Friday, August 26, 2016

Break Time

 Hi, all :)

All is still wonderful with the world, it says here, so we're going to take a break for a couple weeks.  This is not to celebrate Labor Day, of course, but because my best girl and I have sold the house and are moving out of state to what will eventually be our retirement home.

This column will be back, good as new (or better than ever, depending on how good the inspirations are), as soon as we move, then get unpacked and settle in to what will be our new place and my new offices.  So enjoy the holiday sales, the parades, the fireworks and the baseball.

And before you know it, I'll be back at the keyboard.  See you then.

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, August 25, 2016

Dad, You Should Have Been a Colonel

For the last fifty years of his life, George was referred to often as "the Colonel." The term was partly one of respect, but it was primarily rooted in his service in the U.S. Army and the active Army Reserve, service which dated back to his original enlistment in 1940.

In 1961, George was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, hence the respectful nickname he had until his passing in 2011.  It was the rank he held when he "was retired" from the Army after almost 30 years; for reasons that are today's story, he never was promoted to full colonel before his mandatory retirement arrived.

This is not a story to get anything done, mind you.  It's just a story.  Nothing can be changed, nor does anything have to be.  But perhaps someone in the bowels of our Government will read this, and remember, on some future occasion, that their actions have consequences.

I'm not going to exaggerate this story as a case of heroism; it was one of service.  George joined the Army at 24, before the war, which by then had already enveloped Europe, involved the USA.  He had enlisted and was already serving when the Pearl Harbor attack got things very serious in a big hurry.  A very intelligent man but without a college education, he immediately applied for officer training, and waited while his application was processed.

It was while he was on a troop train far out west that his commanding officer pulled him off at a stop and told him to turn around and head back east -- he had been picked up for training and would be going to Officer Candidate School.

As I mentioned, George's story was not the most heroic war tale.  He went through school successfully, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in ordnance, and headed off to England, where he became an expert in small arms technology and repair, even patenting a small tool for repairing Enfield rifles.  A captain by the end of the war, George made the decision to leave the active Army and join an Army Reserve program, one that had been set up to maintain a strong component of reserve forces for combat and combat support.

He specifically was enrolled in a version of a "lifetime" reserve program.  Essentially, he would serve on active duty two weeks of every year until retirement, and also go through specific training over the years, in his specialty (ordnance, particularly small arms).  Since training was his Army role, the program mandated that the officers in it would be promoted on time -- seven years in grade to become a major, seven more for lieutenant colonel, finally seven more for colonel -- as long as they successfully performed their annual duties and achieved sufficiently high grades on all their training along the way.

Having worked hard on his training in parallel with his civilian career, George was dutifully promoted to major in 1954 and lieutenant colonel in 1961.  He assumed that his final promotion, to colonel in 1968, would be fairly routine and he could retire as a "full bird."

George made the trip to face his promotion board in 1968, only to find that his records had been misplaced by Army Personnel; the board did not have them.  Without records, they could not act on his promotion, and action was delayed until the next meeting of the board -- one year later.

Of course, a lot can happen in a year.  In George's case, what "happened" was that his age, years in service and years in grade combined, in the Army's formula, to mandate his retirement, though against his will, before the subsequent board could even meet.  And retire him they did -- as a lieutenant colonel.

George would tell the story over the years, of course, but he refused to allow anyone to do anything about it.  It offended his sensibilities that his own desires should affect the Army or the way that the Army did business.  Friends certainly offered to intervene, but he would not let them.  He was Army all the way, and if that's what happened, he was going to live with it.  And live with it he did, through the 1970s, and '80s and '90s.  By 2009, still around, he had kept his case to himself for 40 years.

Some time in 2009, though, I had a conversation with him and mentioned my consulting work and that I had met the previous week with some Air Force general about something.  He paused, and looked at me -- remember, he was 93 years old and a widower by then -- and said, "Do you think you might try to fix the issue with my promotion?".  Surprised, I told him I would do what I could.

By 2009 we had Al Gore's Amazing Internet, and it was pretty easy to get contact information for his congressman, his senator's office, Army Personnel and the like.  Moreover, George had kept everything -- he had all the letters and documents from his program from the 1940s and 1950s, and from the promotion board in 1968.  They were easy to scan, package and supply.

George's senator's office pointed me to the right people at the Department of the Army, and I was fairly quickly able to locate the right office.  There is, amazingly, a procedure for cases sort of like this, and I filled out a ton of forms and scanned a lot of documents for them.  By the way, George had to sign a few, too, and even then he signed them reluctantly and had to be reminded that he was the one who had asked me to pursue this.

Now, I am a member of AFCEA, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.  AFCEA is essentially an organization of people in both the contracting and the active military community.  Its local chapters meet monthly for well-attended lunches where senior military officers do presentations on upcoming programs and procurements.

My chapter, Northern Virginia, as part of its program, introduces and celebrates one old veteran each month -- WWII vets around 2010 were either pushing or already over 90, so there was a lot of applause when they did that each time.  And those lunches attract over 400 people each time; most of whom are strongly military-oriented.  Those 90-year-old vets are respected. 

I was thinking how fantastic it would be if, at one of those lunches, I could introduce a now-94-year-old WWII veteran and have his story read, and have some Army general shake his hand and pin colonel's eagles on his shoulders.  I'm tearing up now thinking of that ... I did mention that George was my dad, right?

Six months after I sent in the application, George received a letter from the Army stating that they simply had no records available from the era validating his evidence that he actually merited the promotion based on performance.  Essentially, even though they conceded the rules of the program he was in, since the promotion board never actually met on his case in 1968, they couldn't validate that he "deserved" the promotion, and he would remain a retired lieutenant colonel.

I knew that I had done everything possible, and he knew it, too.  I sure can't say the Army did everything it could, not in 2010 and certainly not in 1968, but I'll have to believe it because there's nothing to do or say now.

George lived long enough to where, had the Army actually done its job and promoted him, I could have arranged that ceremony at an AFCEA meeting.  And, knowing the bent of the attendees, they would have been standing and screaming for him at that promotion ceremony, for minutes on end.  And Dad would have loved that, as he got finally the promotion he earned and some surprising appreciation.

Like I say, I do hope that anyone reading this who works for the government -- well, I hope you take this story to heart as you do your job.  Because your colleagues, at least in this case, didn't.

Whatever.  When I look up and talk to him in Heaven, I can still call him "Colonel Dad."

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why SHOULDN'T Black Voters Pick Trump?

In a rather interesting and dramatic speech last week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made a fairly impassioned plea for black voters, who have historically ignored the Republicans, to vote for him and not for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

We've all seen the clips, of course.  Trump was clearly very serious, and made the sort of "why not" argument that Republicans should have been making for decades to black voters.  Essentially, his pitch was logically unassailable.

Black Americans, particularly in the cities of the USA, have been voting Democrats in as mayors and city leaders for as long as they've been alive.  It has, over the years, been made to be a badge of infamy when a black American claims to have voted for a Republican.

Trump's pitch, though, resonated -- or should have -- in two ways very different from the past and that we need to pay a lot of attention to.

First, he made the pitch in the first place.  Likely because black voters have consolidated into a set of lock-step Democrats for so long, Republican candidates at the national level, as well as Senate and House candidates, have simply said nothing to the community.  No "black voters should vote Republican" kind of pitch, nothing.  So it was unique in that Trump said anything at all, let alone make an actual case.

Second, though, is probably more important.  We have had a (half-) black president for the last eight years.  During that time, it can pretty safely be said that, certainly in terms of economic benefit, jobs, safety at home, family stability, peaceful cities and opportunity to lift oneselves up, everything is worse for black America since Barack Obama became president.

