Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Whither Hillary?

I spent almost four seconds over the Thanksgiving day football marathon considering the topic that somehow has evaded the lips of the pundits since the election.  We and they have been grappling over the turmoil that defined America after the immense election upset, to wit:

- How did Trump pull off the election?
- Who will be in his Cabinet?
- Will his Cabinet have the requisite percentages of different sexes, races and religions?
- Will Person X, who didn't endorse Trump, be made Secretary of Something?
- Why are all the rioters always from the left?
- What is that "alt-right" that the media made up?
           - Corollary: is there an "alt-left"?
- How come my 401(k) value didn't plummet like they told me it would?
- When are all those people who promised to leave the USA actually going to leave?

OK, so not only have none of those actually been answered, save for the first one (hint: it's answered quite adequately here), they're not what anyone should be asking, except for the first one and that one about when Whoopi Goldberg is going to move to Namibia and Cher is going to Jupiter (or vice versa).  Given that there were offers of first-class airfare, including to Jupiter, I still want to know when they're going.  Any of them.

But I digress.

The questions we should be asking are actually about the big loser on Election Tuesday, that is to say, Hillary Clinton.  It would surprise no one to know that she planned to be working on assembling her Cabinet today, assuming she hadn't used all that campaign time spent not taking questions from the press, to have already built her list.

Hillary is 69 years old, which pretty much means that her political career is done, unless she carpetbags some new state to try to run for another Senate seat, sort of like the hour and a half she spent in New York before running for the Senate from there in 2000.  Even if she did that, she almost certainly would not be replacing an incumbent Republican, meaning that her presence would not change the landscape at all.

What will she do?

I suppose the correct answer, snarky though it may be, is "who cares?".  She had no issue to run on, running primarily on her possession of a uterus.  Oh, she had positions on issues, well-documented on the website of the campaign.  But they weren't "her" issues.  There was nothing she was really prepared to work on.  It is possible that part of the reason she isn't president-elect is that no one could come up with a good reason why we should even want her to be president.

That said, it becomes very difficult to imagine that Hillary Clinton is going to be anything more than an elder stateswoman of the Democrats in her already-here elder years, perhaps even fading back into being Bill Clinton's wife.  Having lost an immensely winnable election -- remember that Donald Trump in winning received about a million fewer votes than Mitt Romney had in losing in 2012 -- Hillary will have lost a goodly chunk of her constituency, the ones who blame her for what is about to happen to the Supreme Court.

We also, no matter what Donald Trump says, are likely to see some serious legal trouble for her.  While it is more likely than not that the whole email/private-server/sloppy-handling-of-classified-documents thing will eventually fade with a public shaming, the Foundation is a whole 'nother thing.

The Clinton Foundation is clearly a racketeer-influenced and corrupt organization (RICO), set up to funnel money to the Clintons and their cronies in exchange for the sale of influence by a sworn Cabinet officer to, among others, foreign interests.  That much of that was done while Hillary was Secretary of State leaves the FBI unable to walk away, lest there be another one of those "charities" built.

We sort of imagine the actual charitable works of the Foundation, like the AIDS medicines that are pretty much the only example anyone presents of actual charitable work, as being not the "reason for existence", but the "cover."  Sort of like the little groceries set up to hide the casinos in the back, or the way the Corleone family sold olive oil in The Godfather.

The FBI is definitely investigating the Foundation, and it is far from beyond question that Bill and Hillary, and perhaps Chelsea and a few other capos of the regime, are going to spend a lot more time hiding behind lawyers than running for office or making policy speeches.

Ironically, even though the Foundation was built as a RICO enterprise, the Clintons are going to have to keep it active and roaring, precisely so that they can keep up the front.  After all, if somehow its contributions dried up because the Clintons no longer have any influence to sell, it would scream to the world that the Foundation was RICO through and through. Unfortunately for the Clintons, those contributions have tanked, including about a 90% drop from Norway alone, and nearly a 40% drop overall.

If the Clintons try to phase out the Foundation, it will cement the notion that it was an influence-peddling enterprise.  But with a full-out drying up of contributions -- no influence, no pay-for-play -- they're going to have to figure out how to get a pile of money contributed or they can expect to lose the argument that it was on the up and up.

So Hillary's future may indeed be in stripes, although she might be able to have her husband in a neighboring cell, which would be amusing given the level of their relationship and the screaming volume.  The other inmates might have to ask for one of them to be moved so they can get some sleep.  And where would the Secret Service detail Bill still gets go?  Next cell over?  The mind boggles.

Ahhhhh, it's Tuesday.  Just a fun way to let the mind wander.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Learning from the 20th Century? We did!

I have a grand-niece who, in her early twenties, is unsurprisingly, but retrievably leftist.  She was a Bernie Sanders type, back when he wasn't crushed by the corrupt weight of the Clintons and the corrupted Democratic National Committee.  Unaware, presumably, that it was Hillary who had gotten the DNC to tilt the scales in her favor, she then switched over to the Clintonistas.

Needless to say, she was terribly disappointed by the outcome of the election and, like most of her peers, turned to social media to vent their respective spleen.  It is apparently quite easy to hide behind the relatively masked presence, if not the total anonymity, of Al Gore's Amazing Internet.

And it is such that I was apprised of a Facebook post (I am not on Facebook; this was forwarded to me) in which my lovely grand-niece "liked" a tweet from a fellow in England who apparently spends a great deal of his time all day tweeting out little phrases.  In this case, he appeared to be replying to a phrase he had heard, or made up, such that his tweet was this one (remember; he is in the UK):

"Leave that bigoted person alone; they're old."  Translation: They lived through almost every 20th-Century social movement & learnt nothing.

This was the message my grand-niece chose to "like" on Facebook.  As I took a look at the original poster's account, I could pretty much infer that he tweets, and lots of similar-aged people of similar persuasions tweet back, or "like" or "retweet" and reinforce his sense of rightness, certainly absent anyone replying and telling him that there are actually other "right" people who think quite differently.

I'm going to take a leap of faith and assume that, from the context of his other recent tweets, by "bigoted people" he was referring to all Trump supporters and voters, not just actual old, bigoted people.  After all, Hillary already called us "racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic ...", so it can be comfortably assumed that the youthful left can't discern the difference.

I cannot and need not disguise the fact that I am 65 and voted for Donald Trump.  That probably makes the youthful left decide immediately that I am an "old, bigoted person."  They are welcome to presume whatever they feel and tweet their little brains out.  They certainly can presume that I "lived through almost every 20th-Century social movement."

They cannot assume, though, that I learned nothing.

I learned, for example, that the best fable ever written was "The Emperor's New Clothes."  It was the best, because its moral, however written, was that we should not believe that just because thousands of people do or say something, that they are, a priori, right.  Human beings have a certain need for association, and a certain "go along to get along" mentality that turns them into lemmings if they don't engage their brains' capacity for critical thinking.  That, friends is a tool the left uses to its advantage.

The music industry, by the way also uses that tool.

I did learn a few things from the USA's civil rights movement.  I learned that you should be careful about making assumptions about people based on where they came from or what color they were -- but I also learned that offsetting past discrimination by overcompensating was about as ineffective and exactly as prejudicial.  The corollary -- if you want more racism, not less, simply switch the colors and impose "affirmative action" or any other form of reverse discrimination that punishes people who have done nothing to deserve it.

I learned that replacing a system or environment that had a failing in one area with a replacement that patched the failing issue but failed in another was not worth the effort (hint -- check out my Electoral College piece from Monday).

I learned that relationships that are worth the commitment to share a home are worth the commitment to "put a ring on it."  No commitment thereafter will carry the weight it deserves, if the first one can be dissolved just by one party moving out.

I learned that the idealism of the human in his or her 20s is oh, so gradually tempered with the reality of mortgages, and jobs and electric bills -- when you have to earn your money with a little sweat, you get a whole lot more careful about your government wasting it by putting moths on treadmills, or paying for someone else's kid's college tuition.

I learned that socialism cannot be sustained without a dictator -- a Castro, a Kim-il Sung, a Stalin -- because eventually, if you disincentivize success and entrepreneurship in favor of all of the people "working together", tra-la, people stop pulling their weight and everyone's effort declines to that of the typical employee you get at the end of the phone when you call a Federal Government department for help.  And those dictators all turn into the pigs from "Animal Farm."

I learned lessons like interpreting what happened at Hampshire College this month.  You are aware that the school put its American flag to half-staff after Donald Trump's election, and when students complained, they simply took down the flag for good.  I learned that when, say, a child takes something he knows he shouldn't from off a table, you lightly slap his hand; you don't stop putting things on the table -- you teach the lesson.  That flag should still be up there, at full staff.

