Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Oh, Thank You, Senator Schumer!

In the early days of the Trump Administration, as the new president is blitzing through starts on every major promise or commitment he made during the campaign, we might ask where the Democrats are in all this.

Well, we know where they are; the left is out paying rioters to march and loot and burn Muslim-owned limousines while they complain about things that haven't happened, create fake news, and their cohorts in the national media blabber on in support of them.

And President Trump keeps on working.

But while the president's pounding away at the problems of the USA, the Democrats have suddenly lost their voice.  Really.  I know that you may think they "found" their voice because they're on every media outlet whining and snowflaking and all, but they actually have lost it.

They must have lost it, because right now the voice of the Democrats in the USA is that brilliant legislator of the wonderful accent and the glasses down his nose, the incomparable Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).  And we could not be more thankful that it is he.

You see, if the Democrat Party has slid so far down the slope of stupidity that Chuck Schumer is the one with his face on all the cable news talk shows, then you know they have lost, to quote our president, "big-time."

You remember the famous Hitler principle, the one that goes "Whoever brings up Hitler or Nazi Germany first loses the argument"?  Well, the corollary is "If you have Chuck Schumer making your argument for you, you have lost and will continue to lose."  Which is ironic, given that the leftists took about 46 seconds after inauguration to bring up Hitler, meaning that they started their whole argument from a conceded loss.

A couple days ago, the good Sen. Schumer was trying to make a public statement about the temporary suspension of travel from some Middle Eastern and north African countries which had been identified on a list from the Obama Administration as having sponsored terrorism.

Of course, he neglected to review his own party's traditional stance on illegal immigration, as voiced here by the very Democrat president, Bill Clinton, in a State of the Union address (and you really have to watch this clip).  Or Barack Obama turning back a whole set of Cuban refugees two days before leaving office (missed that, eh?).  Else, of course, Schumer would have hesitated a bit.  But the left has no sense of history, much as the truth is an equally elusive concept.

At any rate, Schumer broke down in mid-speech, taking a cue from the Broadway types that he represents as a New York senator.  His tears were quite remarkable, but they were so clearly fake that one had to wonder what had possessed him to think the nation would actually believe him, as he "cried" for refugees who would have to wait 90 days and go through actual reviews to ensure they weren't the terrorists that ISIS pledged to mix in with the actual refugees.

Of course, that itself is a really good reason not to bring any of them here to a foreign country, a foreign culture and a foreign language when they could be resettled cheaper in the Middle East.

But I digress.

Schumer's "tears" were the ideal example of why Republicans love him so much.  Barack Obama is gone; Hillary Clinton is gone.  Elizabeth Warren is a victim of excessive hubris and no one believes her even in her own party.  So Chuck Schumer is now the voice of the Democrats.

Chuck is on air 24/7, or maybe 42/7 (no joke; he is on the air as I'm writing this!).  The man, of whom it was said for a decade that he never met a camera he didn't like, and if you value your life, don't get between him and a camera, now has unfettered access to every camera imaginable.

And Republicans could not be happier.  Ironically, while Democrats act like Donald Trump is a lightning rod for all kinds of things and attack him personally (and his wife and youngest son), the people who voted for him could not be happier to have Trump not only doing the things he was voted for to do, but being the one doing it -- let's face it, his personality was part of his persona as a candidate.

Schumer?  Not so much.  What Democrat could be happy to have Chuck Schumer up there faking tears about immigrants, when he knows full well what the facts are?  Of course they're not thrilled; they certainly wishing someone could come along and actually be, you know, an attractive representative of their views.

Not going to happen.  The Democrats' views have gone so far over rationality that they're unable to attract candidates and representatives worth anything.  So as long as they are having to have Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren, and Madonna as the people speaking on their behalf, they have lost, as surely as if they had kept Hitler in the argument.

Which, morons and ideologues that they are, they already did.

Copyright 2017 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, January 30, 2017

There's "Voter Fraud" and "Voter Fraud"

We are all caught up lately in comments made by President Trump in relation to the issue of fraudulent voting in the 2016 and likely past elections as well.  But the issue of voter fraud actually covers a couple of separate areas, and we need to recognize them, lest we start talking past each other.  And you know I hate that.

You see, there is the issue of the people who actually vote, and their qualifications to do so, meaning their citizenship, their legal residence, all that kind of thing.  For those who are not citizens, for those who use a fraudulent identity, all those actions which are criminal, well, that is an issue and the perpetrators are the individuals doing the voting.

But there is the whole governmental aspect to this as well.  People leave jurisdictions and go to another; people die; people are subtracted from eligibility to vote as well as being added.  The governmental entity -- let's call it the "state" for ease of reference, even though it is mainly a municipal or county-level thing -- is responsible for maintaining an accurate list of those in that jurisdiction who have lawfully registered to vote.

That list is a living list; i.e., names are added and (should be) subtracted on a daily basis.  But apparently they are not; at least not subtracted.  I know this because of the incredible rigmarole I had to go through to get taken off the voter rolls in Fairfax County, Virginia, where I no longer live.

Having moved in August, and wanting to register to vote in my new state, I called the Fairfax County Board of Elections to get my name taken off the rolls.  Why?  Because Virginia does not allow election workers to require ID at the polls, and someone could simply walk in to the middle school where I voted, give my name and former address, and vote, likely for someone I didn't like.  I didn't want that to happen.

And to tell you the truth, I probably would not have bothered to contact the county had I not been hearing all this stuff about fraudulent voting.  I remembered the stories in 2012 about precincts in Philadelphia where Obama received literally all the votes, not one single vote for Romney, and no one looked into it as a fraud possibility.  I also knew that the Obama Administration had shut down some state investigations into voter registration fraud.

You wouldn't believe how hard it was to un-register as a voter in a county in which I no longer lived.  Letters, phone calls, faxes -- who would bother?  Yet had I not done that, I could have shown up at the polls there too, having already voted early here, and cast a second ballot.  How remarkably easy that would have been.

And you know the Hillary people were aware of how easy that would have been.

So while I applaud the side of law enforcement that is looking at assessing what kind of fraud has happened, and punishing those who have done so, it is perhaps more important to do what is necessary to eliminate the possibility of that fraud, and the responsibility for that lays squarely on the shoulders of state and local governments with the assistance of the Justice Department.

Right now, for example, let's look at states that have had their voter ID laws dumped in the courts.  Take the logic down the path a bit.  Since you cannot ask for an ID, the only logistical way to handle identification of voters, is to have a list of registered voters by address, and check them off as they vote.  How silly is that?

It's silly because I could walk in to a precinct, a 65-year-old man, and claim to be my next-door neighbor, a 23-year-old female, let's say an ethnic African, and what can the Election Board person do?  All they can do is check off the box that says that she voted.  I don't have to prove who I am, as long as I know the name and address of the neighbor.

It is incumbent upon the states to do (A) a one-off sweep through the rolls, starting with what they have and matching against death certificates, motor vehicle records and other methods to determine who no longer lives at the registered address (or lives at all); and then (B) implement a process that automatically removes such people from the rolls and requires re-registration and re-proof of residency and citizenship.  If you want, we could add (C) a removal of every name that has not voted for two years and require re-registration.

What has been frightening is not only that some states have done nothing at all to address this, but that the Obama Justice Department had actively worked to stop some states from trying to fix their voting rolls.

The point of all this is that whether or not there is extensive fraud, there is most certainly the capacity for fraud.  And it is imperative that, if for some reason we can't identify voters at the polls, we at least make sure that the voter rolls we do rely on are accurate and annually purged of the moved, the dead and the non-citizens.

Let's make sure, as we discuss the topic, that one fraudulent vote or one million, we need to have faith in our system.  And I don't have that faith right now.  The checks and balances are simply not there.

Fix it, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions.

Copyright 2017 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, January 27, 2017

An Historic Pace

Yesterday I was thinking about perhaps going back to see what Barack Obama did in his first few days as president in 2009.  Then I remembered what the results of his time in office were, and decided that it would hurt too much.  So I have no idea what he was doing his first few days in office.  Wasn't good, whatever.

I remember the networks positively fawning over him, and when they weren't fawning over him, they were fawning over his wife.  By May, so help me, there was already a book out "celebrating" her "fashion sense", which sort of escaped me.  I remember its authors being on one of the network morning shows hawking the book, and there was so much fawning I started craving venison.

I don't expect to see a comparable book done about our current First Lady, though, who actually was a well-known professional model and thus has what I would regard, in my benighted ignorance of fashion, as a "style."

