Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Oh, Those Wacky Independents

If you watch the right news programs, you will surely have seen a particular tool used by the campaign consultant folks trying to analyze what is, you know, "resonating" with various target audiences who are likely to vote.

That tool consists of a video replay of a candidate saying something, while three tracks, sort of like EKGs except without the pulse, glide along the screen in front of the candidate.  The tracks are red, blue and yellow, and they represent, in order, Republican voters, Democrat voters, and independents (who have to vote for somebody, which we will get back to.

The three tracks move along in a scale which ranges from zero to 100, and that scale represents instantaneous reaction to what the candidate is saying.  Everything starts at "50", which would be a grade of "C", and then each track moves up or down practically with every word out of the candidate's mouth.  You can easily see what phrases go over well and which do not.

Last week, during the dust-up over Donald Trump's words of years back hoping for a real-estate crash so he could buy in, one of the consulting firms' representatives was on TV showing some of the tracking.  The videos were of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren castigating the Donald for actually wanting to buy low and sell high (the horror!), followed by Trump himself explaining (as if it were needed) that that's what real-estate developers do!

You can imagine how the red and blue tracks went; the Democrats loved Hillary and Mrs. Warren and hated Trump; the Republicans gave Trump a "B" and utterly failed the two Democrats with a big "F."  We are not surprised, of course; Democrats would not understand the business cycle if it ran over them.

But the yellow line, ah, the yellow line.  Those wacky independent voters who are insanely necessary to woo and to get out to vote for you if you want to win, well, they were an interesting lot.  Whatever you might have expected, they tracked quite tightly -- to the Republicans.  Liked what Trump was saying, flunked both Democrats.

Having been watching the same person from the same polling firm come on the same shows for a number of months, I can tell you two things.

First, if they somehow imputed bias into their work, they would never get hired, because their results would be unusable.  But this tracking methodology removes bias, since no questions are asked and it is only an evaluation of the candidates' own words.

Second, the results of last week, wherein the independents tracked with the Republicans and decidedly not with the Democrats (or at least not with Hillary), is the overwhelmingly consistent outcome of almost all these instant-polling surveys.  Constantly.  They may not track as high or as tightly some times, but they certainly identify with what Trump is saying, whether on business, the border, ISIS or space exploration.

There is a presidential election coming up here in about five months.  Hillary Clinton, if she is not in prison by then (which is, incidentally, looking a bit more plausible now), will be running against Trump in that race.  And as unpleasant a candidate as she is, as grating to listen to, as ineffective a campaigner and as generally untrustworthy as everyone regards her, Hillary does indeed need every vote.

These surveys are devastating to her.  Already she is polling mostly behind Trump, and that's before the State Department's independent Inspector General, appointed by the Obama Administration, nailed her in a scathing finding regarding her use of a private email server.  She has nowhere to go but down, because we already know who Hillary Clinton is.

The only place she can find a big pile of votes is with the self-declared independents.  But these surveys, month after month, are finding that the appeal is not with the former first lady, but with the guy who has spent one-tenth as much in the campaign as she has.  Perhaps they feel that kind of fiscal responsibility might live well in the White House.  Slash a few departments, cut the bloated Federal payroll to only those people actually delivering Constitutionally-mandated services, perhaps.

Those wacky independents appear to be finding an electoral home, and it isn't Chappaqua, where it looks like Mrs. Clinton is going to return come November.

Or prison.  I'm good either way.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Turn in Your "J" Card, Katie

I expect that conservatives would scream a great deal less about left-leaning media bias if, to be honest, the media were less biased.  Every indication seems to bear the fear out; the media are as corrupt as Donald Trump says, and journalistic integrity has long since given way to journalistic license.

As presented in this piece in CNN, a documentary called "Under the Gun" was recently released, including an interview by the former journalist Katie Couric, with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

"If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorist from walking into, say, a licensed gun dealer and purchasing a gun?", Couric asks the League members.

That seems like a perfectly reasonable question to which members of a pro-firearms and pro-2nd Amendment group would be able to reply immediately.  In reality, they did reply immediately, and raw, unedited audio recordings of the interview plainly show that.

Of course, that did not fit the liberal, anti-gun views of the producer, the director and Katie Couric.  So they did what leftists do -- they changed the content to fit their narrative.  Instead of letting the video run and showing the answers that the League members gave in the timing with which they were given, the final cut show them looking down, silently, as if they did not know how to answer the question.

The "looking down" content, eight seconds worth, not only did not represent nor present the League members' actual reaction time or answer to the question; it was grafted into the final edit from footage of when they were sitting and waiting for the interview to start.

I don't know what school of journalism in the USA teaches its students that it is OK to do that.  It is generally accepted to edit, as was in fact done with Couric's actual question, to delete extra words as long as they don't alter the context of the unedited version.  And having heard the raw tape of the question, it is fine as edited; they took out some of her words that did not change the meaning or tone of the question.

But it is certainly eleven kinds of unethical to insert content in a place where (A) it didn't exist in the first place, and (B) is inserted to foster the questioner's political narrative (not to mention embarrassing the people who actually answered).

Stephanie Soechtig, the piece's director, claimed that she herself had editorial control.  As she stated in a non-apologetic response to being caught, "My intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans' opinions on background checks."

But even that is a crock -- the piece went to a commercial break after the eight seconds of grafted non-response.  If you ask a question, you kind of have to show the answer in its original context.

Couric, for her part, issued one of those leftist non-apologies, saying something like "I'm sorry if the intent of the edit was misinterpreted" or something like that -- she's not sorry she tried to manipulate the facts to fit her politics; she's barely sorry she got caught -- in other words, it's our fault for being such cretins that we can't understand the artistic license she took.

Journalism, as I have written recently, has taken plenty of body blows over the decades of its declared freedom in the USA, mot all of them self-inflicted.  Katie Couric, if she ever could be called a journalist, has forfeited her right to be considered one of the fraternity.

She is entitled to her own version of topics of contention.  She is entitled to vote for whomever she wants to in the privacy of the election booth.  She is entitled to go on TV and advocate explicitly for causes that she has those opinions on.

What she is not entitled to do is to misuse the platform of  journalism by altering the facts on which that opinion is based.  Argue with the interviewees, sure.  Misuse her position by altering their response?  Well, no.  That is criminality in the world of true journalism.

Katie Couric spent plenty of time at NBC, the same people who did a totally misleading edit of the 911 call by George Zimmerman, in 2012 when he was watching Trayvon Martin, whom he later shot to avoid having his head banged into the sidewalk more than it was.  NBC at least fired the producer who did the editing.  They had to get caught first, but they did fire the guy.

Katie Couric didn't have the integrity to man up and confess to manipulating the facts -- in the case, the video -- to suit her own narrative.

Give up your "J card", Katie.  You've forfeited your right to be called a journalist.

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Mom, Apple Pie and the Girl They Can't Find

I was watching an interesting piece on the news on Wednesday, and it got me thinking about some things that had occurred to me, only in a lot more depth than I had ever considered them.

Apparently, for the first time, the most common residence situation for people aged 18 to 34 is living with their parents.  As in "home", like, "never left" or "came right back."  Second place was "living with a romantic partner", which had always been first.

I know a lot of people probably watched the show and were thinking that it had everything to do with the part about the parents, the parents' home, the lack of the job needed to make money, or the actual "living with the parents" aspect.

That was not my reaction, though it is not wrong. It's pretty obvious why, given their specific situation, the 18-34 crowd ends up in their parents' home rather than living independently elsewhere.

What needed the thought was why they were not living with a romantic partner.  And that's where my mind went.

The vast majority of people would like to be living with a romantic partner.  They just can't find one, or haven't found one, or found one and lost one.  But there's a basic essential to finding someone, and that, to me, is the ability to communicate with a member of the opposite sex.

Granted, that shouldn't be hard, but let's think about what makes millennials different from previous generations.  I think we'll find a thread here.

First, they are enslaved by technology -- their iPhones, their tablets, their video games.  Lots of texting, lots of playing, lots of Internet searching dominates their lives.  It is an artificially sheltered environment in many senses of the word.  But the tools of technology are distractions from humanity.

Second, they don't read.  Ever try to sell a bunch of used books?  There is zero market for books anymore, and one wonders how Barnes & Noble, and the other big book retailer whose name escapes me, even survive, unless it's mainly by selling Kindle versions.  No reading for pleasure means losing the mind-expanding world that books provide -- and it means losing the vocabulary-expanding value that reading a lot offers.

