Thursday, March 31, 2016

Explaining Hillary's Sin to The Post

I don't know what it is about Hillary Clinton's defenders that protects them from the truth, or of seeking the truth, regarding her use of a private server and private, non-secure email address to communicate classified information -- as of today, well over 2,000 such emails, ranging up to levels beyond Top Secret.

Ruth Marcus, in Wednesday's Washington Post, is a perfect example.  Her op-ed piece was as much about the need to get information out to the public on the investigation, as it was about the actual offense but even so, she can't help flash her ignorance.  Early on in the piece, she drops this one on unwary readers:

"There is a school of people — a big school, judging from my email — for whom there are only two possibilities:

Either Clinton is charged with a crime for mishandling classified information on her private server — an outcome, this group thinks, that should be devastatingly obvious to anyone with half a brain. Or the Justice Department will squelch the indictment out of a politically motivated desire to protect the likely Democratic presidential nominee. The only disagreement here involves whether Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch will act on her own or under orders from President Obama."

Here is the thing.  It is the reference to her mishandling classified information (which should read "exposing national secrets, as an indirect part of a criminal effort to protect her communications from legitimate FOIA inquiries").  In Mrs. Marcus's words, we "indict-Hillary" folks feel it should be obvious that she should be indicted to anyone "with half a brain."

But it isn't about intellect here; it is about intelligence -- in the "seeking information" meaning.  In other words, it is not just that we are smart that we are calling for her indictment, it is because we understand the laws governing the handling of classified information, and others -- specifically including Ruth Marcus -- apparently do not.

I have written this time after time.  People who handle such information are instructed each and every year on how to handle such information.  Every individual with a clearance is re-instructed, each and every year, as a requirement to hold a clearance.  That included Hillary Clinton.  And the instructions specifically warn you not to do what Hillary Clinton did, and that it is a Federal offense to do what she did.

Ruth Marcus is looking for all the wiggle room she can find in an absurd defense of the indefensible actions of the former first lady.  I get that; indictment would not be a good thing for liberals, including reporters and columnists at the Post.  But there is a difference among people, and it is not between those who have at least half a brain and those who don't.

No, the difference is between those who actually hold clearance to handle classified information and those who do not.  The former know the law because they are taught it first and re-taught it every year.  The latter, like Ruth Marcus, are not.  This apparently gives them "clearance" to try to minimize an offense about whose details and whose laws they are completely unfamiliar.

Every single American with a clearance knows what she did and that she should be indicted.  The FBI investigators are equally familiar with the rules, which is why information has been occasionally leaked out to ensure that we are all aware of what she did, and that those familiar with the law see at once that she acted criminally.  The FBI agents are not going to be corrupted, but will seek the facts -- and they know the law.  And they will not be happy if a lawbreaker is politically protected.

It would be a heck of a good idea if Ruth Marcus would traipse over to a Federal agency or contractor site and get a briefing on the actual law, the exact one given all the time to those who handle classified information.  I'd like to think she is honorable enough to gasp loudly by the end of the briefing and say -- and write -- what we all know:

Hillary Clinton clearly violated Federal law and should be indicted.  Promptly.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Hillary and the Gun Makers

Back in October, the soon-to-be-indicted-we-hope presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a big announcement of a package of gun control legislation she would press if the USA were stupid enough to make her president someday.

That included a provision that would, by repealing existing Federal legislation, allow the manufacturers of firearms to be liable, in court, for the willful misuse by purchasers of the products they manufacture.  In other words, victims of firearms violence would be allowed to sue the manufacturer of the weapon used by the criminal.

Now, we should point out that there is also case law in the courts, in the form of Adames v. Beretta, under which a Federal court found the manufacturer not liable for damages in the situation where the complaining party suffered injuries by being shot with one of Beretta's firearms.  The lower court ruling was appealed, but the Supreme Court declined to take up the case and let the lower court ruling stand.

We also have Federal law, which can be misinterpreted as a blanket protection for gun manufacturers but is actually not -- in fact, they cannot be sued for damages from misuse of a properly-functioning product without defect that contributed to the incident.  If the weapon is defective and someone is injured, there is no protection from liability in such case.

I think that seems perfectly reasonable to me.  There is a legitimate use for firearms -- self-defense, target-shooting, hunting -- not to mention that pesky Second Amendment right to own them.  As long as there is a legitimate use, there is a right to manufacture.  And as long as the manufacture is free of defect, it is a reasonable inference to hold the maker harmless for the use of the product.

Writing this reminded me not only of some weird misalignment of law regarding comparable situations, but also that I had written to this topic a long time ago.  It was not about firearms, but about holding drug companies harmless for the side effects of pharmaceuticals that had effectively passed FDA muster as being safe and effective.

Yes, kiddies, Federal law properly protects gun manufacturers from being sued if some person uses one of their properly-made weapons to hurt someone.  But drug makers do not get such protection even though their products have been approved by the Federal agency (the FDA) charged with such approvals.  Some unexpected side effect materializes and suddenly there are lawsuits.  And torts.  And legal fees go skyrocketing and drug prices rise with them.

But back to Hillary, of course.  Needless to say, she is just out there pandering for votes because she has no real platform or record of accomplishment to run on.  So she needs to do the "find a villain" thing and make the enemy of my enemy my friend (or voter), i.e., "vote for me because we both hate gun makers."

However -- guns are far from the only products out there wielded by someone that hurts another person during normal legal use.  If I go to a bar, get served too much Jack Daniel's by the bartender, walk out to my Chevy and run over a lawyer accidentally, then where do the ambulance-chasers go?  To Jack Daniel's for making a product that I abused by drinking too much?  To the bartender for serving me too much liquor? To the bar for hiring someone who was capable of over-serving a customer?  To Chevrolet for making a car that could be driven by someone with too much alcohol in him?  To no one because, well, it was a lawyer that got run over?

I think you get the idea.  There needs to be a legal standard for liability for the maker of a legally manufactured product that is free of defects, and that standard needs to apply in a legally standard manner.  That means that no matter what Hillary Clinton thinks, firearms manufacturers are no more liable for the misuse of their products than auto makers are, nor distillers.

Bars -- not quite so much, as they are the dispensers of that properly-manufactured product and have a legal obligation to do that dispensing consistent with the public good.  And cigarette makers have the peculiar situation of having been already shown to have made a product that is innately harmful when used as manufactured, serves no productive use, whose manufacturers have been found to have willfully misled the public and hidden the damaging effects for decades, and is therefore regulated separately.

Hillary is not going to win this one.  With any luck, she'll be in prison before even getting to try to fight the battle.  But I do hope that the outcome is one where there is a logical and legal consistency applied across the board (excepting tobacco as mentioned).  The risk of manufacturers' liability creeping in to properly-made firearms and then applying as a standard to other products -- like Chevrolets -- is far too great.  There is no additional need to make trial lawyers even richer.

Drugs, cars -- and firearms -- defect-free manufacture needs to afford legal protection.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why Havana? Really?