In other words, the Democrat one would think to be most helpful to the community -- the first "black" president -- has done more for caddies on Martha's Vineyard in eight years than he has done for black Americans.

Obama's legacy to the black community -- spiking murder rates in the cities, huge black unemployment, dissolved families, gargantuan illegitimacy rates, and letting even more immigrants in to compete for jobs and drive down wages -- is now, therefore, a legitimate topic of discussion.

The candidate's pitch, given that, was pure Trump.  "It is awful right now, and you keep electing the same Democrats every time.  They're doing nothing for you and they're just lining their pockets at your expense.  All they want is your votes, and the day after Election Day they forget you exist.  It's not going to get any better, and it's lousy now.  I, at least, won't take your votes for granted!"

Or words to that effect.

So I would like to think that, being anything but an establishment Republican, Donald Trump, in this election, is the one guy, at the one time, to whom black voters should say, "OK, I get it, but I'm only doing this once.  You I'll vote for, but I need to see results."

Trump later went out on a typical Trumpian flight of fancy and "guaranteed" that he would get 95% of the black vote for his reelection in 2020.  Now, we know that isn't going to happen, but it was important for him to say it.

Why?  Because by saying, in effect, that he was going to turn things around, or at least show dramatic progress in his first four years, he was saying something more important to the black voter.  "After Election Day", he was essentially saying, "you are a priority.  I will help you with an expanded economy that will provide you good, private-sector jobs.  I will protect you from competition.  I will defend citizens first.  And you can count on me to do that because I have now said that I expect to do enough to earn your 2020 vote.  So you can go ahead and take that risk in 2016."

No Republican has done that in my lifetime.  It's about time.  And, black America, to paraphrase Mr. Trump one last time, what the Heck have you got to lose?

After all, if you had anything before, after Obama, you lost it already.

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, August 23, 2016

The Lawyer In Her

Although the context of the famous Shakespearean quote "First, let's kill all the lawyers" is not necessarily aligned with Shakespeare's own view, it might have been close.  At the least, it reflects what the citizenry in the time of Henry the Sixth (Part Two) thought to be a fitting end for them.

I'd have to say that we might have a bit more in common with the War of the Roses crowd than we know.  We can say this -- lawyers cause us great pain, vital though their service may be.

One thing that certainly bothers the heck out of us is the way that they parse the English language in such a way as to say something incredibly narrow with the expectation that it will allow them not to be held in court as having said more -- while deceiving the listeners into thinking they actually heard what they wanted to hear.

Case in point. Here is Hillary Clinton in an actual quote, that I know is actual because it is still running in a commercial even today.  It was not under oath, of course, because that would involve answering an actual question under oath, and she is quite above doing that -- in fact, she answers non-prewritten questions almost never.

Check this one out:

"I did not send any classified material ... and I did not receive any material marked or designated as classified"

Hillary Clinton, in that brief period of her remote youth when she was actually paid to do something (as opposed to the core 16 years of her adult life when all she did "productively" was associated with being married to someone), was a lawyer.

Being a lawyer, much like herpes, apparently stays with you for an awfully long time.  In her case it appears it will never leave her.  At 69 years old in couple months, it would appear that her lawyerisms are ingrained.

The quote above is specifically intended -- and the slow, careful delivery equally intended -- to give the impression, to the unwashed masses that vote, that she did nothing wrong and handled everything just perfectly.

Except, of course, that even parsed down to the nouns, she still just lied.

It is arguable, I suppose, that the three instances in which she was a party to the transmission of material marked Confidential on her private account makes her quote a lie on substance, except for the fact that Confidential is a very low standard of classification, and if that were the only case in which such material was transmitted, we would not be talking about prosecution -- maybe a slap on the wrist or a suspended clearance.

The problem, friends, is not the three Confidential items.  It is the 100+ unmarked transmissions that contained classified information (which may be over 2,000, at least from the initial FBI investigation).  Those unwashed masses may not be aware that unmarked classified material is treated no differently from marked classified material -- your oath in office and your annual training to be allowed to touch classified information in the first place validates that you do not transmit that stuff on an unsecured medium, with or without markings.

Hillary the Lawyer -- even in lawyer-speak -- is lying in both phrases.  She certainly sent classified material, apparently lots of it, on her private unsecured account on her private unsecured server.  But "I did not send any classified material", while actually a lie, is the lesser of the two phrases, and she wants you to hear them in that order.

The second phrase -- " ... and I did not receive any material marked or designated as classified" -- is the one that she wants you to hear last, because it taps into what her sycophants and toadies keep hearing, keep believing to be relevant, and then keep repeating.  It is also not true, but the "marking" part of the phrase gives an "out" to those who want to hear the best.

Unfortunately, all that lawyer-speak does what it's supposed to do, i.e., deflect the listener by focusing on a pick of nits here and there (even though they're lies, too), far from the issues at hand.

And that would be the big issue -- Why, when she was going to be transmitting and receiving classified material every day as Secretary of State, did she decide on the day her confirmation hearings started, to set up an unsecured server?  Why did she never set up a secure "" email account?  And why did she never allow her State Department to appoint anyone to the independent position of Inspector General?

 We know the answers.  And it doesn't take a lawyer to figure them out.

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.

Monday, August 22, 2016

SoS vs. President

I have been pondering the upcoming election here recently, because it seems to be a lot of what I have been writing about this year, and there's always a new angle to take on it.

One thing that it is incredibly hard to separate is the campaign itself from the governing that the winning candidate will eventually have to do.  Barack Obama, for example, was a very effective campaigner and candidate but an entirely useless, if not pernicious, president when he actually had to do the job for which he won the election.

Campaigner, yes.  Effective president, not even close, unless by "effective" you mean "effective in diminishing the USA, inciting class warfare and digging a huge debt hole."

I'm particularly pondering the spectacle of Hillary Clinton getting elected, and as that frightening thought is pondered, it metastasizes into having to imagine her being president.  That's a completely different beast, in every sense of the word, and even more scary.

Here's the thing.  I have written in the past about how Hillary, at 69 soon, is simply not going to change now.  She is the person she is going to be, and that includes an ethical and moral compass that already points in a criminally deficient direction.

And of course, we have her years as Secretary of State to determine precisely where that compass needle points.  And it's not a nice direction.

Think about it.  What was the very first thing that Hillary Clinton did, on the very day that her confirmation hearings began?  That's right, she arranged on that very day to set up a private email server, for her use and that of a couple close slavish toadies -- Huma Abedin, Sheryl Mills and the like.

We know that was done to keep secrets from the FOIA eyes, written into Federal law to prevent exactly what she wanted to do.  Those secrets, we now know, include her use of the Clinton Foundation as a means to allow foreign governments -- including corrupt ones like Kazakhstan -- to influence U.S. policy.  It also created the channel by which the Clintons could be financially enriched by those governments -- and private-sector opportunists there --  paying for Bill Clinton to make speeches.

So we can only conclude that the use of the private server was to hide what she had intended to do all along, i.e., to enrich herself and her family by the use of her position as Secretary of State.  That was always, it seems, the plan.  It could even have been a condition of accepting the job; had she not, she would have been a difficult Democrat-side issue for Obama.

Given that it appears that Hillary began her tenure as Secretary of State figuring out how to make herself rich, and given that she's far too old to change morally and ethically, how does that relate to what we should expect from her if she were, God forbid, elected president?

She didn't, let's remember, allow an Inspector General to be appointed at State for years.  So what does it smell like to have a person in the White House, completely free of ethical and moral oversight?  There's no IG for the president, and you and I will be paying for plenty of staff lawyers there to defend her, not to protect the voter and the taxpayer.

We all should be thinking hard now about what she would do the first few weeks, to put in systems and processes designed to prevent anyone from knowing what she is doing behind the scenes to enrich herself.  We would need to figure how to force transparency onto someone who would be the most opaque of presidents.