Third, it's too freaking loud when they assemble in social situations, to have a conversation.  I realize that this is not necessarily a new phenomenon; I graduated college in 1973 and the parties were too loud even then.  But I have a lot of memories of the kind of interaction where you want to talk to (in my case) a girl and have to figure out where to go to have a conversation BECAUSE IT WAS TOO LOUD.  I went to a cousin's daughter's wedding not that long ago (she was in her twenties) and spent most of the reception out in the lobby to keep my head from hurting from the loud "music."

By now you may have gotten what that thread is.  Millennials never put themselves in the kind of situations that facilitate communications with the opposite sex, and even when they were in such situations, they never honed the communication skills needed, because they were simply not trained and practiced to have a conversation.  Too distracted.  Too loud.  Too little mastery of the spoken word.

That was my supposition regarding the study.  Sure, millennials all over are moving back with their parents, or not leaving, because they don't have jobs and can't afford to live on their own, and this excuse and that excuse.  And because the parents don't do their jobs and kick them out, or set a deadline for them when they will be evicted.  I get that.

But it's the relative lack of relationships that lead to marriage (or cohabitation) that I find more troubling -- but equally explicable.  Millennials are less -- in some cases, far less -- able to conduct a civilized discussion with each other than previous generations, that were obliged to learn the skill.  No communication, no relationships.  No relationships, no process that ends up sharing a home.

We look at TV family sitcoms and think that maybe I'm completely wrong.  But those sitcoms have two things real millennials don't have -- a script by a professional writer, and a low maximum background volume.  I think the trend reflected in the study is here for the long haul, because neither technology nor ambient volumes in bars and clubs will change any time soon.

If you're a parent, you had better concentrate on your 15-year-old learning to communicate with the opposite sex and getting them in environments where they can.  Or you can expect your home's consumables budget to be pretty high in another ten years.

You heard it here first.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gaaak ... It's For Profit!

You probably saw clips of the latest contretemps of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump arguing in their respective stump speeches about real estate.  Without recreating the whole thing, in essence Hillary complained that Trump was rooting for the real estate crash in the late 2000s so that he could buy property cheaply.

This incensed the soon-to-be-indicted and this-week-disgraced Mrs. Clinton, who herself has profited from buying low and selling high in the past, with some nefarious implications of funky options trades and unethical stock tips in her Arkansas days.  She was really upset -- imagine, she said, wishing for real estate to lose value so he could buy it low and sell it high.  No really, imagine!  How dare he?

The Donald, for his part, was incredulous.  "Gee, a real estate developer wanting to buy at a lower price", I paraphrase him as saying.  "Who the [heck] wouldn't?", he said.

I don't know about you, but I immediately read a lot into the differing responses.  Hillary Clinton has been married into government for decades and, for part of the last 15 years, actually working in government.  OK, maybe "working" is an exaggeration since a lot of that time was as a senator.  Let's go with "paid a government salary."

She has been associated with government, by marriage or by salary, for so long that she has been insulated from things like payrolls, and running a business, and profits.  The economy is not run for the benefit of the government, but she has long since forgotten that.  Profitability and, for that matter, business decisions in general, are out of her ken.  As long as she and her husband can give speeches at a few hundred grand a pop, and get the private jets and first-class hotels and the other demanded perks, then why would she care about actual job-creating businesses?

When Donald Trump said what he did a few years back about hoping the real estate market would crash, we might have not been hoping for the same thing, but it was patently obvious why he would have hoped for it.  He was, as he is still, not a government employee but a businessman, a real estate developer looking to create value for his company.

He thought real estate was generally overvalued, demand driven up by a few things like Barney Frank-era mandates about lending to people who ultimately couldn't afford their mortgages.  As a developer, that was not a good situation for a buy low, build up and add value, and sell high business.

Donald Trump was speaking to, and operating from, the reality of the situation and the time relative to his own businesses.  A crash wasn't good for a lot of people, but it would be good for him.  Him.  Donald Trump, head of the company for which it would also be good.  I'm sure he would say the same thing today; in fact, he did.  Tuesday.

It's hard to understand the insular world that Hillary Clinton inhabits.  She has been forced into the business-bashing left even further by the Bernie Sanders campaign and its relentless nature vs. her relentless unlikeability.  Accordingly, even when she is hollering at Donald Trump, she has to use language and make points that simply don't resonate with people with at least a few toes dipped into the reality pool.

Hillary really, really wants to be president of the United States.  But wouldn't it be really helpful if, somewhere along the line, she had been president of something else, like maybe a company that employed actual private-sector workers?  She still probably could have gotten someone to drive her around, but at least she would understand a lot more about how businesses operate than she learned back at Wellesley.

Because she obviously hasn't learned about it since.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

There Has to Be a Headline

Every morning my wife and I wake up, turn on the TV and watch the news.  News in the morning is relatively interesting -- or it might be dramatic.  Since it may be 18 hours since that we saw anything other than a recorded show on TV, we'll usually learn that something of interest has happened, somewhere.

But there's a spectrum here in terms of the newsworthiness of what is actually presented, a spectrum that makes me glad that I have never been part of the news section of a medium in my life.  It goes from one really newsworthy event -- a coup, an election, a natural disaster, a crash, a terror attack -- all the way down to virtually nothing happening more than the release of a poll, or a cat being rescued from a tree.

And yet, the news programs and the newspapers as well, don't have the luxury of just saying "Oops, nothing to report on here.  Try a magazine, or watch the Kardashians or something."

Nope, they actually have to fill defined hours of content, and put something on the front page that looks like a headline, in time for the paper-boy to do his 5:00 AM thing.  In fact, by virtue of its presence on the front page and looking like a headline, it is defined by that paper (or if it's a lead story, defined by the news program on TV) as the most important thing that has happened in the last 24 hours.

Sometimes, of course, it is not just the, I don't know, "least unimportant news story."  No; it is usually actually "important."  But there are days when, by any standard of newsworthiness, nothing happened.  That doesn't stop the presses, though; there are subscriptions to be filled for the print medium, and there are hours of presence on TV to fill.

Now, TV news programs can just plug in puff pieces and features and all that, and you can watch and be entertained as the networks hope you won't be thinking, "Dang, must have been a slow news day."  I don't think the same applies to newspapers, though.  Here's the thing -- on Sunday, the paper as likely as not will not have a serious front-page headline story, and might only have a feature that some reporter has been assigned to cover.  They really don't want, say, the Tuesday paper, to look like Sunday, if you know what I mean.

So that's kind of the point.  The media need for you to think that their lead story, or front-page headline, is not only the most important thing that happened in the last day, but that it is actually newsworthy.  And since something has to be that lead story, whatever it is then achieves a status of imputed interest or newsworthiness that may not be connected to its reality.

I want us all to be aware of that.  I want that awareness not just because we should have a built-in wall that protects us from thinking something is a bigger deal than it really is, but because the news media's ability to make something far more important than it really is, is a power.  It means the media hold the power to lie to us about events (in this case, their importance) and, in fact, are forced to do so every time there is a slow news day.

I respect the Constitutional protection of a free press. One has only to look at the media in dictatorships to realize that a free press is best appreciated when it doesn't exist.  Of course, our press has been free for over 220 years, and has a pretty checkered history of playing fast and loose with the facts on occasion.

So the point, as I finally get to it, is this.  While the press may be the last defense of a nation against dictatorial government, the last defense of a free nation against a Constitutionally unfettered press is our own understanding of its limits and a clear appreciation for what it can get away with.  If we don't believe a story, we are free to call out the medium on it, because we understand that it may indeed be false.

And if we believe that a story on the front page is far less important than its positioning would lead us to feel, we're free to diminish its importance in our mind.  Because we, as free Americans, know that the press can manipulate with the best of them.

We are free to know that there are actually slow news days.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How Many Does It Take to Be Offended?

I have a vague memory of having written in passing in a not-recent piece that the left never apologizes, and never says that it was wrong about anything.

That makes it a bit hard to reconcile the front-page story in the Washington Post last week about the local NFL football team, the Washington Redskins.  In what was doubtlessly intended to have a different result, the Post had surveyed a statistically significant number of Native Americans across the country and with many different tribal origins.

The result?  Some 90% of the respondents identifying as "Native American" had no problem with the Washington football team being called the "Redskins", and a healthy number thought it to be a good, as in complimentary, thing.  This, of course, flies squarely in the face of a bazillion editorials and published letters to the editor in that paper complaining of the name and insisting it be changed -- including one this morning.

In an interesting turn, the 90% figure appears to be virtually identical to the results of a similar survey about 12 years ago that also polled the same population.  The separation of time, and the fact that the 2004 survey was done by a different organization, suggests that the data is pretty sound, and the results are usable for however a user may want to, well, use it.

