Friday, July 29, 2016

Just Shut Up and Let 'em Sing

Political passion alert -- this one is a respite from politics.

For a few years this column has occasionally ventured off into the entertainment world.  As much as any subject in the genre I've talked about -- and critiqued -- the NBC series "America's Got Talent."  The AGT show is, in fact, the topic of two of the all-time most widely-read columns on this site, including this one that still gets read even thought it dates back a couple years.

Since I'm pretty sick of politics -- a Democrat convention will do that to you -- and since AGT is in the middle of its season, I thought I'd mention yet another thing that would make it (and similar shows) better.

Dear AGT,
Tell the audience to shut up, please.

I am not sure when it became fashionable to do this, but these days when it is a singer who is on stage competing in a network-televised talent show, whether the not-too-lamented "American Idol" or, in this case, AGT, the audience can be relied upon to applaud, scream and generally be obnoxious during the performance -- particularly when the singer attempts particularly high notes.

That has been a really unpleasant feature of this season's acts, some of which are indeed singers and vocal groups.  It is "unpleasant" because, as you may guess if you don't watch the show, one watches it for the talent.  Keep that thought.

When the "talent" is a singer, particularly an unaccompanied vocal group (but this applies to all singing acts), the audience at home is evaluating the talent, showmanship and vocal skills of the performers.  We out in TV-land aren't just bystanders; we are expected to vote for the act we like the most, and our votes count toward the advancement of the performers to the subsequent round.

One group, for example, is "Linkin Bridge", a vocal act made up of four young men from an inner city singing a capella in the contemporary style, with beat-box vocals and well-executed harmony.  They are very good, we suspect.  When we can, in fact, hear them, their execution is really tight and the harmonies accurate and well-practiced. 

With 25 years of championship-level harmony singing experience myself, I think I can judge that pretty well, even if the style is not the same.

Except we can hear them about half the time.  The rest of the time, the theater audience is screaming and cheering and generally making it difficult to hear the voices and the harmonies and the tuning, which is what you have to judge with an act of that type.

Come to think of it, with any kind of singing, you can only judge it if you can hear it, hear the intonation, hear the styling, hear the vocal skill and nuance, hear the story-telling that is a part of a singer's reason for being there.  That's as true of individual singing acts as it is of groups.

Now, if you want to applaud a magician, or a juggling act, or a comedian, or dancers, or a professional bowling-ball eater, you go right ahead.  You're not making it difficult to assess their performance.

Since this appears to be a contemporary trend, I suppose we will not stop it.  NBC is probably not going to tell its theater audiences to remain quiet until singers are finished, even though in the civilized world we do that.

But this is a TV show, with actual professional sound engineers working in the theater.  Would it be asking too much of NBC to consider adjusting its broadcast sound level balances for singing acts, to diminish the transmission of the audience's response to the TV audience in favor of the enhancement of, you know, the sound of the actual competing performers?

I'd really like to hear what, say, Linkin Bridge actually sounds like on a whole song.  Perhaps NBC might want to consider doing that.

Perhaps we'd have fewer over-trying 12-year-olds winning, if it did.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Oh, Stop wih the Russians Already

The spin in Democrat-land these days is that it was Russian hackers who got into the DNC's email system and obtained internal messages proving that the Committee was in the tank for Hillary Clinton all along, and tried to sabotage the campaign of Democrat Bernie Sanders.

I suppose it is a bit ironic that when I first realized this was the Democrats' approach to trying to make lemonade of some kind out of a big bag of rotten lemons, I thought of a Hillary Clinton phrase -- "What difference, at this point, does it make?".

Didn't that occur to you?  Because the story, in the mind of the reasonable being with a political bent, is that the Democratic Party organization, which ought to have been occupying itself with the conduct of a well-organized primary process fair to all declared candidates, wasn't.  In fact, the entire Party apparatus appears to have been co-opted from the beginning to ensure that Hillary Clinton was the Party's nominee, with the least possible opposition.

It is ugly.  The Sanders supporters are livid, and have made the convention a booing and shouting match.  The now-former DNC chairman, the immortal Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was kicked out of her post as the sacrificial goat, having accomplished her mission (and immediately joined the Hillary campaign, well, duh).

This is such an embarrassment to the Democrats, they can only take one of two tacks -- ignore it and expect the lapdog press will go along and let it fade, or come up with some "excuse" and feed it to the lapdog press to put out there so the narrative will be about that and not about the corruption inside the DNC.

They chose "B".

You have already seen the result.  We have front-page articles in the Washington Post pointing out that perhaps it was "the Russians" who hacked the DNC's email.  Because we are to assume that everything done in Russia is apparently by order of Vladimir Putin, the press made the plot line about how "Putin wants Trump to be president."

And that, friends, is why apparently the corruption of the DNC is now talked of less than whether Putin supports Trump.

Let me make it clear.  I think it is pretty silly to think that Putin would rather deal with Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton.  Hillary is the one who pushed the famous "reset" button that has allowed Putin to stomp on Ukraine, intervene in the Middle East (Syria) and, directly as a result of huge payments to the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation, buy 20% of our own country's uranium resources.  Oh, Putin would be delighted to make her president.  He can walk all over Hillary.

Trump, on the other hand, has no characteristics that would make Putin want him to be president.  Think it through; I don't have to elaborate.  Putin wants Hillary as his punching bag.

But even that doesn't matter.  Whoever exposes corruption, whoever leaks the information that corruption has happened, it is still more important that it be exposed.  It is important to the nation to know that one of its political parties only pretends to run open primaries.  It is important to know that it is willing to sabotage one or more of its own candidates to the favor of another.

We already know that the Russians and, for that matter, the Chinese and others, are hacking wherever they can.  It is the fault of the Democrats in power right now that they are able to do so without repercussions.

The story here is the content.  It is the nature of the corruption.  It is the "power at any price" mentality that allows this type of corruption, and that the Russian rabbit hole is even discussed is a testament to the fact that such corruption has reached the press as well.

Just stop with the Russians and admit what was actually done in the sainted name of Hillary Clinton.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Clinton Cash is Out

I don't get to read much, what with working, writing, selling our home, restoring our destroyed rental property and all.  So I have not had a chance either to acquire or peruse the book "Clinton Cash", the amazing stories compiled by Peter Schweizer detailing the abject corruption by Hillary and Bill Clinton during her time as Secretary of State.

We might have wondered -- well, I didn't, but you might have -- what possessed Hillary Clinton to have decided to begin to set up that private email server on the day her confirmation hearings started.  It's clear that it was done to "keep the personal communications private", and to avoid prying FOIA inquiries.

What becomes more clear now, of course, is what that "personal communication" was, that she was so desperate to protect from public scrutiny.  And the picture is not pretty.

Having not had a chance to read the book, I was appreciative that Breitbart News has provided a free link to the movie that was made of the "Clinton Cash" book, and I provide the link for you here so you can take a valuable hour to watch it.

Maybe I creep out a little too easily, but I expect you will as well, and the depravity in accepting personal payments and cash directed to their "Foundation" paints a portrait of the Clintons that desperately needs to be shared.  I kind of wish the RNC had run the film at 10:00 Eastern time one of of the televised nights of the convention.

The movie goes from one country to another -- Rwanda ... Congo ... Nigeria ... Colombia ... Haiti ... Kazakhstan ... Canada ... Iran ... Russia.  Time after time, bad actors in the nation find a way to get favorable State Department treatment from the Hillary secretariat in return for mighty payments -- overpriced speeches from Bill Clinton, huge donations to the Clinton Foundation -- even when the outcome is detrimental to the USA and to the citizens of the nation in question.

I cringed at the Haiti stories because, as I wrote a year ago, I have so much respect for one fraternity brother who has made the restoration of Haiti, after the Port-au-Prince earthquake, a life's mission.  He has sacrificed so much, and the people of Haiti have suffered so much, yet ... if he only knew (or, one can hope, already knows but soldiers on regardless).

We remember the stories of good old Bill Clinton rushing to Haiti after the earthquake, sometimes with former president George H. W. Bush, and becoming the visible symbol of our nation's leadership on the recovery effort.  If only the truth were as gratifying.

Oh, Bill rushed to Haiti all right.  And he certainly took a leadership role in the subsequent activities.  Except that in doing so, he shut out the Haitians from deciding what needed to be done.  The Haitians wanted repair and restoration of their roads, bridges and other infrastructure.  Bill Clinton wanted the relief funds spent with contractors and with the retail companies of cronies that had just happened to have made big recent donations to the Clinton Foundation.

