Friday, April 29, 2016

Thinking Ted and Carly

This will be a fun piece.  I know I can be prone to stream-of-consciousness writing and, when I go back and edit myself, have to try not to change the apparent mentality that brought me to the opinion in the first place.

This one is different.  As I write this, I've no idea what I'm going to say, and think it fair to tell you that up front, before another word is committed to electronic paper.

On Wednesday, Ted Cruz, the U.S. senator whom former House Speaker John Boehner likened to the devil yesterday, and who is running for president regardless of what Boehner thinks, made an announcement.  In an unusual step, Cruz decided to declare that, if the Republicans select him as their candidate, he would want Carly Fiorina as his running mate.

Legions of reporters went scurrying off to look for analogies to the last prominent time something like that was done, which as it turns out was Ronald Reagan in 1976 declaring before the convention that his VP pick would be Richard Schweiker, the Pennsylvania senator.  Reagan didn't get the nomination, and it doesn't look that much like Cruz will, either, but it's worth thinking about in a sort of out-on-the-back-deck-with-a-Corona way.

I loved the idea.  Personally, I'm not sure that if Cruz had made this announcement two months ago, he might not be the front-runner today.  Perhaps Ted Cruz is thinking right now that he should have.

Carly Fiorina is the candidate for whom I would have voted in the Virginia primary, had she not run out of traction and left the presidential race before our primary.  My best girl clearly would have done the same and voted for her.

And here is the thing -- lots of presidential candidates say that their vice presidential running mate will be different, and that they will do this or that because of their great skills, blah, blah, blah, and then they all turn into Joe Biden.  [aside -- the notable exception is Dick Cheney.  It was pointed out to me by a friend who spent eight years in the Bush 43 administration (as a direct report to the president) that Cheney was given unusually great influence, not just because he had immense experience, but because he had no presidential aspirations for 2008 and would act in the best interests of the USA.]

Carly Fiorina would be an amazing vice president.  Anyone who paid attention to the debates, speeches and interviews she did could see that this was a person who studied her brains out on the issues and made logical inferences from what she learned.  We have a problem over here, and these people are involved, and when we have done this before it has worked, therefore ... well, you get the idea.  Rational thought based on facts and lessons.

Rational thought based on facts and lessons.  What a novel concept in leadership.

We all know we would have loved to have seen her debate Hillary Clinton.  Candidate Fiorina would have let her get away with absolutely nothing.  A skilled debater with command of the facts can dissect anything Hillary Clinton says seven ways to Sunday.  I'd have paid to have seen four or five of those debates, and then laughed at the press trying to make it sound like what we had witnessed had not actually happened -- much as they tried to excuse the execrable, funbling performance Barack Obama gave in the first 2012 debate against Mitt Romney.

A President Cruz could turn entire problem areas over to Mrs. Fiorina and trust that she would handle them with understanding, expertise, proper outside advice and the reliance on previously successful approaches to similar problems -- and not necessarily government types of approaches, either.  And I actually believe, no matter what John Boehner thinks in his nicotine-addled brain, that Cruz would be thrilled to have that kind of support -- remember, Carly Fiorina is 16 years older than Cruz.

I don't know what kind of VP choice Donald Trump would make -- I sincerely doubt it will get very close to Cleveland before he will have produced a name.  But I hope that he steps away from his public persona and thinks about why Cruz's choice of Mrs. Fiorina was such an excellent thing.  I hope Mr. Trump carefully combs through his immense Rolodex and makes as inspired a choice.  I hope he seriously considers his vision of the vice presidency and how unconstrained he should feel by the past.

John Nance Garner, who was FDR's first VP for a couple terms, famously is remembered for having said that the vice presidency wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit, or possibly some other warm liquid.  It remains for the person to make the job something else, and for an intelligent president to facilitate the value of the role.

Carly Fiorina is precisely the type of person by whom that "intelligent president" could be well-served.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Just Deal Her Out

This week, Hillary Clinton, the former first lady who is running for president, was spoken of by Donald Trump, the businessman who appears to be on his way to being the Republican nominee for president. She was, in his words, running primarily by "playing the woman card", meaning that if she were a male she would not even be thought of as a candidate even by Democrats.

She naturally replied.  Her reply included this rejoinder -- "If fighting for women's health, paid [family] leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in."

Now, Hillary's campaign features a slogan "fighting for us", although it doesn't exactly indicate who "us" is.  I have heard exactly nothing that she has said during the campaign that sounds like it would be good for me, so I can presume to be excluded from the "us", and I can suggest she redo all the signs to read "Hillary: Fighting for Some of Us."

I would have really liked to have seen Carly Fiorina take Hillary on one-on-one in a debate.  Mrs. Fiorina is every bit as smart, and understands the actual impact of policies on the economy -- the economy Mrs. Clinton has not been a part of since back in the old Rose Law Firm days, unless you include the speechifying for which she was paid enough for me to retire on -- each speech.  Oh, yeah, and whatever she paid to the people who quietly squelched all her husband Bill's bimbo eruptions.

But Mrs. Fiorina will not be the candidate, so it remains the province of others to point out the oddities in Mrs. Clinton's words.

For example ...

What does Mrs. Clinton mean by "fighting for women's health"?  Specifically, if we break that down, we have to assume that there is some component of Federal health care policy that affects women differently from the way it affects men, right?  If she is "fighting for public health", well, that would mean something -- presumably relative to providing insurance and expanding or at least improving Obamacare.

But what part of that does she need to fight for separately?  Are there situations that only affect women that are not appropriately part of the law?  Screenings?  Treatments?  Research?  What is she referring to, and what exactly does she feel needs to be changed at the Federal level that is not already available and covered?  Last I looked, there certainly was nothing in any Federally-mandated insurance that would treat female conditions poorly.

OK, earth to world: she meant fighting for the right to abort the unborn.  We knew that.  Fight away, Hillary, unless you are in prison by then.  But at least stop the euphemisms and call the issue what it is.

And then there is "paid family leave."  She is fighting for that, too.  Hillary, who has not been responsible for a business since the old Rose Law Firm days, displays about zero understanding of business and how to run one.  Employee benefits are a competitive attribute offered by employers as an inducement to people who are good, to come work for them.  Certain positions require no skill and are easy to hire.  It is not necessary to offer a high salary; if an employee doesn't feel like working hard, there is someone else willing to, preferably with at least a green card.

In other cases, skilled, trained labor is scarce.  High salaries and large benefit structures are needed to attract and keep employees.  Need four weeks vacation to work for us?  Cool -- you got it.  It is a negotiation driven by supply and demand.  It is not something the government should be poking its nose into.  Poor, risk-laden treatment of employees or employee environments?  That's a different case; a reined-in OSHA is not innately a terrible idea.  But benefits are not, not, not the province of the Federal government.

But they are, in Hillary's world.  She'll "fight" for that paid family leave much like for the mandated sick leave that I tried to explain, in an earlier piece, was a terrible idea as a mandate.  Gee thanks.  Glad I don't own a small business any more.

That leaves "equal pay."  Mrs. Clinton subscribes to the idea that the laws on the books that ban discrimination in pay by gender are inadequate.  Discrimination of that kind is illegal now.  What does she have to "fight" for exactly?  That we need even more laws somehow, to affect something that is already illegal?

In reality, it would really help Mrs. Clinton in the general election if she simply made her own gender irrelevant and pretended she was running to be president of all of us.  If her being female is a handicap, it is specifically and conversely because it is she, herself, who keeps trying to make it an asset.  It is neither an asset nor a handicap.  If she continues to act and say things that suggest she will focus more on one group than another -- and Lord, it is obviously hard for a liberal not to do so -- she will lose the rest.

If, of course, she is not in prison by then.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why Do People Do These Things?

Eleven years ago, when real estate looked like it was a good investment, we took some equity in our home and built two new townhouses in an established and growing community 20 miles away.  We planned, of course, to rent them and, hopefully, break even on the monthly costs while the properties appreciated over time.

A few years later the market crashed, taking the appreciation that had indeed occurred away, and wiping out value to below what we had originally paid to build the properties.  When we sold one of them a few weeks ago to prepare for our upcoming relocation, we took a loss of about $80,000 vs. what we paid to build it.  That's not a pleasant memory.