I'll use it myself here, but only briefly.  In terms of how much offense to glean from a poll of an affected group, I start with the fact that there is a spectrum -- from no one being offended all the way to everyone being offended.  I believe that 1% of people taking offense for the perceived slur does not make it a slur.  Obviously at 100%, it is a slur; in fact, I would pretty much say that you get as low as 50% and most people would agree that we should not use the term.

But I also feel that you get down to 25% and it's in the noise range, as far as actually asking people to change their actions.  If three people out of four have no problem with a word or phrase referring to their group, or ethnicity or religion, then it seems to me it's the "one in four" who are overly sensitive.

And in this case, nine out of ten do not have an issue.  So for my two cents, the issue of whether the football team -- whose nickname is shared, among others, by some high schools on reservations -- is resolved.  Next issue, thanks.  Move forward.  The loud will not out-poll the numerous.

Which gets us to the point.

For the Washington Post, a very leftist paper which hates the name "Redskins", even to have printed the results of such a survey on the front page, with pictures even, is startling.  It's startling not just because it flies in the face of what the paper's editorial board stands for, but because it makes the case that the concerns voiced by a loud minority, and the PC police who support them, are grossly misplaced -- and fundamentally unrepresentative of the alleged offended.  And, of course, it's startling because the left never apologizes.

So why is was it even published?

I'm going to be speculating, because I don't know, and never will.  But I think there are probably a few distinct elements at work here.

First -- even though an overwhelming percentage of journalists are leftists, and the reporting of events frequently has slant and even a stated opinion or two, the Post still recognizes that the editorial and news parts of the paper are separated by a nominal firewall.  That's Journalism 101.  Maybe 201, but at least it's fundamental.  Send a reporter out on a story, especially when it's your own darned poll, and you had better print it.

Second -- had the paper squashed the story when it learned the results, all that had to happen was for one employee of the Post to have let the word get out that the polling was remarkably in contrast with the editorial staff's biases, and the proverbial stuff would have hit the fan.  One thing a paper does not want to have happen is for it to be seen as letting bias affect the actual running of stories.

Third -- and this is the only FTM (follow the money) aspect I could come up with -- since the survey did not proactively target Native Americans, but rather asked the question only if they so identified, there must have been a lot of people polled, and a lot of work accomplished.  The photographs alone suggest that some serious travel expense went on this story, meaning that it didn't get spent on alternative content.  One way or the other, there has to be a headline (a piece for another day).

Finally, I do not doubt that someone back in the newsroom was so convinced that he or she was right on the issue, if not the facts, that the order was issued to run the story.  "We'll get people talking about it", I suspect was the order, "and once they talk they'll see that the name is offensive."  No matter what the polls actually say.  It's the infernal pomposity and self-righteousness of the left.

OK, I don't know if any of the above is true, although the first one almost assuredly came up at some point.  If so, it would be heartening to know that at least someone at the Post has a shred of journalistic integrity.

But it doesn't change the outcome.  The name is not offensive, and now we have concrete evidence that it is not.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Maybe Bill SHOULD Have a Job

Maybe a year ago, after Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for the presidency (but before we all discovered that she was possibly going to be running from a Federal prison), I did a piece contemplating what it meant for Bill.  He was not a fan of her running for president, I speculated, given the disaster it would make of his life.

It would put a serious damper on his social life, limit the jetting around giving paid speeches and using the Clinton Foundation as a front for raising oodles of cash.  He could still play golf, but more at Joint Base Andrews than at TPC courses.  A few months back, I also noted that Hillary could do some serious damage to his legacy as president and to how he would be remembered, years after he had managed to rehabilitate that legacy ... somewhat.

Now, however, he has a chance to screw up his legacy all by himself.  Yep, in an effort to resuscitate her dolorous candidacy with the fact that her husband is more popular than she is, Hillary has pronounced that Bill will be put in charge of "revitalizing the economy."  Oh, yes, I'm serious, except you probably already had heard the story.

Oh, dear.  Let's think about why that is a hugely terrible idea.

First, it is a terrible idea because it is a terrible idea, and Hillary does not need to float things out there that even the leftist Time magazine thinks are stupid.  She has a reputation as a bit of a policy wonk (and a few other things) and someone who "gets things done."  There isn't anything actually to point to as examples, but at least she repeats it a lot.

So what does it say when she says that she is going to put her husband in charge of fixing the economy?  Well, a lot of things, and none of them is good.  First and foremost, it's the economy, stupid!  Remember that?  It was a message Bill left for himself to remind himself constantly that the economy is the most important thing to the people who go to the polls, not to mention those who don't.

But evidently the economy is not important enough for Hillary Clinton to think she should be the one to worry about it.  No, it gets pushed across the table to her husband.  I don't care who her husband is, including that he used to be president himself.  If she is going to do something like that, then it means we are voting for a couple to share the presidency -- and that's a couple with a, let's say, "spotty" relationship involving the throwing of ash trays and kitchen utensils.

Bill: "Well, sweetie, we need to adjust these tax rates here to stimulate the energy sector to hire ..."
Hillary: "$%^%^&# you, you filthy philandering #$%^&$%!!!"

Get the idea?  I thought you might.  Now, I have worked with my wife at six different places, including twice operating our own business, once primarily hers and once primarily mine.  There are times -- rare in our case -- when we might be disagreeing about something and you could see where it might affect our judgment on the other's opinion.  We managed -- but we don't have a throwing-utensils type of relationship.

This is the economy we're talking about.  Bill Clinton used to be president of the United States.  He is surely going to think his recommendations are really good, and will not take kindly to wifely criticism.

More than that, though, there is a huge potential for differing opinions on what would work.  Suppose that Bill recommends a tax cut as a stimulus?  Suppose that he thinks another trade deal like NAFTA would stimulate jobs?  Bill was a big proponent of NAFTA, while Hillary has gone from supporting it one upon a time to opposing it now.  Bill Clinton is not going to be just another senior staff member, whose research and recommendations can be simply ignored if the president doesn't agree.

So whose opinion rules when Bill wants to balance the budget, as he was forced to do by the 1994 Republican takeover of the House, but Hillary insists on a big-government tax, borrow and spend approach?  Hint -- only one of the two can say that they have their current job because the voters put them there.

I mean, I can't even get past the part that says something else is more important than the economy.  We are $20 trillion in debt and rising; fewer people work now than were employed when Barack Obama became president.  There are no jobs, and the poor trying to get the few that are there have to compete with illegal aliens flooding over a nonexistent, unenforced border.

The economy should be the direct concern of the president.  Not a past president, not a husband.  The president of the United States.  And that is assuming that Hillary Clinton has even a clue about how to create jobs (assuming that she even sees "jobs" as what the problem with the economy actually is).

It's a terrible idea.  There is no accounting for what goes on in Hillary Clinton's mind, except that she is finally being convinced that the presidency, that she thinks herself entitled to, is slipping through her fingers (the polls are not being kind to her).  She has forgotten that it was an extremely unpopular move when Bill had her put together a health-care proposal in his first term -- she wasn't elected, she wasn't popular, she had no experience in the area, and her proposal was socialism.

Hillary Clinton needs fewer terrible ideas, not more.  This one is a real stinker.  But I suppose that if Bill has a job, it will at least keep him at arms length for her.  If the country is silly enough to give her enough votes.

Oh, yeah, and if she is not already in prison by then.

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bernie's Real Damage to Hillary

After Tuesday's primaries in Oregon (won handily by Bernie Sanders) and Kentucky (splitting the delegates down the middle), Sanders committed again to compete with Hillary Clinton all the way to the Democrats' convention in Philadelphia.  He is now also chasing those "super-delegates" that the Democrats put in place to ensure that Hillary would be the nominee, if she is not in prison by then.

Most of us have the gut reaction that the "big deal" this is, for Hillary, is that she has to burn up lots more of her super-PACs' money going after primary wins against Sanders (which themselves are getting pretty rare for her any more) rather than saving it for the general campaign against Donald Trump.  And that is truly a big deal, no argument there.

It is also true that the further along primary season goes, with Sanders seemingly winning every contested primary but not getting the nomination, the angrier his supporters get.  And they are indeed pretty angry.  That anger is directed toward Hillary and the Democrat establishment that wired the whole process for her to win -- and that should translate into a lot of voters who may stay home in November.  Donald Trump is actually courting those voters, and it's even worse for Hillary if they cross over to Trump than if they stayed home.

But I want to touch on a different aspect of the difficulty that Sanders causes for Hillary.