The result?  A factory got built by a Clinton donor, with a promise of 60,000 jobs to follow.  The 60,000 jobs turned into only 5,000 actual jobs.  Despite what the Haitians asked for and needed, the factory was built in northern Haiti, which had not been hit by the earthquake, so it did nothing for the actual victims.  And, thanks to the State Department under you-know-who (hint: her initials are "Hillary Clinton"), its products could be shipped back to the USA relatively duty-free, a benefit enjoyed primarily by the retailers who had made the donations to the Clinton Foundation, don'tcha know.

One Clinton donor and crony was engaged to evaluate land areas for resettlement of displaced Haitian victims.  They got paid, all right, and paid a lot -- for a report that recommended locations to build resettlement homes that were literally on the steep sides of mountains.  The areas were so unsuitable for construction that one evaluation of the report described it has having been written "as though the guy never even got out of his SUV to look at the sites."

Another of the contractors billed the relief effort twice the promised amount, for fewer than half the number of new homes it had committed to build.  The Clinton Foundation did not seem to make a stink about it; Bill Clinton did not make a stink about it, and to this day Mr. Bill waves around his performance in Haiti as evidence of his sainthood.

Haiti, at least, was "only" a humanitarian disaster, I guess, if you don't care about Haitians.  Time after time, though, country after other country, murderous dictators in places like Rwanda and Kazakhstan were saluted in public by one or both Clintons -- while dictator-connected businessmen in those countries received huge concessions by Hillary's State Department after big-payday speeches by Bill or huge donations to the old Foundation.

It is almost definitionally corrupt when you take money to take action or unduly influence an outcome contrary to your public statements -- and the desires of your supporters.  Remember the old Keystone XL pipeline, the one that Barack Obama stopped but Donald Trump will fast-track in his first days in office?  Do you also remember that it was originally approved by the Hillary Clinton State Department?

I think you probably already know where this is going, since the Clintons claim to believe in those environmental factions that vote for Clintons all the time and get lit up about global warming.  But no, $2 million in Bill Clinton speeches later, the last in May 2011, bang -- a positive environmental impact study.  Those speeches were bought by the TD Bank Investment Group -- one of the largest shareholders in the Keystone XL pipeline -- who neither before nor since have hired Bill Clinton to speak.

More?  How about $750,000 from the Swedish company Ericsson Communication for a single Bill Clinton speech, that resulted in the State Department pulling a proposal to include electronics equipment in a list of embargoed items going to Iran.  Does it get more corrupt than that?

The movie concludes with the saddest segment of all.  Amazingly, with the apparently adequate amount of payment to the Clinton Inc. cartel, Canadian donor and Clinton crony Frank Giustra was able to buy U.S. mines and mining concessions totaling 20% of our nation's entire production of uranium.  This was done through a dummy Giustra company called UraniumOne.  Want to guess who got wind of that purchase?  Yep, Vladimir Putin, your friend and "mine."

Sure enough, Giustra -- who had already gotten State blessing for a deal to deforest part of Colombia's rain forest in yet another pay-for-play deal, ultimately resold to Russia one-fifth of our uranium resources at a 40% overpay.  Putin still owns them.  The payments to the Clinton Foundation to get needed State Department approval of the sale to Russia?  Over $140 million, from Giustra, from different individual owners of UraniumOne and from a dummy Canadian finance company, Salida Capital, owned by Rosatom, the Russian firm that controls Russia's nuclear arsenal and builds reactors in Iran.  The last payment was $500,000 straight to Bill Clinton for a speech in Moscow, paid for by another dummy company associated with the Russian intelligence service.

You just want to cry.  But don't cry.  Please make sure that everyone who has a vote takes the time to see this film.  Make sure that everyone who has even a 1% chance of casting a vote for Hillary Clinton sees this film.  Make sure that they understand why this type of abject corruption must be purged from American politics and certainly from American leadership.

Maybe we can't get her put in prison.  But it's almost as good if we can detach her from the levers of power, here or anywhere else.

Thank you for reading this far.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

E Pluribus Priebus

We are at the start of the Democratic National Convention, and it has not, let's say, started off well for the party of the left.  As you are aware unless you read the Sunday newspapers from New York and Washington, emails have been leaked from the needling outfit Wikileaks, that paint a difficult picture for the Democrats.

We had never doubted, at least those of us with half a brain or more, that the Democratic National Committee had a thumb on the scales for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, and maybe a few more fingers as well.  And a lead weight.  And a bowling ball.  And a couple of bags of rocks.  We knew the DNC was in the tank for Hillary; now we at least cannot be argued with.

We knew that way back, when there were hardly any debates set up among the Democrat candidates, and those that were had been scheduled on nights chosen when people don't watch.  We knew that they felt that debating would not help the unpleasant-to-listen-to Hillary Clinton, and could get people actually interested in one or more of the other candidates.  The fix, as they say, was in.

I think every one knew, which is why the word "rigged" kept getting bandied about during the campaign.  But now there is hard, hard evidence, in the form of DNC staff people, under the now-defunct Debbie Wasserman Schultz, exchanging messages about how to subvert the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the old socialist who had attracted gargantuan support among youthful leftist types and would win a ton of primary states along the way.

The messages were contemptible, not just for their existence as proof that the DNC had no intention of allowing a successful challenge to its anointed Clinton, but for their nature -- discussing, for example, ways of capitalizing on Sanders's nominal Judaism or presumed atheism, to attack him with voters from certain states.

As I write this, Sanders has addressed the convention, so he played the good party soldier (for the party he wasn't even a member of), rolled over, whimpered, and made a speech just saying nice things about Hillary.  In a better world, Bernie would grow a pair, stand up and condemn the corrupt actions of the DNC, and tell his supporters to stay home or maybe write his name in, at least until his podium and the floor beneath him slowly lowered and his mike was turned off.  This is Hillary, remember.

Aside -- it just occurred to me that after dealing with the presidential candidacy of a 74-year-old socialist in 2016, if Hillary Clinton were to win, God forbid, then in 2020 we would have a 73-year-old socialist as president.  Ironic.  And frightening.

And this piece is not about the Democrats.

I would think it is fair to say that the Republicans had their own primary contention, don't you agree?  We understand that instead of 3-4 candidates, the Republicans had 17-18 or so (it was never clear -- that's an estimate).  We saw a dozen on stage at the same time early in the campaign.  Plus, the very presence of Donald Trump from the start was a media driver and, in its own way, a paradigm shift in the way candidates presented themselves and their ideas.

Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee, as you of course know.  Now, I would not want to be a professional shark-petter, or a professional hot-stove tester.  And I would not want Reince Priebus's job.  Many times in the last year I'm certain that Reince Priebus didn't necessarily want Reince Priebus's job either.  I can only imagine what he was thinking as he watched the contention among the candidates in this debate or that one.

But ... and this is the big "but" -- somewhere during the campaign, Priebus made a decision and somehow was able to make it stick.  It looked something like this:

"Donald Trump appears to be the plurality choice of the voters in the primaries.  We have implemented a system in our Party that values and respects the primary system and its outcomes.  Unlike the Democrats, it is not up to the RNC to decide for the voters whom they get to vote for, and we are going to make it our job to let the candidates themselves make their cases to the public.

We will let them debate and debate, as long as we can.  Where we have to touch the scales somehow, such as in positioning candidates on stages, we will defer to the candidates' performances with the voters to date.  And ultimately, the candidate achieving the required number of votes will become our nominee."

Reince Priebus, at some point, decided that the Party would be best served by yielding to the will of its voters and, as importantly, he decided that not yielding to the voters' wills would look very bad in the eyes of the voters in November.

He will not get sufficient credit for conceding that the RNC was going to have to get behind its nominee, no matter what Priebus or anyone else might have thought of him.  He will not get enough credit for letting the convention properly be Donald Trump's convention, dominating the speakers list as any other impending nominee would have been expected to.  And he will not get enough credit for getting much, most or all of the Party apparatus reoriented to become Trump's apparatus.

Priebus became the statesman in all of what happened with the Republican campaign in its second and third trimesters leading to the convention.  At a time when the Democrats manhandled the whole process from start to finish; at a time when the Democrats' chairman had to be forced to resign for presiding over the corrupt process, we can look immediately backward to the performance of Reince Priebus as RNC chairman and see an honorable execution of his duties -- leadership in the best meaning of the word.

The RNC chairman realized at the right point that Donald Trump was whom the voting public wanted, and it would become his job to confirm, affirm and facilitate that candidacy.  If it wasn't easy, if he might have personally preferred a different candidate, he buried that because it was his job to lead, not to oppose.

This will all ultimately fade into history, and Donald Trump will take his campaign wherever the voting public lets him.  But he (and we) should be grateful that we in the public were allowed to make our choice.  Out of many options, the RNC should be thought to have made the right choice when it selected the current chairman.

He did his job.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, July 25, 2016

Adieu, Ted, We Hardly Knew Ye

Charles Krauthammer, the distinguished commentator and conservative columnist, referred to last week's speech by Senator Ted Cruz at the Republican Convention as "the longest suicide note in American political history", or something like that.

