthy even at the current rate of almost 40% (plus FICA and state tax beyond that) -- would be paying a lot more as well.  Perhaps 55%?  Maybe 65%?  You'd have to figure that would be about right.

When you ask yourself "why so much", or at least why you think that Sanders thinks that is somehow all right, the answer seems clear.  He believes that the people who make a lot of money are already wealthy.  In other words, he conflates income and wealth absurdly; at his tax rates no one who is not already wealthy would, you know, become wealthy.  In case you wondered why people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are big high-rate income tax supporters, it's because they're already wealthy, and high tax rates stop the competition from gaining on them.

So ... this leads me to a question I would ask Bernie Sanders if he were sitting here in our house.

My wife and I are 64 years old and would like to retire.  We owned a business together until two years ago, by which time Barack Obama's anti-business policies had helped dry up access to capital for small business.  No bank was lending -- ask any small businessman about bank lending and they'll laugh you into the next county -- and without access to capital, our business closed.

It closed, I want to point out, taking our entire life's savings with it.  At 62 we had nothing to retire with.  No savings, essentially nothing.

That is the bad news.  The good news is that I had a good profession, and was (and still am) able to earn enough to pay the mortgage and to begin all over again to save for the retirement that has been pushed five years down the road.  Of course, at 64 today, I don't have a lot of time to earn much to where I could build up a retirement savings again, but I'm trying.

Want to guess what the biggest impediment to creating a nest egg from zero all over again at our age?  Pretty simple, folks -- it's the current tax code, the one that confiscates about 50% of every next dollar I can earn.  I want to save, I have the discipline to do so and an income that would allow me to, except that I work 100% for the government of the USA and the Commonwealth of Virginia until about the end of June.  Then I start paying the mortgage, if you get my drift.

So all that sniping by Bernie Sanders about hedge-fund people that is supposed to justify his huge tax rates, well, does he even realize that what he does to penalize the 32-year-old hedge-fund yuppie on Wall Street does the same thing to a couple in our 60s trying to retire?  I'm thinking perhaps not.

That's why I'd like to get the good senator in a room and carefully ask him, over and over until he gave a legitimate, thoughtful answer, this question.  "Knowing what I just told you about our circumstances", I would ask him, "what part of your tax proposal would protect people like us such that we could be freed of exorbitant rates for, say, five years, and be allowed to save for our retirement on the strength of our own skills, so that we would not be even more dependent on the taxpayer in our retirement?

I'd like him to reply, and not right away.  I'd like him to think about the fact that I'm not a hedge-fund manager; I'm an ordinary guy doing a legitimate job for my clients.  I don't take advantage of them; I do a service (writing) that is less expensive for them than having an employee to do it.  I pay more in FICA than I would if I were a W-2 employee, so that's better for the government.  Because my clients are government contractors, by lowering their costs (using me) it lowers the price the government pays for the services the contractors provide.

Mr. Senator, I have a very small window, narrowing all the time, to save for a decent retirement.  I would like to think that you believe, reasonably, that the Federal government should not be the biggest impediment to our ability to retire.

But it is.  It is right now, and you would make it worse.  Why, Senator?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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