Bernie is, as we all know, an extremely left-wing fellow.  He is an avowed socialist, and it is not an editorial opinion but obvious fact that he regards property as belonging to the government, and that private property is simply an annoyance to a huge government, the one he favors.  You see that in proposed 92% tax rates, government control of health care and education, that sort of thing.

Yet he is winning the primaries.  So, to compete with him, Hillary has to keep pushing to the left, further and further.  Now, because she has completely lost credibility with the public after years of lies, planned deceptions and multiple changes to stated positions (NAFTA, gay marriage, Iraq, immigration, etc.), we don't know what her actual, look-in-the-mirror positions are on anything.  She may be moving in the direction of what she (as opposed to the less-leftist fellow she married) actually believes.  Who knows?

That pushing to the left, though, is a big problem, precisely because of, you guessed it, Bill Clinton himself.  Hillary is inextricably linked to her serially-philandering hubby, the former president.  But his policies were nowhere near as leftist has the ones that Hillary is having to declare now.  And because she was "married" to Bill during his presidency, she had to make repeated public statements then in support of those not-so-left policies.

Got it now?  Because of Bernie, Hillary has to state positions on a series of issues that conflict with public statements she herself made way back ... well, not all that long ago.  And those public statements by Hillary, not to mention those by Bill that caused her to say what she did then, are sitting out there on video for all to see.

So now we get things like the famous "13-minutes of Hillary lying" video (at this site, in case you hadn't seen it) that juxtaposes opposite sentiments out of the same mouth.  We get the airing of Bill, as president, declaring that we needed to secure our borders, and threatening businesses that hire illegal aliens -- juxtaposed with Donald Trump saying pretty much the same thing.  And there will be plenty more; it is a blessing and a curse that every famous person has archives full of video out there to be searched.

Hillary Clinton has one problem with the voting public that trumps all the others (pun intended) -- she has no credibility.  She is a serial liar, and all this video content shows it for all to see.  The more Bernie sticks around, the further left she is pushed -- meaning "the further she is pushed away from views she once espoused, for which there is plenty of evidence."  Each leftist policy statement generates plenty of searches for where she has said the opposite thing in the past.  And they're easy to find.

It is not fun for her that she is having to blow money on a primary campaign that she might not get or have later.  It is not fun that the long campaign, and the persistent losing of primaries, is agitating Bernie supporters into the anger that will keep them from voting for her.

But most of all, it is not fun for Hillary Clinton that she is being forced into advocating for issues on which she is blatantly in the public record opposing in the past.  Others can't really get away with that too easily; when you have a public perception already of being corrupt and a serial liar, there's no way that she can recover from that.

Except, of course, to deflect.  Look for a dirty, dirty campaign.

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's NEVER a Coincidence with the Left

I don't pretend to understand Twitter all that well, but I'm smelling some corruption in their hallowed halls.

Each morning when I post this column, I send out about 25 tweet messages to various public figures in politics and the media, with a short descriptive phrase for the topic and a link to the essay.  Often links to my postings have gotten picked up by various media and online newspapers as a result.  Then I send a public Tweet, same descriptive phrase and the same link.  To that public Tweet, I add a few "hashtags" so it will get read by people who are searching for specific, popular hashtags.

That pretty much exhausts my knowledge and understanding of Twitter.

The 25 messages daily are made a pain by Twitter, because after about 12-15 of the same message it forces me to change the phrase, lest I be thought to be "spamming" -- even though I have sent 25 messages to the same people for over a year, every weekday.  And there is no Twitter support line, so that's a daily pain.

The hashtags have generally been the more popular candidates' names on the Republican side, but over time they have evolved.  For example, now there's only one candidate left.  So I'll use, among others, #trumptrain and #trump2016, given that I'd like to be read by any searching Trump supporters, where I used to add #cruz2016 and #rubio2016 and that sort of thing.  OK, you get it.

Lately, though, with only one candidate, I've tried to go with the tide.  So I started adding two popular ones, #neverhillary and #hillaryforprison2016.  You have to love that second one.

Now, I'm sure you know if you do use Twitter that, as soon as you start typing your Tweet, and hit the # sign to start typing a hashtag, Twitter senses that's what you are doing.  It starts to suggest popular hashtags in a brief pull-down type list, so that you can just click on a choice instead of all the keystrokes.  Popular, as in "used a lot."

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Hashtagland.  People are Tweeting all over the place with #neverhillary hashtags, right?  It's a very popular one.  So I was surprised on Tuesday when I started typing "#neverhillary" and the previously-suggested #neverhillary hashtag no longer appeared in the list.  No problem, I thought; I'll just type it out.  And I did.

Then on Wednesday, I thought I'd slowly type the letters and see what came up.  Sure enough, after I got as far as "#neverh" and the suggestions came up, I was startled to see that there was indeed a suggestion, but it was the oddly-spelled "#neverhilliary", with the extra "i", not "#neverhillary."

That makes no sense whatsoever.  We are supposed to believe that (A) not enough people are sending tweets with the correct "#neverhillary" hashtag for it to be a popular suggestion; but (B) people are misspelling Hillary's name in the hashtag so frequently that it does show up in the list, and they're doing so in far greater numbers than those who spell it correctly.  Seriously.

Think about it.  You want to do that #neverhillary hashtag with your Tweet, and as soon as it suggests the very similar-looking misspelled version, you click it and probably don't notice it's the wrong one.  People then searching for, or counting, Tweets with the correct #neverhillary hashtag get far fewer numbers than they would have otherwise, and the Clintonistas can say that it is not as popular a message.

Yeah, I don't think it was an accident either.  We are faced with Facebook blatantly selecting news stories to choose stories from leftist news entities and not those from Fox, CNS, Newsmax, Breitbart, The Blaze and the like.  That wasn't an accident, either.  Neither is this.

I now wonder if anyone at all is seeing this and making a stink with Twitter.  I'm not exactly on a first-name basis with anyone over there; I can't even get a response when I try to get some kind of tech support from them, so I don't have to retype my last ten Tweets each morning.  But surely someone sees this.

Twitter, you are carefully and intentionally manipulating data in your system to deceive the populace and minimize the perceived size of the opposition to Hillary Clinton.  You should be ashamed.

But I suspect you're simply proud of what you see as a #jobwelldone.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Rose Mary Woods at the State Department

People of, ahem, a certain age will recall the name of Rose Mary Woods, a secretary to former president Richard Nixon.  Mrs. Woods is famous for having deleted 4-5 minutes of what would have been incriminating audio from a recording of the Oval Office conversations, during the whole Watergate investigation back in the early 1970s.  That, of course, was part of the scandal that led eventually to Nixon's resignation from the presidency in 1974.

The fact that we even know her name all these years later is a testament to the power of the news media and their ability to make sure we know, and continue to know, all the details of any scandal from which they can attack their opponents.  That would be "Republicans", in case you haven't figured that out.

We still, over 40 years later, reminded of Mrs. Woods' name and the scandal.

But do we think that in 40 years the media will be willing to share the name of the person at the United States Department of State, headed by the esteemed Hon. John Kerry, who did his or her own version of the Rose Mary Woods deletion some time in this past year?

I'm sure you are well aware of the current scandal.  At least to me it's a scandal.  James Rosen is the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, and has been a target of the Obama Administration for years, including his family, in an incredibly corrupt and horribly under-reported case of investigative abuse by the Obamistas.

Mr. Rosen attended a press conference at State back in December 2013 at which he asked the State Department spokesman, Jen Psaki, about a statement made by her predecessor in the position, to the effect that no secret talks with Iran were going on.  By December 2013 we knew that talks were going on, and Rosen asked Miss Psaki if the press and Rosen in particular had been lied to by the administration -- and whether it was in fact State's policy to lie to the press and the American people.

As presented in this article from The Blaze, Psaki replied at the time, "James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that."  Of course, the only way we know that's what she said, is from the existence of recordings of that press conference other than the State Department's website and YouTube channel.

You see, Rosen discovered that, when his team went to retrieve that exchange from ordinary State recordings online.  This was after Obama's deputy national security advisor, one Ben Rhodes, made a statement in an interview to the effect that the Obama administration had been quite open about those talks with Iran even back to 2011.  Rosen knew that State had said there were no such talks, yet the administration had said that the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran's president -- in 2013 -- was the reason for the beginning of the talks.  Someone was lying.  That is why he asked Psaki the question.