It was amusing to see that yesterday Fidel Castro directed a letter to Barack Obama.  The 89-year-old communist dictator, who has strangled his homeland for 55 years or more, appeared to throw his brother Raul under the bus, as it were, essentially telling Obama that Cuba did not need to be lectured or taught the right way by the United States, and that the USA had been abusing Cuba all these years and mistreating their country.  They needed nothing from "the empire", as he called us.

I don't know what Barack Obama thought about that, because I hardly ever understand what Obama thinks about anything.  I can only write so many times that his actions are difficult to put together in a rational, cohesive way, other than to presume that he truly intends to beat down the USA into a third-world country with no borders and no standing in the world.  Everything he does is consistent with that, circumstantial or evidentiary.

You want to explain why every single time an Islamic radical terrorist blows up a batch of innocents, his speech -- if he bothers to make one -- has to include some form of direct warning to us not to go picking on Muslims.  That clause is always invoked, even though no one is actually doing that to a degree large enough for the president of the United States to feel obliged to warn us about that over and over.

So Cuba ...

I was in college from 1969 to 1973, being about ten years older than Barack Obama.  It was quite common to see posters of people like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in students' dorm rooms (not in my fraternity house, but we were a bit more rational) or in common areas like coffeehouses and the Student Union.  College kids are like that, and the '60s were the middle of the Vietnam War era, lots of people agitated about things.

I don't know for sure how all that was, ten years after me, when Obama was in high school at Punahou, in college at Occidental and wherever else he went and had his records sealed.  But he was an admitted drug user and casual student.  It is so very simple to imagine that he was simply one of those idealist types without his brains fully formed (and drug-addled) who grew to worship the Cuban leaders and idolize murderers like Che Guevara and the Castros.

What else could explain this -- after an atrocious deal with the Iranians where one of the biggest criticisms is the fact that we got nothing out of it for America, Obama heads to Cuba.  That's Cuba, where there is no compelling reason to do very much with the unrepentant murderers still running the country as if it were 1957 -- and makes deals with no benefit to America, all over again!
There is some good, of course, as I wrote here a while back.  Clearly it is worth an attempt to try to open marketplaces there to USA-made goods, if there is ever to be any currency there of any value to pay for them with.  But the current problem there is political, not just economic.  The people are severely oppressed, impoverished and are kept in that state while the Castros stay in power -- even if they're not in apparent agreement with each other.

But I have come to the reluctant conclusion that Barack Obama, in some barely-developed part of his brain, is simply still one of those pot-whiffing college kids with the Che poster, who wakes up one day to discover that he is the president of the United States and has a few months left in power where he can actually meet his heroes in Cuba!  Che is dead, of course, but the pull of the poster is pretty strong.

I conclude that "reluctantly" because I would love to think more of him than to believe that he would act in that way -- but I cannot.  I would love to think more of the USA than to think that we would elect someone that naive and that natively anti-American, twice, but history is not on my side.  I would love to think that we may have learned a lesson over the last eight years.

For that, I still hold out some hope.  Hope for a change.  Ironic, eh?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, March 28, 2016

Jackson, Bonds and Clemens

Well over a year ago, I responded to a comment on a piece about the self-appointed guardian of the Wikipedia piece about "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, the long-ago White Sox outfielder who participated in a plot to throw the 1919 World Series.  The comment had pointed out a potential inconsistency between my point in an even earlier piece advocating for certain PED-accused retired players to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, while still opposing the induction of Joe Jackson.

I suggested that I would try to resolve the inconsistency in a subsequent piece, but only now, 14 months later, do I seem to be getting around to it.  [OK, I did something like that contrasting two of the PED users so accused with Pete Rose, who bet on the game.  But this is different as well.]

There is certainly a difference, at least in my view of morality as it applies to major-league baseball.  Let's review the cases.  Joe Jackson conspired to perform below his capabilities in order to lose baseball games -- in his case, games of the 1919 World Series -- and was paid to do so.  He ultimately testified before a grand jury of his complicity.

He was acquitted in the trial, along with the other seven conspirators, principally because the grand jury testimony was stolen from the Court before the trial took place.  I say "principally" because, given that the jury participated in a big celebration with the players after the acquittal, it is not perfectly clear that a conviction would have occurred regardless of the availability of the grand jury testimony.  The commissioner of baseball suspended all eight of them for life regardless, and Jackson remains suspended to this day and thus ineligible for the Hall of Fame despite the Hall-worthy quality of his career.

I specifically wrote of the circumstances of the accused PED users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  Their candidacy for the Hall, each of them, is unassailable.  I can quote statistics all day, but let it suffice to note that Bonds hit more home runs than any player in the history of major league baseball, and Clemens was named the top pitcher in baseball seven times.  On career alone, they would be in the Hall on their first try.

There is, of course, that pesky PED thing.  And unfortunately, for the purposes of this article, I have to stipulate that they used PEDs, even though there are no failed tests to point to, no suspensions for either of them, and even if they did use, the rules of the game were really soft for much of their careers, about what could and could not be used as supplements.

So yes, I have to stipulate for this article that both of them used.  But I will also concede to their fans and supporters that the arcs of their respective careers both appear to reflect Hall of Fame quality performances before they were each assumed to have started using PEDs, and certainly before the rules against their use were clarified and the banned substances better defined.  In other words, they could clearly have retired as Hall of Famers without ever having touched a nanogram of anything that would ever have been eventually banned.

How, then, do we logically contrast the Joe Jackson case with Bonds and Clemens?

I believe that the logical argument, at least the one that reflects my moral compass, is the sense of corruption.  There is one core expectation that baseball fans in the USA have, and that is that the players are doing their best to try to win (or at least not trying to lose).  Some make it hard for you to believe they're actually trying, yes, especially when they show up for Spring Training 40 pounds or so overweight, but that's another story.

Bonds and Clemens, and for that matter everyone who took PEDs or was even accused of taking PEDs, were doing so to perform better on the field.  At some point, of course, we learned enough to know that those taking PEDs were putting their health at serious risk, not that there is any virtue in that, but they were trying to perform better on the field.

Some call that "cheating."  I get that, although I'm not excessively wound up in that word.  Plenty of players have cheated in some manner in the 150 years or so of baseball, not that it is good that they did.  But they were, in their efforts, trying to win.  And to me, while that doesn't let the "cheaters" of any kind off the hook, it is not equally corrupt with those who tried to lose.  Especially when they were paid to try to lose, not by their employers but by people betting on the game.

I am on record not as defending the alleged actions of Bonds and Clemens, but believing that they had Hall-worthy careers prior to when some believe they started using PEDs, and should be inducted on their performance and let history judge them as individuals.

Joe Jackson is a whole different case.  He violated rules that were known to every player by accepting money to try to lose games intentionally.  Accordingly, he broke his compact with the team, his clean teammates, the owner and the fans, but most importantly, he broke explicit rules that he knew would get him thrown out of baseball.  And his actions were, again, meant to try to lose games in, of all things, the World Series.

