Friday, June 30, 2017

Televising Press Conferences?

I'm not a TV news junkie by any means, even though as I work through the day there is indeed a news channel on the TV ten feet away in my office.  But I suppose I have enjoyed having the daily White House press briefings in the early afternoon as an appetizer, or amuse bouche, or whatever is the appropriate metaphor, according to the Food Network.

It would appear that this White House is mostly changing the pattern of those daily briefings, so that instead of a daily, cameras-to-the-ready TV-packaged broadcast, the press secretary will answer questions in a public, but not broadcast, "gaggle" with the various networks' White House correspondents.

So, is that a good idea?

Well, if you have not seen any of the public briefings in the Trump era, I can probably give you an idea.  The press secretary, Sean Spicer, whose job I would never want, would make a statement for a few minutes, indicating what was on the president's agenda for the day, whom he was meeting with, and what had been accomplished between the executive branch and Congress that day or that week.

When that was over, the correspondents from the various networks would simply ignore anything that was briefed by the press secretary, and ask questions about the hoax involving President Trump and Russia.  Then they asked more questions about the hoax, or about obstruction of justice, or whether [fill in the blank] should resign, again, none of which involved the actual news of the day.

So the question is, if the press is generally going to use the press briefing for the purpose of asking questions for which they already know the answer, about made-up stories that have no basis in fact and have no relationship to the needs of the public the president was elected to serve, then why have the briefing at all?

OK, there is no reason to have them, if the press members are going to embarrass themselves by trying to be the story, trying to be the one asking the question on camera that is the "Gotcha" question of the day.  And remember, the press secretary and his deputy are more than smart enough not to embarrass their boss.

So now that fellow Acosta from CNN, the network whose leader already is on tape saying that they were pushing the Russia hoax regardless of its lack of veracity, is complaining that somehow "access to the White House is diminished" if the press briefings are not on camera.  That, of course, is idiotic.  Access is exactly the same, and the press will get the same amount of access whether or not the cameras are on them.

What the complaints by CNN are about is not access by the press to the White House, it is about wanting to be on camera themselves asking questions.  It is not the answers that are being hidden by no-camera rules, it is the video of the reporters asking the questions.  The USA will get the answers as long as the press asks the questions and prints the answers.  If they feel that they can only ask questions if they have makeup on, well, that's not my issue.

So while I will certainly miss the daily briefings for their entertainment value, the media's pomposity in whining about one fewer option to be on TV is enough to get me to go along with the White House on this one.

Have a nice weekend!

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Surprising Coins -- and License Plates (?)

The sound of jingling coins in one's pocket appears to be going the way of the Klaxon horn and the voice of Hillary Clinton, as something we will probably hear a lot less of anymore.  I'm struggling with whether that's a good thing.

OK, never having to hear Hillary Clinton's voice is a great thing.  We can all settle on that.

This is a non-political piece, and occurred to me only when my best girl was going for her nail appointment a day or so back.  The place insists on the tipping being done in cash, which means you might have to have a few singles available.  Now, I do indeed occasionally use one-dollar bills (or any bills, for that matter), but only to tip the bag guy at the golf course, and I happened to be low on them when she asked me.

So I said I would go to the grocery next door and buy a bottle of coffee creamer to get a bunch of singles in change (we actually needed creamer, otherwise I would have begged them to change a ten).

Along with the singles, of course, came change.  Metal change, the kind that jingles in your pocket.  three quarters and a nickel worth.  And then I made the fatal mistake of looking at it.

I have not looked at change in I-don't-know-how-long.  I haven't used change in months.  Literally, months.  And perhaps I should have, or maybe not.  After all, the reason that we have not used change is that disruptive technology called the "debit card."  You all have one; you spend only money that actually sits in your bank, so you are not going into debt when you spend it.  You can't.

And with a pocketful of change for the first time in a year, I realized how different things were from the old days when cash was king.  Cash was good, because it was universally acceptable, and spending it represented use of money you actually had, meaning no debt.  But now the debit card has itself become so universally accepted that cash is far, far less touched for daily transactions -- particularly those involving sub-dollar amounts.

This was brought home, as I mentioned, when I actually looked at the coins and discovered that they weren't your grandfather's quarters and nickels.  In fact, they weren't your older brother's quarters and nickels, either.

The nickel had this oppositely-profiled depiction of Thomas Jefferson versus what I had become used to since, well, birth.  Yes, I know that has been the depiction on the nickel for a dozen years or so, but it just pointed out how little we look at coins anymore.

What was really surprising was the quarter.  I mean, there were three as I said, but two of them were decades old, even before those "state" quarters that at least had the same picture of the Father of our Country.  The other was -- well, it had only a slightly altered picture of George Washington on it, but the back was positively bizarre.  As it turned out, it was one of the "America the Beautiful" series that has been going on for a few years, celebrating national parks and other sights in the many states.

But as I looked closely at what was a pretty newly-struck coin, I realized that I could barely read the words on the back, and not because my contacts were out of focus.  The letters were small, and I mean "small" like the letters under the bust of Washington with the initials of the designer.  That small.

I wouldn't really care, except that if the whole purpose of the quarter series was to celebrate the sights of the country, wouldn't it have made sense to make the name of the attraction big enough so that the user of the coin would actually know what park was being depicted?  I'm only asking now, several years after the series started, because it's been that long since I handled a quarter, let alone paid attention to what was on it.

I know this is a pointless ramble, but I am going to make it even more pointless.

Looking at the silliness of the way the quarters are now designed, I was reminded of another thing that would be a pet peeve of mine, except that I'm not a cop.

Wherever you live, you are probably in a state that 50 years ago had one license plate style, with the same background color, same color lettering and numbering for everyone, and the only difference might be a slightly different numbering pattern for dealer plates, or for trucks.  That was it.

Somewhere along the line, someone got the idea that the states could soak up a lot more revenue by designing and selling scads of different vanity plate styles.  For example, when I lived in Virginia, I remember going to the DMV (you never forget going to the DMV) and seeing a display with at least 50 vanity plate styles, and with no fewer than ten that had colors of background and letters/numbers that were completely different from the normal, here-you-go Virginia plate that I ultimately got.

And I started to wonder.  Suppose you are a state trooper in, let's say, Missouri.  A car goes whizzing by, and you note down the plate number and state -- but wait a minute, what the heck state was that plate?  If there are a dozen different styles from Virginia alone, how many hundreds are in use now overall from all the other states?

Like I said, I'm not a cop, so I really shouldn't care all that much, except that not only cops have to identify cars by their license plates in emergency situations.  You and I do in, say, a hit and run case.  If the cops can't track all the plates, how do the rest of us?

That quarter I looked at briefly, well, I thought at first it was Canadian (obligatory "no offense" issued here to the land of the loonies and toonies and moose).  I really did.  In fact, that's when my mind ran off to thinking about license plates.

And then I remembered that I shouldn't worry about coins any more than I concerned myself about whose face would be on the $20 bill in 2030.  We won't use enough of either, thanks to the debit card, to care one bit.

And now, back to politics.  Or sports, or something.  Ramble, ramble, ramble.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Health Care and Health Insurance

So now the Senate will delay, slightly, the introduction of a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, which the bill is not actually going to do, which is one of the reasons that is, in fact, being delayed.  At some point, the Senate may come up with something that it is willing to vote on.

As I wrote earlier this week, what they actually end up voting on will be a bit different from what the initial bill was, and will be further altered -- if it does pass the Senate -- when it gets into a conference committee with House members to settle on something that both houses can support.

But that's not today's point.  As I wrote before, we can't debate the quality of a bill today that won't be what becomes law.

But we can debate the overall implications.

You see, this is perpetually referred to as a "health care bill", which it is not.  The bill, like Obamacare was, has little to do with health care at all, and everything to do with health insurance.  Much like earlier comments about opposing forces talking past each other, here both sides, in referring to it as a health care bill, are talking past reality.

"Health care" is what doctors and other medical professionals offer patients.  There is "healthy care", like physicals and preventive actions, and there is "sick care", rendered to those in need of treatment, but it all comes under the umbrella of health care and that discussion is different.

When people say they have a "right to health care", they're still saying they have a right to "treatment", and that has to be properly regarded.  I actually don't think we should say that anyone has a right to health care.  I prefer to think of it that a just and kind society takes care of those unable to afford treatment for their ills, by offering at least a modicum of care.

"Modicum", of course, has to acknowledge that the delivery of health care to the poor, like any other charitable act of government, must respect government's stewardship of the taxpayer's dollars.  Obamacare, for example, ignored that by trying to make an unlimited transfer of taxpayers' dollars into the health care system funneled through the government, even though government has never shown the capability to improve any such system.

What people have to distinguish is a "right to health care" vs. a "right to health insurance."  They are so not the same thing.  The left, which creates rights out of thin air, would have you believe there is a right to insurance, which is relevant because the bills being debated are about essentially the regulation of the insurance industry.

