Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wow. I Won a Cruise. Yippee.

Today (OK, yesterday) was not particularly different from most days.  I received four calls on my cell phone by midday.  Three of them were from phone numbers in Arlington, Virginia, where I know plenty of people.  However, none of the calls was from any of those people, including the one call from when I was waiting in a doctor's office.

Then, a few minutes before sitting down to write this, I received one from Hamilton, Massachusetts, where I'm pretty sure that I know no one, even though I went to college in the Commonwealth.  OK, I just looked it up.  I don't know anyone there, or in South Hamilton either.

Incredibly, though, it was the same perky Sally calling, now from Hamilton, even though all the phone numbers calling were different.  Who would have guessed?  The message?  I had won a cruise to ... oh, somewhere; I can't really recall where as I waited for the option to delete my number from their list.

Of course, I would have thought that there is a finite number of entities intent on giving me a cruise, and so would you.  That's why it is a bit surprising that after selecting "delete me" on any number of such calls, I still get 3-4 or so every day.  That's a lot of people determined to give me a cruise to ... well, I guess I should have listened to see where.

What do you think they wanted?  I mean, no one makes money if you just give something away, right?  So maybe they wanted to make me go and enjoy the cruise so much that I'd want to keep cruising, and then be willing to pay for all the subsequent ones.  Must have been the cruise line.  Yeah, that's it.

Maybe they wanted to get me on a cruise where I was a captive audience, and then harangue me until I bought a magazine subscription, or a year's supply of White Cloverine Salve, or maybe two years' worth.  Maybe I actually did win some contest that I never entered, for which the prize was a cruise, and they felt that the best way to tell me was not an email, but to have a perky recorded voice call my cell while I was sitting in a doctor's office.

God as my witness, as I just wrote the above paragraph, I got a call from an electronic voice calling from Big Bear Lake, California, offering to fix my "credit card issues", even though I have only one credit card, and it has no balance and I don't use it. I don't know what "issues" they appear to have detected, or how (that's the scary part), but I selected the "never call me again" option.

Sure, that ought to do it.

I wonder where that cruise sails from.  We don't live anywhere near a cruise port (do they call people with, say, Kansas or Utah area codes to offer a cruise?).  Do you think that part of winning a cruise is a free round trip flight from Salt Lake City to and from Miami, or LA or New York?  I kind of don't think so.

So I need to tell them all something, apart from "Please stop calling."  I don't cruise.  Cruising involves big boats, and going out on the waves.  Waves mean "oceans", and "oceans" means "seasickness."

Seasickness is not a pleasant thing.  Just ask the poor cameraman or producer (I forget which) a few years back who went out on his first sail with a Bering Sea crab boat for the "Deadliest Catch" show that you know you also watch.  The guy was so severely seasick that he dehydrated massively and had to be returned to port -- not a decision the captain, with crab to catch, was too thrilled with, although in fairness he was very sympathetic to the guy dying on his boat.

So I don't want a cruise.  I would not enter a contest whose first prize was a cruise.  I don't have time for a cruise, even if I paid for it myself or it was a real, up-and-up award of a cruise with no ulterior motive.  And that's before how much I hate calls from non-human voices.

Here's my solution.  Hire those robo-call types and have them start calling suspected ISIS sympathizers and offering them a free cruise.  Get them all on a ship headed for the middle of the ocean, and then just stop, sort of like police departments get fugitives to come in to a fake event and then arrest them.  Except in this case the ship could just, you know, sink.

You think ISIS guys like boat trips?

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dance, Hillary, Dance

If you heard Hillary Clinton's speech to the graduates at her alma mater, Wellesley College this past week, you would likely have noticed a few things that didn't click for you.

For example, she made a rather blatant reference to the current president, Donald Trump, without mentioning his name but calling him a liar just the same, referencing presidents who used "alternative facts", or whatever term she used.  In context, we all knew whom she was referencing, but she might have been a bit more chary had she thought anyone might think of some "alternative facts" that had come from administrations she herself had been a part of.

I readily thought of a few ...

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor."

"If you like your insurance company, you can keep your insurance company."

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

"I did not send classified information, nor did I receive information marked classified at the time" (I loved that one because she weasel-worded the statement, though it turned out to have been a lie anyway)

Then there was her ramble into a "previous presidential campaign" that ended with a president's term "ending in disgrace by being impeached for obstruction of justice."  That was an alternative fact as well; even though she then said she was referring to Richard Nixon, he was never impeached for anything (he resigned before an impeachment and removal).

But why let the facts get in the way?

Taking it all together, however, this was so not one of Hillary's finest moments.  In the book on her campaign, "Shattered" (which I just finished), Hillary is noted as having tamped down the venom in what was written for her concession speech, being advised that she would sound "like a sore loser."

I imagine that she must have changed her mind, although President Trump has been perfectly kind and gracious to her in public, since the election.  Because her commencement speech was indeed the whining of a sore loser.  It was a backward, negative speech at a terribly inopportune time, not just her having lost the election but delivering that speech while the president is in Europe at the tail end of a very successful trip trying to help the world address the problem of terrorism.  It looked awful.

Hillary needs to do something different.  Of course, she could stay "in the woods", or even act like a lady or gentleman, much as John McCain and Mitt Romney were gracious in defeat and have remained so, at least as far as the election outcome, ever since.

Now, I have to say this wasn't my idea, but it certainly was someone's passing statement, and is really worth kicking around.  It is the one thing that would give Hillary's ego, at least for a time, the stroking it needed without causing disaster for the USA.  I'm sure you will agree.

Hillary Clinton needs to do "Dancing with the Stars."

The previous season has just completed, and I'm sure as they contemplate the "stars" they invite for next season (there are two seasons a year), someone should think it wise to call Hillary's people and invite her to come on.

She'll be seventy by then, but heck, Buzz Aldrin did more for the county, and he went on the show in his eighties, although he didn't last too many weeks.  I have no idea if she can dance, but neither, really, could the fellow (Cubs/Red Sox catcher David Ross) who finished second this year, and she'd do great things for the way she's perceived.  She is supposed to have a sense of humor, at least so her intimates say.  We've never seen it, but supposedly ...

Now I'm prejudiced.  I would just love to see Tom Bergeron, the marvelous host of the show, announce after a couple weeks "Hillary and Maks, John and Witney, on this second week of competition, the couple eliminated is (doom-doom-doom-doom-doom ...) Hillary and Maks."

I don't think she could take that too well, especially if Bill were in one of the front-row audience seats.  So maybe she won't do it.  But I love the idea.

If she doesn't want to, I guess she could send Huma Abedin in her place.  Or even more fun, how about inviting Anthony Weiner as a guest "star", at least if he is not in prison by then.

Oh yeah, there's still the Clinton Foundation corruption investigation in the FBI, presumably, so maybe Hillary isn't off the hook yet.

Maybe they can do "Dancing with the Inmates".

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, May 29, 2017

The Concert in the Park

More than 45 years ago, I played French horn in a community summer band that, in those apparently more innocent days, would do weekly concerts in a band shell in a small park by the water in whatever town that was.  It was directed by a local high school band teacher I had met when my high school band teacher dragged me to play in the pit for a musical that the other fellow was directing.

That couple summers we played lots of those concerts, and I remember a little of it these many years since.  I do remember, though, that half of what we played was march music, probably all by John Philip Sousa, and since most of the band members were adults and had played for a while, the band was actually pretty good.

The crowd was older, which I suppose made sense, but really appreciative.  And we always closed out with the Stars and Stripes Forever, every week.  I figured that the same older people came out to listen every week, because there was a point in the march -- the spot where the joking words we listened to as kids were "Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody's mother ..." -- where the crowd automatically stood, every week as if on cue.

I think of that today, Memorial Day 2017.  As we gather at home, or in band shell audiences, with loved ones or not, and remember the souls who were lost fighting for the freedoms we treasure in this nation of ours, and their families, it is OK to enjoy ourselves.  It's OK to have the picnics, and eat the burgers, and pitch horseshoes or whatever.  Or go see a community band.

It's OK to do the things we can do.  We cannot bring our lost heroes back to life, nor can we provide the solution for those left here to mourn them.

But we can take the day and combine an enjoyment of the treasures of this nation, of the right to be free and enjoy the society of others as we see fit, with a time to remember those who fought that we might have those freedoms to do those things.

I think of my Dad, gone six years ago this month, and his service of over 30 years to his country.  He made it back, as they say, and enjoyed a 95-year life on this earth, in this country.  He never once took anything for granted, even when he drove me to those summer concerts in the park I'm not sure he enjoyed all that much.  You did your part, Colonel.