He was so, so right.

Ted Cruz is many. many things, and a fairly complex individual.  I could easily have voted for him in the Republican primary, and certainly would have voted for him in the general election against Hillary Clinton, had he won the nomination.  That vote would not have been cast with trepidation, mind you, but with an acknowledgement of the senator's flaws and a tolerance of his imperfections in favor of his policies.

It will not be cast in November, what with the nomination last week of Donald Trump, but it bears note that I will likely never have the opportunity in any subsequent election.

When I say that Cruz is a complex individual, it is in the sense that brilliant people can never be uncomplicated people.  Cruz's intellect is enormous.  Alan Dershowitz, the leftist law professor at Harvard, himself referred to Cruz as one of the brightest students he had ever had.  A champion debater, Cruz routinely framed arguments as a law student in such a way as to make opposition nearly impossible.  I would love to have seen him carve up the arguments of Hillary Clinton in a debate or three.

But like many such people, it seems (my opinion now) that he defaults to "debate mode" in matters that do not call for debate but for accommodation and compromise.  Ironically, he was not always the star of the Republican candidates' debates during primary season.  I felt that was partially because there were as many as a dozen people up there on stage, and you would be agreeing often and disagreeing some -- they call those "debates" but they're really more like contentious joint press conferences.  With only two people up there, Cruz would have shone by the sheer construct of his arguments.

I also felt that in those "debates", he actually needed to turn off "debate mode" and turn on a mode where he addressed the questions as Candidate Cruz, not structuring answers to respond to another on stage but, simply, to offer really sound, well-thought-out answers specific to Ted Cruz's candidacy.  Ironically, he could have done that extraordinarily well, had he generally ignored the points of others on stage no matter what they said.

Unfortunately, in the speech to the RNC in Cleveland last week, he fell into that debate-mode habit once more, failing to realize that the war superseded the battle.  What Ted Cruz needed to do was endorse -- or at least say that he was going to vote for -- Donald Trump.  In preparing the speech, he needed to see through to the outcome -- that not declaring he was voting for Trump, after having given his word earlier that he would, was going to be politically suicidal.

I understand Cruz's anger at some of the statements during the campaign, particularly as related to his wife and father.  Those statements were inappropriate and all, but they were also in a political campaign.  Because it is essential that Trump be elected and Hillary defeated, Cruz needed to prepare for Cleveland by figuring out a sequence of events that would involve both (A) some form of walk-back by Trump of those comments, and (B) Cruz's endorsement in some fashion -- because the alternative, which is what we saw, was going to cost both men.  Particularly it would look horrible for Cruz, which it did.

I am sitting here reflecting that if the two had talked, and Cruz said in so many words that a quid pro quo was workable -- Trump saying nice things about Cruz, his wife and father and then Cruz saying on stage that he'd vote for Trump -- the outcome would have been fabulous.  The convention would have ended, peace would have been upon us, Cruz could have never said another word in the campaign and I wouldn't have been writing this.

Ah, how often I write about end states and outcomes.  As brilliant as Ted Cruz is, he failed to think this through.  If his end state was to have Trump lose and then to run, himself, in 2020 for president, he failed to consider both ends -- sure, Trump might not win, but the party and the public will never forget Cruz's speech and his going back on his own, well-recorded, word to support Trump if nominated.

Come November, Trump will win or lose relatively unaffected by whether or not Cruz ever supported him.  But by accepting a speaking slot offered by the Trump team and then failing to endorse him and going back on his own pledge, Cruz becomes a non-viable future candidate.  He really needed to have thought that outcome through.

I don't really know if the presidency is the place for Ted Cruz now.  He is in his mid-40s, and there is still a lot of room for him to grow as a political being.  But he has severely damaged his career, and it is truly questionable whether he will ever be able to gain support again to get a campaign off the ground.  Nor should he.

I don't know if the presidency is the place for him, but I do have a better option.  It is my hope that Donald Trump is elected in November and, on his inauguration, he immediately withdraws the Obama nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court seat, vacant since the passing of Antonin Scalia -- and nominates Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to that seat.

That would solve so many problems.  The Senate, which generally does not care for Cruz but respects his gifts, will be happy with a new senator from Texas -- they'll confirm Cruz to the Court readily.  Trump will not have to deal with opposition inside the party from Cruz while he is president.  The Court and the nation will obtain the long-term service of a brilliant Constitutionalist, succeeding another brilliant Constitutionalist.  He would be a superb choice.

Ted Cruz would be a historic Supreme Court justice, in the good, Scalia way.  He would be bringing a thorough knowledge of the job and an incredible legal mind -- for decades.  His debate skills would pervade his opinions.  I love the idea.

I hope would take the job.  Because his political career is over, self-inflicted.

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

Friday, July 22, 2016

Why Are They Running?

I suppose that, as a daily commentator, I have lots and lots of prejudices to bring to the table.  It is Friday, and those prejudices will tend to dominate my thought processes as a weekend approaches, but I figure there's no harm on Friday to let them loose.

That, of course, means that what is normally an opinion-oriented piece today becomes not only opinion but speculation.  I hereby grant myself permission to speculate.

We are now between political conventions, what with the conclusion of the Republican Convention and the imminent gaveling of the Democrats' meeting shortly.  That has given me pause, and time, to consider the question from which this piece is titled.

Why are they running?

Why, indeed, do Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each want to be president?  We don't know; we don't have real insight into their innermost motives and don't even have a notion as to what they might be telling their inner councils that would shine a light for us on why they want .... well, why they are running.

But as I look at scraps of evidence that get tossed out over the months of the campaign, I come away with a very sobering thought.  Hillary Clinton, I surmise, is running to be president.  Not actually for the purpose of, or any desire to, help the country, but to sit in the Oval Office and call herself historic.  As Mike Pence said, "she wants a better title."  Donald Trump, I surmise equally, is running to address issues in the USA that he sees in desperate need of addressing.

Now, let's start by setting aside the issue of power.  People who run for president almost by definition have egos the size of Nebraska.  They want (more) power.  That may or may not be the primary reason for running, but it is a necessary characteristic.  In fact, it may have been prominently a factor in the campaign of every candidate since the very-reluctant James Garfield in 1880, who practically had to be forced to accept his party's nomination in a very contentious convention.

Donald Trump needs to be president like he needs more hair.  He has a prominent business that has made him immensely rich; he has a remarkable family that not only loves him very much but are amazing, wonderful people -- particularly his adult children.  Running for president has cost him a ton of money and transformed the public view of him from prominent businessman and TV personality to, well, candidate.  As a candidate, particularly a Republican confronting an overwhelmingly leftist press, he is bashed about the head, shoulders and hair on an hourly basis.

And Donald Trump is seventy years old.  I am 65, and the last thing I'm thinking about is taking on more responsibilities.  I'm trying to sell our home and downsize to prepare to retire -- when I'm 70.  But Trump is out there tirelessly campaigning, and with his prominence immediately prior to declaring his candidacy, there seems to be nothing that makes the presidency seem more attractive than running his businesses and winding down his career would be.

Except he is running.

Ego does not make you do that; anyone's ego would be more than satisfied by being the 2015, pre-campaign version of Donald Trump.  Adding the presidency as some kind of trophy appears inconceivable given the above.  No, rather, one must infer from circumstances that he is not running to "be" president, but to "do the job" of president, out of a conviction that the nation needs him at this time, and that he is indeed the change agent needed.  There are problems needing repair, and he is the mechanic.  Moreover, he is contemptuous of the current set of mechanics, and has no faith in their intent to do their jobs.

"Becoming president" and "being president" are two different things, and two very different ambitions.  The day after Inauguration, there is a job to do.  You either relish that job or you took it to be historic.  Donald Trump appears to me to feel there is a job to do, and the ego tells him he is the person to do it.

Hillary Clinton, who it appears will not be in prison at that time, appears from every angle to be running for the purpose of "being president."  In fact, it appears that since the Clintons left the White House in 2000, she has taken every step with the intent of becoming president; moving to New York to do a carpetbag run for an open Senate seat (where are those residency requirements when you need them?) and then tossing her hat in the ring in 2008.  Remember that campaign?  Remember how entitled she came across as being, and how livid she was at being "unentitled" by virtue of Obama's race card overshadowing her own gender card?

She was mad then, not because she wasn't going to be able to address the nation's issues and Obama would be able to; she was mad because it wasn't going to be Hillary Clinton.  Was that not obvious?  She could not have been compelled by the virtue of her solutions; she is a liberal and those solutions don't even work.  She has to know that.