The attempt in Obamacare was to give everyone access to insurance by forcing everyone to buy it or pay a fine.  The CBO scoring of the Senate bill talked about 20 million Americans "losing insurance", but that's only because they assumed that the 20 million, formerly forced into buying something that didn't make sense and was too expensive, would make the sane judgment and not buy it.  To me and, hopefully to you, voluntarily declining to buy something is not the same as having it taken.

To me, health care becomes better and more affordable when the goal of the insurance industry is properly aligned with what is best for the country.  If you really step back and separate care from insurance, I think you get this:

- There is a network of health care professionals out there available and physically accessible to all Americans to treat them.
- There are gradations of care that can be delivered, from basic to incredibly aggressive, with costs relative to the level of aggressiveness.
- Health care is a commodity.

- Because most people find it preferable to pay for health care monthly and predictably against periodic but unpredictable needs, we have insurance.
- Insurance is a business, predicated on the notion that people will pay in more in those monthly premiums than will cost the insurer over the life of the policy.
- Health insurance is also a commodity.
- The government's role in health insurance is not to provide it, but to do whatever is possible and constitutional to ensure that it is accessible to those who want it, at a price reflecting an open and competitive marketplace.

I grant you that starting from those principles is difficult, precisely because Obamacare made it so difficult to be dismantled.  But we need to, if only so the American people can envision what a well-constructed, reasonably regulated health insurance system can even look like.

Start with access to insurance.  To get prices down, you need to do two things -- lower costs (the costs of health care itself) and insinuate competition to the greatest extent possible.  Health care costs can come down, of course, as soon as it is allowable, or even mandated, for those costs -- in physicians' offices, clinics and hospitals -- to be published and readily accessible to the public.

More importantly for this bill, health insurance needs to be as competitive as possible.  Obamacare premiums are skyrocketing in most areas, precisely because competition has dropped to, in many places, no companies at all, and it has dropped because the Obamacare law made it impossible to make money selling insurance.  So clearly, we have to work toward there being a larger number of companies, competing wherever they feel they can establish themselves.

But even as I write this, Chuck Schumer is on TV saying, "Sure, we Democrats will work with you, but you have to abandon tax breaks for the wealthy [sic], abandon cuts to Medicaid [of which there were none], and abandon repeal [of Obamacare]."  Schumer clearly doesn't get it.  The nation soundly rejected the Democrats in 2010, 2014 and 2016, predominantly because of Obamacare, yet in order to be blessed with St. Chuck's presence in a discussion, the Republicans have to abandon the notion of getting rid of the reason the Democrats were repeatedly rejected.


We have to start with the insurance marketplace we actually would be best served by, which is one with the most competition, in which case the companies can actually provide insurance profitably but at competitive rates for the citizenry.  We cannot mandate buying insurance, simply because it is remarkably unconstitutional at best, and odious at worst, that the Federal government would force the purchase of a commodity (the States, of course, can; q.v. mandatory auto insurance in order to register a car, but they have their own constitutions).

The work on the health-insurance bill appears to have been generally trying to pick apart at an entrenched Obamacare system, but that is like writing spaghetti code.  They need to repeal and start again.  Put a death date on Obamacare, like 31 December 2017, and that it will be repealed effective that date.

Then have something else ready that reflects reality, the Constitution, competition in insurance (like across state lines), and a capacity to provide health care through insurance for all who seek it.  You've got time and a mandate from the people to do it right.

Not going to happen, but at least some thoughts there to consider, folks.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Presidential Tweetage

Yesterday, as many days, President Trump did his share of tweets to the public about various issues on his agenda, particularly in this case the Supreme Court's favorable action on his immigration pause and Senate's tortuous consideration of a replacement bill to fix Obamacare or, as the president typically refers to it, "the disaster known as Obamacare."

Actually, in yesterday's tweet and its confinement to 140 characters, it was simply "Ocare."  But I digress.

I suppose that five or six hundred pieces back, I commented about the president's propensity to communicate via tweet, and I don't know what I thought back then.  But now I'm pretty much enjoying it.

There are lots of reasons, of course, and some are more needling than others.  For example, the whole notion of bypassing the press completely is jolly entertaining for me.  The press is his enemy, of course, for the most part (and I do mean "most"), which begs the note that when they are bypassed and the president goes straight to the public, no one is having to pay for the privilege of reading what today's message is, and the broadcast media and their advertisers, and the subscription news and their advertisers are, by definition, cheated out of the need for their services.

I couldn't be happier.  I mean, I love the First Amendment as much as the next guy, but a "free press" doesn't imply that they're the "only" press, or that their right to print in any way entails an exclusive right to print.  They are granted access to the news, not ownership of it.

But screwing with the press is just icing on the cake.

The real reason that I'm a bigger fan of President Trump's propensity to tweet has little or nothing to do with the fact that the tweets are coming from President Trump.  No, it is that they are the unadulterated, unfiltered, sometimes imperfectly-spelled and typoed actual thoughts of the President of the United States.

I mean, suppose you had access to the unfiltered thoughts of the president 4-5 times every day.  You could know what was bothering him, what he was celebrating, what he wanted to get done that day, his thoughts on his opponents.  Because that's what we are getting, and I'm getting to the point where I'm almost wishing it were mandatory that presidents were regular tweeters.

Barack Obama, bless his quiet retirement, promised the most transparent administration ever, before he gave us eight years of one of the most secretive.  I have to think that you couldn't possibly get more transparent than the Trump Administration.  As long as his tweets are accurate, you know what he's thinking a half a dozen times a day.  You think Obama was ever once honest to the American people with his thoughts?  Like maybe why he signed a directive, only in the last couple weeks of his administration, about the handling of the unmasking details of Americans referred to in FISA communications?

Tweet away, Mr. President.  I want to know what you're thinking; I want to know what's going on there and, more importantly, why.  I don't need to hear or read the press's interpretation of what they think you are thinking about what you're thinking about.  By tweeting, we know what you feel important enough to tell the world.

And that's a truly free press.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Schumer the Mystical

I can't tell you if the newly-released health insurance bill draft put forth by the Senate Republicans last week is one that I would support if I were a senator or, for that matter, as an ordinary citizen out there in the hinterlands.

I can't tell you, because I really don't care.  I don't care for a number of reasons.  First, outside of how much it cuts the deficit, it doesn't affect me or my best girl at all; we are over 65 and therefore on Medicare and our insurance is already mandated.  We paid for decades, involuntarily, of course, for the health insurance that we are now receiving, although we are still paying for part of it.  Don't tell me Medicare is an "entitlement"; it is an asset that I paid thousands and thousands of dollars for in my younger days and, for that matter, since I still work I'm still paying for it.

Another reason I don't care is a bit more relevant.  The bill is not going to be law.  It will be amended before it goes for a floor vote in the Senate, then it will be torn up and redone by a conference committee of Senate and House members before going to another floor vote in both houses.  Even if it were to pass both and be signed, the likelihood of it resembling what the Senate will vote on as early as this week is pretty tiny.

So why worry about what's in it now?  I don't.

That said, a lot of Democrats were really, really interested in what was in the proposal.  They were so interested that they railed on about how the draft bill was being done in "secret" by a select few, and they were not allowed to be part of the process, blah blah blah.  The memory of how Obamacare, the law that the draft is meant to start fixing, was jammed through Congress burns inside us, but apparently has faded from the Democrats in the Senate.

Oh yeah, those same Democrats are the ones who wouldn't let any of their number participate with Republicans in the first place.  So it seems particularly hypocritical of the Democrats in the Senate to declare in February that they would not cooperate, and then complain that they didn't know what was being put into it.

So the draft comes out, finally, and within ten minutes of the release -- 150 pages or so -- good old Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is on the floor of the Senate decrying how mean-spirited the concept is, and how people will die all over the country if it becomes law.

Now, I'm a pretty decent reader, but legal-speak is pretty complex, and I can't read 150 pages of a good Ted Williams biography in ten minutes, let alone analyze the text of a proposed law and have a speech prepared and drafted to give before the Senate in that time.

Chuck Schumer had that speech written without knowing what was in the bill, or he lied about not knowing its contents and having a copy.  He's a hypocrite, or he's a liar.  You tell me.  Or, I guess, he is so mystically intuitive that he "knew" by gazing into his crystal ball what was in it.

Is this what it has come to?  They declare that they will not cooperate, then they complain that they are not asked to cooperate, but darned if their Dear Leader doesn't have a prepared speech complaining about the bill, written before he has even seen the bill, and immediately on its release, he makes a speech condemning the bill that he could not have possibly analyzed before writing it.

And I suppose it bears mentioning that ten years ago, before Obamacare, people were still dying, with or without unaffordable insurance.  This bill would not even bring us back to that.  Schumer's crying "mean" is to ignore that the current law kills you or bankrupts you; you just get to pick.  Yippee.

Laws, as they say, are like sausages -- you do not want to see either one made.  Now we know why.