Rational people may disagree about how to regard PED users, especially with neither evidence nor even confessions to ascribe to them.  I would want to hope that the case of Shoeless Joe Jackson's lifetime ban makes sense to all of us.

Except for the clown guarding his Wikipedia site.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, March 25, 2016

Overrating GOP's Splitsville

I could link you to dozens of doomsaying pieces in journals all over the country, decrying (or secretly cheering) this apparent schism in the Republican Party.  That is, we assume, the one between the supporters of Donald Trump and the "establishment."

What a crock.

First, let me take electronic pen in hand and note that there are far fewer pieces about the corresponding schism in the Democrat side of the nation, and Lord knows there is one, although no one's heart appears too troubled about it.  That would be the one between the young voters who are overwhelmingly supporting Bernie Sanders, the old socialist, and the non-young voters who are staying home in droves but, when they do actually vote in primaries, are voting for Hillary Clinton, presumably figuring she won't be in jail by the general election.

Those "young voters" preferring Sanders when they do actually vote, are the descendants of the ones who came out for Barack Obama in 2008.  The differences are, of course, first that they are showing up far less than their 2008 forbears and, second, that their candidate isn't even going to be on the ballot in November, where Obama ultimately was.  And I stress the "when they vote" part because to be fair, the Democrats are getting really low turnout in the primaries, which should scare the heck out of them.

Even if you only look at the Democrat voters who actually show up, the two demographics of the Hillary and Bernie people are so wildly different (look at the age splits in the exit polls) that you have to take notice.  That's a serious divide, and as unattractive a candidate as Hillary Clinton is, you could be talking about a pretty healthy bloc of voters likely to stay home in November rather than get all excited about Hillary.  Whose husband Bill, by the way, just berated Barack Obama's "awful" eight years.

So they have their own problems.

The Republican divide is getting all the ink, and there are many reasons.  First, you can't help but to keep writing stuff about Donald Trump.  Everyone loves to write about him.  The press, of course, is so left-biased to start with, that anything they can do to stir up antipathy toward Republicans is an easy story to jump on.  It aligns nicely with their own editorial tendencies.

But is it a problem?

That's a really good question, and I think the answer is "no."  Sure, there is a Republican "establishment" represented by the folks in Congress (Ted Cruz specifically exempted) who appear most concerned with keeping their seats, rather than doing what's best for the USA.  Sure, there are those guys and ladies. Sure, the whole Donald Trump thing is seen as such a wild card, such a threat to their normal way of doing business that they're trying to fix the convention to keep him from the nomination.

I get that.  But the shiny red apple in the not-that-distant view is putting someone in the White House in January who will do what conservatives think the country needs.  That could be Donald Trump, or Ted Cruz, or John Kasich. It could not be Hillary Clinton.

So the real question is whether anything that happens between now and the end of the Republican convention, relative to the nomination, risks that goal of a conservative in the White House.  And I have to think that the answer is essentially "no."

The reasons are, of course, different depending on who gets nominated, and we have to concede that the nominee is either going to be Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, given where the current math leads us.  You see, nobody votes based on what the "establishment" tells them.  Ask Jeb Bush.

If Trump is nominated, he will bring in literally millions of voters who would not vote otherwise, or might vote for Democrats, bringing in states like New York as being newly competitive.  If Cruz is nominated, the electoral math changes, because conservative voters who stayed home for McCain and Romney come out, and because Cruz, the brilliant and skilled debater, will crush Hillary in the debates, unless she gets the media to schedule them at 1:00am on a Sunday.  Or is in prison.  Either is possible.

What is unlikely is that by the time of the election, very much residual animosity from the campaign will remain.  If Trump gets through the convention, Cruz will eventually endorse him, wife-baiting aside, because he's smart enough to know that Trump is plenty more palatable than Hillary, and that a protracted "will he or won't he" endorsement thing after the convention will be a problem.

If Cruz is the nominee, Trump probably won't endorse him, but it won't matter that much.  Trump will go back into his corporate role and continue to succeed there -- as he said, he didn't need to run for president -- and his supporters will make up their own minds.  But, see, the Trump supporters who weren't voters before are not a factor; the ones who were Republicans will vote for Cruz to keep Hillary away, and the ones who were Democrats will stay home in droves because what attracted them to Trump repels them from Hillary.

The press can write all it wants about how fatal the split in the GOP is, but it is trying to make its wish become reality rather than reporting factually.  The "GOP" doesn't vote in November; live voters do (and in Chicago, deceased ones as well).  Those live voters will long since have set their internal discussions and primary battles aside and turned to the issues of the campaign.

Let us hope it is with a level of thought.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, March 24, 2016

No Recourse

Some of the regular readers of this site will recall that we have had a little issue with the IRS in he past year.  If you did not read the pieces, I link them here and here for your enjoyment, although "enjoyment" is probably too strong a word unless you dislike me personally.

In essence, the IRS initiated an audit last year of a bridal shop that my wife and I owned until closing it in 2013, and on which we pretty much lost everything we had saved our lives for -- we were 62 then.  Closing it was not fun, and we still grimace when thinking about it.

Of course, the IRS is not possessed of anything in the way of sympathy, and chose two years thereafter to send us a nice letter claiming that we owed them about $30,000 in back taxes and penalties.  This was as a result of their not understanding our otherwise quite normal model of recognizing revenue at the time of sales (the alternative would be recognizing revenue at the time of payment, which would be equally legitimate).  Now, all they care about, or should care about, is that we were consistent.  Which we were.

In fact, as anyone who has had a bookkeeping class over the years recognized immediately, our choice of recognizing full sales revenue before we were fully paid for gowns was, in fact, beneficial to the IRS, because we paid taxes earlier than we would have otherwise.  They didn't seem to care.

You will be mildly amused to know that a few weeks back, after months of dragging this out, and gradually lowering the amount they felt we owed from $30,000 to $18,000, then to $5,000, then to $750, ultimately a supervisor meeting with our accountant decided we owed IRS nothing and dropped the audit.  We were determined to have had no additional tax liability and were, as they say, "free to go", i.e., the audit was closed and IRS determined that we did not owe anything at all and never had.

The operative word is "free."  By the time we are done, we will have had to pay our accounting firm well over $6,000 (and that is after they cut their fee quite a bit, presumably out of sympathy) for months taken to convince the IRS that their audit was unnecessary, as it proved to be.  Now, that could have been about $500 or so if the IRS auditor had actually understood the law that our accountant kept explaining to her, the law that, you know, an auditor for the IRS ought to know.  But no, the case dragged on and on and on because she just didn't get it.

I had never actually had to empathize with people who have paid lawyers to defend them against crimes for which they are innocent, or frivolous lawsuits.  But I do now.  We are out thousands of hard-earned dollars for essentially no purpose at all, no benefit to us save not being forced to pay a debt we didn't owe.