She has to know that she has failed miserably at the one executive position she ever had, as Secretary of State.  So there cannot be the Trumpian conviction that there are problems that only she can fix.  Besides, she is going to be 69 years old herself in three months or so.  Only Ronald Reagan in American history would have been older at inauguration (for the record, Trump would be the oldest president at his first inauguration).  Without the sense of entitlement to the office, she could most certainly leave the presidency to someone of comparable views and 15-20 or so years of youth.

And there is the Bill factor.  They certainly are not as close as they want us to believe.  Bill Clinton embarrassed her in a huge way, as a sitting president, by fooling around with a White House intern, even after a series of peccadilloes over the years that appear to have been sometimes tantamount to assault, if not outright rape.  He has been, let's say, not the helpful candidate's spouse during this campaign, saying some things that make you wonder how much he actually wants her to be president (which, as I wrote here and here, I truly believe he doesn't want).

With what he has done to her, both as we the public see it, and as she sees it, it is easy to infer that a huge part of her running is to diminish her husband by saying that she, too, could win the presidency, ha, ha, it wasn't a big deal.  Once she gets there, well, not only would she get to sit in the Oval Office, but relegate him to being First Non-Gender-Specific Spouse, which would add to his embarrassment.  Actually governing, well, that she'd figure out once she got settled in.  The USA might collapse, but she'd have the first presidential uterus, and by God, that would be something Bill couldn't claim.

I really don't think I'm that far off, not with Hillary and not with Trump.  But it's Friday, and it's my column, and I'm going to write what I have become convinced of.

Have a nice weekend :)

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fruitlessly Fighting Racism

Hillary Clinton will not, in her words, "rest" until racism is eliminated from our nation and, since she is a total globalist, from the world (which to her are the same).

She is not resting anytime soon, I can assure you.  I dislike bearing what you would probably think of as bad news, but the "fight against racism" is a losing fight, no matter what Hillary or anyone else says.

Now, I'm certainly not calling racism a good thing; but I am calling it an inevitable thing that we can only hope to manage.  We can hope that we as humans will at least aspire to equality of opportunity for citizens of every race, in this country.  But we're still going to have racism to deal with.  And I will explain why.

Let us be sure that we distinguish "racism" from "hate."  As Donald Trump and Taylor Swift can tell you, it has become de rigeur to accuse someone of "hating" as easily as taking a breath anymore.  Hating has become what racism used to be, the worst thing you can do short of murder and rape.

But racism is a different animal.  Racism is simply a more injurious version of recognizing that people are different from each other in groups.  As anyone who spent a day in middle school and junior-high can attest, the earliest part of human maturation in the teen years is trying to make oneself look better than the person next to them, which is fundamentally related to our primal desire to attract the optimal mate.

We try to associate with the most popular peers, who are the most popular because of fundamental characteristics they tend to share.  In the same way, we try to disassociate -- and I'm still thinking junior-high here, because the example is perfect -- from people who are unattractive, or unpopular, or who have characteristics that allow us to differentiate ourselves from them.

In other words, if somehow racism would be eliminated with a finger-snap this afternoon, it would take only a few days before it were reintroduced by every ethnicity, height, weight, hair color and freckle count.  Racism is, after all, simply an innate human tendency to distinguish ourselves from our "competitors" in the continuation of the species, one that particularly relates to skin color and ethnicity.  It is not going away.

What we can do is to recognize its nature along with its inevitability, and ensure that we do not enshrine it into laws and court precedence, but do enshrine equality of opportunity.  We are going to distinguish ourselves; humans have always done that and ever will.  We need to make sure that distinction does not result in inequality of opportunity.

I know that doesn't sound like the most optimistic approach.  And I also know that "fighting racism" is going to be a perpetual effort of the left, precisely because it is the kind of windmill-tilt that they love to do.  They need to make sure there is no end of aggrieved classes needing big government solutions to protect them into voting Democrat.

But it is a reality.  And ultimately we need to have someone courageous enough to admit that, junior-high as it may be, racism is one of those diseases, more diabetes than chicken pox, that we simply control.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Melania and Michelle

As I write this, on Tuesday, there is a little chatter in the press about the similarities in certain content between the speech given by Melania Trump, the Slovenian-born wife of Republican candidate Donald Trump, and one given in similar circumstances in 2008 by Michelle Obama.  The press, in their inimitable capacity to make the unimportant sound earth-shattering, are all over the story.

I am extremely concerned with the fact that job growth has died in this country and millennials all over the nation cannot find work.  I'm concerned that our borders are flung wide open to the deserving, the undeserving and the enemy equally.  I'm concerned that the Democrats are about to nominate a woman with a track record of failure at every position she has had, but at least has a uterus and thereby self-qualified.

Mostly, I am concerned that our Federal government is spending about a buck-fifty for every dollar in revenues coming in, and accordingly owes $20 trillion (with a "tr") to creditors including our enemies like China. that I am concerned about, because that is actually important.

So let's talk about the speech.  And let's also recognize that Mrs. Trump didn't write it herself.  She finalized some words in it and tweaked them to be her own, but it was written by speechwriters paid to prepare that sort of thing.  We're not talking about "Melania [herself] plagiarizing Michelle", if you know what I mean.

I haven't bothered to look at the actual verbal similarities between the two speeches eight years apart that much, because it is easier to stipulate the similarities and go on from there.  Suffice it to say that they were relatively pap-level phrases like "treat everyone with dignity" and "my word is my bond."

No, I would prefer to ask how it might be possible for the people surrounding the Trumps, who write the drafts of the speech that Mrs. Trump gave, to have thought it worthwhile to pull content from a speech made by Michelle Obama in the totally analogous situation eight years earlier -- or from whatever source Mrs. Obama took it from originally.

If you believe there is a non-coincidental connection between the two, then I really want to hear someone trace through the process by which Mrs. Obama's words would have appeared on the radar screen of one or more of the speechwriters, and someone said "That sounds good, let's use those two paragraphs there."

I don't see how that happens.  If someone on the writing team were even going to look at a similar speech, do you think they would have gone to Michelle Obama's speech?  And if they had done so, how much would they had to have wanted to throw a monkey wrench in the process to put words in that were intentionally lifted to where someone would have recognized the similarity.  This is 2016, after all.

OK, I'm going to interrupt myself by saying that this still has to be the least important aspect of the convention's first day, but we find ourselves talking about it, instead of the impassioned words of Rudy Giuliani and David Clarke, Chris Christie and Donald Trump, Jr..  Argh.

But if you are sitting out there reading this, and possibly think that the similarity of words was intentional, then I ask you to consider the process.  Knowing that speech texts (except for Hillary's to Wall Street banks) are incredibly available, please tell me a reasonable timeline and process flow that would have someone going to Mrs. Obama's text from 2008, taking the words and putting them into the speech to be given by Donald Trump's wife, knowing their attribution would be immediately possible.

It is not important even a shred.  But at least think through the logic.  The exercise is worth it. 

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Where Does "BLM" End?

Many, many times in the 450 preceding pieces, I have decried the lack of an "end state" in addressing different people, organizations and movements.  "Change" in and of itself, as Barack Obama's contemptible service as president has shown, is not an end.

You do things with an expected outcome, and need to expect that the actions you take will be likely to achieve that outcome.  And perhaps more importantly, when you take actions, you have to anticipate the logical outcome.

There is, in fact, a jury instruction that is used in cases where premeditation is a factor, that states "You are responsible for the logical consequences of your actions."  That is to say that if you discharge a firearm at a house, you are responsible if the bullet actually hits someone inside, the same as if you were to have intended to hit the person.

And so we ask ... what is the expected outcome for the Black Lives Matter people?

Let me ask that question a whole lot more specifically.  The BLM movement is accountable for the murders of a sadly large number of police officers recently.  That accountability is associated with their members parading down streets chanting things like "pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon" and "what do we want, dead cops, when do we want it, now!"  That chanting has, of course, happened, and is not subject to challenge.

So that said, what is their end state?  When they have achieved their ends, what will have happened?

I realize that BLM isn't exactly an organized non-profit organization filing tax returns and other things associated with actual organizations.  But it has "leaders" like DeRay McKesson, the professional agitator who as been invited to the White House to meet with the president along with a few of the Al Sharptons of the world, like, well, Al Sharpton.

If there are people speaking for the "movement", they need to be able to be subject to questioning about its intent, and I, for one, want to know a few things.  These are things that the logically-wandering mind would also want to know, and which the press needs to ask in its editorial pages.

For example -- I would like to know what BLM envisions as the local police force in American towns and cities if they were to get their way.  Would it be structured in the same way as it typically is now?  What might be different?  It has seemed to me that BLM's problem is with individual cops' actions, not with an organizational deficiency, but I'd like to hear an answer -- or even hear the question asked.

I would like to know that future state in a functioning, positive sense -- "We envision the police force doing this, that, and that thing over there", not "We want to eliminate this, that and that thing over there."