Thank God my best girl and I at least have insurance.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Of COURSE It Was Terrorism!

On Wednesday, a police officer was attacked and stabbed by an individual at the airport in beautiful Flint, Michigan.  A few hours afterward, while the initial reporting was of an "incident" at the airport and the details were coming out, the FBI declined, in a statement at 2pm local time, to say it was "terrorism."

Now, I thought as I heard that, that was a pretty silly thing for the FBI to say, and certainly to the point of making a released statement, to where they knew their selection of words was important.

What the heck was it then?

It will probably have turned out that it was an Islamist radical, but does that matter?  Suppose it was a Black Lives Matter type, one of those clowns who march down the streets of our cities chanting about wanting "dead cops" and wanting them "now."

Suppose it was one of them.  Is it not terrorism then?  What is the point of terrorism, or the point of actions that should be defined as terrorism?

I think it is pretty obvious.  When the victim of an attack is someone well-known to the perpetrator, like a spouse or drug-dealing associate or rival, well, that is not terrorism.  It's not meant to scare a third party or parties; it's not meant to change anyone's behavior except that of the victim.

Was the FBI trying to say that in this attack, they weren't sure if the perpetrator was an Islamist radical and, therefore, it couldn't have been "terrorism"?  Well, if that's the way the define terrorism, they're just flat-out wrong.  Pretty evidently the attacker didn't know the cop, and attacked him because he was a cop.

That means that the intended effect was to influence others, specifically to get people not to be cops because they might get attacked, right?  How much intuition does one have to have to figure this out?  Maybe the attacker also wanted to show the populace that his motives and his organization was stronger than the police, the symbols of the authority of the government.

Either way, if you are attacking someone to influence the behavior of others, it is terrorism and needs to be called that.

The FBI should have just said nothing at all, or just that they were investigating, period.  There's not a lot of need for them to say much early on, let alone give out a statement.  Obviously, once we hear that the attacker is named Achmed or Mohammed Something-or-Other, the people are smart enough to put two and two together and get four, or thereabouts.

Especially when, as in this case, multiple news sources reported that the attacker shouted "God is great!" in Arabic before stabbing the cop.  Know what I mean?

But the FBI decided not to say it was terrorism yet.

Well, here you go, FBI.  It was terrorism.  In this case, we know now it was surely radical Islamist terrorism, but even when you put the statement out you knew it was terrorism even if you didn't want to call it Islamist

There are other terrorists out there, and you don't do the protect-the-Muslims narrative any good by making the assumption, which your statement effectively did, that only Islamists can be terrorists.  Anyone attacking someone for the sake of the attack's impact on others is a terrorist.

PC PC PC PC ... when does it stop?

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

What Did Tuesday Mean?

Normally a single fill-in special congressional election means very little.  Most congressional districts are what we might regard as "safe", that is, as a result of redistricting, the left-leaning districts are lefter than 50 years ago, and the right-leaning districts are righter.  It's what happens when the courts get hairy about making sure that people of a favored minority race are "represented", even though it polarizes Congress.

This particular Tuesday, the race for the 6th District in the great State of Georgia, however, was a remarkable one for a few reasons.  The race was only necessary because its previous representative, Dr. Tom Price, was elevated by President Trump to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The laws of the state being what they were, all the candidates were lumped into a single ballot, where no one candidate received 50% necessitating a subsequent ballot this past Tuesday.

Karen Handel, the Republican who polled highest in the first voting, went against Jon Ossoff, the Democrat with the highest vote (Ossoff was close to 50% in the first election, but not quite there; Handel had been only around 25% but had a lot of other Republicans in the race who split the ballot).

What did it all mean?

Well, the attributes of the candidates notwithstanding, this race became the single most expensive congressional race in the history of the nation.  About $50 million was spent, far the majority by Democrats.  We certainly have to assume they wanted this race badly, although no doubt the Republicans did as well.

Now, if the Democrats wanted it that much, they might have actually found a candidate who, you know, lives in the Georgia 6th District.  Just saying.  Or maybe someone with some elective experience or public service.  Maybe they thought that Donald Trump broke that barrier (actually, Ronald Reagan pretty much did when he ran for Governor of California, or maybe George Murphy when he ran for Senator from Cali... OK, you get it).

Either way, the Democrats wanted the seat enough that they pulled the full-on Hillary Clinton and tried to buy the election by grossly outspending the Republicans.  And, of course, it worked out just as well as it did for Hillary.  Millions poured into the campaign on the Democrats' side, but it wasn't enough, and it wasn't coming from Georgia.

Out of the top five states from which money came into the Ossoff campaign, Georgia, which should have been the leader by far, was not.  It wasn't second, either.  The largest state source of donations to the Ossoff campaign was New York, followed closely by California.  Only then came Georgia, with Illinois and Massachusetts rounding out the top five.  So the preponderance of the money came from four states whose leftist, Democrat-led legislatures have run their states' finances into the ground and/or tax their citizens into submission, but whose voters still elect Democrats to make their laws.

The money from California and New York was a cool topic, too, coming not only from PACs but from Hollywood and other entertainment types committed to leftist causes.  Apparently they have no end of money -- I must be in the wrong business; there wasn't that much disposable income when I was an actor.  After all, they gave bazillions to Hillary with absolutely nothing to show for it; all that money is gone, gone, gone, but I guess they have enough left over to blow on a losing cause in a Georgia congressional race.  The movie biz must really be roaring.

So back to the topic.  What does it all mean?

Well, let us recall that the polling, almost all of it right up to the day of the election, had Ossoff winning in a close race.  We also had a lot of the media making the election out to be a referendum on President Trump.  Both are worth discussing.

I'll start with the latter.  Was it a referendum on the president?  Well, actually I agree with that, at least to the extent that local elections ever do reflect the presidential politics of the day.  I say that specifically because neither of the candidates was an incumbent, or had much of a track record in public elected office, so it was not a personality contest.  Handel made a fair and loud (and reasonable) point of the fact that Ossoff didn't live in the district, but mostly it was a vision election, and the vision was above the pay grade of the candidates, if you know what I mean.

Certainly the media made it a Trump-referendum election, at least before Tuesday.  Since the media lost the election, they'll probably jump on what a poor candidate selection was made, and that President Trump is still the evil, Russia-conniving person they want us to believe and it was all Ossoff's fault, for the eleven minutes they will even discuss it -- no one likes to dwell on losing.  And at least from a tweeting perspective, the president himself seemed to have felt that his prestige was on the line.

So if we were all right that it was a presidential approval referendum, well, score one for Mr. Trump.  He won the day and now has a 4-0 record in the political races since his election.  There is surely some meaning there.

But let's go back to the polls, if we may.

Pollsters in November were apologizing all over the place for blowing the presidential race.  They overwhelmingly forecast something between a Hillary win and a big Hillary win, and when the "only poll that counts" was over, they were wrong beyond belief.  I'm personally mad at them, because instead of a real popcorn-and-diet-soda party to sweat out election night, I had hours of depression not thinking there was a chance of a good outcome.  I'd like to have re-lived that night, starting with more optimism.

The only thing holding me up leading up to the November election, surprisingly, was Brexit.  I was hoping that the British referendum to withdraw from the European Union meant that "unpopular" (i.e., against what the left wanted) opinions and candidates would under-poll, and that Trump had 4-5% more support than he was actually polling -- which turned out right.

Sure enough, Handel beat Ossoff by 4-5 points more than the average of the polls was showing.  The Brexit effect hit yet again, and it has gotten to where that appears to be a characteristic of polling related to President Trump, or to anti-globalist issue polling and candidates.

That is probably the subtle takeaway from the Georgia 6th election.  The more a race is about what Donald Trump stands for -- the taking back of America from the leftists and globalists, the more we're likely to see a 4-5 point under-polling.  In this case, the question about whether this was a Trump-referendum election is answered by the difference between the polling and the balloting.

That is, the fact that Handel under-polled is what tells us this was a Trump referendum vote.

And, as he continually does, he won again.  #nottiredofwinning

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Appropriation -- of Four Days of Our Lives

OK, I am pretty sure that no one reading this watched the four-day "livestream" by the performer Katy Perry, who was made famous by ... OK, I have no idea what she sings, and it doesn't matter. I'll look it up.

Apparently she felt that she was worth people listening to her, so she conducted a livestream, packed with interviews and performances and God-knows what all else, and apparently 40 million times people have tuned in to it.  I've no idea what Katy Perry had to offer that would get 40 million people to tune in for at least a part of four days, but that actually isn't the topic of this piece.


At least one part of it, however, got a laugh out of most of the rest of the nation, because the limousine liberal Miss Perry decided to wander off into the lovely topic of "cultural appropriation."

Now, frequent readers of this column are familiar with my take on cultural appropriation, which I urge you to read, at least for the humor in it.  I'll even forgive you if you follow the link before you finish reading this piece.