We hear now that the Clinton Foundation will no longer accept donations from foreign governments and business "if she is elected."  Of course, if it would be corrupt then, it is corrupt now, and was correct when she was Secretary, a thought which tells you everything you have to be thinking about in terms of the expected ethical guidance in a Hillary administration.

But corruption is the Clintons' mode of operation; self-enrichment is their goal.  The betterment of the taxpaying citizen?  Not even on her radar screen.

Who, then, will watch over her?

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, August 19, 2016

Safe Trip, Miss Kim

Sometimes we just forget that, despite the risk that we might have as president soon a serial liar, one who sold her nation out for money while Secretary of State, it's actually still the USA, and there are far, far worse places to be.

I thought of this while at the car dealer's yesterday afternoon getting service on the old ride.  In the waiting room were a few chairs and a TV on the wall, which was showing the Olympics, which I was not planning to watch much of this time around, as I wrote here.

After the USA women's volleyball team was dispatched by Serbia in the semifinals and now heads to the bronze-medal consolation round, they were showing the semifinal round of women's platform diving, from some indeterminate height (anyone know what a "meter" is?).  Eighteen divers were going through six dives to qualify 12 of them for the final round, whenever that will be.

They all looked fine to me, and I am guilty of not being immediately able to recognize when a diver is "over-rotating" or was "short on that dive", and I can't count when a somersault is two-and-a-half or two.  Or three.  But they all looked really good, so I suppose they belong there.

At any rate, I couldn't help but notice that one of the divers who made it through to the finals was from a country whose Olympic competitive initials were "PRK" (by the way, two were from a country called "MAS", which you would have to have truly wracked your brains to have figured out stood for "Malaysia" -- but I digress).

"PRK", if you hadn't already figured out, is actually one of the easier ones to discern, since it stands for "People's Republic of Korea", which is used only in North Korea to refer to, of course, North Korea, that grand symbol of all that is wrong with human beings when given absolute power.

The young lady, a Miss Kim, who was actually doing the diving did well enough to make it into the finals as I mentioned, which sort of leads to why I thought this was worth a column, even if it's a bit short (hey, come on, we're packing to move and time is tight).

As I watched the poor girl doing her dive, I'm afraid I thought pretty much what half of America was thinking as they, too, watched her hurl herself off the platform from some indeterminate number of feet above the water.  And admit it, if you were watching, you were thinking the same thing:

If she doesn't make it to the finals, they're going to kill her.

Now, I suppose that's a bit of an exaggeration.  She might have been young enough to be in her first Olympics, maybe her first year of international competition even.  North Korea might give divers a couple years before they execute them if they don't do well enough.

But I sure as heck remember the Olympics in Beijing, which we used to call Peking, like the duck, until someone changed all the transliteration for some reason.  Do you remember the opening ceremonies, with all the people on the field in some kind of intricate, coordinated maneuver?  At least a thousand Chinese all doing the same thing at the precise moment.  Amazing.

I remember vividly watching that and thinking that, while it sure was beautiful to watch, it would not be a pretty death for any of those performers who lagged a second or two behind, or who turned left instead of right and messed up the perfect image that the successors to Chairman Mao were presenting, to show the world how wonderful China is these days.

By the way, they're called the "People's Republic" too.  Imagine the coincidence.

So as I watched the poor little North Korean diver, I was thinking that I was a pretty happy American.  I can't dive to save my life, and never could, but if I had ever risen to the heights of athletic prowess enough to have made an Olympic team in my remote youth, I'd have been pretty proud not to have had to have been, you know, fearful.

Had I been representing my country and screwed up royally, at least I would not have been worrying about the manner of my execution on my return, and how fast I could defect to the host nation.  More importantly, though, I would have known that people watching in other countries would have not been worrying about what would have happened to me.

It's called "freedom."  It's what happens when a country is, at least ostensibly, run by a government that has a responsibility to its citizens more than the other way around.  It's where the people can come and go as they please, as long as they obey the law (and in Hillary Clinton's case, even if they betray it and the country, in office, for personal gain).

No, I really didn't think that the little North Korean diver was going to be executed if she didn't make the finals.  At least I'm pretty sure she wasn't.

But we have those thoughts.  And the other guys, at least, aren't thinking them about the American athletes, even when they lose to Serbia in women's volleyball.

We're free.  Take a deep breath.  Appreciate it.

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, August 18, 2016

Where, Oh Where Did the Issues Go?

Quiz for today: What do the following have in common:

- Hillary's emails
- Trump's tax returns
- Plagiarized speeches
- The Clinton Foundation
- Gold Star families (even if they're immigration lawyers with ulterior motives)

If you answered "Things we're talking about these days", you would be kind of right but not the answer I was looking for, and it's my column so I pick the answers.

No, the answer I was looking for was "Things other than issues that actually affect the country and the people of the USA."

Now, I'm not saying these things aren't actually important -- at least the emails and the Clinton Foundation scandals, both of which point to criminal activity on the part of Hillary Clinton and her expected corrupt conduct, were she ever to be president.  Those, at least, are.

But for the most part, these things are detracting from the national dialogue that this campaign should be holding in regard to the country and our real problems.  And I really want that dialogue, if for no other reason than to get back to the idea that solutions for our problems and issues should be based on approaches that have actually worked before.

What are those issues?  What would I like us to be talking about?

Lots of things.  For example, we can start with the fact that Milwaukee is a mess, like many other cities, and the black population is rioting because the conditions are lousy.  But we can -- and should, but won't -- talk about why, if the city is a mess, if there are no jobs, and most children are born out of wedlock into homes with no fathers, has Milwaukee continued to elect Democrats to run the city for 100 years? Why, for that matter, is the situation pretty much the same in Baltimore, Chicago, Washington and every other city with the same issue?

We can continue with the fact that our government has put the nation $20 trillion (with a "T") in debt, and is not even paying principal back.  We are paying hundreds of billions (with a "B") per year in interest on that debt, yet we continue to have whole Cabinet departments paid for by the taxpayer for purposes not granted by the Constitution to the Federal government.  Can we discuss why Washington can do that when you and I cannot?

There are not enough jobs in the country to accommodate all the people who want to work, and wages are seriously low for many of the ones that are available because the labor force is so much larger.  Yet our current immigration policy is encouraging more unskilled and semi-skilled people, many of whom don't even speak our language, to cross our borders -- we're even proactively importing some of them.  Can we talk about that?

Our foreign policy has achieved nothing at all for a long time.  Where we were the foremost power in the world, let alone just the free world, in 1990 after the fall of the Soviet empire, we have devolved into an inept laughingstock in our engagement with pretty much every other nation.  We have lacked a coherent foreign policy for decades.  Can we talk about what a foreign policy even is?

College costs an incredible amount of money even though it is almost a necessity for a professional life these days.  Yet the Federal government is so free with student loans that it continually drives up that cost by boosting demand.  And colleges and universities are replete with useless offices and superfluous administrators.  Is anyone actually looking to see if the money lent by the taxpayers for those educations is being wisely spent?

The Constitution guarantees a free press.  But right now, only seven percent of journalists say they are Republicans.  I'm for a free press as much as the next guy, but Russia had more diversity of opposition when the only paper was Pravda.  The left isn't going to do anything about that; who is?  Can we discuss?

People are screaming bloody murder about global warming, and threatening to shut down production of coal and other fossil fuels.  Hillary Clinton has pledged to "put coal miners out of work."  Yet when the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar 2 plant goes online later this year, it will be the first nuclear plant opened in the USA in twenty years.  Is it just me, or is there a disconnect there?