In other words, I learned the lessons that experience teaches you.  Things that don't work, ideas that fail in practice, fail generally because they produce unintended consequences.  And I learned that children in their 20s are simply not capable of seeing through to identify unintended consequences, because they haven't gained the experience to predict what can happen.  So they believe that "this time it will be different."  And when it isn't, and when their ideas fail, as they so often have, they eventually learn the lessons that we "old" people learned.

Of course, it is 2016, so when those lessons are learned, the learning process is delayed by copious tweets and Facebook posts among only like-minded and like-aged, inexperienced peers complaining about things.  Eventually, they have to get a job.

And, unless they work for the Federal government, they're likely to learn a few things, too.

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

Oh, That Pesky Electoral College

So of course, now that the liberal academicians and their overly-influenced snowflakes, the students who should know better, have all retreated to their "safe zones" after the election, those of them who are the loud pampered ones have taken off toward the destruction of a venerable institution.

That would be, of course, the Electoral College.

[Note -- I suppose it would be wise at this point to recall that during Rush Week at the Phi Delta Theta house in 1972, as a senior, I was unforgettably amused when one of the incoming freshmen who pledged showed up with a sweatshirt titled "Electoral College Athletic Department."  I think it is completely coincidental that he now lives in Canada.] 

Several times in these pages I have written about people's propensity to "talk past each other" when they're arguing.  This happens either when one side is so unalterably correct that the opposing voice needs to distract from the fact that they are losing the debate, sort of like "But Mussolini made the trains run on time", or "Castro certainly had a high literacy rate while mass-murdering his opposition, right?".

They also talk past each other when the topic has two separate components to it that complicate the argument.  Such is the case with the Electoral College.

You see, here's the thing.  There are indeed two completely separate things to argue regarding the Electoral College.  The first is the whole "electors" thing, meaning the mechanics of each state physically casting its votes for the presidency based on which candidate got the most votes in the state.  Since the electors are people too, we assume, and are not all legally bound as to whom they vote for, strange things could happen.

The other is probably most important, and that is the "popular vote" thing -- whether or not the candidate who gets the most votes across the country should be the president.

Of course, those two "things" get conflated all the time.  While the "electors" thing is, by all accounts", somewhat of a relic of the 18th Century, the system of electors has become part of the voting argument, when it should in fact be about 406th in priority as to fixing what we may think is wrong with the nation.

So we are going to stay today on the "popular vote" thing, and since it is my column, you will pretty much hear one side.  And I'll start by saying that nothing is going to change, not ever, never.  The Constitution is not going to get amended, and I may even circle back to just why that is the case before I'm done here.

The 2016 campaign is actually surprising in terms of where the candidates did their campaigning.  The past few cycles, the candidates had spent an inordinate amount of time in Florida and Ohio, with side trips to maybe 5-6 other states to say hello and then return to Florida and Ohio.  And we understand why; those two states have the twin attributes of being populous (and therefore having a lot of electoral votes), and being politically balanced, such that the number of Democrat and Republican votes can be surprisingly equal.

In 2016, principally because of the phenomenon of Donald Trump running a very different campaign and running on a somewhat-different set of issues, a number of other states got actual candidate visits -- Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, North Carolina -- which was a breath of fresh air, at least depending on which one was speaking.

But it has been the truth for a long time that states like California and New York, which are large in electors but vote only for Democrats, never see a speech except on TV.  Why would they?  Even for someone like Trump who can do five or six rallies in a day, there is a finite amount of time, and none to waste on quixotic treks to states you won't win.

So, the argument goes, those states' voters get no attention and their needs are never met.  Of course, if once in a while they might tease us and vote for Republicans, they might rise to the attention of a candidate.  Same, I suppose, for Texas in the other direction.

And this is the bottom line as far as the popular vote goes.  Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it, along with a whole set of unintended consequences.  With the current state-based, proportional system, the candidates spend time only in toss-up states and, theoretically, the provincial needs of unwinnable or unloseable states are given no air.

But if you were to switch to a popular vote nationwide, you leave the frying pan and jump into the fire -- instead of states that are toss-ups and get attention, the candidates would speak only in big population centers, trying not so much to influence their thinking as simply to get them to the polls.  Forty states would never see a candidate and, of course, only big urban centers (with lots of votes) would be promised anything.  Rural states with scattered population would be electoral wasteland.  

Nothing is going to change -- as I mentioned, the preponderance of the states being low-population, and a change requiring two-thirds of the states to ratify it, and the change being anathema to most states, no Constitutional amendment is going to happen.  But at least you understand why.  There is no moral superiority in disenfranchising one set of voters in favor of another.

And that is the argument that will always win the day.  Unlike most colleges in this country, the Electoral College is free ... and working tolerably as it is.

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

Come On, Aretha, It's Kickoff Time

This is not the piece I actually intended to publish this morning, but sometimes the best-writ columns get overtaken by events.

By "events", I'm referring to the otherwise-interesting NFL game played on Thanksgiving between the now-6-4 Minnesota Vikings and the now-7-5 Detroit Lions, after the Lions won in the last few moments of the game.  But the game almost didn't happen, or at least it almost didn't get watched.

I am referring, of course, to the bizarre moment before the game when the National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, was turned over to the fragile hands of Aretha Franklin to sing.  Unfortunately, she dropped it.

In my home, as in millions of others around the good old USA, the start of the game was a shared activity with the consumption of turkey, stuffing and other dishes in celebration of Thanksgiving.  So while the TV was on at the time, the rest of us were busy filling up plates with the aforementioned edibles.

At that moment, our attention turned to our plates and the associated filling up thereof, we were not paying attention to the public-address announcer introducing the anthem performance, and did not know who was doing it.  All we heard were the first attempted bars, "Oh say, can you see ..."

That part alone took, I don't know, about thirty seconds to get through, whereupon I said something like "Looks like kickoff will be delayed an hour or so for that lady to finish."  I didn't ask who it was, because I didn't care; would anyone actually care 99% of the time?

That's about when someone said  "That's Aretha Franklin!".

Oh, dear.  Unfortunately the lugubrious pace of the first few bars was matched by the equally sad, sloooooowwwwwww rest of the song.  My first thought was "Oh, man, is Fox Sports going to be mad", because they need to have these things timed to the second to allow for the erratic pace of the game itself and the need to ensure that all the commercials bought and paid for get aired in a time appropriate for the fee charged.  And I think 14 of the 22 starting players were nodding off, and the game would have to be cancelled if there were insufficient conscious players.

My second was "And you thought presidential candidates have big egos?  They're nothing compared to a former celebrity who convinces herself that people came to the game to hear her sing the anthem."  I mean, do you think that even 500 of the 60,000 or so who came to the stadium knew (or cared) who was going to be singing the anthem?  Do you think even five of the thirty million who watched on TV knew or cared?

Aside ... I am only fractionally more sensitive about all this than you, having done the anthem at numerous major-league baseball games in my remote youth and some of my middle-ageth.  And I've already complained about self-aggrandizing anthem performances in these pages.  Obviously that was to no avail.

This one was bothersome because Aretha Franklin is already a celebrity, reasonably respected, and frankly, she does not need to be a full-fledged jerk to get our attention.  In other words, she could have gone out and given a respectful, respectable performance in a minute or so, and been cheered wildly.  After all, the fans paid to see football; no one paid to see her.

Instead, we got a gospeled-up rendition that took every second of five times as long as the song should have taken.  Notes were multiplied and only occasionally was an actual note of the actual melody performed.  But then again, this was clearly not about what should be a moment of respect for our flag and our country.  It was all about Aretha Franklin, who should know better.

I suppose it should be appreciated for what it is -- an obvious attempt to give the home audience more opportunity to pile the canned corn and cranberry sauce on our plates without fearing that we were going to miss the first few minutes of the game.  For that, or at least for our gastronomic enjoyment, I imagine that we should thank her.

But as far as musicality, well, my, we're going to diverge there.  I simply don't -- even if you take away the fact that it was our national anthem at a football game -- care to hear a song with those lyrics, performed in a style so inappropriate for them.  I can't say it enough -- it was ego, ego, ego, all day.  Me, me, me, I'm going to hold every note long enough that you can say something about ME.

Music is about the story, the story that's told in the lyric line.  In this lyric, we celebrate the true but metaphoric story of the captured physician held on a British ship during a battle of the War of 1812, happy to see that the American flag was still flying over Fort McHenry the next morning.  At the same time, it is a metaphor for the leading role that the USA would have in the decades since, and that we would still be there the next morning to take our place in the world.

There was no connection between the interminable version done yesterday by Aretha Franklin and either the actual or the metaphoric message of the Star-Spangled Banner.  It was the purest and most unpleasant form of self-aggrandizement.