For the rest of you, "cultural appropriation" is a new-wave leftist meme that says that a white person cannot do something that is culturally associated with any other race, creed, religion, national or ethnic "community."  It doesn't say that a black man can't wear a suit and tie, or play cricket or bagpipes or sing Irish songs, or eat sushi.  But God forbid ... well, let's listen to Katy Perry.

On the topic of cultural appropriation, Miss Perry was the picture of apology.  "I’ve made several mistakes,” she said, apparently exempting stealing four days of her fans' lives from that list.  Referring to a video she made, she said, “Even in this ... video, with how I wore my hair and having a hard conversation with one of one of my empowered angels, Cleo, about what does it mean?"  My crack research team is trying to figure out what an "empowered angel" is, and who empowered her, and how do I get some empowerment.

Apparently in the video, Miss Perry wore cornrows, sort of like the white Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo did in the unenlightened days of 2004.

"Why can’t I wear my hair that way?", she asked.  "Or what is the history behind wearing my hair that way? And she [presumably the empowered angel] told me about the power in black women’s hair and how beautiful it is, and the struggle ... I listened and I heard and I didn’t know, and I won’t ever understand some of those things because of who I am.  I will never understand, but I can educate myself and that’s what I’m trying to do along the way.”

I liked the part where she said "I won't ever understand because of who I am."  I agree.  She won't ever understand because of who she is, a stupid, now-privileged creation of the music industry, a leftist too stupid to consider that "cultural appropriation" is a moronic concept.  But I'll get to that.

In another take, she apologized, sort of like Barack Obama on his apology tour around the world in 2009, for having done a video where she was dressed in traditional Japanese female garb and makeup.  That, too, was cultural appropriation and very, very bad.  Streams of apology words followed.  It is very bad, in leftist culture, for a white female person to dress up like a Japanese girl.

I saw the picture (I didn't have to listen to the singing) and I thought it was actually a pretty picture.  Katy Perry should dress like a Japanese girl more often.  The outfit was colorful and attractive, which is why she wore it in the first place, before she then entered the indoctrination camp that made it a bad thing to do.

I mention that latter apology for a reason.  Obviously, if Katy Perry wants to do a video dressed up like a Japanese girl, she is free to do it, free of having culture police knock on her door and tell her she needed to do a four-day apology for it.  She did it because that specific aspect of Japanese culture deserved appropriation.

Do you follow?  We live in a country that appropriated everything from some other culture.  Our legal system is generally British, our music is now primarily African; our numbering system is Arabic.  And our food is Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and everything else.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Katy Perry!  If you want to bind up your hair in cornrows, well, be a trendsetter and do it.  For God's sake, don't apologize for it.  I am proud of having won four world championships in competitive barbershop singing, which is an art form culturally appropriated from late-19th Century black America.  I do not apologize.

Katy Perry has recorded dozens of songs written and originally performed by someone else, called "covering."  Yes, I looked it up.  Should the now mega-rich Miss Perry decide that was "appropriation" too, and return all the remaining millions she made on those songs to the original performer, even though she paid royalties to the composer?

Ah, the left.  White is bad, everything else is good, but God forbid a white person decide that some aspect of the culture of other societies is worth enjoying or even adopting.  I cannot possibly understand that logic, unless it is simply the left undermining its opposition.

I think we'll have -- excuse me, "appropriate" -- some taco bowls tonight.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The UVa Fraternity Settled -- Unfortunately

A couple years ago, a young woman named Jacqueline "Jackie" Coakley, then a student at the University of Virginia, embarrassed herself, her institution, UVa's president and Rolling Stone magazine.  She did all of this by making up a fraternity gang-rape case with no basis in fact, which has since been shown to be a hoax, but back then, she brought it sobbingly to Rolling Stone, who obligingly wrote it as a factual story.

Along with the embarrassments Miss Coakley brought on, she brought damage as well.  The story involved a never-happened gang rape at a UVa fraternity house (Phi Kappa Psi), leading to vandalism of the "Phi Psi" house and a crushing impact on their reputation, on campus and nationally.

Rolling Stone has now settled a $25 million lawsuit filed by the UVa chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, agreeing to pay the chapter $1.65 million to dismiss the lawsuit.  The Phi Psis went along with the lower-figure settlement for whatever reason, but I'm not all that crazy about the fact that they settled.

I mean, I'm happy that the Phi Psis are getting $1.65 million, even if they have committed for unknown reasons to use some of the money to fund rape awareness outreach efforts, whatever that is.  It is nice of them, and a decent cause, but it is absurd if it were part of the settlement, that the victims of the crying-wolf syndrome end up funding the cause that Rolling Stone was trying to promote with execrable journalistic integrity.

Ironically, Phi Kappa Psi would then have ended up doing way more for rape prevention than Rolling Stone ever could.

But ... I would have liked to have seen the penalty have been for a lot larger.  There is nothing wrong with the $25 million Phi Kappa Psi asked for, and I'm sure their headquarters could perhaps have upped the safety level of a lot of its chapter houses with that.

There is always a two-sided coin in these things -- compensating the injured party and punishing the guilty.  For example, medical malpractice settlements over $10 million or so seem absurd to me.  Doctors can't pay them, and the amount is absurdly beyond what the alleged victim could possibly use.  In this case, it's not clear what the actual UVa Phi Psi chapter could have ever done with $25 million, although scholarships for brothers or a chapter house fund as a building loan source to other Phi Psi houses would be reasonable.

In addition, Rolling Stone needed to be punished in a big way, and I don't know that $1.65 million is a reasonable punch in the face given what they did -- you see, for me it was an abuse of power, the power of the First Amendment.  I hope they also have to pay the Phi Psis' attorneys and I'm sure their own cost a bundle.

But for me, the biggest thing is that Jackie Coakley (now married and a McGovern), got away scot-free.  I am not aware of a single lawsuit she has to defend, and for God's sake, the Washington Post won't even publish her name even though she was shown to have lied through her teeth.  Hint: it's "Coakley."

Why is she getting away with it?  With all the aggrieved parties in this, and that's before we mention the UVa dean who also ended up settling with Rolling Stone, someone needs to hold her responsible and accountable for what he did.

Gee, I'm sure Elizabeth Warren could comment.  Come on, Pocahontas, do you think Jackie Coakley McGovern ought to get sued?

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, June 19, 2017

First, You Take a Leek (in DC at Least)

Way back before the Food Network was a glimmer in someone's eye, there was a fellow by the name of Graham Kerr.  Mr. Kerr had a syndicated TV cooking show nearly 50 years back, titled The Galloping Gourmet.  The show was actually a pretty funny watch, and I enjoyed it way back when.  Kerr is English (he is still around at 83), and even then his accent carried half the show by itself.

He was known for a few idiosyncracies in his show.  For example, he had a glass of wine with him that he would periodically sip from, a bit curious in its day when you didn't do a lot of drinking on air.  He would tell the audience he would have a "little slurp" and take a drink, sipping from his glass.  "Little slurp" is still in our home conversation to this day.

Another was that when he was preparing vegetables for his dish, he would often use leeks as one of his ingredients, and as he narrated his activities, he would invariably reach into the container of leeks and say "... and then you take a leek ..." and stop and look out to the studio audience with a pause and a smile.

I don't know how old the reporters on the Washington Post and the New York Times are, or whether any of them recall the Galloping Gourmet.  But you would tend to think so, because it would appear that the homonymous "take a leak" phrase appears to be their #1 guidance for how to make a story, or make a story up, if you please.

That came up on Friday morning, when each of the aforementioned "news" outlets (you do have to throw those in quotes; if it ain't news they're printing, they're not really news outlets) had its own article about what the Special Counsel's investigation is doing in regard to their pursuit of ... well, we don't know what.

One, for example, blasted out the word that the investigation was supposed to be digging into the president's son-in-law (and White House advisor) Jared Kushner's financial dealings.  Now, that may or may be true, that they are looking into Kushner's financial affairs.  We might wonder why, since to this date there has been absolutely nothing that indicates that there has been any colluding with Russians in regard to the 2016 election.  No crime, of course, but they're still looking for one.

That's a separate discussion that I've already addressed, that is, does it make sense for the Special Counsel to make a very quick determination that there is nothing that has happened in regard to Russia, and just drop the investigation preemptively.  For me, I would say that if, in two weeks, there is no evidence found of a criminal act, then there is no need for the investigation except for to see what the Russians themselves tried to do (i.e., to get back to a legitimate causality and forget the collusion drama, given that it apparently never happened).

Robert Mueller, the former FBI Director and now Special Counsel, knows a non-action when he sees it.  And given that those pushing the collusion narrative keep trying to involve President Trump, it is pretty important that if there is nothing there -- and clearly there isn't -- Mueller needs to end the investigation pretty quickly, or at least give it back to the FBI to focus on Russia and not on Americans.