We had a series of genuinely decent people renting the properties over the years, from families to tenants who rented while they were building their own houses.  It was actually the last tenant, another very nice person, who bought the one house we just sold.

The other house was occupied by a single gentleman for nine years, from the time we built it.  He took reasonable care of the place, thank you, and when he left we did repaint the whole inside and clean carpets, but structurally it was intact.  He treated it like it was his home.

When he left, we found a family to rent it whom we hoped would be there for a long time.  They were also very nice, and when a year later they had a job transfer to Colorado, it seemed like they, too had treated it as their home and left it reluctantly -- but in need of no real work save a touch-up here and there.

A year ago, however, a new tenant -- a woman and her teenage son -- took over occupancy.  Unlike every other tenant, however, rent checks from her came late, when they came at all.  The last full rent check was late last year.  The intervening months were laden with promises but empty of payment, as if it were the obligation of my wife and me to provide free lodging.

We have paid over $20,000 in mortgage payments without a cent of rent to offset it.  Ultimately we were forced into going to court to get an eviction notice, which was unchallenged as the tenant did not show up for either court date, as well a judgment for default for the unpaid rent.

During this time, I received a series of messages asserting the tenant's desire to purchase the home and that she would be able to do so "very soon", given her work.  Many messages.  You would want to assume that if that were the case, she would have taken pains to keep the property perfectly, exactly as she would have wanted to have had on assuming ownership.

The eviction took place yesterday.  Unfortunately, when our property manager (who has, way above and beyond, kindly taken care of the recent events including the court appearances) arrived to meet the sheriff and the locksmith, they discovered that the home had been vandalized beyond belief.  Carpet had been completely removed from one room and stairs; holes had been punched in the walls in most rooms.  Doors had been damaged and jambs splintered.

If -- and this is a big "if" -- we are lucky, our insurance company will be willing to cover the damage under our homeowner's policy, less a large deductible.  Either way, an inordinate amount of work will have to be done to get the house on the market again, during which time even more mortgage payments will need to be made with no offset.

I do not know what possesses a human being to act in such a way as to cause such damage, either to property or to the finances of others or, in this case, both.  As I write this, I am shaking my head in wonderment.  When push comes to shove, this person ended up paying zero for many months of living in what had been a nice townhouse.  In return, she has the house vandalized.

I did not grow up in such a way that I either would consider doing such a thing or even imagining doing such a thing.  I get why, say, religious fanatics like the Islamic terrorists do what they do -- they think their god is telling them to do so.  I do not get this.  This is spitting on people who stretched far longer with her than most people would, and then spitting again -- and ripping up carpets and putting holes in walls.

We will have the damage fixed, repair the place and put it up for sale, losing even more in the process.  And for the rest of my life I will never understand what caused this person to take out whatever she had wrong with her, on the last people who tried to accommodate her.

But here, for the world, I forgive her.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bathroom Differences

I have no idea what it says about the USA that any news program, of any reasonable length, is devoting at least one story to who can go in what bathrooms previously identified for which people.  Is it a good thing that this is a story -- or actually a bunch of stories?

This is a hard topic to touch.  Ruth Marcus, in Sunday's Washington Post, rather despicably added at the end of her op-ed, "... as if being transgender is equivalent to a propensity to prey on children."  How do you have a dialogue about the subject when opinion columnists write right past the issue?  No one is out there saying they're afraid of actual transgender people in their bathrooms (it's the phony ones that cause the fear), but Mrs. Marcus throws that in to stay on the left side of things.

The left, at root, does not want to acknowledge that there are differences between men and women.  At least, they would be happy if nowhere, anywhere, were there any acknowledged differences whatsoever, save for Bill Clinton's bed.

But there are differences, and they're going to have to be acknowledged.

First, the disclaimer: I don't really give a good gosh-darn if I'm in a men's room and a biological guy walks in dressed up as a female, whether someone in a drag show or a sailor in an intermission from a production of "South Pacific", or a transgender person who has gone all the way short of the ultimate surgery.  And I don't really give a good gosh-darn if I'm in a men's room and a biological female walks in dressed as a man, again, regardless of circumstance.  It's 2016.  People do a lot of things, and how they're dressed walking into a men's room no longer shocks me.

But I am a man.  And while it may be 2016, and it may be the object of the left to run us all through a meat-grinder so we no longer have any differences, I am still different from a woman.  I may be 64 years old and maybe 152 pounds soaking wet, but I am stronger than most women, stronger than nearly all my age.  They do not cause me innate fear in a closed environment.

Men are built differently, have different God-given hormonal expression, and two of those expressions are vital -- we are genetically built with innately greater strength overall, and we are built to be more aggressive overall.  Plenty of exceptions abound, but until we are at a point where sexual attack reports, arrests and convictions are relatively equal between the genders, the leftiest equality hawk will have to concede that difference.

This is why Ruth Marcus's sentence is so offensive.  Start with the fact that there is no real concern about what goes on in men's rooms -- even older, smaller men like me don't feel fear in there, at least from genetic women.  At least I don't think we do.

And it isn't even the actual transgender men dressing as women that I suspect women are concerned about in women's rooms -- they might be more uncomfortable than fearful.  But where men are not fearful in men's rooms, and there really isn't any expectation of women faking being male to get into a men's room and take advantage of a vulnerable male, it absolutely is not the same for women.

Men are stronger and more aggressive.  Those lacking the morality to be civilized -- and the prisons are packed with evidence that there are plenty -- can readily take advantage of "flexibility" in bathroom laws and act in a predatory fashion.

And forget bathrooms -- when does that spread to situations like, as the article actually mentions, college roommate assignments?  We know colleges are leftist bastions, how would you like your daughter to protest being assigned a freshman roommate who only believes himself to be female, and being told by the school that she is the one who needs to be tolerant and accepting?  And when does a predatory male take advantage of that situation?

But let me get back to the real point.  There are transgender people.  It is uncomfortable for them to be put into embarrassing choice situations in areas like restroom decisions.  I truly sympathize with them.  They are not innately bad people as a result of being "T", and their affliction is not one of evil.  And for Ruth Marcus to claim that we who are concerned see actual transgender people as some kind of enemy, or great risk, is simply offensive to us.

But treating the situation in a way that allows exploitation of others to appear to accommodate the group in question isn't right either.  I haven't heard a public restroom solution that removes the apparent stigma without (A) causing great expense and (B) creating the risk of facilitating predators.

Just once, I'd like to see this discussion of a problem that is occupying news minutes in ridiculous disproportion to its incidence in society, to appear to recognize what are legitimate concerns of both points of view.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Disney and Curt Schilling

I imagine you know.  Last week, the apparently sports-cum-politics network ESPN terminated its contract with Curt Schilling.  Schilling, of course, is the former major-league pitcher who was on a few winning World Series teams a decade or so back, and is an annual candidate for Baseball's Hall of Fame given his success over the years and stellar post-season record.

He is also not only a conservative, but a very outspoken person who has never shied from saying that he has a big mouth, often in those words.  There are plenty of people across the political spectrum who should never be allowed anywhere near a Twitter account, lest they forget that people can actually read it.  Curt Schilling is one of them.  He comments on everything.

But Schilling is certainly never boring, nor does he avoid taking ownership of his actions and what he says.  It was that combination that led ESPN to hire him as a color commentator on baseball broadcasts in the first place.  He knows baseball really well, and he is willing to talk and say controversial things.  In broadcasting, that's a good combination.

Of course, in the media you are not allowed to do quite so much of that if you are a conservative, even if you are doing it on your own time.  Now, baseball broadcasting is not like, say, classified defense work, where on your own time you can get involved with things that the not-so-nice guys can use to blackmail you.  You'd better be squeaky clean in that kind of work, even at home.

I don't think the same standard remotely applies here.  Curt Schilling's conservatism is no secret; it was plenty well known in his playing days and Twitter has made sure we all know it.  ESPN knew it -- shoot, I'll bet he was hired because of it, not in spite of it.  More controversy, more ratings.  What he does on his own time is what he does on his own time.

But not this time, I guess.  Schilling re-posted an image widely sent around the Internet, relative to the whole bathroom gender "thing."  His point, or at least that of the image he forwarded or commented on (so it reappeared on his account), was that adult predatory males in a ladies room where young girls would be vulnerable, would become unpleasantly common with gender-nonspecific bathroom practices -- such as those the state of North Carolina was trying to stop.