I do not know where the recourse is supposed to be.  It's one thing to win a lawsuit and come after the other party for legal fees.  But when your own country is the party forcing you to lawyer up (or in this case, CPA up) because their 70,000 pages of tax code are too much for their own auditors to get right, there is something really not right.

Ted Cruz makes it a point, as often as he speaks, to speak of "abolishing the IRS."  My best girl and I sit there and applaud mightily at those words.  When we have come to the point where in the USA, of all places, the government can't get its own laws right, you are out thousands to defend yourself, it's pretty sad that there is no legal recourse to recover costs from the IRS.

I know.  Shortly after our CPA told us we needed to call our congressman because things were so frustrating for him, I did.  I discovered first, to my shock and disgust, that our U.S. Representative had a person on staff who did nothing but handle IRS issues for constituents.  In other words, the IRS screws up so often that we pay a congressional staff member to deal with the failings of another branch of our own freaking Government.

We discovered, of course, that we had no recourse of any kind.  Our CPA costs were "probably" deductible; but that was about it.  For the most part, the costs were money lost forever for the privilege of teaching the IRS to interpret its own laws.

Senator Cruz, if anything you need to be louder when you get to the line about abolishing the IRS.  Clearly the law has gotten so convoluted that it is costing us more than just IRS employee salaries to keep the agency.  It is spaghetti code.  Start all over and create a small receiving agency to take the post cards and the checks each year.

Surely there is a better purpose to which the money we had to pay our accountant could be put.  CPAs sure would prefer to be doing things other than defending audits.  Congressional offices would prefer to be doing constituent services rather than responding to injustices of the Government's own agency.

Come on, Ted, you can do it.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What IS Our Relationship with Israel

The American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) is completing its annual conference, at which a variety of presidential candidates -- the notable exception being Bernie Sanders -- got to speak and address their support for Israel, our chief democratic ally in the Middle East, at least prior to the current administration.

The event gives us an opportunity each year to watch speakers fall all over themselves in an effort to appear the most pro-Israel candidate, trot out their bona fides and go on about Jewish friends they've had in the past, still do, and anything to get applause and adulation.  I get that, I really do.  But boy, is it ever odd to watch.

First, though, it brings up the interesting paradox that Sanders was the one candidate across both parties who did not speak at the conference.  It is a paradox for a few reasons, not the least of which being that Sanders is, in fact, Jewish.  Now, it doesn't follow a priori that his being Jewish means he should necessarily be virulently pro-Israel, but it sure was weird that he didn't hop a plane from speechifying out west at least to make an appearance, given his religion and given the optics with all other candidates speaking.

And also, we observe, given the fact that so little has been made of his actually being Jewish in the first place.  Remember 2008?  Shoot, remember 1960?  I do, and I remember being aware at the time of what a big deal it was that John F. Kennedy was a Roman Catholic and what a handicap it might be for him in states like West Virginia.  I forget why.  Looking back, it's not like he was very Catholic, or else he had a very friendly priest in confessional; he shouldn't have had time actually to be president, what with all the Hail Marys an ordinary person with his casual approach to fidelity would have been given.

In 2008, Barack Obama's race was the whole election.  It was so important that he be acknowledged as being black (though completely white on one side and raised only by white family), that the news media failed to ask critical questions, like why he spent 20 years listening to a racist preacher, started his campaign in the home of a cop-killer and all.  In 2016, though, Sanders's Jewishness means as much to the press (i.e., none at all) as it seems to mean to him.  You know, Joe Lieberman he ain't.

Now, as a Baptist I can assure you that you don't have to be of any specific faith to admire what Israel has become.  Tough, resilient, essentially an island of democracy in a subcontinent of monarchies, religious zealots and countries who regularly teach their young to wish for its destruction, Israel deserves our admiration.  It certainly has mine at this point, and not out of any reflexive assumption that if Obama is against it, I have to be for it.

So what, then, is AIPAC looking for, and what actually should our relationship be?  In the next administration, what would I want to see?

Well, I neither know nor care what AIPAC is looking for; they are a political action committee, not ambassadors of another country.  They collect money and give it out, mostly to Democrats, and apparently the lack of podium-pounding speakers denouncing the Obama administration for turning its back on Israel (save the Republican candidates) suggests that money, not Israel, is what is most important to AIPAC's leaders.

The more important question is that of what our relationship should be.  And I think the USA's defense of Israel should be based more than simply in its status as an ally in the region, more than a nation holding firm against Islamic terrorism.  In fact, it is more than about the fact that it is a democracy among none others in the region -- and certainly more than the existence of some political action committee.

I think the most intriguing aspect of Israel, and the reason we in our nation should be particularly supportive of it, is its internal political reality.  That is, it appears to be a singular nation where the passions of its own people relative to each other and to their own country drive intellectual debate rather than the taking up of arms.

There is plenty of "taking up of arms" when it comes to its national self-defense -- that's one tough country to have survived given the array of crazies out there trying to destroy them.  But their internal conflicts, of which there appear to be many, are addressed differently from any nation I can name, including our own.  There is something about the Israeli national will and ethos that wins my admiration -- quick to argue, quick to defend, rather than self-destructive.

I want the next administration to think of Israel much as we do the UK, or Canada, or Finland (hey, they were the only nation to pay their WWII war debt for decades) -- not just another ally but a country to admire and to learn from its dealing with its own struggles.  Israel is the kind of nation you want as a friend and ally, first because they are admirable, and second because they're the last you want on the other side.  Ask their enemies.

Barack Obama's administration may think little of Israel and its leadership; it's OK -- he'll be gone in a few months and reason can, hopefully, settle back into our foreign relations.  AIPAC will go on doing whatever it does and wasting money on Democrats who never said "boo" about Obama's snubbing.

I'll still be a fan.  Maybe even Bernie Sanders will come around.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Listen to What You Are Saying, Lefties

I want to say it was in Arizona but I'm not sure.  And it doesn't matter.

Some time in the last week, there was a Donald Trump rally, where there were a bunch of the usual paid union thugs and the like causing a disruption outside the place and inside as well.  Since the left loves to talk and see their shining faces on camera, there was no shortage of people willing to be interviewed and try to explain why they were there.

The answers were about things like "hate" and "racism" and ... well, that was pretty much the substance.  Since they were paid agitators, there wasn't a lot they actually knew about Trump -- or, for that matter, Ted Cruz or John Kasich, let alone Hillary and Bernie.  So they went with the slogans professionally painted on their professionally-done signs, and huffed for the cameras.

Even Bill Ayers, the cop-killer and hero of the left who was interviewed outside one of those rallies in Chicago last week, talked for a while on camera, without actually saying anything that made sense about Trump's policies and countering with something that would solve the problem.

Then there was one guy.

No, he didn't actually talk policy either, but he did say something I immediately took note of.  Now, this guy was a Bernie Sanders supporter, protesting outside a Trump rally.  And while I can't quote him verbatim and don't really want to, he did say something like this:

"There's a Bernie Sanders rally right over [pointing], and you don't see anything like this going on over there!"