But he can't really do that, if he has people on his investigative staff who are leaking stories to the leftist media.  He can't be happy about that, and needs to do some immediate firings after a polygraph test or two.  Of course, he has himself to blame for having engaged lawyers on the investigative team who gave money to the other side.  What are they even doing on the investigation, we might ask.  And we do.

But that's not exactly the whole problem with the leaking.  The real problem is that the leftist media do not expose their sources or name them.  As Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General for whom Mueller works said on Friday, we don't even know what country the leaks are coming from.  It is perfectly within reason that the reporters simply made them up, or one called a friend in Burkina Faso and gave him a text to read back to him to say he "heard that from a source."

Perhaps someone actually did call a reporter -- apparently that goes on a lot in the FBI, eh? -- and they said that in the course of responding to all the left's babbling about Trump associates and family and campaign people, it was simply another avenue that they were forced to look into (albeit with no expectation of anything there).

But we don't know.  What we do know is that Robert Mueller needs to get his house in order and fast.  If he cannot do that, any action he takes, whether to drop the investigation for there being nothing there, or to let it drag on, will be compromised by the leaks.  Otherwise, he will simply be another "little slurp."

And if he is not public and loud with his actions to stop them, he will lose the confidence of the people of the USA.

Mine is on the precipice now.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, June 16, 2017

What Bernie Should Have Said

It must not have been a happy day in the Bernie Sanders household Wednesday.

It took very little time and sleuthing to identify the shooter in the Alexandria terror attack lodged against Republican congressmen, and not a lot more to when he was identified as a rabid Bernie Sanders supporter.  Sanders, of course, had to go out and make a speech on short notice which, to his credit, he did.

And it was a decent speech and, I believe, an accurate depiction of his actual views, that violence is never a means to advance one's political viewpoint.  OK, that was fine and reasonable and no one will knock the old fellow for getting out there and saying something.

But of course, it wasn't enough.

I had a back-of-the-mind feeling listening to it that, though his heart was in what he said, he had stopped far short of what he needed to have said, very much in the vein of my column yesterday when I made the analogy to American Muslims who stop far short of public denunciation of Islamist terrorists.  Bernie didn't say enough either.

I was going to leave it at that, but then I heard from my friend and occasional guest essayist here, Ed Fenstermacher.  Ed has seen enough of my "What So-and-So should have said" pieces that his mind naturally went to what would have made Bernie's speech more effective and actually helpful.

Bernie had said that violence was not a legitimate way for someone to express his or her political viewpoint, which is true.  But the shooter -- and, for that matter, many of the people running around disrupting events this past election and post-inauguration -- were Bernie supporters, and that applied a more acidic test to his words, one which his speech failed to pass.

Ed decided to finish Bernie's speech for him, and I will happily co-opt his words and provide them as a "What we wish Bernie had finished his speech with" moment.  And that, friends, was this that Bernie Sanders should have added:

“My friends and supporters, when anyone goes out and commits violence in the progressive cause, they tar all of us with the same brush.  They demean me, and demean everyone who agrees with me.  They imply that we have no valid arguments on our side.  If you believe in the progressive cause, be peaceful, tone down the rhetoric, act civilly towards those you disagree with, find common cause where you can.”  

By not saying that, Ed insisted correctly, the senator condemned Wednesday’s acts without doing anything to stem tomorrow’s.  As he noted, intolerance is a feature of the left, of which Sanders is a de facto leader, and along with other intolerants like the Islamists, they have a common enemy in freedom.  The American left wants to mandate what you can and cannot do, say and think; freedom is not in their vocabulary when push comes to shove -- which is why the Obamist left defends the Islamists, even though Islamism represses the rights of those the left claims to defend.

Violence is not constrained, of course, to weaponry, as Sanders well knows.  I wonder, from this point, how the incident will affect his performance in televised committee hearings.  You've seen him, and I have.  I mean, Joe Manchin he ain't.  Outside of Kamala "Let me talk past my allotted time or you're a sexist" Harris, I'm not sure who is more rude to Republicans testifying in committee than Bernie Sanders.

Do we expect that to change?  Do we think that, perhaps, the next time there is a committee hearing involving the testimony of someone Bernie disagrees with, it will be different?  Perhaps there's another "What Bernie Should Say" topic for that.  I, for one, would like him to take the first 30 seconds of his allotted time in the very next televised hearing on anything and say this, perhaps softening the Brooklynese for once:

"I yield to no one in the passion of my convictions, and I expect to disagree with you in much of what you say here.  But I was extremely affected by the events of June 14th, and I wish to commit here to applying what I preached that day, in regard to civility in our political discourse and avoiding villainizing those with whom I may disagree.  I am concerned about the impact of my tone on those who support me, and will maintain a civil tone out of respect to those hurt on that day."

Now if only Kamala Harris can be fixed.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Step Forward and Take the Blame

As I write this, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the House Majority Whip, is in critical condition in a northern Virginia hospital, the result of a shooting by a fellow who hated Republicans.  All that is true, and it is particularly ironic that the shooting took place at a practice for a baseball game where congressmen of both parties compete to raise money for a charitable cause.

The one time that there is actually communication between the parties, and here comes a politically-motivated guy along to take to heart the words and the symbolism that the left has allowed to get to a boil, though a bit to late for Rep. Scalise.

I have written on several occasions of the need for moderate Muslims who don't believe in sharia law, don't believe their faith mandates the stoning of gay people and the subjugation of women, to step forward.  I have asked, as have many, for that community to be heard and heard loud, that such actions are contemptible perversions of their belief.

Now, the shooting here has nothing to do with Islam.  But it is the analogy that makes sense, as the shooter here was the identical "lone wolf terrorist", motivated by fanaticism and radicalized by people who should have been punished a while ago.

So let us credit those people and ask that they step forward and take their share of the blame for this shooting.

Madonna, step forward.  You thought that opposition to the legal election of Donald Trump was justification to discuss burning down the White House in a speech right after the election.  You know that some people listen to you, though perhaps a lot fewer than when you were relevant.  You advocated violence, and people heard you.  Maybe the shooter was one of them.  Step forward and take your share of the blame, Madonna.

Kathy Griffin, step forward.  You, too, thought you could revive a fading career by holding up a bloody head of the new president.  That was advocacy, Miss Griffin, whatever you call it.  Nut jobs watch and listen to you and take action that would make you happy.  Maybe the shooter was one of those people.  You certainly made it clear that violence was OK, and then when you were taken to task for it you cried that people were silencing "comedians."  Step forward and take your share of the blame, Miss Griffin.

Black Lives Matter, you all step forward too.  Sure, march down the streets chanting to kill policemen, the left will not say a word.  They won't upbraid you for that, they won't decry the use of violent threats.  Maybe the shooter figured that if it was OK to call out in public for the murder of policemen and not get stopped, well, what's the difference if he were to go shoot at congressmen.  Seems like the silence of the rest of the left meant that a Bernie Sanders supporter like the shooter could do what he wanted.  Step forward and take your share of the blame, Black Lives Matter.

There's a lot of stepping forward that needs to get done, but it might be time for a lot of stepping back too.  Stepping back from the nastiness of the public discussions of issues and learning the civility of debate.  Stepping back from turning political disagreement into hate.  Stepping back from the stupid symbolism, the pushing of the envelope, the things that inspire lone wolves like the shooter.

It is time for the leaders of the left to back off and start being civil and encouraging civility in all aspects of life, to stop vilifying those of different opinions.  It would be time for the leaders of the left to do all that.

If only the left had any leadership in the first place.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Queasy, Steely Silence


So now we come to know, or at least to hear, that former FBI Director James Comey had an interesting discussion with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in regard to the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, and her communication of thousands of classified documents on the unsecure mail account on it.

Here is the story.  We know that Comey testified in public last Thursday in regard to various aspects of the "Russia investigation", including lots of questions about a private conversation he had with President Trump about the offshoot of that investigation involving Gen. Mike Flynn.  In his public testimony, Comey said under oath that he had been instructed (not "hoped", by the way) to refer to the criminal investigation into Mrs. Clinton's mishandling of classified material as a "matter", not an "investigation."

We also know that there was a whole unseen, closed-door testimony given by Comey to the same Senate Intelligence Committee that same afternoon, and something curious appears to have fallen out of it.

We are told that there was a "document", which we assume to be an email transcript, that was (and presumably still is) in the possession of the FBI.  We are told that Miss Lynch was not aware of its existence, until Mr. Comey brought it to her attention in person in her office at some point during the 2016 campaign -- after the meeting on the "matter" matter.  That was when he had also gone to talk about the grossly inappropriate "meeting on the tarmac" with Bill Clinton, whose wife Comey's FBI was investigating. 

The document in question appears to have been a communication between two "political figures", whatever that suggests, and indicates that Miss Lynch, then the Attorney General of the United States, had agreed to stop the Hillary investigation, obviously to protect Mrs. Clinton's candidacy and her campaign.