So take a moment today.  Enjoy; be with family.  Grill a hamburger or two.  Toss a horseshoe.  Play with your kids -- or your parents.

Then remember who allowed you to do all that, and take a moment to remember them, too, and pray for them and their families before your second burger.

And at night, find a good community band and listen to a march.  I plan to do that, too.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Best Hire in the Administration

I've been quite busy at work the past few days, which does make a well thought-out essay a bit hard to get done when you're trying to write proposals for a living.  That's an excuse, my friends, for the brevity of this one as well.

While I'm furiously writing proposal-speak all day, the TV is in the background with news, and I usually just have it in my head and through it, without really paying attention.  That said, I have taken to picking up my head and focusing on the TV -- when one specific member of the Administration is being interviewed.

That person is Mick Mulvaney, who is the director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump Administration.  And I'm here to tell you that he may turn out to be the best hire that President Trump has made, and there are some really good ones.

Way back when, I wrote about the attributes for a presidential candidate that would guide me in voting in the primary in a fairly loaded field as was there in 2016.  One of those attributes was communication, and by that I referred to the ability to stand up in front of the American people and make the case for what it is you were doing, your vision.  You needed to be able to explain what you were thinking.

That applies, in some degree, to Cabinet members and agency heads as well.  We don't, for example, need for Rex Tillerson to make a lot of speeches about our diplomatic agenda and answer the press all that much, and I don't expect that the Secretary of Labor needs to do that either.

But over at OMB, well, that's a horse of a different color.  You see, we are in an emergency -- $20 trillion in debt as a nation, and at the same time we are providing the services that our Federal government is obligated to under the Constitution (and a whole lot we aren't, hence the debt), we have to raise funds through taxes and spend them, hopefully the same amount.

The problem is that we have gotten so used to deficit spending, that we can't raise the money to pay for things that the government has gotten used to doing and, accordingly, we have to spend a lot less and/or get more money in.  Well, the former for sure.

And when you spend less, someone's ox gets gored, because the government will be buying less, or giving out less, or both, and someone will not like that.

So that message, the need to get closer to balancing the budget and paying down that debt, is a vital one.  You need someone with the ability to stand up in front of a rabid press that hates your boss, and explain the priorities of the Administration, while at the same time retaining the overall vision and reiterating it.

That vision in this administration is that there is an obligation to the taxpayers whose assets are being confiscated, an obligation to be good stewards of their money and not waste it.  And when you have been spending upwards of a trillion more each year than you take in, and borrowing the rest from countries like China that our not exactly our friends, well, you need to be able to remind the people of that on a regular basis -- and how it actually hurts them.

So I want to send a shout-out, as the younger set says these days, to Director Mulvaney.  I find his press conferences stimulating and informational.  Mulvaney is so comfortable with the material, and so comfortable with his understanding of the context in the broader sense -- e.g., reminding us that the government doesn't "have" money, it has to take it from the taxpaying public -- that he is a pleasure to listen to.

Mulvaney can stand there for an hour an take questions, with a marvelous command and with the verbal ability to stay on point for a long time without an "um"  or an "er" to be heard.  He knows his stuff and he can speak about it casually and accurately.  Yesterday, I noticed in a couple appearances, he made it a point to take to task incorrect references to "budget cuts" that were actually "smaller increases", and he is going to have to keep doing that, because the press won't.

We need more Mick Mulvaneys in this, and all administrations.  We need to know the thoughts, we need to know the policy, we need to know the context.  And we need people who can explain it in terms we can all understand.

President Trump, please keep this man around.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Praying for Manchester

There is not a great deal one can say when an individual, motivated by a religion-based ideology, feels that the proper thing to do is to explode himself at a concert attended primarily by teenage girls, killing and injuring as many of these innocents as possible.

We can only say it in prayer.

Dear Lord, 

We who believe in service and kindness to our fellow man all pray to you today.  We pray for the innocent victims of the bombing this week in England.  We play for eternal peace for those who were prematurely sent to be with You before being able to live their lives here on earth.  We pray for the strength to forgive the person so hollow that he would allow such a murderous ideology to take over his soul.

We pray for those who still follow that ideology, that Your love will reach their hearts before a single follower can carry out another such attack, and if one should not be moved by Your peace, that he may not be successful in his undertaking.

We pray for those defending our nation against such barbarism.  Grant them the strength to destroy forever the perversion of faith that leads people to commit such acts.

And we pray for all those affected by these awful and horrific acts, that they may themselves be moved to take up the struggle against terrorism and support those who are leading that effort; that we not sit back, but take up arms in all forms to set this ideology in the scrap heap of history, lest another soul be lost.


Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In the Matter of Jesus and Caesar vs. Islamism

Three months ago I criticized Pope Francis for his own critiques of the new president, Donald Trump, in regard to the proposed border wall with Mexico.  If you recall the piece (just click the link if you don't), you'll recall that I invoked the biblical phrase that Jesus used in distinguishing the power on earth of man-made governments from the power of God that transcends all.

Asked about paying taxes, Jesus pointed out that the face stamped on the coin was that of Caesar.  "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's", He said, and "Render unto God that which is God's."

The meaning was perfectly clear.  Man is perfectly capable of creating governments on this planet and in this life, and the Lord is quite fine with that.  Government is the entity by which societies organize themselves to provide for the common good, at least in those societies which by their nature are inherently good.

I have always taken that reference as telling the world that it is perfectly reasonable for such governments to form and operate, and that they not only don't have to be theological, but it can be a trap if they are.  We have, of course, many ways around the world of worshiping God (check out those "Coexist" bumper stickers if you forgot that), and I have always preferred to let God sort out what is acceptable worship for Him around the world, and not worry about it myself.

But I was listening Monday to a news piece in which an American woman of the Muslim faith was contemptuously dismissing complainers on the left press, those who complained that President Trump had not used the specific phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in his speech over the weekend to the Arab congress.  She noted that he had used about every one of those words (he left out "radical"), multiple times and with explicit meaning, and pointed out that the issue wasn't what Trump had said, but what Barack Obama had never said.

The woman pointed out that the president had used the terms "Islamic terror" and "Islamist radicals", or versions thereof, plenty of times given that his audience was all Muslims.  That was pretty strong verbiage, needless to say.  In passing, she pointed out the need for distinguishing between "Islam" and "Islamism", which has actually been a topic here about a year ago.

She explained that "Islam" was the Muslim faith, but "Islamism" was what she referred to as "political Islam", that is, the notion that Islam should govern our earthly political governance and not just be a faith and way to worship God.

As she said that, I thought that perhaps "Render unto Caesar ..." might actually have been a stronger piece of guidance.  Jesus -- who is regarded as a prophet in Islam, by the way, if memory serves -- may very well have been telling us that theological governments not only were not required, but were not a good thing at all.

Jesus, of course, was and is always right; it is simply up to us to interpret his messages properly as we hear them (as a Southern Baptist, I can tell you such interpretation is one of the five tenets of our denomination).  And perhaps I now hear a more strident message from that passage.

As I look across the nations of the world, I find that there are certainly two types that are extraordinary in their capacity to threaten their own people and their neighbors on earth -- those in which religion and the worship of God, in all nature, is suppressed (mostly communist nations such as China, Cuba and Venezuela), and those, primarily Muslim, in which the state is tightly aligned with a specific faith to the point that its own laws and those of the faith (sharia) are excessively intertwined ("Render unto Khamenei that which is Khamenei's, and render everything else unto Khamenei as well, or we'll kill you").

Then, of course, there is Israel, which is indeed a Jewish state but which allows the practice of other faiths inside its borders and acts more in the mode of "protecting Judaism but allowing everything else."  So maybe they're the exception proving the rule.

In the specific setting, Jesus was answering an intense query as to whether Jews should pay taxes, with the assumption by the questioner that He would oppose the support of the Roman government that taxes implied.  No, rather, his explanation that the Jews should indeed pay was an explicit separation of the role of government from the worship of God.

It will be a marvelous thought for each of us to go forward and look at the nations of the earth in 2017, and look at the value of that separation in defusing fanaticism.

And on that note, my quarterly tax estimates are due.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Strange Game of "Two Truths and a Lie"

Some time ago I wrote a piece about how, when you get to a certain age, everyone appears to have a story that is really interesting.  Our collective life stories are interesting, because, in part, we have our own now-mature stories to compare them to.

That is interesting to me at least, because I have had a particularly checkered career, and as documented in the less-political pieces on this site, I've done some weird things.  When my best girl and I sit down with new friends, well, I don't begin to tap the list of screwy things I've done, intentionally or not.