Oh, there will be others who think that it was wonderful, because anything done by Aretha Franklin must, a priori, be wonderful because it was done by Aretha Franklin.  As a singer of many decades, she has her fans; as a woman, and a black woman at that, she is almost impervious to criticism because in these declining days of the Obama administration, no black woman (other than Condoleezza Rice) may be criticized without accusations of racism and sexism filling the air.  Michelle Obama does, on occasion, wear ugly dresses.  You heard it here first.

I heartily disagree.  That awful performance was not wonderful no matter what color or gender the singer was.  It was terrible and inappropriate, and in these pages we call out awful for what it is -- in this case, an egotistical, self-important rendition that was more worthy of criticism for being bad musically than for its lack of respect.

But I did get enough turkey, so sure, thanks, Aretha.

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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Market under Trump

Barack Obama tried throughout his administration to take credit for the stock market rising to the 18,000 level or so on the Dow Industrials.  A sign of a healthy economy, he insisted, and a validation of his ability to steer the economic ship that is the USA.

Of course, never once did he mention that the reason the market was where it was, and where it had gotten, had nothing to do with a healthy economy.  After all, we in the huddled masses were well aware that the economy was far from healthy.  Joblessness was terrible; so many people left the job market that the unemployment rate actually fell because people couldn't find work for so long they stopped being counted.

The economy was not healthy, certainly, but the Dow was peaking.  That peak had nothing to do with the economy, although it was definitely caused by Obama policies.  The Federal Reserve's push under Obama to push interest rates to near zero meant that saving money in banks and interest-bearing accounts was no longer worthwhile.  The only place where you could hope to get a return on investment was the market, and the higher demand for equities drove prices up.

That wasn't the only perverse relationship between Obama's policies and stock prices.  Obamacare made hiring employees far more expensive, so companies shed staff counts in favor of leaner head count, more skilled and more senior employees doing more -- five people doing the work of seven.  The savings made profitability deceptively higher.  The companies were more profitable, but the unemployed and underemployed part of the workforce reached heights not seen in decades.

This is critical to understanding what will eventually be the direction of the market in a Donald Trump administration, assuming he is able to move through a lot of his agenda with Congress led by his party.  Because, as I see it, there are two large forces at opposing sides that will have an effect.

These two forces reflect what (A) the removal of the Obamistas' debilitating policies does, and (B) what Trump's highly pro-growth policies will result in.

Think (A) for a second.  Imagine what happens when interest rates are allowed to tick up somewhat and banks possibly become a competitor to the market for investment dollars.  That's a downward press on equities, because demand for them is diluted by new, higher-interest accounts with rates we used to see.

Then -- when Obamacare is deleted and the cost per employee for health insurance becomes less onerous.  Will companies go back to more, lower-skilled employees?  I don't know.  There are facing-off pressures there.  Those firms that leaned-out their workforce in favor of fewer, better-skilled employees may have decided they like that option.  For them, the repeal of Obamacare will have little effect, because they've already changed their hiring model to accommodate it.  If the changed workforce concept was successful for them, they may continue it and their stock value may not change as much.

Trump, however (think (B) now), is looking at dramatically lower corporate tax rates, as well as the repeal of many onerous regulations.  That is essentially dumping money in the coffers of corporate America, allowing them to invest in research and development, as well as its associated hiring -- or simply capturing it as additional profit and returning some to shareholders.  The former would involve less net (and less stock price increase) than the latter.

In addition, his intent to tilt trade with foreign countries toward more favorable terms for the USA could also go either way -- higher prices from re-homed manufacturing can stall growth and depress stock prices if it's not offset by exports driven by more favorable negotiated terms.

Those who think they know are betting on better prices; the Dow hit 19,000 this week on the come.  But my questioning of how far up it really can go is less affected by what Trump will do than what Obama did do.  The market was heavily higher at the end of the Obama administration, but artificially so; there was nowhere else to put investment money.  It leads us to question how even an extremely pro-business president can push an already artificially high market higher.

We'll see.  I'm not selling out, at any rate.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What Mike Pence Should Have Said

At this point we are all aware of the uncomfortable night the vice president-elect, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, had when attending a performance of the popular Broadway show "Hamilton" this past week.  As he was leaving the theater after the curtain calls, the actor who portrayed Aaron Burr decided to take out a pre-written message and speak it to Mr. Pence in front of the assembled audience.

I won't bother quoting the entire recitation for you; at this point you should be aware.  The actor pointed out that he was afraid of what Donald Trump might do as president, and quoted issues of diversity and being president for all Americans, and being inclusive, and that whole rainbows-and-unicorns thing.

The main point was that he claimed to represent people who were in fear, and they needed to have their fears assuaged.  You know, like making America one big college campus safe space.  Ooooh, that scary Mr. Trump.

Mike Pence is a man of immense class and restraint, going so far as to exit the theater politely with his now-embarrassed family.  In every sense, the governor embodies the man we refer to as a "gentleman."

In subsequent statements, he confined himself to acknowledging that it was perfectly fine for the actor to have said things in public, and that he greatly enjoyed "Hamilton" and his evening, at least up to a point.  OK, he didn't say that last part.  As I sit here, he has yet to utter a syllable of complaint, although his soon-to-be-boss tweeted a thing or two.

So while I know that this is one of my "What Person X should have said" columns, we have to understand that Mike Pence did precisely what Mike Pence would do the next time, and every time something like this happens again, if it unfortunately does reoccur.  So maybe this is more a reflection of what I myself would have done, had I been the good governor on that evening.  And, I suppose, assuming I had the foresight and the verbal dexterity to have thought these words on no notice.

So here's what I would have liked to have happened.  I'd have asked most politely if the actor would allow me the honor of a reply and would yield the microphone for a brief moment.  Then I would have said this:

"Young man, while I would like to reply, and I thank you for the opportunity to do so, I would be remiss if I did not first tell you that, at least to this moment, this has been an extraordinary evening of theater that I will not soon forget, and that you and your peers on stage did an outstanding job.

"That said, I would like to ask you what news media you rely on, and to let you know that your unwarranted fears would not have reached the level that they have, had not those media used the incitement of fear as a way to try to turn the election to their favored candidate, rather than maintaining journalistic standards.  

"To be honest, my friend, had they done so you would have found yourself even more afraid had Mr. Trump lost the election and your president-elect had been someone who had shown herself to be so corrupt as to have sold influence to foreign governments while serving has the head of our diplomatic efforts.  But the media you rely on downplayed that in their own interest.

"There is a lesson here for those who will learn it.  You have allowed others to convince you to be afraid when fear is not warranted.  The media have become the Chicken Little of our lifetime, screaming that the sky is falling, when the nation has elected a president who promised to fix problems that have not been solved by those who claim to be your friends, and for whom you fruitlessly voted, for reasons that make little sense.

"Give the man a chance, my friend.  He has already said that he is, and wants to be, the president for all Americans.  I pledge to you that he will be just that."

It would have fallen on very deaf ears, but would have been worth saying.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

He Is, After All, the President

I am not "the last guy to comment on the legitimacy of the president-elect"; I was perfectly willing to accept the fact that Barack Obama was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, and that he was the president.  I thought he was born in Hawaii and that, while his failure to put that issue to rest immediately exacerbated the debate, what was important was that he indeed was born there.

What was less legitimate was not his eligibility but his treatment.  We all recall (if you don't, here it is) the strange aired conversation between Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose. where right around the election in 2008 they admit that they don't know a heck of a lot about Obama.  They didn't know a lot, of course, because the media collectively issued Obama a huge get-out-of-jail-free card, and failed to do their job.

There might have been a whole lot more investigative reporting on the church he attended, the one run by a certain Jeremiah Wright.  Or his association with a cop-killer, or his adherence to some pretty revolutionary lefties bent on wrecking the USA.  That might have been a real problem for Obama, had it gotten the air time it deserved.

But it didn't.

As if by doing a mea culpa to the wrong side, the media have decided to overdo themselves in their attacks on Donald Trump, who was also elected president, just a few short weeks ago.  Mr. Trump has done exactly one thing since being elected, that being performing the arduous task of assembling the governing individuals who will make up the Cabinet and senior executive positions in all the departments and agencies that make up our bloated bureaucracy.

That he has devoted full time to that exercise is 100% consistent with the person that we saw in the campaign, at least a part of that person.  He gave the impression -- OK, he gave a lot of impressions; this was one -- that he wanted to apply the capabilities of a CEO to the presidency, consulting with successful people as well as accomplished governors, senators and others in politics.