Miss Lynch was not aware of the document until that point.  When Comey brought it to her attention, according to the article's quoting of a source inside the meeting, he told the committee that “the attorney general looked at the document then looked up with a steely silence that lasted for some time, then asked him if he had any other business with her and, if not, that he should leave her office.”  Loretta was not happy.

Now, allowing for the fact that the source had to be a United States Senator (I don't imagine anyone else was in the room) or a cleared senior staff member, it is still an unnamed source and accordingly, we should be suitably careful about our presumption of its accuracy.  But we will go with it for the moment.  Were it fictional, we'd have heard from the Democrat senators promptly -- and we didn't.

In fact, my instinct is to go with the whole "If it weren't true, then ..." line of thought, as you will see.

So obviously the existence of such a document and the narration of Miss Lynch's reaction to it have to be analyzed that way.  First, of course, is that it's more evidence that politics is a stinky business.  Someone in the Democrats' line -- possibly Barack Obama, possibly former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, someone with access -- had to have communicated with Loretta Lynch about her dropping or quashing the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton to protect Hillary's candidacy.

That fact (Lynch's intent to stop the investigation) got to the campaign, the DNC or both, and someone stupidly wrote someone else an email celebrating that fact.  And that email got to the FBI, despite Hillary's Bleach-Bitting of her server (we don't know whose server it came from).  Politics on the left being what it is, the writer assumed that was normal for Democrats in office to do things like letting political issues interfere with a judicial investigation.  Yeah, scares me too.

So again, let's assume that the testimony is accurate as far as that meeting goes.  But let's assume the opposite, that is, that Miss Lynch had never been approached by Obama or the DNC to stop the Hillary investigation, and had not agreed to do so.  Would she ever then have reacted by glaring silently at Comey and telling him to leave the office?

Of course not.  If I were the AG and the FBI director came in with an email saying I had done something I had not done, well, I would not have glared at him.  I'd have said "Jim, you know and I know that I would never have agreed to do anything like that.  I can't interfere with your Bureau's investigation, especially of an active presidential candidate.  I certainly hope there is nothing else suggesting that I would.  Have a nice day"

But no, she got mad at Comey.  She said nothing.  However is that possibly inconsistent with guilt (i.e., that she had agreed to stop the investigation)?  Were she innocent, she would never have acted that way; it was a clear tell that something was wrong and being covered up.

Now -- it is absolutely possible that what had happened was that Obama or the DNC had in fact gone to her to ask her to drop the investigation.  She might have been ethical enough to decline or, worse, gave an answer that was intended to say that she'd "think about it" but never intended to stop the investigation -- but it was inferred by whoever asked her to mean that she would drop it.

Then, angry not at Comey but at the writer of the email for putting her in a terrible situation, she shut her mouth and told Comey to get out.  I suppose that could have happened, and it's not totally out of the question and could have led to the documented outcome of the meeting.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have established a reputation for being so completely political as to have no credibility.  We all readily now believe that they would have thought nothing of asking the sitting AG to stop a criminal investigation, for purely political reasons, and that a Democrat AG would actually do so.

And we have gotten to know Jim Comey now.  And it seems perfectly reasonable to believe that, to keep his job, he left the AG's office quietly and went as far as he thought he was allowed, going public with all the reasons Hillary should have been indicted or a had a grand jury convened to charge her -- but then dropping the investigation.

Just like a dutiful, weak little man.

This is not going to end anytime soon.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Good Job, Bank of America

I've no doubt that many of you became aware over the weekend of a pretty bizarre form of "art" taking place in New York, not that the location shouldn't have explained everything.

A group that has done "Shakespeare in the Park", for quite a long time, produced some kind of version of Julius Caesar -- admittedly, I knew it was a Caesary setting but I didn't know the plot they actually used.  Regardless, the Caesar character was supposed to be President Trump, and there was not a lot of doubt about that, clear through to the gory assassination scene.

This became a rather prominent deal when it was publicized beyond New York, and we in the hinterlands discovered that this was being sponsored not only by the National Endowment for the Arts (whose taxpayer funding is in serious jeopardy) but by several fairly prominent businesses, among them the New York Times, Delta Airlines and Bank of America.

I do not know for sure (or "for unsure") what kind of outcry went out to the aforementioned companies as soon as this theatrical sponsorship was made public (thank you, Fox News), but it must have been pretty extensive.  Obviously I don't get the New York Times, and I certainly don't subscribe to its online services, although I do use the type font named after them.  So I didn't have to appeal to them.  Well, it's mutual; they don't appeal to me either.

I no longer fly, so Delta was not a concern.  But I do business with several banks, as most people do between mortgages, auto and other loans, etc. and, since there are only a few large banks left after all the mergers, it should not be a surprise that one of those is Bank of America.

So over the weekend, I sent them a tweet to the effect that they could pull their support for Shakespeare in the Park -- prominently -- or I could pull my (albeit meager) business from them.  Now, that wasn't going to scare anyone at Bank of America, for sure.  But I thought that perhaps my tweet would add to enough other communications that it might finally give them a strong message.

I'm glad to say that at least something, whether the communications, the tweets, whatever people sent, whatever Bank of America saw in watching the TV reports, maybe even their own ethical compass, that pushed them over the edge to pull their support.  Because they did.

I did give this some thought.  As a former "artist", I do recognize the rights of performers to create, produce and perform what they want, under the concept of artistic freedom.  Censorship is a slippery slope, and I recognize that as well.  It's pretty tough to practice censorship without that slope coming into play.

But I also have a lot of problem with people who think that sponsors, especially taxpayers, should just sit back and let certain theatrical offenses take place on their nickel.  The argument isn't that sponsorship shouldn't tell an artist what he "can and cannot do" -- but it is, at least, about what they cannot do.

It's a fine difference, but it is real.  If I'm donating to a theater company, it is not to say "I'm giving you money, you must produce just this and this."  But I have my limits, and depicting the murder of a sitting, living president happens to cross that limit.  Do that, and I'm not donating.  I don't tell MIT whom to hire as professors, but if they keep contemptible fools like Jonathan Gruber on their faculty, I also don't have to donate to my alma mater.

Every sponsor has the right to have limits, whether an individual, a corporation or the unwitting taxpayer.  Maybe especially the unwitting taxpayer, because that money is seized -- it is not a constitutionally-mandated role of the Federal government, and to take money from citizens to give to an arts entity puts logical constraints on its use.  That's one reason the National Endowment for the Arts is in some serious funding trouble now.

The thing is, there is a history over 300-400 years or so of sponsorship of the arts and patronage of them.  This is not new.  What is new is actually the separation of the views of the patron from those of the artist.  When Mozart's patrons gave him money, it was to "write a symphony."  They didn't tell him what key to do it in (we hope), but they did expect a symphony and not a theatrical depiction of a sword fight using oboes as weapons.  There was a constraint, you see.

Somewhere over time, the arts community has started coming across as if it is the obligation of the sponsors to give them money, and they can do whatever they want.  That part I disagree with vociferously.  You see, what is different now is that the "sponsors" of today don't even know they're giving money.

I didn't know that Bank of America was taking some of what they earned on my deposits and putting it into an arts company, although I wasn't surprised.  But if I don't like that, I can put my money in, or get my mortgage from, another bank (just like people could fly a different airline from Delta).  I told them that I would, if they didn't pull their funding, and apparently lots of people did and they did pull the funding.  That's not censorship.  That's stewardship.

Obviously that applies triple to the Federal government, precisely because they're dealing with involuntary (seized) contributions.  Whatever the Obama people thought, and all the administrations prior, it is not censorship to decide that money seized from citizens should not be used on arts expressions that are offensive to many of the citizens forced to contribute to it -- and the Trump Administration clearly shares my view.

Good for Bank of America for taking the right step and doing so promptly.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Monday, June 12, 2017

AGT Is Back, And So Is Simon's Deafness

I couldn't help myself.  Even after the obviously corrupt end to last year's season of "America's Got Talent", when I seriously expected to remove it from my best girl's and my DVR list, we decided to try it again.

Just in case you need a quick primer, this is an amateur talent show, purportedly about Americans, although a disproportionate number of acts clearly do not appear to have English as their first language.  Of course, I really don't care where they come from, since the judging and vote-counting is assumed to be corrupt after last year, it's only about the acts anymore.

Regional tryouts are held with the four actual judges, led by the inimitable Simon Cowell (it's ironic that none of the judges of "America's" Got Talent is an American -- Cowell and Melanie Brown are English, Howie Mandel is Canadian and Heidi Klum is German).  NBC makes a TV show out of the tryouts and trots out some of the more interesting acts.

Now, if an act gets three "yes" votes out of the four judges it advances to the next round, where they then select acts to go to the live-TV final rounds.  But there's a catch. Each judge gets to send one act through the regional round and directly to the live rounds, bypassing the middle.  When they see an act they want to bless that way, they hit a "golden buzzer" in front of them, and gold confetti rains down and the act cries because they'll be on TV.  You'd expect that to be for some astronomical talent, right?