So I was watching a TV show of some kind the other day, and they made reference to the parlor game "Two Truths and a Lie."

Now, if you have never played it, or never been in a parlor, the game is quite simple.  Each person around the table, at the same time, writes down two one-sentence facts about themselves and a one-sentence lie, a non-fact with no basis in truth at all.  The others then "vote" on which item is the lie, and the winner is the person who disguises the lie the best and convinces the others -- who hear only three total sentences -- that, based only on the written sentence, their lie is what actually happened.

Obviously you can only play one round of it, lest you run out of facts that are sufficiently strange.  So it is a lot of fun to have upwards of a dozen people playing.

Five years ago, I was beginning a one-year hiatus from consulting to take a job as Senior Vice President for a small consulting firm in Virginia.  I did not know the ownership of the company or the other executives very well, having only been with them a month, when the regularly-scheduled annual leadership retreat took place, a two-day planning session for the coming year.

It was led by a "facilitator", a typical structure where an outside person actually conducts the agenda to ensure that politics are minimized and the planning actually gets done, and the agenda items are properly dealt with.

Those types of facilitated retreats -- about a dozen people in our case -- are typically broken up with team-building exercises and head-clearing breaks. And so it came to pass that this facilitator decided to do, as the 2pm team-building exercise on the first day, a round of "Two Truths and a Lie."

At 61 back then, I was the second oldest person there, meaning that I had a lot more life to have pulled stories from, even before my unusual life was overlaid on my age.  So I kind of relished the opportunity to take the allotted five minutes and write down three sentences, realizing that the lie was going to be the hardest to take into account.  And this was what I came up with:

(1) I once knocked Lucille Ball on her backside.

(2) I was at one time a member of the General Assembly in the State of South Dakota.

(3) I have sung the national anthem at five different major-league baseball stadiums.

Now, if you have read through the other 650 pieces on this site as a regular, you will know that (1) and (3) are absolutely true, meaning that, if only by default, the lie had to be that I had never served in the legislature of the State of South Dakota.  Of course, this column didn't start until two years later, so they didn't have that insight and had to guess.

You will also guess that I "won" the game, and you would be right.  Most people thought that I had never knocked Lucille Ball on her backside, which is reasonable considering, for example, the owners of the company were both 39 at the time, and Lucy to them might as well have been a figure of the 1950s and partly fictional.  A few didn't know that I had been a singer, and thought the anthem story sounded like a good choice for a lie.

I've been to South Dakota exactly once, which was when I was waiting for a plane in Sioux City, Iowa, and had three hours to wait.  I just pointed my rental car north (the border was just up the highway a bit) and crossed into South Dakota to say I'd been there.  That was that.  It would be 35 years afterwards before I made it to North Dakota, but in fairness I had actual business there.

But I digress.

So here comes this reference to the "Two Truths and a Lie" game on the TV Show, and I start laughing on the couch.  My best girl asked "what the heck" and I told her the story of the retreat.  Apparently I had never shared that before, possibly because it may have seemed a trivial aside in an otherwise more important and serious retreat then, and possibly because she was neck-deep running her business at the time it had happened.

It is fun to recollect, and fun when it happened.  And it tells us a lot about our lives, doesn't it?  Now that we are living in an area with a lot of people with such stories, I think we'll play this quite a bit more.  Hmmmm, there's a block party in a few weeks ....

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, May 22, 2017

What If It Were Obama?

I couldn't help but react to those who have been distinguishing the treatment of "scandals" (quote marks very intentional) in the Trump Administration with the scandals (quotes intentionally omitted) in the Obama years that are as traceable back to the president as any.

Let us face where we are now.  Set aside the fact that President Trump got an amazingly positive welcome in Riyadh by the Saudis when he traveled there on Saturday, and that it was quite evident that it was motivated by the fact that he was perceived as a positive change, and that he was not Barack Obama -- a good thing in their Iran-skeptical Saudi eyes. Noteworthily, the Saudis treated President Trump with much more respect than the American press.

What is happening is that the press has gone quite all-in for the opposition to President Trump, specifically the part of the opposition that is doing anything it can, and saying anything it feels like at the moment, true or not, to run him out of office.  The press, supposedly the people's representatives in delivering the truth to the American people, has abandoned its pose of objectivity.

So let us imagine something that is, of course, not true -- a conservative-dominated press that rejected the principles of the presidency of Barack Obama, right from his inauguration.  Heck, let's go back to before the election.  Remember when Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose, of the leftist part of the press, talked right before the election about how little we knew about Obama?

OK, let's start there.  Let's imagine that Brokaw and Rose had taken the next logical step (for the leftist press then and now, that's impossible) and condemned themselves and their peers, in no uncertain terms, for having allowed Obama to have gotten so far into the campaign without their having dug into his background.

What were his actual loyalties, one might have asked then (a reasonable question given his drug abuse, his formative years in Indonesia, the radicalism of his father, etc.)?  By the election, all we knew was that he could read a good speech.  I mean, so can I, but then I used to be an actor.

So all the right questions weren't asked, and Rose and Brokaw admitted as such -- but they voted for him anyway.

Suppose that the press had dogged him about it throughout the campaign?  Is it possible that a conservative-leaning press would have dug into his background and asked him serious questions?  Could they have backed him against a wall on his proposals and made him justify where they had worked before, or why they could be expected to now when they never had before?

More importantly, after the inauguration, what would a conservative-leaning press have done with a Democrat as president (Obama), and majorities in both houses of Congress under the contemptible Harry Reid (Senate) and the addled Nancy Pelosi (House)?  Should not the press have acted in more traditional press-speak, going straight after power, and going even harder after absolute power?

Obama was and still is an absolute ideologue, and worse, is convinced that he knows more than you or I.  A press such as what we have today, but with a flipped ideology (or even none at all) would have taken Nancy ("You'll have to pass it to see what's in it") Pelosi and ripped her to shreds -- you can't defend that kind of arrogance.

Harry Reid was an utter dictator in the Senate, and showed himself to be devoid of integrity (land deals for family) at the same time.  Would he even have once put himself before a reasonably challenging press to defend his actions?  Nancy Pelosi, same thing -- has anyone ever asked her a challenging question?

Let's get to the point.  Robert Gibbs was the press secretary under Obama before Jay Carney.  Gibbs was asked slavering questions of the "What did the president have for breakfast" variety compared to what Sean Spicer gets asked, correct?  Suppose that, say, the New York Times repeatedly pressed Gibbs to explain how the stimulus packages were going to get paid for.  What might he have actually said?

For that matter, what might Obama have said?  Obama averaged about one (solo) press conference every six weeks or so.  Stimulus packages are expensive and not particularly effective.  Might the Times have considered asking why Obama thought they would be other than an expensive boondoggle?  Businesses at the time were hoarding cash rather than creating jobs, because they didn't trust Obama to create a sufficiently employer-friendly environment.  Why might Obama have thought otherwise in this case?

Obama's Justice Department never took up an investigation into IRS corruption by Lois ("On the advice of counsel, I take the Fifth") Lerner withholding 501(c)3 approval for conservative non-profits.  "Why, sir, is the Attorney General not considering charges?".

"Mr. President, you were quick to take credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden.  What did you do, besides approving a mission that any other president wouldn't have approved with the same knowledge.  Doesn't the Navy Seal Team get 100% of the credit?"

"Mr. President, your Attorney General appeared to have blatantly taken the side of Michael Brown in the Ferguson situation.  We know now that Brown was a convenience store robber, under the influence of pot, who attacked and rushed the police officer and forced him to shoot him.  We know now that the hands-up-don't-shoot narrative was a complete lie, and has caused rioting by allowing it to get out there.  Shouldn't Mr. Holder be fired for contributing to the lie being picked up as fact?"

"Mr. President, you signed an agreement with Iran that no one else seemed to want, that delivered $150 billion in paper money in the middle of the night on pallets, and that will let the Iranians have a nuclear weapon in ten years.  What did the American people get out of that, particularly our children who will be cleaning up after all that in ten years?  What was in it for the USA?"

"Mr. President, you hold a security clearance, and you know the rules about handling classified information.  Secretary Clinton communicated from the start of her term, with you, solely on an email account from a server called "" and never once on a secure "" account.  At what point did it even occur to you that something was really, really wrong from a security standpoint?  Or were you so beholden to her after the 2008 primary campaign for some reason that you just let it go?  Doesn't that show poor judgment on your part?"

Ahhhhh, we could go on and on.  But right now we have a press that is so committed to the immediate destruction of the Trump presidency at any cost -- including the cost of truth -- that it appears to escape them that they forfeited the right to do that, by their failures to hold the Obama Administration accountable for things that a reasonably curious press would have.