Of course, when Rosen did look at the video, he discovered that his question and the answer from Miss Psaki were both magically deleted, replaced with a white flash.  Immediately, State lackeys scrambled to restore the missing footage and committed to get it back online real soon now, although at that point the proverbial cat was out of the bag.  State had lied to the press openly, and the only one telling the truth about it was Rhodes, and he was only doing so to brag about his capacity to lie to the press.

So ... who cut the recording?  We know why, although we probably don't know when it was done.  And while everyone with a microphone at State insists it was some kind of "glitch", not a soul believes that the one question "glitched" out of the recording being embarrassing as heck to State was just a coincidence.

Again -- who cut the recording?  At what point is John Kerry going to be embarrassed enough to ask some IT guy to validate accesses to the video file and change-dates and logins and all that, and declare who is responsible.  But somebody is, and somebody else probably gave the order to make the change.

Where is the press?  Where are the reporters who so madly went after everything associated with Watergate and the Oval Office recordings 40 years ago?  With technology what it is today, it should not be too hard to figure out who is responsible, although we would probably not ever know who told them to do it.

It was said even back 40 years that "the cover-up was worse than the offense."  This is a cover-up of major proportions, a deliberate attempt to mislead the American people by removing evidence of a Cabinet Department admitting to lying. And now the White House has decided that Ben Rhodes is not required to testify before Congress on the grounds of "executive privilege" -- even though executive privilege does not apply when someone has already spoken to the press.

I suppose that Jen Psaki found the best words available when she tried to explain the need for secrecy in diplomacy.  Without the cut in the video, it might have simply flown under the radar; Rosen would have looked on the State site, seen her answer in 2013, castigated State for having lied and the whole thing would have fizzled away as some right-wing press plot.

But no ... State staff recognized the potential for embarrassment and pulled a Rose Mary Woods on the recording.  If it is determined that the excising was done right after Ben Rhodes told the New York Times Magazine that those talks had been going on before Rouhani's election, then State has a lot more 'splainin' to do.  They need to "splain" regardless, but the plot line if it was recently done is appalling.

As too often in this column, I have to ask: Where is the press when we need them?

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Are You a Woman or a "Person", Hillary?

Hillary Clinton, awaiting a decision from the FBI on whether or not to recommend that she be indicted for carelessly putting classified material all over the Internet, is a woman, at least this month.  She seems to want to identify that way, giving out "woman cards" at her events to sycophants who want to be able to "play the woman card" in defense of her.

All this makes us wonder whom she feels is a legitimate candidate to be given one of those cards.  No, I don't mean the stupid piece of plastic or cardboard or whatever they're made of.  I mean that, if push came to shove, how she would define what a "woman" actually is.

We're probably all pretty tired of the recent battles between the Obama administration and common sense as far as the whole bathroom dust-up.  The Obamistas and the State of North Carolina are busy suing each over about it, and now the State of Texas is heading to court to protect Federal funds for school lunch programs from being withheld, because the state wants boys to go to boys' locker rooms and girls to girls' rooms.

Never mind ISIS on our doorstep, no one working, $20 trillion in debt and a porous border flooding the USA with competitors for the few unskilled jobs out there.  Our president has to worry about gender identity.

But Hillary is overtly on the side of the White House in this nonsense, having come out firmly against North Carolina in the school bathroom law in a recent debate.  Now, I don't know how she actually feels about the issue.  I suppose that she is probably disgusted with Obama for forcing her to have to make a stand on an issue she doesn't agree with.  Hardly anyone does agree with Obama on it, so there's no reason to think Hillary does.

Where this all comes to a big problem for her is that it puts her essentially on both sides -- or neither side -- of the same issue, namely, that either being female is important or it is not.  Being genetically female is vitally important to Hillary Clinton.  If she were a man, she would never have sniffed the White House in the first place, never have been a carpetbag U.S. senator from New York, never have been able to screw up as Secretary of State and certainly not ever be running for president now.

Because she has to be stuck on the "you're whatever gender you want to be" side of the issue, she can only make so much capital of her femaleness.  It is awfully difficult for her to say that being female is so flexible that any male can wake up in the morning and decide that he is a "she", and then try to argue that her being (genetically) female is in any way important.  I mean, if it's something you can decide on for yourself, it can't be so big a deal that it should cause anyone to vote for her.

On top of that, it is hard to play the victim card in the women's deck when she was quite responsible for the personal destruction of a series of her husband's bimbettes, as well as those like Juanita Broaddrick who were raped by her husband.  The published material out there on cases like those make it very tough for her to play, well, any of those cards.

Hillary has a host of problems.  Women don't really care for her much more than they care for Donald Trump.  It's going to be a real challenge to get them to come out and actually vote for her.  Men give her terrible ratings and they're not going to rush to the polls for her either.

But when all you have going for you is that you are genetically female, and Obama's actions have forced her to take stands that essentially devalue the worth of being female, you're in a heap of trouble.  I'd love for an inquisitive press to follow up on the divergence of those paths, but that isn't going to happen.

But voters, even subconsciously, are going to make that connection.  And it is simply not going to help her get votes in November.

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

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

Let's Shelve the Tax Inquiries

You surely read or heard last week the interview between alleged journalist George Stephanopoulos and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  Stephanopoulos, as you do know, works for ABC News and interviews people, although he was a senior communications director in the Clinton White House, has donated fat checks to the Clinton Foundation, and so is not exactly unbiased.

It says a lot about Trump that he even did the interview, knowing Stephanopoulos's background, but Trump is not afraid, whatever else he may or may not be.

During the course of the interview, Trump was pressed on his unwillingness to release his tax returns, as candidates typically do.  He replied that he was under audit and would release them when the audit was completed.  Stephanopoulos then asked him, well, what was his tax rate then?

Trump replied "That's none of your business."  That alone ought to get him elected.

Now, I'm not going to go to that place were we talk about whether or not the audit should really matter.  Some say it doesn't matter, and certainly doesn't prevent him from releasing the returns.  Obama's IRS supposedly said he could release anything he wanted to -- again, a naturally unbiased source, although they may be right.

But here's the thing.  It is pretty much none of our business.  It is none, in the sense that if candidates were not routinely releasing 1040s all over the place, I wouldn't expect to be slavishly wondering what Trump's returns looked like.

Donald Trump is a very wealthy man, and his income from investments with that wealth and whatever sources he gets money each year is a lot.  Does it matter if his taxable income in 2015 was $800 million or $2 billion?  Not to me.

What matters to me, and should to everyone else, are two things:

1. He paid his taxes in compliance with Federal law.

2. He paid as little as his staff of accountants could arrange for him to pay.

These are both important, but nothing else really is.  The former (#1) is important, because to file returns that were not compliant with Federal law, whether by his direction or his accountants' direction, would be a dishonorable and illegal action.  The latter (#2) is important, because to have paid as little tax as possible shows a sense of frugality, conservative financial strategy, and Trump's ability to hire experts able to make the situation better.  I applaud people who pay as little as they legally can.  Trump said that's what he did, as I wrote here.

When Trump told Stephanopoulos that his "tax rate" was none of his business, he almost said what he should have said, i.e., "George, it's none of your business -- the rate I paid is what the law specifies as the tax rate for my income, same as you and everyone else who pays income taxes."  Once you get past a certain income level, that rate goes up until you hit the highest bracket, which is about a 40% rate on income from then on (Or 92%, if Bernie Sanders had his way).

He could have said that he "paid X% on the first $10,000, Y% on the next $25,000, etc., etc., until you got to the last marginal rate, and paid whatever the capital gains rate is, in the law, on his capital gains."  That is the only reasonable meaning of "what tax rate did you pay?" and the only reasonable answer.  He paid what the law says he pays, on his income as presented in his return, less his expenses as presented in his return.  Poof.

If anyone has a complaint as to why the amount of tax he ended up paying was what it was, they should not ask just The Donald or his accountants.  They should ask the people who wrote the tax law.  Frankly, not one person in 100 could possibly understand what is in his return enough to draw an inference that is relevant.

And about whom would the inference even be made?  Do we not think that Trump hired the best accountants he could find, told them "Make it work so I pay the least tax I can legally pay" and then just looked it over and signed it?  Is there any "bombshell" in there that would change anyone's mind?  Does his amount of charitable donation make a difference to you?  Do we not think he does a variety of charitable works that may or may not be deductible contributions?  Do we care?

What is ridiculous is that precisely because not one in 100 people could come close to understanding his return, the press and the left (but I repeat myself) would take parts of it, spin them as the New York Times did with their hit piece on Trump over the weekend, and then splash incorrect interpretations all over their bully pulpit.