I was a little surprised that neither the reporter interviewing him, while summarizing, nor the team back in the studio, mentioned the irony or drew the logical conclusion that I drew.  I saw that clip at least three times on Fox News, which would be expected to have commented accordingly, but I guess they missed it, too.

Think about it.  Who would protest a Bernie Sanders rally?  Outside of a few "black lives matter" types who forced him off the stage a few months back while he was giving a speech, the people who would protest Bernie Sanders would be people who disagree with him.  That doesn't mean Hillary types, since she and Sanders don't differ on a whole lot except how huge a percentage of working people's income to seize to pay for their socialist view of government.

No, the people who would oppose Bernie Sanders enough to protest his speeches would be, logically, conservatives who realize that Sanders would push the USA over the cliff economically.

But there were no protests at the Sanders rally, as the paid Trump-hating protester himself pointed out.

And the logical conclusion you would take from that?  It is simple.  Conservatives are not rioters; they do believe in the freedom of people who disagree with them to speak; when they're opposing an argument they make a counter-argument rather than screaming past the speaker.  That sort of thing

The inference we should have gotten from the paid protester was simple: the left believes in screaming, yelling, picketing, carrying professionally-made signs and shouting down speakers they disagree with.  Conservatives wouldn't think about doing the same to a liberal speaker.  I would like to think that makes us the better folks.

Nope, Mr. Paid Protester, "you don't see anything like that a Sanders rally" indeed.  But that, my friend, is an indictment of you and the left and your tactics.

It's actually a compliment to the rest of us.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Slicing the Two Americas

Last week, in writing that Hillary Clinton was as uninspiring as she was, in part because she wasn't saying anything at all, I got a bit into the fact that the left and the right don't seem to be speaking to the same things -- certainly not in recognition of what people care about.

I suppose that the leftist voter probably thinks that he cares about income inequality, gay marriage, global warming, black lives not mattering, bakers not catering gay weddings, and that sort of thing, because he has been browbeaten by the media and the left to believe that the fact that those things exist are why he doesn't have a good job, can't pay his bills, and fears an invasion by ISIS.  As if fixing income inequality is going to get him a better job.

So let me credit occasional guest columnist Ed Fenstermacher for a note a few days ago in response, actually, to a different column:

"Your article ... points to an issue that has become increasingly worrisome to me.  We seem to be becoming two Americas (or maybe more) so completely that we don’t even agree on what the issues are anymore.  When Kennedy and Nixon debated, they differed in style and approach, but I believe it was a given that we wanted America to be safe from foreign threat and for the economy to grow.  They differed on "how", but not on "what."  Carter and Reagan certainly disagreed about how we should obtain energy, but neither of them disputed the need for it.  And so on until at least 2004.   

"But it all changed with Obama in 2008, and I think it started changing before the election.  He really has fundamentally transformed America, to the point where his party cares only about things that I don’t care a whit about.  Income inequality (not poverty).  Transgender bathroom and locker room availability.  Not hurting the feelings of enemies who have publicly sworn to kill us all.  Penalizing success.  Freedom from religion, except for the new churches of environmentalism, global warming, and secular humanism.

"Then there are the things I care about: economic growth, over-regulation of not just the economy but every facet of our lives, freedom of religion, security against foreign invasion whether by armies or illegal aliens, security against terrorism, balancing the federal budget and reducing the debt to a manageable level, getting entitlements under control, having a simple and fair tax system, not penalizing success.

"It’s kind of like the Tower of Babel again, except we nominally understand the same words."

You simply cannot argue with that, and it plays massively into the ongoing presidential campaign.  It isn't just that Donald Trump is offering a lot of easy solutions to the problems that matter to most of us; it is that he is talking about them at all.  He takes credit for getting us talking about illegal immigration and, frankly, he should.  The Democrats don't talk about it because they're afraid we'll shut down a spigot of future Democrat voters.  The Republican leaders, to some degree, don't talk about it because they're afraid we'll shut down a spigot of future cheap labor.

Do you get it?  In most cases, the left and right are talking about (and running for office on) completely different issues; ironically, on immigration if it weren't for Trump neither side would talk about it.  At the same time, illegal immigration is causing huge demands on strapped governments to educate and hospitalize illegals and their illegal families; and their huge numbers and the willingness of enough of them to work for a living not only drives down labor costs, but keeps (particularly) black unemployment at catastrophic rates.

But I actually digress.

There are two sets of voters.  It's fascinating; I would like to hope that my liberal friends at least believe that I do indeed care about those things Ed mentioned above because I believe them to be significant problems, the resolution of which would make the country better.  I really hope they do.

At the same time, though, I don't believe the liberal voter really believes that all those special-interest things are going to make the country better.  I imagine that liberal voters vote that way out of a sense of obligation ("my mother was a Democrat"), indoctrination in college (where the mid-to-late-teen need to fit in morphs to being a political motivator as well as social) or of not wanting to appear heartless or something.  Come on, Michael Brown was a pot-smoking convenience store robber who rushed a cop, tried to steal his gun and then got shot when he rushed the cop again.  This constitutes the basis for "black lives matter"?

So you have one part of America believing that we need to simplify government and streamline it, and that will ease the burden on the economy, create jobs and lift the middle class a lot and the poor somewhat.  Another part of America is exercised because a bakery in Indiana prefers not to sell a cake for a gay wedding.  I couldn't possibly explain any better how much liberals and conservatives are ships passing in the night.

Sometime this fall, we will start having presidential debates between the parties.  You mark my words, if you can turn off the rest of your filters and just look at one of the debates asking "Are they even sensing the same problems?", you'll decide that no, they aren't.  And I'm sure the questions won't help either.

It will indeed be like the Tower of Babel, except that it isn't the language that's the problem.  It's the reason to use it.  And one side ought not even bother.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, March 18, 2016

On Strategy and SCOTUS Nominations

I had a few interesting email conversations with readers yesterday in regard to Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court this week.  I sincerely wish, and trust me when I say this, that the framework of the discussion had been different.

In principle, I actually don't have a problem with the president making the nomination.  I actually would make a nomination if I were president myself, and would advocate for my nominee.  There is nothing in the Constitution that says anything different, and in one of the few points I would agree with Obama on, I cannot truly conceive of a rationale not to nominate someone.

The other part of this that is almost pointless, however surprisingly so, is Judge Garland's qualifications, which are essentially irrelevant at this point.  He is clearly of sufficient experience, as chief judge on the circuit in which he now sits, to be at least considered as a justice of the Supreme Court.  That doesn't say that I support him but, on his own experience, he would merit Senate consideration before deconstructing his opinions.

There is, of course, a third part before we get to the actual point I want to get to.  That is the fact that those opinions of his I just mentioned are now being evaluated not for judicial consistency or rational thinking, but by political spectral analysis.  That, I have a huge argument with.  Since "borking" became a verb, it has been a particularly Democrat-driven approach in the Senate to evaluate candidates for SCOTUS based on political viewpoints, as expressed in or derivable from their written opinions.