Because those questions didn't need a conservative press to have thought to have asked them.

Just a "real" press would have been needed.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Where It Leads Us

So now we have former FBI Director Robert Mueller appointed as a special counsel to investigate ... something.  Presumably it is the RussiaRussiaRussia squealing and yelping of the left, that somehow President Trump is connected to the Russians and ... again, I don't know what they are seriously suggesting was done.

After all, you need something like an accusation of wrongdoing and lawbreaking, and to date there is nothing out there that points to anything remotely illegal done by the president in his term of office, or even as a candidate.  After all, anything would have to end up being hung on him; you can't try to impeach a president based on anything his campaign people did, certainly not before the election.

All you get is smoke and mirrors, amorphous suggestions and no facts.  So right now, the biggest thing is that you have this memo from Jim Comey while FBI Director himself, after a conversation with the president.  It says -- and this may or may not have happened, but let's assume so -- that President Trump asked him in some fashion to go easy on Gen. Mike Flynn, who was then under investigation for something related to communications with Russia, or Turkey -- again, crime indeterminate.

Of course, the president saying that he "hoped Comey would go easy on Flynn" is not the same as ordering him to drop an investigation and, as I wrote yesterday, there are a ton of gradations between.

But it is now in Mueller's hands.  The Democrats are hoping for a long, winding investigation that goes forever and somehow stops the president's work from going forward.  They're using terms like "Let the investigation go where it leads, however long it takes ...", and it strikes me that they'd better be careful what they ask for.

You see, as soon as Comey's note-taking becomes a topic of the investigation, it automatically becomes a legitimate question for the special counsel as to Comey's history of note-taking, and whether he took notes at every meeting or afterward.  And if that gets asked, then perhaps the notes should be subpoenaed.

You see, I would like to see the notes, or have the special counsel see the notes, that followed all -- every one -- of the meetings that Comey had with Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch -- particularly Loretta Lynch -- on a whole passel of things.

Did Comey ever once discuss with Holder or Lynch the IRS scandal, where IRS officials targeted conservative groups for special delay or rejection in their applications for non-profit status?  We'd like to know what either or both of the attorneys general he served had to say about that.  Perhaps they could discuss why there was no further criminal prosecution of the IRS official who pleaded the Fifth Amendment rather than testify before Congress regarding actions as a government official herself.

The one I'd like to hear that Mueller is looking into is the notes that Comey took after Loretta Lynch, the then-attorney general and Comey's superior, spent a half-hour in a private meeting on a plane on the tarmac of an airport with -- oh yeah, the husband of the person that the FBI was investigating.  She met with Comey after, right?  Where are the notes?

Whatever Donald Trump said to Comey in the White House, we'd equally like to know what Loretta Lynch said to Comey about what Bill Clinton said to her in a private meeting, that was so inappropriate that she ended up allegedly letting Comey run with the Hillary investigation.  I certainly want to know that.

And it would seem to me that anything related to Comey note-taking becomes fodder for the Mueller investigation.  That should include the leaks of classified information to the press by the intelligence community.  That is beyond illegal; it is treasonous.  And the press is not talking about it.

And if that thread gets pulled, well, the Democrats may be less than happy that they squealed for a special counsel, especially if it comes to pass that Mueller decides after a few weeks that the Trump part of the investigation is a pile of nothing, and he moves past it onto real crimes.

Oh, that would be fun.  Sure, let's take it where it leads us.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Crying Wolf on "Impeachment"

So now President Trump has been in office for about four months.  Calls for his impeachment, which literally started before his inauguration, have been echoing in the echo chamber that is the left, the congressional Democrat caucus and the media.

Now, the fact that they started screaming the "I word" before January 20 is relevant, in that it supports the point of this piece.

You see, to date there has been no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians as far as interference with the 2016 elections is concerned.  None.  And that was what all the impeachment talk was about then and, for the most part, since.  As I've pointed out this week -- Tuesday, in fact -- there needs to be a point at which that set of investigations dies for lack of anything discovered that presumes guilt, let alone suggests impeachability.

Since the president's inauguration, there have been further cries for impeachment, whether for not releasing taxes when the left wants him to, or for not firing James Comey, or for firing James Comey, or for parting his hair on this side or that.

That's pretty much the problem.  Donald Trump does not appear to have done anything remotely suggesting an impeachment, yet the left screams and yells for his head on an hourly basis.  And that brings us to Aesop's Fables #210, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

That boy, as we recall, was long ago digested by a wolf, having falsely cried that a wolf was near too many times.  When there really was a wolf, no one paid attention and the boy got eaten.  He learned his lesson, all right, but a few bites too late.

That's pretty much what we have here.

The latest, of course, is that after James Comey was fired, he decided to release a memo he is supposed to have written after a private chat with the president.  The memo was from notes to himself wherein he noted that the president had in some form asked him to end an investigation into Gen. Michael Flynn, who had been paid by Russian television for some service or appearance, and failed to mention the fact to the Trump campaign before being named National Security Advisor, whereupon he was eventually fired.

Now, what the FBI is investigating in regard to Flynn, I don't really know.  To date, the only thing that he appears to have done wrong is to fail to disclose having done a paid service to the Russian TV company (RT).  That is certainly a bad thing, but at this point we all know it.  What else is there that rises to the level of a full-on FBI investigation as far as Flynn is concerned?

If President Trump actually did send the other attendees at the meeting that day out of the room, and privately asked Comey to slow the investigation, then where are we?  The "high crime" the left is screaming about would be "obstruction of justice", and we are left with (A) what Trump actually said to Comey; (B) what words Trump remembers saying to Comey about Flynn; (C) what Comey wrote down after the meeting about what Trump said; and (D) what Comey actually thought he heard.

If there were to be an investigation and even a trial about all that, you would be left with A, B, C and D, and it would all come down to two things -- the credibility of the president and the FBI director, and the extent to which what was actually said falls on the spectrum between "I hope you'll not grind the reputation of a good man who served his country" and "You need to stop this investigation right now."

Unfortunately, it is pretty likely that neither was actually said in so many words.  From what we have learned about this president, it is likely that he could have said words meaning to express the former sentiment, that is, that he was trying to express a personal feeling for the reputation of the general.  It is very unlikely that he would have grossly overstepped the law by telling Comey to stop the investigation.

And Comey's memo would likely reflect what he thought he heard and what he thought the president was trying to express, which may not reflect what he was trying to express.  His word, the president's word.  You're going to get an impeachment on that?  Unless Comey testifies under oath that he thought that the guy who, by the way, had since fired him and thus would have an axe to grind, had told him to stop an investigation, there is nothing there from a prosecutorial sense. 

(And, since a month or two went by with him holding that note, Comey risks prosecution under 18 USC Section 4 for having not reported immediately an obstruction of justice.  Which means he didn't see it, right then and there, as obstruction -- get it?  If it wasn't then, it isn't now.)

So then what?  The left will have "cried wolf" yet again, and nothing will have been there to show for it.  With no tangible evidence, this irresponsible series of impeachment calls will go flat.  And the left will have played its impeachment card and lost.  That card is gone, folks, if they do that.  The wolf will come and eat the boy, and come 2018 the Democrats will again get their butts handed to them, because they will have been nothing but obstructionists for two years with absolutely nothing to offer the USA.

So sure, left, you do all that impeachment stuff, because it is simply seen as an attempt to delegitimize the president and the presidency, and it is not going to resonate when we are still stuck with Obamacare and high tax rates in 2018.


Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Just How Far Will THIS Clinton Issue Go?

Somewhere about 477th in the scroll of news items on Yahoo, far after how Kim Kardashian's kid "North" looks or acts like his father; far after 206 separate items about how President Trump should be impeached, was a link to an interesting little tidbit about a late Democratic National Committee staffer's death.

That would be Seth Rich, the Nebraska native who was working on the Clinton campaign, creating an application for voters to find polling places, or some related assignment.  Last July, after being in a bar in DC one night, he was walking home when he was shot and killed in what the DC police called a "botched robbery", although no one took his wallet, or his phone, or his expensive necklace, and he was shot from behind.

Other than that, it sure looked like a robbery, except that it apparently wasn't.

A couple weeks later, Wikileaks put out a ton of emails that had been leaked to them, which had been within the DNC offices.  Many of them showed that the DNC, far from being impartial, had put its collective thumb on the scales to ensure that Hillary Clinton was nominated and Bernie Sanders wasn't.