Here's what I would do if I'm The Donald.  Take the 1040, which is the cover two pages, and release just them.  We'll know how much he made and how much tax he paid on the taxable income.  He can defend quite easily the difference between his adjusted gross income and his taxable income (i.e., his deductions) without having to show any supporting schedules.

Then, when the press squeals and hollers about it, he can point to Page 2, and show that the amount of tax he paid on his taxable income is what the law says he is supposed to pay.  Then he can say that if the press is going to misrepresent the first two pages -- as they will -- to conflate adjusted gross with taxable income and come up with some meaningless "rate", he cannot trust them to interpret properly the supporting documents.  "I paid the amount the law says I'm supposed to pay.  Finito"

I really couldn't care less what Donald Trump's tax forms look like or what his tax rate is.  It's certainly none of George Stephanopoulos's business.  Barack Obama probably paid his taxes, too, and how did that work out?

I figured you'd agree.

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

Oh, Stop the Third-Party Stuff ... Just Stop

I'm in the process of living through the last months of the Obama administration and its miserable legacy -- the loss of the prestige of the USA, the immeasurably high costs of Obamacare, deterioration of our relationship with friends, loss of the the fear of us by our enemies.  Overreach by the IRS, the Justice Department; underreach by the military.

But we are going to survive.  We can hope that the American voter has learned enough not to let it happen again anytime soon, but we will survive.

That is my lesson to the deeply misguided who are scrambling to try to get a third candidate or a third party whumped up in a hurry to run against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, if she is not in prison by then.  We will survive.

Well, that's my sub-lesson.  More importantly, there is a reason that it is insane to be trying to vent one's frustration by imagining that a third party can possibly address the problem.  That reason is actually pretty simple, at least to me.  As I wrote a long time ago, there are not three schools of thought around which a voting bloc can coalesce; there are two.

They are called "liberalism" and "conservatism", and they differ fundamentally on a lot of things -- the role of government, the obligation of the citizen, the freedom of that citizen from excessive taxation, the sanctity of our founding documents, that sort of thing. Most importantly, though, the type of upbringing that leads an individual to feel more conservative or more liberal on one issue does the same for the rest.

That is a simple way of saying that there is not a third school of thought that could attract voters.  The various issues I cited in the referenced piece align so commonly to the two camps, that those who are left in what the press calls "the middle" represent a chaotically disorganized set of beliefs that are as likely to oppose each other as to align.  Please read the piece; it's brief enough.

A third candidate, like a Ross Perot back in the day, can only represent one or maybe two major issues -- if he represented more, he'd be in the party that already holds that view.  Accordingly, he will draw votes from both sides but predominantly from one other candidate -- the one he is actually more aligned with.  The rub is that by doing so, he directly hurts his own cause in the issues he supports, by causing the election of candidate of the opposite view.

That, friends, is what the Republicans who are pondering the sudden-onset candidacy of some white knight as a third-party candidate are inviting self-inflicted wounds.  Trump not hawkish enough for you?  Well, a third-party alternative is going to siphon very few votes from Hillary Clinton and a lot from Trump -- losing all the other issues.  Trump not sufficiently pro-life?  A third-party candidate would ensure a win for the Planned Parenthood-friendly Hillary, if she is not ... you get it.

These Republicans need to take a deep breath and separate the candidate from the party.  You may really, really like Alternative Candidate X.  Shoot, I might like him or her, too.  But we also have to vote for a core set of principles.  And those principles are already represented in an existing party.  For a huge percentage of voters, enough of them are represented either by the Republicans or the Democrats that it has made sense to vote fairly consistently along those lines.

Even if 20% of the core principles of the party to which a voter leans are not that of the voter, it rarely makes sense to vote for the other candidate.  And that applies even stronger to a third candidate or third party, since one would be voting against his predominant self-interest.

When a party starts thinking that way, it is suicidal.  Not just stupid, but suicidal.  Take a good, long look at the Supreme Court and tell me that you're willing to sacrifice conservative interests on the Court for a futile pursuit like a third party run.

Just stop it -- now.

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

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Two Can Play at That Game

The United States of America has now gone to court to sue one of its own states.  More than that, its Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, who also will soon have to decide whether to indict an active candidate for president, took a podium to announce that it would be doing so.

The topic, as we are all aware, is bathrooms.  As in the extent to which the people of the state, in this case North Carolina, are free to elect representatives who pass legislation forbidding localities from enacting their own statutes designating who can use a bathroom, other than those whose chromosomes tell them which one to use.

Let's not get too tied up with the bathroom part of the topic, though.  First of all, I already covered it and I don't need to argue the case again.  More importantly, though, it's not actually the point.  Let's look at what Mrs. Lynch actually said from that bully pulpit:

"And what we must not do, what we must never do, is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans for something that they cannot control and deny what makes them human ... [N]one of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something or someone that they are not."

I suppose that in Mrs. Lynch's view, it's OK for someone to pretend that they're something they're not, in this case, a woman pretending to be a man or vice versa, but it's not OK for the state to stop them from doing so -- or force them to do so.

Now, it's one thing when the person in question is pretending to be  a real-estate agent, or a cop, or Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny.  Each of those has its own consequences.  It's quite another when the person is pretending, for whatever reason, to be a member of a protected or otherwise advantaged classification, to which they are entitled no such rights at all.

Let me make it simple.  The logic used by the Attorney General is unfortunately simple and, as such, can be co-opted for purposes far beyond its original intent -- but nonetheless, equally valid.

What do I mean?  Simply put, if it is OK to say you are a woman because you "feel" like a woman, then that feeling can be used to justify claiming benefits that are merited solely based on one's being a woman -- or, for that matter, black, Native American, south Asian, Alaskan native, or any of the racial, ethnic or other classifications under which one can claim preferential treatment from the Federal and state governments.

If I own a small business, and I want to compete for business to provide products or services to the Federal government, as a white male I can only compete in those procurements set aside for small businesses, with no other preference stated.  I cannot compete in the so-called 8(a) program, under which small businesses can register based on the race, ethnicity or gender of the owner.

But if tomorrow I wake up and declare that I feel like I'm a woman, or black, or Pakistani or Martian, well, then, in the view of Loretta Lynch, I can sue for the right to be accepted into the 8(a) program based solely on how I feel.

That's called "unintended consequences."  And if I owned a small business, and putting on some lipstick, a dress and high heels would help me compete for Federal business I couldn't get otherwise, well, maybe I wouldn't do it myself, but I guarantee you someone will.  And they'll show a clip of Loretta Lynch's words and say "Give me my rights."

You know, I have the utmost sympathy for people who have grown up completely conflicted about their gender identity.  I really do, and I've said that in these pages.  It is actually not about them, at least this piece is not.

It is, though, about how the Obama left can get so high and mighty that it thinks it can go do "ready, fire, aim" without regard for the consequences.  That's why his State Department can, without thinking there's any risk of exposure, neatly excise content from a press conference from its own recordings, or lie to the public about its dealings with Iran, two things dominating the news this week but less than they should.

And that's why its Attorney General can simply spout things in defense of its lawsuits that eventually will bite them in the rear.  And I do hope that the first company that somehow sneaks into the 8(a) program despite its presumed lack of actual qualifications, picks the Justice Department, led by good old Loretta Lynch, as its first agency with which to try to do business.

Now there's a lawsuit I can't wait to see.

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

First Polls -- Guess What They Say?

I suppose that, as long as you don't depend on Facebook for your news (and I manage to turn 65 today without having a Facebook account), you might have actually heard that there was some polling data announced yesterday morning in the presidential race in a few key states.  The polls matched presumptive nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the assumption being that she won't be in prison at that point.

I heard that there were polls, before I actually heard what they found.  I guess I figured that, at this stage, Hillary would be leading by a bunch, and that gap would close over the time between now and election day.  That's what I figured.

Of course, as with many things, I guessed a bit wrong.  The polls covered three states of interest, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.  I'm not exactly sure why Pennsylvania was part of the discussion, as it was not really a contended state in recent elections.  It's not reliably blue in the sense that it does elect Republicans as governors and U.S. senators, but in the presidential elections it has not been giving its votes to Republicans.

However, and in some contrast with my expectation, both Florida and Pennsylvania polled out at 43-42 for Hillary, which is obviously a margin-of-error tie, in the released poll (which was done by Quinnipiac, to place credit).  Ohio polled 43-39 for Trump.  That is less-obviously in the margin of error, but still within it.

What do we make of that?  First, we all know that the conventional wisdom and, for that matter, recent history, tell us that Ohio and Florida are pretty much the sine qua non for winning the election.  Taking all the blue and red states out of the equation, that's about where it comes down to, along with New Mexico, Nevada and New Hampshire, which are much less populous states.