I am not trying to come down strongly here as far as bathroom laws are concerned (that's tomorrow), although the first girl that gets molested in a ladies room by a male dressed like a female is going to blow up the Twitterverse -- and resonate in 50 state legislatures.  That argument isn't even about transgender people or their needs; it's about fake ones.  Maybe that is a far-overblown fear.  This piece is not about that anyway.

It is about ESPN.  ESPN is, of course, a part of the vast Disney network, the legacy of the late Walt Disney.  Walt Disney was in my home every weekend on TV, a comforting presence we all associated with making children happy.  Disneyland was a magical place -- far off, to us 2,000 miles away, but a children's place.  When I finally got there at age 48, I felt like a kid, even though I was performing there (and getting to meet Dick van Dyke).

I know it's all about money (FTM), but that doesn't mean that Disney doesn't have a legacy to concern itself with.  So when Curt Schilling gets fired for taking a position where he is worried about vulnerable children -- even if that isn't the main motivation -- my first question is "Does Disney as an organization support this action by one of its properties?"

I don't know.  I don't think the Disney company is as altruistic as it might have been back in the day.  But I also don't think that this was a good idea, no matter what Disney is thinking.  You hire a guy to do a job he does in a certain way, and who is a certain kind of person, then you fire him for being who he is, particularly when it is in defense of children, at least nominally.  It's like calling a mountain an ocean and then complaining that the fish look like rocks.

Because it is a conservative who got fired, the people out there will be really hacked off about his firing, but it will stand.  George Stephanopoulos can give megabucks to the Clinton Foundation while then interviewing Republicans (and Democrats, for that matter) as an ostensibly neutral party.  He still has a job.  Somehow.  That is apparently OK.  Oh, yeah, his employer is ABC, another Disney company.

Curt Schilling's apparently not-PC actions are not only consistent with everything he has done, said and stood for in the past, but they weren't done at work and don't compromise in any way his ability to do the work.  He, unlike Stephanopoulos, no longer has a job.

If that makes sense to you, I have a big Comments section below. Explain away.  I, on the other hand, will minimize my watching of ESPN and leave Disney parks alone.  They don't deserve my business, or yours.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Mikado of Italy

The theater community, which I was in rather hip-deep in my 20s, has always been a heavy bastion of liberalism, particularly of the "shoot yourself in the foot" school (we'll get to that).  I generally kept my conservative leanings to myself, rather than try to argue with people who were my friends about something, fruitlessly.  Their friendship was important to me, more so than agreement.

And so, in the spirit of "the more things change, the more they stay the same", we have the sad saga of The Mikado in San Francisco.

The Mikado is, of course, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta most familiar to American audiences, certainly along with HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance among their 14 total collaborations.  Many are familiar with songs such as "A Wand'ring Minstrel", "Three Little Maids" and "Tit-Willow" without even knowing their source.

It is, however, somehow becoming a bad thing to perform Mikado in its form as first presented in the 1880s, and preserved and done the same way for many decades by England's D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, the group which performed the operas originally and was chartered to present them as originally done through the life of the copyrights.  They did so through the 1980s when the company folded.

Performing the show today, as originally done, is "bad" because the premise of the show is seen as "racist", the worst sin on planet Earth -- "yellowface" in race-speak, borrowed from the term "blackface."  Now, I know, as a frequent performer of these operas back in the day, that although Mikado is ostensibly set in Japan, and the characters supposedly Japanese, the characters are actually Englishmen, and the satire of the show is meant toward pompous types Gilbert regularly encountered in the UK.  The Japanese setting, names, makeup and attire are simply a diversion, reflecting the (then) new interest by the British in all things Japanese.  The 19th Century audience knew what they were watching.

That sort of thing, however, in Barack Obama's America, has now become "racism."  Accordingly, the Lamplighters, a San Francisco theater group which regularly performs these works, decided that, even though the characters are English dressed up and named with Japanese effect, they needed to have some Asian-American performers.  And accordingly, they went straight to local Asian theater companies to get some of those performers to come audition.

That polite, thoughtful and overly-respectful approach, however, bombed entirely.  As this piece notes, the groups they tried to reach out to insisted that all 40 of the cast members be actual Asians.  (Note that they didn't specify "how" Asian each person had to be; the retired ballplayer Johnny Damon, who is part Thai -- you didn't know? -- might have qualified for this ethnic filter -- but the groups didn't say.)  All of them.  Asian.  A Vietnamese-American actor could play a Japanese, but not a Caucasian actor.

Long story short, eventually, after long wrangling, the Lamplighters gave up.  Oh, they're doing Mikado, all right, but it will be set in -- get this -- Italy, with the part of the Mikado now an Italian duke and a lot of libretto changes.  Most importantly, the casting, which would have provided roles for lots of Asian-American performers, will now include none, unless by accident.  Instead of teaming with the Lamplighters to provide authenticity and excise a possibly now-demeaning word or three, the Asian theater group became a community that simply shot itself in the foot (I said I'd get back to that).

From what I can tell, the local Italian theater community has made no demands regarding the percentage of the cast whose last names needed to end with a vowel.  [Disclaimer -- I am Italian by marriage.  My wife, who actually was born so, shook her head at the story.]

Now I certainly confess to holding zero prejudices toward people of any Asian ethnicity or nationality.  I don't recall ever in my adult life encountering anyone who had a demeaning thing to say about Asians or Asian-Americans.  I have seen plenty of situations where foreigners have made fun of American stereotypes and I have laughed them off.  Their theatrical stereotypes of us are no worse than what we do to ourselves satirically, or else they're so off the mark (we don't all ride horses out west) as to be laughable -- or so on the mark as to be funny on their merit.

But the left in 2016, the professional offended class, is heck-bent on making sure that we have a right not to be offended, and to shut down any situation where we are.  Presumably that is to ensure that there is yet another new part of government that can be formed to address such offenses, much like Harvard has created an Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, as if a hugely liberal bastion of academia could ever be accused of being somehow racist.  But at least there are more jobs at Harvard.  Yippee.

Ironically, Mikado is actually one of the few pieces where Asian performers, because of the setting, would fit right in playing non-Asians, (in this case Englishmen), rather than the whole "suspension of disbelief" thing you get when performers are cast into racial non-sequiturs.  That's what makes this whole story as silly as it is.  By insisting, in one of the few theater settings where it wouldn't have mattered, that all performers be Asian, the groups purporting to represent their community killed off work for many of their own.

I hope the performers feel they were well-represented, because I sure don't.  It's like a union striking, and the company just closing the plant and terminating all the jobs for good.  Or Apple now having to deal with the brand-new iPhone hacking tool that only exists because they wouldn't cooperate with the FBI.  Oops.

And if the Lamplighters choose to do HMS Pinafore next year and have even one black or Asian actor, which could be historically challenged, I think I might write a letter of complaint to the Asian theater people suggesting they protest.  If only Asians may perform Mikado in the eyes of the arts community of San Francisco, then that should apply to all theatrical performances, both ways.  Goose, meet gander.

It's only fair.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Should "Close" Get a Cigar?

Twelve hundred thirty-seven.

That is the magic number.  In the history of the human race, the number 1,237 has not been invoked anywhere near as frequently as it has in the past few months, with the possible exception of the year 1237 A.D., and there's no telling if it compares even to that.

The number 1,237 is, as most Americans know, the number of delegate votes needed to achieve the nomination for the Republican presidential candidate race.  It is a number that, at this point, it seems a bit unlikely will represent actual, awarded delegate votes from the primary and caucus season ongoing, committed by the start of the convention to any one candidate.

Does it matter?  I am of a mind to say that the real question is what the totals will look like going in.  If someone -- and we won't mention any names, but his initials are "Donald Trump" -- has a certain number close to, but not at, the 1,237 delegates, then what should the convention do?

Let me start with this.  As I wrote not all that long ago, any suggestion that the Republican voter will scream and run away because of the split between the candidates is vastly exaggerated.  Remember that whoever gets the nomination will be running against as corrupt a candidate in Hillary Clinton as has run for national office in recent memory.  Or maybe Joe Biden, if Hillary is in prison by then.