Of course, one man's talent is another man's maybe-not-so-much.  And so it was with Simon Cowell's golden buzzer, which on last week's show was awarded (he only gets one all season, remember).  It went to Mandy Harvey, who is a 29-year-old singer who went deaf at 18, and despite having been trained from a young age, quit singing for a while.

The story was really touching.  After giving up singing when she lost her hearing, she relearned how to sing, hearing the rhythm of the accompaniment through her feet, that sort of thing (she took her shoes off to perform).  She started her song, an original and touching piece, by validating her starting pitch on an electronic pitch instrument, and held pitch throughout the song.

So why this article?  Well, I am not going to criticize Mandy Harvey, for sure.  I admire her, and she was very good.  Her story is one of fortitude and being blessed with the courage to keep going in the face of a real heartbreaking challenge.  And it is not really that analogous to the scandal of last year's winner, Grace Vanderwaal, who simply was a poor singer that had no business being in the competition in the first place.

But here's the thing.  Absent all the background story, the courage Mandy Harvey shows, there remains the fact that this is a talent show.  And as a singer, she was very good, but there are better singers each year.  I wouldn't think to buy her recordings, for example.  If you just listened to a recording of the performance, absent the story, I just don't think there was enough there to scream "star."  It was all in the story.

Was she good enough to go to the next round?  Well, I suppose, but only because of the story.  I mean, she can sing, but if the judges had said "You're very good, but we have a lot of singers and I'm afraid enough of them are better", I'd have gone along with it.

Unfortunately, Simon Cowell is a different kind of cat.  He gushed and gushed -- not that the story wasn't really wonderful -- and then hit the old golden buzzer to send her through to the live round.  My best girl and I were aghast -- "What was he hearing that we weren't?".  And I was hearing something sadder, that someone with truly memorable talent should have gotten that buzzer, a Hall of Fame talent as opposed to "Hall of Very Good."

I've no idea what sells on TV, and I suppose I should be more sensitive to it, rather than being shocked when things like this happen.  After all, I should content myself with the expectation that after a round or two of the live broadcasts, when only the voting public matters (assuming that's not manipulated), her story will tire and better performers will win out in the end.

Then again, a 12-year-old girl who sang with an on-pitch whisper and a ukulele won last year, over nine other finalists with actual talent, which put in peril the integrity of the show in the first place.

So I guess I wish Miss Harvey luck, but I wish Simon Cowell something more important for the show.


Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Friday, June 9, 2017

Admitting the Leak

Those of us who watched all of the testimony by former FBI Director James Comey in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday heard, well, what they wanted to hear.

Comey has a way about him, certainly, although it is a bit hard to tell what that "way" is, and how it affects his handle on reality and perception.  But as I said, everyone heard what they wanted to hear; I can assure you that the headlines yesterday afternoon on leftist Yahoo News online in no way resembled those on Fox News on TV.

That is not a surprise.  The whole Comey matter covers a bunch of potentially unrelated things.  We do know, for example, that the Russians tried to tamper with the 2016 election.  We know they failed, or at least find no evidence of any such changing of even one vote as a result of what they did, even after months od crack investigation.

Then there is General Mike Flynn, who did talk to a Russian last year and then at some point lied about it and got fired, and then became the subject of an investigation himself, although "of what" it still isn't clear; it is perfectly legal to talk to Russians, although it is not legal to lie under oath about it.  No one has a shred of evidence or even an indication that the subject of their discussion had anything to do with the election.  So that's completely different and likely unrelated.

Of course, from the perspective of the Democrats on the committee, it was a third issue, all about whether President Trump had ordered Comey to drop the investigation into Gen. Flynn or just, as Comey admitted, told him that he "hoped" the investigation would be dropped or otherwise disposed of.  Comey certainly didn't help their case, although they will simply lie about what he said in their normal manner.

Note -- it doesn't matter; as confirmed by Alan Dershowitz, the leftist Harvard law professor and scholar, President Trump could have told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, as he is allowed to under the Constitution and the rights of the President.  No obstruction would be involved.

But for me, I heard a couple things.  First, there was the admission by Comey that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, she of the participation in obstruction of justice by the former president, Bill Clinton, by meeting with him on the tarmac of an Arizona airport while his wife was under investigation by the FBI, had "tampered" with Comey.  L'affaire Hillary was to be called a "matter", not an investigation, quoth the AG.  Not a peep from Comey at the time.  He made a mental note.

Nothing will ever come of that, although Mrs. Lynch needs her butt hauled up before the selfsame committee to explain why she had to tell the FBI Director how he was supposed to refer to an investigation.  I want to see that -- heck, I absolutely demand that the Committee do that.  Get her up there to explain.  That one really stinks.

But the other thing Comey said was really, really troubling.  He had, as we all know, taken notes after the meeting with President Trump, where he was told the president "hoped" that the investigation into Flynn would go away, that the general was a "good man."

Whom, Comey was asked, did he tell about those notes?  Well, as it turned out, around the day after he was fired, Comey contacted a law professor friend at Columbia University, told him about what was in the notes and asked him to get that information to the press.

We call that a "leak."

Well, I was bothered a lot.  I am bothered by the fact that the first instinct of a senior Federal official is to leak information to the press.

You get what I'm saying?  Right now we have a huge problem with leftover Obama people leaking sensitive and classified material and information from the Intelligence Community out to the press, for political purposes.  We have Obama changing the rules about the unmasking of USA citizens during wiretaps of foreign conversations, right before he left office, and lots of unmasking going on immediately and leaks of that information by Obama leftovers since.

And now we know, unapologetically, that the now-fired FBI Director's first act was to go leak damaging information, or potentially damaging information, to the press so as to hurt the president who just fired him.

Lordy, do we need to clean house.  We need Federal officials who understand, first, what "classified" means, and second, that the press needs to be on their own as far as gathering information; they don't need help.  If you're a senior official in the Administration and you leak information to the press that has no business being leaked, you need to be fired on the spot.

It is beyond distressing that James Comey was no better than that.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pitching Lost in the Translation

This week, there was a curious flap about, of all things, translators on the pitchers mound during baseball games.

The incident took place in Tuesday night's game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in New York.  Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankee pitcher, was getting a visit on the mound after being beaten around by Red Sox hitters.  The visit was by two Yankee staff, the pitching coach and the translator.

Jerry Remy, the color man on the Red Sox television broadcast, made a comment about how they should not allow the translator (presumably as a "third person" on the mound).  He expanded a little bit by noting that, in so many words, there were a fairly narrow set of things the pitching coach could say, and pitchers ought to be able to understand them without a third party.

Now, we need to note the rules on mound visits from anyone in the dugout.  Teams are allowed exactly one visit from someone in the dugout per inning per pitcher.  If someone goes out a second time, the pitcher has to be removed, period, and replaced.  The rule doesn't get detailed about a second person, although it has always been allowed for a manager or coach to come out and bring a trainer if an injury may be involved, and if the pitcher is OK, he doesn't have to be removed even if it is the second visit in the inning.  And translators are covered, too; it is legal to bring one.

Translators have been allowed for a long time, certainly since we have been seeing more foreign-born pitchers in the past few decades, and particularly with the influx of Asian players going right to the majors from the Japanese and Korean leagues without a few years in the minors during which they can master enough English.

And we need to note that a number of such players, including Latin players but particularly Asian ones, do their interviews with translators.  They do so even if they do speak English, to make sure they are quoted as saying the right thing, given the press's talent for inaccuracy and fake news.  And I am fine with that -- and presumably Remy is as well.

But Remy took a lot of heat for his comments.  The Red Sox themselves felt obliged to tweet out that they distanced themselves from Remy's comments, presumably lest in Massachusetts they be accused of xenophobia.  God forbid we have an actual discussion.

So here is an actual discussion.  First, I don't care who plays or what language they speak or where they were born.  If they can play, Baseball will find a position for them.  It is wonderful that the best players in Japan are coming over to try to play here (although we need to have a draft, not an auction, to keep competitive honesty).

That said, I'm with Jerry Remy on this, and not just because I like Jerry Remy, and he waved to me once when I showed up to sing the national anthem at Camden Yards in Baltimore wearing one of his RemDawg T-shirts.

This is a very nuanced answer, but ... Jerry Remy had the right to raise the question without the team distancing themselves from his words.  And I believe that he was asking us to raise the question and debate it like civilized adults.  He should be applauded for doing so, not given a knee-jerk verbal assault.

There are certainly good reasons to do so, two I can think of off the top of my head:
(1) Baseball is trying to quicken the pace of the games, and it's a needless drag when pitchers need translators to tell them what they'd already know, if they learned the basics in the language of their employ.
(2) If two people came out of the dugout to talk to the opposing pitcher, Drew Pomeranz, he would have had to have been taken out of the game.  Unless the umpire is monitoring the conversation and speaks fluent Japanese, he couldn't have known if Tanaka were getting double the advice that the rules allow.