I don't suppose it ends there, but those are some real issues that we could talk about.  Those are things around which the moderators of the upcoming debates should be formulating questions -- and about which the press should be asking and the candidates speaking -- regularly.

It's not just me.  But the lack of real discussion of these things suggests that perhaps the media may not want to be discussing them.

Or, sadly, perhaps the nation does not.

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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Who IS Voting for Mr. Trump?

As the campaign for president wanders curiously forth, one of the recurrent themes is the characterization of those who are voting for Donald Trump.

Apparently, in that view (which the media choose to perpetuate in their slavish devotion to the Clinton campaign), we are bigoted, misogynistic, racist fools clinging, as Barack Obama once stupidly declared, to our guns and our religion.  And we are following, or at least voting for, a man who shares all those traits.

Now, I am one who cringes when presidents do their State-of-the-Union addresses and single out someone they have brought to the audience, someone who has experienced the exact crisis they are trying to bleed the taxpayers to squeeze out more to pay for.  I cringe when on the campaign trail, a candidate will say "... and I support payments for people with blah-blah disease, like Mrs. Etaoin Shrdlu of West Overthere, Wisconsin whom I met with yesterday ...".

I cringe because I hate using one person as "evidence" that something is good for a huge group or the whole population, or as evidence of anything.

But I do not support the characterization of Trump voters, the one that the media are trying to foist on us to try to make it embarrassing to vote for him.  And if I have to be an example, well, at least I can explain why I actually do plan to vote for him.

First, I am not a bigoted, misogynistic, racist fool who clings to his guns and his religion.  I am indeed a religious man, meaning that I am a strong but very flawed Southern Baptist with the faith that I am forgiven by Him for my flaws.  I may, or I may not have guns; that's no one's business but mine and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I am neither bigoted nor misogynistic; I take every person I meet at face value, and neither add nor subtract value from that assessment based on their race or gender.  Jerks come in all colors and equipment, and so do great leaders.  Nor do I believe in either prejudging or providing any advantage to anyone based on that race or gender, or particularly rewarding or punishing anyone for what was done 150 years ago.

And I am not a fool.  I don't know what the standard is against which one judges whether someone is or is not a fool, but I am not an uneducated man (I have a degree from M.I.T.), I have had professional careers in both the arts and in technology, have started five companies in my life, and have enough facility in my native language to have written, at this count, 472 columns for this site alone.

I am that guy, and I will be voting for Donald Trump.

I am voting for him because I see both the problems in our nation and the world, and the problems in our nation amongst those who are supposed to address the problems in the nation and the world.  We have radical Islamist terror; we have an ultimate energy problem.  We have what is supposed to be the leading nation in the free world $20 trillion in debt. 

We have not "creeping" government but "overwhelming" government.  And we have the members of that government, Democrat and Republican alike, are entrenched in that system.  They are more benefited by the large government's continuity, than they are committed to shrinking it to what is mandated by the Constitution -- and to what we can actually afford.

Hillary Clinton is not only the classic version of that entrenchment and entitlement, but she has shown herself to be completely corrupt and habitually untruthful, as well as incompetent when handed the reins of power -- an unbelievably poor combination.

Donald Trump is the one person who calls out the entrenchment of the power elite in Washington for who they are and for how they make their decisions.  He, at least, says out loud that their interest is not necessarily the interest of the USA and the American taxpayer.  When push comes to shove, he is the candidate who has said where his interests are, and that those interests are in favor of the taxpayer rather than the continuity of power.

I'm not a bigoted, misogynistic fool, and I'm voting for Mr. Trump because, in this election, he is the candidate more closely aligned with my perception of what needs to be done with and to the American government.

Call me what you like.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Take Care of Yourself, Men

Normally the daily piece here is written the night before so that I can actually wake up, publish it, send it off to the world, and do what I actually get paid for the rest of the day.

This one is a little different, because yesterday was a little different, and leaves me a bit thoughtful this morning.

Monday afternoon late found me in the Surgical Center of a local hospital, undergoing a wonderfully uncomfortable process known as a prostate biopsy. This procedure was necessitated by the fact that my prostate-specific antigen, or "PSA" level, after years of being called "a bit high" at 3-4 or so, had gotten up to a value of over 7.

Now, there are various indicators of when PSA levels should make you concerned about things like prostate cancer, particularly when the number rises fairly quickly (my rise was slow but starting from an elevated point).  Nothing else had suggested a problem, but the doctor thought it best to check a bit more invasively.  A high level can can simply be from inflammation, of course, but better to know.

In a week or two, I will hear the results.  At best, they will have found nothing untoward, and they'll continue to watch my PSA levels for the rest of my life.  At worst, they will find something that necessitates prostate removal, and that is a pretty routine thing that I'm not particularly fearful of, except that since we are relocating in two weeks, it would be performed by a brand-new practice of urologists.

I mention all this not to get all surgical on you, but because we as men don't talk that much about urological things, and there are factors we should take into account.  The reality is that all men, were we to live long enough, would suffer from an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) and, eventually, prostate cancer.  It is inevitable if you live long enough, and you only don't get it if something else gets you first.

And prostate cancer, fortunately, is a very, very slow-growing disease.  It is fairly easy to detect, fairly easy to contain if it is detected, and fairly easy to cure through removal of the prostate gland with little subsequent problem after recovery.  Surgery in that area is pretty advanced these days and the recovery quite smooth now.

So -- this column is a simple reminder to all of my brother readers, and all my sister readers with men on your life.  I know far, far too many men who do not undergo an annual physical, let alone a PSA test.  Get the physical.  Get your PSA tested.  There is no downside, and if indeed you are discovered to have something that needs addressing, it is a routine procedure anymore.

I don't even know how my results will turn out, but I am quite confident in being readily able to deal with the result, if for no other reason than, by having monitored PSA for years, I know that I have acted properly in accordance with the results. Having been aware of slightly elevated levels for a long-enough period, I also know that if anything further needs to be done, we are doing so in good time.

Do the same.  Do your family the service and be good to your self.  Set up an annual physical and include a PSA test.

This has been a public service announcement by www.UberThoughtsUSA.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, August 15, 2016

When Does the Comey Volcano Blow?`

First it was Hillary Clinton Herself, making speeches this past week and noting that, in her words, she had been exonerated by the FBI in the email scandal investigation they did.  The networks that actually feel free not to kiss her backside, i.e., Fox, immediately presented things she said in those speeches juxtaposed with the FBI director saying the opposite.

Hillary would say that the FBI said she did not do X, Y and Z, and then you would see a clip of FBI director James Comey saying in his press conference, or in his testimony before Congress that, in fact, she had indeed done X, Y and Z.

Hillary would be shown in the speeches saying that she had told the truth about not doing X, Y and Z, and there would be the clip of Comey's testimony that she had lied to the public, or to Congress or to the FBI and that she had done X, Y and Z.

Friday we had Bill Clinton Himself joining in.  On the question of the emails, Bill called the email flap a "bunch of bull" and said that the FBI had only found "three little markings" in all those emails and that "nothing else was marked classified".  Had a network done the old "what did the Director actually say" thing, it would have noted that over a hundred of the emails contained marked classified content, and that over 2,000 emails contained actual classified information.

At least someone would have noted that the Clintons repeatedly narrow their statements to use the term "marked classified", as if that even matters.  It does not; classified material, as I have written repeatedly, is classified regardless of markings and the Secretaries of State know that.  But you just keep watching; she will repeatedly use the term "marked classified", assuming the lemmings and the media, the toadies and sycophants, won't know the difference.

So here we have the Clintons publicly lying about what the FBI found and what the FBI Director actually said.