So it is not as much about November as panicked party leaders think, or that the gleeful press expects it to be.  It is really all about who the ultimately selected candidate actually is. How we get to that point is less relevant because, contentious as it may be, a contested convention will not make anyone tolerate Hillary any more than they did before.

Back to the point.  Suppose that one candidate has 1,236.  Or maybe 1,235.  Or 1,136.  What ought the convention to do?

Well, I believe that it will actually be somewhat irrelevant.  That is because there are at least a couple hundred delegates who will go to the convention unpledged to any candidate even for the first ballot.  I think it is pretty easy to say that as many as half of those unpledged delegates -- certainly 50-60 at a minimum -- will regard it as important that the nomination not go to a second ballot, where "anything can happen."  I mean, maybe I don't think multiple ballots will harm the party, but others do.

If that is the case, and if we add the factor that at least 50-60 would regard that as being important even if Trump is the one leading the delegate count, then the number 1,237 becomes quite a bit less a factor for going into the convention with pledged delegates.  If you follow, I'm saying that some of the "mathematical certainty" or "mathematical impossibility" stuff becomes far more fuzzy.

I don't know if the number of the 200-ish unpledged delegates who would change their position and switch to Trump is 50-60, or more like 100.  But if you factor that into the delegate math as it sits today, after the New York primary, then it becomes far less incumbent on Trump to get to Cleveland with 1,237 commitments, right?

To me, that is a good thing.  I'm going to vote for the Republican in November, for a host of reasons easily gleaned if you just read this site back to 2014.  I don't know if Donald Trump is exactly the guy out of the three remaining candidates that I would most want to see in the White House.  But even though he may not get to Cleveland with enough delegates, if -- and this is still an "if" given the Cruz success in the primaries just before New York -- Trump is reasonably close, the convention needs to recognize the extent to which the Republican primary voters have expressed a preference.

I'll happily say that 1,100 committed, pledged delegates are not enough for the convention to concede, and hand the nomination to Trump.  But 1,236 sure are.  The concession number is somewhere in between.  As I said, it won't matter if it is 1,236; someone will make it 1,237.  But the convention will need to start thinking more and more about the will of the voter, the closer the final pledged number is to 1,237.

Otherwise, 2016 may feel disturbingly like 1237.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It IS the States' Jurisdiction

Yesterday, the Texas senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz participated in a town hall as part of the ABC show Good Morning America.  Asked about his position regarding gay marriage, Cruz answered by saying, essentially, that from a constitutional and religious-freedom perspective, gay marriage was the province of the states and that the Federal government should simply stay out of it and certainly not impose any of its own constraints -- nor grant its own rights.

"If someone wants to change the marriage laws, I don't think it should be five unelected lawyers down in Washington," he said, referring to the five Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. We would expect the people in New York to adopt different laws than perhaps in California or Texas or Florida", he said.

Which is, of course, exactly right.

It is only of passing interest that the question in the town hall was actually asked by a married gay man who was also, of more interest, a Republican.  Of much more interest is the matter of the "five unelected lawyers" and of the point at hand, which is this -- at what point is the Federal government in all its three branches obligated to step away from issues of morality?

The answer is clear to Ted Cruz and also to me.  That point is "almost everywhere."

As an example, we have been debating the issue of fetal life and abortion "rights" for decades and decades.  It is a perfect example of a morality debate, since half the country believes that abortion is murder and the other half believes it is a right of the mother.  That has not changed with Roe v. Wade and it isn't changing tomorrow either.

How much more different can opinions fall, when a "right" is opposed by a perception of "murder"?  Now, this is an issue on which I've already said that my opinions are particularly bland.  So perhaps it is a good one for me to use as my basis.  In fact, it is the perfect one for just that reason.

This, friends, is a Tenth Amendment case if there ever was one (that's the "powers not delegated" part of the Bill of Rights, if you forgot).  Where morality is at the core of the issue, the Federal government is instructed by the Constitution, except where specifically noted in its text, to cede the legislative authority to the legislative branches of the states.

New York, indeed, might come up with a different interpretation of the morality of abortion from that of California, Texas or Florida.  There are degrees in the discussion already -- what is "right" in the case of rape or incest or where the mother's life is at stake; what is the factoring in of the viability of the baby, based on its age, in the moral compass?

These are things that the citizens of Utah are going to see differently from those in Massachusetts.  And the Constitution recognized that in its construct over 200 years ago.

Outside of the fact that, in the case of abortion, we're talking extremes of rights vs. murder as the interpretation, gay marriage is no different.  And I applaud Sen. Cruz for taking a stand that may be at odds with his personal moral belief (I don't know for certain) but is squarely aligned with his constitutional interpretation.

In other words, even though Cruz may believe that gay marriage is patently wrong and marriage is a man/woman thing, he very comfortably agrees in the rights of those states where the citizens feel otherwise, to grant that state the right to recognize such unions as "marriages."  That is called principle over self-interest; principle over one's own view of the morality of a position.

It is probably a grudging position, but it is not only the correct one but a principled one.  And I think we would be far the better to have our presidents operate from a position of core principle in leading the country.  That's something I could more easily get behind than positions driven by polls.

I hope more people get that point.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hillary and the Even Worse

"I've already said it was a mistake and it wasn't the best choice."  No, literally, those were Hillary Clinton's exact words.  I know because I just listened to a replay of her uttering those exact words this week.

Those "exact words" are important because they relate, as you surely know, to actions she has taken, and admits to have taken, which constitute felonies.  Whether or not a court of law will ever get the opportunity to give her the day in court she is entitled to, well, that is a decision the Attorney General will make after the FBI recommends indictment.

Oh, yeah.  Let's recall that the "mistake" she made was to set up a private email server on the day her confirmation hearings (to be Secretary of State) began.  The "mistake" was compounded, and made far more clearly illegal, when she declined to use an official government email account (one that ends in "") and chose to conduct all her official email on that private server.

It was compounded even worse when, at least 2,000 times, she sent or received classified material through that unsecured private server on her personal email account.  And I would add that it was compounded tenfold, at least in contemptibility, when she turned that communications approach into her standard way of doing business, regardless of the sensitivity of the material in the emails.

Another tenfold?  Sure, that would be when she suggested in an email that a particular message's content be stripped of its headers to mask the fact that it was sensitive and going over a private, unsecured email.  And we can add yet another hike in severity when she had her server wiped clean once the you-know-what hit the fan, when the Benghazi hearings exposed the private server's existence.  And I don't mean "with a cloth" either.

You know what "spin" is.  That's when a politician tries to get the public to think of some piece of news in a particular way, one that isn't exactly how it happened, and may even re-describe the facts.

Hillary Clinton is spinning like crazy.  This was a "mistake", I'll give her that.  But it was not a mistake in the sense of leaving a milk carton on the counter overnight, or forgetting to feed the cat.  That's a mistake.  There's a ton of difference between a willful action, that blows up even worse than the deception that was intended, and an accidental omission or commission whose results end up very badly.

I realize that her lackeys and her lemming followers will gratefully follow the line about it being a "mistake" and "not the best choice."  Michael Brown made a mistake when he robbed a convenience store, I guess.  It wasn't the best choice.  Trying to grab the policeman's gun, that was a mistake.  Charging him?  Mistake.  He paid for all of those.

Charles Manson made a mistake.  Ted Kaczynski?  Mistake.  Lois Lerner running a political usurpation of IRS powers to deny rights to conservative groups?  Mistake.  Dennis Hastert molesting boys?  Mistake.  None of them made the "right choice."  Exaggeration for effect on my part?  Sure, but maybe not by that much.

You see, Hillary Clinton, even before being confirmed for the huge national security-defending role of Secretary of State, realized that the greatest danger to her ability to use the State position to run eventually for president was broad access to her regular communication.  She set that server up to prevent FOIA access that might expose what she is and was really like.  It was no accident; it was a carefully-planned action taken in 2009 to prevent the exposure of her actions, corrupt or not -- including, not coincidentally, foreign influence on US policy through contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

Spin, spin, spin.  Those who feel obligated to believe her will stop right there and believe what happened as her press lemmings describe it.  The rest of us and, obviously, the FBI investigators creating an airtight case of it being more than a "mistake", see it for what it is.  An intentional and criminal, proactive step taken to mask other illegal activity -- and which, clearly, resulted in the constant exposure of national security, sensitive information to the world.