Now he is simply doing what he said he would do; using the transition as the first stage of his project plan.  He is clearly working full-time plus on this and doing nothing else.  In contrast with the passivity of the outgoing president, Trump is working long hours to fix what Obama hath wrought.

That seems not enough.

The press, where they should be swooning over a president-elect actually trying to do the job, working hard at keeping his commitments to the people who elected him, is simply complaining that he is moving too slowly, or too quickly, or without the politically correct specific percentages of women, or blacks, or Asians, or Martians, or whatever.  Apparently, when you have to search hard to make sure you are visibly opposing the president-elect your paper or network opposed, you pick nits rather than applauding.

There is no honeymoon with the 2016 version of the media.  Rather than letting him pick his Cabinet and advisers through a sound, diligent series of interviews, each one who comes before him has to be eviscerated by the press for things they might have done or said thirty years ago, or maybe in a previous life.

He is, after all, the president-elect.  He doesn't need the press to govern; rather, they need him.  It would be a rather decent gesture were the press to give the man a chance to do his job before the criticism that they never gave Barack Obama is unleashed on him.

Time will tell.  Let's at least have time.

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

E Red Sox Pluribus, Unum

"Pardon?", I hear you ask.  "Latin and baseball do not mix."

Well, not often, but here, the idea of "one out of many" is called a roster strategy, and I have no better phrase to recruit you to my way of looking at things.

The "one", of course, is David Americo Ortiz Arias, the remarkable Dominican slugger and now former Boston Red Sox designated hitter called "Big Papi" for many years.  Ortiz has retired for good from baseball, and has left a Papi-sized hole in the Red Sox lineup.  And if you've ever seen him, well, that's a pretty big hole to fill.

It's an impossible thing to find someone comparable to replace him, either from free agency or trade, given that his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), the excellent measure of offensive capability, was 3% above any other player in the game.  You would think, though, that we could imagine beyond the dull concept of looking for another Papi, but the press cannot.

No, rather it seems as if every answer to the question about replacing Papi appears to be to sign this or that free agent slugger, whether Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, or Mark Trumbo of the Orioles, or who knows who else.  Always one guy, plugging in as DH.

I reject that kind of thinking, on a number of levels.  Consider, for example, a couple factors that play into the decision:

(1) Money vs. age -- the replacement types who would be both established enough to forecast a solid offensive performance, and also experienced enough to have gotten to free agency, are old.  They will want big, long-term contracts into their declining years.  As the Yankees have proven, that is one bad strategy.

(2) Fragility -- even younger players get hurt.  When you have a lot of money tied up in one player, it is money you can't spend on another player.  When that player gets hurt, and he inevitably does if his name is not Cal Ripken, there is a lot of scrambling that has to be done.  Just take a look at the Sox lineup on the days Ortiz was rested as an example.

I would like to hope that by now you're aligning with, and may even have psyched out, my approach to building a team that recovers from the loss of the biggest offensive force in the game last year.  "E pluribus unum."  Out of many, one.  As in, "replace David Ortiz with parts."

Let's get to it.  Start with something Casey Stengel said when he was the first manager of the New York Mets in 1962.  Asked why his very first player picked in the player draft was a catcher, Stengel replied that, "If you don't have a catcher, you're going to have a lot of passed balls."  [Aside -- that catcher was Hobie Landrith, who actually did make the team.]

That's a nice phrase to remind us that one way or the other, someone is going to be the DH.  Offensive production is cumulative across nine players.  You don't have to replace Ortiz's entire 1.000 OPS with another 1.000-OPS player; you only have to replace the difference between Ortiz and his replacement.  In other words, if you put someone in the DH role with an .850 OPS, you can still replace the other 150 points by upgrading other positions some of that, each!

The Red Sox have young, solid starters ensconced at three positions -- center (Jackie Bradley), right (Mookie Betts), and short (Xander Bogaerts).  "Young" means under 28, and therefore expected to improve as they're short of their peak age.  They will be somewhat offset by the assumed age-related declines in two other positions, second (Dustin Pedroia) and first (Hanley Ramirez).  While you can't know how these five will perform in 2017, it is safe to assume that the likeliest scenario is that they cumulatively represent an expected offensive 2017 about the same as 2016.

That leaves three spots in the lineup -- third, catcher and left.  In order, the Red Sox players at those positions had OPSs of .686, .665 and .759.  So if you replaced Ortiz at DH with someone who would be a really good hitter and give you an .850 OPS, then if you could upgrade those other three spots equally -- to .736 at third, .715 at catcher and .809 in left -- you have put together a plan that replaces Ortiz with only an .850 OPS hitter at DH.

How possible are those upgrades?  Well, left is already taken care of, since Andrew Benintendi, the young phenom whom the Red Sox put in left at the end of 2016, produced an .835 OPS, more than enough to take care of the need in left field, if he were to continue.  I can't tell you that he can be expected to continue that, but he has hit at every level of the minors, and even if he slumped 30 points over the year, you have still taken care of 30 of those 150 points.

Catcher needs a .715 OPS.  The one player the Sox used the most behind the plate was Sandy Leon, and Leon was not the problem -- his OPS was .840.  All that is needed there is better offense from the backup catcher position.  Finally, at third, well, there are issues there.  You need .736 and. while the primary third-baseman, Travis Shaw, was at .753, it is certainly a place where a somewhat-better bat could give you a lot of points as well.  Either way, if Shaw played 150 games at third the same as he did 104 games last year, you have the .736 covered.

So ... the above is rife with assumptions, of course.  But the thought process -- making multiple changes, or looking at multiple positions, to offset an inevitable drop at one position, is a realistic and cost-effective way to build a regular lineup.  There's a guy under contract, name of Pablo Sandoval, whom we haven't even mentioned as he missed most all of 2016.  Perfectly reasonable option to put at DH even if he can't field all that well any more.

Multiple options, and we haven't even added one free agent.  It's something to think about.

E pluribus unum.  Works in baseball, too.

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

Diminishing Returns in the Campaign

Over a week, now, after the election, and we're all ripping up data from the results to try to figure out why Hillary Clinton is more likely on her way to jail than to the White House.  There is an area of the results that I've been speculating on just a little bit that I wanted to kick around with you.

It is a little subliminal, but that's to be expected since the topic itself is not incidental, but something we only see over time.

We're all familiar with the concept of the Law of Diminishing Returns, which is as likely to be cited in an economics lecture as it is in the topic of elections.  A series of repeated activities or events simply tends to have progressively less impact later in the series than earlier.  We build up something akin to immunity over time, which diminishes the effect of each activity as it repeats.

I saw that in the 2016 presidential campaigns, and to me it is the difference in how the law applied to the two candidates' efforts, what they did and what happened to them.  And here's what I'm thinking.

The diminishing return on Donald Trump's side was the effect of the things that he said at his rallies and, perhaps more, on his tweets.  Think of it -- we knew Trump for decades, completely divorced from politics -- the billionaire construction magnate who built resorts and buildings and golf courses.  We knew what he did, and his political leanings were irrelevant.

All that changed when he became a candidate.  One sad fact of present-day campaigns is opposition research, which was almost irrelevant in the case of Trump.  First off, we already knew that he was a bombastic New Yorker, quintessentially so.  "Oh, my", the opposition said, "He was married three times!".  Well, it was Donald Trump.  We already knew that.  We knew he was, or likely was, a womanizer.

Since it wasn't news to us, we in the electorate shed it like water off a duck's back.  What we had not read or been aware of, was his propensity to tweet provocative things at three in the morning.  The media hated that (or secretly loved it as fodder) and made sure his most provocative tweets showed up later that morning so we would hate Trump.  And it's eminently possible that it worked -- for a while.

But not forever.  Eventually, the things that he tweeted, and the endless re-quotes and re-misquotes of things he said, simply reinforced what we had already learned about Trump through the campaign.  He said provocative things.  He was intensely against illegal immigration.  He used themes, postponing the details for when details were needed, since he intended to negotiate them then anyway.

The rest of the stuff?  By July or August, we were so attuned to the way Trump communicated that, although each tweet, or each debate performance, was still blasted by the press as being awful and disqualifying, we in the voting public had already written it off as, not to be trite, Donald being Donald.  Diminishing returns.

Hillary Clinton was a whole different case.  With her, the repeated releases of incriminating data that showed her complete disregard for information security, built a picture of a person that many suspected she actually was like.  The discovery that the Clinton Foundation was apparently a RICO organization, a criminal enterprise built to make the Clintons wealthier at the expense of national security, was condemning at the start.  But additional releases -- new thousands of emails, new evidence against the Foundation -- made far less impact than the early, expository ones.