James Comey is thought to be a good man and a man of honor.  He has no specific obligation to Hillary or Bill Clinton, and there is no doubt that he is fully aware of the Clinton Cash revelations of the corruption that Hillary practiced while Secretary of State, including selling access,, influence and, finally, uranium, to Russians and others with issues before the State Department.

James Comey now knows that the Clinton Foundation is a steaming pot of corruption, funded by donations given to curry favor with the Clintons, including while Hillary was in office.  He cannot like that too much.

But there is a limit to everyone's patience.

And I truly believe that the next, or the next after that, or soon enough, one of those Clinton declarations of what the FBI Director said that was clearly not what he said, will be the last straw.  And when that comes, it will not be pretty.

James Comey, the theoretically unimpeachable FBI Director will call a press conference and declare that Hillary and Bill Clinton have been repeatedly lying about what the FBI found and what the FBI Director said, and that their lying has violated his integrity and called into question what he and the FBI actually did find.

Comey will say that he refuses to allow them to lie about what he said and what the FBI did, and that from this point he will refute everything they say that is incorrect, and play fact-checker for their comments and answers -- even in the upcoming debates.

He is a man of honor and needs to retain his honor.  I would like to hope that at this point he truly has had it with the Clintons and their lies.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, August 12, 2016

Enjoying the Rookie

It's Friday, and we all need a little break from politics, me especially, if only to remind myself that there are other things to write about, some of which are actually enjoyable.

One of those, of course, is the American Pastime, the participation and spectator sport known as baseball.  Now, I'm no longer a participant (I organized a company team back when I was a 50-year-old VP with a Federal contractor, and played shortstop until I realized that I was, in fact, 50 and, while I could still hit, my hamstrings were 100 years old combined; the rest of the team was all well under 40).  But I sure watch the game, every single day.

I am an unabashed fan of the Boston Red Sox, most remarkable because I grew up far away from New England, and remember being a fan of the team at age three -- despite their not being anywhere near the local team. In fact, I did see the great Ted Williams play in a game as part of a family trip while he was still an active major-league player.

Last week the Red Sox brought up to the majors a just-turned-22-year-old young man from Cincinnati by the name of Andrew Benintendi.  His first week has been one of those experiences that remind us how many different things can happen in baseball, and why they attract us over and over to the sport.

Unlike the NFL and, I suppose, the NBA (if anyone still actually watches professional basketball), baseball players don't get drafted and start playing for the major-league team immediately, or at least at the start of the next season.  There is no minor-league process in those sports.  Baseball players, by contrast, are drafted, then start at the lowest tiers of the minors and have to work their way up.

Perhaps after 3-4 seasons in the minors, the best players rise up to the AA, then the AAA level and then the majors.  It's that hard to learn to hit good pitching (or, conversely, to pitch past good hitting).

Andrew Benintendi was a collegiate outfielder out of the University of Arkansas, who was drafted #7 in the first round by Boston just last summer, and is thus only now in his first full professional season in baseball.

We can note that he was only #7, as opposed to being the top pick, because other teams either feared he would not sign an affordable contract or more likely, they looked at him and passed.  You see, Benintendi really reminds you of the guy who played "Rudy" in the movie of the same name.  Same sort of non-smile smile, same square face, and definitely the same handicap.

This player, whom six teams let go by first, is only 5'10" tall.  And that means only two things.  A lot of those old-time scout types would devalue his capability.  And a lot of people would root like Hades for him.  I'm one of the latter.

Benintendi shot through the minor league levels at a crazy rate.  As I described in this piece, the statistic "OPS" is a good evaluation point for a hitter.  An OPS of .900 is a real hitting All-Star at any level; an .800 OPS is an excellent hitter.  Benintendi's OPSs at each minor-league level were .972, .948, 1.011 (!), .976, and finally .872 in 63 games at AA Portland, Maine.  Essentially, he showed almost immediately, at every level, that he was simply too good of a hitter for that level.

And I think I mentioned he is only 5'10", right?

So finally, the Red Sox, with a need for a left-fielder right there in Boston, simply ignored the AAA level and promoted him directly to the Red Sox, something they had not done with a player in a number of years.

Here is "Rudy", this little guy for whom the uniform is always going to look too big.  After a couple of outs in his first two at-bats, the kid takes a low outside pitch to the opposite field for his first big-league hit.  We refer to an "advanced approach" when we talk about a younger player who really knows the strike zone and how to hit where the ball is pitched.  This hit was an off-the-charts advanced approach for a 22-year-old.

Benintendi had two hits in that game, and in his next three starts he had three hits each in two of those games.  He has had 20 at-bats in the majors now, with nine hits and a .950 OPS, pretty much the same territory as he had hit throughout the minors.

I'm a really little guy.  I wasn't necessarily the one picked last for teams; my brother taught me to hit at a very young age so I could at least play the game.  But as long as I played baseball, I encountered the lowest of expectations because of my size.

I am rooting for a long and productive career for Andrew Benintendi.  That's not because he has encountered any written-about adversity that he has had to overcome that would be itself a story, but because I watch "Rudy" every few years to remind myself that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters.

He has learned and practiced hard the science of hitting, and I admire hard work, long study and the diligence to keep at the skill that you know has to be applied, when God didn't give you one of those built-for-baseball statures.

Good for him.  I can't wait for his next at bat.  I hope you will root for him, too.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, August 11, 2016

OK, Then How DID She Send Classified Data?

Way, way back in 2014, I wrote a piece that included a judge's instruction I got while on a small-town jury in a murder trial thirty years ago.  The instruction, to "look at circumstantial evidence not only in the sense of its consistency with guilt but inconsistency with innocence", has changed the way I look at situations.

It is with that viewpoint that I step far, far above the controversy over Hillary Clinton's contemptible use of a private email server while a Cabinet officer, to avoid access to her communications by FOIA requests.  By "far back", I mean not getting stuck down a rat-hole about this or that email, and looking at the situation.

And when we do that, some questions really rise quickly to the top, and one in particular.

We know that Hillary arranged for the private server to be set up for her emails on the very day her confirmation hearings before Congress began.  She never even established the more-secure "" account required of State Department employees, and of all the other civilian Federal agency employees and contractors using official email.

We know that she did that to avoid exposure to FOIA inquiries; we know because she was caught on email explaining that was why she didn't have an account, so people couldn't see her personal communications.

We know that, as a result of not having a proper email account, she sent or received over 2,000 emails with classified information on them on a private server, in defiance of Federal law, including at least some with paragraphs marked to indicate the content was classified.

We know that the FBI made an impossibly broad interpretation of the law against doing all the above, which allowed her to skate and avoid indictment despite the mountain of evidence demanding, at the least, a grand jury investigation.

We don't, however, know one particularly valuable piece of information in this whole sorry affair.

The Secretary of State of the United States communicates sensitive information literally dozens of times on a daily basis.  The Secretary sends and receives information about embassies, about the activities of foreign governments, about agreements between nations.

There is intelligence information beyond imagining, regarding our gathering of data around the globe, classified imagery, information about the activities of our agents worldwide, about treaties, about negotiations of a particularly sensitive nature.

This is the lifeblood of the State Department, and when the Secretary is involved, it constantly is classified, and frequently at the highest levels.

Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, did not have a government email account.  She had only a private, unsecured email server that we know of.

So how, then, did she communicate all that sensitive information, dozens of times a day, and still maintain the needed level of security on that communication?
No government account.  She claims that she didn't do classified business on her private server (although we already know that to be a lie, thanks to the FBI).  If she didn't do it on her private email server in a bathroom in Chappaqua, then how in heck did she actually communicate with all the different people she needed to send and receive messages from?

This, friends, is a question that the press should be asking, not just of her (since she doesn't take questions from the press) but of the FBI which spent thousands of hours investigating her.  Ask Cheryl Mills.  Ask Huma Abedin.  Heck, ask Chelsea!