Thanks, Hillary.  Sure, we get it; it was just a mistake.  But go look for forgiveness in another column.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, April 18, 2016

First Victims of the Minimum Wage

You can't write this stuff enough.  No sooner does the once-great State of California pass a $15/hour minimum wage -- or even threaten to do so (it starts now and ramps up to $15 in 2022) -- and the jobs start fleeing the state.  First we have the garment manufacturers, led by American Apparel, the largest clothing maker in LA, which has dumped 500 jobs and suggested that the remaining 4,000 positions in the city it has may go overseas.

A garment that cost $5.00 to make, a company official said, now costs $6.50.  "My customers won't pay that", he said.  Why should they?  There is cheaper manufacturing to be had throughout the world; in fact, I was a bit surprised that any company was making clothing in Los Angeles in any volume.  Aren't you?

This is called "voting with your feet.",  With the full force of the minimum wage law not even arriving for six more years, the immediacy of the actions of this particular firm (and the others mentioned in the LA Times article as threatening or planning to follow suit) are worth looking at -- and asking candidates about.

I'm not going to challenge the assertion of American Apparel, and I'm not going to challenge their decision to cut jobs and possibly outsource all their manufacturing.  If they had wanted to have done that, they clearly could have done so a year ago.  Obviously they prefer to make clothing in California, because they are making clothing in California.  Just as obviously, they don't want to move and they don't want to cut jobs here.

All this was done because the government of the state, in its infinite wisdom, decided to make the ability to operate as a thriving business in the state more expensive and more difficult.  Whatever did they expect to happen?  You add costs by making labor more costly than its value, and businesses will simply respond in the best fiduciary interest of its shareholders.

In this case, that means 500 Californians who were taxpayers are now going to be looking for work, and that is the start of, as the article says, the exodus.  They might have some really nice weather there, but Lord, does the climate stink.

I don't know when liberals will ever actually look at the actual outcomes of the wonderful good deeds they keep trying to do, that invariably make the situation worse.  They never stick around the site long enough to do what we call in my profession "continual process improvement"; they just "do" and then move on to mess something else up with their good intentions.

But this -- this whole LA thing and the minimum wage effect and the lost jobs and the lost tax revenue -- needs to be hugely at the top of debates from this point on.  The questions have to be pointed.  Not "What do you say to the person who lost her job", but this one "Premise: the minimum wage appears to have failed people immediately in its implementation in California and it looks like the job losses will continue.  What exactly would you do -- will you do -- to reverse the damage the minimum wage law has done to employees and prevent it from happening again?"

Something like that.

We all knew, at least those who consider long-term implications of actions, that job losses would follow a significant hike in the minimum wage.  This instance is a classic response by businesses that are forced to operate differently, when the rules change and their costs are hiked with zero added value for that extra money.

I want all the candidates to be grilled on that and I think the press has a real obligation to get the candidates to answer the questions about it directly.

Because at this moment, it looks like the law, the one that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are fighting for the right to say they thought of it first, is a royal disaster.  It certainly is for the 500 people no longer to be employed.

Perhaps Hillary has staff positions in her campaign for them.  If she isn't in prison by then.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, April 15, 2016

Apples, Oranges and Failing Bars

In 2016 America, we readily admit to watching an odd assortment of television shows.  I confess to being high up on the list of having the "most eclectic mix of things DVRed each week."  No problem there.  We will keep that in mind for this week's concluding piece.

In my high school, which admittedly was a really behind-the-curve place (there were no AP classes, and I ended up one of the few freshmen at MIT who had not had calculus in high school -- because it wasn't offered), there was one class that had the word "economics" in it.  That would be "Home Economics", which was far less about economics and far more about how to learn the kitchen skills needed to be a housewife.  Those with a Y chromosome were not welcomed, if you get my drift.

We were not taught in that school (nor, likely, most others in the late 1960s) how to balance a checkbook, nor did we learn basic bookkeeping skills.  While there were a lot of other things we didn't learn there either, I think the basic economics stuff was right up there with the most missed later in life.

Had we all learned basic money skills back then, I would like to think that we would have a great deal better preparation for life.  Moreover, we would immediately react when we heard words like "revenue" and "profit" bandied about as if they were interchangeable.  And, Lord knows, that happens all the time.

I heard some protestor in the street yelping the other day on TV about how bad, bad Exxon (actually ExxonMobil, but why split hairs) had "made $230-something billion dollars" last year, and they were doing all kinds of bad things, and polluting the air and causing global warming and all that.  What got me, though, was the "made $230 billion last year" line.

So I looked it up.

ExxonMobil actually made, as in "netted after all product costs, salaries, expenses and corporate taxes", about $16 billion in its most recent fiscal year.  Now, $16 billion is a nice amount to end the year with in your bank account, at least before you distribute some of it as dividends to shareholders.  It is a nice amount, until you realize that there are well over four billion shares of ExxonMobil stock, first, and then that the $16 billion net was on sales of -- you guessed it -- $237 billion.

In other words, our street protestor not only had no idea of the difference between "sales" and "profit", but she was completely incapable of recognizing that a $16 billion profit is only a high or low figure when compared to the sales that generated it.  If you sell $100 billion and earn $16 billion, that's a 16% net profit and really good.  If you sell $500 billion and earn only $16 billion, that's about a 3% net profit on sales, and you can do a lot better with your investment dollars than to invest in that company.

Basic economics would have taught the protestor that there actually is a way that companies are actually people, in that they are public companies owned by shareholders, which are generally pension funds and mutual funds held by broad swaths of the population.  In the fact that big holders of those are union pension funds, corporations are unions, too.  And "widows and orphans."

Those funds can put their money anywhere, from cash to foreign currencies to individual stocks, government bonds and other funds.  They choose to put their money where it will return the most for the people like retirees and recipients of those union pension funds, who actually invest.  So they have a legal, fiduciary duty to find the best return at a given level of risk.  At the same time, companies like ExxonMobil have a legal, fiduciary duty to return the highest amount to their investors.  And if that is, say, 2%, even if that 2% equates to $16 billion, the investors are going somewhere else.

But you know all that.

What this has to do with DVRed TV shows is that I am a regular watcher of the "reality" show called Bar Rescue, where a fellow named Jon Taffer, an expert in bar management, goes around to failing bars and tries to save them.  It is an entertaining show, in that the bars tend to be a bit seamy, the owners and staff often drink on the job, and you get the impression that, despite his overhauling of the bar, the owners aren't going to change and it's going back in the tank in six months.

The thing is, in the initial voice-over and introduction section, they are forever saying that "when the current owner first took over, they were doing well" (e.g., in last week's rescue, they were "doing $75,000 a month").  Then, a moment later, they paint the current situation, which is invariably that the bar is "losing $6,500 a month" or some similar figure.

Now, I don't expect that we should rely on "Bar Rescue" to teach us economics or bookkeeping.  But I do think that, at the very least, we viewers should be able to figure out how much worse the bar had done since the owners took over.  Why?  Because by giving us numbers at all, they are trying to portray it.

See what I'm getting at?  You can't tell what "losing $6,500 a month" means, unless you know how much the bar was making beforehand.  And "$75,000 revenue" and "$6,500 loss" are apples and oranges.  Were they making, say, $5,000 on that $75,000 a month in sales?  Are they losing that $6,500 on, say, $20,000 a month in sales?  Mr. Voice-over doesn't tell us that.  And unless he does, we don't know if the problem is inadequate revenue, or poor management of good revenue.

This shouldn't bother me.  And it doesn't, that much.  But even if we shouldn't rely on a reality TV show for our understanding of Business 101, I do want to point out that by mixing up revenue and profit as they do, the show undermines our understanding of the plot.

Of course this is completely unimportant, in the grand scheme of things.  But if you wonder how that idiot protesting ExxonMobil didn't have the basic knowledge to figure out that the company had only earned about 5% on its sales, I suppose that perhaps she watched too many episodes of "Bar Rescue."

Or went to my high school.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lord, Not HER Again

As if five minutes of fame for claiming to be black weren't enough, apparently ten minutes are needed by some people.  So Rachel Dolezal, the dismissed Spokane NAACP leader, is writing a book.  It's about "racial identity", something she knows less than most, since she has not figured out yet that she is actually Caucasian and continues to claim that she is, indeed, "black."