But I digress.

The reason I even got to thinking about Obama's first days is because the first few days of the Trump Administration have been a busy-as-heck whirlwind of executive orders, appointments, meetings with business and union leaders and congressional leadership.  Most importantly, there is an agenda out there, an agenda set by the new president to implement the simple, direct promises that he made when he was running in the campaign:

- Build the wall with Mexico
- Address immigration and the refugee flood
- Get rid of tons of regulations cramping business
- Create private sector jobs
- Start the stalled pipelines
- Raise our GDP growth 3-4% where Obama never got it
- "Drain the swamp" -- break the hold of career government types and politicians

Interestingly, the meetings, those executive orders and reversals of Obama executive orders, all in a flurry this week, have been pretty much all addressing those straightforward goals and promises.  The Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines are on their way now, blessed by "Go for it" executive orders.

Trump has met with both key business leaders and private-sector union leaders, both of whom gushed as they came out the door as to how receptive and forward-thinking the new president was.  That both could come out with positive statements is pretty interesting, since they have been historically a lot more antagonistic than they should have been, or needed to have been.  But then again, Trump worked his whole life with unions, and as I would like to think showed a lot of foresight, I pointed that out last February in this piece.

His shutdown of the EPA trying to do things before his appointed EPA Administrator took office, well, that was swamp-draining of the first magnitude.  We have already had executive orders cutting the flow of unvetted refugees and ISIS suspects from countries that cannot ensure they're not sending ISIS types.  And the Wall, well, that is already on its way to getting funded.

It's a fast start for the guy who never sleeps, but then again that seems to be his M.O. for leadership.  You wake up early, send a few tweets, and get to work about five in the morning.  Work, work, meeting, work, a bite here and there, work some more.  Foreign dignitary in town at four in the afternoon, then back to work.  Five more executive orders.  Meet with more congressmen about getting the agenda going.  Actually listening to the opposition.  Work some more.  In bed at one, after maybe another tweet.

I couldn't keep up that pace and I'm healthy and five years younger than the president.  But he has a lot to do.  In eight years, Obama did a lot of damage to our economy and our standing around the world.  That's not going to get fixed anytime soon, but then maybe it will the frenetic and productive pace of the 45th president.

Lots to think over over the weekend, and while I might try to relax some, I can probably do so because the president is, well, not relaxing.

Busy first week.  Two hundred seven to go in just this term.

Copyright 2017 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, January 26, 2017

When They LIVE in the Swamp

President Trump has a curious situation in his first days in office, before the Democrats in the Senate finally shut up and let his appointments to the Cabinet go through to run the agencies of the executive branch of government.

The "curious situation" relates to these first few days, when we do not yet have direct oversight of Cabinet and other executive departments by people actually appointed by, and therefore in policy synchronization with, Donald Trump.  This means that the most senior officials at places like EPA -- meaning "political appointees who have not yet been booted out" -- are not there to do the bidding of this president but, rather, the previous one.

So shortly, they will be gone, but we have to remember something.  If you imagine the senior leadership of an agency like HUD or EPA or Veterans Affairs, use this model.  The Secretary or the Administrator is the lead person, and is directly appointed by the president.  At least two levels of management below that person consist of political appointees, meaning that they, too, are appointed rather than hired as career civil servants, and serve ultimately at the instruction of the president.

Below that level, however, the employees are career civil servants, from senior professionals all the way down to the person answering a call-center phone and talking to you and me.  This means that the agency is their career, and the Secretary or Administrator cannot easily just decide that the person is doing a lousy job and can therefore be canned.

It also means that since lots and lots of them work in Washington, DC, a really dramatic percentage of them live in Washington, DC.  So what do we know about people who live in Washington, DC?  Well, one thing is that they didn't vote for Donald Trump.  We know that, because he only received 12,723 votes in Washington in November, which constituted only 4.1% of the votes cast for president in DC.

So I don't care if every single one of the 12,723 Trump voters works for the Federal government. There are 203,000 Federal employees in DC, and that means that if you work for the Federal government and live in the District, you didn't vote for Donald Trump.  I will concede that a lot of the 203,000 live in Virginia and Maryland, but you get the idea -- a huge percentage of the people working for Uncle Sam come to their job in the morning opposing the man at the top of their food chain.

There is something discomfiting about that.  President Trump is definitely a taxpayer-dollar protector, and he is going to be looking at whether we really, really need to have 500 expensive Ph.Ds over at the Department of Education creating policies, when he believes that education policy doesn't even belong being made in Washington.  So you have a lot of people wondering if their jobs are at risk from a guy that they didn't even vote for.

And for any of us who have ever dialed a government call-in number to get someone who knew little about what you were asking, or was so inarticulate or heavily-accented as to be incomprehensible, yet had a job giving answers to the public, well, I'm sure there are a lot of tweets going to the White House thinking that maybe that can get fixed.

For any of us who went through a needless but expensive IRS audit because the auditor didn't understand the law, well, we're hoping that some other government employees go off the public payroll.

They are the swamp, too, as I wrote yesterday.

And until they have leaders installed and ready to do the nation's bidding through their elected president, you can imagine that they are doing everything possible to save their jobs and subvert Mr. Trump's desires.  This has already taken place at EPA, which is why the president had to issue executive direction stopping any and all new EPA regulations and effectively gagging any announcements from EPA, as they would be made by people he did not put there.

They are the swamp.  Is it any wonder we voted for a man who pledged to drain it?

Copyright 2017 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, January 25, 2017

Misrepresenting the Swamp

Boy, do the Democrats not get it.  Or maybe it is that they don't listen, or perhaps that they just lie and keep lying until they think people will believe it might be so.  I think that's in Alinsky somewhere.

Such it is with the great "swamp", against which Donald Trump the candidate railed and because of which he is now the 45th President.

We all spent the election season laughing with the candidate as he vowed over and over to "drain the swamp."  We who actually listened to the words that preceded that vow each time, were quite clear as to what that swamp was all about.

The swamp was Washington, DC, and particularly two aspects,  The first was the entrenched, encrusted Congress that patted each other's backs and continued to spend tax revenues at rates far beyond what was actually collected, whose members were without term limits, stayed in Congress for decades, sometimes into their 90s, and were far more focused on their next election that serving the people.

The second was the entrenched bureaucracy of civil servants at places like Veterans Affairs, State and other agencies, unaccountable and virtually unsupervised, who couldn't be fired, however incompetent.  All of this "swamp" had under-served the USA for decades, which is why Trump's appeal to drain it resonated so well.

Except, apparently, with Democrats in general (even though Republicans, too, were quite present in the swamp), and with Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader who is now the face of the Democrats, in particular.

Schumer, just this past Sunday, showed that lack of resonance in an interview wherein he was expounding on the incoming president's Cabinet nominees and why he was trying to slow-roll their appointments.  Schumer referred to them, and I quote, thusly: "We [the left] call it the Swamp Cabinet, full of billionaires and bankers ...".  He smiled as he said it.

Schumer is not, apparently, actually deaf, but he is either intentionally misrepresenting Trump's words or is flat-out lying.  The "swamp" was not the business community of the USA, and it was not the banking community.  It was not people like Ben Carson (HUD) and Betsy DeVos (education) and particularly not Rex Tillerson (State), none of whom was remotely associated with the Federal government.

Those were precisely the type of person that Trump said, all campaign, that he was going to bring in,  in order to drain the swamp -- people from outside government with a track record of success outside government, to bring in to make government work better.  They weren't the swamp, they were the cure.

I knew that, you knew that, and you can be darned sure that Chuck Schumer knew it and still does, no matter what he says.

You see, Chuck Schumer is a lifelong, card-carrying member of the swamp, with decades of representing only Chuck Schumer.  He is exactly what Trump ran pledging to fix, the career politician making a fat living off the public till, taking advantage of his long seniority (coming from a safely leftist state) to get key committee positions and the power of Senate leadership in his party -- exactly what term limits will ultimately fix.

But Schumer also knows exactly what the swamp is, and he hated that line (and now tries to change its meaning) because it was aimed at the Chuck Schumers of Washington, and he knew it.  The man whom you don't want to get in front of if there is a camera present, well, he needed desperately to shift the lens away from him when "swamp" came up.  Not being able to, he is simply lying about its meaning.

We know better.