That thumb, by the way, was a pretty bloody heavy thumb, maybe with an anvil underneath it.  The fact that Sanders got as close to the nomination as he did was a message to the DNC in itself, but the messages that were most relevant were the emails themselves, inside the DNC.  As leaked by Wikileaks, they showed a pretty comprehensive conspiracy to ensure that Hillary was nominated, all else be darned.

So where did those emails come from?  Of course, the Democrats have been shouting "RussiaRussiaRussiaRussia" for months and month, and are even trying to connect the Trump campaign, ludicrously, to what they themselves did.

Julian Assange, the house-arrested head of Wikileaks, hiding in an embassy in London, has insisted all along that, while he will not reveal the source, that it was not a "state actor", and not, therefore, Russia.  Now, Assange is not exactly the lord of credibility, but he doesn't really have a reason to say that, when he could have just said nothing.

But now we come to find out that the investigation into the murder of Seth Rich was quashed by the DC Police Department.  It's still an unsolved case, but no one is doing anything about it.  And, as if you hadn't guessed, evidence is appearing that Rich may be the one who leaked the emails to Wikileaks in the first place.

We are discovering that he indeed communicated with Wikileaks, and that his computer is stashed away in the DC police headquarters somewhere, with evidence that would or would not show that the murder of Seth Rich was a hit, not a robbery.

Rod Wheeler, a former cop and private investigator with heavy contacts in police forces in several cities, has been investigating the case and has been told that an effective "stand down" order was given to DC cops working the case.  Gee, why might that have been?  The murder of a young DNC staffer who might have been leaking incriminating information embarrassing to the DNC and the Clintons, that shouldn't rise to the top of the "We got to solve this" list?

Seth Rich was a young kid, not even thirty years old.  Why, if he did so, he chose to dump emails to Wikileaks is unclear.  I don't know if he was a Sanders sympathizer who needed to get the word out.  I don't know if he was just an idealist trying to be open and sharing like, you know, Hillary Clinton.  I don't know if he did nothing at all.

But he is dead.  He is heavily linked to Wikileaks.  Hillary lost the election.  And there is a "Clinton way", which was documented in the recent book on the 2016 Campaign, "Shattered", that involves a knee-jerk reaction to hurt your opponent.  And, apparently, to cover up the murder of those who might have been trouble by shutting down the DC Police investigation?

This is so much an FBI case to explore that we could scream.  There is plenty of circumstantial evidence and some physical evidence, to the effect that his murder could have been related to his work on the DNC and possible revenge or a silencing action.

Someone is dead, and it sure wasn't a robbery.  Let's get this one going.  Special prosecutor?

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How Does It End?

By "it", of course, I mean the investigation into whether or not there had been any connection between the Trump campaign and those Russians who were trying to interfere in some manner with the 2016 presidential election in the USA.

To be fair, "it" should be "them", because there are at least three such investigations going on.  The FBI is investigating Russian interference, and is therefore following the insinuation that there was some communication between the campaign and the interfering types.  There is also an investigation being done by the Senate and corresponding House committees that investigate that stuff.  That makes three.

So I was watching the news, and there was a montage of different people in the media and on the left (but I repeat myself), all of whom must have gotten or been given the same talking points.  I say that, because every single one of them, in referring to the investigation of the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference used the exact same phrase, to wit, the need to "get to the bottom of it."

Now, it behooves us to note that the investigations are actually of the Russian interference itself, and any possible links to the Trump campaign are tangential.  In other words, they only exist because someone has insisted that possible links be investigated, even before they are known to have been indicated, i.e., by any actual evidence.

So when the left and the press (but I ...) keep insisting we "get to the bottom of it all", it equally behooves us to ask a logical question, to wit, "How do we know when we're actually at the bottom?"

You have three investigations into Russian election tampering, and those are likely to go on for a while as the different threads are unwound, although all three are perfectly capable of stopping the investigations now and declaring that, yes, the Russians interfered.  Duh.  We know that already, and we could have guessed that anyway, given that they have interfered in our elections for decades.

So let me pose this: There is a high likelihood that the Trump campaign did not collaborate with the Russians interfering with the 2016 election.  I say that because, to date, none of the investigations has come up with a shred of evidence suggesting that there was any such collaboration.  So if indeed that's a dry hole, what will it take for a leftist or a press member (but ...) to say we have actually hit bottom and can stop digging?

Can someone pleeeeeeeease ask one of the aforementioned leftists that question?  Because the same people who insisted there was no "there" there regarding voter fraud, or Benghazi lies, or issues with Hillary's emails, and that we should stop investigating all that, have not yet indicated what would suggest that the investigations into collaboration could also be ended.

That's why I have such a problem with those screaming for an independent counsel to take this issue, or non-issue, on.  Because while we know that there was indeed a break-in at Watergate, and there were all the things that Bill Clinton got impeached for, in this case there has been no evidence at all of any collaboration with the Trump campaign.

Independent counsels have tended to go on for a very long time, and chew up a lot of taxpayer funding.  So while I think there is some value in an independent investigation, and dropping the other three as far as the campaign is concerned, we don't yet know if anything actually happened to investigate in the first place, let alone empanel a special prosecutor.

So if I were the FBI and the congressional committees, or whoever it is that appoints an independent counsel, I'd say this: "Sure, here goes.  You're the special prosecutor.  You have 30 days to find any evidence of collaboration as relates to the election (i.e., not just communication with individual Russians, of which there was logically some).  If you do not find any compelling evidence relating to collaboration on the election, the investigation will cease after thirty days, you can go back to your day job, and we will declare that we have 'gotten to the bottom of it' and there is nothing there."

In fact, the FBI director, incoming, should do just that, and so should the congressional committee chairmen.

Holding breath ....

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Conflict As Architect

It is an interesting month, in that all over the country colleges and universities are graduating hundreds of thousands of kids, around age 22 or so, and dumping them into the economy with some small level of prospect for actual paid work.

To celebrate the achievement of enough college credits accumulated to get an actual degree, value notwithstanding, we have "graduation ceremonies."  In some of those cases -- most, I imagine -- there is a guest speaker who comes to the ceremony and talks for a while about something or other.

I don't actually recall who spoke at the graduation for my college degree in 1973.  Reading those words, I felt obliged to research it, and quickly realized that the reason I forgot who it was, had to do with the fact that it was the then-president of MIT, Jerome Wiesner.  Wiesner did the speech every year then, although in recent years the role has switched to "invited celebrities."

They don't get an invited celebrity, however, to speak to entering freshmen, and I'm thinking that might be a good idea.  Maybe a better idea, actually, at least if the celebrity has something to say.  Because if I were a bigger celebrity, and some campus invited me to speak, I'd tell them "sure, but I'd rather speak to your incoming freshmen than their outgoing seniors."

And I might say this:

"Dear Old Siwash University entering Class of 2021,

I was asked to speak at the commencement exercises in May, and politely declined the offer.  I told the Deans that I had nothing helpful to share with the young people who had graduated.  But I also told them that I would be honored if they would switch my invitation so that I could address you all.  I figured I could help you a whole lot more.

I don't have a long message, which is good, because that will get you more quickly into the cauldron that is a contemporary college education.  And I promise not to use words like "milieu."

My theme for you is a motto that I hope many of you will adopt for the next four years, or however long it takes.  That motto is this -- "Conflict is the Architect of Our Lives".

For most of you, this is the first time you are responsible for the mundane things like getting to where you are supposed to eat on time; washing and drying your own clothes; telling yourself when to stop drinking; that sort of thing.  Yet that is the easy part.

The hardest part is the lesson that you can learn right now.  Conflict is a regular part of life.  Learn to deal with it.  You're going to find days when the dorm cafeteria is serving liver, or you can't figure out why they scheduled you with back to back classes on opposite sides of the campus, or you don't get a bid from the fraternity or sorority you wanted to join the most.

I'm here to tell you that the same thing happens after you graduate.  Your spouse may put something on the table for dinner you don't like.  Your company transfers you to North Dakota.  You don't make the company softball team.  And those are the trivial things.

You probably don't think college is going to teach you any of that, and you would be wrong.  If you adopt the motto I gave you, it will all make sense.  You can react to every little annoyance or inconvenience on campus by looking for the nearest "safe space", and there may be one.  But you are simply putting off a lesson that will get learned eventually if you do.

Every single one of those issues is a conflict -- I was hungry but they gave me something I hate (apologies to those among you who actually like liver).  And how you learn to deal with things as trivial as that is how you will learn to go out with a shiny new degree in four years and face the real world.  

Every conflict grants you a spectrum of options.  You can fight -- physically, in some cases.  You can work to change the underlying reasons for whatever happened you did not like.  Or you can tolerate it with a thicker skin.  You can mobilize classmates.