Ohio and Florida -- not Pennsylvania.

If I'm Hillary, I do not like that poll one bit, and Quinnipiac is not exactly a particularly biased polling organization.  She won't like it for a few reasons, and they include these:

- Pennsylvania is now "in play", and that's a whole lot of electoral votes that she would have assumed were just going to sail into her column (and a lot more money she needs to spend in a place she wasn't expecting to).
- Ohio is already 43-39 the wrong way for her.  Ohio is not exactly a huge coal state, but it is certainly more sympathetic to coal miners, in that its economic recovery has been faster than most states because of energy development.
- Florida is even and, as 2000 showed, you don't want that state to be close.
- If Pennsylvania is now in play, it is for a reason, and that same reason could apply to a few other states as well -- perhaps not New York, which is Trump's home far more than Hillary's, but very possibly Michigan, Wisconsin and Virginia.

Most concerning of all for her, though, is the fundamental difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as candidates.  That is this -- as a candidate, we know about everything there is to know, or that we will know, about Hillary Clinton.  We know it partly because she is in the public eye and has been for decades, although only relatively recently as an actual government official.  More to the point, we know it because she spent years in the Obama Administration as a Cabinet official, and the voter will pretty typically assume that Hillary will be four more years of that, if she is not in prison by then.

We know exactly nothing about Donald Trump, government official.  I mean, I'm going to vote for the guy and at this moment I don't know what he will be like as president.  There is seriously nothing he is going to do between now and election day that will get me to vote for Hillary, but anything bad enough to get me not to vote for him, is probably bad enough to get him off the ticket entirely.

What does that mean?  It means that those Quinnipiac polls are far more likely to be the floor of Trump's support than the ceiling.  Who is going to change their mind about Hillary at this point?  We know everything we're going to know, except on what charges she will actually be indicted (or, conversely, how many dozen career dedicated FBI agents resign in protest if she is not indicted).

I didn't see those polls coming, and I think it will be interesting to see what other states look like and if they appear to be polling in a similar manner (i.e., a bit more Trump-favorable than would have been expected of that state at this moment).  I simply believe that, whatever you think of him, it is far, far more likely between now and November that people who were not going to vote for him decide that they will, rather than for those who are now planning to vote for him to decide not to.

Trump has upside.  Hillary has familiarity, and way too much of it.  She has nowhere to go but down, and she can't like the place she'd be falling from.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

It Is Not Football

Sunday night I was watching a network I find myself rarely viewing any more, certainly far less than in years past.  That would be ESPN, the sports network that essentially started sports networks many years ago.

I rarely watch them because my taste in sports, no less now than in past years, runs to the following of my particular teams -- the Red Sox in baseball and the Capitals in hockey.  In both cases, their games are broadcast by regional sports networks, leaving me no reason to watch ESPN.  ESPN has Monday Night Football, but unless a team I care about is playing, their late game starts (I live in the Eastern Time Zone) simply make watching them fruitless.  I'm not going to stay up that late.

But Sunday night featured a game between the Red Sox and Yankees, and I certainly was going to see that one (the Sox won behind a bunch of homers and a strikingly good complete game by unheralded knuckleballer Steven Wright).  So ESPN it was.

Now, I don't have a great antipathy toward ESPN.  Yes, they are owned by the Disney people, the same folks who own ABC and try to tell us that George Stephanopoulos is an unbiased journalist.  and yes, their dismissal of Curt Schilling for questioning bathroom laws was pretty much beyond the pale.  But it isn't going to prevent me from actually watching something on ESPN that I want to see.

So there I am, watching the game.  As you surely know, there is this thing that used to be called the "crawl", and may still be.  The "crawl" is the accounting of scores and news that creeps across the bottom of the screen during a broadcast.  In the case of ESPN, the crawl is nearly constant, and even the casual viewer quickly gets used to its presence.

Baseball, as we know, is a leisurely-paced game.  Between pitches, one's gaze naturally may drift a tad lower to where we look at the crawl and actually notice what is there.  And Sunday night, I found some surprisingly frequent things there.

I can't quote them verbatim, nor do I really need to.  Suffice it to say that that there were not only scores, but news about two leagues that I wouldn't have thought that enough people would care about to be worth the time.  The first was the "English Premier League."  The second was "La Liga Mexicana" or something like that -- my Spanish is as good as it ever was, which means "awful."

I didn't think anyone would really care all that much, for two reasons.  First, obviously those leagues are not in the U.S., or even Canada.  One is across the ocean, and the other in a place where they don't speak English.  The second is more obvious -- it's soccer -- and Americans just don't watch soccer.

Now, Americans play soccer.  I used to play soccer as often as I could.  It's a great game to play and a lot of fun.  I played in North Carolina (in goal) as a student, and I played in Virginia in my thirties.  I was a wing then, and actually scored a few goals, even though there were a lot better players than I.  OK, they mostly all were better.  Don't get me wrong; I like soccer.

But watching soccer, well, that's a whole 'nother thing.  Soccer on TV is about as dull as a Hillary Clinton speech.  The ball goes this way, the ball goes that way.  Every two and a half hours or so, someone scores a goal, an announcer screams and mad foreigners run around the field celebrating.  Players take dives about as often as they do in the NBA (which I also don't watch).  The rest of the time, the ball goes this way and the ball goes that way.

Here's the thing.  This wasn't about watching soccer on TV; this was ESPN feeling the need to show scores and even injury news (not kidding) about these leagues as often as they showed the scores of other baseball games and the NBA and NHL.  Which, by the way, are different from foreign soccer in that they are (A) American and (B) cared about by people watching the ball game in progress.

Baseball, as I mentioned, has a leisurely pace to it.  That gave me the opportunity to ponder just why ESPN thought it worthy to scroll the results and scoring and injury reports from foreign soccer leagues.  And I came up with the logical answer.

No, people here don't care about foreign soccer.  But ESPN wants us to care.  "Sure", you're thinking, "it's because they actually broadcast those leagues and need to puff up interest."  Well, that may be true.  I don't even know if ESPN does broadcast foreign soccer matches.  I wouldn't know because, like most Americans, I don't care and I am not going to watch it.

But more than that, I suspect, is that ESPN, as a card-carrying entity of the American left, is legitimately into that whole globalization thing, the one that says that if it's loved by others but not by Americans, we're the ones who are wrong.  Soccer may be boring as heck, but they love it overseas in those countries that aren't doing as well as we are, so we need to be made to love it.

I'm serious.  They surely love it over there; they get pretty riled up at those matches.  But that doesn't mean that Americans can, or should, be any more interested than we are.  And it certainly is not up to ESPN to keep trying to shove it down our throat.  OK, if they broadcast it, I guess it is.

But here's the thing.  Every four years (is it four?) they play the World Cup, soccer's biggest tournament.  The USA men's team generally is a part of it and generally does OK but not well enough.  Then, we watch.  It's still dull, but it's the USA.  The women have a World Cup too, and the USA women win that sometimes.  Fewer people watch, but some do.

And then comes the gloom, as far as soccer goes.  We keep thinking, particularly after the men advance further than expected in the World Cup, that Americans are finally going to start watching soccer.  And within a couple months, we're right back to nobody watching soccer in the USA until the next World Cup.  It is a fruitless cycle that recurs every four years (it is four, right?).

It can't be just me.  Soccer is a game for Americans to play, but not watch.  It is now and ever shall be, even if ESPN and the foreign-obsessed American left try otherwise.


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

Monday, May 9, 2016

#400: It Really IS The Donald

As we awaken on this fascinating, grand immortal Monday morning, it remains as clear as it was on Friday, and no less surprising and curious.  Donald Trump is going to be the Republican candidate to be the President of the United States.

And so, with him running against Hillary Clinton, if she is fortunate and thus not (yet) in prison by then, we have the very real situation of the candidates of both parties being people with extraordinarily high recognition among the voting and non-voting populace.  More interestingly, for the most part, neither is as recognized, as one would normally expect, for their actual accomplishments in public office.

Hillary Clinton became a public figure by virtue of being married to the former governor of Arkansas and then, by virtue of the same fitful marriage, the first lady.  In neither case was Mrs. Clinton known for anything she accomplished; rather, her most salient individual accomplishment was choosing to stay married to Bill Clinton through his serial "bimbo eruptions", strong allegations of sexual assault on other women, affairs and finally, the whole business of sexual relations with a White House intern.