I ask that because as I always say, "If you don't know where you're going, any path is equally valid."  I realize that I'm giving BLM credit for actually wanting something as opposed to simply murdering policemen as an end in itself.  But someone ought to be asking what the end is that they do want.

Because if all they want is a nation full of murdered cops, they're doing just fine at it.  But if they want something fixed, well, then they need to describe what they're actually trying to accomplish.  Because any end that is achieved by murdering peace officers just might be achieved with a whole less murder if it were what was actually wanted.

Every once in a while it is a valuable exercise to step back and look at what one is trying to achieve, and whether the actions we're taking are likely to achieve that goal.  Sometimes we take those actions on an assumption even when the assumption is wrong; sometimes we have been taking those actions for so long that they no longer can be expected to achieve the desired ends.

In the case of BLM, I don't think we know what their desired end is, and I want to know when one of their "leaders" is going to be asked -- and forced to answer -- what their intent is.  This weekend we saw, for example, Lesley Stahl interviewing Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and being particularly insistent at getting actual answers to certain questions.

So we know the press can ask those questions until they get an answer.  When is Lesley Stahl going to sit down with DeRay McKesson and be pressed to answer a few questions?  You know, things like "Your membership chanted that it wanted 'dead cops' and wanted that 'now'.  Has Black Lives Matter caused enough dead cops yet, or do you need more?"

I'd like to have him asked these:

- "What is your vision of when BLM no longer needs to exist?" 
- "Every community with a police force has the internal process to deal with excessive force; at what point will you believe that those processes are mature enough that you can stop killing policemen?" 
- "How will your vision of local police forces deal with the fact that black criminals will always exist, as will white, Hispanic and Asian criminals, and there will be times when they will start shooting at policemen trying to arrest them and risk being killed in perfectly reasonable encounters?"

Most of all, I'd like to know what the situation will be, the ultimate result, as far as the nature of law enforcement once BLM has indeed killed all the cops it feels it needs to and can stop murdering people.  What is their vision?

We'd all like to know, and the press should be insistent, should hunt down the leaders of the movement and make them answer those questions.

Then they can ask Obama why the leader of a group that kills cops was invited to the White House.

That one is not going to get asked, friends.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, July 18, 2016

Can We "Understand" ISIS?

The left, including people like Hillary Clinton and Loretta Lynch (and I'm hoping there are very, very few people like either of them), has been spewing out a bunch of pap lately about needing "love" and "tolerance" and "understanding" in order to make this a better world.

Now, I want this to be a better world, same as they do.  More so, probably, because the left is not content when problems are fixed, as fixed problems no longer require big, central government solutions.  And I'm a big fan of love and tolerance and understanding, all in their place.

But I digress, I think.

Today's point is simple and crisp.  Over eighty people are dead in Nice, France, because a newly-converted ISIS type ran a truck over them in an attempt to kill as many infidels as possible, and if a few practicing Muslims happened to be in the body count, well, that's collateral damage as far as ISIS is concerned.  The truck driver is dead now and well on his way to getting his 72 raisins in his version of Heaven (what, he was expecting "virgins"?   Read the link).

Despite what Barack Obama seems to say, such as in regard to the Orlando night club murders, there is really no doubt what is going on in these people's minds.  Their intent is to create a world caliphate imposing sharia law everywhere.  If they have to kill non-believers (and a bunch of ancillary, unfortunate believers along with them), well, so much the better.

Can someone please, then, explain to me how you apply any solution to Islamist fanatics trying to rule the world, and expect that it will change them?  Love?  Give peace a chance?  I'm at a loss what you think you could say, or could have said, to the Orlando killer, or the San Bernardino killers, or the Paris bombers or the Nice truck driver, that would have gotten them off their jihadist intent.

But if you know it, please tell the world.  I'm sure they'd like to know.

Aside ... at this point it is probably a good idea to mention that the Paris bombers and the Nice truck driver would have been no more successful had they been armed and used those arms.  Their weapons were bombs and a truck.  Let us keep that in mind as we charge merrily down the path that suggests that gun control is going to take care of terror in this country.  We have trucks here, too, and the wherewithal to make bombs.

But I digress, again.

The main point is still simple and just as valid.  Historically, appeasement has been universally unsuccessful at dealing with people who want to rule the world.  It didn't work for Neville "There will be peace in our time" Chamberlain before World War II, and it isn't going to work with Islamist radical terrorists.

There is one solution, and it is a military one.  I do not doubt that an ancillary -- but not a dominant -- part of the solution is going to be to devalue the ideology in some manner.  But it has to be implemented as an adjunct to the military solution, so that not only is our principal focus the deletion of the terrorists, but their ability to attract more followers is short-circuited in the communities from which the arise.

But the Hillary Clinton solution has no basis in historical success.

Not that it matters when all you care about is getting votes.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, July 15, 2016

More on Minimum Wage

I'm sure that I've written this piece before, or at least gotten into the subject in a legitimate depth at one time or another.  But I read that in Bernie Sanders's endorsement of Hillary "they weren't classified at the time" Clinton, he made a point that he was in part endorsing her because of her commitment to raise the minimum wage.

So, naturally, I thought about it again.  And my feelings and my points are the same.

Every time Bernie or Hillary or someone else without a clue about economics barfs up some commentary about the minimum wage, it is always in the context of whether or not someone can "live on it", or what they "deserve", or some other commentary on the relationship between the minimum wage and the needs of the individual employee who is being paid it.

At that point, I step back and ask "Huh?"

I believe that "Huh?" is a perfectly legitimate question, after all.  Labor, when all is considered, is a commodity.  Buyer A purchases labor from Seller B, same as if you went to the store to buy a peach.  The grower grows the peaches, sells to a distributor, who sells to the grocery, who sells to you.  The grocer also buys labor from people like check-out folks.

Ultimately you, the buyer, have all the control.  If the grocery asks for two cents a peach, you're almost compelled to buy it, because it is so cheap.  If they ask $20 a peach, you're never going to buy one, because there's simply no peach on earth that is worth that kind of money.

Most importantly, what you pay for the peach depends on one thing and one thing only -- whether you believe that the price of that peach is appropriate, given the value you place on eating a peach.  By "one thing only", I am saying that you place no value on what it cost the grower to produce the peach, nor the distributor to distribute it, nor the grocery to put it in front of you and sell it.  No value.  Simply, its value is only on what you, the buyer, thinks that peach is worth.

Labor is no different whatsoever.  The grocery selling that peach has a certain number of check-out people needed at a given time of the day based on two things -- how many customers are expected to check out in a given time, and how long a wait time the grocery feels is reasonable before it starts losing customers.  That is the demand for labor.

That demand for labor is then bounced against its supply -- the number of competent people who would line up outside if the grocery needed another check-out person -- to determine the value of the labor.  The value is the lowest price the grocer can pay for the labor based on being able to attract and retain competent people.

It is no different whatsoever from the value of the peach.  As a seller, the grocer will push that price up as high as he can without losing interest from customers in peaches, while as a buyer, the grocer will push the price of labor as low as he can until he can't attract competent staff.

Beyond that point, as far as labor, the grocer will make concessions (pay more) as needed to retain better staff who will minimize turnover and possibly attract regular customers (i.e., add value).  He will, as a buyer, pay more and charge more to put better peaches on the shelves (i.e., reflect the value of higher quality).  Peaches and check-out people have that in common; their price is determined by value.

This is lost on Hillary Clinton, simply because winning the presidency is the end unto itself (she has no idea how the economy works, and certainly understands none of the preceding paragraphs -- unless she is a complete hypocrite, which, well ...).  You know it is lost on her (or her hypocrisy gene is expressing) because, in touting an increased minimum wage, she has completely separated the value component from the pricing component.

Indeed, in the same way that the grocer is not paying X cents a peach to the distributor based on the distributor's needs, nor is the distributor paying the grower Y cents a peach because of his needs, the needs of the labor force are totally irrelevant, or should be, to the price of labor.

The grocer can generate a certain amount of revenue per month based on the community's demand for groceries.  He has a cost of rent and cleaning and the like, and out of what is left he has to pay for the products he sells, and then the labor needed to sell it.  If the remainder left for labor allows him to pay ten employees what the value of ten adequate employees is to him, then he can afford ten employees and pocket the remainder as profit on his investment.

That's my -- and, hopefully, your -- grounds for thinking that the minimum wage is foolish.  Ultimately, the grocer has a fixed amount of money to pay for all labor.  If the price of that labor is forced up (by a minimum-wage law) without providing any value for the increased payment, it is pushing down one part of a balloon -- another part will pop up.  In this case, a higher labor cost per employee against a fixed labor budget means fewer jobs.