I want you to go home tonight, back to your dorm room, and find someone there you have not met.  Ask them what Sutton was talking about when he said "conflict was an architect."  And keep doing that until you find someone whose interpretation of my words was different from your own.  Ask that person why he or she believes they're right and you're wrong.

And while they're explaining, you shut your mouth and listen.  Try to understand what they're saying and if you don't understand, ask them to help you understand.  Then try to make your case as to why you felt the way you did.

When you're done, you will understand.  You will understand that we grow not by retreating into a cocoon where nothing ever goes wrong for us, and no one ever disagrees with us, but by learning to deal with situations when they don't break our way.

Those of you who go on to study physiology, the science of how the body works, will learn that bones grow in a peculiar manner, where the ends are roughened and the little fibrils push out to make longer bone tissue.  We are the same.  We grow as human beings through every situation that raises a conflict for us.

If we are mature, we learn to assess our options in each conflict and make a decision from that spectrum of options.  If the option fails, we try another the next time a similar conflict ensues.  And those situations, and our responses, collectively create the mature version of who you are.  

Those conflicts build you.  They are the architects of the person you become.  And now, as you begin your college years, you can make the first wise choice, which is to treat every conflict as a chance to grow and to learn.  Do not avoid the conflict, embrace it.  Consider your options and relish the fact that God gave you the power to make choices.

Conflict is the architect of your lives.  For Heaven's sake, do not avoid conflict, or retreat into a cocoon, even if the college provides one for you.  For if you embrace conflict, you will come out in four years actually able to understand that the world is made up of it.

And you will be a successful human being, which is all I can hope for.  Thank you for listening."

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, May 12, 2017

The Russians are Back -- But What Do they Want?

Back in December I noticed a striking spike in my readership among a select set of IP addresses that were locate in, of all places, Russia.  Now, I don't speak Russian, or write in Russian, and I have never been to Russia.  But there they were, and I wrote about it at the time in this piece, in hope of getting an explanation.

I didn't get any, and rather quickly the Russian views of this column dropped to about nothing.

That lasted for a while, but now five months since, they appear to have rediscovered this column.  Yesterday, for example, over 30% of the reads the previous day were from Russia, and that's inexplicable.  After all, if you recall, the article was about Social Security.  I don't know if they have any comparable retirement structure in Russia, but I doubt my insight would have helped them all that much.

So the column was not of what we would have thought should have interested Russians.  It was not about President Trump, or the 2016 election, or James Comey, or Mike Flynn, or who talked to whom.  It wasn't about Hillary Clinton facilitating the sale of a quarter of USA uranium to the same Russians she professes not to like anymore.

It was about whether I could take advantage of a peculiarity in the Social Security regulations that might let me take home a few hundred bucks more a month.

Why would the Russians care about that?

But apparently, they do, and I don't really know what I am supposed to do about it.  You see, at least if you ask Maxine Waters or Chuck Schumer or all of the mainstream media, it is a fireable offense to communicate with Russians, unless of course you are named "Clinton" and you are selling them uranium.

So before God and all witnesses, and before anyone starts to infer that this column is influenced by Russians, or that I am a tool of Moscow or Leningrad or Dnepropetrovsk, I do solemnly swear that I do not communicate with Russians, and they do not tell me what to write, and that the fact that they like my column enough to read it like crazy is due to some element over which I have no control.

I would like to think that, perhaps, they want to implement some form of Social Security in Russia, and are soliciting opinions from "talented" thinkers and writers in regard to the current system in the USA.  Yeah, that has to be it.

For jollies, I set a counter on yesterday's column, the one about the MIT Alumni Association recruitment -- one that couldn't possibly be of interest to the Russians.  Of the first 25 reads in the seconds after posting, zero were from Russia.  Maybe they don't have alumni associations in the universities over in borscht land.  But then by the end of the day, 23% of the reads were from Russian addresses.

I don't know.  I'll think about it over the weekend.   

Do zvidanija (I looked it up).

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, May 11, 2017

MIT, Please Kiss Colbert Good-Bye

I am, as I've mentioned before, an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the university in Cambridge, MA known for science and engineering, economics and other topics.  Lots of Nobel Prizes have been won by its graduates and those working there.  It's a good school, even though they lowered their standards to admit me and hand me a degree.

Like any university, it has an association of its alumni, which promotes the school, raises money, coordinates its alumni clubs worldwide and provides services to the graduates of the school.  The MIT version is called the MIT Alumni Association, or MITAA, and is a well-organized entity headquartered up in Cambridge.  They do great work.

So it has come to pass that the current CEO of the MITAA is stepping down after several years of distinguished service.  Bless her for her efforts, and now there is a vacancy.

It is a somewhat rare talent and background to run a major university's alumni program, so MITAA has engaged a search firm, Aspen Leadership Group, to advertise the position.  And so it came to pass that this morning, I received an email sent to fellow alumni from MITAA itself, thanking the outgoing CEO and noting the opening.

In the content of the email was a link to the advertised position description (prospectus) done by the search firm.  And there was an interesting paragraph in that prospectus, wherein it was selling MIT as a place to work and an outstanding institution.  I quote:

"... MIT has an action-oriented culture of intense curiosity and creativity that leads to a diversity of accomplishments that some find surprising. While MIT is known for engineering and science and the 87 Nobel prizes won by faculty and alums, its social science programs were ranked number 1 worldwide. Its contributions to the arts and humanities were recognized by entities as varied as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Colbert Report, and the Pulitzer Prize. MIT is third in the number of Academic All American athletes, behind only the Universities of Nebraska and Notre Dame, and its teams are routinely ranked nationally in Division III."

While I am proud of my university and its diverse courses of study, the academic achievements of its athletes and the 87 Nobel Prizes, I was a bit taken aback by the reference to the entities honoring the Institute for contribution to the arts and humanities.

I was not aware that the "Colbert Report", a comedy show, had become a quotable, referenced source for honoring excellence in the arts.  I also took note of the fact that Stephen Colbert, its host, had made an intolerably vulgar reference to President Trump on his nationally televised TV show this past week.  He then proceeded to stand by it, and apparently still is on the air, FCC be darned.

But I put two and two together and it came up "5."  So I wrote the following letter to the MITAA search committee email address.  I hoped that I would hear back, although I wasn't holding my breath.

Dear Sirs,

I received this morning the email noting the search for a new CEO for the Alumni Association. 

I can smile and say that at my age, although I have served MITAA for over 40 years as secretary of the Class of 1973, the position was not of specific interest to me. That said, I did look at the Aspen write-up about the duties and, particularly, the description of the Institute and awards that MIT had received, specifically for its "contributions to the arts and humanities.  Therein it recognition from the Colbert Report as something, presumably, to be proud of.

I was a bit taken aback.  Given the crude, contemptible and deplorably vulgar references made this past week by Mr. Colbert about the President of the United States, I would share that, at least outside Cambridge, Massachusetts, a recognition by Stephen Colbert is a stain on the good name of the Institute from which I graduated, and whose class I represent.

I implore you to remove that specific citation promptly from the Aspen search prospectus, and consider a prompt return of any physical manifestation of any such award whence it came.  If our Institute needs to quote Stephen Colbert to show our bona fides in the arts and humanities, it is not worth citing our accomplishments in that area.  I will be happy to draft the letter to Mr. Colbert, myself, that can be attached to its return.  I'm told I can write a little.

Robert M. O. Sutton, Sr.
Secretary, M.I.T. Class of 1973

So I was only partially surprised when, in fact, I did hear back from one of the leaders of the MITAA to respond:

"I apologize if the reference offended you.  The prospectus was written well before the events of last week.

The reference was not to an endorsement by Mr. Colbert but rather to an episode of his prior program where author Richard Hersh, a former college President and current senior advisor to the Education Studies Program at Yale, identified MIT as an example of an institution where the humanities are taught well.  This episode received a fair amount of exposure in the MIT community, and nationwide in publications like the New York Times, because MIT Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill created a video that was a humorous response to a comment by Mr. Colbert’s character.

The intended point was that MIT has surprising strengths that are sometimes acknowledged in surprising places, and not that MIT was endorsed in any way by Mr. Colbert.  Again, I apologize if this reference offended you."
I replied and pointed out that whether or not it offended me wasn't relevant; it was whether MITAA was going to remove it, since the rest of the paragraph in the prospectus made the point quite well.  And I suppose it will all end there, inasmuch as they either will or will not remove the reference and it's probably too much effort to do so -- particularly if their view is that it offended me.

I suppose that, given the not-very-earth-shaking importance of the whole situation, I can sit back and say that I took a positive step in letting an organization know that others with actual, differing views are watching them.  And I'll pour my coffee and go on with my life.