A year since her bizarre behavior became the gift that kept giving columns, and I enjoyed writing and rereading this one and also this one, Rachel has jumped back into the news with her skills with a pen, which she claims is actually a mountain lion.  OK, no, she never said that.  She probably did not use an actual pen either.  And we'll also be amused to see who her ghost-writer actually is.

The book will not be out until next March, which means that she will have five more minutes of fame when this whole story rears its curious head all over again.

Now, I rather doubt that Rachel Dolezal will be taking advice from me, but I certainly will offer some anyway.  At least, I'd like to have her address some things in the book, though I truly wonder how she will come up with enough credible content about "racial identity" to be there to publish.

I would be happy to have her, for example, explain some things relative to what she has said in just the last week.  We have this little snippet: “For me, how I feel is more powerful than how I was born. I mean that not in the sense of having some easy way out. This has been a lifelong journey. This is not something that I cash in, cash out, change up, do at a convenience level or to freak people out or to make people happy. If somebody asked me how I identify, I identify as black. Nothing about whiteness describes who I am.”

"Nothing about whiteness describes who I am."  OK, that brings up a whole chapter worth of possible content.  What, exactly, is the way that you would describe "whiteness"?  I am white, except when I am not (you did read the links, right?), and I wouldn't even know where to start to distinguish what "whiteness" even means.

There are people whiter than I am in terms of skin tone, but there are people darker than I who are certainly Caucasian and purely so.  There are plenty of, say, Italians who are darker than Rachel Dolezal, let alone than I am, and they're white to you and me.  So Rachel, please devote a chapter to what it means to be white, since you obviously have a checklist on which you say you would check exactly zero boxes.  I want to know what those boxes are.  Maybe I really am not white.

If "nothing about whiteness" describes who you are, then do you think that you could come up with a description of who, indeed, you "are", and what that means?  Because if you don't check any of the boxes as far as what whiteness is -- and you literally said none of those boxes applies to you -- then I'd love to see what the boxes are on the checklist for what is "blackness" and how you stack up there.

In fact, since blackness is such a "scaled" characteristic -- genetically we are talking about "percentage of African ancestry", which can be 100%, or it could be present but so low as to result in no visible evidence of that ancestry -- I want to know at what point on that scale does one cease to be black in the "racial identity" view of Rachel Dolezal.

I think I know her answer, because she has painted herself into a corner.  By being white but claiming to "identify as black", she has effectively decided for the rest of us that racial identity is not, in fact, connected to genetics at all.  It is, rather, a state of mind.  In her mind, she has decided to be -- and may at this point even think she is -- black.  Not genetically African; when she gets questions phrased that way she claims not to understand and walks away.  Nope, it is "black", meaning, I guess, "socially black."

Given that, and given that she is already a year away from publication anyway, I want her to do this, because she has time.  Start a company.  Make the company about some product or service that the Federal government would acquire.  Apply for inclusion in the 8(a) program, or simply apply to be certified as a small disadvantaged business because of race (not because of her gender).

Then, when the government (I certainly hope) rejects her application because she is, in the mind of everyone else on earth, white, she needs to sue in Federal court for small-disadvantaged status.  She needs to do a diary of all the interactions she has with the government and put that in as a big chapter in her book.  I might even buy the book if she did that.

That would literally be the best thing she could do.  If she wants people to be able to identify with the race that they "feel" rather than what is in their DNA, then what better platform than in the courts?  If Rachel Dolezal believes that she is black because she "feels black", and wants other people who "feel" of a race different from their genetics then, darn it, fight for them!  Give them an opportunity to get legal status.

Rachel Dolezal would be a pioneer, rather than an inkblot on history.  She would prove her point about racial identity by getting the courts to see things her way.

And she'd sell a lot more books.  Which is the purpose of this whole thing, of course.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

So WHY Do the Democrats Need to Rig Their System

Yesterday -- and often -- I have written about how hard it must be to be a liberal, to have to reconcile the dozens of politically correct positions which ultimately have to conflict.  They have to conflict, of course, because there is only a finite amount of OTM to go around (that's "other people's money") and socialism dies when that runs out.

I often think -- and see -- that liberals simply chuckle "ha-ha", in a Hillary Clinton cocked-head laugh, and avoid the question entirely when any liberal incongruity is raised.  When it is pointed out, as I did yesterday, that open borders (advocated by the left) dump labor on the American market and depress job opportunities for (particularly) black unemployed, the liberal chuckles and turns to the $15 minimum wage as a solution to everything, and then hustles off to his ivory tower to go help someone else the wrong way, who didn't need it in the first place.

Similarly, the liberal would be hard-pressed to explain reconciling his adoration of the rights of women and gay people, when trying to defend radical Islam (if, unlike the current president, he will actually even use the term).  That is challenging given the way women are radically repressed in Muslim countries, and gay people killed there, simply for being gay.  You have to change the subject really quickly, because there is simply no acceptable reconciliation.

Deflection of that kind is an art form.  When we remember that it is always about power, and then about money, and whatever is third is far behind, it makes sense that those who can deflect the masses from facts, history, reality and logic become the heroes of the left.

I pondered that this morning on the old recumbent bike, when on TV there was a discussion of the two parties' approaches to accumulating delegates to the upcoming Democrat and Republican conventions.  It is patently obvious that, while the Republican model as practiced in Colorado was something flagrantly undemocratic, the Democrats' model for the whole country is simply heinous. I refer to the odd notion of granting a huge percentage of the delegate seats -- and votes -- to unelected party officials called "super-delegates."

Why, I asked myself, was it so important for the Democrats to implement the super-delegate concept, and particularly, why was it implemented in such a way that the will of the people was essentially crushed from the start?  It is no secret that for 2016 the approach was designed to ensure that Hillary Clinton was the nominee of the party, at least if she is not in prison by then.  The party clearly did not want anyone else nominated.

Think of it this way -- had Hillary been in prison a year ago, who would the Democrats' lead candidate have even been?  The secondary ("down-ballot") races, since Barack Obama was first elected, have been so bad for Democrats that there has been no person who has risen to political stardom on their side, because the country has rejected their socialist approach.  No, it had to be Hillary.

All that stuff made me wonder "well, why Hillary?".  Why was it so important that such a flawed, unlikable, unpleasant candidate be nominated?  And I think the above gave me the answer.

The chief attribute necessary for the leader of the Democrats' ticket is not good looks, and it certainly is not a workable approach to economics.  No, the most important criterion for the Democrats in 2016, as it may be for decades to come, is the ability to deflect.  And no one deflects any better than Hillary Clinton.

Here is a person who literally planned deflection on the day her confirmation hearings for Secretary of State began, by setting up a private and illegal email server so that her communication of actual feelings would be shielded from inquisitive FOIA requests.  She is a master at not answering questions, even though the press just lobs softballs at her with depressing regularity as it is.

And that, dear readers, is a necessary skill when you are running with a platform full of things that simply don't work, and invariably make situations worse than before they were tried.  You cannot talk issues with a Democrat and ever get a straight answer, so the Democrats need to run a candidate who can deflect that reality, and turn straight to something that feels good to hear, even if it wasn't close to the answer of the question that was asked.

So it was vitally important to party bosses that the ultimate candidate be someone who can deflect his (or her) remaining brains out.  Many months back they decided that only Hillary could deliver the party orthodoxy without confronting actual facts.  She had to be nominated, and even though the party probably did not consider the possibility of the success of the actual Bernie Sanders campaign, they were astute enough to prevent anything like that, long in advance.

Will that succeed?  Well, given that, absent the super-delegates, this would have been one heck of a race (my Lord, but Hillary must be an atrocious candidate not to have put away the old socialist by now), their approach has succeeded to date, and will ultimately make her the candidate of the Democrats (if she is not in prison).  But I do finally understand why it was so important to make her win the nomination.  Deflection from the truth, from reality, from history, from logic, is a learned skill.

The Democrats simply could not afford to have someone run for president who could possibly be trapped if the press actually asked an incisive question.  That could cramp liberalism for years.

Nope, it had to be Hillary and, to them, it was worth corrupting the entire primary and caucus process by imposing super-delegates loyal to the party's almighty choice, to do so.  Ask the Democrats' party chairman about the super-delegates, and darned if she won't go straight into deflection mode too.  Hillary has deflected right through the primary season and will do so as long as there is a campaign.