So what was different between the two candidates, and what was the difference in the outcome?  I see it this way.  With Trump, the information we kept getting told us who he was.  With Hillary, the information told us what she did.  We thought we already knew Trump, and everything we saw reinforced our expected image of him.  It may not have been the greatest image, but in no way did it change our perception of the things we thought he would do.

With Hillary, we had no idea what she was going to do, and even why she was running, other than self-aggrandizement.  What we discovered over the campaign, even early on, was that she was incompetent as a public servant, and worse, corrupt in office.  There was certainly a heavy amount of diminishing returns there, but the image was of someone who was incompetent and corrupt.  The later emails and investigations were tedious and tiresome -- but consistent.

The consistent pounding was about who Trump was, versus about how Hillary operated.  Maybe each new tweet from Trump, or each new leaked email from Hillary, got less and less of a rise out of the public.  We care, apparently, about getting things done and care less than we let on about the nature of the person -- as long as they will work hard and smart.  We learned that Hillary might work hard and smart, but for Hillary first, last and always.

We took the "America First" tack, apparently.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Inclusion vs. Policy

It feels like all week I keep seeing a new spin -- and I mean it in the good way -- on last week's election and the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president.  Something we had not thought of much, or something that is simply another way to look at what we already saw.

I saw some Democrat or other on one of the cable news programs, talking about what to do now, at least for the party that lost a terribly winnable election for them.  The most telling point, he or she said, and the most important thing for the party, was to "promote an agenda of tolerance and inclusion", or something like that.

Dear Lord, did the Democrats learn nothing at all?

Clearly they have learned nothing, since it is evident that they will be influenced by the rioters in the streets in cities in this country, rioters who (or those who paid them to riot) were obviously motivated by views of Donald Trump that don't really jibe with reality.  But this isn't really about Mr. Trump, who is now President-elect Trump.

You see, the problem is that "tolerance and inclusion", although being nice, feel-good concepts that get people sufficiently riled up to riot in the streets when told to (or paid to), well, they are not policy.  And policy is what people vote on, not feel-good concepts.

Now, if the Democrats want to go all "tolerance and inclusion" on us, and nominate a bunch more lefties who can parrot that story but still don't have any policies that, you know, work in real life, they are going to continue to lose to Republicans who are offering actual governmental and legislative approaches that do work.

So maybe it is a bit about Trump.  After all, amid all the tweets and perceived (and somewhat exaggerated) bluster, Trump put down some markers on policy -- secure the border, lower our taxes, lower corporate and individual taxes, repeal and replace Obamacare -- that resonated.  We knew what Trump was going to try to do quickly as president.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, put forth, as her most prominent rationale for voting for her, her possession of a uterus.  Yes, she had lots of plans on her website, but who goes to websites for candidate policies?  And it wouldn't have mattered, because none of that stuff was new if you had even bothered to look it up; it had all just failed massively over the past eight years, much of it overseas, on her watch.

By following up with more intent to run on nebulous concepts like "inclusion and tolerance" (ahhh, throw in "diversity" while you're there), the Democrats are simply talking past the American electorate that just threw them out of the White House.  You remember the concept, where you keep talking about something that is the wrong response, skewed completely from what the other person said.  (Note -- in the linked piece, I also said that Trump would not get the nomination, so I had to have learned that lesson also -- but at least I did).

The electorate was saying that it wanted lower taxes, secure borders, jobs, etc.  All the things that Trump said he would make a priority, and that he would hire good leaders to help him deliver them -- America first.  The left missed all of that, leaping to the Hillary approach that you would defeat Trump by vilifying him.  Unfortunately, by focusing on the man and not what he was actually saying, they missed where, while his approach and his slogans resonated, his policies did, too.

The Democrats don't get it.  I have not heard any Democrat point to the Trump agenda -- economic revival, strong borders, that sort of thing -- and say that his agenda was simply better than theirs.  So they are heading back to their same old playbook.  And I'm happy to let them.

This was a really striking election, and who fails to learn the right lesson from it does so at his own peril.

Or hers.  Just being, you know, "inclusive."

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Which Mexicans?

Hillary Clinton lies constantly, and when she was not actually "lying" in the campaign but, rather, misrepresenting the truth, which constitutes the rest of the time her lips are moving, she was still not being accurate.  This may land her in prison, if the new, incoming Attorney General continues the FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation as a Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization.

It was one of the latter cases -- actually, it happened quite often, including on the national debate stage -- that really bothered me throughout the campaign.  That it is being repeated still, by commentators on the news channel circuit, even after the election, bothers me still.

I'm referring to the line Hillary and her lackeys, sycophants and toadies have repeated over and over, which was always a close relative of this: "Donald Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists, murderers and thieves."

The disingenuous nature of that line boggles the mind, and it should have boggled the mind of the press, had they not been completely in the tank for the Hillary campaign.  I mean, note the difference, meaning the accurate version of the statement.  That would be "Donald Trump referred to Mexican rapists, murderers and thieves as 'rapists, murderers and thieves'."

Get the difference?  In the context of what Trump actually said when he actually said it, he was referring to certain of the people who were coming over the border or, what he actually meant, people who were being sent over the border, presumably because some element in Mexico, possibly their government, wanted them out of Mexico and the USA was the closest option.

Now, Trump may or may not have been right about whether criminals in Mexico were being pushed across the border.  Certainly he had to have talked to Border Patrol agents to give him that impression, and their rank and file ended up endorsing him, so there had to be at least some truth in it.

The important thing is that Hillary Clinton incorrectly and intentionally misstated Trump's comments to give them a meaning they simply didn't have.  Trump was certainly inelegant in his own phrasing, but he certainly didn't say that Mexicans were rapists, murderers and thieves -- he was saying that the people coming over the border had a lot of rapists, murderers and thieves among them, and that some element in Mexico was sending them.

He certainly clarified, shortly after making his statement, that there were perfectly decent people among the people coming over the border.  That, of course, didn't blunt the truth of his statement, since even the otherwise moral people crossing the border illegally were criminal, by the nature of entering the USA illegally.

I don't believe I even once heard anyone, not even Trump himself, call her and her lackeys and toadies out for misquoting him.  Certainly the press didn't, and certainly the moderators of the debates didn't see fit to challenge her when she made that statement in the debates.

It seems pretty clear that Trump's promise to build a wall on our southern border, no matter who pays for it, is going to be one of the first acts of his presidency.  And I expect it to be completed, in whatever form, on time and under budget as a sign of what level of performance Trump will expect and tolerate.

And unfortunately, I expect Trump to continue to be called the guy who referred to Mexicans as rapists, murders and thieves.  It will be the left and the press's way to keep forward the accusation of bigotry that is supposed to invalidate the works he does as president, and the press, being the left, will say nothing.

Even when the importation of drugs through Mexico declines sharply.

And the press will lie about that, too, with Hillary pulling the strings.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pardon This, Not That

In 1974, upon becoming the first president not to have been elected either to the presidency or vice presidency, Gerald Ford issued a presidential pardon to Richard Nixon, who had resigned the presidency in the wake of what was a likely prosecution for obstruction of justice in the Watergate mess.

Ford stated at the time that he wanted to get past Watergate, to move on with the governance of the country and not let ourselves be tied up in the morass of the prosecution of a former president.  He clearly meant that, and although it would ultimately lead to his defeat in 1976 and the abysmal presidency of Jimmy Carter, he was right in that we fairly quickly got on with the nation's business.

Today, the outgoing president and the president-elect will be faced with a situation that is only similar in that a "pardon" is involved for a former government official.  Obviously, we are talking about Hillary Clinton.

If Barack Obama chooses not to issue a pardon to Hillary Clinton for either of the two major investigations she is a party to, then Donald Trump will have to decide to do so or not, and there are a few inputs into that.  Not the least of those is that the two sets of crimes she is assumed to have committed are very, very different.

What a President Trump decides to do about the use of a private server, and the absolutely atrocious handling of classified documentation, set against other people's recent convictions for the same thing, is one thing.  The Clinton Foundation is quite another.

When and if Donald Trump takes office with Hillary unpardoned, I'm actually quite fine if he himself decides to pardon her for the mishandling of classified material, as long as she is banned for life from ever again having a clearance to view it.  After all, the lesson to the rest of us has already been taught; government is not likely to allow such a thing ever to be done again.

Moreover, Hillary is not going to be elected to public office again, she wouldn't ever have a public office requiring a clearance, and we are probably protected from her.  At least we can hope.  As much as I'd like to see her in jail for mishandling classified information, that I can live with.  It would show Trump to be the better person and, by only pardoning her for the server and classified material handling, and barring her from a clearance, he does the right thing.

However ... the email server was a Hillary-alone thing.  She was enabled in doing so, yes, but aside from Barack Obama, the others who enabled her worked for her; their jobs depended on pleasing her.  The Clinton Foundation is a whole 'nother thing.