Aside -- the same outcome applies to anything that forces up the cost of labor, including higher medical insurance mandated costs, or benefits like paid family leave, or mandating sick leave.  More costs applied against a fixed labor budget means fewer employees -- either by using higher-rate, more skillful employees, or automating.  One or the other, or both, are going to happen.

Raising the minimum wage is a benefit, all right, but it is a benefit only to the most industrious, hard-working, well-trained and most competent in the labor force.  The more they can take on, the easier it is for the employer to save money by having two do the work of three, or ten do the work of fifteen.  Higher rate per employee, sure, but fewer employees needed.

I do not charge my consulting rate based on what I need, but what the market will bear.  In fact, I'm a perfect example because my rate is quite low for my profession and my decades of experience.  My rate is low, certainly, but I am busy all the time because I'm the two-cent peach, providing good service for a very affordable price.

I have not even gotten into the facts about who actually earns minimum wage, and the effect that raising it (especially to absurd levels like $15) has in killing entry-level jobs.  But I will point out that all those unemployed millennials living in their parents' houses, who have a desperate need for entry-level opportunities to learn a work ethic in the first place (and become those "valuable, hard-working employees"), are utterly scrod by an excessive minimum wage.

But Bernie doesn't care, and Hillary is only about votes and winning the office her husband, the former Philanderer-in-Chief, had, so she can show she's much better.  The facts, the outcome of proposed solutions, well, they are of no meaning to her at all.

But they do mean things to us.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

STILL Talking about Trump's Taxes?

As a follow-up to her already-inappropriate statements regarding Donald Trump, the Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg added a question about how he had "gotten away" with not releasing his tax returns.

Are we still thinking that release of tax returns by candidates is an important, or even a relevant thing?  What exactly is Mrs. Ginsburg figuring he would say, or she would discover, if those returns were released?

Now, I wrote about this before, and hate that I have to make arguments more than once, but now it is a cause again, and we might as well remind ourselves of a few things.

To start with -- and in fact, to finish with if I were space-constrained -- none of us understands a tax return that is any more involved than a 1040-EZ filing.  My return is dozens of pages by itself, and even though I used to do taxes in a service bureau we owned thirty years ago, I have forms in there that I have no earthly idea what they're there for.

There are carryover losses, and alternative minimum tax forms, and depreciation of assets, and a whole bunch more associated with having an unrented rental house for sale, and working for yourself.  All manner of things, and I understand roughly half of them reasonably well.

So what exactly do we expect to glean from Trump's return?  That he makes a lot of money?  We knew that.  That he has his hand in multiple businesses?  Duh.  That he has one stinking complex return?  You know it.

In truth, nothing in that return is going to change anyone's vote.  It's just going to give ammunition to the Democrat hit squads.  Because there are precisely two things that anyone is going to talk about -- the percentage of tax he actually paid relative to his gross income, and how much he gave to charity.

The former is going to be a pretty low percentage, I assure you -- Trump has a fleet of tax attorneys and accountants whose job it is to make sure that he pays as little as possible in taxes.  Paying excessive tax is not patriotic, it's stupid.  And Trump is not a stupid man.

Moreover, you pay tax not on your gross income, but your income after deductions.  As long as the deductions were perfectly legal, then anyone who complains about the percentage Trump pays has only Congress to blame.  If the IRS says the return is legal after audit, then there is no basis for making a campaign issue out of it.

As far as his charitable donations are concerned, we know he gives a lot of money away, so unless you happen to think that we should all tithe (check Joe Biden's return if you like), but what he gives relative to any other mythical figure or percentage isn't really the measure of the kind of president he would be.  In fact, I want a guy who tries not to pay more tax than necessary and can find smart people to help do that.

Finding smart people is a pretty good trait for a presidential candidate.

I believe I have suggested this before, but I think that Trump should simply release the two-page 1040 forms for the years in question, nothing else.  First off, nothing past page two is anyone's business but Trump's.  Second, no one can possibly go through that return and glean anything sufficiently relevant to make a campaign issue out of it.  Do you think we would be well-served by having a discussion in the media about Trump's Form 4677 or 8892?  I didn't either.

Personally, I think Trump ought to call Ruth Bader Ginsburg down to a bar, turn on the camera and plunk down all 466 pages of his 2015 return.  She is to be given exactly one hour to figure out what it all means, and if she can't, she has to swear to endorse him for president.

I'd be for that.  I'd buy a ticket to watch.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Apology Is Welcome, Ruth

I don't think it is particularly common for Supreme Court associate justices to apologize, certainly not for their decisions and never for public statements.  That is because, of course, the justices don't make public statements outside their judicial opinions from the bench.  Typically.

However, liberals know no rules and know less about decorum.  In an interview with the New York Times a few days back, Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Lockstep-Liberal Four on the current Court, weighed in on the upcoming presidential election.  She actually said this:

“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president.  For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

Ginsburg didn't end there, making a joking reference to her late husband's assumed recommendation that if Trump were to be elected it would be time to "move to New Zealand."

It is time for her to make a real apology, out loud and crystal-clear, to Trump and to the nation for that interview.  I don't know what her view of the role of the members of the Court may be, but commenting on presidential candidates from major parties (or minor parties, for that matter), is incredibly beyond the pale.

I really don't care what she may think of Donald Trump, and we all could have assumed that she wasn't voting for him, certainly based on her voting record on the Court.  But historically, the justices have kept their mouths shut, especially when it came to political battles in the other branches of government.

By bashing Trump, she has pretty much explicitly endorsed Hillary Clinton.  Now that in itself is pretty stupid, given Mrs. Clinton's toxic combination of incompetence, corruption and greed.  But what happens, say, when the FBI recommends an indictment of her based on the Clinton Foundation slushing money to the Clintons from foreign governments, and on Hillary dishing out State Department favors in exchange for Bill's speeches and donations to the Foundation?

You can just bet with the army of lawyers Hillary goes everywhere with (possibly only two when she visits the loo, though), any charges and subsequent conviction would quickly get appealed up, eventually, to the old SCOTUS.  So who then holds up a transcript of the Ginsburg interview and says "You have to recuse yourself on his one -- you cannot rule on a case before you where the defendant is someone you have openly endorsed."  Who protects the USA in "United States of America v. Hillary Rodham Clinton"?

It won't be Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

There is time.  Mrs. Ginsburg needs to haul herself in front of an actual microphone and apologize profusely to the nation and to Mr. Trump for her words, including the joking reference to New Zealand.

Of course, this is the same justice who advised Egypt that she wouldn't recommend the use of the Constitution she took an oath to defend, as a basis for their own newly-reconstituted government.  She didn't apologize for that one either.

Liberals don't apologize.  But if ever there were a place to start, this would be it.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Unspoken Post-Brexit Recovery

I'm going to give you a number to cogitate on for a few moments, and then we can chat for the rest of this column.  The number is 18,260.18.  Cogitate ...

It is not, as I'm sure you know, the average number of daily readers of this column.  I can dream, but the average is a bit less than that.  Plus, you already saw the word "Brexit" in the title and probably figured out what I was going to talk about.

Although from reading the media, you might have to think a bit longer.

Yes, dear readers, 18,260.18 is the Dow Jones Industrial Average figure at the instant I started this column on Monday.  This is of interest because a mere 18 days since, the Dow stood at 18,011.07 before a precipitous dive into the abyss following the British vote to withdraw from the European Union, the once-economic and now uber-political organization.

The stock market abhors uncertainty.  Not three days prior to the Brexit vote, the word on the street (and on "the Street') was that, close though the vote might be, Brexit was not going to pass and, as far as the European Union was concerned, the UK was going to stay in and the status quo would prevail. The market liked that -- change is uncertainty, and uncertainty is not good for stock prices.  Stock prices inched up a bit, factoring in the expected result.

Then the vote happened.  In a result that was a harbinger for our own upcoming election, the UK told the globalization  and centralized-power crowd to go take a flying leap.  And the market reacted violently, losing over 870 points in the next two trading days.

But here we are, 14 days from the sudden loss of that 870 points, having recouped all of it and then 250 points more.  And the press has been about as silent as it could be.  The same press that was blasting panic all over the place for a few post-vote days, has had precisely zero on its front pages about the remarkable recovery.

Now, I know this is incredibly self-serving to say, but I was on the verge of calling my financial planner (which has my recovering 401(k) funds) on the day before the vote.  I was going to tell her to sell out everything into cash before the vote the next day.

I saw the polls as being fairly close, and I felt that the polls in cases like this under-poll the politically incorrect position (i.e., the one that the polled public doesn't want to be forced to admit their support for).  I also felt there was no risk, because if Brexit lost, the market had already gone up in anticipation and I wasn't going to miss any big gain.  And I truly thought that whether the UK left the EU had no real economic impact on American companies, so if the market did crash, it would come right back.