But if you agree with me, well, it is

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

But Social Security Never Told Us ...

Please don't infer that if you were born after 1953 you can stop reading, because this is about policy and promotion and a few other relevant topics as well.

But I'll bet you didn't know what I'm going to tell you either; I found out, literally, just in time.

We all put a big percentage of our income into the Social Security general fund, or whatever it is called, about 15% if you are self-employed.  It is not a "fund for Bob" made up of only my contributions and the interest on them; it is one big pile of cash contributed to by the nation of Bobs and Janes, supposedly to fund our retirement income but subject to perpetual looting by Congresses over the years.

Over the years, the amount we submit goes into a mystical computation that spits out how much we would get if we started taking our Social Security retirement at one of three ages -- the first year we're allowed to take benefits (in my case, "62" based on the year of my birth), then the "full retirement age" ("66" for me), and then age 70.

Those are significant, in that (I'll use my specific ages) if you start the benefit at 62 you can start collecting, sure, but you cannot earn income or it will cut back your benefit.  At 66 you can work without that reduction; but every year you wait to start after that the monthly benefit goes up 8% until age 70, when you might as well start collecting because the benefit never goes up thereafter.

Tomorrow I turn 66, and in that 66 is a milestone as noted above, I received a letter from Social Security telling me to consider if it was beneficial to me to turn on the benefit or wait until age 70.  I didn't see any other options presented; either (A) start now, (B) start at 70, or (C) start sometime between when the benefit grew to an acceptable level.

When I got the letter, I did two things, and to an extent both of them helped.

The first was to build a spreadsheet and project out 20 years to see when the two options (66 or 70) equaled out, were I to start collecting now but shove it into an account earning a fixed percentage rate.  I didn't bother subtracting out a tax rate, simply because it would be the same in the age 66 and age 70 scenario.

I determined, roughly, that at a 3% interest rate, the two options didn't equal until 2036, while at a 2% rate they equaled in 2035.  Since I felt I would need the higher rate particularly in the next 20 years, I decided that it made more sense to wait to start collecting.

Then I did the second thing.  I contacted my financial advisor, who handles our retirement affairs and without whom we do nothing financially of any real size.  She is affiliated with an organization founded by a man whom I respect greatly and whose books are staples of financial advice in our home.  I gave her my age-66 and age-70 monthly payments from Social Security, and asked her what she would have us do.

No surprise; when she called back she agreed that it made more sense to wait until I was 70 to turn on the retirement payments.  Then she asked me "but what about the spousal benefits?".

"The what?", I asked.

Well, as it turned out, it was the thing that somehow had not been in the letter from Social Security as I mentioned (I just read it again to check -- nope, not there).  "Spousal benefit" refers to an obscure provision of Federal law that, when discovered by Congress, was stopped for people born after 1953 (roughly).  Essentially it says that, when you reach "full retirement age", you may start taking a benefit based on your spouse's benefit amount, that does not affect your ability to wait until age 70 to take your own benefit.

Lest that sound complicated, try this.  You're a 66-year-old guy, and say that if you were to take a benefit at age 66, it would be $2,000 a month, but if you waited until age 70 to start, it would be $2,700 a month.  You decide it is better to wait, so you opt not to start collecting.

You're married, and your wife is already taking a benefit of $1,500 a month.  Instead of taking your own benefit at 66, and instead of just waiting until age 70 and getting zero for four years, you are allowed to take a spousal benefit, starting at 66, that is one-half of her benefit, or $750 a month.  You can take that until age 70 and then switch over to taking your own retirement, and getting the $2,700 that would be your monthly age 70 benefit.

Somehow that didn't end up in the letter of options I got as a birthday letter from SSA.  So, had I not contacted my advisor, and not discovered that little provision until the year 2021, I would have missed out on 48 months of money I was legally entitled to.  In the case of the fictional example above, which is a typical payout amount but is not our own family's situation, that's about $36,000 over four years.

While our situation is different, the amount is on the same order of magnitude, and I've no more interest than you in giving $30,000 or more to the government, or not taking $30,000 the law entitles me to.  But I sure would have liked it if the letter asking me to start taking benefits had something like this:

"Important -- if you are married and your spouse is collecting a Social Security retirement benefit (or is about to), and you are considering delaying your own benefit until age 70, there is another option.  When you reach full retirement, you can choose the spousal benefit, which would pay you one-half of your spouse's benefit.  We would pay you that, and it would not affect the benefit you would receive at age 70.

"If you want to choose the spousal benefit, please go to, and choose Spousal Benefit Option to register and begin to receive your spousal benefits quickly.  If you choose to start your own benefit instead, you do not need to worry about the spousal benefit option."

So that seems so easy to do.  Don't we kind of wonder why it is not presented to 66-year-old Americans as an option in these routine letters?  It can't be that they want to keep it a secret, can it?  I mean, Barack Obama's administration can advertise in Mexico to get people to come here illegally and get welfare, schooling and health care, but the Obamists left over in HHS can't tell our own senior citizens that we're entitled to a benefit?

Sure, I thought the same.  But it's our money!

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What is "Resisting" and How Is It Helping?

Good old Hillary Clinton was at it again, of course denying that she lost the election because she was a terrible candidate with a terrible campaign, and no message as to why anyone should vote for her, at least aside from her possession of a uterus.

When she made one of her recent pronouncements, it included something about "joining the resistance", or "being part of the resistance", or something sort of like that.  And I sat a moment and tried to think about what that could possibly mean.

Sure, resisting President Trump, I got that.  But what is she, you know, "for"?

That's where I started wondering how "resistance" translates into a direction to take the USA.  You see, all over the nation we have those "marches" that turn into riots, by paid and perhaps some unpaid rioters, yelling about "resistance" and being part of some kind of resistance movement.

And I wasn't really very sure as to what that all meant.

Resistance, per se, is trying to stop something from happening, which is perfectly fine if we're talking about criminal or antisocial activities.  In the realm of politics, well, we should be among a discussion and debate of what may be contrasting ideas for accomplishing the business of our nation, right?

This movement -- what is it for?  What is it trying to accomplish?  Simply opposing someone is simply not a strategy; you have to identify the problem, identify your solution, and explain why it is more likely to solve the problem than whatever it is that you are resisting.  But we're not getting any of that; just "resistance."

President Trump wants to have tax rates lowered to stimulate business to hire and create millions of jobs.  If you are resisting that, what does that mean, that you want higher taxes and fewer jobs?  He wants secure borders; do the resistors want open borders and a flood of competition for a finite number of American jobs?  Do they want Obamacare to stay as it is, as county after county drops to only one insurer, or now in some areas, none?

So when do we hold the resistors accountable for justifying their actions by presenting a better way to do -- heck, anything -- that is on the table as a current problem?  It is quite frustrating when the press, particularly, lets the left off the hook for being nothing but opposition.

I believe I have heard about 42,556 times on the mainstream media how Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he was committed, in 2009, to making Barack Obama a one-term president, and what a terrible thing it was that he was not going to "help" the then-president "succeed", which would mean that the nation would fail, as it was borne out through most of the previous administration.

Yet where is that outrage today?  Where is the press deeming the presidency something that the Chuck Schumers and Nancy Pelosis ought to be trying to help succeed, much as eight years earlier they dumped all over Sen. McConnell after his declaration.

Today that same press celebrates the "resistance", though never asking a resistor what, exactly, they were for and how their resistance was supposed to accomplish something vital to our nation.

Well, I want to know.  We have had eight years of utter disaster under Barack Obama; our economy showed virtually no growth in his time, as access to capital dried up and small businesses were starved and failed, and job growth was minimized -- except in the public sector.  We have well over 30% of the counties in the USA with only one health insurance provider, and next year some will have none.  Our friends abroad no longer trust us; our enemies no longer fear us, and in many cases they are already on our shores committing acts of terrorism.

How, I ask, do any of the "resistors" plan to make any of that better, and how do they expect that their plans to do so will succeed, by differing with the efforts that failed in the previous administration?  New approaches are being tried under the new Trump administration, and they have not yet been active long enough to know their impact.

Look, you know and I know, and the press knows as well, that the resistors are totally political and have no desire to "help."  That's not what they were paid for; they were paid to set a tone for electing Democrats in subsequent elections.  That's fine; if you recall, the USA responded to all the rioting and resisting in 1968 by electing Richard Nixon.

I hope that Hillary is subject to the same curiosity about her "resistance", because it would be nice (but unlikely) for someone to ask all that of the average rioter on the street.

Me?  I choose to resist "resistance."