The Clinton Foundation investigation is being done by another part of the FBI, and should be allowed in a Trump Administration to proceed at the FBI's pace.  And there should be no pardon for that.  You see, Hillary was only part of the Foundation, and if it is determined to be a Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) case, then we are talking about a set of people, including at least Bill and Chelsea Clinton and their lawyers and legal advisors, officials at the Foundation and maybe others, all of whom could be convicted under RICO statutes.

That investigation needs to continue, because no one has learned a lesson on that one, no one has been punished yet, and it is perfectly reasonable to think that some other future official or family may think it can get away with the same thing to enrich themselves and the USA be darned.  People need to go to jail for the Foundation's corruption in feeding money to the Clinton family for Hillary doling out favors to foreign governments.

That needs to stay with the FBI and worked to its conclusion, and some people need to be punished, lest there be another Clinton Foundation, this time truly sinking our nation.  We need to know that the law is indeed applied to the few equally with the many.

The current one is bad enough.  Someone needs to go to prison.

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

It Was Indeed "The Bern"

Donald Trump is now President-Elect Trump, which is something that seems to have startled much of the country, including a lot of Trump's own voters.  They were indeed startled, because for virtually the entire campaign, almost no one working the polling and canvassing had Trump as winning.  It wasn't just the electoral map, which was a big hurdle, but the fact that their polling simply wasn't giving him the votes to make it close.

Note -- Investor's Business Daily and Rasmussen were the exceptions, showing Trump as a couple points up for the weeks before the election.  Their methodology needs to be studied, except that they didn't do well in the Obama-Romney election in 2012.  Go figure.

As you look at the numbers and try to draw something from them, one thing stands out, at least for me.  Donald Trump drew fewer votes last week than Romney had in 2012, maybe a million fewer.  Hillary Clinton also drew fewer votes than her Democrat counterpart in that election (Obama), except she drew about five and a half million fewer, at least at the count as of writing this piece.

I don't know how you can analyze this in any way other than looking hard at the Democrats' side.  What, pray tell, would best characterize the voter who voted Democrat in 2012 and didn't show up at all in 2016?  Because that, friends, is where the election became Trump's victory.

It was not black voters.  Yes, Hillary pulled in fewer of them than Obama had, but not in the numbers that would make a big dent in that 5.5 million vote deficit versus 2012.  It doesn't seem to have been Hispanic voters either.  From what I can see, there were maybe only a few hundred thousand votes different for the Democrats' ticket, and Hillary didn't draw more of those than Obama had.

Nope; you have to ask yourselves what might have been the big bloc of votes that were cast in 2012 and not this year, and you keep coming back to the single thing that would have pushed them away.  Obviously it wasn't Trump, unless you consider his potential recruitment of blue collar ethnic Catholics who might have voted for Obama in 2012 -- remember, mind you, that Trump got fewer votes than Romney had in total.

I'm pretty sure that you can figure it out at this point.  Over 13 million people voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and to that number we can add millions more who would have voted for Sanders, except they lived in caucus states like Iowa where there is not a popular vote counted.

Donald Trump won the presidency as a result of fewer people voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016 than had voted for Barack Obama in 2012.  That was an ideological non-vote.  To me, it is clear that the bulk of those 2016 non-voters were Bernie Sanders supporters who stayed home last Tuesday and simply could not see in Hillary Clinton what they saw in Bernie Sanders.

I get that.  I mean, I don't get why anyone would think that Sanders could have possibly been a successful president.  We had no possible way to get the amount of money needed in taxes to pay for the first dollar of his proposed spending increases, and still figure out a way to start paying down the principal on the national debt, let alone the interest.

But young voters are voting off brains that are still not completely congealed, evolved drool glands (from Dave Barry --  "As far as babies are concerned, the sole function of the world is to provide objects for them to drool on. If you were to open up a baby - and I am not for a minute suggesting that you should - you would find that 85 to 90 percent of the space reserved for bodily organs is taken up by huge, highly active drool glands.").  So things that sound good, but make no sense when you think about it, like "free college tuition for everyone", make sense to them because they still have some drool gland that hasn't yet formed into brain yet, and it partially blocks the rational part of the mind.

Since I can't get inside the head of a Bernie voter (and am not recommending that you try), I can only imagine that of those who were old enough to vote in 2012, a huge number considered (and a healthy percentage of those did end up) not voting for Hillary.  Hillary was, after all, the anti-Bernie in enough ways that mattered to the partially drool-dominated brain.

Hillary was Establishment; Bernie was, well, something else.  Having no track record of accomplishment in the Senate in the 86 years he has been there, it's hard to say what he was, but Establishment wasn't one of them.  Hillary was Wall Street, Bernie was anti-corporation.  They were both limousine liberals, but that was not a campaign factor.  It is beyond easy to suppose that a healthy chunk of Obama voters became Sanders people, and a healthy chunk of them saw Hillary as impossible to vote for.  They couldn't vote for Trump, so they stayed home.

Why do I think that?  Because, although the polling was pretty poor and hard to glean anything from accordingly, we do need to note that when Trump said something about which the press got all high and mighty, Trump's number would go down for a few days -- but Hillary's numbers didn't go up!  Understand?  Voters were not being pushed to the Hillary side by what he said; they were simply being pushed from Trump into "Undecided" for a week (or told the pollsters they were), and they eventually came back to Trump.

The "Yes for Bernie but Never Hillary" crowd were already not on the Trump team, so nothing he said mattered to them.  When it came down to the ballot box, the people who kept getting pushed away by his comments came back to Trump because they had never signed on to the Hillary side.  The "Bernie Si/Hillary No" people, on the other hand, were always staying home, and I believe they did.

Thank God they stayed home.  Now perhaps Washington will get something done that's actually good for the USA.

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

Friday, November 11, 2016

Education and the Electorate

As I write this, there is the expected amount of carping among the left and the press (but I repeat myself), poring over the election results and making what are far-too-premature analyses about why Hillary Clinton lost the election embarrassingly.

These analyses include that the election was swayed by the "uneducated" in the electorate, meaning particularly the "flyover states" they simply don't feel like understanding.  The analysts are, of course, people who think you get milk from a grocery, not from a cow, if you get my drift.

They are the parents of the snowflakes, and in some cases the snowflakes themselves, who shared Hillary's arrogance about knowing what was right for the country better than the voters.  "Oh, dear", they're thinking, "how are we in a country where they could vote for Trump!  Ew."

Well, there is so much wrong with that.  First of all, the raw numbers tell you a different story about actual voting, as in who went to the polls on Tuesday or whenever they voted.  Donald Trump got fewer votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012.  Hillary Clinton just got way fewer votes than Obama did.  So it was actually a lot more about how their candidate, the entitled, privileged former first lady, turned off those who might have voted for her, than it was about the people who voted for Trump.

The Democrats had a huge capacity to contact people and drive them to the polls.  We all knew that.  That actually makes the dive in voting for the Democrats (from Obama to Hillary) even more telling, as even with that machine they couldn't get Hillary within a country mile of the number they needed to win.

Simply put, Trump got a significantly higher proportion of those who preferred him, versus what Hillary got of those who might have preferred her.  Her voters didn't show and, as I said, the existence of the machine makes it even worse.  Every time Trump said something the press thought or made out to be terrible, his number went down, OK, but hers didn't go up.  It was all about enthusiasm, meaning that we should have inferred a lot from those huge Trump rallies.  Trump's joke about Hillary's never having a bigger crowd than that night, at the Al Smith Catholic dinner, rings true now.

And that's where "education" comes in.  It is not that the Trump voter lacked education; that's so easy for the press to try to jump all over.  The Trump voter was educated, looking at things like each candidate's view of the Constitution, the business of medical insurance, the national debt.  The Trump voter, when asked, had at least a reason to vote for him, while Hillary's campaign was hung up on voting for her because she had a uterus.  She never made the "issue" case nearly well enough to offset her perceived pomposity and arrogance (see "deplorables, basket of").

That's not the Trump side.  No one pretends to say that Donald Trump was the best debater in presidential history.  And no one pretends that he has tactical-level plans for every Cabinet department's detailed objectives -- nor does he need to.  What he does have is a broad set of principles on what is good for the nation, a laser focus on getting things done (on time and under budget, by the way), and an understanding that you hire good people to run the agencies that execute the right tactical-level plans.

It's the same concept that a president has to use to conduct war, telling his generals what the goal is but relying on them to tell him how to achieve it, and trusting their functional expertise.  Barack Obama had no goals, so he second-guessed his flag officers constantly and bound their hands, which is why our enemies no longer fear us.