I really hate that.  I interpret the Constitutional directive as being that the president should be given relatively wide leeway to nominate justices as long as they are adequately experienced and qualified.  But I also believe that the experience of the past 40 years has effectively and permanently neutralized that position.  It is now the way of the world that it is OK for a leftist Senate to reject an amply-qualified candidate based solely on the conservatism of his or her opinions (and therefore, to a much lesser extent, vice versa -- the "lesser extent" is only because the press makes it more difficult on a conservative Senate).  That's where we are.

So we set aside Judge Garland completely from the equation; it matters not who he is, what he believes in, what he has ever written until now and what experience he has.  Poof.  It is all about whether the Senate will even take up the nomination before the election.  Except there is one thing -- though his track record is poor on the Second Amendment, Judge Garland is, by all current information, considerably less leftist than someone who would have been nominated by this president two years ago, or someone who would be nominated by a new Democrat president if one were tragically elected in November 2016.

It's nice to hear a prominent authority agree with me, but on Thursday I heard Sen. Flake of Arizona tout the exact strategy I would take, as if he had read my mind (I hadn't written this yet on line).  And that is very simple.

We have a nominee and the action now rests with the Senate.  And the operative word should be "rest."  As in "do nothing."

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has at least one thing on his side, which is a series of well-documented quotes (thank you, press!) from people like Joe Biden and Barack Obama in absolutely comparable situations with a Republican president, saying how they shouldn't act on the analogous nomination late in a Republican president's term.  McConnell even cheerfully referred to Biden's explicit statement, all over the news now, as the "Biden Rule."

So knowing that, and knowing that we've no idea who the next president will be, or of what party, it would seem to me there is an easy solution.  Merrick Garland wants to be confirmed.  He isn't going to withdraw his nomination anytime soon.  So what the Senate should simply do is slow-roll the heck out of things.  Schedule the Judiciary Committee hearings for, say, September.  Make them once every two weeks.  Get an idea of how Judge Garland actually thinks and what kind of justice he would make.  By November, they ought to have a good idea.

Then on the day after the election, call a vote.  If a Democrat wins the White House, confirm him on the spot as being far less damaging than someone the new president would appoint.  If a Republican wins, then schedule a vote on December 31, the last day of the Senate term, and reject Judge Garland.  The new president would make the appointment, and we would get, hopefully, a much more conservative new justice.

The only downside would be if a Republican were to win the election but the Senate were lost to the Democrats -- Obama's term would run 20 days past the start of the new Senate, and with an incoming Democrat Senate, once the outgoing Senate rejected Judge Garland, Obama could appoint a replacement after January 1st, who would be far more liberal, and the new Senate would confirm immediately.  If that were the case, the current Senate would have to confirm Judge Garland after election day, same as if a Democrat president were elected.

This is precisely what Sen. Flake said on TV Thursday.  Great minds think alike.

I hate to be writing this.  I have so much more belief in the institution of the Supreme Court than the above political strategy would seem to imply.  But actions have consequences, and the Democrat rejection of Judge Bork strictly on political grounds, decades back, has had the consequences of politicizing the SCOTUS appointment process more than it should ever be so.

It is, unfortunately, not different; it is what it is.

It didn't have to be.

 Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nothing To Say, Nothing At All

On Tuesday, after winning  few more primaries, Hillary Clinton went on (at least to the extent I could make myself listen to her) about "uniting" people, and "not building walls, but breaking down barriers" and that sort of thing.

I don't want to extract one part of her speeches and assume that's all there is, but again, to the extent that I could handle listening to her, it seems to be all there is.  And, like so many things that Democrats routinely say in campaigns, once you peel back the words and try to analyze the actual ideas and proposals, there simply doesn't seem to be anything there.

Her candidacy is generating an amazing lack of ... anything, other than managing to have locked up the super-delegates (what a scandal that is) and certainly getting little in the way of enthusiasm and actual voters.

For example, as I write this, 99% of the ballots in Ohio have been counted.  Ohio is a perfect state to use, since both parties are contested in the presidential primary and it is definitional "swing" state for the general election.  How many Democrats voted in the primary there on Tuesday? About 1,197,000 votes, probably still just short of 1.2 million by the time all are counted.

Want to guess how many voted in the Republican primary?  Over 2,040,000, meaning that almost 70% more Ohioans voted in the Republican primary than in the equally-contested Democrat one.  In case you think, as I did, that the "John Kasich favorite-son" kind of thing was the big difference there, we can look at Florida, which had a comparable situation as a swing state.

Total vote for Democrats in Florida was a bit short of 1.7 million.  Over on the Republican side, the total number of ballots cast was astonishingly higher -- 2,350,000 votes or 38% more Floridians voting in the Republican primary.  In fact, if you omit all of home-state senator Marco Rubio's votes, there were still more ballots cast for Republicans.  Yep, more votes were cast for just Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich in Florida than for all the Democrats combined.  And the Democrats' total was about 50,000 smaller than even its own last contested primary, in 2008.

So what's going on?

Well, I think we need to relate the two parties' response to the pulse of the nation.  That pulse, in case you hadn't noticed, is the one generally referred to in the media as "anger", meaning that the voters are not happy with Government right now.  They see an entrenched bureaucracy and an entrenched Congress with most members (Ted Cruz a rare exception) so devoted to their own reelection, that they feel it worthwhile -- or are at least content -- to let the bureaucracy grow.  And the people see high, high tax rates, a Gestapo IRS, and idiotic legislation like Obamacare whose content is totally unrelated to its stated purpose.

Does Hillary Clinton even come close to addressing that?  Well, heck no.   She's off on leftist garbage like "building bridges" and "breaking down barriers", tra la la la la la.  Might as well have a unicorn doing her simultaneous translation for the deaf.  Except, of course, that she is the one who is "deaf", as in not hearing the voice of the people.

Some 50-60 years ago, the Democrats and Republicans would have heard the same voice, and disagreed as to how to address it.  They would have debated strategy -- hotly, no doubt -- but they would have at least been trying to solve the same problems.

No longer.  While we are overtaxed, grossly underemployed, in debt up to our hairlines, no longer trusted by our friends and increasingly laughed at by our enemies, Hillary Clinton is talking about bridges and barriers.  And she wonders why the Democrats aren't getting anyone to the polls in the primaries?  Well, actually, I suspect she doesn't wonder that, being so smug that she just knows she will win in November, at least if she is not in prison by then (another area of denial).

If you want to know why the Republicans are outdrawing Democrats by a lot in states where you can actually compare the two, well, it's actually pretty easy.  Whatever you think of the Republican candidates, however you regard their solutions, at least they are seeing the right problems.

And those "problems" are the ones that we American voters confront daily.  They are not "income inequality"; they are not "barriers and walls."  They are not that America is over-sufficiently great.

Hillary Clinton does not see the problems, so she cannot begin to provide solutions.  You will see that in the eventual candidate debates, when she and the Republican candidate look like they are talking past each other -- and they will be.  Without looking like she knows what actually is on our minds, she will look like she is running to be president of some other country entirely.