Copyright 2017 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, January 24, 2017

Counts We Should Care About

So with President Trump (still interesting to be saying that) working his 18-hour days already breaking down regulations that choke USA business, even meeting with private-sector union leaders, the press is desperately trying to delegitimize his presidency before he gets anything done.

Accordingly, they are picking at pimples while Trump is out there trying to make America great again.  I refer you, of course, to the flap about the number of people who physically attended the inauguration on Friday.

Now, I admit that I don't actually know how many people attended; I just know that from the shots seen from cameras behind the president as he spoke, the National Mall was crowded with people.  I know that from my comfortable couch here at home, hundreds of miles away from downtown DC, I was glad I was not there.  In fact, had I lived closer, I still wouldn't have gone.  The Obama presidency has left us fearful to be in public, at risk of our lives with ISIS terrorists all over the place.

And that's before he surreptitiously sent $221 million of taxpayer money to the Palestinians a few hours before leaving office.  You probably missed that.

But I digress.

I was "there" at the inauguration even though I was not "there."  I was there metaphorically, gladly watching the reins of power being handed peacefully (except for the leftist thugs in the streets) from a socialist to someone who actually gets it.  So add me and my Best Girl to the list of those who might as well have been on the Mall.

But the press insists on comparing the crowds of Donald Trump 2016 to Barack Obama 2008, as if it is a measure of Trump's legitimacy.  Hmmm.  Donald Trump's electoral victory was historic, but only in the sense of a "return to power" to the people, as represented by a man who never had taken a government paycheck; taken back from the far left, taken back from the establishment of both parties.  We cheer, but it doesn't mean that we're going to risk our lives by going to DC, even protected by bikers.

Barack Obama, though, well, his "historic" election was different.  He was elected for two reasons -- first, because he was not George W. Bush, and second, because he was biracial.  Neither was valid as a rationale, of course.  Now, you had to expect that the Democrats had a really good chance of winning the presidency in 2008 (see reason #1) with anyone, but let's face it -- Barack Obama doesn't get to sniff the nomination if his father weren't black.

Obama had zero track record; he had been a state legislator (mostly voting "present") for a little while, then a senator from Illinois (mostly voting "present" when he was around to vote) who spent most of his time representing the good people of Illinois by running for president.  In other words, he had accomplished nothing, but was able to wrest the nomination from the even-then-entitled Hillary Clinton.

On no track record whatsoever.

So when you saw however many people attended his inaugural, you realize that a man who got elected solely because he was biracial was appealing to the kind of people, of all races, the kind who too-quickly judge you on the color of your skin, not the content of your, in this case "socialistic", character.  And those people will jam a rally even if they're not paid to be there.

Oh yeah, plus, a lot of those folks live in Washington, DC, who regularly elect incompetent or corrupt leadership.  They'll show up, all right.

So ... I guess as the foo-foo about the crowd count heated up, I started mind-wandering over to some crowds I'm looking forward to seeing now.  Crowds, I think, that are far more important and relevant to measuring the success of the USA.  Crowds such as:

- Crowds in lines for jobs outside the factories that are being built, expanded or returned to the USA as President Trump makes it more and more profitable to build products here as opposed to Mexico or China

- Crowds of radical Islamist terrorists repopulating the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as they're yanked off the battlefield by our brave men and women in uniform, and removed from killing innocent civilians

- Crowds of illegal immigrant criminals being unceremoniously returned through the border whence they came, hopefully through a special gate in The Wall, the wall that the president is able to get built as soon as possible

- Crowds of moms and pops in line on their state websites to open up new businesses, finally able to get funding for their enterprises from banks as the shackles of the onerous Dodd-Frank law are pulled off and the equally onerous, business-killing CFPB is dissolved.

And there's one other crowd, though it will take a couple years, maybe.  That's the pile of checks for tax revenues coming into the government from new businesses and newly-employed Americans, as the dissolution of so many regulations and regulatory barriers allows business to start, to create jobs and to hire.  This could resemble the 50% increase in tax revenues that occurred in the few years after the Reagan tax cuts of 1981-82, or it could, given the increase in business starts, higher.

Now, those are the crowds that actually are worth monitoring.

Copyright 2017 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, January 23, 2017

Theater in the Snow

On this first working weekday after the inauguration of our new, freshly-minted President Trump, I felt strongly that I should write about something completely different, as in far, far away from politics, government or anything else typical.

Last week I wrote a piece about meeting people for the first time in our respective sixties, and how fascinating their lives are if you just sit back and listen to their stories.  I am certainly one to swear to that, as this site has more than enough of my own stories that I once thought interesting enough to document.

But I forget them, too, even ones I had to tell.  And such was the case when last week I was reminded of something that had happened to me 40 years since.

I was, in 1977, acting professionally at night in Boston, while doing some IT work during the day, programming for the old Burroughs Corporation.  Burroughs made computers, mostly for banks, before being merged with the equally old Sperry Corporation into what is now called "Unisys".  My friend Neil Ferguson also was at Burroughs, except he was an engineer working in a rather vital facility downtown that did the data processing for multiple large banks and, I'm told, drew over 10% of all the electrical power consumed in eastern Massachusetts.  It was called "Bankers Data Processing" or "BDP"

In the fall of that year, I was engaged to play the lead role in a downtown production of The Fantasticks, a very long-running piece that is still generating royalties for its creators to this day.  The lead, "El Gallo", gets to sing "Try to Remember", the one song from the show that everyone knows.  And I sang it, and did the role, for months, for eight performances a week -- Wednesday and Thursday night, two Friday night performances, a matinee and two evening shows Saturday, and a Sunday matinee.  Whew.

At the time we lived in a third-floor flat in the Brighton section of Boston, about seven miles west of the downtown theater district, an area that included the Charles Playhouse.  The Charles had two professional stages, a full-size playhouse and the "cabaret", which was where The Fantasticks was running.  In the playhouse was the long-running Boston company of "A Chorus Line."  Some memorable names were in that production in the lead roles.

On Sunday, February 5th, 1978, with the show well into its run, a heavy snow began falling after I had returned home from the Sunday matinee.  I went to work downtown the next morning with the snow still going strong -- in Boston, the buses and trains go through almost anything -- but by noon we were sent back home with instructions to return when we were called back.

My friend Neil, who also lived in Brighton, had no such option.  His job was vital, keeping all that computing equipment going that kept the New England banking industry going.  Burroughs immediately rented a big suite at the Park Plaza hotel downtown for a week.  Needing 24/7 staff coverage, three shifts, they told all the dozen BDP field engineers, Neil included, to get themselves there and plan to stay there for a while so they could easily walk right over to work.  By Monday night he was already there.

By Tuesday morning, 29.1 inches of snow covered the city, which immediately banned not only vehicle traffic on its streets (except for police, fire and food-delivery trucks), but also the MBTA, the public transit that went everywhere.  With three-foot drifts covering streets and tracks, no buses were on the streets, and even subway trains were shut down, with no reopening time known (it would be Thursday before the first trains, to a few areas, were allowed).

On Tuesday night, I got a call from Norm Goodman.  Norm was the producer of The Fantasticks, and apparently he was not interested in losing a night's house, even though it was unclear who would actually make up that house.  So he informed me that the Wednesday night performance was "on", and I needed to figure out how to get myself there in time to play El Gallo.  I pointed out that I had no way to get there with the closed roads and the non-existent MBTA service nor, I also mentioned, would an audience.  Norm said in so many words that it was my problem, and I had a contract.

So sure enough, the next morning I called Neil to see if I'd be able to crash in the emergency Burroughs Park Plaza suite they were using for the BDP team.  I threw a few things in a bag, put on a heavy coat and boots, and started out the door.

Now, I know that the generations before mine took great pride in telling stories of how they walked miles to school every day ("Shoes?  You had Shoes?).  But where those just might have been a tad exaggerated, this was not.  I walked seven miles in (mostly) thirty inches of snow and got to the Park Plaza in the afternoon, tossed my clothes in a corner of the suite, and walked a block over to the theater.

Yes, if memory serves, all of the cast showed up in time, though none of them lived nearly as far as I did; most were already downtown.  One way or the other, we did The Fantasticks that night.

And we did have an audience.  It was not a big one, but it was an audience.  I remember it because every single person in the seats that night was part of the production of "A Chorus Line" from upstairs, whose producer had had the good sense to cancel for their Wednesday night's performance.  With nothing else to do, they came downstairs to watch us, doubtlessly thinking that our producer was nuts and our cast was a very unlucky bunch.