We are educated.  We know what it means to have principles and hire experts to do their jobs within those principles.  It's actually very much the model that Ronald Reagan worked under, and we know enough to understand that it works, if you hire the right people.  We also understand that Trump has certain principles and he will govern under them, and that he will work with Congress to get them done because negotiating has been his life.

It's OK, we get it.  The press lost the election, and has to defend itself by putting down the voter.

But we're educated.  We knew that already.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Brexit in the USA

I'm not typically going to fill a column with separate thoughts; I rather pride myself in constructing pieces that make a structured argument or discussion toward a particular conclusion or in an organized defense of a point.

Tuesday, however, was not typical in any way whatsoever, and so I have been having these random thoughts strike me about the election results that do not lend themselves to a consolidated conclusion.  If they are all of a piece, to make a weak pun, so be it.  But to me they are nothing alike and are far better as bullet items.  Unconnected thoughts, as in:

- I will not have to hear that awful, screaming, grating voice of Hillary Clinton's addressing her deplorable lackeys and toadies, ever again.  My ears may heal by this time next week.

- The Brexit vote in the UK could have been looked at as a one-time thing, in a vote that was polled wrong, and badly polled wrong, right up through the voting day.  But it wasn't, now that we look back on it through the lens of the Donald Trump election Tuesday, which was equally wrongly supposed by the polls as impossible.

- Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia political scientist who is an expert in election forecasting and whom I greatly respect, went on TV yesterday.  His first words were "We were wrong", and so were most of his next 40 words.  More than that, he pointed out that being so wrong meant that election forecast models were themselves broken, and the whole methodology of polling and sampling had to be scrapped.

-  Hillary Clinton lost the election first not on Election Day, but when she called Trump's voters "irredeemable" and a "basket of deplorables."  That's the day she lost the pulse of America, showing her utter arrogance and contempt for, well, me.

- We should expect, at least for four years, not to have to be so roiled about silly things like transgender bathrooms; not that the people are worth any less, but the issues are so inconsequential they should not occupy either the public discourse or a moment of the time of the president of the United States.

- Donald Trump will get to say "You're fired" to some people who richly deserve it, starting with Loretta Lynch and every political appointee in the Justice Department.  Every one of them.  They have embarrassed their agency by politicizing what should be the least political part of government.

- Hillary did not win because she was a woman, nor did she lose because of it.  Ultimately, her gender was a net nothing, certainly no conscionable number of voters voted against her because of it, but apparently few voted for her just because of it either.  We all would be fine seeing a female president; just not that one.

- The shock and awe on even the Fox News people's faces when Wisconsin was called for Trump was palpable, his having already won the three states he "had to have", Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.  The one commentator (might have been Brit Hume) who said at that point that Trump had broken through the "Blue Wall", was utterly shocked as he spoke, realizing that Trump was actually going to win.

- I had only hope, not faith.  There was no real reason for thinking that Trump was going to win, given the difficult electoral road he had to navigate.  I'd like to replay the evening, knowing what I know now.

- Trump's people had a whole lot better quality polling and research than anyone else did, as illustrated by his last-minute decision to go to Minnesota for a rally.  He didn't win the state, but his people saw something that the other pundits didn't.  This is a moment for extraordinary intellectual humility on the part of the entire forecasting profession.

- Kelly Anne Conway, Trump's campaign manager who took over fairly late in the campaign, is really, really good at what she does.

- Trump has access to some truly great people to populate his administration with -- Ben Carson, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Gen. Flynn, to name a few -- who are in tune with what the voters were saying Tuesday and would be committed to delivering solutions for the problems left by Barack Obama, in the Trump Administration.  And that also includes the list of Supreme Court candidates Trump already put forth, about which there was no contention (had there been issues about any of them, Hillary would have been all over it).

- My ears are already healing, by the way.  Hillary's concession speech was sufficiently subdued as to be irritating only in its content, and that content was only a little bothersome (and it needed to have been delivered ten hours earlier when her campaign people were still there).

- Trump ran his campaign as if it were mostly his own money -- on time and under budget, same as his rebuilding of the Post Office building in DC that he just finished.  That's how I want my government to run.  I'll take eight years of that.

- He must not sleep at all, which is fine too.  He has a lot of work to do, not the least of which is having his lawyers figure out quickly how to divest himself of his business interests so the media won't be second-guessing him all the time.

- Washington is a pretty big swamp to drain.  But first you have to want to drain it.

- Melania Trump will be as elegant and classy a First Lady as we are ever going to have.  Not that it would have been a shred of a reason to vote for her husband.  I care what he does, not his wife.  The USA has a lot more to worry about than that.  But those people who couldn't wait to write books about the "style" of Michelle Obama before her husband was even inaugurated, well, let's see if they do the same for Melania.

- Ground game?  Hillary was supposed to have this great ground game, right?  Donald Trump's ground game was a long and busy series of rallies, at which 20,000 people routinely showed up no matter where it was.  First, that's why he spent so much less money.  Second, it is a model for the next candidate who can raise great excitement about his or her campaign.

- If I had to bet, I'd say that Trump tells his new Attorney General to let the FBI run its investigation of the mishandling of classified material as it sees fit, hands off by Trump -- but to tell the FBI to spend what it needs to on the investigation into the Clinton Foundation.  That, friends, is a RICO investigation that needs to be done to completion, lest someone else ever try to set up a corrupt foundation to route money to themselves, and serve as a funnel to sell influence to a Cabinet official.

- Already the left is rioting in the streets.  Don't recall that from 2008, because conservatives don't do that.  But that's what the left does.  It is not an endearing quality, and it does not get their ends any sympathy.

- Finally, it is a point of wonder whom the Democrats will put up to run next time.  Hillary was so entitled that no one dared run against her in the primaries by pointing out that her time had come and gone.  As a result, while the Republicans going forward have a decent number of younger senators and governors with new national platforms as a result of this campaign, the Democrats are pretty barren.  Hillary will be 73 next election, Bernie Sanders 77 and Elizabeth Warren 71.  My take is that their ideology is so hollow, that they cannot attract younger leaders who would bring the party out of the leftist pit it has put itself in by putting Obama forward.

I'm going to get some sleep, real soon now.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election Day Hangover

For what may seem like obvious reasons, I'm going to let the column rest today to recover from being up late watching the returns.  There is a lot to say, maybe even something I had not previously said, about last night's victory of the Trump campaign and the retention of Congress.

I'm hoping that Barack Obama fades slowly into the night of his dim presidency, and takes the high road (for once) and doesn't do anything in terms of executive orders and pardons in the last days of his presidency.  He has just been repudiated professionally and needs to take his lumps and just go quietly.  I somehow doubt that will happen.

More when I can get some much-needed sleep.  But what a victory for the deplorables.

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Cats and Dogs

Today, as millions of Americans (and, unfortunately, an indeterminable number of people who are not) go to the polls, I'm setting all that aside to talk about something totally different.

I do not like dogs.  And I'm not ashamed to say that.  You know those "looking for a date" ads where the person "must like dogs"?  Well, it's a good thing I'm married already, because I would flunk that criterion and would do so unashamedly.

I really don't know if this piece is going to be one of those where two-thirds of the readers look furtively one way and then the other and, seeing no one there, nod in silent, unseen assent.  Maybe I'll lose 90% of my readership.  It pretty much doesn't matter.  I do not like dogs.

Surely the first thing anyone is going to assume is that it's all about the walking with a poop bag, or the smell when they get wet.  Or the barking, which is a sound that makes me want to scream.  Loudly.  Or that they make messes on the floor even when they're no longer young, and rip up furniture.  Or that they bite and jump on you when you don't want them to.  Something like that.

Well, sure, all of those are on the list, but they're pretty much ranked from #2 through whatever number.  They are not the top reason why I feel the way I do.  That reason is pretty simple.

They need me.  And I do not want to be needed by an animal, at least not that much.  I have a finite amount of freedom, and I do not need or want to have to have any more of it occupied with the attention of an animal who will explode if I do not attend to it, or jump all over me until I do, and whose needs force me to curtail or shorten my ability to go out, with or without my best girl, and do something I actually want to do, which may simply be to take her out for a day ("her" as in my best girl).

Dogs are needy.  I am not a caregiver.

So we have a cat.  Now, outside of the fact that I would be just as fine if we had not acquired the cat thirteen years ago (to replace the 14-year-old cat which had just passed on), I suppose I am reasonably glad that we do have her.  She is a beautiful cat, although you can look at plenty of pictures of beautiful cats on line if you wanted to see them.
Tashi, staying warm while making sure that I cannot watch
 the ball game easily -- and showing that she doesn't need me

She is also extremely benign, and always has been, sort of friendly with visitors and then going back to doing what she does best, which is to sleep and not get in the way, eat when she feels like it (and then sleep some more), and occasionally use the litter box.