I didn't call my advisor, and my 401(k) went south along with yours and everyone else's.  Now, the reasons I didn't call were pretty logical.  First, I would have assumed that the market would drop and I'd buy back in when it dropped.  But it costs money (commissions and fees) to sell out of a position and then buy back in a few days later.  So the whole strategy wasn't going to net very much.  Second, you don't play those games with a 401(k).  Retirement accounts are long-term investments.

Either way, our account is now about one percent higher than it was right before the Brexit vote, and I assume that most people's accounts are similarly up a tiny bit.

So let me take you back just a couple weeks.  Remember the evening news on the day after the vote?  Remember that for every minute spent on the vote itself and the surprise of it, and the news of the imminent resignation of the Prime Minister who was opposing Brexit, there were at least five minutes spent on the panic in the stock market as it dove over 600 points?  Remember that?

I remember it.  And once again, the "if it bleeds, it leads" press splashes the market crash all over its news coverage, but totally ignores the almost immediate recovery of all of the loss plus a good bit.  It's as if after four days of coverage of the JFK assassination, three days thereafter he came back to life, went back to the White House, and the press put it only in the social section.

Donald Trump repeatedly castigates the national press for its dishonesty and we all nod in assent.  Their control of the news and, by extension, how we react to the news, is a power protected by the Constitution.  That is as it should be.  But with great power comes great responsibility.

And it is our responsibility to hold them accountable.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Make the Leap, Hillary

So Hillary Clinton, devoid of any thoughts that actually work in practice, has backed out of the ideas marketplace in favor of pandering to anyone who is somehow able to vote.  Else how do you explain her incredible statement as a response to the murders of police officers in Dallas this past week?

According to Hillary, "white people" need to get inside the minds of black people and understand their feelings, and that will solve things and we won't have any more of these murders.

That, friends, is a leap from action to outcome that I would love to have someone ask her to trace for us, if only she would hold a news conference and answer real questions.  We're 0 for 2016 on that front.

Now, I'm all for understanding the plight of our fellow Americans, as long as it is not self-inflicted and they are willing to accept a solution.  In other words, if you are playing the victim and don't want to be made better but prefer to remain the victim, you get no sympathy from me at all.  But real people with real problems they actually want to fix, well, I'm all for it.

But the problem here, at least what Hillary was supposedly responding to, is a bunch of people protesting the killings of some black suspects by police officers, one cop Hispanic and one white.  Now, there are due process actions inside the police forces and the halls of justice in this country to address the individual incidents.  That is how this country addresses such things.

But one moron in Dallas decided to take things in his own hands, left a trail of words about killing white people and particularly white policemen, stockpiled weaponry and ammunition, and then set about to murder as many as he could before he was blown up, to the betterment of society everywhere.

Hillary responded by saying we -- meaning white people -- needed to get in the shoes of black people.  Hmmmm.  We have certain cases of unprincipled police using excessive force and killing suspects -- not what they set out that day to do, but did.  Unjustifiable?  Very possibly, though as the days go on the stories fuzz a bit.  Subject to departmental and judicial process and possible punishment?  Oh, yeah.  Then one guy takes it all on himself and sets out that day to murder policemen.

How does my better understanding of black people, Hillary, connect to either of those two situations?  If I understand black people, will rogue cops stop using excessive force on suspects?  Not likely.  If I understand black people better, will murderers, like the racist black man being reassembled in Dallas now, return their weaponry and no longer hate white people?  Um, not thinking that.

I've written often about cause and effect.  Solutions proposed should be offered either because they have worked before in similar situations, or there is a logical relation between the problem and the solution that leads one to see the mechanism for it to work -- and it has not regularly failed before.

Hillary is a liberal, meaning that cause-and-effect is a foreign concept to her. Her utter failure and ineptitude as Secretary of State bear that out. The concepts she does know are "say what sounds good" and "say what you might get votes from."  And that's what we're getting.

I'd be delighted to know how she thinks even more "understanding" is going to lead to fewer cop-related killings and fewer murderers like the Dallas incident.  Get me from point A to point B, Hillary, and tell me all the steps between; I really want to hear that.

Because your approach to solving problems is a real deciding factor for some American voters, Hillary, and we'd like to know that you are going to try to help solve our problems with solutions that really, really work.

The whole rainbows and unicorns thing is for children's books.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, July 8, 2016

The Brand-New "Hillary Defense"

Even here in Virginia, the CVS carries newspapers (remember them?) from around the country.  So we were treated to a headline Wednesday in a New York tabloid the CVS had down here, showing Hillary Clinton floating across the page on ice skates and captioned "Hillary Skates."

I wrote the other day that the "exoneration" by the FBI, or at least the lack of plan to prosecute her on the email handling and gross mishandling of classified information, could be a great gift to Republicans if they manage the situation properly.  I hear now a similar sentiment amongst those on the more conservative broadcast news shows, that this is a real opportunity to put her far on the defensive, having removed her "victim" defense.

But there's another "defense" question we have to ask.

Actions have consequences.  If I understand the the justice system right, at any level there is an investigative entity, a prosecutorial entity and a judicial entity.  The investigators dig up the facts, hand it over to the prosecutor who decides if there is enough evidence to go to trial, comparing evidence to the law itself, and then the trial is administered by the judicial system.

Here, the FBI were the investigators -- like the police detectives in a local case.  They found the kind of gross negligence in the handling of classified information, repeatedly, exactly as described in the applicable U.S. Code.  To me, it seemed like there was sufficient evidence relative to the letter of the law to bring the case, at the very least, to a grand jury to decide whether to bring charges.  Let a grand jury decide how well the evidence stacks up against whatever the legal standard is to bring the charges.

But no.

FBI Director Comey made the leap that "intent" was necessary, because no similar cases had been brought for prosecution before and to indict her would set a precedent.

So what.

Not bringing an indictment (still only a first step) set a precedent all by itself.  Interpreting a need for "intent" without letting a Federal court (and then likely an appeals court) determine if "intent" was in the law (it wasn't) set a precedent.  And now that precedent has to be looked at -- the brand, spanking-new "Hillary defense."

In the Hillary defense for violations of, at least, Section 793(f) of U.S. Code 18, you can be as sloppy as you like in the handling of classified material, as long as no one can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to release classified material to a hostile party.

So how does that defense worm its way into the world of industrial security -- the way that Federal contractors have extremely secure facilities for managing and using classified information?  What happens when someone leaves a document outside the secure facility by accident and gets her clearance yanked?  Does she go to a lawyer and wave the Hillary defense around, and maybe even sue the contractor for failure to follow Government precedent?

What happens when someone does release classified documents but no one can prove intent (like if North Korea funded a secret Swiss bank account for the leaker)?  How do you even prosecute that anymore, given the precedent for interpreting a need for "intent" into 18 U.S. Code Section 793(f) that didn't previously exist?

People with clearances are trained every year at the least as to how you handle material.  We are taught that classification relates to the information itself, not what kind of markings appear.  We are taught to make the most secure judgment in its handling -- if you are not sure, assume a higher level of classification and protect it.

We are taught the opposite of doing things for convenience.  We are taught to default to protection, to default to securing data and documents, to default to assuming the worst.

Now that has been shredded by the decision to impute "intent" into a law regarding all that.  No longer are we required to be as protective as we were, because Hillary skated.

The FBI did not even afford the American people, whose security was what was compromised by her actions, the right to a grand jury hearing to protect us from the next Hillary, by considering the case against this one.  Agents who investigated this must be livid.

And you know what?  This precedent is going to show up again, and a lot sooner than the American people are going to wish it would.

Because it will be cited, and now the Major Jason Brezler case already has.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, July 7, 2016

When Are You Finally "Represented"?

I am a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with a bachelors degree granted by the Department of Biology in 1973.  My degree still hangs on the wall in my office, at least when it is not packed away as it is now in anticipation of the sale of our house.

Although slightly over 43 years have elapsed since I was handed that certificate, there is certainly a lot I recall about my time at M.I.T., or the "Institute" as we more formally called it -- or just the "'Tute", as we more typically referred to the place.

One of those things I recall is a term used then, called "underrepresented minorities."  The term was employed then by the Department of Admissions and the leadership of the school, to refer to certain ethnicities that were thought to be at risk of failing to be "represented" in proper proportion in entering classes.  I assumed at the time, immature and cubbyhole-lacking as I was, that "proper proportion" meant relative to their percentage of the population of the USA.

I did not ponder at the time that the entering classes at M.I.T., then about 1,000 or so (maybe 1,100 now), were of too small a size to represent the population at large in any meaningful, relevant way.  In other words, if 2% of the USA's population were, say, Native American, we would not be able to look at a given class and know if we were properly balancing the admission of Native Americans.  A thousand people is too small a sample.