They needed her, because she knows how not to answer a question.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What Exactly CAN You Inhale?

A week back I did a piece on Vermont's decision on a bill that would tax wholesale vaping products at 90% and would, eventually, put a bunch of small businesses out of business, even though they are helping Americans quit smoking cigarettes.  It is a stupid and short-sighted proposal; it was last week and it will be tomorrow.

Today, though, I thought of that piece again when I read that the once-great state of Colorado was actually considering a bill to let students in its school use "medical" marijuana.  I can't get over the hypocrisy that the American left has in its approach to, well, anything, but this one really makes your head spin.  Because we know that the left is behind both of these proposals, and it is truly impossible to reconcile the positions these bills present.

A few things first.  I do not doubt that there is an element in marijuana that is a pain reliever.  I do, however, challenge the assertion that it is the only thing that relieves pain in specific patients.  I do challenge the assertion that unregulated, varied-dose products, not peer-reviewed under FDA programs like any other drug, should be able to be prescribed by physicians.  And I do challenge the assertion that smoking a drug like that would be a legitimate way to deliver it no matter what level of approval FDA gave it -- especially when the Colorado student bill provides only for eating it.

Another "thing first."  Cigarette smoking is literally the worst external thing affecting public health and has been for 100 years.  Even now, over 400,000 people will die prematurely this year from the effect of having smoked cigarettes -- or been around people who were.  They are foul to those around them, and fatal to a third of those who use them.  And their manufacturers conspired for decades to lie to the public about all that goes with cigarette smoking.  If they were made illegal tomorrow, I would quietly celebrate.

That said -- please explain the left.  Leftist orthodoxy is this -- pot is good, vaping is bad, cigarettes are also bad.  But cigarettes have no productive use at all; vaping is a tool for smoking cessation by simulating the smoking act and providing nicotine step-downs without tobacco; and marijuana is an addictive psychoactive drug whose analgesic benefit is duplicated by many other pain-relieving medications, without the psychoactive or addictive properties.

I'm sorry; I cannot reconcile those positions in my own mind so as to figure out what the left's principles (oxymoron alert) are against which to explain all that.  If they hate cigarettes as much as I do and want them banned, then why don't they feel the same way about marijuana?  If they think marijuana is beneficial even without dose control, then why is vaping so bad as to try to tax it into oblivion, when it is used to break the cigarette habit they hate?

If the drug companies are greedy leeches who should be able to be sued for any side effect their products have (hint: as explained here, they shouldn't be), then how do they explain being willing to have pot shops all over Colorado selling the stuff with assumed impunity from legal liability, and how do you have doctors prescribing it all over California with no real ability to explain to their patients how to know how often it is OK to use it (since the FDA has not approved it)?

It is so, so hard to be a leftist these days.  Nothing they propose as a solution to problems ever works, from the disaster that was and is Obamacare, to handcuffing our military trying to battle the nation's biggest threats, to raising taxes as an attempted redistribution approach, to the whole Great Society that has left us with a higher poverty level than when we started.

Nothing ever works that the left proposes and tries to implement.  In trying to please everyone, it ends up pitting its own special-interests against each other -- the left wants black votes, but black unemployment is far too high, and the left still insists on open borders through which even more immigrants can come through, depressing black employment and forcing wages down.  Its solution?  Raise the minimum wage, which also depresses black employment and puts poor people back on government support again.

I'm not sure what, besides marijuana, the left feels it OK to inhale, because their positions on this, as in everything else, are irreconcilable.  Some day the press will make a list of these things, and actually oblige a leftist politician to address the inconsistency rationally.  They can't, of course, but a real press would gleefully dive in and seize the moment.

I'll keep waiting.  Please join me in that.  Carpe diem.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, April 11, 2016

Stop Looking, Geraldo

On Friday, the Fox News morning show "Fox and Friends" had its customary visit from its reporter Geraldo Rivera, late of "Dancing with the Stars."  The segment replayed an exchange between Rivera and Fox's Bill O'Reilly from O'Reilly's show the previous evening.

We're all aware of the ongoing dust-up between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in regard to Cruz's reference to "New York values" during an early presidential candidates' debate.  I wrote about it at the time, and I think it was rather evident what Cruz was referring to.

Apparently Geraldo Rivera also thought it was evident what Cruz was referring to, and it wasn't the same thing.  In his view, Cruz was making a specific, coded anti-Semitic reference, particularly when he mentioned values in New York being about "money and media."

Rivera on Friday morning did not explicitly state that money and media in New York are seen as the province of Jews, but in effect he did.  By doing so, he effectively said that Cruz was "coding" an anti-Semitic message.  I may not get the words exactly right, but what Rivera, who is Jewish, said was "I've been a reporter for 40 years and by now I know a coded message when I hear one."

Now, I admit to being someone who is not any more or less sensitive to "coded messages" than the next guy.  And I may not react to such messages toward, say, blacks, Jews, Muslims or Hispanics as much as someone who was black, Jewish, Muslim or Hispanic.  But I have heard Ted Cruz say variations on that "New York values" line several times since the debate, and until Rivera said something, it had not even crossed my mind that Cruz had somehow been making an anti-Semitic allusion.

I still don't think so.

Geraldo Rivera is a New Yorker.  He hears things through New York ears.  Although he has traveled the nation and the world as a correspondent, the ears are still all New York.  And I believe that he is simply not in touch, nor can he be, with the way New York is actually perceived by the rest of the nation.  And it has nothing to do with the religion of its powerful.

I'm not sure how you undo an accusation of bigotry, and Rivera has put the senator in a strange position.  Ted Cruz is an outspoken supporter of Israel, if one were to look to his record on the single issue most identified with the opinion of Americans who are Jewish.  His record there certainly compares extremely favorably against that of, say, the current president.  Rivera could easily lob accusations of "coded messages" at the White House.

The point, though, is that we who are not New Yorkers, including those like me who can't stand the place and who react negatively when someone says they are from New York, do so out of the reputation of the city and its people.  Ted Cruz has restated his comment from the debate, by referring to those values he referred to as being those of "liberal, progressive, high-spending, high-taxing politicians and of the people who keep voting them in, of money and the media."

Outside New York, that is exactly how we see it, along with arrogance, pugnacity and an attitude of being right all the time.  Donald Trump brings up the response to 9-11 but, as I wrote, two things get in the way there.  First, he's wrong -- almost any city would have responded with courage and care; the fact that it happened in New York gives him evidence but not exclusivity.

Second, it happened in a rare era in the city when, disgusted with incompetence from its liberal leaders, it voted in Rudy Giuliani, who had subsequently and promptly cleaned the place up and gave it pride.  Giuliani made the 9-11 recovery a part of the city's fabric -- picture 9-11 happening on current mayor Bill DiBlasio's watch if you want to understand it better.

We in the non-New York world heard Ted Cruz just fine.  We didn't hear anti-Semitism because we weren't hearing what wasn't there.  We heard the non-New Yorker's view of that arrogance, pugnacity and attitude of being right even when wrong, along with the liberal high-tax, high-spend part.  We associated the arrogance with money and media because it is centered there ("Yeah, we got Broadway and Wall Street here, clown, whadda you got?").  That so many in money, media and entertainment there happen to be Jewish doesn't even rise to consciousness.

If Geraldo Rivera hears bigotry where none exists, he would do well to listen to the words of Mo Vaughn I mention here, and be really careful about sometime seeing his world the way others do, not as he assumes they do.

There's a wonderful nation west of the Hudson.  Geraldo has gotten out to see most all of it in his long career.

He would do well to try to get more inside of it.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, April 8, 2016

Subsidizing Illegals in College

This is not particularly "national news", but certainly is odd enough to prompt a column and I guess I'm odd enough to write it.  Prescott University, a private college in Arizona, is now imposing a $30 "fee" on its students, to fund annual scholarships for illegal aliens who are students there.  That is correct; all students will pay $30 so that a student who is illegally in the USA can have a college education.

Before we ponder this too hard, let us note a few things.

- The $30 fee is mandatory, but I have seen in some accounts of this story that individual students can opt out of paying it somehow, if they act in advance.
- Prescott is a private university and can do anything it pleases, at least up through what it is legally allowed to.
- The fee idea was allegedly pushed by existing students; it does not sound like the university came up with the idea on its own, although it certainly saw a rent-seeking opportunity.