And the next time she uses her tenure as Secretary of State to defend her capacity to be president, we ought to ask how she managed to do it when no one could send her a darned message, and she couldn't even contact her own embassies.

Frightening, eh?

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My "Steves" Beat Yours

Hillary Clinton got a laugh out of the sycophants and toadies in the audience the other day when describing the economic advisors to Donald Trump.  Trump, of course, released elements of his economic approach on Monday in a speech, so Hillary had to try to diminish its worth by demeaning those who had advised participated in its creation.

The laugh line was when she was listing the advisors by description (not by name) and included "six guys named Steve."  As far as we knew, there actually are, among others of course, six guys advising Trump whose names are Steve, or something like that. So it was a funny line, at least if you are not named "Steve" and would have felt it offensive to be criticized for the quality and validity of your advice based on what your parents had named you.

I would suppose that, at this point, then, it is relevant to ask who Hillary's "Steves" are, at least who is advising her on economic issues.  So it was a bit off-putting to look at the official listing of her advisors on this site, and discover that the only reference in the site, among the 28 people actually named, to the word "economics" was where a guy named Steve, er, Mike Vlacich, was shown as having a resume including a stint in the "New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development."

That's it.  And for the record, New Hampshire does even not tax work income.

Laugh or no laugh, Hillary's speech was trying to make the point that Trump's plan, including a three-tiered set of income tax rates capped lower than today's rates, constituted "trickle-down economics", the Reagan-era concept that is sure to get a boo from Hillary sycophants and toadies because (A) it is associated with Ronald Reagan, and (B) because it actually worked.

The concept was not particularly arcane.  Tax rates in 1980, when Reagan was elected, were so high that the economy was disastrous, having lost the economic motivation to create jobs.  If that sounds like the eight years under Barack Obama, you're right, only add in a flood of regulations on business now that make it even worse to hire new employees.

Reagan muscled through a three-year tax cut program that lowered rates an aggregate 25% over the three years from 1982-84.  The concept was simply that wage-earners, taxed a lot less, could spend their own money in the economy, and business owners, taxed a lot less, could afford to create the jobs that produced the products and services that those wage-earners could now more readily afford because the government had a smaller hand in our pockets.

It was called "trickle-down" derisively by the Democrats, who predicted doom and gloom for tax revenues, but its results were going to be easy to measure.  If it actually worked, tax revenues would start to expand fairly quickly and fairly substantially.

And work they did.  In 1980, all Federal taxes generated $517 billion in revenues.  By 1990 this had risen to over $1 trillion.  This constituted a 28% increase even in constant dollars.  More importantly, the individual income tax revenues alone rose from $244 billion in 1980 to $467 billion in 1990, a 25% increase in constant dollars.

More curiously, the "top 1%" of wage earners were paying 18% of all income tax revenues when Reagan took office.  By the time he left office in 1989, that figure had risen to 28% of all income tax receipts, meaning that the highest incomes were actually successful enough to be able to shoulder an additional 10% of the overall tax burden.

As I have written for many years, we all are aware that this massive increase in revenues did not prevent the government from going far deeper in debt.  The Congress, run by Democrats, managed to spend well over a dollar for every additional dollar that Reagan's tax cuts produced and, as I wrote Monday, that's going to cause more borrowing.

But it had nothing to do with, and was in no way an outcome of, the tax cuts.  The "trickle-down" cuts did their job -- the economy boomed and tax revenues skyrocketed.

Yet here we are today, and Hillary Clinton, operates with no apparent advisors on her team, named Steve or not, with an economic background to tell her that criticizing tax policy by calling it "rehashed trickle-down economics" is a historical mistake.  Of course, she clearly, with her spending plan, does not think that continued increases in the Federal debt are a problem, which is, of course, a problem.

I keep saying that if you're going to propose something, at least show where it has worked before, and certainly don't be out there proposing ideas that have failed before.

But if you don't have anyone on your team willing to stare you in the face and say that you're dead wrong -- and Hillary's history of ash-tray flinging suggest that isn't happening any time soon -- you're going to listen to no one who knows what he's talking about.

Sounds like Donald Trump's "Steves" are better than Hillary's "Steves."

Maybe she ought to call one of his.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Which Scandal Will Do It?

Yesterday afternoon, we found the next Clinton scandal in a never-ending series.  In this one, it appears that the Brookings Institution, one of those supposedly independent "think tanks" that produce reports and analysis on any number of topics, began dumping lots of anti-Bernie Sanders reports after some healthy fundraising by Clinton confidantes.

I don't suppose I care; I can leave the caring to those who pay attention to reports that actually come out of the Brookings Institution.  It really is not clear whether or not reports from their bowels (sorry about that) influence anyone's votes one way or the other.

But I do care that there simply appears to be no end to the repeated scandals associated with the Clintons, always seeming to involve (A) influence, and (B) money.  There are a few (C)s and (D)s along the way, relating to contracts being steered toward people with connections to the Clintons, especially when the contracts follow (B) money routed to them to (A) influence them, either directly (speeches by Bill or Hillary for way more than the going rate) or indirectly (to the Clinton Foundation, which, you know, pays the two of them).

Today one poll was suggesting that those polled felt, even though by a very slight margin, they thought Hillary better equipped to handle the economy than Donald Trump.

I was a bit astonished, if only at the insanity of the average American pollee.  Hillary Clinton has run exactly nothing in the actual American economy in her entire lifetime.  The only thing she has sold for profit has been influence, and I suppose we have to concede she is extremely good at that.  Scads of US uranium in the hands of the Russians testify to that, along with incompetent and useless construction in Haiti and a whole heck of a lot else you can see in the Clinton Cash movie.

The question is pretty easy.  At what point does the USA voting public either completely write off all that corruption on the part of Hillary, in the name of whatever, or decide that the accumulated effect of all the evidence of her financial wrongdoing has added up to an unfitness for any public office, let alone the presidency?  

There is a corollary.  At what point does the American press finally decide that they, too, are Americans, and that it is no longer possible to be as far in the tank for her as they are, given the level of corruption that has risen to the level of selling out the USA (q.v. the Russian uranium scandal), and still be a shred patriotic?

I don't know that we are at that point, certainly not when it comes to the press.  But the public doesn't owe her anything.  They can go to the polls and vote for the other guy every bit as easily as they can vote for Hillary, and they seriously do not have to make her the president.

Which scandal will, indeed, "do it?"  Which will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back and derails her candidacy in a puddle of elk dung?

Fortunately we have over two months for the one thing that she has done most egregiously, whatever that may happen to be, to be exposed and finally tip the scales.  I don't if that will come from an email release by Julian Assange, or whether it will be something from the old "opposition research."  Lord knows there is plenty left to expose.

I simply hope the American voting public is flexible enough finally to release that it cannot put the nation at risk by electing someone whose corrupt nature is that innate.

Praying ...

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, August 8, 2016

Memento Debto

Lots and lots of conversations du jour are taking place in the course of the ongoing presidential campaign in regard to, well, all manner of irrelevant things.

Some are more irrelevant than others -- Hillary's atrocious handling of national security information, for example, is relevant in the sense of negating her qualifications to lead the USA, but it doesn't relate to an actual issue facing the country, merely her personal corruption level.

While there are several issues that are, or should be, at the top of the list when we are polled on our home phones, one single issue rises to the top of the list for me and my family.  And for my children and, if it ever happens, grandchildren.  And if not mine, then yours.

Let me put it as clearly as possible: we are in debt up to our socks.

The figure of nearly $20 trillion (our national debt, in case you didn't guess), which will be over $20 trillion before the end of the year, should be a part of every speech and every upcoming debate, although it won't be.  It should be, not just because it means we are a gargantuan debtor, but because its annual increase -- shoot, its every-moment increase -- is, itself, the topic.