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, May 8, 2017

Huma, Huma, Why Are You Not a "Prisna"?

James Comey, the hero/villain/victim of the 2016 presidential election, testified before Congress last week, as the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed him for several hours about the allegations of Russians influencing the 2016 campaign.

I say "campaign", because as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, and note that it was "D") has said openly, there is not a shred of evidence that there was any interaction between the Trump campaign and Russians, although a great deal of oxygen, or whatever Democrats breathe, has been expended to try to swear that there was.

More importantly, there is not a shred of evidence that one single voter in America was influenced by anything a Russian did in casting their ballot, although ... ah, what's her name again ... ah, Hillary Clinton ... still seems to think there was, although she can't find anyone either.

As Comey was being interviewed by the Senate committee, the topic arose of the information that crossed his desk in late October that caused him to go to the congressional committee chairmen -- privately, although they leaked the note -- to say he was reopening the investigation into Mrs. Clinton's use and distribution of classified information on an unsecured private server.

The issue was that Mrs. Clinton had sent classified information to her gopher, Huma Abedin, which on its own would seem like a breach of security in the first place given that Hillary's server was not a government device.  But then Huma forwarded the emails to her husband, the very-uncleared Anthony Weiner, he of the frequent texting of pictures of his nether anatomy to young girls.

Why would Huma do that?  Comey thought it was so that Weiner could print the content, even though neither the sending of the classified document from Hillary to Huma, the sending of the documents from Huma to the very-uncleared Anthony Weiner, nor the printing out of the documents by Weiner on an unclassified printer, was remotely legal.

And we have to ask the obvious question -- did neither Hillary nor Huma have an actual classified printer at State to print the docs on?  Whose brilliant idea was it to go that bizarre route to get a document printed?  Does it not smell to you like something other than the inconvenience of a classified printer, but more like Hillary wanted a private copy of a classified document and so had to get it printed other than through normal channels?  And if so, why? 

The least guilty here, bizarrely, is the pervert himself; on the surface Weiner could be just a stooge of the Clinton organization.  He was not cleared (we assume; he might have had a clearance while a congressman but it would have been terminated on his resignation), and did not have a signed document instructing him how to handle classified information.  If it came to that, he could logically plead that his wife said "I'm sending you documents, please print them for when I get home.  It's OK, Hillary needs them."

Hillary, in most scenarios, is guilty as H-E-double-hockey-sticks, except that if all she did was email the docs to Huma from the unclassified private server, it is only one more incident on top of 2,000+ other classified emails that went through the server she BleachBitted before kindly surrendering it to the FBI.  Except, for this episode to be more significant than the 2,000 others, Huma would have to testify, and she can just play the consigliere role, shut up and insulate Hillary.

Huma, on the other hand, has no escape.  She signed her clearance documents at a high level, was annually instructed on the handling of such documents and the associated laws, and still consciously sent classified material to an unclassified device (whatever Weiner used).  She had been briefed for a high-level clearance, and knew what she was doing was illegal, no matter what Hillary had told her.

Her proper reply was "I'm sorry, Mrs. Clinton, I know you want to have my pervert husband print this classified document so you can have a copy made secretly for your purpose, but it is illegal for me to send a classified document to an unclassified device accessible to an uncleared person.  So no, I cannot do that."

A senator asked Comey why she had not been prosecuted, given the revelation.  Comey's answer was really peculiar; he stated that they had found no evidence in their investigation that Huma had intended to violate the law.

How bizarre was that?  Huma Abedin signed documents every year to the effect that she understood the laws regarding the distribution and handling of classified material.  What does "intent" have to do with it?  If you remember, the same excuse was made for Hillary Herself, that she wasn't indicted because she didn't "intend" to violate the law, although she, too, had been briefed annually that what she was routinely doing was wrong.

Remember? The excuse of the FBI, or at least of Comey, was that no one had been prosecuted under that law.

Well, now two people are reasonably subject to conviction for violating that law, and it's about time someone at least was charged with violating the law, if you're going to have the law on the books at all!

Huma has no excuse, she so has no excuse.  At the very least, she (if not both of them) conspired to violate the law "no one has been charged with" and need to be charged and tried on that offense.  No grand jury would ever let them off the hook; they would hand down indictments on both and have them sent to trial.

Huma violated the law; she had to know what she was doing was illegal, and unless the USA wants more of that type of thing, it cannot let her get away with it.  She needs to be tried and, if convicted, needs to be imprisoned, lest anyone else think they are above the law -- particularly a government official.

Personally, I've had it.  What is the Justice Department's next step?

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, May 5, 2017

An Actual Good Airline Memory

The airline industry is not in really good shape these days as far as public relations are concerned.  You have doubtlessly been aware of the various disagreements-cum-fisticuffs that have been filmed by the ever-present cameras on board.  This morning Delta is being bashed for a removal of a paid passenger from an overbooked flight.

All the big airlines appear to have been affected, and those that may have not are just lucky.  I truly doubt that the dragging off of a passenger from a United flight had much to do with the fact that it was United -- after all, it was the cops who did the dragging (though not the overbooking).  They all do it; they all are in "There but for the grace of God" mode.

Those of us who have flown half a million miles or so have also had some exceptional experiences on board commercial flights, though.  In this airline-bashing time, it makes sense to recall that those are the ideal to which the airlines aspire.

For example, twenty years back I was flying to a technology conference held in Honolulu by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.  AFCEA holds these in maybe a half-dozen cities each year, as a way to give the defense contracting industry an opportunity to display their IT-related wares to the military in a relaxed environment -- and they are productive.  The Hawaii one, aside from its location, is excellent as it's the only one that our military in the Pacific Rim can get to, in order to speak with the contracting community.

I took my wife with me (at our expense, of course), since outside the six hours a day of "booth duty" at the conference, I was free and we could have something like a Hawaiian vacation.  We connected to a flight out of San Francisco, and it turned out that was the retirement flight of the pilot.  He was going to live in Hawaii, so not only was this his last flight, but it was his trip home.

He was a happy man, and showed it, coming back during the flight to thank his passengers for making his career, shaking hands and chatting with passengers often on the overhead speakers during the flight.  When we landed, we all shook hands again in a receiving line; I high-fived the pilot (heck, you land in Hawaii you're happy to start with, not to mention slightly influenced by onboard mai-tais), and had thoroughly enjoyed the hours in the air.

But that wasn't necessarily one of those above-and-beyond events.  This one was.

Do you remember Eastern Airlines?  Eastern was a very well-established carrier for many years, running the "shuttle" route from what is now Reagan International Airport in Washington, to LaGuardia in New York, to Logan Airport in Boston.  The shuttle went through several hands (including, interestingly, those of the current president) after Eastern's demise in 1991.  And I still remember that Eastern's cabins had an unusual smell to them, as if they used a different cleaner to wash the cabin walls.

But Eastern had many domestic and worldwide routes as well, and it was on one of them that I was flying one day around 1978 or so for business, from the Cincinnati airport near Covington, KY.  There was absolutely zero remarkable about that flight, and I don't even recall where I was going at the time.

I went up to the agent area right at the gate (things were different then) and checked in with the Eastern agent there at the gate to get my ticket.  He was a younger man in his late 20s, and went through the process of issuing the boarding pass professionally but not otherwise noticeably different from the way any other agent would have done his job.

The 100 or so of us waited in the gate before boarding, until the announcement was made to begin to board the plane.  I joined the line as each passenger gave the agent our boarding pass so he could tear off our half and give it back to us, and we could walk out to the plane.

I wasn't paying attention to what he was saying to each person ahead of me in the line until I got close and started to hear him.  What was he saying?  Now I heard.  He was wishing a nice flight to each passenger by name, before they gave him the boarding pass.

Do you follow?  He had memorized the name and face of every single passenger on that flight so he could greet them and wish them a pleasant flight by name as he took their pass.  The assumption, of course, is that he did the same for every single flight he worked, presumably for no other reason than as a mental exercise that resulted in something special for those who went through his gate flying his airline.

Sure enough, I got to his position and he greeted me, "Have a nice flight, Mr. Sutton, may I have your boarding pass?"  I said "thank you", and that would have been it, except that I never forgot that incident had happened.

I have googled the heck out of the InterWeb we now have, to see if there was any other mention of that guy and if he had a reputation, or if anyone remembered him.  Nothing.

So here goes, in honor of an airline employee who took his job seriously, and who truly went above and beyond in customer service, his actions are remembered forever online and searchable.

And if that story rings true for anyone who reads this, I'd love to find that fellow and let him know that forty years since, I still appreciate what he did, obviously on a several-times-a-day basis, to make his customers happy.

Good job, sir.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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