Most importantly, if somehow we needed to be away overnight on short notice, or were out and somehow couldn't get back, we would not worry about the cat.  She would figure things out, if she even noticed we were gone, and then be at the door when we finally returned, to remind us that her dish was empty.  Maybe.  And then that evening, she would crawl up on my best girl's lap and snooze for a while, still insisting that she really didn't need us in the first place.

She would be proud of that, and I would be happy that she knew she was independent of us.

On that note, please remember to go out and vote, if you have not done so already.  And if you are actually American and entitled to do so.

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Guest Column: Election 2016 Arrives

I'd like to welcome back Anthony Scandora, a friend for over 40 years, as guest columnist again today.  Tony is a native of the Chicago area and long-time resident there, an intelligent and talented gentleman and a fine writer and observer of the world.  The opinions below are, of course, his, and not necessarily the views of the host.  Tony can be reached at scandora@alum.mit.edu.

Until last year, I thought Hillary Clinton was the most revolting possible candidate for president. Then the primaries happened. Tired of a government of K Street, by K Street, and for K Street, voters rebelled and propelled The Bern and The Donald to far greater stature than either ever deserved. With the vice president sidelined by family tragedy, and a few other Democratic senators and governors never gaining traction, Hillary rose to the top. Barely. The best the other side could do (other than The Donald) was a first term senator with no legislative accomplishments?  Didn’t we just try that? We’re now stuck with the two most reviled candidates ever.

Regardless of who wins, there will be an unrepentant sexual predator living in the White House, with a wife doesn’t care. We don’t have enough evidence to know who is worse, and evaluation along party lines might be satisfying but is meaningless. Let’s call it a draw and move on.

Email? The private server was certainly a bad idea and might well have been illegal. So what?  Social Security numbers and other personal information from about 20 million applicants for security clearances were stolen from the Office of Personnel Management. Department of Energy and IRS computers each coughed up personal, including financial, information of six-figure counts of individuals in their files. The Manning/WikiLeaks fiasco exposed 250,000 State Department cables. 

Secretary of State Kerry said it was “highly likely” that Russians and Chinese were reading his email. Last year, State shut down its email system for a while to try to mitigate what it knew was massive compromise of its email. On the other hand, despite a determined, seemingly desperate, search, the farthest any email from the private Hillary server has gotten is to a personal computer belonging to the estranged husband of a top aide, and it stopped there. If it had gotten any farther, her enemies would have been broadcasting it by now. 

There is already talk of impeachment by people who I suspect are clueless about the two-thirds of the Senate requirement for conviction. Do we really want to waste time and money on a futile pursuit like we did on her husband? Regardless of its legality, the fact is her private email server was more secure than official government email servers. Let’s move on to substantive issues.

Secretary of State Clinton accepted a large donation to her family’s foundation from a foreigner of questionable character who was having trouble getting a visa. He didn’t get it. Trump, facing lawsuits in several states on behalf of victims ripped off by his bogus “university” scam, gave a large, illegal donation from his foundation, not his own money, to the Florida Attorney General’s re-election campaign. Is anyone surprised that the Attorney General abandoned the lawsuit shortly after that donation, and left his victims out in the cold? Who’s more crooked than the other? It’s impossible to know.

On the left, we have a candidate who during many years in exalted government positions established herself immune to the concept of transparency. She’s Richard Nixon, but without his personal charm. For just one example out of countless lies, she told us the Benghazi attack was in response to an amateur video. How could she think legitimate journalists wouldn’t soon discover an organized terrorist attack?

On the (relative?) right, we have a guy who is on tape saying what he now denies he ever said, and who abusively attacks anyone who refers to those tapes. Unlike his opponent, he has had very little public scrutiny, no more than is fit for a TV celebrity/casino mogul. We do know that he has built with Chinese steel, exploited the same illegal immigrants whom he excoriates, and is famous for stiffing many individuals and contractors too small to have the legal resources to sue him, and for sticking it to creditors by going bankrupt. Last week the Trump International Tower and Hotel in Toronto went into receivership, with 3000 people losing jobs and untold creditors getting stiffed, many to go bankrupt as in his previous get-out-of-debt-quickly schemes. Deeper examination can only reveal deeper dishonesty.

Like the sexual predator issue, we don’t have enough evidence to know who is the worse liar and crook, and evaluation along party lines might be satisfying but is meaningless. Let’s agree that both candidates are unconscionable crooks and liars, and move on to what, if elected, would be their effect on the economy, the security, and the general welfare of the people of this country and of the world.
The economy is doing well according to numbers cooked up by our government. If it really were, The Bern and The Donald would not have riled up the support they did. The 1% are doing really well. Financial services firms are cleaning up on volatility, but not investing in anything productive. The middle class is shrinking in both numbers and in income.

A printed copy of the tax code might outweigh me. It’s great for accountants and attorneys, and it prevents industries that pay the largest bribes to Congress from paying their fair share, while soaking the rest of us. It’s highly regressive, far more painful to the lower and middle classes than to the rich. Hillary had to capitulate to the far left, and they want to keep its complexity, charge favors to industries that bribe the left wing of Congress, and raise taxes on high-income taxpayers to the point of punishing them for making money. Trump says he’ll make it fairer, but like all of his promises, he offers no details.

Our $20 trillion in debt, with no relief in sight, will eventually have painful consequences. Hillary, apparently not believing in arithmetic, wants to increase taxes and increase spending by even more. Trump is even less cognizant of arithmetic, proposing some rather substantial infrastructure investments along with tax cuts. Eventually there will come a time that investors will resist buying US debt. When asked about it, Trump said, “you deal.” To him that means don’t pay the full amount of some debts and cancel others. I shudder to think what would happen to the domestic and world economies upon news that US debt is no longer a sure thing.

Whoever says he can round up and deport 11 million illegals and get the Mexican government to pay for a wall is either a liar or smoking some really good weed. I do admire the billboard for a restaurant that claims, “Best Mexican food this side of the wall.”  I knew that deposing the Sunni Hussein and replacing his government with an Iran-backed Shi’ite government would leave a large population of angry and well-armed Sunnis. I didn’t know the Islamic State would shoot off al Qaida in Iraq, but I certainly knew both sides were willing and armed to fight a never-ending civil war that neither could win. 

Why didn’t the Bush administration and Sen. Clinton know what I knew? At least she had the decency to admit her support at the time and apologize for her bad judgment. On the other hand, The Donald, who at the time might not have paid much attention to foreign affairs, also supported that action but now lies and says he didn’t, despite tapes proving he did. He reminds me of an old Teamsters head who upon hearing wiretaps in a racketeering trial maintained his innocence by asking, “Who you gonna believe? Me or those tapes?”

After failing to learn a lesson from our destruction of Iraq, Secretary Clinton did the same to Libya. As nervous as I am about letting her do it again, I’m far more nervous about Trump carpet bombing enemy-held territory, killing far more civilians than terrorists, and resuming waterboarding and other Geneva Convention violations, which would put us against our current allies and the rest of the world.

Beyond that, he admires Putin, who takes care of political dissidents and objective journalists by methods ranging from prison to bullets to polonium poisoning (a lingering, painful, torturous death), who thinks it’s OK to shoot down civilian aircraft loaded with passengers and to bomb aid convoys trying to help war zone civilians, and who wants to re-conquer the former Soviet captive nations. While admiring all that, Trump has expressed contempt for NATO and said he might not defend a member from attack.

Even beyond all that, Trump has talked about nuclear arms for Japan and South Korea. We can hope that despite what’s looking like a new Cold War, China and Russia are not stupid enough to fire a nuclear weapon. Arm Japan and South Korea? What might North Korea do?

Both candidates’ partisans overlook their spectacular flaws and dwell on their opponent’s character. They’re both despicable, so rather than concentrate on their character or lack thereof, let’s concentrate on the damage they could do to the country and the world if Congress and the Courts let them. Which would drive the national debt past a breaking point sooner? Which would better handle the consequences? We have Hillary, with a military history looking like a neocon, or Trump, who believes in shoot first, aim second, and ask questions third. 

Should we leave NATO wondering about our support while we express our admiration for Putin? Should we continue destroying evil foreign governments that nevertheless keep some semblance of order and then wish for their people suddenly to develop democratic governments with malice toward none and charity toward all? Should more countries, particularly in troubled parts of the world, be encouraged to get nuclear weapons?

Those bother me a lot more than email or who’s the bigger liar or crook. The misery of this election season could wind up being nothing compared with four years of either of those two in the White House.

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