I also did not ponder the more mature question, which is this:  If you are trying to represent everyone properly and taking proactive steps to do so, then when are you done?  The question is more elaborately expressed as "At what point have you sufficiently eliminated overt or covert discrimination in admission to the point that you have achieved blind admission and no longer have to take any action, including even collecting statistics?"

Finally, I did not ponder the fact that the point of comparison, the USA population, was a completely erroneous reference.  Not only, for example, was M.I.T.'s entering class size too small to draw any evaluation, but the pool from which an elite science and technical university draws is not the entire population.  In fact, the pool consists virtually entirely of high school seniors, and even then only those in perhaps the upper 5% of the nation's seniors -- and in fact, the pool is only those who actually apply.

So if you were to tell me that:
(A) the upper 5% of the USA's high school seniors were Martian, but over a 10-year period only 2% of the applicants were Martian, and only 1% of those offered admission were Martian, than any Statistics professor from good old Course XVI (Mathematics) could tell you that maybe something was wrong -- but it was that Martians weren't applying.  If, on the other hand,
(B) a representative 5% of the applicants were Martian but only 1% of those offered admission were Martian, we might want to examine if a lot of unqualified Martians were applying,  Finally, if
(C) a representative 5% of the applicants were Martian and 5% of the offers of admission were to Martians, but only 1% of the entering class was Martian, then we might want to examine why they didn't want to go to M.I.T.

Why do I even bring this up?  Because that was 1973.  Let me throw some numbers at you -- these are the members of the class that just entered the school, the Class of 2019 at M.I.T.  When indeed they enrolled last fall, the freshman class was 51% white, 32% Asian, 10% black and 14% Hispanic (the total is over 100%, as some self-identified in multiple categories).  Check out the source of the statistics in this website from the school if you'd like.

Yet they still use the term "underrepresented minorities" even though they're no longer underrepresented!

I don't have to look up the actual number relative to the population of the USA to know that outside of being disproportionately Asian -- including cultures that admittedly stress scholastic success -- the entering class seems pretty much in line with the general population.  If M.I.T. Admissions had been working hard to be blind in evaluating applications, it can pat itself on the back.

And yet ... check out this page from the Admissions site.  You will note that 43 years later, the term "underrepresented minorities" is still in popular use.

That is my frustration with the whole process.  You are familiar with the notion that "if you don't know where you're going, any road is equally good."  It's the corollary here.  M.I.T. Admissions appears never to have decided where it's going, so it doesn't know when it got there.  Any rational person would look at this and feel that if they have achieved a racial profile within a set of reasonable variances over a reasonably long period of successive classes, it has won the battle.

And the rational person would say that they had achieved that end and could stop leaning on the scales.

Unfortunately, by continuing to use terms like "underrepresented minorities" even after decades of documented "success" in not discriminating, Admissions appears to have decided that it will simply continue to operate with an expectation that it will be biased.

Why don't they simply "declare victory" and do a re-check every ten years or so?  How about a press release that says something like this:

"The Office of Admissions at M.I.T. is proud to announce that after 50 years of diligent record-keeping and self-policing to ensure that our admissions offers are made without undue regard to race or religion, we have determined that we have "won the battle."  Admissions has achieved so many consecutive years of admitted classes that adequately reflect the population of American secondary school seniors and those who apply to M.I.T., that we are confident that our practices will, over any reasonable and statistically-significant period, confirm that we operate without bias.

It is important that actions that are implemented to achieve a particular corrective state are suitably discontinued when the remedy has been shown to be effective.  Therefore, M.I.T. will immediately discontinue the analysis of the racial and ethnic makeup of our entering class and will cease reporting on it.  We will continue to collect such data; however, we will only perform decennial, cumulative checks to ensure that our normal, unbiased efforts are continuing to be effective.

M.I.T. will proudly decline any future inquiries for such data with the following cheerful reply: "The Institute no longer provides data which may map our students on racial or ethnic profiles.  We were able to show, over a 50-year effort, that we could create -- and have created -- an admissions policy that produces classes which, over a reasonable period, are comfortably in line with American high-school senior applicants' racial identities.  Having defined our goals and succeeded at them, we no longer need to prove our ability."

Thank you for your applause for our victory."

I really think it's time they did that.  And then every single office in Federal and state governments should require their "diversity" offices to do the same thing.  And if they can't, fire the lot of them, hire a new group, give them a goal and a deadline and then terminate the office when it is achieved.

I'm grinning.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Is "No Indictment" the Best Outcome?

On Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey announced that Hillary Clinton would not be indicted on the basis of her use of an unsecure, private server, instead of a protected Government server, nor because on that server she sent and received classified material including documents marked as classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Programs level.

Comey was fairly candid about how bad her actions were, and castigated the State Department under John Kerry -- they almost immediately had to try to defend themselves -- for their handling of her emails then and now.  He used words for Hillary herself like "extremely careless in ... handling sensitive and classified information."

He did not say anything I could find about that part of the investigation relating to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary selling influence to foreign governments by accepting donations to the Clinton Foundation and by her "husband" Bill making heavily-paid speeches.  This influence peddling resulted, among other things, in a lot of American uranium ending up in Russia.  But Hillary got a lot of money out of it, so all is well in the eyes of her sycophants and toadies.  That investigation is presumably still ongoing.  Anyone?

Donald Trump and others are screaming and have been for the past 24 hours, that the "fix was in" and that Hillary is getting away with murder, or something close to it.  The loudest voices are protesting that anyone not named "Clinton", even by "marriage", would have been indicted.  The law (Section 793(f) of the Federal Code) does not require "intent' to prosecute, just negligence.

But ... but ... but ... I have a different take.  Please bear with me.

You may be familiar with the 1964 Anthony Quinn movie "The Visit."  Based on an old German play, it is the story of a man named Serge (played by Quinn) in a small German town who years before had gotten a young woman named Carla pregnant.  The woman left the town in disgrace.  Now she returns wealthy and powerful, but the town has gone into terrible decay.  Carla promises to restore the town via her wealth -- but only when Serge is dead.

The town rejects her blood money -- at first -- but ultimately succumbs and makes up phony capital charges against Serge.  He is convicted and just about to be executed, when Carla halts the execution and says that she will donate the money regardless.  "I simply", she tells the town, "want him to live in a town that would have killed him on fake charges just for the money."

I think Hillary Clinton is now Serge Miller after the cancelled execution.

The FBI found her to have been hugely careless and irresponsible with classified material.  Comey was highly critical and, as we should properly infer from his direct statements, the only reason she was not indicted for the email issue is that they could not identify intent to leak or expose the classified material.  That interpretation is pretty strange (and does not reflect the actual law), but what he did accuse her of is bad enough, really bad.

And that's my point.  She has lost her victimhood, since she didn't get indicted, at least not yet (we don't know what is going on relative to the investigation of the Foundation).  She can't play her victim card, but she can't celebrate, just as Serge Miller got his life back but would have to live it among people who sold him out -- a hollow victory.

She is in a very bad place right now, and for her campaign it might be the worst thing -- not being indicted but essentially having the FBI declare her to have been careless with our nation's secrets.  So she can't stand up there and say that she "won" or celebrate any kind of victory because the FBI decided she did some terrible things -- they just decided not to indict her.

Now, the Republicans and Donald Trump have much the upper hand.  They get to say, factually, that Hillary was irresponsible with highly-classified material and demonstrated that her personal desires and convenience were more important than national security.  And now they can make the case that the system is rigged -- exactly what Trump has been saying all along.

You can rightly say that this is the best of both worlds for the Republicans in this election cycle.  Hillary is branded with her recklessness as determined by the FBI.  She does not get a day in court to vindicate herself, because the evidence is now out there but with no case to be prosecuted.  She can't plead being a victim, because she avoided prosecution.  The stain of her deeds is there forever.

At 69 years old, everyone knows she won't change.  She was self-centered and careless yesterday and she would be tomorrow as (God forbid) president.  In fact, if she has her security clearance revoked, even for just a year, as the law actually demands, she couldn't even function as president on national security matters because she couldn't be briefed.

I do hope that in the Trump campaign they are thinking this through and planning the right messaging of what happened on Tuesday -- in a scripted speech.  If they can make the combined case of her incompetence, her corruption and her taking advantage of a system rigged for the Clintons, they can win.  The campaign needs to take a deep breath and get their message right -- and keep repeating it.

We voters aren't stupid.  We'll hear you.

Note -- the original stage play, "The Visit of the Old Lady" by the late Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt, ends differently from the movie -- the male character dies in the end and the town gets its money from the wealthy woman.  I had read it (in German) back in a college German class at M.I.T. and was quite familiar with it when by chance I saw the movie and immediately recognized its source.  I actually thought that the movie ended the story even better than the original play, and have seen the analogy of Miller's fate in multiple situations over the years.  Hillary's Pyrrhic victory is not the first.

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