After the performance, Norm decided that maybe it wasn't worth opening the house anymore, and mercifully cancelled the rest of the week's shows.  I went back to the Park Plaza to grab a night's sleep and wait for subway service to return, with the noisy BDP engineers coming and going between their shifts.  Next morning I learned that the MBTA had opened a few subway train lines, including one that would get me within a couple miles' walk of our home.  A few hours later, I was finally there.

I was driving a 1969 MGC-GT at the time.  It was around the corner from the flat, at an auto service place getting repaired (temperamental MGs perpetually were in the shop).  I walked by the shop and, even though I knew where the car was, I couldn't see it.  It had been buried beyond a shred of visibility in a four-foot drift.  It was late February before I got the car back.

The production lasted a few more months, all at that eight-shows-a-week schedule, and it was the last professional theater production I ever did; we left Boston not too long after, for good, and that was that.

Norm Goodman passed away in 2013 and, save for the accompanist, I have not kept up with any of the other cast members -- I'm not sure I remember any of their names now, actually, and I threw away the Playbill from that show, along with a lot of things, when we left Virginia last year.  But the memory and the story are still there, and I'm glad to tell it.

Hope you feel better now :)

Copyright 2017 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, January 20, 2017

Faux Outrage at the Hearings

It is one of the privileges of working from a home office that I can have a TV going in the background.  Obviously I choose to turn it down when I'm on a conference call, well, at least some of the time.  Say, if I'm speaking.

This week we were privileged to have been able to follow the hearings on the nominees of the president-elect, Donald Trump, to Cabinet secretary positions.  It's a bit of fun to get to know these individuals who will be leading the administrative arms of the Federal government, after all, as they answer (or deflect) the tough, insightful questions of the Senators on the relevant committee.

Unfortunately for some of them, we also get to know the Senators, and it is not always a pretty sight, particular when their hypocrisy is on display for all to see.  Even before the hypocrisy part, we get to see that some of them, such as Al Franken (D-MN), are simply horse's rectums.  It is amazing for a guy who spent his career as a comedy writer not to know how he comes off when he is simply being rude.

It is also odd when a guy like that voices his concern in pompous, outrageous tones, as to whether someone like Betsy DeVos, the nominee to be Secretary of Education, had ever been a teacher, or attended a public school, or been a principal or superintendent.

Let's set aside the fact that part of the reason that our children are educated so poorly in so many of our nation's public schools is because of at least some of the teachers, because of the administrators, because of the teachers' unions.  Mrs. DeVos has spent her life helping to develop alternatives to public schools, alternatives that actually work.  Al Franken's qualifications to be a United States Senator consisted of a career as a comedy writer!  But no, he is there questioning someone else's job bona fides.  Sure.

But my favorite was the faux outrage and random passion generated by good old Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the junior senator from the People's Republic of Massachusetts, a state -- excuse me, commonwealth -- in which I went to college.  Mrs. Warren was part of the Senate committee that also did the hearings for Tom Price (R-GA), the House member nominated to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Mrs. Warren decided to get all excited about a situation where Price's stockbroker had made an investment -- without instruction from Price -- in a medical instrumentation company with business before the House.  Oh, she was passionate all right.  She had a great deal of trouble stopping herself when Rep. Price was three words into an answer, and in at least a couple cases, couldn't wait and answered for him.

You see, though, here is the thing.  As the picture below reminds us, Mrs. Warren was not nearly as excited about a situation where another person appeared to profit from a position in government.  That would be Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former Secretary of State, who sold influence while in office, sold a quarter of USA uranium to Russia, gave contracts for rebuilding Haiti to cronies who built where nothing was needed, took hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time for Bill's speeches, while she was in office.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) showing selective outrage as she passionately embraces Hillary Clinton, who sold access to foreign governments and foreign interests, gave away a quarter of USA uranium to Russia, and whose family pocketed millions in speech fees as a result of her government "service".

I couldn't help thinking of all that as I watched Mrs. Warren make a donkey of herself in the committee hearing session.  Oh, she was upset all right.  She was so agitated I thought she might make herself physically ill, which would have not looked good on live TV.

But I watched the hearings and wished, oh I so, so wished, that Rep. Price had been unleashed to the point of having been able to have answered, as he surely would like to have answered.  Something like this:

"Madam Senator, I am certainly offended by the accusation that I would have made legislative decisions based on personal gain.  And I am sure that you are not alone, in that we all are sensitive to the perception of people in government reaping personal reward for corrupt actions that benefit themselves at the expense of the taxpayers of the USA.

"But I wish to answer you accurately and carefully.  Accordingly, I need to understand your personal standard of ethics and morality.  For example, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, her husband received a $750,000 fee for a single speech from the Ericsson Communications firm of Sweden, after which their products were removed  from a list of items banned from sales to Iran.

"I've never seen $750,000 in my entire life.  But I notice that you not only voted for Mrs. Clinton for the highest office in the land, you embraced her in public and passionately endorsed her.  I, and the nation, would infer that financial dealings are not as bad when they're done by someone you endorse.

"President Clinton received speech fees from places like Rwanda and Kazakhstan, places run by murderous dictators, while his wife was Secretary of State.  But you embraced Mrs. Clinton and endorsed her candidacy.  And here, today, you are agitated because of actions my broker took of his own volition and fiduciary duty, in accordance with congressional guidance on handling of personal finance.

"Would you mind clarifying, please, the moral compass you have for what appears to be selective outrage?  I'm sure we would all benefit by knowing that.  It would certainly help my answers"

It's never going to happen, but it makes my wandering mind happy.

Copyright 2017 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, January 19, 2017

Unintended Consequences: the WARN Notice

Some of you may have, in your lifetime, received what is called a WARN notice from your employer, especially if you are or ever were a professional actor -- or a factory worker.  The WARN notice is named after the congressional action mandating it, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988.

The WARN Act created a mandate that before a company can close a plant or facility of a certain minimum size (small at that), it must provide a notice under the Act to the employees, that they will be laid off in 45 days or more; 45 days is the minimum, or at least it was then.  Of course, the logical execution of the Act is to force employers to pay an additional 45 days' pay to all its employees regardless of tenure, competence or any other factor, ostensibly to give time to retrain them to be something they've never done before.

And, of course, because some feel-good types in Congress dreamed up the idea that somehow employers are responsible to their employees beyond the competitively-determined benefits associated with the market for their labors -- that because the employer's costs were too high to keep the place open, it is somehow their obligation to retrain the employees.

This was, of course, feel-good legislation that presupposed that employers are bad, money-grubbing types who were liable to close a plant on no warning whatsoever simply because they were bad, money-grubbing people, leaving their hard-working employees without any way to feed their poor families.  And throw "single moms" in there, too, the left always does.

At least that was the notion, a notion that didn't take into consideration that there are two sides to all of that.  It didn't recognize that plants only close because they're not making money (or their employees' unions made it impossible to make any money), meaning that they cost too much to operate as currently staffed and with the current market for its output.  It didn't recognize that paying employees for 45 days without production meant that money was coming out of the owners of the company.  For a publicly-traded company, that means that a lot of retirement accounts, often of old widows, take the hit for the extended losses.

I remember when the WARN Act was passed, because it was at the end of the Reagan Administration, when the Democrats had had the House of Representatives for well over 30 years and could still force through some of their agenda, most of which was feel-good bills like this.  What I remember was that I laughed a lot at the bill for its unintended consequences which, even then, I already knew.

You see, I had been a professional actor.

I remember the first time this happened, around 1976 or so, a dozen years before the WARN Act was a gleam in Tip O'Neill's whiskey-addled eye.  I was the lead in a professional Boston production of, I think, The Fantasticks, and we had been in rehearsal for a few weeks before we opened.  The pay was not bad, and I was looking forward to opening night and a full house at the Charles Playhouse in downtown Boston, and getting to sing "Try to Remember", the one song from the show that everyone knew.

I arrived at the theater for opening night, walked into the small collective dressing room and saw a notice on the front door of the room.  "Notice to all employees", it started.  "This is to inform you that this production of The Fantasticks will be closing on March 3rd."  There was some other legal stuff in there, but the gist of it was that the show, which opened on March 3rd, 1976, was going to close at the end of its first night.

Now, you might have guessed that the producer had had a change of heart after investing whatever he had invested in putting on the show.  He wasn't, of course, going to make any money if he didn't produce shows, though, and closing one before it had even opened was not going to help his bottom line.