That increase means that our government is overspending our revenues by even more than the principal we are paying on that debt, with no end in sight.  We are doing so because the Federal government has made itself ever larger, committed to purchases and payments ever greater, without an apparent shred of regard for how it can be paid.

Let me give you an idea.  In this past year's approximate three and a half trillion dollars that the federal government spent, was $223 billion on what is politely called "debt service."  That figure is only the interest on that debt, mind you; the principal is a totally different payment that we never seem to make (the creditors apparently just let the government roll those notes over).

So 6% of our entire Federal budget, bloated as it is, is simply going to pay the interest on money we had to borrow from friendly places like China -- to pay for the fact that the government spent hundreds of billions a year before the current year above what it took in.

I struggle to use the pronoun "we" when talking about the Federal government; I hope you can sense that.  I feel so terribly disconnected from Washington, as if I'm simply not being heard and not being represented.  I just had to say that so I can continue to use "we" -- fewer keystrokes and I'm lazy.

As a nation, we can only tax the citizenry so much before we depress entrepreneurship, limit transactions and crush the national spirit.  We have passed that, in case you were wondering.  So there is essentially a limit on how much revenue can be seized in taxation without harming the essential economic freedom of Americans.  You can't just fix the debt by deciding to raise taxes and expect to get enough back to pay for the excessive government.

So this is my plea.

Dear Candidates:

Our government is leaving my children a legacy of debt that their taxes cannot possibly pay back.  As a nation, we do not have the wherewithal to pay for the government we have even now.  You must make the reduction of Federal spending to what we take in -- a balanced budget -- an incredible priority of your administration if you are elected.

You must, in fact, make a priority the pay-down of the principal on that debt so that we are not continuing to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in annual interest payments, literally, forever.

You must do a complete analysis, agency by agency, of what we are spending and raise your bar as to what is actually affordable.  Remember that the Constitution guides your cleaver; unless that document mandates some service as a Federal obligation -- such as the national defense, the currency, the post office, interstate commerce -- that such agency's very existence needs to be evaluated, and you need the moral courage, leadership and commitment to the well-being of the citizenry to be able to say "we are closing that agency."

If you even say that you want to do that, no really, just say you want to do that, I will consider casting my vote for you.

Remember that we are in God-awful debt.  Memento debto, or something like that.  I couldn't have passed Latin; I think Caesar is a salad.

But you get the idea.  Please, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.  Talk about it.

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, August 5, 2016

R.I.P. The Olympic Games, 1892-2016

You may have noticed that the 2016 Olympic Games are about to start somewhere ... oh, yeah, they'll be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Almost forgot.

When the last Games came around (the Olympics really don't like it when someone who has not paid them a sponsorship ransom uses the word "Olympic", so I'll stop ... probably), I seem to recall that we were very anxious for them to start.  We watched the opening ceremony, enjoyed the popular events like gymnastics, track and field, the marathon (OK, the last five minutes of the marathon), that sort of thing.

Tomorrow, I think but am not sure, the opening ceremonies will start in Rio.  Maybe tonight.

And we couldn't care less.

Once in a while, some popular figure or, in this case, event, crashes to earth and disappears in a blaze of glory -- or a hot mess.  The Games, at least the summer ones, are the latter.  It's one thing to be opposed or criticized; at least that keeps you in the news where you can recover.  It's quite another to lose your relevance.  The Games have lost their relevance.

I don't even think it is that fuzzy as to what happened.  At one time, the Olympics (oops, sorry, IOC) were looked at as a massive competition among the athletes representing their nations.  We hated the Soviets and the East Germans and later, as they got better, the Chinese.  The Soviets became the Russians and we still hated them, though a little less than when they were "stinking commies."

I think it started with the USA's loss to the Soviets in the basketball game 40 years ago, the one where the on-site Games officials had the ending replayed until the Soviets won.  Perhaps we didn't think the Games were corrupt before, but we started to get the impression then.

Articles started to get written about the leadership of the International Olympic Committee, and how the IOC had grown essentially into its own country, with the immense power that comes with awarding the summer and winter contests to different world cities.  We read how payoffs from prospective host cities fattened the wallets of IOC leaders, and we gradually assumed that the same corruption was oozing its way into the administration of the competitions themselves.

And we saw the host cities often lose hundreds of millions of dollars when the results didn't match their hubris.

Then there were the pros.  Some people enjoyed the USA's "Dream Team" competing in basketball after the ban on professional athletes seemed to have melted away.  Most Americans rooted for them; I simply changed the channel.  It was the varsity competing against the middle-school team, and was embarrassing.  I didn't root for the opposition, but I did change the channel.  Dunking in someone's face is pretty bad sportsmanship and I didn't want my country represented that way.

This year?  Well, after the scandals of the past few decades we have the Zika virus scaring many good competitors away from what was, also, a horribly-run city in a horribly-run country that had no business spending resources on two weeks of games.  We have, even at home, breaking scandals about the sins of USA gymnastics coaches and the cover-up of their acts.

NBC has invested its usual ton on the Games, and I confess to being a bit sad because a very good man I have met and know slightly (although not through his work), John Miller, is the NBC executive responsible there.  Everything that goes wrong and depresses viewership reflects on him and I don't like that to happen to a good man.  It is not his fault.

But in a day or so I'm going to look up when the women's gymnastics are, and probably watch some of them (and likely little or nothing else); they're so earnest and amazing.  Otherwise, the Games are too corrupt, too slick, too professional, too many other things that don't represent the concept of amateur competition they once were, or at least supposedly were (that Soviet Army sure had some coincidentally good athletes as recruits).

I miss the Games.  But maybe not that much.  R.I.P.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, August 4, 2016

It's the Stupid Issues, Stupid!

You can easily say that this has been a difficult week for Donald Trump.

It's not that the Democrats' convention last week was any kind of triumph for Hillary Clinton, but certainly Trump, like all of us an imperfect being, has managed to let his lesser qualities take over.  At a time when we should be hearing the distinction on the issues facing us, from both sides, we are left to concern ourselves with whether or not Trump offended that Muslim immigration lawyer whose son was killed in Iraq twelve years ago.

That was in a war that Hillary voted for and Trump opposed, but in the mind of the father it is more important that his law practice continue to have Muslim immigrant clients pouring over the border.

But I digress.

Donald Trump does a nice speech when he is doing a nice prepared speech.  The off-the-cuff stuff and the tweets have gotten him where he is today, or at least have not prevented him from getting where he is today.  But it is now after the convention, and there is no doubt that the winning strategy for him is to be found in one place.

The issues.

Hillary Clinton cannot possibly run on the issues and win.  If you think she can, at least with a neutral performance by Trump (i.e., absent any more direct shots to his foot), I would heartily disagree.  The issues are not in her favor.

She is, after all, having to navigate the tightrope of presenting herself as a third term of Barack Obama, but with a uterus, yet simultaneously having to sell solutions to problems that Obama clearly left in his wake.  That's not an easy thing to do, considering the fact that:

- ISIS, a purely Obama-caused (by failing to leave troops in Iraq) and Obama-facilitated (by failing to honor his own "red line") phenomenon, has crossed our doorstep and is already killing Americans in America as well as Europeans in Europe.  Obama has no solution, and Hillary has offered only what he is already doing, word for word.

- Obama has been releasing the prisoners at Guantanamo as fast as they can be released, and they are already back to the fight and attacking us.  Hillary has not mentioned any of that.

- Hillary wants to quintuple the number of Syrian refugees coming to America without a word as to how we will pay for them nor, more importantly, why it wouldn't be better to resettle them elsewhere in the region where their culture and language are familiar.