I mean, if I went over to Germany to play on one of their soccer teams, I'd expect to have to improve my soccer-specific German if I wanted to understand the coach, you know?

But I think this whole dust-up is an exemplar of our nation's apparent inability to have a civil discussion about an issue without one side -- the left-more of the two, if such applies as it does here -- going all PC and crying racism or xenophobia-ism or whatever ism makes sense (or not) to them.

We have lost our ability to debate reasonably, and I don't know why.  It may go back to our inability to communicate, as in this piece you will love (please read the link).

But gee, let's learn how.  Won't need a translator for that.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Reality Bites the Dust

Once upon a time, two people who were expecting a child decided that they would curse the child forever in a way that would distinguish her from all others in her realm.  They decided that they would give her a name that would be the nominal equivalent of an earworm -- no one would forget it.

It was 25 years ago, not in fairyland, and Mr. and Mrs. Winner chose to name their child "Reality."

I don't know what her friends call her, or if she has any friends left, given that she is in Federal custody as I write this.  Or, since she was a Bernie Sanders type, if any of her friends were even worth having, since if they were Bernicules, their hands would be in your pocket constantly.

That, of course, is the least of her worries.

As you are probably aware, the young lady, who was a Georgia-based employee of Pluribus International, an Alexandria, VA-based Federal contractor, is now in the hoosegow, charged with leaking classified information to the press.  Apparently she came across a document in her classified facility in Georgia, concerning the investigation into Russians tinkering with the 2016 election.

This document may or may not have had something to do with the story this week that the Russians were trying to hack a manufacturer of election-counting equipment.  It was reported all over the place, so I suppose I can mention it.

Before it was reported, though, it appears to have materialized in that facility, whereupon it was copied six times, including once in Georgia.  The person who copied it then released it by emailing it to a news website, quite illegally.  The website published it, but also reported the leak to authorities, who put two and two together and that led them to Reality Winner, the only person in Georgia who had copied the classified material.

Of course, she compounded her exposure by communicating with the news site on her work email, making her a candidate for the Darwin Awards.  That was not the brightest tack to take right there, but again, at age 25 those cubbyholes just aren't there quite yet.

Young Reality had a top-secret clearance (the operative word being "had") and had a real, pathological aversion to Donald Trump.  Now I know that it is not the Defense Security Service's job to go out there proactively and read the Facebook posts -- and the vile tweets directly to President Trump -- but you would have liked to have thought that someone who did see them and knew she had a clearance might have mentioned something to someone, you know?

Fortunately, however, fewer people died as a result of the leak than in Benghazi or Chappaquiddick, and we probably have even more assurance now that the Russians were 100% unsuccessful in their attempt to influence the election.  Hillary Clinton did far more to tank her chances, all by her lonesome, than any Russian did -- since they did absolutely nothing that actually influenced it.

I don't know what will come of all this, but I'm hoping.  After all, Reality Winner is charged with that selfsame violation that good old James Comey decided not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for, using the notion (completely outside his jurisdiction, BTW) that no one had ever been charged under that U.S.Code section before.  Well, the Trump Justice Department doesn't operate that way, and young Reality is going to face a judge or a jury pretty soon.

So when I say "I'm hoping", I mean that I hope that charging Reality Winner means that we can charge everyone who has been caught leaking classified material to the press or mishandling it, whether intentionally or not.  I mean, the statute of limitations hasn't run out on Hillary, has it?  And, by the way, how is that investigation over at the FBI of the Clinton Foundation going?

Just asking.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When You Have Nothing to Say

Like every MIT alumnus with an email address, I received an email from Rafael Reif, the president of the Institute, this past week.  It came right on the heels of President Trump's withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Accord, the abysmal global-warming agreement (not a congressionally-approved treaty, mind you) rammed down our throats by John Kerry and Barack Obama.

It was not a treaty, because the Constitution mandates how treaties are done, i.e.,  they have to be approved by Congress so a president doesn't unilaterally do foreign policy deals without approval.

But I digress.

The treaty was (and is) a piece of elk dung, at least from the perspective of the USA.  If all the countries that signed it abided by it, nothing measurable would happen in a hundred years, and nothing would "improve" because of it -- except for the wallets of third-world countries who would split up $100 billion from the USA taxpayer -- with no enforcement provision for its proper use, even if it were for a good idea.

Now, among the commentary blasting the president for dumping the treaty, most all of it, including Kerry's hyperbolic "more asthma in children" (does he know what causes asthma?), has been to accuse President Trump of opposing fighting global warming.  That is, of course, a crock.  Opposing a lousy accord that wouldn't achieve an ideal is not the same as opposing the ideal, except in politics-land.

Dr. L. Rafael Reif knows all that.  And as an actual scientist, especially one leading one of the most prestigious universities in the world, he can't say stupid or overly political things.  But he can certainly needle the politics a bit.

For example -- let's look at the message itself, excerpted:

"To solve this global problem, we must transform the global energy status quo. The Paris agreement is an important beginning: a mechanism that drives progress on emissions right away and speeds up progress over time ... With this running start, humanity has time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. But the longer we hesitate, the lower the odds of success; the carbon dioxide our cars and power plants emit today will linger in the atmosphere for a thousand years."

Sure -- but the agreement doesn't do any of that.  If it stayed as it is, we in the USA would be out $100 billion, and whatever temperature we would reach by 2100 will get reached regardless of anything the accord would accomplish.  It is a true nothingburger.  

And I'll go even further.  The USA has led the world in cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, pollutants and the like.  We did so because our citizens' elected representatives determined that it was a good idea. We're doing quite well at it.  I have no interest in having the rest of the world decide what our actions should be and particularly where we spend our own taxpayers' money -- certainly not shipping $100 billion to African dictators.

So I'll give Dr. Reif this -- although he never touched on how global warming could be a good thing, not once, nothing about how more arable land in Canada and Russia might help feed us, he it least said a few things that were not hyperbole.

But then there was this:

"[1] Climate change arguably represents the greatest threat of this generation. Fortunately, it also represents a tremendous opportunity. Already, hundreds of thousands of Americans work in the clean energy sector, and growth in clean energy jobs is rising fast: In 2016 alone, solar industry employment grew by 25 percent, while wind jobs grew 32 percent. [2] As a nation, if we choose to invest in the relevant research, we have the opportunity to continue to lead, developing new energy technologies that will generate high-value exports and high-quality American jobs – the jobs of the future. That is in no way to minimize the disruption that the changing energy economy will cause to some workers and regions. [3] But the solution to that problem is not to deny scientific facts and give away economic opportunity. If we don’t seize this chance, other nations certainly will. [4] By withdrawing from the Paris accord, the US is surrendering leadership in a priceless global market."

And here it got goopy.  BTW, the bracketed numbers were put in by me to point out four things in that paragraph.

First, Dr. Reif, on [1], "climate change" is absolutely not the greatest threat of this generation.  There is one threat that overrides global temperature and everything else -- radical Islamist terrorism.  If we do not crush it now and wipe it off the face of the earth, our grandchildren, if we have them, will be so oppressed under global sharia law that they won't care if it's 150 degrees outside -- which it won't be, by the way.  But if it were, you wouldn't have air conditioning; they didn't have that in the lovely 7th Century the Islamists want to send us back to.

Number [2] is that "invest in the relevant research" remark.  And he's got a point of course, except that "invest in relevant research" gave us Solyndra and some colossal wastes of taxpayer money.  I simply do not trust the Federal government to pick winners and losers in all this.  And I pay too much in taxes to let that ever happen again.  If Dr. Reif wants to use some of MIT's huge endowment to fund such research and then profit in it -- if there is profit to be made -- I'm for it.

Then [3] was the obligatory bashing of those who "deny scientific facts."  Come on, sir, you are better than that.  Science is an organized effort to toss out hypotheses and prove or disprove them until they become theories -- or not.  It does not involve ad hominem attacks against those who don't see things according to your view.  Convince them otherwise, but respect disagreement.  It is a part of science.

Finally, I could not disagree more with [4].  The USA has reassumed leadership in that "priceless global market" precisely by rejecting the imposition of politics into the scientific community.  Rather than being stepped all over as was the case in the sad Obama days, we will shove aside attempts to extort money out of the USA taxpayer.  We will act unilaterally if need be to clean our air and water based on what is best for us.

We will look at a global agreement if it obliges the polluters to clean up their act first, as we have been doing here.  When India and China are paying through the nose to fix their problems as the USA has already been doing, then we can talk.  When the constraints on them are enforceable, then we can talk.  When the African dictators take proactive and measurable steps to fix their polluting and implement proactive steps, and show not only a willingness to do so but some actions on their own dime, then we can talk.

You know what?  The USA has been leading the way, cleaning our own house.  We didn't need a global agreement to do so, we did it ourselves.

Get the idea, sir?

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.