Nope, the reason for the notice was pretty simple.  The union rules made him post it.  The union rules, which foreshadowed the WARN Act, stated in so many words that you couldn't close a show without providing sufficient notice, and the producer had to post such notice some number of days ahead of the closing.

So sure, if those were the rules, the producers would simply post a closing notice as early as possible to comply with the rules.  Now, they didn't have to close the show; they could ignore their own notice if the show was making money, and still be in perfect compliance with the union rules.  So the notice served no purpose that helped the actors at all.  The union couldn't complain, because no one wanted the shows to close (and eliminate jobs and pay and that sort of thing).

The unintended consequences of the union rules flowed right into the WARN Act without any provision to avoid them.  After 1988, factories all over the place started posting WARN Act notices and renewing them periodically even if they had no plans to close, so that any decision to close a facility could be done without having to pay an extra 45 days' wages.  As far as I know, it is still done, because there's no way to stop it.

I mention this because of the piece I wrote yesterday on the Clinton Global Initiative.  They filed and posted WARN Act notices at the CGI offices in August, on the off-chance that Hillary would possibly lose the election.  Obviously, having not closed it immediately on her decision to run for president and the horrendous conflict of interest that it and the Clinton Foundation represented, they waited until a couple months before the election, never expecting that they actually would close it and lose the cash cow for them it represented.

Government will always do a "ready, fire, aim" thing when it comes to legislating, which is why it is indeed a swamp in sore need of draining, starting tomorrow.  They did the "ready, fire, aim" thing in this case, of course, and there will always be Clintons to take advantage of it -- and employees who get nothing out of the actual intent of the law.

We'll never learn, I fear.

Copyright 2017 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, January 18, 2017

What? The Clintons Were Selling Access??

In a fascinating announcement and news story Monday, which may or may not have been analyzed or even picked up by most major media, the Clinton Global Initiative will shut down effective April 15th.  The good old "CGI" was a gathering of money and power from around the world -- Australia had picked up $44 million of the tab in the past -- to claim to be doing good works.

But the CGI will be no more.  And that needs to be investigated heavily.

Here's the thing, and I know you already know where I'm going.  Hillary Clinton thought she was going to be president, and she thought that for a long time.  No one around her would tell her otherwise, and they wouldn't have had their jobs if they had.

But oops, she lost, and she is obviously never going to be president, at least of the USA.  So with the CGI shutting down after a surprise (the Trump victory), can we not assume that it would not have shut down if she had been elected?  After all, with billions flying around something with your name on it, the big neon lights flash "CONFLICT OF INTEREST" as brightly as you can imagine.  So if she thought she was going to win, she would have shut it down a long time ago.  But she didn't.

Now, in fairness, its employees were told in August that it would be shut down and given the Federal WARN notice telling them so.  But that is a routine action on the part of employers for whom a disaster is possible, as I will be writing about in tomorrow's piece.

So it was not going to be shut down had she won, and the conflict of interest would have been all over the place -- but she knew the media would not make an issue.  The Clintons could have made tons more money, same as they did when she was Secretary of State, and could pocket millions through the Clinton Foundation for her influence (think UraniumOne as a start).

So why is it shutting down now?  Well, Occam's Razor, the principle that you start with the simplest explanation for something you don't understand, meets the FTM ("follow the money") principle that I always go with.  The CGI is, or was, simply a forum for massive influence peddling.  If it were, then as soon as Hillary lost the election, the contributions would dry up because the influence was then gone.

Sure enough, the now non-president Hillary lost both the election and her capacity to sell influence on November 8th and, as some predicted, the contributions to the CGI as well as the Foundation dried up more than a Baptist wedding.  The Australians were, in fact, one of the first to pull their funding.

The CGI was the first to go, and I would be really surprised if there is even any Clinton Foundation either by 2020, or just a shell.  I mean, there are actual charities that do actual work that you can give your money to, so there is no point giving it to a political charity when you can give it straight to the doer of the good works.  Clearly, given that when you pressed Hillary or Foundation staff about what they actually did, you heard "AIDS medication" and then stony silence.

As I've written before, the FBI can blow off the whole Hillary-email server part of their investigation.  I won't care.  But the Foundation and the CGI need to be investigated heavily as a RICO scheme, so that no one ever tries to get away with what the Clintons got away with.

It needs to happen.

Copyright 2017 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, January 17, 2017

Success -- the Best Neutralizer

As we are a scant four days away from the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and as Barack Obama is barfing on his own legacy by releasing, in the middle of the night so it won't be reported, another ten war criminal terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, the nation is convulsed by critical issues.

That would be who is going to perform at Mr. Trump's inauguration.

For example, some lady named Holliday, whom I had never heard of, suddenly discovered that people -- leftists, mind you -- would actually threaten her and threaten to stay away from her performances, if she were to perform at the inauguration.  So she showed marvelous courage by saying that "Oops, I didn't know ..." and backing out of her commitment.

Now, I know that I certainly had never heard of her, nor would it have mattered, since the singing (save the national anthem) is of no moment to me whatsoever, and of no real contribution to the ceremony.  So truth to tell, I really couldn't care less who sings, again, except for the brilliant young talent Jackie Evancho, who is more than happy to sing the anthem at the inauguration and who will do a great job, especially if she does the notes as written.

But it is a story nonetheless.  Celebrity X makes a public statement that he/she will not perform if invited, as if they would be.  Celebrity Y says he/she was invited but will decline because of something about Donald Trump.  Celebrity Z says ... oh, who really cares.

All of the reasons these performers are giving for not performing, or declining an invitation to perform, or declining to perform even though not invited, or whatever, are based on nothing.  Donald Trump has not been the president yet; his only semi-official actions have been to nominate his Cabinet (and those are some pretty awesome, very successful people who for the most part are taking huge pay cuts to serve and need the job like a third nostril).

Miss Holliday, who apparently is a Broadway performer, which is why 99% of the country never heard of her, made a point that her "gay fans" would stop coming to see her.  Now, there are plenty of gay Americans who are perfectly happy to have Donald Trump as president, especially since he is the guy who actually gave air to their situation on the podium at the Republican Convention.  To not see him as a "gay-friendly" Republican is to live in one seriously isolated bubble.

Still, the issue is the protesting and the celebrity back-outs, and all that.  And I have a view on all that which has been the topic of a piece or two before.  Here is what needs to happen.

Mr. Trump, just be successful.  Do what you said you would do.  Bring back jobs.  Build the wall.  Defeat ISIS.  Rebuild our friendships with allies.  Gain the respect of our adversaries.  Instill fear in our enemies.  Cut the debt.  Grow the economy.  And make some progress in the inner cities.

At all stages of your presidency, Mr. Trump, remind us of those goals, and let us know that we are making progress in each.  Tell us now the metrics against which we can measure your success (we know Obamacare was a failure because Obama gave us metrics like "saving $2500 per year" that ultimately he failed miserably against).

Your success will shut up the protesters.  Your success will neutralize the impact of those celebrities and show them up for their cowardice and moral deprivation.

Just be successful.  It's the best weapon.

Copyright 2017 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, January 16, 2017

What Mike Pompeo Should Have Said

I hope you enjoyed the bizarre moment in the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on the nomination of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Intelligence in general, and the CIA in particular, is an awesome topic these days as we are being attacked in the air (9-11), on land (San Bernardino, Orlando, Boston), in cyberspace (China, Russia, North Korea and our friends as well), and who knows where-all else.

We need to know about our enemies and their thoughts, their plans, and their motivations.  We need signal intelligence, communications intelligence and, as important as any, human intelligence.  We need to do it surreptitiously and do it well, and gain as much knowledge as possible.  And we need sound leadership to make that happen.

Accordingly, it was imperative that the Senate committee questioning Rep. Pompeo on his qualifications focus on his views on these issues and his capabilities to do the job.  It is vital that they gain that confidence that the person selected to direct the CIA knows his stuff.

And then there was Kamala Harris.

You have probably not heard of Kamala Harris, but she is the junior senator from the Peoples' Republic State of California, latest in a long line of forgettable leftists, who remind us how glad we are that each state gets two senators regardless of size.  She has been a senator for a freaking week, for God's sake.  But she is on this committee and got her five minutes of questions in.

Were they about the vital role of intelligence in fighting our enemies abroad, or about Rep. Pompeo's qualifications and understanding of its role in protecting the USA?

Well, no.