- We are borrowing about a trillion more every year than we, the government, are spending.  Yet Hillary wants to add lots of new programs and more debt (she calls it "investment"; either way, it is the taxpayers on the hook for the principal and interest) and has not once even suggested that we might want to practice fiscal responsibility and try to approach a more balanced budget.

- We have had near-zero economic growth in every year of the Obama presidency.  Zero growth (OK, under 2%) leads to minimal creation of the private-sector, full-time professional jobs that allow people to earn, spend and produce more growth.

- The Obama people have shown to be utterly incompetent in foreign policy, negotiating agreements with countries that hate us (Iran, Cuba) that give us nothing, at the same time letting Russia walk all over us while Obama is ignoring or offending allies like Israel.

- The first black president will leave office with an awful record at race relations, having politicized his Justice Department and jumped in on the wrong side of a number of issues -- Ferguson the worst -- before the facts showed them to have been on the wrong side.  And black Chicagoans and Baltimoreans are dying at record rates at the hands of other black Chicagoans and Baltimoreans, while Obama whistles past the graveyards of these and other Democrat-run cities.

- Hillary has shown, as Secretary of State, before and since, to be the combination of corruption (Clinton Cash-documented favors for pay) and incompetence (dealings with every country on earth have rotted our relations) that become intolerable as (gasp) president.

- And yes, Hillary Clinton is the most God-awful speaker we have heard on the national stage in such a campaign since, well, before they were actually recording these people.  They're having to pay people to listen to her, as was the case in her Pennsylvania bus tour this past week with Tim Kaine.  And at that, they weren't exactly packed crowds.  America can't stand her.

How do I know that these and other issues are losers for Hillary?  Well, the emptyish auditoriums she is speaking in are kind of a hint.  It might be more her abysmal speaking style than disagreement with the issues, but either way, it is an opportunity for Donald Trump and the Republicans.

If he and they choose to take it, that is.

So here is the thing.  "Taking the opportunity" means getting the heck off Twitter, or at least hiring someone to filter his tweets through so we don't get egg-beater added to troubled waters.  I'll be happy to take that job, if he and his campaign are listening.  I don't charge a lot, and I know Trump likes cost-effective solutions.

It means scripting his public appearances, even if he is wont to embellish his script a bit.  I get that, it's who he is.  But much like sugar represents empty calories against one's daily caloric intake budget, those strayings from the script are an empty use of time against the allocation that should be used to hammer where Trump can win -- the issues.

We -- America -- want jobs, and so we need a productive private sector less fettered by Washington, free to provide them.  He can tell us how he will do that.  Regularly.

We -- America -- want the national debt slashed and Washington to live within its means.  Whole, useless parts of government need to be deleted as fast as Hillary's emails.  He can tell us how he will do that.  Every day.

We -- America -- want safety in our homes and protection from Islamist terrorists here and abroad, and from criminals on our streets.  He can tell us how he will do that.  Consistently.

Barack Obama has either caused, exacerbated or ignored these and other problems.  There are entire speeches full of laying out the problems and presenting solutions that are available to Mr. Trump, if only he will listen to those near him telling him that path -- and getting the right writers on his team.

There is an entire campaign to be run, if only he will see it.

And in the end, not only will focusing on the issues make him president, it will make him a better president.

Copyright 2016 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dear WaPo: I'm Here for You

I live in Virginia, at least until our home is sold and we can move out of the area.  This means that the local paper of any real size is the Washington Post.  Now, print newspapers are pretty much a dinosaur, and I suppose we get delivery of the Post mainly because we're not young and have always gotten a newspaper in the morning.

By the time it gets here and we actually look at it, we've already watched the TV news early in the morning, so the Post content bears no surprise save an occasional celebrity obituary.  That's another reason that we won't be subscribing to a print newspaper after we move, and it's only inertia that keeps us from unsubscribing tomorrow.

I do look at the Opinions portion on the penultimate and ante-penultimate pages of the front section.  For the most part, their opinions obviate the need for the All-Bran that might accompany their reading on some days, but I, of course, already know the editors' extreme left bent.

The other day, though, I sent a letter to the editor.  I have sent some in the past, and they have been published with some regularity (and the rest ignored; they do get many, many letters).  This one, though, was neither published nor ignored; rather, I received a reply from the editor of the Letters section herself.

This was what I wrote to the editor:

"Today’s (Monday) editorial pages had three letters to the editor in regard to the Republican convention last week.  Every one of them was negative toward the candidate, Mr. Trump, or the convention itself – or both.  The previous day, there were four such letters, again, every one written by someone opposing the Republican candidate and/or the convention.  That makes seven letters in two days with not a single supportive letter.  In the same two-day span, every single op-ed regarding the campaign was anti-Trump, anti-GOP convention, or both.

"Are we to assume that the Post has lost virtually all of its Republican readership, or is it simply that none chooses to write letters?  It is already a given to readers of the print edition that there is an editorial bias; however, it is contemptible that you allow that bias to affect the choices in publishing letters from those who actually buy the paper.  If you needed positive response to the convention, you had only to ask."

So -- you can tell that this was written last Monday, and I can tell you that in the intervening nine days there has been, I believe, exactly one letter to the Editor that was uncompromisingly pro-Trump.

On the Op-Ed page, the page where the syndicated guest columnists have their pieces published, and which actually allows non-leftist pieces, there have been exactly zero completely pro-Trump pieces.

One would like to think that the editors of both the Letters and the Op-Ed columnists might have to subscribe to a level of balance as a tenet of their operation.  However, the Op-ed writers of a conservative bent happen to be, for the most part, Michael Gerson, George Will, Kathleen Parker and Charles Krauthammer -- none of whom is supportive of Trump's candidacy.

So the Op-Ed editor can blithely say "Of course we have balance in the section -- we have four regular conservative contributors.  It's not our fault they don't support the Republican candidate.  And we have a contract so we have to print their stuff." 

Well, just a little problem there -- this is an election season and we're less than 100 days from the voting.  "Balance" is not, at least for the next 14 weeks, about conservative vs. liberal articles and principles -- it's about support for Hillary Clinton and support for Donald Trump.  So it would behoove the Post, if they had anything like journalistic ethics (cue laughter), to devote at least some column-inches in the Op-Ed section currently assigned for guest contributors, to reasonable, intelligent writers whose positions are actually pro-Trump. There certainly are many.

I'm sure you're wondering what the reply was that I got from the editor of the Letters section.  Essentially, she generously and very politely wrote back that letters are more typically generated by readers who are angry about something in the paper; they don't actively solicit them and would not be doing so just to achieve balance.  She did not at all address the issue in the Op-Ed section, presumably because they are in a different wing of the paper's building.

So just for the record, I wanted the editors of both the Letters and the Op-Ed sections to know that there is a really easy solution.

I'm here, pen in hand (OK, laptop keyboard under hand).  You need a letter, I'll give you a letter.  You need an Op-Ed, I'll give you an Op-Ed -- five every week if you need them.  I'll even give you some I already wrote; there are 461 and some of them are actually pro-Trump (or anti-Hillary, that would help the balance, too).  I have plenty of those.

I can even do one on the sainted Khans, perhaps noting Mr. Khan's conflict of interest in his regular occupation as an immigration lawyer (his firm has deleted its Web page from the Internet since the speech), which might account for why he would be speaking on behalf of the candidate who supported the war in which his son was killed.

"Balance", of course, is a quality that eludes the Post, even in the sections where journalistic integrity would suggest that they would think balance to be important.  So we can look forward to 99-and-44/100% percent pro-Hillary or anti-Trump letters, and 100% pure unadulterated pro-Hillary or anti-Trump Op-Eds.

But I'm here, guys, and I can help you.  More than you know.

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