So we see her as having nothing to say.  Nothing at all. 

 Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Best We Can Do

I have to confess that I'm following the two sets of primaries with as much attention as I ever have in previous years.  So when I got a note from my brother the other day bemoaning the candidates' respective flaws, I had a lot to think about.

No one is perfect, and politicians are particularly less than perfect.  They are innately prostitutional, promising so much if only we will elect them to whatever office they seek.  Because the presidential election season is so long -- well over a year and a half, and that's just the active part -- the promises get bigger and the credibility smaller.

It's a hard thing to survive, a campaign like that, and none actually does with his or her integrity completely intact.  I mean, I've seen a few, but as was the case with, say, Mitt Romney in 2012, surviving with your integrity only a bit diminished (as opposed to Hillary Clinton, who had little to begin with and lost all of it around 1992) doesn't make you a necessarily good candidate.

So at about this time in the campaign, after a long season and a few Super Tuesdays, we have to ask ourselves -- not about the process, which needs repair but won't get it, but about the candidates themselves -- "Can't we do a lot better?"

You want flaws, I'll give you flaws.  Donald Trump is a New Yorker's New Yorker, with a bent to bully and a tendency to avoid specifics.  Bernie Sanders thinks there is a money tree somewhere on Wall Street that can fund his government-is-all, hyper-socialist approach.  Marco Rubio, no longer a candidate as of last night, has whatever robotic character flaw let him do that God-awful debate in New Hampshire amidst a dozen really good ones, and I'm concerned he is not mature enough yet.

Hillary Clinton is ... well, get out the list.  Self-centered, corrupt, completely untrustworthy, contemptuous of Americans, shorter on resume than she imagines, void of accomplishment and, frankly, annoying as heck to listen to.  That's just off the top of my head.  Ted Cruz doesn't play well with others and comes across as if every conversation is a debate.  And John Kasich offsets his resume and accomplishments with incredibly poor campaign skills.

No one has it all, but come on, isn't there anyone who has, you know, most of what is needed?  I'm really trying not to use any individual as a standard, because everyone is different.

I'd just like to see more of the qualities I once write about in the same person.  A real sensitivity to the issues important to me, wrapped in an ability to communicate them to the public to make the case.  Financial common sense ... a sense of America's role that maps with mine ... a long, long view to the future.  All wrapped up in a decent person.

Is that too much to ask?

I have not looked through the governors' offices, the House and the Senate to ponder people who might have more to offer than the current crop.  I'd like to think there are plenty of people who could be at least as worthy or maybe a lot more so, than those running now.  I mean, I really liked Mike Huckabee and he never got wind in his sails at all.  And he isn't even in government now.

Unfortunately, it isn't really a "system" delivering flawed candidates.  If anything, the system is what is making it so hard for someone capable and impressive to want to go through it.  Debates.  Insults.  The press up your backside all the time.  Tax returns back to 1947.  Secret Service protection.  Challenges to your principles on a daily basis.

I know I sure wouldn't want to go through that, and I'm younger than a few of the candidates still in it.  Candidates decide for themselves that they want to be president, and are willing to put on the armor and go through the fight.  But man, it sure doesn't produce people who look good politically at the end of a campaign, any more than had they actually gone to war and come back.

I don't want to have to cast votes reluctantly.  I want to believe in a candidate.

Maybe in four years.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Foreign Endorsements? The LAST Thing We Need

And she bragged about it!

Yes, on Sunday evening, your soon-to-be-indicted former Secretary of State and mine, she of the unsecured server full of state secrets, Hillary Clinton,  actually said the following to the USA

"But one argument that I am uniquely qualified to bring, because of my service as Secretary of State is what this presidency would mean to our country and our standing in the world. I am already receiving messages from leaders, and I am having foreign leaders ask if they can endorse me to stop Donald Trump, and I am like, no, this is up to Americans, thank you very much."  Underlines are mine.
Two things, or maybe ten, ought to be troubling about the message above.  The first is that no one asked how many "foreign leaders" asked her to endorse her candidacy (Two?  Eleven?), nor where they were from and which ones.  Assad?  Putin? Trudeau?  No one asked, but it was CNN, after all, where journalism is flexibly defined and "investigative journalism" only goes one way.  You know that, because no one asked her once if any of those "foreign leaders" had ever paid her or Bill to give a speech, or donated to the "Clinton Foundation."

The other is that, incredibly, Hillary Clinton was actually proud to have said it.  Yes, kiddies, in her isolated, ivory-tower mentality, she assumed that having certain leaders endorse her would be thought of as a good thing.

Now, let us listen for a second to the contrary argument, the one that is why Donald Trump, whatever you may think of him, is packing crowds of 25,000 or more into auditoriums and stadiums across the country.

Donald Trump: "America is being beaten by China, Japan, Mexico and the rest of the world.  They are laughing at us and taking advantage of us."

Hillary Clinton: "I am having [the leaders of the countries who are taking advantage of us] ask if they can endorse me to stop [the candidate who is exposing the fact that they are indeed taking advantage of us]."

I don't know how high Hillary's ivory tower actually is, or how insulated she has made herself from reality.  The press rope-off she started her campaign with is probably a good indicator of where she is innately.  I don't know if she really can internalize how widespread the "America first" feeling is, the one that led to the Trump candidacy's success to date.  I am pretty sure no one is telling her that from a devil's advocate perspective.

But isn't it telling, folks, that despite the "huge" movement of pro-American, USA-first attitudes driving Republican primary numbers up while Democrat primary numbers have sagged dramatically,  she would actually think that foreign endorsement would be a good thing.

I can hear the thinking in her head and the nodding agreement among the sycophants and toadies in her inner circle.  They think that she has, first, a lot more actual experience than she actually has (a few years as Secretary of State and a term in the Senate; the rest is all whom she was "married" to).  So to make that experience look important, she waves around her impact on foreign rulers -- and we still don't know how many, how few or from which countries.

The problem is that the other couple hundred countries on earth are the ones who want to take down the USA.  They range from North Korea declaring it can bomb one of our cities off the map, to our trade partners manipulating their currency and imposing barriers to our selling or manufacturing there, to Putin doing what Putin does, to the oil sheiks letting us defend them without accommodation on energy.

Americans aren't that stupid.  We know we're being taken advantage of.  It's just that Hillary and her toadies either don't understand it or, like Obama, are happy to have it happen.  They want the USA to be just another country.

We, on the other hand, get it -- whether Trump supporter or not.  Hillary invoking support from abroad as being a "good thing" is precisely in opposition to the vein that Trump's candidacy tapped into -- tired of the great nation the USA was, before Obama, being deemed as incorrect; tired of condemnation of American exceptionalism; tired of being walked all over.

Hillary just aligned herself, knowingly or not, with the America Last crowd.