Kamala Harris, the week-long senator from California, used her five minutes of questions to ask Rep. Pompeo about -- honk if you guessed it -- global warming and hiring gays at the CIA.  I'm serious.  I was driving yesterday listening to the hearings, and when she started asking questions I thought that Fox had switched over to the hearings for the director of NOAA or OPM or some other agency.

Unfortunately I was listening on the radio and couldn't see Rep. Pompeo's face to see his expression.  Mike Pompeo has been around the block a few times, and he had to be laughing his butt off inside.  Of course, having indeed been around the block a few times, he knew to keep his composure and simply toss out a reasonable answer ... "We will not discriminate; we will follow the laws on hiring ...", you know, that sort of thing.  He answered the global warming question as blandly and forgettably; that he could answer at all without laughing is a credit to him.

Of course, Rep. Pompeo had to answer politely given the context.  I would not have been so gentle, especially if I knew I had 51 votes in my pocket.  And I would have given my final answer this way.

"Senator Harris, I appreciate your concern about whether or not it is getting a bit warmer out there.  And when you have been in your office longer than a week, and all your boxes are unpacked, you will come to discover that the reason we have over 3,000 appointed positions in the Federal government is because there is a lot going on here -- including some areas which I believe are outside the purview of the Federal government and should not even be a concern of ours.

"As CIA Director, I will have the leadership of an organization that is the point of the spear as far as staying ahead of organizations that want to bring down our nation and literally kill our citizens -- and there are a lot of them.  I will be doing that 24 hours a day and it will not be enough.  I will be constantly seeking ways to improve our ability to gain insights into our enemies and improve the accuracy and reliability of the data that we provide to those who use it to set policy.

"My job will be the same in the minus-50 degree temperatures of Siberia and in the plus-120 degree desert of Iraq.  Whatever those agencies of government may feel about the extent to which they can and should influence global temperatures, I have a job which I feel needs to be done no matter what the temperature -- and what may be our obligation to do anything about it.

"I realize you have to represent the purported views of your constituents and have every right to do that.  But I will clearly state that, as you are sitting in judgment of my candidacy and my capability, I am, as I sit here today, a member of the House of Representatives of three terms and otherwise beginning a fourth, I am qualified to advise you as well, and I will point out that you have embarrassed the citizens of the great State of California by spurning the opportunity to discuss either my qualifications or understanding of intelligence gathering, in favor of issues that are completely outside the realm of the Agency I am being considered to lead."

I would have applauded, and the Twitterverse would have exploded.

Copyright 2017 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, January 13, 2017

Fun with the Press

The president-elect, Donald Trump, held a news conference this week for a few announcements, including a Veterans' Affairs secretary nominee, and for an opportunity for the press to ask him some questions.

That sure was a fun time, and I think more fun was had by Mr. Trump than by almost anyone else there.  Certainly he had a better time than the CNN reporter Jim Acosta, whose network had already asked a question and then wanted the president-elect to answer another.

Now, Mr. Trump could have declined to allow him a second question solely on the merits of the fact that 400 other reporters were there wanting to ask a question, and that CNN had no innate right to ask any more than one question, given that lots of reporters were not going to get to ask one.

But that, of course, was not the reason.  Mr. Trump was not happy with the fact that CNN had picked up a story from the fake-news outlet "Buzzfeed" relating to some type of information that Russia had that was compromising to Mr. Trump, and that theoretically could be used as blackmail to get some type of leverage on the incoming president.

Given that the story had been out there in the undercurrent of the news media for several months, the fact that it had never been published until now is testimony to the fact that even the media outlets that detest Mr. Trump, such as the New York Times, refused to publish it even in the middle of a presidential campaign.  That was simply because their microscopic, but not totally eliminated journalistic moral compasses recognized that there was not a shred of corroborating material.

Even the New York Times walked quickly away from that non-story, but CNN decided to ensure that it was out there, regardless.  They had a right; it's a free country with a free press.  And Donald Trump also has the right to decide whom he is going to take questions from, and after allowing them one already, it was certainly not going to be CNN.

The CNN reporter would not shut up, and rudely kept saying that he wanted (to ask) another question.  Trump recognized a different reporter to ask, but the CNN guy kept at it, until Trump finally referred to CNN itself as "fake news" and moved on.  We all saw it, and it was fun for at least some of us to see the press treated in accordance with the level of journalistic integrity each outlet may or may not have.

Aside ... I was in New York on business some time in the late 1970s when Ed Koch was the mayor of New York City.  Koch was a pretty straightforward, all-business, no-nonsense guy.  This one day he was doing a news conference and some reporter asked him about a story that had come out about something Koch would probably not be pleased with.  Koch asked him what his source was, to which the reporter answered "The Village Voice."  Koch sneered "That's your source???", and then immediately moved on to another question without answering.  I loved it. 

The press is granted Constitutional protection beyond that given to almost any other institution in the USA.  It will never be withdrawn, but it is a treasure that must be appropriately handled.  If the media choose to run with under-validated stories, well, they will be allowed to do so the next day and the next, without fear of government intervention.

But it doesn't mean that the president will be under any obligation to take their questions.  And the more that formerly reliable outlets such as CNN continue to act with fractured ethics, the more scenes such as Wednesday we will be treated to.

That's OK.  I had fun, and expect more amusement in the coming years.

Copyright 2017 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, January 12, 2017

Struggling with "Hate Crimes"

As much as I would be happy to see the four perpetrators of the kidnapping and beating of the mentally-challenged young man in Chicago sent up the river for 40-50 years or so, there is an aspect of the case that is troubling to me, and I am trying hard to be consistent.

This is the fact that their sentences, assuming conviction, will be affected by the designation of what they have done as a "hate crime."  That it was a hate crime is pretty evident; when you kidnap someone of another race and scream epithets against his race, while streaming their actions live on Facebook, it is fairly clear that racial animus was part of what happened.

The question, of course, is that "hate", however defined, for a specific group -- whites, blacks, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Martians, Indians of both kinds -- is singled out in the law, for reasons that don't make sense when you start to dig a bit deeper.

Hundreds and hundreds of black men are killed on the streets of Chicago annually, these recent years of the Obama Administration.  These involve gangs, they involve drugs, and some homicides involve neither.  Is it not "hate" that drives a gang member to kill a member of a rival gang?  Is it not "hate" that is involved in the murder by a drug dealer of a rival drug dealer?

Do you follow where I'm going?  In the drug dealer case, one person got shafted by another and kills him or her.  But in the gang case, it may very well be that the dead gang member was killed by virtue of membership in the wrong gang -- the wrong "group."  How is it any different when the group for which a person is killed or attacked is a street gang, vs. the group being their religious denomination?

That's the slippery slope that hate-crimes laws take us down, and I don't really like that slope.  My point is simply that the reason that a murder is committed (or a kidnapping, in the case cited above) should not be a sentencing factor, and certainly not be to the point of adding an additional crime beyond what the actual action was.  Reason may be a prosecutor's tool in persuading a jury that motive was present to establish premeditation, but it doesn't make the wound bigger.

I am most uncomfortable with the fact that we are distinguishing what kind of "hate" we decide to punish differently.  A gang member murdering a person from a different gang because he hates the rival gang is somehow different from a group of people kidnapping and assaulting a person because he is of a different race?

Of course I'm uncomfortable.  By virtue of distinguishing what flavor of "hate" is punishable and what flavor is just fine, we have, whether intended or not, legislated thoughts that are nothing more than thoughts, and that is frightening and no place for an American government to stray.

No, we have not said in our laws that we may not hold bigoted views.  But we have distinguished that, somehow, crimes committed by people who hold those views are somehow more serious and require heavier punishment than identical crimes committed by identical people who hate their victim just because they hate their victim, or because the victim happens to belong to a group not blessed by hate-crimes laws.

I hope that the four assailants of the victim in the Chicago incident get most of the rest of their lives to rot in prison and never have the opportunity to hurt anyone again.  But I hope that sentence is assessed for the miserable crime they committed, and not for their views on white people that appeared to motivate their attacks.

We are free to think as we wish in this country.  Laws need to respect that, regardless of the thoughts.

Copyright 2017 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, January 11, 2017

But the Key Was in the Ignition, Mr. Podesta

When I go to the store, I park my car, lock it and walk away.  Back when I had a car with a "key" as opposed to keyless ignition, the process was to park the car, turn it off, take out the key and lock it.  We lived in northern Virginia, but no matter where we lived; no matter where I traveled to on business and rented cars, I did the same thing.  I always lock the car.

So do you.