If anything, Mrs. Clinton could have been also recognizable during that time for having been put in charge of an attempted overhaul of the nation's health-care system.  That effort failed miserably on two fronts -- the public was particularly unwilling to have an unelected person, of no known prior achievement, be given the leadership of an attempted overhaul of a huge part of the economy, and not incidentally, the proposal simply stank.  It stank for the same reasons that Obamacare stinks, and in both cases the Democrats' efforts to take over health insurance -- one that failed and one that passed -- led to huge Republican takeovers in Congress.

Oh yeah, then she became a senator from New York, where she had never lived for any length of time (thank you for the example, Bobby Kennedy) and did nothing of note in her time there, and then Secretary of State, where she did even worse by actually trying to do things, which generally failed, to the detriment of the USA.

Donald Trump -- has there ever been a time when we were not aware of Donald Trump?  He was the billionaire; he was the guy who built those casino hotels in Atlantic City.  He was the guy who took over the air shuttle that Eastern Airlines started up decades ago and renamed it the Trump Shuttle.  His name was everywhere.  It was on buildings, airplanes, businesses.

Then, he and his trademark hair were on TV, as the alpha-dog type on the TV shows "the Apprentice" and "Celebrity Apprentice."  He made us aware of the quirks and foibles of celebrities by putting them in situations where they had to work together, and showed us why people should be judged on accomplishment -- many of those celebrities were shown to be utter jerks (and others, but very few, including some of the winners, actually decent people, like Leeza Gibbons and John Rich).

Nowhere in all of those years of his celebrity and notoriety did any of us look at him and say "That guy ought to be president someday."  Our view of the path to the White House was far different -- governors, senators, cabinet secretaries, a VP or so -- people who had gained professional familiarity with the workings of government.

Now, though, we are going to be confronting an election between two people whose rise to fame was not from lifelong careers doing public service (marriage alas, does not count).  Donald Trump, if anything, played the opposite role -- he was the businessman who made the contributions to get preferential treatment for his business interests, not the one whose campaigns received them.

Hillary Clinton will be obligated in the campaign to make speeches and act in debates like a candidate would, because of her having been married to a president and her very-late-in-life term in the Senate and the Cabinet.  Donald Trump, as we have seen, is completely free of obligation to the rules and conventions of a typical candidate.  Moreover, while saying whatever he pleases, the more he does so, the more loyal his following.  The fact that when he has his "Aha!" moments where the press "catches him", he refuses to apologize, well, that is an endearing trait.

In dealing with the expectation of voting for Mr. Trump in the general election, one of the things that intrigues me is that very distinction from the normal candidate.  He does not have to do what he is expected to do.  He can be a bit crude on stage.  He can play the alpha dog role, the billionaire who gets his way.

But he is also learning to lean on the advice of people more expert in certain areas than he.  Surely he did that during his business career, but as he gains the scope of what the presidency actually is, that lesson will pay dividends.

Particularly, I believe it will manifest itself in his choices -- less of a running mate, though that will be interesting, but in terms of Cabinet secretaries.  The Republican campaign season presented 17 candidates, and when you are looking for people to run the actual daily workings of the Federal government, well, you could do a lot worse.  Chris Christie as Attorney General?  I could see that.  Ben Carson at HHS?  You get the idea.

More to the point, if Trump is really the conservative that he wants us to believe that he is, he could readily reach into the private sector.  No career politician would take the role at Education or Energy with the mandate to dismantle the agency, but a Trump confidante in the private sector could.  Remember -- Trump has repeatedly pointed to how cheaply his campaign was able to win in many states.  That's precisely what we are hoping can be brought to the White House and the Federal budget.

His would not be a presidency we would forget any time soon.  It really, really IS The Donald.

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

Friday, May 6, 2016

Paying It Backward

A couple days ago, I did a piece on the impending bankruptcy, de facto or de jure, of the island territory of Puerto Rico.  More to the point, I made the case that whatever Congress did or did not do to address Puerto Rico's fiscal problems, it needed to do so in such a way as to prevent its massive debt load from being built up again by the leftists who typically run the place.

And the lesson for Puerto Rico is not terribly different from what could happen to the 50 states if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders somehow get into the White House and spend trillions we don't have -- kind of like Barack Obama does.

So that discussion generated the relaying of a suggestion for a Constitutional amendment that might change the financial course of the USA from this point on.  And with Republicans leading both houses of Congress, now would appear to be a good time to raise it.

I suppose I could draft the applicable text, but they won't ask me to.  So I'll simply provide the point and leave it to the J.D. types to come up with the words.  And here is the point: "The budgets passed by Congress in a given fiscal year shall not provide for any spending which may exceed the actual, unadjusted revenues brought into the Treasury in the immediate preceding fiscal year."

Make sense?  You want to spend from the Treasury on anything, from Social Security to national parks to the salary of the president, well, you need to have shown the ability to raise the necessary funds by virtue of having done so in the previous year.  No money, no spending.  You want to spend in year X on something, well, you need to show in year X-1 that you are able to raise the funds.

It's effectively a balanced budget offset by a year, or "paying it backward."  Now, I would be fine with a balanced budget of any kind, but this one is intriguing because it builds fiscal accountability into not only the budget process but into the mindset of Congress.

I'd be similarly intrigued to see such an amendment be debated before Congress.  Who proposes it?  Who makes what kinds of comments about it from the floor?  What does the press say, lapdogs of the left they are in the first place?

It's a marvelous idea that ought to be the marvelous source of a national debate on the proper role of the Federal government in our lives.  The Constitution lays out specific roles for the Federal government and then goes on specifically to state in the Tenth Amendment that if it is not in there, it is a role of the states.  So if you have to have shown the ability to raise a trillion before you are allowed to spend a trillion, then all of a sudden departments like Education and Energy and even HUD become expendable, as if they were not already.

I like the idea.  Perhaps you might want to float it past your Congressman.

I think I will float it past mine :)

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

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Miranda Ignorance

Once upon a time, a person arrested or even talking to the police had the right to remain silent, to be represented by an attorney, and not to incriminate himself to where what he said could then be used against him in court.

That was in the 1780s, after the Constitution was signed.  It is, of course, still the case today.  The only difference is that said person also has the right to have anything he says ripped up and kept from said court, unless he is specifically read the above rights out loud prior to saying anything to said police.

We refer to that new right as the "Miranda" right, devolving from the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona, in which a kidnapper and rapist named Ernesto Miranda claimed (through his attorney) that a signed confession was invalid, because he was not told prior to signing it of his right to an attorney.  The case ended up in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision (surprise!), which forced a retrial (Miranda was convicted without the confession, got 20-30 years, was paroled in five years and was subsequently murdered).

It also led almost immediately to police officers being issued "Miranda cards" with the proper words to say to check the box regarding the person being properly informed of his rights to silence and to an attorney.  We all watch enough cop shows to know what the reading of such cards sounds like.

So this week, my brother posed this to me.  "Isn't ignorance of the law not an excuse?  How does that possibly square with the Miranda decision?"  I thought I'd consider that and, whatever the outcome, it was worth a column.  If indeed ignorance of the law is not a defense, then how could the Supreme Court come up with Miranda?

Good question.  Now, how they came up with Miranda is because you had Earl Warren as Chief Justice, and he felt that although the interrogation of Miranda, which was fairly hard, was a local anomaly, the corrective action required a universal solution.  Bingo-bongo, Miranda.  Warren leaned on precedent such as the interrogation rules then in place at the FBI, and even the Uniform Code of Military Justice, put them all together and ... you know the rest.

But that's the "how."  What does the "ignorance of the law" line even mean, and where does it come from? Well, it is certainly old, in that the concept dates at least to Roman law.  But it is there that the finer points come into play.

As a legal principle -- and it does exist in the United States, for example, in the Model Penal Code -- the "finer points" have to do with what law we are actually talking about.  When we say that ignorance is no excuse, the principle is referring to an actual offense, not the process.  In other words, it would have applied to Miranda had the perpetrator been somehow unaware that kidnapping and rape were actually against the law.

Ignorance of the law not being an excuse -- ignorantia juris non excusat, if you want to cite the original -- is only a reference to knowledge by the accused that the actual action he has taken is against the law.  That was not, of course, the case in Miranda; the point before the Supreme Court was of a right -- in this specific case the right to consult with an attorney -- not being familiar enough to the accused to where he could take advantage of it.  And ignorantia juris simply doesn't apply.

None of that means that the Court didn't grossly overreact in mandating the Miranda warnings to apply pretty much everywhere.  But unlike multiple decisions before and since, it may have been beyond the pale but at least it was somehow grounded in actual legal principle.

As any Roman knows.

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