And she probably wonders why people aren't coming out in droves to vote for her.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Confounding Primary Rules

Back in 2014, when I first started this column, one of the early pieces had to do with Election Day and how to make it better.  I wrote, as you can see here, that we would be well-served as a country with a robust press corps and great curiosity, if we were to switch Election Day to a full 24-hour cycle beginning and ending at the same exact instant in all voting areas.

That seemed so logical to me -- 24 hours meant that no one had an issue with work schedule since there was always a long period where anyone would be away from work and could go vote.  It also meant that people in, say, Oregon, who were late-afternoon or evening voters, would not be influenced by results already being broadcast from Eastern time zone states.  Every polling place closed (and, of course, opened) at the same exact moment.

I don't think that has gone anywhere, by the way.

Now, my best girl made a comment the other day that prompted me to think about the primary-and-caucus structure we now have.  She asked why we didn't have all the primaries on the same day to get them over with and shorten the season.  And I had to think about it.

The answer, of course, differs between the consideration of "how it got this way" and "why it should stay that way."  It got that way because certain states have managed to leverage early positions in the calendar, which offset their relative insignificance in size and relevance to the rest of the USA.  Iowa caucuses have sort of always been first, then the New Hampshire primary, and you get the rest.  There is no reason on earth why it should stay that way, save for politics.

Now, why it should stay that way, at least spreading primaries out for a full season with lots of debates, rather than all states on the same date, is completely different.  Absent a focus on single states or groups of states, there would not be an opportunity to have candidates pay attention to the issues specific to certain states or regions.

The general election is prima facie evidence -- in the past few elections, the candidates from each party might as well have stayed in about five states -- Ohio, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico, something like that.  The others were so solidly Democrat or Republican that they rarely -- or never -- got visited.  No attention was paid to the needs of Idahoans or Californians or New Yorkers or Oklahomans.  Why bother?  The electoral math meant only a few swing states mattered.

But I actually didn't intend this column to be about spreading out primary and debate season, even though a discussion of that is what got it going.  No, I'm here thinking about the fact that the allocation of delegates varies way, way too much from state to state.  On Tuesday, the crucial states (at least for this Republican primary season) of Florida and Ohio will award all their delegates to the candidate with the most votes.

Last week, and pretty much for all states contested to this point, the delegates were awarded based on some type of proportionality to the total vote count.  Sure, there were some state-specific rules -- in some cases, only candidates receiving 20% of the vote shared in the delegate pool -- but none, I think, was a "winner-take-all" primary.

And now most of the remaining ones, at least including some big states with high delegate counts, have winner-take-all rules, kind of like the Electoral College.  And this is ... why?  What is different between Florida, say, which will have one candidate get delegates, and Texas, which already held its primary and apportioned them?  What benefit is there to the party or the candidates to allow that difference?

I mean, I can understand the argument for all the primaries to be proportional, or for none to be, but it doesn't seem to be beneficial to anyone that there are such distinct rules.  We just simply seem to have evolved that way, and no one has the political will to say that this is tantamount to the spaghetti-code metaphor, and it is time to start all over.

What do you think?  Is the inconsistency in the way different states award delegates, and the concentration of winner-take-all primaries in the later states, a conspiracy of some kind to ... well, I don't know what.  But after this season, the last thing we need is more to question in the process.

At least for next time, let's suppose we can fix it.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, March 11, 2016

Now, Mr. Trump, Tell Us about Carrier

Between yesterday and today, and perhaps because of a fairly high readership of yesterday's piece, I decided to ask another question of Donald Trump to clarify something he has been saying on an ongoing basis.  Yesterday, we'll note, I had a clarifying question regarding the border wall with Mexico, which I thought was reasonable to ask.  I even offered to write his speech answering the question, at least for a modest fee.

Today, I thought we might slip over to another item in the news that he mentions often.

First, though, is an obligatory disclaimer.  I am not writing this out of any specific feeling toward Donald Trump, whom I may or may not have voted for in the Virginia primary a week back.  For the record, if he is the nominee of the Republican Party, I will vote for him.  That is assured, almost no matter what happens between now and then.  I won't be voting for Hillary, whether or not she is in prison by then.

So the news item at issue today is the Carrier Air Conditioning plant moving its operations from Indiana to Monterrey, Mexico, and the associated loss of most or all of the 1,400 jobs that were there, employing people at the plant.  We have all read the story, all heard the outrage, and all heard Trump raise it as an example of the loss of jobs here to other countries.

That won't happen, Mr. Trump has been saying, and the jobs are coming back to the USA.  We all applaud, and we all support American products being made and sold in the USA.  I agree.  We're Americans, and the president should be acting first based on what is good for us -- he works for us.  And surely, losing a thousand jobs of an American company to Mexico is not a good thing.

Or at least it sounds like it is not a good thing.

But Carrier, it should be told, did not move the manufacturing plant to Monterrey, Mexico because of the palm trees and warm weather.  It's not even near the coast, for God's sake.  No, they moved for one simple and unalterable reason.

The cost of manufacturing in the USA was and is too high to manufacture a product that could be sold at a competitive price.  But it is affordable to do so in Mexico.

It is Economics 101, unfortunately for the employees in Indiana.  They have mortgages and kids' college bills and food, clothing and life in general.  To pay for that, they need a certain wage, and that wage, times 1,400, produced a cost to Carrier too high to make a competitively-priced product.  If Carrier couldn't break even, or could barely break even to the point that its shareholders could not earn on their investment, they would have to raise their air conditioner prices beyond what Americas would pay, because they had alternatives.

Knowing that, you have to look at it as Carrier not having a choice.  And essentially, they didn't, at least not one that would allow them to keep manufacturing in Indiana.  So they're moving.

The obvious question to Mr. Trump, then, is this --  

"Carrier was forced to move because they would lose money if they stayed.  The underlying problem is not the greed of Carrier, but the costs of manufacturing here.  If you try to make it illegal for them to leave, or tax them when trying to bring the products back to the USA to sell, you're not fixing the cost problem, you are simply changing the cost of producing an air conditioner that is ready to sell in a store, from a high-cost basis in Indiana, to a lower-cost-plus-a-high-import-tax basis manufacturing in Monterrey.  Carrier still cannot make an air conditioner to sell here on which they can make money.  And they will close.

"Just the economic impact of trying to legislate to bring jobs back here is going to be to raise prices on goods and services.  So please, Mr. Trump, first take us through the Carrier example and explain in simple terms what legislation will apply, what incentive will be there for Carrier to move manufacturing back to Indiana, and how the whole process results in air conditioners Carrier can sell at a competitive price and make a fair profit.  Then, use that Carrier example to explain how that "competitive price" will be comparable to the competitors and affordable by Americans -- neither of which is true now and is what has forced Carrier to Monterrey."

I think that is a pretty straightforward question, and I absolutely believe that Mr. Trump has, in his mind, an answer.  He is an astute businessman.  I hope it involves something that allows us to manufacture competitively here, but if it's so, I'd really like to hear it.

I'd like to hear it, so I can then explain it to others.  Fair enough?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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