I'm reminded that in 1974, as a student at the University of North Carolina Medical School, I applied to be considered a resident of the state and subject to in-state tuition rates.  As I noted at the time, I had not lived with my parents for five years; I worked in North Carolina, my church was there, my home and all the few things I owned were there.  If, I contended, I was not a resident of the state, then please explain to me what state I did live in, because there wasn't any other.

The University rejected my entreaty without telling me where else I apparently lived, and I responded by leaving school and starting an opera company.  As debt-laden as I was at the time, I really needed the in-state tuition rates, so I thought at the time, and couldn't stay in school otherwise.  I never was able to have a conversation with the school to appeal.

I came away from that experience with the understanding that residency was a big deal, and the benefits available to people as a result of residence in the jurisdiction were of value.  I still feel that way, whether at the state or the national level.

So I come at this particular story with a very biased perspective.  As I said, Prescott University is free to do whatever it wants within the confines of the law.  But I am really troubled by the selective nature of whom this fee is supposed to help.  I'm not concerned about the future recipients being Mexican or Central American or wherever they may be from.  We are, after all, a nation of immigration and we value those who have come here.

But we are also a nation of laws.  So I have to ask the simple question: Why is the scholarship not going to a legal immigrant who has gone through the process of coming here the right way?

I think that is a very fair question, don't you?  Much as we find it inappropriate to provide welfare, education and medical care all free and without obligation to people who have come to the USA illegally, it seems quite inappropriate to make a decision wherein we will reward with a free college education not someone who has properly and legally pursued the immigration path; rather, we are rewarding illegal behavior.

What, for example, might happen after the Obama administration mercifully ends and rational immigration policy ensues?  What might happen if immigration law is enacted that requires illegals to -- and this is a pretty common part of proposals that are out there -- leave the country and restart the legal process to come back, or even pay a big fine, demonstrate competence in English, and go to the back of the line for citizenship?

I mean, if any of those reasonable approaches gets enacted, would you want to be the person who is exposed without the ability to hide, by virtue of receiving a scholarship that requires you to be here illegally to get it?  Are illegals running around Arizona now feeling like they're -- dare we say it -- entitled by virtue of their illegal presence here?  Is that why Prescott University thinks it can do this?

Students are notorious for being unable to see the consequences of their actions.  That this absurd program was dreamed up by a student (it was) is unsurprising.  That it was facilitated by an actual university run by actual adults, however, who can think through those consequences, would be surprising indeed, were it not taking place within the ivory tower of academia.

Where, as we know, rational thought goes to die.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Yeo All Are in a Weird Navy

ISIS is on our doorstep as we speak, and has committed unspeakable acts of terrorism within our borders.  It is not pretty, and to crush this threat we need all the force of our marvelous uniformed military serving in the Army.  And in our Air Force and Marines.  And most certainly the brave men and women of the proud United States Navy.

So we would really like to know that the leaders of the armed forces, including the politically-appointed civilian leaders who serve in the role of 'Secretary" of the respective service, share that laser focus and commitment to crushing ISIS and other Islamic terrorist organizations.  Laser focus indeed.

All of that makes us a bit antsy when we find that while the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, who is, naturally, an appointee of that old warhawk, Barack H. Obama, has shown his laser focus by trying to solve the biggest issue facing today's Navy.  Yes, that would be ... oh, wait ... it is not ISIS, or China or North Korea.

Nope, our Secretary of the Navy has ordered the uniformed leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps to come up with gender-neutral versions of enlisted positions with titles ending in "man".   No more "rifleman" or "mineman."  You are now a "specialist" or "technician" or something else reflecting the fact that there are now females serving in those roles.

This all would be laughable if (A) it weren't actually true, and (B) we weren't facing an enemy who has already penetrated our defenses and ought to be occupying our full attention.  But it is true.  Mabus, who, one could concede, understands poor treatment of women from having been ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has determined this to be a priority.  Why that should be true is a mystery, but he has.

The linked article points to a particularly thorny outcome of this effort of vital national interest, wherein the term "yeoman" (someone with a principally clerical function) has run into the etymological buzz-saw as having no feminized version.  Let's face it -- and, unfortunately, countless hours of senior naval officer time have apparently been spent facing it -- there is no good option, neither producing a feminine version or a neutral one.

"Yeowoman", as your spell-check will tell you when you forward a link to this piece, is simply not a word, and is stupid even for Ray Mabus.  I can't even think of a gender-neutral form of "yeoman" that doesn't strain the credulity of the person speaking.  And yet Mabus and the admirals are still working on that challenging task.

I have offered on many occasions in this column to advise various government officials on easy solutions to problems that appear to them to be too thorny to solve.  Each time, I've said that I would come up with something at my normal consulting rate, which is not all that high such that it shouldn't be looked at.  I really do see things in their basic, elementary way, to where the fix appears obvious.

So if Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, is reading this, I offer an even better package for you.  I will solve your naming problem for gender-neutralizing the term "yeoman" in Navy job-speak, and you can have the answer for free.  Yep, you and the admirals can install my nomenclature solution tomorrow and go right back to fighting ISIS and keeping the oceans safe for American interests everywhere.

Call the enlisted personnel doing clerical duties what they should be called -- "clerks."  Nice, gender-neutral, accurate.  It's even one fewer syllable, which gives the sailors and marines who have to use the term even more time to fight ISIS and Islamic terrorism everywhere.

Yeo, Mr. Mabus -- how does that work for you?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Well, OUR Menu Options Have Stayed the Same

Politics can certainly be set aside at least for one day.  The Wisconsin primary has happened and is in progress as I am writing this, meaning that by the time you read this, we will all know whether Donald Trump is much closer to (or much further away from) being able to march into Cleveland with the delegate count needed to be nominated, and whether Ted Cruz wins Wisconsin with a percentage closer to poll A, B, C or D, in that they varied substantially.

We will also know if Bernie Sanders has cheesed Hillary by extending his streak of primary wins and showing that the former first lady has exhausted her actual support.  Imagine what happens if Sanders ends up with a majority of the primary and caucus delegates but the super-delegates swing it to Hillary for the nomination.  Oh, that will go over well.

But I digress.

This piece is prompted by a call I made to a home repair company here in Virginia.  I'm pretty sure that the company consists of the owner, his wife who handles the phones, and maybe 3-4 stringers of varying capabilities in the English language, who help with the actual work.

I called at night, intending to leave a message for them to call me in the morning to schedule an estimate.  Sure enough, the call went to automated reply, where I could choose 1 for this, 2 for that, etc.  But astonishingly enough, the first thing out of the electronic mouth of the recording was this.

"Thank you for calling [XXX] Home Repair.  Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed."  Underlines are my own.

Now, I have to ask this.  I can imagine that if you call General Motors or Verizon or Bank of America, their businesses are complicated enough that once in a while their customer service lines might have to change their menu options.  I'm sure you feel the same way.

But come on, maybe what -- 80% of customer-service lines with push-button choice selections lead off with "Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed."

No, they haven't.  You don't have enough freaking options to have ever changed them!

Do we have to be so contemptuous of our customers?  Because once you've heard the "menu options have changed" line for the eleventh time, you understand that it's a fat lie.  What bothers me is that the truth is perfectly fine and equally inoffensive.  All the business wants is to route the call properly to serve the customer the best way possible, and that means asking him to listen to all the options and not just go with the first one that sounds good.

Would it be too hard to respect my intelligence?  Just have your recording say "Thank you for calling Company X.  Please listen carefully to the menu options, so that we can connect you with the person who can best assist you."

I believe that would take about the same amount of time, and I would feel my time is respected.  Lying to me about your menu options changing is not respecting me.  Rambling on about things I don't need to know before giving me those menu options is not respecting me (i.e., if you're going to give me a 45-second sales pitch, at least say up front that you can get to the menu options at any time by hitting the pound sign).

It shouldn't bother me, and it's not like it really does all that much, but I don't like my intelligence to be insulted, even with a little white lie for convenience.  I've owned a business, and even in the retail one our message choices were simply "Welcome to [our company].  for sales, please press 1.  For customer service ..."  We thought like a customer would, and made it simple.

Simple -- and truthful.  It is not that hard.  Have a nice day.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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