What would not occur to me would be to park the car, leave the key in the ignition and go in to work, or the store, or whatever, and certainly not leave the car running with the key right there.  Gee, let's ask, why would we not do that?

Because there are such things as "car thieves" out there for one, that's why.  But that's not it entirely, either.  Admit it, if you walked by an empty car with the engine running and the key right there -- and you know you have before -- you would have at least a fleeting thought that the car was right there for the taking.  And I don't care whether you thought it was there for you to do the taking; you would certainly think it was set up for a GTA, as they say in the law-enforcement biz.

Ron White, famous as a member of the Blue Collar Comedy group and a very funny guy, had a tag line that applies perfectly here -- "You can't fix stupid."  He meant exactly that, and if you think about it, he's right.  By the time you are old enough to make a decision to leave a car running and empty of people, you're old enough such that you're not going to get any smarter.

Ron White would walk by an empty car with its engine running and mutter "You just can't fix stupid" to anyone who would listen, although he probably wouldn't take the car.  OK, he might move it a few rows over to teach a lesson, but probably not (because you can't fix stupid).  And we all would think that the person who left the car was stupid, indeed.  That's important, and part of the point here -- we would think the person was so stupid that whatever happened as a result of leaving the running car unattended was a just outcome for stupidity.

Why do I care?

Because John Podesta, who was the chairman of Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign, left his car running with the key in the ignition and walked away.

OK, he didn't exactly leave his car running, not exactly.

But he did something that is a perfect analogue.  Two things, actually.  He set up his email account with the password "password", and he answered a phishing email by clicking on the link that ultimately facilitated his emails being blasted all over WikiLeaks.  This embarrassed the Democrats, day after day, as we came to understand how they had rigged the entire primary campaign so that Hillary Clinton would end up as the nominee.

We also discovered that there were racists and anti-Semites and, apparently, virulent anti-Catholics in the Democratic National Committee.  We also discovered that at the same time Hillary was calling half the country "racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic" and the rest, the DNC in general did not think a whole lot of a goodly part of America themselves.

The Democrats, and Hillary in particular, lost whatever moral high ground they ever might have had when all that came out.  Did it influence the election?  It's hard to say either way; no one is actually coming forward to say that they changed their votes because of the exposure of the contents of those emails, but then Hillary never had her poll numbers go over about 48% anyway.

But here's the thing.  Hillary and Hollywood and the press and the organized left (but I repeat myself) can scream all they want to about the exposure of the truth costing them the 2016 election.  But we out here in the USA that voted in the majority for Donald Trump (i.e., leaving out five counties in California that were her whole margin, plus some), don't look at it that way.

Nope.  We look at what happened as a moron being in charge of the Hillary campaign, so stupid that he not only bit on a phishing email but had a default password, even though his email account was a pathway to incredibly expository and condemning communications among the Democrats.

John Podesta left his car running, key in the ignition, and his car got stolen.  We in the USA just shake our heads and have zero sympathy for him, or for the outcome his stupidity wrought.

You can't fix stupid.

Copyright 2017 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, January 10, 2017

OMG, Now I Have to Defend MMA?

Five hundred and sixty-eight columns, and I have managed to avoid a single word about mixed martial arts and anything to do with MMA and its apparently various organizations.  But now I feel obliged to weigh in.

Now, as a kid I remember watching professional wrestling, which was not really "wrestling" in the sense that amateurs in high school and college wrestle.  It was more of a show, with the lead players being people like Buddy Rogers, Bruno Sammartino, Arnold Skaaland, Bearcat Wright, and various brothers named Lewin, Bastien and, well, you get the idea.  I'm old and I watched some crazy stuff as a kid.

Of course, that was what was on TV; back when you had three or four channels.

I think that sort of thing has been completely subsumed by MMA fighting, which still seems to be a bit, um, not necessarily unstaged, but people do get hurt, and there are enough people who watch it to where it will be around for a while.

I do not watch it.  Ever.  I don't hate it, but I don't exactly know how much of what I watch is real and what isn't, and I'm not a real fan of tattoos on women (lots of women in MMA), so it doesn't compare to regular competitive sports like baseball and whatever passed for the NFL playoffs this past weekend.

But I still have to defend it, at least a little.  Because the term "mixed martial arts" is a reflection of the fact that it (assumedly; remember, I never have watched it) is derived from actual martial arts, like karate, jiu-jitsu, t'ai chi and that sort of thing.

I never did any of that, either, but I certainly have seen it practiced.  I can assure you that by most people's definition of what those people who do those arts are doing, it is indeed "art."  Those with actual talent at performing karate and the like are really fascinating to watch; the fact that they are a sort of self-defense form does not detract from the fact that people would (and do) spend money to watch exhibitions by black-belt types that are not really fights.  It's art, all right.

That seemed to be lost on, of all people, Meryl Streep, the actress who foolishly ruined the celebration of her lifetime of achievement in the theater and in film at the Golden Globes Sunday night.  Instead of sitting appreciatively like the awardees at the Kennedy Center Honors, who don't speak, or simply saying a humble "thank you" (by the way, I didn't watch this either; I'm not a fan of theater people giving awards to other theater people in a big love-in), Miss Streep decided to make this a political event.

After working up a self-righteous storm about Donald Trump, who has not even been president yet, but has already boosted the job opportunities in this country of a large number of union auto workers, Miss Streep apparently imagined that Mr. Trump wanted zero immigration and the deportation of all people not born here.  Then she acted on views that Trump does not, in fact, hold, but facts never get in the way of the left.

“... So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” she said, “and if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

Of course, amidst all the howls from the MMA types, and their then being drowned out by the adulation from the Hillary types who were enraptured, and for whom Miss Streep, like Mrs. Clinton, can do no wrong, I reacted a bit differently.

How pompous, I thought, of Meryl Streep to decide what is and what is not "art".  She is, after all, an actress, not a painter, not a musician, not a sculptor.  She is not a dancer, and she is not a lot of other things that are "art", however defined.  And she is certainly not a practitioner of martial arts.

I thought of that the next morning as I heard what she had said.  I don't really care whether MMA is or is not an "art", but I really care when people take it upon themselves to decide what an art actually is, especially when they are so immodest as to decide at the moment they are being honored for what they do in one art, that another one does not deserve her regard.

This is one time we can actually ask, "Who the heck does Meryl Streep think she is?" and be morally justified.

You see, hypocrisy is rampant in Hollywood, so rampant that no one even seems to notice that the same people who clamor for "women's rights" and the end of the "over-sexualization of women" showed up for the Golden Globes specifically dressed in as little as possible, designed to expose as much of themselves as possible.  They pose in those outfits before going into the venue, for God's sake.

Dear Lord, Miss Streep, you will never get it.  You will never understand why we, in the part of America you only fly over between LA and New York, don't agree with your assessment of what the country needs.

You will never understand that no one asked to "kick all the foreigners out of Hollywood", not ever, not by anyone and certainly not by Donald Trump.  If you do not even distinguish between legal immigrants and illegal aliens, then you don't understand why we didn't vote for your candidate.

You will never understand that if you that grossly misrepresent what someone says, and then use your incorrect statement of what the person says to make a point, well, we see past that.  We recognize that if you have to use a strawman, you have already lost the argument.

You will never understand that you lost.  I guess "understanding" is an art, also.

Copyright 2017 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, January 9, 2017

Everyone Has a Story

I am 65 years old.  There's no way around that fact, and I'm happy to own it, along with the little aches and pains that go along with it.  But there are some really neat things that also go along with that, and those of you reading this who are far from being 65, well, this may be a happier thought for you.

Our home is in one of those "communities" in the Carolinas that practically cover the entire contiguous shore-adjacent area from southern North Carolina all the way down to coastal Georgia.  They are typically wrapped around a golf course, meaning that even those which are not specifically set aside for people 55 and over are predominantly populated by people whose work life is behind them.

I am not at all retired, but my job allows me to work wherever I feel, and we are where we want to be.  I can work full time and still get out to the course ("courses" actually, my community has four of them) when I feel like it.  We're renting while our house is being built, and insisted on renting inside the community so that we could become part of it -- now.

I also should add that although there are about 3,000 people living here, my best girl and I knew exactly none of them.  Zero.  We moved into a community as total strangers; the closest we came to knowing anyone was a gentleman who had gone through the same fraternity as I at MIT, but who had graduated several years before I joined, and whom I had never met.

You cannot avoid meeting people, and we were actually not trying to avoid them but, rather, to meet them gradually; we were told that you can get overwhelmed quickly.  And that is the interesting discovery that this column is about.

In the short few months we have been here, we have had several times where we had dinner, or a drink, with another couple here and there who lived here, and whom we had only met for a moment some time earlier.  The first time that happened, it was curious -- while we had scheduled maybe a couple hours, we found ourselves still talking four hours later, and feeling like we had not scratched the surface.

That kept happening with couple after couple, no matter how long they had lived here or where they had moved here from.  And it became patently obvious that people our age have stories, and perhaps because we are more receptive, those stories are really, really interesting.  I mean, I will admit that I have had a particularly curious life story (600 essays on line probably attest to that), so it's fun to know that no matter whom we break bread with, I could sit there for hours, silently sipping a Merlot, and be utterly enraptured by the life story of someone I had mostly never met.

We will not get to meet everyone here, and obviously have barely gotten started with the "two-on-two get-togethers" for the people we have crossed paths with.  But something we never thought would be a part of our lives here to look forward to, is now an excitement for us.

This is a remarkable discovery, and I wanted to share it with people younger, or much younger, than we are.  Perhaps we are simply more intrigued than most by the life stories of other people who have lived much of their career already.  But I don't think that's it.  I think that a decent level of maturity teaches us the lesson that we learn -- we build "cubbyholes in our mind" -- from what others have done and the outcomes of their actions, as many as we build from our own stories.

I've shaken hands with a president; I've knocked Lucille Ball over; I've sung at packed baseball stadiums, one time as four people (yep) and started four companies. I've invested and lost everything I own.  I've been declared "black" by one state.  I have four world championships and a hole-in-one.  And I have mentioned none of those things to our new friends, because your story is more interesting to me.

We're going to enjoy this.

Copyright 2017 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, January 6, 2017

The Other Side of the Tweet

This week it has become even more clear that the president-elect, Donald Trump, is far from abandoning his Twitter fingers.

Having discovered that he can bypass the mainstream leftist media, he has determined that his go-to model for communicating with the public is going to be on this immensely personal medium.  And why not?

He gets his purest thoughts right in front of the public without the filter of commentary from the leftists in the media.  Oh, they'll comment all right, but they have to compete with the new president himself.  Trump's tweets are an accurate reflection of his mindset on a specific issue at a specific time, in the specific words of the president-elect.

Right now, we like it, at least outside New York and five counties in California.  We like it because it is novel, no previous president has communicated in that way.  Franklin Roosevelt started with his Fireside Chats in the early days of radio's popularity, and may be thought to be the primordial source, but Trump's tweets are direct, personal and very, very immediate -- and if you miss them, they're out there on Al Gore's Amazing Internet whenever you like.

They are also "very Trump" in that the language is the stream-of-thought communication model that reflects how he does communicate.  It is not the prepared-speech language, which he historically (in the campaign) has used successfully, even when subject to the ad libs that were equally "very Trump."

As I write this, there are four such tweets in the last seven hours alone, from a three-tweet series (140 characters is not a lot) about Obamacare, to something about the Russian hacking, to slamming Toyota for planning to build cars in Mexico and then import them here.  Bang, bang, bang, the actual from-the-heart view of the president-elect is right there for all to see.

I really like that aspect of it, for all the reasons cited.  But there is another side of it.

Donald Trump has set a precedent of responding to a certain set of impeti with a tweet.  This happens, then a tweet.  And he keeps doing it because we like it and it is effective, and because the bypassing of the leftist media ensures that we know what he is thinking, or what his process is, or where his first negotiating posture is.

But the precedent is a fragile one.  President Trump cannot reply to everything with a tweet; there are a lot of things meriting a response and there's only so much time in a day, even for the tireless president-elect.  So when does he not tweet?  And what does it mean when he declines to tweet, or simply is too busy?  What are we to infer from that, if he has been tweeting in so many other cases?

This is not the most important thing for him to worry about, certainly.  But he has pretty much set the bar already.  The press and, for that matter, the people, will start to connect the dots, even if the dots aren't really connected.

"Gee, four imbeciles in Chicago kidnapped and beat up a white special-needs kid while yelling racially-rotten things and anti-Trump slogans at the poor kid.  How come Trump didn't tweet about that?"

And, if he hasn't gone ahead and tweeted about it since I wrote this, they would be right; that's a legitimate question right now.

I don't know the proper approach, but somehow the president-elect needs to figure out how to make his Twitter pattern work, without causing a firestorm when he simply does not choose to send out a tweet about something.  That is going to take a bit of thought, and it would be a pretty good idea if that pattern were either intentionally all over the place (i.e., a pattern of "no pattern"), or some proactive thought went into when to tweet and when not to.

As a musician and singer for decades, I am well aware of the aphorism that there is as much music in the rests as there is in the notes themselves.  The analogy is sound here -- Trump will say as much when he does not tweet as when he does, and I hope he will have his team consistently assessing how it looks and whether Trump's goals for communication are being met.

This, friends, will be a fun presidency.

Copyright 2017 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, January 5, 2017

Does Nancy Believe What She's Saying?

I was just listening to the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, one of the "clowns" among the Democrat congressional leadership, as characterized by Donald Trump in a tweet yesterday.

As the Republican leadership was busy getting a cure for Obamacare together, Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, and a few unrecognizable other Democrat leaders gathered to make a series of statements about Obamacare.  It was remarkable for the series of strawmen (and straw-women?) posed, stating things that Republicans never said, things that certainly were not true, and then saying why this was going to be a problem.

They put together their "Make America Sick Again" line, which each of the speakers made sure they put into their statements, as they were making idiotic statements suggesting that Obamacare had done anything good that was going away.

Schumer even said -- and this is hysterical -- that "if the Republicans think they can keep the good parts of Obamacare and get rid of the rest, and it will still work, they're sadly mistaken."  Which means that Schumer thinks that there is a lot of garbage in Obamacare, and if it weren't there, the law would collapse, right?  That's his statement.  He doesn't get that as being precisely what's wrong with the law in the first place.

But let's stick with Mrs. Pelosi, she of the "You have to pass it to know what's in it" line back when the bill was passed with exactly zero consultation with Republicans and zero Republican votes, stuffed under "budget reconciliation" to avoid opposition.

Mrs. Pelosi stated three things that Obamacare was supposed to do, and then tried to state, against all facts, that it had succeeded at them:

- Lower costs of health care.  OK, it didn't; health costs are still rising, and insurance costs, especially for those who actually had to buy Obamacare, have skyrocketed.  I wrote of my own situation, where our private health insurance options (I do not have an employer) shrank in 2015 to exactly three, meaning that I was luckier than the 35% of USA counties with only one insurance company providing policies.  My monthly insurance went from $550 in 2014 to $1,092 in 2015 with no change in health.  But at least I got pediatric dentistry covered under my new policy for my non-existent dependent children (oh yes, read the link).

- Improved service.  I don't know if she meant "better actual health care", or "better coverage", or "better interaction with insurance companies" or "better results for the Cubs."  The Cubs did better.  The coverage, not so much, given that at the same time Obamacare removed our option for a high-deductible, low-cost policy (as a healthy couple in our sixties, that was our choice), it quickly raised deductibles on existing policies.  See the previous paragraph; not only did insurance costs go up but so did the out-of-pocket costs to make up for the high deductibles.

- Increase access.  This is the sad joke.  "Ohhhh, 25 million people have health care they wouldn't have had, you can't take that away, you nasty Republicans!"  But access has not changed.  First, a little more than half of the 25 million got their policies through the Medicaid expansion, not from the Obamacare exchanges.  Second, those without insurance always had access; hospitals could not turn them away.

What they got was actually a gunpoint mandate that they buy a policy or be fined.  It's pretty much like looking at prison as a source of three meals a day, and claiming that it's a good way to get fed properly.  Gee, they increased access to health insurance all right, but it was under the notion that you will buy access or we will fine you. And then claiming that because of the threat, we're better off.  Nanny state, right?

Nancy Pelosi can't possibly actually believe that any of the things she is saying are true, let alone that they are good for the country.  Of course, she has a solid leftist constituency in her district in very leftist San Francisco, and commutes to Washington, meaning that she never sees a human being from the majority of voters in the 49 states and all but five counties in California which combined to elect Donald Trump as the next president.

If she believes it -- if Schumer and the rest of the "clowns" believe it -- I certainly don't want what they are smoking.

Copyright 2017 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.